The Three Wise Punks

The Three Wise Punks

Jennifer Sue

Prank Gone Bad:

The three wise punks sat in the hard uncomfortable seats in the office of Lincoln Middle School. All three were fidgeting and worried. They were really in for it this time. The principal really chewed them out and now they sat waiting for their parents to come pick them up. It had been a joke, just a harmless prank. They had no idea that anyone might end up being hurt. Yet there they sat facing possible suspensions, or at best a month of after school detention. It was only the beginning of October... what would the rest of the year be like?

Jeff Gordo’s mom was the first to arrive. Jeff sank down in his chair as he withered under her fierce gaze. The lad had no doubts he’d be spending most of tonight and tomorrow standing. Normal punishment was a vicious whipping with the wide belt his dad pulled from his pants. This time would be far worse because of what they’d done. Mrs. Gordo disappeared into Principal Davis’ office. The wait seemed like an eternity but it had only been fifteen minutes until the door opened and the irate woman stalked out followed by Principal Davis. Without a word, Jeff stood and followed his mom out of the office walking like a condemned but stubborn man on his way to the gallows.

Karl Linsey’s mom, Julie, arrived fifteen minutes later. She shot her son a withering gaze as she headed into the office. Five minutes later she exited the office with Principal Davis just as the guidance counselor Mrs. Horner, arrived.

“Please take Karl and his mother to his locker,” Principal Davis instructed. “It’s been decided to transfer him to St. Anne’s Parochial School. Collect all his books and make sure he removes all his personal belongings.”

“Mom please,” Karl begged as tears began flowing down his cheeks. “I don’t want to go to St. Anne’s! Please...”

“Not another word,” Mrs. Linsey growled. “You knew what would happen if you got into trouble again! St. Anne’s is a wonderful school! Your great grandmother, grandmother, and I are graduates of St. Anne’s. I have no doubt you will be quite sorry going to school at St. Anne’s, at least until you learn to behave! The nuns will not tolerate your antics! Now, get up!”

With that Karl slowly stood and with his head hung low led his mother and Mrs. Horner off towards his locker.

Alex Ford shivered feeling sorry for his friends. Jeff would be whipped, Karl would be going to the strictest school in the county. With Karl being transferred, their friendship was being destroyed. Their well deserved reputation as the three wise punks they’d earned the previous year was at an end. Sitting alone in the chair he wondered what his mother would do to him. She would be so disappointed with him. Hanging his head in shame, tears of sorrow and regret began to trickle from his eyes and silent sobs of regret soon shook his body.

An hour and a half later his mother entered the office. Alex raised his red eyes and tear streaked face to apologetically look at her. His heart shuddered as he saw the deep disappointment in her tired hollow eyes. Without a word she shuffled her emaciated body to the front counter, clearly grateful for the support it offered.

Principal Davis sternly emerged from his office just as he had for the other mothers but his face softened when he saw Janet Ford. Immediately he hurried to her. Alex couldn’t hear his words but his mother nodded and accepted his arm as he gently led her into his office.

At that moment Alex really hated himself. How could he so cruelly hurt his mother? What kind of a son was he to torture his mom? The prank had seemed so harmless. Three cans of shaving cream, three bottle caps from 12 ounce sodas, and a bunch of heavy duty rubber bands. Place the bottle cap on the push button of the shaving cream, hold it in place with a rubber band, then wrap five more rubber bands, bottom to top, ready to snap into place atop the bottle cap, then securing the top to bottom bands in place with other rubber bands about the circumference of the shaving cream can. They prepared the cans in the boy’s room, then coordinating their watches, scurried to the three entrances of the auditorium where the eighth graders were taking a state mandated test. AS one they snapped the five rubber bands in place. At once shaving cream began to spew out. Opening the three doors they rolled the shaving cream spraying cans down the aisles of the auditorium. Hastily they closed the doors and rushed back to the boys’ room. Unfortunately Principal Davis was just rounding the corner looking for three seventh grade boys who had once more cut study hall. The screams echoing from the auditorium and the boys’ hurried flight left no doubt they were responsible.

The three cans did as the boy’s planned. They rolled down the length of the aisles spraying shaving cream all over. Dozens of students were hit by the spewing foam, the guys cursing and the girls screaming. One of the proctors attempted to run up the aisle in an effort to catch the perpetrators, but he stepped on a bit of the shaving cream and slipped. Totally off balance, he slammed into the seats on one side, breaking his arm on impact. Alex sniffled as he forlornly shook his head. No one was supposed to get hurt. Why had he let himself be roped into the prank?

It didn’t really take a lot of thought to answer that. Alex had fallen in with Jeff and Karl because the three were outcasts and losers.

His father, Hank Ford, was a macho man and abusive. Alex had never been able to live up to his dad’s expectations. His lack of sports acumen had frustrated the tough man. Alex shivered as he recalled the obscene tirades he’d endured as his shortcomings were thrown in his face. It seemed the harder Alex tried to do as his dad wanted the worse his performance became. Due to his lack of sports ability and his dad’s constant tirades, none of the other boys wanted anything to do with Alex. When he was in fourth grade his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a double mastectomy and weeks of chemo-therapy Janet pulled through. However the radical treatments took quite a toll on her health. Hank didn’t handle it well. Having his sex partner not only incapacitated but disfigured infuriated him. In order to cope, he began to drink heavily and his behavior became violent.

Janet had nine months of remission. Just as Alex finished fifth grade, the cancer came back. Once more his mom underwent chemo. Hank went on a week-long bender. It probably would have gone on longer but he wrapped his pick-up truck around a tree. Janet’s weakened condition made dealing with Hank’s death much worse. Alex was stunned by the death, yet he guiltily felt a sense of relief that his tormentor was gone. Without being asked, he picked up the slack around the house while his mom was incapacitated by the chemo. With her guidance, he cleaned, did the laundry, and made the meals. Mom and son grew quite close. Without the constant barrage of negativity about his lack of masculinity, Alex seemed to bloom. In fact, he took great pride in doing the housework. By the end of the summer, Janet was once more in remission. Alex was happier than he’d ever been and Janet was delighted that he’d stepped up to the plate. The only cloud on the horizon was starting sixth grade in middle school.

By the end of the first week Alex found himself once more pushed to the fringes. Complicating matters was that his previously borderline sissy behavior had crossed the hidden line. While he’d been able to ghost through elementary school, in middle school he was openly harassed for being a sissy. The only guys that didn’t pick on him were Jeff and Karl. It didn’t take long for Alex to become friends with the duo, almost by default.

Not fitting into the social matrix, the trio began to establish their own place in the hierarchy. Granted, it might have been on the fringe, but they still had a place. Their pranks quickly earned them the enmity of the girls, grudging respect by the guys, and frustration for the school staff. Not a month passed without them winding up on in-school detention.

Alex used the grudging acceptance of his peers to leverage himself away from his sissy reputation. In the process, he carried his disdain for all things sissy home. Janet was frustrated to see the happy boy she’d had over the summer fade as his behavior and attitude became obnoxious. No longer did he help around the house. Their close relationship deteriorated. Janet and Alex both realized that he was slowly becoming more like his father. That didn’t sit well with either, but it seemed as if they were on a runaway train heading for destruction.

Then in September of Alex’s seventh grade year a follow-up exam revealed Janet’s cancer had returned... in her lymph system. Tumors were appearing on nearly every internal organ. The doctors held out little hope but knowing she had a duty to Alex, she once more began chemo in the hopes she could stave off her death long enough to make arrangements for Alex’s care.

The chemo once more played havoc with her strength. Knowing there would be no remission took away all hope. Alex knew the cancer had returned and once more began helping about the house. But it became clear to the boy this time there would be no remission. In frustration and anger, much like his dad had done, he avoided his mom as much as possible. Inside he was horrified and also frightened knowing he was about to be orphaned. Whenever Janet attempted to discuss his future he’d run to his room. The only solace he found was to throw himself into his actions with Jeff and Karl.

Alex knew being called into the school was a horrendous ordeal for his dying weary mom and he felt ashamed. But he simply didn’t know what to do. As he sat waiting for his mom to come out of the principal’s office he found himself wishing he was the one with terminal cancer.

Principal Davis came out of the office with Janet clutching his arm for stability. It was quite evident she’d been crying and was exhausted. Alex sprang from his chair rushing to his mom’s side.

“Mom, I’m so sorry,” he blubbered as he took her other arm. “I was stupid to go along with the prank. It’ll never happen again, I promise!”

Janet looked at him with sad eyes. “I know you won’t do it again while I’m alive. But what about after I’m gone? You keep trying to prove you’re a man by doing dumb things! If you’d only be true to yourself and not worry about what others think! Alex, I’m not afraid to die. I’ve made peace with God. But what am I going to do about you? How can I make sure you grow up to be a good person? Honey, I’m just so tired of fighting. First it was with your father, now it’s you. I’d really just like to die peacefully.”

“Mom... I’ll stop being so stupid, I promise,” Alex sniffled as he desperately clung to his mother’s arm.

“Alex,” Principal Davis sternly stated. “Your mother has convinced me to give you another chance. Normally I would never agree to something like that after what you did. However, there are extenuating circumstances. Outside of your classes, you’ll be on in school detention for the next two months. You will go directly home after school. You will do all your assignments. You will stay out of trouble. Any misconduct... and I mean ANY... and I’ll have no choice but to contact children’s services to report that due to her condition your mother can not handle you. You’ll end up a ward of the state. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Alex sniffled. “Thank you, sir, I promise not to let you or mom down! Thank you!”

“Very well, Alex,” Principal Davis softened. “Now take your mother home so she can rest.”

“Yes sir, thank you,” Alex sniffled as he helped his mother from the office.

A tear trickled down Principal Davis’ face as he watched Janet shuffle toward the parking lot. As he turned around, the entire office staff was dabbing their eyes. “I hope she can find someone to take Alex in before she dies. He’ll never survive foster care.” He nodded at the staff and returned to his office.

After Leaving The Office - Jeff:

Once they were seated in their beat up Jeep, Donna leaned over and slapped Jeff on the back of his head. “Damn it, Jeff, why cant ya stay da fuck outa trouble?” With that she started the engine. With the tires squealing she tore out of the Lincoln Middle School parking lot. “Just wait til yar ol man see’s ya! He’ll whoop some sense ina that stupid head a yars!”

Jeff shrank away from his irate mom doing his best to keep from trembling and crying. Showing fear was a sign of weakness he could not afford to display. Experience had taught him doing either just led to harsher punishment. Jeff preferred terming his parents as rednecks rather than the white trailer trash they actually were. They liked to drink, smoke pot and have fun. They really didn’t care if an action was right or wrong as long as it was fun. But the most important thing was not to get caught. Getting caught created problems and meant you were too stupid to avoid getting snagged. Every harsh physical punishment he’d received came from getting caught which embarrassed his parents. But trying to be a well behaved boy was not allowed since that meant he was wussy.

As a result Jeff had become a risk taker and gambler which made him a bit dangerous to be around. By the end of first grade, he’d burned up most potential friendships. Getting into fights was simply a way of life. While he was expected to win any fights, they accepted losing brawls as long as he dished out better than he got. By the time he reached middle school no one wanted to hang with him. Even though lonely, he strutted around with a chip on his shoulder. The new classmates quickly learned that although he was one of the smaller guys, he was tough and wiry. Bloodying him or knocking him on his butt didn’t stop a fight, it only upped the ante. By the end of the first month of sixth grade, the jocks and toughs avoid antagonizing him. With his reputation secure, Jeff settled into a routine where he could be the tough redneck while avoiding the more mainstream cliques. It was the safety his image offered that had drawn Karl and Alex to hang with him. He was the defacto leader of their threesome, the three wise punks. He was the one who devised the pranks they pulled.

By the time he’d completed his musings they were turning into the forested dirt lane that led to their home. The fifteen acre forested property was five miles outside of town. A six foot high rusted wire mesh fence surrounded their property and it was heavily posted with no trespassing signs, warnings that intruders would be shot on sight and beware of the attack dogs. Jeff jumped from the jeep to open the heavy steel and wire gate which groaned and creaked as it swung open. In the distance he could hear the dogs begin barking, their raucous cacophony growing louder as they charged for the gate. His mom drove through and just kept on going. Shaking his head he grabbed the mail before closing the gate, just as the five pitbulls reached him. Recognizing the kid that fed them they jumped all over him, practically knocking him down. Accompanied by the dogs he began the trek up the winding five hundred feet long lane. The lane led into the southern side of a nearly circular cleared area of about two acres. Their beat up trailer sat opposite the lane near the tree line. The carcasses of half a dozen rusting pick-ups and SUVs were scattered about. The large vegetable garden in the center was nearly barren now that the growing season had ended. An old travel trailer by the eastern tree line of the clearing was where his dad ran the meth lab. An old box truck near the west tree line held the still where he brewed his moonshine. The entire perimeter of the clearing was filled with marijuana plants.

As he entered the clearing Jeff saw his dad, George emerging from the meth lab, wiping his hands on the legs of his coveralls. The sour look on his face let Jeff know he was really in for it.

With an angry scowl he hollered, “What da fuckin hell did ya do dis time, ya stupid lil shit?”

“W... we made shaving cream bombs and rolled them down the aisles of the auditorium while the eighth graders were taking a test,” Jeff answered with as much bravado as he could muster.

“Thas a good un, all raght,” he chuckled then turned serious. “But ya went an got yaself caught, dint ya?”

“Yeah, but no one was around when we started,” Jeff explained. “The principal caught us as we were getting away.”

“Ya dumb fuck,” George frowned.

“Yeah, but da worst part is one o da teachers givin da test slipd an broke ‘is arm,” Donna added. “Mush fer brain here’s got in school an afta school detention fer da nex two munts.”

“Fuckin A,” George scowled as he dropped the shoulder straps of the coveralls and pulled his leather belt from his jeans. “Ya gonna take it like a man or is I gonna havto chase ya down?”

“I... I’ll take it like a man,” Jeff squeaked out as he stood tall.

“Yad better,” George smirked as he looped the belt in two. “Right na I’m holdin da buckle. Ya run an da buckle‘ll be on da udder end!”

The pit bulls knew what was going happen. They quickly moved between Jeff and his dad and began to growl at George.

“Boy, ya’ll betta call off dem damn dawgs,” George scowled as he reached behind his back and pulled a nasty looking 9mm pistol from it’s place in the waistband of his jeans. “Nun a us wanna see dem die, naw do we?”

“Jake, NO! Go lay down, NOW!” Jeff ordered the lead dog.

Jake looked at Jeff then back at George. Seeing the pistol in his hand he knew the noise maker was dangerous. With a growl letting George know he wasn’t happy Jake slowly headed back to their dog house... the back of a wheel-less rusty SUV with the back hatch welded open. The other pitbulls followed.

