Chapter 8

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily

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Synopsis: A week has passed and Cate is slowly adapting to live at PAA


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Content Warning: Dysphoria.

“Good Morning Cate,” Virginia, the therapist greeted me as I sat down on the couch.

I made a grunting acknowledgement. I think one of the things I miss most about my previous life was coffee in the morning. It’s not that I’m dragging, cause I’m not. This body isn’t addicted to caffeine like my previous one, but the taste and the jolt typically cuts through typical Monday bullshit. Like this therapy session.

“How was your first week at PAA? Where would you like to start this morning?” 

I simply shrugged. “A coffee would be nice.”

Virginia got up from her chair, walked over to the coffee pot and started pouring into a coffee mug. “I would like to start with everything that’s happened in the week since we last met.”

“I went to class. I met people.”

When she was done pouring, she handed the mug to me. 

I looked at it. The mug was warm, and the aroma was enticing. I didn't actually expect her to give me coffee, so this was a pleasant surprise. “Is this a bribe?”

“No, Cate. These are your 50 minutes. You can talk about what you want. My role here is to facilitate your self-reflection. If coffee helps you be honest with yourself, I’ll give you coffee.”

I took a sip. Nice and hot. “Thank you. So can we sit here in silence as I… reflect?”

“We can. But I was actually curious about the incident at the diner.”

“You heard about that?”

“I was notified of it, yes. Would you like to discuss it?”

I wanted to say no, but I decided to indulge her. It’s the least I could do after she gave me some coffee. “Well, the manager there is a bigot. So is the sheriff.”

“That diner is notorious with their ‘No TG’s’ sign. Why did you go there?”

There was a sign? “I didn’t see the sign.”

“Did your roommate?”

“Sophia did warn me about the diner. But I was curious. I was also hungry.”

“And when it was evident you weren’t welcome there?”

“We stayed. It’s a free country. I wanted to see how that played out.”

“Cate, normally students at this school avoid confrontation. You seem to embrace it.”

“Well, someone has to. She told me ‘our kind’ weren’t allowed in there. I’ve never been told that before.”

“So, you had to test your boundaries?”

“I guess.”

“In your previous life, you’re not used to being told ‘no’.”

I shrugged. She was right. The only one allowed to tell me ‘no’ was the Chief. Maybe Cheryl back in the day, but that ship has certainly sailed. I certainly wasn’t going to take ‘no’ from the bigoted diner manager or sheriff.

“Cate, you’re familiar with privilege?”

“Yeah, yeah. I get it. I’m a middle aged white male. I have certain advantages.”

“That’s how you see yourself. What do the townspeople see?”

I sighed. “A 14-year-old girl.”

“Not just a girl. A girl from PAA.”

I shrugged and nodded.

“You said this is a free country. Do you believe that?”

“Yes. We fought for our freedoms in the revolutionary war. And to end slavery in the civil war.”

“Are all people in this country free today?”

“They should be.”

“As a middle aged white male, you felt you were free. That everyone was free. How about now?”

I started to slink down in my chair. This was getting uncomfortable. “Not anymore.” I whispered in embarrassment.

“So the privileges afforded to you as an adult male no longer apply to you?”

“No. Can we talk about something else?”

“Cate, I know this is uncomfortable for you, but typically the loss of privilege evokes strong feelings in people. People tend to lash out and blame the wrong people.”

“I’m only blaming the Slider.”

“OK, But I’m concerned about your safety. You told me in your previous life you often put yourself in harm's way.”

“I was a… firefighter. It was my job.”

“What would’ve happened if you got hurt last week?”

“I’ve been hurt many times over my career… as a firefighter.”

“You told me last session that you considered your body ‘on-loan’. What if she got hurt? What if your roommate got hurt?”

“Then that sheriff will pay.”

“Interesting,” she said, taking notes.


“A week ago you hated your roommate. Now you’re willing to protect her.”

“She’s annoying. But she’s my roommate.”

More note-taking. ”Tell me about Sheriff Dearing.”

“You know him?” 

