Magical: Before the Magic - Carmen's Story

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Literature Text

“Before the Magic - Carmen’s Story”

by Jocelyn Samara D.

I awake from a strange dream.  I can’t seem to remember what happened, but I think it involved a rabbit at one point.  With big, glowing butterfly wings!  A “bunnerfly” if you will.  That’s happening a lot lately, actually.  I haven’t been keeping track, but I’m pretty sure I’ve woken up with the same vague “I think there was a winged bunny” feeling for the last couple weeks.  Not really sure what that’s supposed to mean.  

But whatever.  Who cares?  It’s just a dream, and I’ve got a big day ahead of me.  I’m basically starting a brand new life at school today.

I should say that I’ve always hated school.  I mean, I’ve got no problem with doing the work or anything.  My problem is more about the other people.  And I mean everyone.  The other kids beat me up.  Teachers condescend to me.  I’ve even been made fun of by a custodian once.  I used to have a couple friends to stick by me through thick and thin.  But apparently not TOO thick or thin, as many of them have completely abandoned me in the past year.

Excluding a few friends online whom I sadly can’t meet in person, the only friend I really have left to rely on is Janey.  And thank god, I don’t know where I’d be without her.  I guess seeing her is the best part of school.      

Not that home is much better.  At 13 (almost 14), I’m the youngest of four.  That’s three older brothers, by the way!  Two of them essentially write me off as nothing more than a glorified punching bag.  My parents just scoff and treat me like it’s my fault.  Only my oldest brother, Armand, has even the remotest empathy for me.   He moved away to get his Masters degree though, so I now have no buffer from the rest of my family.

I guess when I look at it from that perspective, maybe I actually like school better than home.  At least I have my one friend there.  My point is that school might be even more favorable this year.  Things are going to be different.  And hopefully, that means they’ll be better.


“Damn, girl.  You look good in my old clothes!” Janey exclaims with a chuckle as I approach.  “Why don’t you keep them.  They don’t fit me anymore.”

I feel ridiculous, but I have to assume she means what she’s saying.  Or she realizes she made a huge mistake, and is determined not to let on.  I’d believe either one, really.  She’d lent me one of her ultra feminine outfits a week ago for the first day of school: a fitted pink t-shirt with some sparkly star designs and short denim skirt with some kind of flowy, flowery trim at the bottom.  I guess it fits well enough, but they were her clothes from a couple years back.  They only fit because, in her words: “I’m so dang tiny and skinny.”  I don’t think it’s my style though.   I can’t believe it was her style.

“This is so weird.”  I grumble.  “I don’t even feel like I’m completely dressed.  I keep feeling like everyone can see my butt.”

She laughs in response.  Thanks, Janey.  That makes me feel lots better.  “Relax!  No one can see your butt, and you’re soooo cute.” She insists.  “Did your folks say anything?”

“Well, my dad barely looked at me.  My mom said it was simultaneously cute and creepy at the same time.  Michael said it was completely disgusting… uh, along with some other choice words.  And Francis just laughed.”  Michael and Francis are my brothers, by the way.  “I never thought I’d say this, but I think my mom reacted the best.”

Janey frowns.  “Well, I think you look great, so can you stop being such a negative Nancy?  Or can I just call you Nancy as a measure of your negativity?”  

“I’d rather be Carmen, like I asked.”  I correct her.  In response, she sighs or groans or both.  It’s not the first time we’ve been over it, but I shrug it off as well as I can this time and add, “It’s okay, Janey.  It’s a lot better than my brothers still calling me by my other name.”

“Still?” she asks with genuine bewilderment.  Her concern about others failing to call me by name somehow makes me feel better about her failing to do the exact same thing.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re not even trying to get it right though.”  I say through an uncomfortable laugh.  “I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I kinda am.”

We continue to gab as we maneuver our way through the halls for the first time of our eighth-grade year.  Some kids ignore us, but a lot of them stare.  I expected this.  But maybe they’re not really judging me.  Maybe they’re stunned by how good I look.  Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Carmen.  Realistically, if anyone’s being admired for how they look, it’s Janey.  

