And you were ok in the end, even if you still doubt it sometimes. The immediateness of what happened after with every single one of your local big boofy male relatives on your doorstep with trailers and furniture and dire threats of retribution. With your brother's in two separate states just about jumping in cars and driving all night to reach you, and you thinking hang on I thought I was the family reject, your dirty little secret. And finally realizing that in the end it didn't matter if you hadn't turned out they way your parents had envisioned, you were still one of them, part of their blood, and no one deserves what you went through. What's the family motto? Stuff 'em. Say it harder. Stuff 'em! Howl it out louder kid, the oldest and the one with the most to learn. The success story with nothing to show for it. You are always one of us. You felt in that week like you belonged more in your ordinary family than you ever could in your chosen community that would not even admit that this had happened to you. But you were alone on those first nights, in a strange place with the cats not speaking to you for transplanting them like this. And you remember how good it felt when he finally decided he still loved you and settled into your knee on top of the not warm enough but the only cover you had spring doona. And how you grabbed him and felt the calming re-assuring purr settle in your heart like all you'd ever known. Somewhere out there; there's someone who will love me for me and not what control they can have over me. And when you rescued your precious homebrew and drank yourself into a stupor every night for a month they never blamed you for seeking that refuge. They loved you regardless and clung to you at night like they understood. Do you remember meeting your nephew for the first time and thinking what the fuck sort of role model will I ever be to you bub? The doubt, the working yourself to death, the wondering who in the hell would want you now? Would you still have a job, would they forgive you for taking a week off with a face like a cave in?

But they did and you work for them still. The one thing you were really, really good at also helping with the healing. Feeling the flames lick around the pan in your hand one day made your workmates gasp but it made you laugh with the simple pleasure you always got from flipping and turning, seeing the fire come up and over the rim, knowing you could control when that happened. And knowing you could laugh still. You found that you were human after all and you did become a different person like you thought you would, in both a good and a bad way. Bad because you're not sure you'll ever trust again and you're closed off now where you used to be as open as a book. Good because you finally admitted you were a human being with needs and fears and you didn't have to be so goddamn tough all the time. But you made it. It's been nearly a year and you're still kicking. Like countless unspoken people before you and unfortunately, probably countless people to come. And you hope that they eventually come to appreciate their life like they never did before as well, just like you. You made it.