“Cate, I live in Weatherford. He’s an elected official.”

“Elected? People elected that? Did you vote for him?”

Virginia chuckled. “Hell, no! Actually, I wanted to hear from you. What is your impression of him? As an outsider.”

“He’s a dick. Walks around like he owns the place. Me and Sophia were doing nothing wrong. He came up to us, misgendered Sophia. Asked us to leave a restaurant for no reason. When I tried to stand up for my right as an American, he slammed me to the table. Next time I see that son-of-a-bitch, I’m going to make him pay.”

Virginia looked at me and didn’t write anything.

“What? Aren't you going to write that down?”

“That’s the most emotion I’ve seen out of you since we’ve met.”

“I just hate cops like that.”

“Why is that?”

“They give all cops a bad name. We’re supposed to protect and serve the community, not go around being bigots and serving special interests.”

“You said, ‘we’.”

Shit. “Did I? If I did, it was a mistake. Police and Firemen have a rivalry and we’re often grouped together. Let’s talk about something else.”

She finished writing then looked at me. “Let’s switch gears then. You’ve been at PAA a week now. Do you feel abandoned?”

“Abandoned? No, I don't think so.”

“Last week you said your body’s parents sent you here.”

“Well, I have no connection to them, so I’m glad they sent me away. They really sucked.”

“Do you still talk to them?”

“I’m supposed to call them weekly. You know… to remind them that they have a daughter that needs money.”

“When did you last talk to them? What did you talk to them about?”

“Monday night. The father needed help logging into HBO on their smart TV. The mother gossiped about some of Emma’s friends, then complained about their live-in servant. I’m glad I’m out of there.”

“So you admit you’re happier living with Sophia than your body’s parents?”

I chuckled. “Sure, but don’t tell Sophia that.”

“How about loved ones from your previous life? Do any of them know you’re here? Has anyone reached out to you?”

I thought about the department. Do I think Chief Hamilton abandoned me? I haven’t heard from him since that day in the Admin lobby. “Only one person knows I’m here.”

“And who is that?”

“My friend. He visited me last week. He’s been sending me money.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“I dunno. How would that make you feel?”

“Loved,” she suggested.

“Well it’s nice to have one person who knows the real me, thinking about me.”

That answer pleased Virginia. I’m here to please.

* * *

“Alright class, please take out your nail polish,” Ms. Barnes said as she handed out cotton balls and nail polish remover.

I raised my hand. “Mrs. Barnes, why do we have to do this? Isn't telling us that - in order to be a girl we need to learn nail polish, sexist?”

“Yes and no,” the teacher replied. “Outside of the class you can express your gender as you see fit. This is part of the curriculum because you’re meant to leave your comfort zone and experiment with things you were not exposed to in your previous life as a male.”

I grumbled as I pulled out the bag of cosmetics I bought over the weekend. I let Sophia pick most everything out. I insisted on black polish though. It was the least feminine color I could go with.

Mrs. Barnes demonstrated the proper technique to paint our nails. Slow and steady. Broad strokes. After she did that, it was our turn.

I huffed, and did as I was told. It went faster than I actually expected and I didn’t paint my skin.

“Good job, Fox,” Mrs. Barnes said.

I cringed in embarrassment. This is the last class that I wanted to be a teacher’s pet in.

“No fair,” a girl behind me named Becky said. “She’s a Displaced. It’s easy for her.” Becky always complains in class. She’s the result of a TG virus and complains even more than me. 

Remember that hazing from last week? It didn’t end there. I’ve been getting singled out as the new girl for the past week. I think each girl knows they can rile me up. Sophia and my teachers have been encouraging me to not let it get to me. If I ignore them, they’ll stop. Did I mention I hate high school? “If you want to switch places, Becky, let me know,” I retorted.

“Is that a threat?” Becky replied. “Maybe you really are a Body Hopper.”

“If I was a Body Hopper I wouldn’t even be here right now listening to you bitch-”

“Ladies,” Mrs. Barnes interrupted to stop the bickering. “Cate, can I see you for a moment at my desk?”

