Even two weeks after the fact Ryder could still see the look on Unique’s face when he told her they had nothing. Of course that was a lie. They had so much together that finding out Katie was not Katie but Unique had hurt Ryder more that she could know. He felt so played with, and stupid for not being able to figure out who it was sooner. Really Unique was always the most obvious answer he thought after the fact. Out of all the girls in Glee she had the most to lose by saying that she liked him. Not just too long ago Ryder had refused to call Unique a girl. It’s not like they had the best track record. Ryder threw his jacket on his bed and kicked off his shoes.
He had taken to walking every night since finding out Unique was the catfish. It was his time to think with a clear mind about the situation. He was trying to figure out how to continue with it. He flopped on his bed and pulled out his phone. He pulled his contacts up, scrolling through them quickly until he came to her name. He had switch Katie’s name for Unique’s sometime last week, and seeing her name with that number made everything so much more real. He flipped over to his side contemplating if he should call her. He did this almost every night. He needed someone to talk to and since Katie had been that person he wanted to call her, except Katie was not Katie.
There was just no getting around it. He had liked Katie and Unique had said that everything she wrote as Katie was real. Ok so fine he could deal with that, but Unique…Unique was a girl mentally, but physically it was a different story. It’s not like he thought Unique was ugly just that once the lights were off and hands were roaming he would come into contact with her…thing. What was he to do with that? He found himself wishing that Unique’s outer appearance matched how she felt on the inside.
“Imagine how she feels.” Ryder said aloud. If he wanted her to match what she thought of herself he could only imagine her desperation for the same thing.
Aside from his newfound walking habits, he had also taken to searching everything he could about Transgendered people, particularly women, and anything he could find out about straight men’s attraction to them. He had read reputable sources, and he had learned a lot. He kept all this to himself but he was coming to a more understanding. All he really did was think of this situation lately. Jake had commented on his sour mood yesterday in Glee. He just really wanted to figure things out, but he could not help but to notice that Unique avoided his eyes like the plague. He felt bad for making her uncomfortable and yes he did kind of regret his words but there was nothing he could do about that now. He had to move forward.
He was tired of having a pity party tonight so he got up and showered, and if he thought about Unique while in there and touched himself…well that was his business.
Trying to avoid Unique was so tiring and time consuming, especially in the choir room. He did everything he could to not talk to her and avoid eye contact and just generally pretend she was not there. He knew that would not work for long but he was formulating a plan. He would stop avoiding and just talk to her directly. He was mustering up the courage to do it.
“Ryder pay attention!” Mr. Schuester said, pointing to the broad where he had written sectionals. “We need to come up with songs to sing and usually I decide what those songs will be but this time I want a joint effort. So I will come up with songs and you will to, collectivity. Get together, and surprise me!”
Ryder knew who he wanted to work with first. He gathered his courage, wits, and backpack and made his way to Unique, but before he could take even a step Jake pulled him back.
“Dude what are you doing? Do you think that’s a good idea? I mean Unique probably does not want to talk to you.”
“I’m not going to do anything ok. I just want to talk about the assignment.” Ryder held his hands up as if in surrender.
“Fine, then do it with me. I have ideas and we will probably have similar songs anyway.”
“I don’t want to work with you. I swear I won’t do anything. Trust me.”
“That’s kind of hard to do Ryder. Look just work with me.” Jake pulled Ryder to a seat beside him, but Ryder was becoming quickly angry. Why was everyone making it seem like he was in the wrong? Unique was the one who had catfished him, and anyway he was trying to make things better. He just need to talk to her. He was pissed, and he did not mean to make a scene but he was so fucking done.
“Get off of me! God just leave me alone!” You could hear a pin drop in the room. Everyone had stilled with mouths agape, and stiff bodies. Every eye was on him as he kicked a chair and stormed out the room. He could feel the anger building in his head. He could feel the constant throb of the emotion washing over him. He couldn’t hear anything and his face was radiating heat as he stomped down the hall. He ended up in the library sitting in a chair cooling off. His knuckles were white as he gripped his fists closed to stop the shaking, and slow his heartbeat.
