Seasons of Change - Book 1 - Part 3 of 3

Seasons of Change
Part 3 of 3

by Joel Lawrence

Copyright © 1989,2012 Joel Lawrence
All Rights Reserved.


Admin Note: Through prior verbal and written agreements between the author Joel Lawrence, and Tigger, this story is being posted here with Tigger's permission to be included in sequence with his works. Seasons of Change belongs to Joel Lawrence and the text, along with the textual errors remains as is. Copyright © 1989 and reposted by Karen Mitchell in the summer of 1996 at other sites. This is the story that inspired Tigger to delve within Mr. Lawrence's universe and to create his sequence of stories involving the character of Ms. Jane Thompson. ~Sephrena

Chapter 9.
It had been nearly ten weeks since Michael's arrival. Jane found herself up early one morning, having her coffee on the terrace. She mused about the events of the last ten weeks and wondered to herself if she were making progress.

In the frenzied days that followed through the weekend and into Monday, Michael had been exposed to more femininity and girlish activity than he had probably ever imagined possible. The curiosities, sights and smells of living a girl's life were thrust on him at a dizzying pace. There were mannerisms and postures to assimilate. He was made to practice for hours with rollers and makeup, his arms tiring from the unfamiliar reach required to roll the wands into his hair. He learned about colors and combinations in clothes, shoes and accessories. He practiced curtseys, polite phraseology and locutions that sounded effete to his male ear. Adjectives that he would have shunned at all costs as a boy began to seep into his speech.

Indeed, speech and mannerisms were the hallmarks. Inflection conveyed more than anything, Jane tutored, and Michael chafed as he mimicked the exaggerated intonations she prompted. He practiced gestures and walking and light hints of poise like tidying his hair and the right way to examine his face and dresses in a mirror.

He was ceaselessly being fussed over by all three of them, and was taught to busy himself with dainty little details. He spent hours perfecting the application of a myriad of colors to his face, his nails. He was required to submerge himself in bubbly baths, shaving practically invisible hairs from his legs and arms. It was a seemingly perpetual routine that started early in the day and ran till late at night.

He was not only taught to adopt a facile walk in pumps, but to become nimble at daintily swaying an ankle while balanced on the other foot. She taught him the girlish positioning of the hands on hips as opposed to the "arms akimbo" stance of a man; crossing the legs just right when sitting, exposing just the right amount of leg beneath the hem of the skirt; care in both sitting and rising from a chair so that the movement flowed gracefully and smoothly.

He mimicked the subtle and vain fluff of the hair that primped it in place, and though he seemed self-conscious with these and other mannerisms, managed a passable impersonation of a girl doing these things. Jane especially liked to demand that he manage that genuinely winsome manner of correcting makeup while others were watching so that the actions seemed less pragmatic than attractive. She delighted in the fact that his self-consciousness was intensified when she made him do this.

All of these subtleties had eluded Michael when, as a boy, he watched girls. There was so much to learn and master and Jane was determined that he would do so.

Without question, she thought, Michael had reached that point where he acquiesced to the demands she placed on him as to clothing and manner. But there lurked beneath his resignation an element of defiance which undermined her aspirations to subdue his will. Something had to be devised that would prompt his absolute subservience to her will and submission to her desire to correct his attitude.

Jane knew that Michael had not totally given in to his fate, and she also knew she needed to find some stratagem that would finally break his rebelliousness. It was this thought that occupied her thoughts that morning.

She thought over the highlights of the weeks since that first visit to Marisha Chalet. To be sure, there had been others, but it was the day of the pageant that provoked both the most marvelously distressing reaction and the major turnabout in the boy.

Michael had been quite sullen at breakfast that morning, his demeanor no doubt a direct result of his profound dread over the events that awaited him that day. The day began early, both Michael and Beth were at the breakfast table by 6:45, dressed only on jeans and tank tops. They were both due at Marisha Chalet by 7:30 to be dressed, coiffed and made-up. The pageant parade began at 10:30, and they had to be at the marshalling area half an hour before. That gave Carol and Sandy just over two hours to do their magic and turn the two boys into ravishing young debs.

Marie had seen to the delivery of their gowns to the salon the evening before and was now packing an overnight case with the shoes and other essentials that would complete the ensembles. After a quick cup of coffee and danish, the two were summoned by Jane to join her in the car for the trip to town.

Michael's dread of ordeal of the beauty salon were even stronger today than they had ever been before, for he knew that this visit would be decidedly different than the previous sessions. For one thing, Carolyn and Sandra had always seen him fully dressed as a girl before. Today he had been told to wear only panties, jeans and a tank top. Today, he knew, the two salon owners were going to be more actively involved in his transformation -- a chore that they not only suggested to Jane but which they avidly implored her to allow them. It would be even worse than the first time that Marie had forced him to submit to her feminizing endeavors that first day.

Secondly, he knew that the two women who owned the shop relished their upcoming assignment and would not only outdo their previous techniques on him, but would likely surpass them, and there would also be more of the derisive, teasing prattle that so debased him.

And finally, he knew that when they were done he would have to step out into the summer day and take his place on the Cotillion Float, adorned as a sweet, delicate debutante in a ball gown, to be seen by the hundreds of onlookers that would line the parade route. For several hours, during the parade and after, he would be obliged to appear adorable and feminine, convincingly masquerading with girlish manners and poise.

It would be most humiliating.

They arrived at the salon at 7:10. The shop was not open to general patrons that morning, Carolyn and Sandra having re- scheduled their customers to ensure no one except the pageant participants would consume their time and attention.

Inside, two of the assistant beauticians were busy fashioning curls on two of the other "girls" that Michael recognized from the one brief rehearsal he had attended with Beth. They nodded and smiled casually at him and Beth when they came in. Another girl sat idly reading a magazine, her head enclosed in the clear bonnet of a hair dryer.

Carolyn saw them first and she and Sandra came over to them not hiding their gleeful anticipation. Both of them cast a mischievous smile at Michael. Carolyn turned Beth over to one of the assistants who was idle and then both women led Michael into a small anteroom at the rear of the main salon.

"Michelle can getting fitted and dressed while Beth gets worked on," Carolyn said rather loudly to Jane, perhaps seeking to explain to the other three patrons the atypical practice of using the back room when so many of the regular stations were free. Jane responded that she would be back in about an hour.

Once inside the small private alcove, Sandra drew the curtain that separated the room from the rest of the salon. Michael saw that the gowns that he and Beth were to wear hung from pegs against one wall, their tiered ruffled skirts and satiny bodices a bright pastel contrast against the ivory wallpaper.

Sandra turned to him.

"Well, little man, I have been really looking forward to this," she said with a devilish grin. "We'll allow you a little privacy in here as long as you behave. We don't want those 'real' girls in the next room to see what you have underneath those pants unless we have to. Start getting undressed."

He hesitated at this command as Sandra turned and busied herself opening the overnight bag they had brought with them, and as Carolyn entered the room and re-drew the curtain behind her. Carolyn noted his indecision and added her own warning.

"Come on, Michael, get stripped", she murmured seductively, "unless you want to do this striptease out there," gesturing over her shoulder. "Sandy and I want to watch you change from the skin out. We don't get to do this all the time like Jane does, and you're not going to deprive us of our fun....before i go out and make a very embarrassing announcement."

Michael blushed deeply. Even Jane, Beth and Marie had allowed him a modicum of modesty when they dressed him, but it was clear that he was not going to receive that consideration at the hands of these two. He diffidently pulled the tank top over his head while he considered his predicament.

"Off with the jeans," Sandra insisted, and he loosened the buttons and slid the denim down his legs and over his shoes. The fabric stuck, requiring him to slip out of the sneakers as well. When he was done with this, he stood there clad only in the white briefs.

Carolyn was eyeing him during all this and tapped her foot at his hesitance at removing the underpants. Finally she came over to him and brushed her hand against their fabric.

"Cotton! well cotton is no fabric for a pretty little sissy to have against his butt. Take them off. We've got some darling undies for you to put on."

There was no way out, and as timorously as he could, he took off the pants and stood there, shy and flustered.

"Well look there, Sandy, he really is a boy," Carolyn said tauntingly. "It's hard to believe it, the way he looks when he comes in here."

"Or how he's going to look when we get done with him," Sandy put in.

It was at moments like this that Michael's thoughts strayed back to school and he wished he could relive those errors that brought him to this. That feeling was even more acute as he stood butt-naked in front of these two women who displayed more enthusiasm for what they were about to do than even Jane did.

Sandra walked over to him and rubbed the palm of her hand over his legs, causing a stir of excitement. Obviously not pleased with the faint trace of stubble she found there, she picked up an appliance with a coil like a door spring at one end, turned it on and applied its buzzing, twisting spiral to his legs. Her proximity and his condition had an initial effect on him as he felt the stirrings of turgidity and prayed that his involuntary reaction would not blossom into fullness in front of them.

The needle-sharp stings of the tool she was using as it plucked the soft hairs from his legs had a placating effect on his reflexive reaction and it abated momentarily. Sandra quickly finished her task and his legs stung from the treatment. It did not seem that what she did was that significant, and Michael began to think that it was more a symbolic than a practical exercise. Sandra obviously wanted to go through the motions of subjecting a boy to depilation.

Carolyn came forward with a lacy satin garter belt

"I presume you know what this is for and how to get it on," she said as she handed it to him.

He slipped the belt up over his hips and adjusted the garter straps to their proper locations. He wished she would hand him a pair of panties next so that he could cover the growing mass of his manhood which was becoming visible now. As if they read his thoughts, Sandra came over with a pair of nylons and pushed him gently but firmly into a straight backed chair, rolling one stocking down and inserting the toe of his foot into it, temptingly drawing it up over his calf and thigh. She fastened the front of the stocking, repeated the process with his other leg, then had him stand and bend forward slightly as she drew each up tightly, adjusted the seams and fastened the rear garter. By the time she had finished, he was fully erect.

"Well, Michael! Look at you. Why you must enjoy this immensely to get so big and hard."

He blushed scarlet. He hoped her voice did not carry into the salon. He felt immensely foolish standing there clad in garter and hose with a prominent erection jutting out under the lace of the garter belt. He knew from experience that lately he had been more prone to become stimulated when he put on these kinds of clothes, but it was also due to their presence and the provocative way in which they were both manipulating him.

"If we had more time," Sandra continued, "I might put that doohickey to good use -- but that will have to wait to another time. I hate to cover it up, but it's time to get our little sissy pretty."

She handed him a pair of ruffled blue nylon panties, trimmed in lace and small satin blue bows.

"Carolyn picked these out just for you. If this were a wedding it would be the 'something borrowed and something blue', Michael. But for today they are just the cutest thing for our little boy."

He felt a mixture of relief at being able to cover his nakedness and irritation at their teasing. He pulled the panties snugly onto his hips and swooned for a moment as the soft fabric nuzzled his glans.

"Very dainty," Carolyn said approvingly. They're tight enough to pull in that swelling of yours, but I suggest you try to keep it under control today or you're going to give yourself away. Like Sandy says, maybe we can do this again sometime when we can all have some fun. Now, little sweetheart, we need a little bosom to make you beguiling."

Carolyn took a brush from a bottle she held and applied a liquid adhesive in circles around his own nipples. He felt the chill as the solvent evaporated and when it had become tacky, she carefully fastened a pair of flesh-colored breast forms whose texture and coloration were remarkably lifelike. She molded the breasts in place and then, when the adhesive had set, applied a flesh-toned foundation and blended it to his skin, concealing the point at which the latex met his own skin. The weight of the ersatz breasts pulled against his pectorals and he decided this was what real breasts must feel like to a girl.

