The Callahan Family Chronicles

The Callahan Family Chronicles

Terrence Nathaniel Callahan wandered into the kitchen; his shoulders seemed to be weighed down, but it was just the same old stupid stuff that kept him from sleeping.   No swiftly tilting planet, but a dream that seemed almost as bad as a nightmare because instead of being stuck in the dream, every morning he woke up to his miserable life...

The Callahan home...Summit, New Jersey...

His name wasn’t Meg Murray, but it might as well have been. Round wire rim glasses that adorned a pale face framed by long brown hair. He was smart, but underachieving; maybe a learning disorder, but mostly because of a very, very bad self-image. He had a pair of younger brothers who weren’t twins but still functioned like they were. Danny and Dale were separated by fifteen months and the distance between their twin beds.

No savant occupied the last slot in the sibling lineup, but a very nice little girl who was still much smarter than any of her classmates. So that left Terry at the top; eighteen, geeky, and just a bit on the 'soft' side.

“You want help studying for that final of yours,” Danny asked his older brother as he walked into the kitchen. Terry frowned. Even with help, the best he could hope for would be to barely pass, barring a miracle. A whole term of lollygagging, his teacher had said of his efforts; an old if completely accurate description of his efforts. Terry had been distracted all year long.

“That’s okay. I’ve got it for the most part, but thanks anyway, Dan.” He smiled and started upstairs.

“Terry? Can you help me?” Libbie looked up at her brother and frowned. She had dropped a box of Legos on the floor, scattering them all over the upstairs landing. Terry knelt down and began to pick up the toys.

“You’re a good brother. Dale laughed when I asked for help.” She frowned again, and her lower lip stuck out in a frustrated pout.

“He’s okay…He’s just worried about the game tomorrow, okay, Libbie?” Terry said with a smile as he helped her to her feet.

“Okay…but only ‘cuz you said so.” She squeezed his hand before walking back to her bedroom.

“Nothing like being validated by a seven year old,” he said to himself. He walked up the last set of stairs to the attic…his bedroom occupied half of the top floor; unfinished except for a bed, a dresser, an old armchair, and couple of dog-earred and torn movie posters for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings he had rescued from the trash behind the theater a few years ago; stapled on the plywood that covered the rafters.

“What’s a sixteen year old boy doing with a Harry Potter poster,” his father had said. Both had come to an agreement in the following two years. His father felt he was not really the stuff most boys are made of and Terry agreed whole- heartedly. Not that his dad was complaining; he actually sympathized with his oldest child.

“A boy needs his mother,” Terrence Sr. had said. Almost like the Wallace family, the mother of the household had gone missing, but she was gone with a co-worker who read her poetry and loved cats instead of by some tesseract or wrinkle in time. Why Danny and Dale didn’t follow suit with confusion and doubt remained a mystery to Terry, who felt singled out in every family situation as the odd one. And not by anything said or done; it was his own sense of self that seemed to set him apart and make his life miserable; something that only time and perhaps a good shrink might help, his Aunt Celine had said.

He stared at the pile of clothes on the bed. If something was going to change, it would have to be soon. At eighteen, he was getting taller quicker; maybe too quick, and he feared the worst, understandably, having read all he could about his ‘delicate condition,’ another endearing observation by Aunt Celine.

“Terry? Dale says dinner is ready. You gotta help with the table!” Libbie called from down below. Terry sighed and looked over at his bed once again at the clothes laid out for the following evening; they would have to wait, but thankfully he could lock the attic door and protect his secret. What Terry was about to find out is that secrets may be meant to be kept, but often are also destined to be found out. And he’d also find out that being found out wasn’t bad at all.

The next day….

Terry got home at about 4:12pm, which was just enough time not to be ready for what awaited him when he walked in the door.

“Hey, bro?” A voice called from the kitchen. He looked around the doorway to see Callie Mahoney sitting at the table drinking a juice box. She was dressed in her typical garb; something she called semi-Emo, with subdued makeup and hair, but with the short skirt over dark leggings and ballet slippers. He stared at her, wondering why she had shown up there; they had agreed to meet up at the convention center late that afternoon. She raised the juice box and smiled,

“Libbie said it’s okay, so long as I don’t drink any of the grape! Salut!” She laughed and took a sip.

