The Venture – Part 1 – Reach

The Venture - Part 1 - Reach

Content Warning: The following content contains slightly mature language and discusses some slightly more mature topics, such as the personal experiences of transgender people, puberty, and self-harm. Nothing sexually explicit is mentioned or spoken, and nothing is explained in uncomfortable graphic detail. If this type of language makes you uncomfortable, this is not a story you should read. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is not intentional, and none of these characters exist in real life.

The remaining parts of this series will be published over summer break as the story team writes.

Dedicated to my transgender friends, including Jordan, who helped me figure out who I was by becoming more true to themselves.

Ash sat back in their seat. They needed to rest their wrists after so much typing. They were bored.

Not knowing what to do, they left their room and walked a few steps to the kitchen. They opened the fridge, checking for things that they hadn’t noticed yet. Maybe there’d be a stray container of pasta. Maybe some leftover chicken. 

No dice. They had asked their friend yesterday to buy food, but their friend hadn’t texted back. They texted their brother, Ellis, and asked if he was near a store. 

Ellis started typing back, then stopped. Then started again, and replied, “you live a block away from a store. you have like 150 bucks in money you made from your last project. go get your lazy butt off your squeaky chair and walk the four floors and four hundred feet it takes to go to safeway. get yourself a twix or something idc”

Ash giggled and replied back, “it’s 139.99 and you know it, loser. i’ll give you ten bucks to fetch me a mcgriddle from the mcdonalds in there, i feel like crap rn and i don’t wanna go outside”

Ellis replied, “fine. love you”

“love you too”

That exchange didn’t solve their problem. They were still hungry. And tired. And hormonal. The hormones they took made them feel bloated and hot all the time. They felt itchy and sore everywhere. They hated it, but it was the only way they could get what they wanted. Every day, every hour, they would check up on themself in their bathroom mirror. Nothing changed, nothing had changed since they started the meds two months ago. Maybe some little peach fuzz above their lips appeared. Maybe. Maybe their voice cracked a little more than usual. They didn’t know. 

Ash didn’t want to think about it. They looked around the kitchen for their phone. And they knew their memory was terrible, and they knew they could probably just use their home phone to call it, but searching for a few minutes and finding it was much more satisfying. 

They looked, gave up, and then sat down. They pulled out their phone from their pocket and facepalmed.

“Seriously?” they asked. Of course it was in their pocket this whole time. It was a heavy phone, too. To pass the time, they opened a game on it, one of the games in the Ocean Village series. There was comfort in playing a charming little game made by one guy that made them feel both comfort and fear.

The object of the game was simple. Build a village near the ocean, and manipulate people to turn against and eventually kill each other instead of you. It was a game that Ash felt sick playing, but it was fun.

They got back into the game, continuing from the last section. They were gaslighting an old couple into hating each other. Then they suddenly needed to go to the bathroom.

They headed down the hall to their bathroom, did their thing and walked back out to their living room.

As they walked by their front door, they heard a knock. A grunt came from the other side, then the door burst open a few inches, clanging against the chain lock.

“Hey Ash, I have your McGriddle! Where’s my money? Also, are you gonna fix your crappy door?” Ellis shouted, through the crack in the door.

“Shut up, Ellis, no one needs your crap at this time of day,” Ash shouted back. “Is Oli here? Tell him I say you two make a cute couple and that y’all should get out of the hallway before my neighbors get mad at you,” they continued, unlocking the door.

Two laughs came through as the two men came in. Ellis handed Ash the food, and gestured for the money. Ash pointed down the short hall, and Ellis went into their room to get the money from their wallet.

Ash thought Oliver was nice. Oliver and Ellis had met in an art contest a year ago, and immediately developed crushes on each other after getting each other’s numbers. Ash knew Oliver from high school, and was his friend for a while. They had different friend groups, so they drifted apart, but Ash thought seeing him regularly again was nice. Ash was currently in love with one of their friends from when they were a whole group, Allie. Allie was often in the back of Ash’s head, kicking things around and imaginarily telling Ash “Ooh, I love you so much!” after bursting through the door of their apartment like she did. The bursting through, not the love, to be clear.

Ash knew better. They knew that Allie didn’t love them back. Two years of Ash loving her wouldn’t make their case when asking Allie out. Or maybe Allie did love them back? They couldn’t tell, Allie was always so playful when it came to who she chose to love.

They wanted to think about something other than romance. They had fallen in love too many times, and any time the person in question reached out to them in any way, Ash had always messed up and interpreted it as a romantic gesture. It was a very efficient way to end relationships. 

Ash put on their headphones and sat in bed, eating their sandwich over their blanket. Many times Ellis had come in and said, “Oh my god, Ash, don’t eat in your bed. Do you want rats in here? We already pay enough in rent, we don’t need to pay the rat people again!” to which Ash would respond, “I’ll eat in here if I want, I’ll pay the rat people to come if I find a rat.” 

It was an ongoing debate that neither of them particularly cared about, but that both thought the other one was annoying for continuing.

As they ate their sandwich, spilling crumbs on their sweatpants, they got a text.

“yo you wanna fix that one t shirt of yours that we both wore like five years ago? it would be kinda cool to see each other again” Allie texted.

