“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney
By Angela Rasch
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Schooner County had been going through a nasty drought. The rain that forced Sarah and me to stay inside was extremely welcome and beneficial. It was the kind of gloomy day when a person would have found that one person you trusted the most and told her what was troubling your heart. Sarah had my back, and I loved my sister for that. My memories of that day are as crisp as the lightning that drubbed everything around us . . . even though that recollection challenges all logic.
Sarah and I had been cleaning her room.
“Mike, I’m amazed by how good you are at organizing my closet and drawers.” She smiled at me. “Most ten year old boys would rather die than come in contact with bras or panties. You not only touched them, but you’ve shown me a few things about how to fold them properly.”
My face felt hot. “Mom taught me. I help her with the laundry whenever I can.”
A lightning flash flooded the room followed instantaneously by a loud blast of thunder.
“Ohhh.” I shuddered.
Sarah took me into my arms to comfort me. “You’re so wonderfully sensitive,” she cooed in my ear.
“The boys in my class call me ‘Baby Huey,’ ” I whined. “I still sometimes cry when something isn’t fair.”
I could feel her head swing from side to side.
“What do they call Dave?”
She cocked her head to one side and thought. “Like ‘flash’-in-the-pan?”
“No. They call him ‘Flash’ because he’s a fast runner.”
“That sounds too nice for the fifth grade.”
“That’s because everyone likes him. He’s nice and thinks like everyone else. He doesn’t have crazy thoughts, like me.”
“You’re bigger than the other boys, why don’t you make them stop teasing you?”
It was my turn to shake my head, and then gently break away from her hug. “I don’t think it’s nice to hit people. They just think I’m weird because I love hopscotch. I like football and everyone wants me to play on their team because I’m a giant, so they think that should be my favorite game.” I decided to change the subject and moved to her closet. “I was noticing that you only have a few dresses. Won’t Mom buy you anymore?”
She grinned. “Mom’s soft-hearted, like you. She’ll buy me anything I want. When you get to be fourteen, like me, and in high school, you’ll notice that girls don’t wear dresses much. I have enough for special occasions and parties, but mostly I wear jeans and skirts. Of course, I mainly wear my school uniform, which I despise.”
I reached out and touched one of her blue and green tartan plaid school skirts. “I think your uniform is lovely.”
“If you think it’s so ‘lovely’ maybe you should wear it to school.”
Although her remark was the kind of friendly banter we casually threw back and forth, this time it hit me hard. Tears burst from my eyes, while all my frustrations came to the surface. “I would, if I could,” I forced out between sobs.
“It’s okay, Mikey,” she said, hugging me again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Use your words.”
When I was very young Mom had said, “Use your words,” to stop me when I was about to throw a tantrum.
I had to laugh a little. Now is as good a time as ever, to finally tell someone, I thought. “I’ve never told anyone this, but I think I was born in the wrong body.” There, I’ve finally got that out on the table. I stared at my shoes waiting for lightning to strike me.
“Are you mixed up about your gender?” She asked quietly.
I’d read everything I could find in the public library about gender confusion, without having to ask for help from a librarian. I nodded. “Something like that. I wish I had been born a girl instead of a boy, but underneath it all I think I was . . . born a girl.”
“I thought so,” she said. “Most little boys don’t play with dolls and tea sets like you used to do.”
We had spent hours together pretending with her toys. When we weren’t doing that, we would play house. I was the mom when we played, as often as I was the dad. I could almost make myself believe I had been born in a girl’s body.
“Do you hate me?” I asked quietly. I sat on the edge of her bed with my head down.
“Why would I hate you?”
Why wouldn’t you? “Because I’m a freak.”
She sat next to me and hugged me tightly. “You’re not a freak! There are a lot of people like you. People have been writing songs about how you feel for years. ‘Lola,’ ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ and the Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ are all about gender mixed-up people.”
I tried to smile, but still felt uneasy. Her face still is as friendly to me as ever.
“Have you ever tried wearing my clothes?” She asked.
“No,” I answered quickly. “I’d love to, but I would never do that without first asking your permission, and I was too afraid to ask because of what would happen if someone found out.”
“I wouldn’t mind if you wore my clothes,” she offered. “In fact, let me run a tub for you, and then we’ll try a little experiment.”
For the next few minutes, she chatted about an upcoming birthday party at our cousin’s house. I got the feeling she was making conversation to keep me from becoming anxious, which only made me more nervous.
“Is this necessary?” I asked a few minutes later. I was soaking in a tub filled with fragrant bubbles. “Isn’t Mom going to ask some embarrassing questions when she gets home and finds me smelling like your perfume?”
“Don’t worry. Mom loves you unconditionally. You shouldn’t keep things from her.”
“Maybe. And I have another big problem. Dave’s coming over later to work on our model of a 1983 Ford Mustang. He’s my best friend, but even so I’m not so sure he’d understand. I’ll have to take a shower before he arrives to wash off the perfume.”
“Dave’s a good guy. He seems to be extremely level-headed. He’d understand.”