“What are you doing here? I thought we agreed to meet there.” Terry shook his head, his nervousness obvious to Callie.

“Say…what’s the problem, bro? So I’m here. I figured we’d change here and catch the bus over to the convention center early. Uncle Shamus said he’ll let us in the employees’ entrance!”

“You should have called. I’m not ready.” Terry nearly snapped at her. She looked at him oddly and smiled.

“I know. I saw.” She laughed softly and grabbed his arm as he walked by.

“Dale let me in your room.”

Terry’s eyes widened in shock and fear. He hoped that she had only noticed the disheveled condition of the attic, and not what he had prepared for the evening. His hope was in vain, but not really all that horrible, as Callie spoke.

“Nice outfit. You don’t expect me to wear that, do you? Oh…wait…we were supposed to meet up at the center…hmmmm….I wonder who that outfit is for if not for me….hmmmm” She teased, and he stared at her.

“I’ve got my outfit in my gym bag, so it can’t be for me….and we’re not going with anyone else, so far as I know…. hmmmm.” Callie laughed a bit heartier this time, and the reaction was entirely surprising as Terry’s eyes began to mist.

“Oh, come on, bro. You don’t have to worry with me. I promise I won’t tell anyone…oh wait…you’re going out in public in that outfit. I don’t need to tell anyone.” The loudest laugh brought the boy to tears. He glared at her, not so much in anger as in frustration and shame. He ran up the stairs and slammed the door to his attic bedroom. A few moments later a soft knock came at the door followed by,

“Ter…hey…I’m sorry. Maybe if you see what I’m planning on wearing you won’t feel so bad, okay. Best friends?” She knocked on the door again.

“Helooooooo? Any nice boys with whom I’m overwhelmingly attracted in there? Future spouse? Hubby?” She teased again, but there was so much more to what she said than even she realized. But at that moment, her words were at least sufficient to get the door unlocked. Terry didn’t even bother to open the door, but Callie found him sitting on his bed when she entered the room.

She walked over and sat down next to Terry, who had recovered enough to stop crying; at least for the moment.

“Let me show you…I’ll change and you can tell me what you think.” She punched him softly in the arm and he winced, not from pain, but from the embarrassment that hadn’t gone away, despite her best efforts to show him she was fine with his choice of costume. The punch did nothing to ease his anxiety, and he took his pillow from the head of the bed and covered the pile of clothes.

“I don’t think I’m going to go, after all.” He shook his head.

“Yes you are, buster!” She paused and laughed before adding,

“My goddess, I’m turning into my mom! Buster? Terry, come on…we’ve been planning this for a whole year; you can’t back out now. Besides, when you see what I’ve got for my outfit, you’ll just have to come along, okay?” Terry shrugged his shoulders and turned away, partly out of his continued embarrassment, but also because Callie had started to take her clothes off. The boy’s face turned red and hot.

“Oh, gosh, it’s not like you haven’t seen this before. Oh gosh…wait a sec…you haven’t seen this before. She pulled off her bra, exposing her breasts. Terry had covered his eyes, and Callie laughed.

“Come on, Ter…lighten up. Here….gimme your hand.” She didn’t wait for a response and took his right hand and placed it on her left breast.

“See there? That wasn’t so bad…And right next to my heart.” She pecked him on the cheek.

“Okay, show’s over for the moment. Close your eyes…not too hard. I know when I do that I get a whopper of a headache. But keep them closed until I say open, okay?” Terry put his hand out to wave, his other hand covering his eyes. A few minutes later, he heard her exclaim.

“Ta DA!!!!!” He didn’t respond, preferring rather to keep his eyes covered. After the touching moment only minutes before, he didn’t know what to expect. Leia on the Slave Barge? Leeloo from the Fifth Element? What could she be wearing? She solved his dilemma by gently tugging his hand away from his eyes.

“So, whaddya think?” She laughed and did a pirouette. The plain grey skirt twirled; its pleats looked very straight and proper. She wore a dark blazer, and her auburn hair was done up in a longish pony-tail.

“Very….very nice.” Terry hardly glanced in her direction. She stuck her lower lip out in a mock pout.

“Very nice? Bitchin’, Ter…bitchin’!” She stepped closer to the bed and pulled him to his feet.

“Okay, sweetie…your turn.” She pointed to the pillow covering the pile of clothes.

“No…I can’t!”

