The Gentle Giant

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The Gentle GiantThe Gentle Giant
by Anon Allsop

From the trees I could see them taunting him, his face looked sad and lonely. I paused by a bench, leaning against my cane and watched the youth try and walk away, but the group still followed, laughing and shouting on his heels. I strained my ear to listen to what they were saying, it seemed to have something to do with him asking out a girl well above his social class.

"What makes you think she'd go out with a little wuss like yourself?" A tall boy sneered.

The youth paused and shot back, "I have as much a right to ask any girl out as you do, Kevin!"

"The difference is...you little worm, we have money...your kind don't!" A short stocky boy shouted.

"Stay out of this, Mark!" The sad boy seemed to explode with his anger, "I'll date any girl that that I please! Including your sister if she'd have me!"

A heavy set young man with expensive clothes gave the sad one a push causing him to stumble, "Listen, Ryan, we've got just one thing to say to you...stay the hell away from the Hamilton High girls. If you want to date a girl...there's always the Dells." He gave him another push for measure.

The word was thrown around Hamilton like an insult...the word "Dells" was the name for a local mental hospital. The boy sat upright, the one called Mark pushed him back down with a shove that blindsided him from behind.

The boy struggled to his feet as Les growled at him, "Like I said, wuss, "We catch you around any of the Hamilton girls again, you’re dead meat!" A bigger boy wearing a letter jacket threw a punch into the young man's stomach, causing him to crumble into the soft grass. Then stood towering over Ryan's heaving form, "I ain't as nice as these boys...you cross my path, I'll kick your sorry ass!"

He looked around as the others laughed, "Aw, I think Ryan's going to cry...freaking pussy!" He toed the youth with his shoe. "You'll stay down there if you know what's good for you!"

Ryan sat seething in anger, waiting for them to leave. "One of these days, Lester, I won't have to keep a promise...then..."

"Then what? I'll be right here waiting...you pussy!" Les pushed the sleeves up on his letter jacket, "I'll turn your freaking sorry ass into a bloody pulp!" Then, the big jock scowled, "You ever call me Lester again, and I'll beat you within an inch of your life." He then scanned his friends who were watching, "That goes for the rest of you too!" They nodded and looked away, a few covered their hidden smiles.

Ryan clenched his jaw and looked away, everyone could see that he wanted to get up...his promise to his old friend kept him prone in the grass.

I had seen enough, standing, I started across the grounds toward them, I had to put a stop to this feud before it ballooned into anything worse. As I approached, my shadow fell across the sidewalk, one by one they slowly looked up at me. Each of the boys began to back away, except for the one called Les.

"Morning, boys, are we having a problem?" I looked down from one boy to another, each directly in the eye. "I think it's time for you to be moving along." My voice rumbled as if being spoken into a barrel.

"Sure, Bear, we'll go..." One by one they gave Ryan a glare, then moved away.

Ryan looked up at me squinting his eyes in the sun, "Hi Bear. Uh...Thanks!"

I offered my huge hand, helping him up, "No problem kid." The boy was tall, but I still towered over him by almost two feet. "What was that all about?" I asked. I'd met the boy a few years ago, we were two outcasts that had become very good friends.

He and I began to walk, my shadow dwarfing his six foot three inch frame. The whole while the sound of the steady click from my cane echoed in my ear. He walked slow so I could keep up with him, my legs aching from the great weight I carried. I wasn't fat...just big. I felt like a circus freak most of the time, being stared at because of my enormous stature. Young children would marvel at the size of my huge feet, one leg probably weighed as much as a normal, adult female...and about as tall as one too, I would joke. That's where the name Bear came to being...I was always a bit larger than most of my classmates, then somewhere around fourth grade I began to grow at an alarming rate. Now at eight feet, three inches I have to be one of the tallest humans alive.

People assume that if you're tall that you played basketball or were involved in some type of sports...I was, until life became too painful. I laugh sometimes when I recall sixth grade football, my coach had to go to the local college to get me shoulder pads and a helmet that would fit. Soon though, that wasn't even an option...by my freshman year, health problems made me give up any thoughts of sports completely.

The youth stuffed his hands into his pockets and continued our conversation, "I asked one of their sisters out...I guess they didn't like it." He shot me a slow smile causing me to grin as well.

"Brothers behave like that sometimes...they fear for their sisters." I said, my voice, deep as a tiger's growl. "Believe me Ryan, I know from personal experiences..." My voice trailed away as I looked across the grassy park.

"Did you ever have a girl?" Ryan asked then looked back to me with a note of sorry in his voice, "I mean...if you don't mind me asking."

"I don't mind..." I smiled at this likeable kid. "I had one once...a pretty girl." We walked along for a few steps, the cane making me feel like an old man. "I even went as far as asking her to marry me, but...her parents told me that they'd never let their daughter marry a freak!"

"They actually said that?" He spun toward me with astonishment tinged onto his voice.

I laughed, "No not really...she decided that since my life expectancy isn't very favorable...she didn't want to chance being a widow before she was 30." I slowed to a stop, and leaned against my cane to catch my breath.

"Uh...Bear?" I looked down at Ryan, "How old are you?"

"That's a fair question to ask a friend." I smiled, "I'm 26." His surprise was almost laughable.

"But you said..." He questioned softly.

I could see where he was going with his comment so I interrupted him, "I was diagnosed with a disease long ago...it deals with my growth glands."

"So that would explain your...size?" He asked.

"And about every organ that's within my body, is affected by this disease. My hearts enlarged, liver is about shot to hell, kidneys are almost useless...you name it, it's bad on me." I could see him look away, feeling sorry for me. "People that have what I have...don't live very long. But I'm not going to let that get me down...and you shouldn't either!"

We were walking toward a shady spot that had a cement park bench overlooking a pond with a mirror-like surface. "I figure when the good Lord’s ready for me...I'm ready to go."

I watched our shadows against the lush grass, his...youthful and lively, mine...bent and slow. My eyes traveled to the shadow that my legs cast, they were bowed from the great weight I carried.

"Lets sit down here!" Ryan pointed to the bench. I smiled and nodded. He was such a nice kid that I couldn't understand why everyone else hated him so much...I was from the Hamilton area, and he didn't bother me.

