A Summer’s Odyssey Part 15

A Summer's Odyssey
Part 15

By Jennifer Sue
 
 

 


 

Aunt Laura took my siblings back to the farm while Mom, Evelyn, Kylie, and Larry followed Rachel and Tony home. Kylie parked her very recognizable VW in front of the house. We sat and talked while we waited.

Dad and Officer Craig Holtzman arrived about 6 and set up several small surveillance cameras. We all sat and talked until we got the call from Chief Peters that he was pulling Jack over. A bit later Chief Peters called us back to let us know he'd taken Jack's keys and was having his truck towed to the impound, leaving Jack to walk home. We took the phone off the hook and Dad, Mom, and Evelyn went into the front bedroom while Larry and officer Holtzman went into the kitchen.

A half hour later, a very pissed off Jack Masters slammed open the front door. "Who the fuck is on the phone," he bellowed as he staggered into the entry. "I saw that faggot nephew of mine's fairymobile parked outside. He better not be in here or I'll kill you all!"

He stopped as he entered the living room upon seeing Kylie and me sitting there with Rachel and Tony. "Both fuckin' faggots in my house," he screamed in livid rage. "I'll kill you freakin' bastards for trying to fuck up my family!"

Tony and Rachel sat frozen in fear. Kylie and I stood from our seats upon the sofa, smiled sweetly, and curtsied.

"Hi Uncle Jack," Kylie greeted him pleasantly. “Have you met my friend Krista Scott?”

By that time he was spitting foam. Like an enraged bull charging a red flag he sprang towards Kylie. I stepped off to one side and Kylie waited until the last possible instant before gracefully pivoting to let him rush by. I stuck my foot out, tripping the lumbering ox.

Jack crashed into the sofa, upsetting the piece. As we stepped back the enraged drunken man staggered to his feet by Rachel and swung his fist at her as she covered her head and screamed. I sprang over to him and grabbed his arm. He was too powerful to stop but I did disrupt his swing enough to prevent him from hitting Rachel. The momentum of the swing lifted me right off my feet and I flew across the room like a rag doll. Tony flashed into action and threw himself at the back of his dad's knees, causing the big man to topple backwards with Tony under his legs.

By that time Dad and Officer Holtzman got to us and wrestled Jack into submission. Mom went to the front door and opened it to allow Chief Peters and another officer to enter. Kylie and Larry rushed to help me while Evelyn pulled Tony from the rumbling ruckus as Jack was being subdued. I was shook up but uninjured, and let myself be helped to my feet. Once handcuffed, they read Jack his rights. He cursed and yelled the entire time, threatening to get his gun and shoot everybody. Everything was caught on video.

After they took Jack away, Chief Peters ascertained everyone was okay. Tony and I were the only ones who'd been injured and it was only some minor bruising. Chief Peters and Dad began taking our statements. Dad told us that with his past record and tonight's incidents, Jack should be locked up for a minimum of ten years, but possibly for up to 30. It was after 9 by the time the paperwork was done. Since we'd all missed supper, Dad called out for pizzas. We sat in the disheveled living room and talked while we wolfed down the pizza.

Rachel, Tony and Evelyn couldn't get over how calm and cool Kylie and I had been.

Kylie just smiled. "A month ago I would have probably wet myself. Krista taught me to face my fears head on."

"Krista, you were so great," Tony gushed. "That's what you did to me this afternoon, wasn't it?

"Yes, if you have a bigger opponent, look unafraid and antagonize them," I said. "When they get mad, they only think about getting their hands on you. Then you use their anger to trip them up. It used to take at least four guys to get the best of me, and even then they knew they'd been in a fight. I wish there was a better way to settle disagreements, but sometimes your only choice is to fight."

"You could have easily hurt me this afternoon but didn't," Tony said.

"I've learned to control myself," I said. "In the past I fought to hurt my opponent. Now I just want them to stop."

"Krista, you are simply amazing," Evelyn said. Then she told Rachel and Tony about our first meeting in the hospital.

"Krista, I need to thank you for all you've done to help us," Rachel said. "Maybe now I can have my son back."

"You do Mom," Tony hugged her. "With Krista as my friend, I'll turn myself around."

Soon we were all hugging. It was 10:30 before we all left and headed home. Kylie told Tony to wear some work clothes and that she'd pick him up at 9 in the morning to bring him out to the farm.