Sandy was ready with a midriff-length lace-trimmed brassiere which she wrapped around him and began fastening in the rear. It was strapless and low-cut, and somewhat tight, causing her to ask him to suck in his stomach to facilitate the fastening. The cups of the bra pushed the false breasts upwards slightly, and the slight constriction of the brassiere ensured it would not shift during the course of the day.

"Now this costume of yours is very, very authentic, so we need to get you into the other undies we have for you. Then we can start on your hair,' Sandra said. The two girls fitted him into a corselet decked with ruffles and eyelet, and a pair of pantalettes that matched. The corselet had a laced bodice with velvet ribbons as laces and the legs of the other garment ended just at his knee. In all, it was a somewhat ridiculous garment, but was, he suspected, very authentic to the ante-bellum time that it related. Probably just like Scarlett O'Hara wore, he thought to himself. He hoped the other girls were to be as historically correct in their ensembles, for it seemed that this was what he would wear out into the salon while they did his hair and make-up. Carolyn flung the curtain back and he meekly followed them.

His appearance evoked only the most fleeting of glances from the other girls. Beth's gaze lingered on him for a moment in the mirror in front of her. Beth, too, would be wearing such attire when her hair was done.

Sandy seated him unceremoniously seated in the adjustable chair at the work station and wet his hair. Large and small rollers were coiled into his hair, to shape it into the style that the women felt befitting. She began her usual taunts, whispered into his ears as she worked, as both girls were wont to do as they applied their wiles on him.

"We're going to make you very pretty today, love. Like nothing we're ever done before. You are going to be a knockout!"

She gathered new strands of hair and deftly wrapped them on the rollers.

"Such a pretty little lad," she went on with it. "You are going to be a knockout when we get done with you." Another roller in place, she went on "Gorgeous Michael, all curled and dressed in a lovely gown. Up there in front of the whole town and none of them but a few of us knowing that that captivating young girl is really a sissy boy in skirts."

He tolerated this invective, having no choice. He never doubted that either Sandy or Carolyn would reveal his secret if he gave them sufficient provocation.

"Are you beginning to like all of this Michael? Isn't it fun to have someone work to make you look so pretty and sweet?"

As always, he viewed these taunts as merely rhetorical and he stayed glum and taciturn. But today, Carolyn wanted some reaction, so she persisted.

"We were not just making conversation a while ago about our future plans for you. We have already talked to Jane about 'borrowing' you for the weekend for a trip to New york. Jane thought it was a wonderful idea. We can go shopping, get you some pretty new things, have lunch, and then see what else comes to pass."

Michael shuddered at what these two might have in mind.

"What exactly do you mean, Sandy?"

"Well, honey, someone as pretty as you deserves a chance to show off a bit in the big city. And Sandy and i are just dying to be your guides for a weekend."

The word guides hid some ulterior and more ominous meaning than it implied.

"We though next weekend would be fun. We'll talk to Jane some more and let you know. We'll chat some more after your hair is dry."

Fully arrayed in the pastel rollers, he was directed to the chair beneath to dryer to allow the heated stream of air to dry the curls. He noted the now-familiar smell of moist hair that flowed into his nostrils during this procedure.

As his hair dried, he surveyed the room. Other girls were in varying stages of preparation, some being made-up, some having their hair combed out, others entering and emerging from the back room in costume. All these things awaited him he knew, and he sat docile at his resignation to the ordeals that would befall him in this next hour.

He let her finish in silence and sat demurely beneath the hair dryer for the twenty minutes it took to dry the curls. Beth, by this time, was in the room he had been in before, and when she emerged, she was clad as he was, except that she also wore billowing layers of underslips tiered in sheer ruffles. Carolyn had already made up Beth's face and she wore more makeup than Michael had seen her wear at home. It was as though she was going onstage, which indeed she was, as was he. He fought a flutter of queasiness in his stomach that was both stage fright and outright dread of being in public dressed as he was going to be. Beth disappeared into the small alcove at the rear of the shop with Carolyn.

Sandy came over and slipped her hand under the metal bonnet, and satisfied that the curls were now dried and set, she switched the machine off and led him back to her work station. Seated again, he endured the removal of the rollers and the familiar sight of his hair springing back into ringlets as the plastic forms were removed.

She finished extracting the last of the rollers, and gently fluffed the curls in preparation of the next step.

"I have a lovely fall we're going to try with you today. What do you think of this?"

She held up a lifeless mass of a modelled wiglet that had a braided cap and sausage curls dangling from it. It appeared to be nothing more than that, until Carolyn, not waiting for any answer from him, fastened the comb of the fall into the back of his scalp and busied herself with arranging his own curls into place. The color of the fall was a perfect match to his own hair, probably the result of treatment with the same hair color they had taken to using on him. It all matched, and the effect was most fascinating. In minutes his medium length locks had sprouted into a coiffure of elegance that astounded even him.

"Very fetching, darling. See, I told you we were going to make you glorious!"

She absorbed herself in the finishing touches for another ten minutes, each stage of the process making him more uncomfortable as a new and more feminine visage stared back from the mirror. When she had done, he was amazed at the effect she had wrought.

"Sit still her, now, sweetness. Now I'm going to make you real spectacular! God, you are gorgeous!'

He sat still, abashed in his elaborate lingerie and dangling tresses awaiting the artfulness of this woman who had designs on effecting his total transfiguration.

"Time for some real glamour, Michael. A little color for that drab face of yours. Then into that gorgeous gown and petticoats. God you are going to be a hit. If these other girls knew just how a boy like you can outshine their own natural femininity, they would be jealous to a fair-thee-well."

She began by removing all traces of the meager make-up he had put on that morning. His face clean, she spent a meticulous twenty minutes attaching additional individual false lashes to his own, each glued inextricably in place.

"You have to hold very still while I do this Michael," Sandy ordered. "In a way, your own lashes are lavish enough, but Jane insisted I add some more. These are very hard to get off, though."

The increased abundance was visible even without the addition of mascara. But the mascara came, in three light layers, adding even more fullness and color. Then the faint line of sable below and above his lids, blended and smeared to simply highlight the eyes. Next a burgundy shadow, more intense in color than he usually used.

"Your getting pretty good at this, Michael," she whispered softly. "Isn't it fun having yourself made so stunning and gorgeous? You really do make a lovely girl, you know."

As always, Michael let this pass, though the image in the mirror attested again that she was right. With the right hair style and make-up, he was an attractive girl.

"Now some rosy glow to those flawless cheeks of yours. A bit more than you are used to, but we want you to look just divine in that parade."

She added a scarlet glow to each cheek, again, as she had warned, more brilliant than every-day wear, a crescent of vermillion that covered the cheekbone which blended into a faint ruby shadow at the edges.

"Michael," she said as she worked, "you should let go and enjoy this. Frankly I think you do, but you take some of the fun out of it for yourself and the rest of us when you resist it so much."

Without even expecting a response from subdued recipient or her art, Sandy carefully sketched the outline of his lips in crimson pencil, then filling in the outline with lipstick, blotting it carefully, repeating it and then dusting it with translucent powder.

"This will keep those luscious lips rosy all day, lover," she said by way of explaining this unfamiliar application of cosmetics."

Next a dusting of vermilion blusher capped off his features, and again, the reflection from the mirror was merely a vaguely familiar and very feminine replica of himself.

When Sandy was done, she swept the cape away from him and led him back to the small alcove where he would be put in three layers of petticoats, swathed in the rich crepe of the gown and his feet encased in satin pumps.

When he entered the room, he saw another girl there. It took a moment for him to recognize that it was Beth. He was astonished! Her hair swirled up in a dazzling styles, with interlacing braids and stiff curls, garnished with tiny Steffanoti's, she was resplendent. A lilac gown of chantilly lace over organdy and satin billowed out over buoyant petticoats. She wore long gloves on her arms which matched the gown. As Beth turned and smiled faintly at him, he saw that the colors of her makeup set off the ensemble perfectly. She was truly a beautiful girl!

"You're all done, Beth," Carolyn said. "You can wait for your friend in the reception." Beth swept from the room seeming to float on the skirt which just brushed the floor, giving mere hint to the darker purple pumps she wore. Michael was entranced.

The girls now began on him.

Just short of 9:50 they had finished with him, and the reflection he was invited to view in the full-length mirror bespoke not a boy, but a lovely, graceful girl bedecked in ante-bellum costume. Though Michael felt abused and victimized, yet he was resigned to carry off this charade to the full, and he had to confess to himself that he inwardly delighted in the transformation and the perceptions of stimulation that these clothes and this appearance gave to him.

The dress was a full skirted satin and lace, buoyed out by the layers of petticoats they had secured to his waist. The shoulders were bare, and mere vestiges of sleeves, full and puffed encircled his upper arms. Satin slippers that accented the gown encased his stocking feet. Carolyn positioned a broad-brimmed straw hat whose yellow satin ribbon band dangled fastening strands through the brim, and which she caught up to anchor the flat bonnet beneath his chin in an enormous golden bow near his left cheek. He was, in a word, fetching. Carolyn and Sandra were obviously thrilled with their efforts, and cooing and chattering, propelled him out to the reception area where he and Beth would await Jane to drive to the parade.

He found Beth standing there, somewhat aloof, looking every bit as lovely as she had when he had seen her moments before. Beth took in his full countenance. Michael spoke first.

"Beth, you look wonderful! You truly are a very pretty girl."

Beth smiled, then, glancing out at the parking lot, delivered a soliloquy which Michael would remember for a long time after.

"That's nice of you to say, Michael, but you should be aware that you make a far prettier girl than I could ever be. As I look at you right now, you may be the prettiest girl I have ever seen. Oh, I know, you are Michael, just dressed and done up that way. But you *do* look beautiful. You always do. You need to understand that. What Jane wants, and what you seem to be too dumb to understand, is some delight and acceptance of all this. Until you do, it will not only continue to be an uncomfortable situation for you, but it will have a significant effect on my future, as well. If you can't accept all of this, gracefully, because Jane demands it, then at least think about embracing it for mine."

Michael was totally perplexed by this last, but before he could probe deeper into her meaning, Jane's lincoln drew up to the door and the horn signalled her impatience. The two "girls" hurried as best they might out the door and into the spacious car.

Driving to the parade, Michael reflected on what his friend had just said, for he truly did deem Beth a friend. She said he was beautiful as a girl, a thought that caused him some grief but which bolstered his confidence in the upcoming onus of carrying off this masquerade of the parade. But there lingered a big question as to what Beth meant that his behavior had some influence on Beth's life. Michael made a mental note to pursue this with her as the car sped toward the marshalling area. Michael confessed to himself that clad in these soft garments and knowing that he personified the lovely girl he appeared to be, that he felt a warm, contented feeling. In a way, this was fun!

Michael and Beth were seated on their respective seats on the float. A couple of fussy ladies flounced the skirts of the various girls' gowns into decorous position, and another busied herself with powder puff and brushes rectifying flaws in makeup and hair. Michael fought the sense of his quandary seated on this satin bench dressed as a young damsel with the knowledge that he could "pull it off" and avoid disclosure. The ponderous carriage pulled into its place in the line of floats, and he busied himself with the pantomime and manner to appear the perfect young debutante, smiling and waving to the crowd assembled to view the cavalcade.
Chapter 10.
As Jane sat and pondered further, her underlying problem with Michael, and reflected on the plan which had begun to form in her mind nearly two weeks before took shape she had realized that it was complicated in its inception and diabolical in its consequences. She leafed again through the circulars that she received the preceding two weeks and found the announcement of try- outs for the children's play at the Hampton Theater. The flier indicated that the producer/director of the play was Dierdre Bradley, a woman that Jane not only knew but who was already in Jane's debt because of an incident that Jane had interceded in the previous Autumn. Jane had known that that debt, alone, would be insufficient to carry out the scheme she had in mind, but she knew also that other factors would play a part.

