Parvati stands naked in front of the mirror. She looks at her body, the curves, her broad stomach. The pear-shape of her, small round breasts sitting low on her chest. She does not know what to think anymore when she looks at herself this way. A blank canvas, perhaps, waiting for the first stroke of the brush.
She pulls the boxer shorts on first. Padma never questions why she needs them, when no one can see under her clothes. Parvati knows they are there.
Then she unrolls the bandage and wraps it around her chest; it was awkward at first but she knows how to do it now, like learning to tie your shoes. She holds the end until it passes over itself, until it holds itself in place. She is careful not to press too tightly, not only because it hurts, but because it paradoxically hurts her passing — binding too tight makes her chest look unnaturally flat above her convex belly. She watches herself in the mirror, adjusting. She makes the line even and natural.
The jeans she puts on are women's jeans; they have room for the curves of her hips and her arse. Someday maybe she will find men's jeans that fit her — are there no men with fat arses? Where do they shop for clothes? But this will do for now. She puts on her white T-shirts — two of them, she's found, make a better line, and the button-down shirt over them. Tucks it in so it doesn't cling too tightly to her.
The glasses were the most expensive thing, but it was worth it to get men's frames. The black squared-off shapes of them transfigure her face in a way that is still astonishing to Parvati every time. She stands close to the mirror and watches her reflection as she takes them off, puts them on. Better than Polyjuice. She notices that they cover the little beauty mark below her eye, the one Padma doesn't have.
She steps back, and Padma comes in from the bathroom, steps up next to her into the frame of the mirror. Parvati's eyes go wide at the reflection she sees, and she looks at her sister, looks back at the mirror, hardly able to believe...
Padma is wearing the new dress, low-cut and summery with printed blue flowers trailing down, cut deep between her breasts and pleated around her knees, which makes her look shorter somehow. Her hair tumbles down loose over her shoulders; she has been hiding it under a baseball cap for weeks now, and Parvati hasn't seen it this long since they were fifteen. Padma's worried eyes are lined and her lips are dark red, her eyelashes lush with mascara.
"Do I look odd?" Padma asks, brushing imaginary dust from the front of her dress.
Parvati can barely answer for a moment. Odd? Her sister is so transformed that Parvati thinks — I didn't need to dress up at all.
"I didn't wear the heels." Padma gestures down at her feet. "I realised it would be silly for me to be taller than you. And I can't walk properly in them, anyway."
Parvati shakes her head with a little breath-laugh of amazement. "You're... you're just..." She finds that she can't finish, but instead leans in and kisses her sister's sweetly painted lips, slides arms around her waist. Padma melts into her with a surprised little hum.
When they part, Parvati brushes her own mouth with the backs of her fingers, tasting the foreign thickness of lipstick there. They both chuckle, and Padma takes Parvati's chin in her hand, wipes it off with her thumb.
"You look perfect," Parvati murmurs.
And so they go out into the hazy August light, and for the first time, they hold hands where people can see.