Only when the last dog entered their shelter did George turn back to Jeff and lash out. SWAP! SWAP! SWAP! The harsh sound of the savage blows echoed around the large clearing. They struck Jeff on the thighs, stomach, hands, forearms and ass as George wailed away. How... many... fuckin... times... do... I... gotta... tell... ya... not... ta... get... caut!... Hell... boy... wise... da... hell... up!... If... I... was... as... dumb... as... ya... I’d... be... in... friggin... jail!

Each word was spoken as George wound up for the next blow. Jeff bit his lip to stifle the cries of pain trying to escape. He couldn’t hold back the tears but he’d learned the tears were overlooked as long as he didn’t sob and didn’t flea. It took every ounce of his being to remain standing while enduring the beating.

“Na go ten da pot and feed da dawgs!” George ordered. “Just cause ya got a whippin ain’t no scuse ta slack offn yar chores! Oh... we aint gonna be pickin ya up afta detention. Ya jus gonna hafta walk home!”

Jeff gave a quick nod of his head before he limped over to the tool shed for the wheelbarrow. It took all his willpower to keep from sobbing. He’d learned the hard way sobbing always meant more punishment in the ‘I’ll give ya sumthin to cry ‘bout’ mentality.

That night as he lay in bed Jeff wished there was some way he could get back at his parents. Plots of sweet revenge for the savage beatings swirled through his mind as gingerly tried to find a position that didn’t aggravate his many bruises.

After Leaving The Office - Karl:

Karl sat nervously beside his mother as they drove home from school. It would be so much easier if she’d yell at him. Instead she ignored him. Lowering his head he sighed softly so as not to draw her ire. There was no doubt in his mind that she loved him. She regularly told him that he was the most important thing in her life. Yet he continually hurt her, certainly not intentionally, mostly when he tried to fit in with the other guys.

Julie fumed as she drove. She loved her child and knew she expected a lot from him. Occasional lapses she could forgive, but since entering middle school his behavior steadily slipped. While she knew he was simply trying to fit in with his peers, she didn’t want him to fit in with the other boys, she wanted him to be better. While she didn’t hate men, she did hate unbridled strutting machismo. She’d fallen for a swaggering senior jock when she was a sophomore. Going to the senior prom had been such a high.

It was the after prom party that taught her a harsh lesson. First came the pot, second the vodka and orange juice, third was the bed. By the time she realized she was pregnant he was off to college, never to return. Her father went through the roof and threw her out of the house in disgrace. She’d moved in with her maternal grandmother where her mother soon joined them. The parental divorce was bitter, but her mom never hesitated. “If the macho bastard really loved you we’d still be together,” her mom declared. “It took your pregnancy to open my eyes. So we’re well rid of him!”

Karl well knew of those connected events, he’d heard the tale often. Along with each retelling came the pronouncement that his mom would NEVER allow him to grow up to be a macho bastard. He’d heard it and similar statements of disgust about macho guys all his life. As the only male in a house with three women he often felt like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Great grandmom June and grandmom Helen would be just as disappointed with his antics as his mom. The threat of being sent to St. Anne’s had been a constant since he first got into trouble the previous year. Now it was happening. They’d even taken him there last spring to see what it was like. The memories made him shiver.

The boys seemed little more than puppets. They had to wear hard black thick leather lace-up oxford shoes with black socks. Sneakers were not allowed. Then came dark green, light green and pink plaid dress pants with sharp creases. Then there was the crisp pink satin dress shirts, buttoned all the way up with a dark green, light green and pink plaid necktie in a neat Windsor knot. It was stressed that clip on ties were forbidden. But the worst thing was the dark green, light green and pink sports coat with the school’s crest on the front, worn year round! They looked like sissies! The boys were totally subdued, afraid of doing anything that might get them in trouble.

The girl’s uniform consisted of black leather Mary Jane strap shoes with pink kneesox, a just above the knee dark green, light green and pink plaid skirt with sharp one inch knife pleats held up by an inch wide pink belt. The pink satin blouse featured ruffled lace button placket with a matching Peter Pan collar. While it had to be buttoned all the way, the neck was less restrictive than the boy’s shirts. The long sleeves ended in ruffled lace cuffs that peaked out of the dark green, light green and pink plaid bolero jacket which completed the uniform. The girls had a choice of wearing their hair in a high bouncy ponytail at the back or in twin high ponytails just above their ears. The ponytails were secured with three intertwined ribbons, one dark green, one light green and one pink.

The girls looked cute, the boys looked uncomfortable. But discipline was always nearby. Except for the clacking of shoes upon the polished wooden floors, the halls were silent as the students moved between classes. Unsmiling nuns stood guard monitoring the class exchanges.
Getting anything dirty, talking without permission, even sighing was cause for corporal punishment. Karl had sworn he’d never do anything to make his mom enroll him there!

Karl’s troubled musing ended as they pulled into the driveway of their home. There had to be some way he could avoid being sent to St. Anne’s! As soon as they entered the house he headed for his bedroom where he could hide out and avoid doing anything to irritate his family.

When he was called down for supper, grandma Helen and greatgran June glared at him. The silence was deafening. Without being told he gathered the dirty dishes and took them into the kitchen, rinsed them and placed them in the dishwasher. The women knew as well as he did that doing the task unbidden was merely a way to stave off the ensuing scolding.

As he tried to slip past the living room where they were waiting he was spotted and ordered to face the music. With his head hung in shame he meekly stood before them and endured their lectures. When they finally finished they asked him what he had to say for himself.

“The only thing I can say is that I’m sorry,” he softly replied. “Everything you said was correct. I really messed up and deserve to be punished. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

His easy submission surprised them. They had been prepared to harshly shut down any arguments or pleas for mercy. After a few moments greatgran June spoke. “So you’ll go to St. Anne’s without any argument?”

A visible shiver of dread passed through Karl before he softly spoke, “Yes.”

“So you’re willing to wear the uniform and necktie?” she asked incredulously.

“No,” Karl answered truthfully. “I HATE the uniform but I’ll wear it if I have to.”

“The uniform is one of the main reasons the boys are so well behaved,” grandma added.

“That’s because it has to be terribly uncomfortable,” Karl answered. “Just wearing it will keep a guy out of trouble.”

What totally surprised the three women was that the uniform had been designed for that exact purpose. Then June smiled evilly. “What would you be willing to do to not have to wear the boys’ uniform?”

A tiny glimmer of hope appeared in Karl’s doom and gloom. “Anything!”

“Really, you’ll do anything,” June chuckled. “Without even knowing what the alternative is you’d be willing to take it sight unseen?”

“Yes,” Karl replied without hesitation.

“Okay, we’ll come up with an alternative. But understand, you’ll HAVE to do whatever we decide. Now you may go to bed. We’ll discuss an appropriate alternative and let you know our decision in the morning,” June declared.

With that Karl headed for the stairs and the sanctuary of his bedroom, praying they’d come up with something easier to handle that horrible boys’ uniform at St. Anne’s. The fact it was only 7:30 didn’t bother him as long as he got away from them. Part of him worried that he’d accepted the alternative not knowing what it was but figured it certainly couldn’t be worse than the yucky St. Anne’s boys’ uniform. He didn’t know his mother had gone out shopping after he’d headed upstairs.

After Leaving The Office - Alex:

By the time they reached the car in the parking lot of Lincoln Middle school, Janet Ford was exhausted. Alex helped her behind the wheel, buckled her in, shut the door and hurried to the passenger side. After buckling himself in he leaned over and hugged her arm, resting his head against her. He could almost feel her life ebbing and realized his escapade was hastening her death. They sat for fifteen minutes before she felt strong enough to drive.

Once home, he helped her inside. Greatly weakened, he assisted her as she laid upon the sofa. She smiled weakly at him for a moment before she drifted into an exhausted sleep. Alex let the tears flow. How could he have been so stupid? Never again, he promised himself. He’d make her proud of him... even after she d...died.

Finally he got up and headed into the kitchen where he made himself a light supper. Even though he wasn’t hungry he knew he had to eat. Filling the tea kettle with water he put it on to heat knowing his mom liked a cup of tea when she woke. Then sitting at the table he began his homework. It was difficult to concentrate. In his mind he replayed his remorseful thoughts and his mother’s words.

It was her admonition to be true to himself that ate at him. How could he be true to himself if he didn’t even know what that meant? What was his true self? It certainly wasn’t trying to be a some macho jerk like his dad! Yet wasn’t that exactly what he’d been doing hanging with Jeff and Kurt? He hated that claptrap yet he’d fallen into it almost as if his dad was still there pushing him to MAN UP!

Then he thought back to the times he’d been truly content and happy. It surprised him to realize those times had only been when his dad was not around. In fact, the months after his dad’s death had been the happiest he could recall. He’d taken care of his mom, taken care of the house, in truth he’d cared about everything! Going back to school had poisoned him. He’d thrown away his happiness to stupidly strive to MAN UP! Everything had gone downhill from there. To escape from being hassled as a sissy he had done the very things his dad had attempted to force him to do! God, how stupid he’d been! Never again, he promised himself. He’d learned his lesson! No more macho crap for him! If he had to be a sissy to be happy, then that’s what he’d do! It would make his mom’s last days happy... with that thought he put his head in his arms atop the table and began to cry.

Janet slowly woke. Disoriented at first, as the fog cleared she recalled the horrible day. How was she going to take care of Alex? He needed her! Then she heard the quiet heart rending sobs coming from the kitchen. Slowly she got to her feet and shuffled to the kitchen, moving from one piece of furniture to another for support. When she saw Alex balling his eyes out her heart melted.

Alex melted into his mom’s loving hug for a few moments before snapping back to reality. Quickly disengaging, he guided her to sit by his side. “Chamomile tea?” He asked. When she nodded he went to the cabinet, withdrew a bag of tea, placed it in a mug, and poured the hot water into it.

Janet smiled as she accepted the steaming mug. The good child she knew Alex to be had resurfaced. The two sat and snuggled for a long time.

That night sleep wouldn’t come for Alex as he thought about what it would mean to be a sissy. A sissy was a boy who behaved like a girl. Girls were caring and loving, things he definitely liked. Those certainly weren’t bad things! He’d thoroughly enjoyed that summer after his dad’s death. It was the teasing that got to him when he returned to school. That coupled with his damned puberty! That testosterone was a poison. It was changing him in ways he didn’t like. It wanted to make him like his dad. There had to be a way to prevent that! The first chance he got he’d research his options on the internet. At some point he dozed off.

Next Day Going To School - Jeff:

It took all of Jeff’s will power to crawl out of bed. There were dozens of welts covering his body. He’d have to wear a long sleeved shirt to cover the bruises on his arms. Gingerly he went through his morning routine, ate a bowl of cereal, then walked down the long lane to the bus stop. His parents were still asleep. They normally stayed up until one or two in the morning taking care of business. Jeff knew they didn’t sell to the users, only dealers. That greatly reduced the chance of getting caught.

In the first class Jeff gingerly sat down in his seat. Karl’s seat was noticeably empty. Alex sat almost primly erect, both feet flat on the floor with his hands folded upon the desk top. Word of what they’d done and the consequences had circulated through the school. They knew Karl had been yanked out. That Jeff was on two months of in and after school detention didn’t surprise them. What they didn’t understand was why Alex had only gotten in school detention. But looking at him they could see he’d changed. Those who knew him from elementary school could see the sissy had returned.

The teachers were quite short with Jeff all day. Not that he blamed them, after all, he was responsible for hurting one of their own. He vowed to toe the line just as Alex seemed to be doing. Besides, it’d take at least three weeks for him to recover from the beating. Taking inspiration from Alex, he was on his best behavior during his in and after school detention. Since he never had the chance to do homework or study at home, he decided to use the detention do the work.

After school detention lasted an hour. The five mile walk home was boring. Instead of getting there at 3:30, it was a bit after 6:00. His parents had made a point of eating supper early so he simply did his chores and went to his bedroom.

Next Day Going To School - Karl:

The next morning he was rousted from be earlier than normal. In a daze he meekly followed instructions to take a bath in scented water. While the warmth felt good he realized the lilac scent would be on him all day. Even having his hair shampooed and conditioned by his mom didn’t faze him. It wasn’t until he was ushered back to his bedroom that the horror of his stupidity hit him.

Laid out on his bed was a complete St. Anne’s uniform... but it was the GIRLS’ uniform! “Y... you said I didn’t have to go to St. Anne’s if I accepted an alternative!”

“No, we were quite specific,” Helen smiled with satisfaction seeing his horror. “What we said was, ‘What would you be willing to do to not have to wear the boys’ uniform?’ You replied, ‘Anything.’ Then we questioned you, ‘Really, you’ll do anything? Without even knowing what the alternative is you’d be willing to take it sight unseen?’ You said ‘Yes.’ Then we told you, ‘Okay, we’ll come up with an alternative. But understand, you’ll HAVE to do whatever we decide.’ Then you agreed to accept the alternative we selected! Now, let’s get our NEW schoolgirl dressed!”

Karl knew better than to protest. He’d allowed them to pull a fast one on him and he was stuck. As they dressed him, including a cute padded bra, he felt tears sliding down his bright red cheeks as he tried to reason with them. “Everyone will know I’m a boy! I’ll probably get thrown out by the time classes start!”

“You will not get thrown out,” Helen declared. “St. Anne’s accepts transgender students, letting them behave and dress as their mental gender. When I attended St. Anne’s one of my girlfriends was born male. Each year up through the eighth grade the school has a tradition of a crossover week for the boys. A schedule is established to evenly spread the crossover week throughout the school year so only one boy per class is crossdressed at a time. That allows the staff to monitor the boy for correct behavior and to insure the other boys don’t harass him. During their week the selected boys must wear the girls’ uniform and are to behave like girls. The sisters also encourage the parents to keep the selected boys dressing as girls outside of school for the week. We girls certainly did all we could to encourage the crossdressed boys to be girly!”

Karl was confused. “Why do they make the boys do it while the girls don’t?”

“That’s easy,” June smiled. “Unlike boys, girls seldom get involved in mischief. At the same time, boys assume they are better than girls and don’t respect girls. Many also seem to enjoy teasing girls, especially since they have to wear skirts to school every day. By making boys spend a week as a girl they literally walk in girls shoes. In other words, they learn firsthand that being a girl is just as challenging as being a boy. They develop respect for girls and females in general.”

Karl shivered. “But that has to be terrible for a guy! They must really look stupid wearing the girls uniform.”

“Not really,” Helen chuckled. “Physically, boys and girls are quite alike through the eighth grade. It’s only when male puberty hits that it becomes difficult to make a boy look like a convincing girl. Before that it’s easy to make boys look like authentic girls. The policy is not to embarrass the boy, but to make open his eyes. The first rule is that NO ONE in any way teases a crossdressed boy. The boys who are not crossdressed either have already done the same or soon will be doing the same. Since boys look like girls it also takes the boys down a few pegs since their macho self image is kept from becoming too big. It really calms them down.”

Karl sadly nodded his head acknowledging what had been said.

