(sob) Gram, (sob) I have to become a girl! (sob) I simply have to be the girl they deserve!(sob)"
“Mrs. Nelson, your sisters and I undressed you, cleaned you up, and put you in the nightie," she stated calmly as she took my hands in hers.
I swallowed nervously and paled a bit more if that was possible. "Th....Then you know … they know …”
She smiled and hugged me tenderly. "I've known you were a boy since you were born. Your mother never wrote me, because she feared your grandfather would find out. But she did write a letter to her best girlfriend, who shared the letter with me because she knew how worried I was about Carol … your mother. I didn't know about the twins until the police contacted me about your mother's … death. You don't have to fret about your masquerade. Once we had you settled into bed we all went downstairs.”
“Mr. Nelson explained that when he’d researched your odyssey, he discovered your secret,” Grandma continued. “As a detective, Mr. Nelson had some experience and knowledge about transsexuals. Naturally he shared your secret with his wife.
“Wh … what’s a trans...whatsis,” I timidly asked with obvious confusion.
“The term is transsexual,” Grandma explained. “A transsexual is a person who has a body that is one gender while their mind is the opposite gender. That’s not to say you are a transsexual, but you seem to be exhibiting some of the traits. You’re a boy who is dressing and living as girl and you seem to pull it off easily and fit quite comfortably into femininity.”
“I didn’t pretend to be a girl on purpose,” I embarrassedly whispered. “I don’t know why I seem to make such a good girl. I’d never thought about it until it happened. I had … have … every intention of going back to being a boy.”
“Don’t feel like you have to go back to being a boy,” Grandma comforted me. “You need to decide whether you’re a boy or a girl.”
“But I am a boy,” I declared with a pout. “I’m not a sissy!”
“Physically, you’re a boy, and after what you’ve accomplished, you are certainly not a sissy.” Grandma soothed. “But think about this. You made such a positive impression on the Nelsons they decided to keep their knowledge of your masquerade a secret, because as sick as you were, they didn’t want you to panic. As you recovered, they said they found it difficult to believe you were really a boy, and decided to make you dress as feminine as possible hoping you’d break your disguise.”
“Are they upset?” I asked with concern.
“Not at all,” she answered. “They were concerned, as am I, but the girls explained how it all came about. I suppose it's been quite rough on you. Most boys would have never been tough enough to allow themselves to do what you did to keep their family together. You must be quite sure of you manhood to allow yourself to allow yourself to be thought of as a girl … or, you are a girl in your soul."
My confusion must have been evident on my face as Grandma took me in another warm hug. As I relaxed in her embrace my fears and concerns bubbled forth. I’d done it! I had gotten the girls and myself to Grandma and she was going to keep us even though I’d pretended to be a girl! I returned her hug, and sobbed in relief.
She stroked my long hair soothingly as she gently rocked me until I stopped crying. “Please don’t be offended by what I’m about to say but it needs to be said,” Grandma began gently. "You look very natural and pretty in dresses. The Nelsons and your sisters tell me you behaved quite naturally as a girl. The twins said they'd like you to remain their sister. I’m not asking you to do that but I need you to tell me honestly … you have enjoyed your time in skirts … haven't you?"
She could feel me shift uncomfortably as I debated my answer. I had enjoyed being mistaken for a delicate femininely clad girl, but I felt so guilty about it. I finally nodded my head affirmatively while I snuggled closer to this woman I didn't know, and yet did.
With a squeeze of affection she broke our hug and held me at arms length. "I'm glad you've been honest. I respect you for that, and for what you've done and sacrificed. I’ll admit I was afraid of having you come here … after all … I felt as if I'd failed as a mother when your mother ran off. Your Grandfather was so self-righteous he never mentioned Carol’s name again. He was so embarrassed by his failure to be a good father he kept us isolated. When he died, I was too heartbroken to let myself get back into life. I’ve spent the last five years out here on the farm all alone, only leaving to get basic supplies. I guess that’s why everyone thinks I’m partially crazy.”
Grandma sniffled before continuing. “When I heard Carol had died, and you were missing … I felt lost. I closed up even more. The call from Mr. Nelson shocked me. I didn’t know what to say, so I kept quiet. As I thought about it afterward, it reawakened my desire for a family … and my fears … especially when he told me my three granddaughters were safe. I decided I wanted you, and that I'd figure out how you'd become my granddaughter when you arrived.
