Two young teens, life-long friends, discover each other though not in the usual way. A gentle "coming-of-age" tale.
I found myself with ten extra minutes on my hands Tuesday morning. I’d forgotten to reset my clock. I wouldn’t be walking over to Darla’s. A wave of sadness washed over me as I found myself missing my new friend. I knew I just had to go to her party. What was I going to tell Sam? Why was everything so damned hard. I just wanted to be happy again. I showered and scrubbed my face carefully. Upon close examination I saw that the mascara was still in place. I considered leaving it there but in the end I got my box of eye makeup removal pads and wiped all traces of black from my lids.
Only nine days of school left till summer vacation, I smiled at the thought. Well, there was one thing to be happy about at least. I made my way downstairs and thought I’d make another stab at fixing a real breakfast. I had the time.
"Mom, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes," I shouted up the stairs. I knew Mom would never steal my food, but I thought it might help her begin her day in a better frame of mind.
"Thanks sweetheart, I’ll be down in a few," she said. The tone of her response suggested that she thought I’d lost my mind. I quickly made preparations and as Mom walked into the kitchen I began placing the food on the table. She smiled at me and said, "Thanks Joan, this is really special."
"No problem Mom," I answered, "but could I leave the dishes till I get home from school? I’m afraid I won’t have time to do them this morning." She finished her eggs and toast and as was now becoming part of a new routine, removed a cigarette from her robe and lit it. "Mom?" I implored. Her look told me that I’d better not continue. I didn’t.
I finished my breakfast, gave Mom a peck on the cheek and made my way out the door. It was a perfect spring day. I walked slowly over to Sam’s feeling lighter with each step. She appeared at the door. For some reason she looked radiant!
"Good morning, Joan," she said smiling at me.
"Oh stop it and let’s get going," I replied. We held hands as we walked. It’s funny how such a common gesture can feel so intimate given the right circumstances. I wanted to tell her about Darla’s party, but I had no idea how to broach the subject.
"John?" She asked me breaking me out of my reverie. I looked at her questioningly. "Billy has something he wants to ask you," she said cryptically.
"Well, I don’t believe I care to listen to anything that meat head has to say," I replied angrily.
Sam laughed. "Just give him a chance," she said and we continued onward. What he had to say that I’d care to listen to was beyond me. In a sense, he was responsible for the rift that had occurred between Sam and me. I shook my head knowing that that wasn’t entirely true.
I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about anything Billy had to say and we continued walking. We arrived just as the kids were getting off the bus and sure enough, Billy came marching over.
"John, I have to ask you something" he said matter of factly. I stood there as if daring him to continue. He did. "I’m having a party on Friday night and I wanted to know if you’d come over." Sam meanwhile, stood silently watching the entire exchange.
"What are you asking me for?" I said to him wanting to bash his brains all over the pavement.
"Well?" He said as his voice trailed off.
"Why?" I asked again.
"Because Sam said she wouldn’t come unless I asked you," he added truthfully. I glanced at Sam. Somehow, I felt she’d betrayed me all over again. I honestly wasn’t sure how. It was just a feeling.
"Sorry Billy, I’ve already made other plans," I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster. It almost seemed ironic to me that I actually had made other plans. Having had enough of this exchange, I asked Sam if she’d walk me home after school.
She had a hurt look in her eyes as she replied, "Sorry John, I’ve made other plans."
Damn! Not again? "Sam?" I inquired pleadingly.
"I’ll call you this evening," she said and with that we made our way inside.
Screw them all I thought, as I made my way to my locker. My life was turning into a soap opera. Realizing I’d just committed myself to attending Darla’s party, if only in my own mind, I worried about what I’d give her for a gift. I only had a few dollars left and I was determined to not dig into my reserves. The answer came to me as I sat in shop class with nothing to do. Would Mom mind if I gave Darla the jewelry box? I knew that she wouldn’t as I hadn’t even told her about it yet. Still, in my mind it belonged to her. At that, the proverbial light bulb lit up over my head. We still had eight days of school after today.