“We did our best to involve the boys in whatever we did,” Julie smiled at the memories. “We praised them about everything they did right. There were a few who discovered they liked being girls. When we saw that we went all out to girlify them. We were so effective that we convinced two crossdressed boys to remain girls! Of course their mothers were also quite encouraging!”

Karl felt light headed. “D...Do you mean they remained dressing as girls after their week was done?”

“No and yes,” Julie chuckled. “No they didn’t remain dressing as girls; but yes in that they realized they were transgendered and became girls! Eventually both had sex change surgery and are now happily married wives.”

Karl swallowed nervously. “Y... you want me to become transgendered?”

“A person can not be forced to become transgendered,” Julie explained. “Unlike physical gender, mental gender can not be changed. What happened with the two boys in my classes was that they didn’t realize they were transgendered until they spent the week as a girl. The girl they were inside had been hidden and denied until she was freed from a macho prison. Then she blossomed! “We certainly would not object,” his mom declared with a wistful smile. Besides, we think once you get over the shock of being forced to dress and behave like a girl you’ll grow to like it so much you won’t want to go back to being a stupid boy... and your antics most certainly were stupid!”

Karl could do nothing but bow his head in shame. What he’d done had been stupid!

While they were talking the three women managed to get Karl clothed in the girls uniform. With a comb and brush, a small front portion was brushed over his face which grandma trimmed into bangs reaching his eyebrows. The rest of his shoulder length hair was part down the middle of his scalp and gathered into bouncy ponytails above each ear. Only when they were finished was he allowed to see himself in the full length mirror.

“No way,” Karl gasped as he saw a surprised cute girl looking out of the mirror at him wearing the St. Anne’s uniform. What his grandmother had said was true... until male puberty hit, a boy could be made to look like a girl! For several moments he studied his beguiling reflection. She was undeniably cute! As he looked at her he began to notice the way the skirt swirled in response to his slightest movement causing the lacy halfslip to tickle his bare thighs. He could feel the snugness of the padded bra as it hugged him while creating two very girlish mounds. She was so cute it made his boy toy start to swell. That made him feel the soft sensual fabric of the panties he wore as the pressure of his erection pulled the satiny fabric across his butt cheeks. Never before had he EVER though of clothes as anything other than utilitarian. Boys clothes just covered you. Girls clothes hugged and teased you in a most delightful way. With that understanding he realized that if being a girl felt this sensual the first time worn, what would it do to his masculinity? Already he had an inkling of how the two boys his mother spoke about had been lured over the satin and lace gender divide. A shiver passed through him as he wondered if he might be transgendered? There was no doubt in his befuddled mind his mother, grandmother and great grandmother would love if was a girl inside!

Hugs and gushing quickly engulfed him as the three women adored the newest girl in their family. After a small nourishing breakfast, Helen and Julie drove him to St. Anne’s. Of course they used every opportunity to correct his boyish actions as they began to mold him into a girl. Upon arrival at the school they headed for the office. Karl was barely controlling the shivers and terror that threatened to engulf him. Soon they were seated in the office of the Principal.

“So, this is the young man you want to enroll at St. Anne’s,” Sister Mary spoke with a smile as she peered at the cowering boy dressed in the girls uniform. “Other than being frightened SHE certainly is a pretty young miss. Have you decided on a feminine name for her?”

“Katrina,” Julie smiled as she looked at her daughter.

Kurt looked up in surprise as the girly name was bestowed upon him. Then he realized that attending school as a girl he would need a girls name. Katrina... it wasn’t too bad.

“A very nice choice,” Sister Mary smiled. “I’m sure Katrina will be a model student here at St. Anne’s. I doubt any of the antics that horrid boy Karl pulled will EVER occur here! Don’t you agree, Katrina?”

“Yes, sister,” Karl meekly replied. “As Karl I was a bad boy but since I became Katrina this morning I already feel different. I’ll do my best to be a good girl and stay out of trouble!” Karl really meant what he said. As a boy he did a lot of stupid stuff and got into trouble. Moreover, he was genuinely sorry for disappointing his family. With a bold surge of energy he decided to embrace being Katrina so he... no... SHE... could make a clean star. He vowed to put everything he had into being the best girl he could!

“I’m sure you will, sweety,” Sister Mary smiled. “All you have to do is study and follow the rules.”

“I’ll do my best,” Katrina nervously returned the smile. “Sister, I really mean that. I want a chance to become someone who makes my family proud. Only, this is my first time as a girl. I didn’t even know this was going to happen until this morning. I was angry at first but then realized I had no one to blame but myself. I’m taking responsibility for my past mistakes. Please, I don’t want to get into trouble for doing something wrong when I don’t know how to be a girl.”

“Well, as long as you are sincere and follow through with doing your best to behave like a girl, we’ll take your inexperience into consideration,” Sister Mary smiled. “If your infractions are minor, you’ll be warned and made to repeat your action until you can comfortably do it like a girl should. However, if you become belligerent, you’ll be paddled. Do you understand?”

“Y... yes ma’am,” Katrina agreed nervously.

“Excellent, young lady!” Sister Mary beamed. Normally she required new boy students to begin as boys, but the three women, all former students, had requested Karl start as a girl so his first week would be his crossdressed week. They hoped doing so would reveal his hidden transgendered side. Just as his family had hoped, it seemed obvious to her this boy had a girl hidden inside. She wondered if Katrina would be so meek and accommodating if she knew her girl time was only to be for one week?

Pressing the intercom she called to her secretary. “Miss Kline, would you please go to Sister Monica’s class and ask one of the girls to volunteer as a mentor for a new student.”

The secretary acknowledged the request and headed to the classroom. When she arrived she asked Sister Monica to step outside as she explained the request, informing her the new student was a boy starting in his crossover week.

Sister Monica smiled. She had already been informed about Katrina. Heading back to her class she spoke. “Girls, we have a new student starting today. We’d like a volunteer mentor to assist her as she adapts to St. Anne’s.”

A dozen eager hands shot into the air.

“I appreciate your enthusiasm but please lower your hands,” Sister Monica smiled. “However, this young lady has been an unyielding tomboy who has gotten into trouble at her previous school. That most certainly will not be the case here at St. Anne’s. However, she’ll need a lot of attention and correction. I’d like someone who has experience being a bit on the wild side to help tame her.”

Only three hands rose.

“Miss Adams, I think I’ll give you a chance to prove how much you’ve changed,” Sister Monica smiled. “Miss Kline is waiting in the hall. Please go with her to the office.”

Loren Adams smiled as she picked up her purse. As she accompanied Miss Kline to the office she recalled her first day at St. Anne’s three years before. It had been a shocker. Back then she thought she was a belligerent boy and being suspended from the fourth grade proved how tough he was. Just putting on the horrible boys uniform had been nasty. However it was either St. Anne’s or a tough no-nonsense military academy. Larry’s first days had been one incident after another. After a month and eight paddlings, it was his turn at crossdressing week. The idea of a crossdressing week seemed horrible and absurd. Naturally he fought but his parents were adamant and he found himself in the girls uniform. The first day had been hell but to his amazement no one hassled him! His mentor was kind and understanding. His parents insisted he crossdress 24/7 to get the full experience. By the second day he realized that he’d simply have to endure the horror of being a sissy. By the third day he’d grown accustomed to the feminine clothes and found it wasn’t really as awful as he’d thought. On the fourth day he relaxed into the role, discovering that he girls weren’t cootie filled and that he could actually have fun as a girl. By the fifth day he realized he was enjoying his girl time. Being able to giggle and not having to be such a tough guy felt good. Returning the next week as Larry he felt weird. Even the clothes he wore at home felt uncomfortable. By mid-week he realized he missed being Loren. The belligerent demeanor he’d had as a boy crumbled as he realized that by the end of his one week as Loren he’d actually been happy! It had been years since he’d felt happy as Larry!

His parents and the staff at St. Anne’s saw the change in the previously irascible boy. The profound sadness that seemed to overwhelm him. The Sisters knew the signs and within a week Larry had his first counseling session with Dr. Linda Graham, a psychiatrist who specialized in gender identity disorders. By the third session, it was agreed Loren should return for a trial crossdressing week. While unusual, such an occurrence was not unknown. Larry never returned. Now Loren had a chance to help another student learn the joys of being a girly girl.

As they waited in the office Sister Mary explained the staff had been informed that the ‘new girl’ was a boy. Upon seeing Katrina’s fearful expression she smiled. “Your great grandmother called me last night to arrange your enrollment. She and I became friends way back when WE attended St. Anne’s. The staff will keep an eye on you but as long as you behave you’ll have nothing to worry about. The students don’t know about your physical gender so as long as you behave no one will know the truth. They have been told that you’ve been an absolute tomboy which should explain why you are so awkward about being a girl. They have been asked to help guide you in how to be a proper miss. Even if they discover you’re really a boy, since all the boys spend a week as a girl no one will hassle you. I would advise that you confide in your mentor and tell her the truth. I can assure you she will not share your secret.”

At that Miss Kline knocked on the door and ushered Loren into the office.

Sister Mary smiled. “This is Loren. Loren, this to June Judd... Helen Linsey... Julie Linsey... and Katrina Linsey.”

Loren smiled and curtseyed to each woman as they were introduced then hugged a very nervous Katrina.

Sister Mary spoke again after the introductions. “Loren it is your responsibility to help Katrina adjust to becoming a proper St. Anne’s girl.”

“Yes ma’am,” Loren replied with a nod of her head.

“Loren is well suited to explain the ins and outs of being a St. Anne’s girl. When she enrolled her three years ago her name was Larry. During her week of girl time, Loren discovered she was transgendered and made the transition to full time girl. She’s been a model since. As such, she is fully aware of how difficult it is for tomboys to give up their past and learn to enjoy their girlhood. Isn’t that right Loren?”

Katrina’s mouth dropped open at that revelation. Loren certainly looked as if she’s never been a boy! Would the same happen to him? A nervous shiver ran through her.

June, Helen, and Julie were not surprised by the revelation. They’d seen it before.

“Yes ma’am,”Loren smiled. “I’m so glad I was enrolled here! I can’t believe how horridly I behaved when I thought I was a guy. I know now my bad behavior was simply an effort to hide my girlishness. Now that I’ve started HTR, I’ll NEVER go back to being a yucky boy.”

A few minutes later Loren was leading a very nervous Katrina to their classroom. Speaking in whispers, Loren gave Katrina a brief overview of behavior expectations. As they approached the room Katrina hesitated.

With a nervous glance around she whispered. “Were you really a boy?”

“Yes, but once I realized I was really a girl inside, I’ve never looked back,” Loren smiled.

“I.... I guess I should tell you that I... I’m a boy,” Katrina stammered biting her lip.

Loren smiled and took Katrina’s hands in hers. “You might have been born a boy, but inside you’re a girl! I should know! Now, girlfriend, let’s get to class before we both get in trouble!”

Loren knocked on the door then opened it and led Katrina inside. Sister Monica smiled as they entered and the eyes of the students turned to survey the new girl. Katrina’s blush and nervousness was clearly evident.

“This is Katrina,” Loren introduced. “She’s a bit timid and nervous so please give her a chance to adjust to being a St. Anne’s student.”

“Thank you Loren, and Katrina, welcome to St. Anne’s. Class, as the day goes on, please use your free time to introduce yourselves to Katrina. Just don’t overwhelm her,” Sister Monica declared. “Katrina, these are your textbooks. You’ll be sitting beside Loren in the back corner. That way she can QUIETLY guide you without disturbing the rest of the class.”

Katrina and Loren sat by themselves in the back corner. Loren helped Katrina find her place in the text books and made sure she was keeping up with the lesson. Katrina noted they were the only students whispering. The rest of the class periodically turned to briefly glance and smile at the new girl. Katrina was amazed at the speed of the lessons but quickly realized that without the constant whispers and squirming that she’d experienced in public school, such speed was possible since all the students were focused. Between subjects, the students were allowed five minute breaks to get out of their seats and stretch their legs. Hushed conversations were allowed. By the end of the day, everyone had a chance to meet Katrina.

June was waiting outside the classroom when the students were dismissed for the day. The normal silent movement of the students was no longer evident as chattering voices accompanied the students as they headed to their lockers, after school activities, or home. Once the stream of students left the doorway, June knocked and peered inside. Katrina and Loren were the only students left and they were busy sorting their work.

“You must be Mrs. Judd,” Sister Monica smiled as she welcomed June inside. “Katrina has been a pleasure to have in the class. She and Loren are sorting through their assignments. I’m afraid your great granddaughter has a bit of catching up to do. The differences between public and parochial education never ceases to amaze me. But Katrina seems to be an intelligent young miss so with a bit of study she shouldn’t have any difficulty getting up to our speed.”

“I’ll do my best, Sister Monica,” a smiling Katrina declared as she and Loren came forward. “I really expected to hate being a student here but was I ever wrong! I really like being here! The lessons come faster but they’re far less boring!

That evening Katrina regaled her family with her first day at St. Anne’s. Gone was the moping often morose boy with whom they’d been so familiar. In his place was a bubbling bright eyed eager girl! Everyone was pleased.

Next Day Going To School - Alex:

For the first time since the new school year began Alex was up with his alarm. By the time Janet made her way to the kitchen she was delighted to smell coffee perking. As she entered the room Alex rushed to her for a hug, then helped her to a seat. Soon she had a bowl of cereal and a steaming mug of coffee. They chatted as they ate, then with another hug and a goodbye kiss, Alex was off to school.

Alex kept to himself. In every class he made an effort to sit erect with his feet on the floor and hands folded on the desk. The teachers let him know he was on their short list but they were also aware of his home situation so they gave him a chance to prove he could toe the line. Alex did his best to avoid even the slightest hint of mischief. During his time at in school suspension he remained silent and avoided even looking at anyone, especially Jeff. He used the time to do homework and study.

That evening he was quite attentive to his mother. Janet smiled at his intensity and was pleased as he told her how his day had been. The two spent the evening cuddled watching movies.

During The Next Month - Jeff:

Jeff managed to stay out of trouble at school. No one spoke to him and the teachers were still wary. But he made sure to keep his nose clean. He even did all his homework and actually studied, both new things for the rascally boy.

Life at home went on. The five mile trek home from school took an hour and a half. He did his best to do his chores and avoid antagonizing his parents. The only solace he had was that the pitbulls adored him. What disturbed him was that his parents seemed to have started smoking the meth. Their moonshine and pot usage had been rough enough, but now that they’d added the meth, life was spiraling downhill. His mom no longer made supper... she just got high. His dad never made it to bed at night since he passed out on the sofa. Jeff walked around as if walking on eggs. If he disturbed his parents they lashed out verbally and sometimes physically. The only good thing was he could outrun them when they were high and they quickly forgot his transgressions.

Food became scarce so he took some of the drug money so he could buy sandwiches at a Wawa he passed on his walk home. He made sure to finish the meager meal before he got home. What really concerned him though, was his dad’s growing paranoia and schizophrenia. Once a week George would load up the back of his pickup with moonshine, pot, and meth and take it to wherever he sold it. Jeff knew he didn’t deal direct with users but supplied a dealer. How long, he worried, would it be before the dealer decided his dad was too much of a risk?

