Valentine Sweethearts Forever

Valentine Sweethearts Forever

by Jennifer Sue

Collin Kline met Sarah Barnes in kindergarten. The two lived on adjoining blocks, with Collin being further from the school. Their mothers met and by the second week were walking the kids to school together. It wasn’t until second grade the children were allowed to make the seven block trip on their own. Their parents became friends and the families began having picnics and outings together as well as back yard picnics. While the guys went to sporting events, the gals went to ballets and concerts. For Collin, it was almost as if he had two dads while for Sarah it was like having two moms. The kids called the other parents aunt and uncle.

Collin was all boy and Sarah was all girl. Like many youngsters in the lower grades, they thought the opposite gender had cooties. While they maintained that facade in school, on the walks home the cooties disappeared. They were true friends and enjoyed the company of the other. When around their other friends they ignored each other, then apologized when they were alone. Both understood the peer pressure that made their friendship remain secret.

By sixth grade in middle school, Sarah was beginning puberty. Their friendship turned into blushing mutual crushes. On Valentine’s Day they exchanged cards. Unlike previous years when their school classes exchanged cards en mass, by middle school it became personal. That day on their way home from school they held hands for the first time.

Things drastically changed ten days later. The fathers loved hunting and Harry, Sarah’s dad, had registered as a youth hunter mentor. Pennsylvania law didn’t issue junior hunting licenses until age 12, however, with a registered mentor, those under twelve could hunt with restrictions. The main restriction was the youth couldn’t carry a weapon as they moved about. Only when they reached a point where the youth would be stationary could the mentor give the weapon to the youth. The men had taken Collin out numerous times hunting groundhogs with a .22 rifle. Since open season on groundhogs was nearly year round, they made the most of it. The local farmers eagerly gave experienced hunters permission to hunt the destructive creatures on their farms. While the end of February was normally a poor season to seek groundhogs, the spate of unseasonally warm weather had a few emerging early.

The guys spent Saturday morning checking out the known groundhog haunts and Collin had managed to pick one off. John, Collin’s dad, had bagged another. Just before noon the wind unexpectedly picked up and a cold rain began to fall. The threesome ran for their truck just as the heavens opened up in a downpour. They shivered in their damp clothes for the three minutes it took the heater to begin warming the extended cab truck. The rain was so intense they couldn’t see to even attempt driving. The incessant drumming on the roof and hood nearly downed out attempts at conversation.

Harry said he had just the thing to warm them up as he reached into his kit and pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels. John smiled and accepted the proffered bottle. After a hefty chug, he passed the bottle back to Harry who took an equally long slug. The men exchanged a knowing look before Harry passed the bottle to a surprised Collin shivering in the jump seats. Honored to be offered the bottle, Collin took it and upended it to gulp it down just as the men had done.

Collin was already swallowing the big swig when the burn hit. Not wanting to spit it out and embarrass himself, he manfully carried on swallowing the foul liquid. The boy felt the burn flowing down his scorched throat into his stomach. A fierce warmth almost instantly spread throughout his body. Of course he did cough, but managed to pass the bottle back without wasting a drop.

The men laughed uproariously seeing the boy struggle to maintain a manly image. Both took another big gulp before once more passing it back to Collin. Collin knew they were waiting for him to back off but he intended to prove he was made of sterner stuff. Once more he upended the bottle filling his mouth. Knowing the burn was coming didn’t make it any easier. Still, he held it together and passed the bottle back.

Already Collin was feeling the effect as his head seemed to grow lighter as if it wanted to float off his shoulders. The bottle made two more round trips before Collin was the one to empty it. As he passed it front he was visibly wobbling.

“Heyyyy, the r.r.rain shhhtopped,” he slurred before he slumped over slipping to the floor in a heap.

The men looked out the windshield, surprised they hadn’t noticed. Laughing that their drinking had distracted them from noticing the rain stopped, they turned to look at the boy passed out on the floor, proud that Collin had kept up with them. Not realizing they were both feeling the effects of consuming the 80 proof whiskey, John put the truck in gear and pulled out heading home.

After ten minutes, both were thoroughly juiced. Going too fast for the still wet country roads they didn’t make a sharp turn. The truck easily tore through the electric fence surrounding the pasture. As the truck accelerated down the steep bumpy pasture the men bounced about. Collin bounced a bit before becoming jammed beneath the jump seats. As the truck rocketed down the hill John saw they were heading for a large pond and jerked the steering wheel in a vain attempt to turn away. The truck did begin to turn and made a skidding 90 degree turn. Unfortunately the wet grass and incline combined to cause the truck to continue on it’s path towards the pond, only now they were sliding sideways. Their momentum and gravity quickly caused the truck to rollover and over. The men had not buckled in so they were flung about like rag dolls as the trucked rolled over seven times before coming to rest upside down thirty feet into the pond. Three feet of water instantly flooded the cab through the shattered windows. No one would ever know if the men were conscious or not when the truck came to rest, but both drowned.

The farm family heard the sounds of rending metal and looked out of their home to see the tumbling truck shedding pieces as it headed for the pond. The wife called 911 as the farmer and children rushed out to see if they could help the occupants. It took them nearly three minutes to reach the truck. The farmer waded out and attempted to wrench open the mangled doors. Unable to do so, he took a breath and went under the muddy water to see if he could reach inside through a window. While he was able to reach inside, he was unable to pull the victims free. After five minutes, he was forced to admit the occupants were jammed inside and dead. He had no idea how many had been inside.