“You know they are just trying to protect her right,” Blaine took the seat in front of him. Ryder knew that but damn did he wish they would just butt out. Ryder showed no inclination that he was listening, but Blaine continued. “I have lived in Ohio all my life and no it’s not the most excepting place Ryder so think how Unique feels. She is going against the grain is a serious way that can have serious endings. It’s all on the internet. All the horror stories and bigotry,” Ryder knew plenty about what was going on. He had read stories that resulted in horrific events. Transgendered people were being ridiculed and murdered because of intolerance and hate. He hated to think that Unique saw him as one of those people.
“We are just trying to protect her.”
“Blaine I know that, but you all have to believe that I would never do anything like that to Unique.”
“I would not!” Ryder’s chest heaved as the anger threatened to come back. Blaine placed his hand on Ryder’s shoulder only to have it shook off.
“No, I know but we just don’t want to take the chance, but I think you and unique should talk. I think it will help honestly.” Ryder considered his words. He would do just that and whatever came of the talk was going to be what it was. He just had this weight on his chest.
“Can I trust you Blaine?” Ryder resituated himself in his chair by sitting up and looking Blaine in his eyes.
Blaine hesitated for a second before replying, “Sure.” Ryder swallowed hard and gathered himself.
“I don’t know how I feel about Unique. Like…I feel as though I have…feelings for her, and it’s really confusing.” Ryder threw his hands up in exasperation. He felt so stupid. How could he not figure out his own feelings? Blaine rubbed his hands on his pants trying to decide how to respond.
“OK…well if you feel that way you need to explore it maybe. When I was trying to come to grips that I was gay I experimented…and maybe you need to do that.”
“Am I gay then?” This talk was giving Ryder a headache. He pinched his brow and leaned back into the chair. He had never even considered that he might be gay. He had never looked at another boy like that in his life. Does liking a transgendered person even make someone gay?
“I don’t think so. If you believe Unique is a female then you aren’t dating a male. Let’s just say you like a non-traditional female. I think that fits.” Ryder sighed and sat back up.
“Yeah I guess you’re right. I did do some research you know, and it was other men who date transgendered women, and they didn’t think they were gay. It makes since.” He was starting to feel a little better.
“See, exclaimed Blaine slapping Ryder’s knee, “You got this man! Just, when you do talk to Unique go at it with sensitively. Now I have to go. I have a phone date with Kurt and he gets fussy when I miss it.” Blaine picked his bag up and stood to leave. Ryder had a lot to think about.
The day passed without any more incident except he was shunned at lunch so he resolved to sit by himself in a back corner of the cafeteria…alone. He saw unique looking at him from time to time, but whenever he tried to catch her eye she would glance away fast. He was done trying to avoid her eyes. He was a man with a plan, and even though he was sitting alone nothing could dampen his mood.
“Dad! Mom! I’m home.” Ryder made his way into the kitchen and there they were making dinner. He loved his parents because they really showed him what it was to love someone. He wanted the chance to express himself like that to.
“Smells good!” He used his hand to waft the aroma up to his nose. The enticing scent was coming from a bubbling pot on the stove.
“I know right. Your dad has skills.” His mother kissed his father’s cheek. Ryder took his leave as the kissing deepened. He dashed to his room and shut the door. He really wanted to put his plan into motion now but it was too early so he distracted himself with homework. By the time he was done hours had passed and he could not wait one moment longer so he pulled out his phone and scrolled like usual. His finger hesitated above the call button, and had he been a lesser man he would not have hit it.
“Hello?” came a soft, whispery voice.
A sudden lump formed in Ryder’s throat, but he cleared it and answered back. “Hi Unique. Um…it’s Ryder and-“
“If you’re are calling to yell at me don’t bother. I’m really sorry Ryder but I’m not going to let you bully me. Bye.”
“Wait Unique! I wasn’t calling to be mean. I was calling to extend a hand you know and…and invite you over tonight.” Ryder waited for a response but all he heard was soft breathing. “I…I thought we could work on Mr. Schue’s project…and I have some really good ideas so…”
“I mean I don’t know about this…” He knew he was losing her. She sounded about ready to just click off the line.
“I know this seems crazy but I really won’t do anything to hurt you. Scouts honor, and if you start feeling uncomfortable you can leave. I promise.”
“O…Ok, She sighed. “Message me the address. I’ll have my father drop me off.”
“Ok! I’ll see you in a little.” They ended the call with soft goodbyes. He let out a big breath, noticing for the first time that he had been holding it. He was giddy as he rushed back and forth around his room straitening this and putting away that. He even had time to spray extra cologne and brush his teeth before Unique finally arrived. He could hear his father greeting her as he thundered down the stairs.