“Again, maybe. I trust him, but I’ve never really trusted anyone enough to know my secret until today.”
She stared at me for a moment. “I don’t know how these things work. When you say you wish you had been born a girl, does that mean you like guys. . .like-like guys and want to marry them?”
“Heck no. I like girls. Dave isn’t like that either. He kissed Cynthia at Courtland’s party. I mean . . . I don’t have a girlfriend, but someday I want to. I don’t know how these things work either!”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s take it one day at a time.” She set a towel on the counter next to the tub. “I think you’re done. After you get out, dry yourself as much as you can with the towel. Put on these panties, and then call me. I’ll powder your body and help you get dressed.”
“More perfume?” I asked.
She nodded. “Amy, you worry too much.”
“Amy?” How did she know? “Are you trying to tease me?”
She shook her head. “If you had been born a girl, Mom was going to call you Amy.”
“I know. Mom told me. I think of myself as Amy. It was weird to hear you call me that.” I could feel myself blushing again.
“Amy is a sweet name. It fits you. Don’t you think it’s about time you tell Mom how you feel? She’s really good at helping when things are rough. After Dad died she became my rock.”
Our father had died just after I started first grade, but I still missed him. “Mom’s great, but wouldn’t it be a little too much to tell her that her boy is really a girl.” I thought of all the toy trucks Mom had given me over the years. What I really had wanted was a doll. “Is this perfume really necessary? It’s nice, but I’m not ready to tell Mom.”
“Amy, it’s called Obsession,” she said. “Girls start taking an interest in perfume at about your age. Besides, I don’t want your boy odors on my clothes. I don’t mind you wearing them, but you need to smell pretty when you do.”
After I dried myself, she powdered me with Obsession body powder. It had an aroma that complimented what was in the bubble bath.
“I’m afraid your waist is too big for my school skirts. I think one of my a-line party dresses might work.”
I’m depressed that I’m too big for her school uniform, but that dress she’s taking out of her closet is scrumptious.
“This will fit, if you don’t wear a bra. Even without breasts it’s going to be tight and probably won’t hang the way it should.” She slid the dress over my head, while my arms found the right holes. “The zipper will only come together up to here, but when you look in the mirror you won’t see that. If I force it, I’m going to rip the fabric.”
“I should take it off.” Although, I don’t want to. I made no move in that direction.
“Don’t worry. There’s enough stretch in the fabric. I’m afraid your feet are quite a bit too big for my shoes or Mom’s. You’ll have to be a ‘Barefoot Contessa.’ ”
I laughed, despite my disappointment. We often watched old movies together, and I loved thinking of myself as Ava Gardner.
My sister seemingly forced herself to grin. “I’m going to fix your hair, do your nails, and try a little makeup.”
That sounds wonderful. “Are you sure you want to spend all that time?”
“You’re my best friend, even after you have the nerve to tell me Dave is your best friend.”
“I didn’t mean it like that! You know you and I are as close as anyone can be.”
She giggled. “Got ya, Amy.”
She’s such a tease!
“Let’s do your nails first. I’m going to use a dusty rose. Our school only lets us wear clear polish, but for your first time you should look special.”
“I’m not going to school with nail polish on my fingers,” I said quickly.
“Of course not, Amy. I’ve got gallons of polish remover, and Mom has more in her bathroom.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
We moved to the kitchen to have more room.
I quickly found that sitting in a chair in a dress seemed awkward. As hard as a tried I just couldn’t seem to keep my knees together.
“Your fingernails are a little long for a boy, which helps,” Sarah said. “Plus, I’m going to push back the cuticle and file the tips to ovals. I’m also going to use a bottom coat gel to fill in your ridges.”
“That’s a pretty color,” I offered.
“I don’t use it much. It’s a little too girly for me, but I sense it fits you.”
“You have large hands,” she said quietly. “Perhaps if you bought a ring, or two, that fits you -- your fingers would look more feminine. You probably would need a size ten or eleven, maybe twelve. I don’t think it would be too easy to find a girls’ ring that size.” Her voice trailed off.
My hands are clunky, and seem to echo the rest of me.
She finished applying the polish. While they dried, she brought out a charm bracelet for me to wear.
“Darn,” she apologized, “your wrists are about an inch or so too big around, even at the largest setting.” She sighed. “Let’s work with your hair.”
For the next twenty minutes, she used a brush and spray on my shoulder-length hair. “I don’t want to cut it so that you’d look funny next week in school. It’s sort of thin. Not for a guy; you have nice hair for a guy. Oh well, let’s try some make-up.”
This isn’t how things go in my dreams.
“I was afraid of that,” she said suddenly. “Some skin doesn’t like foundation. I’ll use powder and . . . that isn’t tooooo bad.”
After she spent another ten minutes working on my eyes and lips, she turned me toward the mirror.
Ugh! I look like me . . . only more “stupider.”
“I’m home . . . and Dave was standing outside drowning in the rain, so I just brought him in. . .. ”
Mom and Dave are standing right there staring at me. I should run! I should hide. I should make up a story!
