Attending a candlelight vigil for Kassandra, a murdered black transwoman, James meets Michael, Kassandra's brother and a regular at the kink club Sirenia where the vigil is held. When James goes to return a shirt Michael let him borrow, the two strike up a friendship, despite the years between them, the very different lives they lead, and racial tension in the aftermath of Kassandra's death. And as Michael introduces James to dating and kink, their friendship quickly evolves into more.
Vigil For Our Fallen Sister, the sign read.
I was coming out of my most boring class, the most basic of basic biology, where we learned that the longest bone in the leg was called the femur of all things. I normally wouldn’t have even looked to the bulletin board across from classroom door, except that the guy putting the sign up was really cute and black, with multi colored dreads hanging down to his waist.
The paper was pink and the words were all in a really pretty script. I walked closer to be able to read it, and he looked over at me. The vigil was being held at Club Sirenia, a club I’d never heard of.
“Is that club new?” I wasn’t super familiar with the clubs in the city, but I did like to dance when the clubs had eighteen and older nights. At just nineteen I wasn’t able to get into a lot of the clubs and bars yet. I had a fake ID, but I couldn’t pull it off. I’d tried, and failed, plenty of times already.
The guy looked me up and down. “Uh. Might not be your kind of place.”
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be offended by that or not, but I definitely felt a bit put off. “Why not? Some girl died, right? People should go to pay their respects.”
He stopped hanging the sign and stepped back. “This girl got murdered, homeboy, and unless you’re gay or something, this isn’t going to be your scene.”
I took out my phone to grab a picture of the sign. That way I could remember when it was and where I’d be going. “Turns out I am.” I’d only recently come out, and it still felt a little weird just announcing that I liked guys to random strangers, but it was a good weird too. Like when I’d shaved off all my hair just because I could. It had mostly grown out now, but I had really liked the feeling of being able to do something so different from my usual and that was so totally me.
I was walking away when the guy caught up to me. He looked ashamed now, his mouth tightening with each word he spoke. “Sorry for back there. Been dealing with assholes all morning. Just trying to get the word out. Police aren’t even really looking for her killer or anything like that. Some trans girl gets stabbed to death and they’re all boo hoo no one gives a shit. You feel me? Just because she’s black and had a dick doesn’t make her less of a victim.”
I didn’t think it did either. “Yeah. For sure.” I was at my next class, but about ten minutes early. Just enough time to chug the soda in my backpack and figure out what the hell we were supposed to have read the night before. I sucked at this whole college thing. Sucked big time. And having a roommate who was always there but always having sex really cut into my study time. And my sleep.
“I’m James, by the way,” I said, offering him my hand.
“Equan,” he introduced himself, taking my hand. “This your next class?”
I nodded. “Spanish. I didn’t do enough of it in highschool to be able to just skip it. I’m trying to be a herpetologist, but that’s way down the road. Maybe by the time I’m thirty or something.”
He cracked a smile. “I’m a biology major too. Stay away from Professor Peterson when you get to invertebrates. I’ve heard he’s hell to take. Like his tests are impossible and almost no one gets a B, let alone an A. Your GPA will tank under him according to everyone I’ve talked to.”
I made a quick note in my phone with his suggestion. I definitely did not want any professor like that anywhere near me. I needed my GPA to stay almost perfect. I was only able to afford college at all because of a scholarship, and I needed that to continue. “Thanks.”
Equan leaned against the wall next to me. I resisted the urge to touch his dreads. I loved how colorful they were and how open and honest about himself he seemed. “Are you thinking of going to the vigil?”
“Yeah. I’m not doing anything else tonight.” And it would give me a chance not to have to listen to Todd fucking whatever random guy he brought back to our room tonight. He’d already been with most of the guys on the floor.
Equan pursed his lips. “You should be fine there, for the most part, but if anyone gives you any trouble, look for Michael. He was Kassandra’s brother, so he’ll definitely be there. A lot of the people are going to be pissed off in general. But a white guy did this, and, dude, you’re pretty much the whitest guy I’ve seen. People might be pissed about you being there just because of what was done to her. So, yeah, look for Michael. He’ll take care of you. He’s like my second cousin or something. Our moms were best friends and all that. Anyway, I got more flyers to put out, and you gotta get more learning in. See you.” He pushed away from the wall, and I went into class now that the previous session had ended.
I didn’t know what to think about what Equan had said about me being white. Yeah, I was. I had blond hair and green eyes and I was so pale I burned walking from my last class of the day to my dorm in the evenings, but I’d never heard my skin tone referenced like it was a bad thing before this moment. I’d never thought anyone would tell me I should be worried about going somewhere because of how I looked.
I tried to brush his words aside and focus on class. It helped some that I had no idea what I was doing in Spanish, so I pretty much had to pay attention to everything that was said and that left no time for me to think about anything else.