Seasons of Change - Book 3 - Part 1 of 3 - A Losing Season

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Seasons of Change
Book 3 - Part 1 of 3
A Losing Season
An Alternative Ending to Seasons of Change

by Tigger

Copyright © 1998,2012 Tigger
All Rights Reserved.

 


 
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction intended for the entertainment of adults in localities where it is legal for them to enjoy this type of work. If you are not a legal adult, you should not be reading this and moreover, you are abusing the trust someone put in you when they gave you access to the Internet. If it is illegal to read this, then you already know that you are violating the terms of your Internet access. Please leave. If you don't enjoy adult or erotic stories, why are you here?

Archiving and reposting of this story *unchanged* is permitted provided that no fee be charged, either directly or indirectly (this includes so-called "adult checks") *and* provided that this disclaimer and attribution to the original author are maintained.

Based on the characters and situations presented in "Seasons of Change" by Joel Lawrence, Copyright 1989.

Author's Note: This story represents an alternative ending to Mr. Lawrence's story. It is essentially a parallel universe story where things start out the same, but follow a much different path than the one portrayed in the original story.

This is my second inspiration from this story. My first derivative story, "A Second Season" starts where the original author's work stopped. This story takes place following the day described in Chapters VI and VII of Joel Lawrence's Seasons of Change. Essentially, it is a darker vision than the one I wrote of in "A Second Season".

Setting: The lead male character, Michael Nash, has been suspended from his very elite private school, St. Andrews Academy. With the concurrence of the school dean, he has been sent by his mother to live with her old friend, Jane Thompson who will attempt to teach the young man (late teens) control and self discipline.

"Aunt" Jane employs a "Victorian" type training program to tame undisciplined boys. She does this training by means of a delicately balanced regimen of humiliation and enforced feminine deportment. She is assisted in this program by her housekeeper (Maria) and several business women including the owners of a beauty salon (Carolyn and Sandra) and the proprietor of a combination dress and lingerie shop (Mrs. Franson). The other key player is David/Beth, one of Jane's feminized boys who is still living with her and who is required by Jane to "guide" (and setup) the new student.

Michael knows nothing about this, and is slowly "trapped" into Jane's program of petticoat dominance. Jane forces him to accept her program or lose his chance to return to St. Andrews because the dean will only readmit him after Jane certifies that he has been reformed.

As we begin our account, Aunt Jane, David/Beth and Michael/Michelle have returned to Jane's house from Michelle's initial public outing disguised as a girl. They have visited Carolyn and Sandra at the Marisha Chalet where he was humiliated by their taunting and terrorized during a make-up session as Carolyn's training subject, and at Mrs. Franson's "The Style Shoppe/MiLady's Closet" where he had to maintain his tenuous disguise in the presence of the young female shop clerks while dressed only in lingerie.

Each member of this unlikely trio is flushed with different emotions at the end of their long day of shopping for dresses and lingerie, and of feminine primping at the beauty salon. Michelle has been ordered to go up to her room and put away her new dainties, cosmetics and clothing while Jane and Beth retire to her study.

This story departs from the original tale at this point in time. ~Tigger
 


 
 
Chapter 1. Escape Attempt
 
Jane relaxed in her favorite chair, sipping a celebratory brandy as Beth daintily nibbled at the low tea Maria had provided for her and Michelle. The day was well worth celebrating in Jane's view. While not yet a major breakthrough, she was certain that this day's excursion would prove to be a significant milestone in Michelle's maturation.

Sandy had gleefully reported Michael's involuntary erection and spontaneous ejaculation from the humiliating treatment and teasing at the Chalet, and then Jane had seen him try to hide a similar reaction while being exhibited in his cute new undies at MiLady's Closet. From Jane's perspective, if not from Michelle's, both were extremely positive reactions. It meant she now had the opportunity to really get into her charge's head sooner rather than later. As her more direct minded sorority sisters used to say, a hard-on does not lie.

Something deep inside Michelle was beginning to be touched by her unwilling immersion in the feminine condition. More importantly, she was starting to become aroused by her current condition. That gave Jane one more effective tool in addition to humiliation with which to guide her little girl. After all, women had been leading men around by their smaller head since Eve first shined up that juicy red apple and offered it to Adam.

Speaking of Michelle, Jane thought, what is keeping her so long? She should have been back by now. A darkly mirthful grin lit Jane's face. Maybe she was trying on her new things in the privacy of her room. Well, if that was the case, then she'd give her little sissy just a bit of a jab by providing a likely-to-be *very* unwelcome intrusion. Michelle'd be mortified to be caught doing something so femme as primping and preening over new clothes. Even by . . . "Beth?" Her charge looked up from the newspaper she had been perusing. "Go up and see what is keeping Michelle, would you please? Her tea is getting cold."

Nodding, Beth rose and curtseyed before hurrying to the stairs. Jane took in the aroma of the fine aged brandy swirling in her crystal snifter as she plotted how she'd play out this little humiliation scene if, as she strongly suspected, Beth found Michelle modeling her new things in the mirror.

"JANE!!! MARIA!!! COME HELP ME!!! HURRY, PLEASE!!" The scream was not in the least feminine, but it was definitely David/Beth calling for help. Jane was up and running before the word "hurry", but found Maria already ahead of her as she reached the stairs.

The two women followed the sounds of yelling and scuffling to Michelle's room. What they saw momentarily stunned them into immobility. Michelle and Beth locked in a vicious struggle, with Michelle trying to kick or throw the other girl away as Beth grimly clung to one of Michelle's arms.

"Help me, Dammit." Beth screamed at the two gawking women. "He's trying to slit his wrists!"

Jane and Maria leapt to Beth's assistance, Jane grabbing Michael's other wrist and Maria trying to restrain his flailing feet. The furious boy/girl's surprising strength was almost a match for the other three until Maria reared back and slammed a spinning heel kick into Michelle's solar plexis.

Michael collapsed to his knees, wheezing and gasping for air. Jane finally succeeded in getting the blade from a broken disposable razor from his clenched fist. Moving quickly, the threesome bound the now hysterically sobbing boy spread eagle to his canopied bed using nylon stockings from the large bureau.

Only then did Jane get a good look at *him*, for there was nothing remotely feminine about the completely nude figure straining against the tightening nylon bonds. His newly curled coiffure had been ruthlessly hacked away, taking pieces of his scalp in the process. Even the painstakingly tweezed and shaped eyebrows had been shaved away. Blood trickled down one cheek and across his forehead where he'd nicked himself with the razor. His hands and wrists also bled, from his attempts to get the blade to his veins and from whatever he'd used to rip away the lacquered-on fingernail tips.

The room was also bore the ravages of her ward's rampage. Ragged swatches of color were strewn all about the room, as if a confetti bomb filled with shredded bits of brightly hued silk, cotton and satin had exploded. Instead of trying on her new things, Michelle had been destroying them, evidently in the throes of an uncontrolled rage.

Nothing of this day's supposedly successful adventures remained intact.

"David, go call Nurse Bedford. Her number is in the organizer on my desk in the study. Tell her I have a boy-girl emergency. Then go wait for me in your room, please."

Beth started at hearing her "boy-name". "You will be all right, Jane?" Jane knew that was not the question Beth wanted to ask, but she nodded as she looked at the still struggling Michael.

"He's strong, but the nylon is stronger. He won't be able to hurt himself further, but I want the Nurse to make sure he didn't do any real damage. Now go and do as I asked."

Jane turned to Maria. "Get some towels, hot water, bandages and antiseptic, Maria. Let's get him cleaned up as best we can."

Suddenly she was alone with him. Gradually, he stopped struggling, and the soul deep, racking sobs diminished to silent tears. Gathering her courage, Jane moved over to take a seat beside the bed. When she finally spoke, all she could think to say was "Why?"

Michael's hairless brows rose in feigned surprise, and then he turned his head away from her. "You will tell me, Michael." she said with a calm she was far from feeling.

Anger flared in the eyes that turned back to lock on her own. "Or what, Jane? What do you have to threaten me with? I will tell you - nothing."

"Are you so certain of that?" she asked, hoping to bait him into keeping talking.

"When you have decided to die, Jane, there is not much else you have to fear, is there? It's not like your threat to pass around those damnable photos at St. Andrews has any bite if I don't intend to live long enough to return there, does it?" was his emotion-hoarse response.

Jane swallowed, trying to control her fear and give some semblance of her normal command presence and confidence. "They say that suicide is a very permanent solution to temporary problems, Michael. This," and she waved her hand about to indicate the still feminine surroundings of the bedroom, "*will* pass. My little girls *do* graduate and go back to their lives."

"Do. . . they . . . really?" he flashed back, sarcasm dripping off each deliberately spoken syllable. "Are they *really* living *their* lives, Jane? Or are they merely existing in the lives that *you* have dictated for them with your . . . program?" The last word came out with a loathing that made Jane wince. "Well, I don't want that life. I want the life I had, the life I had planned for myself, and today I realized that I never would have it again. Some of your changes are just as irreversible as you promised they'd be and I will *never* be the man I *should* have been. . . because of YOU!" that last word was a shriek of pain and rage. He fought for control and then continued. "So I decided that I would do the only thing you'd left me. I would at least die like a man."

"I take exception to that, Michael." Her voice became hard again as she rose to defend her students and herself. "*Every* . . . *single* . . . *one* of *my* boys have gone on to lead happy, productive lives. I keep in touch with all of them. Most of them even remember my birthday and send me holiday gifts. They have become doctors, teachers, scientists and police officers. Does that sound like they are so diminished by their experiences with me?" Keep him talking, she told herself. Maybe he can talk himself out of this.

"It is not going to work, Jane. I am getting out of this the only way I can. You can't keep me restrained forever. Eventually I will succeed and I will destroy you in the doing of it. Some agency ought to get you for abuse of a minor. Maybe I will even get *really* lucky and some of those bitches who aid and abet you in your vicious little games will go down, too."

"You will hurt Beth, I mean David - that's his real name - very badly as well if you do that." she said softly. "Personally as well as professionally. He cares about you so his unwilling part in this will be emotionally devastating for him. Even if he manages to recover from that trauma, the truth about how he has lived for the past months will destroy whatever professional future he might have had. Not to mention what it might do to the other boys I have trained over the years, none of whom have ever done you any harm."

"Go to hell, Jane. If she or *he* cared so damned much about me, he'd have warned me about what you were planning. Had I known what you were *really* going to do to me, I probably would have actually taken you up on your offer to leave here, even dressed in those damned petticoats of yours."

"He had no choice, Michael, perhaps even less than you had. I hold his freedom in my hands. One word from me and he goes to jail."