"Mr. Ferris, can I ask you something?"
"If it has anything to do with wood working, I’m your man," he grinned in reply.
"Would it be all right if I made another jewelry box?" He appeared dumbfounded. It seemed no one had ever volunteered to do more work than was actually assigned.
"Well John, as it’s the end of the school year and we still have a fair amount of supplies… yeah, I guess it would be ok." I smiled at him and thanked him profusely. He still looked at me as if I had three heads and made his way to assist the stragglers who’d yet to finish their projects. As I’d now promised Mom’s jewelry box to Darla, I vowed to make an even better one for her.
Before I knew it the lunch bell was ringing and I made my way to the cafeteria. As had happened yesterday, Darla, Sally, and Sarah were already seated. I purposefully kept myself from looking in Sarah’s direction.
"Oh My God!" Darla exclaimed as I sat down.
"What?" I wondered. "Am I on fire?" I asked and the three of them roared in laughter.
"No, but John? You now have two holes in each ear."
"Really?" I replied as if I was amazed at this revelation.
"And… let me see your hands!" It was my turn for an "oh my god" moment as I realized that I hadn’t removed the clear polish from my fingertips. What must Mr. Ferris have thought? I sat there silently while my face turned twenty shades of red.
"Oh Joan, they’re beautiful!," this from Sally, not Darla. I put on my brave face and smiled at the rest of them as if it was nothing at all.
"Well, I just think it’s the bravest thing," Darla said at length. Sarah looked at me like she wanted to challenge me to a duel.
The rest of the afternoon passed without incident as I did my best to conceal my obviously painted finger nails. Fortunately, no one else noticed. If they had, I would have heard about it. I was grateful to Sarah, for I knew she hated me, but she didn’t start spreading rumors about me. The final bell sounded and I made my way sadly to my locker. I’d be walking home alone again. I sighed as I twisted the combination lock. Out of nowhere, Darla appeared behind me.
"Would you walk home with me, I need to talk to you," she said. I felt as though I was riding on a roller coaster. Up and down, up and down. All right, I have to admit it. I loved roller coasters, but not "real life" ones. I told Darla that I’d be more than happy to walk her home and we made our way outside.
"So? Just what is it you need to talk to me about?" I asked sincerely.
"Well Joan," she replied. "As Sally told you yesterday, my birthday party is a "girls only" affair." I looked at her not comprehending where all this was going.
"And, you’re telling me this because? Does that mean I’m not seriously invited?" I asked her. "Were you simply testing me?" I went on.
"No Joan," she replied slowly. "I’d love for you to come to my party," she replied and sighed audibly.
"What is it then?" I asked her. She dropped her knapsack to the ground once again. She grabbed hold of me and shook me for all she was worth.
"I think you know that I’m in love with you?" She said with pleading eyes.
"Darla," I began. "I’m just a kid and so are you," I said hiding behind the truth of the ages. "I’m just not sure about anything at the moment," I replied honestly. "What’s this got to do with your party being an all girl affair anyway?" I asked her not sure that I wanted to know the answer.
"Well Joan," she began, "there’s no other way to say it so I’ll just come out with it. My parents think that you’re gay."
"No, don’t you see? It’s perfect this way! You see, there’s one thing I forgot to mention. My party is a sleep over." I stood there trying to process this information. No wonder her parents didn’t care if I went up to Darla’s room.
"You’ve invited me to a girls’ slumber party?" I asked incredulously.
"John, I just knew more than anything else that I wanted you there," she said while staring at me doe eyed. Slowly, my heart began to melt. I knew I wanted to be there too; with her.
"Did you get my gift?" she asked.
"Um, no, I’ve not had a chance to go shopping yet," I replied.
She laughed at that and said, "No, silly! Not a gift for me, my gift to you."
"Oh!" was all I could manage. She could see the blood rush to my cheeks and knew that I had indeed received her gift. "Yes, I did Darla, and thank you!"