When she first read the flier a couple of weeks before, she had called Dierdre and volunteered her two young charges as potential performers in the production, identifying them as Beth and Michael, two of her sister's children. Beth, she told Dierdre, was a natural for the lead role, and Jane was certain that Dierdre had picked up on the veiled insistence that Beth be given special consideration for the role. Michael, she allowed, was a novice and needed only the broadening experience of the theater. Dierdre was sufficiently compliant to assuage any doubt that she would give Jane's request serious consideration. Jane took that pledge as a near surety that if Beth gave an acceptable audition.

Jane was familiar with Beth's acting ability (she had, after all, had a leading role in a play just the previous Spring). That fact made it at least likely that Beth could get the lead in the auditions, especially with a word from Jane influencing Dierdre.

The play was Alice in Wonderland and the try-outs call had indicated all parts would be open to audition. To aid in Beth's getting the part, Jane had bought a copy of the script and commanded Beth to spend at least an hour a day reading it, memorizing the part. This familiarity with the role would help in insuring Dierdre's choice.

But, of course, Beth's getting the lead role was only a minor factor in the grand stratagem. Michael, too, would be involved in the production, but not in a prominent role at first and not as Michael would basically have liked it.

Jane recalled that the most terrifying and humbling experience of young Michael since he had been here had not been when he was dressed as a girl, but, curiously, when he had been clad in boy's clothing. He could and would carry off to near perfection all of her mandates that required him to be properly attired and behaving as a girl both within and outside the house. However much those experiences might have jarred his equanimity, the had not sufficiently quelled his recalcitrance. Jane recalled vividly that the most appalling experience Michael had endured during his stay was that day he had been allowed to have his own way and go to town dressed in male rather than female attire.

Of course, she thought to herself, he was not really afforded an opportunity that day to totally shed the effeminate trappings that he had assumed; that was why he had had the encounter with the town bullies that so unnerved him. But facts were facts, and Jane knew that as he now was, Michael would look, at best, an effeminate boy if he shed the dresses and skirts which comprised his wardrobe. His arched eyebrows and medium-long curls evoked a Botticellian cherub which, for a teen-ager, bespoke a sissy.

Thus it would be. Michael would join Beth in the theatrical presentation, but he would be involved as a boy. She smiled wickedly to herself as she pondered both the developments and the outcome.

Jane now recognized that she had to have a talk with Michael to apprise him of this new wrinkle in the game plan. She was sure that he would be truly obdurate about the plan to send him out for daily play rehearsals clad as a boy. The memory of the scene at the shopping mall still burned deep within him. But that was the decision Jane had arrived at, and he would do it or else.

She advised Beth of her plans in the early afternoon and told Marie to have Michael join her in her study when Beth had gone. Beth found the whole thing rather vicious, feeling that Michael was being subjected to unusually severe tortures. But Beth had to also admit that Michael seemed to fail to grasp what he had to do to escape this anguish that he found himself in. Beth had been quick to learn the lesson and, in part, had found enjoyment in the elements of feminine life to which Jane subjected her charges. It was a pity that Michael could not learn this lesson.

Michael came into Jane's study in mid-afternoon, knowing that these summonses frequently boded ill for him. He sat demurely in the chair before her desk and waited for her to begin.

Jane chewed deliberately on the stem of her reading glasses as she stared relentlessly at the young man before her.

"Michael, I am disappointed," she began. "You have, to be sure, faithfully performed almost every little demand I have placed on you, but I sense that you have not truly corrected your attitude and that you see this all as something that will all go away in time. That is not what I had in mind. Though your demeanor has changed and you carry off the part rather well, I have come to the conclusion that we need to make a breakthrough here, and I have decided on a way to do it."

Michael felt unnerved at this, wondering what new abuse this woman had in mind.

"You did well in the dance review," she went on, "even though you had little time to get proficient. Nevertheless, as I told you then, you looked delightful in that little wispy satin costume you had to wear. And I am sure that you absolutely detested being up there in front of all those parents pretending that you, too, were one of the winsome lasses in tap shoes trying hard to be a graceful little girl. But I detected a note of resignation mixed with haughtiness about the whole thing. I want a stop to that. You WILL submit to this, in time, you know, if it takes months."

She noted his wince at this and continued.

"Yes, I mean months. I am capable and willing to keep you here indefinitely until I detect from you a surrender of acceptance to this role I have imposed on you. When you can say with some degree of conviction that you enjoy those skirts and petticoats, I will know that I have done my job. When you can accept the better half of yourself - the feminine part -- I will know that I have discharged my duty to effect your reconstruction as a responsible young adult. Until then, I will be relentless in these efforts."

She let this sink in as she hovered over him.

"I spoke to your Mother yesterday and told her of my difficulties. She has allowed me to keep you here a bit longer until I convince her I am satisfied with how you are progressing."

Michael remained speechless, rolling over in his mind both the fact that his ordeal was to continue longer and by Jane's puzzling conclusion that more was expected of him. He thought that he had fully complied with all of her dictates, and he wondered what more she wanted.

"So we have a new program for you. You and Beth are going to be in a delightful little children's play next month and I have enrolled you both in the cast."

Another excursion into the community, Michael groaned to himself. He dreaded these extended forays out of the house. Still, he knew, that he had managed to fool the world thus far, both in the silly Cotillion Pageant and the even more ridiculous dance review that Jane alluded to. He had got fairly used to all the affectations that he was compelled to execute in order to carry off the impersonation.

Indeed, Michael had to admit to himself, he had sort of begun to enjoy the charade a little. He had ceased to wonder if there was something wrong with him in that he had grown fond of the soft touch of silk and satin on his body and the make-believe aspects of these costumes and makeup. Perhaps in part because Sandra and Carolyn, despite their constant taunting, equated a certain sensuality with his condition, his sensual response to this masquerade had increased. The erotic sensations of it all seemed to heighten as each daily repetition of the feminine rituals were performed.

It was a conflict of emotions within him: hating the humiliation, fearing discovery and disclosure, yet oddly thrilled and stimulated when he looked into a mirror and saw himself. Movements and articulations that appalled him a few weeks ago had become almost second nature.

"There is a slight twist to this particular exercise, however, Michael. Beth, of course, will be attending the auditions as she is. But you, my dear, will be going not as Michelle, but as Michael, my nephew."

This cryptic remark took more than a moment to fully register with him. And even then he was not fully cognizant of what she meant.

"I don't understand, Jane. What exactly do you mean?"

"I mean simply this, my young priss. You will be attending the try-outs, and, if you get some part in the play, the rehearsals as well, dressed as a boy. It will be your responsibility to be dressed and as presentable as a boy as you yourself feel necessary each day that I take you there."

Michael's mind inevitably raced back to that scene at the mall -- the last time he had ventured out in male attire. He felt a flush of panic at a repetition of that unfortunate and terrifying incident.

"Have no fear, I will avoid to the degree that I can the problems of that last outing. That time it was your wilfulness that prompted my setting you up for that occurrence. I will get you some less distinctive and more masculine things to wear. It will be up to you to do something with your hair and the like to look as presentable as you can as a boy. Nevertheless, that is my decision and we begin this afternoon."

Michael suddenly wished he were miles away. Bad as it was to sally out in skirts, he was fearful of appearing publicly as a boy, with these curls and plucked brows. He wondered if he could erase every single trace of cosmetics to ensure that no suspicions were aroused among those who saw him. And what if someone recognized him -- someone who had seen him dressed as a girl?

"Secondly, your "disguise" as a boy is only for those limited times you are at play practice. At all other times, and as soon as you return each day, you will promptly and carefully revert to the winsome lass we have worked so hard to cultivate. Is that clear.?"

Michael realized that he had no choice in the matter, as he had no choice about anything she wished to impose on him. Resigned to the inevitable, he told her he understood, and turned his thoughts to the challenge of mastering this duality she had thrust on him.

"Fine, she said. Now, if you like, you may go change. Mind you there is only about an hour before we go. I want you down here in exactly sixty minutes ready to leave. Marie has taken some new clothes up to your room. And another thing: you are forbidden to ask either Marie or Beth for assistance in this endeavor. What you accomplish in this reverse make-over is strictly up to you. Now run along."

Jane watched the troubled boy curtsy, as he had been ordered to do, then mince out of the study. She smiled at the prospect of Michael anxiously restyling his hair and searching zealously for the slightest hint of makeup or nail enamel. Jane suspected he would achieve a passable look, but she was fully aware that even in trousers, the curls and delicate arch of his brows he would achieve, at best, less than the all-american boy look.

Michael returned to his room disconsolate. His first reaction was to check on the clothes that Jane had promised would be there, and he found them in one section of the large closet in the room. They were, indeed, more masculine than the clothing she had foisted him the time before. Corduroys, boy's gabardines and real shirts and pull-overs. The shoes were there too, not the ambiguous penny loafers, but real laced oxfords. There were dark blue sox on top of the chest of drawers, but he saw no male underwear anywhere, and a thorough search of the drawers disclosed none. The "male facade" was to be just that, and he resigned himself to having to wear panties beneath it all, wishing that he had at least one pair of cotton underpants. Such was not the case.

He doffed his skirt and blouse and slipped out of the hose, slip and bra. He decided to take another shower, after he had carefully removed the makeup he had painstakingly applied just hours before. He began by rubbing each nail with a cotton ball heavily saturated with polish remover. He wished he had not selected the pink shade, for remnants of clear nail polish would be less noticeable. He could do noting about the length of the nails. Though they were not overly long, he suspected they were longer than a boy could reasonably get by with. He debated filing them shorter, but remembered the other part of Jane's directive that he had to resume his guise as Michelle when he came home. She would most likely remonstrate him for trying this. Nevertheless, he took an emery board and filed them down slightly.

He applied cream and make-up remover three times before he was satisfied no trace remained. He jumped into the shower and scrubbed thoroughly, removing any trace of scent that would alert a passerby. When he was done, he picked out a pair of the least frilly panties he could find and put on a white shirt and the cords. As he laced the oxfords, he felt an odd sense of deja vu being back in these clothes again.

He sat at the vanity with brush and hair dryer trying diligently to tone down the ringlets, achieving, finally, what he felt was a passable male hairstyle. It was far too curly, and the hot steam of the shower seemed to have intensified that. It would have to do.

With only moments to spare, he arrived downstairs in the foyer. Neither Beth nor Jane said a word to him, but Jane seemed to smile a little ruefully as they marched out the door to the car. He was not particularly reassured. He began to effect a more boyish air, and prayed fervently to himself that he would not forget and lapse into a turn of speech or gesture that would be misinterpreted.

They arrived at the community hall which served as the home of the little theater groups that thrived in the area. Inside, an assembly of over forty boys and girls were seated in the auditorium seats and two adults were conversing near the apron of the stage. Jane told the pair to seat themselves and she strode to the front to speak with one of the women.

Michael and Beth took seats slightly removed from the rest of the group. Michael could see that many of the other teenagers were friends or acquaintances, engaged as they were in affable banter. In age they ranged from 10 through 15, younger in age that either Beth or Michael, but then both of Jane's charges appeared more youthful than their actual years and so they did not stand out in age from this group.

