Bunni didn’t like her name, though that seemed fair because her family didn’t like that she told everyone that listened she was a girl.
Bunni wasn’t born a girl but she was fourteen now and she figured she knew better than them, didn’t she? Yes, she did.
Mom and dad had been living with Bunni, who her parents had named Tomas, for eight months now and while they didn’t like the way things were they also knew well enough that if they fought her on it they’d just entrench her deeper. That was how they saw it, not seeing that maybe instead of a weed, Bunni was a flower that had just now blossomed. Mom had been in a band when she met dad, who had been managing a store in the local mall. They wouldn’t tell anyone that it was love that brought them together but it was, well, something, and it was enough, and when Tomas came it was just barely enough. It was when Tomas’s sister Carly was born that they realized that love may not have brought them together but it was what kept them together.
Carly was different.
Different in the way that she was never going to be in a public school.
Different in that she’d never have a first date, or dance, or kiss.
Different in that the doctor said she wasn’t going to make it to ten.
When Carly came the fractured family became whole as they rallied together.
That was why they learned to live with Bunni. Not because their punk rock pasts has opened their minds more than other people, because as they aged they realized how false that flag was, no, it was that they knew there’d be a day when Carly was gone and they didn’t want to lose Bunni too.
The rest of the family hated Bunni though.
Freak, that was the big word they used, though there was another one she had heard as well that started with the same letter but was directed at her interest in who she wanted to kiss.
What they didn’t know is she didn’t want to kiss anyone.
Boy or girl.
All she wanted was to just be herself.
To wear dresses and makeup and cute shoes and pants and tennis shoes and whatever else struck her. She didn’t want to be girly all the time but she wanted the option to be girly when she felt it. Sometimes she was just happy wearing jeans and a baggy t-shirt but sometimes she wanted to look cute.
That was what she wanted.
What she really wanted.
But how did you tell your family that when they didn’t want to hear it?
Let alone the teachers at school.
The funny thing was how much mom and dad would tell her to be careful, and to not be too showy at school when the kids gave her the least trouble. Sure there were some that would bother her but most of them knew she was a girl before she did.
It was the adults that gave her the trouble and her family that gave her the most.
Grammy and Gramps were the worst.
They had been hippies once upon a time, and supported everyone’s right to be who they were – be you, baby, was a popular phrase they would say to one another when asking for suggestions on where to eat or whether to buy some new slacks. The thing was, their little Tomas wasn’t a girl and they weren’t going to stand by and let him follow the herd of sheeple and ruin his life by denying who god had made him.
Bunni disagreed but Grammy and Gramps were joined in chorus by auntie and uncle and her other auntie. And they were joined by cousins. It felt like she was surrounded by all sides.
Holidays were worst of all.
It was always – What would God think of how you are denying and desecrating His gift.
She got that a lot.
What would God say?
What would God say.
Only…she liked to think that the God she prayed to would still hold her in His hand and that His Son would still embrace her for who she was.
Her family didn’t feel that way.
Which is really how she got the idea.
Grammy liked to talk about His message and portents and how He spoke through deeds and signs.
Bunni smiled thinking about that.
Deeds and signs.
Bunni had met Nathan when they were in tee-ball together and while they weren’t close anymore they still said hello to one another in the halls at school. Nathan’s family had a farm where they raised chickens. Bunni hadn’t been out to the farm in years but she still remembered when Nathan’s older brother had shown them both how you checked the eggs to make sure they were safe to sell.
“Nobody wants a scrambled egg with a beak in it, ya know?” He had said, and Bunni and Nathan had laughed until Chuck-o had grabbed an egg he had put aside and cracked it open and showed them a half-formed chick inside. That image had stuck with her for years and when she was lying in bed a week before Easter she thought of it, out of the blue, and shivered. She had been glad she’d never found one of those eggs, though Nathan told her that Chuck-o would slip him one of those almost every time the family sat down to have eggs. It was a cruel prank that had lost its humor and even its edge and was now just something he did, their parents not even bothering to cluck their tongues or correct him and Nathan not even bothering to acknowledge it outside of throwing it out. Casual cruelty was something Bunni was very familiar with. The kind that was deeper than habit but was more of a truth that refused to be hidden, like a weed that could never be pulled completely free. She had lived with the casual cruelty of her family for her entire life so she had always felt close to Nathan in that way, the two of them survivors on a liferaft that was leaking. She didn’t think he’d survive. He was too soft, too weak, and a day would come when he would want to turn the joke back on them. She saw it in his eyes and his shoulders, which had slumped more and more over the years. Not her though. They would never break her. And as she lay thinking about those eggs and about Nathan a nasty smile formed and she went to bed with a purpose and woke the next morning seeking to fulfill it.
Nathan had been surprised to see her in the morning but he didn’t seem upset at the surprise. He was a lonely kid who liked having a visitor. Bunni asked to see the chickens and he shrugged and they headed out to them. As they stood looking at them she looked around and then leaned in to him.
“What if I had a way to get back at your brother? What if I had a way and all it’d cost you were some of those eggs…” She pointed towards a box where they kept the bad eggs, Chuck-o using them for pranks and target practice with his hunting rifle. Nathan turned his head to the side and she smiled.
“What if I told you that we have the power to exorcise our demons?” She said this with a laugh and told him her plan.