"Maybe he'd be better off there. At least there, he'd be treated like a man! Learn how to be a *man* again instead of the wimpy caricature of a man *you* envision." was the sharp retort.

Jane closed her eyes in pain, knowing the boy was really attacking her and not Beth/David. "Even if we undid everything we have done to him to the best of our ability, he'd still be very feminine looking when he arrived at prison, Michael. Do you know what happens to effeminate young men in prison?"

She hoped he would relent under that threat, but he quickly dashed those. "That is your decision, Jane, not mine. Besides, that seems to be the ultimate expression of your so- called method. Why *not* get the kid raped? Isn't that the ultimate feminine humiliation experience?"

Stunned in shock at his words, Jane's mind failed her. She could only stare in helpless confusion at the once again struggling young man before her. Her mouth opened and closed, but no words formed in her mind, no sounds issued forth.

A hand gently shook her out of her fugue and she looked up to see Maria with a tray of medical supplies. "Let me take care of this, Jane. Beth needs you now." she said in her matter of fact voice as she set the tray down on the bedside table.

Slowly, painfully, Jane rose from her chair and went to check on the other casualty of this suddenly terrible day.
 
 
Chapter 2. Damage Control
 
Jane found Beth in her room, sitting rigidly erect on an antique straight back chair, her hands busily crumpling a hankie, her face a frozen mask of fear and worry. Jane moved to the chair and clumsily pulled her up into her arms. Clumsily because, as she suddenly realized in a flash of pain, it was the first time she had ever comforted one of her petticoated charges. Maria or the other sissy in residence had always had that duty, freeing Jane to be the "bad one". Even the young man whose mother had died during his stay at the large Victorian mansion had not turned to her for solace. Fortunately, he'd been at the end of his time with her, anyway.

"David." she said firmly, using his masculine name to cut through his misery. "Come downstairs with me. We need to wait for Mrs. Bedford."

The boy with the girl's face looked up at her use of the name, the mascara and other cosmetics streaming down his cheeks. A trickle of blood from her nostril and the beginnings of a bruise on her cheek bore testament to the physical damage that had accompanied the emotional trauma suffered by this young person given into her care and keeping. "All right, Jane." he said softly, hiccuping back an incipient sob.

The doorbell rang as they reached the bottom of the staircase. Jane opened the door and directed the nurse to her unwilling patient. Then she led her other charge into the study and poured two snifters of brandy, offering one to the slowly calming Beth.

Beth hesitated before taking the snifter. "That stuff is a big part of why I was sent here, Jane." she said uncertainly.

Jane snorted. "That is all you will get, David, so that won't be a problem here, but you need something. I know I do." and she took a swallow of the dark amber spirit. Hesitantly, David followed her example and started coughing as the fiery liquid burned to his stomach. "It is a little strong, dear. Try sipping it until you get used to it." Jane said kindly.

Beth watched her, somewhat warily. While he hadn't heard all of Jane's part of the "conversation", he had heard Michael's end of Jane's abortive attempt to "talk him down". That comment about "learning to be a man" followed shortly by "rape" and "Isn't that the ultimate feminine experience. . " had David/Beth badly shaken. She could only think of one subject of conversation that could have led to that exchange. He really did not want to go to jail, not after already having spent almost five months under Jane's petticoat tyranny. Hadn't he already paid enough for that childish stupidity?

"I take it, Jane, that you told Michael part of my story?" she asked, very softly.

Jane nodded and moved to the desk where she picked up the telephone. "Yes, I did, and now, I regret having done that." She punched out a number from memory. It wasn't difficult to remember the number she'd called several times in the past few days. "Hello, Caro? Yes, it's me. Look, I need you and Sandra over here immediately. I have a major emergency and I need your help." She paused, obviously listening to the other person. "I understand, Carolyn, but this is truly an emergency. No, I cannot discuss it over the phone, but I am not exaggerating when I say it is life or death." Another short pause followed by Jane saying "Thanks, Caro. Bring your tear down kit, please. See you soon."

Just then, Mrs. Bedford came into the study, her face grim. "I gave him a sedative I am not supposed to have, Jane, and I have patched him up as best I can. He's asleep now with Maria sitting with him for the moment. Now what the hell happened?"

Jane offered her a brandy which the nurse declined.

"Obviously, Michael, my newest project, snapped. We went out today for his first feminine day at the mall - beauty shop, clothes shopping, dodging boys - you know the drill. We got back home and I sent him up to put away his new things and to give him a little time to deal with what had been a very emotional, very humiliating day. Then he did not return immediately and I sent Beth up to fetch him down. She caught him trying to slit his wrists after he had finished the other damage to himself and to the new clothes you saw up there. If she'd been two minutes later, he'd probably be dead now."

No one spoke after that dreadful statement. Then Jane looked over and saw the blood still weeping down Beth's cheek and asked the nurse to check her over.

"She'll have a bit of a shiner by tomorrow morning. Doubt even Maria's artistry will be able to hide it, but otherwise, she'll be fine."

"Thanks, Nora." Jane said. "As to hiding it, by tomorrow, that won't be a problem." she finished with a sad sigh.

Now, Nora did go over and help herself to a brandy before turning back to face Jane. "What now? That boy needs professional help. I have a few more sleeping pills, but what I saw up there is not something that is going to fix itself after a good night's sleep. Unless he wasn't really trying to kill himself and it is just an attempt to get cut loose from here?" The last was a question.

Both Beth and Jane shook their heads. "Maybe he will, after some time, see that as a mistake, but he would already be dead if Beth had not gone up when she did."

"He was serious, Mrs. Bedford. He was fighting me so hard, that if I had let go of that arm, he wouldn't have been able to stop himself from plunging the blade into his wrist. I don't think he was faking it." Beth added somberly.

"Then he needs help, Jane. Where does that leave you?"

"In great trouble, Nora. If I take him to the hospital in that condition, social services will become involved at the very least, and they will surely call in the police. Who knows where it will go from there? I have temporary legal guardianship of him, but who knows what will happen when they see him in that condition and hear what he has to say?"

"Too bad he did not say it to you first." the nurse mused as she took a sip of her drink.

Beth snorted derisively. "As if she'd have listened."

Jane paled at that direct hit, but then nodded her head, her eyes closed against the hurt. "True, Beth. I probably would not have heard her complaints as anything beyond what any of my other students have said for effect and not really meant."

Moving slowly, as if burdened by a huge weight, Jane reached in and pulled out what appeared to be a photo album or scrap book. Idly, she began flipping through its pages, stopping to read a note here or to enjoy some little memory there. When she looked up, she saw the other two looking at her strangely. A weary smile crossed her lips. "My rogue's gallery." she said holding up the book. "My little black book of former students. I will have to warn them of this pending breach of my security so that they can distance themselves from me as much as the press will allow. I will then destroy this book and hope, but the way things happen in the tabloids these days, I suspect that more than a few of my girls will find themselves plastered across the front page of the National Inquirer right along side of me."

She opened the book again, and then set it down. She looked at the entry on one page and then began hastily punching out numbers on the phone. A woman answered. "May I please speak with Dr. Davis, please? This is Jane Thompson calling and it is very important. . . . .Yes, I would say it was an emergency. Please interrupt the Doctor." There was a long pause before "Eric?!? Oh thank God. Dear, I really need your help. . . .Yes, one of my girls attempted suicide and I don't know what to do. She needs help, but you know what is likely to happen when I take her in. You can? Oh thank you. Yes, I will have someone meet you at the airport."

She hung up and said. "One of my students is now a clinical psychologist in Chicago. He is going to come and see if there is anything we can do for Michael short of putting him into a hospital."

"And if he can't help him?" Nora asked.

"Then, Michael goes into the hospital and I, in all probability, will go to jail. He is still a minor and someone will decide that my treatment of him constitutes abuse."

"Even though other students of yours may not agree?" Beth asked, quite surprising Jane with her near championship.

She could only shake her head sadly. "By the time the press is done with this, dear, you will all be brainwashed puppets and I will be the most perverted, vicious bitch this side of the German Gestapo. Nothing any of us have to say will stand against the pictures of Michael that are sure to make the nationwide news services."

Just then, the bell rang and Beth rose to answer the door. It was Carolyn and Sandy. "Damn, Beth" was the irreverent Sandra's greeting, "What the hell have you done to all of my excellent work? You look like hell."

"And that is not half as bad as what Michael looks like, Sandy." was Jane's response to her friend.

"What did he do? I know we were a little rough on him today, but hell, Jane, he asked for it." was Sandy's complained defensively. "Is that why we are here with the tear down kits? You've decided he is a lost cause and are shipping him off home in disgrace? Never heard of you giving up on a kid before, Jane."

"No." was the simple one word answer. The chill in the room brought even Sandy up short. Quickly, Jane told the increasingly horror-stricken women what had happened.

"And he is going to try to force what you do into the open with his suicide?" Carolyn asked, speaking for the first time. At Jane's nod, she wilted into a chair. "It will pull us out into the open, as well. We probably won't have a business after that happens. What Newport society type is going to want such evil people doing up their hair or teaching their daughters?"

Jane nodded. "I know. I have always known that there was a possibility of such a happenstance, but never thought it very probable. The boys always saw public exposure as a far greater threat to themselves, never seeing the threat it could be to me, so I have always discounted this ever happening."

"Until now." Caro responded tonelessly. "Well, you had better warn Betty Franson, too, because I know you were taking him there today, and she enjoys playing her little games as much as we do. Or as much as we did." she added ruefully. "Doesn't seem like much fun, right now."

Jane nodded her agreement and then Sandy asked. "Well, why are we here, then, if not to undo Michael, Jane?"

"To undo Beth, Sandy." Jane said firmly. "He, and my other students, are the really guiltless ones in this debacle. Tomorrow morning, Eric Davis whom you may remember as Erica when he was with me . . ."

"The slim, green-eyed redhead who we punished by turning her hair carrot orange?" Sandy asked gleefully before she recalled the problem at hand.

"Yes, that is her, I mean, him. He is coming in on a flight from Chicago tomorrow morning. I will get David tickets home and he can drive my car up to the airport, give the keys to Eric and make his own escape."

Carolyn nodded her understanding. "Okay, where do we set up? The usual place?" Jane nodded.

"Ummm. . .Jane? Could we do this tomorrow? I am beat and I don't feel well. If I have to face Sandy and her noxious chemicals, I am liable to get really sick." Beth asked plaintively.

Jane shrugged and turned to Sandy and Carolyn. "It will have to be early because the flight arrives at eight am, and it is a one hour drive to the airport."