"Did your folks have any other kids?" He asked while we were sitting.

"I had a younger sister...Elizabeth, we called her Beth." I laid my cane in the grass next to the bench. "She passed away when I was around nine, the folks didn't talk about what happened to her. She didn’t even see her first birthday. All I ever knew was that she got sick and died." I stretched out my leg, and rested my long feet back in the grass, knees aching from my massive weight.

"Sorry to hear that..." He spoke with respect.

"Thanks Ryan, I appreciate it. I guess, had she lived. She would have been about your age. "

Nothing was said for the next few minutes, both of us were deep in thought or watching the lazy way the insects danced just above the water's surface. Ryan slowly stood up and spoke, bringing me back to the present.

"Well...thanks for your help back there..." I waived my hand into the air telling him that it wasn't a problem. "...I appreciate it anyway."

I leaned against the back of the bench and looked at him, "I'll tell you this, Ryan, you're about the only person who'll talk to me around here without being intimidated by my size." It was his turn to waive off my thanks. "You just keep being yourself...someday, the right girl will come along." I told him.

He looked down the path toward the pond then back up the hill behind us, "I just hope that she's a good listener." He said, shielding the sun from his eyes.

"She'll have to be." I laughed, "Don't worry about what everyone thinks...If she can see the real you, it won't matter where she comes from."

"Even the Dells?" He laughed.

I smiled, "Even the Dells".

He grinned and watched me pick up my cane, then when I lost my grip he retrieved it for me. "Hey Bear...what is your real name?"

I laughed and took the cane as he offered it to me, "You won't believe me if I told you..." I watched him as he waited, "Oh well, what do I care if you know...it's Marvin"

"Bear sounds better..." He laughed.

"Yeah, I thought so too." I closed my eyes and relished in the warmth of the sun.

"Well big guy, I need to get moving. Thanks again for the help back there."

"No problem. Maybe one of these days you can forget about your promise and deck their sorry asses!" I said, recalling his oath.

"It'd be nice...even though I'm sure 'Grandma' would hate it!"

I nodded in agreement with him, then realizing what he said, turned and gave him a surprised look. "Grandma? I thought you said that your grandparents were dead?"

He nodded and gave me a wry smile, "They are. But this Grandma is no real relation at all...she just lets me call her that."

"Oh...I see. Do I know her?" I asked.

He smiled and brushed away a bug, "She's the old woman that has the water park about three blocks from here."

I shook my head, "Okay, I know her...I've seen her around here a time or two." I looked down at my huge feet and sighed, "I had a crush on her granddaughter...Anya once when I was a kid in Junior High. But, I was huge and she was…well, she was out of my league I guess."

"Wow!" He was surprised the name came from my lips.

"That was a long time ago." I laughed. "If you see her again, tell her Marvin said hi! She may remember me."

"I'll do that!" He smiled.

I laughed and poked at the grass with my cane, "What's so funny?" Ryan asked.

"How in the world did you ever meet Anya and her Grandmother?"

Ryan looked back toward the pond, contemplating what he should say. "I've never really told anyone before..." He glanced away, then back to me. "She and Anya came out to the parking lot of Cardinals one night...and...well."

"She caught you fighting..." I finished his sentence. I knew the restaurant he was talking about. Cardinal's shared its parking lot with a tavern owned by the same company. Most people wouldn't put up with the two being so close to each other, but the food was so darn good at Cardinal's restaurant, they just looked the other way.

"Well, no...She caught my father fighting with some guy." He frowned and looked down. "The police were called and my father was taken away and thrown in prison. The man he had been fighting with later died from his injuries. For the next several years while Dad was in, she gave Mom a job and made sure we were taken care of. While Dad was in prison, he caught a bad cold and it turned into pneumonia. He passed away about three years ago. It didn’t matter how much she helped us out while Dad was alive and in prison, I seemed to be following right down my father's footsteps. She sat me down in a chair at my fathers funeral and wanted me to take a real hard look at how my life was turning out. She me promise to never follow my father's path, and that if I would agree to make this effort, she would help us in any way she could. " I noticed his uneasiness with our conversation. "She can be pretty convincing when she really gets down to it."

"So, I've been trying my best to keep the promise I had made to her." He stuffed his hands into his pocket. "It’s real hard sometimes, but so is growing up without having a father around. I hate it so much, that I've promised myself I would never do that to my children, if I ever have any." "How did she take it when you started to take Karate?" I asked, "Seems like that would be a big no-no in her eyes."

He gave me a puzzled look, "How did you know about that?"

I laughed, "When you were arguing with those guys, I noticed how you were standing." I tapped his foot with my cane, "You had risen up onto the balls of your feet, that stance could only mean one thing." He looked down at his shoes, "So, what did she say?"

"You know...that's the thing. She looked at me and sighed, not an angry one, but more like she was disappointed in me. I felt really bad that I had upset her, knowing what she had done for my Mom and I." He looked at the bench and picked a chip of paint from the armrest, "She let me know in no uncertain terms that it was okay to know how to use it, but just in defense only."

I laughed, "So that's the deal she has over you..."

"She's really a nice woman if you get to know her...I'd do anything for her or Anya!" He shot me a look that made me really believe his word.

"I'm sure you would, Ryan." He studied the hill behind us and bit his lower lip, then gave me a smile, "You take care of yourself...okay?" I said softly.

"Sure." He said smiling, I gave him a waive as he headed up the hill toward the walkway, leaving me to enjoy the quiet surroundings. I looked across the pond at a group of young children playing tag among the bushes, laughing and chasing each other around. Along the bank an older woman was walking, every few feet she would stop and toss bread to the ducks from a bag she carried.

I inhaled deep the fragrant smell of lilac, like heaven's perfume on this spring day. The children's chorus of voices dancing into my ears like an old beloved song. Intermixed with their laughter, was the quacking of the ducks and gentle words spoken to them from the older woman. I slowly eased my great frame from the bench and began to walk to the pond’s edge where I could sit upon a large rock and enjoy the sun.

I stared at the water's reflection, dappled with sunlight through the young leaves on the trees. My mind was far from here, back to a time when innocence was a way of life for me. Back when Anya and I were children in Second or Third grade, just as I was growing into this...this monstrosity.