We'd kept Gram briefed on what we'd been doing, but even so she was relieved when we arrived safely at home. She wrapped me in a warm hug. "Krista, you worry me sometimes. You're too much like your mother, always helping others. One day you might get hurt."

"I know," I said. "But I have no choice. If I do get hurt or worse, God will be at my side."

"I know," Gram agreed. "But I still worry."

Seeing I was weary, I was sent to bed and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next morning I was out at the barn by 9. It was going to be a scorcher, so I opened the doors to let the cooling breeze coming off the bay waft through the barn. Ed appeared a few minutes later. He and Lisa had walked up from the point. Lisa went into the house with Gram. He shook his head in amazement when I told him all that had happened yesterday.

"I don't think I've ever met someone as spunky as you," he smiled just as we heard the puttering of Kylie's VW Bug pull up to the barn.

Kylie and Tony came inside and I introduced the guys.

"Well, are we ready to tackle the duck," she asked?

"Huh," Tony asked. "Tackle a duck?"

We all laughed and explained the duck was really a DUKW. Then we went over and removed the tarps. Tony was stunned by the size and that it was a WWII amphibious truck.

"You're not gonna work on this," he asked in disbelief. "It's way too big!"

"You sound like your father," Kylie gently chided. "Whenever he was faced with a challenge, he'd make some excuse not to try. That's one of the reasons why my Mom wouldn't sell the garage to him. Our goal is to get this monster ready to go out on the bay by next spring. Do you want to help us?"

"Krista, are you going to work on this," he asked.

"I sure am," I declared. "Kylie is teaching me to work on engines and vehicles. She had me fix my Gram's broken lawn mower and riding tractor. Then we did a full clean up on her van, changed the oil and filter, gave it a tune-up, and cleaned and adjusted the brakes. Kylie's a good teacher."

"My dad used to complain about Uncle Jim wasting his time teaching Kylie," Tony said. "He said it was a waste trying to teach anything to a kid. I guess that's why he never taught me anything other than to be nasty."

"Well, that's in the past, Tony," I smiled at him. "Your uncle taught Kylie how to be a pro. So, friend, do you want to give it a try?"

"Okay," he smiled. "If Kylie and you can do it, I'll learn."

We spent an hour refilling the flat dry rotted tires with air. The DUKW has an integral system to inflate/deflate the tires for differing terrain, so we hooked an air line to it. In that way we kept the tires inflated long enough that we were able to push the duck from it's parking spot and out into the center so the engine was under the chain hoist. We were all sweated and huffing by the time we had it positioned.

Gram and Lisa brought sandwiches and lemonade over for lunch. We hadn't even realized it was so late. Ed suggested we place blocks under the frame so when we disconnected the air line and the tires deflated, the behemoth would be high enough to roll underneath.

After eating, Tony and Ed jacked the vehicle high enough to get another block of wood under each set of blocks which raised the tires two inches off the floor. Then they removed the six wheels, after which they struggled to remove the tires. Finally they cleaned, sanded and primed the wheels. While the guys were doing that, Kylie and I climbed on top and used the hoist to remove the engine covers and hinges so we had open access to the engine. Then we carefully removed the remnants of the canvas roof. With the dimensions from the manual and the tattered pieces, St Michaels Sails, a local sailmaker, could make a new top. It was just about 4pm by the time we finished all the tasks.

Ed headed over to get Lisa to walk home while Kylie, Tony, and I shut the barn doors.

"You look like you enjoyed yourself," I smiled at Tony.

Despite being dirty and sweaty, Tony was all smiles. "I never knew working could be fun," he enthused. "When my dad made me do things, he'd bitch up a storm and yell at me for everything I did wrong. Ed just pointed out when I made a mistake, and showed me the right way to do it."

"You did a good days work, Tony," Kylie praised him. "Do you want to come out again?"

"Sure, as often as I can," he beamed. "Kylie, I'm sorry for the way my dad behaved. I'm sorry for the way I behaved."

"It's okay, Tony," Kylie replied. "Your dad is just an ass who will never learn. You've accomplished more today than he ever did. You are man enough to admit you were wrong, he'll never get to that point."

"Thanks, you know, you two worked hard today, but even doing man's work you maintained your girlishness," Tony added. "I still don't understand being transgendered, but I know you both have male bodies but you behave like real girls."