"I'll stay the night, Jane." Sandra offered. "The tear down is mostly my end of the shop anyway. Caro can come here in time to do the brow thickening and the other little cosmetic touch ups."

"Thank you." Jane said. "Well, since Maria is watching Michael, I will go see about some dinner."

"If it is all the same to you, Jane, I am going to go up to bed. I am not very hungry." Beth said firmly.

"All right, Beth. Please be up by five so that Sandy will have time to do what must be done." The feminized male nodded, and then made his way haltingly up to the top of the stairs and then to his room. The four women heard the door close.
 
 
Chapter 3. Acquaintances
 
The room was dark when the sedative finally wore off. As soundlessly as possible, Michael checked his circumstances and found he was still restrained in bed, although the stockings that had been cutting off his circulation had been replaced with some type of chain and leather cuff arrangement.

As the last vestiges of sleep cleared from his brain and his eyes focused, he saw that he was not alone in the room. A female was dozing quietly in a chair next to his bed. He tried to lift his head to get a closer look and was surprised to see that is was "Sandy?"

The sound of his voice roused the lightly sleeping woman and she sat up quickly. She reached over a cool hand to his brow before turning on the bedside light so they both could see. "Awake, are you?" was the soft reply.

For her part, Sandy did not want to be able to see him any better. She had been shocked and appalled when she'd first glimpsed the ravages he'd inflicted on himself, trying to free himself of the feminine tyrannies that she had helped impose on him. She still had a hard time looking at the hairless face and the scruffy, scraggly patches of fuzz that remained where hours before tight, thick curls had bounced.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded angrily.

Sandra did not answer immediately, instead choosing to sit back down and simply look at him. "Jane called me in to help with Beth. She and Maria were exhausted, but refused to leave you alone so I volunteered to sit with you for a few hours."

He thought about that for long moments before part of what she said caught his attention. "Beth? What is wrong with Beth? Why did she call you? What can you do for her?"

A tired smile curved the woman's lips. "Turn her back into a boy so that she can escape the coming holocaust."

"Huh? What?"

"Jane wants him as far away from here and as safe as possible when she takes you to the hospital, Michael. She figures that her entire setup will come out once social services gets hold of you and she is trying to distance as many folks as she possibly can away from the fallout. Particularly her boys. Tomorrow . . ." she checked her watch and grimaced, "Well, today, actually . . .This morning I will cut Beth's hair, relax the permanent curls, clip her nails and generally undo everything I did to make him into a her. Then Jane will put him on a plane for home where he will hopefully avoid being out-ed in the press along with the rest of us."

"It is only what the lot of you deserve." he snarled back at her.

"I'm sure that from your perspective, Michael, that is only the truth. Although I have to wonder how your Mom is going to take all this."

That drew a snort. "She's the reason I am here. Has Jane even been able to reach her?" Sandy's hesitation was too obvious. "I didn't think so. She's always been somewhere else when I wanted to talk to her. Why should it be any different now?"

They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence that spanned several chimes of the large grandfather clock in the downstairs hallway. Sandy finally broke the uneasy peace. "Michael? What were you really thinking? Surely you know that Jane has done this with many young males. You are smart enough to know that she would not still be doing it if she wasn't successful at helping them find balance and meaning in their lives. At least one of her boys would have found a way to come back and hurt her if they were really unhappy with their lives after Jane."

"As if you care."

"Believe what you will, but in fact, I do care. If I am going to see my reputation in tatters and my business destroyed over this, I would at least like to understand."

"Do you have any idea what it is like at an all male boarding school, particularly an Ivy League level school like St. Andrews?

The question startled her, but Sandy managed to answer. "I can't say that I have, Michael."

"It is a purely all-male, *very* male society. The traditions date back to 19th Century English public schools and those are only a little more civilized nowadays. Reputations made in those schools last your entire life, particularly in the business and financial worlds. Any weakness that might be construed as unmanly, any hint that you might lack the essential toughness, gets magnified and is remembered forever by the people who really count in the business world." Michael's voice broke as he recalled how he'd feared being labeled a wimp because of his small stature. How many of his clashes with authority resulted from carrying "manliness" to extremes?

Grimly, he fought back the tears and glared at the woman who had humbled and humiliated him mere hours ago. "Today, when we got back, I came up to put away those damnable clothes Jane forced on me. I actually caught myself holding one of the dresses in front of me while I examined myself critically in the mirror." Michael's voice then dropped, very low. "And I knew."

Sandy waited for him to finish, but he showed no signs of going on. Finally, she could stand it no more. "You knew *what*, Michael?"

Despite his best efforts to the contrary, tears began to flow unchecked down his cheeks. "That I could never go back to St. Andrews. Jane would never let me go until all her little lessons were second nature, instinctive. Shaking hands with a loose wrist, curtseying without thinking, making extravagant hand motions, batting my lashes or tossing my hair coyly. I would be a pariah within the first week back because by then being male would be the masquerade. Hell, even with only the short time here I don't know which is the mask and which is me. Preening before a mirror in my new finery." the words came out dripping with a savage self disgust before Michael was able recover his control again. "The life I had planned for myself is over."

"And so you decided to end your life for real?"

The honestly incredulous disbelief in Sandy's blurted out question stopped him for a moment, making him more pensive. "I can't say it was really a decision. Everything just seemed to go red and next thing I know, Beth is on top of me, screaming for help."

Motion from the doorway interrupted the interlude. Both turned to see Maria, still clad in her nightgown slipping into the room. "Sandra, Beth is up and ready for you downstairs."
 

~-------------~

 
The sun was up when Michael next woke up, this time finding Jane seated in the bedside chair. He had to relieve himself and was surprised when Jane produced a bedpan and helped him aim without any snide remark or disparaging comment on his male parts. She then produced a glass of orange juice with a straw and some breakfast bars which she silently fed him until his hunger pangs had been dulled.

"What happens now, Jane?" he asked quietly.

"Well, a great deal of that is yet to be determined. Someone is coming to talk to you today. I guess we will need to hospitalize you, but I promise you this, Michael. We will do what ever is best for you, regardless of the consequences for me."

"Right. Like I believe that."

Jane did not rise to the bait of his impertinence. She simply shrugged. "Whatever. Believe what you will."

"If that *is* true," he challenged her in a tone of strident disbelief, "Then tell me what has changed? The fact that I tried to slit my wrists and bleed all over your pretty satin comforters?"

"Nothing's changed, Michael. As I've told you before, my methods have had, until you," she amended quickly, "an unblemished record of success in helping boys with problems and bad attitudes become productive, upstanding young men. You may not like my methods - you may not even choose to believe me, but my commitment to helping you remains unchanged."

This was a very different Jane, one that Michael had never seen before. Gone was the innuendo-laden, sarcasm and derision that, up until now, had cut him down at every turn. All he heard and saw was a quiet determination that seemed to buttress every word she'd said.

"From what I can gather from Sandy, you feel that my vision of masculinity gentled by your feminine side would serve you ill at St. Andrews." Jane became quiet and introspective for a few moments as she tried again to absorb that alien concept. She visibly shook herself and turned back to Michael. "Perhaps that is true. I have never considered anything like that before. You are the first student I have ever had who was so committed to that Ivy League old-monied aristocracy business world." She frowned tiredly as she lapsed into thought again.

"Sandy said she was here to change Beth?"

"Hmmm? Oh, yes. Beth is once again David and he is now on his way to somewhere west where none of this can touch him further."

They heard the doorbell ring and Maria hurrying to open the door. Voices spoke, but the words were not intelligible in the upstairs bedroom.

Moments later, a person entered the room. The first thing Michael noticed was not the tall, slender elegantly turned out redhead, but rather was the disbelieving look of shock on Jane's face.

"E. . .E. .Eric?" she stuttered out.

The female looking person standing in the doorway smiled gently and opened her arms to Jane who ran jerkily to her. "I still go by Erica when I am all done up like this, Jane." was the softly inflected answer.

Michael watched with growing envy at the tight, loving embrace shared by the woman and by the person he strongly suspected was another of Jane's "boys". When had anyone ever hugged him like that? Another question that did not bear asking, he reminded himself, but the answer still slipped through.

Never.

The two finally separated. "Is this the lad you told me about, Jane?"

Jane took the redhead's hand in her own and led her over to Michael's bed. "Erica, this is Michael. Michael, this is Dr. Davis. He. . .ummm. . She is the one I told you was coming to speak with you."

"Jane?" the light voice suddenly deepened causing her to turn in surprise. "Go for a walk and let us talk. I think we need a little guy-thang time, okay?"

A bubble of laughter escaped from Michael. "Right, like you can hold up your end of that?" he asked sarcastically.

Dr. Davis grinned cheekily at him before shoo-ing Jane out of the bedroom and closing the door. "I see she still has these doors rigged so they can only be locked from the outside. I guess some things just never change, but I don't think we will be disturbed." said the incongruously male voiced female.

He returned to the bed and pulled off the auburn wig to reveal an equally bright, but masculinely trimmed head of hair. From his bag he removed a ragged Chicago Bears T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans and a pair of running shoes. The entire transformation took minutes, but in the end, the person in the room with Michael was obviously a male, albeit with the unusually fine eyebrows of the true redhead.

After carefully laying out his femme clothes, he took the seat Jane had just vacated and looked at Michael. "You see, it does come off, Michael. Eventually. Life goes on, provided one is still alive to live it." He reached down and unsnapped the closest wrist restraint. "Now, why don't you tell me just what the hell went on, okay?"
 
 
Chapter 4: Reflections
 
Michael was again asleep, this time freed of the restraints. Maria was again watching him as Jane entertained a now masculinely dressed Eric. "Well, changing from Erica to Eric in his presence seemed to help him."

"What happened, Eric? I have never had anything remotely like this happen with any other boy."

The lithe psychologist took a sip of his coffee as he considered his answer. "Part of it is exactly what he said. There is a great deal of research that indicates the private school environment he wants is exactly as he describes it. I think it is unlikely he could manage the transition from your program back to St. Andrews with any degree of success. Another aspect was his desperation at finding himself falling into your feminine world with no way out. His whole world, his entire self image were crumbling around him and there was nothing he could do about that because he was partially responsible. The conspiracy had won, and the Michael he thought he wanted to be was dying, anyway."

"It never affected any of my other students like that. Look at you. You went to Harvard and you did not run into any such problems."

"True, but Harvard is a university renowned for its eccentricities and moreover, I was a psych major. We're supposed to be weird. As Michael was quick to point out when I tried to make the same point, if I slipped up and gave a little swish, most folks wouldn't even notice, and the rest would figure I was just another off-the-wall psychology student. St. Andrews is another story altogether. Its as conservative as Harvard is liberal and Michael wants, or rather, wanted to go into Business Administration."