Ash had no idea why Allie would text them just out of the blue like this. It was just kind of an Allie thing. Maybe she was bored.

“sure, sounds fun!” Ash texted back. “when do you wanna come over?” they followed up.

“ok cool i’m in the lobby, i’m waiting for the slow elevator to come back down” Allie wrote.

“wait wtf i’m not ready, how did you get here so quick” Ash wrote, panicked. They got up, and saw the tomatoes in the sandwich slip and fall onto the bed. They tried to mop it up with their hand and sighed, “The rats’ll get it.”

“I heard that! There are paper towels literally twenty feet away, Ashhole!” Ellis shouted.

“It’s funny because it sounds like you’re calling me an-”

A stomp came from the ceiling, silencing Ash’s profanity. The neighbors were unhappy. 

“Sorry!” they both shouted. They ran down the hall to the closet and grabbed a roll of paper towels.

Then Ash heard a knock on the apartment door. Carrying the large roll, they walked over and struggled to open the stuck door with one hand. They unlocked the door and yelled “Kick it!” to the other side. The door sprang open, and the messy-haired Allie stood on the other side.

Come in!” Ash whisper-yelled. Allie walked in, in her usual tank top and leggings that hadn’t been washed for approximately a week at this point. The top had marker writing on it that said, “ALLIE’S SHIRT, DON’T  WEAR IF YOUR NAME IS ASH AND YOU’RE KINDA HOT!” that dated back to when they were in high school and had the same top size. There was another name, but it was scribbled out and replaced with “Ash” when they changed their name. Ash had the same shirt, although it had their old name on it in place of Allie’s, and Allie’s name in place of theirs.

“Oh my god, you look so hot!” Ash gushed, blushing slightly, 

“You too, idiot. How are the hormones treating you? I heard testosterone is weird, you get acne and a whole bunch of other crap, don’t you?” Allie asked.

“I wish. Like, Tessa’s currently on estrogen, and that apparently really sucks. Hot flashes, chills, and her chest is achy all the time. She has to wear a bra now, she constantly complained about it at first. I get it, after twenty years of not wearing one it must be weird to wear one, right? At least the hormones are getting something done inside of her.” Ash said, sighing. They had barely grown a shadow of a mustache on their face.

“Wow, yeah, I remember when I actually had to get a bra for the first time, it was so weird for the first few days. My mom had to show me how to put it on, I was so confused. And then one of ‘em got hit, and it was painful,” Allie said.

“Yep, been there, done that,” Ash laughed. “But now I have to wear a binder and that’s weird. At least bras are designed to be comfortable some of the time. Like, casual bras exist. Not binders, though.”

Ash remembered that they needed to take theirs off in a few hours. They made a mental note.

“Yeah, how about we get sewing?” Allie said. “I brought stuff to both replace your deadname and make the… chest area a little more masculine for ya.”

“Awww, you’re so sweet! Let me get my shirt.” Ash gushed as they rushed into their room and dug through their dresser. Allie came in after and glanced around. She noticed the red stain on the bed and asked,

“Hey, what’s that, are you alright?” Allie asked, eyes wide.

“Oh, it’s tomato juice that I forgot to clean up. I was about to get paper towels, and then you knocked on the door and… here we are,” Ash explained, embarrassed.

“Oh, that’s good, okay. I thought you bled through or something or you started doing… it… again.” Allie said, cautiously. “If you need to talk to me about something, you can, you know.”

“No, I haven’t done either of those in a long, long time. I’m thankful,” Ash sighed. They were once depressed enough that they did, though, and Allie knew that full well.

Ash looked back to their dresser and spotted the shirt below a pile of other tank tops, most of which were fitted for men. They took it out and threw it to Allie. Allie looked around for a table, and didn’t find one.

“Dude. You don’t have a desk in your bedroom?” Allie asked, confused.

“I have a clipboard and a bed,” Ash responded.

“This is why you don’t get girls,” Allie sternly told Ash.

They both stayed silent for a moment before bursting out in laughter.

“Mmm, yeah, I have my sights set on one, though,” Ash said.

“Ooh, who is it?” Allie giggled.

“I’m not telling you!” Ash giggled back. 

“Alright, let’s go into your trash heap of a living room and sew this bad boy up,” Allie huffed, taking her sewing supplies out of Ash’s room.

“I’ll be right out!” Ash exclaimed, closing the door behind Allie. They had to think for a second before going out.

She would never like me, Ash thought. But Allie seemed different now. Maybe there was a chance?

Ash took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked out.

“I’m ready to start,” Allie said as Ash walked toward the living room.

“Start what? Ash asked, confused from the thoughts they just had. “Oh, wait-” 

Ash knew exactly what was coming.

“-Your mom,” Allie interjected, smirking.

“Not funny. Get out,” Ash frowned.

“Nah, you know you love me,” Allie joked.

Ash’s eyes widened and they started blushing, turning around. They knew it was just a joke, unless? What if Allie knew? What if Allie loved them back? No, it wasn’t possible. No. 

“Hey- you good?” Allie asked, concerned.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just… nothing. Never mind,” Ash gulped.

“You sure? Is there something you want to tell me?”

If only Allie knew.

To be continued, in the second part of the Venture series.

Part 1 written by Blue Linden.

Story team: Blue Linden and Alex Coleman