"You're being sexist," I chided him. "Just because most mechanics are male doesn't mean girls can't do it too. And we are real girls in our hearts."

"I know," Tony smiled suitably chastised. "That's my dad talking again. Now that he's gone I'll do better."

“I know,” Kylie and said simultaneously before we all burst into giggles.

Larry came zipping out of the woods on his snarly Harley and pulled up in front of us. Kylie went right over and gave him a big hug and an even bigger kiss. Tony’s mouth dropped in surprise. I reached out and touched his arm. When he looked at me I nodded my head and began walking to the side of the barn. Numbly he followed. Once we were out of sight, I turned to face him.

“Your cousin Kylie is a pretty girl, and my uncle Larry is a hunky guy. They’re in love, engaged, and plan to get married after Kylie has her corrective surgery,” I explained.

“But … Kylie’s still … ,” Tony’s confusion bubbled out.

“Kylie is a girl who likes boys. Larry is a boy who likes girls. It’s okay for them to love each other,” I added. “Forget what your dad told you. Look, you said earlier that Kylie and I behaved like girls all day even while we sweated and struggled doing guy’s work. We are girls. That’s it. I know Larry and Kylie really love each other, but they both know their love can only go so far before she has her surgery.”

“It’s all just so much to accept,” Tony rubbed his forehead. “I think it might make my brain explode.”

“You’ll get used to it,” I chuckled. “I had a lot of guilt about what happened to me, I thought I was a tough guy, not a bully, but tough. I had to change to get my sisters here and it woke up the girl I’d always denied and hidden inside.”

“You really walked here from Massachusetts?” he asked in disbelief. “I’d heard a lot of rumors, but thought it was all a bunch of crap.”

“We walked for four and a half weeks after my Mom drowned,” I answered. “We started out with $50.00, camped wherever we could stay dry and warm, and did odd jobs to earn enough to feed us. That’s how I discovered I was a girl. I’d tried to be Mr. Macho tough guy but no one trusted me enough to give me a job. We were broke and hungry when we smelled a bakery. We went in and the owner thought I was a girl and gave us work and food and a bit of money. I soon discovered if I approached people as a tough guy, I was rejected. If I approached them as a polite girl, they almost always gave me something to do. It was tough on my ego at first. But I had to take care of my sisters so I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do. Each time it became easier. I was terrified someone would discover I was a girl but no one did. Then a little over half way her I got soaked and sick. I stumbled and fell onto the road and Lisa almost ran me over. She took us into her home and nursed me back to health. I was afraid to tell them I was a boy and they gave me dresses to wear. I felt terrible, but I also found it felt good not to have to be a tough guy all the time. Once I relaxed, being a girl just seemed right, like I’d opened a locked door and found the best present anyone could ever get. I knew I was supposed to be a girl.”

“”Did you rally save Kylie from hanging herself,” he asked.

“Indirectly,” I smiled. “I’d just met Larry and the rest of my Dad’s family. I felt I had to tell them the truth, that I was transgendered. Kylie had just told Larry she was transgendered that afternoon and Larry freaked a bit. Kylie ran off and cried, then tried to kill herself at the same time I told Larry I was transgendered, and when I said if I had to go back to being a boy I might kill myself. Larry realized what he’d done to Kylie and took off, getting to her just in time to save her.”
“You really are something,” Tony said. “You’re a pretty girl too.”

“Thanks,” I said and reached out and squeezed his hand. I felt a slight tingle go up my arm when our hands met.

He smiled and returned the squeeze. The tingle got stronger and my tummy twisted a bit, almost like the time I was jealous of Kylie the first time I saw her kissing Larry. Was I starting to have feelings for Tony? Holding hands felt good and I wasn’t going to let my worries get in the way.

Hand in hand we turned to head back to the front of the barn only to see Larry and Kylie standing at the corner watching us. We both blushed, but kept holding hands. Kylie smiled and winked at me while Larry gave Tony a thumbs up. We blushed even deeper and smiled guiltily but kept holding hands.

Once we got in front of the barn, Kylie pulled her helmet from the fruitmobile. She liked the name and felt it was a fitting name for her beloved Bug. “Tony, Larry was going to offer you a ride on the bike but you’ll have to wear my helmet”

“If all I have to do is wear that silly helmet, you’ve got a deal,” Tony almost leapt for joy. “Just don’t go anywhere where somebody can see me.”