Mr. Nelson made sure I was okay and that I knew the truth about you before we called you to the porch. I was trembling as you came around their car. I could see that Lyndi and Teri were apprehensive and timid. But I could see you weren't well and were terrified. I also noted that despite not feeling well, you were comfortable in your role as a girl. You looked so much like your mother.”
I lowered my gaze and blushed. Although embarrassed, I was happy she understood.
"However we do have a problem,” she continued solemnly. “I'm on a limited income. It took the last of my savings to have your mother brought here for burial. I would have had to take out a loan if a friend of your mother hadn’t offered to help with the expenses. She's in the cemetery down at the end of the farm next to her father, and I'll join them one day. What this means is that I have no money to buy you boys’ clothes right now. I’ll have to sign you up for Social Security benefits, but it'll be months before that comes through. In the meantime it'll take all of my income just to feed us.”
I felt my heart sinking once more, I knew what she was driving at. I'd have to wear the clothes the Nelson’s supplied us. I’d be in dresses for a while longer and since I had no choice I didn’t have to feel guilty. Was this bad or good?
Grandma saw my confusion. "You know I'm sorry. I wish I could make all your fears and concerns just vanish. But at least you know you have a home and family. Try to get some rest … Krista … you need it.”
The kiss on the forehead reminded me of mom’s when she used to tuck me into bed. I was exhausted, mentally as well as physically. Tomorrow I’d worry about what to do next, for now I snuggled into the blankets.
When I awoke the next morning I felt better. We had a home … my sister’s portion of our summer’s odyssey was over … but what of mine? I slid out of bed and padded barefooted to the bathroom. I’d grown use to wearing a cute nightie much quicker than I wanted to admit. I liked wearing it. I enjoyed the way the ruffle of the long skirt brushed my ankles with each step. I was almost glad I could continue wearing it … at least for a while.
As I was finishing in the bathroom I glanced in the mirror. I was perplexed when I realized I'd unconsciously brushed my new bangs into place and had tied a pink ribbon into a nice bow to hold my bouncy ponytail up high on the top of my head just as I’d been doing for days.
Once back in my bedroom I made my bed. Then I removed my nightie and panties, folded them neatly, and placed the nightie under my pillow. I was more than a bit frightened to realize I was behaving so much like a girl without even thinking about it … after all … I was still a boy … wasn't I? I picked a pair of soft lace trimmed panties and stepped into them. I couldn't stop myself from smiling as I snugged them about my bottom. The soft caress of the fabric caused me to blush. Since I didn't have to continue my masquerade of pretending to be a girl … I just had to wear girl’s clothes … I skipped putting on a bra. A soft slip was soon tickling my thighs with its lace. I chose a simple cotton short sleeved shift style dress. Sitting at the vanity I slipped the anklets on my feet and turned down the lace tops without thinking. Then I slipped my feet into a pair of pink trimmed sneakers. I surveyed myself in the vanity mirror. Once more I looked like a pretty girl … but there was something a bit out of kilter. For several moments I tried to figure out what wasn’t right, but failed. With a sigh of frustration I began to leave my bedroom. Suddenly I embarrassingly realized what was missing. In two days I'd grown use to dressing as a preteen girl. I felt naked … almost exposed … without a bra!
I frowned … that made no sense. I was a boy, and was only wearing these clothes because I had nothing else to wear. I didn't need a bra! Satisfied with my decision, I left the room. I never made it past the top step. I felt uncomfortable and nervous and finally went back to my room, removed my dress and slip, chose a bra, put it on, then put the slip and dress back on. Looking in the mirror, the pretty girl wasn't flat-chested anymore. I felt fully dressed. Was I mentally becoming a girl? Baffled by this dichotomy I went downstairs without any further problems but a good deal of apprehension.
I joined Grandma and the twins for breakfast. They'd been up early, but had waited for me to join them. Our interaction and conversation was free and uninhibited. It seemed as though we'd lived together for years instead of less than a day. Grandma smiled as she noted my expression. “I told the girls to call me Gram, it doesn’t make me feel quite as old as Grandma.”
I felt awkward. Here I was … a boy … and everyone in the house knew I was a boy … wearing soft silky lingerie and pretty dresses. They never said a word about the situation. I figured that when you're dressed up looking like a pretty girl … you naturally behave like a girl. That was most disconcerting. I didn't want to act like a girl, but I couldn't be my old boyish self with lace brushing my thighs and nylon caressing me so enticingly.