Moments seemed to pass through my mind, those were good days...now, today...life for me was hell. I sat there staring, mesmerized by my own thoughts...minutes passing slowly, I became lost in the deep fabric of time.

I began to play with a dandelion, pushing it with the tip of my cane. "You look deep in thought?" I quickly glanced around to see who was speaking to me.

The older woman who had been feeding the ducks had walked the entire way around the pond. "Hi! I haven't seen you around here for awhile." I laughed when I recognized her, it was the woman Ryan called 'Grandmother'.

She sat her small frame next to me, dwarfed by my huge shadow, "Thanks for helping Ryan out this morning..."

"How did you know about that?" I asked, turning my head back toward the glistening pond.

"Hey, that’s the thing...I’m old, I seem to know everything." She giggled at her own joke, "At least that’s what Anya tells me."

"Old? You’re not that old. As far as knowing everything, isn’t it supposed to come with the territory?" I kidded her, knowing how she felt about her age.

"Did the boy tell you how I know him?" She smiled, brushing a silver hair from her eyes.

"He thinks a lot of you. He refers to you as ‘Grandmother’." I smiled, "He’s a good kid, he should be proud to have you as his Surrogate Grandmother."

She shrugged her small shoulders, "What's in a name, Surrogate Grandmother...Grandmother...Great Grandmother...it's all relative. "

It was my turn to laugh, "...No pun intended?"

She elbowed my arm, "Oh most assuredly...pun intended!"

I squinted, looking into the glare off the water becoming serious, "Why are you holding him to such a tough promise?" I looked out at the ducks as they realized that she had moved away from them. "I mean...I know that you don't want him to fight, but sometimes..." I shrugged my shoulders to end my point.

"That's true...sometimes you must fight for what you believe in." She tossed another small handful of her crumbs out across the water and laughed as the ducks scrambled to eat the pieces before they sank. "...but not everything is settled with sheer strength. What would that teach him?"

I nodded, "It never really worked for me..." I added.

"That's right! Of all people, you should know..." She smiled and patted my huge leg with her hand.

I felt a soft breeze move through the trees, gently caressing my hair with it's touch. "Seen Anya around lately?" I asked. "I lost track of her when she suddenly moved away a few years ago.

"Every day...she works for me now!" I gave her a surprised look, "Oh yes...I've been keeping her very busy for many years now."

I was in shock, this little woman should be at home baking cookies for her family. She saw my shock and laughed, "There isn't going to be any setting around for this Grandma...I have a lot to do. I have a business to run"

"I bet you do at that." I stretched out my leg to set it into a position that offered less pain. "Is Anya married yet?"

"Oh, Anya’s got a boyfriend," she laughed, "but they’re both much too busy to settle down right now." She laughed, " He’s been working with us on improvements to the park.

We both laughed as a duck had worked it's way along the shore and started to tug at the bottom of the bag that the old woman carried. "How about yourself...how are you doing?" She said as she scattered a small handful before the duck.

"Oh...me? I guess I'm okay." I gently tapped the duck's bottom with the tip of my cane causing him to quickly scurry away, then return when she dropped another small handful on the ground.

"Do you really believe that?" She gave me a hard look, causing me to feel like a little kid in trouble again.

"Well...no not really. "I’m pretty lonely these days…who wants to be around a ogre like me?" I knew she would scold me for feeling sorry for myself.

She surprised me when she sighed, "I'm around you, aren't I?" She looked over her round glasses at me. "Ryan seems to be comfortable around you too...doesn't he?"

"Yeah...he's a good kid!" I again tapped the duck and jumped when he spun to snap at the end of my cane. "See...even that duck will fight back when he's pushed far enough." I tried to change the subject but she wasn't buying it.

"Yes, when provoked enough...anyone will fight back." She paused, I was sure she was thinking about her pact with Ryan. "But we were talking about you...weren't we?" She finished, looking directly at me.

I nodded slowly, "I guess I'm just afraid..." It was her turn to look surprised, "Yeah, I know..." I added.

Even before I could continue, she spoke..."Now what would a big guy like you be afraid of?" Placing her tiny hand on my back, she added, "Surely not the future?"

I shrugged, "It would be easier to contemplate if I were normal like everyone else."

She let her hand slowly drop back into her lap, "Sometimes even a 'normal' life has its ups and downs."

"True, but I would gladly exchange mine for one that has some semblance of normalcy." I looked quickly at her then back to the glistening water. "It would be so much easier to look forward, when you know you have the possibility of living beyond your 30s or 40s."

"And you won't?" She whispered in a knowing sort of way.

I shook my head and sighed, "Not a whole lot to look forward to...is there?"

She sat quietly for a few minutes before she spoke, I could tell that she was truly deep in thought. "If you had a wish, Marvin...what would you wish for?"

I laughed, "Well, money won't do me much good, would it?" I flipped a stone into the pond with the end of my cane. "It might help my parents though. We were always so strapped for money while I was a kid, I guess it was because of all my medical expenses." I studied the shining handle of my cane, "I feel like it's my fault sometimes ..with us being poor and my medicine being so expensive."

"First of all, you had no control on your condition. You can't blame yourself about that!" She watched the ducks milling closer to the pond. "Your parents love you and wanted to see you well. All parents make sacrifices for their children, they are no different." She smiled and patted my enormous knee, "So...now come on, surely there would be something that you would wish for?" She shook the bag she was holding out causing a throng of ducks to scramble around our feet.

I waited for the melee to finish before I could really concentrate, the group slowly one at a time, scampered back into the pond. She cleared her throat, "Well?"

"What I would wish for...you can't possibly provide." I drew a smiley face upon the damp ground with my cane tip.

"Try me. I have my connections." She slowly folded the paper bag and pushed it deep into her pocket.

"It isn't anything material..." My voice spoke hushed like an rolling rumble of thunder.

"Oh, quit being silly, Marvin...out with it!" She patted my arm and laughed.

"Well, I guess I would want to be...a little closer to normal." I raised my face to the air and watched a butterfly dance in the soft spring breeze.

She sat thinking for a moment longer, "What truly is normal?" She asked.

"Normal. You know, being healthy...having friends who like you for just being you." I looked back down to the water's edge where a small frog was fighting its way through some tall weeds. "Being able to go out with someone and not feeling like it's 'charity' companionship."