"Will you wear them to my party?" she asked seriously. Would I wear what? Oh no, this was getting a bit too strange. "It will help to convince everyone," she said using some twisted logic of her own.
"How is my underwear going to convince anyone of anything?" I asked logically. It was her turn to blush.
"Well, when the other girls are parading about in their panties, you won’t feel out of place," she said at last. I had to think about this. What was I getting myself into here? "John?" she asked as we neared her front door. "Will you walk me to school tomorrow?" This was all happening much too fast.
She knew what I meant when I replied, "I’m not sure if I’ll be able to." Her face turned dark, but only for a moment. Her spirit would not be diminished. "Can I call you tonight?" I asked hopefully.
"Of course you can silly!"
I smiled at her familiarity. I hugged her at her front door and she kissed me gently on both cheeks. I didn’t realize why she did that till I was almost home. I believe she was putting on a show for her mother in case she was watching. Girls, I thought as I made my way in the front door. There would be no more pronouncements of "Mom, I’m home," I thought sadly as I entered the foyer. I heard a scratching noise and ran to the kitchen to see what it was. Shandy was attempting to turn the back door into sawdust with her paws. I guess this was affecting her life too. "Come on in girl!" I said to her with more enthusiasm than I felt. She smiled at me, wagged her tail, and made a beeline for her food dish.
My life seemed to be getting more complicated by the minute. I found myself wondering just what Sam’s previous plans entailed. Did she just make that up to hurt me? And what was I going to do about Darla? I think it would have been easier if I actually had homework to do. Something to take my mind off all this nonsense. The next thing I knew I was in the bathroom putting on my makeup. Why was I doing this? I honestly had no idea. It just made me feel better. I was gaining practice putting the mascara on my lower lids. The black liquid really made my eyes stand out. I was tired of invisible lipstick and went and retrieved Sam’s bright red and coated my lips liberally. I twisted my earrings and posed as sexily as I could in the mirror. I started to wonder just who I was "posing" for as I stared into the glass with my best "come hither" look. I finished primping my hair, gave myself one last smile and kiss and headed off to my room.
I had an overwhelming urge to put Darla’s panties on again. Why not? I thought at last. I hurriedly removed my clothes and slid them slowly up my legs. The sensations were blissful and I felt myself about ready to explode. Should I make my way to the cold water? It was only moments later when I found myself back in the bathroom. This time however, I was there washing out my panties. I hung them over the shower curtain to dry. They were so pretty and delicate. I was sad that I didn’t have another pair to put on. For a moment I considered checking out Mom’s dresser but in the end I managed to control myself. I looked at my fingers and decided that I liked the clear polish and wasn’t about to remove it for anyone. I got out the bottle and gave my nails another coat. The task completed, I went and grabbed my Mary Janes from the closet and put them on. They did look better sitting atop a proper pair of hose. I smiled at myself again in the full-length mirror. Joan smiled back at me.
This evening’s dinner would prove to be a bit more of a challenge. Thankfully, Mom had left complete instructions and ended with her lame joke that I’d make some girl the perfect wife someday. I preheated the oven and remembering my promise to Mom, I began to take note of what cleaning needed to be done. The kitchen would be first on my list. The floor was starting to take on a gray tinge. I put the roast in the oven, got a bucket and some sponges and began cleaning the cabinets. I looked down at my shoes and realized that they could get ruined while doing this messy work. Back upstairs I changed into some cutoffs, a tee shirt, and my flip flops completed the scrub woman effect. I was determined to get the kitchen sparkling clean. As the clock neared 4:30, I knew I wouldn’t have time to do a proper job of the floor. I refilled my bucket and gave it a quick going over with the squeegee mop. It was now ten minutes to five. I put the potatoes in the oven, put all the cleaning supplies away, and stood there admiring my work. It felt good to see a job well done. I made my way upstairs and began preparing myself for Mom’s arrival. I decided that a shower was in order after taking a quick whiff of my armpits. YUCK!
