"Aww ... C'mon, Mom!"

 

My mom sighed, hit the right turn signal, waited for a gap to open in the cruising lane, then merged with the slower traffic and set all controls to autopilot. Once the local traffic control confirmed our destination, Mom let go of the steering wheel and turned to me. "Why in the world would you want to do something like that?"

 

"All my friends are doing it."

 

"If all your friends jumped from a cliff, would you jump too?"

 

I was seriously tempted to tell her how I would have liked to have joined the cliff diving one of my friends had done when she spent two weeks of her summer vacation with her family in Hawaii, but I decided sarcasm probably wasn't the best way to go at the moment. Instead I said, "But you did it."

 

I knew it was a bit of a low blow, but we were already halfway to the mall and I didn't have a lot of time to be subtle. Mom looked out the window behind me and stared off into the distance. When she looked back at me she still seemed a little lost in a memory. "Son, that was a long time ago, and I was an adult at the time."

 

I glanced at the glowing route map built into the dashboard and saw I only had a few minutes to convince her. "Things have changed a lot since you got it done. There's lots more options now, including complete reversal. That's the main reason they lowered the minimum age."

 

Mom drummed her fingernails on her knee, which usually meant she was thinking hard about something. "Well, being able to reverse the procedure does make a difference. Let me think about it. Maybe it could be a birthday present or something."

 

"But ... but I'll already be in school by then and I'll be the only one who ain't a girl!"

 

"Is everyone at your school becoming a girl?"

 

"Well, no, but all my friends have. It's been so hard spending the summer with them as the only boy."

 

"Have they been teasing you?"

 

"Oh no, they've been really nice to me and even treat me like one of the girls. I just felt outta place and ... well ... kinda jealous."

 

"Why would you be jealous?"

 

"It's just, ever since I found out you used to be a boy, I've been really curious about what it must like to be a girl. After they lowered the age limit on gender morphing, I've been watching my friends getting to try out what I've wanted for so long, and ... and. ..." My chest felt tight and my throat ached. I was doing my best not to cry. I had something I needed to say and getting emotional would get in the way.

 

Mom's face softened as she reached out and took my hand. Just then the car turned off the highway and dipped down as we entered the tunnel leading into the mall parking garage. I couldn't read her expression by the dim lights flicking past, but her voice was full of emotion. "Sweetheart, I had no idea you felt like that. I guess I forgot you don't need to be gender dysphoric to be curious about what it's like to be a girl."

 

She squeezed my hand, which somehow made the ache in my chest loosen. "I can't make any promises, but why don't we take a look at a clinic when the car parks itself and see how much everything will cost?"

 

 

*        *        *

 

 

There were actually three gender morphing clinics at the mall, but Gender Express was the most popular. Since they were the ones who had patented whatever it took to make gender morphing reversible, it was also the only one my friends had gone to. A pretty girl with light copper skin and long black hair who looked like she was still in her teens (which didn't really count for a lot since age morphing became popular) and wearing a white lab coat smiled at us when we walked into the clinic. "Welcome to Gender Express! My name is Ardhanari, but you can just call me Dr. Nari. How can I help you?"

 

Mom wrapped an arm across my shoulder and smiled back at her. "Yes, please. My ... uh ... child is interested in a gender morph, and I was wondering if I could get some pricing information."

 

"Of course. Is she at least at least ten chronological years old?"

 

Although I had been called 'she' by my friends, I wasn't used to hearing it from strangers. Mom seemed to take the pronoun shift in stride when she said, "Yes, she'll be eleven in a few months."

 

"That's wonderful! Would you ladies like to follow me?"

 

By the time we reached the back of the clinic, the doctor had gotten to know both our names and where we lived. The noise from the mall was almost unnoticeable when she closed the door to the small conference room. After Mom and I got comfortable in a pair of low-slung, overstuffed chairs, our guide walked over to the wall across from us and spoke a couple of command words. The wall lit up with the Gender Express logo, then a few charts stretched open.

 

Dr. Nari tapped on the first chart, which became highlighted. "This is our full package. It includes everything our clinic has to offer."

 

Mom looked down the long list, then frowned when she reached the price at the bottom. "That's a bit more than I think we can afford. Does Derrick really need all those things?"

 

"Oh no, Mrs. Thomlin. We just like to let potential clients know about all we have to offer." The doctor tapped the second chart, which was a lot shorter. "This is what most children Derrick's age choose." She turned her attention from my mom to me. "By the way, were you planning on keeping that name?"

