Hair Soup

Synopsis:

Steve is married to Dee Lilah, who is running for the U.S. Senate. The League of Women’s Voters has scheduled a beauty contest for the candidates' spouses. Ironically, the League hadn’t anticipated a female candidate, and had made the rules quite stringent in regards to what the spouse must wear and do.

Story:
Hair Soup
by Angela Rasch

Chapter One

You’re as cold as ice
You’re willing to sacrifice our love
You want paradise
But someday you’ll pay the price
I know.

Cold As Ice — Foreigner

I stared out of our classroom window at a head of beautiful hair on a young mother in the school parking lot. The impeccably dressed woman looked like the corporate kind -- possibly legal counsel for some huge company. Every curl on her head had been perfectly positioned to set off her apple-shaped face. Her flaw was that her make-up showed no flaws. . .like the food in a McDonald’s ad.

She definitely had money; almost everyone who attended Brecht High School did. The fourteen thousand dollar annual tuition, plus the five to ten grand you were expected to contribute annually to the endowment fund, kept the non-wealthy away.

Most Brecht families lived in Northbrook. Some of the scholarship students made a one-hour trek on public transportation from North Chicago. Others had a more time-consuming ride, as there was no El to Northbrook, and the school buses moved slowly.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes; and then I expanded my daydream to include wearing her blouse, her skirt, her jewelry. . .everything she had on. I closed my eyes and imagined the aroma of the Chanel No. 5 floating up from my bra, which was saturated with lace and satin. My long, platinum-blonde hair brushed the collar of the Dusty Rose jacket that sat over my pearl, silk blouse. My opaque pantyhose whispered to me as I strolled toward....

“Ahhhhmmmmm.” Damn, that had been me! I opened my eyes to the laughter of seven amused classmates, as my face turned scarlet. My mind jolted back from my sumptuous promenade in the parking lot. The mom and my yearning for all-things-feminine had faded, replaced by my immediate, and much less satisfying, surroundings and circumstances. I eyed my Nike running shoes, with laces that would never be tied. They had been built to withstand the pounding of long-distance jogging; a claim I had no intention of testing. I slid further down in my desk hoping no one would notice my raging hard-on.

“Is something wrong, Steve?” I had disturbed Diane Lilah’s kingdom by becoming a distraction from her monologue. Her meetings moved along at a fast pace, as she had places to go and people to conquer.

Diane didn’t really care if you paid attention to her. She was her own audience, but for your own safety, you didn’t interrupt her. You arrived on time, and then you sat when she said "sit" and jumped when she said "jump."

“I was just thinking about that nerd, Jack Nelson.” Jack Nelson was running against Diane for class president. He had a lot of good ideas and campaigned on a platform of real student issues. Everyone knew Diane would win. “He drives that piece of crap, rusted-out, Chevy Luv pickup.”

Everyone nodded. Diane had the good sense to drive a new, plum-colored, fully loaded Mustang.

I continued my assault on Jack. “He has about as much chance of winning as ‘Gregy’ has of being elected Homecoming Queen.” Greg McMillan was a freshman who had told too many people about his secret desire to someday become a woman.

I did what I had to, and said what I had to, to get along. I would definitely vote for Jack Nelson. I also secretly thought Greg had the right to be whomever or whatever he wanted; at least he was honest.

Diane nodded, her way of thanking me for my statement of support; not that she valued my opinion, or anyone else’s. She took pleasure from her ability to maintain her position of absolute power. The supplicant tone of my remarks had brought a smile to her red, painted lips. Her lipstick was a good shade for Diane’s skin-tone. That color would look good on my lips, or on my cock as residue from a blowjob lovingly provided by Diane; as if either of those would ever happen.

“We need to focus people.” Diane rose and paced to the blackboard. It was funny how five-seven looked so majestic on her and so puny on me. Her two-inch heels resonated against the polished oak floor. She had the impeccable posture of a runway model, but seemed rigid and stiff for a high school student.

Slowly and carefully, she drew yellow lines across the green board. Every penis in the room suffered chalk envy. Her supple fingers, fingers that had stimulated flaccid cocks into steel-hard boners, had been put to use making several large block letters.

OUR GOAL IS TO MAKE THE 1989 BEACON
THE BEST YEARBOOK IN BRECHT HISTORY

“I spent all last night working with Linda, committing our goal to writing,” Diane said.

Linda Schmidt was Diane’s closest friend. Being Diane’s closest friend didn’t mean they were bosom buddies. Linda seemed to be the only one at Brecht who could stand Diane. All the rest of us just admired her, and lusted for her body. Diane was the stuff of wet dreams. She could have given tips on fashion and beauty to that mom in the parking lot. Diane’s fully developed body appeared perfectly proportioned and her face -- unblemished. She could have been a Miss Texas with her big hair and perfect teeth. She always wore high heels and silk stockings, accompanied by the scent of expensive perfume. Perched on her stilettos, she peered down at all of her inferiors.

She knew everyone’s name in the whole school, and called out to them in the halls, as if they were friends. In truth, nobody regarded Diane as a friend, not even me, and I had known Diane all of my life.

Diane’s father, George Lilah, was a junior partner in the firm of Rasch, Peterson, and Donnelly. The firm had eighty-four attorneys and listed as its clients nearly every large corporation, foundation, and political body in Illinois. George reeked of ambition. The firm’s tax attorney, he was small, bookish, and laughed at all the wrong times. George would have given his eyeteeth to be a senior partner, but had the brains to know there wasn’t a chance in hell of that happening. He focused on keeping what status he had. Dad said that George had bought his way into the firm, and that Diane’s family had buckets of money squirreled away from something their ancestors did centuries ago. George was so rich he had been born sneering.

My dad, “Big” Sam Rasch, had the position of senior partner and primary litigator. His desires seemed endless. You could measure his avarice by the number of people who looked forward to celebrating his funeral. Sam was always holding dinners and parties at our house. He cut backroom deals. He would party with a nobody at our home and the next thing you knew that nobody would be elected our governor. Big Sam managed to have the reputation of a beer swilling, backslapping, cigar-chomping, man’s man, when in reality he rarely drank alcohol or smoked. He poured a great deal more scotch than he ever swallowed.

The firm tried to act like one big happy family. They held their annual picnic and a Christmas party and everyone belonged to Willow Creek Country Club. Diane and I had been tripping over each other for years. I once heard her dad yell at her in the club parking lot. He insisted that Diane be nice to me. I thought he was trying to teach her manners. Later, I realized he feared Sam. He probably didn’t want Diane creating a problem for him, by offending me.

Everyone feared Sam. He was my only living relative, but if Sam would die, I would probably be less lonely.

“This will be our motto,” Diane said, pausing for effect, “and our touchstone. When the going gets tough, we’ll just look each other in the eyes and say, ‘our goal is to make the 1989 Beacon the best yearbook in Brecht history.’ ” She tapped the board under each word with her long, bright-red talons. She was really on a roll.

Motto, schmotto. If the going got tough, Diane would be at her hairdressers.

Diane had firmly positioned herself as management and we were her worker bees.
Not that there was really that much work in what we did. Our main job seemed to be selecting pictures from the thousands taken by the Brecht in-house photographer. Life at Brecht amounted to one big photo-op. Picking the pictures for the annual would be “tough,” only because the students in the pictures looked so much alike from one photo to the next. We almost never set eyes on anything resembling a natural pose. Our work would be perfect, at least in Diane’s eyes. She had burdened herself with the task of protecting an ungrateful world from mistakes.

“That’s cool, Diane,” Mr. Rhinedome said. “Your motto is right-on.”

I had almost forgotten Rhinedome. He served as the annual staff faculty advisor. A nice enough guy, for a putz. He volunteered for everything. He also advised the student senate, the dance committee, the Pep Club, and coached the JV girls’ soccer team. Like Brecht itself, he had made it through the sixties with his Eisenhower ideals intact. Because of his lack of hair, we called him “The Dome.” Why he didn’t do something about his baldness was beyond me; plugs, toupee --- something. I could actually see myself in his shiny pate.

“What do you think, Steve?” the Dome asked.

“That motto should help keep us all doing what Diane wants.” As I spoke, I nervously scratched my scalp and surreptitiously checked my full head of hair. I spent a lot of time making sure it looked its best.

I had always been on the small side. When my grandmother was alive, I felt her disappointment at my lack of growth every time she visited. There would be no “Big” Steve to take after “Big” Sam.

Grandmother would concentrate on the positive. “My, what a beautiful head of hair you have."

Over the years, I had come to believe Grammy’s compliments. I kept it shoulder-length -- about seven inches long on average -- and I had a standing appointment for a razor cut every seven weeks at The Stylists, a uni-sex barbershop.

Diane droned on and on. She engaged us one by one in small talk. Diane had been doing small talk since we were four. I could see my life slipping away, minute by minute, while Diane asked rhetorical questions about nothing. Her chitchat supposedly took the place of the real courtesy she extended to no one. I hated small talk. I hated most of what I had to do each day. I really liked the traditions that made Brecht what it was, but I questioned the validity of the values that created those traditions.

Sam said that he had me on course in a prep school like Brecht -- the “gateway to Harvard” according to Sam. All I had to do was give the admissions office at Harvard the necessary documentation that certified me as a yuppie puppy; and I would be in. Sam’s money and political influence would grease the skids. Sam adamantly demanded that I do my part by building a resume of high school honors and achievements.

All the kids at Brecht had similar short-term goals. We didn’t play soccer because we liked it, but because we needed sports activities on our college admissions packets. Brecht offered pseudo-sports such as alpine skiing, fencing, and single-handed sailing, so that everyone could letter without really making much of a commitment. Being part of a championship team was a plus on a college application. Brecht handed out scholarships to diverse students -- coincidentally they were great athletes. A couple of "diverse students" could transform a mediocre team into a champion.