“Oh yes you can. We can’t let this slide, Ter….you know you want to ….you wouldn’t have tried to make it a surprise if you didn’t!” She pointed to the bed again.

“You get dressed, and I’ll help you with the rest.” She pulled him closer and whispered,

“And you’ll get a nice surprise if you do….Oh I can’t keep a secret. I’ve got four Ghiradelli dark chocolate bars and two of them are yours if you get dressed now!” He hesitated and she punched him in the arm.

“I said now! I’ll even turn my back and close my eyes.” She laughed once again and smiled before sitting on the bed. Terry grabbed the clothes and shook a bit.

“Listen, Terry. It’s okay to be different. You know? It’s what I love about you! Go ahead. I promise I’ll keep my eyes covered and I won’t laugh…much.” She giggled and he took a deep breath.

“Okay…close your eyes.” The sound of clothes being pulled off and other garments being put on was almost too distracting for Terry. At one point he turned and saw that Callie indeed had covered her eyes, but that she had spread her fingers wide and was peeking between the spaces. He turned his back to her, which did nothing to hide that he was nearly naked save for his underwear, if you could call it ‘his.’

Finally, after much giggling on Callie’s part and gasping and sighing on Terry’s, he was finished getting dressed. Callie had closed the gaps between her fingers in deference to the big ‘surprise’ reveal, which really was more of a surprise than either had expected.

“Holy shit!” Callie nearly screamed. “Shut up!!!!”

“Cal….please….this is hard enough as it is!” Terry protested but Callie continued,

“You look terrific….better than terrific…you’re fucking beautiful.” Her estimation was completely accurate. Terry stood before her in a nearly identical outfit as hers. His slim figure and non-manly looks (as his father was wont to remind him) helped him pull off the illusion.

“So, is it alright if I call you Hermione?” Callie said softly? The figure in front of her surely bore little resemblance to the boy who had stood in her place only moments before. Callie used her hand in a twirling motion, and the girl did a pirouette as fine as any you’ve ever seen.

“The thing I absolutely adore about fan fiction is that you can sort of push things the way you’d really love them to go. So, without further ado, Miss Hermione Granger? Oh I am so delighted to make your acquaintance. My name, as if you didn’t know, is Ginevra Weasley.”

“I…I’m pleased to meet you.” The Hermione-girl smiled nervously.

“Come on, girl…this is going to be a great evening.” She laughed softly as she pulled the girl toward the stairwell.

“And after the convention tonight? “ She grabbed the girl’s other hand and finished, placing both of the girl’s hands on her breasts.

“We’ll come back here and make some magic of our own!”


Somewhere in space and time...

Mrs. Whatsit looked at the girl and smiled gently.

“You needn’t worry, child. Everything is alright. You’re quite safe.” She started to turn away and her countenance seemed to change. A glow came over her as she put her hand on the girl’s wrist.

“You’ll be alright once you go through the required gateway of tessaract phenomena.” Her voice almost seemed to emerge from an echo chamber and the girl was beginning to get confused until Mrs. Whatsit reached into her cape and withdrew a card….

“Call me tomorrow on my cell and let me know how things go with your therapist,” Sylvia Martinetti nodded and smiled as the boy stood up. She waved for him to remain.

“It’s going to be okay, Terry. You’re almost out of school here, and there’s a whole summer to prepare if you feel you must attend in the fall. The state has a fine system of support and scholarships available for students like you.” She almost regretted pointing out the obvious but nearly shameful until he laughed.

“I know… American Geek Society…. Goth N’Proud… Too Old for Hogwarts!” But his laughter trailed off and his frown filled in the rest of his words.

“Terry? It’s okay to be different. I guess the next step is to figure out just how different you are and what your needs will be.” Life was continuing to grow both more wonderful and confusing and horrible and scary for Terrence Nathaniel Callahan, erstwhile Goth boy-turned-girl and multi-disciplined devotee to Harry Potter and other fantastic people via fan fiction and semi-cosplay, as his girlfriend Callie Mahoney would put it.

“I don’t even know what I want, Ms. Martinetti, but I know what I don’t want, and that’s to be like this the rest of my life. He looked down at the clothes he wore. Any other student in school might have considered his outfit outlandish, but he saw it so differently, since a coat-like cape draped over a torso covered with shirt and jacket might be fairly acceptable. But wearing pants just didn’t cut it when a skirt would do.

