"Daisy Lewis! I've told you again and again, you can't come with me!"
Daisy pouted. "Why not, Mom? Your job is cool!"
Her mom shook her head. "My job is dangerous! I don't want to worry about you going inside a building we're demolishing!"
"But Mom!" Daisy changed tactics and looked up at her mom with her best pathetic look. "I promise, this time will be different. I'll only stay where it's safe."
"And you won't try and take pictures of explosions?"
"What?!" she blurted out, dropping the act. "That's not fair! I can record from a safe distance!"
"You are twelve years old, Daisy. I don't think there's any safe distance for you. You're not coming with me."
So Daisy hid in the trunk of her mom's car until they reached the demolition site. Her mother was furious, and lectured her in front of the rest of the crew for what felt like hours, but was only until R.E. Fendrich showed up and demanded to know why there had been no progress.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Fendrich," Daisy's mom said. "I'm afraid a stowaway came with me. I'm going to have to drive my daughter back home."
Fendrich groaned. "You live half an hour away! No, no, there's no time for that. Here, I had to bring my stepkid along–they can play together for the time being, they're about the same age."
"But I wanna watch Mom blow up the building!" Daisy shouted.
"Daisy Lewis, we're not even using explosives today!"
Her mom grabbed her arm and dragged her to Fendrich while Daisy went limp and pretended to be a dead body. "Stop that," her mom said. "Thank you so much, Mr. Fendrich. Where should I take her?"
Fendrich's stepkid was not the same age as her. He was seventeen, which, to twelve-year-old Daisy, was ancient. He was sitting in a comfortable chair in a nice suit, looking through a folder of papers. When Fendrich ushered Daisy into the room, he looked up, and in one quick motion, shut the folder and held it over his chest. "Fendrich, who is this?" he asked.
"The head of the demolition crew's daughter," Fendrich said. "What's your name, again?"
"Daisy," she mumbled. She spotted a couch and immediately threw herself facedown onto it.
The teenager stood up. "Fendrich, you promised–"
"I know what I promised, and we're still going to get it done. Though I have to say, if you're having second thoughts about your name–"
"I'm not having second thoughts! I like my name."
Fendrich shrugged. "If you say so. Now, Daisy, play nice with my stepson, you only have to put up with each other for four hours."
"Four hours?!" Daisy yelped, pushing herself up. "That's forever!"
"Stop being dramatic, it's only until your mother's lunch break. Then she'll drive you home and Tippy and I can go drop those forms off." Fendrich went to the door and waved. "See you later! Don't burn down the building!"
He shut the door, leaving Daisy and Tippy alone. Daisy fell back onto the couch and groaned.
"So," said Tippy after a long, long silence, "do you like board games?"
"No," Daisy said, her voice muffled by the pillows.
"Oh." Tippy shifted. "Well, we're going to play a board game, because there's nothing else to do. Come on."
Daisy turned her head and glared at him, but Tippy wasn't even looking at her. He was standing up and pulling a box out of the cabinet. "You can't make me play," she said.
"So? Are you just going to lie there for four hours?"
Daisy thought about it while Tippy set up the game board. Finally, just as Tippy called her over, she got off the couch and went to the door. "Where are you going?" Tippy said. "We're about to start."
"I'm leaving," Daisy said, and she tried to open the door. It was locked. She yanked and pulled at the handle, but it didn't budge.
"You can't leave," Tippy said sternly. "We're about to play Risk. It's very fun. Don't you want to rule the world?"
"No! I want to blow it up!" Daisy kicked the door. It remained shut. "Boom!"
"Oh come on, you can't treat a door like that!" Tippy stood up and crossed the room in a few long strides. "Here, move over."
"Why should I?"
"Because I know how to open doors."
Daisy raised an eyebrow, but moved away to watch. Tippy experimentally turned the handle before he knelt in front of the door and squinted into the lock mechanism. "I see," he said, and he dug around in his pockets and took out what looked like an unfolded paperclip. He put the long end into the lock and poked around for a bit before there was a click and, with a flourish, he opened the door. "Ladies first," he said, gesturing for Daisy to exit.
Daisy smiled and walked out. "Thanks," she said. "See you later."
After she entered the stairwell, she turned around to see Tippy following her. "What's your problem?" she said.