“What’s going on? What are you two up to?” Mom giggled. “Mike, if there’s one thing I don’t have to worry about it’s you having a sex change. You just don’t have the body for it.”
With water running down his face from his drenched hair, Dave was laughing at me over my mom’s shoulder. “Are you going to try out for a school play? You’re lucky you’re a guy, because you make one horrible girl.”
I tried as hard as I could not to cry, but there was no holding back my tears. Not then, and not every night for the next many years.
Another day that I will always remember was the day we got engaged.
“I’m planning on offering this to Jennifer.” I showed him a half-carat ring that symbolized my love.
“Other than it being pretty small,” Dave said, “I don’t see anything for you to worry about.”
“Jennifer and I agreed we should put all our assets into our new bank. It’s taken all my inheritance and everything Jennifer’s family and mine could scrape together to get it going.”
“You guys are lucky to be able to put together the $250,000 in assets needed to start a bank.”
“A lot of people are confident in our futures. We’re hoping after we have a little success that we can attract more investors.”
“You will. I can’t imagine anyone turning down ‘Jennifer’ for anything.”
A picture of Jennifer dressed for our latest business meeting flashed through my mind. She favored simple sheath dresses, which she complimented with tasteful accessories. Because she’s so petite and athletic, she could look good in a plastic garbage bag. She projects such a professional image!
“You’re perfect for each other,” Dave stated. “Jennifer’s amazing and you’re . . . . . If I could somehow combine both of your personalities and her looks, I’d marry ‘Minnifer’ in a second.”
“Minnifer” was the portmanteau for Mike and Jennifer that was used by our friends. They said we were so much alike that we seemed like the same person. I took their teasing as high compliments.
Dave used what remained of his second beer to cap off lunch. That would be it for him. “Two-beer Dave” was trying to maintain a perfect 4.00 GPA through his last quarter in college. I respected him for his self-discipline.
“How lucky am I that Jennifer and I have the same major,” I said. “We’ve been sharing classes from our first day in college. I had coffee with her after our very first class as freshmen four years ago, and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve studied together every night, eaten lunch together nearly every day, and enjoyed every minute of it. At least I have; I hope she has.”
“Although I didn’t switch my major from engineering to finance until my sophomore year, I did have quite a few courses with you. It’s been great.”
“It’s almost like we’ve been sharing Jennier.”
“You’re lucky you saw her before I did,” Dave said. “She’s your soul-mate, there’s no doubt about that, but I’ve always felt that if you weren’t dating her, she would be perfect for me. I suppose a lot of guys feel that way about Jennifer.”
I grinned. “I know how lucky I am. Maybe after tonight she won’t want anything to do with me, and then you’ll have your chance.”
“Why do you say that? You’re the handsomest guy on campus.”
“Look who’s talking. You were picked “Most Eligible Bachelor” by the senior class.”
Dave laughed. “Only because everyone already considers you married to Jennifer. She’s the prettiest girl in our class.”
“No argument there.”
“She’s the only cheerleader whose blonde hair looks natural under the lights on the football field. The others look like they have hair manufactured for a doll. You’re a star football jock, and she’s the cheerleading captain. You two match.”
“If our university had a hopscotch team, I would have played on that,” I joked.
“And you would have been great at it.” He laughed. “To continue what you so rudely interrupted; you both are ultra-compassionate to a fault.”
“ ‘A fault’?” I raised a questioning eyebrow.
“You’ve both had some attractive employment offers, but you’re going to go ahead with that crazy banking scheme you came up with. Don’t you think it would be a better idea to go into the job market, make a fortune, and then donate money to charities?”
“That’s your plan, and I really can’t say you’re wrong,” I stated. “Jennifer and I think we can be effective sooner, by addressing a problem at its roots. A lot of people need a bank who will respond to their needs.”
“Your plan of making micro-loans to new small businesses makes sense,” he agreed. “I wish I had your entrepreneurial spirit. I just can’t bring myself to turn down a big paycheck and benefits.”
“In a year or two I might be crawling into your office looking for work,” I said. “You need to work hard, so you’ll be in a position to hire Jennifer and me.”
Dave laughed. “The idea of Jennifer and you failing at anything is unthinkable. So what’s bothering you today?”
I frowned. “My problem is, I’ve never told Jennifer about Amy.”
Dave laughed. “Mike, it’s been years since you tried on that dress. Outside of your mother, your sister, and me, no one knows that you have a feminine side. My guess is those running backs you’ve been bruising from your linebacker position would be shocked.”
“Jennifer has a right to know. I still wish I was a girl. It’s still part of my basic DNA.”
He chuckled. “And, I wish I had Albert Einstein’s brain and Tim McGraw’s voice.”
“That’s not the same.” I bit my lip. “I’m gender confused. I might be one hundred percent male on the outside, but I’m one hundred percent female where it really counts, in my heart.”
“I know that. I’ve known that for over ten years, and I’ve struggled to understand it. Now I think I understand it better than you do. Jennifer is a smart girl. She loves YOU. You are what you are. Tell her and she’ll understand, the same way I do.”