I got up from my desk and went to the teacher. “Sorry, Mrs. Barnes. I know I shouldn’t let the girls get under my skin.”

“I was calling you over because I was curious about you being a Displaced.”

“Oh,” I replied. “Well, You know what they say. If the body’s owner did it often, it comes easy to me. Even if I don't know what I’m doing.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about last week - at Lacrosse practice?”

Oh boy, I knew what was coming. “I know what you’re going to ask. I have no idea how to play lacrosse.”

“But your body’s previous owner did?”

“I think so. I never actually talked to her, but there’s pictures on her phone that support that idea.”

“I’d like you to join the team, Cate.”

“Me? Sure, my body may know how to run and shoot, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I couldn’t tell you strategy, positions, or-”

“But I can teach you that.”

I looked away and shook my head. I wasn’t here to play sports. I was here to find Ashley Tart. Which I wasn’t doing because my case has gone cold and I’m stuck in class putting polish on my nails. 

“I’m told you have anger issues. Playing a sport could be a constructive outlet.”

“I don’t know,” I said, but I knew she was right. I played plenty of sports in my youth. Football, baseball, and various martial arts. My knees - my former body’s knees - reminded me of that every chance they got. Until last week that is. I’m not going to lie, testing out this agile 14-year-old body was tempting.

“But I do. I know. I’ve been in your position before. Angry at my situation. Sports is what allows me to burn off some of that aggression.”

I didn’t want to give her a definitive answer. I didn’t want to play girl’s lacrosse. I’m not a girl. “I’ll think about it, Mrs. Barnes.”

When I went back to my desk, my fingernails were almost dry. I blew on them like I’ve seen hundreds of girls do in the past.

Mrs. Barnes addressed the class again, “If you’d like, you can do your toes next. This time it’s a little harder. You can use cotton balls as spacers.”

I took off the socks and shoes I was wearing and saw my feet. I wiggled my toes which still had green polish on them. I suddenly got enormous guilt as I stared at my toes. Emma painted those. Emma is not here in this body. Emma might be dead and I’m doing nothing to find or save her. This nail polish came with this body. It is a part of her. Here I am erasing a part of her. 

It wasn’t until Mrs. Barnes interrupted my thoughts that I realized I had stopped breathing.

“Cate, are you OK?” she asked.

I looked up at her, finally taking a breath. “I’m fine.”

“It looked like you were having a panic attack.”

Was I? “I think I’ll skip painting my toes,” I told Mrs. Barnes. I looked back down at them. “I… just can’t. Yet. You know. Sentimental reasons.”

Mrs. Barnes looked at them, then back at me, then nodded. “I understand.” She came closer and whispered. “It’s OK. Swappers go through the same thing. For the first year I had to get permission from my husband before I did anything to her body. You just have to tell yourself that it’s just nail polish.” She walked away leaving me with my thoughts.

While I appreciated Mrs. Barnes' concern, it didn’t help. It’s different. I’m not a Swapper. I’m a Displaced. She can ask her spouse for permission. I don’t have that luxury. I should be saving Emma, not erasing her.

* * *

After my last class, I got two notifications on my cell phone. One was from Sam. She asked me to meet her at Lulu’s dorm room. The other was from an “Alyssa.” I recognized that name as Emma’s close friend. The Kincades gave me her contact info when I was still searching for Emma. I never got around to actually talking with Alyssa before my run-in with the Slider.

The message from Alyssa said, “Hey girl, how did last week go? Are you still with Jacob? You haven’t been back to school. Msg me back!” Followed by a whole series of emoji.

I forgot for a moment that Emma had friends. This is the first time one of them has tried to contact her since I became her.

I was at a loss of what I wanted to tell this Alyssa. Should she know her friend is missing? Or her body has been possessed by a cop? She should know her friend isn’t coming back anytime soon. So I replied with a partial truth, “I never made it past the train station. My parents flipped. I’m at a boarding school for the foreseeable future.”

Why did I reply to her? I don’t know. I felt forthcoming at that moment. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a week as a teen girl and kinda started making friends…. but don’t tell Sophia that! Last thing she needs to hear is that she’s successfully breaking down my walls. She starts to grow on you. Like fungus.