The fire company rescue squad arrived twelve minutes later. The farmer, wrapped in a quilt to warm himself after being soaked in the cold water, filled the rescue crew in on what he’d done. The rush to save lives became a somber recovery effort. They tried to pull the bodies free of the wreckage but were unable to do so. Thirty minutes later a tow truck arrived. The rescue crew hooked up the cables and the truck was slowly winched out of the murky water.

Once on dry land, the battered truck was rolled back to its two remaining tires. The crew used the jaws of life to cut off the crumbled roof to reach the broken bodies of the two men. They extracted Harry first as John was trapped under the steering wheel. They had to cut the steering column to get John out. It was only after he was removed that they noted another arm, a child’s arm, on the floor between the jump seats. The already somber mood darkened as they realized a child had been inside the wreck in the jump seat area.

With a heavy heart one of the rescuers climbed inside the torn open cab to retrieve the body. As soon as he touched the hand, he stopped. Unlike the already cooled body of the men, the hand was warm. “Damn, he might be alive,” he shouted.

At once the mood turned 180 degrees. The rescuer climbed out to allow paramedics access. They quickly confirmed the child was alive but trapped under the jumpseats. But being trapped in that manner had also kept him above the chilly water. The jaws of live quickly snipped the supports of the main seats allowing free access to the unconscious boy. Less than five minutes later he was gently lifted out and placed on a backboard. A medivac helicopter was summoned to whisk the boy to a trauma unit.

The policeman didn’t like his job but it had to be done. He went to the Kline home first. Linda was horrified to learn of the fatal crash but held hope that Collin would make it through. The officer offered to take Linda to the trauma center, coming back after stopping at the Barnes home. Linda grabbed her purse and told the officer she would go with him. When Sheila opened the door to see the policeman and a teary Linda, she knew something terrible had happened. She took the news hard and dropped to her knees crying. Sarah came running. She burst into tears even before she knew what happened. It took several minutes to get the tears under a modicum of control. Once they knew both men were dead but Collin was still alive, they asked to accompany Linda to the hospital. Linda agreed as they could grieve their mutual loss and pray for Collin.

It was early evening before the weary surgeon called the three grieving females into a conference room. A police investigator was present. Of course, Collin was the primary concern. The females were relieved to learn Collin was expected to make a full recovery although he had been severely bruised with internal bleeding, everything had been controlled. However it was the alcohol level in his blood that had given them the greatest concern. When they asked what had happened, the policeman told what they had found.

The empty bottle of Jack Daniels had survived the crash. Alcohol had been found in all three victims. The men were two times over the legal limit. Collin was four times over the limit. The officer explained that the boy had obviously passed out before the crash and slumped under the jump seats. Being unconscious and wedged in place saved his life, not only in the tumbling but kept him above the water in the pond.

The women were furious with their husbands but at the same time confused. The men liked to drink but seldom drank to excess. The few times they had over consumed, the wives had been with them to drive them home. Why they even had a bottle of Jack Daniels with them was a mystery. That they had obviously been drinking it with Collin was mind numbing. They never would find an answer for that question.

With heavy hearts they were briefly allowed to visit the sedated boy. Collin’s face was swollen and purple. Three bags of drugs were slowly dripping into the saline solution running into the IV in the back of his right hand. It looked as if he was sleeping peacefully, belying the fact he’d almost died of alcohol poisoning rather than the injuries of the crash.

After ten minutes a nurse came in to usher them away. The nurse assured the women Collin would be closely monitored and kept sedated for at least another 24 hours and he wouldn’t awaken until mid-morning on Monday. Linda wanted to stay but Sheila convinced her to come home with them for whatever sleep they could get.

They called a taxi to take them to the Barnes home. Once there, they drove Linda home to get a few things as they agreed to spend the night together on the livingroom floor in the Barnes home in a somber sleepover. The three roused themselves to go to church, something they had been lax about doing in the past. After the service, they spent time with the pastor seeking solace and guidance. Neither woman knew how to set up a funeral.

With their permission, the pastor contacted the manager of the church cemetery to make arrangements for two adjoining four plot burial sites. He also contacted a reputable funeral director who agreed to meet the bereaved women in an hour to make the funeral arrangements. They decided on a double funeral as the men and families were best friends. There would be a morning viewing Wednesday with the funeral and burial following.

The three somberly returned to Collin who was still sedated. The nurses reported he was resting comfortably and showing signs of improvement. After an hour of sitting with the sedated lad, they began to discuss their future. They had already realized that they needed each other. When one began to loss it, the other provided comfort. Fortunately they never lost it at the same time. Neither woman wanted to be without the other in their time of distress. They discussed rooming together for the next few weeks until things settled down.

Monday the three females arrived at the hospital shortly after nine. The nurses reported that Collin had spent a peaceful night and the sedation had been stopped. The women settled into the room intently watching the sleeping boy.

A bit after ten Collin moaned. Slowly he began to wake up in a world of pain combined with a quite nasty hangover from the drugs and lingering effects of alcohol poisoning. As consciousness slowly returned he began to fight the stiffness that seemed to engulf his body. Every time he moved to relieve the stiffness waves of pain engulfed him. It took nearly forty five minutes for him to fully awaken.

The women remained silent and watched, each lost in their thoughts of loss and anger at the stupidity of the men.

Finally awake, Collin opened his heavy eyelids to see he was not in his bedroom. The IV in his hand told him what he’d already guessed. He was in the hospital. Achey and fuzzy brained, he rolled his head from side to side only to see his mother, Sheila and Sarah waiting patiently watching him. Opening his mouth he tried to speak but it felt as if his throat was stuffed with cotton.