I mean, she is so pretty.  She has the kind of face that’s just made for wearing glasses (which she wears).  Of course, they frame her face perfectly, and make her big brown eyes stand out that much more.  Her outfits are always done up to the nines, and she’s got long and curly hair.  She just epitomizes beauty and femininity to me.  I may or may not totally have a crush on her.    

Next to me, she’s perfection.  Janey says my hair is technically curly, but I think the term she’s looking for is frizzy.  And it’s nowhere near as long as hers.  Although, I can’t even imagine my wild hair be that long (I fear it might consume people).  I’m short and scrawny, and barely have a figure.  My green eyes are probably my nicest feature.  And then there’s… no, never mind.  Let’s not get into that.

Tangent aside, the other kids are almost undoubtedly looking my way.  I’ve changed so much since last year.  Not to mention I’m the weirdo with the sparkly shirt.  Seriously, is she trying to draw attention to me?  I feel like people could see me – or at least my shirt – glimmering from miles away.  It’s better than the skirt though, I guess.  I keep grabbing it to make sure it’s covering all that needs to be covered.  In my mind, I keep envisioning myself tripping over and giving everyone a free show.  Because, this thing is short enough that if I fall, that’s happening.  I doubt anyone will be excited for said show though.  Girls’ clothes are so embarrassing like that.

“You’re doing fine, Carmen.”  She startles me by saying my name.  I may have completely zoned out for a moment there.  “Try not being so stiff when you walk though.  I know you’re nervous, but you don’t want to look like you are.  Confidence is key.”

“Sorry.  And thanks.”  


Janey’s right.  I am nervous.  But I can proudly say I manage to get all the way to roll call for homeroom before starting to really sweat it.  Would he say my name, or would he humiliate me in front of everyone?

As the teacher reads the names, I feel my breathing become heavier.  “Mina Astrid… Camille Bessette… Aubrey Bonfield… Sammy Craven…”1

There’s a massive knot in my stomach.  I totally want to just run out of the room.  I don’t want to be here if and when this goes awry.  “Marc Faison… Roland Faust… Stephen Garland…”  

Time feels so slow.  It’s like he’s only reading one name per minute.  Were there always this many people alphabetically before me?

I bite my lip in fearful anticipation.  “Bridget Heyden… Carlie Hunter…”  It can’t be much longer.

“Nicolas Jiminez...”  I was afraid of that.  Why must that name haunt me.

“Nicolas Jiminez?” he repeated when he didn’t get a response.  “Every seat in this room is taken, so I know you’re in here.  Just say so and we can move on.”

I stand up, turning several pairs of eyes my way.  I’m shaking.  I’m seething. But I can’t just let this go.  “My name is Carmen.”  There is distinct venom in my voice.  A few kids laugh.  I hear an inquisitive grunt from one corner of the room.  A gasp from another corner.  All of the gawkers probably said nothing before because of lingering doubts that I was who they thought I might be.  But with this one stupid error on the attendance card, the unwelcome truth emerges.  As the dull roar in the room becomes greater little by little, I can tell that my fellow classmates are starting to remember me from last year.  My eyes shift to Janey who quietly mouths for me to just “sit down.”

“I didn’t ask for Carmen.” The teacher sasses.  “I asked for Nicolas.”

I swallow hard.  “Nicolas IS Carmen!”

The ambient gasps grow louder.  From a seat close by, I hear someone let out a long “whaaaaaaat?”  Another boy sitting behind me whistles.  My face is probably the reddest it’s ever been.  It takes all of my willpower not to cry.

“What are you going on about?”  The teacher demands, his patience clearly dwindling.  “Everybody quiet down.  Young lady, take your seat and stop goofing off.”  

“I used to be Nicolas, okay!?” I shout.  The room falls silent.  “I go by Carmen now.  My mom was supposed to call ahead and inform the school so exactly this wouldn’t happen.”

The teacher looks down at the card again.  Then he looks up at me.  Back at the card.  To me again.  And once more to the card.  “Oh.” quietly escapes his lips.  “It says that down on the bottom.  I don’t usually see that section filled in.  My mistake.”  He actually chuckles.