“I don’t understand,” Jennifer said two hours later. She had just agreed to become my wife . . . and then I hit her with my confession. “Do you like guys?” She asked. “Our sex has been terrific. I don’t think anyone could fake it so effectively.”
“No,” I argued, “I like girls. No, I like “girl’. You. I love you. You’re the only person I want to be with, emotionally and physically.”
“Not Dave?” Jennifer teased. “Dave’s a hunk. If I didn’t love you, I’d get into Dave in a second.”
“No,” I promised quietly, “I’ve never been attracted to Dave. He’s a terrific guy, but he’s a guy.”
Her eyes told me she had quickly moved passed any anger or disappointment with me. “But you said you always wanted to be a girl.”
“I wish I could be more content, like you. If I could, I would be a woman,” I said. “But I can’t.”
“Do you think you’re like this because you grew up in a house without a father?”
“I can remember thinking I wanted be a girl when I was four, before my father passed.”
“Uh huh. You could have a sex change,” she offered. “Lots of men have a sex change and become women. I saw a movie called ‘Ma Vie En Rose’ that was all about a boy like that.”
“I look horrible in a dress.”
“How do you know?” She asked.
“When I was ten years old Sarah dressed me in her clothes and tried as hard as she could to make me look like a girl.”
“Was that for Halloween?” Her question contained no amount of ridicule.
“No. I told her how I felt, and she tried to help me, but I looked revolting. Sarah even thought so, although she was too kind to say. Mom and Dave walked in on us. They both laughed at how ugly I looked.”
“Do you mean to say Dave knows that you would have preferred to have been born a girl?”
She touched the engagement ring on her finger.
She has every right to change her mind.
“I’m very upset with you.”
“I’m sorry Jennifer, but I am who I am. I can’t change that part of me.”
She waved me off. “I’m not upset about your basic psychological make-up. How can I be? For all I know, your desire to have been born a girl might be just the thing that makes you so uniquely lovable. And,” she said, “you are extremely lovable. What I’m upset about is that you told Dave something that you didn’t feel comfortable telling me.”
“It was an accident that he found out. I haven’t worn a dress since that day over ten years ago. Had he not seen me that day, he wouldn’t know, but because he did we’ve talked about it about every other month since then.”
She closed her eyes and appeared to be relieved. “Okay . . . I guess that makes sense. Have you ever felt like you needed to wear a dress after that day?”
“I’ve wanted to every day of my life, even after I saw how bad I looked. I keep waiting for a miracle to happen.” I could feel tears trickling down my cheeks.
“Maybe with the right dress and the proper make-up you’d look nice,” she speculated.
“I don’t think so.” I have about as much chance at being pretty as Shrek, an ogre in a new movie we’d seen.
“But . . . you do wish it was so.”
“If you could pass for a woman would you still want to marry me?”
She thought for a moment. “What about taking hormones?”
“I’ve never even given it much thought. I’m one of the tallest football players and easily seventy-five pounds heavier than most guys. That makes me a foot taller than most women and over a hundred pounds heavier.”
She nodded. “I’ve got some girlfriends who are big, but they’re still pretty and quite feminine. I’ve got some girlfriends who are smaller and very masculine. Size matters, but not all that much.”
“What are you thinking?”
She took my jaw in her hand and turned my face from side-to-side. “I think that if you look in the mirror and like what you see, the rest of the world should respect that perspective. I know I will.”
Her face was set in determination. She apparently had made up her mind.
“You sit down and watch the game for an hour or two,” she said. “I’m going to go to the mall and find a suitable dress, a wig, and some proper make-up for you.”
“For what purpose?”
“I love you. I want you to be happy. You make me happy by you being happy.” For the next few minutes she measured various parts of my body, including my feet. She grabbed her purse and car keys and was out the door before I could argue. “I’ll be back.”
I wanted to argue, to tell her not to waste her time and money, but the optimist in me wanted her to be successful.
I didn’t watch the game. The television was on, and the game was playing, but it might as well have been unplugged, because I didn’t hear or see it. I became lost in thought . . . and worry.
“I’m back,” she said while bursting through the door with arms laden with packages. “There’s a specialty dress shop in the mall that had a perfect cinch dress in your size, which is 3x. Shoes were tough to find in a size fifteen. All I could get were sandals. For some reason the wig shop didn’t have any extra-large wigs, so I got a large. We’ll open the tabs as wide as possible.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Definitely,” she said. “I’m no psychiatrist, but asking someone to be something other than what they are doesn’t seem like a good idea. You’re a female, and I’m perfectly okay with that.”
I didn’t think it was possible, but I love her more at this moment than ever. “Are you sure you’d be okay with me transitioning to live as a female?”
“There’re things we’ll need to talk about, but first let’s see how you stack up.” She looked me over from head-to-toe. “You’re a very hairy person. For today let’s ignore that. However, you need to shave.”
“I shaved this morning,” I said.
“You have a five o’clock shadow and it’s only 3:00. There’s no way I can cover your beard like it is.”
“Do I need to take a bubble bath? Sarah had me take a bubble bath before I wore her dress?”