Seeing his discomfort, Linda picked up a cup of water with a straw and offered it to the clearly confused boy. Collin drank deeply and nodded his thanks.

The water had partially soothed his dry throat but his voice was scratchy as he spoke. “What am I doing here?”

“You were hurt in an accident,” Linda replied with a bit of sharpness. “Tell us what you remember.”

Even in his foggy state of mind Collin instantly understood something dreadful had occurred. “Where’s dad and Mr Barnes?” Collin knew as he saw the anguish cross the faces of the females. “They can’t be dead! We were in the truck trying to get warm after getting caught in the rain! What happened?”

“First, you tell us how you were getting warm,” Linda sniffed as she laid a comforting hand on the distressed boy’s hand.

Her answer confirmed the men were dead. Collin lowered his chin to his chest in an effort to stop the tears that threatened to escape. After drawing in a deep breath, he spoke softly. “We were hunting groundhogs when it started getting windy and really cloudy. We knew it was going to start pouring so we ran for the truck. It started raining before we made it halfway back. It really let loose just as we got there. We were nearly soaked and shivering by the time we got inside. It was raining so hard we could barely see out the windows and the noise of the rain on the roof was so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk. Dad started the truck but the engine was cold and my teeth were chattering. Uncle Harry reached into his pack and pulled out a bottle that he gave to dad. Dad took a big swallow then passed it back. Uncle Harry took a big gulp, then looked at dad before passing the bottle to me. I took a big gulp and swallowed. That stuff was nasty! It burned my throat and all the way down to my stomach. But even as it did I could feel myself getting warmer. We kept passing the bottle around taking a mouthful every time. I don’t remember anything after that. What happened?”

“You all got sloshed,” Sarah somberly spoke up.

“The police think you passed out and slumped to the floor. Your father attempted to drive home but was too inebriated to make a sharp turn and smashed through a fence at the top of a hill. The truck bounced down the hill and somehow you got jammed under the jump seats. The truck turned sideways and rolled over at least seven times before landing upside down in a pond. Your dad and Uncle Harry drowned. Being trapped as you were you were above the water.” At that point Linda couldn’t bare to go on as she wiped tears from her eyes.

“We’ll never know if they were conscious or not,” Sheila shakily picked up the story. “None of you were belted in so they got bounced around a lot. The rescuers didn’t even know you were inside. They had to cut of the roof to get Harry out. Then they had to cut off the steering column to get John out. It was only as they removed him they saw you were trapped inside and alive. You were airlifted here.”

“You almost died of alcohol poisoning,” Sarah added as tears flowed down her face. “How could you guys have been so stupid?”

Collin shook his head as tears trickled down his cheeks. “I... I don’t know....”

Little was said after that as they all grieved silently.

Collin was examined and pronounced to be doing quite well considering what he’d been through. They wanted to keep him overnight again just to be on the safe side but that he should be well enough to go home the next day. A policeman came in to ask him what he recalled but could offer only what he’d said earlier.

After lunch, the women said they had to see their insurance agent and the employers of the men as well as visit the school to get the kids excused for the week. Sarah begged to be allowed to remain with Collin. She had no desire to go through the ordeal of planning the funerals. The nurses agreed she could stay until the mothers returned. The two friends held hands and periodically sobbed all afternoon.

When the mothers returned they explained that financially they should be well off which would let them have time to work out their future. Collin was allowed to go home the next day. Once discharged the women explained their decision that neither wanted to be alone. While Collin had been in the hospital, they had moved much of his clothing into the guest room of the Barnes home. The mothers would room together in the master suite as it had two twin beds that up to that point had been pushed together but were now separated.

Collin settled into the guest room without any undo discomfort. He’d spent time sleeping over in the past just as Sarah had done in the guest bedroom at his home when one or the other set of parents had wanted a weekend get-away.

Wednesday dawned cool and overcast. The mood in the home was quite somber as they dressed and ate a light breakfast. All to soon they were being picked up by the funeral home limo. They had a private half hour before the viewing to pay private homage to the men. All four cried and still wondered what had caused the uncharacteristic actions that had led to their untimely death.

The multitude of mourners paid their respects to the deceased then offered what comfort they could to the families. No one had any idea why the men had done what they did. It was a tragedy for everyone. Collin and Sarah stood side by side between their mothers numbly shaking hands or accepting hugs. The ordeal seemed barbaric but they understood it was what was expected. They were just glad there had been no viewing the night before.

There was a fifteen minute break after the viewing before the funeral service began. At least they grieving family could sit for that. Again the kids side by side. All too soon they were ushered out to the waiting limo as the pall bearers carried the caskets to the hearses. Soon they made the procession to the cemetery where the graves had been opened side by side in the adjoining plots. Instead of sitting beside the caskets, they sat at the head ends. Sheila and Sarah above Harry with Collin and Linda above John. Once more the kids were side by side.

Tears flowed freely as the caskets were lowered into the ground. Silently they returned to the limo to be driven to the church were the ladies of the church had prepared a luncheon. The guests spoke quietly as they recalled the men and did what they could to comfort the family.

It was dark outside by the time they made it home. The day’s events had worn them out. All were soon in bed trying to fall asleep.

Thursday and Friday they discussed their future. Linda and Sheila included the kids in the discussion. Many scenarios were discussed but many rejected. None of them wanted to remain in their home as the memories were too painful. They all agreed they wanted to stay together. Surprisingly, it was Sarah who asked if she and Collin could date if they were living in the same house. Collin had wanted to ask but was too embarrassed. The mothers assured them dating would be permitted but alone time in the home would be limited and if one was in the bedroom of the other, the doors had to remain open. The kids agreed.

