Three Girls - The Novel



Three Girls

by Andrea Lena DiMaggio



Three girls find they have a lot more in common than their music...
yuki's wish - playing, freedom, music...all for what if not to be the girl i am
lainie's hope - maybe now they'll listen...more than just playing...maybe now they might hear
danni's dream - the dawn awakens my soul no longer the same now new my heart sings



yuki's wish

playing, freedom, music
all for what if not to be
the girl i am


The Takahashi home...Perth Amboy, New Jersey...Monday morning...

“Luke? I’m off to work,” the voice called from the living room.

“Okay, Mama San,” Luke Takahashi called from the hallway. He walked into the livingroom just in time to say a proper good bye to his mother, Margaret Karenski.

“Did you call the salon to see if Marty is working this afternoon?” Margaret stared at his head; more to the point, his hair, which had grown down to his shoulders.

“He’s off to visit his mom in the city…won’t be back until Tuesday.” Luke smiled and kissed his mother on the fly as she flitted from the living room to the kitchen.

“Lukey…have you seen my car keys?” She was almost in a panic. Newly promoted to department manager, she wanted to make a strong impression on her first day. Her drive to work was only ten minutes and work started more than an hour later. Luke grabbed her sleeve as she rushed by and pulled her close and kissed her once again.

“Right on the counter where you always leave them, Mom!” He chuckled and scooped them off the counter and tossed them to her like a pitcher leading the first baseman on a close play at first.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she said as she stepped toward the front door.

“Mom…you’re a manager in a big company. You’d do fine.” He nodded but she shook her head.

“If I didn’t have you, my sweet baby boy, I’d be nothing.”

While he reluctantly agreed that her life would be diminished if she didn’t have him in her life, part of him…maybe most of him argued with her regarding the ‘sweet baby boy’ part of her statement.

“Go gettem’ Momma San,” he said playfully as she ran out the door. He rushed to the front window of their living room and watched her SUV pull out onto the road. A moment later he breathed out a big sigh and bit his tongue. He walked over to the Yamaha spinet and patted it on the top as if talking to an old friend.

“Be right back, okay?” He smiled and walked back down the hall to his bedroom.


Her fingers flew across the keyboard, almost pouncing at times like a cat; other times softly like a fawn cautiously approaching a stream. She wondered if Rachmanoff would grin or grimace at her playing of his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, but she needn’t have worried. Her playing was lively and precise; superb. She, however, would be hard to convince, since she gained satisfaction only in the joy of her performance and failed to realize why everyone else considered her to be an artist at the keyboard.

Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, and it literally bobbed as her head moved in concert with her hands. She had opted for the clip on hoops; the best she could do without alerting an already suspicious group of friends. The gold choker gleamed in the glow of the light over the music, illuminating in flashes an otherwise darkened living room.

She chose the black flats; she had not yet mastered Rachmaninoff in heels. The dress was a cream cotton, covered by a black sweater; it hugged her small breasts and draped softly across her knees and displayed her legs, which were just as animated as her hands as she pressed her sole against the pedal.

Almost in a trance, she closed her eyes. The lashes fluttered as she saw colors and shapes as the music filled the room; it became almost aromatic as well, as if the piano were in a flower-strewn meadow instead of her house in Perth Amboy. She finished the piece just as the alarm went off on the watch she had laid on top of the spinet. She wished for a Steinway Baby Grand every night at bedtime, but woke up every morning to an altogether too small house and an quite accomodating spinet.

She picked up the watch and frowned as she turned off the alarm.

“I’ll see you tonight, okay,” she said as she patted the piano before going back to her bedroom to change. If her spinet had ears, it would have heard her lying on her bed down the hall, sobbing into her pillow.

That afternoon...

“Luke, did you start supper yet?” Margaret pushed open the front door with her hip and walked quickly to the kitchen, putting the takeout on the table. She looked at the stove and noticed nothing cooking.

“Oh, crap…” She frowned as she pulled the baseball schedule off the fridge. Even on a teacher’s workday Luke still had practice. She had resigned herself to eating alone when Luke walked into the kitchen from the back door.

“Coach let us go early today; he’s got some family thing to attend. Is that Thai? Great!” Luke smiled at his mother, but his face didn’t seem happy at all.

“Honey…you can’t kid a kidder; what’s wrong?” Margaret grabbed his arm when he sat down. He turned and smiled again and was less convincing than the time before.

“I’m okay, Mom…really.”

“Yeah….well.” He got up and grabbed plates and tableware before sitting down again. They ate in silence other than the sound of the purring of their big tom who sat on the chair next to them.

“Want some Thai Beef, Ivan?” Margaret placed some food on the lid of the carryout dish in front of the cat. He eagerly went at it while Margaret turned toward Luke once again.

“Which is it?” She smiled. It was likely both, but depending upon his mood, it was likely one or the other.

“Baseball.” He lied.

“Okay…you’re the number one left hander on the team. You probably will start the first game of the season. You already have a scholarship to Seton Hall if you want, but we both know that’s not where you’re headed, honey, so what is it.

“Piano…I’m anxious.” He lied again. He was anxious, but the upcoming recital had nothing to do with it.

“EEEEahhhh.” Margaret made the sound of a buzzer from a game show. “Wrong answer, dear son of mine.” At the word son, Luke winced.

“Okay…now I’ve got something to work with. Honey, come on with me.” She stood up and started out of the kitchen, leaving him sitting at the table. A moment later she returned, only to find Luke with his head down on the table, crying.

“Honey…it’s okay…I know…come here, okay?”

He looked up to see her smiling. He stood up and followed her down the hall to her bedroom. She pointed to the bed, motioning for him to sit down. She stepped into her walk in and pulled down a box from the overhead shelf.

“These look familiar?” She pointed to the pair of navy pantyhose with very obvious runs and snags.

“And this?” She reached in and grabbed a hanger; the blue silk blouse looked rumpled.

“Honey; you’re not the first boy to ever wear his mother’s clothing. If it’s a phase, no big deal. If it’s more than that? Still no big deal.” She smiled at him until he burst into tears.

“Oh, gosh, Luke…what’s wrong. I’m okay with this; I love you, baby and nothing you could do would upset me. Okay…maybe going through a pair of Wolfords instead of the Hanes isn’t my idea of a great thing, but it’s still just clothing.” She shook her head as his tears continued and were joined by the sobbing that was only partially muffled by the comforter on the bed.

“You…yuyyyyoouuu don’t under…understaaaahnd.”

She sat down on the bed and rubbed his back.

“What don’t I understand, honey?”

“It…it’s not….” He continued to sob.

“Not what?” She said softly

“I don’t…I don’t….” He looked up into her eyes, and her solace and acceptance pulled his heart into hers.

“Ihhh…it’s not….Mom…I’m a girl.”

“I…” Margaret was at a loss for words; she wanted to comfort her son; even accept what he was saying, but it was all too confusing and unfamiliar. She tried anyway.

“Oh…..oh…okay, honey. We’ll….work through this….we….” She didn’t want to make it about her, but she immediately called to mind the day they found out that Luke Senior wasn’t coming home from London after his company laid him off. They hadn’t seen Luke’s dad in eighteen months, and with no word, they had struggled but had nearly worked through the inevitable conclusion that they’d never seen him again.

“Mommm…..I’m…soooo soorreeee……” He buried his face on her arm and continued to sob.

She felt helpless; literally, since her soulmate of nearly twenty years no longer helped at all and both she and her son still felt abandoned even after months of counseling and support. She stroked his hair and spoke softly.

“I know honey, I know.” She knew he was sorry; for exactly what she still remained unsure. But she was willing to know, which is pretty much all what any of us could ever ask for anyway.

“Mommm…..Mommma San?” He used his playful name for her. Luke was born in Perth Amboy to Shenji Takahashi and Margaret Karenski and had never set foot more than thirty or so miles outside of his home town in his nearly eighteen years of life. Never the less, he closed his eyes and thought of his grandparents, especially his grandmother in Osaka and said quietly,

“Mommy…can you call me….Yuki?”


Baseball and Brahms


Baseball practice, Perth Amboy High School...

"Come on, Luke....come on Luke!" Pat Kelly called from behind the plate. Sure it was only a scrimmage, and the guy at the plate might have been Luke's best friend, but they all meant business.

"If that poor excuse for a cutter is all you have, I might as well just sit back and wait for the heat," Teddy Dudek laughed as he pointed his bat back at Luke.

Luke didn't have his head in the game, and absentmindedly gazed into the stands, searching for his mother. They had an afternoon planned, and he was anxious about seeing the therapist for the first time since the intake the other day. He reared back, as if in the stretch, since they had a runner on. He threw a curve that got away from him, and was almost belt high right over the heart of the plate. He had intended to throw it inside. Teddy swung and hit the ball hard, but his swing topped the ball into the turf, and it rolled weakly to Luke, who threw it to first to end the game.

"Holy shit, Taki, that was some fucking curve," Teddy said as he trotted halfway to the mound.

"Yeah...I guess...." Luke said, not actually hearing anything his friend had just said. Teddy would be a topic of conversation for sure when he saw the doctor in an hour.

"Hey...Luke, you okay?" Teddy smiled and punched Luke lightly in the arm to get his attention.

"Yeah...sure." Luke was anything but okay; not that there was anything wrong, per se, but he was very distracted by his friend. Rather, Yuki was highly distracted by the boy she hoped would...could...be more than just a buddy or a teammate.


That evening at the counseling practice of Caryn Bisceglia, psychologist...

The sound of Brahms played softly on the CD in the background. Caryn wanted Luke to feel at east in his first session after the intake earlier in the week.

"So you feel like you're a girl?" Caryn purposely asked the question in a confrontational manner. She was trying to gauge the depth of Luke's feelings.

"NO...I am a girl....I just...I..." He looked over at where his mother might have sat, had she attended the second session. Caryn wanted to hear from Luke apart from his mother now that the intake had been completed.

"You believe....that you are a girl? You hesitated. Are you uncertain?" Caryn believed Luke was very certain about the idea, but she wanted him to articulate his beliefs and feelings.

"It's just...my mom..." He pursed his lips and sighed. "Am I...she's been the best mom anyone could be...my dad..."

"What about your dad?

"I....what would he say?"

"What does your mom say?" Caryn already knew.

"She...understands me...accepts me?" He shook his head and tears came to his eyes.

"Your mom...who has supported you all along and she accepts your beliefs and understanding about yourself?" Caryn smiled and looked at the empty chair beside Luke as if Margaret was in the room.

"And your dad...who left you and your mom nearly two years ago? You feel like you...?"

"Owe him....like I should...stay the way I am." Luke looked away.

"Are you ashamed to be a girl, Yuki?" She used the name purposely in contrast to his guilt.

"No....it's just..." Luke had started the session, but it really was Yuki who spoke.

"You feel that you should just stay the same to please your dad?" Yuki nodded, unable to speak.

"Somehow...tell me if I'm wrong about this, Yuki...somehow if you don't continue toward becoming outwardly what you are inside...somehow he might change his mind, right...like???"

"It's my fault he left. He...I could never do enough to please him." Yuki looked at Luke's baseball glove that rested on the bolster of the chair.

"If you stay a boy, he might return, is that right?" Caryn probed.

"Yes..." Her tone was apologetic.

"Did you do anything wrong, Yuki?"

"Nnno? I don't know."

"He never really told you what he expected, did he?"

"No...no." She shook her head as tears fell.

"Only after...you said that he'd get angry after you did something...like what, Yuki?

"Like....I should have known..." She turned her head and began to sob.

"So he wanted things of you...he had expectations that you never met? But he never told you until you disappointed him, right?

"Ye....yes."

"And you haven't seen him in years?" She exaggerated.

"Yes...."

"And you believe it's your fault, right?" She didn't wait for an answer.

"He never told you why he left, but somehow because you always disappoint him, it must be your fault, right?" Caryn wanted Luke to see how little sense his thinking made, but she followed quickly.

"Somehow, a child who strove to do his father's wishes without ever knowing what they were is responsible for his father's disappointment, is that right?" She held her hand out in a gesture of acceptance.

"Yeeeh....yes." She sobbed.

"Yuki, that is your name, right?" The girl nodded.

"You are who you are. This part of you is something your father never knew, and yet you feel responsible for his abandoning you and your mother. You feel that you and Luke are disappointments, don't you?"

"Yes..."

"What does your mother think?" she repeated herself on purpose.

"She....I'm..." The girl struggled for words.

"Yuki...your mother accepts you just the way you are, right?" Caryn pushed.

"Yes....yes," She spoke, but her voice was nearly a whisper.

"Do you have to pitch a perfect game...does Luke have to perform?" She used her other name, since that was part of who she was.

"No...he...I don't...Mom..."

"And you don't have to be perfect with your Chopin or Brahms?" Caryn said as the music played softly in the background.

"No....no..."

"So the Mother who asks for nothing...she approves?" The contrast was so important for her to see. The girl nodded and stifled a sob.

"And the Father who asks for everything without telling you what he wants expects everything... he'd disapprove?" Once again her question was greeted by a nod, but the girl failed in her attempts to keep from crying.

"So you have the support of the one who cares..the one who stayed. The person who wishes for you to be whoever YOU want to be, right?"

"Yeehhhhessss....yes."

"Yuki?" Caryn waited a moment while the girl continued to cry.

"Yuki...who do you think...who do you know you are?" The girl looked at her, continuing to be surprised that her own wants and needs would be a consideration.

"Are you a girl? A young woman?" Caryn used the new term...Yuki was a senior in high school, and decisions, however difficult and conflicting, needed to be made soon, one way or the other.

"Are you a young woman?" She nodded, unable to speak.

"I believe you, Yuki. I believe you." She smiled and shrugged her shoulders as if to indicate a new question, but she made a statement that helped the girl understand.

"Now, our biggest task that lies ahead? You know your mom supports you and believes you? And I believe you? Now, Yuki...the task is to help you believe in yourself.


Chopin and Confusion


At Caryn's office, the following week...

"I'm sorry, Yuki...I know this is very difficult," Caryn said as she gazed at the papers in her hand. "With everything facing you, it seems unfair, doesn't it?"

"You mean...having to choose?" Yuki shrugged.

"Yes...the urgency...because of your age, honey." Perhaps more personal than her profession would usually allow, but she wanted the girl to know she understood.

"I have to choose....like now..."

"Yes...because the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be if you choose to assume being Yuki full time.... permanently. You don't have to do that, but as your doctor has explained, you've benefitted, so to speak, from late development, but you can only put off nature for so long."

"Dr. Brennan said that it's really up to me...that even if I live as a girl for a year, there isn't any need to hurry the hormones unless I'm absolutely sure...that given my physique...I can work with her during the year. She already started me on blockers. I talked it over with my mom, and I think this is what I need to do."

"I'm glad to hear that, but it seems that this is really what you want to do, Yuki. You'll be on a course that will determine how you live the rest of your life."

"I need this, Caryn...this is my life...I have to..." The anxiety had built up even with moments of venting, and the stress of the decision was too much to hold in as the girl burst into tears.

After her sobbing subsided, Caryn began again. The choice to enter into a real life test for a year had implications beyond 'just' assuming her female identity. Her life would be dramatically affected since none of her friends knew and she would be beginning the test before the schools end.

"And of course there's baseball and piano to consider." She wasn't trying to be flippant at all. Both music and sports were integral parts of Luke's life, and they would certainly be affected if Luke became Yuki full time.

Of course, she knew it would hurt the girl to have to give up baseball; the likelihood that would be able to continue was almost nil. But her music would be affected too. All of her reputation as a pianist was garnered as Luke Matsusaki. It was a foregone conclusion that Yuki would continue playing, but she would have to deal with rejection, even in a "progressive" community like the music world.

"I'm going to talk to coach tomorrow and tell him that I have to leave the team." Her voice was trembling.

"I....I....wish....” she shook her head and looked away, seeking some strength for the inevitable disappointment.

"That you could keep Luke and Yuki? That you wouldn't have to give up anything?" Of course Caryn knew that Yuki knew. She wanted her to discuss the consequences of her choice.

"It's so unfair....it just isn't fair." She began to tear up once again.

"You know what we talked about last time?" Caryn teased with a half-frown.

"I know...there isn't anything fair or unfair..." she laughed softly through her tears. "It just is what it is." She paused and sighed.

"I don't know how I'm going to face the team...I'm letting them down."

"That's your father talking, isn't it?" Caryn shook her head.

"Yehhheyes." Yuki wiped her face with her sleeve, forgetting the box of tissue in her lap.

"It will be hard, Yuki, but you have to do what is best for you. The team will manage."

"I know...I'll be alright."

"I can't tell you what to do, honey...just what you face with each choice and how things might be. I can say this. Even in the midst of all your anguish, as Yuki you are so much brighter and alive than when I saw you as Luke. Now that just may mean that you're more relaxed, or that Luke has so much more to face since he's who you've been for so long. But you must know that it's who you are and will become that is important."

"I know. I don't think I've ever felt so much pain in my life. I feel like I'm being pulled apart."

"You've got two people to think about, Yuki. At least that's how it feels?" The girl nodded.

"Try to remember that the two of you are really one person...you've always been a part of Luke and he's a part of you. It's really more about deciding which of the two is how you see yourself. You'll be able to bring the two of you together...whole, no matter what you decide. You understand?"

"I...I think so....like Luke will have me for ever...or I'll have Luke inside me?" She smiled as the stress of her decision seemed to ease.

"You may have to give up things and such...and that will be painful and difficult, but either way, you won't have to give up any part of yourself as long as you choose what's best for you." Caryn smiled as Yuki smiled at her. Whatever the girl chose, she was going to be alright.


B Wing Perth Amboy High School, a few days later...

"Hey, coach? Got a second?" Luke caught Danny Callahan in the hallway before class. The man smiled in welcome.

"How's my best left-hander?" Danny smiled as the boy walked up.

"I'm your only left-hander, Coach!" Luke laughed nervously. He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. It was folded twice and was secured with a staple.

"I need to talk to you, but I can't right now. Do you have internet on your computer here?"

"Yes, all the staff have internet access. What's up?" The boy thrust the paper in his hand with a frightened look.

"Luke...what's wrong? You can talk to me, you know that? You got problems at home?" Danny Callahan was well aware of the boy's issues; he and Danny's son Eddie were friends from Middle School, and Luke had spent a lot of time at the Kane house when his father abandoned him and his mother.

"I...I need you to look at this after I walk away....there's a website link written down." The boy began to tear up.

"Luke...why don't you come with me...we can talk right now. Okay?"

"No....just look at what I wrote under the link....read it and I'll talk to you this afternoon ...later....I can't talk now." The boy didn't wait for an answer, but waved his hand behind him as he quickly walked away. Danny shook his head and opened up the paper. Printed in block letters with a flair pen, he read -

http://diversitycenter.org/programs/lgbtiq-youth-task-force/... followed by "This is what I am. After you read this, go to your mailbox in the school office and read what's in the envelope, okay?"

Danny looked at the piece of paper in his hand before folding it carefully and putting in his pocket. He sighed deeply before walking down the hall to the gym.

A few minutes later...down the hall....

"Hey, Teddy?" The first baseman turned to see his best friend standing by the water fountain in A wing. He walked up to Luke.

"Hey, Takihashi! What's up?'

"I gotta talk with you....I gotta talk with someone..." The boy shrugged his shoulders.

"Sure. First game on Friday...you'll be fine." At six-one, he was a half-foot taller than the slim left-hander.

"I...it's not the game...I gotta tell you something...so hard..." The boy began to tear up. He had never cried in front of anyone since he was little other than his mother, and now he was crying in front of his best friend. And if he told him everything it would be even harder, as if what he were about to say weren't hard enough.

"Oh shit, Luke...what the fuck?" Teddy wanted to help his friend, but a hug in the hallway? Maybe after a fist bump in greeting, but when the kid was crying?

"Ted....I gotta tell you something. It's so hard....I...I can't..."

"Fuck, Luke, what's wrong?"

"Ted...I...you...you know...Cam...Camie Santangelo? You know?”

"In our Physics class...the gay kid in the back?"

"No, Teddy...not gay....He's...you know...different." Luke struggled to speak...he feared what he was going to say next.

"Yeah...different...he's...like he wants to be a girl or something? He's a fag, Luke...big deal...what does that have to do with you." The tears in Luke's eyes flowed more than ever as he hung his head. Teddy looked at him and his eyes showed an angry understanding.

"Oh, fuck no; Luke...stop fucking with me...This is fucking joke, right? Tell me it's a fucking joke!

"No...Teddy....Stop...I'm not kidding."

Teddy knew he wasn't kidding; the tears and the crushed look on his best friend's face already conveyed the seriousness of the boy's situation, but did nothing to change the part of his mind that had already been made up before he even talked with Luke.

"Oh...hell no, Luke...No...NO. " Tears came to Teddy's eyes as he walked away. He was upset and angry and scared; there were a lot of things that Teddy could face, but finding out his best friend was, "a fucking fag,' as he would tell his teammates later, was too much to bear. Years of friendship were unable to mitigate a lifetime of ignorance, misinformation and fear.


The coachs' office...at the end of the school day...

"Hey.....Coach," the voice came from the doorway. Luke stood timidly with his face turned away.

"Come in, Luke, and close the door." His voice was nearly expressionless, as was his face. The boy stepped in gingerly, still looking away. As he closed the door he heard the strains of Cho-pin's Chopin Waltze Op.64 No.2 playing on Danny's CD player.

"I'll clear out my locker, but can you let me take care of that at the end of the week? I'm not feeling well, and I'd just as soon go home, okay?"

"No!" Danny seemed to snap at the boy, but his smile was warm and welcoming, belying any anger.

"You need to clear out your locker right now." The boy winced and began to tear up. He knew that leaving the team was inevitable, but he didn't anticipate being treated so harshly, which was doubly painful coming from someone as kind as Coach Callahan.

"I've got a locker in here that you can use," he said, pointing to the bank of old lockers against the far wall of the office. Luke stood and stared at Danny in shock.

"I went to the site and I read your note about ...a real...real life test? I called my sister...she works as a counselor for students in the Pysch program at Rutgers. Since you're going to begin this right away, you'll need your own place to
change...that is if you want it?"

"What do you mean?" Luke shook his head in confusion until Danny smiled again.

"I talked with Mr. Goldenberg, the athletic director, and I checked with the league as well. There's nothing in the by-laws preventing you from competing." He smiled almost impishly and continued.

"Nothing has changed as far as I'm concerned. If you want to, you can continue with the team. Getting them to buy into this is going to be the hardest thing either of us have ever done. We have some guys who are great, and they'll have your back. We have some that may not understand, but will go along because it's the thing to do. And unfortunately, we have some guys on the team that are either fools or choose to be ignorant. Those ones you'll either win over or not. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."

The boy stared incredulously at his coach, speechless for a moment before saying softly, almost in a whisper to himself as he lowered his head,

"I don't understand."

"Just this. And this is from the Superintendant and the Principal...the athletic department, and all of the coaches...yes, all of us. From now on, Luke Takahashi is no longer a member of the Varsity Baseball Team of Perth Amboy High School."

The boy lowered his head once again until Danny added with a soft laugh as he extended his hand.

"Welcome to the team, Yuki!"


Mendelssohn and Misunderstandings!


At the Takahashi home...several days later...

The girl sat down at the piano. She wore a new outfit her mother had purchased only the day before. Perhaps a bit much; her mother wasn't used to buying clothes for her, and she may have over-compensated. A blue gown; unlike anything in her mother’s wardrobe.

“This is too fancy, Mom,” she had said but her mother insisted the day would come when a blue gown would light up a stage as she played Brahms or Beethoven or Saint-Saens for the first time. She imagined herself at Carnagie Hall playing a Bechstein or a Steinway instead of her Yamaha spinet in her living room.

The music matched her mood; Mendellsohn’s Concerto No. 1 in G Minor. Almost as frenetic as her life was becoming, it wasn’t quite angry but did evoke somewhat of a perturbed mood; as if it was as disappointed with life as she was. Truth be told, Mendelssohn was more triumphant and hopeful than the girl ever imagined her life would be. Years of neglect by her father followed by a final sad departing rejection had damaged her ability to feel what the music imparted. But her life was going to gain a hopeful strength that can only come from weathering a storm rather than sitting in a safe harbor.


C Wing, Perth Amboy High School, Friday afternoon…

Luke hurried down the hall after a girl toting a large black artwork portfolio. She was dressed in a blue denim maxi skirt and charcoal cardigan, which made her resemble a 21st century Georgia O'Keefe. Her sleeves were pulled up, revealing old scars from the elbow to the wrist on her right arm.

“Hey, Camie? Camie?" Luke called out to Cam as she walked down the hall. She garnered more than a bit of attention from the students crowding the hallway as they finished the day.

“Luke, right?” She smiled warmly; happy for at least one friendly face in a sea of rejection.

“Yeah…for now.” The girl tilted her head until Luke continued, “It might change soon…to Yuki.”

“Your Dad ever come back?” If Camie was anything, she certainly candid.

“No…He moved back to Osaka with my grandparents after he lost his job in London.