“You got it,” Larry laughed. “I’d never let anybody see me wearing that helmet either. But if you want a ride, you’ll have let go of Krista’s hand.”

Giggling, I pulled my hand out of Tony’s grasp and pushed him towards Kylie. In a few moments, the guys went roaring down the road to the point.

“Take it easy, Krista,” Kylie smiled at me. “You’ve got a long time to get to where I am in transitioning.”

I blushed deeper than I ever had before. “I … I …”I couldn’t get any more out and began to tremble.

Kylie pulled me into a hug. “It’s not a bad thing, Krista,” she soothed me. “Just take it easy. You’re still new to being a girl and Tony’s new to being a nice guy. He could slip back if he gets too randy.”

“Randy … ewwww,” I exclaimed as I pushed away from her.

“You heard me, girlfriend,” Kylie chuckled. “I saw the look in both your eyes. Like I said, It’s not a bad thing. I think you should talk to your mom about boys.”

“I couldn’t,” I gasped.

“Krista,” Kylie looked at me sternly. “Please don’t make me tell her.”
I was angry at the threat, but quickly calmed down. She was right. I needed to talk to Mom.

We heard the snarley Harley returning and I nodded my head to show I’d follow her advice.

Tony hopped off the cycle with his eyes glistening. “That was great,” he exclaimed. “Thanks, Larry!”

We all chuckled. Tony smiled at me and I felt that tingle in my tummy again. I knew I’d better talk to Mom.

Soon Larry was following Kylie and Tony as they headed home.

Dad was a bit late coming home. He said Jack Masters had tried to attack the judge at his arraignment that morning when the charge of a hate crime against transgender persons was read. Judge Wallace, the man who granted Kylie her name and gender change just four days earlier was the hearing judge. He promptly recused himself and Judge Watkins took over. Jack faced 2 charges of hate crime against transgendered, three counts of assault, 2 counts of resisting arrest, felony assault against a court official, 10 counts of making terroristic threats and his third DUI this year. He’d been sent to the county prison to be held without bail. The public defender had seen the video of the attacks and witnessed the assault on the judge. He had already started trying to work out a plea bargain. If convicted on all counts, which seemed likely with the preponderance of evidence, he could face over a 60 to 120 years in prison. The DA had already stated he’d settle for nothing less than 25-50 years.

After Dad told us about Jack, we were all relieved to know the unbalanced man would be locked up for a long time. The conversation turned to Rachel and Tony. Mom thought they would reconnect with Evelyn and Kylie, as they had yesterday when we took Jack down.

I drifted out of the conversation, thinking about Tony and how holding his hand had made me feel warm and fuzzy. He was on his way to being a hunky guy, already eight inches taller than me and about 6o pounds heavier. At our initial meeting, his red hair, freckles, piercing green eyes and near constant sneer had given him an intimidating appearance. Today, freed from the omnipresent oppressive domination of his dad, his red hair, freckles, now sparkling green eyes and impish grin made him appear affable and charming. I felt that pleasant warm sensation building in my tummy again.

"Krista … Krista … Krista," Mom said as she gently shook my shoulder.

I snapped back from my musing to see everyone looking at me with bemused smiles. I also felt my cheeks were flushed, and that I had a silly grin plastered on my face. Guilt swept over me. I lowered my head and stared at the floor as I blushed a deep crimson. I squeezed my eyes closed in an effort to stop the tears threatening to leak.

"Krista, let's go for a walk," Mom gently urged me as she softly gripped my shoulders and pulled me to my feet.
I allowed myself to be pulled to my feet where she slipped an comforting arm about my shoulder. I numbly stumbled along side her as she led me outside. Once off the porch the tears flowed and I softly cried as we walked across the field toward the rock we sat on that first night we met. She sat on the rock and gently pulled me down beside her. By that time my tears had stopped. The sounds of water lapped gently against the shore. Insects chirped.

After a few minutes of silence I took a deep breath. "Kylie said I should talk to you," I finally whispered.

"I'm listening," Mom replied as she began to rub my back.