We cleaned off the table while Gram went upstairs. She came down a few moments later and complimented me for making my bed. She sent the girls to make their beds, with a mild admonishment to do so in the future before leaving their room, then helped me do the dishes.
"Krista," she began. "I think it's best we call you that as long as you have to dress as a girl. I'm pleased you've taken such care to be sure your appearance is so feminine. Your impersonation of a girl is extremely good. You're smart to realize no one would begin to suspect you're really a boy dressed as you are."
I blushed and took her compliment as it was meant … double-edged … praising my girlishness and warning me to continue to be girlish. The twins came skipping into the room in time to help put the dishes away.
“When the Nelsons arrive, how would you like to take a long walk to the end of Wells Point for a picnic?” Gram asked.
“Sure, “ the twins exclaimed.
“It sounds like fun, but isn’t it a long walk,” I asked.
“That seems a strange question from you, after all the walking you’ve done,” Gram chuckled. “It’s about three quarter of a mile to the tip, but if we pack plenty to drink along with our picnic and take our time we’ll do fine. Besides, I think the Nelsons would like to see your mother.”
Upon seeing our confusion she opened her arms to us. We didn’t hesitate to fling ourselves in her arms as we all cried at our loss.
“Our family cemetery is down there,” Gram explained. “Your mother’s body is there now. But I know she’s here with us. She had to be watching over you during your odyssey and made sure you met the right people when you needed help. She’s been your guardian angel.”
Again the tears profusely flowed. After we were all cried out, Gram set the twins to work making sandwiches, then took me across the road to the barn. The door squealed in protest as it opened. In a dusty corner I helped her unstack a large pile of baskets and boxes. At the bottom she found what she wanted. An old green metal Coleman Cooler, and a dented but still serviceable red American Flyer wagon. I knew they’d make our picnic easier. We loaded the cooler on the wagon and pulled them over to the side of the house. There we carefully washed the cooler and the wagon.
The Nelsons arrived as we finished the picnic preparations. The girls scampered out to greet them while I helped pack the cooler. My nerves were getting the best of me. They knew I was a boy. Now I had to face them dressed as a girl even though we all knew I was a boy.
“Relax, Krista,” Gram comforted me. “If they were going to be upset about your masquerade they’d have done it as soon as they found out.”
As I nodded my head, the twins led them inside the house. I guess they could see my fears on my face.
“Krista, it’s okay,” Mrs. Nelson reassured me. “The way you’re dressed has nothing to do with the fact that you are one of the strongest and nicest persons we know.”
“We want you to be happy,” Mr. Nelson added with a smile. “Just be true to yourself, whether that’s as a boy, a girl, or a mixture of the two.”
Tears of relief trickled from my eyes. When they opened their arms I didn’t hesitate to embrace them. “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson,” I said as I stepped back to smile at them.
“You’re welcome,” Mr. Nelson smiled back. “But let’s get one thing straightened out. We want all four of you to call us Lisa and Ed. No more of that stuffy Mr. or Mrs. Nelson, okay?”
We all smiled in agreement.
Mr. Nelson and I carried the cooler out to the wagon. Gram placed a table cloth and several blankets on top. The girls put several bottles of water beside the cooler in addition to the ones in the ice inside the cooler. The six of us set off down Wells Point Road through Gram’s farm. We walked through fields towards another north-south line of trees about 350 yards away from the house. To the north, trees blocked most views of the surrounding water. To the south, the trees only blocked about half the water. Gram explained she was allowing neighbor farmers to plant the fields in exchange for a nominal rent, and that the money she received went to pay the property taxes.
We walked through the cooler forest for about 50 yards before emerging into more fields. This time the road ran about 200 yards through the fields before entering another forest. To the south was an open view of the water, while the north was about half forest. The next forest was about 400 yards deep. There were birds and squirrels everywhere we looked. The bird songs made all our cares seem lighter. When we finally emerged from this last forest, we could see the tip end of Wells point as it projected out into Broad Creek. There was a large farm building with a small house to the south of the road about 250 yards ahead, and a few shade trees inside a low stone wall on the north. The edge of the water was about 150 yards beyond that.