 

I squirmed in my chair. "Actually, I was thinking of Marissa."

 

"That's a very pretty name. I haven't heard it in years."

 

I turned from Dr. Nari to my mom. "Is it okay for me to use that name?"

 

My mom smiled warmly and looked like she was blinking back tears. "I think it's wonderful. I also think your grandmother would be proud to have you carry on her name."

 

I sighed with relief and smiled back. It hadn't been until the last few years of her life when Grandma had moved in with us that she had accepted Mom as her daughter, so I wasn't sure how she would take the new name I had told my friends to call me.

 

After a few moments, the doctor cleared her throat, and we both looked back at her. "I'm so glad you have a name that works for you, Marissa."  She reached out and pulled at the frame of the second chart, which stretched out and covered the others. "So how do you feel about these options?"

 

I looked through the choices until I came across something that sounded odd. "Whats gynocentric disposition restructuring?"

 

"That just means the habits, body language and other gender specific cues people unconsciously give off are centered more around a female than a male pattern. It's not necessary, but most people find it convenient."

 

"When you say body language, do you mean things like the way people sit like this?" I changed the way my legs were crossed and shifted my position in my chair. "Or more like this?"

 

Dr. Nari grinned. "It looks like that's something you won't need. You're voice actually sounds fine as well."

 

After she dragged two items away and the list shortened, I looked at what was left and realized something I was hoping I wouldn't have to ask for wasn't there. "Ummm..."

 

"Is something wrong?"

 

No, not exactly." I could feel my cheeks burning. "I was just hoping I could have ... boobs."

 

Mom started coughing, covering up what sounded like the start of a giggle. The doctor didn't even smirk. "The majority of girls don't usually start showing noticeable development at your age, but that is something we can add." She shifted a few items down to leave a gap in the list and said something I couldn't make out. 'Breast Augmentation' appeared in the list. "What cup size would you like?"

 

"Could I have a ... a B?"

 

Mom stopped coughing. "Oh no you don't, young lady."

 

When I turned and saw the way she had just one eyebrow up, I knew I was in for an argument I might not win. "But why?"

 

"First of all, you're too young to start developing breasts. Second, even if you weren't too young, a B cup would be too much. Third, the breast augmentation brings the total to more than I'm willing to spend."

 

I thought over the first two points, decided it would probably be a losing battle arguing about them, and moved on to the third one. "Well, I have been saving up my allowance all summer."

 

Both eyebrows were up now and she just sat there blinking for a few seconds. "You didn't spend any of it?"

 

I shook my head as I pulled my cel from my side pocket. I rooted through a few menus until I got to my credit balance, then showed it to my mom. She stared at the display for a moment before looking up at me. "Are you really willing to give all this up so you can have breasts?" When I nodded, my mom looked up at the list on the wall and chewed on her lower lip for a minute.

 

It was the longest minute of my life.

 

Finally, she looked back at me, flipped my cel closed, and said, "Keep your money. I'm still not sure if I'm ready to see you grow up so fast. Lets first see how you feel about being a girl. If you still feel like you're ready for it, we can get the breast augmentations for you as a birthday present."

 

I was really tempted to go another round with Mom, but I could see she had already given in a lot and I didn't want to mess things up by trying to push too far. "Okay, I guess can wait a few months."

 

"That sounds wonderful." I looked up when Dr. Nari spoke and saw she had removed 'Breast Augmentation' from the list. "Do you both find everything else acceptable?" When we both nodded, she continued. "Very good! All we need to do now is have the two of you read and sign some release forms, work out a credit exchange, then we'll be ready to move on to the morph chamber."

 

 

*        *        *

 

 

The morph chamber was even smaller than the conference room and smelled a bit of bleach and lemons. Mom and I were standing on one side of what looked like a long, steel bathtub. The doctor was on the other side, adjusting some some controls. For the first time in years, I was holding onto my mom's hand. Dr Nari looked up from what she was doing and gave me a gentle smile. "You feeling a little nervous, sweetheart?"

 

"A little." I was actually feeling pretty scared. There was a big difference between wanting to change your body and actually doing it.

 

"That's quite understandable. Sometimes it helps to remember that morphoplasm has been used on hundreds of thousands of others with no problems at all." The doctor pressed a large white button and the tub started filling with a clear, green goo.

