Lindsey, or Lyle to his friends and acquaintances, was recently retired and was celebrating his 61st birthday with lunch with two long term friends. It was a fairly low key lunch at a rustic old café in the nearby mountains with a couple of long term friends. Several others of his childhood friends and their spouses, due to work and other commitments, could not attend but had sent gifts and well wishes with Jack and Bill.
The Lodge held special memories for their group of buddies based upon frequent and long ago dates and parties. The ‘good old days’ at The Lodge stretched back 40 years for Lyle and long time friends Jack and Bill who were helping Lyle celebrate becoming another year older. No one had seen much of Lyle since his wife had passed away a little more than a year ago. After her passing Lyle seemed to disappear; he avoided social events. Lyle was never forgotten he was just never seen.
The three friends celebrated with Ortega chili burgers with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. They shared a plate of sautéed mushrooms and a side order of onion rings. There was also pleasant conversation, memories from the past and several adult beverages. Lyle spoke about a pending vacation to the Big Sur area of California that he was considering. He was torn between doing a road trip or staying home. Vacations didn’t seem as much fun as when his wife was alive. If he opted for a ‘staycation’ he could host a party with his and Megan’s friends.
The group reminisced and shared stories and exploits from as long ago as grade school, high school and as recently as last month. And they shared a solemn toast to Lyle’s dead wife Megan who had passed away shortly after Lyle’s 60th birthday.
Their extended lunch was winding down. Lyle excused himself to use the restroom prior to driving down the mountain and home. As soon as Lyle was out of sight both Jack and Bill placed a gift bag on the table where Lyle had been sitting. Jack leaned over to Bill and asked “Do you think we will freak him out with our presents?” “Hell no,” snorted Jack. “Everyone knows that Lyle’s sort of special in an artistic and sensitive way. Remember what Megan told us all over 20 years ago? She swore us to secrecy so we’d keep a special eye out for her Lyle and make sure he didn’t get into any trouble due to his special ‘hobby’. He’s only 5 foot 8 inches tall and maybe weighs 135 pounds after a thanksgiving meal. His 8 inch long blonde hair doesn’t exactly ‘butch him up’ to deter bullies and jerks. And I don’t think I’ll ever get used to his man bun hairstyle.”
Bill chuckled as he took a sip from his vodka and seven. “Yeah, you’re right. I can’t recall a Halloween, or any party for that matter, in which Lyle didn’t use it as an excuse to get all dolled up. And I know for a fact, from being in gym with him, that he’s shaved his legs for at least 30 years. And nature doesn’t gift a person, male or female, with such well defined and very feminine eyebrows; his brows are well shaped and well maintained. Those arches aren’t accidental and neither are those four ear piercings in his ears.” Jack ventured, “For a man Lyle sure makes an attractive woman.” “Jack, I think you’ve been a bachelor far too long to be having those thoughts” said Bill.
Sipping from his drink Jack smiled broadly and commented “And we’ve all seen his panties over the years as he bent over to tie his shoes or pick up something he’d dropped. We were, and still are, his friends. He has the best looking fingernails of any man I’ve ever seen. We’ve all overlooked the tell tale residue of nail varnish color around his cuticles. My only regret is that he doesn’t feel secure enough in his femininity or himself to confide his ‘secret’ with us. Once he sees his gifts that may change.”
Returning to the table Lyle was surprised to see the gift bag where his plate had been. As he was sitting down Lyle flicked the bag with his finger and in bashful surprise rhetorically asked “What’s up with the bag dudes? Someone’s birthday?” They all broke into laughter.
As Lyle was staring at the gift bag Jack stood up, picked up his drink glass and proposed a toast. “On behalf of all our group of friends, many that unfortunately could not be here today, here’s to Lyle: A true and unconditional friend. We salute you.” The three friends clinked their glasses and took a drink and sat down.
“Speech, speech” encouraged Jack and Bill.
As Lyle reached for the gift bag Bill spoke up. “Lyle, as you open your gifts please be assured they were carefully chosen and are given with our deepest respect for you and Lindsey. You, Megan and Lindsey have always been good friends to us all… unconditionally.”
At the mention of his femme persona, “Lindsey”, Lyle momentarily froze and visibly gasped. His face flushed warm. He nervously looked back and forth between his two friends for any sign of disapproval.
Jack broke the tenseness of the moment by telling Lyle that the existence of Lindsey had been well known to their group of friends since high school and that Lindsey was like a distant relative that never visited. “Initially, in junior high, your well shaped and manicured finger nails were a definite hint to us that there was another, softer, side to you. You could have been a hand model.”
