It was the middle of a Sunday afternoon, and it was raining. Business at Floggin’ Brews would pick up later in the day, but for now the mid-day munch crowd had cleared and there were just a handful of patrons. Mikhel was in the basement with the kegs and I was at the taps, changing out some of the beer kegs as we added a few lighter beers and got rid of some of the dark-of-winter varieties.
Brita was at the bar with a notebook. It wasn’t her usual day to work, but she had a habit of dropping in several times a week just to hang out or do homework. But today it looked like she was just doodling, or maybe journaling.
I poured one of our new sodas and set it down in front of Brita. “Here, let me know what you think of it. It’s a peach Nehi – it was Mikhel’s idea. Maybe not his best one.”
Brita picked up the glass. “It’s . . . really pink.”
“Yeah, I know. You can try the blue raspberry too if you want. God forbid if we get green apple.”
Brita smiled a bit at that and tried the soda. “It’s really good!”
I glanced at her notebook and noticed that she had written the date big enough to cover half a page. “What are you working on?”
“Just writing some stuff.” She looked down at the page and seemed a bit embarrassed. “Today’s kind of an anniversary.”
“Of?” I try not to be too nosy with Brita but Mikhel and I also kept a close eye on her. She was only 16 – 17 soon, I think – and had had to grow up pretty fast.
Brita took another sip. “It’s the day I decided my name was Brita. Two years ago.”
“Really? That’s a big deal.” Brita had been kicked out of her family after she came out as trans, and they still wanted her to be Brian. Mikhel had only recently had a rather nasty confrontation with her biological parents. “Are you going to do something to celebrate?”
Brita shook her head. “No, not really. Well, Dani’s going to meet me here in a bit. She’s the only one who knows. And you, now.”
“And Boss,” I said, nodding my head toward Her. She was curled up on a bar chair nearby.
“And me,” said Mikhel from behind me. “What do you think of the soda?”
“It’s good,” said Brita. “A little too sweet maybe. What other flavors are new?”
I served up a sample of the blue raspberry and a birch beer and asked Brita a few more questions. She and Dani were going to go to a movie and then maybe grab a pizza.
“Hey, I was thinking of pizza too. Bring Dani back here after the movie and I’ll order a big hand-tossed garden pizza with extra peppers.” I knew that was her favorite. Dani arrived, and she and Brita agreed to stop in after the movie.
Mikhel had overheard the conversation, and asked me what I had in mind the moment the door closed behind Dani and Brita.
“We’re going to throw her a party,” I said. “Assuming that’s okay? A Brita-Day party.”
“Now that is a splendid idea – and you knew it was okay before you asked.”
Thankfully it stayed pretty quiet at Floggin’ Brews for the next couple hours as I made a few phone calls and ran a few errands. Mikhel kept an eye on the bar. By the time Brita and Dani returned from the movie (Shazam!), the place had been decorated with some strategically placed trans-pride flags, and blue, pink and white bunting. There were three huge garden pizzas. But I was proudest of the cake, which I managed to snag from the bakery owned by a couple in the community: it had white frosting, rainbow layers, and “Happy Brita Day!” written on the top.
Brita’s foster moms, Deb and Susan, were there, and had rounded up a couple of Brita’s friends from school – two gender queer kids named Oliver and Mac.
Brita stopped dead in her tracks as soon as she noticed Deb and Susan, and frowned a bit. “What. . ?” She looked around and saw the decorations. “What’s going on?”
I had a quick wave of fear that Brita was going to be mad about this. I love parties, but not everyone does, and Brita’s anniversary was kind of a personal thing.
I needn’t have worried. Dani took one look around and said, “Wow, this is so cool! Brita, look at the cake!”
Susan ran up and hugged Brita, Deb hugged Dani, and Mikhel and I lead the bar in singing “Happy Brita-Day To You.” Brita looked like she was going to cry but managed not to.
Brita blew out the two candles on the cake, and Dani and Mac cut pieces for everyone, while Oliver handled the ice cream. Deb made a little speech about how proud she and Susan were about what a great kid Brita was, and gave her a bracelet that they’d been saving for her birthday, but wasn’t this a day that everyone should celebrate just as much? The day that Brita decided to be who she really was. And then Brita did cry, but so did some of the rest of us.
The cake was eventually reduced to crumbs, and the blue raspberry soda was pronounced a big hit. Deb and Susan packed up, and told Brita to be home soon – tomorrow was a school day. Before Brita left with her friends, she came up to me and Mikhel behind the bar.
“You guys. Thanks.” She stuffed her face into my shoulder and gave me a big hug. “No one has ever done anything like that for me.”
I hugged her back. “You are so welcome.”
She turned to Mikhel, and pretty much disappeared into a big bear hug. “Brita,” he said, “Never forget that there are people who celebrate you for who you are.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I won’t.”
Brita headed toward the door, but before she could get there, she was intercepted by Boss, who allowed Herself to be picked up by Brita, and thoroughly petted by Dani, Oliver, and Mac as well.
Mikhel shook his head. “Boss is sweet on that kid. I’ve never seen Her do that before.”
“Must be the chess – Brita’s been studying up, and I think Boss approves.” Mikhel laughed at that. “Must be.”
Brita set Boss down, checked her phone, and gave a little shriek. “Look, look! It’s a text from my little brother!” She turned back to me and Mikhel. “I haven’t talked to him for months – he says he can facetime later tonight!”
The group of kids left, still chattering.
Mikhel turned to me. “How did you arrange that?”
“Me? Why do you think I had anything to do with that?”
“Just a hunch. Did you call her brother?”
I sighed. “No, I don’t even know his name. But I do know my friend Tina, who works for Avenues and who, I think, did an intake on Brita. And might have some contact information on her brother, and might be willing to give the brother Brita’s phone number. I didn’t think she’d actually do it, but I thought I’d ask.”
Mikhel nodded. “Good work. You’ve made a bunch of people happy today.”
I smiled. “That’s just what any good bartender does.”