Even though it was dark, I could feel her loving smile in her words. "I … I think I have a problem." I waited for her to ask what it was but she remained quiet, however the back rub relaxed me. "I thought Tony was a real jerk when he came up to us yesterday. But once we started talking I realized he was hurting and lonely. I'd felt that way back when I was a a boy in Cape Cod and it wasn't nice. That's why I felt the need to help him. While we waited for his dad to come home I was scared, but also excited and looking forward to the confrontation. When he tackled his dad I knew he'd broken the chains that had bound him, just like I had done when I became Krista.

"Today Tony worked with us, he was a totally different guy," I said. "The longer we worked together, the more I began to like him. Yesterday I'd told him I hoped we could be friends. Today we became friends.

“When Larry arrived as we were cleaning up, he hugged and kissed Kylie. Tony was surprised and I was afraid he might freak out a bit, so I led him around the side of the barn to explain that what he'd just seen was nothing more than a boyfriend and girlfriend greeting each other. I explained again that Kylie and I were really girls even though we had birth defects which gave us boy bodies.

"He began to understand and we talked a bit. Before I knew it we were holding hands," I confessed. "I felt a tingle when our hands met and it felt like butterflies in my tummy. It felt nice. I think Tony was feeling the same thing. Still holding hands we turned to go back to Kylie and Larry, but they were standing at the corner of the barn watching us and grinning. Tony and I blushed but didn't let go of our hands. It was only when Larry took Tony for a ride on the snarley Harley that we let go of each other.

"Once they were gone Kylie told me I had to take it easy, that it was clear to her and Larry we were attracted to each other," I confessed. "She said we were flirting, and that I had to be careful not to get Tony randy."

"That grossed me out and I said Ewww," I continued with an embarrassed sigh. "She said I'd better have a talk to you about girls and boys."

"What happened tonight?" Mom asked.
“When you started talking about Rachel and Tony, I started thinking about Tony and how it felt to hold hands," I said. "Just thinking about it made me feel warm and fuzzy. Did I really have a silly grin on my face?"

"Yes you did," Mom said as she smiled and hugged me. " But you have nothing to be ashamed of. Nice boys always have that effect on girls. Krista, your reaction to Tony is simply another indicator that you are undeniably a girl. What we need to do first is determine if you're upset about this because you have a boy's body."

"It sure doesn't help," I moped. "It makes everything harder. Kylie is going to get her body changed in a few months and Larry will wait. I've got to wait at least six years! It wouldn't be right to make a boy wait that long."

"Krista Scott," Mom scolded as she pushed me out to arm's length to look into my startled eyes. "You had better make a boy wait six years! I will not have my daughter giving herself to boys! You have your sisters to think about! Do you want to set a bad example for your sisters?"

"Mom, I didn't mean THAT," I exclaimed in shock. "I don't even know how you can do THAT with Daddy! It's so gross! I just meant having a boy friend. Like holding hands or maybe a little kissing!"

"Krista, that's how it starts," Mom soothed. "This morning you didn't have any desire to hold hands with a boy. It started innocently with holding hands like you and Tony did this afternoon. Now you're already thinking about kissing Tony. Holding hands feels good, kissing feels better, going further feels even better yet. Most boys will always want to go further than the girl wants to. Sometimes the girl wants to go too far too."

"That's what my mother and Daddy did," I whispered.

"Yes," Mom sighed. "You were the result, not that you’re not wanted or loved, for you are. But do you want that to happen to your sisters?"

"No," I exclaimed.

"That's why you have to set a good example for them," Mom continued. "You are a girl, and you have a girls needs and desires. Those needs and desires involve boys. Your situation only makes things a little bit more complicated. The fact you've come out as transgendered will make it less likely that a date will go bad. If Tony likes you and you like him, it's okay to like each other. But you're both thirteen … Be responsible, behave like you're thirteen. Boys tend to get randy a lot easier than girls, so you need to be aware of how Tony reacts to flirting and cool it before he gets out of control. That goes for any boy. Boys should be as responsible as girls, but often are not."

"So it's okay that I like Tony?" I asked in a squeaky voice.

"Yes," Mom answered. "But I want you to talk to me. You haven't had the benefit of growing up a girl, and although you're doing quite well, be safe and talk to me. You don't have to tell me details, but never be afraid to come to me."

"I'll try Mom," I said as we hugged.