Brecht students and their parents weren’t stupid. They invested their time and money in sports where money could make a real difference. The more costly the equipment, camps, and club fees, the easier it was to excel. If the cost of entry became too much for most people to bear, the amount and quality of the competition would be reduced. Hockey’s cost-prohibitive ice time made it perfect.

I had also joined the annual staff to impress some nameless/faceless geek, college admissions officer. More resume building phony bullshit crap I put myself through in the names of my father’s desire to get me into the right university.

Linda had a much different motivation. She hoped to promote her many causes in the school’s annual and to leave a legacy of freethinking. While most of the Brecht students prided themselves on what their ancestors had passed on to them, Linda concerned herself with the world she would leave for her children’s children. Most Brecht students detested her ideas as much as they loathed her for vocalizing them. From what I could tell from the books I had read on the environment and things, she knew her stuff, but she would have been better off feigning ignorance. She came across as distinctive in a world that demanded conformity.

Had Linda been in college during the sixties, she would have burned her bra. From what I could see, she should have burned hers. The one she wore had been G.I. issued and looked about as sexually stimulating as dental floss. Not that I had any sex expertise. I was still technically a virgin. “Technically” you’re a virgin when you haven’t had sex with a girl. I had had sex plenty of times. Not with boys --- unless you count me. My sex had been much more personal --- while thinking about girls.

Sometimes when I hardened my aardvark, I thought about what the girls wore. Linda’s sensible clothing didn’t do much for me. I liked to think about sexy, silky things. For some reason, I got even more wound up if I thought about me wearing those things. That probably made me some kind of pervert, ready for a psychiatrist’s couch.

Does Sam ever have to go to a shrink? He must; to exorcise all those devils who prompted the bullshit he puts people through.

***

That evening I watched a football game on TV with William Wollaston, John Locke and David Hume. We did a little dope and had a few brewskis. David’s dad had one of those projector screen TVs, so the picture was pretty big and grainy as hell. The images of the players ran by us as big as life.

When David, John, or William walked into a room, they lit it up with their instant fun. I settled for being a chameleon, blending in quickly with the wallpaper. A fringe guy, too small to play any of the real sports and not overly popular, I sort of mixed-in with the crowd and tried not to be noticed. It pretty much worked for me.

Brecht was the kind of school where having a powerful dad helped your status. For Brecht, I wasn’t all that small, physically. Rich people have beautiful daughters and small weasels for sons.

We were throwing popcorn in the air and mostly missing our mouths. It was a typical night with the guys. David had been farting. He loved being coarse. A certain amount of crudity made a person interesting, but in David’s case, he carried it to the extreme.

As we watched Notre Dame play USC I drifted, thinking about the USC cheerleaders’ outfits. Gawd, it would be great to wear one. I want to wear a skimpy skirt and tight sweater with my navel showing.

John noticed my hard-on and yelled, “Wood duck!”

As if it's big news when a teenage boy gets a stiffy.

“Those USC cheerleaders are foxes,” I said, igniting a lewd discussion of what each of us would do if we had fifteen minutes alone with one of them. The odds of me bedding a cheerleader were roughly equal to the odds of Traveler, the big white horse USC uses as a mascot, jumping out of the TV screen, and then munching on the popcorn scattered all over the rug.

William co-captained and quarterbacked the Brecht football team. John and David played in the offensive line. All three weighed well over 180 pounds and towered seven to ten inches over me. Probably someday, they would have a shot at babes something like the USC cheerleaders. I wouldn’t. John, David, and William intimidated me. I wouldn’t stand a chance, if they ever turned on me. I never felt completely comfortable around them, and careful chose what I did and didn’t say.

“That one blonde cheerleader looks like Diane Lilah,” David said. David had dated Diane as freshmen. Diane had a reputation for doing anything sexual you requested.

Once.

After that she would never go out with you again.

“She’s a cunt,” John said. He supposedly hadn’t known the rules. The first time Diane and John dated he had begged for a hand-job. Later, when William and David told him what pleasures he could have had, he got pissed. Apparently, he hadn’t gotten over it.

“She’s okay.” William exhaled the words along with marijuana smoke he had been holding deep in his lungs. William had known the ground rules before he had dated Diane. On his fourth night with her, he had asked to “go around the world.” His little brother watched a Betamax movie in the adjoining room as Diane and William took their magical mystical tour. William received a bachelor’s degree in sexology that night; the rest of us were comparatively stuck in junior high.

“What did she do for you, Steve?” John asked.

“I can’t tell you” I replied. “That’s between her and me.”

“I’ll bet that since your dad and her dad are partners, she bends her one-night-only rule for you.” David leered at me with a look of pure envy.

“She sure does.” I hadn’t lied. She had bent her rule for me. Everyone else with a functioning prick got to name his sexual fantasy, even if it was just for one night.

I got nothing.

Diane and I never talked about it. She let me know in subtle ways that I had been deemed out-of-bounds for her. At least that’s what I told myself. No sense admitting to yourself that you’re a dweeb. I would have done almost anything to have even one night with her.

Diane had gone out of her way to screw or blow almost every guy in our class. Even though she only did them once, she left a lasting impression. Every one of them hated her for not being able to have her again. They were all hot for her, because they knew what they were missing, and she controlled their every action through their rage and desire.

“Why does she pal around with that Linda creep?” David asked. “Linda’s such a loser. She’s always talking about whales or dolphins or some strange thing. What a waste of a great body.”

“I’d like to dolphin her.” John undulated his hips in an amusing motion that seemed to be half-ways between a dolphin swimming and a bull in heat.

Linda was as hard to accept as she was easy to look at. She had committed the cardinal sin that no Brecht student could forgive, by making her fellow students think. In ninth grade composition Linda had delivered a paper titled, “Good Breeding Consists Of Concealing How Much We Think Of Ourselves And How Little We Think Of Others.”

From that day forward, she had been classified as socially untouchable. She maintained that status by overtly not caring what anyone thought about her. We had a lot of classes together, served on the same committees, and belonged to similar school clubs. Even though Linda was hard up socially, I couldn’t imagine someone like me getting a date with her. I never dated.

The USC cheerleaders were back on the screen with their life-size vaginas inches away from our attentive eyes. Once again that familiar feeling rushed through my body, as I allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to be one of them. I would think more about their uniforms later that night in bed, as I shot a wad of well-bred sperm into a handful of Kleenex.

Chapter Two

I loved Harvard. I had jumped through some onerous hoops to get in, but the effort was worth it. Sam acted like he had done it all. I had aced the SAT’s and earned a 3.92 GPA. I had taken part in all those dorky extra-curricular activities.

Sam had the pull.

He got me in.

The first few months had been a challenge, but I had gotten my feet on the ground; I had learned whom and what I had to be to get along. I had to work hard to meet the academic challenge, if I wanted to graduate near the top of the class.

Two months into the first year, Diane called. She wanted to get together. Diane seemed to know what she wanted. I was still haunted by a vague feeling that everything about me was wrong.

Diane’s college was “just” three hundred miles down the road from Harvard. Since we both were a long ways from home, it made some vague sense for someone who went out of her way to avoid me in high school to want to see me. My only other classmate on the east coast was Linda Schmidt at Connecticut College. I suspected she enrolled there to be somewhat close to Diane. It seemed entirely possible there was a little something going on between the two of them.

While I drove toward Pennsylvania, I thought about lesbian sex. I thought about some form of sex nearly twenty-four hours a day. I had heard things about some of the women in Diane’s college. They were supposedly open to alternative lifestyles. I had an erection. Why do I always get a stiff Johnson while driving?

I wasn’t quite sure if the seven-hour drive would be worth it, given her hands-off attitude toward my skin-flute in high school, but it would be nice to see anyone from home. Who would have thought I would ever miss Northbrook?

It would be nice to be with any girl. I hadn’t actually asked anyone out, but I could tell they weren’t interested. None of the girls in Boston wanted to spend time with a guy as small as me, even though I did have “gorgeous” hair.

A few days after I got to Boston, I rode in a cab. The driver said, “Miss, you’ve got gorgeous hair.” It had been cold that day, and I had bundled in a quilted jacket. To save further embarrassment, I kept quiet and didn’t correct his gender error.

I longed for a girl to whisper into my ear, “You’ve got gorgeous hair.” Especially, if it was while we were taking a skin boat to tuna town. I will probably die a virgin.

Diane’s sorority house, Phi Kappa Kappa, was the seventh house from the end on sorority row. Forty-five minutes early, but not really all that eager; I just liked to be on time. I listened to the radio for forty minutes to give me time to think. It finally hit me that Diane’s dad might have forced her to call me to fulfill some perceived social obligation.

Sex because of a social obligation would have been okay with me.

The woman that answered the door stood about four inches taller than me. My eyes instantly went to her ample breasts. She looked ready to attend a symphony, or some fancy dress ball. There was a big difference between an eighteen-year old nerd from the Midwest and a twenty-one-year old sorority woman.

“Ye-aaah-sss?”

“Hi. I’m Steve Rasch. I’m here to see Diane Lilah.” I felt like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos. As she eyed me from head to toe, I wanted to check my zipper.

“Is Dee expecting you?”

“Dee?”

“Wait right here. I’ll see if Dee is available.”

With that she turned her back, leaving me on the front steps with the door open behind her. I didn’t know whether to go in, stand at the door, or simply go back to Harvard. I crept into what looked to be a living room. Nearly twenty minutes passed, as the only sounds I heard were the ticking and chiming of the hall clock. With nothing to read and only a few uninteresting art objects my deprived senses picked up on the smell of hair spray and incense. I had finally sat down in one of the uninviting straight-back chairs when Dee walked into the room.