The Callahan home, Summit, New Jersey, later that afternoon...

“You don’t look like a Goth, Terry. I think you look good.” Libbie paused for a moment before her expression took on a quizzical look.

“What’s a Goth?” His sister Libbie was his biggest fan; perhaps Terri’s biggest fan as well.

“Would you be my big sister, Terry?” She had asked, even to the point of offering Terry her baby doll.

“I’m too old for this,” she said to him, which made little sense to the seventeen year old sibling before her until she continued,

“Daddy told Danny and Dale to be nice to you. He said you probably are a girl and that you have to make up….” She paused and actually put her left hand to her chin while tapping her right temple with her index finger just like Terry might do.

“Oh….yeah….Daddy sez you gotta make up for lost time. Can I have her back after you’re through with her?” She pointed to the doll. Terry had nodded almost enthusiastically while yet growing a very dark crimson as the thought of his father talking with his brothers about his gender issues became embarrassing. Libbie noticed and grabbed his hand.

“It’s okay, Terry….really. You don’t hafta be my sister.” Funny how small things become important amidst the dearth of support. Terry might be the oldest child in the family, but he was just like his mother; she was a crier, too, until she left to find her way in the world. Terry followed his mother’s example and turned away so Libbie wouldn’t notice the tears in his eyes.

“Terry?” Libbie tugged at his sleeve and he turned; reluctantly but slowly facing his sister. She smiled even as her own tears mirrored his.

“I love you. I think Daddy and Danny and Dale love you too. They just don’t do so good telling you.” Recently turned eight-going-on-thirty, the girl nevertheless seemed to be the wisest in the Callahan family. Terry nodded before leaning close to kiss Libbie on the cheek, evoking a hug.

“I love you, too, Libbie. I’m just not so sure I love me at this point. Thank you.” He squeezed her shoulders before running up the stairs to his attic bedroom.

The following evening...

“Daddy?” Libbie walked into the living room and sat down on the couch next to Terrence Sr.

“Libbie?” He tilted his head in an amused expression. She slapped his wrist playfully.

“Does Terry have a problem?” She looked up the stairwell as if he might be coming down any second. Terrence Sr.’s eyes followed her gaze upward in similar fashion.

“Whadya mean, kiddo? Problem? I suppose no more than anybody else.” He laughed softly. She stared at him for a minute; the two-headed father stare that we all display from time to time.

“You got problems? I thought only us kids had problems.” She actually sounded serious until his grin caused her sober look to disappear in a fit of giggles.

“Terry wants to be a girl. Like me?” She looked downward at her waist and shook her head.

“That’s what he tells me….no, scratch that.” Libbie looked at Terrence Sr. before using her hand in a scratching gesture in the air.

“I guess that's what she tells me...You know…we all are born a certain way. You were born a girl, right? And Dale and Danny were born boys. You all feel good and it feels right that way, you know?” Libbie nodded, pretending to understand. Terrence Sr. paused for a moment and smiled, waiting for her real answer.

“No, Daddy, I don’t understand. I’m a girl. Terry wants to be one, too?” She looked at her right hand and admired the nail polish Terry had helped her apply only an hour before. She tilted her head and recalled their time together before her eyes widened in something akin to an ‘aha’ moment.

“Boys don’t wear nail polish, do they?” She looked at her father’s hands.

“Mostly, Lib… mostly, but some boys wear it for fun and some like to wear it to say something about themselves.”

“Like Terry and the Goth stuff?”

“Sort of, but with Terry, it’s even more than that. When he was born, he had a boy’s body.”

“Geez, Daddy. He still does!” Libbie dragged out her ‘get with the program’ look and displayed it proudly.

“I know. But inside…like here?” Terrence Sr. pointed at her heart.

“Right there he doesn’t have the things that make a boy who he is. He was born with girl stuff in his heart and in his head, you understand?”

“Like me and math and the clarinet?” She put her chin down a bit to steal a glance at her heart.

“Exactly. Math is a part of you…the clarinet and soccer…what makes you who you are. Terry has a boy’s body but inside Terry is all about being a girl. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really how some of us have outsides that don’t quite match our insides. It’s not just that he wants to be a girl… No matter what we see, he’s a girl already. Why Terry goes to a special doctor. I hope that helps.”