As soon as his chores were done Jeff gathered some of his dad’s hand tools and headed for his bedroom and locked the door. Jeff carefully peeled the linoleum off the floor of his closet. Once that was done he drilled a small hole through the plywood at a 45 degree angle. Using a keyhole saw he cut a square two feet in diameter. Slipping his finger into the hole he’d originally drilled he lifted the loosened piece up. There was a one foot space down to the fiberboard that made up the bottom covering of the trailer. After cutting through the fiberglass insulation he cut through the fiberboard. With that done he had an escape hatch. Carefully he glued the linoleum to the plywood access hatch so that when put back in place there was no evidence it existed.

From his escape hatch he cleared a crawl-way to the back of the trailer. Three feet behind the trailer sat one of the rusted pickup hulks. The driver’s door only hang on by one hinge, so the next Saturday, with a bit of effort, he managed to snap it off. Then he carefully laid it on the ground between the pickup and the trailer. With all the other scrap it didn’t look out of place. Carefully he dug a shallow trench under the door to the pickup and then tunneled beneath it creating a small below grade crawl-way. From the back of the pickup it was only five feet to the tree line. It had taken him nearly a month to complete his escape route.

George had a collection of firearms, pistols and rifles as well as plenty of ammo. Jeff swiped a 9mm, spare clips and a few boxes of ammo and hid them between the subfloor and floor by the trapdoor. After each delivery trip, George would bring the cash into the house to count it while he got stoned, leaving it scattered across the kitchen table. Jeff knew it was at least $5,000 a week so he began pilfering $500 every time, stuffing the money in a drawstring gym bag stashed between the sub floor and floor by the escape hatch.

Jeff had a way to escape, a pistol to protect himself and money. One of the few things his dad had taken the time to teach him was how to handle a weapon. Jeff was a good shot, usually hitting what he aimed at. Now all he had to figure out was where he could hide.

During The Next Month - Katrina:

Karl didn’t fight his submersion into Katrina. The lonely boy’s life he’d endured was thoroughly washed away by Katrina’s effervescence. Where Karl was lucky to have one or two friends, Katrina had an entire class! The quality of the friendship was also much better. Within a week she was up to speed with her lessons. She and Loren easily transitioned back into the mainstream classroom where whispering was forbidden. But that in no way impeded their friendship. By the end of her first week, she was begging to be taken to see Dr. Graham, Loren’s gender specialist.

Julie, Helen and June were delighted with Katrina as she blossomed. Since Sister Mary had also recommended Dr. Graham, they called and made an appointment. Dr. Graham had been alerted by Sister Mary and was expecting the call. A week to the day after being pulled from Lincoln Middle School, Katrina had her first appointment.

Naturally she was anxious but at the same time she was looking forward to meeting the doctor about whom Loren simply raved. The first meeting was a family meeting and Dr. Graham quickly put them all at ease as they explained their situation and concerns.

As the family history ended Dr. Graham smiled and looked at Katrina. “So, Katrina, even though you’ve only been living one week as a girl, you already KNOW you want to become a complete girl?”

“Yes, please,” Katrina declared nodding her head. “When I was a dumb boy, I hated my life! I mean, I loved my family and all but Karl just never fit in. He never had any real friends. The two guys I hung with in middle school were losers just like Karl. Loren told me how wonderful she feels since you put her on HTR and I want to feel the same way!”

“I’m afraid it’s too soon for me to put you on HRT,” Dr. Graham stated with a sad smile as she watched Katrina’s eager face fall. “However, I can start you on testosterone blockers to shut down your male puberty!”

Katrina’s fallen countenance turned upside down. “That means I won’t turn into a yucky guy, right?”

“Yes it does,” Dr. Graham smiled at Katrina’s eagerness. “But YOU must stop thinking that guys are yucky. Granted, a few are, but most are okay. Now if you meant yucky in terms of Karl’s boyhood, that I can accept. But it’s not a healthy attitude to have such an across the board condemnation of males.”

“That’s what I meant,” Katrina back pedaled. “I meant MY life as a boy was yucky!”

“Good catch, young lady,” June chuckled as Dr. Graham smiled her agreement.

“I’ll give you a prescription for blockers that you can fill tonight,” Dr. Graham said. “For the first month, take one in the morning and one at bedtime. After that, one a day will suffice. I’d like to see you twice a week for the next month, say on Mondays and Thursdays if that’s okay?”

There were nods all around, especially Katrina’s.

“Wonderful, Dr. Graham chuckled at the girl’s eagerness. “There is a test called the COGIATI, or COmbined Gender Identity And Transsexuality Inventory that measures how your personality fits on a masculine/feminine scale. In addition to my confirming you’re a girl, you must score well on the feminine side of the scale before I can authorize HRT. If it’s okay, I’d like you come in Wednesday night to take the test.”

“But that won’t give me enough time to study,” Katrina petulantly declared.

“One does NOT study for the COGIATI,” Dr. Graham declared. “It’s a long in depth test of the way you think and feel. Trying to make it come out on the feminine side will only give a false reading because the questions are inter-related. But, based on what Sisters Mary and Monica have reported to me as well as my opinion of this first meeting, I don’t think you’ll have any difficulty scoring on the girly side.”

“Good,” Katrina declared. “The sooner I can start HRT the better!”

Everyone chuckled at her earnestness.

Later, as they walked away from the pharmacy counter with her precious prescription of testosterone blockers Katrina asked for a Coke.

“No, young lady,” June scolded. “We know if we get you a Coke you’ll have no peace until you’ve take one of your new pills. You need to get into the habit of following the doctor’s orders when taking medication, especially something as drastic as this. You’ll wait until bedtime like Dr. Graham ordered.”

Katrina blushed and lowered her head but accepted the reprimand with grace. But as soon as they got home she announced she was exhausted and wanted to go to bed. The women chuckled and gave in to her persistence.

The next day Katrina asked Loren if she’d taken the Cogiati test. Loren smiled and said she had. She also reinforced Dr. Graham’s statement that one could not study for the test. That still did little to relieve her anxiety since she desperately wanted to pass the test well on the feminine side.

Katrina did score on the feminine side of the scale but she was disappointed when Dr. Graham said it was still too soon to start HRT. Loren helped her deal with the wait by reassuring her that it would happen.

The class knew Loren had been a boy but thanks to the strict discipline of the school, everyone accepted and treated her as if she was a genetic female. Granted, a few boys avoided her, but it was more like they were afraid they could catch the dreaded disease... TRANSSEXUAL! While in school, all the girls got along, outside off school a few were snobbish and avoided interacting with Loren. Loren was not bothered by those who didn’t care to deal with her since she understood some people, despite being intelligent, were simply ignorant. She handled the prejudice well knowing it was simply a sad fact of her life.

Loren’s strength in dealing with her transsexualism helped Katrina come to terms with her similar situation. The girls discussed their hopes, concerns and fears. Loren was sincere in her declaration that Dr. Graham was a wonderful confidant which gave Katrina the courage to bare her soul to the good doctor. Because of that openness, Katrina’s treatment zoomed along. One of the big things Dr. Graham recommended was that Katrina reveal her genetic gender to her classmates.

While Katrina resisted doing so, she knew that she lived in fear that her secret would somehow be revealed and her friends might feel betrayed. Loren let her know she’d support her whatever she did. After a lot of discussion with her family, St. Anne’s staff and Loren, she decided to come clean.

On Friday at the end of her third week at St. Anne’s, Katrina nervously stood before her class. “You’ve all made me feel welcome and I really appreciate it. Most of you know I didn’t have many close friends before came to St. Anne’s. But you don’t know the reason. You were told I used to be an utter tomboy. Actually, I was a boy.” Katrina paused to gauge the response of her classmates.

They were clearly surprised by the revelation but none seemed angered.

“As you might guess, I wasn’t much of a boy,” Katrina bravely continued. “I never fit in with the guys. I knew I was different but had no clue why. I was always an outsider but when I got to middle school, it grew worse. I was alone and basically ostracized. There were two other guys in my class who had also been shunned by the rest of the boys. Since misery likes company, we drifted together. The only thing we had in common was our loneliness but we became friends. One of them was a prankster and the three of us got into quite a few messes. The last one happened the day before I started here. The prank went bad and one of the teachers fell and broke his arm.” Katrina had to stop and wipe the tears of shame and regret from her eyes.

The rest of the class had trouble believing Katrina could have ever been a prankster.

“We got caught and the three of us wound up in the office waiting for our parents,” Katrina confessed. “My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were livid. They all attended St. Anne’s and had previously threatened to enroll me here. They had even brought me in to see what it was like and I’m not ashamed to admit I was terrified of coming here. Of course I was quite wrong about St. Anne’s since I love it here! Anyway, rather than face whatever punishment the principal was going to give us I was yanked out of that school. I was told I’d be starting here and I begged not to. Sorry about this, guys, but I begged not to have to wear the boy’s uniform. I offered to do anything as long as I didn’t have to wear a boy’s uniform. My family agreed and I went to bed. It was only the next morning, the day I started here, that I found out the ‘anything’ I’d agreed to do was to wear the girl’s uniform. You saw how scared I was when I first came into class. I certainly was a tomboy since I’d never dressed as a girl before that morning! But I quickly discovered that as terrified I was of my unwanted masquerade, it felt right. For the first time in my life I felt that I could fit in and be happy being myself. Thanks to Loren I quickly realized I’m transgendered. I have no doubt that I’m a girl and always will be. Since you’re all friends, I felt I have to tell you the truth.”

One of the boys raised a hand and Sister Monica called on him. “Katrina, what happened to the two guys you got in trouble with?”

“I don’t know,” Katrina answered. “I haven’t seen or heard from my them since then. I’ve been so busy adjusting to my changed situation I actually forgot about them. If my family let’s me, I’ll try to find out. Thanks for reminding me.”

With the air cleared Katrina the fear of being discovered lifted. Her classmates didn’t change the way they interacted. She relaxed and simply began to enjoy her life.

Julie, Helen, and June were delighted with Katrina’s transformation and the way her personality came out of the long lasting shell of false boyhood.

Katrina’s confession and the glowing recommendations of the staff of St. Anne’s combined with her own interviews, the results of the Cogiati and her observations to allow Dr. Graham to feel confident in allowing Katrina to begin low dose HRT by the end of the month.

Of course, Katrina squealed with delight when she received the news and the prescription!

During The Next Month - Alex:

In school Alex remained withdrawn and silent which solidified his sissy status. However his grades soared to the top. The teasing was unpleasant but the staff went out of their way to make sure it never got out of hand. He often wondered how Karl was handling St. Anne’s and was pleasantly surprised Jeff was keeping his nose clean as well as actually studying.

In the evening while his mom napped he researched testosterone. What he discovered confirmed that it could be a poison. For most men, an essential fact of life was avoiding even the slightest connotation of being unmanly. Testosterone seemed to be the primary fuel of that need. In men like his dad, it turned them into monsters. Alex was well aware that his problems were directly related to the constant peer pressure to MAN UP aggravated by his entry into puberty. There was a great deal of scientifically proof that testosterone alters the pathways of the brain. Alex didn’t want his brain to be altered by the poison.

One of his discoveries concerned the treatment of male to female transsexuals. They were given anti-androgens to shut down their body’s testosterone production. Alex wanted that. But the only way to get anti-androgens would be to come out as transsexual. That stopped him... briefly.

The more he thought about it, the more the idea appealed to him. Being a sissy was certainly no picnic, but then being a transwoman was rough too. Still, the idea of being able to wear pretty clothes and look pretty was appealing as was being able to freely laugh or cry.

Janet was delighted with the change in Alex. Principal Davis kept her informed of the his drive to stay out of trouble and earn the best grades he could. Yet as her health continued to fail she worried more, she simply could not find anyone she trusted to raise Alex. The last thing she wanted was to let him fall into children’s services.

As the fourth week after the fiasco drew to an end Alex had convinced himself he truly was transgendered. Steeling himself he told his mother he was a girl with a boy’s body. The surprising news didn’t shock her as much as it caught her off guard. Recovering quickly she promised to get him to a qualified counselor ASAP so he could have a positive determination before she died.

That did little to raise Alex’s spirits. Losing his mother was not something he liked to think about.

As soon as Alex set off for school on Friday Janet called Dr. Marge Martin, her cancer counselor. Marge was well aware of Janet’s condition and her concern for Alex. As part of her efforts to help Janet she also counseled Alex so she was familiar with the boy. The revelation he felt he was transgendered was not a surprise. Gender issues were not her specialty but she knew who to contact.

The doctor recommended was Dr. Graham, an experienced gender counselor. Dr. Martin had stressed the need for speed in this case. Upon learning of Janet’s condition Dr. Graham made room in her schedule to see Alex.

The Fifth Week - Jeff:

Jeff persevered in school, keeping to himself and studying. The staff of Lincoln Middle School hoped the troubled lad had finally gotten his act together. Some of the teachers even began to ease up on allowing him a bit more leeway hoping he would use it positively. Jeff didn’t disappoint them.

Things at home were not going well. With the change to standard time it was dark by the time he walked home. The trek was tougher because of the chilling temperatures. He began packing a pair of sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt in his backpack to carry to school, putting them on under the clothes he wore to school before he headed home. Another trick he had was to carry some rope and garbage bags. If it was raining, he tore a hole in the bottom of one so he could wear it like a skirt, tucking it into the waist of his pants until he had about three inches of ground clearance. A second garbage went over his head with his arms inside tearing a hole just big enough to see through in one corner of the upended bottom. He’d roll the open end up a bit so he could tie the open end around his waist below the ‘skirt’ bag. While it looked silly, it kept him warm and dry even a downpour.

The regulars at the Wawa where he stopped for his nightly sandwich felt sorry for him but he never complained. The clerk began dropping a bag of chips or a candy bar into the sandwich bag as a treat. Jeff made sure to profusely thank the clerk.

Once home he did his chores before going into the trailer. A lot of nights it was after 8:00 before he finally came inside. Most nights he merited a quick glance before being ignored. Occasionally he’d get smacked around for something totally unrelated to anything he did just so his parents could blow of a bit of frustration.

Once safely inside his bedroom, he stayed there until he was sure his parents had passed out. Only then did he emerge to scavenge more of the illicit drug money. His parents were so high they never noticed the missing $500 a week. Once he’d accumulated $2500, he triple bagged it and buried between the roots of a big tree, covering the spot with dead leaves.

But his biggest concern was where to head to ground when things finally went down. There was no where for him to go. Finally, he decided to talk to Alex. Maybe his quiet friend could point him in a direction he didn’t see.

The Fifth Week - Katrina:

Katrina was happy with her life as a schoolgirl. Her family was delighted with her. She couldn’t wait to feel the effects of the estrogen she’d begun taking but knew the doses were low and it would take weeks if not months for any development to show. Her life as an unhappy boy were a seldom remembered bad memory.