The kids returned to school on Monday to be greeted with sympathy by their classmates... at least the girls... the boys simply avoided Collin as they had no idea how to handle grief. The mothers headed out to look at apartments in the area. They decided to find something local so the kids could finish the school year while at the same time getting out of their homes and putting them on the markets. Living in an apartment for three months would give them a chance to settle their finances and decide what they wanted to do.

Collin not only felt guilty for surviving the crash, he felt guilty for drinking the whiskey. From what he could recall, the men seemed to enjoy his efforts to ‘man up’ as they traded the bottle. Perhaps if he’d have stopped they would have stopped too. At the time swallowing the burning liquid had seemed to be an important part of being a ‘man’, but now he understood it had been utter stupidity. What really puzzled him was why the men had done it. It was so unlike them. Yet they had done it. Was it a man’s nature to do stupid things?

As the morose boy thought of those unanswerable questions, he drifted from the friendship of his school buddies. Initially they had stayed away when he’d returned after the accident because they didn’t know how to handle the situation. For his part, the guilt he felt for trying to prove he was a man made him shy away from the normal behavior of his buddies who were always engaged in
activities to prove their masculinity. Now that he’d stepped out of the macho rat race, he could see just how foolish and often just plain stupid the actions of the guys truly were. It shamed him to remember he was once a willing partner in the manly charade.

As they settled into a three bedroom apartment, the closeness of the females grew tighter. Collin, already feeling guilty for his macho stupidity, slipped to the periphery of the group. What lingering maleness he felt made him attempt to step up to the plate to be the man of the household. While not swaggering about he was insistent upon doing any ‘heavy’ work that might be required. It also compelled him to become the consummate gentleman, opening doors for the females, standing in the rain to let the women inside before himself and being almost obnoxiously polite. His behavior was not that of a male attempting to prove or show off his masculinity, it was that of a penitent ex-macho sinner.

The mothers and Sarah knew Collin felt lost and guilty but didn’t know how to help him overcome his devils. After a month they took him in for counseling. The going was slow but Collin understood he had to come to terms with his guilt.

By the time the school year ended, the neo-family had sold their individual homes and found a four bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood in the same school district. They moved in without a lot of fanfare and settled in. The women found sleeping alone unsettling and quietly moved into the master bedroom. There was a community pool just three blocks from their home.

Sarah and Collin went there every afternoon. Some of their classmates used the pool so Sarah already knew several of the girls. As for Collin, he knew the boys but saw their peacock like strutting to impress the girls and feeling ashamed of their behavior avoided them. In several instances he’d stepped between the guys and the girls when the boys’ antics verged on harassment. The silent solemn expression on Collin’s face almost instantly took the fun out of their juvenile teasing/flirting. Just as he’d finished the school year without a friend amongst the guys, the summer continued in the same manner.

Sarah tried her best to get Collin included in the activities of the girls. The girls didn’t object since they knew Collin had been traumatized by the crash and that he not only refused to fall into the macho posturing of the other boys, he regularly deflected it. The girls appreciated that Collin was able to tell the difference between unwanted flirting and reciprocated flirting.

Still, Collin was alone much of the time, submerged in his world of hurt and guilt. Even the therapist he was seeing couldn’t get him past that hurdle. The best she could do was to keep him from becoming suicidal. Sarah and the girls did their best to keep Collin’s spirits out of the dumps but even Sarah could not break through his morose mindset. As the weeks passed he spoke less and less, finally reaching the point of never initiating speaking. Even when someone initiated a conversation, he tried to respond with head nods, shakes and shoulder shrugs.

When school began, little changed. Collin was quickly shunted to the edge of seventh grade society. The staff and students understood Collin was still traumatized by the accident and made allowances for his anti-social behavior. That didn’t mean some students didn’t make fun of him, but Collin acted as if they didn’t exist. By Thanksgiving, Collin was self-isolated within the seventh grade and appeared to want it that way. The one thing that had not changed was his school work. All his assignments were completed on time and his grades were high. Sarah and he still walked to and from school together, but he always walked two steps behind her to make conversation difficult. If she had an after school activity, he’d go to the library to study until she was ready to head home. Nearly everyone was at their wits end trying to snap him from his fugue.

Like all the girls, Sarah was anxious for the semi-formal middle school Christmas dance held the last Friday before the Christmas holidays. In front of their mothers she told Collin she wanted him to escort her to the dance. Faced with the steely gazes of the three females, Collin sighed heavily and nodded his head. The women went into high gear as they helped Sarah select a pretty gown. Collin was outfitted in a new suit with a shirt that matched her dress. Collin didn’t drag his feet or behave as if escorting her was a chore, he silently stepped up to the plate like the gentleman he had become.

At the dance, Collin danced with Sarah whenever she seemed eager to do so. Several other girls stepped up to dance with the silent well behaved boy. Sarah used those opportunities to dance with a few other boys. Things went smoothly at first, but half way through the three hour dance a few of the wilder eighth grade boys were becoming obnoxious. They had stepped outside to quaff some hard liquor and smoke a bit of wacky weed. Naturally the girls shied away from those guys. The chaperones took notice of the burgeoning issue but no one wanted to make a scene and disrupt the dance since they had yet to step across the line.

