(C)Larke by Suann Amero

Monday, December 19, 2022
Clarke is inspired by a TikTok video to face up to a truth that might not go down well with the family; by Suann Amero.

Image generated with OpenAI
Clarke lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He'd bought a mini-projector online, not really expecting it to even work, but - lo and behold - he'd connected his phone and his favourite vlogger, LadySpeech Sankofa, was big and bold on the ceiling of his bedroom.

He tried to keep his gaze above her shoulders but she often wore plunging necklines and his eyes were invariably drawn toward the valley between her double-D's. He heard her voice but his attention was elsewhere, studying the tattoos on her chest rather than the brilliant smile on her face.

He knew she was more than the feminine body she was in; in fact, what had initially drawn him to her was her smile and her no-bullshit messages. They were on the same wavelength; hang ten all the way to the beach, baby.

She was the kind of woman he wanted to be. According to society's standards, her curves were less-than-perfect, but they were exactly what he wanted to see when he looked in the mirror at himself. He wanted his voice to be loud and proud like hers. He wanted her wit and charm, her brass.

With this thought, he pulled his gaze away from her ample breasts and back up to her smiling face, and listened as she made a shout out to the Sisterhood. They'd saved her and she was thankful. Clarke wished he had a Sisterhood to save him too, or at least to help him sort out the confusion of his life.

The video ended and another cycled up in the queue. Reaching down, he smoothed the fabric of the dress he had snuck from the laundry room. His sister wouldn't notice the dress missing from the dirty laundry, but she'd definitely notice it missing from her closet.

LadySpeech started speaking again, a message that the Spirit told her to share. Her red tube top covered her breasts so he watched her expressive face and listened as he laid his hands across his own chest, wondering what it would be like if he had breasts of his own.

"Stop sleeping on yourself," LadySpeech said, and Clarke scrunched his face in a look of confusion. She had his attention, so he listened, and his chest vibrated with resonance under his hands. She was speaking directly to his soul.

The video ended and Clarke hit the power button on his phone. The room went dark, but for the glow of light from the projector.

Stop sleeping on yourself...

Clarke closed his eyes and thought of all the times his sister had marched into his room and railed at him for sneaking into her closet to borrow her clothes. He just wanted to play with them - it wasn't like he was hurting anything. Was he?

...cause you know that's the only thing stopping you from going from good to great...

But the way his parents reacted, it certainly seemed like he was doing something terribly wrong. Father would demand the clothes back and Momma would pass them to his sister who would run off in a huff to wash them, as if he'd somehow sullied them. Father would close the door and sit on the edge of his bed while he shivered in his underwear.

"I am disappointed in you," he would say, and Clarke would tremble from the frost in his father's voice. "I already have a daughter; you are my son."

And Father would sit there and begin to pray. Sometimes it would be only a moment, a quick prayer asking God to save his soul. Other times, Father would pull him to his knees on the hard floor and hold his hands tightly together, making him pray for his own forgiveness, for hours.

Eventually, Father would leave, and Clarke would crawl under the covers of his bed, wishing he could fall away into another world, where it was okay for him to be himself. Sometimes, he would pretend that there was another world underneath the one he knew. Maybe under the city, under the manhole covers, there was another world where he could dance in a pink dress under the light of a million stars and the eye of the moon and feel like he belonged. In that place, he could even dance under the brightness of the noonday sun.

Then, a light rapping on his door and Momma would come to sit next to him where he lay on the bed. She would reach out to brush his forehead with her fingers, as if he was sick and she was checking for a fever. Her other hand would bring up the makeup wipe and she would gently wipe away the lipstick from his lips and the blue eyeshadow from his eyelids. When his face was clean, his sins washed away, she would lean down and press a kiss to his cheek.

"You only have to tell me what you need," she would whisper, her breath tickling his ear. "You can be whoever you need to be. Either way, I will always love you."

She would stand and move to the door, looking in at him, her silhouette outlined by the hallway light. "You just have to tell me."

Then, she would close the door and walk away and he would let out the breath he had been holding and let the tears leak from his eyes. Why couldn't he tell her what he needed?

Stop sleeping on yourself, cause you know that's the only thing stopping you from going from good to great to motherfucking stratospheric excellence.

LadySpeech had spoken and Clarke's eyes had been opened. Pressing his hands against the smooth fabric of the dress, he took a deep breath and, on the exhale, he got up from the bed to cross to the door. Opening the door, he leaned out into the hallway and, before he could change his mind, he called out.

"Momma, I need you."

Momma could be heard moving around downstairs in the living room and then on the stairs. Moving away from the door, back to the bed, she watched as her mother stepped into the entryway, silhouette blocking the light from the hall.

"What do you need, baby?" Momma asked and stepped into the room.

"Close the door and turn on the light, please," she said and heard the latch snick as the door closed and light bloomed overhead.

Standing tall, she held both arms out to the front with palms up, in supplication.

"Because I had to be, I was Clarke," she said, and Momma nodded, silent, waiting for the more that was obviously to come. She took a deep breath, and another. Then, "Now, I am Larke, because I need to be."

Momma moved forward then and her embrace was like sunshine, warm and soothing; a brightness in her life. "Of course, you are," Momma said and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

For the moment, there were no thoughts of what Father would say. It didn't matter anyway; Momma would give her what she needed.

...stop sleeping on yourself...

She was awake.


  1. Is it weird to be commenting on my own story? I just have to say how much I LOVE the image selected to accompany my story. Absolute perfection. Thank you, Fiction on the Web!

  2. Suann Amero’s "(C)larke" is a well-crafted and well-considered study of a phenomenon which has been with us since the beginning of time: the conundrum facing non-binaries in adjusting to their bodies, their minds, their souls. Reaction by Clarke’s father and sibling to his conflict was predictably horrific for the young person, but the solace offered to Larke by her sympathetic and loving mother was affecting, heartwarming and life-affirming. A lot of ignorance persists out there and perhaps this fiction takes many outside their comfort zones, but this is an excellent story.

  3. Absolutely incredible story - the realistic struggles, the pushback by ignorant/scared family members, the pure acceptance of the mother until Larke can finally be herself. Thank you for this lovely story.

  4. Starts with a great title! The story itself begins on a sad note, and you are worried for the MC. But then that beautiful mom makes it so lovely. And the going might be difficult but the mom will be there for her. She's the kind of mom all moms aspire to be. Whether the quest is who the child needs to be, what kind of career they want, who they want to date, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Well-crafted and poignant. Larke, I’m sure, has challenges ahead, but at least she has her mother’s support.
    - D. Henson

  6. Lovely. This tender story will help many people understand the difficulties of those whose identities don't fit in to the norms.

  7. A very affecting story - succinct and well told. The author should be proud.