But Dr. Graham sat deep in thought. Her newest patient told a story that sounded quite similar to the story Katrina had told. Comparing the files she noted the similarities. The two attended the same school at the same time, they had to have been involved in the same incident! She contacted the school counselor who verified Katrina and her new patient were two of the students involved in the failed prank. It seemed ironic the two preteens both suffered from GID. Normally she wouldn’t have considered setting up a meeting between the pair. But knowing the unusual situation of the new patient she decided to see if a meeting could be arranged. It was with a great deal of trepidation that Dr. Graham called Julie and asked for a lunch meeting the next day.

Hoping it was not pulling Katrina off HRT, Julie nervously agreed.

They met in a quiet restaurant near Dr. Graham’s office. Once the pleasantries were over Dr, Graham asked about the other boys involved in Katrina’s prank. Although a caught a bit off guard, Julie answered. It quickly became apparent to Dr. Graham Julie had little good to say about the ringleader. However, she felt the other boy had been sucked into the scheme just as had happened to Karl. The conversation moved on to other considerations of Katrina’s transition and how St. Anne’s was ensuring Katrina was a well behaved schoolgirl.

“I have a moral dilemma,” Dr. Graham finally confessed. “I have a new patient who might benefit from a bit of joint counseling and meeting a kindred spirit. I feel the other child’s mother could also benefit from a meeting. I can’t force you to meet and I’d require all parties to sign a non disclosure statement but with your permission I’d like to pursue a meeting for Friday evening.”

Julie felt obligated to assist another child and mother achieve the happiness she’d gained since Katrina emerged. There was no hesitation as she agreed to meet with the mother and child.

The Fifth Week - Alex:

Monday after school Janet and Alex were ushered into Dr. Graham’ office. Both were nervous but Dr. Graham quickly put them at ease insisting they call her Linda. One look at Janet was all it took to understand the need for speed. Alex nervously explained his deep need to be a girl and expressed his desperation to begin anti-androgen treatment to stop the dread testosterone poison. By the end of the session, the doctor was convinced enough to schedule Alex to take the COGIATI on Wednesday after school.

Alex had done his research well and was familiar with the test. Although he felt he would score to the feminine side, he debated wether to attempt to manipulate it enough to erase any doubt of his orientation.

Janet was surprised on Wednesday when Dr. Graham broached the subject of a meeting with another transgendered patient and mother. But knowing another mother accepted that their child was transgendered gave her hope she might know someone interested in taking in Alex... maybe even that woman! Janet quickly dampened her hopes knowing she’d be ill equipped to handle disappointment if that were not the case.

Alex took the Cogiati with more than a bit of unease but when it was over felt confident he’d scored well into the feminine. The fact he didn’t feel compelled to fudge any answers only added to his good feeling. Learning that a meeting had been set up for Friday with the other transgendered preteen made him nervous and excited.

Friday Katrina sat with her mother in Dr. Graham’s meeting room, nervously toying with the hem of her pleated uniform skirt. She was a bit scared yet excited about meeting another transgirl. When the door opened she saw Dr. Graham ushering a nervous boy and mother into the room. Her mouth dropped open in surprise and terror. “Alex!!!” she gasped.

Alex raised his head to look at the cute girl wearing a St. Anne’s uniform, wondering how she knew his name. The look on her face revealed she knew him and was scared. If she was trans, obviously he’d known her as a boy. She certainly did look familiar but it wasn’t until he saw her mother that the pieces fell into place. “Karl???”

Dr. Graham quickly took control asking everyone to sit down. Briefly she explained her discovery that the two had been involved in the same prank. “Katrina, since you’re comfortable being a girl why don’t you tell Alex what’s happened since that day.”

Katrina explained that the day of the prank was Karl’s last day. “I was really afraid of going to St. Anne’s but it’s a really good school! They accept girls like me... us,” she smiled. “The girl they selected to be my mentor is transsexual! She’s been great about helping me to adjust to being a girl!”

Alex was happy for his friend and hoped he’d be able to have a good experience as he transitioned. “So the other kids know?”

“Sure,” Katrina giggled. “The school has a policy that up through the eighth grade every boy must spend one week as a girl at some point during the school year. It’s not a punishment and since they all do it the guys don’t hassle the boy doing his ‘girl time’. The boys are a lot more considerate in general and appreciate girls.”

“I wish I could go there when I transition,” Alex sighed then briefly explained what had been happening at Lincoln Middle School.

“I’m surprised Jeff seems to have settled down,” Katrina declared. “I didn’t think he could behave.”

“I think he learned his lesson,” Alex sighed. “The day after our prank, Alex was barely able to walk. His dad must have really beat him. When he sat down he moved slow and winced. It didn’t look as if he could find a way to sit that didn’t hurt. He was limping for the entire week. I heard no one is picking him up when he get’s out of after school detention so he has to walk home.”

“But that’s what,” Katrina gasped. “Like five miles?”

“Yeah,” Alex nodded. “Now that daylight savings time is gone, it has to be dark before he gets there and then he still has his chores to do.”

Janet, Julie and Dr. Graham realized life for the third member of the three wise guys had a tough life. If his home life was as bad as Alex related, it was no wonder the boy was a prankster.

Julie in particular felt bad because she had judged Jeff without knowing all the facts. She berated herself since she knew Katrina, even when still Karl, would not associate with someone who was bad. That meant Alex had to be a good kid too. His kind and caring nature were quite evident in the way he kept an eye on his mother. Julie looked at the frail woman. She had been aware that Janet was fighting against a resurgence of the cancer she’d so valiantly battled in the past. It was clear she would not beat it this time. Her heart went out to Janet and Alex.

Dr. Graham spoke up at that point. “Attempting to transition at Lincoln Middle School will not be easy. Doing so at St. Anne’s would be much easier. I’ll speak to Sister Mary, the principal, to see if you might be eligible for some sort of scholarship. In the mean time, I’ve written a prescription for testosterone blockers for you. Taking them will shut down your male puberty before it takes hold.”

Janet drew in a deep ragged breathe which drew everyone’s attention. Tears were forming in her deep set weary eyes and running down her hollow cheeks.

“Mom,” Alex exclaimed as he sprang to his feet and lovingly wrapped his arms around her. Huge tears trickled from his eyes to drop on his mom’s cancer thinned short hair.

Janet sniffled and struggled to regain her composure as everyone looked on with helpless concern. “I’m sorry Alex,” she whispered in a raspy voice as she clumsily patted his arm. “I’m so sorry. I’m never going to see you become a happy girl like Katrina has. Baby, I’ll be lucky to survive past Thanksgiving. I know I’ll never make it until Christmas. I don’t want to leave you like this! God, I want to know you’ll be able to grow up to be a happy woman, but I’m already too weak to do anything. Alex, Baby, I’m sorry I’ve failed you.” With that she buried her face into Alex’s chest and sobbed mournfully as her frail body trembled.

“Mom, you haven’t failed me,” Alex sniffled. “Once you get to heaven you can watch out for me. I’ll do you proud!”

Tears of helpless filled the eyes of the others. Julie felt as if she’d been stabbed through the heart. Knowing you were dying a slow, wasting death with only a few weeks to live was horrible. But to do so leaving your preteen child an orphan had to be atrocious. Even worse was to just discover your only child was transgender and needed to transition but that you would not be there to help or even see that she was allowed and encouraged to become the girl she felt herself to be... there were no words to describe the utter despair and hopelessness. Julie felt compelled to help.

“Janet, relax,” Julie soothed as she placed a comforting hand on the sobbing woman’s shoulder. “I think Katrina would love to have a sister. I know my mother and grandmother would accept Alex in the blink of an eye. If Sister Mary can’t arrange a scholarship for Alex to attend St. Anne’s, we’ll pay her way. I promise before God that we’ll help Alex transition into girlhood so she can grow to be a woman who will do you proud. Of course, I have no doubt God will let you be Alex’s guardian angel so you’ll be able to see her grow and blossom.”

“Y... you’d take me in?” Alex asked as he squeezed his shivering mother while she feebly squeezed his arm.

“Of course,” Julie smiled sadly. “You need a nurturing home to safely transition and your mother can go in peace knowing you’ll be living in a home that understands and can help you.”

“Julie, thank you for the offer, but we barely know each other,” Janet croaked. “I couldn’t ask you to take in Alex.”

“Of course not,” Julie smiled. “You haven’t asked! I’ve volunteered! Look, let me call my mom and grandmom to get them to come right down. They’ll tell you the same thing I’ve said.”

With that Julie pulled her phone from her purse and hit speed dial. “Mom, we need you and Gran down here at Dr. Grahams office as soon as you can safely make it. ***** No, nothing is wrong, but we need your input on something that’s right! ***** “That’s all I can say for now but please hurry. ***** Okay, thanks, see you soon!”

Helen and June knew about the meeting Julie and Katrina were to be having with a another transgender boy and mother. While ‘nothing was wrong’ something was definitely not right. They would defend Katrina to the end if needed but it didn’t seem to be that type of situation but never the less was cause for concern.

“They’ll be here in about fifteen minutes,” Julie smiled through the sadness she felt.

“I’ll make some tea,” Dr. Graham stated. “I think we all a need a few minutes to pull ourselves together.”

After placing a tea pot on the small range in the break room Dr. Graham called Dr. Martin to confirm that what Janet revealed about her life expectancy was correct. She was shaken to learn Janet’s timetable was quite optimistic and went on to say Janet’s oncologist didn’t know how the determined mother was still clinging to life.

Dr. Graham told her receptionist to bring Helen and June to the conference room as soon as they arrived. Then she took a tray with the teapot, several cups, as well as an assortment of teas, sweeteners and cream into the conference room. Janet was clearly exhausted as she sat in a chair with Julie right by her side with a comforting arm about her shoulder. Alex sat on the other side of his mom holding her hand while Katrina sat beside Alex sympathetically rubbing her friend’s arm.

The tea was served and everyone had taken a few sips when there was a knock on the door and the receptionist ushered Helen and June inside. It only took one glance for them to recognize the frail woman’s fragile health. They also recognized Alex and quickly realized the woman had to be his mother. That also meant Alex had to be the new transsexual patient. They’d seen enough friends and relatives in the last stages of cancer to know the boy’s mother was near death. The older Mother and daughter exchanged looks and saw mutual agreement. That all transpired within ten seconds of their entry. At that point Dr. Graham introduced everyone.

“Janet, are you on hospice,” June asked with concern.

“N... no, I didn’t want to worry Alex...” she whispered as she squeezed his hand.

“Mom, if you need help you should h=get it,” Alex forced himself to say. “I’m not a baby. I know what’s going on. I don’t want you to suffer any more than you have too?”

“Baby, if I go on hospice they’ll dope me up to ease the pain,” Janet softly explained. “I have to take care of you...”

“Mrs. Ford... Janet,” June spoke up. “We’ll see to Alex. It’s time you stopped fighting and take the relief you need.”

“I told you, Janet,” Julie leaned in to kiss her on the head. “We’ll see that Alex has a loving home and a sister to help her transition.”

“As a matter of fact, you and Alex will come home with us,” Helen declared. “I’m sure Katrina will welcome her new sister into her bedroom and we have a guest room on the first floor where you can stay. That way you can see how Alex will fit into our family.”

“Thank you, but I couldn’t impose on you,” Janet sniffled. “I’ll let Alex go, but I’d be too much of a burden.”

“Nonsense,” June scolded. “It’s clear Alex know’s what’s happening. Do you think for one minute SHE’LL allow herself to be separated from you? Lady, your daughter LOVES you too much. Don’t cheat her of the last hours.”

“But I’ll be doped up,” Janet sobbed. At the end I’ll be as helpless as a baby! I don’t want her to see me like that!”

“Mom, I don’t care about that,” Alex sniffled. “I want to help you meet Jesus. I want to hold your one hand when he takes your other to welcome you home! You’ve suffered more to be here for me than God could ask of anyone and you’ve never once complained. You told me our earthly lives are God’s way of testing our souls. You’ve passed that test with flying colors! You told me that dying in this life is not the end but a new beginning. You said death is just graduation to Heaven and we should be glad when a loved one passes their final exam. Mom, please, let me help you graduate!”

By that time there was not a dry eye in the room. Janet was exhausted, worse than she had ever been. In her heart she knew she couldn’t even get back to their home on her own. “Okay, Alexis, for you... I’ll do this for you.”

They helped Janet to Julie’s car. Katrina and the newly christened Alexis sat in the back seat with her to hold her steady for the ride home. Helen drove Janet’s car while June drove Helen’s. Once at the Linsey/Judd home they all helped Janet into the guest room where she promptly fell into an exhausted sleep. Julie took Katrina and Alexis to the Ford home to pack some clothes and gather the papers. Knowing the end was coming, Janet had tied up as many legal ends as possible and had shown Alex where the documents were stored.

The women undressed Janet and put her in a nightgown. She was so exhausted she never awoke. Helen found the number for the oncologist and called leaving a message with the answering service. The doctor returned the call withing a half hour, expressing relief someone had stepped forward to assist Janet. He promised to move heaven and hell to have the hospice provider have someone out the next morning to assess Janet and set up a care program.

It was near midnight when they convinced Alexis her mom would make it through the night and that one of them would stay with her, promising to get her if things went downhill. Katrina led Alexis to her bedroom.

Alexis looked about and gave a tired smile. The room was girly... and she liked it. Katrina gave her a nightgown, robe, and slippers then led her to the bathroom to get ready for bed. The two friends, almost sisters, quickly fell asleep.

The hospice was there bright and early. By noon Janet was on a morphine drip. The lines of weariness and worry that had become an all too familiar a part of her face relaxed. Alexis was delighted to see her mother was resting. Sister Mary arrived shortly after noon to speak with Janet and interview Alexis. By four an attorney the school had on retainer arrived. Paper work was filled out and signed passing legal custody of Alexis to Julie. Paper was also started for name and gender change as well as adoption. Sister Mary found the money for a scholarship until mid-term and arrangements were made for Alexis to begin classes at St. Anne’s Monday morning. The parochial school would also arrange the formal school transfer from Lincoln Middle School.

When they had woken in the morning Katrina shared her clothes with her soon to be sister. Alexis felt a bit awkward as she put on the skirt and blouse but once on, they felt natural. Her days as a boy had ended.

The Following Monday

On Monday Jeff worried that something had happened to Alex’s mother when he didn’t show up for school. During lunch he was surprised to hear Alex was transferring to St. Anne’s. Now Alex and Karl were there. Even though he and Alex had not spoke since the prank, he missed his friend and felt truly isolated. Where could he run too if things went bad?

Alexis was nervous as she entered St. Anne’s. While weak, Janet was able to accompany him. The hospice had provided a wheelchair and Julie drove them and then pushed the wheelchair. Alexis only spent ten minutes in the office before her mentor, Katrina, took her to their classroom. Sister Mary made sure all Janet’s concerns were addressed and questions answered.

