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We both love wearing dresses, the prettier the better.
We also both love cosplaying.
But that is where our similarities end.
Nobody would call Elliot a flashy person, he’s calm and kind, spending most of his time with his nose in books or playing games. But when he’s finally brave enough to cosplay loud and cheerful Aoi, a female character from Magical Princess Club!, at AmAnime it changes everything. Especially when he’s swept off his feet by a girl cosplaying Sakura, Aoi’s best friend.
Can he really expect more than friendship when he’s dressed like someone else entirely?
Izzy lives for cosplaying and conventions. She loves dressing up as magical girls because when she slips into their characters, she transforms a little too. Cosplaying and dressmaking are her ways to deal with the discomfort she feels over the body she was born in, making her feel more like her real self.
And cosplaying at AmAnime is the highlight of her year. Meeting friends, showing off her skills… And this year, somehow being face to face with a person who makes her heart beat faster than ever before.
She’s always thought that dating would be out of the question, but is it?
When Elliot and Izzy impulsively team up for the yearly cosplay contest, they may win more than just a trophy…
Chapter 1 – The Other Dress (Flowers and Keyboards 2), a Geeky Transgender Young Adult Romance
Anime = Short for animation = Used in Japan to refer to animated media, but in most of the rest of the world, it’s specifically used to refer to animated works from Japan. These animations are often characterised by their colourful style, the characters’ big eyes and the (overly) dramatic storylines. At least, those are the ones I like the most. I especially love the ones that are really over-the-top in their character proportions, with big eyes, really big hair and poofy dresses that stand out more than gravity should allow.
Two years ago
I roll my suitcase into the hotel room. My parents finally allowed me to attend the AmAnime convention in Amsterdam with my best friend Jason.
His parents are in the next room over and will be at the event too, but I already know that we’re probably not going to be seeing them much, luckily. They’re just here to ‘supervise’ us. We’re sixteen, so we don’t need that much ‘supervision’. Though my parents, and the people organising the con, really want people under eighteen to always have adultier adults around. Sigh.
I put the suitcase at the end of my bed and sprawl all over it, letting out a long breath. “Fiiiinally.”
Jason sits down on his own bed, grinning as he looks my way. “What? You don’t like being all folded up in a tiny car for hours on end?” He also stretches out, but it doesn’t take long before he’s sitting up again. “The event starts in an hour, we should get dressed.” He’s, of course, talking about the opening ceremony, which is supposed to be this big event with lots of cosplayers and music and everything. I’ve seen a few of them online, but I’ve never been to one, so I don’t know what to expect from it.
“Already?” I groan, but then I sit up too.
“People are already messaging me, they have been for an hour, asking where we are. They’re waiting out in the front halls for us.” He opens his suitcase and starts pulling out clothes, spreading them over his bed, sorting through them. “You don’t have to meet with them if you don’t want to, you can stay here and just play games or something.”
“No, I’m good.” I also open my suitcase and pull out the outfit I’ve got planned for today. It’s a Japanese Lolita style black dress with bright green elements and I’m wearing really high heeled shoes with it. I’ve worked on this outfit for months, I’m not letting this opportunity pass. I know I can, and will, pull this off. I take the dress and everything I’ll need with it in my arms. “I’m changing in there.” I point to the bathroom.
Jason nods. “Of course, just as long as you remember that I need help zipping this thing up later.” He grins, pointing at his back.
He’s used to me disappearing into bathrooms to get changed. I always do that, he doesn’t know any different from me. That, and I don’t really have to watch him change either. We may have been born with generally the same body parts, but he’s a lot more comfortable with them than I am.
Understatement of the century.
I close the bathroom door behind me and hang the clothes on the bath’s edge, keeping them off the floor. Then I check myself in the mirror. My eyes are wide and intense, and I can feel a little anxiety chipping away at my sanity.