I went and checked Mom’s bathroom to see if she had some sweet-smelling soap I could use. Mission accomplished, I took a very brief shower. I can’t believe I forgot to move the panties from the curtain rod before showering. They were now as wet as ever. I sighed as I dried myself off and began thinking about what to wear. I decided on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt that I’d grown out of two years ago. It hugged my chest tightly and ended just above my navel. I re-did my makeup and realized I was getting really good at it. I smiled as I put the "fearless fuchsia" (dark red) on my lips. I put my knee high stockings on and finished up with my maryjanes. I inspected myself in the mirror. Damn, my nails had been ruined! I cleaned off my fingers and decided to go with something a little more daring. The light pink polish added just a tinge of color to my nails. I smiled as I remembered Darla holding and examining my hands. A quick spray of "Cool Water" and I was back downstairs to finish dinner preparations.
I checked the roast. It appeared to be perfect. I made the salad next. I used the big serving bowl and got out the proper wooden salad bowls. Tonight we were eating in the dining room. I hoped Mom liked it! For an added touch, I put the long tapered candles on either end of the table. It was five minutes to six and everything was ready for Mom’s imminent arrival. I checked my appearance in the hall mirror one last time and told Joan, who stared back at me, that I thought we’d done a good job. A few minutes later I heard Mom’s car pull up in the driveway. Damn! I’d forgotten to light the candles. That done, I ran to greet my mother as she came up the walk. I saw her open the screen door and I whipped the front door open in anticipation.
"What’s this!" she exclaimed upon entering. She stood back a moment and looked at me. "Joan" she said "I can’t believe it. You grow prettier by the day." I beamed at her and gave her a huge hug. "I can’t believe how hungry I am," she said as she made her way into the kitchen. "I’ll set the table for you sweetheart," she said noticing the bare kitchen table.
"No Mom!" I shouted. "Tonight we eat in the dining room," I replied as I escorted her to her chair.
"Oh Joan, the table is beautiful! I could certainly get used to this," she said as she took her seat.
"Would madam care for a beverage?" I asked her in my best waiter voice.
Without thinking she replied "Yes, thank you. I’ll have a gin and tonic with a twist. Oh, you don’t know how to do that, do you dear?"
"Madam, rest easy. Your drink order will be filled post haste," I replied laying it on as thick as I knew how. She took a cigarette from her purse, lit it, inhaled deeply, and waited for my return.
I can do this, I told myself as I made my way to the liquor cabinet. I retrieved the bottle of gin and ran into the kitchen. I filled a tall tumbler with ice and poured what I hoped was a shot of gin in the glass. I filled the remainder up with tonic water and moving as fast as I could, sliced a bit of lime placing it carefully on the rim of her glass.
"Your drink madam" I said as I delivered it to her.
"Thank you Miss," she replied. Funny, when Dad said that to me I was hurt, when Mom said it, I was proud at the reference. We engaged in chit chat as I brought the food to the table.
"Will madam be requiring anything else?" I asked solicitously.
"Sweetheart, I’m at a loss for words. Just get yourself a glass of milk and let’s eat." She began telling me of her new responsibilities at the library. I found myself both interested and wishing that I could ignore it all as I once had. Dinner finished, I cleared the table and began doing the dishes. A woman’s work is never done. I smiled at the thought.
"So this is the red lipstick that you were hiding from me?" she asked at length. "It really suits you. Oh, and let me see your nails. I guess you’ll get some use out of that makeup kit after all," she said chuckling. I didn’t know what to say to any of it. I let it go and continued cleaning up. Mom followed me into the kitchen and helped with the dishes.
"Joan, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your cooperation. It really makes all the difference in the world!" I smiled at her and found myself desperately wanting to ask her about Dad. Was he ever coming home? "Sweetheart, I really need to change out of these clothes" she said at last.
"Go ahead Mom, I’ll finish up in here." She made her exit and I continued on. I took a fair sized piece of meat and cut it into small bits to add to Shandy’s bowl. I opened the back door and beckoned her inside. She almost knocked me down as she ran appreciatively to her dinner.