"Oh." was Jane's defeated response.

"Even showing off pictures of my wife and kids did not satisfy that there is virility after skirts. He is quick, this lad of yours, Jane. He asked me, point blank, if I would want one of my boys going through your program. I am afraid I was caught somewhat off guard and hesitated." he said sheepishly.

A tired grin curved Jane's mobile mouth. "So, I am not good enough for your sons, Eric?" she asked with a touch of her usual caustic tongue.

"What I should have said was that I hoped my boys would grow up with the type of family and support that would make a shock treatment like yours unnecessary. I am afraid Michael is convinced that I would never condemn my poor babies to your evil clutches under any circumstances."

"I don't suppose he'd believe you if you pointed out I am Eric Junior's Godmother?" His rueful grin was all the answer she needed. "Forget I asked." she muttered dejectedly. "You said that was only part of it."

"Well, not knowing all his background, he seems to be . . . I don't know, playing a role. He wants to be tough, to act hard, and yet, he'll ask if "Jane's other victim got away all right." That is really not very consistent."

Jane nodded wearily. "No, actually. That dichotomy is completely consistent with what I was told by his counselors at the prep school and from others. What he said earlier tonight, about the school essentially being an entre into the good old boy network of high finance, that evidently exacerbates his behavior. The school psychologist wrote that, in trying to be one of the gang, he was overdoing the macho act and was actively repressing anything behavior that might be construed as gentle or sensitive in nature."

"Yes, that *does* fit." Eric murmured as much to himself as to the others in the room, then he forced an encouraging smile on his face. "On the bright side, I don't think he is really suicidal anymore. That was his initial rage and desperation talking. The rage is over, and for whatever reason, he no longer considers himself hopelessly trapped in a situation beyond his control. Right now, he is more depressed than anything else, as well as humiliated. That's not a good combination, either, but it is not what almost drove him to take his own life."

"So what do we do? What *can* we do?"

"My recommendation is that his parents come in and take him off someplace quiet and nonthreatening to heal. Get a good therapist in on the program and help him find a new way in his life. I don't think institutionalizing him will help him."

Jane's face contorted in an emotion that might have been sorrow or anger, and was probably both. "I finally reached his Mother in Europe last night." Jane chose her next words with great care. "I do not believe that is an option."

"Well, that does put a different face on it. He can't go back to that school, Jane." Eric said emphatically. "He's too raw and wounded. Besides, he's already started responding to your training program. I could see the femme mannerisms for all he tried to control them. Those high born, arrogant little bastards would crucify him inside of two weeks. What he might do to them or to himself in retaliation does not even bear thinking about."

Jane stood and walked to the window. "Hospitalizing him won't help. His Mother isn't a solution. And now you say he won't survive back in the school he supposedly wants to return to more than life. What the hell option does that leave us, Eric?"

"Have him stay here, with us." came a soft voice from the doorway.

Jane spun on her heel to see David entering the room. David, once again in his skirts as Beth. His hair was nowhere as intricate since Sandra had cut much of it off to remove the permanent curls that refused to lay flat. He wore only the barest minimum of makeup, but it *was* Beth.

"What are you doing here, David? I sent you away from here." was Jane's furious demand.

"And I came back. You need me, as does Michael although he doesn't know it and certainly won't admit it, yet."

"We don't even know what to do, yet. We can't proceed as we were before. Even if it might have worked before, he knows too much now. He's met Eric, and he knows I was sending you back to your life as David."

"Jane, I talked with Sandy while she undid my Beth persona this morning. I think another very big part of Michael's problem is that he was starting to *like* parts of the game. Sandy got him aroused and excited, even though she was being absolutely cruel to him the whole morning. Then he got home and started mooning over Michelle's new clothes. He likes it, but he doesn't *want* to like it."

Jane looked to Eric who nodded. "That fits with what I learned, Jane. If that is the case, he is going to have to confront that internal self-conflict between his need to be superman and his enjoyment of being feminine in order to get past this."

"And just *how* do you propose we do that?" she asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "Do you really think she is going to just give in and let us put her back in skirts so we can help her confront a problem she refuses to admit even exists? And it is not just me at risk here. Everyone in my little cadre of helpers stand to lose a great deal if she goes off the deep end again. He's already decided that my threat of exposing her as a boy doesn't have any teeth, and not because he knows about what lengths I go to in order to prevent such an occurrence. No, he's decided that it simply doesn't matter to him anymore."

Jane realized she was shouting and took several calming breaths. "And several very good, very nice people stand to lose their reputations and their livelihoods if he decides to run to the nearest social worker. It would be like juggling a time bomb."

Beth looked Jane directly in the eye. "Is sending him away to a mental care facility any safer for any of you. . . errr. . any of us?" Both looked at the slender psychologist.

He shrugged. "No. He needs support he won't get in a hospital. Everything will eventually come out and it may not even help him all that much. Let me talk to him some more when he wakes up. I need to explore what . . .Beth? yes, what Beth just told us. That bears a deeper look. And Jane?" she turned to face him. "Go get some sleep yourself. We'll figure out something."
 
 
Chapter 5: Reflections Two
 
Michael wandered about the locked bedroom listlessly. The house was cool and he had put on the least offensive things he could find - the terry cloth robe, a pair of white cotton panties and some white socks. That doctor-student of Jane's had made a careful sweep of the room, and had removed several things that might be used as a weapon before removing the restraints. They'd even turned off the water to his bathroom so he could not try and drown himself.

The second interview had been much more uncomfortable for Michael than had the first. He'd been at least partially in control during that exchange. This time, however, Dr. Davis had a clear idea of what he wanted to talk about and it was something that Michael preferred not to discuss.

He did not even want to *face* those questions. Did he really like dressing up and pretending to be a girl? Even though he knew it was wrong? Even though he knew it was dangerous, if not fatal to all of his future plans? Here, in the dimly lit room, alone with his own thoughts, he could admit that parts of it were . . . . well, not *too* bad. But he could never admit that to anyone else in a million years, and he had tried very hard not to let that on to Jane's psychologist.

He opened the door to his closet and found all the dresses and shoes were also gone. He wondered why but decided that a high heeled shoe or a coat hanger could be made into nicely lethal little weapons. Of course, there was one weapon that no one thought about because it was so obvious. Michael hefted one of the books they had given him to read. It was heavy and would do the job just fine, he mused. He could be dead before they got the door unlocked.

It just did not seem that important now.

Nothing seemed all that important now.
 
 
Chapter 6: Options
 
"Well, Beth and Sandy were right." Eric reported later to Jane, Maria and Beth. "He tried to con me in the interview, but a part of him is fascinated with the masquerade, even though it is diametrically opposed to his public, super- masculine persona. It's not so much that he hates it as he hates *not* hating it." Then the young man grinned faintly. "On top of that, he's also competitive as hell, and there is a part of him that, if he is going to do it at all, wants to be able to do it very well. Your little digs really bugged him, Jane, because he thought he was trying as hard as he could."

"He was, actually, I just felt I needed to press my advantage when I had one to press. So where does that leave us? What do we do?" Jane asked.

"Convince him to stay, somehow, and give him into a less trying version of the program." Eric started to say something, but hesitated. Jane caught it and gave him a "give it to me straight" motion of her hands. "We talked at length about what he has been through here, Jane. I have to tell you that I think you may have pushed too hard, too quickly with this one. With his over emphasis on being perceived as a 'man's man', you did not give him enough time or distance to allow him to deal with what your program was making him feel."

"It was the timing of it all, Eric. Unlike boys like you and like David/Beth who came to me knowing there was no time limit on your stay, he thought he'd be leaving after only staying for a relatively short period of time. I felt I had to get him broken down quickly so that he would stop thinking of escape, so that he would feel that escape was not possible. He had to believe I would carry through with my threat to expose him or to abandon him still in his skirts. If he did not believe my threat, he would have been gone in the first two weeks, and damn the consequences." Jane shrugged. "Water over the dam, I guess. Do you have any ideas how to get him to stay and how to structure a program for him?"

Eric shook his head and then yawned. "Not just now, but then, I don't think there has been a whole lot of basic research on the behavioral advantages of forcing recalcitrant young males to cross dress. Lets go to bed and get some sleep. We are all shagged and we will think better in the morning." He rose and gave both Jane and a surprised Beth a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Rest well, you two."

Beth looked at Jane after Eric had gone up to bed. "Has Michael had his dinner?"

Exhausted from the stress of the past thirty six hours, Jane seemed to wilt under the weight of one more task. "No." she said resignedly.

"I'll take care of it, Jane. You are feeding him those diet bars, sliced fruits and juice, right?"

Relief flashed across Jane's worn features. "Yes, and use the unbreakable plastic cup for the beverage."

"Get some sleep, Jane." Beth said with gentle affection.

Beth got a second surprise when Jane pulled her into a tight embrace, kissed her on the cheek and whispered, "Thank you for coming back." Thoroughly bemused by the unprecedented show of affection, Beth wondered what, if anything, she could or should say. She was saved by the timely chime of Jane's private phone.

Jane answered the phone, and sighed. Beth wasn't sure if it was in relief or resignation, and momentarily hesitated to see if Jane might need her. Jane noticed and waved her out the door. "Beth, please close the door behind you." she said, holding her hand against the phone's mouthpiece.
 
 
Chapter 7. Confrontation - First Contact
 
Michael was back on the bed reading one of the books Maria had brought him. Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was not his usual choice in reading material, but it wasn't a teenage fashion magazine and it wasn't a romance novel. Still, he was immediately alert to the first scratch of a key being inserted into the door lock.

"Hello, Michael." was the oddly familiar, yet unfamiliar voice.

The face was the same, but the hair and the voice were oddly different. "Beth?!?"

A smile lit the feminine face as Beth carried a tray into the room and set it on the night stand. She saw him staring at her, and grinned broadly. "It's a wig. My own hair was too short to pass muster after Sandy finished with me earlier." She swept a hand down to show off the smart knit skirt and sweater combination. "The color is not quite right but it is the only hair piece Maria had available on such short notice."

"But. . .but why??"

Beth's voice dropped back into the more familiar, more feminine range as she laughed softly. "Why what, Michael? Why am I here? Because I told Jane I would bring you your dinner. You are hungry, aren't you?" Beth teased.