As we reached the stone wall Gram silently led us through a gate. Dozens of headstones told us this was the family cemetery she’d mentioned. In one corner we saw a spot where the ground had recently been disturbed. The tombstone beside the new grave was that of our grandfather. There were flowers planted atop both graves.
We were all silent as we gazed at our mother’s final resting place. “She’d be happy so close to the water,” I finally said as tears trickled down my cheeks. Grandma had her arms about the twins who were quietly crying. Lisa and Ed stayed back, giving us space to grieve.
“Let’s step outside the walls and set up our picnic in the shade of that tree ,” Gram suggested after about ten minutes. “We can talk while we eat.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting to know one another. Gram explained she had a large vegetable garden, and that she froze or canned much of what she grew to cut down her grocery bills and to trade with neighbors. We learned a lot. Gram had been deeply hurt when Mom left, and Grandpa had reinforced that hurt. It wasn't until after he’d died that Grandma realized how old-fashioned he'd been, and how repressed he’d kept her and mom. Since then, while remaining isolated, she'd gotten a computer, explored the internet, and began to grow and open. As her liberalized thoughts grew, she feared exposing them to her still conservative neighbors and acquaintances. Her refusal to talk openly made them think she’d become 'slightly unbalanced'. We already knew this was far from the case.
“Your mother's last letter eventually broke down the final barrier of my past,” she tearfully confessed. “Unfortunately I'd sent the curt reply immediately, and it wasn't until a week later, after much thought and guilt, that I realized my error. I sent a second letter inviting her to come home. But by then it was to late. That letter was how the police knew who to contact about her death.”
We discovered Grandma was only 47, and we were equally surprised to realize that my birthday and that of the twins had passed while we were on the road without our even realizing it. Thinking back, I realized my birthday had been on the day we cleaned the bakery … the day I took the first step towards knowingly impersonating a girl. Grandma thought it a bit ironic that Krista had the same birthday as Kristopher … only 12 years apart.
This led to another realization. The summer was almost half over. We'd left Massachusetts just after the school year had ended. We'd spent the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July on the road. Four weeks all together. We'd spent a week with the Nelson's. This meant that the new school year would be starting in less than five weeks. We had a lot to do.
We packed up our picnic, made a brief stop by mom’s grave. “At least we’re all together now,” Gram declared. “I think your grandfather can finally rest in peace. His little girl is back.”
The walk back to the house was almost serene.
“This is a lovely place,” Lisa declared. “You know, Ed, maybe we could find a small place nearby. You’d love the fishing.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “We’ve been talking about downsizing our home. Our daughters might be a bit upset, but we’ve been to California, and there’s no way we’d move out there.”
“They’d get over it,” Lisa chuckled. “They’d love to come here to visit us. There’s so much more to do here.”
“When we get back to the house, we’ll head back to the B&B,” Ed said. “I saw a few brochures for local realtors.”
After bidding the Nelsons goodbye, we helped Gram weed the garden and pick some fresh vegetables for a salad. She taught us a lot about gardening in a short time.
While we cleaned the veggies, Gram sat by telephone. First she called the Massachusetts State Police to notify them we were safe with her and to call off the search. The next call was to the local Social Security office, seeking survivor benefits for us now that Mom was gone. She also contacted the Talbot County Child Welfare bureau, since they had to be notified of our mother’s death as well as our location and status as orphans, so we could be signed up for any applicable programs. Then she called county school system to let them know two new fifth graders and one new seventh grader were to be enrolled. Because of my small size mom had kept me back a year in first grade. The afternoon was over by the time Grandma finished making all the calls.
After supper we sat down and began to make a list of things we needed to do. Most important, as far as I was concerned was to somehow get at least one set of boys' clothes for me to wear to school … even if I still had to wear dresses at home. A few weeks ago I’d have been fiercely opposed to the notion that I might have to wear even one innocuous item of girl’s clothes, yet now I actually hoped I'd have to wear dresses at least part time. Reluctantly, I had to admit I was beginning to like pretending to be a pretty girl. The girls and I cleaned up the picnic and supper dishes then with Gram we dusted and vacuumed the entire house. "Well, everything has been set in motion,” Grandma told us with a smile as we worked.
Her smile faded as she continued, “I’ve also located a place to get some second hand boys’ clothes for Kristopher." She looked closely at all three of us as her words sank in.
