Connections, by Karin Bishop
Chapter 27: First Date
My life ended, and my life began. I cried the first time I saw myself when they changed dressings; although it looked like I’d sat down on a chainsaw, the doctors told me everything would heal up and be indistinguishable from a normal, healthy vagina. And that’s the reason I cried, too; I was going to have a normal, healthy vagina!
I was in the hospital for awhile, getting stronger. The four of us decided—with the agreement of the doctors—that I would recover at Marilyn’s, rather than at home with Mom, for several reasons. First, the doctors were worried about everything ‘holding together’, so to speak. A suture could unravel or whatever they did, or something could rupture, and I’d need immediate care. Mom had to work and shouldn’t leave me alone. Marilyn and Carol would be around me all the time. The hospital gave me an odd bracelet, after cutting the ID bracelet; it was a lumpy gel type of thing that they nicknamed a ‘scramble-tag’. At any moment, if I felt sudden pain, I was to squeeze two points and a signal would go to the hospital, dispatching an EMT crew to arrive within fifteen minutes, tracking my location by GPS. Short of living across the street from the hospital, it was the fastest way to be saved.
The second reason was that Marilyn had a mansion with lots of room, a pool for hydro-therapy that they’d start me on later, and Marilyn’s house was only ten minutes from the hospital, as opposed to Mom’s which was nearly half an hour—my doctors and my surgeries weren’t at Mom’s hospital. It was Marilyn’s proximity to the hospital that contributed to my life being saved.
The third reason was that I could work at Marilyn’s in my new ‘job’ of making connections. All of my summer plans had vanished, but that was alright; the consolation prize was that I got to become a girl—after the next surgeries. My birthday was in two weeks, and I smiled from ear to ear just thinking that it was the first one of the rest of my life as a female. The next day I had to go in for another surgery. I’d have one more in August and, with luck, that should be it. Obviously, dance class was out; I couldn’t even really swim in the pool. I sunbathed, and got my first serious bikini tan lines—and I loved being able to see them—and then worked to let them catch up with the rest of my deepening tan.
My second day home, I was gingerly showering. All dressings had been removed on my last day in the hospital—agony followed by the bliss of freedom!—and an aide walked me through a partial, carefully protected shower. I felt human and female and fragile and went back to sleep. So on my second day—my first really full day at home—I noticed something while showering, and surprisingly, it wasn’t between my legs! As I gently soaped my chest, I experienced a little jerk of sensitivity and the realization that at last my breasts were truly breasts! I hadn’t paid any attention to anything above my waist for so long, and now I could feel the reality—my slight mounds were finally more than mounds; they were boobs! Small but absolutely definitely boobs. Not ready for ‘the pencil test’ though!
When I was dry and robed, I found Carol and showed her. She actually clapped her hands with joy and hugged me—and said that she wondered when I’d notice!—and handed me a present.
“Mom said we’re going to do a ceremony and I should give it to you then, but what would you be wearing to the ceremony? Go ahead; open it.”
It was a Teen Wonderbra and I was touched and a little embarrassed and so, so happy that our giggles brought Marilyn in for a show-and-tell and a group hug. I had actual cleavage now, and I realized that it hit me on two different levels. The first was that I was obviously female, and the second was that this female was growing up! That night we went out to a nice French restaurant and I wondered if any men were looking at my boobs—and how incredibly proud I was to have this undeniable proof of my girlhood.
The real external proof was safely cradled in special surgical panties; I’d have to wear them while there was still some drainage, but I’d take them off and replace them with bikini bottoms to lay out by the pool. I had some bruising, still, but the gentle curves and my feminine mound were so wonderful to see!
I really, really wanted to start swimming again; I’d been moving gingerly for so long and was doing some modest stretching but I was feeling flabby and out of shape. I wanted to get in and do some serious laps and feel the burn! But I’d have to wait at least eight weeks before the docs would even consider me ready for chlorine. So I spent most days poolside, thanks to a brilliant laptop that Marilyn found that synced with our ‘mainframes’ in the house, and I worked as Marilyn did, scanning the internet news files, but I also caught a lot of movies and TV and was up on new bands, trends—sometimes she needed cultural input that I provided as her in-house trend-spotter.
One of the areas that she was most interested in could be lumped under the new word ‘coolhunting’, a term that came out of the Nineties from people like Faith Popcorn and the great novelist William Gibson. There were even websites with the name. All forms of media, fashion, architecture …anything ‘cool’ was considered. And it was dizzying, because what was cool last year was mainstream this year and passé next year—or even in months. So it wasn’t all researching soy beans; a lot of it was finding out what Justin Timberlake was up to! Along with people like Santiago Calatrava, Tom Ford, and the kids in the new Maker culture.