“Steve, it’s so good to see you.”

She extended her hand to me.

Am I supposed to shake it -- or kiss her ring? I gave her a firm handshake.

She frowned her disapproval, looking as if she had aged at least five years since our high school graduation.

We had arranged to go out “for a bite to eat and a few drinks.” I had dressed for a burger and a beer, while she apparently decked herself out for quiche and merlot.

“It’s great to see you too -- Dee?”

She didn’t comment on my questioning of her new name, and also failed to apologize for getting ready twenty minutes late. “We have to hurry, Steve. Our reservations are in fifteen minutes, and the inn is ten minutes from here.”

Reservations?

In a few minutes, we gazed at each other over a white, linen-covered table in a secluded corner of a quaint old inn’s dining room. Actually, I gazed -- she studied -- with the clinical interest of a spider selecting lunch from whatever had been caught in its web.

“Steve, has anyone ever told you that you have gorgeous hair?”

“Not really, you’re the first.” I lied, hoping to charm her into sex.

We talked like the old friends we probably should have been given our family ties. She seemed excited about college and especially enthused about her sorority. Dee hadn’t changed much, on the inside. Her goals seemed structured to protect and preserve her status quo.

“Mother was a PKK. It’s the only way to go.” She spoke with the fervor of a Rotarian. “Being a PKK isn’t enough if you want to excel in politics. You have to get invited into the Phyllis Stine’s. That’s the in crowd. Phyllis is the head of the career development office, and a PKK alum. For the past thirty years, she’s been helping our alums become active in national politics. Four Phyllis Stine’s are congresswomen and there’s talk the Phyllis Stine’s could soon have a Senator. I would give anything to become a Senator.”

Man oh man! I’m out of my league. She thought about running for the U.S. Senate, while I had difficulty picking a major.

From what she had said about the Phyllis Stine women, it appeared they had one goal --- to become as artificial as possible. Diane would fit right in. She had a desire to be watched, considered, valued, praised, prized, and revered. She would do whatever was needed to fulfill her wants.

Dee insisted on ordering our meals. She didn’t even ask me what I wanted before she rattled off a very precise set of instructions to the waiter. She not only emasculated me by usurping my right to order, but she also embarrassed me by demanding to know the specials. The rich always look for bargains. My interest in her faded, as it seemed less and less likely the evening would be anything but a continuation of our “plutonic” past, which had been cold as “rock.” We had duck á  l'orange and steamed vegetables -- not my favorite, but I would get by.

“Have some more wine, Steve.” A father of a Phyllis Stine owned the inn. The under-aged members of her sorority drank there without fear of being carded.

I was already tipsy. My drive back to Harvard would be fraught with peril. Maybe I’ll find a motel and sleep it off.

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” I said. I navigated the hundred or so steps to the men’s room on uncertain legs. Upon returning, I found Dee smiling like the Cheshire Cat. I must have done something right; or, maybe her loneliness at college matches mine.

We finished our wine, and then Dee ordered Brandy Alexanders. While we waited for the ice cream drinks, Dee asked me if I had heard from any of our classmates.

“Not a one. I guess we’re too far away from everyone.” My mouth was slow to form the words; sliding them into one another. Maybe “plutonic” would soften to “platonic”, and then soften again until I hardened.

“Linda is less than two hours from you at New London. Maybe you two can get together. She’s always had a thing for you.”

“Really, I didn’t think Linda knew I existed.” Maybe Linda isn’t a lesbian?

“She’s the one who first made me notice your beautiful hair.” Dee stroked my hair while her other hand found my thigh.

Her messages confused me. The hand that rubbed my cock through my corduroys indicated sexual interest, yet she also seemed to want to set me up with Linda. Either way I would win. One moment, I couldn’t attract flies, the next I had one hot babe climbing all over me while suggesting another one waited in the wings.

I laughed that low, throaty chuckle that sophisticated Harvard men use in movies. Why am I doing that? No one told a joke. What is it that's so funny? The frozen Brandy Alexanders arrived, and tasted good. I rolled the filbert on my tongue, enjoying the smooth, creamy texture of the vanilla ice cream blended with crá¨me de cocoa, and then sprinkled with nutmeg. A bouquet of brandy wafted through the roof of my mouth, clouding my brain.

Dee signed for the bill. Who paid didn’t concern me. My entire body felt soft and compliant. Dee told the waiter to send a bottle of champagne to room 6C. She was quite specific in her champagne order, but I couldn’t make out every word she said.

As we walked out of the dining room, she put her arm around my shoulder, and then she pulled me to her and kissed my ear. She towered over me in her heels. My head rested comfortably against her shoulder. Her lips nibbled my lobe as her tongue dampened my ear, but not my enthusiasm.

“I had the concierge light a fire in our room,” she said.

“Our room?” That sounded so familial. I wondered if she had registered us as Mr. and Mrs. Lilah.

“Room 6C is up the stairs and three doors down.”

Within minutes, we were naked in bed. Dee fulfilled every promise made by her full-bodied reputation. Shortly thereafter, she left in a cab.

Although I barely remember her leaving, I’ll never forget the smile on my face. Who’s a virgin? Not me!

I passed out.

The next day, I sent Dee a dozen roses. I called her three or four times to get together again, but she was never in. I eventually got the message.

The “one night rule” also applied to me.

I finally called Linda. I discovered she had a gift for making you feel comfortable with yourself that helped to settle me after my bewildering encounter with Dee. She majored in environmental studies, so we attended a Greenpeace rally together in New York. We had spent many wonderful hours tramping around the arboretum on her campus. I agreed with her thirst to save what we could of the Earth. After the rally we kissed goodnight. We had become more than just friends. She was like a favorite book I wanted to read again, and again. I planned to spend Christmas break, and maybe my entire life, getting to know her better, but life isn’t always fair, or even predictable.

***

“Oh. . .Oh God. . .Ooh Oh God. . .Oh. . .Oh. . .Oh. . .Oh God. . .Oh yeah right there Oh. Oh. . .Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. . .Oh. . .Oh. . .Yes Yes Yes. . .Oh. . .Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. . .O h. . .Oh. . .Oh. . .Oh God Oh. . .Oh. . .Huh....”

“You see Diane, having a baby isn’t so bad.” Sam was forcing us to watch a home movie of my birth. He, along with George and I, were attempting to console Diane. She had been wailing since she had walked in the door with her dad.

Diane had felt ill after she got home from college for Christmas vacation. She had also missed a period. As she had been very regular, she went to her gynecologist. He had been less than tactful when he broke the news to her of her “delicate condition.” When Diane became hysterical, he became afraid to allow her to drive home alone. He called her father, who dropped everything to meet with Diane and the doctor at his office. Diane subsequently told George that I had fathered the child. They had come straight over to see Dad and me.

For an hour George, Sam, and I did our best to stop Diane’s howling, but she seemed inconsolable.

Unable to cope with the abject humiliation of watching my own birth, I had spent most of the time during the home movie counting the books on the shelves -- 416 -- and the panels of glass in the study windows -- 229. The film came to an end, much to the relief of everyone in the room. The point had been lost on me. I wondered if Sam had forgotten. Mom suffered from post-partum depression, and committed suicide less than a month after my birth. I had been meant to be the first of many babies. As it turned out, Sam never remarried and I remained his only child.

Diane’s sobs became muffled, permitting me to ask my only question. “How do you know it’s mine?”

“Steve! How could you? You know very well that I was a virgin before you seduced me.”

Sometimes the big lie works the best. Heck, I almost believed her. George and Sam took to her ingénue act like piranha to fresh meat. Believing her lie presented the line of least resistance.

I could be counted on to do my manly duty as the father. She would continue her lie, because Dee didn’t respect me and I didn’t have the capacity to hurt her. Propriety demanded that we be polite to one another even in this darkest hour, which in itself was merely one more piece of hypocrisy in what passed for my life.

Her dad obviously thought the idea of a marriage between our families was superb.

“Dee”, as everyone called her from that day forward, had only one concern. She didn’t want the baby to ruin her political career. Sam assured her “it” was more of an asset to her career than a liability. He joked about giving her a Senator’s seat as a wedding gift.

Sam had long ago taught me it was better to lose your saddle through compromise, than to lose your horse. Forced to marry a beautiful liar, I looked for the bright side. She wasn’t a bad catch and I loved babies.

The baby in Dee’s womb darkened the spark of love I had felt for Linda.

The wedding took place on a drizzly February afternoon, under heavy clouds, a quiet affair witnessed by only seven people. Dee didn’t want to invite guests. She said she wouldn’t have known where to stop. After the ceremony, in a rare display of physical contact, Sam gave Dee a long, warm embrace to welcome her to our family.

Our honeymoon in New York lasted two days. The sex felt good and our relationship seemed cordial. I assumed we would eventually love one another.

Faced with the oncoming responsibilities of a child, we poured ourselves into our studies. Marriage tends to remove you from your single friends, but we went far beyond the norm to isolate ourselves from all our high school friends, other than Linda. I hadn’t realized the depth of the relationship between those two. Linda became very important to Dee’s political career, which Dee eagerly moved forward with the help of her influential sorority sisters.

On a Thursday afternoon in May, amidst the blossoming cherry trees and chirping of the songbirds that had just returned from the south, Dee suffered an episode of toxemia and then a miscarriage, during the seventh month of her pregnancy. We had “Sara Jayne Rasch” daintily engraved on a tiny gravestone.

Dee’s doctor advised against future pregnancies because of Dee’s severe episode of preeclampsia. According to him, while other women might simply have swollen feet, visual problems, or headaches, but Dee would be subjected to internal bleeding and very high blood pressure. The distinct possibility existed of a fatal seizure attributable to some sort of problem with Dee’s kidneys. As long as she didn’t get pregnant again, she would most likely live a long and normal life. Future pregnancies appeared to be out of the question; to make sure Dee had her tubes tied.