The twins fell silent, and their happy faces turned sad as they forlornly looked to me, obviously not wanting to loose their new sister. I felt torn. Part of me wanted to go back to being a boy, but another part of me enjoyed being a girl. The twins obviously wanted me to stay in skirts.
Little was said about the subject as we spent the remainder of the evening playing board games. I had a hard time concentrating on the games as I was immersed in conflicting thoughts about my status.
That night I tossed and turned. I couldn’t understand why I felt depressed about the prospect of getting some boys clothes. Had I become that much of a sissy? There was no reason for me to continue to pretend to be a girl. Yet I could not deny that it felt so natural. Was I a transsexual? Maybe I was what Mr. Nelson had suggested, maybe I was a mixture of boy and girl. It was all too confusing. I have no idea what time I fell asleep.
Since the next day was so beautiful Grandma suggested we explore the farm before it became too hot. Quickly gathering snacks and drinks, we headed out to explore the shorelines of the farm. As we skirted a swampy area just south of the cemetery we heard a vehicle coming through the forest. I jumped, and almost ran for cover as a police car came into view. Gram put a steadying arm on my shoulder.
A summer spent evading the police had instilled a fear of men in uniform in me. I quickly realized we were safe here, and relaxed just a bit. Stopping beside the cemetery, the officer exited the car and waved at us. Gram waved back as we headed over to him. He was a large, strong good-looking man in his mid to late twenties.
"Good afternoon Mrs. O’Brien, girls," he politely announced nodding at each of us but staring intently at me.
"Good afternoon, Leroy," responded Gram warmly. "If you’re here to talk to Carol, we’ll leave you have your space.”
Gram’s words startled me. Why would this cop want to talk to Mom?
“Thanks Ma’am,” the officer smiled as he nervously doffed his hat. “I’ll pay my respects while I’m here, but I came to see you.”
“Ah,” Gram smiled. “So this isn't just a social call is it?"
"No Ma’am," he replied as he uneasily fingered the brim of his hat. "This is official business. The Sheriff’s Office had several calls this morning. One from the Massachusetts State Police, one from the County Child Welfare Office, and another from the school. All concerned three children."
My heart fluttered and I saw the twins tense.
"It seems they all had a call from someone claiming to be the grandmother of three missing children, telling them they were safe right here on Wells Point. Since the sheriff knew I know you, he asked me to find out what was going on."
We all relaxed … we were safe.
“These have to be Carol’s daughters," he said with surprising tenderness. "They sure do look like her … she was one of the prettiest girls in town," he added wistfully. Then he looked right at me as he continued. "I assume you two are the twins, Teri and Lyndi, so you must be Krista.”
For a moment he seemed to choke up. “You are the spitting image of your mother …” His voice grew hoarse. "I thought at first you were her …” He swallowed and turned bright red. Then he steeled himself before continuing in his normal voice. "We went to school together … your mother and I … I always had a crush on her. Seeing you sure brings back a lot of memories."
I didn't know what to do. I blushed and lowered my eves while nervously toying with the hem of my sundress.
After a big sigh he went on now addressing Grandma. "I'll let the authorities from Massachusetts know they're safe. I’ll let the Child Welfare people you've got three lovely granddaughters. They’ll still send someone out to fill out the appropriate paperwork. I also need to fill out a report on how the children got here."
We settled onto the grass under the trees by the cemetery as we told the story of our odyssey. Several times he asked questions, but we steadfastly refused to reveal the names of the adults who helped us.
“I understand your reluctance to reveal their names,” he said. “After all you’ve accomplished, I’ll trust your judgment. But there may be others higher up that ask you again. Well, I’ve interrupted you enough, I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.”
“Leroy, you’re welcome to join us as we visit Carol,” Gram softly stated.
“I don’t want to intrude,” he hesitated.
“Leroy Scott, I won’t have any false modesty,’ Gram declared. “I wouldn’t have asked you to join us if I thought it was not right.”
Soon we were all gathered about the grave. I noticed through my tears that Officer Scott had a few tears running down his cheeks. I realized he really must have had a crush on Mom to feel this choked up after all these years.
“Well, I’ve got to get back to work,” he declared hoarsely after a few minutes. “Good day … and welcome home, girls." With a penetrating lingering glance at me, he left.
