This story is quite a departure for me. I set it centuries ago, both for the task of authentically imagining a past era, and for the discipline of writing in a ‘period’ style. Attempts were made for names, locations, and events to be historically accurate. Allow me to introduce our narrator …
It was the twilight of the seventeenth century, and the dawn of my life–or lives.
The Story Of My First Lives, by Karin Bishop
Chapter 1: In Which I Am Introduced, With An Explanation Of My Humble Origins
Looking back over the active years of my life, I have had many names, nearly as many nationalities, and even a few religions. As near as I’ve been able to discover, I was born in a small village on the shores of the Neusiedler See, in what is now Austria. The year was around 1690; all that anyone could remember was that it was less than a decade after Emperor Leopold I defeated the Ottoman Turks. They’d come from Hungary, attacking Vienna in 1683. Since any invading or retreating forces had to go around the See, and our village was centered on the eastern shore, we were spared any destruction as they passed in the distance on either side, and thus lived peaceably through this long stormy era.
My original christened name was Jules Louis Schneider. My father was Franz Schneider, originally from Salzburg, and my mother was Marie-Therese Grenier. She was French-Swiss, and their parents had business relations of some sort; my young father and mother met as youths and later married. Another business contact led my father to the Neusielder See and his future.
My parents owned a small but tidy and prosperous inn. Although out of the way of the main highways of travel in those parts, many travelers learned to make the detour for the comfort of this inn, the quality of its stable, and the excellent hospitality of my mother. Because of its remote location and its idyllic views, our inn was also much favored by some of the gentry. Only as an adult did I realized that its remoteness made it ideal for romantic trysts away from the eyes of the Hapsburg court. My parents were held in high esteem by travelers and were apparently quite well-liked by their neighbors.
I was by all accounts a happy, healthy baby, if a bit on the scrawny side. Once I had a few years of life, it became obvious that I took after my mother, with nearly porcelain skin contrasting with my father’s ruddy good-humored face. My hair as a child was blonde, as my mother’s had been so until she matured. My hair was allowed to grow long, tied back like village boys, perhaps because my hair reminded my mother of her own youth. My father was not a big strapping man but was compact and well-proportioned, after the new breed of city folk; he was overshadowed standing next to some of our hearty villagers, but they respected him as a man of learning and of honor.
The first six years of my life were blissful, as much as any small child can have, but my life took a turn in my eighth year, when my father was thrown from a horse, a new acquisition to our small stable. His neck was broken and he died instantly. I mourned him and remember the gloom that settled over my happy world, and the great aching gap where my father had been in our lives. My mother was loving but never the same, in the brief time allotted her.
Even with the loss of my father, it was a happy time for me. I remember playing with Franciska, the daughter of our groomsman, Mr. Ganz. We were the only children around the inn, and although she was nearly two years older we spent all of our free time playing together. They were childish games, and perhaps we were too old to be playing them, but the only knowledge I had of games came from those she played, which were girls’ games. The village was too far for me to go alone, and even then the boys of the village were hard at work in their families’ fields and had no free time. There was little enough free time with Franciska, actually, since she worked with her mother Agnes in our kitchen and I was at lessons with Mother, whose great passion was knowledge.
I learned to read and write, something many villagers could not do. Mother insisted I learn, and my father had taught me basic mathematics. As I was small and somewhat delicate for my age I was deemed unfit for labor and was to be a scholar. In parts of the world where cultures mix, people naturally learn to speak more than one language; however I seemed to have a special talent for picking up languages. Around our inn, we regularly conversed in different forms of German and Magyar, the language of the Hungarians, of course. My mother also taught me French and some of the peculiar Swiss, and I picked up bits of local dialects from others in the village. Whenever possible I learned to read and write in the languages that I could speak.
On the day my life changed definitively, I was with Franciska as usual. We were playing house, her favorite game. On this day, she was the mother and I was the naughty daughter. For some reason she was always the mother or father; never was I the father and rarely was I the son. She would call me Juliska, a Hungarian girl’s name close to my own name. After all, Franciska told me sternly, what’s the use of playing by pretending to be what we really were? Being younger and smaller I dutifully followed her.