Michael was aware of some stares that were directed his way and could not be sure if they were the mere curiosity toward a new boy or if, as he always feared, some inadvertent sign was communicating something odd about him. He avoided the stares and waited patiently to see what was to unfold.

After a few minutes time, one of the women walked onto the stage in front of the curtain and began to call the group to order. A roster of names was read off, and each youngster responded. When Michael's name was called, he replied "Here" and once again noticed the inquisitive stares now that a name had been placed with the strange new boy in the group.

The woman identified herself as Miss Bishop and then went on to outline the rules of conduct for those who wanted to participate in the play. Today, she said, they would all be given a chance to read parts if they wished. She listed the various roles that were available and assured the gathering that everyone would have a chance to participate in the production.

Miss Bishop called for volunteers who wished to read parts, and Beth, as she had been instructed, raised her hand. Michael was unsure what to do, and since he had not received instructions from Jane on this point, elected not to raise his hand. Those who had volunteered were directed to come down to the front rows, and Michael now found himself alone and apart from the group as Beth walked down the aisle.

The curtains opened to a relatively bare stage where some signs of set construction were evident. Miss Bishop passed out copies of small script books and selected several boys and girls to read assigned roles. In small groups of 3 or three, she had each mount the stage and read the lines of their designated characters.

During the auditions, there were the usual gaffes and stilted deliveries that always accompany first readings. But Beth, who was called on to read the part of Alice twice, delivered her lines as though she had studied them in advance, which of course, unbeknownst to anyone but Jane she had. As a result of Beth's more polished delivery, she stood out from the other girls who read the part, and, to Michael, she seemed a shoo-in for the role.

After all the reading trials had been completed, And after consultation between Miss Bishop and Andrea, the other woman who was assisting her, she announced that the assignment of parts would be announced the following afternoon. Now she had all those who had not opted for speaking parts to walk across the stage. She separated them into various groups, took notes and again deliberated with her associate. Gradually the groups were whittled down to categories ranging from 3 to 8. Then this group, too, was told that the parts they would perform would be announced the following day.

After an hour and a half of this, the assembly was dismissed with instructions to return at 1:30 the following day.

On the way home, Jane bubbled with praise for Beth's presentation and expressed her certainty that the role of Alice would go to Beth. In anticipation of this, and to guarantee that Beth would do a stellar job, Michael was told that he would have to work with Beth at home to assist her in getting her lines and movements down pat.

"Beth," she said, "I think you did splendidly. Now we have to be sure that you carefully learn the part and outshine all the other actors in the performance. I think I will have Michael help you. You'll help Beth, won't you, Michael," she said, looking into the rear-view mirror. Feeling more than a small amount of comradeship with Beth, Michael said "Of course."

"There," Jane said. "It's settled. You will spend some extra time together getting Beth into the role. Besides, Michael, it will be good for you too. Let me tell you, as a teacher, there is much to be said for memorization of things. And despite the apparent nonsense, Lewis Carroll has much substance in his writing."

Michael did not respond. He stared out the window as he thought to himself that he had always excelled at rote memory while at school, quickly and effortlessly learning obscure passages of poems and orations assigned by the school masters to his class. He could probably learn Beth's lines faster than she could, and likely would. At any rate, this new task that Jane suggested would alleviate the boredom that had lately been creeping into the life at the house.

They arrived home and, as he was bidden, Michael bustled to his room to change. He hung the male togs in the closet with a hint of remorse, and changed into the skirt and blouse that were on the day's agenda. With a touch of make-up and some remedial measures to his hair, he returned to the library to find Beth already studying from the little yellow playbook.

"Hi," she said. "Wanna help?"

"Sure," he allowed, and she produced a duplicate copy of the script for him. "Let's start at the beginning, just learning lines for a while."

Within an hour they had finished three pages of the book and Michael knew that by the morning, if he spent another hour alone at it, he would be able to commit all of Alice's lines and cues within those three pages to memory. By the end of the session, Michael was correcting Beth's miscues virtually from memory.

Jane got the call from Dierdre just before dinner.

"Jane, I was quite impressed with your niece today. Andrea and I have decided to give Beth the part. I thought I'd let you know.

"Well," Jane replied, "that's splendid. I told you that you wouldn't be disappointed, Dierdre."

"I will be making the announcements at tomorrow's rehearsal. I'd prefer you have Beth keep this a secret for the time being and act a little surprised. No sense in appearing to play favorites."

"Of course, Dierdre," Jane said as she smiled to herself.

"Are you sure that Michael shouldn't be considered for a part? He really is a darling boy." Dierdre proffered.

"No, Dierdre. I think it would be good for him just to get his feet wet in theater and keep Beth company. There will be time in future. Actually, I think in time he might do well. But it may be asking a bit much of him right now."

"Well, as you see fit. Anyway, I will talk to you later. And thank you, Jane."

"My pleasure, Dierdre," Jane said, realizing that it was, in fact, more her blessing than Dierdre's.

After dinner, and the announcement that Beth had, indeed, got the part, Michael sat in his room setting his hair and preparing for bed. As he twisted his hair on the rods, the seeds of a little game began forming in his mind. He remembered Jane's outspoken praise of Beth's efforts in the car that morning, and her beaming approval at dinner when she announced that Beth had the lead in the play. Michael knew that his ability to master the lines exceeded that of his female friend. What if, he thought, I mastered the lines before Beth and even better than she? It would undoubtedly stick in Jane's craw that Michael, her annoyance, would outshine Beth, the pet, in this rote memory exercise. The old witch would be furious about that, but would be able to say little about it. After all, the suggestion that he assist Beth had come from Jane and Michael could not help it if he had this facility with memorization. The prospect of this little turnabout made him smile to himself.

In fact, Michael thought, I will go one step further. He remembered Beth's admonition to him a few days earlier in the beauty shop. She had called it "giving in to Jane's demands," as a means to evading her continued displeasure with him. That advice had been on his mind constantly since it had been spoken, especially the part that Beth had added that the termination of his exile here would end more swiftly if he exhibited some resignation to Jane's corrective measures.

If he were honest with himself, Michael thought, he had actually grown to fancy the feel of satins and laces on his skin and the rustle of slips in these last few weeks. The sensuality of those fabrics, especially in sensitive areas, was unmistakable. Moreover, the pretense of dressing as a girl and carrying out the masquerade successfully was, in itself, a small drama in which he was the star player. Now that he knew that he could credibly portray a girl, he realized some small delight in the practice.

He still rebelled outwardly, sometimes, in a vain attempt to project his sublimated masculinity. Bit that rebellion, he realized, got him nowhere, and, as Beth had cautioned, only exacerbated his situation. As long as he accommodated the few women who subjected him to all this, he seemed less likely to incur the taunts and new plots hatched by Jane and her confederates.

In fact, he knew that if he displayed more acceptance with Carolyn and Sandra, they would relent in their mocking. He would try that on his next visit.

He wanted this to end, and soon, and to return to his normal life. He knew now that that prospect was his choice to make. He wished that he had realized this earlier. Perhaps then he would not be attending play practice dressed as an unconvincing and delicate-looking boy, and would, instead, be clad in the more convincing girl's attire. For as much as he tried to mask the fragileness he manifested when in boys clothes, the length and curl of his hair, and the plucked arch of his brow and fullness of the false lashes defied camouflage. He knew he was in for a lot of problems with some of the other boys; that day he had seen the mocking glances and heard the muted derisive laughter from some of them today. He dreaded the possible discovery of even the faintest trace of cosmetics or nail enamel, and was diligent in his checking for them. He prayed no one would ever see the panties he was made to wear beneath the trousers.

He resolved to change his attitude.

The next day the award of parts was announced to the assembly and play books distributed. Beth did a credible job of seeming surprised, and accepted the script she was given as though she had never seen it before.

Michael was assigned with a group of other boys to a small part that would require a short song and a dance, and the group was further designated to work on scenery. As the newly assigned speakers mounted the stage to begin practicing, Michael and the other boys were led by Andrea to the workshop backstage and put to work with paintbrushes decorating the scenery flats.

It was here, when Andrea left the room, that the teasing began.

"Does your mommy curl your hair for you, Mikey?" As the other boys giggled at this, Michael saw that it had come from A boy of 14 named Matt Page. He was a leader of the group, though not all the boys deferred to his arrogance. Michael elected to let the slur pass and continued painting.

"You sure are a pretty little thing, Mikey," the taunts went on. "Bet you have more dolls than baseball gloves to play with at home."

Michael suffered these indignities in silence as the chorus was picked up by some of the others.

"He's prettier than half the girls in this show." one said. "C'mon, sissy. Kitty-cat got your tongue?" Not going to cry now are you?"

Michael's lack of reaction to all of this did not quell the taunts, but they changed from direct confrontation to jokes made about him in the abstract, third person. He felt growing embarrassment, but he instinctively reasoned that any retort would prove fruitless and, most likely, provocative. He had no desire to get into a confrontation with any of these boys. He kept working, feigning a sense of obliviousness. Fortunately Andrea came back in the room and her presence muzzled the aspersions. Though the vocal abuse stopped, he could still hear the whispers and stifled titters. He was an outsider who presented a convenient foil to the cruelties of a group of bonded teen-age boys.

Andrea stayed the rest of the session, working on costumes with three of the girls. At 3:30 the group was dismissed, and Michael hurried to find Beth in the theater, avoiding the small gang. Marie was waiting to take them home.

"Why so glum, Michael?" Beth said, as she stood by the vanity in his room and watched him re-apply his makeup.

"I got a little teasing today, Beth. I'm sure it's just the beginning, Jane has really pulled a rotten trick on me, making me go there as a boy. I'm going to have a bunch of trouble with some of those guys, I'm afraid."

"Try to forget it, Michael," she counseled. "You wouldn't find yourself in this mess if you had just gone along with her before. I worry about you sometimes. She's just punishing you because you won't get the message and give in. You have to go along and get along -- both here at home and at rehearsal. I'll help you, but you are the one who has to change before the situation is going to change."

He thought about this and found it reinforced his thoughts of the previous evening.

"I'll try Beth. I really will. But I felt like punching that asshole this afternoon."

"For gods sake! Don't do anything stupid like that. If you get kicked out of this play group she will really come down on you. This play will be over in another 5 or 6 weeks and then you won't have to worry about it. It's only a couple of hours a day. Maybe I can speak to Miss Bishop."

"Let's not just yet. I'll try to work it out. Thanks, Beth. You really are a good friend."

By the end of the third week of rehearsals, the direct confrontation with Matt Page and the more vocal of his cronies had diminished. Michael was still an outsider and subject to occasional verbal abuse, but status had been set, And now that they had bored of continuing to demean him, he had simply been relegated to the permanent role of "Sissy Mickey", the belittling appellation they had hung on him.

In part they had laid off him because he endured the mockery with no response. In no small degree, he also thought, it became increasingly difficult for the group to treat him with derision given the fact that they, themselves, had to don darling little costumes and learn and practice a fetching little song and dance routine that was their part in the play. Moreover, Michael detected a note of sympathy from some of the boys --they were not all as bullying as Page. Once one of Page's flunkies had challenged Michael to a fight, and before things got out of hand, Ted Wyatt had stepped in and told the tormentor to lay off. Michael was more than grateful to Ted.

There was a girl in the cast that Michael was attracted to. Her name was Karen Austin, and Michael thought her to be one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen. Karen was over seventeen. a little older than the other cast members. He went out of his way to talk to her when she was alone and not amid the gaggle of girls, for he knew that if he spent too much time with groups of the girls he would open the door to more torment from the Page bunch.

