Lane talked about the difficulty of finding a good dress to wear to church for Christmas services, and I can sympathize - Krystle seemed to also mainly buy dresses of the tight and low-cut variety, and truth be told even the ones that don't really seem designed that way sure seem to wind up like that thanks to her proportions. The others tell me that I'm over-thinking this, and that it's just me thinking my chest should be flat. I guess that could be the case, but I feel guilty all the time, like just standing there is an invitation.
I did find something fairly modest to wear to Christmas Mass, although there were moments when I wondered if I really was overly worried, because a lot of the women there were wearing kind of showy dresses. I kind of always thought that was just something that happened on TV and in the movies, although my grandfather once mentioned that it was kind of a thing at the church in his hometown - that because it was the community's main gathering place, men and women were always trying to get each other's attention there without exactly undermining the fact that it was a place of worship.
I was reminded of that when Pastor William came up to me after the service and said it had been too long since they'd seen "me" there, and asked if I would be attending services regularly. I must admit, I was ashamed of how easily that seemed to fall by the wayside after visiting the Inn. I don't know whether it was because I always went to church with my family and just got lazy being on my own (or with Krystle's family, who are not regular church-goers) or if I felt forsaken afterwards. I know this man was asking about Krystle, who had been stripping and living with some man who was not her husband and maybe doing drugs, but it was a reminder of how nobody is beyond saving, no matter what circumstances bring you to a low place.
I said I probably would, and it felt good. I have been going beat every Sunday and enjoying it, especially since this was the first time I really remember going to a church whose congregation was primarily African-American on a regular basis - I've been to my other grandfather's church every once in a while when we visit, and when I was a really little kid, but it has been something different from the mostly-white places where I've lived most of my life. It's a little strange to have spent all your life as "the black kid" in school and have to kind of get used to not being the only black person around.
My going to Mass had the family a little surprised. Karla's kids had questions about it, and she injected a lot of suspicion into her answers. I guess I can't really blame her - I probably don't act much like the Krystle she knows - but it's frustrating. Who needs to explain going to church on Christmas?
It had the kids impatient about opening presents, but they knew that they were going to have to wait for Momma Kamen anyway. Krystle's mother works for the MBTA, and she takes a lot of weekend and holiday shifts so that her schedule doesn't duplicate Karla's and so that she can get overtime pay. It helped make Christmas a little less meager for the kids, as did my being able to get an employee discount at the toy store. There was no "big present" like I got used to, and I felt bad about that. I may have wound up having too much the same relationship with Karla as her real sister, but her kids are great and deserve more than they have.
Speaking of Christmas, I had the hardest time figuring out what to get Karla and her mother. Well, Karla; I got Momma Kamen a nice set of gloves that you can use a phone while wearing, since she's outside a lot and texts back and forth with Karla, me, and a lot of other people, so it seemed pretty practical. It didn't seem entirely like a surprise that Krystle would get her something like that, so I guess I did okay.
I had a little more trouble with Karla, and not just because everything seemed like it would be taken as a challenge, and it seemed like every person I might ask wouldn't really know - my friends are all men who used to be women, women who used to be men, folks too young to have perspective on what a single mother values, or just more well-off than us, not really getting how much is out of reach. I wound up kind of giving up and getting her a gift card from Sears.
She got me something lacy from Victoria's Secret, and I still haven't even tried it on to see if it fits in case the real Krystle still wants to wear stuff like this when she gets her body back. I feel guilty just feeling the fabric on my fingertips.
Of course, Christmas coming and going meant that the temporary toy store where I was working closed down, and while the manager gave me a good reference, I probably should have been looking ahead to the next job even while this one was winding down.
I didn't quite go unemployed for the past couple of weeks - Yuan-wei/Missy/Jordan gave me way too much to come by her place every few days while she was in Hong Kong for Christmas break and make sure that the mail got brought in and that her plants were watered (no, she doesn't really strike me as someone who would have plants either, but I didn't ask what the story was). I've tidied up a bit and shivered at the thought of taking a job as a maid before thinking that the only people who would hire someone with Krystle's history for that would probably just want to see her in (and out of) a uniform.
I don't really get Yuan-wei. I've only met her a few times and she's been a real jerk about my believing in God, she's totally shameless about being with men, even though you can tell from just being around her that she's still one at heart. She will talk about how much she misses her family after just a couple of drinks - either she or Benjamin really shouldn't be drinking when he brings a six-pack over, right? - but she basically gave that family away.
And she also remembered my real birthday, December 28th, making sure that when I arrived at her place that day, there was a package waiting for me, with a pair of Nike Air LeBron XIII basketball shoes, with a promise for another pair when I "outgrew" them this summer. I put them on right away and they're fantastic; I wanted to go out and find a game despite it being really cold and not wanting to imagine what sort of attention I'd get without an industrial-strength sports bra (just running for the bus without one is no fun at all).
Still, they're great and I'm so grateful, even if Karla's reaction on seeing them was to wonder who I'd slept with for them and to ask since when I cared about basketball. That just makes me appreciate them more, though - they reflect me, not her, and they mean that someone understands I'm a now-17-year-old guy rather than a 23-year-old woman, and I really can't wait until I am again.