I put the phone away and decided to see what Sam wanted. Rather than stop off at my own dorm, I went straight to Lulu’s.

When I arrived at Lulu’s dorm this time, the blinds were at least open.

I was greeted by Sam and Lulu who were both standing there mid-conversation. Lulu, unlike last time, was now dressed fully like a boy. Street clothes. Complete with t-shirt and shorts.

“Lulu, I’m jealous,” I said. “I’d love to wear a t-shirt and cargo shorts.”

“None of my other stuff fit,” she glumly replied and walked over to a dresser.

It then occurred to me that she likely didn’t want to be wearing that stuff. Shit. I need to remember to be more sensitive about that next time. 

“Cate,” Sam said in a pleading manner as if she was waiting for me. This is the most animated I’ve seen Sam. “Tell Lulu she has to go back to class.”

I was taken by surprise. “I um.. am in no position to tell anyone to do anything. Go to class, Lulu.” I shrugged.

“I should go home,” Lulu said to me.

I looked around and confusedly asked, “Aren’t you home?”

“Exactly,” Sam said before Lulu could answer.

I watched as Lulu grabbed a stack of clothes and carried it over to a suitcase that was lying open on her bed. “Oh.” I realized what they were actually discussing. “You want to go home - home. Why?” I know why. I’m just pleading ignorance to let her explain it to me in her own words.

“I’m getting stir crazy,” Lulu replied, shifting around the clothing in the suitcase. “I have to get out of this room. But I’m a boy again. I can’t go out like this.”

“Why not?” I asked. “You look like a regular boy. There’s boys at this school.”

“But they’re Weres and Shifters. I’m just a regular boy. I’m a Normie.” She turned around and headed back to the dresser.

“You’re a girl,” Sam said. “You’re trans.”

“I know I am.” Lulu said, on the verge of tears. “But I don't look like myself anymore.”

And now they’re both crying again. So I started backing away towards the door. “Umm.. should I go?”

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Lulu said, holding on to her dresser. “This dysphoria is a bitch. I hate it.”

Sam said nothing and embraced Lulu from behind. 

Oh, God, I hate being in the middle of private conversations. Why was I even invited here? I stood there quietly wondering how Sam was doing. If Lulu’s gender affected Sam. After all, her girlfriend changed into her boyfriend. She must be taking it hard too.

“There’s nothing for me here,” Lulu said between sobs. “I should go home.” She turned to face her girlfriend.

“But I’m here,” Sam emphasized.

“I know you are, Sam,” Lulu said, holding Sam’s hands. “I love you, but I’m not a TG anymore.”

“I don’t want you to go, Lulu,” Sam begged. She had watery eyes.

I was still wondering why I was here. This sounded more like something Sophia should be handling. Not me. But then I thought about Ashley Tart again. She went missing after getting older. Did she go home too? When the Magics lose their magic, do they just up and go home? Lulu is no longer a TG. Ashley was no longer high school age.

“Hey Sam, Lulu,” I said, interrupting them. “Why am I here?”

They looked at each other for a moment. Lulu seemed hesitant, but responded. “Brandi - Brandon”

I heard those names last week when I first met Lulu. “What about them?”

“They’ve been acting suspiciously,” Sam clarified.

“How so?” I asked, suddenly taking more interest.

“They have a cursed mood ring. Typically it causes full-time dysphoria for them.”

“Both of them?” I asked

“Brandi - Brandon are the same person. They’re bigender. Some days they’re Brandi. Some days they’re Brandon.”

“Another shapeshifter?”

“No,” Sam replied. “Those are the only forms their mood ring manifests. The problem is it manifests the opposite of how they feel. It keeps them in a constant state of dysphoria.”

“Can I ask the obvious question?” I asked. “Why don’t he or she just take it off?”

“They can’t,” Lulu added. “Just like my bracelet.”

“Well, I understand how your bracelet works.” I said. “It made you feel good. It made you feel like you. Why would Brandi or Brandon wear something awful like that?”