Nevertheless, Karen was very special. She had warm blue eyes and gorgeous blond curls. She was kind to him and more than once censured the teasing that she knew he received from the others.

"Michael," she had said to him one day. "Don't let them get to you. We are all made the way we are, and I, for one, think you are cute. I don't think you are a sissy like the others. As a matter of fact, I like curly-headed boys." She smiled as she said this, making him feel at ease, as she had intended.

Karen, as it turned out, lived a life not unlike his own, in the sense that she was alone. Her mother was deceased and her Father worked for a large oil company that required him to travel a lot. She lived with a grandmother, had made very few friends since she came to Hampton three months before, and seemed rather lonely. She had tried out for this play in hopes of meeting some new friends, yet Michael, she had said, was the closest friend she had made. The girls in the class were cliquish, and, besides, none lived near her. She was desperately lonely for Bethesda, Maryland where the family had lived before her father's last promotion.

Michael was very sympathetic and solicitous of the loneliness she expressed, for he, too, felt that loneliness that accompanies an uprooting and new surroundings. He felt sad that after the play was over the likelihood of seeing Karen again would fade and they would both be diminished by that.

As the play practice went on, he found himself finding more and more opportunities to spend time with Karen. She was spirited and fun, and she less than subtly conveyed a growing fondness and attraction for Michael which was more than just friendly.

One afternoon she had invited him to go with her for a soda after practice, and Jane had consented. Karen had her own car and had assured Jane she would drive Michael home in time for dinner. Jane, knowing Michael had nowhere to run, had allowed it. Karen and Michael had strolled around town and had sat for an hour in the cafe sipping a Coke. As they had strolled, Karen had taken the initiative to slide her hand into Michael's. They chemistry between them was perceptible, and Michael wished he could see more of her...and for a longer time and in a more personal way.

Karen had a lot of wisdom for a girl her age. For one thing, she professed boredom with the macho attitude of the "babies" as she called the Page bunch. Michael felt almost uncomfortable as Karen went on at length about the unfairness of society's demands on both men and women, stereotyping them into pigeonholes and deriding any deviation from those set standards.

On one occasion, Michael felt a pang of misgiving mixed with curiosity when Karen lamented the fact that boys and men were deprived of the nice things girls got to do. It was an innocent comment, made in no particular context; but considering the double life that Michael was then living, the remark had special significance. Nevertheless, his curiosity was a product of his wondering why she would bring this up, and he had gingerly pursued it.

"Why do you say that, Karen?'

"I don't know," she said. "It just came to mind. Maybe it's just me. I get great enjoyment out of a new dress or a trip to the beauty shop. I don't think a man gets that same degree of satisfaction by a suit or a haircut. Maybe girls are just that way. Still, I think it a little unfair."

He had not pursued it further, afraid his interest might be misinterpreted. But the thought and her words lingered with him. Perhaps this attitude was more widespread among women and girls than he had thought.

The weeks went by, and he and Beth worked diligently at home on her lines and movements, staying well-ahead of the schedule that Miss Bishop had imposed on the cast. Less than three weeks before the dress rehearsal, Beth was fully conversant with the role, and Michael knew it even better than she.

Meanwhile he was the model of supple acquiescence at home,anticipating nearly every one of Jane's whims and keeping himself winsome and sweet at all times. He gradually fell into a totally automatic and unpretentious deportment as a girl, such that his concentration on boyish mannerisms while at rehearsal became the part of him that required careful attention. Having abandoned the obstinacy that had marked the first part of his stay, he found he was more comfortable in this imposed role. He became more fastidious about his clothes, eliminating the need for daily counselling on what he was to wear, a point that Jane noted with approval. His hair and makeup were flawless in execution. Indeed, free of his hostility, he began to derive some satisfaction and even heightened eroticism from the feminine accouterments that comprised his existence. He thought of Karen's remark one morning as he lay in bed, luxuriating in the soft touch of his gown and agreed that there were appealing aspects to this life.

Jane was exceedingly pleased. In fact, she had agreed to let him spend more afternoons and even one Saturday with Karen as a reward for his conformity. He grew to enjoy these liaisons more and more. He was growing exceedingly fond of Karen.
Chapter 11.
It was in late August -- just a week before the play performance -- that everything seemed to come unravelled. Jane had summoned him to her study one Monday morning. "Sit down Michael. I have something rather important to discuss with you."

He seated himself on the settee, careful to smooth his skirts beneath him.

"Beth will be leaving us today. You can say your goodbyes in a minute. Your friend is waiting for you in the garden. Beth's time to stay is at an end. For public consumption outside this house it will be said that there has been a family crisis that caused this to happen. At any rate, the train for New York leaves in just over two hours. I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell you about this sooner."

Michael was speechless. Beth had become an ally, a confidant. Michael was mystified as to how life would go on in this house without her. He felt more than saddened; he felt a sense of loneliness creep over him.

"This event was inevitable, Michael. Or, as I shall consistently call you from this point forward, Michelle. Life goes on, transitions happen. This is a transition, Michelle. You will understand more of this in a little while. This next hour is going to be filled with its share of surprises, even shocks, for you. I suggest we get on with it. Go meet your friend."

Michael left the study and headed to the garden. There was no immediate sign of Beth, but Michael was surprised to see the figure of a young man seated on the wrought iron bench, his back to Michael. Perhaps this young man had come to take Beth to the airport.

Feeling somewhat perplexed, he looked around for the girl he had come to know as his friend, then called, tentatively "Beth?"

The youth turned at the call and Michael saw his face. The resemblance was virtually unmistakable. Michael was sure this must be a brother.

"Hello, Michael," the young man said. Michael was taken aback at hearing his true name. Not only did the youth know his name, but had said it to someone dressed as a girl. Beth must have told him, Michael thought!

"Michael," the youth said, " it's me....Beth."

Surprise gave way to shock. Michael reeled, his legs turning to jelly.

"Wh...what?!" was all that came out.

"It's Beth, Michael, or David, which is my real name."

"I...I....I don't...."

"You don't understand. Of course. Sit down...please." The voice was friendly, calm.

"I know it's a shock, Michael," the youth said quietly, "it always is. But believe me, I am Beth -- or I was until early this morning. Let me explain."

Michael sat down, relieved to ease the shaking in his legs. Even though he gained a measure of composure, he was shaken and baffled by these words.

"I just came from Sandy. She is almost as good at reversing her work as she is in doing it. You see me now as I am. Just be quiet a minute and I'll try to explain all of this to you."

"My real name is David Brost. I came here eight months ago. Like you, I had been in some trouble, but I'm sure my problems were worse than yours. You see, I got into some trouble which could have involved the police. Fortunately for me, the officer who questioned me was a friend -- no, actually a graduate of Jane's school. I got the choice of here or a potential trip to reform school so I chose here. I was as naive as you were when I came here, but looking back at the options, I'm better off having picked here. And once I was here, there was no going back"

Michael's mind reeled over these revelations. David had more information to impart, so Michael remained silent.

"I was like you are just half a year ago. You might want to chastise me for not telling you all about myself sooner, but that is the rule here. Nothing can be revealed without Jane's permission. A part of that is security and part is an element of the process. You would not have come as far as you have if you had known about me."

"And I stress the security! If it were to be discovered what Jane is doing here, it would have a very bad effect on me and everyone who has come through here. You must always keep silent about these matters. I have more to say about that in a minute, but promise me that you will abide by that rule! It could devastate me if it were discovered how I have lived these last eight months."

Michael assured David the secret was safe and waited for him to continue.

"Believe me, Michael, there is something to be learned here. When I look back on what I was when I arrived, I am amazed. I have a new appreciation for things I barely understood then. I have felt a sense of release by letting go of things that were a weight on me. TO be frank, I have enjoyed secret moments of enjoyment being dressed in girls' clothing. I suspect I may do it again from time to time because of that I get a kick out of being dolled up -- something I would have found repulsive a year ago."

"There is something of a revolving door in this place. Perhaps in a few weeks you will find a new "Michael" or "David" here and you will become that person's mentor. One never knows. I heard Jane on the phone last Friday talking to someone, so it is at least possible. For your sake, and mine and the new boy's, you must be Michelle and not Michael. Do you understand?"

Michael did not understand, completely. Yet in deference to his friend he nodded assent.

"Good. Now, as to you. You have made it harder on yourself here than you needed to. I tried to warn you, but you seemed hell-bent on not listening. These last few weeks you have changed, but it came too late, so you find yourself forced to live a double identity, as Michelle here and as Michael at the theater."

"Jane's technique works. You have been one of her most she told me. My warnings to you fell on deaf ears, you blockhead. I was a lot quicker than you to pick up the vibes on what it takes to get out of here." This last was delivered with such good-will that Michael did not take it as an insult, but smiled wanly in response.

The play! It suddenly occurred to Michael that with Beth...David gone, what was to become of the play. Michael voiced this concern.

"Michelle, that's part of the plot, don't you see? She planned it this way before we ever went to tryouts. What did she tell you 'death in the family?' 'Family crisis?' She's totally covered as to my departure. She had your school record; I read it. 'Very facile in memorization.' She knew you would have the lines down better than I. She will call Dierdre and volunteer you to take my place. You see, have to reap the consequences of your imprudence."

A new flood of awareness engulfed Michael. Did they seriously believe that he was going to step into the role of Alice? He couldn't. An image of Matt Page's jeering face popped into his mind.

While Michael and David were in the garden, Jane undertook a pressing task. She dialed Dierdre Bishop at home.

"Dierdre, dear," Jane said, when the woman answered the phone, "this is Jane. Dierdre, I'm afraid I have some rather disturbing news to tell you. Beth has been called home on a family emergency and must leave today."

It did not take long for the significance of Jane's words to sink in. Dierdre's concern was clearly over her production, and not the gravity of the 'family emergency' that Jane had alluded to.

"My God Jane, that's terrible. I mean...what are we going to do. That is....well, I hope it's nothing serious?"

"I'm afraid that it is quite serious, Dierdre; I'm afraid that there is simply no choice. Beth will be leaving on the noon flight to Richmond." "I realize that this signifies a blow to the play, and I am most put out about that. I hope that you have someone who can fill in." "No we don't, Dierdre said. There was a short silence as the gravity of this news sunk in at the other end of the phone. With resignation, Dierdre said, "I guess we'll just have to scrub the show. It is going to be a terrible disappointment to the cast."

"I can appreciate that," Jane said with mock sincerity. "It's a real pity that none of the other girls can fill in. I guess these things happen, and always at the worst of times."

Dierdre had felt a sinking feeling that was quickly merging into depression. She dreaded calling all the students and their parents, and, most of all, Mr. Finch, the chairman of the sponsoring committee of the community theater. Royalty expenses and production costs would be totally lost now.

"No, we'll just have to cancel," Dierdre said despondently. "No one else knows the part."

"Surprisingly, Dierdre, Michael knows it thoroughly. He and Beth have been working together since the rehearsals began. I think he knows it better than she did. he surprised me with how quickly he mastered the lines....just helping Beth. But, of course, it would be unthinkable for a boy to take that role."

"Oh, my God, yes," Dierdre agreed. "Why, not even thinking about the devastating impact that would have on the boy, I think many of the parents and certainly the committee would put the kibosh on that."

Jane thought that maybe she had been too clever by half. Dierdre was not picking up on the offer as had been hoped. Well, nevertheless, she thought to herself, the exercise had not all been in vain, for Michael improved dramatically during these last few weeks. The mere subjection to going out as a boy had worked its intended end.

"Again, Dierdre, I am truly sorry about this. I hope that you can work something out."