I got stronger, and the day before my birthday, I went on a date! Carol and Eric were doing very well, and she wanted me to double with her and this guy, Paul. We got the doctors’ okay and then Marilyn’s and my mother’s, and were chaperoned to the max but it was history-making for me.
When I’d first caught a glimpse of a portion of Carol’s breast, I’d been hugely embarrassed. Now, after all we’d been through in just two short weeks, we pranced around together in our bras and panties, trying different pairs and stripping shamelessly. I thought of those awkward questions Dr. Stevenson had asked, and giggled to myself that now I could answer them! Carol had lovely breasts and I was so jealous, but she reassured me that mine would be lovely, too. She had some great dance music going as we got dressed, loaning me clothes because hers were considerably newer and hipper—and more feminine—than Linda’s. She wore a black lace camisole under a black sweater—knitted so loosely it was mostly holes—with a dark gray miniskirt, black tights and black boots. I had a gray mini as well, but more of a Glen Plaid, pleated and kicky, with a long-sleeved cropped dark pink cardigan over a light pink camisole. Carol begged me to wear these new tights she’d gotten, almost hose, that looked nude straight on but had a white shimmer to the edges, and black Mary Janes.
“I don’t know why, but guys get off on Mary Janes,” Carol advised. “Must be the little-girl sex thing!”
We giggled at that, put on jewelry, makeup—I wasn’t quite good enough to do hers, yet—cologne and posed together in the mirror, arms linked and hands on hips.
Carol hugged me quickly and said, “I’m so glad you’re my sister, Mel!”
“Me, too, Care,” my new shortened word for ‘Carol’. She’d squealed and then got teary when she hugged her approval; Linda had never called her that.
The boys arrived to pick us up while Marilyn was still going through the obligatory disapproval of our outfits and lecture. Carol went to answer the door while Marilyn kept me.
“Normally, I would answer and call you girls in; you can make a presentation that way. But I think it’s vital that I remind you to go easy; you’re still healing.”
“Yes, Aunt Marilyn, and thank you. But I’m not bungee jumping or anything.”
“I know, dear, but it could be innocent enough; they might want to take you bowling, and that’s too strenuous for you yet.”
I hugged her. “I’m going to think ‘soap bubble’. I’m going to think ‘porcelain’. I’m going to think ‘Glass Menagerie’.”
“That’s my girl,” Marilyn smiled, and then moved a strand of my hair. “Oh, God, honey, are you sure?”
“About this date? Absolutely,” I said firmly. “I have to do it. Even if he’s a total creep.”
Marilyn grinned. “Sometimes those dates are easier to handle than ones where you like the boy. But …boys? Already?”
“I think so, Aunt Marilyn. I’ve already …felt some …interest in that area.” And, damn it, I blushed. I’d been thinking about Matt Haines.
And of course, I couldn’t block that psychic connection Marilyn and I had. “Yes, he was an interesting …area, wasn’t he?”
I blushed furiously. “Aunt Marilyn …yes. I really …”
“You really, really liked him, didn’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I kept my eyes down.
“Then it’s good you’re going on a first date with somebody you’re not interested in. Nowhere near the pressure. Be careful with your body, relax and observe and learn and …oh, I don’t need to tell you that, but it’s required. It’s in my Godmother Handbook.”
“I love you, Aunt Marilyn! How do I look?”
“Like one of the prettiest young almost-fourteen-year-old girls I’ve ever seen!”
The boys were well-dressed and polite, and I realized that they both came from money. Eric was a handsome young Kennedy-lookalike with a mop of brown hair. Paul was taller with black curly hair, looking a bit like a young seminarian (I’d watched a lot of movies). The car was a black Lexus SUV and I thought that I was definitely moving in different social circles now!
Several things became quickly obvious, besides the wealth. First, Eric and Carol really seemed like a couple on solid footing. None of the little games and little hitting and things that I’d seen some kids do, and while most of my observations were of eighth graders or freshmen, I still saw high school couples at the mall. Not that these two were an old married couple; far from it because there was a lot of touching, but it was through genuine affection and attraction.
The second thing that became obvious was that Paul and I wouldn’t be a couple. We’d be pleasant through the evening but I doubted there’d be a second date. He was quiet and polite, but I had to admit that as nice as he was …he wasn’t Matt Haines. There was no buzz, no connection, no vibe. And I think on his end, too. I’m sure he was a little put out, a big high school junior on a date with an eighth grader, but was too well-bred to show it. He gave me genuine compliments on my …on my beauty, but we had a polite silence in the car.