Our marriage limped forward as Dee’s political star rose in the Potomac skies.

Chapter Three

Dee continued at college, living in her sorority house, while I finished up in my dorm at Harvard. We traveled to be with each other most weekends. On breaks, we lived in my father’s house.

By taking a heavy course load, I graduated in three years in political science, as mandated by Dee, with a minor in journalism. My journalism minor pleased no one but me. However, it prepared me for my career as a political columnist, which also pleased no one but me.

Sam wanted me to go on to Harvard Law, but I had seen what good lawyers do to ruin people’s lives. More precisely, I had seen what a crafty lawyer could do. Sam’s firm had a distinct shortage of “good” lawyers for me to have “seen.” Besides, I wanted to assume the burden of financially supporting my wife as quickly as possible.

Dee would only accept the lifestyle she had become accustomed to; and she wouldn’t consider working. We constantly needed handouts from George and Sam.
The first eight years after college, Dee served as a stalwart foot soldier for the Republican Party. She attended every caucus, town rally, rubber-chicken banquet, roast, or late-night planning session held within a hundred miles of our home. Dee knew every ward or precinct chairperson. She raised more money for the Party than the GNP of many small nations. Dee made herself available to charities. Unfortunately, like a hen, every time she laid an egg for the poor, she cackled to tell the world.

Sam and she called in every favor available. She received the Party’s nomination for Senator. If successful, it would be her first elected office.

She had been running a very good race, but trailed in the polls. It appeared her age had become an insurmountable issue. The constitution requires that a Senator be at least thirty years old; if she won, she would be the youngest-ever elected Senator.

Linda managed Dee’s campaign. Upon graduating from college, Linda had taken a position with Greenpeace, and worked industriously for many of the same causes she supported in high school and college. Two years before Dee announced her Senate candidacy, Linda quit Greenpeace to help Dee prepare. The pair hired several top consultants and studied the best practices of several successful political campaigns. Linda had lofty aspirations for when “they” got to Washington. Dee had promised Linda “they” would make a difference. They would establish fervor in Washington for environmental issues.

Linda and I never spoke about what might have been between us. She had been Dee’s bridesmaid and personal attendant. It appeared that any love that might have existed between Linda and me had been solely in my imagination; however, she had become a great friend for both Dee and me.

Dee’s sorority sisters deeply involved themselves in her run for office, with weekly Phyllis Stine’s meetings at our home. They taught Dee to use her style as a magic wand, turning everything she touched into gold.

With Linda and Dee out of town on the campaign trail I felt lonely and miserable. I hadn’t possessed the energy to go along, physically rundown from the pressures of a daily political column. When the flu bug hit, I had fallen hard.

Aware of the possible conflict of interest, my paper and I had mutually agreed that I wouldn’t cover the Senatorial race. As part of that agreement, I wrote human-interest articles about the life of the husband of a candidate. I really didn’t like writing that kind of fluff piece, but it went down relatively pain-free, and the paper buried the story deep enough so as not to taint my career.

Not that I was a great writer. I worked hard at my craft, putting in long hours on research, but my work suffered because I was such a curmudgeon, using my word processor to vent. Many times, I couldn’t pin down the root of my anger; it simply existed.

Several hours after they left for the weekend, the fever broke. When I woke, my pajamas and sheets felt clammy. A shave, shower, several minutes of brushing away plaque, and I seemed like a new person, who was on the mend, but needed more sleep.

I stripped off the damp sheets, and put on clean ones. We had a maid, but she had taken off a few days, leaving me alone in the house. Finding no clean pajamas in my drawer I needed something to wear. I had given Dee silk pajamas for Christmas a few years back, but she had never worn them. We were about the same size, so I looked in her bottom drawer, found them, and then slipped them on. Other than the shirt being a little big, they fit nicely.

As I closed my eyes to sleep, I sensed how thoroughly agreeable the pajamas felt. They carried the scent of the sachets Dee used to perfume her dresser, and smelled like her softer, sweeter side.

I was dressed in women’s clothing for the first time in my life!

The thought aroused me, despite my weakened condition. I had many times fantasized about dressing as a woman, but had never dared do anything about it. Dee’s straight-laced lifestyles wouldn’t allow for that kind of thing.

Unable to sleep in my excited condition; I pulled back the covers and walked to the bathroom mirror. The pajamas were ivory silk with a rose sheen and a heavy dose of needlework around the collar. Other than a tent in my bottoms, where my cock was creating a stir, I looked quite feminine. Even my feet, peeking out from the embroidered cuffs had feminine qualities. My hair, which I kept about seven inches long, appeared curly and fluffed, like it always did in the mornings, before I pulled it back into my daytime, low, male ponytail.

A woman peered out of the mirror. It took great effort to pull myself away from my reflection.

My skin felt rough and dry. I had recently been spending a lot of time in our hot tub. Dee had a bottle of body lotion on the counter. For the next several minutes, I sat on the bed rubbing the lotion into my legs and arms. It had a light, sweet smell. Its perfume, the silken pajamas, and my self-administered massage, combined to send my body into sensory overload.

Everything I knew went to war with what I wanted.

Reclining, I pulled my pajama bottoms down just past my knees, refusing to take them off completely. My knees spread, as I remembered thoughts of junior high classmates, girls who I had wanted to date, but didn’t know how to ask -- and how they looked in their tight jeans and tube tops. How would’ve I looked in their revealing clothing?

I wished full -- ripe tits and plump hips.

The silky pajama pants pinned my feet together, as I caressed myself with my familiar right hand. I toyed playfully, wanting to stay hard forever. I had somehow gone inside of me -- prodding -- poking. My left hand worked its way under my satiny top to tweak my surprisingly sensitive nipples. My mind raced with the possibilities of increased femininity: make-up, panties, and maybe even a bra. I concentrated on “him”-- squeezed and fondled, at the same time I gave separate but equal attention to my feminine breasts.
I licked my lips and yearned for someone to kiss.

I could stand it no longer and exploded in the joy of sex. in a “semen-all” experience. For about a minute I couldn’t move, didn’t want to move, as I basked in the glow of post-coitus rapture. I loathed the thought of moving either hand, but eventually had to.

Reaching into the nightstand drawer, I located a box of Kleenex and cleansed myself of my spilt seeds. Relaxed and drowsy, I pulled my pajama bottoms up, and then slid under the covers. I closed my eyes, and slept for nearly seven hours.

When I woke, my attire surprised me. I stretched, and became more than I had been.
In the bathroom mirror stood a disheveled woman. I ran a brush through my tangled curls. Damn. I kept finding more and more of hair in my brush.

I thought of the solo sex I had enjoyed and the possibility of a second orgasm, but too much reality had found its way into the room. Dee would be back in the morning. I washed and dried her clothes according to the label instructions and eliminated all the evidence of my “crime.”

I tried to use the computer in my home office to write my column, which was due the next morning. I could only stare at the screen and ponder what I had become.

A transvestite.

Of course, I would never wear woman’s clothing again, so I wasn’t really a transvestite.

It had been an experiment that I would never repeat.

Chapter Four

“I won’t do it.”

“Steve, please, Dee needs you. This is a chance for you to do something special for the campaign, something only you can do.”

Linda had never asked much of me. She respected my journalistic integrity, and had mostly left me out of Dee’s campaign. I had taken part when it didn’t seem to be too much of a conflict. I attended rallies, but stayed in the background offering support for Dee in any way that I could.

I couldn’t do what Linda had asked. “This is too much. I will not take part in a beauty pageant just to gather a few votes.”

She had invited me to lunch at Angelo’s located off Highway 45, on a warm, early August afternoon. The bright greens of spring had yet to give way to the ripened gold and red of fall. Despite everything Dee, Linda, Sam, and the Phyllis Stine’s had done, Dee hadn’t moved up in the polls. Dee had seven opponents, including two minor party candidates who each had gathered 5 — 10% of the potential voters.

The incumbent appeared especially vulnerable on environmental issues. He had: sold out to the oil people, been an enemy of forest protection, favored genetic engineering, was a proponent of nuclear energy, and seemed to be in the pocket of the chemical manufacturers. Yet, the voters flocked to him because he looked good with his pinstripes and silver hair -- all show and no go.

Democracy is based on the sometimes-inaccurate assumption that the masses know what they want. Unfortunately, they many times deserve what they get for their ignorance.

The election lurked more than three months off. For the first time in her life, someone else’s style was beating Dee, and she needed something to fire the imagination of the voters. Two years prior to this race, in order to say something about the superficial nature of elections, the League of Women Voters had proposed a beauty contest. They wanted to shame the voters into making the effort to have an informed opinion. The top four Senate candidates’ spouses were to take part. The candidates would engage in a real debate of issues between the various parts of the pageant competition.

Talent Contest — Debate — Evening Gown — Debate — Funny Questions and Answers — Debate — Crowning of the Queen.

Ironically, the League hadn’t planned for the possibility of a female Senate candidate.

A TV station with a statewide viewing audience scheduled televised coverage of the pageant/debate two weeks before the election. People were to call in and vote with contributions to decide the winner of the pageant. Each dollar pledged would count as one vote. The proceeds, expected to be in the area of $200,000 - $300,000, would go to cancer research.

The National Cancer Association promoted the idea, hoping they could replicate that kind of fundraising effort in other states. The TV station intended to use their Public Service Announcement obligations to advertise the event. They planned to blanket the airways to build a large audience. They would use ads during the actual broadcast to promo their fall lineup.
Everyone would win -- except me.