She rang off. Time will tell, she thought. She saw the two boys engaged in deep conversation through the garden windows, glanced at her watch and made mental note of the time it would take to transport David to the station. They had about an hour and a half.

It was less than an hour later when the phone rang. It was dierdre, sounding more spirited than when she had last spoken to Jane, albeit a little tentative.

"Jane," she began, "are you certain that Michael knows the part?"

"Quite sure, Dierdre," Jane replied. He has coached Beth through the last seven weeks. Why do you ask."

"Jane, would you agree to let Michael take the part in the performance....I know that is a totally preposterous suggestion, but we are really left with no other choice."

Jane paused the necessary amount to feign deep consideration of this, and managed to exude just the right degree of uncertainty when she responded.

"Dierdre, I'm not sure. I mean perhaps it is asking too much of a boy to make him get up on the stage in a dress and act a girl's part. I just don't know."

Dierdre's response sounded a little disappointed, as though she had expected Jane would not be warm to the idea. To avoid a complete flagging of Dierdre's interest, Jane spoke again.

"I mean I could ask him...I don't know what he would say. But you also mentioned that there might be some opposition from some parents and your committee."

"Well, that's the surprising part. I did call some of the mothers and they were not totally adverse to the idea, I mean with all the time that's been put in. Mr. Finch, of course, is most concerned about recouping some of the cost that this performance has incurred. At first he was cool and a little hostile, but then he seemed to rationalize it by saying that it was mere play acting and making allusions to Elizabethan Theater and saying that if the boy did not feel overly antagonistic to the idea he would not object."

"Well, Dierdre, all I can do is ask him. You don't have a rehearsal today, do you?

"No. Today was set aside for costume fittings and lighting tests. But I could spend some time with Michael if he accepted that is, to see how...or if it might work."

Well, as I said, I will ask and get back to you. I have to take Beth to the station. Would...say...12:30 be soon enough to call you?"

"Yes, fine," Dierdre replied. "Call me at the theater."

"Fine," said Jane. "In fact, if Michael agrees, we could just stop by on the way back from the station."

A few pleasantries followed and Jane detected true relief and hope in Dierdre's voice as she hung up.

"Michael, I speak to you as a dear friend. My predecessor her, a guy named Terry, was such a friend. He is a graduate student now in Chicago. I call him from time to time...Jane allows that. You can call me, too. I'll leave the number. But you have to learn that there is no way out of here until you totally give in. When you do, and if you are willing to play by the rules, there is a prospect of going back to where you came from. But in the bigger scheme of things, you will do far better if you relish the experience, taking from it the fun and going along with the requirements. I speak to you as someone who cares."

Michael remained downcast, cognizant of the fact that David spoke the truth, yet worried about what would become of him when his friend left. He especially worried about being made to play Alice in the play. But it was the sense of loss and betrayal that bothered him most.

"Michael, I have to go soon. I hope you will come to understand this and understand your part in it all. I like you a lot and I wish you nothing but good things. Make them good. It's your choice."

David gave him a brotherly hug, and Michael returned it to him, sad to say goodbye to a friend, uneasy about his own future. David left him alone in the garden. That was to be the last time he saw his confidant for a long time.

Michael returned to the study to re-confront his nemesis.

"Michelle," Jane began, " I presume that David has told you about the possibility -- or rather the certainty that you are going to take his place in the play?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied. "I guess that is what you had in mind all the time."

"Indeed. I have broached the prospect with Miss Bishop and I only just received word that it is an acceptable alternative to canceling the play. You will take the part and you will do it in the manner that I am confident you are capable of. It will, of course, be demeaning and difficult, but then that is the hardship you have brought upon yourself. I am confident that when this is over, you will have graduated to be a suitable replacement for our David now that he is leaving. You understand all this, I take it."

"Yes ma'am:, Michael replied, understanding now that he had truly given in to the woman's scheme and had been recast in the mold she had sought from the outset.

"Good," she answered. "Then after we have said our goodbyes to David at the station, I will take you over to the theater where Dierdre wants to test your mastery of the part. I trust you will do well?"

"Yes, ma'am" came the response.

"Very well, then let us bid adieu to our young friend, Beth, and get on with it."
Chapter 12.
They arrived at the theater the day of the final practice before dress rehearsal just nearing one o'clock. Dierdre asked him solicitously if he was, in fact, willing to do this. he said that he was, and she indicated that she must test his knowledge of the part.

Dierdre assembled the cast in the theater seats and announced that Beth had been called home due to a family emergency. A wave of concern about the prospects for the play spread through the group before Dierdre could interpose her remarks that they had a substitute for the part. Dierdre was careful to lay some groundwork by saying that the prospective replacement had a chance to study the part with Beth, and was able to quickly pick up the lines. Then, at last, she announced that Michael was going to take the part.

A bustle of whispers flooded through the audience, a mixture of astonishment and puzzlement at this announcement. As expected, all heads turned and eyes stared at him. The titters from the boy's section were about as he expected, and Page made a loud guffaw, followed by a loud "Mikey gets to be a girl!"

"Enough!" Dierdre said firmly. "We have but two choices here: either let Michael play the part or cancel this show. Now I let you decide. Do you want all the work you have done these last seven weeks to go for nothing or do you want to give this a try? I know it will not be easy for Michael to do this, but it will be a lot harder if you all give him a hard time about it."

The murmurs continued, but the content of the hushed discussions was now bent toward responding to that choice Dierdre had posed. In a ridiculous bid to seek some democratic resolution of the issue, Dierdre asked for a show of hands, and, as was expected, they all agreed to give it a try. The boys even voted in favor of the proposition, though Michael suspected their motives were less than forthright. Given the choice, they would probably have opted totally out of this ordeal that their mothers had insisted they engage in; they were more interested in witnessing his humiliation.

He caught Karen's eye and saw that she had a warm smile for him. He derived more than mere comfort from this comradely support. He smiled back.

The decision made, and a final run-through was done. Michael mounted the stage and took his cue from her reading of the counter-parts from the script. He executed the lines and movements faultlessly and, he felt, delivered an even better presentation of the role than Beth. Michael endured the occasional snickers as he did his best to deliver a good presentation of the part. Some were impressed by his rendition; those that found humor in it were ignored.

They were all told to be at the theater the following day by noon for the dress rehearsal. Michael reflected that that meant he would be at Marisha Chalet by nine, for Jane had told him that was a necessary prerequisite. He felt the usual uneasiness at what the unholy duo there would have in store for him. God he would be glad when Saturday had come and gone.

Dierdre had seemed pleased with the performance, for she and Jane entered into a spirited conversation with Dierdre clearly thrilled with what she had seen.

He stood like a superfluous witness to this tete-a-tete until Dierdre announced that they needed to check the costume for proper fit. This was the essence of his discomfort, the start of the inexorable ordeal that was to be. He followed the two women to the green room where Dierdre took down Beth's costume and told him to try it on, thankful that, for the moment, the rest of the cast was gone.

He feigned some unfamiliarity with the pinafore and apron, and Dierdre encouragingly helped him fasten it. He donned the stockings and Mary Janes and stood before them chagrined as any boy would be in such attire.

"He'll need petticoats, Jane. Should I get some?"

"Not necessary, Dierdre. We have some of Beth's at home and I can get everything he needs."

'Beth's indeed, 'he thought. He would wear his own petticoats under this costume, unbeknownst to Dierdre.

""I don't know what to do about the hair. We could get a wig, I suppose," Dierdre posited.

"Dierdre," Jane said, "I have an idea. I know some people who run a beauty shop in Kingston. Perhaps they can do something about the hair. I take it you wanted shoulder length, with some curl."

"Yes," Dierdre replied. "Like this," showing Jane a costume plate of a costumed 'Alice'.

"We'll take care of that," Jane said, and Michael resigned himself to further ministrations of Carolyn and Sandy at the salon.

"Well, I think he will do fine. I just hope he feels ok about this. I will make it a point to talk to the other boys, but I am sure that there is bound to be some boyish teasing. I hope it is not too severe."

'Boyish teasing', Michael thought. 'That is an understatement.

With that, they finished and he had only the dress rehearsal and two performances of the play to get through. The minimal number of appearances did not diminish the cold feeling he had about this.

Friday morning he was up and dressed as 'Michael' by eight and down to breakfast. Marie was delegated to take him to the salon, Jane advising she would pick him up afterward. He felt a new sense of trepidation going to the salon dressed as a boy rather than in his usual skirts, and hoped that this particular visit would not contribute to any disclosure of his true self. It would be a new experience, and he hoped that Carolyn and Sandy would understand his predicament and use a private booth to work on him.

Arriving at the salon, Michael felt ill-at-ease, being clad as Michael and not 'Michelle'. He was grateful that he was shown to a private cubicle, away from the stares of the other patrons. Sandy was the operator selected to do him over.

"So, dear heart, you're going to be in a play. Jane said I was to be extra particular about your hair today. God, you really have done a muddle with my work last week. We're going to have to start from scratch."

"I'm sorry, Sandy. But it's tough trying to be Michael when you and Carolyn devise such intricate hair styles for Michelle." "You know, luv, that's just about the first compliment I think I have ever heard from you about what we do. You may be coming along. So lets get with it."

She washed his hair and reset it. The latent curls from the permanents were embellished and a cascading wiglet intermeshed into his own hair. As expected, with a ribbon band at the crown, the style portrayed an enchanting girl's hairdo. That image was somewhat inane given the male trousers and shirt he wore. He was grateful that when he was done, apparently by prior agreement with Jane, he was escorted out the back door of the salon and into the waiting Lincoln.

Arriving at the theater, he felt acutely uncomfortable, positively obsessed with getting into his costume to diminish the dissimilarity between the way he looked and the way he was dressed. He swiftly made his way to the dressing room and found the costume and its accessories hung on racks. His appearance in male clothes and the curly hairdo produced loud guffaws from the boys already there. Taunts of "sissy Michael" and "Isn't he cute?" punctuated the air. His ears reddened. He grabbed the costume and headed to one of the nearby lavatories.

With a dexterity he had learned over the last few months, he quickly got into the underclothes, hose, dress and apron. As each garment was put on, more of the male facade was shed and he began to project a more acceptable feminine pretext. He began to feel more comfortable, notwithstanding the razzing he was sure to get when the other boys saw him.

The boys in the changing room were also dressing in costume. A lot of the burly machismo diminished as they put on these dainty little outfits. As if to abate their discomfort with this activity, they cast the occasional aspersion at Michael bedecked in the petite dress that was his costume.

"Pretty little girl," Page had said. "Very precious. How does it feel to be flitting around in that little skirt, Mikey?" He dropped his wrist in a mincing mimic of scorn. Michael found it easy to overlook this jibe, for attired it leotards and tights, page did not present an image of masculinity, himself.

Michael finished dressing and withdrew to a chair in the green room while the cast was being made-up. He sat watching the line of boys submitting one by one to Andrea's applications from her palette of paints. He found some satisfaction in watching page and his compatriots being subjected to paints and powders. They seemed far less macho with eyeshadow, rouge and lipstick applied to their adolescent faces. Michael felt a mixture of sympathy for them and a sense of reciprocation. Cosmetics had a way of humiliating the most lofty ego. As each boy was subjected to Andrea's brushes and colors, their pluck seemed to mellow, and they became more docile.

He was especially gladdened as he watched Page in his little satin elf's costume submitted to eyeliner, rouge and lipstick and a most colorful shade of eyeshadow. The boy's arrogance gave way quickly to pliable obedience as the rosiness spread on his cheeks.