“That sucks.” The girl half-smiled in commiseration; her own father had left shortly after she came out to him and her Mom in her Junior year. She was on the verge of completing a year living as a girl, and at eighteen, she would have her reassignment surgery sometime within the next twelve months. It was a year of hell; Luke was aware that teasing had been de rigeur from more than a few of Camie's classmates, with a shoving attack by some peers at the beginning of her this year; suspensions and policy clarifications had alleviated the bullying, but the teasing continued.

“Yeah…but I didn’t have it nearly as bad as you, Cam. I’m sorry…I should have said something sooner.”

“Well, since we never talk, and you could probably tutor me in chemistry and physics, I’m guessing you have some questions. I kinda thought you were going through the same stuff….you tell your Mom yet?”

“Yeah…and how did you know…what made you…” Luke got worried.

“I was sitting in Dr. Brennan’s waiting room last week when you came in…you didn’t notice me because Dr. B took you right away. Unless you’re diabetic, I don’t think you’d be going to an endo doc, and you sure didn’t come up to me to ask about Twelfth Night or commerce in Brazil.” She laughed; she had a welcoming smile and gentle laugh, which was sadly wasted on a lot of the kids in her class.

“Yeah…Mom and I had a talk and I’m going to my shrink, too. I’m going to start this week.” Something about Camie made Luke feel safe; like being wrapped in a familiar worn-out blanket…not very attractive but warm and secure. Camie's grin nudged him gently and he started to cry.

“Hey…It’s okay…welcome to the club. We hardly ever meet and the dues suck, but other than that, it’s wonderful,” Cam said. She avoided the temptation of hugging Luke, wanting to help put off the teasing and rejection as long as possible. Luke put his hand over his face and sighed, trying without any success in battling the tears that fell from his face to the floor.

“It’s going to be okay.” This coming from someone who smiled every day in earnest at her tormentors; she refused to let the hurt take away the joy she had from finally being herself. She hoped she could impart at least some of her joy to her new friend.


Perth Amboy Field House, Saturday morning before practice…

“Fellas…guys…I need to make an announcement…Guys?” Coach King took a deep breath as he plunged into the task at hand, almost like diving into a pool of muddy water. He prayed he didn’t bottom out. An unfamiliar figure stood beside him.

“Listen…Listen up….Hey, Calabrese, pay attention.” He shook his head and waited while the team settled down. Some of them had already started staring at the girl who stood slightly off to the side and back, trying without success to hide behind Danny.

“I need you guys to pay attention…this is very important. So knock it off, okay?” he raised his voice slightly and the talking ceased.

“Listen…as of today, Luke Takahashi is no longer going to be playing for the Panthers.” He sighed and looked back at the girl, who stepped forward once again.

“Oh fuck, you’re kidding, right?” Billy Calabrese laughed but the look on Danny’s face was anything but jovial.

“Oh shit…you’re not kidding.” Teddy Dudek stood in the back of the group, looking at the girl and swallowing hard. He wanted to speak up, but something inside stopped him. He stared…. glowering at the girl in front of him. She looked straight at him, and it took all she could to fight back tears. She turned her head and faked a sneeze before facing the team once again.

“Fellas…What I have to say is important, and I’m trusting your character as young men to react appropriately. But you need to listen carefully…this is going to affect each and every one of you. Some more than others, I suppose,” he added as he glanced at Teddy in passing before continuing.

“Some of you might know already, but Luke Takahashi has begun a process in…life that has involved a huge change.” No one spoke up and there were no murmurs; Teddy may have been disappointed, but he had said nothing to his teammates prior to the meeting.

“Luke has begun what is referred to as a real life test.” Danny looked over at Yuki and smiled nervously, hoping the team had the character that he’d hoped for.

“Luke is now going to assume…I’m sorry…that's wrong...I’m not familiar with how this goes…Luke will no longer be living as a boy, but will be living as a girl…for a year in anticipation of transitioning with medical help.” He smiled at the team; most of the boys looked confused, and some of them were shaking their heads.

“Luke is gay?” Billy Calabrese shouted. He wasn’t being cruel, but his remark was taken as such as Yuki winced.

“No, you fucking moron!” Pauly D’Orso shouted from the back. “Gay is when you’re a boy and like boys, or you’re a girl and you like girls. Try reading something besides your fantasy football stats sometime, huh. Luke is what they call trans…something.” He shrugged.

“Transsexual,” the girl said softly in a voice that sounded uncomfortably familiar.

“What the fuck? Luke…Come on…stop fuckin’ around.” Chuck Klimek laughed nervously as Danny stepped close to the girl and spoke up.

“Guys…I’ve got some handouts Mrs. Carter typed up to explain, but yes, yes…Luke Takahashi ...is… you should consider...she's a girl.” He placed his hand on her shoulder; her face had turned crimson with embarrassment, even though she had nothing to be ashamed of.

“Meet the newest member of the Perth Amboy Panthers, Yuki Takahashi.” Danny’s voice was clear, and he smiled warmly at Yuki, inviting his charges to greet the girl.

“What the fuck?” Billy called out, but his tone was still somewhat jocular.

“Son of a fucking bitch.” Jackie Davidson shouted. “I’m not playing with no fucking girl.” Jackie had show reserve and calm and a bit of intelligence in the midst of his rude comment in that while he was unwilling to play with Yuki, at least he had accepted that she was a girl; thus showing himself to be a misogynist even if he wasn’t a homophobe.

Teddy had already left the group and was sitting by himself on a folding chair in the corner. He was shaking his head; everything he knew about his best friend had changed, and maybe everything he knew about himself as well.

“No fucking way, man. You guys are kidding.” Kenny Fitzsimmons stared at the girl in front of him. He stepped up to Yuki and tilted his head, much like a puppy might after seeing a moth or a bird for the first time. A second later he shrugged his shoulders before sticking his hand out to greet his new teammate.

A few boys stood off to the side…the ones that Danny had said might be reluctant but would support their teammate even if they didn’t understand. Two boys walked out altogether. Tommy Avila and Juan Ortiz came back after realizing their baseball scholarship opportunities would diminish severely if they didn’t play baseball.

“Wow,” Pat Kelly said, shaking his head in disbelief before saying with a surprised smile, “Cool!”

In total, out of twenty-eight players, not including Yuki, seven quit the team, with the aforementioned two teammates returning, so the damage was minimal if painful.

“You…you’re serious about this, huh?” Pat Kelly asked his battery mate.

“Ye…yes…” Yuki bit her lip. She really wasn’t more emotional than usual; he cried when they lost the championship game the year before. This, however, was a different context; the moment was highly stressful, and she began to tear up. While most boys would have backed away, Pat put his hand on Yuki’s shoulder, almost as if they were standing on the mound discussing what pitch to throw South Amboy’s power hitter.

“Hey…Luke…don’t worry…I got your back.” He leaned in and hugged his buddy without thinking of the implications. Yuki shied away uncomfortably, making it even more awkward. Pat refused to let go and patted her on the back — teammate to teammate.

“Hey…look at the fucking fags…” Benny Trajillo pointed at the two. He turned just in time for Teddy Dudek to punch him in the chest; not hard, but hard enough to send him flying into the dirty towel hamper. Teddy walked up to Yuki and shook his head.

“I hope you’re fucking satisfied. You just took away the two things I value the most.” He walked off. No one but Coach King saw that the boys face was grief-stricken.

And everyone in the field house noticed that their newest teammate had burst into tears. Several of them came up and patted her on the back; albeit awkwardly and with a lot of wonder. Billy Calabrese leaned close and whispered,

“It’s bases loaded…we’re ahead by one and there are two outs.” He smiled and the girl stared at him in confusion until he said softly,

“Put the ball over the plate, Taki…we’ve got your back.”


Sacrifices and Sonatas


The following day, just before practice...

“Hey, Dudek, got a sec?” Pat Kelly called around to Teddy, who sat staring at his locker on the other side. Teddy offered no objection, so Pat walked around and leaned against the bank of lockers.

“What’s with you and Taki?” His tone was more than insistent, and Teddy lifted his head long enough to comment,

“Fuck you, Kelly, mind your own fucking business.”

“As co-captain with you, you fucker, this is my business. What the fuck is going on?” Pat folded his arms and glared.

“You wouldn’t understand, Kelly…so just let it the fuck go!” Teddy turned his head away and sighed.

“I don’t, you dickhead…that’s why I’m asking! You and Taki and me go back a long way…what the fuck is going on. He’s been your friend like…forever…don’t you fucking care?”

“Who the fuck are you to ask me that?” Teddy stood up and stepped toward Pat who just shrugged and smiled.

“After Luke, I’m your best fucking friend. What’s going on. Talk to me, bro.”

“Things change, BRO. Things have changed and it sucks big time.” Teddy looked around and noticed that several of his teammates had gathered around the locker waiting for confrontation. He waved his hands at Pat in dismissal before walking out of the locker room.


That evening at Caryn's...

“What does Dr. Brennan say?” Caryn asked.

“Take it slow? Why do I have to take it slow?” Yuki frowned.

“I don’t think she means have to…what did she say, exactly? 'What would hurt if you slowed down?' It’s a suggestion, don’t you think?”

“Okay…”

“What do you think,” Caryn wanted Yuki to draw her own conclusions.

“Maybe…because I haven’t…this is new?” Yuki raised her eyebrows in question.

“What do you have going on right now?” Caryn probed and poked most of the time, but after recent events, Yuki was sensitive to a few things, even if some of them involved the two loves of her life; baseball and piano.

“I have a recital in Newark next month…and I start the season for the team on Thursday.” She smiled, but her smiled quickly turned to a frown.

“It’s the other ‘thing’ that has you doubting yourself, right?” Caryn handed Yuki a box of tissues as the girl began to tear up.

“I thought…if I came out…that…” She began to weep softly.

“That he’d see the real you?” The girl nodded and Caryn followed up with,

“That he’d like Yuki…that his friendship for Luke might become something more, right?” Yuki nodded once before picking up a throw pillow and burying her face in it.

“He doesn’t see Yuki, does he…he doesn’t like Yuki at all.”

“Yeaahes…” the girl sobbed.

“BBbbuttt…..”

“But what?” Caryn knew where this was going. She patted the girl on the knee and pointed to the box of tissues. Yuki took some tissue and wiped her face.

“I can’t go back…I can’t….” Her voice trailed off, only to be replaced with new sobs.

“To the way it was…when you were still only friends, right?”

“Yessshhsss. When he didn’t hate me.”

“Do you want to go back…to be Luke again?”

“Nnnohooo?”

“Well, then, what are we to do?” Caryn include herself in the mix, not to answer Yuki’s questions so much as to give her hope.

“I dddon’t know….Caryn…this hurts mmmore….than anything.”

“It hurts….you think you ruined things….right?”

“Yehhhhessss….mmmmyyyy faawwwlt.”

“Your choice, but not your fault, Yuki. You chose to be yourself…finally…after all these years, right?”

“Yeeehhhsss….”

“So it hurts…but it’s still….a good thing?” Caryn smiled and Yuki half-frowned before replying finally,

“Yes…it hurts…but yes.”

"Yes, what?"

"Yes...it's a good thing."


Perth Amboy High School baseball field...that Thursday...

“Ball three!” The umpire shouted. Pat turned back to him and shot him a glare before throwing the ball back to Yuki. She pounded her glove with the ball as she turned her back to the plate.

“Time!” Coach King walked slowly to the mound, joined by Pat and Terry Arguillo, the third baseman. Danny was angry, but he wasn’t going to give the umpire the satisfaction of knowing it.

“Listen, Yuki, he’s not giving you the outside part of the plate. Just throw it over and we’ll deal with it; trust your teammates.” He put his hand on Terry’s shoulder and glanced at Pat before walking back to the dugout. A moment later he heard the dreaded words,

“Ball four, take your base.” The umpire practically laughed.

“What the fuck?” A familiar voice shouted loud enough for the entire infield to hear. Teddy Dudek walked over to Yuki and motioned for Pat to join him.

“Throw the ball over the plate, Luke…he’s not gonna give you anything. We can’t defend against a walk, okay?” He almost seemed angry at the girl, prompting a mean stare from Pat until he added.

“We got your back.”

With runners on first and second, the next batter took the count to three and one before lining a soft single to right. One run scored, but Billy Calabrese took the throw from the right fielder and gunned down the runner trying to go from first to third to end the inning. That put South Amboy up two nothing in the fourth.

As South Amboy took the field, their coach walked up to the umpire, as if to clarify a ground rule.

“Hey, Belasco…” He called the umpire away from the plate.

“I know what the fuck you’re doing, and you better stop it right now.” The umpire frowned as if his feelings were hurt.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Listen, you fucker, this kid may not be everyone’s favorite, but she’s here to stay, whether you like it or not. We’re gonna win this game on our own; we don’t need any help from you. And if you keep this shit up, I’ll report you to the Board of Ed and the league!” He whispered only loud enough for the umpire to hear; all the while smiling as if they were discussing the weather.

In the end, Yuki only gave up the two runs and pitched into the seventh inning before Terry Arguillo’s twin brother Tommy came in for the final out. But the two runs held up as the South Amboy starter pitched a shutout. The team gathered on the mound after the final out.

“I’m proud of all of you…you hung in there and if we hadn’t run up against the best pitcher in the conference, we might have won this one.

“Nice job, Takihashi!” Terry said and his teammates nodded and patted Yuki. All except one. Teddy Dudek stood off to the side and tried to look disinterested. As the team slowly walked away, Teddy walked up to Yuki and half-smiled.

“Yeah…nice job…Yuki!” His face turned red and he put his head down.

“Teddy…ah…um….nice play on the liner…you know…the left fielder…???” She put her head down as well.

“Listen…I gotta go…I just want…uh….can I…can we still be friends?”

“Oh…yes…yes.” She took it the wrong way…way wrong, and grabbed his arm.

“Oh..shit…no…not that way…just friends…like we were…you know...friends.”

“Oh…yeah….sure….Oh…yeah…that’s great…that’s great, Teddy. Yeah.” Yuki flashed the most convincing smile she could.

“Great, Lu…Great Yuki…Well…I’ll see you at practice, okay?”

“Yeah…practice,” She muttered as Teddy walked toward the field house.

“Yeah…practice,” she said once again, trying without success to hold back the most painful tears she had ever shed.


Practice makes perfect sense...

She attacked the music, as focused and connected as she had ever been with a piece; Prokofiev’s sixth. She was angry, but it wasn’t with Teddy. She was angry with herself; maybe she had moved too fast. The keyboard seemed to shout back at her, but it wasn’t to shame her or accuse her. “Live like you play! Play to live!” The tears streamed down her cheeks as she listened to the words reverberate in her head.

“Life is more than notes…the feeling…the investment…the care…the love of the piece…play and live!”

Two people had sat down to play but only one finished the piece as Luke and Yuki came together, forever one and at peace, no matter what storms they would face. No matter what hurts or disappointments, they would be one person, a vivacious talented young lady, capable, filled with talent and with life…and pitching the game after next against the Metuchen High School Bulldogs.


Stravinsky and Surprises!


The following Tuesday at Caryn's...

“I think I made a mistake.” Yuki sat on the couch with a toy dog from Caryn’s collection sitting on her lap.

“How so?”

“I came out before school’s end. I could have graduated as Luke and …” she sighed with a huff and shook her head.

“I’m so stupid…I am so stupid.”

“Now that’s someone else talking, isn’t it?” Caryn could have made the identification herself, but it was important to for Yuki to make the connection.

“Dad? Yeah…I guess so…yeah…but I still think I made a mistake.” She sighed again and looked around the room until Caryn handed her the box of tissues.

“Well, I understand how you might feel that way, but what can you do now to make it better for you? Can you un-tell everyone? Is there any way to turn back time?” Caryn braced herself for the inevitable flow of tears.

“Nnnoooo.”

“So, we have to go with what you have right now. What’s the worst part of it…what hurts the most, Yuki?”

“I….I don’t….don’t knoooowwww.” She burst out crying, burying her face in the stuffed dog.

“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Caryn touched the girl’s knee to get her attention.

“Seriously, Yuki….we both know what really hurts..it hurts just to talk about it. But it hurts too much not to talk, right? You told everybody you were a girl…but that means everybody…everybody knows, right?”

“Yes..yyyeesssss.” She shook her head, as if she could indeed turn back time.

“I can…I can change my mind…that’s it…I’ll just go back to being a boy.” Her words were clear for only a moment until Caryn raised an eyebrow, almost as if ask, ‘really?’

“No….noooo….I can’t ever go back…”

“Why Yuki…is it possible…have you made any decisions that can’t be changed? Is it too late?”

“Nooo…oooo…noooo.” Yuki looked out the window; it had begun to rain.

“So why not just change back…what’s to stop you?” Caryn smiled warmly.

“Do you think I should change back?” Yuki’s eyes seemed to beg forgiveness for her decision.

“I can’t tell you what you should do…what do you think, Yuki…If you had never changed…what would you have done?” She tilted her head and widened her eyes in a welcoming question.

“I could have stayed a boy…I wouldn’t have to be hurt…I wouldn’t have lost some..some of my teammates…” Her voice cracked.

“Teammates…oh…yes…I know how important baseball is to you.” Caryn reflected what the girl had said, but her face was almost a mask of irony as she raised her eyebrows.

“I should never have changed…I’m so stupid.” She repeated it as if Caryn hadn’t heard her minutes ago.

“We went over that, didn’t we…you have changed. What’s the worst that happened, Yuki…What hurts the most? You’re crying harder than I’ve seen you cry in a bit…what hurts so much?”

“He….he said he wants to be my friend again.” She struggled to speak.

“Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t his friendship important to you?” The answer was almost painful, even if it was true.

“Yes…yess….no….” She sobbed. When she realized what she had said, she struggled to speak, and finally got out…

“I don’t want him….to be my friend….no more…no more…..” She picked up the toy dog and sobbed into it once again.

“Why Yuki…why don’t you want him as a friend?” Caryn knew, of course, but it was necessary for Yuki to verbalize her disappointment.

“Bee….be…cawwwsssee.” Caryn waited.

“He dusssss….nnnnntt…..waaaawwwwnnnt…..to…he doesn’t want…..to be my……boy friend.”

“I know, Yuki…and that hurts…..like it won’t ever stop…right?

“Ri…right…yeassss.” Her sobs began to subside. “Yes.”

“Okay…now we have something we can work with…okay? Can I ask you something?” Caryn tapped the girl on the knee and she looked up and nodded as she wiped her eyes.

“If you hadn’t told…if you stayed Luke…you’d still have told eventually, right?” The girl nodded.

“And he still might have said the same thing to you? That waiting…it might have been easier in some ways, but wouldn’t it be just as hard? And would it be any less painful?”

“Nnnnoooo….nooooo.” The girl began to cry again.

“So you didn’t do anything wrong, did you?” Caryn shrugged her shoulders in question.

“Nooooo…nooo.”

“And you’re not stupid…are you?”

“Nnnooo.” She shook her head no.

“Okay…so how do we get the toothpaste back in the tube?” She laughed softly which cause the girl to tilt her head.

“Can we go back and un-say every word? Can you change things? Do you even want to…How do you feel about Yuki? Do you even want to go back to being Luke?”

“No…no.” Caryn nodded and smiled.

“Caryn? I don’t…how is this so easy for you…asking all these questions….like you know how I feel…how much it hurts?” The girl shrugged her shoulders as if to apologize.

“Honey…it’s okay to ask…that’s what I’m here for…you can ask me anything. And it’s okay…yes; I know exactly how you feel because I wasn’t always a doctor, of course….” Caryn resisted the urge to tear up; it wouldn’t do for the girl to focus on her…she needed to focus on coming to her own conclusions, but she deserved the truth.

“Yes…you had to go to college…but before that…were you always a good listener? Did it come easy?”

“Yes…but that’s not why I do what I do, Yuki. You see…before I went to college, I attended a small high school upstate in Sussex County…you know…up by High Point by the New York border….as Carlo Bisceglia.”


Perth Amboy High School baseball field...the following afternoon...

The rain, gentle to begin with, had almost let up, and the sun began to peek out from behind a cloud.

“Come on…put it in here, she can’t hit!” Metuchen’s catcher snorted as he threw the ball back to the pitcher, nearly hitting Yuki in the ear. She tapped the bat on the plate and got back in her stance, waiting for the next pitch. She already had a strike on her. The pitcher threw the ball high and inside, knocking her down, but missing her elbow.

“Hey, ump…watch the brushback.” Coach King glared at the umpire who just shrugged his shoulder. Billy Calabrese took his lead at second. The score was tied in the bottom of the sixth and there was only one out.

“Hey…dickhead…like pickin’ on girls, you fucking asshole?” Billy shouted as he danced toward third. His taunting worked and the pitcher lost his concentration; the curve ball hit Yuki in the thigh. She ran to first, putting two runners on. The next batter, Davey Singh, lined a ball over the third baseman’s head and the left fielder misplayed the ball off the wall. Billy scored easily and Yuki ran through all the way from first, sliding under the tag and scoring…but at a price. She screamed as she felt a pop in her left leg.

“Time,” Danny King was on the field almost as fast as the trainer. The girl lay on the ground, trying to reach back to her ankle and crying. The umpire and Metuchen’s coach kept the crowd of boys back as the trainer examined the injured girl.

“Oh shit….” He turned to Danny and shook his head. Danny punched in 911 even as the girl tried to stand. She put weight on her foot and started to fall. Two big arms caught her and picked her up.

“It’s okay…I got you….you’ll be okay.” Teddy Dudek walked toward the dugout, occasionally glancing at the girl in his arms. He looked away, embarrassed that it took the girl being hurt for him to care again as a friend. She buried her face in his chest and wept; almost as much over the gesture as for the pain in her ankle.

“Ted…take her over to my pickup…I’ll put a blanket down on the bed and she can lie down. Don’t worry kid…you’re going to be okay.” Danny pulled the blanket off the front seat and spread it out. Yuki continued to weep, and became almost hysterical; the emotion of the moment went way beyond her physical pain. As Teddy placed the girl on the truck bed the catcher for Metuchen started to laugh. His own pitcher walked up calmly and punched him hard in the chest protector, knocking him down. He went to stand up but his coach grabbed the bat lying next to the plate and pushed the boy down gently and said,

“Stay down, son, or I’ll forget my job and let him hit you again.”

A moment later one of the Arguillo brothers started shouting ‘Yuki, Yuki,” while clapping his hands. Soon his shout was repeated by both teams and the handful of students in the stands.

“I’m so sorry. Yuki…I’m so sorry.” Teddy sat on the lift gate of the truck and shook his head.

The girl looked up at him and continued to cry, more out of relief than pain at that point. Whether it was the emotion of the moment or guilt or shame or conviction or even friendship or….love? Teddy leaned over, trying to comfort the crying girl. He started stroking her hair and he went to kiss her on the cheek…friend to friend he thought.

“I’m so sorry…you’re my best friend and I let you down.” Teddy wasn’t a stranger to crying, but he wasn’t an emotional kid either. But at that moment his conscience overtook his pride and he began to cry. His tears fell from his face and mixed with the girl’s as they ran down her cheek. He stared at her face and saw her for the first time. She was no longer the boy he knew all along. She wasn’t the boy who was pretending to be a girl. And in that instant, not only was his perception changed, but his heart as well.

“I love you. I’m sorry…I should just….I’m so sorry…” Yuki said and began to weep harder.

Teddy's heart melted as he realized that things change; boys sometimes don’t stay the same, but that friends are always friends. Fear reverted to friendship and friendship turned to love. He leaned closer and kissed the girl as only boyfriends kiss girlfriends…a true friend kissing her to heal and value and treasure and care. And Yuki lifted up to meet his kiss. The boy took her in his arms and held her tight as they both cried. By then the cheering had quieted down and the clapping had ceased.

The ambulance pulled up, lights flashing but siren off as an almost eerie quiet was accompanied by a soft patter of raindrops hitting the field. And soft raindrops were joined by the sound of hands clapping once again along with a shout by Billy Calabrese.

“Teddy…Teddy…Teddy….Yuki…Yuki…Yuki…” He laughed loudly and soon his shouts were joined by the voices of the teams and the fans.

“Teddy…Yuki…Teddy…Yuki…”

At the school grand piano the following Monday...

The girl sat at the piano, stretching her fingers. Her left foot was in a walking cast; her season effectively over with a slight tear of the Achille’s tendon. She sighed, tears streaming down her cheeks, but the anger and sadness of the previous weeks had been replaced by a calm joy and peace. The music was full of life and promise; Stravinsky's Music to the Ballet, Petruska..a puppet...come to life...almost ironic as her life had changed from being driven by expectations and the past to dreams and wishes and the future...


Serenades and Sadness

Three girls find they have a lot more in common than their music...
lainie's hope - maybe now they'll listen...more than just playing...maybe now they might hear


Perugino’s Restaurant, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, Wednesday evening...