"Someone like Ryan?"

I contemplated her comment, "Well, I guess if I were a kid. Sure, Ryan would be alright...I wouldn't feel uncomfortable around him at all." Then I laughed, "But, what a pair we would make!"

"Not if you were a girl..." She added.

Her comment caught me by surprise, "Well, I guess not. But, like I said...this is one area where your connections won't apply." I tapped her toe with my cane and smiled.

She sighed with a tired smile, "I guess you're right, Marvin. She began to dig into the pocket of her light jacket, "If it's worth anything, here's a pass to the business that I own." She patted my long thigh, "At least you could come there and relax.

I looked down at the little card that she handed to me, "A pass to Bikini Beach? I thought it was only for women?"

She laughed, "We have our share of men that pass through the gates." She tapped the edge of the little pass, "I'm sure you would find it rewarding...yes, even you."

I looked at the little card in my hand, "How long is it good for?"

"Use it anytime you want, there won't be an expiration date on that one, it’s open ended."

"Wow, thanks!" I pushed it into my wallet and slowly stood up, towering above her.

"You just keep being a friend to Ryan...and try to keep him out of trouble." She brushed the seat of her pants as she also stood up. "Don't worry about people staring at you while you're there...everyone that's there is just like you are."

I gave her a long puzzled look, causing her to smile, "They are all trying to find that little piece of normalcy." She gave my huge hand a gentle squeeze, "The water will do you good...you know, buoyancy makes you lighter."

***

It had been three weeks before I could summon up the courage enough to visit her business, I slid my feet out first and stepped from the cab. It was the only way I could be transported around, sitting crossways in the seat. Buses were out because I couldn't fit comfortably in the seats...so, the good old Yellow Cab Co. and I were on the best of terms.

I flipped the driver my fare and hobbled across the pavement to the entrance, fishing out my wallet as I stood in line. Catching curious glances from the other patrons. I felt very uncomfortable and had almost turned around to leave when I heard a familiar voice call out to me, "Well, I'd just about given up on you Marvin!" I looked up to see the old woman's smiling face. "I'll get this one, Anya."

"Marvin, do you remember Anya?" The beautiful, young woman next to her looked up from her work.

"Oh sure, I remember you from school...we had the same teacher didn't we?" Her smile seemed to light the world around, allowing for just a brief moment to forget the pain I was in.

"I'm glad you decided to come..." The old woman directed me toward the changing room. "Go on in there and switch out of your clothes, you'll need to shower prior to swimming."

"What if I just want to sit and relax?" I asked the tiny woman.

"Still need to shower...it's a code thing."

I nodded as I pushed the door open, she stood by the entrance and pointed past my great frame. "You can store your clothes in those lockers." She smiled and gave my arm a gentle squeeze, "Marvin, just try to relax and go with the flow."

"No problem. I guess I'll see you on the other side..." I answered. She smiled and let the door close slowly. I bent my head down and hobbled toward the long bench to undress, my cane tapping against the polished cement. I carefully eased my giantframe down to a seated position, the cane clanging against the floor with a loud ringing bang. I reached down and picked it up, then pushed my huge shoes out of the way and dropped my socks inside. Soon I had both my shirt and pants folded neatly and resting on top of the shoes, everything was pushed into the locker, followed quickly by my underwear. I drug my trunks out of my bag and as gingerly as possible, I stepped into them and pulled it up. I cringed at the bright Hawaiian colors of the material. I bent my head down to keep from smacking my forehead against the lights, making my way to the shower.

There I laughed as the handles were down around my waist, and the shower head would be hitting me directly in the chest. I gently pulled it up so the spray would go straight up over my head. Leaning my cane against the wall out of the water’s spray, I turned it on and adjusted the temperature.

I closed my eyes and did just what the old woman had said...relax. The spray felt like heaven, there was a gentle warmth that radiated in its completeness...enveloping me in its warm pleasure.

I could feel the water's jets hit me first in the forehead and then seemed to shoot right over me and onto my back, keeping my eyes closed, I stepped backwards into the warm spray again. When I felt I had been in the water long enough, I reached down to turn the handle. A couple quick passes came up with nothing, I ended up opening my eyes to see if I could locate the handle that I was seeking.

Imagine my surprise when the very handles that had once appeared at my waist were now chest high, I shook my stunned head and turned them into the off position.

As I began to pull my hand away I slowly realized that it wasn't my monstrous hand that had turned the faucet handles. Again, I raised the small porcelain white hand to my eye, I held it there for what felt like minutes, before I anxiously raised the other to my astonished eyes. I could feel the pounding of my heart as it beat, fear quickening the rhythm.

I looked up toward the shower head still pointing to the ceiling, only when I had last seen it...it was at eye level. I rotated my head around, looking at a much larger room, seemingly to have grown in size. A trembling gasp escaped from my lips as I stepped backward, my stumbling footfall causing a splash upon the cement floor.

I fell against the wall, knocking down my cane with a vibrating clamor as it dropped against the floor. I quickly looked down, long wet brunette hair fell quickly, blocking my vision. While it would seem astonishing for a man who was well over 8 feet in height to be surprised by flowing locks of brunette hair to suddenly appear, imagine how surprised I was to find two firm orbs suspended from a slender chest.

Disoriented, I staggered, holding onto the shower pipe. My whole body shook with fear as I suddenly was over two feet shorter than I had been only moments ago. "Wha...what happened?" My soft whisper echoed in the empty shower. I hesitantly moved back into the locker room, as if I were suddenly thrust upon a strange planet. I slowly turned toward a nearby mirror, it was as if seeing the world for the first time.

Gone was the great agonizing pain in my bent and aching knees, replaced by the slender, silky knees of a pretty teenage girl. I touched my leg with hesitant fingers, dappled with tiny water droplets, breaking and slowly rolling down my hairless leg. I felt my knees weaken, the bending revealing more of me than I cared to realize. I trembled, the sight of my freely swinging breasts, flat stomach, and...and..."This is impossible!" I gasped, seeing my flat crotch, hidden by the 'barely there' thong. "I...I'm a girl! Somehow, I’ve become a female."