I’m so mad.  For a moment, I wonder how much trouble I’d get in if I lifted my desk and bludgeoned the man to death.  The scary part is that I think my biggest hindrance is more the fact that I’m much too weak lift the desk.  I proceed to spend the remainder of the class considering what lighter, but still heavy, objects I might be able to substitute as bludgeoning instruments instead.  

Maybe I’m at fault for expecting too much from people.  Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut and stayed seated.  Maybe I wasn’t as ready to do this as I thought.  As ready as I hoped.  

I mean, there’s no denying that this is who I am, and this is what I want.  I haven’t been taking t-blockers2 for over a year for nothing.  Still, I kept quiet pretty much until now.  Even though I was going through hormone therapy for the entirety of last year, my development was slow so I hid it.  It wasn’t until this past Summer that I first started trying to present female.

I just wanted to be able to start this new school year off strong, like a completely new person.  Maybe I’d be treated better as a girl, I thought.  Janey was even nice enough to lend me her clothes so I could look totally different (even if they aren’t really my thing).  And yet, not five minutes into homeroom, I’ve outed myself in an attempt to defend my honor.  I probably shouldn’t have done that.  I just couldn’t stand hearing that name.  It’s practically profanity to my ears.

Someone once told me, “Don’t call yourself something else to make other people happy.  You’ve got to do what needs to be done to make you happy.”  For the past two years, I’ve lived my life by these words.  It’s how I’ve survived all the beatdowns from other students or my brothers.  It’s how I reached this point today, where I can demand to be called Carmen.  It’s kept me going.  And it will continue to keep me going, but it feels like it never stops being hard to deal with everything.  It feels like everything I do to make me happy just happens to make everyone else around me unhappy.  I don’t understand though.  No one seems to be able to offer an answer more complex that “it’s wrong” or “it’s disgusting.”  Why?  What’s so wrong with me?  I’m not trying to hurt or inconvenience anyone.  I just…

I just want to be me.  Isn’t that what everyone wants?

A crumpled up piece of paper bounces onto my desk.  I dread this, but I open it up to read “Did you cut off your dick?” scrawled on it.  My heart feels heavy in my chest, but I try not to react.  I hear snickering from a few seats behind me, but I can’t look.  It’s what they want.

The boy immediately behind me says something I can’t quite hear.  Next thing I know, I feel him grab my bra strap through the shirt and snap it against my skin.  It stings just enough to elicit a squeak from me.  At least half the class starts laughing.  I hear through it from behind me, “Dude, he’s totally wearing a bra!”

My eyes get misty, but I refuse to cry.  I turn to Janey who leans over a little, and mouths, “You okay, girl?”  It may be just one person, but it means so much to me that someone is on my side.  I smile weakly to her and nod.


When class ends, I find myself under a very intimidating shadow.  Or rather, the collective shadow of about a half a dozen guys.  I stand up, refusing to back off, but that only scares me more.  

I realize I’m still smaller than any of them.  I was twelve when I started taking hormones, and haven’t really grown much since.  My doctor told me I might not get that much taller at all.  Ironically, the men in my family are pretty tall (my brother Francis, only two years my senior, is almost a full foot taller than me).  Apparently it’s a trait that doesn’t extend to the women.  

I used to feel grateful for this effect.  But here I am now, looking at the same people that have been bullying me for years, remembering there was once a time I was the same size as them.  Remembering that fighting back was once possible (if always fruitless anyway).  They’re all so tall now.  Taller than last year even.  It’s absolutely terrifying.

“Well, look at little Nicky, here.” One guy says.  “Always thought you were a girl, but I didn’t think that was literal.”

“Nicky who?  Weren’t you listening before?  My name is Carmen.”  I stand my ground, but the crowd laughs anyway.  

Another boy adds, “Ooh, he-she’s talking back to you, dude.  Are you just going to take that?”

“I can’t.” he replies with a serious face.  That look warps into something more deranged and he adds in a mocking voice, “It’s impolite to hit a lady.”  They all lose it.