“I let him have my dolly.” She said it, but her face seemed to be much less proud than her voice. She continued.

“I don’t think it helped.” She sighed as if she had just failed her math test the day before; you already must have guessed that she aced it, but she felt sad until Terrence Sr. spoke up. He patted her on the back.

“You know how Terry cries sometimes when he’s happy? He was crying last night when I talked to him after dinner. He showed me the doll. Libbie…I think that helped him more than anything any of us could ever say, because you told him by giving him the doll that you believed in him.”

“Good…I’d hate to give away my favorite doll for nothing!” Terrence Sr. began to frown until Libbie’s expression turned to a broad grin. Her ‘just fooling’ smile.

“The thing for you and me and Danny and Dale to do is to just see how much we can do to help Terry feel good about himself, okay.”

“Nope…I can’t.” She folded her arms and looked quite cross.

“And why is that…I thought we just agreed that Terry is a girl….at least on the inside for now and maybe on the outside later, right?” Libbie shook her head no. Terrence Sr. was about to speak when Libbie actually leaned closer to her father and put her index finger against his lips to ‘shush’ him. His eyes grew wide in surprise as she shook her head once again.

“Not himself, silly! Herself. Terry’s a girl, Daddy. Right?” Libbie’s proud tone was matched by the broad smile on her face.

“Right you are, Dr. Callahan.” Coming from anyone else, the title might have sounded condescending, but from her father, it was a compliment of the finest order. She nodded and shook his hand.

“You think Mommy is ever coming back?” Libbie’s expression turned serious. Terrence thought for a moment.

“I don’t know, Lib. You know it’s up to her, right? That you didn’t do anything to make her go away…we’ve talked about this?” He sighed, feeling helpless. While a huge part of Terrence Callahan Senior wanted his estranged wife to return, much of him wanted more to protect the growth and healing that had occurred in the family at her absence. He might hate sleeping alone, but he loved the kids too much to see them hurt should Nadia Callahan halt her self-discovery tour and bring her chaos back into what had become a fairly ordered household.

That is by fairly ordered it meant two reasonably normal hyperactive boys, a very, very precious eight year old girl, a father who had learned he was completely a person all by himself, and a troubled first born-child who had discovered in many ways both good and bad that he was just like his mother.

In a cold, dimly lit stone-paved hallway somewhere else...

“We can get into a great deal of trouble for this,” Hermione said as she peered around the corner of the stone pillar down the hall. Her hand reached back blindly in the dark and waved until it was grasped tightly.

“I don’t care. Bugger the rules. I’m tired of hiding.” Ginny spoke softly from the shadows; her feet the only part of her illuminated by the moonlight streaming through the window above and to their right.

“I know, but it’s only until school lets out. We have the whole summer to take whatever adventure comes to us!” Hermione paused and tilted her head, wondering from where in the recesses of her literature-loving psyche that turn of phrase had emerged. From the same recesses, she seemed to hear the soft purr of a large cat.

“It’s not fair.” Ginny protested. She had retreated further into the shadows and was contemplating running backward until she bumped into…

“Oh….sorry, Mr. Dellacourte.” Callie shrugged sheepishly and went to continue. He held his hand up.

“No excuses, okay? I know it’s the last couple of weeks, but if I let you slide on this, what credibility would I have.” The assistant principal pointed to his office and shook his head.

“Really, Mister Callahan. Aren’t you a bit old for Ms. Rowling…? Really?” Archie Dellacourte was as fair an administrator as they came. He grinned and literally turned his head and put his hand over his eyes.

“You two run along….” He paused and opened his fingers, uncovering his eyes.

“You do know how to run along?” Callie smiled and Terry shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. Archie stepped closer to the two and put his hands on Terry’s and Callie’s shoulders.

“Just do me a favor….I really don’t want to get stuck with bus lineup for the rest of the year, so if anyone asks you we never had this conversation.” The two nodded and went to back away until he shook his head slightly in question.

“Terry? Let me know how things work out this afternoon with your shrink, okay? And Terry?” Archie’s look was entirely conciliatory, causing the boy to tilt his head in question.

“I’m sorry about the ‘mister’ comment. I noticed your expression; I was out of line. Pax?” The boy squinted, looking confused.