In a daze I began walking, I found myself back in the shower room fingering the handles of the shower with my much smaller hands. "How...can this be possible?" I wondered as I pushed a long wet lock of hair behind my head as any girl would have done, so natural was the movement. I let the back of my graceful fingers caress the softness of my flat stomach, so smooth, so feminine. A subtle noise caused me to turn, I watched as the outside door handle slowly began to rotate. Suddenly, I felt a twinge of fear leap into my heart...afraid that someone would see me this way.

Slowly a blast of brilliant light bathed the darkness of the little shower, "I was wondering if you were planning on coming outside?" I turned toward the door, the old woman stood in the opening, smiling and holding something in her hand.

"Wh...what...what happened?" I raised a slender hand to my graceful throat, not believing the tones that I was hearing...so soft, so tender...so female.

I stood in the stream of brilliant sunlight spewing into the room from the door, my quivering lip still wondering if what I was seeing was really true. The old woman stepped just inside and handed me a bright flowery bikini top, "Put this on...we need to talk." She turned and left without any word, I followed like a confused puppy, trying to connect the top behind my back.

As we walked, I could see hundreds of people playing, happy screams from the patrons echoing and bouncing between buildings. We turned and walked into what looked like an office, as soon as I stepped inside, she closed the door behind me. "You most assuredly have questions...right?" She seated herself behind her desk and pointed to a chair in front of me.

"Well...yeah." I said, lifting the confined pendulous orbs in my slender hands. "What the heck is going on here?" I raised a hand to my hair, expecting for it to be dripping wet from my shower.

"It's dry now." She smiled at my confusion, again pointing to the chair and waited until I seated myself.

"How...how did you..." My voice trailed away as I again caught sight of my flat crotch hidden behind the bright flowery thong I now had on. "I...I'm a...a girl!" My soft voice trembled. "How? Why?"

"The ‘how’ is by magic. As to why? I did it for two reasons...one, because you wouldn't live to see 30. Two, I wanted to reward you for the friendship you shared with my young friend, Ryan."

"But...but, why a girl?" I gasped, causing her to laugh.

"I understand your confusion...but I'll give you a choice." She drummed her fingers against the desk, as if deep in thought. "If you want to go back to what you were before, that's fine. But know that doing so...you must remember, your life will end during your thirtieth year."

I sat transfixed, the freedom of feeling no pain for the rest of my life was intriguing. I crossed my silky smooth leg, "And if I stay."

"If you stay, you have to promise me one thing..." She had my attention, I raised my shapely eyebrows in an effort to get her to continue, "You will become Beth. And remain a close friend to Ryan."

The word fell from my lip as a sigh, "Beth?"

"Elizabeth. You will in essence become your younger sister, and Marvin will have been the one who died long ago...when you were a mere child of four. You see my dear child, the old you had never existed beyond the young age of four. It was he who perished, not the young female named Beth."

I immediately thought of my parents and the anguish they would feel for my...rather, Marvin's demise. I brushed a stray hair from my face, "Mom and Dad will know...how will I explain THIS to them?"

Again, she smiled, "Your parents will think you have always been like you are right now...to them, you ARE, Elizabeth." She studied me intently, smiling as she sat. Finally she cleared her throat, "So...what will it be? Go back to what you were...or, stay? It's your choice."

I uncrossed my legs, placing my slim hands in my lap. "What a decision to make, go back...and live out the final years as a huge, hurting man." I found myself checking my subtly long nail, now oval and shaped like a girl's. "Or stay like this, living relatively free of pain. To me, that's not much of a decision. I've never felt better in my entire life."

She smiled slowly, then leaned against the desk folding her tired hands, "There is one more thing..."

"Oh?" I asked, my voice sounding high and fun...so full of energy and life.

"Once my door has been closed, you will remember very little of what has transpired here and live the new life that we have agreed on."

"But, what do I know about being female...I know nothing of being a girl!" I ran my thumb under the strap on my shoulder, adjusting it a bit for comfort. "People would see right through my disguise."

She leaned back against her chair and laughed, "You already know as much as any young girl your age. But the life of a woman is also be filled with heartache and pain as well, your old life had no lock on that reality."

I sat in silence, trying to imagine life as a girl. I glanced at the older woman who was still studying me. "You said...pain?" I grimaced, remembering the aching knees and hips from my disease.

"The pain you will face will be necessary in the completion of your journey into womanhood." When I sat back into the chair, fear hinting upon my face she smiled. "Silly, silly girl...that pain will be from childbirth and sorrow of young children growing up and leaving the home for lives of their own. Sad, that's true...but hopeful, continuing the journey we all must face at one point or another."

She fingered paperwork, growing silent as the door slowly opened. We both looked toward it in unison, "Hi Grandma, you wanted Beth's clothes?" I looked away in embarrassment, afraid of what she would think of seeing me dressed like I was.

"Thank you Anya." She took the clothes and sat them on the corner of the desk, I recognized nothing in the stack.

Anya gave me a smile, turned and left the room quickly. Again, the silence prevailed. I cleared my throat, "Those aren't mine..." I pointed at the clothes.

The white haired woman smiled and nodded, "They're yours now..." She spoke softly as she stood up, "I'll step out so you can change." Silently she left the room, leaving the door slightly ajar behind her.

I lifted the first item up, a soft, silky bra. Even before I could contemplate what I was about to do, I had pulled off the bikini top I had been wearing and placed the shiny white confection on as if I had been doing it all my life. It was as though I was on auto pilot, I continued to dress myself until I had slipped my small foot into the sandal I had laid on the floor. I placed the tiny thong on the corner of the desk.

I heard a noise behind me, without turning the old woman came back into the room, leaving the door fully open. I gave her a shy smile, placing the tiny provocative bikini and thong set on the corner of her desk. As soon as I took my hand away, they shimmered and faded from view.

The old woman smiled knowingly, "That isn't the type of suit a proper young lady should be wearing anyway."

She motioned me to stand, "Turn around, I want to see how your new outfit looks on you?" I wasn't dressed in anything spectacular by teenage girl standards, a pale beige crop shirt with a slight embellishment on the sleeves and around the v-neck collar, jean shorts with no belt loops. Just a hint of the cotton panties I was wearing could be seen, I pulled gently at the material as it felt strange, riding low on my hips. She grinned, slowly shaking her head. "You better be careful in that get up Beth, you're going to drive the boys crazy. She ushered me to the door and into the hallway. "There's no telling what kind of trouble clothes like that will get you into."