Mom came back downstairs and told me to put on a proper shirt as we were going shopping.
"Shopping? Again?" I said whiningly.
"Hush up Joan. Just go and do as you’re told." I was both elated and scared at the prospect. I knew one thing for sure. Mom wasn’t getting me anywhere near the Piercing Palace
"You look lovely sweetheart," she said when I returned. "Grab your purse and let’s go shop!" I hesitated for a moment and I could tell that if I didn’t move quickly, I’d have a weeping mother on my hands. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed "my" purse and we made our way back to the scene of the crime. "I don’t suppose you’ll be wanting any more holes in your ears?" She laughed as we pulled into the parking lot. I eyed her suspiciously. "It’s all right Joan, I’ll be good, I promise" she offered sincerely. I took her at her word and we made our way into the mall. "I need to get a few things," she said ambiguously as we headed off to Macy’s lingerie department.
"What now?" I wondered aloud as she urged me forward.
"You’ll see," was her cryptic response. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew I was in trouble.
The store didn’t have carts or baskets and Mom’s arms soon began overflowing with items. I looked at her questioningly as she asked me to help her carry stuff. "Just carry them for me" she commanded. "They won’t bite you." She said and laughed as if she’d made a joke. Her purchases made, we left the store and headed for the food court.
"A cup of coffee?" she asked.
"Sounds like a good idea," I said as we entered the queue. We got our drinks and made our way to an open table for two.
"Don’t look now sweetheart" but those boys over there are staring at you."
I laughed and said, "yeah right."
"No, I’m serious," she replied. "But don’t acknowledge them or they’ll be over here in a heartbeat," she said knowingly. Great, now I’ve got guys ogling me at the mall. What the hell was wrong with me? I looked at myself in the mirror across the way from where I sat and at last understood why those guys were looking. Damn, I was pretty. The flood of mixed emotions overtook me and my eyes began leaking.
"It’s all right Joan. Boys know a pretty girl when they see one," Mom said and smiled.
I really just wanted to go somewhere, curl up in a ball, and die. I was beginning to think that John was lost to me forever. What was I going to do? Mom sat there smoking, drinking her coffee, and smiling at me. I certainly wasn’t going to get any help there. Well, unless I needed a new slip, I thought sardonically.
"Mom, you bought those things at Macy’s for me, didn’t you?" I asked knowing the answer.
"Well sweetheart, a girl needs more than one pair of panties," she replied looking deep into my eyes. I hadn’t really paid any attention, but I knew she’d bought quite a few things. I felt both fear and anticipation as I sat there staring at the bags. "Come on girl, finish your coffee. We’re not done yet." I felt my knees lock in place at her words. Could I stop this without her falling apart? Did I want to?
"I forgot a few things at Macy’s," she informed me. Oh no!
"Mom, couldn’t we get them another time?" I asked pleadingly.
"No time like the present," and back into the hub store we went. She dragged over to the girls’ department; "Juniors" I believe it’s called. There she began holding skirts up against herself as if considering the look. As these clothes were for teens, she looked a bit ridiculous. She saw me smiling, laughing at her actions and began holding them up against my waist. Once again I found myself wanting to die. I stood there like a wooden statue and offered no protest. I knew it would be useless and would only draw unwanted attention from the other shoppers. "I really think blue’s your color," she said holding a blue pleated skirt to my waist. "Do you like it sweetheart?" I had no idea how to respond. I was numb. She eyed me quizzically and I could tell she was beginning to lose her already tenuous grip on reality.
"It’s beautiful Mom," I replied at length, not wanting to cause a scene. She carried the skirt over to the vast selection of blouses. Having purchased clothes for me all my life, she seemed to know my size without asking.
She continued pouring through the racks and finally settled on a blue floral print with a plunging neckline.
"Would your daughter like to try that on?" a sales clerk appearing out of nowhere asked.
"No thank you," I replied hoping she’d just go away.
"My daughter’s a little shy," Mom said intervening.
I felt relieved for a moment but then the clerk said "Oh, no problem, we have private changing rooms." Now what was I going to do?