That day, as usual, Franciska had stripped me and dressed me in one of her cast-off dresses. We had gone out and picked some mushrooms, which grew varied and plentiful in the area. I liked mushrooms in our meals, and tried to eat one freshly picked but Franciska had taken it from my hand and put it in our little pail, scolding me that I was a naughty girl and the mushrooms were for her mother for cooking. I had already found that a girl’s dress was handy for hiding things, so I had three mushrooms hidden in its folds. Walking back to the inn, Franciska stopped behind a tree to pee and I quickly gobbled the mushrooms, delighting in their taste and the dark earthy smell of them.
Back at the inn, the mushrooms were delivered and I was rewarded with a small bowl of soup from Franciska’s mother. Then we went behind the stable to play. I was spinning in place, pretending to be naughty, as directed, and pretending to not listen to Franciska, my ‘mother’, when we heard a clamor in the inn. There were shouts and the note of fear in the voices froze us. Then Franciska grabbed my hand and dragged me after her as we went to see the matter.
My mother had collapsed. We had no physician in the area, only an Apothecary, and people depended on the knowledge of the elder women. One had been summoned, Mama Nusa, as my mother was taken to her room. The next few hours were a flurry; my only clear memory was of being brought bedside to see my mother who was pale and gasping. She pulled me close and I was shocked at how weak she was. Then she kissed my forehead and fell back in the bed and I was shoved out of the room.
Chapter 2: In Which A Plot Is Discovered, And A Comment On Mushrooms
Many years later, when I was financially able to pursue matters, I discovered the truth of that day after discreet inquiries through an intermediary. My mother and I had been poisoned. What prevented my death were the mushrooms I’d eaten; they had disagreed violently with me and immediately after being removed from my mother, I doubled over in agony. Despite my internal misery, I did not fail to note the strange smile on Agnes Ganz’ face; I would later surmise that the soup she’d so lovingly served me contained the same poison that had just killed my mother. The mushrooms I’d hastily eaten while playing, already working their sickness in my stomach, caused me to vomit so violently and copiously that I expelled the soup and its poison before it had time to do its evil work.
My later inquiries revealed that the Ganz family had always coveted our inn but my family was too well-liked in the village for them to act. My father’s death was truly accidental, and my mother truly was pining for him, and that gave them the opening they needed. Over months they had spread rumors, a dropped tale here and there, about my mother’s sinking despondency and desire to join her deceased husband in death. The tale they spun, along with some circumstances they arranged, was to make our deaths appear as if my mother took both of our lives in her misery. It was helpful to their lies that she was neither Austrian nor Hungarian; the villagers murmured, ‘French, Swiss, who knows how they think? Perhaps this is their way; so sad, so sad.’
It was only natural that the Ganz family become the new proprietors of the inn. The only detail that upset their plans were those blessed mushrooms that saved me. The elder woman, Mama Nusa, had arrived and performed what passed for a legal determination of death for my mother, but found me retching and sweaty–and not dead. She arranged for me to be brought to her small house to care for, and I spent several weeks recovering and therefore missed my mother’s funeral and burial. I have it on good authority that there was quite a large turnout and more than a few dark looks at the new owners, but the Ganz family braved it and took over the inn.
Mama Nusa nursed me to health but there had been some damage done to my body; I would forever after bear the effects of the poison. My face had always been ‘babyish’, as Franciska constantly reminded me, and would always retain that youthful look. Curiously, my blonde hair would remain blonde and would not darken as my mother’s had. In some ways, it was as if the poison froze parts of me in time, but it proved to be beneficial to me later.
In my life there have been several fortuitous circumstances that either spared me from a difficult situation or set my life in a new direction. The best example I have already given; my clandestine consumption of mushrooms saved my life by acting as an emetic and removing the fatal poison from my system. While I would never tempt Fate to trust that somehow I would escape a predicament, I will allow that my life has been blessed with an unusually high degree of such circumstances, prompting me, in my mind, forever after to deem these circumstances as examples of ‘mushroom luck’.
Two unrelated events occurred while I was recovering under Mama Nusa’s care and further revealed ‘mushroom luck’. As I felt better and was beginning to help around Mama Nusa’s house, I discovered that she could not read. She had a drawer with scraps of paper that she would take out and puzzle over. I had thought they were recipes for the potions she used in her healing, but discovered she mixed those from memory, or from a strange collection of papers with small pictures or diagrams. She was studying one of the written papers and I noticed she held it upside down. Gently I took it from her, turned it upright, and saw that it was, indeed, a sort of recipe, for cooling a fever. I said as much and her eyes lit up and she pointed to a word and I read it as ‘mandrake’ and her eyes grew big as saucers.