At the movie, the other couple was much more physically attracted to each other. I suggested we sit separately and everybody did obligatory, supposedly-knowing leers and agreed. Halfway through the movie I could tell Paul was restless.
“Is something wrong?” I whispered.
“No. Sorry. Don’t let me take you out of the movie,” he whispered back.
“Too late; the director did it by the second scene and the twelfth product-placement.”
He turned and looked at me and frowned, but there was a shine in his eyes from the screen. “Wanna bail?”
“Two reels ago,” I said.
We made our way out of our row and hit the lobby. I continued, “Of course, they’re not reels anymore, but I kept reaching for a remote.”
“I know! My hand twitched a couple of times. Have you ever seen a DVD that makes you go to the Scenes menu and scroll through?”
“Sure. Do the movie in ten minutes; hit the key scenes, bonus features, credit crawl, done.”
He looked at me with fresh eyes.
“Do you want to get something to drink?”
“They won’t be done until 9:22. I’ll phone her then.”
“How do you know 9:22?”
“Standing at the Box Office, I scanned the movie playlist. They’re running a 22-minute turnover before previews, and the next showing is 9:50. Oh, and six minutes of credits which they won’t be staying to read.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You did that while standing in line?”
“Can’t stop the input. Or, if you know how, let me know. I could use some sleep!” I joked.
“There’s an espresso section they’ve just added to the theatre. Better than fountain drinks.”
“Lay on, Macduff.”
“See? There you go again. Everybody says, ‘Lead on, Macduff’.”
“Everybody’s wrong. And what do you mean, ‘there I go again’?”
“You’re not like any thirteen-year-old girl I’ve met.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” I halfway joked. “I’m not, though.”
“Eric said that Carol said you’re smart—you hadn’t met him, right?” On my head shake, he went on. “But I figured, you know, smart. Not …”
“Wicked smaht?” I said with a Boston accent.
“Good Will Hunting! The night improves!” he grinned.
I got a latte and he got a cappuccino, oddly enough, because they were much less commonly ordered in our area—something I’d picked up in searches for Marilyn. We sat and I had this sudden flash of the next several years of my life. Despite my age, I probably wouldn’t be doing a lot of bowling and miniature golf and running around and screaming. Of course, I couldn’t do any of those—maybe the putt-putt—until I healed. But with my mind, which I quietly knew was exceptional, I would probably enjoy discussing the world over a cup of coffee. But I did want to do all those other things, and I knew that they were part of Carol’s world and I’d do my best to keep up with my sister and to be a girl that experienced everything.
We talked about schools—I had to kind of fudge a little bit on that one, as well as talking about my background—and about Carol and Eric, and, the chit-chat dispensed with, we began seriously dishing the movie and getting into a cinematic discussion. Paul wanted to be a filmmaker; what we’d been seeing on the screen was agony for him, as much as he recognized it was prime fodder for multiplexes. We talked old movies, new movies, foreign movies, and finally he was accusing me of actually being in my sixties—to account for all the movies I’d seen—when my phone chirped to remind me to call Carol—I’d programmed it while waiting for the coffee.
I got her on the third try and told her where we were and they came to us, a bit flushed and playful. The mall had closed but they joined us for coffee. It was funny; they’d sat through the whole movie but probably saw less of it than we had because they were cuddling. We walked back to the car and things were much friendlier all around on the way home.
Paul walked me to the door first. “I had a very nice time,” he said. “I’ve gotta apologize; I thought I was dragged into babysitting a mall rat teenybopper.”
“Omigod! I haven’t heard ‘teenybopper’ in like, omigod, for-ev-err,” I growled in Valley Girl-speak.
He laughed. “Seriously, I want to thank you, fer sure,” he retaliated in Dude-speak. “I’d like to take you out again sometime.”
“Paul, you’re a really great guy,” I began, and stopped when I saw his face fall. “What?”
“You don’t even have to finish; I get it,” he nodded sadly. “All you girls have your code, your secret language. I think you learn it with your first big-girl dress. ‘You’re a really great guy’ means thanks but no thanks. Well, I enjoyed it.”
“First of all, you know that book-cover-judging thing you did at the start of the night? You just did it again. And maybe you know, but were too polite to say, the ‘big-girl’ line is part of the phrase ‘big-girl panties’. Thank you for being delicate. And finally, will you shut up and listen?”
“You’re doing all the talking,” he said, but he was halfway chuckling. “And I’ve gotta make a note about those panties …” He pretended to pat himself down for a pencil and pad.