I looked down, a slight reflective sheen glistening from the surface of my skin as I looked down into the gap of my neckline. "Thanks...thanks for everything." I held my hand out to the woman, she grasped it and grinned gently closing the door behind us.

I felt a momentary dizziness.

***

I looked back at her smiling face. "So, do I have the job?"

She nodded looking up at me, "You start on Saturday."

I felt my heart leap for joy, I couldn't hide my excitement as I wrapped my arms around her in a great hug. "Careful now...you're going to break me." She kidded.

I couldn't believe my luck, I was so happy. "Thank you...thank you, thank you. You don't know what this means to me!" I gushed. "With this job, I'll be able to go to the city college...thank you so much!" I wiped the joyful tears from my cheek.

"What will you be studying?" The woman asked. "Something worthwhile, I trust?"

I beamed, "I want to be a teacher!"

She smiled again, "That's a lovely profession...if you don't want to get rich!"

I hugged her again, "It's not about the money...I just want to help children. To leave my mark for future generations."

She wrapped a strong arm around my slender shoulder, "I'm sure you will Beth, I'm sure you will."

We both stepped out onto the sidewalk, she escorted me back to the gate introducing me to a younger woman who was working there. "Beth, this is Anya...my Granddaughter."

Anya looked up and gave me a start, "My...isn't she a tall one?" She smiled and left it at that.

I gave her a slightly embarrassed grin, "My daddy's tall too, I guess the height is just in the genes."

The old woman gave a short laugh and patted my arm, "You wouldn't be the first girl to be six foot tall...and probably not the last either."

Anya leaned against the counter, "Besides, the way you're put together...I don't think the boys will mind that you're a bit tall. Most of them like girls with long legs like yours." I looked down, my face grew warm at her comment.

The old woman sighed, "Now, to get back to why we’re here. Beth's going to be starting on Saturday." The gray haired matron rocked upon her feet, smiling at me. "I'll leave you two now as I have much to get caught up on around here."

Anya and I watched her walk back to her office. "She's such a great lady." I said to Anya.

"Isn't she though?" Anya said smiling. "I'm quite fond of her, and I think I would be even if she weren't my Grandmother."

"So Beth, where do you go to High School? Anywhere around here?" Anya smiled and continued to work with the cards.

"I go to Hamilton, here in town." I said, causing Anya to look up and smile.

Grandmother and I are friends with a boy from your school...do you know a Ryan Trimmer?" I felt my face warm, and nodded.

She had a twinkle in her eye, a slow knowing grin hinted her face. "He's a very good looking boy, isn't he? And quite tall too, you two should think about going out."

I felt my face grow warm, I could only whisper..."Yes...he is a very nice boy." The crack in my voice caused Anya to giggle, but she said nothing.

Slowly, I wandered away, looking through the gate of what would soon become my new job. I was so happy I could scream.

I loitered in the sun for a few minutes, listening to the breeze blowing through the trees. Inside, the people playing happily and overhead, birds singing sweetly in the spring air. I felt like bursting with excitement, Anya could sense it in me and just giggled. I walked back to the counter where Anya was stamping passes, "You sure are in a good mood?" She said.

I giggled, "I can't help it, I'm so happy!" I swung my arms playfully, Anya glanced up again and grinned.

"Well, Anya...I think I'm going to go home and tell my parents, they'll be so excited! This job was like a gift from heaven, they were afraid that I wouldn't be able to go to college." I grinned, it caused Anya to smile. "Between the pay I'll get from here, and the few grants and scholarships that I qualify for, I'll be able to start this fall!"

She leaned against the counter as I walked away, smiling and shaking her head at me, then returned to her busy work. I walked to the corner and crossed at the light, deciding to head into the park.

I walked along the street for a few blocks and turned into the entrance of the park, heading for my favorite spot by the pond. I slowly walked past the playground and watched the children swinging and laughing, hoping that someday I would be teaching them.

I watched a little girl running across the mulch, suddenly being tripped up and sprawling, face first into the chips. I helped her to her feet and brushed off her knees, she ran off without even a thank you...but that was okay. I was too happy to even care.

Following the shoreline, I found my way to the great rock. There, I hoisted myself up and pulled my silky knees to my chest, letting the sun wash across my face. I loved this spot, it was my favorite, I had been coming here since I was a little girl.

"This park just keeps getting prettier and prettier!" I looked up, it was Ryan. A strange warm tingle raced through my body, centering between my thighs, then streaking to my young breasts.

"H…how long have you been standing there?" I asked, shielding my eyes from the sun. His eyes darted quickly over my whole body, another little thrill raced along my spine.

"Not long...I walked over when I saw you." I scooted over as he sat beside me, "You sure seem to be in a good mood." His smile, again made me tingle.

"I am." I replied, "I have a job...I start Saturday!" I only gave him half of the information, if I were to tell him what I was really feeling, I might just scare him away.

His eyes widened, "That means you'll be able to pay your way into college this fall!" He smiled and enveloped me with a hug, "I'm so happy for you! Congratulations!" This handsome boy knew that my family was not very well off, that concern made me admire him even more.

I sat beaming, finally in my favorite spot...next to my favorite person in the whole world. What could be better than that? His hand snaked over to mine, tenderly touching me in a gentle pressure, a question hinting his expression. I could feel my young nipples suddenly swell within the confines of my bra cups. I glanced quickly down; I would die if he were to notice.

Before he could even say what he had on his mind, a booming voice broke our happy little moment. "Well, if it isn't the wuss and his freaking lesbo girlfriend?" We looked up the hill toward the sidewalk. There stood Les and his pack of buddies, I felt a pang of fear leap into my heart. Ryan flinched, starting to rise.

I gripped his hand tighter, holding him near. "Looks like the Amazon slut's got ol' wuss boy whipped!" The others broke into a chorus of laughter. Ryan glanced into my pleading eyes, I knew he was near his breaking point.