My eye twitches.  I may be smaller than him, but that just gives me a better angle to break his jaw and really shut him up.  I clench my right hand tightly into a fist, seriously considering it.

Next thing I know, I feel a hand around my wrist.  I look along the arm to see its owner, Janey, yank me out of the crowd and continue out of the room.

“What are you doing!?”  I yell, struggling helplessly.

“Saving your damn life!”  She scolds.  “You can’t even break out of my grip.  Do you honestly think you stood a chance against them.”  I flailed my arm a couple times trying to break free.  I fail miserably.  My head hangs low and I apologize.  She lets go.

“Are you all right, Carmen?”  Janey says with a now much more peaceful tone.  “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I know.”  I reply.  The tears I’ve been fighting back since hearing my birth name finally come forth.  “And I appreciate that.  It’s just… it’s so frustrating.  I feel like they’re just getting away with it, and I can’t do a thing about it.  I hate being so weak and helpless.  If I hadn’t started transition-”

“You'd be miserable, and you still would’ve gotten your ass beat up.” She interrupts.  “Sorry, but you were no better at fighting as a boy either.”

I just groan in response.

“It doesn’t make you weak though.  You’re a lot stronger than you realize.  Maybe a little thick-headed, thinking you could handle that, but you’re not weak.  Your strength just comes in another form.”

“Like what?”

“Are you serious?  Look at you!  Look at what you’re doing.  Forgive my saying, but this is like the ballsiest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do!”  She says with a big grin.  I don’t want to laugh, but I’m unable to help it when she makes that face.  I wipe my eyes.  “It takes a lot of resolve to accept things about yourself.  And even more to stand up for those things when people are against you.  I’m not just talking about transitioning or whatever.  I mean, anything.  You make it known when someone needs to be corrected and you stand up for what you believe in.  Those guys in there?  They’re cowards.  They’re bullying you ‘cause your strength makes them uncomfortable.  They know you’ve got something they don’t.”

“Boobs?”  I say, my face deadpan.  Janey has a particularly contagious laugh though, so when she gets going, I break and laugh too.  

“Not even!  You see the bitch tits on that one guy?  I bet he wears a bigger bra than I ever will!.”  She says through her laughter.  “I’m serious though.   You know who you are.  You know what you want.  And here you are, doing everything in your power to attain it against the will of nearly everyone around you.  You think those guys are have that kind of sense of purpose?  Girl, I don’t even know what I want in life.  Honestly, I’m jealous.”

I blush.  

“I mean it too.”  She hugs me tightly for moment.  When she separates she keeps her hands on my shoulders and looks directly into my eyes.  “So don’t listen to them.  Don’t give them a chance to get under your skin.  You don’t HAVE to fight back.  You’re already better than them.”

“I, uh… thank you, Janey.”

“Excuse me!”  called a boy’s voice from behind us.  We both turn around to see a tall, awkward boy.  “Is… is it true you’re a tran-”

“Is she what, boy?  Is she what!?” Janey steps forward and cuts him right off.  The boy looks deeply intimidated.  “How about you just go ahead and keep walking?”  He shuts up, slowly backs off and does exactly as he’s told.  I just give her a blank stare.  

Janey turns to me and smiles.  “And if anyone does get under your skin and gives you trouble, girl, they’ll have to answer to me.”

I blush again.  Or still.  Okay, I definitely have a crush on her.  On the one hand, maybe I actually have a shot.  Honestly, I don’t know.  I can’t possibly tell her though.  I can’t risk the only friend I have.  Not when she’s this good to me.  If it gets too awkward, would she stay with me?  

And that fact proves she’s wrong about me.  Doing everything in my power to attain what I want?  I’m not that strong.  I’m not that brave.

I’m just a helpless and skinny little transgender girl.

I turn again to that boy as he slowly walks away.  Something about him didn’t seem quite as malicious as those other guys were, but maybe that was all the more reason to keep my distance.