We walked back to the house holding hands. I didn't feel the fuzzy warmth I enjoyed with Tony, but it still felt good.

Once settled in bed I thought about Tony and smiled as that warm fuzzy feeling returned. Then I felt guilty as I thought about my request to discuss going off the hormone blockers and waiting to begin female hormones so I could produce viable sperm. Since I’d met Tony that didn’t seem important. Becoming a girl as quickly as possible seemed to be the right course now. I knew I was confused, and would have to have a talk with Mom and Dr. Sykes real soon. I pushed all those confusing thoughts out of my mind by concentrating on Tony’s smiling face and could almost feel my hand in his. I’m sure I smiled in my sleep all night long.

The day of the photo shoot dawned bright and clear. Mom and I ate a light but hardy breakfast, then dressed in shorts and tank tops. Then we headed off to pick up Kylie. Tony was there and asked if he could go with us. We told him we didn't know, but he could come with us while we asked. We arrived at DBS Fine Jewelers about 10, where Dan and Brenda greeted us. We were introduced to the photographer, Kent Graham and his wife/assistant Hannah. They said they had no problems with Tony accompanying us as long as he followed their instructions. We had to sign some forms and releases, and a one-time contract. Brenda had the jewelry and would be coming with us. By 11 we arrived at Charisma Clothing Boutique to select suitable outfits for the three of us. Mary Willis, the owner, and her daughter Melinda, who would be a junior in St Michaels Middle/Senior High School, would also be going with us to handle the outfits.

Our first stop was Church Creek Park, a small tree filled waterfront park in the heart of St. Michaels. We each wore flowery sleeveless sun dresses and strappy sandals. We posed around the replicas of the two cannons used to defend St. Michaels from the British in 1813 wearing different jewelry sets. We did the same thing in the Victorian white gazebo. Then we did a picnic shoot on the grass by the waterfront with sailboats as a backdrop. Tony ran errands and picked up stray trash that blew into the shots, and kept smiling at me. The photographer quickly figured out Tony's attention was making me blush, and began to keep him close by, because he liked my blushing coy innocent appearance. I found I rather liked Tony's attention.

A little after 4 we arrived at the docks of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels and greeted Captain Ed Farley who holds a United States Coast Guard 100 ton auxiliary/sail license. He proudly launched into his spiel and told of his boat.

"The H.M. Krentz is U.S. Coast Guard certified to carry 32 passengers and is an authentic working skipjack. It is one of the newer vessels to be built for the rigors of Maryland's wintertime commercial oyster dredging fishery. Launched in 1955 in Harry Hogan, Va. by the Krentz Shipyard for Capt. David Lewis of Wingate, Md. The H.M. Krentz is 49 ft. length on deck, 70ft. length overall, 15.5 ft. beam, draws 4ft. 10 inches with the centerboard up, displaces 26 tons, and carries almost 2000 square feet of sail."

"The beamy, open deck of the working skipjack, so necessary for oyster dredging under sail, creates a very stable ride. It is a perfect setting for social gatherings or business meetings, and makes a great outdoor classroom for educational groups of all ages. Together with the surrounding Chesapeake Bay, the H.M. Krentz becomes a powerful symbol of the significant cultural and ecological history of Maryland's Eastern Shore."

"To sail aboard the H.M. Krentz is akin to stepping back in history, which is ever present on the Eastern Shore, home of the last fleet of working sailing vessels in North America. There are no winches, just manpower and blocks and tackle, along with the luck of a good breeze to set time back in motion. Passengers can experience the life of the waterman by helping pull up the sails and dredge some oysters or they can relax and enjoy the sounds of wind and water; see osprey and waterfowl; observe undeveloped waterfront and historic towns; and learn about the ecology of the incredible Chesapeake Bay. A more unique way to explore this tidewater region you will not find."

We loaded all the clothes and equipment on-board as well as a a catered meal. Dan arrived a few minutes past 5 after closing the store. By 5:30 we were sailing out into the Miles River towing a small motorized launch. We sailed out into the Chesapeake Bay and they did several shoots as we changed outfits and jewelry. We changed into short scooter skirts and mid-drift baring tops, shirtwaist dresses, swim suits, and long flowing skirts with long sleeved sweater tops. When we were fully out into the bay we headed north to the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge, the cross bay bridge just south of Baltimore. At 4.3 miles long it’s the world's longest continuous over-water steel structure.

