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An exclusive extract from Marlo Mack’s touching new memoir

When the world split wide open, it was a November evening. We had just walked in the front door and were shedding the day’s damp coats and bags. Outside, the Seattle sky was preparing for an early bedtime, transforming the cloud ceiling from old-pillow gray to the color of wet ash.

I reached out to flip on the lights and felt my child slip his hand into mine.

“Mama,” he said, “something went wrong in your tummy.”

I heard my purse hit the floor. “It did?”

“Yes,” he said. “And it made me come out as a boy instead of a girl.”

The tips of his fingers dug into my palm, and I looked down at the three-year-old face tilted up at mine. The perfect brow was creased down the middle. His pale blue eyes, like circles cut from a summer sky, were flooding with tears, but did not blink. His little body, usually in constant motion, was unnaturally rigid and tall, a tiny soldier frozen at attention.

“Breathe,” I said to both of us. “Take a deep breath.”

He ignored me. “Put me back, Mama,” he rasped, expelling all that was left in his little lungs. “Put me back, so I can come out again as a girl.” He gasped for air and his body curled up into sobs. I sank to my knees and reached for him, but he pushed me away and pointed with his whole arm at my stomach. “Please, Mama!” my child howled. “Put me back!”

The evening’s last grey light was gone, the living room windows had turned black, and the door to the kitchen was now a bright rectangle filling the room with long shadows, including ours, which climbed the wall to the same height, and which were both trembling.

How To Be A Girl is published on 3 March 2022 by Icon Books.