For a moment – perhaps no more than a second – I think I see a small black and white rabbit with glowing butterfly wings standing unnoticed in the middle of the hallway near that boy.  The very same one from my recent dreams.  I’d forgotten about all day until this moment.  I blink and it’s not there anymore.    

“Hey, Carmen.  We’ve spent kind of a long time out here.  Shouldn’t we be getting to our next class?”  Janey asks, snapping me back to reality.  I turn to her and nod with a smile.  “C’mon, girl.  Maybe your day will get better.”

“Yeah.  Maybe the next teacher will actually read the attendance card.” I joke.  We both laugh.


1 - The names of the other students during roll call are the names of characters from assorted other stories of mine.  They can ALL be found somewhere in my DA gallery.  ;)

2 - T-blockers (or testosterone blockers) are a type of medication that stops the body from producing testosterone.  In addition, it may make a genetically male body go through female puberty.  If taken at a young enough age, it can outright prevent the effects of male puberty.  There are no laws in the United States that prohibit teens and preteens from taking hormones.  However, doctor philosophies may vary, and no doctor will write a prescription for hormones to a child under the age of 18 without parental consent.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (if you celebrate it)!  And happy Thursday if you don't!  XD

Well, here we are.  I'm still deep in Rain (and will continue to be for a long time), but I had ideas for Magical I just had to get out on paper.  Originally, this was not meant for your eyes.  Originally, it was just going to be a script (Magical itself is more likely to be a comic overall).  A friend suggested writing like this instead though, and I just... went ahead and did it.  Why not, I guess.  I haven't written anything in this format in a very long time (kind of set in comic-writing mode lately), so do be gentle in your critique.

Some of you might be thinking, "Where's the magic part?  I thought this was supposed to be a different kind of story."  Yes and no.  There is to be magic and stuff, but this piece that I'm writing is only a prologue.  I wanted to set the stage by introducing the characters (meaning, there could be three more "Before the Magic" stories revolving around the other main characters in the future).  I feel like this is a better way to get through these prologue segments though.  The actual story (once it really get going someday) is intended to balance between the magical, fantasy adventure and down-to-earth school setting (think Persona 3 and 4).

Anyway, you've read enough out of me, so I'll stop now. XD

Magical, all characters and all other aspects of the story are copyright material belonging to me.

Oh~!  And kinda unrelated, but genderqueer pride scarves are now available in the RainComicStore on Etsy!
© 2013 - 2021 JocelynSamara
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Cabbitgurl's avatar
I know this is late but that teacher deserves to be hit with a frying pan, twice.
FireChick12012's avatar
Hold on. I'm confused about something. If Carmen's family doesn't like the fact that she's MtF, then how is she even able to go to therapy and start transition? Certainly someone had to drive her to therapy and even give consent for Carmen to be able to take hormone blockers, right? Other than that, this was a nice little oneshot.
JocelynSamara's avatar
The idea is that they agreed to let her do it, but they still don't necessarily approve.  I actually have a couple younger friends in that situation.  Apparently, they had good therapists who urged the parents that this is important.  I figure Carmen's in a situation much like that.
dreisteine's avatar

I can't help but feel like Janey's reaction to the "tall, awkward boy" was a bit harsh (regardless of if it's just a part of her character).
I understand that his question was fairly rude, but aren't there many better responses than "go away."

I mean, there are so many other responses here, and many possible motivations for the question. What if the boy was looking to give support, or was trans himself or —

Aaaand I stopped writing the comment and read Nora's story. I am legitimately surprised that I was correct at that level. I expected the "boy" to be curious, or looking to offer support. Not to be trans herself... Maybe I should have read the intro first.

But the reason I'm still posting this comment is to ask a question.
What would be a better reaction?
This is the sort of thing I like to know beforehand, in case I ever find myself in such a situation (on either end).
dragontamer155's avatar
I've read all the Before the Magic stories, and now I'm officially wondering.