"I'm not going to let you wander off on your own," Tippy said. "My stepfather will be furious."
Daisy wrinkled her nose. "So you're just gonna follow me around?"
"If you won't stay in the room, yes."
"You're weird," she said, and continued down the stairs.
When they reached the street level, Daisy thought about going outside, but decided against it. If her mom wasn't going to use explosives today, she didn't really care about watching the demolition. Instead, she noticed the stairs went down one more floor, and took them.
"Do you know this building?" Tippy asked.
"Not really," Daisy said. "I've never been here before."
"So… where are we going?"
"Dunno." The stairs ended at another door, which was locked. Daisy looked back at Tippy. "Can you get this one open?" she asked.
"Of course," Tippy said. He stepped to the door, jiggled the handle, and took out his paperclip again. "Hm. This one's going to be a little harder."
"So you can't open it?"
"That's not what I said." Tippy exchanged the paperclip for his wallet and took a card out. "I'm going to try this, and then…"
He stuck his card down between the door and the frame, slid it down to the latch, and the door opened. "Oh," he said. "Wasn't that hard at all. Come on."
The passage on the other side was concrete and had pipes running along the ceiling. "Cool," Daisy said, looking around.
"I wonder if there's a kitchen in here," Tippy said.
"Why would there be a kitchen?"
"Because my stepfather often has fundraisers here with food. It's got to be prepared somewhere."
"You rich or something?"
Tippy tilted his head. "Fendrich is, yes."
"And he's your dad, so that makes you rich."
"Stepdad," Tippy corrected. "I don't actually live with him."
"Really? Why not?"
"He's too busy. I live with my uncle."
Daisy frowned. "Don't you have a mom?"
Tippy winced. "She… is no longer with us."
"It's fine. You didn't know."
Daisy nodded. "I don't have a dad," she said. "I mean, he didn't die, but he left a while back. I was still a baby."
"My dad did the same thing. Not when I was a baby, though. My parents divorced. I haven't seen him in a long time."
"Well," Daisy said, "you have Fendrich."
Tippy beamed. "Yes," he said, "I do."
"That's not really a good thing. He's kind of a dingus." Daisy ran a few steps and jumped over a box. "I think Sinclair's better."
"Sinclair?!" Tippy exclaimed. "Her family didn't build the city! Fendrich's did!"
"You're acting as if I actually care."
Tippy snorted. "How old were you supposed to be? Nine?"
"Twelve!" Daisy snapped.
They rounded a corner and froze.
"Hey," said the chef in front of them. "I don't think you ladies should be here. You exploring or something?"
Tippy covered his chest with the folder again, his eyes wide. Daisy frowned, eyes flicking from Tippy to the man blocking their path. Now that she was looking for it, Tippy looked a little bit like a girl, but Fendrich wouldn't have called him his stepson if he was a girl.
The chef signed. "You should probably leave," he said. "I won't get you in trouble, just… head on out."
"Okay," Daisy said, and she hooked her arm around Tippy's elbow and started dragging him back to the exit. Tippy stumbled and pulled his arm away to walk on his own. Daisy could feel the chef's eyes on them until they reached the door and went back to the stairwell.
They went back to the room with the board game, still set up on the table. "Alright," Daisy said. "We've got, like, over three hours, still. Did you want to play Risk or whatever?"
Tippy shook his head and slouched down in the chair. "I'd rather wallow in misery," he muttered.
"You're so weird," Daisy said. "I hope not all teenagers are weird. Everyone says when I turn thirteen I'm gonna like makeup and boys, but I'm not gonna like them if they're weird like you."
"I'm not weird!" Tippy snapped.
"Yeah you are! You talk funny!"
"I'm mature and intelligent, unlike you!"
Daisy glared at him. "Take that back!"
Daisy flipped the board onto him, sending pieces everywhere. "Fine!" she shouted while Tippy sputtered. "I was gonna try and cheer you up, but if you just wanna wallow or whatever, go ahead!"
"Well, you're doing an awful job of it," Tippy said, tossing the board to the side and standing up. "And I don't need cheering up!"
Daisy rolled her eyes. "Yeah you do! You're all upset 'cause that guy called you a girl."
Tippy went stiff and crossed his arms over his chest. Daisy frowned. "Why do you keep doing that?" she asked.
Tippy sat down again. "Just leave me alone," he muttered. "I don't need to hear this from a twelve year old."