Alan smiled politely at the "patrons" as they departed, despite the teasing and catcalls. Boys of a certain age…maybe of many ages…love to tease their peers whom they deem not masculine enough. At 5’9” and barely 155 pounds, Alan’s stature seemed to call for attention. That he wished he were a waitress instead of a wait person, as his supervisor had called him, remained thankfully unknown to all but a handful of humanity, or he might have invited more teasing. Maybe it was pheromones; maybe it was a psychic vibe he sent out. Nevertheless, it was fortunate that no one knew that his name of choice was Elaine.

He made his way to the kitchen to drop off the last of the plates he had picked up from another table before punching out for the evening. A familiar face greeted him warmly as he headed for the door.

“Hey…Alan…Wait up,” Genevieve O'Hara called to him as he walked past, nearly ignoring her, which was not his intent. He was just tired of the teasing and hadn’t even noticed her standing there. She walked over to him and grabbed his arm.

“Hey, kid…what’s wrong…you look upset, and I know something bad has to be going on to make you lose your smile.”

“Oh…it’s the same…here and at home. Mostly here tonight, but I can never seem to get away from it all.” He sighed.

“Your dad still raggin’ you?” Gennie half-frowned in commiseration. Her father and mother had been divorced for some time as well; she knew the pull of the expectations of two separate households. That Alan faced so much more made her wish all the more that she could be there for him.

“Not so much…He just doesn’t understand. I don’t know what to do. I can’t keep up everything, and with his hours cut back at the lab, I’ve got to keep working here…at least until the fall when I go away to school…” Alan bit his tongue, as if a full scholarship at the University of Illinois * were a death sentence.

“And of course there’s track, right?”

“Well…no track…no scholarship. I wish I had an in with the music…the department at school is okay, but we sorta get lost in the shuffle with the bigger high schools, and we don’t have the resources for me to trek all the way back to Pittsburgh since we moved, so I don’t even have an orchestra to audition for.”

He frowned as he recalled how his mother was a part of an orchestra, and yet it bore no weight when it came to any consideration. That his talent was almost as honed as his mother’s made no difference, and his viola remained virtually unheard except by a discerning few. That he wished that it were Elaine instead of Alan playing in the orchestra gained no consideration, even in his own home, where his mother was quite aware of her son’s….her daughter’s gender issues.

“Hey…I’ve got an idea, honey.” The girl was at least five years older than him, still young, but a college girl none the less. Out of his league…or rather out of her league to be exact, not taking into account to whom she might be attracted. But she was a very caring and understanding friend.

“I know it’s difficult to get time for your mom to talk, and I know your dad would be so pissed…” Her voice trailed off before she continued with a shake of her head.

“I’m sorry, kid…he’d be fucking livid, and I bet you’d never hear the end of how fucked up you are.” Her voice trailed off once again as she realized just how painful her reminder was. She leaned closer and kissed him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry, Alan…sometimes I say stuff before thinking…It’s so hard for you, and I know it’s like being pulled in so many fucking directions.” She looked around the kitchen. Gino the chef had stepped out and none of the wait staff was there. She leaned even closer, noticing the boy had begun to cry, his face red with embarrassment and shame.

“It’s okay…Elaine…” She whispered in the boy’s ear.

“You’re off tomorrow and you don’t have band practice tomorrow, right? Anything going on for track?”

“No…coach gave us off tomorrow since we have a meet on Friday.” He said as he wiped his face with the towel from his pocket.

“Come over tomorrow. My mom doesn’t know anything about you…I promise I haven’t said anything, but if you need someone to talk to, she’ll understand. Okay?”

“Okay…thanks, Gen…you’re...oh...just thanks.”

“It’s okay, kid…we’re friends, right? And friends stick together. Tomorrow after school then?”

“Okay.” The boy touched her softly on the arm in parting and walked out.

“Just friends,” Gennie sighed as she watched the boy depart.


Wednesday night at the Peterson home, Dallas, Pennsylvania...

Alan walked into his bedroom…almost tiptoeing even though he would be alone for the next four days. His father was on a business trip to Syracuse for the lab so he wouldn’t be spending his weekend at his Dad’s place. And his mother was playing with her orchestra at a concert in Cincinnati so he had the house to himself. He walked to his closet and pulled down the large box that came with his DVD system. Placing it on the bed, he went back to the closet and pulled an old suitcase. He handled the case as if it held a treasure; to him it did. He recalled the conversation he had with his mother before she left.

***

“You’re acting like a fool, Alan…I won’t have it. You’ve come too far to throw it away on a whim.” She pointed to the papers sitting on the kitchen counter even as she felt horrible about the words she had just spoken.

“Mom…this isn’t a whim…it’s as much a part of me as my viola…you have to let me…I…” She cut him off:

“I don’t have to do anything. You have a scholarship…to the University of Illinois…do you understand what that means?” She tried to be stern, but it wasn't in her; still she remained somewhat adamant.

“Mom…I know…I’ve looked it up…if I start now, I can go in the fall next year…I won’t miss a beat.” Len held out his arms.

“You can, but your scholarship won’t be guaranteed with just academics alone, and I can’t afford to send you to school…not with what your father sends us.” She practically scowled at the boy.

“He does what he can, Mom…to take care of us…what more do you want from him…He still loves you…isn’t that enough?”

“He does what he can…and yes…I know he still loves me…but…” Her voice trailed off and grew sad as the anger slipped away.

“Mom…I need to do this. This is who I am.” The boy choked back a sob.

“I’m not saying no….just think about putting it off…a year or so, while you get established. Once you make a name for yourself, you can do whatever you like…write your own ticket. It will be okay. Trust me on this, honey…I’m sorry for being so hard, but you have to face facts…”

“Mom…please…”

“I’ve got to get going…I’ll call you when I get to the hotel… Alan?” The boy turned and saw his mother had teared up.

“We’ll talk about it when I get back, okay. I’m sorry about that ‘fool’ remark. You think about what I said, and I promise I think about what you told me.” She smiled as she wiped away her tears. The boy walked to her and hugged her.

“I know this will work, Mom…it just has to.” The boy resisted the urge to cry in her arms and pulled back, wiping his own tears with his sleeve.

“You do take after us so much, honey.” She turned her head and looked out the front window of the house.

“You’re just as stubborn as your Dad ever was and you have my ear for music.” She finally smiled and he took that as welcome for his next comment.

“I take after you in another way as well.” His mother went to frown, but she couldn’t deny what she saw.

“Well, yes…I guess there is that. Honey…I just don’t know…I want the best for you, and I’m afraid you’re moving too fast…” She noted his smile had turned to a very sad frown and she quickly added,

“We’ll talk when I get home….Okay? That’s the best I can do at this point. I love you.” She kissed him once and walked to the car and was gone. Something in her expression gave him hope…her hope that things would be okay.


He opened the case and smiled; what rested inside was meager but gave him a strength that nearly nothing else did besides his music. He pulled out the contents and went inside the bathroom.

* * * * *

The girl sat in the chair. She looked at her reflection in the mirror on the far wall. Her hair, still a bit shorter than she liked, was up, done as you might usually see at a recital. Her makeup was modest and her look was enhanced by a rare sereneness that visited her only on her times of playing. She smiled as she eyed her gown; purple and off the shoulder. She sighed in relief at the way her gown fit; she had worried understandably however needlessly since she had purchased it on the internet.

She picked up the bow and placed it gently on the strings of the viola; her face continuing its serene display as she began to play…Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky…Third Movement. She even knew the violin part by heart…Cello was a stretch, but she begged her mother, and owned all three instruments; her only money from her allowance besides music went to purchasing what she was wearing.
She closed her eyes as the music soothed her heart; the sad but hopeful melody and countermelodies evoking tears, which cleansed her hurt even as they lifted her soul.

She had given up almost all hope for a life that would include both her music and her…HER…that her life would include the woman she had hoped she would become; already helping others come to know. For now, Elaine was a good friend to as many as she could be, even if only a few of them knew her as someone other than Alan Peterson. The music seemed to wrap her in a blanket of knowing acceptance; as if Pyotr himself had written the piece with a mind to warm her soul. Bright and hopeful and joyful would visit her with the next movement, but for now it was the strong connection that she bore with the near despairing tune that would touch her heart. First with her beloved Viola…then with the violin and finally her cello. It struck her as ironic that she was named in a manner after her favorite composer, Pyotr; her musical father in away...Elaine Petronova.


Adagios and Acceptance


Alan's neighborhood...

The bus stopped and the car behind it pulled over to the curb.

“Hey, where you heading? I thought you were coming over for dinner tonight." Gennie called out as Alan got off the bus.

“Oh…Hi, Gennie,” Alan said and put his head down, trying not to make eye contact with her.

“Oh no you don’t.” We have a date,” she practically shouted, and Alan was thankful that the Capaldi twins had stayed late for a yearbook meeting. Gennie actually thought about the word even as it escaped her mouth; ‘date’ didn’t quite describe what she had planned, but it really was a nice word.

“I don’t feel so good, Gen…I think I just want to go home and lie down.” Alan wasn’t lying. He had almost lost hope of ever seeing things change; Pyotr Ilytch’s soft steady encouragement to the contrary. He was so sick that even the thought of being by himself was actually discouraging because he didn’t even have the energy to play and dress. His only solace was that his mother still was two days away from her return home; maybe he’d feel better tomorrow?

“Come on, kid…things can’t be that bad.”

They weren’t that bad; they were worse. When he had gotten off work the other night he had forgotten to ask about the mail. Looking at the letters in the morning he had discovered that his scholarship for track had been cut due to the economy. And another letter informed him that the orchestra had no scholarships available for viola; he could apply again the following spring or accept a one year scholarship based on his cello audition. Two things taken away from a boy who had very little to begin with.

“Aw, shit, honey…here…let me get that,” she said as she softly removed his backpack from his shoulder. He turned to her to thank her and his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell to the ground.

Gennie's parents home, three blocks away...

She tried to sit up but was overcome with a wave of nausea. She put her head back down on the pillow and turned to the side. A woman seemed to be floating sideways, but she soon realized it was because of her view. Once again she tried to sit up, but slower and more carefully. A voice came from off to her right; everything seemed blurred and sounded like she was underwater.

“Hey, kid…you okay? You gave me quite a scare there.” Gennie leaned closer and handed Alan an ice pack.

“I managed to get you on your feet and to our house. My mom came over after work. Our doc was by; you’ve got some virus, and an ear infection.” Alan stared at Gennie blankly but vaguely remembered a kind man with a nice smile.

“Most docs wouldn’t have come, but since it’s my uncle Randy, you got the royal treatment.” She smiled and poked him in the arm before adding,

“Oh…yeah…He says to stop taking your mom’s pills until you see the right doctor, okay?”

“You told him? You promised.”

“He asked if you’d been taking any meds and I said I wasn’t sure. He grabbed your backpack and found the pills. I would have stopped him but I figured you really needed to listen to what he had to say.

“Gennie?” the boy looked at her and then burst into tears.

“Thus the near-girl proves my point,” she laughed softly but shook her head.

“My cousin Shelly goes to a good doctor that helped her when she made the move.” Meav O’Hara called from the kitchen. “You can tell her we sent you…don’t worry, she understands kids like you.”

“Here,” she said, handing a cold bottle of water. “Randy said you really need to hydrate; that’s why you passed out…that and what he said about the pills.” The boy put his head down, trying to choke back some tears. She put her hand on the boy’s shoulder, causing him to wince only a bit; his need for contact overcame his fear and he struggled to sit up once again; this time to move closer to the comfort Gennie’s mom provided.

“Listen…if you don’t mind, I’d like to help. I can be with you and Gennie when you tell her about what happened tonight.” She squeezed the boy’s hand before continuing;

“This is too serious to keep from your parents; they need to know. I’ll be happy to talk to her.”

“Oh…that’s…you don’t…have to…” The boy was pushing away help even as his heart was screaming for it.

“Nonsense,” Meav said. “You’ve really been like a member of the family, honey, and I’ve known your mom since she beat me out for your father….” She stopped in mid-sentence and turned red.

“Oh, gosh, honey..I’m so sorry.”

“Thaat’ss….oh…kay, Mrs. O….it’s ….alright.

“And I’ll help you talk to your dad as well, okay?” Gennie’s step-dad said as he walked into the living room. The family’s generosity and acceptance was both beautiful and tragic in that it demonstrated that someone understood; sadly it wasn’t his own family that understood. But the boy was also torn; he was grateful for the love he’d been shown, but felt so exposed and ashamed that his secret was no longer safe. He would have felt betrayed but for the fact that Gennie couldn’t help him bear his burden alone.

Alan managed to keep from crying any harder until Meav sat down on the couch next to him and said softly,

“It’s okay, honey…Gen told me all about you…Elaine?” The boy disappeared, replaced by a very sensitive and talented but insecure girl who melted into her best friend’s mother’s arms in a sea of tears.

“It’s okay.”

Two days later at the Peterson home...

“Alan?” Sue Peterson laid her purse on the kitchen counter and paused.

“Cello? He hasn’t played cello in months. Vivaldi…jazz riffs?” She called down the hall once again when the music stopped.

“Honey?”

“In here, Mom, “a voice called from the second bedroom. She stepped through the doorway expecting to see her child, and she did; just not in a way she expected. Sitting in a folding chair she saw a young lady; about eighteen or so, holding bow to bridge. Her face was almost serene in her peace. She looked up and smiled.

“Alan?” Susan shook her head; whoever this young lady was, she couldn’t be her son, could she? The answer came immediately.

“Hi, Mom! Welcome home.”


Concertos and Confessions

“Alan…what’s the meaning of this? I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t do anything until we discussed this.” Sue stared at the boy sitting in the chair, her expression less angry than frustrated.

“I just don’t know about this Alan…” She sighed; wanting to support her child but fearful of making a mistake; actually and earnestly wanting to understand.

“Mom…this is who I am.”

“But a cellist? Alan?” She made an attempt at a joke, but quickly spoke when the girl frowned.

“I’m sorry, honey. Really…” It would have been understandable if the girl cried, which she did, but Sue began to weep.

“I’ve let you down…I should have…you needed a father…”

“Mom…it’s not your fault.” The girl tried to continue but her voice wavered as her mother rushed to her side.

“I should have stayed with your father…I should have never left him.”

“You don’t understand…I was like this way before….before you and Daddy broke up.”

Sue stepped closer and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder, trying to connect but feeling completely lost.

“Alan…please…” By then she could hardly speak. She felt so guilty without even knowing why. She felt the girl kiss her hand and pull it close to her breast.

“Mom…this is me…not the cello…not the viola……”

“But Alan…you love to play.”

“But they’re just part of me, Mom…this is who I am.” By now the girl was crying; she shook enough that the cello fell from against her knees onto the floor with a loud thud.

“Honey…we’ll get you help.” Sue blurted out. She leaned over and surrounded the girl in bear hug.

“I’m not going to change, Mom…it won’t work!” The girl tried to stand up but her mother redoubled her efforts to connect and squeezed the girl’s arm.

“No…I mean…we’ll get you the help you need. I’m sorry…”

“What…”

“I…I thought there was something wrong with you because I made so many mistakes when your Dad and I split…like this was my fault”

“Mom…nobody did anything wrong….nobody is at fault because this, not Alan, is who I was meant to be…I don’t care if I ever get to do anything else if I can’t be me…I can’t…I just can’t….please Mom.” The girl leaned back in the chair and sobbed harder than she had ever in her life.

“It’s okay, honey…I’m so sorry…we’ll get through this…we’ll get through this…It’s okay.” She clung closer to her and kissed her ear, whispering softly,

“I love you so much…I’m so sorry…I love you.” She knew she loved the child she held, even if she didn’t understand him? Her? She shook her head in wonder just who this child was in her arms. And she swallowed hard, wondering just how to break the news to her ex-husband. Seventeen years, ten months and seven days after the fact?

“Congratulations, Mr. Peterson, it’s a girl?”


A few days later...

Sue was sitting on the couch, looking out the front window, wondering where her answers would come. The phone rang.

“Sue Peterson, yes…oh, yes, Genevieve…Al…yes, I know…she’s been very kind to Alan…dinner, why that’s very kind of you? Seven…okay…thanks” She hung up and turned to the kitchen, where Alan was making lunch.

“Honey…your friend Genevieve? Her mother just invited you and me to dinner tomorrow. She sounds like a very nice person.”

“Gennie takes after her…she’s such…”

Alan’s voice had trailed off; he caught himself before saying ‘an understanding mother.’ Susan was trying hard to understand her child; she actually had thought about Alan’s dilemma the entire time she was away for the concert, and it was on her heart all the time now that Alan had made a decision. Her child was growing up fast; and starting out at nearly eighteen in her life journey was a very challenging situation for them both, not to mention her ex-husband. She was desperate to find some help to discuss Alan’s ‘choice’ with her ex. The choice wasn't becoming a girl, was it? Or was it becoming more of who she already was. It was so confusing.

Alan had yet to tell his mother about the change in scholarship status. No matter regarding the athletic scholarship; that would have gone 'away' in any case now that Elaine would be coming out, he hoped. But the change in the music scholarship meant that he had to go to school..."as is," in order to secure the benefit, or try to figure out a way to attend school and begin his...her change. He was glad that the O'Hara's were reaching out to his mother. He prayed desperately that they would connect.


That Saturday at the O'Hara home...

“It was very kind of you to invite us for dinner.” Susan smiled uncomfortably as she handed the dish of potatoes to Meav.

“We’re glad to have you over; Gennie has really taken your child under her wing, so to speak, and we’ve grown fond of….” Meav’s voice trailed off, but Susan knew what she wanted to say but was reluctant to voice.

“You mean my…daughter? I know this has been hard on Alan, and I appreciate your support, but…”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Peterson,” Gennie interrupted. “May I ask you a question?”

“Oh…oh sure, of course.”

“Do you trust your child?” Susan was taken aback a bit at such a personal question, but she went ahead and answered.

“Of course…why wouldn’t I?”

“Well, if you trust your child, why wouldn’t you believe your child’s expression of need?”

“Need? I’m not following you?” Susan was beginning to be embarrassed and a bit upset.”

“I’d like to tell you something about myself, okay?” Gennie smiled and held her hands out and slightly apart over the table. Susan nodded, but Alan touched Gennie’s arm.

“Please…you don’t have to…besides…we have to tell my Mom about the other day…okay?” Gennie nodded reluctantly while Susan’s curiosity was supplanted by a frutrated anger.

“What about the other day?”

“My brother Randy’s a doctor,” Sean said. “When you were at your concert, Alan had a virus and an ear infection that caused him to pass out…He was right by our house, so Randy came over and saw him.” Susan’s expression grew worried.

“You didn’t say anything to me,” she said, casting a concerned glance toward Alan.

“He also found these,” Sean reached back and grabbed the birth control pills from the credenza.

“What… You’re not….” She looked right at Gennie, and the girl half-smiled and shook her head.

“No…mom..it’s not what you think.”

“Alan was self-medicating…the way some of us do when we don’t have any help.”

“What do you mean…self-medicating.” Susan was debating whether to get up right then and there and leave. Meav put her hand on Susan’s arm and said softly,

“Susan…I think you should listen to Gennie, okay?” Her voice was soothing and calm and served to ease the tension in the room.

“When I was fourteen, I was doing the same thing with my mother’s pills…I read about it online and I didn’t know who to turn to. Daddy had just died, and Mom hadn’t met Sean yet.

"It was a rough time for both of us.” Meav began to tear up at the memory of their loss.

“Doing the same? I don’t understand.” Susan looked at Gennie and at Alan and back again.

“I was afraid that if I didn’t do something, I was going to get stuck, and nothing would ever help me. What I didn’t know is that my Mom….well…she sorta understood right away. That I needed help to become who I am…what I needed in the way of doctors and my shrink…you know?” Susan didn’t know what she was talking about, which was clear to Meav, so she spoke.

“Gennie grew up as a boy until her nineteenth birthday, Susan… Darren Andrew O’Hara…junior…”

“Oh my god…you’re kidding.” We say it all the time, knowing full well no one kids about that.

“What Alan has been doing by himself is trying to forestall something that’s already begun. He wants your support; what he’s been trying to tell you all along.” Gennie wasn’t being critical, but someone had to set Susan straight.

“You mean…the pills were for him like they were for you…it’s part of the…”

“I’m sorry, Mom…but you weren’t listening…I had…” Alan choked up and put his head on his arms on the table and began to weep.

“I know this is so much to take in all at once, but it’s really important that if….that now that Alan has come to this place, he has to act quickly, or whatever is going on in his development is addressed. We can recommend a doctor, and a good therapist to help you with this, Susan.

“I…” Susan looked over at her weeping child and her own face grew warm and red as she began to tear up.

“I didn’t know…Alan…please forgive me…I just didn’t know.”

She knows, though, Mrs. Peterson…your daughter has known for a while, and you have to trust her…like I asked before… she knows. Okay?” By then, the tears were coming so fast that Sue was struggling just to see Gennie, but she nodded.

“We’ll be happy to do anything we can to help, okay, honey?” Meav leaned closer and hugged Sue, who nodded once again.

“It’s going to be okay.”


Sunday evening at the Peterson home...

She had listened to violin concertos all day, missing her viola before the fact as she considered her options. Sighing deeply, the girl sat down and pulled the instrument close, almost as if it was a sacred moment. She tilted her head slightly and began to play along with the recording…very sad and moving but hopeful… Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, the second movement. She had all of the strings memorized, but cello was now her instrument; not so much of choice, but of necessity. And she decided then and there if she needed to play…then she would embrace her new love with as much enthusiasm as her viola had once enjoyed. And for the first time in her brief life, Elaine Peterson had hope.


Sonatas and Sadness

That week...

The girl seemed almost giddy as the bow glided on the strings. She had to recall the piano from memory since she had the sound to the CD player turned down. Beethoven's Sonata for Cello and Piano in F-Major. A bit of an elevation of mood for her; not quite bright, but no where near gloomy. She looked forward to showing them that she not only could play cello, but that she was 'that good,' as they say. In real life she held herself in very little regard, but her music gave her confidence that she gained no where else in life.

That confidence was painfully difficult to sustain, especially now that her other talents, as well as her identity, seem to be called into question; first by circumstances and sadly, she felt, perhaps by those she loved. She played the piece over and over, almost like a comforting favorite lullaby at bedtime. And she played so as not to think and feel. Try as she may, between the sheer fatigue from the playing and the lack of sleep over several days, she stopped halfway during the fourth run-through and she began to cry hard enough to drop her cello to the floor only to fall beside it, weeping.


Further into the week...at the Peterson home...

Ase’s Death from Peer Gynt was playing moderately in the background. Susan covered one ear and spoke into her cell phone.

“Al?…Sue…are you free for dinner Sunday? Alan has some things he wants to talk over with us, and it would be easier if he could tell us together..no…nothing like that..school stuff…yeah…okay…two thirty okay? Alright…yes…Love you, too. Bye”

“I hope this works,” Susan turned to her child, who was debating how to tell her father that she was a young woman.

“They say immersion is the best way to teach a new language, right?” Familiarity had been brushed aside as a daughter looked up at her mother instead of the usual boy and his mom.

“I’m speaking a new language, Mom…you’ve been speaking it all your life, and I need you to jump in and talk to me like I’m from the same place as you…it’s the only way I can…the way you can help me…” Where once Alan Peterson might have sat, Elaine Peterson…Petronova she had mused…Elaine had taken his place.

“What do you want me to say, honey? This is not easy for either of us. I can’t just set aside years of my life to suit your needs…” She bit her tongue, trying not to cry. Elaine winced at the rebuke.

“It’s not like I can’t see you this way…it’s just that it’s so new…so different. When you were born…you were my baby boy…your birth certificate said as much until the next day. You may have been a girl all along, but my heart doesn’t know that child…at least in that way.” She shook her head; the tears were flowing freely and she felt both guilt and confusion over the strangeness of it all.

“Honey…I’m trying, and we’re going to get where we both need to go, but it’s not going to be without challenges and obstacles along the way. Please…” She turned away, but she didn’t turn her back on her daughter so much as turn to seek some sort of sense; as if facing Elaine would confuse and befuddle her thinking.

“Mom…look at me…I’m the same person…please…I’m the cello that plays counter-point to the melody; I support….I’m not in front anymore…Alan’s gone, Mom…I’m here, and I need you to listen to me…” She began to sob and buried her face in a pillow from the couch. It was almost too much to bear. She felt shame over her needs; as if being herself was being selfish.

“I know…God, I know…please help me.” Elaine watched as her mother stood stock still and raised her hands in the air, and she realized the plea wasn’t to her, but a prayer to God. Susan began to shake; a small tremor that culminated in her falling to the floor, weeping. Elaine rushed to her side.

“Mom…I’m so sorry…this isn’t right…I’m so sorry. I’ll go…” She wasn’t going to go change her clothes, but she felt responsible for her mother’s pain in the same manner her mother felt responsible for the devastation the divorce had wrought with her child. She wasn’t going to put on a tee shirt and sweats; she was prepared to abandon herself. Susan’s hand grabbed Elaine’s wrist as she pulled the girl to the floor and embraced her, weeping.

“Mommy…please…I have to go…I have to go.” Too much guilt spread over three people when two were to blame but none was guilty. The girl went to stand, but her mother had locked her fingers and held tight.