“This is ‘your, dress, but why don’t you spray yourself liberally with Jean Nate after bath splash? It’s on the counter. “
I went in the bathroom and shaved as closely as I could, once with the grain, and once going against it. After I finished shaving, I doused myself with Jean Nate.
When I came out I noted that she had laid out undergarments for me on the bed we’d been sharing for the last year.
She handed me a small elastic garment.
“This control panty will hold your male parts out of the way allowing your front to be flat,” she said hopefully.
“Ooooohh,” I said. “This thing is crushing me.” I looked down and saw that despite the enormous pressure it was putting on my package, my bulge still was quite evident.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “If you go out in public you can wear a slip to cover up that bump. I’ll tighten this waist cincher around you to provide definition.” After she had yanked the laces of the garment as tightly as possible, she had changed my waist from thirty- three to thirty-one. “Your abdomen is so muscular I really can’t make a huge dent in it.”
She slipped a bra on me and inserted some extremely large globs of plastic in the cups before adjusting the straps.
“Aren’t those fake breasts awfully big?” I asked. “I don’t want to look like Dolly Parton.”
“Dolly’s cute,” she pouted, and then smiled. “I bought the breasts specifically for your frame. Proportionately your breasts are now the same size as mine are on my body.”
“And . . . I’ll readily admit you’re perfect.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked. “I’ve always thought my backside could be a little more filled out.” She tried in vain to look over her shoulder.
I shook my head. “Nope . . . perfect.”
I’m surprised at the weight pulling through my bra’s shoulder straps, and how far the breasts extend from my body.
“Darn,” she said, ‘that’s all the adjustment this bra has, and it was the largest in your chest size. I probably will have to rip it apart and sew in extensions. Ohhh . . . another day. Let’s just try it the way it is, for now.”
Once the bra was in place, she helped me into the dress.
“I selected three-quarter length sleeves, which I thought would be the most complimentary.”
She’s trying to cover-up my gigantic arms.
“I like the color of the dress,” I admitted. “It’s purple, but I suppose the dressmaker has a fancy name for it.”
“They call it crown jewel.”
The dress was somewhat form-fitting, although in my case there was a lack of backside for it to “form fit.” It stopped at my knees exposing two overly muscular legs covered with coarse, black hair.
“Don’t think about your hair,” she said, obviously following my gaze. “Every girl has to shave her legs.”
I grimaced. “But not twice a day.”
“Let’s try your shoes. You’ve got size thirteen men’s feet, so I got you a size fifteen women’s shoe. Like I said, all they had in your size were sandals, and those are a basic brown, which doesn’t look all that great with this dress.”
“That’s okay. I can use my imagination.” She doesn’t know how starved I am to see my feminine self. A little thing like brown sandals isn’t going to matter all that much.
“I couldn’t find any jewelry that would fit your hands or wrist. The necklace I got will work for you, but it’s not something I would wear . . . I’m sorry.”
“I love you for trying . . . for doing all this.”
Thankfully the shoes fit, but my toes had taken a horrible beating from football, and they looked like bad hamburger poking out of the sandals.
“Let’s get some make-up on you. Is that as close as you can shave?” Her face looked concerned.
“That’s okay. I went to a theatrics store and got special concealer.”
She worked on my face for several minutes. “I really can’t do much to hide your wide jaw,” she said. “Your nose, lips, and ears are all nice, but overall your head is so much bigger than mine. I really. . ..” She sighed. “There really isn’t that much difference between an attractive man’s face and a pretty woman’s, except for the jaw and the forehead. You have a very handsome face.”
“That looks like hell on a woman,” I added miserably.
She didn’t argue. “Let’s try your wig,” she stated. “You have a square face, so I got a medium-length wig with height at the crown. The bangs are swept to one side to minimize your square shape. I got a color that is close to yours, only several shades lighter. It’s called spring-honey.” She pulled it into place after setting the adjustments to fit as big a head as possible.
“ ‘Spring-honey’ sounds pretty,” I said, optimistically.
“Let’s go into the bedroom and use the floor-to-ceiling mirror.”
The wig didn’t look pretty, and neither was I. I need to conceal my frustration. “I’m no beauty queen,” I said, finally. “My arms and legs look grotesque.”
“You could always wear slacks. Lots of women do.”
“And long-sleeve blouses,” I added. “My wig looks like it’s perched on top of my head.”
“That’s the biggest one they had. Men’s heads are so much bigger than women’s.”
“There’s no denying I have a man’s body,” I said. “My face looks like I’m made up to act in a play.”
“I had to use a thick coat of concealer,” she said. “Honey, a lot of women are large.”
“But,” I cried, “they don’t look like that.” I pointed with disgust at my reflection.
We talked for the next several hours and reached an understanding. Since I couldn’t pass in public as a female, we would both be uncomfortable with me dressing in female clothing in public. I had no interest in looking like an effeminate man, so I would continue to dress as a male.
When appropriate I would wear panties, and I would wear nighties to bed unless we had overnight guests and until we had children. Because I didn’t want to explain myself to my children, I decided that once we had kids I would throw out whatever female bed clothing I had accumulated.