“Hi Unique, and thanks dad.” He rushed Unique up the stairs and slammed his door. Only once getting there did he realize how awkward Unique looked amongst his things. He suddenly felt very self-conscious and out of place.
“You can sit on my bed if you like.” He watched as she slowly situated herself. She was so stiff and Ryder could not blame her. He bet she never thought she would be at his house, let alone in his room. After she seemed to be as comfortable as she ever was going to be in this situation he took to his desk chair.
“So I have a list of songs we can talk about. I wrote them down somewhere. Let me just…” He began looking for the paper out of nervousness more than anything else.
“Just stop. Why am I really here?” The question had caught him off guard. He figured he could segue into that on his own time. Unique worried her bottom lip and pulled her coat tighter around herself.
“I was really mad at you Unique,” Ryder swiveled around to face her. He could see her about to protest but he held his hand up to stop her. “Just listen. I was really mad at you. I was so hurt because I could not believe that a friend would do that to me, but then I started looking up things. I tried to understand what it meant to be transgender.”
“What?” The look on her face was an assortment of disbelief and defensiveness.
Still Ryder carried on. “Yeah and one of the things that kept popping up was how trans people had to worry about dating and really be careful with it and that got me to thinking that I was stupid because the obvious catfish was you,” Unique had an angry look on her face at his words. “Don’t get mad, but I also thought that you had so much more to lose if you told me flat out that you liked me. Honestly I would not have listened, but after learning things I feel as if you being Trans doesn’t matter anymore. I just…I.”
Ryder moved from his chair to the bed right beside her. She squeaked when he took both her hands and rubbed circles on the back of them.
“Ryder what…what are you talking about?” He could feel her lightly pulling her hands away, but he held them tighter.
“I’m saying that you are Katie... but you. If everything you said as Katie was real and you still like me I don’t see the difference.
“Unique I’m saying that I like you. I liked you as Katie and I’m really out of my territory here, but I can’t deny how I feel about you.” Unique mouth was slightly ajar at Ryder’s admission. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that Ryder would be saying that he liked her.
“Say something please.” He felt like he was naked in front of her. He looked at her face and the smile she was wearing was blinding.
“I…I don’t know what to say,” she laughed. “This is incredible!”
“Can I kiss you?” Ryder asked. That sobered her up pretty fast. Before she could even really say yes or no he was leaning in. The touch of her lips were so soft and warm that Ryder went a step further. He let his hands roam up to her neck as the kiss deepened. Unique moaned, letting out a harsh breath and moving her own arms to rest on Ryder’s shoulders. She tasted of a hint of mint, and if this was the way Ryder felt kissing her he knew how he felt was real.
Ryder moved his hand to rub at her thigh as he continued to explore her mouth. He rubbed circle into her as his hand inched higher. she felt so...right. That was the best way that Ryder could explain it. He thought to himself that he should have been doing this long ago. It just felt so good.
She gave a protest, and ripped her mouth away as he got closer and closer to her crotch.
“Wait Ryder! What the hell?! What are we doing?” Her eyes were wide and glossy. Her lips were shined with spit, and all Ryder really wanted to do was kiss her again, but he cleared his throat and really thought about it.
“I don’t know Unique. I like you and I hope you still like me?” Ryder crossed his fingers and smiled. Unique shook her head a yes. A piece of her hair fell into her face at the movement, and Ryder tucked it behind her ear letting his fingers linger on her cheek.
“I want to date you.” It came out harsher than he had intended he noticed as she flinched away. He had not meant it to come out that way but his resolve was coming back to him. He had spent the past few weeks so unsure of everything. If nothing else he was sure about this.
“There is a lot that will come with dating me Ryder. It’s not that simple.” He knew that. Once again he had read stories. The trans person was not the only person targeted with hate and violence, but he was willing to do this. Often times their family and lovers were the victims, but If there ever came a time he would protect himself and Unique. In that moment Ryder felt like he could, and would take on the world for her.
“I can handle it. Don’t worry. Just say yes you will date me.” He crossed his fingers again, and made a silly face.
“Ok fine just stop making that face, silly!” Unique laughed loudly as he attacked her in a hug. “You are so cute!”
He kissed her quickly on the lips, and smiled.
"Boy the Glee club will be surprised." They both laughed at the thought of telling everyone.