“No…Alan…Alan….Oh God….my baby….” She rocked back and forth; her movements at once jarring to the girl, but gradually the laments became a lullaby of sorts as Susan spoke her child’s name for the first time, over and over.

“My baby…Elaine…Elaine….Oh God, forgive me…please.” Her words, while soft and nearly a whisper, became a prayer to be heard by the One who was listening all along. The same one who had formed her child in her womb had done the same for her as well.

“Mommy…I’m so sorry.” Both requesting forgiveness when neither was guilty. Both seeking absolution when their very embrace was proof that forgiveness was not only possible, but was working in them.

They sat on the floor and hugged, without word as the music almost played an accompaniment; the sadness of Grieg that had played like a dirge…perhaps for Alan’s death…was supplanted by the bright hope of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, almost as if new life had entered their living room. The music permeated the two like a rain shower replenishes a dry flower bed. The notes at first bounced off their hearts, but gradually they were absorbed as the two rested in each other's arms.

“Mom…what are am I going to tell Dad?” The girl tried not to cry; as if she were betraying the bright mood of Pyotr Illytch, but she sobbed into her mother’s breast.

“We…We are going to tell him that his daughter has decided to major in Cello.” She shrugged her shoulders in hopes that her ex-husband would be as receptive as she finally had become. Her prayers were about to be answered as he would be confronted with the truth about his child, but how receptive he would be remained to be seen. Tchaikovsky’s frenetic pace seemed almost a prelude to the confrontation they hoped would not take place.


Sunday afternoon...

Al kissed Susan on the cheek as he entered the house, pausing long enough to stand and smile. It was his routine whenever he visited the family home, hoping still to win her heart enough to at least attempt to rekindle their marriage. Actually rekindle was incorrect, since they’d already been divorced and ostensibly moved on. Al never gave up hope even as Susan ran through two quick and disposable relationships; her being the dispossee.

“So what’s cookin’ Babe?”

He asked that question almost every time he had returned to the house for the awkward but necessary “let’s be civil for the sake of our son” meal. The comment was bordering on trite, but coming with his bright smile and welcoming tone, it actually was something to look forward to with each visit.

“Baked ziti with sausage on the side,” Susan remarked. Her face grew warm at the touch of his lips. She had never stopped loving him, even if they found they couldn’t live together. They’d even cheated in a way by having a brief but tumultuous affair with each other only weeks after the divorce was finalized.

“Sounds wonderful, honey.” He smiled again and quickly scanned the living room.

“Where’s Alan?”

“Oh, down the hall.” She hadn’t meant to be deceptive, but the pronouns and nouns and even Elaine’s name just didn’t roll off the tongue yet.

“We’re going to have some company; I hope you don’t mind.” Susan almost shrugged in apology.

“I thought we were going to talk about Alan’s college….what’s going on.” Al looked disappointed; he loved his son, and would have done anything for him, but he also felt the need for privacy, and not just to talk about the past or the future.

“Some friends are coming over; their daughter is already here now…down the hall.” She used her hand in a broad gesture before continuing.

“Genevieve has gone through some of the same challenges…I asked them to come so we could discuss the options.” She avoided the name and the pronouns once again.

“Okay…I guess.” He half-frowned.

“What?” She anticipated an argument, but his tone was understanding though disappointed.

“I was hoping to talk to you…” He smiled and she finished his sentence.

“About us? Al…we already discussed this. You and I have changed, and both for the better. We get along great even if…”

“Part of what I wanted to talk to you about was that I got a promotion.” She tilted her head in question and he continued.

“I’m going to be able to pay more support, and I got a bonus that’s going all to back payments. I want to do right by you and Alan, and now maybe I can. I’m so sorry.” He hoped this turn of events might serve to change her mind and he was prepared to continue pleading his case when he was interrupted by the doorbell. Sue smiled and shrugged her shoulders in apology once again before going to the door.

“Hello, Meav…Sean…This is my hus…my ex-husband Al. Al, these are Meav and Sean O’Hara. Their daughter works over at Perugino’s as a server, too.” Meav stepped closer and offered her hand to Al, which he promptly but softly shook. Sean shook Al’s hand as well and scanned the living room in much the same manner as Al had only minutes before.

“Something smells delicious,” Meav said, noting the aroma coming from the kitchen. She held up a Tupperware container slightly.

“Is that the peach pie you told me about? I’ve got vanilla ice cream for that as well.” Sue smiled and walked into the kitchen with Meav.

“I’ve got to say, your kid really can play. Violin all the way to double bass from what I’ve heard. You must be proud.” Sean said with only the slightest hint of Kilkenny in his accent.

“I am. And he’s got a full ride to Illinois…he’s a miler…a rare thing indeed since they’ve been sorta stingy with their athletic scholarships lately. Sean smiled, wondering how well Al would take the news that the track scholarship had been revoked.

“Dinner is just about ready. Why don’t you guys sit down and I’ll serve the salad, okay?” She smiled nervously, hoping her face wasn’t turning red.

“Meav? Would you mind going down the hall and telling those two that dinner is ready?” Meav nodded and was off down the hall. Sue came into the dining room and placed a large salad bowl on the table.

“Dressing is there…help yourselves.” She nodded in the direction of the bottles of ranch and Italian before hurrying back to the kitchen.

“I’ll just get the pitcher of iced tea and I’ll be back in a moment,” she called back. Sean handed the bowl to Al as Meav walked into the dining room accompanied by two girls. The first of the two entered the dining room. She appeared to be in her early twenties; a bit boyish but pretty. She wore blue jeans and a black top under a green Eisenhower jacket with flower appliques on the epaulets.

“Hi, I’m Gennie.” She nearly added ‘you must be…’ but thought better of it. Standing in the doorway was a girl of about seventeen or so. She looked nervous.

“Oh…you have two daughters.” Al turned to Meav, who had sat down. She shook her head ‘no.’ He turned back and looked at the girl again.

She wore blue jeans and a turquoise shell under a hip-length purple lavender cardigan. She wore little makeup, giving her a pretty but ‘natural’ look. Her hair was longish and she was smiling. And she looked very familiar, even if the hair and clothes didn’t. Al stared at the girl, whose nervousness grew with each moment of scrutiny until he blurted out.

“Son of a Bitch!”

The girl shrugged once and burst into tears and ran back down the hallway.

Al’s outburst was quickly accompanied by a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass as Sue dropped the pitcher of iced tea.

“Oh, Hell NO!... Son of a Bitch!”


Rachmaninoff and Romance

Moments later...

A sort of quiet commotion began to unfold. Gennie ran down the hall after Elaine while Meav ran into the kitchen and Sean put his hand on Al’s back as Al sat at the dining room table, stunned.

“I thought you were going to let us help with the ‘reveal,” Sue? What happened?” Meav said as she grabbed a broom from the corner and began sweeping up the broken glass. Sue stood off to the side with her hand to her mouth. She leaned closer and tried to whisper ‘loudly,’ which just ended up as her normal “inside” voice.

“I don’t know…I told the girls they could ‘dress’ for the occasion, but only after dinner and after we saw how Al would react to the news. I still haven’t even told him about the scholarships and school. Oh, God, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“It’s okay, hun…We can figure this out. Why don’t you sit down at the table? We’re still all going to have to eat. Maybe there’s some way we can salvage this.” The wry half-smile on her face almost said, “Keep your fingers crossed.” She put the broom aside and ushered Sue into the dining room and sat her down, coincidentally or purposefully across from Al, who appeared as stunned if not more.

“Al…I’m sorry…I...don’t know what to say.” She started to cry…the first time Al had seen her cry in over five years. Granted they were divorced and their contact had predictably been reduced, but she didn’t even cry at her mother’s funeral, at least in public.

“Christ, Sue…what the…what’s going on. Is this some sort of joke?” Al already knew it wasn’t a joke, but wanted it to be some cruel or foolish taunt instead of the truth.

“We were…going…to tell you. I’m so sorry.”

“Jesus Christ, Sue…what have you been doing to my son?” A fair if completely erroneous assumption, which she countered with,

“Where have you been, Al? Where the hell do you have the right to ask that question?” Her face turned red, and she was mixing anger with sadness and embarrassment as she continued.

“I’ve been trying so hard to keep things going. Did you fill out the applications? Did you see to the lessons? When was the last time you went to a recital?” It was degenerating into a He Makes Excuses/She Makes Excuses quickly until Meav interrupted with a simple,

“Dinner is served.” She placed the large cassarole of baked ziti on the table and continued.

“I don’t know either one of you that well,” she said as she shook her head. The word came out “oither;” her accent, mostly dormant after thirty years in the States, grew a bit stronger whenever she “got her Irish up,” as they say.

“But you’re focusing on yourselves instead of your precious child down the hall way. Now...I’m going to lay some ground rules here, so it doesn’t become all about you two. Think of her for once besides yourselves…” She smiled as they sat quiet, almost like chastised schoolchildren.

“First…This isn’t about you although you might think it is.” Sean put his hand to his face to cover his broad grin as his wife continued.

“We’ve got two well-meaning but very self-centered parents here. Both of you are focused on your jobs, which is okay for the most part, but it can’t be at the exclusion of your child’s needs.” She turned to Al.

“You’re away so often, that you don’t see things for what they really are…what they’ve been for some time. Now I’m not complainin’ but my Sean here has been to more concerts with the child than you have.”

Sue started to smile and Meav turned to her.

“Oh, no you don’t. You’re out of town with your own concerts…which is okay. But what do you do with your time when you aren’t out of town? From what you tell me, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on when you are home.“ She sighed and continued, holding up her hand like an impatient parent.

“We had every intention of sitting down and doing this by talking, but don’t you see? The child must have felt she couldn’t get anywhere, because obviously you haven’t been listening…So she decided to show you in the only way she knew would reach you? Sorta like getting’ dowsed with a glass of cold water. Well, it got your attention.

Now we could do this like they do in the movies or TV. Sue can just go into the kitchen and start cleaning and Al can go home, feeling like he’s the hurt one.”

Al actually put his head down on the table, starting to feel both a little ill and a great deal convicted. Sue was only a bit more ‘defiant’ until Meav shot her a playful mock-glare.

“You…you’re so right.” Sue reached over and went to touch Al’s hand. She pulled it back for a moment, tentatively considering withdrawing altogether before patting Al’s wrist.

“Al? Listen for a second, okay, honey?” She hadn’t called him that in that way since the divorce.

“We’ve been looking at a son when…we’ve had a daughter all along. I am so sorry…I should have been more attentive. Meav is right.” Al still had his head down and he shrugged his shoulders.

“I should have seen her… She’s been in my…the house with me all along. I should have seen this and said something…to her and to you.” Sue’s shoulders shuddered slightly as she patted Al on the hand. Al raised his head and looked at Sue. His eyes were filled with tears.

“I’m so sorry,” he said haltingly. He looked up at Meav who just glanced over at Sue as if to say, “it’s not me you should be apologizing to.” He turned again to Sue and half-smiled.

“I’ve been trying so hard to get us back together that I haven’t even realized just who ‘us’ was.” He shook his head as he leaned sideways a bit to look down the hallway. I sorta saw this coming and I didn’t want to believe it.” Sue leaned back just a bit and sighed.

“What do you mean…? I don’t understand?” Her eyes went out of focus as as she wondered just what Al was going to reveal.

“The last time he was over, he was asking questions. Things we hardly ever talk about, but I guess now it was almost like he was giving hints. Stuff like, 'Were you happy when I was born,' and 'What if I don’t do well at running for Illinois, Dad?' There was one time a few months ago where he and I were watching a show… I don’t even remember what it was about. He’d gotten into his pajamas…what eighteen year old boy still wears pajamas. I was looking at the TV and I heard him sigh… it must have been some emotional moment in the movie… you know how they like to slip romance in between explosions and car crashes.”

Sue looked at him oddly, as if she already knew what he was about to say.

“Anyway…I look over at him and he’s sitting on the couch with his legs curled up under him and he’s got this intense look about him, like the moment in the movie is really affecting him, and I thought… Jeez… he looks… I almost said acts…just like his mother.” Sue’s eyes widened as she could actually see the scene play out in her mind.

“I don’t know… it’s like it was in front of me all along and I didn’t want to see it.” Sue nodded.

“I think I’ve known for some time,” she said as she shook her head. The tears streamed down her cheeks.

“I was so afraid that I had done something wrong. Like I had been a bad mother…” She paused, but she continued to think,

“A bad wife.”

Al shook his head no as if to argue with her assumption about herself, almost knowing what she was thinking.

“You’ve been a great mother to her.” Al’s eyes widened as soon as he spoke; he had said it, and there was no turning back, happily in a way, even if the implications were huge and perhaps challenging.

“You’ve been a great mother to her… yeah… I guess I said that, didn’t I. I may be slow, but I’m not stupid. We’ve got a daughter, Sue, and I guess we’ll have to…. Work together to help her sort things out.” He smiled at the word ‘we’ll.”

“I guess we will.” She smiled as she patted his hand one last time. Meav turned to Sean and smiled, breathing out a relieved sigh. He smiled back and clasped his hand together in congratulations as he quietly mouthed,

“I love you.”


Meanwhile...

The two girls were sitting on the bed as Lainie cried.

“I really screwed up. He hates me. I’ll… Gennie, I don’t know what to do.” Lainie fell into her arms as Gennie patted her on the back.

“We’ll figure out something. I know he’s just shocked. Sean didn’t curse, but I swear to God both he and Mom had the same look on their faces that your Dad just had. You’ve told me how much your parents love you, right? Do you think that would change that much… Do you think they’d just stop loving you and change their minds… change their hearts?”

“I…I don’t know…” Lainie continued to weep. Had she looked up at Gennie at that moment, she would have noticed the girl’s expression had changed. While she still remained the supportive friend, the closeness of the moment served to draw her out in a way, and she began to cry without sound.

“I do.” Gennie thought to herself as she stifled a sob. “I know they have to love you more than I do…they’ve known you all your life… And if I love you this much they must love you…” She bit the inside of her mouth and buried her face in Lainie’s shoulder. Just a caring friend sympathizing in a difficult situation.

“Li…Listen, hun. You’ll be fine. Just a sec.” She got up and went into Laine’s bathroom. Lainie heard the water running before Gennie came out and back down on the bed next to her. She held up a washcloth and began to wipe the girl’s face; the cold water served to cool down the heat of Lainie’s shame. A simple gesture between best girlfriends, but it was almost painful as Gennie tried so hard to suppress her feelings for the girl.

“Th..thanks, Gen.” Lainie reached over hugged the girl quickly before breaking the embrace. Gennie took the cloth and wiped her own face. A knock came at the door.

“You two okay in there?” Meav called from the hallway.

“Yeah, Mom…I think so… we’ll be out in a minute," Gennie answered. She turned and smiled at Lainie before glancing around the room, as if looking for some clues to the puzzle that was playing out in real life for her friend. A few moments later her expression changed as she grinned.

“I’ve got an idea. Bear with me, okay?”

“Oh…okay.” Lainie nodded nervously.

“Here’s the plan.”


A few minutes later...

Al sat and stared at the dish of ziti in the middle of the table. There are times when in the midst of crisis, you can almost feel guilty for feeling hungry, especially when the food is right in front of you. They had talked for what seemed like hours but was only a few minutes. He turned away and sighed.

“Dad…Mom…I’m sorry.” Al turned around and his attention was drawn to the figures standing in the archway of the dining room. Sue turned around and looked and her eyes widened. She was quickly joined by Sean and Meav.

Gennie stood there next to Lainie along with…Alan? Gone were the girl-jeans and the turquoise top, replaced by boy-jeans and a black tee shirt. His hair was pulled back in a ponytail; not the kind that you’d find on a girl, but the kind that’s bound at the base of the neck, like a boy? And the makeup was gone as well. But it really wasn’t Alan.

“Oh, God…honey?”

Sue said, viewing for the first time through the prism of the scene that had played out only a while ago. It wasn’t Alan standing there in ‘his’ clothes. It was their daughter Elaine, wearing boy’s clothes, almost as if she was going to a Halloween party. As awkward the previous hour had been for all the contrivance of their misunderstanding about their child, it was even more awkward as the contrivance was not the boy pretending to be a girl, as they’d believed. It was the contrivance of their daughter dressed in the wrong clothing, trying to be what she thought her parents wanted.

“Is…this okay?”

It may have been a clever idea, but the girl still was filled with the dread that they would say yes, ruining any future she might have had. Her tears only served to reinforce everyone’s understand of just how wrong they had been. Boys cry of course, but this wasn’t a boy crying over some justifiable but temporary hurt; this was a girl crying in anticipatory grief for the loss of her own life. Meav went to step forward but Sean put his hand on her shoulder with a cautious smile. She looked at Sue and Al and nodded.

“No…it’s not.” Al spoke softly with a slight shake of the head. He struggled as the tears began to flow.

“I’m sorry….Alan…” He shrugged his shoulders slightly, almost in apology before continuing.

“I’m sorry…. That’s not who you are. I don’t even know who you are, but ….” He choked back a sob.

“I know that the person we saw before…that’s who you are, and I’m sorry it took so long to realize. Please forgive me.” He put his arms on the table and rested his head on them, sobbing. Lainie stood shaking slightly. Gennie wanted to hug her, but she knew that the girl needed the embraces that only her parents could provide for the healing she needed. Time enough, she hoped, to tell the girl exactly how she felt.

“Can you forgive us…forgive me for not listening to you.” Sue stood up and walked over to her daughter. She pulled the girl into a tight embrace and began to sob.

“I’m sorry…I am so…so sorry.” She wept. Lainie put her head on her mother’s shoulders.

“Oh, Mom…Mommy….” She began to weep as well as her mother’s embrace surrounded not only her arms, but her whole being.

“Mommy…” She kept saying it over and over; the security of her mother’s arms brought her back to a time and place that never existed for her where Mommies and little girls dwell.

And Sue felt something strangely familiar, recalling moments where the girl she was just getting to know had made appearances in the past. The day she came home and was disappointed about losing first chair to another violinist and felt the soft stroking of her hair by her child’s little hand. The soft kiss on her cheek by her thirteen year old in consolation over some now unremembered disappointment. The quiet but accurate complements and advice about her appearance by her fifteen year old.

“I should have seen…I should have known.” Sue said quitely as she pulled back a bit from the embrace; her eyes still filled with tears.

“I…I didn’t even know myself, Mom…how could you?” Lainie shook her head.

“I…I think there’s enough misplaced guilt to go around for everyone, don’t you think?” Meav interrupted. Sean shook his head no and Sue noticed the gesture.

“No, Sean…I think Meav is right. We’ve got to get off this stupid Guilt Carousel that we’ve been on for so long.”

She looked over at the table where Al had lifted his head. He smiled and went to get up. No group hug; Lainie went over and just grabbed his hand. It was almost as if she knew instinctively that a magical moment of hugging and kissing wasn’t what her father could handle just then; that would come with time. Al grabbed her hand and squeezed as he smiled. The first real communcation between father and daughter said without words but saying volumes.

“Dad…” She said it with a nod; an acknowledgement that something had taken place. Not ‘Daddy,” but “Dad;” a brand new ‘name’ for him just didn’t fit when the old name suited him perfectly well. Sometimes even the nicest of times and events and wonderful choices and discoveries still can’t be sustained when the parties involved run out of things to say. Insightful as ever, Meav solved their dilemma with a simple,

“I repeat, Dinner is served."


That night at the O'Hara home...

“Care to talk about it, Gen?” Sean said as he sat down next to his step-daughter. She looked over at him and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I may not say much, but I see things, darlin’. It was written all over your face…you’ve got your mother’s inability to hide your feelings. God help you if you ever play poker; you’ll end up in the poor house.”

“I’m…she’s….” Gennie was never at a loss for words or opinions, but at that moment she was unable to speak. Sean did her talkin for her.

“You’re afraid that she’ll go away and you won’t have said what you need to say, right?” She nodded and tears came to her eyes.

“Listen, child…you’re her best friend; she knows that more certainly than most things, I expect. What’s the worst that could happen if you tell her you love her? Things would still be the same, just out in the open? But if you tell her and the best thing happens?

You already made the biggest leap of faith in your whole life when you came to me and your mother and told us about Genevieve. Right?”

He smiled and looked her over as if he were seeing her for the first time, recalling the moment Gary the son was replaced with Gennie the daughter. She nodded again, still tearful.

“Well, this is almost easy compared to that, since you already know she loves you. The thing is just how much, I expect, is what makes you fearful. One thing you can’t do that I can?

“What…what’s that?”

“Well, Gennie darlin’ dear light of my life… I can watch for stuff that you can’t see ‘cause I know what to look for, bein’ how I’m so much older than you.” Even at fifty, Sean was as much grandfatherly as fatherly.

“I don’t understand…” She wiped her nose with her sleeve and shook her head.

“You know that look you’ve got whenever she walks into the room type of look? The one that says, ‘I’m so glad you’re here… I’m so relieved that you’re okay… I’m so happy you’re mine?’”

“Like you and Mom?” She smiled

“Yep..like me and your mother. Well, we’ve been at it for a while, and we know where we stand, so we don’t turn our heads in fear… we don’t have to sneak a glance or peek because we know we love each other, right?” Gennie nodded again.

“Well, you don’t have that security of knowing since you’ve never talked about it with her. So when she walks into a room you have that same look, but it’s toward me or your mom or her parents, but not to her. Well…“ He paused for effect, enjoying the playful teasing that would conclude with the truth. She looked at him and tilted her head in confusion.

“Let’s just say that you’re not the only one turnin’ her head these days.”

He lifted his shoulders slightly and laughed softly. She looked at him with the same confused expression. He looked into her eyes and raised his right eyebrow slightly as if to say, “go ahead…I’ll wait…” She tilted her head again in thought. After a few seconds her eyes widened in discovery and she opened her mouth in amazement. The amazement quickly turned to wonder which quickly turned to shock which quickly turned to joy followed immediately by relief as she burst into tears. She buried her face in Sean’s sweater and began to sob.

“There, there, darlin’! I told you that it’ll be alright, aye? And since when am I ever wrong.”

He laughed softly and stroked her hair. And Meav stood in the doorway with her hand to her cheek, feeling her own tears as she watched the two loves of her life with affection and gratitude.


The Peterson home that night...

Sue walked into the livingroom to find that Al had fallen asleep on the couch, his head propped awkwardly on his hand against the back cushion. She smiled and shooke her head, more at what she was feeling at the moment than his slumber. She grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and draped it over him. She leaned closer to give him a kiss on the forehead but thought better of it.

Smiling again, she stepped away, her hand brushing against his arm as she pulled back. They had hugged as cordial ‘exes’ more times than she could remember and certainly had hugged enough as platonic friends. But this touch, as brief as it was, seemed to evoke memories long past; affection long forgotten and love long dormant. She shook her head as if to doubt her feelings before walking away.


The girl played along with the CD … Rachmoninoff’s Vocalise; a favorite played by often since it was so poignant and bittersweet, much like her life. It had been put to words by Joel Sattler that lamented war and loss and sadness, but for her it was like it spoke to the war in her soul; the loss of years; the sadness of her own heart.

She was being led along almost as if her violin was playing her, and the melody carried her along gently as it helped soothe the deep down nearly unreachable pains still. She didn’t doubt that her parents loved her, but life had been ungentle enough to her lately that she feared they still wouldn’t understand. She followed Perlman’s lead so closely that it almost sounded as if one were playing instead of two.

The emotion of the moment finally got to her and she stopped. As Perlman continued playing she carefully placed her violin in the case at her feet. Getting up she walked over to her bed; briefly stopping to examine her reflection in the dresser mirror.

“You’ll be alright…I promise,” the image seemed to say to her. She shrugged her shoulders with a half-frown; almost disbelieving herself. She lay down and buried her face in her pillow. Weeping didn’t come until she closed her eyes and saw Gennie’s face before her. She sighed deeply before sobbing enough to shake the bed as she cried herself to sleep.


Concertos and Confessions

At school…a few days later…

Jack Pietrowski sat behind the desk with his back turned to the door, looking for a CD from Coach Len’s collection on the shelf. A knock came at the door and without turning, he said,

“I’ll be right with you,” which was answered with,

“Coach?”

Elaine stood nervously by the door. She had elected to dress as her new self for this impromptu visit to her track coach. Nothing spectacular. A hip length oversize medium blue wool sweater over black leggings and boots. Jack continued with his back to the door, still searching until he spotted a worn case down at the bottom shelf.

“There…” He exclaimed. As he turned around, he focused on the CD player on the desk, still paying no heed to the figure by the door other than to remark,

“I’ve been wondering when you’d stop by, Alan. I’m sorry about the scholarship and all. Maybe you can do a walk on?” He slid the CD into the player and hit the play button before raising his head. The sound of Carlos Santana played quietly as he turned down the volume.

“Coach?”

Jack looked at his runner; the best 800 Meter man he had ever seen in his time coaching, but was only slightly surprised to see someone in the boy’s place.

“I…I heard things had changed, but I didn’t anticipate this,” Jack said, unfazed as the girl smiled nervously.

