Their name was Effie. No, not like the lady from The Hunger Games, even though Lunah’s pet name for them had been Trink, short for Trinket. Effie had been so excited to meet this badass nonbinary woman in the first couple weeks of their second year at UC Forster that they hadn’t said a thing about the nickname.
On the contrary, Effie had found themselves blushing—a little from anger, but mostly from being totally smitten—when Lunah joked about “the odds being ever in your favour, Trink” before they auditioned for the Forster Players. It was cool, Effie thought, to be given a name by someone they admired. Besides, “Trink” sounded way more gender-neutral than “Effie,” even though neither had an inherent gender, obviously. Effie liked the hard consonant ending, like they were a person who made certain, quick decisions. Not like the fluffy second-half of their legal name which shared endings with words like “fluffy,” “puffy,” “stuffy,” and “comfy.”
Light, airy. It captured the capricious impulsivity which usually guided them, but failed to communicate any sort of guidance.
All Effie’s life, they had hung out with who they wanted, said whatever they wanted, and worn what they’d wanted to wear even if they’d had to defend their fashion choices to their parents and the dean and everyone who they got to sign on to a petition against the sexist nature of their high school dress code. “It is literally a part of the cross country team’s uniform to wear shorts above the knee,” Effie had argued. “The only difference is your perverted asses don’t sexualize them, but you see my denim bootie shorts and see an undesirable ‘slut.’”
Profanity had been used, so the Powers That Be could lock up the boygirl alien thing / alien kid of indeterminate gender—who cares if what they’d said actually made sense.
Maybe the bootie shorts incidents hadn’t been the first time they’d yelled at a Power to go fuck themself. And, yes, Effie had yelled that time—but the other times they had only raised their voice. And, no, they never had any intention of harming anyone even though they wanted the whole school to burn down. And, yes, maybe Lunah was right and they knew they could get away with this shit because their parents were Agatha and Clyfford Akeyah, CEOs of a multimillion dollar corporation that profited on a bunch of sketchy investments and was held up by outsourced, underpaid labour, something that should have been more cognitively dissonant to them given the fact that they were probably the descendants of slaves, but, hey, “power corrupts” or, as an ex had liked to say, “money whitens,” as if the two were the same.
Effie’s fave thing to say to the deans and counselors at their stuffy prep school had been “I know you want to lock me up,” meaning, “but you won’t—because, you know, rich parents.” Looking back, that was pretty fucked up of Effie. Looking back, Lunah was right when she’d kiss them on the cheek and say “You’re so fucked up,” an affectionate term which had evolved from “Why are you so fucked up? / such a fuck up?”—
Effie wished they could remember why Lunah had said this the first time because she hadn’t been the first partner to ask them, and Effie felt like it may have been legitimate criticism. Like, it wasn’t as if Lunah had ever said it as a way of shaming them for their general weirdness. It wasn’t a bigoted dig at something superficial like their chest hair peeking through a cropped fuschia blouse. No, it was Lunah seeing into the depths of Effie’s character and finding it lacking, like, in an I-thought-you-were-different-from-the-other-privileged-assholes sort of way, but still more…
Snapping at a customer service agent who was wasting their time—why were you such an asshole back there? Breaking up with someone for no reason over text—you’re such an asshole. Zoning out when Lunah was talking about Carl Sagan for the thirtieth time—Ass. Hole. Effie got “asshole.” “Asshole” was an effective mode of communication. But “fucked up” felt deeper, like a surgeon had cut them open and found a poisonous flower had grown inside their heart, and now they had become dependent on that poison to survive.
And being a “fuck up,” yeah, that was a red line through their existence. The kiss made everything better, though, and Effie immediately neglected to think deeply about the phrase.
Now, though, buried in darkness surrounded by the smell of sugar, Effie found themselves drifting in and out of sleep, in and out of thoughts of everyone they had left behind on Earth when their impulsivity flung them into the crammed storage room of an actual alien spaceship.
Effie had always told Jenniah she was garbage, like, morally speaking, and that if she didn’t change her deceptive ways her head would end up in a basket right alongside Agatha’s and Clyfford’s, but Effie had never been able to detach from Jenniah the way they could detach from the rest of the Akeyahs. Effie figured it was probably because Jenniah had been the only other person who didn’t dig her assigned gender growing up, so when they talked about their gender, Effie felt a warm kinship they wouldn’t feel again until attending a trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming affinity group at Forster (and even then, nothing was like those late night convos with Jenniah).
Effie thought it was because they worked in a liberal tech bubble and were so high profile that if word got out they didn’t support their little genderweird children—“Good Lord, the press! Could you imagine? You couldn’t, could you, Effemiah, because you don’t give a damn about the family business or everything we’ve invested in you and your sister—not just financially, but mentally, emotionally etc. etc. blah blah blah.”
Effie wasn’t convinced either of their parents saw them as anything other than “an investment,” as a “product of Agatha and Clyfford.” Effemiah Akeyah™.
After Effie and Lunah had watched Little Fires Everywhere, Effie realized they were the Izzy of the family, and Jenniah was Lexie, but with a Pearl exterior.
The next time Effie woke up, all the sweetness was sloshing around them and a flurry of something like airport commotion faintly penetrated the metallic walls of their confines.
They were sick with confectionaries, which had been the only source of food on the who-knows-how-long ride.
Effie remembered their teacher reading them a book in which a stow away to California hides in a barrel of potatoes and sucks on them for nourishment. Effie felt like that, except with sugar-coated teeth, spiked blood, and another planet as their destination. Over the next couple of hours, the motion of the crate would transition between a sort of rhythmic I’m-in-the-back-of-a-carriage sloshing and heavy I-just-need-to-get-this-shit-to-its-next-location-because-its-my-job thuds.
Each thud woke them up, and with less of the space in the darkness taken up by assorted packages of desserts, they slammed against the walls each time. Jenniah had no idea what they were going through for her, Effie thought, wondering if she would have done the same for them.
But hey, this whole situation was out-of-this-world WTF sci-fi shit. You couldn’t really predict what you would do before it happened.