The second event occurred the day before I was to leave her care. A cousin of Mama Nusa’s was visiting from the south. She was even older than Mama Nusa, who was our village elder but looked remarkably young for the many years she was reputed to have lived. After my weeks of convalescence, I had become somewhat itchy to get out in the world. I had been outside the day before and a bout of dizziness had plopped me into the mud on the edge of the stream that ran behind Mama Nusa’s house. Consequently my clothes were being patched and cleaned, and I was outside again and wearing a gown made for one of Mama Nusa’s granddaughters; a lovely shift, white and embroidered with colorful Magyar stitching. The child had been six when she died and had never worn the gown, and it actually fit me quite well. I had grown used to girls’ clothes through my play with Franciska, and I had washed my hair that day and it was drying long and loose.
I had been collecting flowers for Mama Nusa’s cousin to welcome her, and I entered laughing, my clear skin flushed with joy, my hair loose, and my gown floating about my bare legs. I shyly handed the flowers to the cousin, who smiled and asked ‘such a pretty girl’s’ name. Something possessed me to use Franciska’s name for me and I answered ‘Juliska’. Mama Nusa’s cousin smiled and asked Mama Nusa if I was her new student? Before the stunned Mama could answer, the cousin went on to say that I was that rare combination of feminine innocence with the sparkle of intelligence in my eyes. I blushed and thanked her and noticed Mama Nusa’s deepening look.
Chapter 3: In Which I Return Home To Find No Home
I returned to the inn to discover very different circumstances. While I was not a pampered, spoiled young prince, I had been held in some regard as the son of the well-liked owners. Due to my frailty, I was not expected to do hard labor but had helped out with the cooking and linens from time to time. Most of my time had been spent in studies with my mother and father. I was being groomed to assume the ownership of our inn when I grew to maturity.
With the death of my parents, this was no longer the case. I was an orphan, and a scrawny one, especially when compared with the orphan boys of the village. My parents’ bedroom had of course been taken by Mr. and Mrs. Ganz, and Franciska was now in my room. I was stunned to see how rapidly any traces of my existence had been removed; the room was an expanded version of the small room to the side of the kitchen where Franciska had slept. I had walked into what had been my room as a simple matter of habit, and Franciska angrily scolded me and demanded I get out of her room. Tearfully I asked where I was to sleep; I was dragged by the hand to the parlor, where Mr. and Mrs. Ganz were talking. Franciska slapped my head and told me to remain silent. I was silent but more from shock at her actions.
Mr. and Mrs. Ganz finished their discussion about what was to be done with me. Mrs. Ganz gave me several withering looks but I faced her squarely. Mr. Ganz looked at me once and smiled which earned him a loud rebuke from his wife. Finally he shrugged and nodded slowly and as he left he gave me a very sad smile, but from the look on his face and my intuition, I believe that he was unaware of my mother’s murder that I now know was perpetrated by his wife. He was a simple groomsman, slow and sturdy, and since he seemed uncomfortable with the pretentions of his wife and daughter, I deem him innocent of their wickedness.
I remained standing in the center of the room, as if in a courtroom. Mrs. Ganz now sat as if a queen, with Franciska at her side, wearing a smirk that I had never seen on her face before. I was told that I was no longer the young master but would be allowed to live at the inn as long as I contributed. Work would be found for me to do but I must not expect special privileges or allow myself any dream of inheriting the inn. Mrs. Ganz stated that the law expressly forbade any inheritance by a child and anything and everything of the Schneider family was now owned by the Ganz family.
Mrs. Ganz told me that my mother had been running the inn very poorly as she grew more despondent, and the Ganz family would have to work doubly hard to restore the inn to its former prestige. Both of these statements were lies, as I was to discover over time.
With that I was led to Franciska’s old room where I was to wait. I was called to dinner …but it was in the kitchen, after the Ganz family had been fed in the dining room. As I lay down to bed, hot tears of shame flowed for some reason, but I resolved to never let the Ganz family see me cry.