“What’s your name?” He asked it as if they were meeting for the first time, which really wasn’t far from the truth.

“Elaine…Lainie…” Alan had more than enjoyed running for Coach Jack; it was like having a favorite uncle for a mentor.

“Well, I am sorry that they reneged on the scholarship. I don’t suppose you’ll be running for a while, from what I heard.”

“No, sir.”

“It’s for the best,” he said with virtually no emotion in his voice, leaving the girl wondering what he meant, and then taking it entirely the wrong way. Lainie put her head down and rocked side to side, looking for an answer to his dismissive comment, but he surprised her.

“Lainie…” He paused. She shuddered. It was the first time anyone besides Gennie and both their families had called her by her ‘real’ name.

“I wanted you to know that it has been an absolute joy to be your coach. I wish you all the success in the world.” His voice was tender and almost fatherly; something that had been sorely lacking in recent years in her life. She shuddered again, nervously shifting from side to side again.

“I have a cousin who’s a nurse…she works with a practice in Montreal…where they help girls like you.” He smiled as she blinked back tears and grinned ever so slightly.

“I don’t begin to know everything about it, and I certainly don’t understand it all, but I think I can say two things for sure, okay?” It was as if he was asking permission to offer an opinion. She nodded but kept quiet.

“First, my cousin is a wonderful woman who is as kind as the day is long, and she’s as caring as anyone I’ve ever met. Since this is important to her, I figure it should be important to me, so it is, whether or not I understand.” He paused and smiled a toothy smile. She looked at him as if to say, ‘And?’

“I trust you…You’ve been one of the best things to happen to this school, and I’m proud to say I got to be a part of your life, even if for only a little while. With you, it was never about the running and all about the running; you run for the sheer joy, but you compete with a will like I’ve never seen. This new….thing? It’s just another challenge for you; one that I am sure you’ll face and win.” He paused in thought for a moment.

“My feeling is, you will know better than anyone else in the world what is best for you, so you have my complete support. He smiled and went to offer his hand, but pulled it back slightly, evoking a quizzical stare from the girl.

“Oh…this?” He said softly; looking at his hand. “My mother told me it’s always polite to let the lady offer her hand first.” He grinned and laughed as Lainie tilted her head in wonder. She held out her hand sheepishly and he shook it firmly, almost as if he was saying farewell.

“You’re going to be okay, kid. I’m sure of that.” He smiled again and reached back to the bookshelf once again, but this time he knew exactly where to look. Pulling a CD from the shelf, he turned and handed it to Elaine.

“Jean-Luc Ponty….Jazz violin…I think you’ll like it.” She took it gingerly, feeling almost overwhelmed by the kindness this man had extended.

“Thanks, Coach.” Nothing had changed and everything had changed between them. The girl sounded exactly like the boy, and her demeanor hadn’t so much changed as seen in a different context. Everything at that moment, at least for Lainie and Jack Pietrowski, made entire sense; like noticing the blue of the sky or smell of salt air by the sea.

“It has been my pleasure, Miss Peterson.” She nearly winced in embarrassment at the new title, as if she had won an award.

“Thank you.” He said and turned slightly as she stepped toward the door.

“And Lainie?” She stopped and turned toward him, noticing that smile once again.

“God bless!”


Later…

“Come in, sweetie!” Linda smiled broadly as Elaine stepped into her office.

“I’m sorry…” She looked down at her apparel apologetically.

“What…for not doing it sooner?” Linda laughed. Lainie shuddered and turned her head, almost embarassed.

“Honey…I didn’t know…I swear, but nothing surprises me about you. You are just a wonder to me. I am amazed, now that I look at you, that we didn’t see this sooner. And I am so sorry for that. I think in trying to get you to fit in as a musician, I really did you a disservice as a person.” Linda sighed.

“That…that’s okay…I didn’t know myself until a while ago, and even then I wasn’t sure.”

“Still, we need to support you kids more as kids than as opportunities. The music won’t be worth anything if the artist is pushed aside. I am truly sorry…?” Linda tilted her head and stared at the girl’s face.

“Oh…it’s Elaine…Lainie, actually.”

“Lainie is my sister’s name…”

She looked at Linda before closing her eyes for a moment, remembering another who called her that often. She sighed in frustration.

“Oh, I’m sorry…I presume too much,” Linda said, noticing the girl’s expression.

“Oh…no…that’s alright… in fact, I kinda like it. Like we’re friends.” She thought again of the name, and breathed out with another long sigh.

“We are friends….Lainie. I think the world of you…I always have. I just didn’t know it was you, you know?” Lainie nodded with a smile, but her mind was elsewhere.

“Listen…just because they don’t have an opening for violin…doesn’t mean you can’t wow them anyway. And you play cello better than some of the pros I know. I wouldn’t worry.”

“I’m…I’m not going to go to school this fall. I’ve got to take some time…” She didn’t mean to, but she looked down at herself; almost looking down on herself.

“Oh…I understand.” Linda smiled politely, wondering why the girl was upset. It dawned on her, and she tapped her desk. Lainie looked up and shook her head.

“I’m sorry…I was someplace else…”

“Listen, honey…you’ve got nothing to be sorry about. I wanted to tell you something even before you mentioned about next Fall, but now I think it means even more…” She paused before standing up. Walking around the desk, she stepped closer to the girl and hugged her. Lainie looked at her in confusion.

“It’s never been about the music…and it’s all about the music. Because the music is part of you…It’s not you, but only your voice. You speak with such eloquence, but with such heart and soul as well. I think that the time off…at least from studying and all that…” Linda shook her head, which earned her another confused look.

“You find out who you are…do what you need to do for yourself…become who you’ve been all along, I suppose…and the music will follow…and the opportunities will follow the music, does that make sense?”

Lainie nodded and smiled. For once, things actually did make sense, even if they didn’t come together as planned or anticipated.

“Elaina Petrova, da?” Linda smiled and laughed softly. She grabbed the girl’s hands with her own and put her head against Lainie’s.

“These are only instruments as well, dear one.” She let go of Laine’s left hand and patted the girl’s chest with her right hand, saying,

“This is what matters most, Elaine. This part of you has been what makes you who you are…and what gives life to your music. That hasn’t changed even if other things have. You see?” She tilted her head and grinned.

“It has been my pleasure to work with you, and I hope that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for…” A knock came at the door.

“Linda? Annette called while you were out…apparently Mitzi couldn’t wait for the vet visit and there are schnoodles in your closet?” The secretary laughed. Linda nodded and looked around the office. She spotted her purse and picked it up.

“Well, it seems I’m a grandmother…”

“I understand.” Elaine started for the door, but Linda called out,

“Lainie?” She turned and Linda smiled at her before saying,

“God bless!”


That evening…at the O’Hara home…

“So what did the doc say?” Gennie handed Lainie a bottle of SoBe Mint Tea and sat down at the kitchen table.

“I’m sorta fortunate…being ‘small’ is what she said. By the time the year is over, things ought to be where they’re supposed to be…she sees no reason why things won’t be okay with Dr. Phardu and Dr. Stevens, you know? Of course you know.” Lainie put her head down a bit and stared at the table.

“What’s wrong…I know that look.” Gennie put her hand on Lainie’s wrist. She didn’t pull away, but her arm tensed up.

“Lainie…what’s wrong?” The girl lifted her head and she had tears in her eyes; her expression looked fearful.

“I…” She shook her head. Gennie squeezed her wrist and said,

“Lainie…please…you can tell me.” She wished and hoped to God that Lainie had come to realize that she could tell Gennie anything…well, almost anything.

“I can’t….”

“Don’t say that,” Gennie thought. She repeated instead, “You can tell me.”

“I…I need to know…if I do this.”

“Don’t say ‘if’!” Gennie thought.

“I need to know you’re…” Lainie looked away, her face now awash with tears.

“That I’m with you? You know I’m with you.” She went to touch Lainie’s cheek but pulled her hand back; almost as fearful as the girl whose hand she held.

“It’s…it’s…” Lainie wasn’t at a loss for words; it was the hearing of what she had to say that frightened her…scared her beyond belief over what might happen if she actually spoke what was in her heart.

“What, honey?” Gennie shook ever so slightly at the term of endearment.

“I need to know you’ll…be with me.” Gennie went to speak but Lainie pulled her wrist away and held her hand up.

“No…no.” She nearly sobbed, but continued with a halt….

“I….I need you…”

“Yes?”

“No…I can’t!” Lainie put her head on the table and gave way to the overwhelming emotion of the moment. Gennie put her hand on Lainie’s head. She pulled it back before placing once again on the girl’s head, stroking her hair gently.

“It’s okay…don’t worry…It’s okay?” Gennie had no idea whether or not it really would be okay, but she so desperately cared for Lainie that it should be…it had to be okay.”

“You don’t understand…I need…you. Oh, god…I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry.” Lainie turned her head away from Gennie and began to talk haltingly.

“You…I shouldn’t have said anything…I’ve ruined our friendship…I hate myself. I’m so sorry…” She kept shaking her head and apologizing until the Gennie stood up and stood over her weeping form.

“Ruin it…Oh, Lainie…you haven’t ruined it…you’ve made it…better!” She leaned closer and put her head down on the table, facing Lainie, almost like a child would with a friend who needed solace and comfort.

“Real…really?” Lainie sobbed.

“Really.” Gennie said softly before easing her head closer and kissing her friend…now so much more.

“Really.”


That night...

She sat in the chair in the room, almost awash with tears; her first recital in a way. Korngold was so romantic; her mother had played many of his themes as lullabies when she was little. But tonight, it was all about her audience. She tried not to open her eyes; she was so used to playing with the instrument 'singing to her' as she was swept away. But tonight her eyes were wide open as she drank in not only the sweet melody of the music, but the sight of her love sitting but a few feet away. Gennie shook her head, not in surprise, since she knew how lovely a sound Lainie could coax from the violin. She just couldn't believe that such a gift was not only Lainie's, but now...in a way, hers as well. She put her hand to her face and began to weep. A moment later the music stopped and she felt the soft caress of a hand to her cheek...

"All mine..." the voice sang softly in her ear, followed by kisses, soft and sweet as the melody she had just heard.

"All mine..."


Danni's Dream - Une Brá¨ve Prélude

Three girls find they have a lot more in common than their music...
danni's dream - the dawn awakens my soul no longer the same now new my heart sings


Scottsdale, Arizona...

The soft strains of Faure’s Pavane came softly out the window, wafting almost as if on a breeze as it made its way across the street and throughout the neighborhood. As tender and sweet as it was, it remained a sad piece. Faure’ had meant it as a slow mournful dance; perhaps with much more hope than the player had imagined, but then she had just lost her mother to the ravages of cancer.

“Are you ready? For Christ’s sake, Cam…it’s almost nine and we were supposed to be at the funeral home at eight-thirty…don’t you have any respect for her?” The voice was as harsh as a cold gale against her skin; leaving her shivering even as she finished playing. The song was for her mother…why couldn’t he understand?

“Damn it, Cam…If you’re not in the car in five minutes, I’m leaving without you!” The voice called out once again, even angrier, if that was possible. The girl laid the violin down and choked back a sob before walking slowly down the hall to the front of the house where her older brother waited.

“It’s about time…come on…” He relented. His face was a mask of grief. The two of them had lost their father only months before to an auto accident; and even if they had been prepared for their mother’s passing, it still hurt beyond what words could say. He gasped once and smiled at his kid brother.

“Look, Cam…I’m sorry…I feel like I have to be everything right now…I don’t even know where Daddy kept the insurance policy. Aunt Rose is coming over with Ken to help us look for the papers. The insurance company said they’d mail us a copy and they faxed some papers to the funeral people, but I don’t know where everything else is…and …and…” He put his hand to his face and began to weep. Cam walked over and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder and pulled him close, embracing him tightly.

“We’re going to get through this…” He sobbed even as his brother wept along with him. Trevor looked up and smiled through the tears, saying softly,

“You’re the best brother a guy could ever have…and the best son…okay…one of two ‘best’ sons, that Mommy and Daddy had…..I love you, bro.” He pulled Cam closer and kissed him on the cheek; a manly kiss…brother to brother. Cam buried his face in Trevor’s shoulder and began to sob. Mostly from grief over the loss of their parents, but also because he wanted so badly for his brother to know who he really was…the secret he had kept for so long…that Trevor didn’t really have a kid brother. He never had a kid brother, in fact, but the nicest sister a brother could ever have and the sweetest daughter her parents never knew…

And Danni wept…


Later that day...

“Cam…honey…” The girl stood at the end of the receiving line at the back of the church. He looked up and saw his best friend with her arms out.

“Hi…Emily.” Cam’s face grew red as he took note of Emily’s welcoming smile. He immediately felt guilty; an exercise that he practiced nearly on a daily basis, feeling that he had no right to be attracted to any one, least wise at his mother’s funeral. But he needed Emily, and truth be told, she needed him as well.

“I’m so sorry…” She sobbed as she pulled him closer for a hug. She didn’t mean to, but her hand got caught in his hair, which had grown past his collar.

“Oh..Cam…I’m so sorry.” The two had spent the last year running and dancing in the “I shouldn’t be happy because other folks are hurting marathon”; tripping over each others excuses not to get involved. And of course, Cam had his other self, whom he withheld from Emily, needlessly fearing rejection. Thankfully, the dance was coming to an end, and the music was about to change keys and tempo.

“Cam…I know you meant well….not telling them.” She shook her head as tears began to fall.

“But they never got to know her…oh…they knew her, alright, but you know what I mean.”

“No…don’t…” Cam turned away and bit his lip; she was right, and it hurt beyond measure, since there was no recall for well-intended but ill-conceived decisions.

“They’ll never get to know how beautiful you are…how precious…how wonderful.” It was special and dear and painful all rolled into one.

“Stop…please Em…please, stop.” He protested even as she stepped closer and embraced him…her…

“No…you have to tell your brother…he’ll understand…he loves you.” It was as if the one in her arms was transforming even as she spoke; the soft beauty of her girlfriend seemed to come alive even while the artificial steel of her boyfriend melted away like wax.

“Danni…tell him. Let him decide if he still loves you…be fair to yourself; don’t let another moment slip away. They know now…” She paused and looked up.

“Let him have what they didn’t. And don’t feel too bad, honey…okay…let’s live, you and me…okay?”

“Okay,” Danni nodded. Cameron nodded as well, even as he retreated into the safety and welcome of his true self; still a part of whom she was.


The next morning...

The girl, for that is who she was, played the piece once again, this time with no urgency or demand; she had time. The sun rose in the sky and in her soul while she played the piece for the first time as herself; no longer encumbered by expectations or guilt or shame. She played to an audience of one as her girlfriend sat on the chair on the patio, weeping softly. Oh, the music was just as moving as ever; as sweet and tender and sad and hopeful as ever, but it wasn’t so much in the playing that the emotion arose this time; it was in the player. The girl stood, her legs spread slightly apart as she moved to the music. Her eyes closed in wondrous thought as the notes came quickly. The psalmist's words came to her;

for the sake of the one you love so much,
reach down and help me–answer me!

Danielle Cameron Davies was playing for the first time and it felt great!



Bach and Bewildered

The orchestra played in her head and heart even as her instrument sang out the piece. She played almost frenetically, but the urgency was only in the way the notes scurried across her violin, seeking to complete the piece as it was meant to be played. Not with haste, but with rapidity; not timid but daring; as the task of the day waited for her merely a few minutes and one room away!

* * * * *

The Davies home…several days later…

Trevor walked in the house; his face a mask of exhaustion. The past few days after the funeral were spent sorting out the insurance policies for both parents, and the sheer weight of the emotion had practically worn both young men out. Emily sat on the couch and patted the cushion next to her.

“Cam’s still at school, so I started dinner for you guys, okay?” She smiled and hugged her ostensibly future brother-in-law.

“You hanging in there, Trev?”

“I miss them both so bad, but what’s worse is wondering how we’re going to make it? I guess we can apply for hardship, but with Mom’s medical bills, the savings just went away so fast, and the insurance they had only covers the burial, if that. We can hope that the car insurance will cover the cost of Dad’s car the night of the accident, but we won’t see a dime as far as his death goes until it’s sorted out in court. The mortgage had a rider to cover their deaths, but everything else is up in the air…including Julliard.”

He began to tear up. As much as his own dreams seemed forever deferred, he was more concerned about Cam’s future. Trevor knew that he’d make it either way, and he wasn’t worried, but school for Cam was iffy while all the finances were being sorted out. And in a school as competitive as Julliard, a missed semester could mean the difference between a career and a job.

“You’ll be okay, Trev. I just know it. I’ve got every faith in you that you’ll both be okay.” Emily wasn’t just being optimistic. She seemed to have almost a seventh or eighth sense as Cam put it regarding the way things played out. And she was as positive a person you’d ever want to meet.

“I know. I just want him to be happy. That’s what Mommy made me promise her before she died…the last thing she said to me was, ‘Make sure Cam is happy, okay’” He sighed at the mention of his mother.

“Please, Em…listen…I know what she meant. It wasn’t that she didn’t care what happened to me; it’s that she knew I could be happy painting landscapes or houseboats, you know? But Cam? His music means everything. And it meant everything to her to see that it came about. I felt like I was an instrument of blessing for him, and I still do. I’m just afraid I’ll let both of them and Daddy down, you know.” He put his hand to his face and began to cry.

“You’re about the best brother anyone ever had, Trev… I know Cam feels that way, and I do, too.” Marriage was iffy and several years off for her and Cam, and might not even be a marriage, depending upon how his secret played out. But Emily felt as close to Trev as if he was her brother-in-law. She hugged him and smiled.

“We’ll get through this. And it’s going to be an interesting few years.” She laughed softly as she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. Cam was never one for subtlety, and Trev was in for the surprise of his life.

“Trev…” The voice was as familiar as the sunrise but still unfamiliar in a way. Trevor turned to face the sound and saw a very nervous young lady standing before him. She was dressed in a sleeveless shift; tan with a turquoise belt. She wore matching bracelets and a turquoise pendant, which was supported by a thin leather strap instead of a chain. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail, revealing turquoise ear studs as well. And even though she was as nervous and shaking, her smile nearly belied her anxiety.

“Trev…I guess we should talk, huh?” The girl practically stammered as Trev’s hand shot up and stifled a gasp as he bit the back of his hand.

“Cam? Oh…Cam???” Trev echoed Cam’s stammer for a moment before bursting into laughter. Cam shrunk back, feeling hurt at Trev’s reaction until the smile on Trev’s face grew broader and seemed to be welcoming.

“Cam? You just about made my day…my week…and my year.” He laughed softly and turned to Emily, who sat there, gazing back and forth between the two.

“I don’t know why you’re smiling…why are…why are you smiling, Trev… I don’t understand?” Cam began to tear up, feeling slighted over the joke he…she didn’t get. Trev stood up and walked over to his brother and hugged him.

“Wait here…okay?” Trev said with a soft laugh.

“I’ll be right back.”

A moment later Trev was back, holding a letter in his hand. He motioned for Cam to follow him, and he sat down on the middle cushion of the couch. He opened the letter and patted the cushion next to him. A second later the three sat on the couch as he read the letter aloud.

My dear son…

There’s something I need to tell you, and it hurts that I didn’t speak sooner. I really thought I had more time.”

Trev choked back a sob. He had read the letter nearly a dozen times since the funeral, and that part still hurt more than anything.


“There’s something you need to know about your brother. Cam is special. You know I think you’re special, too, Trev, but you need to know that he has a secret. A secret that I know about. That I’ve known about since he was little. And I am so sorry for both of your sakes that I didn’t say anything, because it’s really a good thing. And I never told him.”

Trev turned to Cam and smiled.

“She knew.” He looked at Emily as if he was sharing a secret right then and there. And then he turned to Cam and began to read once again.


“Cammy…I know. I’ve always known. Your Daddy loved you very much, but I don’t think he would have understood. I know about the times you’d sneak into my closet. I know about the things that went missing or were in disarray. You can’t fool someone like me; we’re both sort of obsessive, but even when you tried, I could always tell when things were disturbed. But I also know about the web-searches. The search for knowledge about who you are. The long nights on the computer when you’d fall asleep and I’d just click off so you wouldn’t be worried.”

“Trev?” Emily said softly and looked in his eyes. He smiled and continued.


"Your brother will know after this letter. All I want is for both of you to be happy. I love you both...Mom"

“She knew?” Cam shook her head. Trevor turned to the girl sitting next to him and smiled; the girl he had never met before, but was prepared to welcome.

“She only knew about you, Cam,” and I’m sorry I didn’t trust you enough to say something. Or her.”

“I don’t understand, Trev. You just got the letter a couple of days ago? How could you say something. You just found out.” Cam put her hand to her forehead then wiped a tear from her eye. Trev turned to her and smiled once again, but the smile was almost sad.

“She was talking about your secret, Cam, and I’ve got to talk about mine.” He began to cry, putting his head in his hands.

“I don’t understand, Trev. What secret?” Cam bit her tongue and looked at Emily who returned the look with a shake of the head.

“I’m not going to be around much longer myself, Cam. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I didn’t say anything before because I was scared and ashamed, and I wasn’t sure about it. But now I’m more sure than ever, and I am so sorry we didn’t talk before Mommy and Daddy died.”

“Oh god, no…” Cam burst into tears and began hugging her brother. He answered her weeping with a soft laugh.

“No…no…not that. I’m not going to die…at least as far as I know. It’s just that I’ve got to go away…you won’t see me anymore.” The words sounded at first listen like the speech of someone going off to war or a job at a distant land, but his laughter once again belied any urgency or even sadness. He smiled at the two of them and opened the other envelope he had been holding.

“This is something I had read about before and always wondered about. I went online and re-checked out a few sites. This isn’t conclusive, but it sort of answers my questions, at least for the time being, but also may answer yours as well.”


“The study suggests that siblings of transsexuals may have a higher risk of being transsexual than the general population, and that the risk is higher for brothers than sisters of transsexuals, and for siblings of MF than FM transsexuals. Nevertheless, the risk is low. “ *

“What does that mean?” Emily asked.

“It means, I guess, 'My name is Terri...Theresa Naismith Davies.'" Trevor said with another soft laugh. Emily and Cam looked at each other and back at Trevor before the three burst into very nervous but relieved laughter.

“And my name is Danielle Cameron Davies. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” The sound was more tenor than alto, but still sweet.


The three sat on the patio, their chairs huddled close. Emily, Terri and Danni were praying, which some might find incongruous. Having only just met, and coming from place emotionally and spiritually where they felt out of place, they were left without a home, in a way. The church they all attended would likely look at them askance. Three girls, all different in origin but all having a commonality.

So why pray? What good would faith do them without a faithful home? Danni would be off to school sometime in the near future, separated from her girlfriend and her sibling…the new sister she never knew she had; the genetic similarity also newly supposed? Emily was off to school as well, but she and Danni would be close, with online studies and occasional visits to campus posing few if any obstacles to their relationship. But Terri…Theresa Naismith Davies would be sorely pressed to attend the school to which she had been accepted, since the world view of the school she had chosen would likely stand in opposition to her own.

“We ask you to show us the way, so that we are on the right path for all of us. Thank You, Dear Lord, amen.” Emily concluded. Terri had decided to apply to the Chicago Theological Seminary, since they welcomed transgendered students. But that would mean the trio would be separated, at least in part.

“I hear Chicago can be a nice place to live, Theresa?...Terri…Oh gosh.” Danni offered. The communication was tentative; new ways of speaking and new faces for two of them, almost. The embarrassed way of calling each other by their new names, like they were nervously delivering their lines for the backyard theater, but this was no play for the neighborhood toddlers. This was real life and they were completely inexperienced about it all, even if it was what they always wanted.

New clothing was only part of their journey. The prospect of paying for school and investing in completely new, if only outwardly, personae for both Danni and Terri seemed almost impossible. Add to that the lack of resources and medical coverage, and the idea of surgery seemed so far off.

“I’m going to go; knowing I’ve got you in my life and that we’ll finally get stuff sorted out.” Terri put her head down. It was daunting to know that even as she was discovering who she was, she would be separated from her best friend…her sibling.

“Just getting started and before you know it….” Emily started to sing the old Carol Burnett theme and Danni began to cry.

“Hey…it’s all good, right? Nothing new until fall; plenty of time to figure out how this all works out? I hope.” Terri said sheepishly. Emily rubbed her back.

“Plenty of time. And we’re together, right? Nothing will change that.”

“Plenty of time.”


La Dolce Amara Preludio
(A Bittersweet Prelude)

I am finding out that maybe I was wrong
That I've fallen down and I can't do this alone
Stay with me, this is what I need, please?


Three girls find they have a lot more in common than their music...
terri’s challenge — my voice, my heart…my life are yours for as long as I live…


Sing us a song and we'll sing it back to you
We could sing our own but what would it be without you?
I am nothing now and it's been so long
Since I've heard the sound, the sound of my only hope
This time I will be listening.


The following year; Chicago Theological Seminary….Dean of Student’s Office…

Two figures walked into the waiting area and sat down on the couch. The young woman looked nervous, but not nearly as nervous as the young man sitting next to her.