All the while, I kept praying that they would continue down the sidewalk...but no, Les started down the hill. "Hey faggot, Elizabitch is starting to look pretty damn good." Ryan's arm muscles tightened, his jaw clenched. "Why don't you come on up here, honey, and wrap those long legs around a real man?" I shot him a hateful look and frowned. "What’s wrong, honey, afraid that you can’t handle what I have?"

Lester swaggered down the hill and stopped in front of the rock, his little gang fell in behind him. Ryan pushed my hand off and looked at me, I gazed back with sad eyes...shaking my head "no" slightly so it wouldn't be noticed by Les or the others.

Ryan slowly turned his face to Les, but stayed seated. "So what's it going to be, wuss?" The large boy demanded.

"Go away, Les." Ryan growled deeply. I had a sudden feeling of dread, knowing that Les was trying to goad Ryan into fighting.

Les stepped closer and reached a hand out toward my face, "Yeah...I bet she would be a pretty good screw at that." I jerked my head away, imagining him making love to me turned my stomach.

Les only smiled, "You need to dump this loser and let a real man show you what that space between your legs is for..." I felt tears sting my eyes, my lip began to tremble at his words. "And I'm that man...babe."

"Leave her alone, Les." Ryan placed his hands upon his legs, as if anticipating something about to happen.

"I can't do that, faggot." He laughed and looked over his shoulder at his friends, "Elizabitch is going to provide us some entertainment...isn't that true...Elizabitch!" Again he reached out and touched my cheek. I smacked his hand aside.

Ryan never took his eyes from Les, his seething anger boiling just below the surface. "Go away, Les...please...I'm asking you."

Les began to walk a few steps, then turned facing me. "I can't do that." He nodded and his friends grabbed Ryan from behind, and threw him to the ground, his face in the grass.

Les grinned, then looked back down at me. "So...how about it? You long legged, sexy looking, bitch?" He placed his leg between mine, then forced the other so that my knees were on each side of his legs. His big meaty hands gripped at my slender thighs, spreading my knees even wider.

I fought him, striking his thick chest with my tiny fists. Tears streaming down my cheeks. "No…please…no!" I sobbed.

"Stop, Les...you're hurting her!" One of his group shouted sternly, then another shouted, "This wasn't part of the plan."

"Plans change!" Les growled back.

I pushed against his chest, fighting for my very life. "Leave me alone, Bastard!" I cried.

"Yeah Les, let her go!" Another shouted to the bigger boy.

Les grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled it over my head, exposing my bra to the entire group of shocked boys. "Now, slut, we'll see just how good you really are?" He pulled on the strap of my bra, causing it to fall down my arm. I scratched him with my nails, only to be slapped by the back of his hand.

"Leave her go...NOW!" The voice shouted with anger, I recognized it as Ryan's.

Les turned with a smirk still on his face, that smirk left as he realized that Ryan was no longer pinned to the ground. He scowled at his friends, then released me to pull back down my shirt.

"This stops here and now." Ryan pointed toward the ground, his face red with rage, his body in an odd fighting stance.

Les gave me a shove, causing me to spill onto the ground. I kicked out at his leg with my own as I fell but missed. Ryan stood his ground only glancing at me to see if I was injured, he looked relieved as I scrambled to my feet and placed the rock between Les and myself.

"I've taken about all that I can stand from you, Les." Ryan stood frozen like a Greek sculpture, looming godlike in stature.

"Well...puss boy, why don't you do something about it." Les regained his smirk, feeling confident about his prowess...Ryan looked unimpressed.

Les held out his hands still smirking, "Come on, old buddy, you know nothing was meant by our fun." He began to walk toward Ryan slowly.

"You call what you just attempted to do to Beth...FUN? Fun for who?" Ryan rocked upon the balls of his feet, waiting for the sucker punch that Les was known for. He didn't have long to wait. Les, still smiling suddenly swung a powerful roundhouse straight at Ryan's jaw...only, Ryan wasn't there.

A quick sidestep to the left, Ryan counter-punched hard into Les' ribs making him wince in pain. Then Ryan’s right fist shot out like a piston to Les’ chin, felling him to the ground like a stone. Les struggled to get back up.

"Stay down, dude," A voice advised.

Les gathered himself back up and frowned, spitting blood on the ground. "You'll pay for that, wimp!" Again, as if he telegraphed his blow, Ryan ducked under it and slammed two quick shots to Les' ribs with the side of his hand staggering him.

I touched my fingers to my lips, the fear of what I was seeing slowly being washed by the awe of Ryan's ability to protecting both himself, and me. I had never dreamed he was into martial arts.

"Oh...you little freaking shit..." Les growled, wiping blood from his lip, "I'm gonna kick your freaking ass for that..."

I watched in horror as he felt inside his pocket and begin to draw something from it, as the shiny blade thrust from it's confinement I recognized it as a switchblade. It slowly was raised and pointed toward Ryan, "I'll cut you open and let the freaking dogs have at you...freaking faggot."

Ryan kept his eyes locked on Les, not taking them from the knife. As Les thrust forward, his arm was harmlessly blocked away, the blade falling to the ground. Lester swung with his free hand, intending to stagger Ryan under the sheer power of his swing. Ryan moved with a speed that surprised Les, as in one lightning like motion, it was quickly trapped under Ryan's armpit. Effectively locking it under his own shoulder. In one impressive motion, the heel edge of Ryan's right hand shot up and slammed into the elbow of Les' thrusting arm. The sickening sound of a broken bone, could be heard by all those witnessing the battle

Les dropped the knife to the ground, the others seemed not to notice it laying. I scrambled around the great rock and gathered it up in my small hands, trying to remove it from their fight.

Ryan released Les's arm. "It ends now, Lester...you hear me." Les grasped at his rapidly swelling arm and howled in pain, then with an animal-like growl, rushed towards Ryan flailing wildly. Ryan stepped aside and pushed the stumbling jock as he ran past, Les' momentum carried him on into the shimmering waters of the pond.

Ryan turned to face the group of Les' friends, "What about you guys?" He stood waiting, just in case one of them wanted to take up where Les left off. They all backed away shaking their heads.

Ryan looked back at the struggling Les, sitting in the shallow water holding his painfully disjointed arm. "You guys better get him out of there, before he drowns."