"No, I mean, yes, I am hungry." and Michael matched deed to word by snatching up one of the candy-like diet bars, the cup of orange juice and then stuffing the bar into his mouth. "But why are you here, dressed in those. . . those damned clothes?" he choked out as soon as his mouth was able to form the words around the food. "Jane told me she'd set you free and sent you away as . . .as David? For God's sake, David, why aren't you as far away from here and from *her* as you could get?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full. It is impolite." Beth chided primly before smiling at herself. "Well, given where you sit right now, I can see how that might surprise you. I am here because I want to be here. However this comes out, Jane is going to need someone and I have discovered that I care about her."

At Michael's look of stunned disbelief, Beth became very earnest. "Whether you personally like her or not, Miche " and here Beth started to call him 'Michelle' "I mean, Michael, the simple fact is that she stood up for me and gave me a chance when no one else would. Without her, I would be in prison for what was a stupid juvenile mistake made when the law said I was too old to be treated as a juvenile. Okay, so maybe her methods and her lessons were tough, even harsh - especially with you - but they helped *me*. I have learned self control and I have gotten myself sober. As for why am I dressed like this? Well, that is because I am Beth here, and this is how Beth dresses." and then her voice became very soft. "And also, because I have discovered that I enjoy it."

Michael nearly choked on the chunk of the apple he'd just bitten off. "You *like* being forced to dress like a girl? Being a sissy? Putting up with all of Jane's sadistic little games? What is wrong with you? You are a man. You were out of here, away from *her*."

Beth picked up the napkin from the tray and handed it to Michael. "I am not being forced now, Michael. In fact, I have discovered that I really enjoy having that special secret inside my panties and fooling everyone from horny teenage boys to starchy old ladies with my disguise. More than that, I really like the way women's clothes feel. The silky underwear against my skin, the sleek tight grip of the hosiery, the taste of lipstick and the smell of perfume - they are pleasurable to me in ways that I never experienced before coming here to live and learn with Jane."

"I don't understand. You are giving up being a guy?"

A hearty male chuckle answered him. "No, stupid. For one thing, I like girls and have no interest in boys, apart from teasing the hell out of them from time to time. I am David, but I am Beth, too. Both are part of who *I* am, and I will find a way to live my life so I can have and be both. As for Jane, I am past being bothered by her games. I'll let you in on a secret, Michael. She can't expose us without exposing herself and her friends. If she is exposed, she won't be able to do it anymore. She might even get arrested. Besides, no one will ever believe her girls aren't guys after that and she'd lose the fear factor that forces us to try to learn her little lessons. Not to mention the world of hurt it would bring down on folks like Mrs. Franson, Caro and Sandy. She needs the anonymity as much as we do. Her threats are and always were empty."

"You *really* like it? You're not just saying that because Jane ordered you to? Like when you set me up those times?" Michael asked again, feeling stupid.

"Don't *you* like it, Michael?" the boy-girl responded in Beth's voice. "Really, down deep in your heart, don't you feel special when you are all dolled up and pretty?"

Open mouthed, Michael could only shake his head from side to side in denial. Beth shrugged, a funny little frown on the delicate features of her face, and then stood. "Well, only you can answer that question, my friend. I think you really do, but what do I know? I just hope you are not letting the biases of other people - small minded people at that - influence you. Dressing like this hurts no one and if it is something you enjoy, why shouldn't you do it?"

Then she picked up empty tray and walked to the door. She knocked twice and left him alone when it opened.

The key turning in the lock was the last sound he heard for the rest of the night, but it was a very, very long time before his racing mind calmed enough to permit sleep to take him.
 
 
Chapter 8. Abandonment
 
Maria had just taken away his breakfast dishes, more of the funny, dry bars and a cup of chocolate flavored something. She had remained rigidly formal with him, and had refused any overtures he made at conversation. The only remotely personal thing she had done was check him over to see that his injuries were healing and were not infected. Her fingers did linger on the bruise that stained his mid drift, shaped like her foot. A very sad look crossed her eyes as she ran gentle fingers across the blue black mark, but she had said nothing.

Alone again, he'd picked up the discarded detective novel and tried to pretend he had not already figured out the ending when the key scratched the door again. This time the door opened to admit Jane. She was carrying a telephone which she placed on the bedside table and hooked into the wall socket. She then pressed a button on it and spoke into the speaker on the phone. "Barbara, are you still there?"

Michael went instantly alert. Barbara was his Mother's name. "Yes, Jane." came the sound of his Mother's voice, made somewhat tinny by the distance of the overseas call. The utter lack of interest those toneless words conveyed was her responsibility alone.

"Barb, I have Michael here. Would you please repeat what you just told me?" Michael heard and then saw the barely restrained emotion rippling beneath Jane's reserved and autocratic facade.

"Oh, very well, but you could have told him." was the bored reply. "We are late for the opera. "Michael, Jane has told me that you have not responded properly to her treatment. I don't want you to end up like your father, a hard-driving bastard who died of apoplexy while furiously bullying an overworked underling for some trivial error. I have told her to do as she feels she must. Put you in a hospital, send you to a military school, whatever. If you have any brains at all, you will do what Jane says. She knows what's best."

Michael's face became a mask of pain as his Mother's voice became cold. "This time, you have gone too far and endangered the family name. I will pay for whatever Jane deems necessary since you cannot possibly go back to St. Andrews now - not in your current condition. But you won't see another cent from me beyond that, Michael. Your trust fund won't be released until you reach twenty one. I suggest you get your head screwed on and stop making a nuisance of yourself." She paused a moment for effect. "Jane, is that all? I really am frightfully late."

Jane's control snapped and she slammed both hands down hard on the night table, causing the phone to bounce. "No, God dammit, it is NOT enough. Don't you want to hear *your* son's side of this? Don't you think you owe it to him to hear what he has to say?"

Michael merely rose and walked away from the phone, and stared out the window. The response to Jane's query was "Jane, I am late and I have no time to deal with this. If you don't want to be involved, you know what to do. Good bye."

The phone clicked, and for a long time, Jane could do nothing but stare at the buzzing speaker. When the phone began to chirp "If . . you . . wish . . to . . make . . a . . call. .", she finally pressed the disconnect button and turned to look at her ward. He had not moved a muscle since leaving his seat.

Jane quietly moved over to stand behind him. "I am sorry about that, Michael. As badly as things have gone between us, I did not think you would believe me if I told you that." she paused momentarily trying to gauge his response. "And . . I had hopes that talking to you might remind her that you are her son and that maybe you are more important to her than hearing Luciano Pavarotti at the Vienna Opera."

He gave a bark of humorless laughter followed by what might have been a sob before flinging himself back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling. "Why should she change now? She almost got her fondest wish - no son. She hasn't been interested in me since my father died. It's as if she looks for reasons not to be with me."

Stiffly, Jane returned to the chair, apparently uncertain what to do next. Turning back to face his guardian, Michael noted her worried expression and smiled darkly at her before saying softly. "I won't try to kill myself over this, Jane. I will live if only to deny her what she really wants."

"Eric assures me there is nothing in here you could harm yourself with, anyway, Michael."

Michael reached for the heavy volume of the complete works of Conan-Doyle and hefted it. "He's wrong, Jane." and tossed the book at her.

She caught it awkwardly and examined it closely before tossing it back to him. "Doesn't seem very deadly to me." she said with a forced lightness.

"No, but those windows are old glass, as old as this house. Old glass shatters really easily and that book is heavy. I could heave it through one of those windows and impale myself on one of the shards before any of you could have stopped me."

Jane paled at the thought, but forced herself to ask. "When did you figure that out?"

"Last night, after Dr. Davis left the second time." he said diffidently. "I don't think anything could ever make me that stupidly angry again. Now, I have to figure out how to deal with what is left of my life." He thought for a moment more and then looked at Jane. "I guess that means starting with you since my maternal parent abandoned her parental responsibility to you, just as she has always abandoned me."

"Maternal parent?" Jane asked with a bubble of semi-hysterical laughter.

"She sure as hell hasn't been a Mom to me in years." Jane had to agree with that, but held her silence. "And something else before you decide, Jane. I won't turn the cops and the press loose on you, regardless your decision. I don't think you have any more reason to trust me than you said I have to trust you, but you have my word of honor on that score. I don't want to hurt Beth, or any of those other men you have. . . treated?" He could not bring himself to say 'helped'.

". .yes, *treated* over the years. I wouldn't cry if something nasty happened to Sandy, but I can't get at her without possibly hurting others."

"Or me." Jane added.

"Or you." Michael added with grim finality. "So, do you have contacts in some nice concentration camp style military school? Or am I going to become a ward of the state as a patient at one of the mental hospitals?"

Jane thought she heard a touch of dread hiding behind the bravado, and so she took her time answering. "I really don't know, Michael. The Doctor said a home environment would be best for you, but obviously," she said, looking pointedly at the now silent phone. "Your Mother won't be providing that for you any time soon."

A knock interrupted their conversation and Dr. Davis stuck his head in the door. "May I come in?" he asked. When Michael shrugged, the slim doctor glided in. The graceful, almost feminine walk reminded Michael of his first glimpse of the man, rigged out in his Erica outfit. He'd been striking in that severely tailored, forest green skirt power suit that had perfectly complimented the flashing auburn tresses and lightly freckled complexion. Striking, if not precisely pretty - and certainly not as pretty as Beth, or even as Michelle, he thought smugly. Then he realized just where that line of thought was heading and almost groaned.

"Michael," Jane's firm voice called him back from that shocking thought. "Eric does not want me to say this, but I have decided I will tell you anyway. He is here right now because I had him listening in on that phone conversation with your mother. ."

"Maternal parent." Michael corrected angrily.

"Ummmm. . . yes. Well, he was listening in on what *Barbara* had to say to you. He's here because we felt you might want to talk to someone who understood what you've been through here. . . what *I've* put you through here, and who is otherwise a disinterested party."

Michael considered that for a moment. Obviously, the Doc lived, how did Beth put it, with both identities as part of his life. And he was a psychologist. He nodded. "Thank you." he said tiredly.

Jane rose. "Then I will leave you two to do just that." she said a tad too brightly, and then hurried out the door.

Michael looked up at Eric and offered him the chair. The words were out before he realized he was going to say them. "Do you really dress up still? By your own free choice?? With a wife and kids?!?"
 
 
Chapter 9. The Plan
 
"It has the advantage, Jane, of killing two birds with one stone." Eric offered earnestly.

"Please, don't use that metaphor, Eric."

"Sorry." he grinned. "But seriously, Jane, of the three options open to us, it is the only one that would get him to confront his festering inner conflicts about cross dressing. Also, given his intensely competitive nature, being very good at it would give him a goal to focus on."