“Oh, God, Terri…Tell me you got some good news?” Nina Portland, the Dean’s secretary stared at Terri Davies. The look on her face belied any report either way regarding her health.

“Well, the good news is that my therapist is happy with the progress we’ve made in the past nine months, and he can see no reason why I can’t go ahead with my surgery.” Terri spoke as if she read the words from a script while forcing a smile; a brave face that quickly dissolved into tears.

“Oh, God, Terri…no. What did the tests show?”

“Well,” Terri wiped her tears with her sleeve and laughed nervously,
“Apparently I’m more of a woman than I ever realized…you know how some things come easier to us, right?” She put her head down and began to sob. Nina got up quickly from her desk and rushed to the girl’s side, sitting down beside her and bringing her close in a comforting hug.

“Terri…honey…talk to me.”

“The…second set of tests…still positive for lupus….”

“Oh, God, Terri…” Nina began to cry softly, her hand gently stroking Terri’s hair. Nothing to be said; sorry was just enough and not enough at the same time, but no other words would fit.

“It’s okay….I’m okay….really,” She lifted her head and smiled at Nina.

“And…I guess I’m probably in the right place at the right time?”

“Yep,” The woman next to her smiled and grabbed her hand. She went to reach over to grab the hand of Terri’s friend next to her. The young man stood up abruptly and shook his head.

“I can’t….this is too much… I just can’t,” he said before quickly walking out of the office. Terri followed his movement down the hall until he turned the corner and was gone. She turned back to Nina, and sighed deeply before burying her face in Nina’s chest, weeping.

“He…he’s….” The girl sobbed.

“I know, honey….I know.” Nina patted the young woman on the back softly, her own soft crying echoing Terri’s. The relationship had gone south when she told him about her transgender status, and was already too shaky. Now? For the girl to lose health and a boyfriend in one day was too much; Nina was damned if she would let Terri lose hope as well.

“We’re going to get through this….okay?” She said gently before pulling the girl closer as the sobs shook both of them.

“You’ll see.”

This heart, it beats, beats for only you (Please don't go now, please don't fade away)
My heart, my heart is yours (Please don't go now, please don't fade away)
(Please don't go now, please don't fade away) My heart is yours
(Please don't go now, please don't fade away) My heart is yours
(Please don't go, please don't fade away)
(Please don't go now, please don't fade away) My heart is...


Please look at the information on this site for the Lupus Foundation:

http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/def...


Times Change
 


Previously...

“I’m so sorry…you’re my best friend and I let you down.” Teddy wasn’t a stranger to crying, but he wasn’t an emotional kid either. But at that moment his conscience overtook his pride and he began to cry. His tears fell from his face and mixed with the girl’s as they ran down her cheek. He stared at her face and saw her for the first time. She was no longer the boy he knew all along. She wasn’t the boy who was pretending to be a girl. And in that instant, not only was his perception changed, but his heart as well.

“I love you. I’m sorry…I should just….I’m so sorry…” Yuki said and began to weep harder.

Teddy's heart melted as he realized that things change; boys sometimes don’t stay the same, but that friends are always friends. Fear reverted to friendship and friendship turned to love. He leaned closer and kissed the girl as only boyfriends kiss girlfriends…a true friend kissing her to heal and value and treasure and care. And Yuki lifted up to meet his kiss. The boy took her in his arms and held her tight as they both cried. By then the cheering had quieted down and the clapping had ceased.

The ambulance pulled up, lights flashing but siren off as an almost eerie quiet was accompanied by a soft patter of raindrops hitting the field. And soft raindrops were joined by the sound of hands clapping once again along with a shout by Billy Calabrese.

“Teddy…Teddy…Teddy….Yuki…Yuki…Yuki…” He laughed loudly and soon his shouts were joined by the voices of the teams and the fans.

“Teddy…Yuki…Teddy…Yuki…”


Two years later…Perth Amboy New Jersey…

Margaret Kerenski sat anxiously; her foot keeping time to the song in her head. Rachmaninoff she thought, but she was too distracted to care. She looked at her watch; Yuki was due any moment and Margaret felt her heart would burst as she waited. A knock came at the door. She rose and walked quickly to open it.

“Hi…Margaret. Has Yuki gotten home yet?” The familiar face smiled at her and pulled her into a hug.

“No… her train was late from the city, so she’s probably on her way from the park-n-ride right now. There’s coffee made,” she said as she sat down. She looked out the front window and the music began to replay…Liszt? Prokovfiev? Brahms….nothing she knew seemed to fit. She blinked back some tears.

“Here,” the voice replied as a mug of coffee was thrust into her hands. He sat down in the love seat across from her as the door opened once again.

“Momma-san?” The girl laughed softly as she walked into the living room, but her mood went from gleeful to sober to fearful in a second as she looked at her mother. She turned away slightly and noticed the Marine who sat quietly; his face familiar and his smile warm but his eyes sad. Margaret stood up and walked quickly and the tears in her eyes told Yuki everything she feared. Yuki stood in the middle on the room and began to shake; her fists balled in sad rage as Margaret stammered.

“Honey….Teddy…he…” her words were cut off as the girl screamed and passed out in her mother’s arms. The tall Marine rose and helped Margaret ease Yuki onto the couch. Pat Kelly; former battery mate and best friend to Yuki and Teddy, now the bearer of sad news as Yuki Dudek had just become a widow at 20.

“I’m so sorry, Yuke…” Pat said softly as the girl wept in her mother’s arms. Margaret cursed herself silently for lapsing into her practical mode; the music that had been in her head was a violin piece from an acquaintance of hers… for Teddy’s funeral.



Seven Months later…Chicago…

“Excuse me…Terri? You got a second?” Nina Portland looked up from her desk to see Terri Davies standing going through some mail. Terri walked over to her desk and stood. Remarkably. Her challenges hadn’t abated so much as her success in coping with the Lupus had taken on an almost miraculous proportions. Between diet, vitamins and a new medication, she was able to handle much of what she had before her diagnosis.

“A couple things? Sandy Nikowski came down ill this morning. She has a grief support group over at the Music Institute… can you cover it? It’s at seven this evening.” Terri nodded and smiled. Like the savior she worshipped, she was a person of sorrows; acquainted with grief. Running the support group was mostly just helping others understand they weren’t alone; after the loss of two parents she knew all too well what grief was all about.

“And do you mind if I get a bit nosy?” Terri had an idea where the conversation was going. She shook her head and half-smiled. She had gotten all of her crying done, she thought until Nina frowned and sighed.

“It’s not forever. I’m just not strong enough.” Her surgery had been postponed twice already, and now was on hold until her endocrinologist could see a plateau to her disease; improvement was good, but she had to be healthier. Nina’s empathy did her a world of good and was all-too painful at the same time as she broke down. Her friend came around from behind her desk and hugged her.

“Listen…I can get Pete Jankowski to lead the group. You probably just need to get some rest.” She cringed at the almost patronizing tone of her voice until Terri pulled slightly apart from Nina and smiled.

“You’re probably right, but I think I need this…” The girl looked away and bit her lip. She looked down at her body; feeling doubly betrayed by the loss of her health and the possible loss of her future.

“Okay, honey, but let me know if there’s anything I can do… okay?” She squeezed Terri and then pulled back suddenly.

“Oh. Shit…sorry.”

“Relax Nina, I’m not made out of glass…I won’t break.



Later that evening… Music Institute…

“Hi…Sandy Nikowski isn’t feeling well, and she asked me to sit in for her, will that be okay?” Group therapy can be touchy; new faces can prove too daunting and make it difficult for members to share. After only three meetings, though, it wouldn’t be a problem. Terri smiled.

“My name is Terri Davies. I’m a student over at the Seminary… thank you for allowing me to be a part of your group.” The women nodded; five that evening though the group could be as large as twelve. Terri scanned the faces; the women all seemed to be in their thirties; likely instructors at the Institute save for one younger girl who seemed almost shy. Her soft Asian features and pale complexion seemed almost at odds with each other. But the saddest part of her appearance was the ring on her hand…her left hand. A widow at such a young age.

One by one they introduced themselves quickly… two of the women had lost children. One woman had recently lost her mother after a long bout with Alzheimers. The fourth woman was mourning her brother, a firefighter who had died while rescuing a family from a house fire. But the young girl kept quiet initially. A soft touch on the arm and a smile gained a sigh and a nod. She spoke haltingly.

“My name is Yuki…my….my husband….Teddy…my best friend…since we were little…He…helicopter crash in Iraq…I….” She looked around and the expressions of sympathy acted like a cup of water priming a pump as she burst into tears. And Terri stared at the girl…her own pain seemed to retreat into the background even as her own tears began to fall as her heart went out to the girl...

Kind Hearts and Cornets!
 


“There’s no formula for grieving correctly, since there’s no correct way to grieve.” She smiled and tilted her head, almost waiting for a response. Her hand began to lightly trace…almost ‘doodle’ with her finger on the girl’s hand. Another shudder, but this time noticeable. Terri’s face grew red and she pulled her hand away as softly as possible. Yuki looked down and felt her own face grow warm.


A short while later at Terri and Danni’s apartment...

The sound of Nat Adderley’s “I Married an Angel” flooded the living room with melancholia as Danni sat on the couch looking thru a photo array on her laptop. She noticed Terri standing in the doorway and quickly turned it off.

“You don’t have to hide from me, Dan….” Her voice trailed off as she walked in the kitchen. She emerged a moment later with a bottle of merlot and two glasses.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Danni said, her head turned away as she tried to hide.

“You’re afraid that if you even talk about Emily….I know that you know…”

“You’re right. I miss her so bad, Ter…but….”

“You’re afraid it will hurt me if you talk about your own pain.” Terri sat down next to Danni and put the wine and glasses on the coffee table. Even before either of them…changed…they were always a bit physical and playful in their relationship; maybe a girl thing…but sibs for sure. She leaned closer and brushed Danni’s hair from her forehead, using her hand to rub her sister’s temple softly, almost like a comb. Danni went to push her hand away and Terri reached in and pulled her sister close.

“We both loved her more than we can say, but we both care too much about each other, sis.”

“This…hurts so bad.” Danni began to sob. She and Terri had known Emily since they all were little and it was like a piece of her had been ripped out…a vital part of her that threatened her own existence, or so she thought.

“I know…it’s worse than when Mom and Dad died,” Terri said, rubbing Danni’s back. Though Terri was training for ministry, it was sister to sister talking.

“We knew with Mom that it was only a matter of time, and even Dad with the stroke causing the car crash.” Terri stopped for a moment; it really was the first time in months that they had talked about the death of their parents.

To lose two parents in the space of four months while dealing finally about their gender issues? They hadn’t been hasty so much as very involved in the whole estate settlement and their subsequent transitions. Danni’s had gone smoothly, if setting aside quite a bit of her identity as Cam was smooth. And of course, the physical aspect of Terri’s transition came to a grinding halt when she was diagnosed with Lupus. Add to those already taxing challenges the fact that they were both in the middle of going to school as well. It was daunting to say the least, so their grief had been put on hold.

“But with Emily…it was like we thought life would never change; how the hell we got that idea? Emily was a rock to us…someone we could cling to…but…” As Terri talked, Danni put her head on her sister’s heart.

“We thought everything would go on forever…like with Mom and Dad taken, somehow we had all the hurt we deserved and we’d be fine. But…” Terri paused and gasped, looking down at her body.

“That’s not how it works, Dan…” She shrugged as if her illness meant nothing.

In some ways, her illness meant the world to her, since her perspective of life and even death had changed; maybe for the better. She glanced over at familiar photo, nicely framed and displayed prominently on the entertainment center; a black and white blow up of three girls in a photo booth. The very first picture of Danni and Terri Davies with Emily in between. It always seemed that Emily came between them, not to divide, but to cement them together like some sort of sibling crazy glue. Now that she was gone, they had to deal with life face-to-face.

“Danni?” Terri bit the inside of her mouth nervously, fearing what Danni’s response would be.

“You do know I would have….never…” It was almost too much for both of them to bear; too much sacrifice; too much loss; too much pain. Terri began to sob; overtaken by feelings of shame and guilt and even regret. Danni looked at her in surprise.

“Emily told me that you….you…she asked and you said you couldn’t. Of course I know. I…I think it was never meant to be…we were all like best friends, even though you were…my brother at the time…Emily was like a third sister, and I fooled myself into thinking it could have been anything else. I’m so sorry you’ve carried that pain all this time. And now…I’m so afraid I’ll lose this…lose you….” She pulled Terri over and they hugged once again. Danni wept hard enough that for a moment, no sound emitted from her; the grief of anticipated loss can cripple. Terri went to pull away and Danni gripped her arm almost hard enough to bruise.

“No…” she cried softly and Terri leaned back again and held her sister.

After a few minutes things settled down. The two still had each other, and who knew; maybe Emily would actually return after taking care of her own mother? And Terri felt overwhelmed with confusion.

“Have you had dinner yet? We can order in if you like? Mrs. Gennoverino gave me fifty bucks for watching her cat last week.” She smiled as she got up from the couch.

“I’m sorry…I already had dinner with someone I was counseling.” She had been counseling, hadn’t she? Closing her eyes, she did a mental inventory of the events of the evening. She felt entirely appropriate until her gaze fell to the table to recall the soft hand that she held; the playful etching with her fingernail softly on the back of the girl’s hand…the woman, actually…a widow with grief nearly too much to bear. How do you deal with losing the one love of your life?

“Oh, okay…I’ve got some soup from the deli I haven’t finished. Maybe tomorrow?” The voice seemed to be emanating from a tunnel as Terri’s concentration remained focused on the hand…she said she played piano.

“That hand…’ she thought of how the hands of the girl she had met might look moving rapidly up and down the keyboard.

“Chopin or Gershwin? Beethoven or Guaraldi? Haydn or Herrmann?” She mused as the tunes blended together nicely until she heard,

“Terri…are you okay? Terri? You’re getting weird on me.” Danni sounded like she was shouting, but it really was just the abrupt interruption of sound and sense as she realized she was unconsciously caressing her sister’s hand.

“Counseling, huh? Okay.” Danni laughed but Terri missed the humor entirely and just nodded and said,

“Yes…counseling.”



At Yuki’s apartment….the next day.

The sound of Guaraldi's Cast Your Fate to the Wind played softly even as light broke softly through the window in the living room. Margaret had gotten in to O’Hare the night before, and both she and Yuki were too tired to talk, for two decidedly different reasons, but a fresh sunrise gave strength, renewed enough at least to spur conversation.

They sat on the couch as their tea grew cold. It seemed every other word was painful enough to evoke tears.

“No, Dad still hasn’t answered my emails… Uncle Masa wrote and said he has the same address… he’s just ignoring me. He never even sent a card. Mom? Are you disappointed...in me?” There really wasn’t any reason for Yuki to question her Mom like that, but Margaret understood that she needed to hear what she already knew.

"Oh, God,no...honey...I'm not disappointed at all. I'm proud of you." Margaret shook her head no.

Yuki had sworn she wasn’t going to cry. Some days were better than others, but not a single day went by without thinking of Teddy, and that hurt enough that she cried every day for nearly three years. And it didn’t help that Teddy’s mother had written a very hurtful note, either.

“Mamasan? Why did God give him to me just to take him away….Momma Dudek said it was to punish me. It’s my fault he’s dead, Mom….If he hadn’t joined to prove what? That he was a real man? That he should have married a real girl? She told him he couldn’t be a real man because of me. Mom….He was coming home, Mommy….Why couldn’t she let him be?”

That her mother-in-law had apologized later did nothing to ease the pain of that cruel accusation. And Teddy never doubted Yuki one bit; his love and his faith in her never wavered. Yuki swallowed hard and looked around for something to drink. Her anti-depressants gave her dry mouth and all the crying left her dehydrated most of the time. She grabbed her cold tea off the coffee table and took a quick gulp.

“Honey…let me warm that up for you. You haven’t eaten all day and you only drank a bit.” Margaret shook her head.

“I’ve got one more quick trip to Seattle and then I’ll be home for a while.” Margaret was in the midst of purchasing a condo; actually she and her new fiancé’ Phil were.

“Maybe I can postpone it a week…you know. Be here for you?”

“No …Mom…I...I’m okay…The meds help, and I met some nice people at the group…the grief group.

“I didn’t help much as far as moving though, did it?” Margaret took a sip of her own cold tea. She got up and walked into the kitchen and filled the electric kettle with water.

“Reminders?”

“I can’t help it, Mom…every time I open a book or listen to music I think of him. I came across his first baseman’s mitt the other day when I was moving some boxes. A glove brings me to tears?”

“Is there anything that makes you feel good?”

“A happy memory? Mom…all of the memories are happy…I just can’t believe I’m twenty-one and a widow…this isn’t right. The TV had one of those crazy bride shows on the other day; everyone in the lounge is laughing at the show and it took all I could do to keep from bawling right in front of everyone.”

"I'm glad that you're at least listening to different music? You might find something more that you’re not familiar with…you know?”

“Yes, and to answer your next question, No…I don’t listen to Grieg much anymore”

She took another sip of water and continued.

“Why, Mom. I’m twenty-one; I know that’s not old, Mommy, but I’m…not supposed to be a widow.” She repeated herself, as if saying it would make it go away. She began to sob,

“What did I do…I must have…Oh…” She looked around; a room filled with memories that stopped short; too soon relegated to the past instead of ones to build on for the future.

Margaret walked back into the living room; sitting once again on the couch and holding her daughter. After awhile the sobbing ceased; Margaret kissed her on the cheek and laid her sleeping form down on the couch.

About an hour later, as Margaret was unpacking in the bedroom, she heard Yuki cry out. She quickly laid the clothes in her hand into the dresser drawer and ran out to the living room, where she found Yuki sitting up on the couch, looking out the window in a blank gaze.

“Honey…It’s okay…I’m here…you’re okay.” She said as she sat down on the couch next to Yuki again. The girl turned to her, and rather than the expected tears, the girl wore a confused smile.

“What…did you have a nightmare?” Margaret said, quickly grabbing her daughter’s hand. She held it and began to caress it softly to comfort, but the girl yanked it away.

“Stop!” she snapped, but added the softer…”Mom…don’t do that,” as she recalled another moment from the evening before.

“What…I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?” Margaret looked at Yuki’s face as the girl stared at her right hand.

“N.u…no…” She bit her lip and her shoulders shook ever so little, but enough to cause her mother to half-frown.

“What…honey? Did something happen?” Something? Nothing happened, but everything had changed in just a brief moment.

“Mom? “ She said it almost in a whisper, and her downcast gaze spoke her mother more than just with words.

“Honey…what’s wrong….what’s going on…let me in, okay?” She went to reach for Yuki’s hand and she snapped ‘no’ again. The girl shook her head, more at her abruptness than at the gesture, but the gesture was everything.

“Yuke….baby….tell me, honey, okay?” She went instead to hug her daughter and instead of the anticipated withdrawal she heard instead,

“Oh, Mom…I’m so sorry…so…” She began to tear up, and Margaret knew it went beyond just a gesture.

“You’ve nothing to be sorry about, honey….you’ve been through so much…I understand.”

“Mommy…I don’t understand….How can I feel this way…how can I?’ Her look wasn’t about pain or loss; whatever was going on was eating at her, and Margaret softly probed.

“What’s wrong with how you feel, baby…what did you do?” Margaret didn’t believe Yuki did anything wrong, but it was clear to her that Yuki felt she had. The girl sighed and blinked back tears.

“I loved Teddy…with all my heart.” She said it almost as if it were a question. Margaret squeezed her shoulder and nodded ‘yes,’ and Yuki went on.

“How can I feel this way…he was…he is my best friend…and….” She would continue, but Margaret already knew; Mothers know …don’t they.

“You met someone?” Not an accusation, but a door for the girl to walk through.

“Ye…yes.” Another question…’can I ever be forgiven for being human?’ kind of question.

“Oh, Yuke…it’s okay…it’s okay,” Margaret was fairly sure it would be okay, but Yuki was convinced entirely otherwise as she began to cry.

“Mom…I feel…” She shook her head as the tears flowed freely. “I feel like…”

“You feel…like this other person might take Teddy’s place?” Her daughter was speechless in agreement, nodding emphatically if not enthusiastically, convinced her feelings were true.

“Honey…nothing…no one will ever take Teddy’s place….” She sighed, her own loss poking her hard as she recalled just how much she missed her son-in-law; her own life pushing her grief to the back of her own emotional line.

“You’ve got a big enough heart honey and Teddy would understand. It’s okay…it’s been nearly three years.” She regretted the last few words and quickly added,

“It still hurts…I know….there are days….nights where I still miss your father, and it was much, much easier for me than it ever was for you…but the heart does what it will.” She touched Yuki’s cheek softly.

“It feels like I’m leaving him.” At twenty-one, she felt guilty even though he was the one who ‘left’ her a widow, but Margaret knew exactly how she felt.

“Like you’re betraying his memory…like somehow if you fall…if you find someone it will hurt what you and he had? Do you think your love was so weak?” Again, not an accusation but a label to help her daughter face how she felt.

“N..no?”

“Honey…look inside yourself…would you feel guilty if your love for Teddy wasn’t strong? Would you feel that you could hurt his memory if you didn’t care enough? What would Teddy say?” The last question hit her hard, and Yuki began to sob.

“He….would….Mommy, it hurts so bad….I feel….like I’m…” she looked down at herself.

“Being pulled apart?” Margaret shook her head. And she smiled.

“The first time….Phil and I… Sweetie…your father and I have been apart for years, and I think sometimes I’ll never have the strength to forgive him…but there’s part of me that loved him enough…when Phil and I made love for the first time I cried for a half-hour…I drive him crazy…but your Dad and me? I felt the same way you do right now, and he hurt me so bad.” Yuki’s eyes widened as her mother began to cry softly, but it wasn’t for the memory of that love she had lost.

“How much more can it hurt for you when you and Teddy….so when someone new comes along….yes…I know exactly how you feel…maybe never exactly, but I know.”

“I miss him.” She repeated.

“And that makes you feel like you’re two people….like being pulled apart. You’re human…that didn’t stop when Teddy died honey….maybe it got even stronger….” Margaret shook her head and pulled Yuki closer, holding her so they were face to face.

“You’ve got a whole life to lead with Teddy, but it’s only going to be here,” she said softly, warmly with an affection only a mother can have for a son-in-law as she placed her palm over her daughter’s heart.

“But you’re stuck with the rest of us outside…where we all live,” She used her hand in a broad gesture as she pointed away from them both.

“And that includes this fellow you’ve met, okay?” Yuki’s eyes widened once again and she began to sob.

“Oh, honey…it’s okay…Teddy understands, I’ll bet more than you can know,” Margaret finished and she returned once again to caressing her daughter’s hand again, forgetting what had started the exchange in the first place. Yuki pulled her hand away quickly and gasped out between sobs,

“Not….him.” Margaret tilted her head in confusion as her daughter struggled to speak.

“Not who, honey…the new boy?”

“NO….not him…..her.” She said finally and collapsed in her mother’s arms in heaving sobs. Margaret looked away for a moment until it dawned on her exactly what her daughter had just told her. She sighed briefly in relief and blinked back her own tears and said softly but with an ease that came surprisingly,

“Oh…okay.”


Angel in the Morning


One morning a few days later at the Seminary....

“Hey, Danni?” Nina looked up and saw the girl sitting patiently on the sofa across from her desk; patiently yet nervous as a younger appearing man sat beside her.

“You should just speak up, hon. Terri had to run to the doc…and before you start, she said not to worry. Some blood test results that seem to be promising. She says she’ll see you at home this evening, and don’t worry about dinner. That new Vietnamese restaurant in Cicero?”

“Oh…okay. I just wanted to talk to her. I guess I will see her at home, though.” Danni put her head down but noticed the young man sitting beside her seemed to be staring. She looked over at him with a glare that almost screamed, “So what do YOU want?” He answered her glare.

“I’m sorry for staring. You’ve got to be Terri’s sister, right? I can see the resemblance.” The man smiled, but Danni was in a particularly bad mood and took it the wrong way.

“Yeah, so…what of it? I guess you’ve never seen two transsexuals in the same family, huh? Welcome to the circus.”

“Wait…whoa…hold the phone, girl! I didn’t mean it that way. You bear a very strong resemblance to your sister….your eyes and your smile…Well; I guess your smile since it just went away! I’m sorry for staring, please.”

“Oh, damn it…I’m so sorry. I…I’m having a real bad day, and I just ….well, I’m the one who should be sorry. Please forgive me.” Danni shrugged her shoulders but turned away.

“That’s okay. I guess we all are allowed to have bad days. I know I’ve had my share, and my wife could have told you plenty about my behavior. Let’s start again, okay? I’m Rich Metheny. I work here.”

“Don’t let him fool you, hon. He doesn’t just work here…he’s the head of the Outreach Program for the whole school.” Nina said.

“You’re the head of the program? Aren’t you a little young for that?” Danni looked at him askance; the man appeared no older than mid-twenties, with an almost girlish face.