 

"Is that the morphoplasm?"

 

"That's part of it. Once you're completely immersed in the fluid, the nanites will be released. By the way, you can begin disrobing now, if you like."

 

"Disrobe?"

 

My mom squeezed my hand. "That means taking off your clothes, hon."

 

I looked back and forth between the two adults. "Do I gotta?"

 

Dr Nari shook her head. "The morphoplasm can work through your clothes, but they'll be ruined."

 

I thought about this for a minute. I had picked out my clothes today because they would work okay for a boy but looked (I hoped) better on a girl. I felt a little funny thinking about being naked in front of a doctor, but it was something I could get over.

 

Mom bent down and whispered in my ear. "If you'd like I can step outside when you get changed."

 

Getting undressed in front of her sounded embarrassing, but the idea of not having her near felt scary, so I whispered back, "That's okay. I'd rather have ya here."

 

She nodded and let go of my hand so I could start getting undressed.

 

I handed the last of my clothes to my mom just about the same time as the tub stopped filling up. Even though the morph chamber was very warm, I was still shivering. The doctor reached out to me and said, "Take hold of my hand and I'll help you sit down."

 

I held onto her hand and stepped into the tub. She reached around my back, put her other hand under my armpit, and lowered me down until I was up to my chest in green goo that tingled wherever it touched my skin. Next she picked up what looked like a silver button and held it where I could take a good look at it. "The next step will be complete submersion, which will include hydroflatus. Do you remember what that term means?"

 

"It means breathing underwater?"

 

"Very good! I see you read the instructions carefully. Now normally, even with highly oxygenated fluids, there's a gag reflex. When I put this device on the back of your neck, it will circumvent that reflex. Also, it will tap into your aural nerve complex, allowing you to hear me clearly while submerged. Is that okay?"

 

I nodded. Being able to hear the doctor sounded like a good idea, and the thought of choking and gagging didn't sound very fun. The button felt like an ice cube pressed to the back of my neck and I heard a low hum for a few seconds before it faded.

 

"Marissa, can you hear me?" The doctor sounded like she was whispering into my ear even though she was standing several feet away. She smiled when I nodded. "Are you ready for the next step?"

 

"Wait!" My heart was pounding against my ribs as I turned to my mom. "Could you hold my hand?"

 

She took my hand and held it tight. "Of course. I'm here for you, honey. I'll always be here for you."

 

I still felt scared, but having her strong hand holding mine made it feel like something I could handle. I turned to Dr. Nari. "Okay, I'm ready."

 

"Very good." The doctors voice was in my ear again. "Now, I want you to take your time as you lower yourself into the fluid."

 

I closed my eyes and eased myself into the tub until my head was resting on a small, poofy pillow. When I opened my eyes, the world looked green and wobbly as ripples bounced off the edges of the tub.

 

"Excellent. The next thing I need you to do for me is open you mouth, breathe out as much as you can, then take in a slow, deep breath."

 

Everything told me this was exactly what I shouldn't do. People just didn't breathe under water. Then I thought about the doctor. She seemed so nice and I couldn't imagine her asking me to do something that would hurt me. Then there was Mom. She was still there ... still holding my hand. If there was anything I knew for sure, I knew she would never let me be hurt in any way.

 

The bubbles tickled my nose as I pushed the last bit of air from my lungs. I almost decided to sit up and get some real air. Instead, I just breathed in. Something warm and thick slipped in my nose and slid down my throat.

 

I breathed out.

 

"That's just wonderful. Just keep on breathing slowly. I'm going to release the nanites now." A snowstorm of silver sparkles poured out from tiny holes along the edge of the tub. "You should start feeling drowsy soon. This is a normal part of the process." My eyes started to droop. I let them close and dreamed of a world of green filled with silver snow.

 

When I drifted out of dreamland, the first thing I noticed was how heavy I felt. Moving fingers and toes wasn't so bad, but arms and legs felt impossible. The next thing I noticed was a cool spray of water going up and down my legs. I opened my eyes, but all I saw was a pink, blurry blotch. When I was able to focus, I realized it was my mom's face and asked her, "Is it all done?"

 

"Yes, dearheart, it's all done."

 

Dr. Nari looked over the edge of the tub at me, stopped rinsing off my legs, then looked up at Mom and grinned. "Congratulations, Mrs. Thomlin. It's a girl!"

 


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