"But what can we possibly use to motivate him to choose that course of action? Even though he has promised not to go to the authorities, I cannot take the chance of trying to force him back into skirts against his will. Not again, by God. I won't endanger my friends like that again."

The young psychologist grew very serious. "No, I agree that it must be his own choice. Well, as I said earlier, he is very intelligent. Maybe he would buy into the resolving his internal conflicts as a motivator." At Jane's disbelieving glare, Eric shrugged."I didn't say it would be easy, only that it was the best solution to all of his problems."

"I agree with you that he needs to accept his more sensitive self and get rid of that macho-chip he carries around on his shoulder. But how do we get him to recognize that?" Jane complained. "When he has already nearly killed himself because of his experience in skirts?"

"It is not at all the same thing, Jane. It wasn't only the cross dressing that did him in, it was realization that the life he had been planning on wasn't possible for him anymore." The psychologist thought for a few moments. "The only other thing that is nearly as critical to his emotional and mental makeup is his utter ambivalence toward his Mother. Not too surprising after her little performance on the phone. Maybe you could find a way to make that work to your advantage."

"What? Tell him getting into skirts will help him get back at his Mother? For heavens sake, Eric. She *sent* him here, and he knows she is fully aware of what I do to my young men."

"Its just a possibility. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of time to pull this off."

"I think it will work, too, Jane." Beth added quietly. "You can be very persuasive when you care about something. Michael will respond to that. I think he is looking for something, some*one* to fill some very big holes in his life."

Jane scanned the small circle gathered in her study. "All right. We can only try. Maria?" she looked at her long time friend and co-conspirator. "Go upstairs and get him a complete, skin out set of his male clothes including shoes and underwear. I want him to make this choice on his own, fully understanding what he will be giving up as well as what he might be gaining if we proceed down this path. He will eat with us at dinner and we will discuss his future afterwards in the music room."

"Jane?" Beth asked as they rose to leave the room. "What will you do if he doesn't make the choice you want him to make?"

The older woman sighed. "Exactly what he chooses, Beth. I don't see how we can chance trying to trick him, or changing our minds about what we will do with him. No, I will scrupulously abide by whatever decision he makes."
 
 
Chapter 10. Choices
 
After three days of finger foods, Michael found the simple pleasure of feeding himself with such civilized implements as fork, spoon *and* knife deeply satisfying. Maria's food wasn't bad, either, and included just about every dish she'd seen him particularly enjoy during his stay with them. It made for an odd meal, but if anyone thought it curious to have Maria's authentic fajitas served alongside her spicy Chinese stir-fried vegetables and candied sweet potatoes, no one commented on it. Beth did give him a very sly grin and a wink when the German chocolate cake was served for desert.

All of this was made all the more special because he was eating the meal in the dining room wearing his own *male* clothes again. Earlier that afternoon, shortly after Eric had left him, Maria had arrived to tell him his bathroom water had been turned back on. She'd offered to try and do something with what was left of his hair, but the damage done was beyond even her ability to repair. In the end, she'd shaved him bald.

Michael privately thought he looked like a young Yul Brenner. Beth, however, disagreed and had called him Uncle Fester when she'd checked to see if he needed anything before dinner. When he'd finished his shower, he'd found his clothes laid out on the bed - an open collared sport shirt, slacks, shoes and real men's jockey shorts - complete with a *fly*.

For a brief moment, he wondered what the catch was, but in the end decided that there was not much else they could do to him and had put on the clothes. Precisely at six, Jane had arrived to escort him to dinner.

Now that the meal was over, Michael wondered if he had slipped into one of those classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone episodes. Had aliens from another time and place kidnapped Aunt Jane and taken her place. My God, he thought grimly, she'd actually been pleasant to him. She'd even *smiled* at him, more than once, without looking like a hungry shark ready to pounce.

So it was with more than a bit of trepidation that he now walked with the rest of the "family", including Maria who had been told to leave the dishes, to the music room. Was this where the other shoe fell on his innocent head? Had he just been fattened up for the slaughter?

Inside the classically decorated room, a coffee service had already been laid out. Jane walked over to the small sideboard that served as a bar and offered after dinner drinks to Maria and to Eric. Then she turned to Michael and Beth. "Would either of you care for something? Some wine, perhaps, or something stronger?"

Beth accepted the wine, but Michael, already nervous, decided that he should try to keep what wits he still had. "No, thank you, Aunt Jane. Some coffee would be fine, though." He must have been mistaken, he thought. Was that actually approval he saw in her eyes?

The drinks were passed out and then Jane had every one settle on the various couches and chairs, but she was particularly careful to seat Michael and herself directly opposite of each other.

Thoroughly spooked now, Michael's mouth engaged. "Is this the time, the walrus said, to speak of many things?"

Everyone chuckled, but Jane's brow went up in that frightening way she had. "Am I to assume that you think I look like a walrus, Michael?" Then she laughed at his comical, open mouthed look of terror. "Oh, calm down. Yes, we have to talk, but nothing will happen tonight or as a result of tonight that you do not agree to enter freely and of your own will."

Now she quotes Bram Stoker to me. Is she Vlad the Impaler, or Van Helsing?

"We have to make some decisions about your future, Michael. You have some choices to make. First, let me say that I cannot, in good conscience, let you return to St. Andrews. At least not now. Maybe in a year or so, if you still want to return there, that can be arranged, however, Dr. Davis feels that is not a good situation for you just now."

Michael made a noncommittal shrug, but said nothing.

"I have also, again with Eric's concurrence, decided that you are not going to be sent to a hospital or to another boarding school. What you need is stability and people who want to help *you*. We are afraid that you won't get either as just another patient or just another student. The best solution would have been for your Moth. . . that is, for Barbara to take you away to a nice private home and let you deal with this in a supportive family setting, which simply isn't going to happen." Jane let her voice become icy-cold. "If she even thought about it now, I would contest her revocation of guardianship in court to keep her away from you."

Michael was astounded to see the anger in Jane's eyes, and more, to see that it was directed at his Mother, not at him. "So, here are the options you have, Michael. First, Eric has said that you can live with him and his wife in Chicago. His wife is familiar with my program and although she is a supporter of my methods, she understands you have had a particularly bad experience. While you are there, you will be free to live as Michael. More importantly, Eric will be there to help you deal with whatever you need to resolve in order to get on with your life."

Jane took a sip from her wine glass. "Your second option is to stay here with me, living as Michael. I would enroll you in the local school system this fall instead waiting until after Christmas as your Mother and I had originally planned. For your part, you will allow me to act in loco parentis. I will expect you to agree to follow my rules and regulations, *which*," she said firmly with a hand raised to forestall Michael making a comment, "I promise will be neither out of the ordinary nor unfairly enforced. In return for this agreement, I will promise to defer any future . . .er. . .special students" and here her eyes fell on the elegantly dressed Beth, "until you reach your majority and can move out on your own."

"Your third option is also to stay with me, but living as Michelle." At the shocked look in his eyes and the coiling of his legs to bolt, Jane held up a restraining hand, and Eric caught him by the elbow, effectively keeping him in his seat. "Hear me out, Michael, please."

The soft entreaty in her voice did more to stay him than anything she had ever threatened him with. "First of all, Eric and I both think the experience would be good for you from the perspective of personal growth. Thanks to your . . . to Barbara's sending you to all those male-only, all year boarding schools, you have had an almost complete lack of the feminine influence and outlooks in your life. Michelle might give you some balance in your perceptions."

Michael could keep silent no longer. "But that would mean taking the chance I will be exposed publicly as a sissy. And the probability of that happening sometime in the next four years has to be nearly one hundred percent." He shot an angry glare at Beth. "You said she couldn't, wouldn't do that." he accused hotly.

Intervening, Jane resumed. "I know what Beth told you, and she is correct, as far as that goes. All my little ploys and lessons are *always* aimed at protecting my girls from real discovery all the while making them feel as vulnerable and as threatened as possible. However, experiences such as that would not be *our* objective for you. *Our* goal would be to make you, while dressed anyway, indistinguishable from any other young woman your age. To make you into a *lady*, not a sissy."

Michael was no longer able to contain his fury and disgust. "Little ploys and lessons? *Little* PLOYS? Is that what you call what you do to people? What you did to me? And just what the hell good do you think that cockamamie idea would do for me, anyway? Besides, the very last thing I want in my life is to give you that kind of power over me again, to suffer your sadistic "little ploys" again." Raw anger spewed from him, and furious tears ran down his cheeks. "Do you think I am crazy? Or just stupid?"

Jane quietly struggled to keep control of herself. When she finally spoke, Michael could see the pain apparent in her face. "You are neither of those things, Michael. Just someone with a far more resistant masculine self image than I anticipated, someone I pushed much too hard, someone I did not read correctly, someone I hurt very badly. A great deal of what happened to you must be laid at my door, and I am suffering from my errors in judgment, my failures. That is part of the reason that I am willing to forswear any new students during the term of your stay with me - I, too, must deal with this before I can once more take on the responsibility of tearing down a personality in order to build him back up again."

She paused to take a shaky sip of her wine. The interview was going much as she expected with Michael not willing to give an inch. She'd give him his pound of flesh if that is what it took to get him to stay here and let her help him. It was time to try another tack. "Michael, those failures are my share of what ultimately has brought us to this point, but another important piece of the puzzle is inside you. You know that your reaction was completely beyond anything in my experiences with the nearly fifty other young men who have come to me over the last twenty years I have been . . . treating them."

"I still don't see where this is going, Aunt Jane." Michael snapped, impatience dripping from each clipped word.

"Simply this. If you decide to try living as Michelle, I will in turn promise to forgo my "little ploys" and, as I said earlier, to teach you how to be a real lady, not a sissy."

"Michael," Eric gently broke in, taking the pressure momentarily off Jane. "You have some deep seated issues that Jane's humiliation games and her program of enforced femininity ignited. You have to deal with those problems or this episode will haunt you for years to come. What this option will do for you is to permit you to deal with part of the problem, your mixed feelings about feminine dress without the humiliation aspect of all this."

"Mixed feelings, Eric?" Michael asked, turning to glare at the older man. "And just *what* is that supposed to mean?"

"Simply that a part of you really does like the dressing, the masquerade, and another part of you is afraid, and maybe ashamed to like it. Be honest with yourself right now, Michael, as you were with Sandy that morning. You knew that you were accepting Jane's training, and in part, because you were enjoying some of it."

Michael did not want to admit his own misgivings on that subject. Damn Eric for confusing him with his infernal questions. "And you think dressing as a female for Jane will help me deal with those "mixed feelings"?" Michael asked skeptically.