Alexis was clearly terrified as she faced her new classmates. Katrina stood by her side and spoke to the class for her sister.

“This is Alexis. She’s transgender just like me. Saturday was her first time dressing as her true girl self. If you remember I told you about the prank that got my boy self in trouble. Alexis was one of the other guys involved in it. Please, be patient with her. The past five weeks have not been easy. She figured out her gender issues since the prank. Fortunately Alexis went too my gender doctor and Dr. Graham realized we had been in the prank together so she set up a meeting for us last Friday, a peer discussion type thing. But it didn’t work out that way.”

“Mrs. Ford, Alexis’ mother, is in the end stages of cancer and at best only has a few weeks left,” Katrina explained as Alexis hung her head to hide the tears trickling down her cheeks.

The class was clearly moved and Sister Monica gave Alexis a tissue and hugged her.

“My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother couldn’t let Alexis become an orphan just as she needed to transition nor could they let her mother continue to suffer. We moved them in with us. Her mom is on hospice and we’ve begun the process to make Alexis my sister. So in addition to beginning her gender transition and changing schools, she’s also spending as much time as she can with her mother. If she lives past Thanksgiving it will be a miracle. So please, be extra gentle and caring with Alexis. Thank you.”

“Class, I can verify what Katrina has told you is true,” Sister Monica added. “I strongly suggest you do your best to help Alexis through this time of trial. I’ll also say that may heaven help anyone who hassles Alexis because NO ONE at St. Anne’s will!”

With that Katrina and Alex went to the seats in the back corner.

Through Thanksgiving Weekend - Jeff:
Alone at Lincoln Middle School, Jeff persevered. The daily during and post School detentions were no longer that odious. The recent experiences at home soured him on being a tough bad guy. The boy used the time to keep on top of his school work and his grades soared to prove it. Still he was alone. While he could have used his time in detention to hone his tough guy persona and work his way into being buddies with the others in detention, he made sure to remain separate.

Life at home... well, he couldn’t any longer really call it life or home. It was where he crashed and existed. His mother was mentally gone. Her brain was steadily and irreversibly being fried by the pot, booze and meth. She hardly ate and was getting skinnier every day. His dad wasn’t as addicted as his mom but he was high most of the time. Paranoia and schizophrenia dueled for control of his psyche. Coming home after dark and doing his chores kept him from interacting with them during the week. But Saturdays and Sundays were hellacious.

The drug use left his dad trembling and unable to cook the meth. Naturally the quantity and quality suffered. The dealer who bought the stuff was not pleased. Jeff overheard the man warning his dad to get his shit together. The threat to replace him was not idle, nor was the intent to take over the isolated property. Jeff held no illusions that his family would be gunned down if the dealer decided to make good on his threat. Instead of getting his shit together, his dad made Jeff take over mixing and processing the meth batches. This meant instead of finishing his chores in a hour, he had another three cooking meth. Almost all day on the weekends was spent in the meth lab.

The upside was the quantity and quality of meth returned to the high level levels the dealer wanted. The downside was he cut the price he paid by 20% to teach his dad a lesson. While Jeff slaved in the meth lab on the weekends, his dad spent hours shooting at trees and rusty vehicles. With his brain hand coordination compromised by the drug use, his aim left a lot to be desired. Several times a stray bullet struck the meth lab. Jeff was helpless and at the mercy of an increasingly deranged man.

Through Thanksgiving Weekend - Katrina & Alexis:
Alexis was amazed how her new classmates accepted her. They were kind and extremely understanding as she learned how to be a St. Anne’s girl. Katrina was delighted to be her mentor. The two easily slipped into sharing the bedroom and their clothes.

Janet was delighted to see Alexis blooming and felt comfortable she was in a home that would love her. She appreciated the way the family had not only embraced Alex but they had welcomed her with open arms insisting they make her last days as easy as possible. Both were priceless gifts given freely. She thanked God for answering her prayers.

Alexis spent a half hour with her mother every morning before heading to school. The first thing she did upon arriving home was to rush in to tell her mom all about her day at school. In the evening she spent at least and hour and another half hour before bed.

Janet was delighted to see the rapid transition of her child from frustrated lonely boy to bubbly happy girl. The love and concern Alex had for her had always been genuine but seemed out of place for a boy. Now that Alexis had emerged, the love and concerned fit like a glove. No longer did she have to worry about her child growing up. This new family would nurture her.

One last task remained for Janet. She sat with Alexis and discussed how to handle the funeral. At first Alexis denied such a discussion was needed even though she knew it had to be faced. Together the decided on cremation with no viewing or funeral service. A hallow gold plated cross an inch and a half high and an inch wide would be filled with a few of the ashes. Worn on a gold chain, Alexis could always carry a part of her mother with her. Alexis insisted that she would keep the remainder of her mother’s ashes until she found the perfect place to scatter the ashes. A simple memorial service would be held for friends to acknowledge their loss.

With the worries about Alexis gone, Janet stopped fighting. The hospice service provided twice daily visits from nurses who monitored Janet’s rapidly deteriorating condition. The morphine doses slowly grew. Helen and June took turns staying with Janet throughout the night. If she was exhausted and sleeping, they simply read and kept an eye on her. If she woke, they talked, sharing their experiences. Janet was never alone for longer than ten minutes.

Thanksgiving arrived. Although unable to eat, they refused to let Janet alone in bed while they ate. They placed her in the wheelchair the hospice had provided, bundled her in blankets, and created a place for her at the table beside Alexis. With rheumy drug glazed eyes she smiled at her wonderful daughter.

When it came time to say grace, Alexis spoke up. “If it’s okay, I’d like to say grace.”

Nodding heads and smiles granted permission.

“Instead of folding hands individually, please hold hands with the person beside you to form a circle of love around the table.”

Everyone smiled and did so. Alexis squeezed her mother’s frail hand and they exchanged a smile.

“Dear Lord, We thank you for the bounty we have before us. I’d like to add a special thanks for finding a loving family who have opened their hearts and home to mother and I. Thank you for relieving mom’s worries about my future. Thank you for providing a loving place for her to complete her earthly life. Thank you for allowing her to see that I’ve found my true path in life. I promise to use my life to show how much I appreciate your gifts of these past weeks. God, Mom has suffered in gracious silence meekly accepting every pain. She’s never asked you for relief. All she’s asked is for the strength to see my future was bright. Lord, please don’t think I’m being presumptuous. But, please, God, let her suffering end. I don’t want to lose her, but it’s time you called her home. I humbly ask you reward her devotion by welcoming her to a pain free eternal life. I know you’ll let her watch over me. I know I’ll be able to talk with her at any time. Someday, when my life ends, she’ll greet me when I pass through the pearly gates. But as Jesus said, ‘not my will, but thine.” I thank you for the time you’ve allowed mom and I to say our goodbyes. Thank you for all you have given all of us at this table. All praise and honor we humbly give to you, oh Lord! Amen”

There was not a dry eye at the table. Alexis slipped off her chair to hug her mother. No one felt like eating. Silence engulfed the room for several minutes.

“Enough,” Janet declared in a voice that didn’t quaver. Then she pushed off the blankets and sat up in the chair. Her eyes were clear and even had a bit of sparkle. “Alexis, God has heard your prayer. He just told me that this meal is to be a true feast of Thanksgiving. I’ll join in, but only tiny portions. Please eat in joy and happiness. This is my pre-graduation party. This is my last full day in this withered body and THAT is a cause for celebration! Now, eat up!”

To say everyone was surprised is an understatement. The adults knew Janet had passed the threshold where the struggle is over and a few hours of clarity have been granted before the end. Alexis knew exactly what her mother meant when she said the meal was her pre-graduation party. This would be the last chance she had to make memories of how happy and vibrant her mother truly was. Instead of dwelling on the upcoming loss, she chose to think of the wonderful graduation and the gift of eternal life her mother was about to receive. With a happy smile she cut a small piece of turkey breast and covered it with gravy. Small spoons of filling and candied sweet potato were soon on the plate. Then with gusto she served herself. The others followed her example. Smiles and pleasant conversation flowed.

It wasn’t until the pumpkin pie had been devoured that Janet’s energy faded. Alexis and Julie helped her back to bed and tucked her in. Alexis refused to leave her side, holding on to her left hand. Janet smiled feebly.

The evening passed slowly while Alexis kept vigil. Only twice did she leave to answer nature’s call but hurried back each time. Janet faded into unconsciousness dozens of times only to awake to see Alexis smiling as they exchanged soft hand squeezes.

Janet was out when the big grandfather clock in the living room struck midnight. The sonorous BONGS echoed through the house. After the last bong faded, Janet stirred. Once more she and Alexis exchanged smiles and squeezes.

“Baby, I love you,” Janet whispered. “Jesus has come for me. He has my other hand. It’s time for me to go. He says we have time for one last kiss and hug.”

Alexis needed no further urging. She leaned over the bed and kissed her mother tenderly, then hugged her. “Mommy, I love you!”

The hand Alexis had been holding came up to return the hug for a few tender moments, then the pressure relaxed.

Alexis could feel her mother had ceased to breath and knew she was gone. “Bye mommy,” she whispered as she kissed the still but smiling face. Tears trickled down her cheeks. As she slowly stood she gasped. She had not noticed her mother’s right hand had risen from the bed and reached out before she passed. The rest of her body had relaxed in death but her right arm was still extended... her hand grasping an invisible hand. Alexis knew Jesus had reached a welcoming hand to lead her mom to heaven and that in turn she had reached out grasp Jesus’ proffered hand. Knowing that her mom had graduated to heaven and would no longer live in pain made Alexis happy, but that still didn’t diminish her loss.

Helen had spent the evening with Janet and Alexis. It had taken all her strength not to break down in tears as she watched the weary dying mother spend the last minutes of her earthly life enjoying her recently discovered daughter. When she saw Janet stir after the stroke of midnight she realized the end had come. Janet had said she’d be lucky to last until Thanksgiving and it had been her stubborn resolve that had seen her through the agony of her dying existence. But at midnight, with her goal reached, her time had come. The brief exchange between mother and daughter, the hugs, kisses and goodbyes exchanged, Janet graduated.

Slowly, Alexis turned away from her mother’s body, now an empty shell. Tears flowed steadily from her eyes as she wanly smiled at Helen. “Thank you for all you did for her. It meant a lot to her to know I’m safe. Now, I need to tell the others.”

Helen placed a comforting arm about Alexis’ trembling shoulders as she accompanied the brave girl from the bedroom. As soon as they entered the living room, June, Julie and Katrina knew the tragic drama was over.

“Jesus came for mommy,” Alexis whispered as she smiled. “She told me he was holding her hand to take her to heaven but that he was letting us say goodbye. We shared a last kiss and hug. Then Jesus took her to her graduation. You’re my family now. I don’t know if I can ever repay you for the kindness you’ve shown us. I also know you don’t want or expect to be paid. I’ll do my best to be the best person I can be to honor my mother and you.’ With that the dam broke and heart rending sobs exploded.

Julie sprang from her seat and caught her before her sagging knees failed. She wrapped Alexis in a tender loving embrace and simply let the girl cry the tears to cleanse her grief. Her own tears flowed freely. Katrina was also crying as she felt the loss too. Soon she had her arms wrapped about Alexis. The hugging trio awkwardly moved to the sofa where they sat with Alexis sandwiched between the duo.

June went to Helen and hugged her. “If I ever had any doubts about the existence of God they’re forever banished. I never thought death could be beautiful, but I just witnessed a miracle. Jesus DID come for Janet!”

Even though it was after midnight, June called 911 to report Janet’s passing. She also called the hospice to let them know. A paramedic crew was dispatched to verify the death, then the coroner was summoned. Exhausted by the ordeal, Alexis cried herself to sleep. Julie attempted to carry her upstairs to the bedroom she shared with Katrina but found the task beyond her strength. One of the paramedics stepped forward and scooped Alexis from Julie’s arms and easily carried her up to the bedroom. Julie thanked the man who nodded, wiping tears from his eyes.

Julie and Katrina undressed Alexis and helped her into a nightie. Julie sat with her while Katrina slipped into her nightie. Then Katrina slipped into the bed and pulled Alexis into a warm protective hug. Julie tucked them both in bed admonishing Katrina to call for help if Alexis had a nightmare, then turned off the lights and left the room. She let the door partially open so a bit of light from the hallway dimly illuminated the bedroom.

The coroner verified Janet’s demise, then released her body as an autopsy was not needed. The hospice and attorney Sister Mary had dispatched had all the paperwork notarized and ready. Upon Janet’s death, full legal custody of Alexis was transferred to Julie. Adoption papers would be filed the first business day after the death, A funeral home had been selected and with the coroner’s release, they were called to pick up the body.

Sisters Mary and Monica visited on Friday to pay their condolences and make sure everyone was handling the loss. The memorial service was slated for the following Wednesday in the chapel at St. Anne’s.

Alexis was saddened by her mother’s passing but also strong enough to accept that dying, or as she preferred to think of it, graduation, was a part of life. With the loving support of her adopted family she made it through the grieving.

The Memorial Service:

Monday morning Alexis stopped in the office with Julie and Sister Mary to formalize the guardianship transfer. Alexis was asked if there was any special music or favorite hymns she wanted for the memorial service. While in the office Sister Monica told the rest of the class about of the death of her mother. The news was greeted with gasps and a few tears. They all knew how terrible the loss had to be. When Alexis joined the class, a few minutes were taken for condolences and hugs to be shared. Alexis appreciated the support. Katrina never left her side.

At Lincoln Middle School the news of the death of Alex’s mom swept through the grapevine. Jeff was stunned. He’d known of their closeness and worried how Alex was handling the loss and what would happen to him now that he was an orphan. At the same time he almost wished he was the one who had been orphaned.

In school detention required the student to get his lunch then go to an adjoining proctored room to eat it segregated from the student body. As he ate he thought of Alex and Karl, wondering how they were getting on at St. Anne’s and what would happen to Alex. When he finished his meal he approached the proctor.

“Mr. Haney, may I have a pass to go to the office? I’d like to find out when and where the funeral for Alex’s mom is being held so I can pay my respects.”

Mr Haney was a strict man who ruled detention with an iron fist. But he also had seen how Jeff was doing his best to toe the line. The request seemed reasonable so he wrote a pass.

After thanking the man, Jeff headed to the office. Upon arrival he presented his pass and asked if anyone knew about the funeral arrangements. Principal Davis emerged from his office and led the lad to his office. Realizing the boy was sincere about paying condolences he gave him the date, time and location. Jeff thanked him and returned to detention.

Classes on Wednesday were a blur for Alexis as she brooded on that evening’s memorial service. She wasn’t concerned about her ability to handle the service, she was concerned about how the family friends would accept her as Alexis. The last thing she wanted was to have scene.

When the school day ended, Julie, Helen, and June were waiting. They went out to eat and returned to the chapel. Alexis had decided against changing out of her school uniform, thinking it was appropriate.