As we sailed east to west a mile south of the bridge, Kent, Hannah, and Daniel slipped into the launch. They motored beside us so they could get shots of us posing with the Krentz under sail with the magnificent bridge as a backdrop. As twilight fell, the launch headed to the north of the Krentz so they could get shots of us using the setting sun as a backdrop. Finally, we turned back towards the Miles river.

As we returned to port we partook of the catered food. After a we’d eaten, Tony asked Capt. Ed if it was okay if he and I sat up near the bow with our feet dangling over the side. Capt. Ed smiled and gave us safety belts with clips to attach ourselves to the ropes. Tony helped me as we made our way forward and sat. As the bow split the water, occasional sprays of water came up to hit our bare feet. The wind blew through our hair and made me feel giddy and vibrantly alive. Being close to Tony made it even better.

"I'm the tailback on the Tidewater Titans Midget Football Team," Tony proudly told me after we'd sat quietly for a few minutes. "This will be our first season, so we might not do so well but we're sure going to try! I think it would help us a lot if we had more cheerleaders … especially cute ones like you! Would you be interested in becoming a cheerleader for the team?"

"I'm flattered but I have no idea what a cheerleader does," I confessed. "I have no idea what a tailback does either. In fact, I know very little about football. I've never played football or watched a real game. My only experience is seeing some guys playing a bit on the school playground at recess."

"Are you sure you were a boy?" he asked with a disbelieving look on his face. "Why didn't you ever watch it on TV?

"I mistakenly thought I was boy,” I informed him. “Plus I never had an opportunity to play football. As for watching a game on TV, we were so poor we never had a TV."

"You never had a TV?" Tony stated in disbelief. "Everybody has a TV!"

"We didn't," I said defiantly. "It took every penny my mother earned to keep us alive. We had just enough food to feed us, keep a roof over our heads, and get clothing from the Salvation Army store. Last winter we lived right on the open shore in a tiny uninsulated summer cottage with a small fireplace. I gathered driftwood every day to keep us warm. We huddled under tattered blankets to sleep, and … ," I had to stop to catch my breath and blink back my tears.

"Okay, okay, I believe you," Tony exclaimed defensively. "I didn't mean to upset you. I just never knew anyone could be that poor."

"I know," I sniffed. "I'm just defensive about how we lived. The kids at school would laugh and tease us, and I got into fights nearly every day. I hated how we lived, but we had each other."

I couldn't hold the tears back. I lowered my head in embarrassment. Tony slipped closer and put an arm about me. I leaned into his shoulder and cried while he comforted me. It felt so good to have his arm about me. After I stopped crying I stayed snuggled into him. The warm fuzzy feeling and butterflies in my tummy that Tony gave me made me smile. Cheering for him sounded like it would be fun but I really didn't know what was involved.

"Before I can decide if I want to become a cheerleader, I need to learn about football and cheering," I finally told him.

"My practice is at 3pm tomorrow," Tony said. "I think your brother’s practice is about 9am and since your sisters are going to cheer for the Jr. Pee-Wee's, their practice is at 11am. If your mom can pick me up, I'll explain football while your brothers practice, and cheering while your sisters practice. Your mom can leave you and me there while she takes your brothers and sisters home. I'll treat you to lunch, then we can watch the Pee-Wee's at 1pm, and then you can watch me at 3, or join the cheerleaders in their practice if you feel up to it. My Mom will be out for my practice so she can bring us home."

"I'd like that," I said with a grin. "If my mom agrees to it. But I'm not committing to anything as far as cheerleading goes."

"No problem," Tony smiled. "Just spending the day with you will be great."
I thoroughly agreed and hoped Mom would go for the plan.

It was fully dark as we pulled into the boat slip, Tony helped me up and we made our way to the others. When I told her about Tony's plan for tomorrow she thought it was a good idea, and agreed if it was okay with Tony's mom.

Thursday morning Mom we stopped for Tony on the way to my brother’s 9am football practice. Mom told the girls to wear shorts, T-shirts, ankle socks and sneakers so that's what I wore too, because I didn't want to look out of place and I'd be ready if I decided to join the Midget Cheerleaders. As we drove to the practice field I tried to hide my excitement at holding hands with Tony. Mom saw our silly grins but said nothing. My siblings were too excited about their upcoming participation to pay much attention to me.