The rules contained specific rules for the talents. Every contestant had to do the same song and dance number, “Stand by Your Man.” Each contestant had to wear a floor-length evening gown. Heel height had to be at least two-inches, and couldn’t be more the three. They even had written strict guidelines as to what jewelry each contestant would wear -- earrings designed for pierced ears, supposedly for safety’s sake during the dance numbers.

Dee’s opponents demanded the rules be followed to the letter. All three eligible ladies stated they wouldn’t take part if the rules had been altered in any way to accommodate any candidate’s spouse. The other invited candidates seemed to think they were in a “can’t lose” situation. If Dee declined to take part, she would come off as not caring about fund-raising to wipe out cancer. Such crass insensitivity would cripple her. Even worse, those candidates whose spouses didn’t participate in the beauty contest couldn’t be in the debate. She would miss out on all that free airtime at a crucial moment in the campaign. On the other hand, if I did take part, I would look like a fool. Dee would seem like an idiot for having married me.

It appeared all we had were bad choices.

Linda had crafted a not-so-obvious alternative she had carefully placed in front of me. “The free publicity will be worth millions. When you take part and make a good showing, we’ll win all the way around.”

“Setting aside the obvious, that being that I’m not remotely beautiful, how can my participation possibly help Dee?” The tablecloth came down to my lap, thankfully hiding the full erection the thought of taking part in a beauty contest had caused.

Linda’s eyes sparkled. “Dee needs to seize the voters’ attention. The Republicans nominated her to keep Sam happy. No one gave her, or any of the other Republicans who ran in the primary, much of a chance to win against the incumbent. The national Party is providing very limited support. Almost everything she’s done to date has been her own doing.”

“I know she’s spent a great deal of her family’s money on this campaign,” I said.

“More than seven million. Her father has cut her off. He’s said she can’t spend anymore of his money chasing what looks to be a pipedream.”

It was just like George to put a price tag on Dee’s happiness. Yet, I had to agree, she didn’t appear to have much of a chance. Her campaign chest had about $250,000 left and unless the polls moved in Dee’s favor, the contributions wouldn’t increase. People will back a winner; rarely will they give financial support to a losing political cause.

“How would my public humiliation help her?” I shifted in my chair furtively adjusting my stiff cock so it would be less painful.

“You’re not going to be humiliated; her opponents are.”

“That sounds good, but more than a little miraculous.”

“No. It’s going to be easy. Well, not easy, but it will work.” Linda sketched out her plan. Dee would hold a press conference to outline the position we were in with the rules and how her opponents had put us over a barrel. She would then announce that I would take part in the contest and would follow the rules to the letter. Finally, she would predict my victory. Dee’s hubris would put egg on her opponents’ faces. They would have to stand judgment for being so ruthless as to jeopardize an important fundraiser for their political expediency.

Their intractable position had allowed ill-considered policy to reign over good conscience.

According to Linda’s plan, I would begin work immediately to become as beautiful as possible and develop a feminine song and dance style. If I could become remotely believable as a female and even slightly talented, the public would vote for me out of sympathy. With some luck, the voters might develop some righteous indignation over our opponents’ political maneuvering.

“We’ll have the TV station follow your progress with weekly reports. You’ll be able to tell people again and again about Dee’s stands on the issues. Nothing our opponents can do will generate that kind of interest.” Linda’s unbelievably attractive face became highly animated when she got excited.

Sometimes I wished things had been different. Dee and I have never fallen in love, as I had hoped. We were good friends, and maybe that’s all I had the right to expect from marriage. Having been raised by Sam, I was all too aware that you could exist in a world without love. I had grown accustomed to -- and comfortable with -- Dee’s brand of friendship. Linda’s gestures betrayed her exhilaration. They were much more expressive than the deliberate, controlled movements favored by Dee.

“How do you know you can pull this off?” I asked.

“I’ve already discussed it with the manager of the TV station. His mother had been a victim of cancer. When he heard of their duplicity, he was deeply offended. He loves the idea, and will do his best to make sure your transformation is on the lips of everyone in the state.”

“What about my job?” I worked upward to eighty hours a week. I hated the idea of not writing my column, but would willingly make the sacrifice, if my job wouldn’t be placed in jeopardy.

“Your boss loves to sell papers. If he’s smart, he will not only give you time off, but will have you write a journal so his readers can follow your preparation.”

Angelo’s was a quiet, out of the way place, perfect for a quiet talk for two. I had been surprised when Linda suggested the two of us meet there for lunch. She and I were never alone. I assumed Dee had Linda ask me to be a beauty contestant to avoid the embarrassment of requesting such a thing of her husband. Dee didn’t like to talk about such unbecoming matters.

“Is Dee one hundred percent behind me wearing a dress on television?” Me, wearing a dress? Could this really be happening? I felt giddy with anticipation, and petrified by fear.

“At first she was totally opposed. You know how she detests anyone or anything that is non-conforming. The idea of you stepping outside the role that nature gave you didn’t appeal to her. However, she charted her stars for that night. Her horoscope indicated she could make a very positive political gain by trying something different.”

Dee believed in astrology. The lie she had told to our fathers about her lack of sexual activity wasn’t the only time something she had done had been unethical. Blaming the stars was much easier for her than taking personal responsibility for her actions. Besides, I would actually be stepping into my “natural role” but Linda would never know that.

“How did you ever convince the station manager this would work?” I asked.

“I didn’t. He convinced me.”

Linda explained how the station manager envisioned the pageant to be a modern “Battle of the Sexes.” In 1973, there had been a tennis match called the “Battle of the Sexes.” Six-time women’s Wimbledon champion, Billie Jean King, who advocated better pay for women tennis players, was challenged by a fifty-five-year old male, a chauvinistic ex-tennis pro by the name of Bobby Riggs. The match, after a massive media build-up, captured an international TV audience of over forty million viewers.

“The station intends to super-promo this beauty contest,” Linda said. “They’ll have a lot at stake. If they can draw a huge market share, their fall programs will receive a very inexpensive boost in the ratings. Moreover, the station manager has been angered by the crass politics, and has taken this on as a personal issue.”

What am I getting into? I had successfully denied my cravings to try on more of Dee’s clothes, since that day with her pajamas. However, things had changed that day. Almost every night since, I had gone to sleep thinking about how I would look dressed as a woman. A sniff of a lady’s fragrance, made me wish I smelled as good. I ached to have soft, satiny things of my own. The opportunity was being handed to me to dress fully and it scared me. Will I be able to keep people from knowing my hidden desires? What will Dee think if she finds out?

“Dee is very excited,” Linda continued. “This is her big chance to get us to Washington. Once she’s there we can work on the important things.” She became quite serious. “We have to trust Dee.”

“Trust” and “Dee” seemed like mutually exclusive terms, but I had grown to “trust” Linda’s judgment and nodded my agreement.

Linda grinned and left the unspoken mistrust we both felt fro Dee become a bone between us. She continued. “Think of your discomfort for the next ten weeks as a necessary evil to eventually accomplish a tremendous amount of good.”

A necessary evil; how true — my mind told me wearing women’s clothing might be as necessary to me as water or food. By using my imagination I had been able to get by -- mentally dressing myself whenever I wanted. Will it be worth it to throw caution to the wind?

“I’ll do it.” I rose from the table using my linen napkin to hide my still very stiff erection. I excused myself to go to the men’s room. How on earth am I going to get through the next several weeks, if merely thinking about dresses leaves me so aroused?

Chapter Five

The next morning, Dee held a press conference where she and I stood together at a podium in a Marriott Inn banquet room. We served generous portions of cold revenge to her opponents. It felt odd to be standing on the other side of the microphones. The overall upbeat tone of the questions seemed to indicate that my fellow members of the press appreciated how we had turned the tables on our opponents. Everyone seemed supportive of me, as it appeared I would be making a significant sacrifice for my wife and for charity. I was embarrassed by that altruistic characterization, knowing of my deep-down perverted motives.

After the press conference, Linda and I met with the station manager. He told us they had scheduled five minutes every Thursday night on the local evening news for an update. The station wanted their viewers to be involved in the story throughout my transition from a hard-nose working journalist to a beauty pageant contestant. We stipulated I would be able to plug Dee’s position on key issues. He agreed, but cautioned I had to make a bona-fide effort to win the contest. He wanted the viewers to see distinct changes from week to week.

“Don’t worry,” Linda said. “With what we have planned, Steve’s progress toward becoming a beauty queen will have everyone in the state tuning in.”

The station’s photographer took several shots of me from a half-dozen angles to serve as the “before” pictures in their print ads. They planned to promo the pageant and their news programs leading into it with ads in newspapers and in the local TV listings. Hopefully, the “after” pictures would not be the punch line to a bad joke.

Later, at campaign headquarters, Linda and I met with Dee. We sat at a card table on steel folding-chairs sipping Dasani.

“What plans do you have to make me a contender for Miss America?”

“We don’t have a clue what to do,” Linda answered.

“That’s not at all encouraging,” I said. Linda grinned showing her confidence that it would work, despite her tease.

You had better do a good job. Everything is dependent on you looking good the night of the contest,” Dee said. “If you come across like some sort of drag queen, we’re in big trouble. You have to look just like the other three contestants. You need to look like the Senator’s wife from next-door -- not some big joke. If you screw this up, my political career is over.”

That lack of support equaled what I normally received from her for my writing. She rarely read my column. If she did, she told me how she would have written it, or where I was wrong in my opinions. I couldn’t remember her saying anything positive. In fact, she often told me I should try to get with a “decent” newspaper where they had editors who could help “fix” my articles and columns before the newsprint was pulled from the web. Maybe she was right. I tried to fill my writing with information and insight; the more popular columns in the paper were much more amusing. Their pieces contained simple material all dressed up in clever writing. I called what they did, “putting lipstick on a hog.”

I worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week; keeping my finger on the pulse of the political community. Some of the other, more widely-read, writers got their material from yesterday’s headlines. There was a message there, if I could ever be smart enough to listen. That wasn’t likely; even though I lacked friends and readers who admired my work, I refused to cannibalize my heart.

“I want daily reports and pictures,” Dee said. “Steve, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll give this your best effort; that would be something new for you.”

After Dee left, Linda and I sat in mutual embarrassment. Our marriage had been less than perfect, but I didn’t think Dee would berate me quite like that - especially in front of Linda. In the past, Dee had said things like, “Steve, if only you would try harder.” That normally preceded her latest plan for rectifying my image. Her explicit expression of deep dissatisfaction went to another level.

“I’m so sorry, Steve.” Linda said.

“No, it’s okay. She’s stressed from the uphill battle of the campaign. I can deal with it.” I knew better. Dee thrived on the competition. Like a true thoroughbred, she ran her fastest when she had other horses to catch and outpace.

“We had better get started. Do you have any ideas?” Linda asked.

“I’ve heard about people in Chicago who make men look like women for a fee.”

“Are they legitimate?” Linda asked. “We can’t get involved in anything too kinky.”

Kinky! That told me everything I needed to know about where Linda stood on cross-dressers.

“I don’t have any idea what, or who, they are. We need help. If professionals are out there, it would be great to find them.”

We dug out the Chicago-area Yellow Pages and checked for listings. Quite by accident we found “Transformation Services.” I had thought there might be something listed under ‘Transvestites” and luckily noticed “Transformations.” Linda and I called several. Our priorities were: discretion, location, length of time in business, and willingness to provide references. We narrowed our search to three and drove into the city for interviews. The last candidate we contacted seemed to be the best.

“Sharon” turned out to be a large woman, easily weighing over two hundred pounds. Her extremely feminine demeanor complimented the glow of health from her fit body. Her broad smile and the genuine warmth of her greeting prompted us to join her in tea and brownies. She crossed her legs demurely, and balanced a saucer and cup on her knee as we spoke. I tried unsuccessfully to match her graceful posture.

“How long have you been dressing?” Sharon asked, once we had made ourselves comfortable.

Linda giggled, as I turned red.

“I’ve never done dressing — ahhh - this before.”

“Sweetie, you don’t have to hide anything from me,” Sharon said. “With your cheekbones and sweet little body, it would be a complete waste for you not to dress. You barely have an Adam’s apple. Your forehead isn’t too prominent, and your chin has a nice apple shape. I’ve been in this game for over twenty years. I can spot a cross-dresser a mile away.”

My mind reeled. How can she tell? Am I that obvious? Who else knows about me? Certain Linda believed my denial - and not Sharon’s accusation.

Thankfully, Linda stepped in and explained the entire situation -- at least as she knew it. Sharon frantically scribbled notes, and then pulled files from a drawer while Linda outlined what we wanted done.

According to Linda, we needed an end product that would look like the average North Shore housewife. Given that goal, Sharon was our man. . .woman. . .man/woman. In contrast to the other two professional we had considered, who suffered from severe cases of Cindi Lauper syndrome, Sharon’s understated make-up allowed her true colors to shine through.

Sharon’s instantly lovable and kind face set you at ease, even in our peculiar situation. Her choice of locations alone seemed encouraging; the other two we had visited were located above adult bookstores, Sharon had set up her business in the backroom of an upscale, busy salon.

Sharon’s had furnished her office to look like a French 18th century drawing room. Although she didn’t have authentic antiques, the replicas were nicely done. She had a Louis XVI provincial caned chaise-lounge and a Louis XV five-piece salon set. The set consisted of four armchairs and a large canopy. She used a small mahogany writing table as her desk.

“This is going to be fun,” Sharon said, with enthusiasm.

I had no problem believing her. A bigger dilemma would be hiding my delight.

“There are seven concerns,” she said. “All of them are centered on concealing the male identity and bringing the feminine qualities to the surface. The first is hair. You have very nice hair. It’s a shame you’re losing it.”

Why does everyone have to remind me?

“I think you have enough hair left to work with for your training. We’ll use falls for the contest. I’ll be right back.” Sharon went into the salon.

Linda took that opportunity to whisper to me. “We aren’t going to let her cut your hair. You have beautiful hair and she’s not going to mess with it.”

Hearing Linda express that much concern came as a surprise.

“I was right. You’re a golden brown.” Sharon held a clump of faux hair next to my head that she had brought back with her. “Of course, we need to treat your hair with coloring to bring out its natural beauty.”

I liked it when she said “natural” beauty.

“Then there’s the hair you don’t want. After the salon closes tonight I want you to come back. We’ll fix your hair problem. I’ll shape your eyebrows and we’ll give you a full body wax.” Sharon grinned as I winced. “I’ll even teach you the proper way to shave your face to get reeaallll close. The next thing we need to worry about is your face. A pretty face is the most important part of a woman’s overall beauty. You have nice skin with small pores. I think your skin will accept make-up. Some people have skin that looks like cheap leather when you apply foundation.”

Linda nodded, as she judged the quality of my skin. I felt like a hog on exhibition at the state fair.

“Of course,” Sharon said, “we’ll need to fill in what Mother Nature didn’t, and cover up what Mother Nature did. Most cross-dressers I work with want to look like Dolly Parton. Dolly is one of a kind. The rest of us are better off looking like the rest of us. With your slight build, a B-cup should look attractive.”

I glanced at Linda. She wasn’t overly-endowed, but I had always thought of her body as being sexy.

Linda looked back at me, and smiled demurely.

I involuntarily blushed. Can she read my mind?

“We’ll use a gaff to strap down your male equipment to give you a womanish front view.” Sharon grinned her condolences, in response to the grimace that had flickered across my face. “Were not going to do anything permanent. It hurts a little at first, but you’ll get used to it. What size trousers do you wear?”

“These I have on are a twenty-eight waist and a twenty-eight inseam.”

Sharon pulled a tape out of a drawer and measured my body in several places. She made more notes as she proceeded. “With dieting and a good corset you will have a twenty-three-inch waist. With a little padding here and there you will be 35-23-35.” Sharon seemed pleased with her projections.

Linda nodded again.

“Let me hear you talk like a woman, please,” Sharon said.

I shrugged. “I don’t know how.”

“Just give it a try, honey. No one’s going to bite you.” Sharon patted my hand.

It seemed like I had become one of three women in the room. I opened my mouth, and stretched my vocal chords to a pitch at least an octave above my normal timbre. “I this what you want to hear?”

“That’s what they all do,” Sharon said with amusement to Linda. “Why do men think women sound like Minnie Mouse? Linda, please say something.”

“I think Steve is being a very good sport,” Linda said.

“Ah, there’s the problem.” Sharon brightened like she had just solved a theorem for tri-secting any angle, one of math’s oldest puzzles. “You need a name that matches who you want to be. You look like an Angela to me.”

“Angela?” I asked.

“Don’t you like the name ‘Angela’?” Sharon asked. “Is there an Angela you know that’s a big poop?”

“No, the only Angela I can think of is Angie Dickinson and I think she’s great. I guess it’s as good as any other name,” I said. “Angela? It’s a nice name. Angela. Angie. Angela. I can live with that. In fact, I love the name Angela. Come to think of it, my mother’s middle name was Angeline.” I had been made both binomial and matrinomial in one christening.

“Linda, say something to Angela,” Sharon said.

“Angela, I think you have a pretty new name.”

“Angela, close your eyes and think of yourself as Angela. Once you are Angela, repeat what Linda said in the same tone of voice that she just used.”

I tried what she said. The results didn’t sound at all like Minnie Mouse. Unfortunately, I sounded like MICKEY Mouse.

“We’ll work on it, but you’re off to a great start,” Sharon said. “The last area to work on will be the way you carry yourself. You’re already graceful, so we’ll just have to center on how you walk, sit, and the way you hold your arms and hands. Much of that will come naturally as you become comfortable in dresses, heels, and the correct undergarments.”

“You can do it,” Linda said, encouraging me.

I grinned.

“After we’re through here,” Sharon said, “I want you to immediately go to a couple of stores. I’ll write down their addresses and a list of things to buy. Once you’ve bought a few specialty items, you’ll be able to shop in any women’s store for your wardrobe. The only way we’ll achieve the results you want is for you to dress as a female twenty-four hours a day, seven days week -- from now until the contest. Just dress in the same style as Linda dresses, and you’ll be fine. I’m sure she can help you select colors.”

Linda nodded. “I’ll do my best to help Angela find herself.

All I could do was smile shyly, even though I wanted to hug both of them and tell them how truly wonderful I felt.

Linda hired Sharon full-time for the next ten weeks. I agreed begrudgingly to stay in women’s clothes full-time for the sake of winning the contest. Sharon cautioned me that what I wore to bed would be equally important to the clothing I wore during the day.

“The more femme your nighties are, the better. There are a few other things -- only about a million more. Don’t worry. Most of my customers want perfection after one six-hour session. If you’re willing to work hard, we can hold two six-hour sessions every day for the next ten weeks. At the end of that time, you will be more feminine than ninety-nine percent of the women on State Street.”

“Sharon,” I asked, “what about later on - once this is over - can I go back to how I am right now?”

“If you want to, Honey; if you really want to.”

Chapter Six

We hit the ground running and never turned back. Within hours, Linda and I had spent over four thousand dollars on clothes, cosmetics, and other items I needed. At first, it all felt too strange to handle -- especially the first time I found myself fully clothed as a woman. In my opinion I looked better than the average women.