Of course, Michael was the star attraction, and when his name was called, he stood up and submitted to Andrea as well, the now more subdued sneering still evident. He could visualize the colors and their effect on his face, having done himself it so many times before. He knew that between Andrea and Sandy he would appear very girlish and petite when all was done.

When the dress rehearsal was over, Michael started back to the green room to remove his makeup and change from his costume. Karen stopped him in the corridor.

"You were great, Michael!" she said. "You were a very convincing 'Alice'.

"Thanks, Karen. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get through it. I feel so damned silly in this dress. I guess you heard Page and his cronies and their comments."

"Oh, just forget them," she replied. "Their opinion isn't worth beans. Frankly I think you make a very pretty girl. It's a shame you can't wear clothes like that all the time. Just kidding."

Karen did not know how ironic that comment really was, of course, and Michael was not about to dwell on it. But he could not resist a comment.

"Between you and me, Karen, they are kind of fun," he whispered. "I remember you once saying how unfortunate it was that boys never get to wear things like this."

"Well, you look great. Of course makeup makes everyone look great."

"Well, I better get changed," he said, as he resumed his walk to the changing room.

"Michael, let me ask you something. Do you think you could get permission to go out with me after the show tomorrow night? There was supposed to be a cast party, but a lot of us aren't going. There's a rock concert in town that a lot of them are going to, so Dierdre may reschedule the party. But you and I could go out and maybe do something."

"I can see. I'll have to ask my aunt."

"Ok, well....persuade her. It may be the last time I get to see you for a while now that the play is over. Maybe she'd even let you stay over at my house tomorrow night."

Michael promised her he would ask, and went into the boys changing room and removed and hung the dress and underthings. He heard the few snickers from the boys remaining there, but Page and his bunch had cleared out of the theater immediately after the show, and Michael was grateful for this. God, he would be glad when this thing was all over tomorrow.

He was leaving the changing room when he confronted Miss Bishop.

"Michael, you did splendidly!" she said. "You don't know how you saved us. I hope it wasn't too embarrassing to play Beth's part. You are a very brave boy to have done this."

"Thank you, Dierdre, I'm glad I could help. Yes, I did get some teasing, but I guess it will be all over by tomorrow, so I'm not going to worry about it."

"Well, dear, I am so very indebted to you." She gave him a tentative hug, and he was glad that somebody took this in the spirit of thankfulness, without mockery or the dubious motives that Jane had had in getting him into this. The chat with Karen and with Dierdre alleviated a lot of his discomfort.

He actually welcomed the sight of Jane, and accompanied her out of the theater. Like Dierdre, though clearly with baser motives, Jane was effusive in her praise. Nevertheless, she could not resist putting in some self-gratifying comments about how her efforts had been the cornerstone of his convincing performance. As was his recent wont, Michael smiled and agreed, and they started the drive home. After some silence, he spoke.

"Jane," he said, "do you remember Karen, the girl in the play I told you about?"

"Yes, Michelle, I do", Jane replied. "A very lovely girl."

"Well, Karen wanted me to go out with her tomorrow night after the show. Would it be OK?"

"Hmmm," Jane murmured as she thought about this. "Go where?"

"I don't know. There was supposed to be a cast party, but I guess it's going to be postponed. It may be the last time I see Karen in a while and I just thought....well, we wouldn't be too late. Well, she also asked if I could stay over at her house."

Jane thought about it a moment and wondering if there there was any harm in agreeing.

"Hmm," she finally said. "I suppose I would have no problem with you going out for a while. But staying over at her house. That does present some problems. Whom does she live with?"

"Her grandmother. She said you could call to check if you needed."

"You realize, of course, Michael," that there are some dangers in that. Not just the proximity, but, well, I don't know how serious the two of you are. I leave it to your own judgmenet, but I don't want any problems."

"No, Aunt Jane. None at all."

"Well, alright," she finally said, "I think it will be ok. But then, Michelle, there is always the possibility that Karen could come over to the house whenever you wanted her to."

"That would present problems, Jane, and you know it. I think that is out of the question."

Jane merely smiled at the answer. They continued the drive in silence.

The following matinee and evening performance were, for all practical purposes, a repeat of the dress rehearsal, except that the audience was present. The presence of audience prompted Michael to be especially convincing in the role, a fact that, while persuading the audience, made his effeminacy all the more pronounced in the eyes of his peers.

He had told Karen that afternoon that he had received permission to stay overnight at her house. She had been gleeful at the prospect, and said they would chat about it after the evening show.

When the evening program was over, he looked for Karen but did not immediately find her. He started back to the green room to finally rid himself of this costume. Karen was at the end of the corridor and waved, beckoning him to meet her in a small room off that corridor.

"Once again, an outstanding job." she said as he entered the small room."

"Thanks, Karen. I'm just glad it's over. I'm tired of all this teasing."

"Well I never teased you. In fact I even complimented you. I think you look great. I don't see anything wrong with a boy wearing those things for a play. Did you see how cute Pagie and his crowd looked." She laughed. Her laugh was infectious, and in a sense of relief, he joined in her giggles.

"All set to go out?' she asked.

"Sure, I just have to go get changed and I'm ready to go." he started to turn when she stopped him.

"Michael, if I asked you to do me a big, big favor, would you?" At this point, Michael was very smitten with Karen and knew that he would do most anything she asked him. It was that infatuation and trust that jaded his answer. He would do just about anything for this lovely girl, and delivered a fairly unqualified "Sure Karen. What?"

"Well...." she hesitated, weighing her words, "would you leave your makeup on and leave your hair the way it is?"

The request startled Michael. How in hell did she expect that he could go out of the theater, out with her for the evening, even spend the night at her house without changing and removing his makeup?

"I don't understand, Karen. Why would you want me to do that?"

"I just thought it would be fun and I would like to play a little trick on my grandmother. She doesn't know that a boy is coming over tonight...not that I lied to her, I just said a friend. Besides, I like you like that. Would you, just for me?"

"But Karen, I haven't anything to wear out of here. I have slacks and a shirt. I mean it would look a little silly..."

She interrupted. "I already thought of that. I brought an extra outfit you can wear. Come on, just for fun. Just tonight."

He hesitated. It was an odd and outrageous request, and she had tricked him into agreeing to her favor in advance. He feared she might even back out of their date if he balked.

"Karen, I'd feel awfully silly going out like this. Is it really that important?"

"I'd really like it if you would. Of course, if you would rather not..." The pout in her voice was evident by the way she trailed off. What the hell, he thought, was it any different than going back to Jane's and getting into a skirt?

"You promise no one will see me?"

"It's dark outside. I hid some clothes in the girl's bathroom by the back door and my car is parked just outside. You can change and we can be out the back door before anyone sees us."

"Well, I'll have to take some of this makeup off. I mean people will be watching."

"Sure, I know. Just leave a little bit on. And then after you've changed, sneak down to the bathroom and I'll meet you. Just make sure no one sees you."

Michael was not at all sure about this, but he mulled it over in his mind as he went into the changing room, removed the Alice costume and slipped into his trousers and shirt. Were it not for the fact that he desparately wanted to spend time with Karen, this exorbitant request of hers would go begging. But in his infatuation, he saw no harm in playing along with her. The underwear and petticoats were to go home, so he left on the panties, camisole and hose and slipped the petticoat into the bag. He took the dress, apron and shoes and checked them in with Andrea, returning to the bathroom on to remove some of his makeup. There were jars of cold creme and tissues, and he delicately removed all but a trace of the color from his face. He peeked into the green room.

Andrea was still was busy checking costumes in, and he noticed that many of the cast had already left. It was not much problem to slip out into the corridor and he hurried to meet Karen.

The hallway was bare, and no one saw him make his way down the corridor and slip into the lavatory. Karen was already there.

"Here," she said, go in here, opening the door to one of the stalls. I hung everything up in there and there are shoes on the top of the john. Hurry up."

It was all there. Skirt, blouse, even a half-slip. He slipped into them quickly and replaced his oxfords with the flats, surprised that everything fit. Karen was about an inch or more taller than he was, but their measurements were the same. He stuffed his own things into the bag with the petticoats and, bracing himself, he opened the stall door and stepped tentatively into the bathroom. Karen was surreptitiously checking the hallway through a slightly open door and, when she was sure it was safe, gave him the signal. The pair slipped out the bathroom and through the fire doors to the outside. A quick dash and they were both seated in Karen's car. Michael's heart was racing.

The car pulled away and Michael breathed a slight sigh of relief, disconcerted, nevertheless, to be out with this girl he fancied, dressed like this. He could not really fathom why Karen had made this request, but since she had never teased him and must have her own reasons, which he trusted implicitly, he decided to view it as a lark and go along with it.

"You kind of messed up your hair when you were changing," she said, "and you took off too much makeup. We may have to fix that."

She turned onto Tow Bridge Road and started toward Knightsbridge. Michael was thankful they were leaving town, it being less likely they would encounter someone he knew in the neighboring town.

"We'll fix that up down the road." They sped on until she saw an Exxon station and turned in. She told the attendant inside to fill the tank and borrowed the key to the ladies room. As she walked toward it, she gestured to Michael to follow her. He was able to get out of the car and follow her before he was even noticed by the attendant.

Once inside the drab cubicle she produced a small brush from her bag and had him turn so she could fuss with his hair. She removed the large satin ribbon and replaced it with a less childish version. Seemingly unsatisfied with his look, she produced a blush and lipstick and added a little of the color he had removed. His eyes, apparently, were alright. He felt a little strange being done up by a girl he had a crush on.

"Golly, Michael, this lipstick color looks a lot better on you than it does to me. Here, put it in your pocket in case you need it later."

He slipped it into the small pocket of the skirt, not knowing when or why he might need it.

"Here," she said, "I brought these, too. Just a little added touch." She placed a strand of faux pearls around his neck and fastened the clasp at the back.

"There," she announced. "You look adorable. And I'm not teasing you, believe me."

He smiled wanly, blanching a little at the embarrassing remark, but certain she meant no insult by it.

"Let's go." He followed her out of the wash room and returned to the car as she paid for the minimal amount of gas that the station owner had managed to get in the tank.

"I'm hungry," she said, as they left the station. "How about a burger."

He was hungry too, but the thought of going into a restaurant did not appeal to him and he hoped that what she had in mind was a drive in where he could enjoy the security of the car. As she drove toward one down the street, he felt secure enough to merely say "Yeah. I am too."

It was when she parked not at the window service but in the parking lot that he became a little concerned.

"I hate to eat in the car," she said. "Let's go in."

Michael was not keen on that idea, but he decided to acquiesce, his attraction to this lovely girl overcoming his trepidation. He trusted Karen, so the fear he usually felt in such situations was replaced by that trust. She would not "reveal" him, and he had no doubt that he could "pull it off". What had begun to concern him was that he was doing it too well, and that she might wonder about that facility. But she seemed to pay no notice and, he knew by the mirthful glee she exhibited, she viewed it all as a lark. A joke they were both playing on the world.

They found a booth and the waitress deposited the menus without comment. After their cursory glance at the fare, she returned, and Michael heard her take Karen's order.

"And you, Miss," the waitress said, pencil poised above her order pad as she turned to Michael. He caught the grin on Karen's face, flushed slightly and ordered a simple hamburger and fries.

When she left, Karen said to him "Those two boys over at that table are taking quite an interest in us." Michael looked and saw the leering looks.

"Oh God, Karen, please."

"Don't worry. love, I will protect you. Actually the blond guy is kinda cute....not as cute as you, of course, but interesting. Anyway, it's getting on to 10:30 and I promised to be home by 11. Let's eat and go."