“Ahem! Paul, you’re a really great guy, and I had a great time tonight and yes I would like to go out with you.” I stared in his eyes, moving my head around as if checking to see that he got it. He did; I could see the smile bursting. “That’s all true and not code. But you know I just got out of surgery for a really bad abdominal disorder.”
“Eric didn’t know the details. He said you almost died, though.”
“Hemorrhaging like Niagara. Anyway, they saved my life but there are one or two—I hope not more—surgeries scheduled this summer to get me ready for school. Tomorrow is my birthday, so you won’t be dating a thirteen-year-old anymore. The next day I go back into the hospital. Then back home for recovery, some semblance of normal life for a bit to get strong enough, and then back in for the final surgery, if they can’t repair everything this time. So I’m saying that, yes, I would like to go on a date with you, with or without our chaperones,” joking about Carol and Eric. “I’ll be a big grown-up fourteen-year-old, whoopee! But I’m in hospital or recovery for the next few months. You see? I want to go out with you. It’s not a dodge or an excuse to let you down nicely. When I’m able, I’d like to go out with you, but it can’t be anything active like bowling because I’d tear stitches. And the bowling alley frowns on dead girls cluttering up the foul lines.”
He burst out laughing at that and nodded. “Thank you for telling me, and once again, I’m sorry I misjudged you. I’m going to reverse the etiquette. In movies, girls always complain, ‘he never calls’ but I want you to know that I want to call you, but under the circumstances, you call me when you can. Even just to chat, not a date, okay?”
I nodded. “And when I’m back home, you can call anytime. I’m hoping I’ll only be in the hospital a day or two, but it could be longer if there are complications. Lord knows, there were before.”
“I’ll be worried the whole time, you know.”
Immediately, I knew it was time to kiss him. I knew it, instinctively. I stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek and lowered back down. “Thank you.”
From his startled reaction, I knew that he hadn’t been angling for or even thinking about a good-night kiss—which meant he deserved one. I put my hands on his shoulder and stood on tiptoe again and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Good night, Paul.” Then I turned, unlocked the door, turned back to smile at him and went in.
Like in the movies, I leaned against the door. Oh …my …God. My first date. My first kiss. And what was that thing about ‘all you girls have your code’—I was obviously more of a girl than I thought! I walked on a cloud into the house and found Marilyn in the kitchen making cocoa.
“Few things are better after a date than curling up with your girlfriends and a cup of cocoa,” she smiled. “Well, yours seemed to go very well,” looking over half-glasses at me like a granny. “Any indication your sister will join us?”
“Very soon, Aunt Marilyn, and thank you for calling her my sister. That’s how I feel, and …”
“Ah …you feel other things, too, I see. Anything you need to tell me before she gets in?”
“I’d rather share with you both. I’d rather share everything with you both!”
Chapter 28: You’re Kidding?
My birthday was a wonderful, all-girl affair, with Mom joining Marilyn and Carol. Needless to say, I got only the most feminine of presents, clothes, accessories, even a doll from Carol, who said, “Hey, she never had one, right?” and I did a little fashion show afterward and slept that night in a luscious pink silk chemise.
The next day I went back to the hospital for what turned out to be a four-day stay. Two more operations; the doctors said I was healing beautifully but were concerned about something, something that always lay just outside their discussions. Finally I asked and was floored by the answer.
Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Gupta were in my room; visiting hours were over and I’d just said goodbye to Marilyn and Carol. The doctors did the usual bed-side talk, and then lingered at the foot of my bed discussing things when I asked about whatever they weren’t telling me.
Dr. Gupta said, “I think I know what you are referring to, and you’re right, we haven’t discussed it with you because, frankly, we’re in completely unknown territory with you.”
Dr. Stevenson said, “Melanie, you’re right; you have a right to know what concerns us, but it will be a good news-bad news kind of thing, and as Dr. Gupta said, this is all new. You’re writing the medical history as you live it.”
“Do I get royalties for copies sold?” I joked.
They did the obligatory chuckle and got serious. Dr. Stevenson said, “Everything is healing marvelously well. Organs are healing and recovering function at an amazing rate.”
“It’s as if your body knows what to do …where things should go and what they should do there. It’s unprecedented,” Dr. Gupta added.
“I have a hunch that, because we’re working with your reproductive system, which is so primal and fundamental to species survival, that there is some deeply-embedded survival program at work.” Dr. Stevenson shrugged. “I don’t quite agree that it’s unprecedented—certainly it is in such an extreme case as yours—but I’ve been doing wider searches in the medical literature and have found some congruities.”
“Congruities?” I asked, completely baffled. “Others like me?”