"Great!" Mom said and began pulling me in the direction of the fitting rooms.
"Mom, I can’t do this!" I implored her. "Someone’s going to notice me"
"Nonsense," was her one word reply. It was highly unusual, but Mom came into the closet-like room with me.
"Mom please!" I begged with one last futile attempt.
"Hush child and just do as you’re told," she offered authoritatively. I willed myself away and complied with her requests. Somewhere in the distance I heard her voice saying, "Oh Joan, it was made for you." I quickly removed the clothing and handed it to her. It seemed a losing battle trying to keep her on the proper side of reality.
Satisfied with her selections, Mom paid for the items and we made our way towards the exit. "Oh Joan Look! They have skorts!" A skort, what the hell is a skort? It seems a skort was really a pair of shorts with a panel across the front giving it the appearance of being a skirt. Mom quickly selected a red one and a black one; both in my size. "You’re going to need some casual tops with these" she said as she dragged me back to the racks. I was there in body only. My mind had left the store a long time ago. Mom quickly selected a few tops and it was back to the checkout line. The pile of bags was getting ludicrous. I felt like asking her just when I was going to wear all this stuff. I was afraid of hearing her reply.
"Just one more stop sweetheart," she said as she dragged back to the pharmacy. I began to focus once again. I couldn’t imagine that she could embarrass me more than she already had. I was wrong on that count. I stood there silently as Mom asked the clerk if they had any silicone breast forms. I wanted to melt into the floor. Mom went on to explain that I was slow in developing and felt self-conscious about my non-existent breasts. The clerk smiled at me knowingly and led Mom over to the display. "We don’t want anything too big," Mom announced for all the world to hear. The young lady assisting us looked at me sympathetically. I’m sure in a sense we both shared the same thought simultaneously: "mothers." Mom squealed in delight as she found just what she was looking for. "Add A Cup" breast forms. "Look Joan! These are perfect! And, and, they’ll grow with you!" I couldn’t believe my ears. Maybe having two holes in each ear did alter what one heard?
Mom excitedly placed the item in our basket and led me back to the makeup section. "Your eyes are beautiful," she informed me. "But you really need some eyeliner and an eyebrow pencil," she continued. I stood there thinking that this was never going to end as Mom continued placing items in our basket. "Come on girl," she said to me. "Just one more aisle and we’re finished." She walked over to the aisle of soaps and cleansers and selected several things. I noticed that she put a package of the same soap she used in the basket. "That should keep you out of my bathroom for awhile," she said as she added the final items. It seemed there was no keeping any secrets from her. I sighed audibly as we made our way to the checkout counter. My arms were getting sore from carrying all of the packages. I thought money was a major concern? As I ran a quick tally in my head of all the purchases, the magnitude of it all hit me. Oh my God! I was almost in shock as I realized that Mom had spent several hundred dollars on this simple outing.
"Joan, you do need a new pair of sunglasses, don’t you? she asked as we waited in line.
"Sure," I replied sarcastically. I was going to have to work on my sarcasm as Mom pulled us out of line and over to the large display in the front of the store.
"Oh look sweetheart! These are very pretty. Here, try them on."
Grateful that I wouldn’t be dragged into a ladies’ dressing room to try on sunglasses I accepted the proffered item from her and put them on. I had to admit they did make me look very pretty, and older too. Joan, a woman of mystery, I laughed to myself as I handed them back to Mom.
"They’re perfect," I said to her meaning every word. I just wondered where and when I’d ever use them. She smiled at me and at last we paid the bill and headed back to the car.
Items packed away, we headed home. "So, do you like all your new things?" she asked.
"I’m not really sure," I said hoping that she could handle a bit of honesty.
"Well, if there’s anything you don’t like you can simply return it for a refund."