Grandma took us back to where we’d been sitting earlier and had us sit. I unconsciously smoothed my skirt as I sat, while Grandma watched me intently. The twins babbled about how friendly Officer Scott was, and that he’d obviously liked our mother, while I uneasily thought about how he kept looking at me. Gram wasn't talking much either, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable as I realized she was studying me.
"What’s the matter, Gram?" I blurted out when I couldn't take it any longer.
She took a deep breath and began. "I'm afraid we have a problem."
The girls and I both looked at her as a bit of fear grew in us. We had finally found what we’d thought was to be our home! Now some trouble was threatening it, and we didn't even know what it was. I feared I was the cause.
"Krista, you do look just like your mother," Grandma continued. "I have to tell you something, and it must never be repeated … by any of us … it would hurt too many people. Leroy … Deputy Sheriff Scott, didn’t just have a crush on your mother … they were head over heels in love. I have no idea who is Lyndi and Teri’s father. I never learned anything about him, since your mother met him after she ran away. However I do know Krista’s father."
The twins and I were startled. We looked wide eyed at each other. We'd always assumed we'd had the same father.
Gram took a deep breath as she took my hand. "Krista, you just met your father."
I looked down the road. Deputy Sheriff Scott had just left upon with my mouth hanging open. He was my father! That big, strong good looking man was my father! My heart raced. I'd never known any man as a father. Now I knew mine … and he thought I was a girl! I was speechless, and overwhelmed as tears started to trickle down my face.
"Honey," Grandma said lovingly. "You must not let anyone know. He's married now with two sons. One is 7 and the other 6. He loves his family. He also knows your mother ran away when she discovered she was pregnant with his child. Your grandpa would have killed him if he'd known who violated his daughter. That’s why your mother ran off … to protect him. They were the same age, and she loved him too much to burden him with a baby. She wanted him to be able to do something with his life. A wife and baby at 15 … if he'd have survived your grandpa's fury … would have meant quitting school and slaving away in a menial job for the rest of his life. She cared for him too much for that. She took the burden herself."
We sat in silence for quite a while letting her revelation sink into our minds. We finished our circumnavigation of the farm returning to the house arm in arm in a loving family embrace.
The Nelsons arrived, bringing take-out pizza. The evening was spent looking through Grandma's photo album. I saw that Deputy Sheriff Scott … my Dad … was right. One photo showed Mom wearing a similar dress to the one I had on, and I looked just like her. How could I ever reveal that I was his son?
After the Nelsons left and the twins settled into bed, we heard a car pull up to the house. Gram and I went to the porch and turned on the light. My heart sped up … he'd returned!
With a sheepish grin he emerged from his cruiser with one hand held behind his back as he approached us. He nervously cleared his throat and greeted us. "Good evening, ladies. I....ah …”
Gram smiled, "Come up and sit on the porch swing with Krista. I've told her all about you and pledged her to secrecy. I'll let you two alone." Then she went back inside.
We just stood there a few moments looking at each other. As he stepped towards me my heart seemed to stop. Then he took me in his arms in a warm fatherly hug which I instinctively returned. I was unbelievably choked up. With his arm about my shoulder we went to the swing and sat.
After an uncomfortable silence he began, "I tried to find your mother … did for years. No one would give me any information. Your Grandma wouldn't even tell me if I had a son or a daughter. I never knew until I saw you this afternoon."
I stiffened. He’d finally met his love child, and thought I was a girl! I looked down at my girlishly exposed knees extending from the skirt of my dress. What else could he think after seeing me like this? I hadn't given that much thought before. I'd been too excited about discovering my father. Now what was I to do? He was the local deputy sheriff. He'd probably told the whole town I looked just like Mom. How could I tell him I was a boy? How could I face the town and the school as a boy who'd been pretending to be a girl? I did the only thing I could. I burst out crying.
He'd felt me tense and had clutched me closer. The few seconds it took for the tears to come were inconsequential. "It's all right, Krista. I'm here now. I've thought about you all day. Longer than that … I've thought about you for almost thirteen years. You're my daughter! I love you. You deserve a father, and by God you'll have one! I'm going to tell my wife. She knows you're here. She's the school nurse, but when she's not busy with that she helps the school secretary who'll be enrolling you and your sisters. I told her you were three lovely girls. It'll be tough, but she was your mother's best friend. I'll tell her the truth tonight. We’ll be back tomorrow to meet and talk. Everything will work out, you'll see." He hugged me until my tears had exhausted themselves. "I've got to get home now. Are you all right?”