I know I’ll be fine. Rationally, I know that I’ll be fine and that there won’t be any problems. Jason has said so himself, there is nothing to worry about when we’re here, no matter what happens. Still, it’s one thing to dress up all cute when everyone around you just identifies you in a binary way: boy, girl. But AmAnime is known for having a lot of cosplayers and crossplayers around, so people may not identify me the way I want to…
And even after years of living as a girl, that still scares me more than it maybe has to. I don’t know. I’ve not been misgendered in months, if not for more than a year. But this isn’t a situation I’ve encountered before, a place where people’s genders and gender expressions are a little fluid to begin with.
I sigh. I’ve been so looking forward to today, I’ve been waiting all year to attend, but now I’m actually here, I’m starting to freak out a little.
What if people… What if people are going to make an issue with how I dress? Or the way I act? Or the way I am?
Jason knocks on the door. “Izzy.” His voice is calm, but I know he’s checking up on me.
“Yeah?” I look up, breaking the staring contest I’m having with myself.
“I’m not hearing you move. Come on, get changed.” He’s so excited, even though he tries to be calm for me, and I can’t help that his cheer lifts my own mood too.
“Yeah, yeah.” I quickly strip off the leggings and comfy dress I wore during the car ride here. Then I look at the outfit I’m about to put on and sigh. “Moving now, you can stop standing there.”
“I know, I can hear you.” Jason laughs. “Going to put on some music, get in the mood and everything.” He walks away from the door, and I can hear him stream some J-pop from this phone to his portable speakers.
I sit down on the side of the bath, taking off my socks and sliding on the fishnet stockings, trying not to get stuck in them. Today I’m not going as some anime character, cosplaying is for tomorrow when the real convention starts, instead, I’m wearing a cute gothic lolita style dress. When my stockings are on, I quickly put on the pristine white socks with the frilly edge, to go with my shoes, and then I stand up and pull on the dress. While the sleeves and skirt are all pretty and fiddly, the body of it is plain, but that’s because I’ve got a corset to go over it. That was the one thing of this outfit that took me months to finish, the corset, but the end result is definitely worth it.
I look around, realising I’ve left something in my bag. “Jason!”
“Can you get me the black petticoat from my bag?” I open the door a little.
Jason moves around the room and is back with the petticoat in no time. “Here.”
I take it, pulling it into the bathroom. Then I close the door again. I’m not going to flash him while putting this on, no way. I smile a little as I think about it. Yeah, flashing Jason wouldn’t even surprise him, he’d probably find it funny. Strange guy.
I pull the petticoat on and then pull the dress over it, smoothing them both down. I check myself in the mirror again, plucking at the top of my dress. I wish I had more to fill out the bust, but that’s the advantage of making clothes yourself, you can just design the fit to hide the things you don’t want people to see, like my lack of cleavage.
Which will be different soon, hopefully. I’m definitely old enough now. As I think back to the conversation I had with my parents last night, I’m fairly sure that I’ll be taking the next steps in my transition in not too long.
Then I grab my old clothes and get out of the bathroom, making sure I enter with flair and a quick spin to show off the skirt, of course, which suits a dress like this.
Jason stares at me. “That, with heels and a corset?” His eyebrows go up.
“Yes.” I grin.
“Wow.” He grins too. “I should have gotten myself a bodyguard outfit instead.”
“Hey…” My cheeks flare up, and I quickly drop my clothes on the bed. “You know I can kick anyone’s butt any day.” My parents insisted I take some classes in self-defence when I was younger, just so I would be less of a target.
“I know.” Jason turns his back to me. “Can you zip me up? I’m not as flexible as you are.”
“Sure.” I pull the back of his dress tighter and then zip him up. We’re somewhat of a matching pair. I’m all black and green, and he’s all black and white, both wearing similar styles of dresses, though mine is a little more extravagant. “I’m going to need you to do my makeup, though.”
“Of course.” He grabs his makeup bag, pulling a chair between the beds and puts the bag on it, going through it. “I actually got you some fake lashes for today, if you want them.”
“Which ones?” I normally wear my own, but for this look I’ve just got plain black fluttery ones, nothing too extravagant.
“Green.” Jason grins. “Should match your dress.” He picks up a small box from the bag. “Check them out.”