Does the bunnerfly know Puddles?!
TheArtisticIntrovert's avatar
I recognize Carmen from the lobby scene in Rain! XD
This story gives me hope. Thank you
I wonder if the "tall awkward boy" mentioned there might have been Nora/Donovan.
Runya-EithelNar's avatar
You were right, the same scene appeared in her story :)
Sumrr's avatar
Not into the fantasy element, but I'll follow along for a bit as I'm trying to read as many Trans stories in general and want to learn about Carmen in particular.
NickACJones's avatar
 Couple of typos to correct:

"I can’t even imagine my wild hair be that long"

 First, I would assume that "be" should read "being" (unless you're deliberately incorporating an American slang vernacular that does use "be" in this way).

"No one seems to be able to offer an answer more complex that 'it’s wrong' or 'it’s disgusting.'"

 Likewise, "that" should be "than."

"You think those guys are have that kind of sense of purpose?"

 Finally, the "are" doesn't belong there.

 As an additional matter, I can understand needing to inform people unfamiliar with the lingo of certain terminology (I'll be damned if I knew what a "t-blocker" was, despite being moderately certain that it didn't involve Umbrella Corporation), but the numbered annotations in the story were a bit jarring. I'd remove anything in the main text pointing to end notes, but leave the notes themselves there (like they often do in manga these days when Japanese cultural references pop up).

 As to the story itself, you've provided a solid background for Carmen's situation, we've got a basic outline of her personality, and a seed has been planted for the later main story in the presence of the rabbutterfly. I think it's a good start overall, and I'm interested to see where it'll go once the fantasy elements are more strongly introduced.

 Oh, and as one last matter:

"Stephen Garland…"

No one touches my
You impertinent fools.
I, Steve, will knock
you all down!!

 Hm. Just doesn't have the same ring to it. ;p
vash145's avatar
very good story ignore my previous comment it was a joke but ya gotta say your a really good writer and i enjoy your work.
OjouTsuki's avatar
I hope this continues!
PerilsOfRosella's avatar
I feel like Janey and I are kindred spirits. She is going to get in a couple of fights- but they'll be worth it. 

I am way into this. Can't wait to see where it goes!
GunStinger's avatar
Oh great, now I've got to keep up with this awesome story as well as the comic ;)
Mukkura's avatar
I was lucky enough that I went by my preferred name for years before coming out and lucky enough to where half my school thought of me as male anyways. This is just rude and....ugh. ;n; I'm just...I'm so glad that she has Janey in her life.
DazedDaisiesO-o's avatar
Soso good! i love it!
Pronce's avatar
OK so from this I gather Carmen's mother would have OK'd the T-blockers? Though the way Carmen puts it, it's hard to imagine any of the family taking it seriously enough to have ever reached out for any sort of medical/official help. And that she eventually is at the Therapist, do we learn more on who is financially supporting what she's doing?
Carmen actually showed up in Rain a few years earlier in her life (six weeks earlier in our time, based on comment dates).

and here…

The latter page, next-to-last panel, contains a statement that is directly quoted in this "before the magic" story.

The setting of that meeting is the waiting room of a gender-identity counseling clinic.

Carmen wouldn't have been there without the approval of an adult parent or guardian who agreed to be responsible for whatever bills insurance didn't cover. Of course, at that point such an adult might have been hoping that counseling would "cure" her. But now she's on T-blockers, so it's about 99.9% likely that at least one parent has - at a minimum - accepted that there's no "cure".
phoenixir's avatar
I think it's like their saying "We love you and I want you to be Happy but we're not happy with what makes you happy and we will let it be known" or something similar.
JocelynSamara's avatar
Of course.  We'll learn lots more about Carmen's family and how she got on hormones to begin with.  It's very clear that there's some disconnect between who they are and how they treat her versus what they do for her.  But that's not an oversight.  It'll all make sense in time.  ^_^    
Sumrr's avatar
I'm willing to bet that her brothers will pummel any of those goons if they actually touched Carmen.
vash145's avatar
dream of bunnerfly man whats next she meet a man in a butterfly mask giving her the power to wield her inner self i think its call a persona idk i could just be thinking to deeply into this or i really got a stop playing smt games
SekhmetReborn's avatar
I love it! I can't wait to read more!
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