Sure Mom, I thought. I could see myself returning a blouse explaining that it just didn’t hang properly. I laughed aloud at the insanity of it all. Mom took my laughter as an expression of joy and joined in. We arrived home and I found myself loaded down with bags as we made our way to the front door. Something was amiss. It seemed my father had come home to collect some things while we were out. Where was Dad staying, I wondered? Why hadn’t he called me to let me know what was going on? I suddenly remembered that Sam was supposed to call and ran over to check the answering machine. There were no messages. I wondered for a moment if she’d just been putting me off when she told me she’d call.
I stood there and felt the warmth of my tears as they began to soak my cheeks. "What’s wrong Joan?" Mom asked. I wanted to give her my standard "nothing" reply, but I was afraid it would set her off.
"Sam was supposed to call me" I said dolefully.
"Well, maybe she just didn’t want to leave a message on the machine?" Mom suggested. I thought about that for a moment, and realized that was a real possibility. Sam had probably called and when no one answered figured that I wasn’t talking to her again. But, what if that wasn’t the case at all? I stood there playing a game of mental ping pong with myself for a few minutes when I heard Mom’s loud, but not screaming voice telling me to "go call her."
I hurried upstairs and dialed her number. Her phone must have rung twenty times before I gave up in despair. I tried again thinking that maybe I had dialed the wrong number on my first attempt. Still, no reply. I hung up the phone and grabbed Jola off of my pillow. I hugged her tight and informed her of my misery. All she did was smile at me moronically in return. Somehow, I felt even sadder. Maybe Sam was out as we had been? I thought at last. With that thought in mind I bounded down the stairs ran out to the front lawn and saw the light burning in her bedroom window. She’s home, I realized. I decided to make one more attempt at contacting her and rang her phone again. This time and for the next half hour, it was busy. I gave up in despair.
It was closing in on 9:30 when I remembered that I’d promised to call Darla. Could I handle that right now, I wondered? I found myself staring into my mirror applying some of Darla’s mauve before making the call. Yes, I was indeed losing my mind. The phone was answered on the second ring. "This is John calling. May I please speak to Darla?" I inquired respectfully.
"No!" said Darla herself as she burst into giggles. "Where have you been?" she asked. I was beginning to think that you weren’t going to call." I didn’t tell her that I’d almost forgotten.
"Sorry Darla, I had to go shopping with my mother. You see, things are really unstable here at the moment." My voice began to choke up.
"John, what’s wrong?" The tone of her voice suggested serious concern. I began weeping softly as I told her that my father had left us.
"Oh, John, I’m so sorry." Her sorrow expressed, I mumbled the only appropriate response:
"Well John, it is getting late. Did you have something you wanted to ask me?" Lost in a moment of confusion, I quickly regained my balance.
"Darla, would you walk with me to school tomorrow?" I asked hoping that’s what she was referring to.
"Are you sure you want to, John?" Was I now supposed to beg her company on the trek to school?
"Yes Darla, I’m sure."
"But?" she inquired. I guess everyone on the planet could read me like a book. I considered carefully what I wanted to say.
"But," I went on "I’m not really sure if I’m being fair to you. It seems Sam and I are at odds again. I don’t want to "use" you," I said as a sob escaped my throat.
"It’s all right John,. I understand. And yes, I’d love to walk to school with you in the morning."
"You would?" I asked somewhat astounded.
"Yes John, I would."
"Thanks Darla, you’re the best,." I said sincerely. We chatted a few minutes more before saying goodnight. I hung up the phone and made my way to the bathroom.
Mom, hearing the rumble of my feet asked me if I’d gotten in touch with Sam. "I tried calling her a bunch on times Mom. She’s not answering."
"Well, maybe she’s out," Mom offered.
"Nope," I replied, "I checked that too."
"Then who were you talking with on the phone?" she asked.
"That was Darla, Mom," I said.
Her single syllable reply was a knowing "Oh!" A minute or two passed and Mom came up into my room.
"I guess we’d better get your new acquisitions put away," she said sadly.
"I don’t know where I’m going to put all this stuff," I honestly replied.
"Well, your new blouses go on hangers and your skirts we can put in your dresser," she said matter of factly. She opened the bag of lingerie and looked at me pleadingly. I didn’t know what else to do, so I asked her if I could try some of it on first. At that, her mood brightened.