Linda had prepared me mentally during our shopping spree. She had me study the other women in the stores. She rated every woman we saw on a scale of one to ten. A five meant the level of femininity Linda thought I could achieve simply by putting on proper make-up and clothing. A ten -- like Bo Derek -- suggested the ideal we would try to achieve, a level where I would have a good chance at winning the beauty contest. A woman without any feminine traits whatsoever scored a one.

As we went from store to store in the mall, all the twos, threes, and fours amazed me. We didn’t see many eights or nines, but quite a lot of sevens. Likewise we didn’t see any ones or tens. I thought Linda should have given herself a ten, but I didn’t think it proper to tell her so. By the time we had completed our shopping spree, she had convinced me I could pass for a woman.

Linda turned over her daily responsibilities for Dee’s campaign to her assistant, and worked with me full-time. Everyone agreed that Linda could help Dee’s chances the most by making sure I did my job. Sam and the Phyllis Stine’s didn’t give me much chance of making a good showing, but everyone agreed Dee’s only possible opportunity for winning might be the contest. Unless our prayers were answered; and the incumbent got caught swimming naked with a girl scout the week before the election.

With Linda’s support and Sharon’s expertise, I quickly became comfortable. The first few times I ventured out into public, my head was on a swivel, watching for signs of detection. After a few exhausting hours, my shoulders ached from the tension. Acting on Sharon’s instructions, Linda and I went out at least four hours a day. As I became more comfortable, I realized being nervous only served to draw attention.

Up every day at five, my lessons with Sharon started at seven. At one, Linda and I went to a private gym for aerobics designed to reduce my waist and increase my flexibility. By three, after a meager sack lunch, we went back to Sharon for another session until nine, when Linda and I would have a late dinner at a restaurant. We went to a different one every night, to offer me a variety of learning experiences.

Politics being rough in Illinois, we didn’t want to take the chance of me being arrested on a minor traffic violation while “dressed.” When Linda couldn’t drive, George Lilah took me from place to place. George became extremely supportive of my efforts.

Sharon played a very sweet Henry Higgins to my Midwestern U.S. Liza Doolittle. Hour after hour, she shaped me into the ideal she had visualized during our first meeting. I spent so much time in Sharon’s office that I had every square-inch memorized. A picture of a high school football player hung on the wall, which I first identified as her son. I later realized the uniform and helmet styles were too outdated for that to be correct. The boy in the picture had to be Sharon.

The shelves around the room contained many, many pictures of Sharon and her family. In about half, she wore female clothing. The images of Sharon with her family presented a beautiful soul, open, and ready for all things. Sharon’s college diplomas also hung from the wall; her praenomen is Robert. She had earned a M.A. in clinical psychology and told us her story of burnout because of losing so many transgendered patients to suicide. She gave up her practice to do something she felt would help them more.

She then taught in a junior high school, and did transformations on the side, during her evenings. Her business quickly grew, and she realized she could help the transgendered more if she did transformations fulltime, while subbing at the school only occasionally.

Sharon once said to me, “It’s not enough to do good things; you have to do them the right way.”

Often, while I practiced movements or speech, Linda and Sharon huddled in the corner, occasionally glancing in my direction. I couldn’t hear all that they said. When I asked Linda about it, she smiled; telling me it had been girl talk. From what I had managed to hear, I learned a lot about Linda I hadn’t known. When she could, she spent a great deal of time with her two brothers and three sisters. She became very animated when she discussed her nephews and nieces. Linda loved to baby-sit. An avid snowboarder, I overheard her plans for an upcoming vacation involving heli-snowcats in Utah.

Sharon asked us to enter her salon by the front door, which forced us to walk through the beauty shop. Once a week, I would get “the works” from their staff. They taught me to do my own “second skin” and hair.

After the first four weeks, we cut the time I spent with Sharon to seven hours a day. Linda found a private tutor to work with me on my song and dance number. I had never danced onstage, but because of my participation in high school sports, teaching my body to do things wasn’t entirely new. Gracefulness is to the body what understanding is to the mind. All those extra-curricular activities in high school hadn’t been a total waste.

Although the dancing felt physically exhausting, singing presented an even bigger challenge. Sharon had quickly taught me to speak in my new voice, which I used 24 / 7, but singing as an alto turned out to be entirely different. Thankfully, the contest would use a good sound system, so I didn’t have to belt out my song.

Linda, Sharon, and I constantly promoted the good and happiness in one another, which stood in stark contrast to the times I spent with Dee. She seemed conflicted by Angela’s progress. She adamantly refused to call me by any name other than Steve. That refusal caused me pain, as a person’s name is one of their most prized possessions, and Angela had become a person.

Dee’s attitude toward Steve/Angela carried over into our bedroom. We hadn’t been all that sexually active before I had started wearing nighties to bed. Once I began sleeping in tricot gowns Dee would have nothing to do with me. According to her, it was all “too bizarre” to handle.

She seemed to be able to read my innermost thoughts, but I didn’t even try to fake embarrassment. Her recognition of my enjoyment humiliated me, but I was stuck in a monkey trap. My physical contact with others became mostly limited to my dance instructor or Sharon correcting my posture by physically moving my arms or legs. I also had contact with Linda. She had taken to hugging me each day when we met, which I looked forward to with eager anticipation. Upon Linda’s suggestion, we air-kissed each other like sisters.

Linda paid for everything in stores; she would later be reimbursed by the campaign. We didn’t want to risk using my credit card or doing anything that required me to show a driver’s license. I was afraid to carry too much cash, so I was totally dependent on Linda. My male desires to be “in charge” faded quickly. Old fears of being physically threatened by those around me resurfaced.

We had almost no free time, so Linda accompanied me about eighteen hours a day. The more I saw of her, the more I appreciated the depth of her concern for the environment. The truth of her convictions seemed contagious. Linda sought out those that didn’t seem to care. They were easy to spot filling their lives with a watery stew of Fox Network reality programs. Over time, she either wrote them off, or enlisted them to fight for her causes. In her eyes, the essence of inhumanity was indifference.

Sharon and Linda had put me through dozens of drills and mental exercises designed to release my emotions. They thought I would be much more expressive and convincing if I would allow myself to be sensitive. One evening, Sharon had a family function she couldn’t miss, so Linda and I rented a video to pass the time. Linda sat a few feet from me in our living room as we watched “The American President.” She looked like Annette Benning. During the very sad parts of the movie we both cried freely.

The salon staff taught me to do my own face and hair. Each night before bed, I went through a beauty regimen. Dressed in a slinky negligee, I used lotion to remove my make-up. I also applied lavish amounts of night creams and body lotions to soften my skin.

When Dee saw that I was ready for bed, she quickly switched off the light on her bedstand and turned her back to me. I suppose it embarrassed her to sleep with me, as long as I looked and acted like a woman.

Rarely did Dee have a positive comment about my transformation. She set a high priority on my success in the contest, and quickly criticized even the slightest masculine behavior. We only had a few moments together each day, and those didn’t go well.

The paper asked me to write a transition log. After consideration, I declined. Writing a good piece would require exposing my feelings to the reader. I couldn’t let people know who I really wanted to be -- for the sake of my future as a writer, my relationship with my family, and Dee’s campaign.

Most nights, my dreams included me as a man being dressed as a woman. In some I would be courted by Dee, ending in passionate sex. I always had positive dream experiences. Studies show the average dream last between two and three seconds, even though they seem much longer. Mine extended into the daylight hours, as my extensive feminization continued. At times, it was hard to tell where my dreams ended and reality started, if you could call what I was doing “reality.”

The station managed to keep my weekly TV interview upbeat and positive by using compelling humor. They conducted an online survey each week, which showed a diverse audience. About seventy-five percent called me a great husband for going through the transformation to support my wife’s campaign. The other twenty-five percent found me repulsive, but each week the percentage of detractors went down.

Early on the station received a number of disturbing letters and emails. In response to the blind hate in them, the station aired several related commentaries on “How to Combat Prejudice.” My transition for the contest became a focal point for real and positive change toward tolerance in the Chicago area.

Dee’s numbers in the polls improved drastically. The station allowed me to talk about her platform. When her opponents requested on-air parity, the station manager said any candidate who duplicated my efforts could have equal time. As Dee’s poll results improved, the amount and number of donations to her campaign also increased. With those donations, she bought more airtime for her ads, which brought in more donations and better poll results — resulting in the kind of positive spiral all politicians craved.

George kicked in another three million dollars for his daughter’s campaign.

Chapter Seven

Well, I keep on thinkin’ bout you, Sister Golden Hair Surprise
And I just can’t live without you, can’t you see it in my eyes?
I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind.

Sister Golden Hair — America

A week before the contest, I inadvertently road-tested the quality of my gender impression. I had been off meat for over a month, and my body felt wonderful. Linda had convinced me to eat nothing that might have had children, although we had experienced several frustrating episodes trying to order vegetarian meals in restaurants. The waiters seemed more eager to sell us the “specials.”

Linda had booked reservations for two at The Chicago Diner on Halsted Street. It had opened in 1983, but had only recently become trendy because of several articles in the “Chicago Reader.” The young professionals had made it a must place to be. Linda and I had made ourselves look a bit more dressed than usual.

In a way, the night had become a bit of a graduation celebration. At the end of that morning’s lesson, Sharon had kissed me on both cheeks. “I’ve taken you as far as I can. Today you are a woman.” She instructed me to use the remaining time before the contest to “enjoy the experience.”

I would miss the daily nourishment I got from her positive attitude.

Linda and I had spent our afternoon mini-vacation at Tirra Salon and Spa on West Erie. We relaxed, and allowed them to do what they do best -- both ordering a “Day of Rejuvenation.” We started with a one-hour massage, followed by an Aveda facial. After a light lunch we had enjoyed a pedicure and manicure, followed by a shampoo and style, and finished with a make-up touch-up.