The next several weeks were a flurry of activity, trying to find work that I could do–and, I believe, work that would be sufficiently demeaning to break my spirits. Mrs. Ganz brought several new people to work for her, as she would no longer cook herself but would oversee everything. I was first tried in the kitchen, but was always underfoot due to my small stature, and my hands were too small and weak to grasp large or heavy objects. The new girls were large, sturdy farm girls and some city girls, who believed the Ganz Inn, as it was now called, would be an easier life than whatever life they led. I will say that the new cook had knowledge, and one of the girls, Marta, would smile kindly at me as she passed, but I was ejected from the kitchen as unsuitable.
A place was hoped for me in the stables. Mr. Ganz was patient in teaching me of horses, and I seemed to have a calming effect on them, but once again I was much too small and young for the necessary labor and a young man from the village, Tomas, was found to assist Mr. Ganz. Reluctantly, Mr. Ganz had to admit that I lacked usefulness in the stables but seemed hesitant to return me to his wife’s domain. I shall never forget the look he gave me as I left the stables for the last time, and it was that look that confirms that he was aware of his wife’s plans for me, if not aware of my mother’s murder. Tomas also gave me an unreadable look, but I was to learn of its meaning only later.
What remained was to work in the house. I stood before Mrs. Ganz and volunteered to assist with the operations of the inn. I pointed out that I could add and subtract sums easily, with multiplication and division a bit slower, and that my father had instructed me about business practices. Mrs. Ganz appeared sorrowful and said that in my mother’s despondency, she had burned all of the family papers and records, and Mrs. Ganz was having to start all over with an accounting system of her own–yet another lie. Sadly, she said, there was no possibility of my being of any use to her. All that remained was service inside the inn.
Chapter 4: Concerning My Change In Living Quarters
At this point I should like to remark that the inn was in a period of transformation. Immediately after assuming ownership, the Ganzes began building an addition, which was to house the expanded staff. And expand they did, adding nearly a dozen new faces. Cook and Marta were replacements for Mrs. Ganz and Franciska in the kitchen, and Tomas had been added to assist Mr. Ganz in the stables, but all the others were girls from quite a wide region. It was actually a bit of a treat for me, because there were new dialects and even two new languages, from an Italian girl, or at least a girl who spoke Italian and bad German. I was later to learn that she was actually Swiss. I quickly noticed the similarity in the Italian and French languages, although her Swiss-Italian was unique.
The girls were housed in the new addition even as it was under construction; it was a warm spring and promised to be a hotter summer so the uncompleted structure allowed plenty of cooling breezes. The addition came to be called ‘the rooms’ and were differentiated from the guests’ quarters by calling them ‘the suites’, which sounded fancy to Mrs. Ganz but was not a strictly accurate description of the guest rooms. I was now moved into the rooms, because my room off the kitchen–Franciscka’s old room–was now necessary for Cook. I joined Marta and the other girls in the rooms, with a little one of my own at the far end of the hall.
It was assumed that I would assist in the maintenance of the suites, which essentially meant working as a maid. Since I was not a maid, and too small to lift the heavy loads of laundry, I was a hair’s breadth away from being declared totally useless and turned out as a homeless orphan. However, it was thought that perhaps, as a final chance, I could be taught a new skill. One new girl, Ilka, had made the mistake of announcing that she could sew and was burdened with all the repairs needed for nearly twenty people. In addition, there was the maintenance of the bedding in the suites, which had rich embroidery. It was discovered that my hands and eye were nimble and I was taught to sew and embroider. This was my salvation.
Ilka patiently taught me and I quickly learned. She also learned that I developed some skills to a higher level than hers, and I was doing any embroidery and needlepoint necessary, in addition to maintenance and repairs. One of the suite maids would come with a torn skirt, and I would mend it while she still wore it. Tomas would come in with a pair of torn trousers and I took them, noting again his strange look. But my days and weeks passed with pricked fingers and sore finger muscles, but they were gladly suffered compared to working in the stables or kitchen.
On the day Mrs. Ganz informed me that I would not be able to help with the accounting, and that I would be moving into the rooms, I realized any claim to existence I had at the inn was growing thinner by the moment. I took that opportunity to ask a favor, knowing that later I might not even be allowed to ask. Mrs. Ganz seemed exasperated and a bit wary until I asked if I could have our family Bible, and perhaps my mother’s three precious books. Mrs. Ganz readily agreed to my having the Bible, and as the books were in French, she had no use for them and allowed me to select one, claiming she’d have to sell the others to help the inn. I selected my mother’s Bible, and although Mrs. Ganz thought it absurd to have two Bibles, she gave it to me. I never saw my mother’s other two books again.
