The sound of the recess bell hung in the air. Robin and Janelle were already halfway across the yard to the swings. They wanted to get the best ones.
They did this every day. It was the best part of school. Janelle always got the swing on the left, and Robin the one on the right.
“Robs,” said Janelle, “see if you can beat your record from yesterday!”
Robin could fly off her swing like a bird, higher and farther than anyone else on the playground.
Sure enough, Robin launched into the air and landed in the sand near the tires. But instead of jumping back up like she usually did, she just sat there.
Janelle launched and landed. She had gone high but not very far. She had to crawl the rest of the way to Robin.
“Come on. Let’s do another one,” said Janelle.
Robin tore a stick in half and threw it at the tires. “I don’t feel like it.”
Janelle moved closer. “Why not?”
“Because I don’t feel like me,” said Robin, throwing the other half of the stick.
“Well, we don’t have to do the swings today,” said Janelle. “We can work on our handshake.”
“It’s not the swings,” said Robin. “I want to tell you something.” She lowered her voice. “It used to be a secret.”
Janelle sat very still. She liked hearing secrets. “What do you mean used to be?”
Robin shrugged. “I don’t want it to be that anymore. I want to un-secret it.”
Janelle thought that sounded interesting. “Tell me your un-secret, then.”
Robin took a deep breath and then she said, “I’m not a girl. I’m a boy.”
Janelle started digging a hole with her foot. “A boy?” She looked at her best friend.
“Yeah.” Robin picked up another stick and immediately broke it in half.
“But...” Janelle said, “you’ve always been a girl. You can’t just change like that.”
“I’m not going to change,” said Robin. “I’ve always been a boy, but I got a body that doesn’t fit me.”
Janelle dug deeper. Now the sand was wet. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your body. You’re the fastest runner out of everyone.” She thought for a moment. “Is that why you got your hair cut so short last year?” she asked.
“It’s one of the reasons,” said Robin. He reached over and began to help with the hole.
They dug for a while, piling sand up on one side, far enough away that it couldn't slide back down.
Ahana came over and sat between them. “Can I dig?”
“Sure,” said Janelle. She looked at Robin, not sure if they would continue talking about Robin’s news. But Robin was sure.
“I know you think I was a girl, but I’m a boy,” he said to Ahana.
“Oh,” said Ahana. She stopped digging and looked at Robin. “That’s weird. When did you decide?”
Robin replied, “I didn’t have to decide. I’ve always been a boy. But nobody knew except me.” He hit clay down at the bottom of the hole, so moved to a different spot. “I tried to tell my parents, but they thought I was just playing.”
Ahana shrugged and went back to digging. “I have four brothers, so don’t start being annoying, throwing sand and burping loud.”
Robin smiled for the first time that recess. “I won’t,” he said. And then he burped. Really loud. Everyone laughed.
“Hey, Travis!” Ahana shouted. “Robin is going to be a boy now!”
“Ahana! No!” whispered Janelle.
Travis was the toughest kid in school. He was big and bossy and sometimes mean. Janelle wished Ahana had asked before blurting out Robin’s business.
“It’s OK, Janelle,” said Robin, standing up and dusting the sand off his jeans. “Might as well get this over with.”
Travis walked up to Robin and pointed at him. “You already act like a boy.”
Robin didn’t mind hearing that, but wasn’t sure what Travis meant by it. He took a step toward Travis. “What does that mean?”
Travis shrugged. “You just do. You’re already on my baseball team anyhow.”
It was true. Robin and Travis had been on the same baseball team since first grade. Until now, Robin had been the only girl on the team.
Travis kicked a bunch of sand into the hole where Ahana was digging and ran toward the monkey bars.
“Travis!” Ahana yelled and jumped up to chase after him.
Janelle looked over Robin’s shoulder. She pointed. “Nobody’s on the swings.”
Robin ran. “Come on!”
He felt so much lighter. He thought he just might beat his record from yesterday.
Questions for Readers
Why doesn’t Robin feel like himself?
Think and Search
How does Janelle feel about Robin being a boy?
Author and Me
Why would Robin’s parents think he was “just playing” when he told them he is a boy?
On My Own
How do you show support to your friends?