I nodded my head and looked wistfully into his concerned eyes. It made me feel warm to know someone cared that much for me. I managed a weak smile.
He stood and started off the porch, then suddenly turned about and came back, handing me a present. It was about four inches long, two inches wide, and two inches high. It was wrapped in tattered Christmas paper with an equally tattered tag taped under the ribbon and crushed bow. "I almost forgot this," he said nervously. His voice choked and I could see his eyes were damp. "I dug this out tonight. I bought this almost 13 years ago. It would have been your mother's Christmas gift if she hadn't …” the words trickled away as he sniffed back his tears.
I took it tenderly as my tears restarted. Awkwardly he stood there waiting as I turned it over and over in my hands. I realized how much he'd loved Mom if he'd kept this gift all these years. I read the tag. 'To Carol from Leroy' was on the top, underneath it said simply ‘I love you'. I began to sob.
"Please … it's yours now. Open it," he stammered.
I fumbled with the ribbon. I wanted to keep all of this gift. I finally managed to remove the wrapping somewhat intact. Inside I found a blue velvet covered jewelry box. Nervously I turned it with the long hinge away from me and opened the lid. It took my breath away. Inside nestled in a white satin lining was a pendant … one Mom would have loved. She'd often described just such a pendant to us. A long delicate golden chain suspending a glittering emerald held in a finely filigreed gold setting. I just stared at it.
"Every day after school your mother and I would walk past DBS Fine Jewelers. She'd always stop and stare at this necklace. I knew she loved it. I scraped and worked all that fall, and finally managed to buy it. It cost me a small fortune but your mother was worth it. She was heartbroken to find it’d been sold …" his voice faded.
"I know," I whispered. Looking into his face, I continued. "She often described it to us, and how she dreamed that someday her Prince Charming would give it to her."
We were both crying openly now. He removed the pendant from it's case and placed it about my neck. Looking down, I saw the dazzling stone shining in the reflected light of the single porch light as the necklace rested in the valley of my false breasts. I felt changed. A tremor passed through my body. For the first time I wished that I was really a girl, so that the pendant could be resting between real breasts as it deserved to do. He leaned over and kissed me lovingly on the forehead and left. I sat watching the retreating lights of his car as they faded away between the trees. I reached up and clutched the emerald.
Gram finally opened the door and stepped out on the porch. I was dimly aware of her approach. I looked at her as she sat beside me. Her eyes were drawn to the gift wrappings and open box. Then she looked at my clutched hands.
"This was to be Mom's Christmas present. He gave it to me," I whispered as I held the pendant for her to see.
"My God," she whispered. "That's the one she'd wanted. It was all she talked about. I was trying to save enough to buy it out of my grocery money. Your grandpa thought it was foolish to waste money on such things. I only had $300.00 saved but I needed another $300.00 to buy it when it disappeared from the jewelry display. How in the world did Leroy get that much money together? Why did he keep it all these years?"
"He said he saved every penny he’d earned, and did anything to earn money. He loved Mom so much that he couldn't bear to part with it. Gram, what am I going to do? He gave it to me! He thinks I'm his daughter. How can I tell him I'm his son?"
I began to shiver and cry again and continued between sobs while Gram hugged me. "(sob) He said his wife (sob) is the school nurse (sob) and that he told her (sob) I was a pretty girl! (sob) Everyone in town (sob) probably thinks (sob) I'm a girl by now! (sob) He said he loves me (sob) that he's been thinking of me (sob) ever since he found out Mom (sob) was going to have his baby! (sob) He said I deserved a father (sob) and that he'd be my father! (sob) He said he was going (sob) to tell his wife the truth (sob) that she'd understand since (sob) she'd been Mom's best friend (sob) and that they'd both (sob) come out to meet me tomorrow! (sob)"
I was panting and crying, totally out of control, heaving and jerking in Gram's strong embrace. Still clutching the pendant with both hands. "(sob) I love this pendant, (sob) it meant so much to Mom (sob) and to … (sob) Dad. Dad … (sob) I have a Dad! (sob) Gram, (sob) this pendant deserves to rest on a girl's chest … (sob) between her breasts! (sob) Dad deserves his daughter! (sob) Gram, (sob) I have to become a girl! (sob) I simply have to be the girl they deserve! (sob)"
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