My reasoning for selecting the Bibles was twofold. First, if there was any remaining family information of the Schneiders, it might be in our Bible. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case. Secondly was the matter of religion. My father was Roman Catholic and I had been baptized in the Catholic faith. However, my mother had been from a Protestant family, and had a Bible in French. I thought I might be able to acquire a German Bible easily from one of the new girls, several of whom were Calvinist. Religion had never been a major function of my family life; my parents were dutiful Christians but reserved their devotions to Sundays. However, they lived piously the rest of the week, in their thoughts and deeds.
I wasn’t concerned about the salvation of my soul. Our family Bible was ancient, and written in Latin, and with the French and later the German Bible that I got from an Eastern Hungarian girl, I was able to cross-translate and learn Latin, as well as strengthening my skill in the other two languages. It was good to exercise my mind after a day of exhausting my body, and I was considered a devout Christian and nobody questioned my reading habits, although some of the girls had some sport with me later.
Chapter 5: In Which My Station In Life Is Altered
There were times when I was reasonably happy. I would take a communal meal of porridge with the girls of the rooms, and would go to the sewing room. Ilka and I would have piles of clothing to work on every day, some days more than others. I had rigged a small book stand and could place two Bibles side by side to study as I sewed the easy repairs. For more intricate work I would be bent over the piece, stitching carefully, and talking with Ilka. We took a short break at midday for some tea and buttered bread, and would resume our labors until dinner, which was again taken with the girls. I did not set foot in the inn itself for weeks at a time. After the evening meal, the weather being clement, the girls would sit out by the lake, talking and laughing. Sometimes they’d sing and one girl had a small guitar she would play and the girls would sing and clap along and occasionally some girls would dance with each other. Then, as the falling night put an end to the pleasantry, to bed.
I was the only male in the rooms; Tomas slept above the stable. As I was still a child, any maleness was negligible, and after our initial meeting, when the girls were unsure of how to treat me and how to act around me, I was quickly accepted as a regular part of their life. I learned a great deal of the world of girls and women from listening to them, and if I was confused, Ilka would patiently explain later. Occasionally the questions I asked caused her to blush, and I would seek out Marta and she would explain, with giggles.
We worked every day of the week and on Sundays were taken to the small church for a Mass. We would go in several groups at different services, and I usually was in the group with Marta and Ilka. I would listen intently, translating in my head for enjoyment. From the priest’s Latin, I would try French, and for his German I would try Magyar. It kept me occupied and my facial expression contributed to my reputation for piety, my mental labors being mistaken for religious devotion. In addition, each girl was allowed one day without work per month, but since it was a distance to town and the Ganzes couldn’t be bothered to provide transportation, the girls usually slept all day.
During this time I had three trousers and four shirts, and one pair of small leather boots. Before my mother died I’d had more clothes, as well as the clothes from when I was younger, but they had disappeared along with everything else of the Schneider family. I made do with my few possessions, thinking of it this way: Four shirts, three trousers, two boots, and one undergarment. I could only dream of the day when I would possess five of something.
I had been back from Mama Nusa’s for about two months. I was at work, sewing and translating, alone for once as Ilka was ill with what I’d come to learn was ‘her monthly’, a female problem different from the allotted day off from work. There was a shadow at my door and I turned to see Franciska. She was wearing much finer clothes than I’d ever seen her in before, and for all that she looked more genteel there was a sour expression on her face that spoiled the effect. She was bored. She was petulant and had grown tired of bossing around the girls working in the inn, and had come looking for more sport, and she found me.
Franciska was the only girl I’d really known until the new girls began to arrive at the rooms. From my experience with them, I now knew that Franciska was a spoiled brat and had always had a mean streak. I could remember what I’d thought in my innocence to be playful games, but in my newfound knowledge, I knew them to be small cruelties. Franciska loved to dominate others. As I was now undeniably in a subservient position, she felt unhindered by respect for me or fear of reprisal.
In short, Franciska demanded that I stop my work immediately and come ‘play’ with her. I knew I had no choice and might suffer for having fallen behind in my work, but I was obligated to obey her. I followed her as she wandered through the rooms, without permission or license, looking into the girls’ things and taking small objects that struck her fancy. I tried to make a mental list of things she took so I could inform the girls and prevent them accusing one another. Each item Franciska casually tossed to me and I realized it wasn’t the object she craved but the power to take it.