I open the little box, and he’s right, they’re bright green, a close match to the details on my dress, and they’re really soft and long. “Wow. Thanks. How much do I owe you?”
“Nothing.” Jason winks. “Got them in a two-for-one sale at a new place I was trying out. They had the perfect lashes for the cosplay I’m doing tomorrow.”
“You have to stop doing that. Just giving me stuff when you feel like it.” I pick up the green lashes. They do look really nice, if a little strange, but that’s not a bad thing in this case.
“You make me things that would have otherwise cost me a lot of money, or repair some of my clothes when I ruin them. This is the least I can do.” He sits down on his bed. “What are you looking for? Anything specific you want with the makeup?”
I shake my head. “Nah, with these lashes… Just something simple would be good.”
“Okay.” Jason leans in. “I hope you’re ready to have a lot of pictures taken.”
I shrug. “Isn’t that what this weekend is all about?”
* * *
I’m not sure what I expected of the opening ceremony, but I don’t think this was it exactly… There are a lot of people waiting around in the hallway, and I’m a little overwhelmed as I look around. Most of the people here are dressed up, though many are just in regular clothes too, probably half-half. Wow.
Jason keeps hold of the sleeve of my dress as he looks over the crowd. The guy is tall, but today he’s wearing heels, which makes him easier taller than almost anyone here. “Ah.” He waves and then turns to his parents. “The people I’m meeting are at the other end of the hall. The guy with the pink hair and the white princess dress is one of them.” He points.
His mum looks over and nods. “Just be careful, please?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jason grins.
Careful? Him? Us? Yeah, not likely.
“Are you going with him?” Jason’s mum looks at me. “You can always find us or just call us. We’ll probably be at the cafe upstairs.”
“I’m going with him.” I’ve gotten a little used to all the excitement now and am calm enough to be curious again.
“Good. Have fun.” She grins and then takes her husband’s arm, and they walk off.
“Come on.” Jason tugs on my arm a little. “You really need to meet Ruby, he’s awesome. And I think you’ll get along well with him, he makes his own dresses too.” Jason starts dragging me through the hallway, through the crowd.
I do my best not to get stabbed by weapons or hit in the face with bags and hair. But, we make it to the other end without getting hurt, too much. Yay.
As we get out of the crowd, I’m faced with a sight I should have expected, though I’m still not prepared. We’re standing in front of a group of people who’re wearing some of the most extravagant outfits I’ve seen yet. If I thought that I’d stand out in my black and green dress with the green fake lashes, I shouldn’t have worried. These people… they definitely stand out more than I do.
“Jay!” A guy with a pink wig and in a big white dress comes over, taking Jason into a hug.
“Ruby.” Jason laughs, wrapping his arms around the other man. “You look extra princess-y today.”
“I did my best.” Ruby laughs, then he looks at me, smiling. “Do you hug?”
Ruby steps closer and lets me initiate the hug. When I wrap my arms around him for a hug, he takes me in his arms and whirls me around, spinning us a couple of times. “You’re adorable. I love that dress.” He lets me go again, and I have to take a moment to get my breath back.
“Thank you. Made it myself.” I feel my cheeks heat up a little.
“Cool. I’m Ruby, as you’ve probably heard. And you are?”
“Izzy? So you’re the one Jay is always bragging about.” Ruby eyes Jason. “I don’t think your description did her justice.” He grins. “Okay, let’s get you introduced to the rest of the group.” He turns around. “So, everyone, this is Izzy. Izzy, this is the strange group of people who Jason hangs out with when he goes to conventions.”
A guy with black hair and also a black and green outfit comes over, looking at me closely before he smiles. “I’m Kevin, and I believe I’ve met my match for the evening. And those lashes rock.”
I’m pretty sure that these people aren’t as scary as I made them out to be in my head. Just like Jason, they seem to just accept that I dress this way and am who I say I am.
This could turn into a very cool weekend. And this definitely could be the first time I get to share my passion of geeky and creative things with a lot of people instead of just one or two friends.
This convention thing rocks!
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