The plan Bunni had for Nathan was what she called the ‘long con’. It would take time and patience but she assured him it’d pay off. When they were still kids Chuck-o had had a period where he had wet the bed for about a month straight. No one knew why, he just did it and for a seventeen-year-old to do that, well, it mortified him. Nathan was beaten up once as a warning to never mention it to anyone but he did, to Bunni. Now was the time to revisit that past ghost. Chuck-o had become a fan of malt liquor and every night he’d drink three forty-ounce beers and pass out about midnight. Nathan was going to go into his brother’s room and start slowly pouring a cup of water on his brother’s crotch and the bed beneath him. If he did it slowly Chuck-o shouldn’t notice. Once or twice he’d shrug off but when it happened for longer he’d get worried. As that worry spread he could up the ante and start pouring his own pee on his brother to convince him that he wasn’t just spilling water onto himself. And then, then he would tip off mom and dad to it. Nathan wouldn’t say anything, no, he’d let his parents do the heavy lifting, and when it was all over, Chuck-o wouldn’t be the same person as he had started. He’d be humbled. He’d be shrunken. And Nathan, Nathan wouldn’t be the whipping boy any longer.
Nathan liked the sound of that.
As for Bunni’s side of things, well, that was a shorter con.
A nastier con.
A better con.
Easter came for the family and she was up early to dress for Easter service. She was warned not to make a show of things, meaning to dress like Tomas, not like Bunni, so she did as she was told, though she wore a hat she’d bought herself for Easter. A pretty blue thing that had a small mesh veil. Her parents grumbled and the rest of her family refused to sit in the same pew as she was in but that was fine. She sat in the back with a smile and a held tongue. After Easter was the family Easter party and egg hunt, culminating in a ham dinner. Grammy left the church early to set out the eggs but Bunni had made sure to help her with it. She had used her mom’s spare keys to go out to Grammy and Grampy’s car and swapped the eggs out with ones she had brought, then slipped back into the church and into her pew and bowed her head and gave thanks for the Resurrection and the Glory.
“You shame our Lord, Tomas. You shame your family.” Aunt Petra hissed, after the congregation was released.
“But what if I don’t? What if it’s intolerance that shames God?” Bunni asked.
“If that’s the case then why does he not show us a new way, eh?”
“Like a portent? Like an omen?” Bunni had to hide her smile as she said this.
“That is how the Lord works – in Mysterious ways!”
With the extended family there were fifteen kids lined up and ready to go. The hunt was an old family tradition and the kid with the most eggs would get a prize, this year it being a large chocolate bunny so the kids wanted it. Badly. Grampy raised his arm, Grammy gave a whistle and the kids were released. The children became a blur of colors, a broken rainbow running to and fro through the grass of the property Bunni’s family owned. The laughter that filled the cool afternoon air made Bunni reconsider what she had done but then she remembered how her little cousins would tease her and spit at her when their parents were looking, these apples not having fallen far from their trees. Bunni smiled again.
The first egg was found, then the second, and third, and the eggs were found in a flurry. Screams cutting through the laughter as each one was found. The eggs mirroring the bright dresses the girls were wearing or the equally bright ties the boys wore. The first egg was broken just as the kids were heading back in, their arms loaded up and balancing their findings to turn them in for counting. Cousin Patrick stepped on the long legs of his passed-down pants and fell forward and landed with an eruption of exploding eggs. The kids all laughed and the adults joined them, despite Patrick’s tears. His tears turned to screams as he realized what were in the eggs and his screams were echoed by first one, then another, then finally all of the other kids. The eggs the children were holding all dropped in piles to the grass and broke apart revealing the dead bodies of half-formed chicks, an army of the dead sliding forth into piles of colored egg shells. Grampy ran forward and when he saw the mess of dead bodies and the grandchildren that were covered in their mess he crossed himself once, then twice. Grammy ran forward and did the same. The rest of the adults ran forward and crowded around and Bunni ran with them, marvelling at the horror she had wrought as her little cousins rose, and fell, rose and fell, as they slipped in the slop of the dead chicks. After the kids were able to get free of the mess they latched onto their parents and began to sob quietly as the adults considered things.
“A portent.” One voice whispered.
“A sign. ” Said another.
“A reckoning.” Came a third.
“A punishment for closed minds.” Whispered Bunni.
After that there was a hush that fell over everyone. This could go one of two ways. Bunni knew it and accepted the risk. Better to risk it all than settle for nothing. She clenched her hands into fists and waited.
It was her mother that spoke first.
“This is our warning. This sign. This portent. This is His Mysterious Way. Remember His words well, we should – Judge not, lest ye be judged. We have been judged and we – are – guilty.” Bunni’s mom fell to her knees and turned towards Bunni.
“Please forgive me Tom…Bunni. Please forgive all of us. And with your forgiveness shall God learn to forgive us as well.”
Bunni’s mouth dropped open as her father fell to his knees and bowed his head, then some of the kids, and the aunts and uncles, and finally, last of all, Grampy and Granny slowly went to their knees and lowered their heads and raised their hands in supplication.
Bunni raised her hands to the sky and closed her eyes.
“Please, oh Lord, on this day of Resurrection, please resurrect the forgiveness that lives in your heart and forgive us our trespasses and forgive us our petty sleights. Forgive us!”
Bunni felt her hands grabbed up and heard her family say ‘Amen’ after she had finished speaking and she allowed a small smile to spread across her mouth and gave thanks to small minds and large Gods.