I still wished I had been born a girl, but was extremely thankful for the wonderful life I had been given. I did what I could to be positive about not being female.
Other than that one fundamental flaw our lives were perfect.
We had three children in short order. Our oldest was a girl named Eva, who was seven. Our middle child was a boy named Ethan, who was four. Our baby Sophia had just turned one.
Jennifer would nurse our babies until they were eighteen months, and then we’d start on another.
We were running a small loan company, that we called Prime Plus Three. We charged three over prime, so most of our loans carried interest rates of eight to nine percent. The maximum loan we made was $25,000, but most were under $5,000. Our average client was providing in-home services.
Most of them were start-ups, who had been declined by every other bank they had approached.
Our default rate was a very positive three percent, making us quite profitable. In the nine years we’d been in business we’d increased our banks financial footings over twenty times through organic growth and tripled that by attracting increased investment capital.
“You shouldn’t even consider the offer,” Dave said. He still restricted his drinking to two beers or less, but was nursing his second, as if he wanted a third.
“I don’t know,” I said. Jennifer, Dave and I were enjoying a rare night out together.
Dave lived close enough so that our kids all considered him part of the family, but his job kept him busy so that the three of us rarely went out to dinner. Since Eva had started soccer, basketball, and dance, it was even harder to match schedules, even though Dave had managed to become her soccer coach.
“Four million dollars could set up our family for life,” Jennifer said.
That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking.
“Aren’t you ‘set-up for life’ already,” Dave asked. “Mike, you’ve got the perfect job. You make all the money you need, plus you have the perfect family. Jennifer, you landed the captain of the football team and he just happened to have a brain that apparently hadn’t been turned to mush by concussions.”
“The jury’s still out on whether or not my brain suffered any damage on the gridiron,” I argued. “There are days I have problems concentrating.”
“That’s because you work from sun-up to sundown every day,” Jennifer cautioned. “The only time you relax is that twenty minutes a day you spend playing our piano.”
“I do love to tickle the ivories,” I admitted. Even though I only took lessons through high school, I often sat in with a local jazz group and could change keys and pound chords with the best of them.
“I envy you,” Jennifer said. “I hope our kids got your piano genes because I’m a complete klutz when it comes to any musical instrument. I took lessons but never got beyond scales and frustration.” She smiled at me. “Maybe we should sell so that you can keep your health,” she suggested.
“Why don’t you hire more loan officers?” Dave asked.
“We’ve promised our investors that either Jennifer or I will personally approve every loan,” I explained. “Part of the process is getting to know the person, and that requires face-to-face time.”
“Mike loves to talk to our clients,” Jennifer laughed. “Sometimes he spends three or four hours making a $2,000 loan.”
“These people need help with their business plans,” I stated, realizing that she was teasing. Jennifer spent as much time with the applicants as I did. We juggled our days so that we could be with our kids, skimping on the alone time we consequentially didn’t have with each other.
“What you should do is as plain as the nose on your face,” Dave said. “You should sell the business and take your family to a deserted island. That way you wouldn’t have to share each other with anyone.”
“You wouldn’t stop working!” I laughed. “You’re as civic minding as anyone I know. How much are you getting paid to coach Ava’s team?”
Dave laughed. “About as much as you get paid to serve as president of the school parent’s association. But seriously, if I were you I would think about scrounging up some personal assets and buying out your investors. That way you could relax your personal involvement in the loan underwriting a little and work a thirty-five hour week. You both could enjoy your kids more.”
Jennifer and I looked at each other and nodded.
My doctor suggested that I cut back. My heart is fine, but I’ve been getting migraines.
“You and Jennifer have the perfect jobs.”
“You’re doing the same thing,” Jennifer pointed out.
“Not hardly,” Dave argued. “Sure I’m a commercial loan officer for a big bank, but these days that means I have to tell nine out of ten applicants that I can’t help them. Even the ones I can help don’t get what they really need from us. I can only make realistic loans to those who don’t need them.”
“Don’t you like being a banker?” Jennifer asked.
“Not the way I have to do it,” he said. “I can’t even begin to tell you two how much I envy you. Wonderful spouses. Awesome kids. Self-determination. You’ve got it all.”
“Until the bank examiners come in the door in their blue blazers and ‘gotcha’ attitudes,” I joked.
“Your compliance officer is a miracle worker.” Dave finished his beer. He waved to the waitress, who came over immediately and flirted with him.
“She likes you,” I said after Dave ordered an Arnold Palmer. The waitress left to get him his half lemonade/half iced-tea concoction.
“What’s not to like?” He stated with mocked gravity. “I should take her home and start a family.”
“You should find someone to actually get serious about,” Jennifer scolded. “I hate to think of you getting old by yourself. What ever happened to Kim?”
“We’re not seeing each other anymore. I’m spoiled,” Dave explained. “I compare every girl against a mighty high standard and they all fall short.”
“What’s that standard?” Jennifer asked.
“You,” he said, in all seriousness.
“Mommy!” Ava shrieked from down the hall. “Sophie’s hungry.”