In a half-hearted effort to explain away his well cared for nails Lyle said, “My older sister’s made me… they practiced nail care on me!” Inhaling deeply Lyle sat back in his chair, exhaled and continued in a much softer voice “And just maybe they may have practiced a few other things on me, too. I always enjoyed our special times together. No harm ever came from anything we did… or wore. That was how Lindsey came into my life. My Megan, my sisters and Lindsey liked each other.”
“Exactly! Your sisters told my sisters”, Bill interjected. “And Bill’s sisters told my sister” Jack added. “Undoubtedly your ‘secret’ had to have made its way among our other friends too. And about 20 years ago Megan confided that you had a feminine side. She asked that we keep an eye on you so you didn’t get into any problems. So we have.”
“Remember how on ski trips you always wore pantyhose under your ski pants instead of thermal underwear to keep warm? And you tried to convince us that the sports bras you wear under your shirt were a special high tech back brace? And the holes in your ear lobes aren’t mosquito bites. And what you called ‘special thin strap designer under shirts’ are called camisoles by everyone else I know. Nice try but we were only as dumb as what Megan wanted us to be. It was sort of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ agreement.”
We did everything we could to keep you and your ‘hobby’ out of trouble. We’ve all made up excuses to cover up some of your goofs over the years”. “Yeah”, Bill said. “We’re letting you know that we all support you and your femme twin. You’ve been a recluse ever since Megan passed. You need to socialize more. So relax, open your gifts and start living life again.”
All three friends nodded their mutual agreement and leaned back in their chairs. Lyle got the attention of their waiter and ordered another round of drinks so he could relax and appreciate what ‘the gang’ had given him.
Lyle leaned forward and thanked his friends for their trust and support. “I’m glad that we got all this out. After all these years it appears my secret was obviously not so secret. Keeping that secret weighed heavily on us. During the last week of her life Megan confided to me that she had explained our situation, and Lindsey, to several of the wives. I think she also explained it to one of the guys during a visit to the hospital. I knew the day of the ‘big reveal’ would happen sometime. I’m glad it’s done. I thank you all for your understanding and support.”
Their drinks arrived and there was some good natured chatter between the friends. Lyle took a sip of his beverage and said, “I want to show you guys something.” Reaching into his pocket Lyle pulled out his dead wife’s diamond wedding ring and displayed it in the palm of his hand. “Megan was so supportive of me and Lindsey that she made me promise to have her wedding ring enlarged to fit Lindsey’s ring finger. Whenever Lindsey is around she always wears this ring.” Picking up the ring Lindsey easily slid the beautiful diamond ring onto the proper finger and held her hand up so that Bill and Jack could appreciate Megan’s gesture of approval.
Jack gently picked up Lindsey’s hand, pulled it closer and stared at the ring. “The ring and the thought behind the ring are beautiful. Your manicured fingers enhance the beauty of the ring like a great frame enhances a good painting.” Jack looked Lindsey in her eyes and gave Lindsey’s hand a gentle squeeze and let it go. Jack was always articulate. He also had always been a bachelor.
Reaching into the gift bag Lindsey pulled out a ‘Rosebud Red’ lipstick and a matching bottle of nail polish. Removing the lipstick wrapper Lindsey opened the tube, twisted it out and delighted in the aroma. She stroked a small streak on the back of her hand to check how ‘Rosebud Red’ would look with her skin tone. It looked like a perfect match. Bill leaned forward and softly said, “Why don’t you try it on now? No one will say anything.” Lindsey smiled sweetly and said that she would save it for later.
Reaching for the nail polish Lindsey shook the bottle and applied one coat of color to the finger that wore Megan’s ring. Jack reached over, picked up her hand, and blew her nail dry while maintaining eye contact with her. Once her nail was dry she held up and displayed to Bill and Jack her finger that wore Megan’s ring. The polish color complemented the ring! The dark red of the polish set off her shaped nail and Megan’s ring perfectly. Lindsey slowly pulled her hand back from Jack’s reach and brought out her next gift.
Lindsey withdrew a small jewelry box which she promptly opened, revealing a pair of gold hoop ear rings that were about the diameter of a quarter. There was a second set of ¼ inch cubic zirconium studs. “Oh! How cute. There are four earrings!” she said. With obvious well practiced ease Lindsey removed the rings from their box and, without the need for a mirror, she easily inserted and clicked the hoops in her lower ears lobes. Sixty seconds later she had the sparkly CZ studs inserted in her upper lobe piercings. They looked very nice together. Turning towards Bill she excitedly asked, “How do they look?” Bill gave her the ‘thumbs up’ gesture of approval. Lindsey fought the impulse to retrieve the mirrored compact she kept in her front pocket.
The last item in the bag was a small bottle of perfume. The label indicated ‘Cashmere Mist Musk’. “This smells absolutely divine” Lindsey announced as she passed the gift over to Jack and Bill for their evaluation. “My Amy picked it out,” Bill said. Bill handed the perfume back to Lindsey who promptly put a small drop behind her right ear and another on her left wrist. “Please tell Amy thank you for me. It’s so feminine smelling” Lindsey said.