“From now on? It’s ‘In the hallway with no pass? That’ll be one week detention, Ms Callahan.’” He smiled and Callie looked up and smiled back, tugging at Terry’s sleeve to gain attention. The man winked at the two of them before silently walking back to his office.

A few minutes later in the Administration/Guidance office suite...

“Was that that Callahan kid…geez, Arch… why do you let him get away with that?” Don Penatare stared at Archie and frowned.

“What, Don? Get away with walking in the hall two weeks before graduation? Or is it something much more evil?”

“You know what I meant, Arch. It isn’t right. It isn’t ….natural. And with that ….that girl.”

“Well, at least you’re fair minded, Don. You seem to be turned off by everyonewho doesn’t fit your idea of the right kind of kid.” Archie scowled; he hadn’t meant to be angry, but Don could just be so frustrating at times. He loved the man like a brother; they’d practically lived in each other’s houses growing up. He just couldn’t figure out what made him so set against Terry and Callie. There were other kids who were decidedly different than the couple; Don never seemed any-phobic before, so it had to be something else.

“She’s a good kid deep down, and I suppose he is, too, but the whole idea of ….well that trans thing seems so contrary.”

“I’ll grant you it’s not something you see every day, Don, but come on…Nothing we see now is really all that ‘out there,’ is it? You’re a science teacher, for god’s sake.”

“I just don’t know.” Don shook his head and looked out the office window into the hallway as if Callie and Terry were still standing there.

“I guess it’s really not an issue any more, since like you said, it’s almost the end of the school year and we won’t have to deal with that any more.” He shook his head, almost in relief.

“Well, Don…since this is a High School, and we do have students here, I suppose you’ll be re-thinking your assessment very soon.” Archie smiled to himself; Don was so distracted that he didn’t notice Angelo Contaldi walking past the office window, resplendant in a nice purple tunic over black tights. ‘His’ look was brought together by a pretty lavender belt and matching hairband.

It was a dark and stormy night...

The three had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. A knock came at the kitchen door. Odd for a visitor at that time of night; the knob began to twist of its own accord. In a moment the door opened and a stranger stood before them…

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract…..”

The voice would have spoken eerily had it really been a stranger. But instead of some weird apparition from another dimension or time, a frail looking woman stood at the doorway, drenched from the cold rain. She took off her hat and long red hair streaked with gold and grey fell, framing a familiar face. Terrence Sr. displayed what almost looked like a half-frown combined with a half-grin. Libbie just beamed; the face was vaguely familiar, but enough so to hearten the little girl.

Terry gasped a deep throaty sigh and bit his lip. Confusion seemed to reign supreme in the boyish girl/girlish boy’s life from moment to moment. That night was no exception as his worst fears and her greatest hopes met together at the doorway as Nadia Callahan opened her arms for a hug.


Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet:
You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.

Terry pulled back and looked at Terrence Sr.; eyes begged for either an answer or at least permission to go to his room. His father offered neither, and instead used his hand to motion for Terry to accept his mother’s proffered embrace. The boy stepped forward and awkwardly hugged his mother, and was quickly joined by Libbie. The girl ran to her mother and hugged her around the waist.

“I just knew you’d come back!” She shouted as tears streamed down her cheeks. Nadia Callahan shook her head and turned to her husband…a husband whom she had not held in several years. He nodded and half-smiled; an odd bit of communication from someone who had been abandoned in favor of another man. Nadia bit her lip and her eyes welled with tears. She pushed the her two children aside and ran past Terrence Sr. and down the hall, slamming the bedroom door behind her.

“Well….I think that went rather well, don’t you?” He turned to his two other sons. Danny and Dale stood in the archway between the kitchen and living room, gazing down the hallway to where their mother had just retreated.

“Hey Dad? Do you have a twenty? They’ve got that fundraiser for the Stop the Slavery in Sudan thing Hannah’s sister runs.” Danny looked down the hallway again while his brother continued.

“Yeah…they had an assembly today.” Terrence Sr. seemed completely unfazed; both by his now ‘un-estranged’ wife’s behavior and his sons’ non-reaction…as if he expected both. Terry wasn’t so calm about the moment however.

“Are you serious? She just waltzes in here after all the crap she’s pulled and you…This isn’t right.” He looked down and saw that Libbie had begun to cry again, but they weren’t at all happy tears.

“I’m sorry, Lib…you just don’t know.” He looked down the hall and continued.