Jeff stopped at the Wawa for his usual sandwich, then asked for directions to St. Anne’s. The clerk provided the information and Jeff set off for the three mile hike, arriving just as the doors of the chapel opened. Quietly he joined the line of early arrivals as they entered. Once inside the eastern narthex out of the chilly night air, he continued to follow the others. Just before entering the chapel proper, a stand held a guest registry. Never having done this before, Jeff watched the adults and when his turn came he signed in. The attendant handed him a memorial bulletin and he stepped inside.

Jeff shivered as he looked about at the ornate woodwork and stained glass windows. The arched roof of the chapel had to fifty feet high! This was the first time he’d ever been in a place of worship and he felt guilty for violating the sanctity of the place. The people ahead of him filed in and took seats in the pews near the front. Feeling intimidated and out of place, he considered leaving, but steeled his nerves and took a seat in a rear pew. Looking about he saw a poster sized photo of Alex’s mom on an easel. On a small table covered with a white lace cloth sat a small wooden cask. In chairs by the easel and cask sat five people. The two nearest the cask were cute St. Anne’s schoolgirls still in their uniforms. Beside them were three women, the one of closest to the schoolgirls looked like Karl’s mom. The other two looked like older versions of the first, perhaps Karl’s grandmother and greatgrandmother. But if they were there, where were Karl and Alex? As he looked closer at the girls he realized the schoolgirls looked oddly familiar. The girl closest to Karl’s mom looked as if she could be a daughter but Karl didn’t have a sister.

After a few moments of anxiously looking about and then looking back at the girls it hit him. The schoolgirl was Karl! It took a moment of frowning concentration to mull that over, then another light went off and he looked at the other schoolgirl. Damn! She was Alex! What was going on? At that point a firm hand grasped his shoulder, clearly startling him. Looking up he saw an older stern nun. His mouth went dry.

“You’re not in trouble, young man,” she whispered. “I’m Sister Mary, principal of St. Anne’s. I assume you were friends with Alex and have come to pay your respects. That is quite admirable. I can also see you have questions. We have some time before the service begins, please come with me and I can solve your confusion.”

With that she firmly grasped Jeff’s shoulder and pulled up. He needed no further urging and stood, following the imposing woman to the western narthex. Part of him wanted to bolt but he meekly followed.

Once they were in the western narthex she guided them to a bench. “I noticed you recognized Katrina and Alexis. Katrina’s family is adopting Alexis. Before you ask they are not being forced or coerced into dressing as girls. Both are transsexual and have begun transitioning to make their bodies match their minds. St. Anne’s is committed to allowing it’s students to be true to themselves and becoming the best they can be. I assume you are Jeff Gordo, the third member of the ill-fated ‘three wise punks’. Is my assumption correct?”

“Yeah,” was all Jeff could utter as he tried to assimilate what he’d seen and heard with what he knew about Alex and Karl.

“You are welcome to stay or leave,” Sister Mary smiled kindly. “If you decide to stay, you can slip out as soon as the service is over. Otherwise, you’ll be expected to join the line of celebrants to offer personal condolences to Alexis.”

“I thought this was a memorial service for Alex’s mom,” Jeff frowned. “Why would we be celebrating?”

“That’s a bit complicated,” Sister Mary sighed. “Are you a Christian?”

“I guess so,” Jeff shrugged. “My parents don’t talk much about God except when they’re cursing. Truthfully, this is the first time I’ve ever been in a church.”

“Okay,” Sister Mary said. “Please don’t get upset and bear with me. I’m going to assume you know very little about Christian faith. I don’t expect you to understand what I’m going to tell you but this is the core of all Christians belief. God is a trinity, three in one, being God, the son, and the holy spirit. A simple way of understanding that concept is to compare God to water. Water exists in three states yet each state is water, gas or vapor, liquid and ice. Jesus is the human son of God, being fully human and fully God. Jesus gave his human life on the cross as a one time ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of all sins mankind commits. The only thing a human needs to do is to belief that Jesus took all our sins and we are forgiven all our sins. Can you follow that?”

“Yeah,” Jeff nodded.

“Good,” Sister Mary smiled. “After Jesus’s death he was placed in a tomb. But that’s not the end of the story, in fact, it’s the beginning! Three days after he died, Jesus rose from the dead and met his disciples. After forty days he rose into heaven. All humans who believe in Jesus’ resurrection are also rewarded with resurrection. They go to heaven to meet Jesus face to face. Christians consider our life on earth to be a test of our soul. When we die, our earthly life is over. However, if we believed in Jesus, we are rewarded by going to heaven to begin our eternal life. Many people like to think that the end of our earthly life is our GRADUATION to life in heaven which is cause for celebration. While those left behind will miss and grieve for the person who has died, we can also feel glad they are going to heaven.”

“Okay, I can follow that,” Jeff smiled. “It sounds really neat. I guess since Alex’s mom was in a lot of pain, the graduation can be even more cause to celebrate.”

“Exactly,” Sister Mary smiled. “I’m delighted you’ve been able to grasp the core belief of Christianity. The real challenge is to actually believe.”

“Yeah, I can see that too,” Jeff nodded. “What about people that don’t believe in Jesus? Can they get to heaven too?”

“That’s a tough question,” Sister Mary sighed. “To be honest, we don’t really know. However, many of us feel that since God is a loving God, he’ll give every soul a final chance when they die. If he can see their soul is good, he’ll let them in.”

“I guess my parents are out of luck,” Jeff sighed.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Sister Mary replied as she placed a comforting hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “But they can still be saved if the confess their sins.”

“That’ll never happen,” Jeff sadly sniffed.

“Perhaps, but the chance does exist. God has given humanity free choice,” Sister Mary said. “We all choose our fate.”

“I haven’t chosen my fate,” Jeff looked up at her. “I have to do what my parents tell me to do and they’ll never give me a chance to learn more about Jesus.”

“Maybe so, but YOU made a choice to come here tonight,” Sister Mary declared. “You’ve taken the time to let me give you a brief explanation of Christian belief. Jeff, in the simple act of being here, you are exercising your free choice. It doesn’t have to end tonight.”

“Maybe,” Jeff nodded as he thought. “But I’ll have to be careful. My parents will be pissed if they find out I’m even thinking about learning about Jesus.”

“I can’t tell you to disobey your parents,” Sister Mary said. “But I can help you learn if you can find a way.”

“Thanks,” Jeff smiled weakly. “Am I a sinner if I’m involved in something that’s killing people?”

Sister Mary was taken back by that question. “If you are being forced to be involved and are trying to figure a way to end your involvement, I think it is a minor sin. If you are involved because you want to make money, that is a much greater sin. But accepting Jesus as your savior will cleanse all your sins.”

Jeff thought about that for a bit. “I know killing people is bad, but soldiers kill people in war, isn’t that a sin?”

“God ordered the Hebrews to kill the Canaanite when they came into the Promised Land after the Exodus,” Sister Mary answered. “There are many things to be considered when we say killing is a sin. The Nazis murdered millions of Jews and others. But killing in a war is far different. God is the final judge, but the reason people kill plays a huge role in determining the level of sin.”

Just then the organ began playing a hymn. “The service is starting. If you want to greet your friends, wait to the end of the line. I’ll accompany you. That way Katrina and Alexis will know you’ve been briefed on their situation. It’ll be easier for all of us.”

“I’ve heard of people being transgender but I don’t understand it,” Jeff whispered as the headed back into the sanctuary.

“Every person has two genders,” Sister Mary explained. “The obvious one is our physical gender. It’s what’s between our legs. The second is our mental gender. It’s what’s between our ears and in our souls. For most people the two genders match. For a few, they don’t, those people are transgender. It’s impossible to change the gender in our heart, but it is possible to change our physical gender. That’s what Katrina and Alexis are doing. They’ve begun the process of changing their physical gender to match that of their soul.”

“It must be tough,” Jeff declared.

“It is, that’s why we here at St. Anne’s try to ease the transition,” Sister Mary answered as she sat beside Jeff in the last pew.

The service was upbeat and was more of a celebration. Jeff was brought to tears when Alexis stood and proclaimed her mother was able to graduate in peace once she knew her daughter had a loving family who would help her grow and be all she could be. Jeff shook his head at her bravery as she boldly presented her true gender to one and all.

When the service ended, a few people, clearly disgruntled by the gender change of Alexis, left without offering condolences. Jeff sat with Sister Mary and watched as the line of well-wishers filed past Alexis.

When the line was near it’s end, Sister Mary stood. Jeff looked up at her as she looked down at him. “It’s your call, Jeff.”

Jeff nodded then drew in a breath. Then he stood and followed Sister Mary to the end of the line. Cautiously and nervously he hid behind her so as not to startle Alexis and Katrina.

Alexis was worn out and tired as she noted Sister Mary at the end of the line as she greeted the last few well-wishers. When only Sister Mary was left she was startled by Katrina.

“Jeff!” Katrina gasped as he saw the boy almost cowering behind Sister Mary.

Jeff smiled weakly and nodded as Sister Mary stepped away to reveal him.

“I saw this young man sitting alone in the back,” Sister Mary explained. “I’ve already explained that you are transgendered and transitioning with the full support of your families and St. Anne’s. I offered him the chance to leave quietly or stay. Obviously he chose to stay. Then I offered him the chance to slip out at the end or to come greet you. Here he is.”

“Jeff, thank you for coming,” Alexis said in a shaky but clear voice.

“I’m sorry about your mom,” Jeff said softly. “But I’m glad you have a new family. Katrina, thanks for looking out for Alexis.”

“You’re welcome, Jeff,” the girls said at the same time before breaking into tired giggles.

“Jeff, I’m glad you came,” Julie smiled. “It says a lot about your character that you came here alone. Didn’t your parents want to come in?”

“They don’t know I’m here,” Jeff confessed. “This is my last week of detention so I came over when I got out.”

“Jeff’s parents refuse to pick him up if he gets after school detention,” Alexis said. “He has to walk five miles home... in the dark.”

“Yeah, and then I have to do my chores,” Jeff acknowledged when he saw the startled looks on the faces of the adults.

“That’s just cruel,” June declared. “Young man, you’ll have a ride home tonight!”

“NO,” Jeff exclaimed. “I’d get beaten if they knew someone drove me home!”

Helen snorted in disgust. “Won’t they be angry for getting home so late tonight?”

“Not as long as I get my chores done,” Jeff answered. “They’re usually to drunk or high to even know when I come in the house.”

June frowned. “Doesn’t your mom have supper waiting for you when you get home?”

“I can’t even remember the last time she made supper,” Jeff confessed. “She’s... well... I guess it’d be kind to say she’s wasted most of the time. I stop at a Wawa on my way home and get a sandwich to eat as I’m walking home. I got one tonight before I came here.”

Sister Mary recalled their brief discussion before the service. “Jeff, are your parents abusing you?”

“The last time I got beat was when they had to come to the school to get me when the prank went bad. As long as I don’t disturb them, they let me alone.”

The women exchanged looks of concern. “Do they at least give you the money to get your sandwiches?”

“Not exactly,” Jeff sighed as he screwed up his face. “Look, please don’t contact the cops. There will be hell to pay if the cops ever come out... like shoot out bad!”

Everyone gasped. “What line of work are your parents in?”

Jeff hung his head. “Please, don’t ask! All I’ll say is it’s not legal and can turn nasty very quickly. Look, things are going on none of you want to become involved in. I can take care of myself. I promise if it gets too bad I’ll come here, Okay?”

The women exchanged looks of concern but realized Jeff was being as honest as he could.

“I’ll hold you to that, Jeff,” Sister Mary declared.

“And we will take you home tonight,” June added. “We’ll drop you off far enough away s they won’t know you had a ride.”

“Okay,” Jeff conceded.

Julie and June took Jeff home while the others gathered up what Alexis wanted from the service. As they pulled up to the driveway the pitbulls began to bark and leap at the steel gate.

“It’s okay,” Jeff assured them. “They keep strangers away and warn us when someone’s at the gate. I take care of them and they wait for me every night.”

As soon as the dogs recognized Jeff walking around the car their barks of alarm and warning turned into yips of excitement. The gate was ten feet wide and four feet high made of two inch diameter steel tube formed into a perimeter box with a sturdy X brace connecting the four corners. Chain link fencing covered the steel frame for increased strength. Jeff lifted two heavy steel pins about two feet from either end. The pins evidently sank at least six inches into concrete receivers. The pins were clearly designed to prevent anyone from crashing through the gate in either direction. Julie and June watched in amazement as the dogs swarmed Jeff in welcome as he slipped through the gate. Though he was an hour late, his parents never noticed. He did his chores and slipped quietly into his room.

Advent:

Sister Mary, June, Helen, and Julie were beside themselves with concern for Jeff. Katrina and Alexis were also worried for their friend. Principal to Principal, Sister Mary contacted Principal Davis to voice her concern for Jeff. Briefly she explained that Jeff had shown up, of his own accord, at the memorial service for Alex’s mother. She explained that they had nothing solid to go on but thought the youth was being abused. Principal Davis was upset to learn that Jeff had been walking home from after school detention. Principal Davis promised to investigate and, on a professional level, to keep Sister Mary apprised of the situation.

Jeff knew when he was summoned to the office that what he had revealed at the memorial service had been communicated to Principal Davis. It felt strange to be summoned to the office and not be in trouble.

“Jeff, let me begin by saying you are not in trouble,” Principal Davis assured him.

“I know,” Jeff sadly smiled. “I assume you’ve been informed about what I revealed at the Memorial Service for Mrs. Ford.”

Principal Davis smiled. “I always knew you were a smart boy. Let me add that EVERYONE has had only positive comments about your behavior since the last incident. Your grades have soared and your attitude has improved. We’re all delighted you’ve turned yourself around. Please, if you are having issues at home, please let me or Mrs. Horner know. I apologize that we were unaware that you had to walk home from after school detention. I can assure you we would have taken steps to intervene if we had known.”

“Thank you for your concern,” Jeff added. “But my parents feel that I must pay for the consequences of my mistakes. Since I earned the detention, I’m responsible for the results. To them walking home is simply a part of that. Any attempt to interfere with the way they treat me will only have negative consequences for me. I only have two more days of detention so it’s not worth making waves at this point. Let me assure you, I HAVE learned my lesson and am doing my best to be a good student.”

“All right,” Principal Davis said realizing that just as Sister Mary had said Jeff was holding his cards close to his chest. “We will be keeping an eye on you to make sure you are not being abused. If you need any help, please ask.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jeff replied. “There is one thing I’d appreciate if it could be arranged.”

“I’ll do my best,” Principal Davis responded.

“My parents have not been holding supper for me,” Jeff confessed. “But believe me when I say that is a blessing. My mom is a TERRIBLE cook! I’ve been stopping at the Wawa down the block and getting sandwiches. I’d like to continue doing that. The staff at the Wawa likes me so I think I can set it up so I could make a selection to pick up the next day. At the end of the day I’d like permission to leave with the walking students. I can make it to pick-up and pay for my sandwich, place my order for the next day, and make it back in time to catch the bus home.”

