Shades of White


Something tells you, you should go
Deep down you've always known
Something sweet is on the other side
Mama's gonna cry for you
Papa might disown you
You are getting ready for the ride

The gear lay on the bed. A favorite pair of jeans, ripped at the knee, covered by a pile of clothes for the layered protection, such as it was; and a very bright white Ginny Tee. Next to the clothes there lay a thick pair of wool socks; help to fill out sneakers that couldn’t compensate for feet that were way too narrow. And a pair of worn leather fingerless gloves; reinforced at the palms. Next to the gloves were wrist-guards and knee pads; these were the bulwark of the armor the kid was about to don.

“You ready?” The girl walked over to the dresser and hugged her friend; a good luck hug but more to come at day’s end.

“I feel good.”

“Jay?” The voice that called from down the hallway seemed more perturbed than the normally dreadfully urgent tones.

“Yeah, Ma?”

“I just don’t get it!” As if there would be an adequate ability to hold a conversation separated by a hallway and two rooms. Jay walked over to the door.

“I can’t hear you!” Loud enough to get the dual-message across. First, Jay couldn’t hear her well enough to understand anything softer than a scream. And second, Jay didn’t want to have a conversation that would end in frustration.

“You have to…” The words were cut short as Chelsea calmly closed the bedroom door and turned on the mix on the laptop, drowning out whatever words that might actually wend their way through the maze down to the bedroom. It would have appeared like a signal for a love-making session, but time was on its move toward the day’s events, and there would be not wasting of motion or word until Chelsea helped Jay get ready.

A knock came at the door; rather a sharp and rapid succession of demanding raps followed by words that no closed door could silence.

“Damn it, Jay. We have to talk!”

Wear this shirt you think you like
There's all kinds of shades of white
Embrace the colour in your life
You can't see beyond the wall
Paradise for those who fall
Out of grace, or simply out of sight

She thumped the door with the side of her fist and tromped down the hall. A second later Jay and Chelsea emerged; prepared for the confrontation that was inevitable as they walked slowly down the hall. Jay’s mom was in the kitchen sipping on a cup of lukewarm coffee. She looked up and saw the two standing in the archway between the kitchen and the living room. Chelsea waved sheepishly as if to say ‘sorry if we’ve upset you.’ She wasn’t sorry that they were doing what they had planned to do; just disappointed that it had come to angry words and glares between Jay and the woman who sat fidgeting at the table.

“I’m sorry, too,” Jay said, but not sheepishly at all.

“It’s too bad that you can’t accept the fact that I want to do this.” A sweep of the arm across the body indicated the intent behind the clothing.

“If your father were alive….” She said as she looked back and forth between the two.

“Mom….that got old a long time ago.” Jay’s Dad was alive and well and living in Portland with his mistress and her two brats.

“You know what I mean,” she snapped back. Chelsea actually took a step back and stood behind Jay.

“We spent all that money, and here you are dressed like that?” She stared at the figure before her; very much like any teen of that generation save for the protective gear reserved solely for people given to sliding down handrails on the edge of a board. Not at all an uncommon uniform for a warrior of the streets, so to speak.

“And? Your point?”

“All the preparations? And all the time invested in getting you what you said you wanted. And now this? What did we do it all for?

“What I did it for, Mom, was and still is to be who I am. We …..I talked about this with you. I’m going to be who I am, Mom.” A head shake followed by a sigh followed by an uncharacteristic display of emotions usually reserved for bedrooms and pillows and stuffed animals.

“Now don’t start! It hasn’t been easy. I did everything I could for you but now you’ve taken everything I…we’ve done and set it aside as if it wasn’t important at all.”

“Mrs. Coniglio?” Chelsea stepped out from behind Jay and spoke softly.

“It’s not about what Jay does, but who Jay is.” She shrugged her shoulders and sighed, echoing the unspoken frustration everyone felt.

“I know. It’s just like nothing we planned for is coming to pass; like all the work we did was for nothing.

“Not for nothing, Mom! I’m still me under all this stuff. Same child you bore. Same needs as always.

“It doesn’t look like it,” she said as Jay stepped closer.

“Look in my eyes, Mom. Have I changed since we started this all? Am I any different underneath?” The ‘underneath’ was deep down, well below the surface of the body that bore the armor. Jay leaned closer and kissed her, smiling through tears that didn’t need to be shed on a day already filled with apprehension.

“Wish me luck, okay?” Jay said, and would have ended it with that but for the strong embrace that spoke of apologies for things said and unsaid. Bettina hugged Jay and followed that with a kiss on the cheek; the lipstick blot only barely visible after a day of pursing and chewing of lips.

“I love you. No matter what!” She spoke softly through her own tears. Jenna Coniglio was off to another private if somewhat oddly public battle that was merely a skirmish in her ongoing war to be herself.

“Won’t things….I mean…I still don’t get all the ins and outs of it all, Jay. Aren’t you…won’t you…”

“No more than any other girl there, mom.” She looked down at her body; the barely visible curves underneath the layer of clothing; welcome additions to be sure, but held back by safe clothing and prudent display. New ‘friends’ that she cherished, even if they were hardly noticeable to anyone else but her…. and Chelsea.

“What did the Doctor say?” Bettina fretted.

“Wear the stuff that keeps things from breaking…much…and you’ll be okay?” She looked down again; a boyish figure; likely the one she would bear her whole life, but underneath, hiding behind the clothing and the soon to be adjusted accoutrements of an existence soon abandoned but never forgotten and forever a part of her.

“Mrs. Coniglio?” Chelsea spoke up once again.

“We promise we’ll be back in time….today’s only pre-lims ‘cause they split things up….because of tonight. I’ll make sure we get back.” She smiled and her eyes drifted toward the clothes hook hanging off the door by the ironing board. Two garment bags hung off the hook; both clear, revealing the contents beneath. Almost a visual representation of what Jay had tried to tell her mother.

“I know. I’m just nervous. It’s not every day that my daughter gets to go to her Senior Prom,” she sighed with a half-smile. Another time in the not so distant past there would have been only one gown hanging on the door and some mufti that was ill-suited, if you’ll excuse the expression for her child. Johnny Coniglio still lived, of course, but in entirely different ways and with a name that only Jenna had spoken to herself in the quiet sanctuary of her room.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She looked over at the garments and smiled.

“I don’t mind at all, and besides, there’s more than one side of me that I need to show.” She looked down at her chest once again. A sports bra in the late morning would give way to her first push—up bra in the evening. But as much as she might look forward to gowns and corsages for her and Chelsea both, she’d always be a jeans and tee shirt kind of girl….

Someone out there will hate you now
But what you take is what you allow

Wear this shirt you think you like
There's all kinds of shades of white
Embrace the colour in your life
You can't see beyond the wall
Paradise for those who fall
Out of grace, or simply out of sight

So won't you come over here?
Come over here
Come over here

Come Over Here
Words and music by
Jimmy Harry and the performer
Sarah Bettens

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This story is 1528 words long.