“He’s over thirty and he holds a Doctorate in Ministry as well as a PhD and PsyD from Columbia. Very smart!” Nina interrupted once again. She laughed softly and shook her head before returning her attention to the monitor on her desk.

“Guilty as charged, Miss. It was a real pain in seminary, especially when it was dress down day; I kept getting mistaken for one of the undergrads. It’s how I met my wife, actually. She wanted help finding the girl’s dormitory and when I walked her over there she asked me which room I had; maybe we could room together.” Danni’s eyes widened.

“We did end up rooming together,” he said with a laugh. “Just took a few years and a ring.” At the mention of the word, ‘ring,’ Danni looked down at his hand and noticed that it bore no wedding band. And he noticed that she noticed.

“Laurie passed two years ago…” His voice trailed off except for a deep sigh.

“I’m so sorry. She must have been someone really special,” Danni said, wondering why she felt that way.

“She was…” Nothing more, again his voice trailing off.

“I understand you’re a violinist….a virtuoso, from what Terri tells me.”

“I suppose,” Danni shrugged her shoulders.

“Not terribly enthusiastic….something upsetting you?” Rich half-frowned in sympathy. Danni needed to talk, and he was willing to listen…it’s what he did and who he was.

“I’m sorry to bother you…it’s really nothing.”

“For something that’s nothing it seems awfully substantial. You look disappointed.” She was, and she nodded reluctantly in agreement.

“I thought I’d had first chair sewn up, but they decided to give it to some other girl.”

“Here’s where someone might encourage you that you’d be the best second chair. I even bet someone already said that, right?” Rich tilted his head.

“Yeah…and….” Danni turned away.

“Losing something you’ve worked hard for doesn’t feel better with just words. I’m sorry you didn’t get what you want. I’m sure you’ve worked very hard for it, and it’s a major disappointment.” Danni nodded. She felt too vulnerable with a complete stranger reading her the way he did. She thought he was through, but he continued.

“And from the look on your face, it’s not the only disappointment you’re dealing with.” It was too much, and Danni stood up.

“Listen…it’s been good talking to you. Thanks for listening, but I’ve got to run.” She did have to run, but she had nowhere to run except from the man who had made her feel entirely welcomed and uncomfortable at the same time. She smiled once and quickly walked out of the office.



That evening at the Davies' apartment...

Little one when you play
Don't you mind what you say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you

“Mom…it hurts…so bad.” Danni lay on her bed; the last picture of her mother lay on the pillow beside her.

“Why didn’t you say something? I wish you and Dad were still here. You always knew what to say to make it all better.” She sniffled a bit and rolled on her stomach, putting her head on the pillow next to the picture. She heard a sound at the doorway and looked up to find Terri standing there.

“She knew what to say because she knew us. I think if she had more time, she would have said something to us, but she was in so much pain. The letter she wrote was as much as she could handle, and I think at the end she really felt sorry. You remember what she said?”

“’I’m so sorry for leaving you two alone,’ like it was her fault Daddy died in the accident. I never understood.

I was going thru some stuff and found the letter she wrote…let me read it, but think about it in light of what you just said.


My dear son…
There’s something I need to tell you, and it hurts that I didn’t speak sooner. I really thought I had more time.”

“There’s something you need to know about your brother. Cam is special. You know I think you’re special, too, Trev, but you need to know that he has a secret. A secret that I know about. That I’ve known about since he was little. And I am so sorry for both of your sakes that I didn’t say anything, because it’s really a good thing. And I never told him.

Cammy…I know. I’ve always known. Your Daddy loved you very much, but I don’t think he would have understood. I know about the times you’d sneak into my closet. I know about the things that went missing or were in disarray. You can’t fool someone like me; we’re both sort of obsessive, but even when you tried, I could always tell when things were disturbed. But I also know about the web-searches. The search for knowledge about who you are. The long nights on the computer when you’d fall asleep and I’d just click off so you wouldn’t be worried.

Your brother will know after this letter. All I want is for both of you to be happy. I love you both...Mom

“I get that she knew about me…but I’m not following you.”

“I never said a word to Mom, but she said she was sorry for both our sakes. Not just because I needed to know about you, but she knew about me all along. She wanted to share that with you, but I wouldn’t let her…I was too scared, and look what it did to us. I am so sorry, Danni…. please….please forgive me.”

“Oh…damn it, Terri…how can I get angry…you…you’re….I’m so scared you’re going to leave me…now that we’ve gotten to know who we are? Finally having a life. It just doesn’t seem fair.” Danni sat up and motioned for her sister to come over. Terri sat on the bed and they hugged. Terri winced from the simple act of an embrace; her pain threshold was still fairly high, but she had been having a particularly bad day with her Lupus.

“Oh, fuck….sorry….” Danni rarely swore, and the simple embarrassment of the profanity, coupled with her sister’s grimace sent her over the edge as she started weeping hysterically.

“Dan….Danni…it’s okay…I’m alright. I’ll be okay.”

“Damn it, Terri…you don’t know that. I don’t want you to die…Please tell me …promise me you’ll stick around….please.” Danni knew it was almost silly to ask, since Terri had no way of knowing how long she had. But she spoke anyway.

“I promise that I will try to be as strong as I can for as long as possible, but you’ve got to help me. I need you to be strong for both of us as well, okay?” Danni wiped her face with her sleeve and nodded.

“Why does it hurt so much? Mom and Dad gone and I feel like you’re slipping away fast….and with Emily gone; I don’t have anybody who cares like you. Nobody ever cared for me like Em, and now….”

“What?” Terri knew that Emily was likely not going to return, with her commitment to caring for her mother, but Danni’s face hinted at something even more permanent.

“She…she’s found someone.” Danni shook her head. She and Terri had already settled their heretofore unknown rivalry for their best friend, but even at that, she felt a loss like nothing she’d ever known.

“I sort of expected that after her last letter to us…the nurse from the hospice agency and she hit it off like old friends, and you know how loving and caring Em is, hon. She’s all the way across the country and we’re here.” The explanation made sense, but did nothing to change Danni’s feelings.

“I know…and I understand and I’m even happy for her; she deserves the best! But it still hurts, Ter…it hurts.” She put her head on her sister’s shoulder and began to cry once again. Terri felt so helpless to comfort her; she had a hard time up until recently believing she would ever feel that way again…able to want for affection herself, but recent events began to pull down defenses and build a new welcoming atrium of sorts in her own heart.

“It’ll get better. That I know for a fact, and I promise I’ll be here to see it happen for you, hon….okay?”

Danni nodded but the smile on Terri’s face acted opposite to her intent and Danni fell into her sister’s arms and cried once again. Disappointment doesn’t back away with any promises, and only seems to dissipate as things get better. Terri prayed for both their sakes that it would be soon, since even as she promised, the pain of the day reminded her that things for her own sake were getting worse and fast.

Little one when you play
Don't you mind what you say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you
From your head to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Cute as can be, baby of mine

A Meeting of the Hearts



Seminary Administration…Nina’s office…

“Excuse me,” Yuki said softly. “Is…Is Teresa Davies going to be in the office? I…I understand she does her internship here?” Nina peered over her glasses at the girl sitting quietly on the sofa.

“I’m sorry; she went home sick today. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I…just wanted to stop by to say hi. She was kind enough to treat me to dinner the other night and I just wanted to return the favor. She went home sick? Is it anything serious?”

“She’s okay…a bit achy…She helped with a presentation yesterday and she just overdid it, and had a flare-up…” Yuki looked at her oddly and she continued. “Her Lupus.” Yuki’s eyes widened in surprise. In the entire time they spent that evening, Terri hadn’t once mentioned her illness. Nina noted her surprise.

“I’m sorry, I thought you knew. She’s actually doing quite well, so to speak. Her doctors have been encouraging, and she’s always positive.



The Davies sisters’ apartment…later that afternoon…

“Terri…you home?’ Danni called from the kitchen.

“I’m in here…Can you bring me some tea?” Terri called from the bedroom.

“Sure.” A few minutes later Danni walked into the bedroom with a tray and two mugs.

“You okay? Nina left a voice mail saying you had to come home.”

“I’m okay, Dan…I’m just tired. Can you….” Her voice trailed off, almost embarrassed.

“Anything…what?”

“You’ll think I’m a baby…” She gasped.

“Terri…if anything, you’re a hero…” Danni put the tray on the desk and sat down on the bed.

“That’s…that’s just it, Danni…I’m not a hero…I’m nothing….I’m not even a girl.” Terri turned her head away, covering her face with a pillow.

“That’s not true...well in a way it is true, ‘cause you’re a woman…and you are my hero.” Danni put her hand on Terri’s shoulder, and the girl winced.

“Stop it, Danni…please. I can’t be a hero...I’m so tired of being brave for everyone. ‘Oh, here’s Terri Davies, class; she’s an example of abiding faith!’ ‘Let’s welcome Terri Davies, she’s a real Proverbs Thirty-One Woman,’ as if the women in class weren’t. I’m the pretender. I’m the one walking around in drag.” She bit the inside of her mouth and started to shake a bit.

“No…you’re not a pretender. I don’t know anyone who is more like what I want to become than you.”

“Dan…stop it…I can’t live up to your expectations…please…I can’t keep trying hard all the time. I’m tired and I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do anymore except pray, and even that doesn’t work.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I …I don’t want to have anyone in my life right now…it’s not fair to them, and I can’t handle being….”

“You’re afraid the girl you met won’t want you when she knows the truth, right?” Danni rubbed her back but she winced once again, this time more from the achiness in her shoulders but she still felt ‘wrong.’

“No…..yes…I don’t know. When Em left I figured it was all over…I don’t know how long I can keep up…I feel like I’m in a race and I’m falling more behind with each lap. And then she comes along…..like she’s standing on the side holding a bottle of water for me and there’s one more person to please by staying in the race!”

“Don’t say that. You’re acting as if this is all one big contest….like you’re competing….you’re not, Ter…you’re running for your life….’let us run with patience? The race that is set before us? Our own race….Ter?”

“Easy for you to say…you’re not stuck…I’m stuck with this body…this waste of flesh….I can’t go forward and I can’t go back. I don’t want to be the example any more. Let them look to someone else. Hell Dan…I don’t care anymore. I just want to go home.”

“Oh, jeez, Ter….please, don’t ever say that.” Danni gasped, and tears welled in her eyes.

“It’s true…I can’t be everything for everyone any more. And I don’t want to care about another human being. It hurts too much!” Her shaking grew more intense.

“But that’s just it….You know you already care for her. You told me all about her and how she touched you…I don’t think it’s in you not to care, Terri….maybe why you’re so tired….” Danni looked at her shivering sister and shook her head.

“I’m sorry…you know what I mean…Emotionally….but I think it would be worse for you if you couldn’t care…it’s who you are. It’s why you’re my hero.”

“I…Danni…could you…please hold me?” Terri choked on the last words. Danni laid down next to her sister and she held her; the cuddling that they had done ever since they were little; sister to sister even if they didn’t know they were ‘sisters’ when they were young. The physical touch was painful; Terri’s achiness could hardly bear the weight of her own clothes and Danni’s embrace literally hurt. But the benefit of a loving sister even now outweighed any pain she endured, and she gave way to relieved sobs. Her body convulsed from the mixture of pain and love.

“Shhhhh….shhhhh.” Danni whispered, almost in a sing-song, stroking Terri’s hair.

“I….I’m so sorry….” Terri protested, as if being human was something to be forgiven.

“No…honey…it’s okay….I’m here….it’s alright.” Danni’s voice seemed to do something almost supernatural, but really it was almost her nature. Both of their parents had been gentle souls; twin halves of the same caring being, their pastor had said. Terri favored their father, who was as gentle and motherly in so many ways as their mother. But Danni had always favored their mother; almost destined to follow her in so many ways; the ear for music and the nurturing. Her voice, once she broke free of the reins of convention when she transitioned, seemed to duplicate their mother’s soft, welcoming tones. She began to sing….

Little one when you play
Don't you mind what you say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you



Yuki’s apartment…about the same time…

“Mom…I’m….” Yuki’s expression told Margaret before she finished speaking.

“Confused?” Yuki nodded.

“It’s not so cut and dried as some folks would have you believe, honey. You were expecting what everyone told you to expect, right?” Margaret placed a cup of chicken broth in front of her daughter, and sat down.

“I was married, Mom…to my best friend. I’m not supposed to feel this way.” She began to mist up; a mess of emotions someone had labeled in group the other day; not mess in a bad sense, but everything mixed together and almost impossible to separate without harm.

“I bet someone told you that you had to be in love with Teddy…that you couldn’t love someone so soon, right?” Yuki shook her head no but quickly changed it to a reluctant nod.

“And you feel like anything is a betrayal of your love for him, right?” Another nod, this one accompanied by guilty tears.

“Do you think Teddy would want you to be alone?” Yuki looked down at the table and sighed, but shook her head no.
“Well, I don’t think he would, either.” Margaret took a sip of broth. Yuki looked up and then away, almost ashamed of the question she was about to ask.

“Mom…why did God make me this way?” She looked down at her body. Margaret turned it around.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with you, hon?” She thought about stroking the girl’s hair but held back.

“I don’t know. I don’t fit…I’m…there must be something wrong….I feel….”

“Guilty?” The girl nodded.

“If God made you the way you are, can you be guilty of being who you are?”

“N…no?” The question practically begged for validation.

“I don’t know why god made you the way you are but I do know I love you and He loves you and a whole bunch more people love you as well. That must count for something, right?” Another nod.

“So what do you do about Teresa? Is that what the real question is? How can you love someone after Teddy and how can that someone be a girl. You’re a girl, right?” Margaret’s last question was more of a statement. She didn’t wait for a response.

“And girls are supposed to love boys…is that what someone told you?” Yuki began to cry. She pushed the mug of broth away and put her head down on the table.

“Honey…you love who you love. I can’t think of anyone more loveable than you; I know that you blessed Teddy so much. Maybe Teresa needs you in her life.

“Mom…she’s …very sick….very!” The girl almost protested.

“It sounds almost like you want someone to talk you out of loving her. Well, sorry to disappoint you, baby, but it ain’t gonna be me. Like I said you love who you love. Warts and all. Did Teddy even think not to love you once he fell in love with you? He knew what he was getting himself into. All the teasing. The rejection by some folks. The confusion he felt? Did he walk away?” It hurt to hear her.

“It’s different, Mom.”

“Why…because she might die?” The girl winced at the word. Of course that’s what it was.

“I can’t do this again, Mom…it hurts too much.”

“Would you go back in time and tell Yuki not to fall in love with Teddy, knowing what you know now…even with that hole in your heart where he lived?” Margaret swallowed and continued.

“Would you push away all the memories of finding your true love was your best friend? Would you walk away from your wedding and your first night? Would you tell your self never to be vulnerable…to forget just how much love the young man had in his heart for you.” By now Margaret was struggling to keep from crying herself; she had loved Teddy as much as any mother-in-law ever could love, and she missed the boy as well.

“Mom…what if she dies? What if we get together and she dies? How do I deal with that? I can’t bear another loss. I can’t.” She put her head down again. Margaret touched her head gently and looked upward, seeking wisdom.

“A lot of questions don’t have answers until you’re ready to answer them when they come along; you won’t know what if, honey. None of us do. But you never thought you’d be sitting here, missing Teddy like you do but still strong and still alive, and even in love, but you are. You’ll be okay….That’s pretty much the only promise you can hold onto, but it’s a good one, baby. You’ll be okay.”

“Mom…would you do me a favor?”

“Of course, hon…what?”

A few minutes later, the two lay side by side, back to front as Margaret held her daughter close, kissing the girl’s neck softly and cooing ‘It’s okay, baby…it’ll be alright,’ over and over.

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine


The following day at the Music Institute…

“Danni?” the girl said timidly. Danni turned around and found herself face to face with the girl who had usurped her spot for first chair violin. Elaine Peterson…hated arch rival, if she could be typified as such. The girl was an arch-rival only in Danni’s mind; at least until recently.

“Yes?” Danni eyed her suspiciously; old but recent habits still die hard.

“I wanted to talk with you about first chair.” Just when she was ready to let it go, the girl brings up the one thing she wants more than life itself; at least what she thought she wanted.

“What about it?” Danni practically snapped at her, but the girl remained unfazed and even pleasant.

“I talked it over with Tula? She’s willing to slide into third chair behind you and Odie. I’m going to go over to Viola, so you’ll be first chair. I hope that’s okay?” She smiled and Danni tilted her head in wonder.

“I don’t understand. Sure that’s okay with me, but won’t Andrew be upset about being bumped back to second Viola?”

“Oh…I’m not taking first…I’ll be third.” She smiled once again. Danni looked over and noticed a woman standing off to the side, nodding and smiling at Lainie with pride.

“That’s very…kind of you.” Danni shook her head, a reluctant acknowledgment of the girl’s gesture. But the girl wasn’t finished.

“I know it’s been really hard on you. If you weren’t worried about your sister the other day at auditions, I bet you would have done much better. I can’t sit in first chair knowing that. You’ve got enough to deal with. I’m really happy to do this. You deserve the best.” Lainie smiled at her once again. It was too much. All of the tension that had been building the past several weeks came out in an instant. Danni fell back into a folding chair and began to weep. Several of the string section stared at her, but Lainie fell to her knees beside the girl.

“It’s okay, Danni. It’s okay.” She had barely exchanged ten sentences altogether with the girl, and yet here she was, speaking words of comfort. If the girl had intended to quiet Danni, she had failed miserably, because the girl in the chair wept even harder, evoking even more soft words of encouragement; simple and repetitive, perhaps, but healing as well.

“It’s okay….shhhhhh….shhhhhh…..”



Commonality

I have no gift to bring....

Three girls find they have a lot more in common than their music...
yuki's wish - playing, freedom, music...all for what if not to be the girl i am
lainie's hope - maybe now they'll listen...more than just playing...maybe now they might hear
danni's dream - the dawn awakens my soul no longer the same now new my heart sings
terri’s challenge — my voice, my heart…my life are yours for as long as I live…


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=537n7H7DNI4

“Why? I don’t understand?” Danni sat stunned. Len, one of the flautists, had brought her a bottle of water. She looked into Lainie’s eyes, and saw nothing but compassion.

“I know what you’ve been going through. I talked to your sister.”

“What? You talked to her? You had no right.” Danni protested but shook her head almost immediately after she spoke.

“I….I’m sorry….I just.” She began to tear up again. Lainie reached into her bag and produced a handkerchief.

“Here….it’s okay. Drink some water….shhh.” Lainie had barely exchanged three or four sentences before today and here she was acting like a mother hen.

“I….I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Just accept the fact that you’re the best violinist in school…maybe in Chicago at this point. It’s alright. Like I said, I know you didn’t have a chance to give your best the other day. Your sister’s been on your mind, and I can’t let that go. She’s a doll, by the way.” Lainie laughed at the turn of phrase.

“But what about you?”

“I love the viola, so it’s everything is good!”

“But to take third chair? It’s not fair to you.”

“It’s not a matter of what’s fair….it’s what’s best for everyone. I still get to play in a great orchestra with great musicians, and all the music is fantastic.” Danni looked at her and stared, wide-eyed and amazed.

“Don’t worry…I know what you’re thinking. It’s alright to be competitive. It’s alright to strive to be the best. But I figured out in the past few years that I needed to be the best person….the best woman I could be.” She smiled as if it was the easiest thing, when nothing could have been further from the truth.

“We have to stick together.” Danni’s eyes widened again and she shook her head before putting it down as her face reddened in embarrassment and shame.

“What’s wrong? Did I upset you? I’m sorry.” Lainie looked at the sad girl and her face reddened as well, although she would have been hard pressed to explain just why she was embarrassed too.

“No…it’s just that it’s hard enough being a transsexual, but I get really scared and worried when someone reads me.”

“You…you thought? Oh, god.” Lainie started to laugh.

“What’s so funny,” Danni snapped as she looked around. The other students had already moved off, either to leave for the day or to socialize off to the side, giving the girls privacy they hadn’t expected.

“You think this is funny?” She frowned and shook her head.

“It is when you take what I said the wrong way. When I said we have to stick together I meant as musicians….the string section?” She laughed softly and with an almost lilt to her voice.

“Oh, god….what did….you meant violins? Oh, god, oh god.” Danni shook her head again.

“It’s alright. Nobody heard you, and besides, nobody I know could tell. I only know because your sister told me about herself and let slip about you. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“I’m sorry…I’m so touchy about it. My Mom knew and never told me. I wonder about my Dad, but I don’t think he could have handled it.” Danni shook her head once again, as if she was ashamed.

“From what I can tell from you and your sis, I don’t think your Dad would have cared, if who you two are is any indication of your parents. You two seemed to have turned out okay.”

“I…I am so sorry. I have been such a brat to you….and here you’re trying to help me.”

“It’s alright. The last thing you need to be worried about is guilt, okay? Just keep in mind what I said about sticking together.” Her smile was disarming and made Danni feel more than just a little uncomfortable. A dark haired girl stepped closer and put her hand on Lainie’s arm.

“We’ve got to get going, sweetie. Mom and Dad’s flight is due in at seven, and we’ve got a whole lot of stuff to get ready. I’m sorry, please excuse me; I didn’t need to be so abrupt and rude. I’m Gennie, Lainie’s partner? My Mom and Dad are visiting this week, and we’re really pressed for time. I heard about you; Danni, right? Lainie says you’re the best violinist she’s ever heard, and that’s a lot coming from her.” Gennie looked at Lainie with pride once again as the girl stood up. She put her hand on Danni’s shoulder and reached once again into her bag. A moment later she thrust a piece of paper into Danni’s hand.

“Call us, okay. Maybe you and your sis can come over for dinner this week. I’m sure my in-laws will love to meet you both.” The girl couldn’t have been more charming if she tried. She nodded once and then the two were off, leaving Danni sitting alone wondering just what had taken place. One thing for certain; her insecurities weren’t at all abated, but refocused as she sighed, wondering if she was the only person she knew who didn’t have someone to love.


Meanwhile...the Davies Sisters's Apartment...

“May I speak with Yuki Dudek?” Terri asked.

“Oh…hi….didn’t mean to interrupt…no?” Terri apologized.

“Can we get together for coffee? This afternoon, if you’ve….oh….tonight? Yes…that’s good. May I pick you up? Six-thirty is good….maybe we can grab a bite to eat? Your treat? Okay? See you then…”

Terri’s voice faded away even as the dial tone droned in her ear. She sighed deeply, hoping she was doing the right thing.


D'Agostino's Pizza and Pub...a bit later...

“This place has the best calzones.” Yuki said with a soft laugh. If you’re not from Jersey or New York, Chicago is the best place for pizza and calzones in the whole world.” She said with a broad gesture of her hand.

“And that’s coming from someone with the obviously right background….Slavic and Japanese.” Yuki hoped her comment would deflect any serious conversation at least until after they ate. She was wrong.

“Well, you ought to know.” Terri laughed, but her frown belied the humor of the moment.

“We have to talk!” She put her hand on Yuki’s, and the girl pulled away, grabbing her Diet Sprite.

“The pizza here is great, too. Especially the Sicilian with onions and peppers.” She took a sip of her soda and turned to look at the map of Italy hanging on the wall by their booth.

“Yuki…please.” Terri put her hand on Yuki’s once again; this time gripping the girl’s wrist.

“No…no changing the subject. This is important.”

“I know….I’m….I’m just….it’s just that I don’t want to have this conversation. I’m afraid if I say what I feel we’ll both regret it.” She looked away briefly, as if the wall revealed a script for her to read. She turned back and faced Terri.

“I swore to myself I wouldn’t let this happen….I’m a married….I’m a widow.” She began to tear up just a bit. Taking a big breath, she continued.

“I have only known one love in my life. He’s still a big part of my heart, and if I let someone else….”

“But, Yuki….let me explain…” Terri tried to interrupt, but Yuki cut her off.

“No…let me finish…or I won’t have the strength to say what I need to say.” Yuki looked away once again and her face turned crimson and hot.

“I can’t see you, Terri. I just can’t. It’s too soon.”

“You don’t understand.” Terri protested, grabbing Yuki’s wrist once again. She squeezed it enough to evoke a soft ‘ow’ from the girl.

“I can’t see YOU!” Terri blurted out, loud enough for the elderly couple in the next booth to turn around before returning to their meal.

“I can’t be a burden to you….you mean too much to me, and I have too much going on in my life right now to put that on you…., okay?” Now it was time for Terri to sigh deeply and tear up.

“I’m doing much better; the doctor is wondering if there’s some sort of reversal going on….the past few weeks look better than at any time in the past few years…” Yuki’s face brightened but Terri shook her head.

“No…it’s too soon to tell, but even if? I can’t rely on remission when the next bend in the river might be right over a waterfall. I can’t put that on you.” She shook her head; she didn’t want to say no. Who would want to face life alone? Yuki’s face turned from bright to angry in a second.

“Wait just a second. You don’t get to say what I can handle or not. Only I get to make that determination. I’m not a little kid….I’ve been married and widowed…for god’s sake, Terri. You and I are going through the biggest challenges anyone ever could with our gender stuff. How much harder must life be for us? Don’t we get to live?”