“You were too little when she left. It’s not right!” He felt the need to justify his emotions. Having them was entirely understandable. Expressing them in front of his little sister not so much. She shook her head no and it actually felt like her sad stare pierced his heart. He began to shrink…at least inside, since he felt very small in his family’s eyes. Getting down on one knee, he faced her.

“I’m sorry, Lib. That was wrong.” He was overwhelmed; too many things to deal with and it wasn’t fair at all. A confusion about who he was or even if he was a he at all. And a mother who returned after being absent in this turmoil without an apology or even an acknowledgement that she had been gone; as if she had been living right next door and available the whole time. But that wasn’t too far from what the truth really was. And Terry was going to find out that his mother’s return was just in time to save the family.

“Euripedes. Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.”

The following day...

“Hey, Ter…. You think Mom ran off because she got fed up with us?” Dale looked at his brother, and the stare wasn’t lost at all on Terry. He put his head down.

“Fuck…” Danny punched his twin-like sibling before turning to the oldest of the Callahan children.

“He didn’t mean it.” Danny pointed to Libbie, who was sitting on the stairs. Dale shrugged and shook his head.

“I meant ALL of us, you stupid…” He was going to continue but Libbie frowned. She had heard the word enough to know what might follow, and really; the boys really needed to watch their language. Still, Terry couldn’t help but feel he was to blame along with some inexcusable but nebulous offense by Terrence Sr.; something so bad as to send the kid’s mother into the arms of another guy. He knew it wasn’t his father’s fault, so it must have been his.

He looked down at his clothes and sighed. He and Callie had gravitated more toward cute and sassy after a brief foray into Goth. But cute and sassy boyfriend and girlfriend was one thing. A pair of quasi-lesbians didn’t fly well at school, and home wasn’t much better.

“You wanna hold my doll, Terry?” Libbie said, pointing to the doll on the couch. Terry smiled and would have said no, but a voice came from behind them out of the kitchen.

“I think that’s such a nice thing to do. Much nicer that your mommy would ever do for her child.” The embarrassed, near monotone words sent an eerie feeling through the living room as Nadia spoke. She put her head down; that feeling of being unworthy even of the least bit of attention after her protracted and, as yet, unexplained absence.

“You did what you had to do, Nadia,” Terrence Sr. said as he hugged her tentatively from behind.

“What she had to do?” The words came in thought to each Callahan child, but only one spoke up, and not in protest, oddly enough.

“What did Mommy have to do?” Libbie said as she got off the stairs. She walked to the couch and grabbed the doll, which she promptly delivered to Terry.

“Oh yeah….Terry’s a girl now, Mommy, okay?” Nadia seemed completely unfazed and nodded with a wry smile.

“You owe me a twenty, heart of hearts,” she joked, putting her hand out to Terrence Sr. Without an argument, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. Reaching in, he pulled out two bills; both twenty dollars each.

“Inflation.” He laughed softly, but Terry didn’t get the joke. Nadia had been absent from the family for months on end. He frowned and would have spoken, but his mother spoke first.

“I’m sorry, kids. Your dad didn’t know because I told him not to say anything.” Nadia sounded more lucid than the kids remembered, even if she was slow in speech. Terrence Sr. nodded and looked away; trying hard to mask the tears he shed. A smaller hand grabbed his and he looked down to see Libbie beaming at him. He smiled at her and put his hand on Nadia’s shoulder. Dale looked at Danny as if to say, ‘are you ready for this?’

“I was having a very hard time, and I left you all.” Danny looked back at Dale as if to ask, ‘can you believe this?’ Dale shook his head.

“I found someone who …. I left your Dad for some guy in my support group.” It almost begged a protest, which three out of the four Callahan kids were ready to provide, but Libbie shook her head.

“Listen to Mommy, you jerks!” It was more directed toward the middle two Callahans, but Terry nodded to Libbie.

“Anyway, it was the worst thing I ever did.” Her voice trailed off and the boys expected an excuse, but she continued.

“Roger was a nice guy and as f….as messed up as me, and we should never have done what we did…. Too many people were hurt. I hurt you, and I’m so sorry.” She choked back a sob; an entirely sincere and completely honest expression of remorse which she followed with,

“We broke up last year.” Dale looked at her and didn’t wait for her to finish.