The fact nearly all the girls wanted to dance with Collin while none wanted to dance with them angered the intoxicated boys. Everyone knew that despite his silence and solitude Collin still cared for Sarah. As they danced a slow dance, Sarah whispered in Collin’s ear she needed to visit the restroom and asked him to escort her in case the obnoxious guys tried to do anything in the hall way to the restrooms since the chaperones were in the gymnasium.

When the dance ended, the couple made their way to the hallway. Collin escorted Sarah to the girls’ then headed into the boys knowing he could take care of business and be back in the hall before Sarah exited. As Collin headed out of the restroom three of the strung out eighth graders barged in while a fourth more dimwitted goon stayed outside to keep anyone else out. Catching Collin off guard they easily overwhelmed him and slammed him face first into the tiled wall. With a bloody nose, stunned and surprised, two were able to restrain him by his arms while the third went to work pounding his gut. Laughing, they dropped him in a bloody heap on the floor.

Sarah exited the girls’ room expecting to see Collin. Instead she was met by the fourth boy. He grabbed her easily covering her mouth as he dragged her across the hall to the boys’ room. Opening the doors he shoved her inside telling the other guys he had a present for them.

Scared and confused as she stumbled into the room Sarah tripped over Collin. Only then did she see her bloody friend. Terrified she froze and the threesome grabbed her. Before she recovered enough to scream they had her mouth covered and were ripping the top of her dress to reveal her perky pre-teen budding breasts. The guys wasted no time in groping the struggling horrified girl. The leader ordered the others to force her to her knees as he undid his belt and let his trousers and boxers fall to the floor revealing his swollen manhood. By the time Sarah was forced, screaming, to her knees the exposed engorged manhood was aimed for her mouth.

Before he could force his way into her mouth an almost unearthly howl of pure fury echoed through the tiled room. Almost instantly the leader was slammed into the row of sinks by a double foot full body flying drop kick. His face slammed into the mirror shattering the glass crushing his nose as his teeth splattered his lips before several teeth broke. The bully was unconscious before he could rebound from the wall.

Having heard Sarah’s panicked desperate scream Collin had somehow pulled himself together. Staggering to his feet he saw what was happening to his beloved Sarah. With an anguished howl of delirium he took four running steps before leaping, aiming both feet at the monster about to assault the love of his life.

Before the unconscious attacker could slump to the floor Collin’s body landed atop him again slamming his face back into the now shattered glass of the mirror severely lacerating his face. The combined weight of the two boys proved to much for the two sinks beneath them. With a loud crash the sinks shattered dropping the two boys to the floor while causing water to spray everywhere from the four severed lines. The limp body beneath him absorbed the violent impact and Collin rolled off to his feet. Surprised and stunned, the two guys holding Sarah released her. Sarah fell backwards onto her butt and instinctively backpedaled away from her captors until she reached a wall of the room.

As Collin rebounded to his feet he didn’t pause but launched a vicious high spin kick that connected to the jaw of one of the remaining assailants. The crunching of jawbone and teeth was easily heard as the already unconscious body of that teen bully spun following it’s head as he collapsed to form an unmoving bloody heap on the floor. The third attacker took off fleeing the room only to be slammed backwards into the wall Collin had been initially slammed into.

As Collin landed after the spin kick he slipped on the wet floor. While he landed on his back his head bounced off the floor. Already physically battered by the initial assault, the blow to his head knocked him out. Having witnessed the mayhem and staggered by the carnage, Sarah rolled over and puked. The spraying water quickly diluted the upchuck adding to the slipperiness of the floor. Emotionally overwhelmed, Sarah fell away from the mess and curled into a ball by the wall trembling and crying pitifully.

The dimwitted guy guarding the door was startled by the loud bellow of Collin’s rage. Unsure what to do he hesitated. Looking at the door while hearing the crashing inside added to his confusion. Anxious and unsure, he guiltily looked back towards the gymnasium only to see two chaperones heading to investigate the unearthly howl. Panicking, he decided to rush in to warn his buddies to clear out. As he slammed the door inward it met unexpected resistance... his last conscious buddy trying to escape.

The slamming door suddenly met resistance and the stooge slammed his face into the unyielding wood. Blood spurted from his nose and lips as his front teeth snapped off. The bully fleeing the carnage was the resistance that had stopped the door. Just like the oaf, his nose, lips and teeth didn’t fare very well against the door that was slammed into his face. Bouncing back from the door, the bully fell backwards against the wall Collin had been initially slammed against. The back of his head slammed so hard the boy was knocked out and collapsed to the floor as blood spurted from his nose and mouth. Stunned and disoriented, the dimwitted guy bulled his way inside only to trip over the guy on the floor. After barely stumbling over him he slipped on the wet floor and fell backwards landing atop the guy he’d blindsided with his head bouncing off the floor in the open doorway.

As the stunned chaperones reached the rest room they saw the two bloody and stunned bullies blocking the door with red tinted flowing water on the floor. They could hear Sarah crying inside the room as well as hear the sound of running water. They immediately called for back-up and requested 911 be called for paramedics and police.

The room looked like a war zone. The chaperones began to triage the injured. The two assailants lying at the entrance were stretched out in the hall. Inside the room they began accessing the three bloody unconscious boys. The janitor on duty managed to find the main shut off valve. Sarah, still curled in a ball crying and with her bodice torn open, was carried out of the boys’ room and into the girls room. The other students were kept in the gymnasium.

The police were the first to arrive. They were stunned by the obvious savagery of the fight. It quickly became clear the four bigger older boys had attacked the younger and smaller boy and girl. As the paramedics arrived, they too were horrified by the injuries.