“Well, that is against policy,” Principal Davis said. “But exceptions can be made. I’ll grant you permission to do this on three conditions. First, you make it to the bus every day. Two, You keep up your grades. Third, you stay out of trouble. Failure on any of those conditions will cancel the privilege.”

“Understood, sir,” Jeff smiled. “Thank you for trusting me. I won’t let you down.”

With that Jeff was dismissed back to in school detention. Principal Davis was not a pushover. Experience had taught him when a student was trying to snow him. He could tell Jeff was being honest and sincere. After writing a note to his homeroom teacher to allow Jeff to leave with the walking students, he called Sister Mary.

Katrina and Alexis continued to settle into life as two studious St. Anne’s girls. Alexis was seamlessly included into Katrina’s family. A second twin bed and a bookshelf for Alexis’ use was added to the bedroom she shared with Katrina. The cask containing her mother’s ashes was prominently displayed on the top shelf along with a few precious photographs.

On the remaining treks home after detention, Jeff did a lot of thinking. While discovering Karl and Alex were transgendered and living as girls surprised him, after meeting them it didn’t seem out of place. They seemed quite happy and content. The certainly looked and behaved as if they were girls. In fact both were quite cute in their uniforms. It was also clear they were accepted and loved. It startled him a bit to realize he was jealous of them. In school they’d been the outcasts pulling the pranks for attention and status amongst their peers. Now in their new school Katrina and Alexis had real friends and found acceptance. The school didn’t seem anywhere near as bad as the reputation made it out to be. In fact, Sister Mary was kind of cool for an older lady.

But it was Sister Mary’s explanation about believing in Jesus that really sparked his thoughts. Unconditional love, the promise of salvation and heaven sounded real good. If his earthly life was a test of his soul, God was really putting him through the wringer! Still, a promise of a better future in the next life gave him hope to endure this life.

After he’d completed detention, Jeff made the trip to the Wawa and back in time for the bus each day. His major concern was what he would do for food during the holiday break. It would ten days this year. He’d been able to pick up extra food on Fridays to hold him over the weekend, but the four days of Thanksgiving had been tough. He just couldn’t understand how his parents were surviving. They barely ate anything but looking at them gave ample evidence they were wasting away.

Once he’d learned how, working the meth lab wasn’t difficult. As long as he produced, he was left alone. Now that he was out of detention, he was home working the lab when the dealer came made his pick up. He laughed when he saw Jeff making the batches. Jeff didn’t trust the guy and whenever he arrived he picked up the AK47 that was kept in the lab. The dealer had no doubt Jeff knew how to use the gun.

George Gordo knew his life depended upon keeping the meth flowing. Each morning while somewhat sober he left to make his rounds picking up the raw material for the meth. All purchases were made in small amounts over an area up to twenty five miles from the lab. Several farmers and auto repair shops made extra cash by the illicit transactions. But as his physical condition deteriorated, his sources increased prices due to the risk. Fortunately this worked pout on Jeff’s behalf since the increased expense masked the money he was pilfering.

The week before Christmas the dealer had a wingman who walked about taking pictures while business was transacted. Jeff knew the place was being sized up while his dad was oblivious. Jeff knew it wouldn’t do any good to attempt to warn him. The last day of school was on Friday the 20th. On Monday the 23rd two additional guys arrived with the dealer and his wingman for the weekly pick-up. They stayed by the car but looked around. Jeff stood by the lab cradling the AK47 while glaring at the men. They knew the kid and the pitbulls were the only concern.

That evening after he’d shut down the lab, Jeff rigged a bomb and trip wire. If anyone entered the lab the wire would upend an open box of Draino crystals so they’d pour into an open bucket of brake fluid. Several cans of brake fluid with the caps off were placed around the bucket. The combination of Draino and brake fluid explodes violently which will set off the open brake fluid cans creating an almost instantaneous and much larger second explosion. Anyone nearby would be toast. Without drawing attention to himself he brought them AK into the trailer to his bedroom. Using the reciprocating saw he cut a hole in the wall facing the clearing by the closet which he stuffed with clothes. The AK and several clips were placed ready for use. Then fully clothed he anxiously laid upon his bed.

Around midnight the pitbulls began barking and took off down the lane. Jeff sprang from bed and peered out the window but could see nothing. Then one by one the dogs ominously went silent. Jeff assumed a silenced pistol had eliminated that threat. Slipping into a sweater and a hooded sweatshirt he took up position by the window. It took almost fifteen minutes before he saw movement. A black SUV with the lights off drove into the clearing and stopped. From the safety of his darkened room he spotted seven armed men exit and scatter to face the trailer. Jeff knew his parents were in the living room with the lights on, probably passed out.

Silently he opened his trapdoor and dropped the prepared bags to the ground. Then he carefully pulled the rags from the hole he’d cut and aimed the AK outside. It only took a few moments before a voice shouted “NOW!”

All hell seemed to break loose as at least seven automatic weapons opened up on the trailer, all aimed toward the illuminated living room. The sound of shattering glass and the thud of bullets quickly joined the cacophony of gunfire. Jeff aimed and squeezed of a three shot burst at the nearest man. The man’s gun lifted into the air firing wildly as he toppled. Not waiting, Jeff swung to another man. It wasn’t until he’d dropped a third man gunfire swept towards him. The shots riddled the window ands wall of his bedroom sending shards of glass everywhere. Jeff emptied the clip, slapped in another and emptied that sweeping the area where he’d seen the gunmen. The survivors lowered their aim just as Jeff dropped through the trapdoor with the AK and spare magazines to lie flat in the shallow trench. Bullets shredded the walls near the floor and more than few blasted through the skirting to whiz over Jeff’s head. When the firing ended, Jeff reached up and slipped back into the escape hatch placing the cover back in place. Then he carefully crawled to the end of the trailer. Making sure no one was near, he crawled under the vehicle carcass and then slipped into the trees.

Quickly he ran away from the clearing then turned back to the lane. Once in the lane he ran down to the gate. The sight of the dead pitbulls around the open gate made his heart ache. They had been the only things he loved in his horrid home. Just then he heard an explosion quickly followed by a much louder and bigger explosion. Looking back toward the clearing he could see a fireball through the trees. As the echos of the explosion receded he could hear a horrific screaming. Even without seeing it, he knew one of the attackers was being horribly burned while still alive. The sound of a rifle shot stilled the shriek.

With a grim smile he decided to stop running. It was time to finish this. With grim determination he closed the gate, then dragged the bodies of the five pitbulls so they laid against the gate. The bodies would have to be dragged out of the way before the gate could be opened. As he dropped the last dog in place he heard the sound of the SUV engine being gunned as it turned around to come down the lane. Rushing over to a huge old oak tree, he slung the AK over his back and climbed up the back side where rungs had been hammered into the tough trunk that was five feet in diameter. A wide crotch was about thirty feet up. It looked down at the area inside the gate. Unslinging the AK he prepared to end it.

The SUV came barreling down the lane to skid to a halt to see the gate closed and the dogs piled up against it. “Fuck,” an angry voice he recognized as the dealer exclaimed. “It’s a fucking ambush! It has to be that fucking kid, he’s the only one left! Ram through!”

The SUV backed up, then with a runny sped towards the gate. The gate caved in about two feet but the pins held it in place as the bumper and fenders of the SUV crumbled and the hood popped up. The savage impact caused the air bags to activate.

Knowing he had to act, Jeff opened fire into the roof of the SUV, stitching the area of the front seats as he emptied the clip. With practiced ease he swapped out clips then hosed down the rear seating area and the back. Once more he swapped out the clips and waited. Nothing moved and no sounds came from the shattered SUV.

After five anxious minutes he slung the AK over his shoulder and climbed down the tree. Readying the weapon, he slowly approached the SUV. Peering inside he saw the driver and the dealer dead in the front seats. In the back seat lay another dead man. He’d apparently been wounded and they were taking him with them. In the back he saw a bullet riddled bag of cash that looked like his dad’s stash. Smashing the shattered rear window with the butt of the AK he reached inside and pulled out the bag. Then he turned and jogged back up the lane. The meth lab was still burning. A still smoldering body must have been the man he’d heard screaming. Cautiously he crossed the clearing to the bullet riddled trailer seeing the still bodies of the three men he’d initially shot. The shattered front door of the trailer had been kicked in. Stepping inside he saw the bullet riddled bodies of his parents.

It really hurt Jeff that he didn’t feel any sorrow about their death. A quick look around showed the place had been ransacked. Heading outside he went to the rusted SUV that had served as the dog house. Crawling into the back he yanked the smelly piled rags upon which the dogs slept to the side to reveal a trap door. Under the door was a large Rubbermaid storage tote. Inside was a large tote bag filled with the main stash. Alex tugged it out, then stuffed the bag he’d pulled from the SUV. Slinging the bag over his shoulder he trudged down the lane. It was 2am the morning of Christmas eve when he climbed up the wrecked SUV to jump over the fence.

About 7am the man who ran the rural morning newspaper delivery route saw the smashed SUV at the Gate. Pulling closer he saw a bloody face in the passenger seat and several bullet holes in the hood and roof of the car. In a panic he gunned his car in reverse and backed about a half mile down the road. From there he frantically called 911.

The first state policeman arrived about 7:30. Upon verifying the scene he called for back up before proceeding to investigate further. It was nearly 8:30 by the time four state police cruisers and another from the county detective squad arrived on the scene. With guns drawn the cautiously checked out the car. They instantly recognized the dead passenger as a major local dealer they had never been able to nail. Following the lane they discovered the three bodies before the bullet riddled trailer, the burned body near the smoldering meth lab, and a badly burned body in the lab. Inside the bullet riddled trailer they found the bloodied owners of the property. There were no weapons near the brutally gunned down couple. It was obvious the dealer and his minions had raided the meth lab only to find it hadn’t been as easy a take down as they’d supposed. Someone had made them pay dearly in the clearing then took them out at the gate. The final ambush site in the oak tree was easy to find due to the empty cartridges and clips. The AK 47 with one spare clip and a pair of 9mm pistols were found in the ditch just down the road from the gate. But the big question was who had done it and where were they?

By 10am they knew Jeff, the owners 12 year old son was unaccounted for. While it was difficult to believe a preteen could have taken out the eight dead bad guys, the evidence was there. They found the hastily cut firing slit in his bedroom and the trap door in the closet. There was no evidence he’d been wounded. But where was he?

Naturally the Christmas eve morning massacre made the noon news. Ten dead adults and a missing 12 year old. June instantly knew Jeff was that boy. She quickly called the rest of the family in time to see a reporter standing outside the gate with the bullet riddled SUV pushed to one side with as an ambulance exited the lane carrying bodies to the morgue. Katrina and Alexis both broke into tears worrying that their friend had been killed. Their fears were quickly allayed as the reporter flashed a picture of Jeff on the screen asking anyone who spotted the missing boy to call the police.

“I have an idea where he might be,” Julie gasped as it hit her. Quickly she dialed Sister Mary.

Sister Mary had not heard the tragic news and was justly appalled and worried for Jeff. As soon as Helen suggested he might have fled to the safety of the chapel at St. Anne’s she knew Julie was right. After brief thank you, she bundled up and headed out into the cold afternoon air. In a few moments she was at the chapel. All the doors were locked and her hopes dimmed until she saw a window behind some bushes was open. Fumbling with the keys she unlocked the side basement door and hurried inside. It took a bit of searching but she finally found the sleeping boy hidden behind the boiler in the furnace room. Jeff’s face was filthy but his tears had left clear tracks over his cheeks. Deciding not to wake him just yet she stepped outside the furnace room and called Julie.

A half hour later the family pulled up by the chapel. Alexis and Katrina bolted from the SUV heading for the open basement door. Sister Mary stopped them and made them wait for Julie, Helen and June. Together they entered the furnace room and stood over the sleeping boy.

“Jeff,” sister Mary called out in a firm but gentle voice. “Jeff.”

Jeff stirred in his uneasy exhausted slumber. It took a few moments for the voice to penetrate his groggy mind. Sleepily he opened his eyes, momentarily bewildered by his surroundings then seeing the caring faces looking at him. The horrible memories rushed into his mind and all he could do was cry. Alexis and Katrina quickly knelt by him and hugged him.

Two hours later Jeff sat in the kitchen of the convent eating a bowl of chicken soup. His hands trembled with every spoon he brought to his lips. He wore a robe the nuns supplied after he’d taken a bath while the clothes he’d worn were being laundered. Sister Monica, Katrina and Alex sat with him.

In the study, Sister Mary, the school’s lawyer, Julie, Helen and June sat with a state police captain and the district attorney. They wanted assurance Jeff would not be arrested and that his location would not be released. They explained the boy had insisted no one know where he was to avoid possible retaliation by the dealer’s associates.

By the time they had all the assurances formalized, Jeff had dressed in his laundered clothes and joined the adults in the study. Julie sat on one side of the traumatized boy while Helen sat on the other. Both had their arms around him, giving him a sense of security he couldn’t recall having experienced with his mother. Slowly Jeff explained all about his parents, the meth lab and the dealer as well as his suspicions and preparations. The details he revealed of the bloody confrontation filled in the missing gaps of the investigation. The interview was recorded.

The DA looked at the orphaned boy and sighed. “Jeff, I won’t press charges against you. But as an orphan...”

“He’s not an orphan,” Julie interrupted. “His identity must be protected and no one outside this room can know where he’ll be. This is not Jeffery Gordo, this is Jessica Ford, Alexis’s sister and one of my adopted daughters.”

“Of course,” Sister Mary added. “She’s a student here at St. Anne’s.”

Jeff looked up startled by their words. “Y... you’d take me in? After what I did?”
“Jessica, what Jeff did was just what soldiers do in a war,” Sister Mary declared. “He never went looking for trouble, it came to him. When it did, he had no choice but to finish it. That’s over now. It’s between you and God. If you ask for forgiveness, it will be granted.”

The DA cleared his throat and frowned. “Jeff, do you understand they’re asking you to live as a girl?”

“Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m Jessica. Jeff was an unhappy boy who lived a horrible life and did horrible things. Jeff knows what he’s experienced, and becoming a girl will be a welcome relief.”

Julie and Helen fiercely hugged Jessica as Sister Mary smiled.

“Very well,” the DA nodded. “We’ll report we interviewed Jeff and he’s now in witness protection. Jessica, let me wish you a happy life with your family.”

“Thank you,” Jessica timidly smiled.

Christmas Eve:

Dressed in matching long green velvet dresses that had been hastily purchased late that afternoon, Katrina, Alexis and Jessica stood before the congregation in the chapel as they sang ‘WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ART’ as part of the Christmas Eve Midnight Service. Sister Monica smiled as she accompanied them on the piano. Sister Mary beamed with pride. Julie, Helen and June dabbed at their wet eyes as they watched their three girls sing their hearts out.



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