Lindsey put the lipstick, perfume, gifts boxes and wrappers into her gift bag and sat it next to her empty glass. “Thank you for being so thoughtful. I’ve been a hermit for so long... it feels wonderful to be around friends again. Be sure to relay my appreciation to the rest of the gang please. You gave Lyle and I a great day out. Thank you for everything.”
Picking up on the ‘being a hermit’ theme Bill queried “Maybe you should get out more often. Good friends are difficult to find. You need to find a new companion to share your life with and maybe fill certain physical needs at the same time.”
Lindsey blushed and flashed a pretty smile and said “I’d need to find a very special and understanding person that would tolerate my special needs and clothing preferences. They’d need to be very open minded to say the least.” Jack and Bill nodded their heads in agreement.
Bill took a sip of his beverage and excused himself to go to the restroom. As Bill disappeared down the hallway Jack leaned over and gave Lindsey’s perfumed ear a prolonged sniff. “That scent suits you well… it’s pleasantly sultry.” Putting his hand on Lindsey’s hand Jack continued; “Lindsey, I’m a pretty open minded person. I’m sure I can help you in many ways. I could help you move furniture, hang pictures… Why don’t you call me sometime?”
Lindsey’s heart raced as she processed what one of her best friends had just said. Had she just been propositioned? Not knowing what to say or how to respond Lindsey was spared having to say or do anything by the return of Bill.
“Heck, I’m gone for a few minutes and I come back and find you two holding hands” Bill joked. Lindsey quickly pulled her hand away from Jack and grabbed her drink glass. “No, absolutely not! It’s not like that at all. Jack was just admiring my ring” she said. Glaring at Jack Lindsey continued, “Isn’t that right, Jack?” Jack nodded his head in the affirmative and said “I was offering her my help when needed.” Bill sat down and the awkward moment had passed.
“Well, let’s wind this party down and head for home with a promise to do it again soon. I think it’d be a great idea if Lyle or Lindsey hosted a get together in a couple of weeks. They have a comfortable home with a fine backyard and patio. Personally, I’d prefer Lindsey to be the hostess. And I know our group would be pleased to finally meet the elusive Lindsey after so many years of rumors. What do you think?” “I think that’s a fine idea!” Jack said.
The effects of the drinks and the sharing of most private things may have clouded Lindsey’s thinking. “Your interest and acceptance of Lindsey is greatly appreciated. I need to give it some thought but I’m pretty sure that Lindsey’s not going to Big Sur. There’s a very good chance she’ll be having a BBQ staycation at her house in a few weeks. I’ll get back to you in the next few days with specifics.”
Glancing around the table Lindsey saw that everyone had enough beverage left for a last toast of the day. Standing, Lindsey announced that she’d like to propose a final toast. “Wait just a moment for my toast.” Turning away from Jack and Bill Lindsey reached into her bag of gifts and pulled out her new Rosebud. Using her mirrored compact she quickly applied a small dot of lipstick to her cheek bones and rubbed it into an acceptable blush. She next applied a coat to her lips. With her back still facing away from the table she quickly undid her man bun, produced a hair ‘Scrunchie’ from somewhere and was soon sporting a cute ‘high and proud’ pony tail.
Turning to face her friends Lindsey stated “I know that seeing Lindsey has been of great interest to you all and I hope what I’ve just done satisfies your curiosity a bit.” Lindsey held up her drink and pronounced, “Thank you all and happy birthday to Lindsey! Thank you for accepting me into the group.” Jack and Bill echoed her sentiments and finished their drinks.
The next day
Lindsey awoke, prepared a simple breakfast of toast, one egg and coffee. She showered and set about becoming her feminine self.
Fully dressed from the skin out in women’s clothing, and tastefully made up, she blended herself a banana fruit smoothie and sat back in a reclining lounge chair in her living room. Placing her drink and her favorite new lipstick and nail polish on a side table Lindsey popped out the foot rest and sat back to paint her nails and ponder about how to prepare her BBQ.
A few days later
Police doing a routine welfare check, at the request of a concerned friend named Jack, gained entry to Lindsey’s house and discovered an unconscious man, fully dressed in women’s clothes. An EMT bent over to listen for a heartbeat. Although faint there was a heartbeat. As quickly as possible they started an IV drip comprised of water and special electrolytes. After a few moments the patient started to stir. It was clear that the victim was trying to say something but then she passed out.
The EMTs partner came over and asked “What was she trying to say?” The first EMT said, “It makes no sense. Before passing out she didn’t ask for water or help… she only whispered one word: ‘Rosebud’.”
** With sincere apologies to Orson Welles and Citizen Kane
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