When the call came in Linda and Sheila were horrified. Horrible memories of the loss of their husbands primed their fears for their children. They wasted no time in getting to the school. At first they were turned away like all the other worried parents who rushed to the scene. It was only when their IDs were checked and verified that they were allowed to pass inside led by a policeman. The officer in charge assured Linda that although severely injured Collin was not in danger of dying and that he was already on his way to the hospital. Even though she wanted to rush to the hospital she stayed with Sheila as she was led into the girls’ restroom where a paramedic and chaperone, both female, along with a policewoman were attempting to calm Sarah who was still curled into a ball sobbing.

When Sarah heard her mother, she squealed and sat up. As Sheila knelt down Sarah almost tackled her to the floor. Linda caught the pair before that could happen. After a few moments of heart rending sobbing, Sarah regained a modicum of control and told of being grabbed after exiting the girls’ room, tripping over Collin lying in a bloody heap on the floor of the boys restroom as she was thrust inside, the groping and the nearly successful sexual assault. She described a scene of utter horror as somehow the badly beaten Collin furiously assaulted her attackers ripping two of them to pieces.

The paramedic and policewoman wanted to get Sarah to the hospital for an exam and treatment to calm her hysteria. Sheila agreed with the need to get prompt treatment. The policewoman wisely declared she would drive the three to the hospital as neither of the women were in shape to drive. It was also agreed the chaperone would drive their car to the hospital and the policewoman would bring her back to the school.

Collin was undergoing emergency surgery when they arrived. The staff assured them that although severely beaten Collin would pull through. Sarah was taken into a treatment room and examined but other that bruising was not physically injured. However, her mental state was a mess. Sheila had no issue with Linda joining them in the exam room as they gave Sarah meds to calm her anxiety. She begged them not to knock her out until they knew for sure Collin was going to pull through.

It took the doctors nearly four hours to patch him up. The weary surgeon, the same one who had patched Collin up in February, stepped into the exam room where Sarah and the women waited. The meds had Sarah quite mellow by then. The doctor smiled and assured them Collin would once more make a full recovery. After seeing the relieved expressions on their faces he smiled ruefully declaring that although he thought Collin was a good boy, he and the boy simply had to stop meeting as they were. The statement was accepted with the macabre levity it was made. Then the doctor detailed Collin’s injuries and that he was in serious condition having suffered a concussion, internal bleeding from the initial beat down and a broken nose. It was 4:00am before Linda was allowed to see her son, once more finding him in a bed with several IVs attached. She sat with him until dawn.

After the doctor checked Collin, he explained they wanted to keep him sedated for 48 hours to give his internal injuries a chance to heal. The counselor who was treating Collin for his lingering issues from the accident, Dr. Watkins, stopped in to speak to Sarah. Already familiar with the sympathetic doctor through Collin’s counseling, Sarah was able to at least talk a tiny bit about how she felt. Sedatives and anti-anxiety meds were provided before Linda and Sheila left the hospital about 10am with Sarah to head home for much needed rest.

Before they left a police investigator spoke to Sarah to review what had happened. What she told them the night before and that morning was consistent with the evidence they found at the scene. The investigator explained the four boys had spent the night in the hospital. Two were released earlier to police custody and were being booked into juvie and the other two would join them when they were released. The foursome had also been suspended from school pending expulsion by the school board.

The two who were released were the boy in the boys’ room who had tried to flee and the boy in the hall. The one from inside had a concussion, broken nose, black eyes and broken teeth. The other boy suffered a broken nose, split lips and broken teeth and a concussion. The leader of the bullies was in intensive care in critical condition suffering a severe concussion, a broken humerus and clavicle from the drop kick, lost three teeth with others snapped off, broken nose, lips lacerated and crushed by his teeth and his face looked like a jigsaw puzzle from the many lacerations caused by the broken mirror. The boy dropped by the spin kick was in critical condition with a severe concussion, shattered jaw and nearly a third of his teeth either knocked out or broken. There were also torn muscles and ligaments in his neck from the force of the kick. Marijuana and amphetamines were found in the leader’s pockets and all four tested positive for having used during or just before the dance. In addition, they were all legally drunk.

Sarah needed near constant medication as she simply could not deal with the sexual assault or the bloodbath. Both women did their best to comfort her and reassure her she was safe. Sheila stayed home with Sarah as Linda returned to the hospital and Collin.

When Collin finally awoke, the first thing he asked was if Sarah was okay. Linda told him that physically she was okay but that the incident had messed up her mind. When she saw his anxiety she rushed to assure him she was cognizant and lucid but emotionally messed up but that Dr. Watkins had spoken to her at the hospital and would be treating Sarah. Collin relaxed at that point, apologizing for not protecting Sarah. Linda shushed him telling him he did all that he could and had saved Sarah from the sexual assault being completed.

The police investigator arrived a bit after lunch to interview Collin on the events. The story he related was consistent with Sarah’s version and the evidence. Collin was relieved the four boys would be locked away for quite a while. Even knowing he’d prevented the sexual assault, he couldn’t escape the guilt for allowing her to be assaulted in the first place. Even the doctors telling him they had no idea how he had rallied to take out the two bigger boys did not assuage his guilt. Dr. Watkins spent time with him every day while he was hospitalized.

Sarah stayed home with her mother as Linda spent each day in the hospital. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve when he was finally discharged.

Sarah was glad Collin was coming home. She’d seen how savagely he’d been beaten and like the doctors had no idea how he’d rallied to save her. She felt even closer to him than before. Still, the horror of the near sexual assault and the bloody carnage haunted her.