"What shall I try on first?" I asked her. She took out a dark blue bra and panty set and held it up to me hopefully. What the hell was I going to do with a bra? And then, I remembered: the breast forms, of course.
I took the items from her hands and told her she could either turn around or leave. She turned around. I didn’t realize it till later, but with her back to me she could still scrutinize my every move in the mirror on my door. I pulled the nylon panties up with ease. It must have been my mother’s presence but I had no "reaction" in my private parts. For that, I was grateful. I held the bra in my hands for some time having no clue as to how to put it on. Finally Mom started laughing.
"Here sweetheart. Give it to me. Place your arms through the shoulder straps. That’s it, now reach up behind you and fasten the clasps."
Easier said than done. I couldn’t get my arms anywhere near high enough to fasten the damned thing. "There is another way to do it," she said cryptically, "but, you’re going to learn the right way. Ok Joan, take it off." I removed the garment hopefully. "Now, look at the clasp. You see the eye and hook fastener? Just try it once right here in front of you." I did as she suggested. "Now, when it’s behind your back remember how easy that was and just do it."
I slid my arms through the straps and started again. I still couldn’t get my arms up high enough. Mom grabbed my arms and pushed them higher.
"Ow! That hurts!"
"You’ll get used to it sweetheart," she said with conviction. "Ok, now connect the hook and eye. You know, you’re lucky this bra has only one clasp," she said.
For joy, for joy, I should be thrilled that "my" bra had only one clasp. I sighed. "Ok, that’s it. You’ve got it!" I smiled at her as if I’d just accomplished something significant. "Now take it off" she commanded.
"What?" I said unbelieving.
"Take it off." I took it off. "Ok, now do it again."
"You’ve got to be kidding me?" She made me practice this procedure until I could do it with my eyes closed. I have to admit, it did get easier with practice.
"Just a minute," she said as she rummaged through the bags. "Now, let’s put these in the cups and see how you look." I was on sensory overload at that point. "Look here Joan, there’s a left one and a right one. See the way they taper off on the ends?" I took them and slid them gently into the cups. I turned around to look at myself in the mirror. Oh my God! Mom smiled at me and said "Now you look exactly as I did when I was your age."
I eyed her skeptically. "Just a minute Joan, I’ll be right back. She left and I heard her rummaging around in her closet. She returned shortly with a huge smile on her face and held open the photo album for me to see. Looking at myself in the mirror and then at her picture, she was right. We could have been sisters. She put down the album and gave me a hug. Tears of joy rolled gently down her cheeks. I so wanted her to be happy, but at what cost to myself?
"Try on the pleated skirt" she begged. I took the garment and pulled it up my waist. It had a back zip, but after the bra experience I had no problem locating and fastening it. "And now your new top!" I slid the silky blouse over my head. "You can wear that out or tucked in," she informed me. I left it out and again looked in the mirror. "Oh Joan, you’re so damned pretty." I had to agree I was indeed pretty. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I only knew that overall I was pleased with my appearance.
"Do you want to try on the rest of your stuff now?"
"It’s getting late Mom. Can we wait until tomorrow?"
"Of course we can sweetheart," she said sympathetically. I still couldn’t get over my appearance. "Oh, and Joan, I don’t believe you noticed, but I did get you something else" What now I wondered. "This razor is for you," she said pulling it out of the bag. You don’t have much hair on your legs, but even a little looks gross under a pair of stockings. I want you to shave your legs when you get home from school tomorrow, all right?" Holy Jesus, how could I ever explain that to anyone?
"Sure Mom," I said just wanting her to go away at that point. She smiled and hugged me close and bade me goodnight. I spent another half hour putting everything away.
It was ten thirty before I was ready to turn out the lights. I did and lay there wondering whether I was just using Mom as an excuse to carry out my own desires. I honestly didn’t know. I gave Jola a big hug and kiss and drifted off to dreamland.
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