Ryan closed the distance between us with a few steps, "You alright? Did he hurt you?" I shook my head no, the relief showing in his eyes. He hugged me and kissed my forehead gently, his hand entwined within my hair.

"Are you okay?" I whispered softly, he slowly pulled away releasing his tender hug. His eyes searching for any sign of injury on my body. I took my small hands and held his warm cheeks, "Ryan, I'm alright...really I am. Are you...hurt anywhere?

"I'm fine." I couldn't say anything as he held me, "Come on, lets get out of here." He forced a smile. He and I slowly walked back up the hill as Les' gang began pulling him from the water. It was then that I remembered the knife, I handed it to Ryan, he closed the blade and hurled it far into the center of the pond.

We walked across the park and stopped near a huge bank of blooming flowers, a small stream was flowing under a gazebo that spanned the water. He waited for a moment to calm his nerves, after a deep sigh, Ryan turned to face me. "I want to ask you something, Beth..." I looked up at him, brushing his wavy hair from his eyes. "Would you consider...being my steady girl?" His nervousness was evident.

I felt a tightening in my throat, tears rolled down my cheeks as once again my joy spilled from my heart. "Oh...God, yes Ryan!" I pulled him into a great hug, as strong as my girlish muscles could muster. Again my heart was soaring, flying to heights unimaginable.

He bent down and kissed my upturned mouth, slowly backing away, keeping his hands on my wet cheeks. "I've wanted to ask you for so long...when Lester tried..." He began to cry, I pulled his face into my shoulder. My tears fell into his soft hair.

"I'm okay..." I choked out, tears streaming toward my chin.

He slowly raised his head and stared into my eyes, "I don't know what I would have done if he..." He lowered his eyes, trying to hide his tears, I wiped them away and kissed him.

"God, I do love you..." I sobbed into his ear, he responded by pulling me close.

He chuckled through his tears, making me laugh as well. "You can't believe how long I wanted to ask you...seems like years!" Again he hugged me and held me tightly in his embrace.

I lifted my feet from the ground as he held me tightly, "You can't imagine how long I've waited to hear you ask, either." He spun us in a slow circle before putting me back down.

"Never again will I let anyone hurt you." He leaned in and lifted my chin, kissing my soft lips.

We crossed the pristine white gazebo and continued to walk along the flower lined path hand in hand. I swung our arms gently, "What about the promise you made to the woman you call 'Grandmother'?"

He sighed and looked down, "I hope she understands...sometimes you have to fight for those you love." I smiled at his use of the word, feeling my face flush with warmth. "Do you think she'll be upset with me?" He asked.

"I don't think so...somehow, I think she'll understand." We walked a few more steps in silence, enjoying our quiet surroundings. "What about Les? Should we report him?" I wondered.

"I don't think he'll be bothering us for awhile." He smiled and raised my hand up to kiss it, "Besides, I'm a strong believer of Karma...I think his will bite him on the butt someday." He laughed and gave my little hand a squeeze.

We continued walking, sure that our new found love would see us through the good times and the bad...hopefully...no confidently, more good then bad.

***

Epilogue...

I finished up my last day of work on Wednesday, preparations for the wedding foremost on everyone's mind. It was late June and since graduation, Ryan and I have been very busy planning this day for months and months. We both had our degrees in hand, his in Engineering, mine in Elementary Education. Now, with this one final step we would head off into our adult lives...forever...together.

I hugged ‘Grandma’ as I also have been calling her for the past four years, tears streaming down both our faces. She was hesitant to let me go, but knew that I was about to start upon a new life, and rewarding career. Both she and Anya, were praying that I would succeed in nurturing the little minds that I would be in charge of, come late August. Then, later as our own little family would flourish.

After the incident at the pond, I lost track of Les, we never turned him in...but I sometimes felt that I should have. I never saw him around school after that, but I certainly didn’t care. Nobody else seemed to be missing him, either. I only hoped that Ryan was right about the Karma thing and Les' would come back to haunt him.

Ryan said to forget about him, I try...but sometimes, when I remember our struggle at the pond...it's difficult. But then, as soon as it enters my mind, I recall my gallant knight defending my honor...and beating the tar out of a surprised bully! I smiled and chuckled to myself thinking about that stud of mine standing over the fallen jock, looking so handsome with his strong fists clenched in anger.

***

I glanced out into the parking lot, Ryan was pulling up in his classic Mustang to get me. I again hugged ‘Grandma’ and Anya, knowing that I would be seeing them soon...at the wedding. I gave them a waive and trotted to the car where Ryan was leaning against the passenger door, as I approached, he opened it up and let me in. He waited for me to seat myself and closed the door, leaning inside the open window he kissed me. "Wow. You look great!"

I smiled and touched his cheek tenderly, "I love you so much, Ryan...." I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, "And will for the rest of my life." He smiled and kissed me again, then walked back around to the driver side. I looked back at ‘Grandma’ and Anya and waived, they returned my waive.

Ryan leaned down so he could see out, "See you Saturday!" He shouted to them.

"We'll be there!" They shouted back. With a roar, the gleaming car rumbled to life, Ryan put it into gear and slowly pulled from the lot and headed down the street.

As they watched the sporty red classic disappearing into the distance, Anya turned to her Grandmother, "Now, we're forced to advertise for Beth's replacement."

Grandmother smiled, "That has been already taken care of." She turned toward her Granddaughter and winked, "And, it has been for a few years."

"Oh?" Anya turned and glanced at her Grandmother smiling, "Grandma, you little stinker...Lester?"

Grandma nodded, breaking out in a wide grin. "He was planning on hurting Ryan." She rolled her eyes and smiled, "We couldn't have that, now...could we?"

Anya tried to hide her giggle, "What did you do to him?"

Grandma smiled and toed a stone on the lot, "It's pretty hard for a 12 year old girl to hurt a big fella’ like Ryan."

Anya giggled, "How did he take it?"

"Lester?" Grandma asked, Anya smiled, nodding. "HE had it pretty rough at first, but, SHE came around eventually." Then added, "As they always do..."

"You left his mind intact? No blocks?" Anya seemed shocked.

"What better way to retrain a bully? Besides, she's had four years to get used to the idea of being female." She answered without looking at her Granddaughter, "Oh, by the way...Leslie starts Saturday."

The End


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