I opened my eyes and reached for Jennifer’s side of the bed to poke her.
She’s not there. She’ll never by there again. Damn that aneurysm.
At the funeral two weeks ago, everyone had been extremely sad. How could you not be, when someone as wonderful as Jennifer dies prematurely.
Prematurely! People are supposed to be prematurely grey, NOT PREMATURELY DEAD!
“It should have been me!” I said out loud for the first time, since no one could hear me. My voice sounded weak and a little reedy. I’d silently wished a thousand times that it had been me who had died instead of her. The whole awful process of planning the funeral, picking out a casket, standing over her grave. . .. My eyes filled with tears defying the biological fact that the amount of liquid in our bodies is a limited resource.
“I’ll bring Sophie in,” Ava called.
I sat up in bed and noticed that I was wearing one of my old nightgowns. I thought I threw them all out after Ava had been born. Where did I find it and why, oh why, did I put it on? Panic struck -- knowing that Ava would be coming in the door within seconds.
This isn’t one of my old nightgowns! It’s one of Jennifer’s. In fact, I bought it for her last Christmas at Victoria’s Secret. It’s their smallest size. How can it possibly fit me? I swung my legs out of bed to go to the door to close it, so as not to freak out Ava.
Hair fell in front of my face, and I noticed that my legs looked much thinner and hairless, strange . . . they look like Jennifer’s. I need a haircut, badly. I closed my eyes for the millionth time since. . .. She had died so quickly. One second we were sitting in her office talking about what we were going to get the kids for Christmas and the next . . .. The EMTs did everything they could. There was nothing anyone could have done. She’s gone. Damn it!
“Mommy,” Ava said from right outside my door.
My eyes popped open. What will I say? I don’t want her to be mentally scarred for life, because I gave into my urges.
“Sophie needs her ‘gulk’,” Ava said, walking into the room, struggling a little under Sophie’s weight. Sophie only had a few words and one of them was “gulk” which is what our baby said for “milk”.
Ava handed Sophie to me.
“Thank you for getting her out of bed.” I sound breathy. I cradled Sophie and reached into my nightgown to created access for her to suckle on my breast. What am I doing?
Sophie eagerly latched onto me, and is obviously getting what she wants!
This can’t be. I’ve wished to wake up a woman a million times, but I never -- ever thought it would happen. And, I certainly didn’t want Jennifer to die to make my wish come true.
While Sophie nursed and stared lovingly up into my face, I reached down between my legs with my free hand.
It’s gone. Of course, it’s gone. You’re Jennifer. That’s our little sweetie, Ava, leaning against the doorframe waiting patiently for you to get up and make breakfast. Be very careful what you do and say. She’s had a rough last few days as it is.
Maybe. . .. “Mike,” I called hopefully.
Ava looked at me strangely. “Daddy died. He went to heaven. He had a bad spot in his head, and he’s gone.” Her face clouded and tears started. She crawled into bed next to me and snuggled.
But I’m Mike! I remember being Mike at work. I remember making first team all-conference in football. I remember the first time I made love to. . ..
. . .me. I can remember how tenderly he treated me, and the two-dozen roses he brought to me the next day. It was so embarrassing. Everyone in my sorority knew what he’d done by the look on his face and . . ..
This is crazy.
Sophie had lost interest, so I placed her on my shoulder and gently patted her back. She’s getting so big. Burping isn’t really necessary anymore, but I love to do it. Mike and I decided she’ll be our last baby, so I’m savoring every. . ..
I’m Mike. Dammit! What the hell! I need to get up.
“Ava,” I begged. “Please take Sophie in and put her down in her crib for a minute. I’m going to take a quick shower.” Not really, but I need a moment. . .or a day. . .or a month. . .or . . . Arghhhhh!
Ava left with a milk drunk Sophie.
I pulled off my nightgown, panties, and my nursing bra, and then placed them in the hamper.
I don’t have the first idea what I’m doing! How can I even dress myself? What will everyone think? Jennifer’s in a casket, and now she’s walking around, only it’s me. I saw the machines the EMTs wired her to and watched her flat line.
Standing at the closet door, I remembered a board meeting scheduled for that afternoon and selected the black dress I’d bought to attend it.
When did I buy that dress?
Everything since the funeral seems a blur. Once I knew which dress I was going to wear, I selected matching shoes and the proper underwear.
I’m so lucky that my breasts don’t get gigantic when I’m nursing. None of the kids have ever complained due to a lack of nourishment. The kids! They need breakfast.
I quickly fix my face and spritz on a modest amount of Grace perfume. Mike loved Grace.
I loved Grace on Jennifer. I’m so confused. How do I know how to use make-up?
I looked in the mirror. Not bad. Understated. My hair even looks okay after I brushed it and stuck in a clip. Dave will be at the board meeting. Dave’s been terrific. He resigned from his other job and has been at our bank every day helping me. The other women in the bank have been circling him like vultures.
They used to do that to me. No matter how much I showed them my love for Jennifer they still flirted. And, now they’re doing it with Dave.