“No, you are unique,” Dr. Stevenson chuckled. “But congruities with patients’ recovery rate and restoration of faculties.”
“Dr. Stevenson is treading lightly here to spare your feelings, but I will stomp through in the interests of clarity. Unfortunately, there are too many cases to count, worldwide, of genital mutilation. Either the tribal customs of ritual clitoridectomies; that’s when—”
“Surgical removal of the clitoris,” I supplied. “Primarily African and Middle Eastern cultures; some Indonesian.”
Both doctors relaxed. “We keep forgetting who we’re talking to,” Dr. Stevenson joked. “Yes, precisely. But also genital mutilation through rape, or abuse, or sexual perversion.”
“Careful, Doctor; she is only thirteen.”
“Fourteen three days ago.” I quickly added in a faked ‘lofty’ tone, “Please update your records.”
They smiled. Dr. Gupta nodded. “I stand corrected. And since you’re an old gal of fourteen, I’ll say that some of the damage inflicted, vaginally and internally, has been spectacularly imaginative. Sick and incomprehensible, but extensive and thorough.”
Dr. Stevenson said, “Also trauma patients, car crashes, the occasional industrial accident …basically, we’ve been reviewing anything we could on female abdominal and genital injuries. And in a statistically significant portion of cases, the healing rate is quite rapid, almost …”
“He was going to say ‘almost miraculous’. I’ll settle with ‘almost at warp-speed’,” Dr. Gupta chuckled, and it struck me that they’d become friendlier with each other since I’d first met them. We were all old surgical vets together, I guessed.
“So I’m healing fast. I assume that’s the good news,” I said. “But what could be bad about that?”
They looked at each other and Dr. Gupta took it. “We’ve been reluctant to discuss this because we truly don’t know. But you’re mature enough to accept that so we’ll tell you.” He folded his arms over his chest, cradling my chart. “Melanie, we’re worried that you may menstruate.”
“You’re kidding …” I looked from one to the other. They were like stone figures. “Menstruate? Me? A period? And …and …You’re kidding!”
“Not kidding. Ability for pregnancy, yes, yes,” Dr. Stevenson said. “These are all quite iffy, but the cat is out of the bag and you need to know; our only question was when to tell you. Or even if to tell you, if the event did not occur.”
“So it’s now,” Dr. Gupta said. “Melanie, at the rate you’re healing, the incredible recuperative abilities your body is showing, it’s very possible that you will menstruate. Once your system makes all the connections—and from what we’re seeing, that’s proceeding rapidly—your body will send the appropriate signals for your ovaries to release an egg.”
“You’re kidding,” I said again. “I have functional ovaries? And still with eggs? How …how is that possible?”
“The how is something we’ll be studying for years. The fact is that it is, and so we’re quite worried.”
“But wouldn’t that be great news? Wouldn’t it mean that your work was so successful that everything works, even after being dormant thirteen years?”
Dr. Stevenson said, “The thirteen years is not really that important. After all, if you had been a normally-born, healthy XX female, raised and socialized as a girl, and began menarche around your thirteenth birthday, the situation would be equivalent. Everything in normal girls is dormant for twelve or thirteen years, too.”
“I’d never thought of it like that; you’re right, of course. But from what you guys initially told me, my organs weren’t just dormant, they were under-formed, shriveled, whatever. Dr. Gupta used the word ‘sponge’, implying they were dried out and shrunken.”
“That’s true,” Dr. Stevenson said. “But that’s where your amazing recovery is perhaps most amazing. But the freeze-dried camping food analogy that we mentioned after your first surgery? That analogy holds true, better than any other, really. Those flaky bits of powder really can become buttermilk pancakes, just with water. Think how much more your body is doing with water, blood, nutrients, hormones, vitamins …they’ve come back spectacularly.”
“The problem is this,” Dr. Gupta said portentously. “Actually two problems. The first is, we don’t know at what point your body will determine it’s ready to start the menstrual cycle. Tomorrow, next week, six months from now, or yesterday. So we don’t know when to start counting. The second problem is, we don’t know if your entire system can handle it. If the ovaries release an egg, if the egg can safely travel the length of your Fallopian tubes, if the uterus will receive the egg, if the egg and discarded material will separate from the uterine walls, and if the menstrual flow will proceed vaginally. And finally, if everything will hold together without leakage. That’s an awful lot of ifs and we’re understandably nervous.”
Dr. Stevenson said, “Worst case scenario; at some point in the process, something leaks or ruptures.”
“I have the scramble-tag.”
“Yes, and that will save your life if you need it. It’s really the only reason we’re releasing you tomorrow.”
“You’re kidding?” I said yet again.