When Collin finally arrived home, his eyes were yellowish purple of fading dual black eyes and his nose was bandaged. Taking one look at him, Sarah lost it and fled to her room in tears. The mothers were confused and upset with Sheila following her daughter. Sarah’s response only confirmed Collin’s guilt of coming home to face the love of his life after he’d failed her. It made him wish he hadn’t survived.

Sarah beat herself up for how she’d reacted but all she saw when she looked at Collin was the bloody nightmare he’d been when he saved her. Grateful for being saved, just looking at his injuries brought back raw living nightmares of the assault.

For Collin it only confirmed his guilt. Sarah hated him for failing her. Of course he was furious with the four boys. Their need to constantly prove their manhood had set them on their destructive course. What was it about masculinity that made sensible men like his father and Sarah’s dad to do something so stupid as getting an eleven year old inebriated and then driving drunk? What was it that drove those four boys to do what they did? Collin knew the answer was testosterone. It corrupted the minds of males. It seemed as though things that they would never do as an individual almost became a requirement when with other males. Machismo was the world’s worst and most tragic disease. Collin could see it happening to those he knew as they entered puberty, not that they had been free from macho stupidity before, but testosterone really aggravated the situation. What was worse was that Collin had succumbed to it on the ill-fated hunting trip. Sarah was now terrified of guys and even he scared her... but then what he’d done to those two guys terrified him. Every bloody detail was etched in his mind. It had been the burgeoning testosterone in his body fueled by adrenaline that had enabled him to pull himself together to rescue HIS girl. There was the damned masculinity... HIS GIRL... what right did a flawed person like him have to claim ownership of another? Just more evidence of the masculinity he now loathed.

The Christmas holiday was depressing. Collin was too ashamed to face Sarah and Sarah was too scared to see Collin. In their hearts they still cared for each other, but neither could overcome their demons. The family worked it out that the mothers spent time with one child while the other hid in their bedroom, then they swapped. It was an uncomfortable truce. Dr Watkins saw both twice during the holiday vacation. The guilt and discomfort was tearing down both children and their mothers.

After their last sessions during the holiday, Dr. Watkins realized neither child was mentally up returning to school. Both were suffering from severe PTSD and being amongst curious classmates would be quite detrimental. She contacted the school and explained her concerns.

For it’s part the school district was quite embarrassed and upset by the incident. That the chaperones were aware that the boys were looking for trouble but did nothing but watch was unacceptable. The damage done and the injuries suffered were unforgivable. When Dr. Watkins told them of the fragile mental stability of Sarah and Collin, the school quickly agreed to set up home tutoring for the pair until their issues could be resolved.

So when the other students returned to school in January, a retired teacher appeared at the Kline/Barnes home to teach the children. Despite twice weekly sessions with Dr. Watkins, neither child could bring themselves to face the other. Both cared so much for the other they willingly continued their bedroom alone time while the other enjoyed family time. For their class time, the teacher set up in the hall outside their bedrooms while the kids sat just inside their room. Their bedrooms were side by side with five feet between the doors to their rooms. The entrance to the master bedroom the mothers shared was directly opposite the space separating the kids rooms so the teach sat in that open door facing the kids who were hidden from the sight of the other. While they could talk together, both were uneasy doing so. Still, they pushed to do so as part of their education.

By the end of January, while not physically close the kids could be in the same room for short periods, but they studiously avoided looking at the other. Sarah was ashamed of her fear of Collin and Collin felt unworthy of Sarah. Both knew they were being silly, but the PTSD was still too powerful. Added to that was Collin’s still growing abhorrence of masculinity. It made him hate himself as well. Doing online research, he demanded they put him on a program of testosterone suppression to rid him of the manly poison.

Dr. Watkins was unable to talk Collin out of his belief that becoming a man with it’s accompanying testosterone invasion would make him continue doing stupid things thus putting those he loved at risk. After a month of twice a week sessions, out of frustration and desperation and after approval from colleagues and Linda, she put the boy on a program of testosterone blockers beginning with an injection and daily pills.

Collin’s spirits soared as he seemed to feel the testosterone poison flushing from his body. Within two weeks, the normal morning woody was a thing of the past. The previous angst about being poisoned by testosterone that had engulfed him dissipated. With that a tentative smile returned to his glum countenance.

When Sarah saw him smile, she too smiled for the first time since the incident. The two looked at each other beaming, yet there was still a wall between them. For the next few days, they could stay together for longer and longer periods, but frustratingly were unable to return to their previous closeness. Both clearly missed their former closeness.

By Valantines Day eve, Collin was determined to destroy the last bit of aloofness between them. He fully understood Sarah’s loathing of things masculine. Since the testosterone blockers had freed him from macho restraints, he felt he could think clearly. He and Sarah were soulmates. Neither could bear to partake of the masculine world. Since he so loathed being a boy and now that the testosterone was out of his body, he was able to objectively analyze his situation. The research that had led him to request the testosterone blockers inevitably led to information and the struggles of MTF transsexuals. One preteen in particular grabbed his attention. In fact, she became his heroine. Eleven year old Jazz was well-spoken and courageous about being a girl born with a boy’s body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wh6NecfMiE
Collin determined to escape the macho trap of his male body by following in the brave pioneering footsteps of Jazz.

