There were so many useful ways that Elle Campbell could have started their day. They could have gotten an early start on brush- ing their teeth and getting dressed for school. Heavens knew it took them long enough to pick out the perfect androgynous outfit. They could have done jumping jacks and begun their morning with a little healthy exercise. Heck, even staying in bed and squeezing their eyes tightly shut until the alarm blared would have been a more productive use of Elle’s time.
Instead, they groggily pulled themself out of bed and made a beeline for their computer to read the latest comments about Elle’s favorite show—Phantom Thief.
The show was about supernatural thieves who pulled daring heists all across time and space, and was just about Elle’s favorite thing in the whole wide world.
Elle usually loved talking to other fans, but today their mood only soured as they read a long chain of comments attacking their favorite episode, “Wolf Heart.”
“Wolf Heart” is the best, most important Phantom Thief episode in years, and anyone who doesn’t see that is a FOOL! Elle typed fiercely in response.
The “Wolf Heart” episode had introduced the current protagonist, the witty nonbinary hacker who had changed Elle’s life completely. The character had given them the knowledge and the courage to come out as nonbinary.
Why didn’t these internet twerps understand that? Why couldn’t they realize how important it was to them?
Elle spun around in their desk chair and surveyed the room appreciatively. Nearly every inch of it was covered in memorabilia from the show. There were the Phantom Thief posters on the wall, the Phantom Thief figurines that stood atop a bookshelf filled with Phantom Thief paperbacks and graphic novels. Next to their computer with the Phantom Thief desktop wallpaper was a picture frame of Elle cosplaying as a character from Phantom Thief at a local convention.
“Elle! Time to get ready, hon!” shouted Elle’s mother. There was no corner of the house in which one could hide from the bellowing of Susan Campbell. Yodelers and banshees traveled the world over to learn her secrets of vocal projection.
“I’m getting ready, Mom!” Elle called out even as they remained in their office chair, legs folded like a contortionist. Elle had read online about the stereotype that queer people couldn’t sit in chairs properly and had decided to embrace it.
“No, you’re not! You’re arguing with strangers on the internet, aren’t you? Stoppit!”
“It’s not arguing, Mom. It’s civilized discussions on the pressing cultural issues of our day.”
Suddenly, the door to Elle’s room burst open and Susan Campbell flung herself through, doing her best impression of a character from some ’90s sitcom that she’d tried—and failed—to get Elle to watch.
“Honey, I love you, but you need to stop arguing with strangers about which characters should kiss which other characters and get ready for school.”
Elle pouted. They hadn’t been arguing about fictional couples. Well, not this time at least. Most of the time, yes. But not this time! “Please don’t give me that face, Elle.” Sue’s expression softened. “I
love you, and I’m so proud of you and want you to always be your truest self, but ever since you came out it takes you three times as long to get ready in the morning. So get going before you miss the bus.”
Elle finally unfolded their legs to slither out of their office chair.
“That’s just ’cause fashion makes sense now. There’s so much more to choose from and decide on! I want to look right and look cute, but it’s so much work and it takes forever, ya know?”
Sue smiled, brushing aside a lock of her long red hair. “You don’t have to tell me, I’ve been at this a lot longer than you have. Welcome to the world of beauty, kiddo! Now get dressed and put on whichever makeup you like today,” she called as she left Elle’s room, closing the door behind her. “You do it fast, then I got toast and eggs ready for you. You go slow, then I’m shoving you out the door with just one of those oat and grain bars that turn into a literal mountain of crumbs.”
Elle opened their closet. In just a few months, what had once been a wardrobe full of ripped jeans and logo T-shirts had given way to skirts, blouses, and button-downs in loud colors and patterns. Elle’s eyes hovered over a jade-green dress. It had been Elle’s first dress and was still their favorite. And to them, it looked even better now that their fiery red hair hung nearly to their shoulders. But now that it was time to actually put it on, they were second-guessing themself.