"Whatever," Daisy said. "If I go, you're gonna get in big trouble, right?"
"I don't care."
"Cool," said Daisy. "Bye."
She came back an hour later. "There's too many locked doors," she said, sitting in the chair across from Tippy, who hadn't moved from his spot. "I bet you can't open all of them."
"You'd be wrong," Tippy said. "But I'm not interested in proving myself."
"Are you okay?"
"Are you going to make fun of me if I say no?"
Daisy shrugged. Tippy sighed. "Fine," he said. "I was supposed to go get my name changed today, but now Fendrich says I have to wait four hours until you go home, and I'm worried he's going to forget."
"I get it," Daisy said. "If my name was Tippy, I'd want to change it too."
"Tippy's not my legal name. That's what I'm changing it to."
Tippy rolled his eyes. "I'm not surprised. No one understands. I thought my stepfather would, but he thinks I chose the wrong name, and he's upset that I'm not changing my surname to 'Fendrich,' my sister's upset that I'm changing my surname at all, my father won't speak to me, and my mother is dead. I don't need a little girl making fun of me on what was supposed to be a good day. Fendrich was going to take me out to lunch, but now I don't think we'll have time, and I'm hungry."
Daisy hummed to herself. "You know, that guy we saw downstairs looked like a chef."
"Oh, good, you weren't listening."
"Yes I was, dummy." Daisy hopped off her seat. "If there's a chef, that means he's cooking something, and that means there's food. I can't open the doors by myself, so… let's go get food."
Tippy stared at her and said nothing. Daisy tapped her foot. "C'mon," she said, "that'll solve, like, one of your problems."
Finally, Tippy cracked a smile. "I suppose it will."
They got caught when Daisy opened a door Tippy said not to touch and set off the fire alarm. Security sat them in a room and called Fendrich to pick them up. Daisy's mother was with him when he arrived. Daisy slouched down in her chair and pretended not to notice her.
"Daisy Lewis! This is your fault, I know it!"
"Tippy, what were you thinking? You're not normally this reckless!"
Daisy's mom grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. "We're going home right now," she said. "Mr. Fendrich, I am so sorry for her behavior."
Fendrich shrugged. "I'm just disappointed they got caught," he said. "Come on, Tippy. We'll talk about this in the car."
Daisy waved at Tippy as the two of them went their separate ways. Tippy glanced back and raised a hand before Daisy nearly tripped and her mom told her to look where she was going.
"You're grounded for a month," her mom said. "Maybe longer. I'm still thinking about it."
Daisy groaned and slumped against the window.
"I mean it! You can't be getting Mr. Fendrich's stepkid into trouble!"
"He agreed to it," Daisy said. "Whatever. He was boring, anyway."
"Don't call her a boy!"
"What?" Daisy sat up and stared at her mother. "Tippy is a boy," she said. "Why does everyone keep calling him a girl?"
"Daisy, sometimes–" Her mom shook her head and focused on the road. "I'll explain when we get home."
Her mom never explained why she thought Tippy was a girl, and Daisy decided she didn't care enough to ask. It wasn't like she was ever going to see him again.
"So!" Fendrich said during the drive. "How did you like the Lewis girl?"
"She's twelve," Tippy said, his cheek pressed against the window. "And she got me in trouble."
"Her fault, huh? I thought so. You're normally much too careful to get caught." Fendrich hummed. "Still, I could arrange another playdate with her. You should be making more friends your age."
"Again, Daisy is twelve. And I'm too old to have playdates."
"I'd rather you be hanging out with a twelve year old than being on the computer all the time." Fendrich tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "I looked at your browsing history–"
Tippy snapped his head up. "You did what?"
"–and that forum you keep going on looks pretty sketchy to me. Aren't you too young to be on forums?"
"No! Why were you looking at my browsing history?"
"Because you spend all your time on the computer and you have no friends." Fendrich sighed. "Look, I get it. You know I get it. Being a hormonal teenager is difficult for anyone, and I know full well being a trans man does not make it easier. But you really shouldn't talk to strangers on the internet."
"I'm anonymous," Tippy said. "It's not like I gave them my address."
"Okay, I wasn't worried about that, but now that you've said it I'm thinking you might've done it. Did you give anyone your address?"