"We shrinks call it "confrontation", Michael. Make a reasoned decision to face, on *your* terms, whatever it is that frightens you. Understand it so that you can, in turn, understand why it frightens you . . .so that you begin to desensitize yourself to that fear."

"That sounds kind of fishy to me, Eric." And then his eyes became very suspicious. "Does she still have something on you? Are you supporting her because you have to? Just like Beth supported her against me before?"

Green eyes burned furiously. "Michael, you may choose not to believe me, but do not *ever* insult my personal and professional ethics. You are my *patient*, and I would *never* recommend something that was against my patient's best interests. Not for *any* reason. If you feel that this option is too much for you," and here Eric's voice became subtly challenging, "Then don't do it. Take either of the other options Jane has offered you."

Michael was stung by the anger in the therapist's tones, and sat back both to think and to gain some distance. Finally, he asked, "If I go with Eric, will he be my guardian?"

Jane shook her head. "No, your Mother signed your custody over to me. I do not have the authority to transfer it to Eric, and I don't suspect your Mother will oblige us. However, for whatever good you consider my word, I *promise* not to force myself into your life if you go to Eric."

Not knowing what to say or think, Michael took a sip from his rapidly cooling coffee. He really wanted to be away from Jane, away from here, but he did not really know Eric all that well and he did not know his wife at all. Except that Jane said the woman approved of Jane's methods of treating problem boys.

"But suppose I agree to that third option, Jane, and discover that I really do hate it. That, even with you not playing your games with me, that it simply makes me miserable? What am I agreeing to, time wise, in that option? You gave it to me separately from the one where I live with you as Michael until I reach my majority and gain access to my trust fund. Is it all or nothing? Do I live out the remainder of my teenage years as a female with no option for parole?"

Jane did not know quite how to answer that question. If Michael became Michelle, she did not want a time limit other than staying with the program until Michael got better. However, she knew that response would make Michael reject the third option, which she was absolutely convinced was the best for him. Still, he *was* asking, and not rejecting the Michelle option out of hand.

"If you are going to be Michelle, it would be best to commit to being her. Particularly if you are going to overcome your private demons on this score. If you are going to do it, I think you need to make a commitment so that I can coach, and yes, correct you without fear of you changing your mind on me every day."

Michael obviously did not like that answer and was on the verge of refusing to try that route when Beth spoke up for the first time. "How about a trial period, Jane? Suppose Michael commits to a specified period of time, regardless how he feels about the masquerade. During that time, he would promise to do his very best to be the best Michelle he can be. At the end of the trial period, you sit down, discuss the situation, and he makes a decision whether to continue as Michelle or to revert to being Michael without consequences."

"How long?" Michael and Jane asked almost in unison, and then both answered. "One month!" "One year!"

Giggling at the two of them, Beth again intervened. "Jane, if you aren't going to send Michael back to school until after Christmas, you have time in hand for a reasonable trial period. It is early July. Why don't you agree to three months. That way, you will have time for Michael to completely undo Michelle, like growing back eyebrows, working the curls out of his hair and relearning all his male gestures and speech patterns. If he decides to stay with Michelle, that will give you time to figure out what to do to get her into school somewhere."

The responses were predictable - from Michael's "Three *whole* months?!?" to Jane's "*Only* three months?!?" Beth gave a dainty shrug and let the two antagonists try to stare each other down.

A piercing whistle made both jump back in their seats and turn their glares on the cause. Eric simply laughed and made a 'time out' signal with his hands. "Why don't you sleep on it, the pair of you. Michael has not even agreed to be Michelle yet. Heck, he might even decide to live with me, although. . ." and he batted his eyes at the young man, "It *would* be nice to have company for Erica at times." Michael's blank look set Eric off again. "Just kidding, Michael. Trust me, if you come live with me, you can set up a "no-dress" zone around yourself if that is what you need. Go to bed and think about it, okay?"

Michael was still struggling with Jane's obvious preference. "Suppose I goof up, Aunt Jane - get unmasked as a sissy boy in girl's clothing?" He knew he'd never be able to hold up under the humiliation of such a calamity.

Something of the old, hard Jane came back into her eyes. "So don't goof up." she ordered caustically. "Besides, you've already told me that such an exposure no longer threatened you. Right?" She said silkily as she cocked her brow at him in challenge. Let him remember *that* statement, she thought. Then she gentled her tones. "And I will say this just once more, Michael. You won't *be* a sissy, subject to and molded by my carefully orchestrated lessons in humiliation. I will teach you to be a *real* lady who will pass muster anywhere, in any company and under any circumstances."

Before Michael could find the wit to respond to that, Jane's stern look incongruously softened, and then, wonder upon wonder to Michael, Jane *actually* blushed and stammered. "Well, maybe not quite *all* circumstances. You will still be. . . ummmmmm. . . entire, as dog breeders speak of their fully male animals."

Michael quickly understood precisely which circumstance Jane could not guarantee his disguise would pass muster, and blushed furiously himself. Well, he was NOT going to go to bed with a guy. Nor was he going to become . . not entire, either.

No one spoke for several moments, and just sat quietly, warily watching the emotions flit across Michael's face. Finally, he shook his head. It was just too much to absorb all in one sitting. "All right. Maybe Eric has the right of it. This has been an awful lot to take in and I am bushed. May I be excused, Aunt Jane?" She nodded and he rose to leave.

"Michael?" It was Aunt Jane's voice. He turned around just in time to catch a large brass key that nearly clipped him on the nose. "That is the only key to your door. Make sure you don't lock yourself in tonight. We'd have to take the door apart to get you back out."

Michael clutched the key in his hand, its implications running wildly through his head. No more locked doors. And he had his male clothes again. There was nothing to keep him here anymore. He was, for all intents and purposes, free. Dazed, he looked back to his Aunt Jane. "Go to bed, Michael. We will talk in the morning."

He left the room quickly as the others quietly watched his retreat. "About as well as we could have expected, Jane." Eric said softly.

"But suppose he doesn't choose Michelle, Eric, what then?"

"You already answered that question, Jane. We will keep our promises, and try our best to help him within those limitations. We knew coming into this that his tough-guy, "man's man" persona was going to resist strongly what his more sensitive side might prefer to try. And I think Beth's idea of a trial period is a good one. It will give you a chance to get him into skirts and gentle him for a bit. It will also give a chance to just enjoy the feeling of wearing nice feeling clothes and being pretty without worrying about your "little ploys". I think that, if he takes that option, by the end of three months he will be likely to choose Michelle for the long term."
 
 
Chapter 11. Deliberations in the Night
 
In fact, sleep was a long time coming to Michael. Any thought of sleep had been squashed when he'd gone to his closet to hang up his precious male clothing. Inside he found all of his male outfits hung out and arranged . . . side by side with what was left of his Michelle-clothes after his rampage. Even his suitcases were there.

The message was not very subtle. He could leave, or stay - and if he did stay, he could be either Michael or Michelle. The choice was purely his.

Therefore, he was more than a little bit surprised to realize he did not know which choice to make.

Michael spent several unproductive moments trying to resolve his confused thinking, but to no result. He finally resorted to writing down the pros and cons of his options on paper. Certainly, the easiest way out was to stay Michael. Live with Jane or Eric until he got control of his trust fund and then go live his life as he chose to live it from then on. He could work or not, travel or stay in one place, whatever best pleased him. His trust fund represented more money than he could spend in four lifetimes.

Of those two options, Eric's wife was the unknown. He did not like the unknown very much anymore, and he certainly did not *trust* the unknown - especially since that "unknown" named Jane Thompson had met him at the train station.

Would Eric's lady really let him be Michael, or would she, as a believer in Jane's methods, try to push him back into living as Michelle? At least Jane was the devil he knew. Besides that, for some odd reason, Michael felt he could trust Jane's word, *if* it was given to him and not to his Mother.

That left the third option, and God only knew why he was even considering it at all. Probably because he had come to trust Eric and because the doctor really seemed to think it was the best way for him to go. Still, that did not seem to be a very strong reason to put himself back in Jane's clutches *and* back into skirts. God, how his Mother would laugh at that.

Or would she? A random thought wound its way through his fatigued, overactive mind. Obviously she did not want a son. She had not shown him a whit of attention or affection since his father died. Was that why she had sent him to Jane? Was it a daughter his Mother *really* wanted? It would really show her, Michael mused, if he gave her what she seemed to think she wanted. He could do, for all intents and purposes, what he'd tried to do after that abominable day at the mall. "Kill" her son, and replace him with a daughter instead of a ghost. Maybe *then* she'd pay attention to him. . . err. . .her. Maybe *then* she'd find out what she had been missing out on all these damnably lonely years.

For this to work, though, he'd have to be *very* good at being Michelle. Moreover, Michelle would have to be completely convincing and utterly beautiful. Refined, too - can't forget manners and deportment. Could Michelle regain the love and attention Michael had lost, if he ever had really had it? Did he want his Mother's love that much?

The answer was probably yes. He'd have to show her, then, and when she saw Michelle, maybe, just maybe, she'd regret the loss of Michael.

Still, he sighed to himself, the price was probably more than he could bear to pay. Once it came out what he'd done (and it would come out if he knew his Mother), he would never be able to show his face in society again. Not only that, in order to accomplish this goal, he'd have to let Jane put him back in girl-clothes again. *And* give her the authority to, how did she put it? Oh yeah, correct him. He'd had just about enough of her corrections for one lifetime. Particularly if he was going to give her almost four years, until he turned twenty one, to "correct" him . . . only it would have become correcting *her* by then. There would be, very probably, damned little left of *Michael* after all that time living as Michelle.

On the other hand, he'd never been out in society anyway - he'd always been at one all male boarding school or another. What would he really be losing if his Mother's society cronies snubbed and shunned him? Nothing he'd ever really had.

And hadn't he already taken Jane's worst? If nothing else, she had promised him that she'd leave all her nasty tricks in her bag. He would need her help to pull this off, and besides, hadn't she promised to be fair? Or was that promise only if he chose to be Michael and not Michelle?

Which leads to another question, he thought. What about *real* girls, as in potential *lovers*? Based on what Beth had told him about Caro and her husband and what Eric told him about his wife, there were women out there who found Jane's students attractive. Like David and Beth, Michael and Michelle were both committed girl lovers, and he wanted to enjoy being a man with a lovely woman. Caro was gorgeous, and could have had just about any man she wanted, so she must really love her husband to have chosen him. And what about a family of his own?

God, he was so tired, and no closer to an answer.

"Michael?" he looked up to see Jane standing in his doorway. "Can't you sleep?"

"No. Too much to think about."

"Any conclusions?" Michael looked down at the pages of scribbled notes he'd spent the last few hours writing and could only shake his head. "Then let it rest for now."