She tired of that and had me dump everything in a sack. As I straightened up I saw her studying me and she then commanded me to strip naked and follow her. As children we had stripped and splashed in the lake together, and when she would dress me in her skirts I would be naked for a time. This was seriously different, following her without a stitch of clothing as she searched the girls’ rooms again. This time the items she tossed me were clothes of the girls; undergarments, then a shift, blouse, and skirt. She turned to me and commanded me to ‘fix’ my hair, which was still long but tied back. She grew impatient with my reluctance and stood behind me, angrily yanking my hair as she braided it. Then she took some flowers from one of the girls’ bedside table and plaited them in my hair.
There was a gasp and we turned to see Ilka, pale and holding her stomach, staring at us. Franciska scolded her and demanded to know why she wasn’t working. When she learned that Ilka and I worked together, she looked from one to the other with a sly grin. Then she announced that henceforth, I would be known as Juliska, her old pet name for me–a girl’s name. Also, I would only be allowed to wear girl’s clothing and must be treated as a girl. Her grin grew wolfish. She commanded us to my room, where she snickered at my few possessions. Holding the sack of items she’d taken from the girls, she ordered me to add my four shirts, three pants and undergarment. She sneered at the boots as being too heavy to carry. Then she spun on her heel and left us.
That night at dinner, Ilka made an announcement to the assembled girls, telling them of Franciska’s theft and caprice. I was then brought in, apologizing to those girls whose clothes Franciska had put on me. I also told each of the girls which items were missing and in Franciska’s sack. I was humiliated, embarrassed, and completely unsure what to do after that.
I shall never forget the looks on the girls’ faces, and their kindness, as they folded me in their arms for a large hug. They were bitterly angry at Franciska but were well aware of her temper and knew their place. There was nothing to do but to comply with her wishes. So I was to be Juliska, a girl, from now on. Marta gave me a special hug and said that it wouldn’t be so bad–in fact, it might be the direction my life should take. I was very fortunate that Marta and Ilka, and so many of the other girls, were so kind to me.
We all decided that for me to be unhappy and the girls to be resentful of Franciska’s prank would do no good. The best revenge, such as was available to us, was to take everything in stride. The girls contributed any items they could spare and soon I had an assortment of skirts, blouses, and dresses, and they began including me in their daily ablutions and recreational activities, such as caring for each other’s hair and such. I found very quickly that I was much happier to be ‘one of the girls’ than I had ever been as the dispossessed former young master.
There were two new experiences that first Sunday. The first was the difference in being considered female; I now was required to cover my head at Mass. Fortunately, Marta produced a small lace kerchief and tied it for me, giving me a little kiss on the cheek. The second was the difference in the look from Tomas, who sat across the aisle from us. He usually attended a different Mass than our group but that day he was there and stared at us intently. I could feel his hot eyes on me but considered it to be due to the novelty of seeing me dressed as a girl.
The months passed and my situation was relatively secure, as my sewing was now superior to Ilka’s. I thought nothing of wearing skirts with braided hair, talking and giggling like the other girls. I used my hands delicately when sewing, of course, and found that I was also using them as the other girls did when speaking or describing something. It seemed the natural way to move, and of course it helped me fit in with the girls. I even learned their dances and songs, singing happily with them in my high, clear voice.
Marta was brushing my hair one evening and told me that I was much more comfortable to have around as a girl. I thought she meant due to privacy, but she laughed and said that she just thought that being female was my nature, and couldn’t imagine me growing up to be a man. I would not be honest if I said the idea hadn’t occurred to me. Marta also advised me that if I crossed paths with Franciska again, it would be best to pretend to hate having to dress as a girl. Marta’s reasoning was that if Franciska knew how well we were all getting along, she would give new orders to somehow make us suffer, perhaps even to demand that I be a boy again. Franciska only loved to punish, and it would suit her cruelty to keep me ‘suffering’ as a girl. Marta smiled and said that that way we would all win.
On the first monthly day that I had no work, I decided to walk a distance along the lake to just be with myself and think. I brought a Bible as an excuse, but it was heavy and I only went a short distance. I thought about my future and if it meant spending my time in skirts with my girlfriends, it would be bearable. I couldn’t imagine my prospects as a boy at this time. Content, I sang a little, skipped and twirled in my dress and felt that perhaps Marta was right and this was my destiny.
End of Part 1
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