“You seem to forget! You get to live…I don’t. I can’t even….” Terri sighed heavily and looked down at herself. Her face grew red once again, but not from embarrassment. She was ashamed and saddened by her own body; a body that would never truly be female unless some miracle removed the disease from her. She put her head down.

“Do you think that makes any difference to me? I don’t care what you can or can’t do! I don’t care what you look like under your clothes. The face that smiles….the eyes that sparkle even when you’re tired and scared. That’s what I see.” Yuki shook her head, more from anger at herself. Faced with loss, she grabbed what she could from two lives both thought were irretrievable.

“But you said you weren’t ready….I can’t ask you…” Terri protested, but Yuki interrupted.

“There you go again. Tell you what. I’ll ask you. Makes it that much easier. Then it’s what you want or don’t want; no excuses. You either want me or you don’t. I’ve already decided I want you!” She looked over Terri’s shoulder to see the woman in the next booth smile at her. She nodded her head and continued.

“You can’t go through this alone, and you can’t ask your sister to give up her own life….I know you’re close, but you don’t have to put that on her; let me help….let me care. For Christ’s sake, Terri, let me in!” Yuki was small and at one time maybe even very fragile. But the same girl who had been carried through her relationship with Teddy Dudek, as wonderful as that was, became a girl willing and able to bear someone else’ burdens.

“I can’t ask you….” Terri cried, almost sobbing. She was desperate to be loved but too afraid to let go.

“No excuses, remember? You can’t put off living just because you might die. Everybody dies, Terri. I know better than you what that’s like, so don’t tell me you can’t ask. And I’m not even asking anymore. I’m telling you. Let go and let me in!” Yuki practically shouted the words and now it was her turn to squeeze Terri’s hand; a bit harder than she wanted.

“No….I can’t….what kind of life can I bring to you? How can I….I can’t….” Terri shook her head.

“You mean you won’t….” Yuki wasn’t angry with Terri so much as with the disease that finally seemed to be taking a toll on the girl’s spirit.

“You can do this. I need this more than anything in the world, Terri. I don’t know why, but I really care about you, even though we hardly know each other. Please…for both our sakes, open up and let me in.”

Terri Davies looked at Yuki through believing eyes; probably the first time in a very long while that she began to care for herself as much as she cared for the needs and hopes and dreams of her friends and her sister. And she gave in. She put her head down on Yuki’s hand and sobbed. The girl stroked her hair and cooed softly,

“Czyż woÅ‚ać bÄ™dzie to….shh shhhhh.” Words that her mother spoke to her when she was little and even more recently when she lost Teddy….Don’t cry….it will be alright….shh shhhhh.”


Suite Nothings!

Si perdue dans le ciel
Ne me restait qu'une aile
Tu serais celle-lá 


 

The Friday before Thanksgiving; rehearsal hall...



A Sorority of sorts had developed over the last few months. The stage seemed almost Spartan; Amazonian Yuki would quip more than once. She sat at the grand piano, wearing a long navy cardigan to keep the cold drafts of the theater at bay. Danni stood next to the piano, her violin in her left hand and a can of Diet Coke in her right. Yuki looked over at her and glared. Danni crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue before producing a piece of cardboard that she placed on the top of the piano.

"Got it, Maestra!"

Danni smiled and placed the can on the cardboard. As she sat down she turned to face the girl in the chair on her right; a picture of warmth in leggings and sweater and hat. Lainie nodded and smiled before placing her cello in front of her. The two had developed a pact of sorts, forged from a new friendship fueled by the unbridled love and acceptance that Lainie and Gennie had shown to Danni. She and Lainie swapped back and forth between cello, viola and violin, with a violone'...an upright bass thrown in for good measure.

A quick nod and they began. Rapid and filled with power but an underlying current of sadness; almost a lament of what could have been, Lainie had said. All three girls had made an odd pact of sorts when they discovered just how much more in common they had.

* * * * *

"I'm glad that Christine has been able to return to facilitate this group. I've found it so helpful that I hope you don't mind if I continue to attend?" Terri said as she smiled and nodded at Christine who had recently returned after a two week help out with sister's new baby absence.

"I think it's great, Danni said, having joined the group only a week before they had called on Terri to fill in. And of course Yuki was thrilled since it was three weeks past the day where they celebrated a promise to unity; Danni was very disappointed for the two of them and wasn't shy about saying so. "You're wives, I don't care what the State of Illinois says!" Lainie had come along with Gennie after her welcome to Danni linked them as friends. The five grew closer as friends even as the three girls knitted together almost as one in their music....

* * * * *

As they finished playing, Lainie nearly squealed with joy; they played superbly, but the feeling between the three and the music and each other is what really made the performance. Yuki nodded and smiled; sighing almost with a relief; time had passed between sad memories and the building of new ones. And Danni just stayed seated, looking almost distracted.

"So what do you want us to bring?" A voice came from off stage as Gennie stood and clapped softly in applause. Danni looked at her almost sideways as her eyes widened in confusion.

"You know? Thanksgiving...big bird...lots of food? Day before Black 'I'm ready to shop' Friday?" Yuki said. Danni turned around and stared at her before the reality of the coming holiday sunk in....


The Davies sisters' apartment that evening...

Si traá®nant dans mes ruines
Ne brillait rien qu'un fil
Tu serais celui-lá 

“What? You didn’t!” Danni scaled the magazine across the living room in frustration. Terri had the presence of mind to duck, but the teddy bear on the book shelf wasn’t as alert and ended up on the floor covered by the issue of Modern Bride.

“Hey…that’s not mine!”

Terri laughed as she wheeled over to the bookcase and picked up both bear and magazine. Most days were wheel-chair free, but today she had a particularly long day, even if it was fruitful and rewarding. Spousal rights vs. domestic partnership didn’t seem fair in light of what folks believed or not about marriage, but Terri and Yuki had no strength to crusade; the next generation or their contemporaries would fight the good fight while they enjoyed a much-earned rest on the sidelines. Danni ignored the protest and continued.

“I thought you and Yuki were going out with her mom for Thanksgiving. Now it’s them and Lainie and Gennie? Just who the hell do I pair off with?” Her lip pushed out in a pout that was only displayed a bit of self-pity. She had been depressed for quite some time, and Terri’s attempt at pulling her up out of that familiar pit seemed to do just the opposite.

“It’s not about couples, Danni…you know Deidre and Nita from the support group will be coming. Nita’s boyfriend is back in Germany after his leave, and Deidre is not looking for that right now.”

“Oh, hell, Ter…I know…it’s just…” Danni put her head down; even as a ‘boy’ growing up, she was the emotional one of the two, but even more so lately, what with her sister gaining a life-partner.

“Lainie and Gennie tied the knot last fall before Lainie had her surgery. It’s just not fair.” Danni plopped back on the couch and grabbed the rescued magazine off the coffee table and opened it up.

“Look at them…did you ever see something so phony….and so….wonderful?” She shook her head as she scanned the two-page ad in the center of the magazine; the bride looking somewhat disinterested and the groom looking downright thrilled. Where guilt and shame came from, she probably might figure out later, but at that moment, the same thoughts and accusations came to her once again.

“I should have never done it, you know?” Terri shook her head in frustration at the sound of Danni’s nearly weekly mantra.

“Would you just shut up? Please? Just for once, can at least one of us enjoy the fact that we’re finally who we’re supposed to be?” She screamed; her sorrow for her sister was surpassed only by her frustration over her sister’s loss of faith. She wasn’t so much angry at Danni as angry at herself for failing in her own calling. Danni could play the hair off a bow, but Terri felt useless as a minister; enough self-doubt to go around with plenty enough left over to leave on the table at Thanksgiving as holiday favors.

“I’m sorry, Sis, but not everyone is as blessed as you are.” Danni realized what she had said when Terri rolled around the end of the coffee table and rolled over her foot with her wheelchair.

“Oh, damn….” She looked at Terri. A second later Terri was laughing as she pulled Danni down onto her lap in the chair. The two started to laugh together; their sound had always had some odd harmony when they laughed together, and now had developed into a nice alto/mezzo duet. Terri coughed a bit before finally saying.

“You know I’m going to need some help; Yuki and her mother will be making some Kielbasa dish and some chicken dish called Tatshutaage. Everybody loves you; you don’t have to pair off with anybody!” Terri hadn’t meant to be abrupt with Danni, but she was nonetheless.

“Fine…I’ll come and help out, but don’t expect me to hang around….I hate my life and I don’t want to be around anybody, okay? Easy for you to say I don’t have to pair off. You didn’t lose the love of your life and now you’ve found her. What about me, Ter….”

Between a new medication for her depression and her flair for the dramatic, her plea quickly descended into histrionics as she scaled the magazine across the living room once again; sparing the recently repositioned teddy bear but knocking a picture of their parents off the wall, shattering the glass and breaking the frame. Terri over to the shelf once again and picked up the photo; a bit bent but still intact. Danni stared at the picture in Terri's hands before she burst into tears and ran to her room.

Danni lay on her bed; she was too busy crying to hear the soft steps behind her as Terri climbed out of the wheelchair and into bed. A moment later the two sisters were holding each other. Big sis to little sis; just as it had always been in one form or another.

“I miss Mom.” Danni sobbed. Why did they have to die? I feel so alone.” Danni looked at Terri before burying her face in her sister’s breast in shame.

“Shhhh….shhhh.......I know…you miss them and I can’t take their place. I know that Dad would just pat you on the head and tell you that everything is going to be alright.’ Terri said as she mirrored what she had just said.

“But Mom…she’d know what to do. She could always …fix things.”

Immortelle, immortelle
J'ai le sentiment d'áªtre celle
Qui survivra á  tout ce mal
Je meurs de toi

“Mom would try and most of the time she’d succeed, hon…but she couldn’t fix everything….She cried all day on my birthday.”

“Because she knew she was going to die?” Terri nodded but added quickly,

“Yeah, but we never got the chance to tell Dad, and you already knew…She was so broken up after I came back from Tucson….”

“She couldn’t fix you? Is that what she was hurt about?” Danni put her face next to Terri’s and rested against her cheek.

“Yes…I think she fought even harder after the doctor told her about me than when her doctor told her about her. If she was here, she’d still have something to say, but love doesn’t always listen to a mom’s prayers, Dan…sometimes we just have to let go.” Terri remembered the day she surrendered to the love that was planned for her before she was even born.

“I don’t know what to let go of, Ter…or what to grab onto when my hands are free.” Danni began to sob again. Terri cupped her cheek with her hand and supported it while she kissed the bridge of Danni’s nose and felt the flutter of her sister’s eyelids.

“Shhh….shhhh….we’ll figure it out together. I just have to believe we’ll figure it out. We just need some help.” Terri pulled Danni close and hummed softly; a lullaby tune she had made just for Danni when they were little. Soon the two had fallen asleep awaiting the help that would come in a completely unexpected but not unfamiliar form.


Somewhere

There's a time for us
Someday a time for us
Time together
With time to spare
Time to learn
Time to care
Someday

The Davies sisters' apartment...the Sunday before Christmas...

The sound of Faure's Pavane filled the apartment. Danni idly moved her fingers to the music; her eyes closed in near rapture. She barely heard the clinking of glasses and plates as Yuki finished the dishes. Lainie and Gennie and the rest of the guests had already departed, leaving Danni and Yuki to attend to the remainder of the holiday. Terri had fallen asleep on the couch; this time happily more because of the soft and soothing sound of the music rather than the exhaustion that usually plagued her afternoons and evenings.

“Would you like some tea?” Yuki called out from the kitchen. Hearing no reply, she poured a cup for her and for Danni and brought them into the living room and placed her cup on the table in front of the sofa. She spoke again, this time a bit louder.

“Hey…got some tea for you, okay?” Danni raised her head slightly and half-smiled. The tea was welcome, as was her sister’s partner’s company. It was an odd relationship since Danni’s music had almost drawn her away from her own pain, but in doing so, drew her away from the burgeoning romance right in front of her eyes; eyes that preferred not to look at love, lest they be disappointed.

“I’m sorry; it must feel like I’m intruding. You and Terri are so close. I didn’t mean to come between you, and I hope I haven’t hurt you in any way.” This coming from a young lady all too well acquainted with hurt as a widow who only now was recovering from her loss; a loss that was cushioned and surrounded and treasured by the love of a girl with her own pain and grief.

“That’s okay.” Danni said lamely, looking away.

“No, it’s not. You seemed so far away during dinner; like something was pulling you from us.” Yuki looked out the window as if some force was still in operation; working against Danni’s need for connection there and now.

“I…it’s hard to explain. It’s not okay, but it is, if that makes any sense?” She put her head down in thought before continuing.

“I’m not upset with you; it’s just that I’ve lost so much in the past few years. And I didn’t even realize how much it hurt until recently. My best friend besides Terri left to go home to take care of her mom, and she…well.” Danni had promised herself she wasn’t going to cry; at least until the clock struck 12:01 and it was no longer Thanksgiving.

“She found someone else?” Yuki’s words seemed almost blunt, but her voice seemed to coax Danni to continue with a welcome and care almost as tender as her sister’s.

“Yes.” Danni shook her head. She put the cup of tea back on the table and stood up.

“I’m …I’m sorry…I…I can’t talk any longer, okay?” She said quickly before walking to her room and shutting the door, leaving Yuki feeling unable to help her new ‘sister.’

Later...

“Oh…hi…” Terri said, raising her head slightly.

“I guess I needed to rest, huh?” She had gotten past apologizing all the time for her illness; rest was necessary and expected in order for her to face it with any degree of success. Yuki nodded and got up and walked to the couch. Instead of sitting on the end, she drew close and motioned for Terri to lift up; sitting down, she cradled Terri’s head in her lap.

“I think you’re getting a bit better, don’t you?” Like any immune-related illness, the reduction of stress was vital for Terri, and nothing could have reduced her stress like the love of the young woman who held her at that moment.

“I have you to thank, Yu…funny….I love Yu.” Terri laughed at the pun, but it was true; she was indebted to Yuki for the remission of sorts that she was undergoing. And not just from the disease. While she had remained a bright beacon of hope for others, her own heart had been so tired and sad from all of the disappointment and grief of the last several years.

“And I love you!” There was a strength and surety that Terri sensed; something that spoke of Yuki’s own recovery.

“You know that I know I’ll never be able to replace him, right?” Terri turned her head to the side with a sigh. It was nearly impossible to compete with the memory of Yuki’s late husband, but Terri still hadn’t realized how unnecessary that competition was.

“I’m not planning on replacing him, but I’m so glad you’ve joined him. I think he would have liked you; both of you are so focused on the needs of others.” Yuki spoke as if Teddy was still alive. Even in his death, he had proven once again how important sacrifice had become. And it was important more than ever to Yuki.

“I’m so glad you’re in my life.” She said as her hand softly touched Terri’s cheek. “I feel like a big part of the hole in my heart has been finally filled.”

“I’m sorry,” Terri said.

“Why sorry? You’re the best thing to happen to me in my entire life.” The words surprised Terri; how could she be more important than the one first best love of Yuki’s life. The answer to her unspoken question came as Yuki urged Terri to raise her head. A kiss on the bridge of the nose followed by tender lips caressed Terri’s.

“You’re here and now…I’m alive once again because of you, Ter….you have to know that.” She kissed her forehead and began to cradle the young woman’s head in her breast. A hand reached in to pull apart her blouse, exposing her chest. Terri began to kiss Yuki’s breast, stopping at the edge of the bra.

“We’re not married.” Terri said, pulling away slightly.

“We’re as married as we’ll ever be in Illinois, and God knows we’re married here.” Yuki touched her left breast with her palm and then did the same to Terri.

“I love you so much. Let me show you?” Yuki said softly. Terri buried her face in Yuki’s chest once again, but this time she began to sob.

“Why the tears? I love you!” Yuki said as she gently pulled Terri’s head away to face her. Terri looked up and then looked downward past her waist. Even with the lupus in remission, her doctors had already decided that they couldn’t risk any surgery; perhaps never. She blushed and her face grew hot; her tears almost burning as they fell.

“You’re a woman in every way that matters to me. I didn’t fall in love with what you could be or should be, Ter…I fell in love with who you are, and you make me very, very happy. Let me love you?” Yuki’s words were almost slurred as she resumed kissing her lover. She rose from the couch and knelt beside and began once again to kiss Terri. Her hands probed and pushed and scratched and caressed, leaving Terri shuddering with feelings she had never known. Kisses behind the ear and on the neck were quickly replaced by a hand undoing the front hook to Terri’s bra.

“I’m not real.” She sobbed once again as Yuki moved the false aside to attend to the authentic. The breasts were small; almost the breasts of a twelve year old girl, but they were the breasts of a girl nonetheless. Yuki kissed her and nibbled in places never before noticed by any other than their owner. Terri began to laugh even as the tears streamed down her cheeks. Yuki continued to kiss Terri’s breasts as her hands reached further down.

“NO!” Terri pled, her body shuddering even in the midst of protest.

“Yes….I love you…not what you should be or what you wish to be, but you; here and now.” She raised her head and began to kiss Terri’s cheeks; savoring her lover’s tears. Hands continued to probe and caress and treasure all over until the woman before her lay back, sobbing. Joy and pain and regret and sadness and relief and love and hope mixed together as Yuki placed her head on her lover’s stomach, still kneeling next to the couch.

“You….” Terri stammered, still crying but with her sobs ebbing like a cleansing tide that pulled away the detritus from the shore of her life; finally a life with few regrets even if in the midst of the great challenge that lay before both of them.

“Me.” Yuki laughed softly. Terri lay back on the couch and stared at the ceiling.

“I had to play a concert in New York City once with the worst piano I had ever laid my hands on. I asked my instructor about it and he said, ‘You play with what you have, not with what you wish you had, dear.’ Turned out to be one of the best performances I ever enjoyed.” Terri blinked back some tears and stared at Yuki with a quizzical look.

“Someday….I promise if it is at all possible, we’ll take care of everything, okay?” She used her eyes to stare downward on Terri’s body and then up to her breasts.

“But for now? We play with what you have, my dear, okay?” She smiled and leaned in and kissed Terri once again.

“Okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer but resumed kissing, saying through lips that caressed her lover’s face,

“Merry Christmas!”


Christmas Eve day...

“I can’t wait until Christmas,” Gennie said. She reached into her backpack and pulled out a flat wrapped package about one foot or so square, handing it to Danni, who blushed with surprise. The couple had embraced her as if she was part of their family. Lainie squealed in expectation as the girl opened the package.

“To Danni — You have lovely friends, and I hope this note finds you well.” The picture was that of a middle aged man in a relaxed impromptu ‘pose;’ wearing a simple maroon cardigan over a polo shirt. He was holding a violin casually, as if he had just finished playing, which indeed he had. And it was signed.

“Best Regards, Itzhak Perlman.” True to form, the ‘emotional’ sister of the Davies family burst into tears over the lovely gesture. As a little boy a lifetime ago, the girl had been drawn to violin after hearing the tender and sad soundtrack to Schindler’s List and Perlman had been a hero to her.

“I….I don’t know what to say….thank you.” Danni felt that Christmas couldn’t get any better, but she found out that it not only could, but would become the best Christmas ever.

“The concert pulled in $47,000 for the shelter,” Terri said as she hugged the girls. The trio had knitted together with a commonality that went, of course, beyond their music and talent. But it wasn’t merely just because of their sameness, in a way. They grew together because their hearts were ready to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Yuki had found healing in coming to know and love someone again. And Danni became whole in learning that she was not alone. Lainie had grown to want to be more than just a musician, and she and her friends came to that place of moving past what wasn’t to move into what can be. It was a Christmas that included everyone and excluded no one. Danni was able to let go of feeling left out because she knew she was loved; if not the way she wished, at least in a way that made her grateful and whole.

But there was one more Christmas present to open.

Christmas day...the Davies sisters' apartment...

“Danni, can you get the door?” Terri asked as she set the table for the holiday meal. Yuki and Gennie were in the kitchen getting food ready and Lainie was downstairs getting the drinks from her car.

“Lainie must have her hands full,” Danni said as she walked to the door. Opening it, she found herself face to face with a familiar figure, but it wasn’t Lainie.

“Merry Christmas, Danni.” Emily stood before the girl, smiling as broad a smile as Danni had ever seen. She was speechless.

“Mommy passed a few weeks ago….” She began to cry and fell into Danni’s arms. Danni held her and patted her back, still awkward and almost speechless except for consolation.

“I’m so sorry…” Danni repeated the words over and over, feeling helpless and glad at the same time, which led to an even more awkward feeling of guilt.

“I…”

“Shhhh.” It was Emily’s turn to console as the months of anxious loss spilled out in sobs as Danni shook in Emily’s arms.

“I…I had to …. There….never….” Emily gasped in the midst of her own crying, but finally said,

“I was wrong….oh …you know….I had to go, Dan….but ….. after Mommy died I had no one.” She looked away.

“I thought….but I was wrong. I love you, Danielle Cameron Davies…I always have. I thought I lost you when Cam went away….but you never were Cam….forgive me…I was wrong.” The girl’s sobs seemed to provide a counterpoint to Danni’s weeping. In a moment, the music softened and slowed, as it were, with a coda that include the most beautiful and tender kiss the two had ever known.

“I love you, Emily.”

There's a place for us
A time and place for us
Hold my hand
And we're halfway there
Hold my hand
And I'll take you there
Somehow
Someday
Somewhere


To my readers:
I want to thank you for coming back to visit these special women. They are special, not only because they express and live out much of what we wish for ourselves, but also because they come from my heart; the women I’ve come to know in a way exemplified by the lives herein with music and love mixed together in expression of what I’ve found for myself.

From Yuki and Terri and Lainie and Gennie and Emily and Danni and, finally, Tante Andrea, I hope and pray that each and every one of you enjoy a truly blessed holiday season; filled with joy and hope and love. Thank you!



Somewhere
from the Musical Play,
West Side Story
words and music by
Stephen Sondheim and
Leonard Bernstein
as performed by
Celtic Woman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BIVUe8cTz4

Pavane (Reprise)
composed by Gabriel Faure'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwENXlX94-I&feature=related

Trio Sonata in C minor
composed by Antonio Vivaldi
as performed by The Eroica Trio
Erika Nickrenz, piano; Susie Park, violin;
and Sara Sant'Ambrogio, cello
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nuiW63r998

Immortelle
Words and Music by
Lara Fabian and Rick Allison
as performed by Lara Fabian
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLXt7Up69RE

Carol of the Drums
words and music by
Katherine K. Davis
as performed by
The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Baby Mine (Reprise)
From the Movie Dumbo
Words and Music by
Frank Church and Oliver Wallace
As sung by Miss Alison Krauss
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzoZnivlLhw&feature=related

Baby Mine
From the Movie Dumbo
Words and Music by
Frank Church and Oliver Wallace
As sung by Miss Alison Krauss
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzoZnivlLhw&feature=related

I Married an Angel
Music by Richard Rogers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Performed by Nat Adderley
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHvxDBYbSTU&feature=related

Cast Your Fate to the Wind
composed by Vince Guaraldi
as performed by
Vince Guaraldi Trio
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLJ1aZhKVhk

The Romantic Violin
Composed by
Nguyen Xanh Thao
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EQ6eHeBrhM
My Heart
words and music and
performance by
Paramore
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJueFkoehUM

Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
Johann Sebastian Bach
Solo by Lara St. John
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X4DM0dITTA

* http://www.springerlink.com/content/jh42234014851184/
(not meant to be comprehensive - plenty of research
available if you care to search.)

http://www.ctschicago.edu/

Pavane
composed by Gabriel Faure'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpgyTl8yqbw

Scripture taken from
Psalm 108 - The Message

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
As performed by
Itzhak Perlman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILdsreAvDyc

Celtic Steps
Jean-Luc Ponty and Band
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ-vpS2FaeM&feature=related

Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
Composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7UZhorAki4
Cello Sonata No. 1 Op. 5/1 in F major
by Ludwig Van Beethoven
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-xlTc5qfWQ

Peer Gynt Suite No. I, Op. 46 -
Ase's Death i obrazy Muncha

by Edvard Grieg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD7WUdMHHgc&feature=fvst

Serenade for Strings in C Maj. Op.48
Fourth Movement
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVRCdfRNxzc

Symphony #7, Second Movement in A Major, Opus 92
composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uOxOgm5jQ4

Concerto #26 in Do Maggiore, RV 479
composed by Antonio Vivaldi
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhvZeKBQHww

Petrushka
Music for the Ballet composed by
Igor Stravinsky
solo by Yuja Wang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJRfImhtjq4

Symphony No. 6 in E-flat minor (Op. 111
by Sergei Prokofiev
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMqXTGNM1FQ

Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
composed by Felix Mendelssohn
solo by Yuja Wang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGtYkGlVlxo

Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2
Composed by Fredric Chopin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFPTQFytQqk&feature=related

Brahms Variation of a Theme by Paganini
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjugQDGJBrc

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
in A Minor, Opus 43: Variations 1 - 6
composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Piano solo by Yuja Wang
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYZNtApENG4



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