While Sarah and their moms watched a movie, Collin feigned fatigue and headed to his bedroom. Once inside he locked the door, then slipped into the bathroom he shared with Sarah and slipped into Sarah’s bedroom. Carefully he opened the drawers of her dresser and removed articles of clothing. In her closet he removed a flirty pleated flowered skirt and the pink top Sarah normally wore with it. From the floor he scooped up a pair of shoes. From her dressing table he took a scrunchy and some jewelry. With his treasures, he returned to his bedroom, locking the bathroom door behind him.

Quickly he stripped out of his clothes and slowly slipped a pair of pink nylon panties into place. The slight bulge of his remnant masculinity was easily tucked back to give him a smooth front. With shaking hands he slipped the matching training bra about his tummy to hook the clasp in front before turning it about and slipping his arms inside. With a guilty smile he slipped the pads Sarah had used to increase her bust size before she filled the bra into place. Next came the pullover pink top with three quarter length sleeves with a cute kitten on the front. The snug top hugged his fake breasts in a most girlish manner. Breathing hard he stepped into a lace edged nylon slip before doing the same with the skirt. The way the combo swirled about his legs, especially the delicate lace of the slip, made him tingle with excitement. Sitting on his bed he donned kneesocks and a pair of simple Mary Jane shoes. Then he slipped on a necklace with a butterfly and some cute bangles. Last he brushed his hair into a high ponytail.

Looking in his mirror, he was pleased with the transformation. While the appearance was not as polished as he might have hoped, he didn’t look like a boy dressed as a girl. For several minutes he primped and posed. For the first time in nearly a year he felt almost normal. When he first thought of this bizarre idea he was afraid he’d look like a freaky caricature of a girl. To his delight he not only looked like a girl, the outfit felt right.

After removing the clothes and hiding them from view, he slipped into a slinky long sleeved waltz length nylon nightie. Hastily he unlocked the door and jumped into bed pulling the covers up to his neck to hide the nightie from view. About half an hour later his mom entered after a light knock to tuck him in with a loving kiss on the forehead.

When his alarm clock went off the next morning Collin stretched and sighed. For the first time in almost a year he’d slept through the night without a nightmare. For a few moments he snuggled under his covers luxuriating in the safe delightful sensations the silky nightie created. Almost reluctantly he sighed heavily as he tossed back the covers. Reluctantly he removed the nightie and slipped on his normal robe. As the coarse fabric touched him, he frowned. It was so uncomfortable as compared to the nice nightie. That revelation was just another nail in his still raw hatred of things masculine. Unlocking the bathroom door he opened it. At once he crossed to the door to Sarah’s room and threw the deadbolt the pair used to lock the other out when they were using it.

Quickly he did his morning routine, then unlocked Sarah’s door before heading into his room locking his door behind him. Moving quickly he locked his door to the hall then promptly shed the uncomfortable robe. Just as he did that he heard the door to the master bedroom and his mom and Sheila headed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. With growing excitement he pulled the clothes he’d tried on the previous night out of hiding. As he donned each piece, he spent a moment with his eyes closed as he analyzed the new but very delightful sensation each engendered. The loose fit of the bra cups saddened him a bit. But recalling the latest from Jazz, he hoped to soon begin estrogen HTR.

It took nearly an hour to dress and style his hair even trimming a bit of forward brushed hair into bangs before gathering the rest up in a high bouncy ponytail. As he worked he heard Sarah in their shared bathroom and then the opening and closing of her bedroom door as she walked towards the kitchen. Hastily he slipped through the bathroom to snag pink nail polish and a nail file. Awkwardly but determinedly he filed his nails into rounded ovals, then carefully applied the pink polish. As he waited for the polish to dry a knock came on his door.

“Collin, are you okay? Breakfast is ready,” Sarah spoke softly.

“I’m okay,” Collin answered. “I’m almost ready. I’ll be there shortly.”

“Okay,” Sarah replied.

Collin listened to her retreating footsteps while waving his fingers to speed the drying. When he was ready, he critically checked his appearance in the mirror. A smile slowly crept onto his face as he could see no sign of the boy he’d come to hate. In his place was new person, a somewhat cute girl. Collin was no more. All that remained was a shy smiling girl... Colleen... her name was Colleen.

Embolden by the revelation of her new identity, Colleen left her bedroom. Collin’s horrid life was now gone. With great relief Colleen headed to the kitchen.

Linda and Sheila sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee with their backs to the door. Sarah sat opposite them facing the door. They all heard what they thought was Collin finally joining them. Upon seeing the cute girl stop in the doorway Sarah’s eyes went wide and she spit out a nearly chewed bite of toast. Naturally the mothers were startled by the explosion of masticated toast. When they saw Sarah’s eyes they turned to see what had startled her. They both froze when they saw the smiling girl looking at them.

“I’m free,” the girl they knew was Collin spoke softly. “My name is Colleen. I’ve replaced Collin.” With those words she walked by the three stunned females to pull her chair out and daintily sit beside Sarah. Once seated, she leaned over and hugged her with a fervency that was undeniable. “I’ve missed being with you Sarah. I know you’ve missed me. We both hated Collin, not because he was a bad guy, but simply because he was a guy. I’ve put him away so we can both get our lives back on track. Sarah, I love you. Will you please be my Valentine for the rest of your life?”

Sarah melted into the embrace and enthusiastically returned the long desired hug. “I’ll be your Valentine if you’ll be mine,” she tearfully whispered.

Needless to say, the mothers were stunned, but to see their children finally able to touch each other easily blew away all opposition. Tears of joy and relief ensued as the mothers rushed around the table to join their loving children in a four way hug. It was the best Valentines day the four had ever had... but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.



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