“Not at all. We should keep you for observation until you either menstruate or we decide it’s not going to happen.”
“Well, you guys are great fun, and all, but on the whole I’d rather be home,” I needled them. “And I’m only fifteen minutes away; that’s only eight minutes more than your crash-cart.”
Dr. Stevenson said, “Yeah, we’re not happy with that—wait a minute; how do you know our crash-cart speeds?”
“You forgot who we’re dealing with again,” Dr. Gupta smiled. “Should be less than five, no matter where in the hospital. Two is better. But she’s right; fifteen minutes with the bracelet, maybe twenty if her aunt brings her.”
“Godmother, actually,” Dr. Stevenson said, absently. “Okay. Tomorrow we’ll kick you outta here. But the least, tiniest, most insignificant, ‘oh-it-must-be-the-chili’ cramp or twinge or pulsation—you get yourself in here immediately. Understand?”
“Yes, doctors. I’ve got to ask this, because we seem to be talking about things that should only exist in my best-ever fantasy. How can we reconcile any possibility of menstruation with, well, my Y chromosome?”
There was a moment where they looked at each other, considering, and then Dr. Stevenson smiled.
“I know you’ve seen a great many movies,” he said. “Have you, by chance, seen Shakespeare In Love?”
I nodded. “Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes. Yes. Loved it.”
Dr. Gupta was agreeing as Dr. Stevenson said, “You may remember the fellow running the theatre or the actors’ company was played by Geoffrey Rush?” I nodded and he said, “They keep asking him things like, ‘How are we going to do this?’ or ‘How can they do that?’ and he’d just shrug and say …do you remember?” His eyes twinkled.
I chuckled. “He’d always say, ‘I don’t know; it’s a mystery!’”
They both laughed and Dr. Stevenson said, “So that’s our answer. How can you menstruate with a Y chromosome?”
And Dr. Gupta supplied the line. “It’s a mystery!”
After we’d all had our humorous moment, I said, “Well, I’ll have to live with that. And I can! Oh; one final thing …and I’ll say up front I’m not going to obsess over this or be let down in any way or anything, but …do you really think I can menstruate? And even become pregnant?”
Their natural instinct was to play it down, give me a doctor’s speech, but we’d already been through a lot together and they knew me. Dr. Stevenson nodded. “With the up-front proviso that you’re a unique case and we don’t know the extent of what your body can do …that being said, I think it’s very likely that you will menstruate. When, and how, and what complications, I don’t know. I also believe it’s possible that once your system is experiencing regular menstrual cycles, and after an unknown number while your system stabilizes, yes, I believe you may have the ability to become pregnant.”
“I, too, agree,” Dr. Gupta said. “Although I’m a bit more hesitant about pregnancy. But in any event, once you become sexually active, by all means, practice safe sex. And with nice boys,” he added with a grin.
“One caution,” Dr. Stevenson said, “Please do not use any kind of pharmaceutical birth control, no pills of any kind, without our or any future doctor’s recommendations. They can play havoc even with perfect genetic systems; I would hate to see all of our hard-earned recovery set back due to a birth control pill.”
“I understand, Doctor,” I said. “And it’s all very much in the future. But …thank you, both of you.”
They left and I thought about the insanely incredible news they’d given me. I also thought that I hadn’t been entirely truthful with them …because after the date with Paul, and my dreams about Matt, I knew that I liked boys!
Chapter 29: Supposed To Be Resting …
Once I was home and comfortable, life resumed. Sitting by the pool, working on a laptop or reading books and magazines. Lots of TV—Marilyn’s setup could get me European and Asian channels and we gave TiVo a rugged workout—and as much pop culture as I could soak up. Although I couldn’t take the classes we’d originally planned—I did want to take up photography at some point, and we’d already found the camera I liked—it didn’t mean that I wasn’t being schooled. Not only was I learning a lot about the world, and Marilyn’s ways of connecting it all, but I surprised her by asking if I could get a tutor to learn a foreign language or two. It would be hard, I know, and in my idiocy I also asked for what seemed to be the two most important languages for the next few decades: Chinese and Arabic. Both were completely alien to English, and to each other, which helped me keep them separate in my mind. I’d heard about people too easily mixing French and Spanish—¿Dónde está la salle de bain?—and that would never happen. Marilyn agreed these languages were vitally important, complimented me for my audacity—and then kidded me about my brain exploding.
I called Paul a few days after I got home and we had a nice chat, once we played a few rounds of phone tag. I got permission to go out—alone with Paul—the following Friday, and Marilyn took me to a beauty parlor—where we ‘coincidentally’ met up with Mom. My mother was getting a makeover? What was going on?