“Whoever made it, promised them it would change with their moods,” Lulu replied. “It didn’t work out that way. It worked in reverse. Now it’s stuck, like my bracelet was.”

“Gotcha. So why are they suspicious?”

Sam and Lulu looked at each other. Lulu shook her head.

“Sorry Cate, Lulu doesn’t want to betray her friend.” Sam said.

“Sorry,” Lulu said to me when she looked.

I nodded. I was slightly annoyed. Why did they even ask me to come if they weren’t going to give me the details? 

When Lulu turned her focus to her suitcase, Sam looked at me and nodded her head in the direction of the door. She wanted to talk in private. 

I got the hint. “It’s OK,” I replied, walking to the door. “We’ll figure this out.” I turned around to Lulu. I’m not good at inspiring speeches or making people feel better. But before I left I should say something to her. “Hang in there, Lulu. Someone once told me you can be whatever you want to be here at PAA. If you want to be a girl, be a girl. If not, don’t.”

Lulu turned to Sam. “Would you be OK if I presented as a boy?”

“As long as you don’t leave,” Sam said, smiling and wiping the dried tears away.

As they kissed, I casually strolled out the door.

I slowly walked through the dorm and thought of what I learned. If Brandi - Brandon was Lulu’s friend, odds are Sophia knew them. I should ask her about them. 

I exited the building and stood in the quad. Curious. Nobody was around. 

It wasn’t long before Sam caught up with me. “Cate,” she said, running to catch up to me.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Full moon tonight,” she replied. “It’s not really my thing, but it’s insanely popular. Hey - about Brandi - Brandon. Don’t let Lulu know I told you, but I can tell you why they’re suspicious.”

“OK, go ahead.”

“They’re happy,” Sam revealed. “Euphoric.”

“That’s it? Being happy isn’t suspicious behavior. If so, Sophia would be suspect number one.”

“For someone that’s dysphoric 24/7, it’s a huge difference. Imagine if Eeyore started to act like Tigger. You’d be suspicious of them.”

“That would be concerning. OK, I guess I’ll go find this person.” I looked at Sam. I’m typically not the kind of guy to notice when a girl changes her hairstyle, but I noticed Sam’s hair was not as pink. Normally it’s hot pink. It was more of a carnation pink today. Maybe I should give her a compliment. “I like your new color.”

She looked at me curiously. “New color?”

“Your hair. You dyed it a new color right?” It was then I realized her hair was vibrant upstairs with Lulu.

She glared at me, then pulled a lock in front of her eyes. “Shifters don't have to dye their hair.”

She straightened her posture and her hair suddenly turned vibrant pink again. I noticed her puffy red eyes returned to normal color. “I’m just stressed out. I should get going.”

“Get some rest!” I said as she walked away.

As she got farther away from me, her body language got depressed and her hair color faded again.

“She literally wears her emotions.” I mumbled to no one in particular. It was then I realized Sam was putting on a strong front for Lulu and let her guard down when she left. It must be exhausting to put on a positive front for so long.

* * *

As I was nearing my dorm, I noticed a cute girl in street clothes coming at me. She was wearing a crop top and tight jeans with designer rips. She looked well over 18 with flowing blonde hair and a killer smile.

We both shared a moment of eye contact. 

She smiled and said, “Hey, New Girl.”

Typically, my go-to response this past week has been “My name is Cate.” But I couldn’t get those words out. All I said was, “Hey.”

As she kept walking, I was dumbfounded. Who was she? Is she a teacher? I should ask Sophia about her.

When I got into my dorm, there was a certain electricity with everyone inside. Smiles and excitement. Everyone was in their street clothes and some were in fancier attire. Almost as if it was the weekend and a big school dance about to happen. But it’s Thursday.

I minded my own business and walked into my room. I expected Sophia to be in there, but she wasn’t.

I had things to do. I started by adding new notes in my casebook. I need to find Brandi - Brandon. I’ll have to wait until Sophia comes home so I can ask about them. 