He is handsome. His perma-tan has gone from something I kidded him about, to a very attractive part of his physical being.
“Mommy,” Ethan screamed. “I want pancakes.
I need help. I went to my bedroom and found my iPhone. I dialed my mother’s number. For some reason, Jennifer’s mother answered.
“What is it, Sweetie?” She asked.
Is everyone as confused as I am? “Please come over here immediately. I’m not doing so good.”
The doctor gave me a powerful sedative. I slept twenty hours.
When I woke, a private nurse was there to give me another pill for another fifteen-hour nap.
The nurse was waiting with a glass of ice water the second time I woke. “You’ve had a rough time,” she clucked. “Everyone grieves differently.”
She seems trustworthy. “Have you ever heard of a husband becoming his dead wife?”
She smiled. “I’m told that Mike and you were together at least twenty hours a day for the last decade.”
I nodded. Jennifer and I were easily together twenty hours a day.
“Sometimes in a marriage like yours it’s hard to tell where one person stops and the other person starts. Here -- have another drink of water.”
I nodded, and then she held the glass to my lips.
“It’s not all that uncommon for the surviving spouse to have a strong reaction,” she said. “You’re feeling guilty that it wasn’t you who died.”
“Who’s taking care of the kids?”
“Your mother has been here for the last few days.”
On cue, my mother-in-law appeared at the door to my bedroom. “Good afternoon, sleepyhead.”
“Afternoon? What day is it?”
“It’s Thursday,” she answered.
“Dave’s been doing a great job filling in for you. He told me to tell you everything is running smoothly. He’s been here both days, for at least an hour, sitting by your bed.”
I looked in my mother’s eyes, or my mother-in-law’s eyes. Whatever! “Have you ever heard of such a thing? This feeling that I have that I was Mike and magically transferred into my body?”
The nurse felt my forehead, more like a mother than a medical professional. “I’ve seen it many times that spouses will die within days of one another. I read a study that suggested widows and widowers are at least thirty percent more likely to die within six months of their spouse’s death. Your separation anxiety has manifested itself in a slightly different way.”
“What possible explanation is there for the fact that I have clear memories of growing up as Mike along with the memories of my own childhood?”
The nurse thought for a moment. “You and Mike must have had vivid conversations about your life experiences. Your imagination fills in the blanks, much like what happens in a dream.”
My mother took my hand. It felt like the hand that had lovingly soothed me through many childhood bumps and bruises. “You need to get well. What you’re experiencing sounds very much like deja vu. Your brain is telling you that you’re having a recollection, when what you’re really doing is remembering what Mike told you.”
I nodded, again. That nurse is here to care for me and to assess my mental state. If I’m not careful, I’ll wind up in a mental hospital and my life will be chaos. What is. . .is. I have to quit looking for explanations and go with the flow.
Talking to Jennifer’s mother and reading the “get well” cards that came with flowers it became apparent that Jennifer and I both still existed. Mike didn’t die. Jennifer didn’t die. We both were living in Jennifer’s body. To complete the eerie change all of Jennifer’s friends and family thought of Mike as their child, or friend. All of Jennifer’s acquaintances had made a similar switch. My mother was convinced she had raised a girl named Jennifer and never had a son named Mike.
Jennifer and I had been soulmates and now had fused,
They gave me another pill, and then I went back to sleep, somewhat convinced that my reality had been shaken.
Either I had become the first known person to magically switch bodies while retaining my memory and gaining the memory of the person whose body I had taken over, or my reality had temporarily come off the tracks.
One was possible and highly probable, the other was a fantasy.
I took two weeks off. At the end of that time I accepted my “Mike” memories as being a product of grief and mental exhaustion, or something I just had to live with.
When I returned to work, I told people that Mike had told me enough in our discussions so that I had a command of his clients’ histories and his daily functions. I easily took over the bank with Dave’s very capable assistance.
Dave watched over me like a mother hen. Eight months after Mike died I started to see Dave in a new light. Mike’s “death” had changed things, in some ways my life was much less fulfilling, but in others it was much better.
I found myself smiling continuously.
I’d always been aware of Dave’s charm and rugged good looks, but they’d never provoked my thoughts so . . . deliciously, before. I found more and more ways to “bump” into him at work and eventually found myself in his arms . . . where I belonged.
As they say, one wonderful thing led to another. I tried my best not to compare him to Mike as a lover, but in the end found that impossible. They were both attentive and caring in life, and in bed. Dave had learned a wonderful thing or two in his bachelorhood.
Our wedding came nearly eighteen months after the aneurysm. We were getting married in a simple ceremony. Dave had moved in two months earlier, so our marriage simply tied up the loose strings. We were eager to have a child together.
Dave was taking longer to get dressed than I had expected. I walked to our living room and sat down at the piano. At first I had trouble with the fingering, but within minutes I was able to play, as if I had never quit, even though I hadn’t played since Jennifer’s death.
You can find over a dozen of my stories in Hatbox. Erin just posted (12/22/2014) two more today. Please support BC by joining Hatbox. I receive no compensation for my Hatbox stories. Thanks.
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