They finished their meal, bantering lightly about the play, about their life and their hopes and aspirations. Michael was becoming more and more sure that this girl was a real find and he felt the stirrings of sexual attraction. He just wished that their meeting and this date were more "normal", though he was glad simply for the opportunity to be with her.

It was when they had finished that he realized that the pressure in his bladder demanded that he get relief soon.

"Karen, I r-e-a-l-l-y have to go to the bathroom. I don't know what to do."

"Well, Michael, just go. I'd suggest you use the ladies room, but the plumbing is just about the same in there as you are used to."

"God, I can't do that."

"Well you certainly better not use the men's. Go ahead, no one is even going to notice. Just be a little discrete. I'll pay the check and wait for you. Oh, and while you're in there, you better add a little lipstick. It's all gone, you know."

He entered the ladies room and was a little nonplussed to find a woman there fixing her own face at the mirror. He hurried to one of the stalls, did his business, then added an application of new lipstick at the mirror. He found Karen in the foyer waiting to go. As they drove away, Karen said "You know, you're going to need a name when we get home. I can't introduce you to Nana as 'Michael"....let's see.....Michelle seems natural. How does that suit you?"

Michael blanched at the irony of it. 'Play the role' he thought to himself. "Whatever, Karen" he replied.

"Michelle it is then. This is fun. Are you having fun?"

"I enjoy being with you, Karen."

"Well, that's nice. But I mean isn't it fun to wear those nice things and play this big joke on everyone?" As she spoke, her hand came across the seat and rubbed his nylon clad leg, causing the inevitable stir in his loins which only grew more swollen as it met the smooth fabric of the panties he wore. He prayed that he would lose this erection before they reached her house.

They drove into the driveway of a large Colonial. The lights were on in the lower rooms.

"My Nana is going to wonder a bit about your not bringing your own things, so we'll tell her you left them home. She's never seen that skirt and blouse on me, so you're O.K. there. Just follow my lead and act natural." Karen grinned at him. "My Grandmother is a little forgetful, sometimes, but she is a dear. Maybe she won't even notice that you'll be wearing my things while you are here."

The woman who met them in the foyer was about sixty, a pleasant woman that Michael knew he could like. Karen introduced him as Michelle and added she had played the lead in the play.

"Oh I saw the play, Michelle. You were wonderful," Mrs. Grayson said. "I am so glad you and Karen became friends. I hope you will enjoy your stay and that we will see more of you."

Michael muttered his appreciative response, and Mrs. Grayson told Karen there were Cokes in the refrigerator and some sandwiches and brownies.

"I'm going up to bed now, girls. I know it is futile to say this, but I hope that you don't stay up all night talking. Remember, Karen, you have errands in the morning."

"We won't stay up too late, Nana. Good night."

"Good night, Mrs. Grayson," Michael added, as the woman climbed the stairs to her room.

"Let's get some food and Cokes and go up to my room," Karen said. Michael dumbly followed her to the kitchen and took his share of the load to be carried to the upper floor. He wondered what sleeping arrangements were going to be available.

Karen's room was what he expected it to be, not quite as dainty and feminine as the room he had at Jane's. The most noticeable difference was the profusion of posters of male and female film and rock personalities. Otherwise, and perhaps as a result of the poster selections, it was a girl's room in every way.

Rather than a single, large bed, there were twin beds, both delicately embellished with wispy dust ruffles. The room tended to pink in color.

Karen set the tray of cookies on the night table, and Michael followed suit with the sodas he had carried up.

"This has been fun, Michael. Nana didn't even seem the least bit hesitant in seeing you as a girl. You really are quite pretty and very convincing."

Michael was unsure as to how to respond to this, though he knew it to be true. He just smiled diffidently.

"Strange date, though, in a way," she said as she opened a can of soda and sat on the bed next to him. "I like you as a boy, of course, but I kept expecting a kiss, yet knowing it to be a little strange to be kissed by someone so convincingly a girl. Know what I mean?"

Michael did. He wanted more than anything to kiss this lovely girl, but he, too, thought it a little bizarre to be embracing her dressed as he was.

"Still, though, I know you are a boy. Maybe it's just that I have never been kissed by someone wearing lipstick -- not sensually, that is."

With that her hand began to stroke his back, and the sensation of her hand through the thin fabric was electric. She explored his back and sholders in a gentle massage. Suddenly her exploring fingers found and examined the fringe and the spaghetti straps of the camisole he wore beneath the blouse.

"What's that you have on underneath. Sure doesn't feel like a t-shirt."

"It's... what do they call it..a camisole. My Aunt insisted that it might make me do a better job if everything I wore was a girl's."

"And here I thought you just had on tights and those petticoats under your dress during the play. Surely you have jockey shorts on?"

He hesitated, long enough, apparently, for her to draw her own conclusions.


"Yes," he said, blushing a little, "and they aren't tights, but stockings and a garter belt."

"Well, you really did get the full treatment. Lots of nice undies to make you feel good. Tell me who did your hair."

"Well, my Aunt took me to a beauty parlor. They did it."

"The whole treatment. So tell me, how does it feel to be subjected to all this feminine fashion?"

He chose his words carefully, not wanting to alienate her in any way.

"I did it because I didn't want the play to go down the drain. Actually, it's all a little humiliating."

"You mean you don't get even just a little pleasure out of it?"

"What do you mean?

"I mean don't you get the least little kick out of the feel of the material, the fact that you can get all dressed like you are and fool everybody into thinking you really ARE a girl? Do you get any delight out of playing with makeup? Any of that?"

"Karen, I'm a boy. What do you think. Boys aren't supposed to get a kick out of being made to dress like girls."

"Yeah, I know," she replied. "I'm just asking if you feel differently. Look, I don't think you're strange or anything. As I've said before, I don't care one way or another. I like you as a boy, I like you when you're dressed. To me, it's sort of a gas: a boy I like who I can have fun with as though it were a girl I liked."

"If you're asking me if I enjoy being here with you, of course I do. If you're asking if I feel strange being dressed this way, well, I don't feel strange around you. You're different than those goons at the theater."

"Ok. So what about the rest of it? be honest. I won't care."

He paused for a while.

"There are times when....yes, I like the sensation of the clothes and all of it. I....I wish I could tell you more....but..."

"No. That's OK. Its new to you, I know. We can talk about it again sometime. Let's play some music."

She put on a tape as he sipped his Coke.

"Shall we get more comfortable? I mean I am just dying to get out of this skirt."

What did she mean by that?, he wondered, until he saw her pawing through a drawer of nightclothes, selecting two sets.

"Want to wear these?" she said, holding up a powder blue baby doll with very full pants, like bloomers. "I mean, you can't be all that comfortable lounging around in that outfit."

There was little he could say to object. He was going to spend the night here, he had to maintain the facade of Michelle, and he was not keen on lolling about in panties and hose.

"I guess so," was his conditional answer.

She handed him the outfit and pointed at the door to the adjoining bathroom. He slipped inside, removed the clothing he had on and slipped into the pale blue garment.

He came back into the bedroom to see Karen gyrating to the sounds coming from the tape player. Without missing a beat or movement, she took the blouse and skirt from him and put them in the closet. He put the underwear he had been wearing on one of the chairs.

"Can you dance?" she asked him, still bouncing to the beat of the melody.

"Not too well," he replied. "isn't that a little loud. Won't it wake your grandmother?"

"Nan's bedroom is four doors down the hall and after she takes out her hearing aid an earthquake wouldn't wake her. Go with it, Michael!"

He stood near her and made absurd imitation of her movements until the crescendo and final drum beat of the rock tune. She moved to turn the sound down slightly.

"You really don't know how to dance, do you"

"No," he said, "I go to a boys school. The opportunities are limited.

A slow ballad came on the speakers, and she said "Here, this is easier. I'll show you."

He let her put her arms around him, taking the lead. The proximity of her in her flimsy gown cause the inevitable stirring. She could not help but notice it, and lacking more restrictive male attire, it was more pronounced. She pulled him closer, his penis now against her and held him tightly, her arms now around his waist. His, at this point, were holding her shoulders, but with shrugs of her shoulders, she encouraged him to slip them around her neck. He was overcome by the electricity of their proximity drew them involuntarily into a tighter embrace as she led him through sways and small steps to the love song. Reflexively, he nuzzled his head into her shoulder.

The song ended, and they held the embrace for a few seconds afterwards. His arms still around her neck, and hers sliding over his satin-sheathed fanny, he felt sublime. He glanced up at her and their eyes met and locked. Her glance darted to his mouth and back to his eyes, and he knew that she was about to initiate the kiss that he had longed to happen all evening.

She was assertive, pressing her lips firmly against his own, her hands exploring his back and buttocks. Then, a charge rushed through him as her tongue parted his lips and began a furtive exploration of his compliant mouth. Her tongue drove deeply in and out, playing passionate tag with his own, their breaths coming in gasps. When breathlessness overcame them, the kiss was broken and her lips continued to brush his neck and the lobes of his ears. They were both succumbing to overwhelming passion.

As for Karen, she could not fully fathom why or how this particular kiss so overwhelmed her. She was moving quickly into ecstacy, overjoyed at the prospect of lovemaking in her own room. She was even more mysteriously fascinated by the strange feeling of being in control.

She guided him to the bed. "This one is yours," she said breathlessly, letting him lower himself. She pulled back the coverlet and blankets, and he quickly slipped in. Without hesitation, she slid in beside him.

"Let me show you some real fun. Let me show you what girls really like," she whispered breathlessly as they locked in another kiss more frenzied than their first.

He felt that she had taken total control, dominating the whole direction of this liaison. Partly from inexperience and partly because he was enjoying the vulnerability, he let her proceed, as she masterfully escalated his arousal with her every movement. Either Karen had a lot of experience or she had read a lot of good books.

She guided his hand to assorted parts of her own anatomy as her own hands found the same point on his own. Like a teacher, she demonstrated the technique on his body, inviting coinciding action by him. She fondled his nipples, stoked the inner surface of his thighs, tracing suggestive lines toward his groin,. She moaned as he aped her movements. She teased at his engorged penis as his own fingers surveyed her vaginal lips, but aware that too much stimulation there would bring him to too rapid a conclusion, she stopped, yet holding his had in place to continue its stroking of her most sensitive parts. The lesson shifted, now, for while he continued to fondle her labia and clitoris, she lifted the blouse and began to suck at and play with his nascent breasts. The sensation was odd, yet seductively erotic to him. She continued this activity for a few minutes, as he reciprocated with his fingers at her pubis, then, fearing her own orgasm would be precipitous, moved his hand away and revealed her own erect nipples in invitation to his hungry mouth. He duplicated the actions she had performed on him and he was amazed to see the effect of his passionate playfullness at those breasts. Her pelvis thrust reflexively as lusty groans emerged from her. Finally, she pushed him away, firmly pushed him on his back, and straddled him in a commanding way.

"Just lay back and enjoy, Michelle. Enjoy."

Michael was too delirious with passion at that moment to wonder about why she had called him that. She cast her bikinis aside, pulled down his own briefs briskly, and settled herself on his upright penis. As it entered the warm wetness, they both uttered a gasp of passion. Karen gyrated her hips, and with the movement of her pelvis, propelled his shaft in and out of her, as if it were she invading him, rather than the other way round. The pressure built in them both until they exploded in a spasm of passion. Relieved, Karen collapsed on top of him and they remained locked for a long time as she continued to bestow kisses on his neck.

It had been glorious.

(c) Copyright by Joel Lawrence
End of Seasons of Change

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