“What, do you think that you’re the only Stanwood girl that might be interested looking nice?”
“Mom, what the heck is going on?”
“There’s a systems coordinator at Mercy, a very nice gentleman …” she began, blushing—blushing!—and told me about a guy she’d met at a conference.
My mother wasn’t dressed as conservatively as she used to, and now a makeover? I knew that she had been seeing a therapist that Marilyn had recommended, and the change was remarkable. My own life, my own change, had in a way all flowed from that night that Marilyn forced my mother to reveal her history. I’d been so wrapped up in my own transition that I hadn’t been thinking about my mother’s transition, all flowing from that cathartic night. If my transition was rapid, it must run in the family! I realized that all things were possible for her now, and that my being at Marilyn’s or the hospital was allowing Mom to discover who she really was. And I realized that had been part of Marilyn’s plan all along, and I loved her all the more for it.
Paul and I went out to a Truffaut retrospective and saw The Wild Child. Afterwards, over coffee, we argued about the pros and cons of a director starring in his own film. Paul and I sparred like old debate adversaries, and it was fun. I gave him a goodnight kiss that was enjoyable, but we both knew that it was a girl kissing a guy thank you …better than a handshake, but not likely to lead to anything.
A couple of days later, I discovered why.
One morning I came into the kitchen and …sitting with Marilyn over coffee …was Matt Haines.
“Hi, Matt,” was what I’d wish I’d said. Instead, I said something that sounded like, ‘Ug, kymaaa …gurk’ and choked. I rushed to the kitchen sink for a quick glass of water but saw Marilyn’s smirk out of the corner of my eye. My back to them, I took the time to drink the water to get my thoughts together. What was Matt Haines doing in my kitchen? And most importantly, I realized that something had happened between my legs and I might have to report it to my doctor but I thought I knew what it was—my reaction to Matt. I’d certainly never had anything like it happen with Paul.
I turned back to face them. “Let me try it again. Hi, Matt. What are you doing here?”
Marilyn said, “We ran into each other near the bookstore. He asked about you. I talked with him over coffee and have asked him over this morning to discuss some odd jobs for me.”
“You mean, like yard work?” I was shocked that she’d offer him anything like that, when he was so smart, and he was so …so Matt!
Marilyn laughed. “Oh, no, no; the usual, research. Specifically, video games, anime, manga …teen male pop culture. You’ve got the teen girl pop culture covered.”
“And for each age bracket there are different demographics,” I mused. “Cool.”
I was anything but cool! I was silently freaking out. I took inventory; I had on pink flip-flops, a denim skirt, unhemmed with strings dangling, a dark blue tank top and raspberry bra straps showing. My hair was only modestly finger-combed, and almost no makeup; just some blush and lip gloss. God, why didn’t she tell me he was coming? I almost missed what he said.
“How are you?” Matt asked.
I’d forgotten how fun his voice was; it made me want to talk to him to hear more of it. Please, brain; don’t fail me now—talk to him!
“Um …fine.” Come on, brain! Work with me!
“Mrs. Stevens told me you’d been in the hospital. I hadn’t realized it was so serious.”
“Mrs. Stevens …?” I didn’t connect the name. Brain still down.
“Uh, hello? Me?” Marilyn laughed.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Marilyn; I wasn’t used to hearing the name in a different context.”
“Different context?” she prodded.
“Well …this kitchen,” I finished lamely.
“Context …uh-huh,” she chuckled.
To change the subject, I asked Matt, “How did you know it was serious?”
“You’re wearing a scramble-tag, that bracelet,” he pointed. “You can have EMTs here in fifteen or twenty minutes. I hope you’re …” His face did a weird thing.
Marilyn tried to lighten things. “Yes, she’s alright; she had her second set of surgeries last week and just got home to recover. The bracelet’s just for the healing period if there are any complications.”
There was silence for a moment; I knew a sharp mind like his wouldn’t settle for the word ‘complications’.
“Genetic defect,” I joked. “I’m a mutant.”
Marilyn chuckled. “A mutant who had massive internal hemorrhaging. And sutures sometimes leak.”
“Well, they don’t leak; they fail to close—sorry,” I said, automatically correcting her.
“Annoying habit of hers,” Marilyn said to Matt, looking at me. “Being smart.”
“And occasionally a smart-ass,” I said, contrite.
“Never,” she smiled. “So Matt has an idea what we do here and will be picking up some pocket change over the summer.”
Pocket change? If he was as smart as I thought he was, he’d pick up a year’s worth of Harvard tuition by Labor Day.
So Matt might be around a little …?
