Mick & Michelle
Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. Having always been the perfect, good boy, Michelle is terrified that the complicated truth will disappoint, hurt, or push away the people closest to her. She can’t continue hiding for much longer, though, because her body is turning into that of a man’s, and she is desperate to stop the development—desperate enough to consider self-medicating with hormones.
Most of all, Michelle fears that Grandpa, who is in a nursing home after a near fatal stroke, won’t survive the shock if he finds out that his favorite grandchild, and the only boy, is a girl. If she kills her beloved Grandpa by leaving Mick behind, she isn’t sure embracing her real identity will be worth the loss.
As we walk down the street next to each other, it strikes me that the nagging feeling I’ve been having lately is also down to him, because I look too much like my father. I’m the same height as him but skinnier. I adjust my walk so I don’t mirror his familiar swagger. I wish I didn’t have his hair, down to the identical whorl slightly to the right at the back of our heads. His hair is darker than mine, so dark auburn it looks black when wet, but thin and limp, always flyaway, so no good for keeping long. Buzz cut material, and that looks fine enough on him. My hair is quite short by convenience only. I would have liked to have my mother’s hair, which is thick and robust, a haystack in the mornings, and she uses a straightening iron to control it. If I tried that iron on my hair, I think it’d just melt away and disappear.
“How does summer feel so far?” Dad says and waves at Mrs. McAtee, who used to babysit him when he was little. I don’t think Dad has fond memories of her, because she never babysat me or Ash. No one outside the family was ever allowed to babysit us. “Any plans?” he adds after I fail to reply in the three seconds it takes him to grow impatient.
“Deliver papers and go busking,” I say. I was supposed to wait tables at Pepito’s Italian, but they went bust two weeks ago. I haven’t found anything else. The paper route job stopped last week, because I foolishly resigned when I got the gig with Pepito’s. As for busking… well, that’s more of a wild idea than a realistic plan.
“Busking? You only know three songs.”
“Five songs, and people move around, so they won’t catch on to my limited repertoire. Besides, I can always learn a couple more songs.”
“And what will you do if I, or your ma, come and catch you soliciting funds?”
“I can outrun you easily, Dad. The both of you. Rookie Ryan too.”
“Yeah, yeah. Smart-mouth. We have an alternative plan for you this summer. Busking is not a part of it. Tell you over dinner.”
“What? Why not right away? Are you finally paying for Wizarding Summer School now that I’ve grown out of it?”
“Wait and see.”
Nina Rossing lives in Norway, where the winters are long and the summers short. Despite the brilliant nature surrounding her, she spends more time in front of her computer, or with a book in her hands, than in the great outdoors (though you may find her out on her mountain bike if the weather is good). She works as a high school teacher, which in her opinion is probably the best job in the world.