With that, she closed the door and left him alone and even more confused. She had said nothing one way or the other about his choice. No little attempts to influence his decision? No barbed words to shame him into making the choice he knew she favored? Jane?
 
 
Chapter 12. Decisions
 
Michael slept late the next morning, and it was almost lunchtime when he made his way downstairs. The house was quiet, but he knew his guardian's habits and made his way to her study. The door was open and he slipped in without announcing himself.

Jane was there, seated at the desk where she had planned so many torments, so many tests and humiliations, asleep with her head resting on her forearms. The chair that Michael had come to think of as "his chair" was still in front of that desk. He repressed a shudder as he took his seat in that chair, remembering each painful session of "instruction" received from Jane while sitting there.

A random sound broke the silence and Jane jerked awake. Momentarily confused, she did not immediately realize she was no longer alone. Then she saw her guest for the first time. "M. . . Michael?" she asked, still sleep dazed.

"Michelle, Aunt Jane." he answered in the soft inflection so painfully learned at this woman's decree. Jane looked across the desk and saw her ward decked out in one of the skirt and blouse sets that were still intact, and wearing a skull- hugging, close-cropped auburn wig. He'd obviously borrowed that from Eric. With or without his permission, she wondered.

"So you've decided?" she asked, unable to keep a quaver of hope from her voice. When, she wondered amazed, had his decision - this particular decision - had become so very important to her?

"Yes and no, Jane. If we can agree on a couple of items, I am going to go with the three month trial period as Michelle option."

"Things, Michelle?" Jane prompted and then gestured for Michelle to continue.

"I don't think I can do this, all or nothing - Michael only or Michelle only." He frowned as he realized what he'd just admitted. Michelle evidently *had* become a part of him, just a Beth was part of David, or Erica a part of Eric.

He pushed that realization back and pressed on "I will do the three month trial as Michelle, living the entire period only as Michelle provided that, regardless of my final choice, I can still have both in my life if that is my choice. How we do that may take some planning, but perhaps if I choose Michelle, we could plan some short vacations where I could be Michael. Or the other way around."

"All right. I can understand and agree to that stipulation. May I ask why you have decided to try out Michelle again?"

"Because I think I am going to go after my Mother as Michelle." was the calm reply.

"What did you say?" Jane asked in a hoarse whisper. "Go after your Mother? As Michelle?"

"If she wanted Michelle badly enough to send me to you, then I am going to kill her son by becoming Michelle. I will show her precisely what she seems to want, become what she seems to want. Maybe Michelle can have the Mother that Michael was denied. At least, maybe it will show her what she has missed and will be losing."

"And you want me to train you to that end? She is my friend, Michelle. Don't you think that is just a little cruel?"

"I have more than a passing acquaintance with cruelty of late, Jane." he answered with heavy irony leaving no doubt as to who had made that introduction. "*Cruel* would be if I may unmasked myself and let her social circle know what she'd done to me. She'd never be able to hold her head up in society again and that would matter to her." the boy-girl frowned pensively for a moment. "I don't think I want to go that far, but it is an option."

Michelle seemed to steel herself and looked Jane squarely in the eye. "In any case, Jane, you said you would teach me to be a lady. What I do with what knowledge you impart to me should not concern you. Or will you withdraw your offer now that you know why I want choose Michelle? In that case, I will go to Chicago with Eric as Michael."

Jane sat quietly, watching the feminine creature seated opposite her. She knew that the boy resented his Mother, almost hated her with a fervor that led Jane to think he had once loved her almost as much. She'd just never considered him wanting to Michelle in quite that way or for such a purpose.

"Suppose your plan does not succeed, Michael? Suppose she doesn't react the way you hope? Suppose Michelle doesn't make a difference to her?"

"Then I won't have lost anything, Jane, because I have nothing of her as Michael. Maybe it will show her what she's lost, maybe not. Right now, this seems the only option that will let me reach her at all, and I am still angry enough, and hurt enough that I need to take that opportunity. Now, are you going to help me or not?"

"I won't withdraw my offer, Michelle, even though I find your stated goal demeaning to both of us. However, you do realize that your commitment in all of this is even greater than it would have been if you had simply decided to live with me as Michelle? You want to be beautiful enough, feminine enough and refined enough to carry off this masquerade under very demanding circumstances. You have to understand how difficult, how demanding achieving and sustaining that level of perfection will be for you, Michael." she said using the masculine name intentionally.

"I understand completely, Jane. I will do, with one exception, whatever it takes, short of actual surgical or hormonal modification, to become what I need to be."

"And what is the exception, Michelle?"

The finely featured face went crimson. "While I know that this is a huge commitment that will require my full attention and best effort, I still want some things as Michael, too. Like a family. I'd like to meet girls as a guy from time to time. And while I don't think you'd have too much trouble with Michael trotting out Michelle from time to time, I am concerned about how you would react the other way around."

That was a fair evaluation, Jane thought. Above and beyond the program she laid out to humble then mellow each new student, she liked having her boys in skirts. She could see herself resisting Michelle wanting to be Michael from time to time. "How about one weekend a month and a whole week during major school holidays. We can go somewhere Michelle is not known, but you must recognize that if you do, in fact, give this project your best effort, you will go on these holidays as a very effeminate young man."

Michael nodded. "Understood, Jane. I'll just have to find a girl like Caro or Eric's wife who like men like that." He paused before continuing. "College is the other thing. How would Michelle go to school? I don't want to spend the next four years vegetating."

"I have contacts who can help, depending on where you want to go and what you want to study."

"I'd like to stay locally, and live here so I can continue my studies with you. As for the course of study, I have begun to think about pre-med with an eye towards maybe becoming a research psychiatrist."

Ah, Eric has been more a role model than we had originally thought, Jane mused to herself. "The local university has a good program, and I know several women in the administration who should be able to help. Is that all? If I agree to these issues, do I get Michelle back?"

She could practically see *him* become instantly more feminine, see him become *her*. "We do, Aunt Jane."

Jane was out of her chair in an instant and Michelle was suddenly enveloped in the first maternal hug he or she could ever remember since the death of Michael's father. "Welcome home, Michelle." then Jane pulled back to look down at her ward. "And your first lessons will be on how to select your own natural colors. Trust me, darling. You were not meant to be a redhead."
 
 
Chapter 13. First Challenge
 
Michelle sat in Jane's library mesmerized by the telephone as if it were a snake waiting to strike. Jane had already assigned to him his first girl task, and he was struggling to find the will to get on with it. Truth to tell, *she* was a little overwhelmed at the response that *her* (Jane had told him to start working very hard at thinking in the feminine whenever dressed - it wasn't easy) decision elicited from the other members of Jane's household. Demure, feminine Beth gave her a thoroughly *guy-thing* thump on the shoulder and a high five, nearly knocking Michelle off her still-not-quite-steady high heeled feet.

Eric, on the other hand, talked to him that confident, quietly supportive way of his. He wanted to make sure Michael understood the full ramifications of that choice, but he also wanted to assure Michelle that *Michael* would always have a safe place to turn to with his family in Chicago.

Maria had surprised everyone, including Michelle, by breaking down into tears and nearly crushing the young boy/girl in a fierce hug, all the while apologizing in at least two languages. Not for her part in the original cross dressing treatment which she told him had been absolutely necessary, but for having to kick him so hard to subdue him. Maria was distraught over the size and tenacity of the bruise across Michelle's midriff. Michelle, although looking quite female on the outside, still was a young male on the inside. He'd been helpless in the face of Maria's tears, but Jane just chuckled and shook her head as he begged for help with his eyes.

Michelle shook herself slightly to refocus her mind on the task at hand. It would not get any easier if she waited. She picked up the phone, took a deep, cleansing breath, and punched out the number Jane had made her look up.

The phone was picked up on the third ring, dashing Michelle's hopes that they had already gone for the day. "Marisha Chalet, Carolyn speaking."

Fighting the incipient tremble of fear that threatened to make her voice crack, she responded, "Hello, Carolyn, this is Michelle Nash."

"Mi. Mi. . miCHELLE???" There was surprise, uncertainty and perhaps even a touch of fear in that stuttered response. Michelle stifled a grin of pleasure at the thought, but it *did* give her back a feeling of self control. She gave the affirmative. "Ummmmm. . .well.. .this is a surprise. Wh. . What can I . . we do for you, Mi. . you did say this was *Michelle*?"

This time Michelle did allow a slight laugh to bubble through, but it was not malicious. "Yes, Carolyn, I have decided to stay with Aunt Jane for the foreseeable future."

"Oh!" The relief in that one syllable was almost palpable across the phone line. "Well, then, what can we do for you, Michelle?" There was considerably more confidence in the voice now.

"Well, you are aware that my recent . . .illness . .resulted in the temporary loss of most of my hair, including my brows and nails?"

Carolyn had not seen the boy, but Sandy had and her vivid descriptions of what he'd done to himself, after *she* had been so rough on him at her shop, had made Carolyn physically ill. She swallowed loudly enough for Michelle to hear it over the phone. "Yes, dear. Sandy told me."

"I can't very well walk around looking like "Aunt Fester", Carolyn, and Aunt Jane doesn't have any wigs suitable for my coloring. I was wondering if you might have something appropriate, and if I could come in and have you show me how to wear it and care for it. Maybe we could fix my nails and you could show me how to hide my lack of brows until they grow back?"

"I have a couple of nice wigs that should work for you, Michelle. When would you like to come in?"

"I'd like to come as soon as I can, Carolyn, but if its possible, could I come in very first thing, so that your other customers don't have to see my hairless head? I'd really like to be under a dryer or off in the corner before anyone else can see me." she paused. "Aunt Jane said that was okay with her." Michelle injected a hopeful note.

Carolyn consulted her appointment book. In the past, she might have toyed with one of Jane's students. She might even had someone who could be trusted there at the shop when Jane's student arrived, but that was before a boy had tried to kill himself after a session in her shop. "Michelle, unfortunately, I am booked every morning this week right at opening time." She heard the sigh of disappointment in her ear. "Tell you what. I will open an hour early tomorrow, to work with you so that the worst of it will be over when my other girls and customers arrive. Be here at 8:00 A.M. and we will go from there, okay?"

"Thank you, Carolyn. Very much. Oh, can I bring Beth? She needs a little help, too."

A chuckle answered her. "Sure, tell her to come, too. I'll tell Sandy to get up early and be here. See you then."

As the two hung up, both feminine creatures felt greatly relieved - one for having survived a difficult first test, the other for having been granted a reprieve.
 
 
To Be Continued...
 



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