“Cool.” I excused myself and casually fled back to my room. Sitting at my vanity, I quickly brushed my hair and carefully did my makeup, and then tried to think of an excuse to go back down again. I came up empty. Nothing that wouldn’t be obvious …so I stayed in my room, thinking about Matt, and Paul, and figured I was pretty much a total girl now.
And knew that trouble was really starting!
Chapter 30: Now
I’m sitting by the pool, finishing this on my laptop. I’m pretty well tanned now, wearing my favorite bikini, a tiny hot pink one that is cut so flattering that my small breasts look larger—which every girl wants! I had a date with Paul last night, joined with some people he knows from a film group, and we had a wonderful time talking about movies from the Seventies. We’re great friends, Paul and I, but it wouldn’t be fair to be more than that because I don’t have the same zing! that I do with Matt. Paul’s actually cool with that; I could tell he likes one of the girls from the film group and I’m going to coach him on that!
But that zing with Matt …it’s powerful and as real as can be.
He’s in with Marilyn right now, working on ‘aging otaku’—the fanboys (and some girls) for Japanese pop media that are now hitting their twenties and thirties. Their purchasing profiles are unique, and there seems to be an iceberg there—like so many things we encounter.
In between writing my ‘saga’, I’ve been data crunching for Marilyn and we’ve set up my own company! The Stanwood Corporation, a subsidiary of Marilyn’s for now but legally independent, is all mine—a fourteen-year-old girl’s. Mom’s the principal, and her face was a crazy mix of emotions when Marilyn and I proposed it to her.
Mom finally explained, smiling fiercely. “You want to know what’s funny? Your father and grandfather were so …fixated on reviving the family fortune, rebuilding their empire, that they focused exclusively on their male heirs, to their disappointment. Little did they know it would take their daughter and granddaughter to get it going. Because you will build an empire, my dear daughter, I know you will; and you’ll have to excuse me if I face my father’s grave and give him the finger!”
I would have been shocked by the last thing she said, but Mom had changed—in some ways more than I had. She was now wearing clothes more in line with the 21st Century, she was seriously seeing Alan, the systems coordinator guy, and she was bright and happy and attractive and so happy with me. I don’t have any worries about her.
I don’t have any worries about me, either—
Because I got my period.
At the start of August I had a cramp and fired off the scramble-tag. A half an hour later (twelve minutes to get there and eighteen later to be examined) people stood around my bed, grinning.
I looked from each to each. “What?”
Dr. Stevenson turned to Marilyn. “I understand that some women use the phrase ‘the curse’.”
Marilyn nodded. “True. For some.”
Dr. Stevenson looked at me. “I think Melanie might want to refer to it as ‘the blessing’.”
“What? Will you tell me—wait—does this mean …?” I couldn’t dare to ask it.
Dr. Stevenson nodded. “Melanie, you appear to be having a perfectly normal menstrual cycle.”
“You’re on the rag, kiddo!” Marilyn cackled.
“Aunt Marilyn! I thought only crude boys said that,” I sounded prim to my own ears, like my mother used to be.
“It appears I have trace elements of crude boy,” Marilyn grinned. “Of course, I don’t know how you know about crude boys, with all those nice boys you have around,” she teased, referring to Paul and Matt.
I quickly defended myself to the doctor. “She’s teasing. I don’t have a lot of nice boys around—or naughty ones, either.”
I know that I was blushing, but I could pass it off as excitement at the news that I actually had a period—me, who spent thirteen miserable years as a boy named Michael!
The blush was also a result of thinking of the moment, two nights ago, when Matt and I were on the pool deck, talking about the Taliban—of all things—and the discussion got heated and we kind of got in each other’s faces and his eyes widened, he leaned in and kissed me …and the world went away. And exploded. Both at the same time. I got the most incredible rush, like an electric shock, and a warm twisty kind of feeling in my groin.
Of course, I know now that it might have been the first signal of my oncoming period—gotta start marking my calendar—but I think it was more. It was my reaction to Matt, the direct, obvious next stage in the connection between us that started in that bookstore when he asked, ‘Can I help you?’ and help me he did. He helped me realize that I was a totally heterosexual girl, and helped me lose the last lingering doubts, the last echoes of Michael’s voice.
Marilyn and I take bits and pieces of seemingly unrelated data and make speculative constructs that can be valuable.
Take a lipstick rolling on the floor …an Alfred Hitchcock movie …and a glass of cold water …and what do they all connect to?
A cute girl in a bikini on a pool deck wondering when the boy she’s crazy about will come back out of the house to sit with her.
And she is me, a girl named Melanie Stanwood.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.