My phone chimed with a new message. It was Alyssa. “OMG, when are u coming back?”

I typed back, “I don’t know.”

When Sophia didn’t come home, I started doing homework and was getting slightly annoyed that the music emanating from the hallway was getting louder. I should really go bang on their door and yell, “Police!” That’s always a crowd pleaser.

An hour went by and no Sophia. I was starting to get a little concerned. 

I heard a knock on the door. Maybe that’s Sophia, but I didn’t lock the door.

I opened the door to find Amanda standing there. Flanked by Jessica and Sally. I did a double-take. They were dressed in really skimpy dresses. My eyes got wide as I looked my classmates up and down. Wow. I mean Wow. Whoever did their makeup made them all look over 18.

“Cate!” they cheered. 

“I’m glad you’re home,” Amanda said.

“What’s going on? I asked.

“It’s Lunacy!” They all cheered in unison.

“Um, what is that?” Aside from my classmates acting like lunatics.

“It’s the full moon,” Jessica answered.

“Harvest moon,” Amanda added. “It’s the first full moon of the semester.”

“Everyone heads out to the club,” Sally sang while shaking her ass in the hallway.

“The club?” I echoed. So many thoughts ran through my head. I haven’t gone clubbing since my then-soon-to-be-wife dragged me out in my 30’s. I can not go clubbing as a girl. Wait a second - none of us are of age. “What club is going to let 14 year old TGs in?”

“There’s a teen-only club in town that’s only open for us during the full moon,” Jessica replied.

“Get dressed, come with us,” Amanda insisted.

Dancing and clubbing wasn’t really my scene. How do I let my classmates down gently? “Oh, I dunno. I have nothing to wear.” 

Just then, Jessica held up a black dress. “We assumed you didn't, so we brought one for you.”

Wow, they’re persistent. “I kinda don't wear dresses.”

“Cate,” Sally pleaded. “Girlfriend, I bet you’d look awesome in a dress.” 

“I uhh... can’t wear a dress.”

“Why not?” Jessica asked.

“Oh, Cate, don’t give me that, ‘I’m still a guy’ crap,” Amanda said. “You’re a girl. A cute girl. And we’re gonna make you a hot girl tonight.”

I grimaced. I don't want to be cute or hot. “Oh, joy,” I said sarcastically as the three girls pushed their way into my room. I looked at the dress in her hands. It was so small. “Hey, wait up. I know I’m short and petite. But that is not going to fit me.

“That’s why it’s called a little black dress, silly.”

Someone shoot me.

Over the next half hour, Amanda, Jessica and Sally helped me get dressed. They started by raiding my clothes drawers. 

“Do you have a thong?” Sally asked.

“Why would I have a thong?” was my reply.

She did, however, find the lone black bra I had brought to school. As I sat on the bed, they applied various makeups to my face. 

Jessica jumped onto the bed and came behind me with a thick pair of tongs. 

“What is that?”

“A crimper,” she replied as she started tugging at my hair.

“Hey, has anyone seen my roommate?” I asked.

A chorus of “no’s.”

“I’m starting to get worried.”

“She’s likely already at Lunacy,” Amanda said. “Don’t worry about it.”

Minutes later, which seemed like an eternity, the girls pulled me off the bed. I felt cold. I felt like I wasn’t wearing anything. The hem of the little black dress barely came to mid-thigh. The dress was sleeveless and my arms were exposed. 

Then they dragged me over to face Sophia’s mirror.

Ho-ly shit.

This can’t be me. I didn’t recognize myself. I mean I didn’t recognize Emma. Standing there was a hot girl. Perfect makeup. Red lipstick. Long legs. Cleavage. Crimped bouncy hair.

“Girl, you’re gonna knock the guys dead,” Amanda predicted.

“I don't want to knock the guys dead,” was my reply. “I look like jail-bait.”

“Don’t worry, Cate, it’s a teens-only club,” Jessica said, trying to calm my fears.

As I continued to stare at my reflection, I wondered what Mrs. Kincade would think of how I’m dressed. Or rather what would Emma think?



Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on and

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