The small fox trots softly from the woods, a sly smile on his face as he answers the supplicant's call; quietly, "Yes?"
It's a boy. It's almost always a boy. Girls, even young ones, almost always know better. But boys...boys are his bread and butter. This boy is blonde and scruffy, in a t-shirt, jeans torn at the knees, dirty sneakers. The fox chuckles softly and hopes he can make this lesson fun. He is sly and sneaky and viciously clever, but he is not, is never, vicious. His supplicants amuse him, but he loves them, their enterprising spirit, their determination. This one is talking at him now.
"Oh, great god of deceit and trickery, who has done this to me? I am a girl! I don't like this boy body; it's not mine! Please, oh, please, help me get the right body!"
Well. That showed him! He ought to know better than to judge by appearances, master of that-which-isn't-what-it-seems-to-be that is he supposed to be! He walks closer to her, catches a delicate line to the chin, an angle of the body that whispers femininity. Oh. "So sorry, girl. I didn't see you there! Hanging on a washing-line three blocks away is a red and black patchwork skirt. Fetch it without being seen and return to me."
Tessa runs to do his bidding. She looks all boy as she scrambles over the fence of the McAllister house and furtively snatches the skirt, hanging just as the fox told her it would be. Hoping against hope that this is all the dangerous god will ask of her, she returns. The fox tells her to wear the skirt, and so she does, twirling in it. It fits her perfectly, the wavy black lines over dark red on this patch and the tiny black flowers on white on that one appeal to her eye. It is her skirt, meant for her. She wears it over the torn jeans, tucks the black t-shirt into the waistband. She looks adorable.
Shenanigans watches her twirl and smiles his sly smile. “Now, girl, you must prance in your most girlish prance down the center of your street when the sun is high and bright in the sky.”
Tessa sees his smile and puts the steel into her spine. She must be brave and fearless, or she will pay dearly for crossing the fox. She spares a thought for the consequences but she must act with the careless courage of a child of Shenanigans. She does as she is told, making it into a little parade, carrying a baton and encouraging others to follow behind, smiling and laughing and dancing.
Everyone laughs. The neighborhood is amused. They are not so amused when she comes out of her house the next day in the skirt, this time with girl shoes and a white blouse. What is this? Odd. Strange. Acceptable?
Her parents are not amused. They have fought so hard to keep her safe from those who do not understand boys who are really girls and now she betrays them. But the McAllisters are long familiar with being different and she is snatched safely into the very home she stole the skirt from, given a bedroom and a place to hang her skirt.
That night, the fox slips between her parents as they sleep in their bed. He softly nips their ears and then growls low. Suddenly each is in the wrong body. Their frightened eyes meet and suddenly they feel steel pouring into their spines even as their vision returns to the one they have seen every night for twenty years. They’ve been warned and seen the light. In the morning, they are at the McAllisters' door, wearing each other's clothes in silent solidarity, apologies on their lips and in their open arms, into which Tessa runs.
Oh, it will be a long road. Two houses do not make a town. But two houses are two houses and more will come.
That night, the fox flips reality on its ear for Tessa and her body matches her soul.
Shenanigans trots back to his woods, tossing over his shoulder as he goes, “Happy unbirthday, little girl!”