“Where the fuck have you been since then?” The word was harsh but not entirely unexpected, even out of the mouth of her twelve-year-old. She blushed; more out of embarrassment over her own actions than the rebuke from her second oldest.

“I’ve been...” she faltered and began to cry. Shame and guilt can be a good combination for healing in their own way, but not for her. Terrence Sr. put his other hand on her shoulder and spoke.

“Your mom has been in a treatment facility to help with her problem. You know that she and Terry both take medication, right?” Terry winced at the words; nothing of a surprise, but he felt ashamed that he had a ‘condition.’

“It’s okay, Ter. We’re too much alike, I guess, but getting help for myself made me realize it’s not a shame to need someone or something to get us to where we need to be, right?” Terry nodded; at first reluctantly, but his mother’s candor helped him understand for the first time that he wasn’t alone.

“I guess you kids lucked out?” Nadia looked back and forth between Dale and Danny as she felt the reassuring squeeze of a gentle hand.

“It’s okay, Mommy. We love you.” She spoke; perhaps some might find almost presumptuous, especially for a nine year old. But she really was the heart and soul of the family, and she literally gave voice to what the others were either reluctant or unable to say.

“I’m seeing a doctor for this, and for the first time, I think things are going to be okay. I’ve been taking my meds and going to therapy, so …” Even the concrete reassurance provided by her steps to wholeness did nothing to erase the guilt she felt over what she had done to her family.

“I thought you hated me.” Terry put his head down and began to weep. Nadia hurried to her oldest child’s side and hugged him.

“Oh, God no…I’m so sorry.” She kissed his cheek as their tears mingled. I was so upset with myself for giving you this….” She pointed to her head and twirled her finger to indicate ‘crazy.’

“But what about this, Mom…. You said you were so proud of your son.” He looked at her, almost pleading for some explanation. Nadia was still struggling with her own self, and could hardly explain to Terry what was right or wrong or up or down. What she did do was to kiss his cheek once again.

“And now I’ll be proud of my daughter,” she said softly. A tug on her sweater gave her pause and she added,

“My other daughter...uh...both my daughters?” As much as she was able to express acceptance she was almost completely unable to accept acceptance, if that makes any sense. Terrence Sr. walked over to her and Terry and Libbie, resisting the urge to give a ‘group’ hug. He gently pried Nadia away from the kids and pulled her into a warm embrace.

“How can you love me after what I’ve done?” Nadia shook her head as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Because I never stopped in the first place,” he said with a playful laugh; a cute but earnest expression of just how much life they shared, and how it was and always would be enough to keep them going. He kissed her, not amorously, but as romantic a kiss as you might expect from a man who lived through his wife’s illness and infidelity by the power of unconditional love. She didn’t kiss back, but melted into his arms in heaving but healing sobs.

“Yeah, Mom….I guess I love you too,” Dale said. He did the ‘I’ve got dust in my eyes’ move to hid his own un-twelve-year-old-manly tears. Danny just laughed.

“Hell…I’m not going to be the only one here who doesn’t cry.” He wiped his face with his sleeve and smiled a silly smile at his brother. It almost begged for a Tiny-Tim like moment from Libbie, but she just said in the end,

“Can we call out for Chinese? I think Mommy forgot to put the oven on.”

A few weeks later...

“You really gonna walk in that?” Callie pointed to the clothes her best friend was modeling for the graduation ceremony fast approaching.

The taller girl looked at herself in the mirror.

“I’m not so sure,now…” Her voice trailed off. Even with the ‘approval’ of her family, she still felt out of place; a pair of jeans in a designer suit world, she felt. And ‘approval’ really didn’t come close to the support and encouragement she felt from her family; a family finally together after being blow apart by doubt and suspicion and guilt, but knitted tightly now by love.

“You look great. Almost as great as I will. And I’m going to be fighting all the boys off with a stick.” She laughed but Terry frowned and shoulders pulled up into a reflexive shrug.

“You like boys?” Terry said, frowning with head down. Callie reached over and lifted Terry’s chin.

“Well….just one. After all, some of my best girlfriends are boys.” Terry shot her a puzzled look and she spoke again.

“Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing...."

"That's L'Engle, you know?"

She kissed Terry, and it felt like things had become much more than merely acceptable, which suited both of them just fine.

The End
All quotes from A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeline L'Engle

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