When we arrived at the North Easton Sports Complex, the playing field of the Tidewater Titans, the place was huge. Tony showed us around. There were four baseball fields clustered like a four leaf clover with the home plates back to back in the center with access routes between each field. There were also four rectangular fields for lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, and football. There were groups of people all over the place. As my brothers started practice, my sisters stood by watching the cheerleaders practice. Mom sat on a bench with some other parents and watched them.

Tony knew the coach, and hand in hand we walked up to him. "Coach Warren, is it okay if I take Krista around the field to explain what the guys are doing? She knows nothing about football and might join my squad's cheerleaders. I'll make sure we stay out of the way."

Coach Warren looked me over and smiled. "Well, Krista, you seem to have had quite an effect on Tony. Although he's a good player, he's never been very polite, and I doubt if he'd have even asked to take someone around. If you can tame him, you're welcome to explore the field."

I blushed and smiled. "Thank you," I replied.

"Yeah, thanks Coach W," Tony enthused. "Let's go Krista."

Soon he was leading me about the field to various groups of players, explaining what each was doing and how they all fit together. I found it all quite interesting and began asking questions. When Coach W. blew his whistle, Tony led me to the sidelines as the boys formed up into defensive and offensive lines. After some instructions, the boys began a scrimmage. Tony explained what was happening, but I found it all a bit much to follow as everyone was running and tackling opponents, or blocking. The blows they gave and took looked painful even with all their padding and helmets. By the time the scrimmages ended I began to make sense of the frenzied action.

We headed over to Mom as my brothers trotted off the field. They had given as good as they got, and were pumped up. Mom gave them a snack and drink to quiet them down. As the Mitey-Mites left the field, the Jr. Pee-Wees came on for their practice. Mom looked at me and nodded towards the boys. Then she took my sisters and headed towards where this squad’s cheerleaders were forming.

"When your mom nodded her head," Tony began. "Did she tell you to watch your brothers?"

"Yes," I answered. "Does that upset you?"

"No, it's just that neither of you said anything," Tony answered. "It was kind of neat."

"I'm sure you and your mom will develop the same ability once you open up a bit more," I smiled.

We sat on the bench holding hands and watched my brothers devour their snack. "Please throw the garbage in the trash can," I told them.

Tony watched in amazement as they went over to the trash can and dropped in their waste. "You didn't have to yell, and they didn't even complain!"

"Why should I yell or they complain," I asked. "They know it's the right thing to do. It's just at their age they get distracted and need gentle reminders. Everyone should clean up after themselves."

The boys came back to us and began peppering Tony with questions about how they had done on the field. I could tell it made Tony feel good to have them ask his opinion of their performance.

When Mom came back, Tony and I went over to watch this group practice. "Your little brothers are okay," Tony said. “I always though little kids were just dweebs.”

"That's because you were a bully," I answered. "You spent all your time trying to prove how tough you were. You intimidated the younger kids, and quite a few of the kids your age. Now you don't have to prove yourself all the time, you're relaxing and being you, the person you kept hidden behind your tough guy persona. I'll bet since we set your dad up you've smiled more and have been happier than you can remember."

"Yeah," he agreed. "But you've had a lot to do with that."

"Sure," I smiled. "I whooped your butt without breaking a sweat and then turned around and welcomed you like a friend. No one ever did anything like that for you before. It opened your eyes to how nasty and unhappy you were, and showed you what positive thinking and self-confidence can do for you. You saw how impressed Coach W was with the new you. Like I said before, if you just let yourself be who you really are, you’ll have a lot more friends."

“I just don’t want to be a sissy,” he sighed. “My dad beat me into being a tough guy and hating fag … ah … gays. I know it was wrong and stupid, but I can’t help it. I do want to change, but I’m scared.”
“Well, you’ve made a good start in changing,” I smiled. “If you hang with me, some people will wonder if you’re gay. That’s what your dad did. Are you man enough to have a transsexual as a friend?”

“NO WAY,” Tony forcefully declared. “There is no way I want a transsexual for a friend!”

That took me by surprised, and shocked me. I tried to pull my hand from his grasp but he held me firmly. I felt tears beginning to form.

“Krista, I want you to be my girlfriend,” he told me while looking into my eyes.



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