"No, Fendrich, I didn't."
"Good to know. Look, I know I can't stop you, but please be careful not to tarnish the Fendrich name."
Tippy slumped against the window again.
"Sit up straight," Fendrich said. "I want you to go through your papers one more time, make sure everything's correct."
"I already did," Tippy mumbled.
"Do it again. You're sure about it? 'Tippy Yale Dorman?'"
"Really sure? I'm not paying for a second name change."
"I'm sure, Fendrich."
"Unless you change your mind about taking 'Fendrich' as your surname. I'd be willing to pay for that."
"I'm not going to change my mind."
"Alright, if that's what you want." Fendrich turned into a parking garage. "Let's go make it official. C'mon, boy, give me a smile."
Tippy forced his lips to curve up. "Good enough," Fendrich said. "Up and at 'em."
Most of the process was waiting in line. Tippy's hands were sweating. When it was finally his turn to hand his papers over, he stammered so badly that Fendrich had to step in and answer the questions for him. Finally, he was told they would send him a letter if the name change was approved, and they left.
"It's going to take a few months," Fendrich told him while they walked out. "At least, that's what I've heard. I've never actually changed my name."
"I know, Fendrich," Tippy said. "Could we get lunch now?"
"We're picking up your sister first. I'm sure she'll be delighted to hear the news."Fendrich looked over at Tippy's sullen expression. "Cheer up, kid. We'll go to your favorite restaurant. Isn't this supposed to be a good day?"
"Yes," Tippy said, "it was."
His sister didn't want to go to lunch, so Fendrich and Tippy ended up going by themselves. Afterwards, Fendrich dropped him off at his uncle's house, and Tippy went straight to his room and onto his computer. While he waited for it to boot up, he toyed with an old doorknob he had gotten from a junkyard, picking its lock. The click as it opened was satisfying, but it wasn't good enough yet. He needed more work to get faster, improve his skills, until every door opened before him.
His uncle wasn't home yet, and his sister was similarly holed up in her room. Tippy first cleared his browsing history–how did Fendrich even look at it, anyway?–and logged onto the Open Doors Society forums to inform his community of the breach. Most of the board was password-protected, and Fendrich hadn't made it seem like he saw anything incriminating, but Tippy wasn't taking any chances.
The moderators took a point away from him and told him to be more careful. Tippy winced, but it had been his mistake. The other members linked him to information on browser security so it wouldn't happen again. Once that was cleared up, he started catching up on the activity he had missed.
Fendrich was wrong about him not having any friends. The members of the Open Doors Society were kind and supportive of him. After his mother died, Tippy didn't have anyone else to turn to. The Open Doors were there. He may have fudged his age by a year or two to get in, but they didn't need to know that.
Tippy talked on the forums for hours until his uncle knocked on the door. "Come down to dinner," he said. "Do you have any homework? You can bring it down with you."
His sister was at the table with her own homework, but she barely looked at him, her long black hair hanging over her eyes. She had taken their mother's death particularly hard; Tippy had tried to tell her that it would pass, that they'd all meet again in Paradoors, but she hadn't listened, and Tippy wasn't supposed to talk about the prophecy to outsiders, anyway.
"Evelyn, get your hair out of your face, you're getting it in your food." Their uncle sighed. "Did something happen today? You're both clearly in a bad mood."
"I'm fine," Tippy said quickly. "I went with Fendrich to get my name changed."
"Really! So now you're… what was the name, again? Tippy what?"
"Tippy Yale." He glanced at Evelyn. She met his eyes for a moment and went back to picking at her food. "He took me to lunch afterwards, too."
"Good to know you're getting along! Evelyn, did you go with them?"
"Wasn't hungry," Evelyn muttered.
"You should've been! You've barely been eating; I'm worried about you."
"Uncle…" Evelyn shook her head. "Can we not talk about this in front of Tippy?"
"Alright, but we are going to talk about it."
Tippy finished his food, washed his plate, and excused himself to go back to his room.
The Open Doors Society told him he was meant for something great, as all doormen were. They said one of them would lead all of civilization to Paradoors, where crossing the boundary between life and death was as simple as opening a door. He and Evelyn would see their mother again. Tippy wondered what she'd think of him now.
Well, Paradoors wasn't coming for years and years. Until that day, he would work hard to be someone she was proud of.