I had asked Dee to join us, but Sam and she had work to do on a fundraiser with several stockbrokers. Sam had been great. He had become heavily involved with Dee; much more than I thought he would be.

We arrived at the restaurant five minutes before our reserved time. The hostess told us our table would be ready in twenty minutes. We chatted and examined a wall of pictures of celebrities enjoying hummus, tofu, or sunflower seeds with Chef Jo Kaucher.

Two young businessmen, in power suits, tried to bluff or bully their way in, without benefit of reservations. They didn’t like the idea of a two-hour wait, and didn’t seem to be the kind to take “No” for an answer. Everyone in line seemingly enjoyed the sight of those two arrogant whelps taken down a notch by our darling, gray-haired hostess. When they realized their boorish behavior wouldn’t move them to the front of the line, their brashness melted, and they became amiable. They turned to those on the other side of the waiting area and apologized.

“Hey, you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” one of them quipped.

Their attempt to look philosophical resulted in a kind of vulgarity. As they turned toward me, I expected gold toothpicks hanging from their mouths, but what I saw took my breath away. John and David, my high school buddies!

Although I had been in a dress in public before many times, and appeared on TV dozens of times feminized, I had never encountered anyone in person I knew from the old days, except Dee, Linda, George, and Sam. I was reluctant to go through the kind of embarrassment they could cause.

“Linda? It is you. You look wonderful,” John said. He smiled at me. “And, who is your friend?” Leaning close he spoke quietly, not waiting for an introduction. “Steve, is that you?”

I nodded.

He kept his mouth at my ear and continued. “I thought so. I’ve been following your conversion on television. You go by ‘Angela’ now, right?”

Again I nodded, hoping we could get through the next few moments without causing a spectacle.

“Hey David, it’s Linda Schmidt and Angela; from Brecht.”

“Angela??? Oh hey --- Angela! I’ve been hoping I would get to meet you.” David’s face floated less than a foot away, as he gawked at me with a sloppy fleer. His breath indicated they had spent time in a bar. I braced myself for the worst.

“Geez, you look. . .wonderful,” David exclaimed.

The obvious targets of his continued gaze made me conscious of the prosthetic breasts glued to my chest. For the first time in weeks, I became mindful of the tug on my shoulder straps. The thought of my lacy bra made me blush. I remembered with shame my decision to buy breasts with prominent nipples, as they sent a false signal of arousal to David.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to make you mad.” David seemingly mistook my mortification for anger. He gushed a hurried apology. “You look good on TV, but in person -- I mean --- WOW. You really look sexy.”

Oh my. Sexy? I hadn’t really given much thought to looking sexy lately. I stood before two of the guys from high school --- looking “sexy.”

I stared at the floor, attempting to disappear. My eyes fixed on the cute bows across the toes of my high heels. Despite the three inches my shoes added, the top of my hair was barely even with David’s nose. He had put on weight since high school; and it was all muscle. He outweighed me by a hundred pounds.

“Miss, your table for two is ready,” the hostess said. “I see you know these two rascals.” She smiled, indicating she had fallen for their charm. “Do you want me to add two place settings to your table?”

Lara was attempting to be polite and provide good service. It would have been better if she hadn’t made that suggestion. I feel so despicable.

“That sounds wonderful, Lara,” John said. He had also read her nametag. “We have some catching up to do.”

“Sounds great to me,” David echoed. “Can you two stand talking about the old days with some fellow Brecht grads?”

Linda caught my eye, but I was too flustered to stop a train wreck in the making. She misinterpreted my silence and the smile frozen on my face as consent. “Please add these gentlemen to our party.”

I was stuck and surprisingly pleased I had chosen my outfit so carefully. If our chance meeting had to happen, I wanted my appearance to be - at least - okay. I had selected a Ralph Lauren long-sleeve shirtdress in tan-suede, which ended two inches above my knees. Trá¨s chic. A single strand gold chain necklace graced my neck, matching my opal earrings. . . . My earrings! I hope they don’t notice my pierced ears. You dope, Angela. I’m wearing a dress and high heels. What possible difference will it make if they notice my pierced ears? I needed to sit down.

John and David stepped aside and with a sweep of their arms gestured for us to go first. David even pulled out my chair.

I could feel the silkiness of my stockings inside my shoes. I love that feeling. Omigosh -- Stockings! We had laughed in high school about girls who wore stockings.

If they’re wearing panty hose, look for a fight,
If they’re in stockings, you’re set for all night.

The fall weather has cooled enough for pantyhose. Why am I wearing stockings? I felt the pull on my garters. I acutely remembered putting my panties on over my stockings and garters so I could use the ladies’ room without a great deal of difficulty.

The ladies’ room! What will they think if I go to the ladies’ room? My bladder had been stimulated by all the excitement. I couldn’t use the men’s room. Can I hold it?

John and David beamed like idiots, enjoying my predicament. Or, are they? They haven’t said anything overtly rude — yet.

David took two menus from the waitress and handed one to me. My hands! Acrylic extensions had been added to my nails extending them nearly 3/8ths of an inch beyond my fingertips. They were painted a vivid red to match my lipstick. How in the world had I become so acclimated to all my girlishness? I pressed my lips together and felt the slick texture of the lip-gloss I had just freshened.

Lip-gloss! What am I trying to prove? Why lip-gloss? Was it really necessary to look like such a tramp? Hey wait. I don’t look like a tramp. Do I?

John talked non-stop to Linda. She looked so delectable. John talked about her “pulchritude.” What a smarmy loser.

“Angela. You haven’t said a word. Aren’t you happy to see us?” David asked.

I opened my mouth, and then I stopped to consider what might come out. I could have tried to find my “Steve” voice. It had been awhile, but I was sure it existed - somewhere. I chose to make it easier for those people who sat close by, and used a voice appropriate to my appearance.

“No, it’s great to see you again. It’s just. . .I feel a little peculiar.”

“I don’t think what you’re doing for Dee is ‘peculiar’ at all,” David said.

I was relieved John and he had given tacit acceptance to my new voice.

“Diane’s lucky to have you,” David continued. “I wish I could find someone like you to marry.”

John choked on his water.

David’s face became bright red. “John - you prick! You know what I mean. Someone who cares as much about me as Ste . . . .ah -- Angela obviously does about Dee.”

“You aren’t married?” Why did I ask that?

“Nope. I almost got caught a few times, but every time I thought I knew a girl, she turned out to be something other than what she pretended to be.”

“What about you, John?” Linda asked.

“I was -- for five years. We’ve got two kids. . .shared custody. They’re with her tonight.” John reached for his wallet, and then passed pictures of his tiny, blonde girls.

“That makes me the only married one. . .to Dee,” I said.

“Dee Lilah. I’m sorry Angela, I just don’t have good feelings about her.” John peered around the table looking for either acceptance or dispute. No one said anything. “I don’t think it’s so much that she’s aloof. It’s more like she simply refuses to descend into a world she despises; a world the rest of us populate. It’s comforting to know that Dee is working hard to distance herself from me. That was quite a stunt she pulled on you. . .that initiation thing.”

I felt David kick John under the table. “Stunt?” I asked.

“Are you ready to order?” The waitress forced me to concentrate on the menu. I settled on the macrobiotic meal with steamed carrots, kale, beans, grain, brown rice, seaslaw, sauerkraut, tofu, and tempeh with cornbread.

“How can you have such a great figure, and eat so much?” David asked, after we had ordered.

Great figure? His comments are so strange. “Proper padding and lots of elastic helps. I can order any food I want, as long as I don’t eat it.”

“You’ve still got a great sense of humor,” David said, laughing. “I like how you take two unrelated ideas, and make it obvious how they really do fit together. Why haven’t you and I gotten together more?”

After we graduated, I had felt little desire to see anyone from Brecht. I hadn’t liked myself in high school, and saw no reason to prolong the misery.

I could have asked David why he hadn’t gone out of his way to look me up, but I already knew the answer. We hadn’t really been friends in high school. I was Sam’s son. It had been a good politics to let me hang out with them, and once we were out of Brecht, he no longer needed to put up with me.

Both David and John had thick, dark hair on their knuckles. Even before I became Angela, I had very little body hair.

David’s leg accidentally pressed against mine. He must have thought my leg was part of the table. His taut thigh muscles felt rock solid. He had been a decent football player in high school, and must have stayed physically active. Trying not to be too obvious, I slowly drew my leg away from him.

“I like your perfume,” he said.

“It’s part of the overall package,” I explained. “I’m supposed to stay in female mode, twenty-four hours a day, in order to be prepared for the contest.”

“It’s very provocative, no matter why you’re wearing it.”

Why indeed? What the heck had I been thinking of when I spritzed myself? What was my purpose? Who am I trying to attract? Think of all those bottles of perfume, lotions, cosmetics, and other purely feminine items I own. Is all that necessary?

I wanted approval as a woman. I couldn’t ignore the opinion of others, although I realized I would be much stronger, if I became more independent. Even in my work, I cared too much about criticism, allowing what people said to become a bed of thistles.

“It’s White Shoulders. Isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, it is. How do you know perfumes?”

“An ex-girlfriend, three years ago, always wore White Shoulders. She’s a fox. Even though White Shoulders is a relatively inexpensive perfume, it’s elegant — sweet -- romantic.” He stopped to flash a broad smile at me. “She turned out to be a loose bitch. I’m just not into that sort of thing. She wanted to do couple-swapping weekends. I’m partial to old-fashion values. She fooled me with the White Shoulders; I thought she enjoyed a part of a better past. If I could find someone who wears White Shoulders, and means it, I would be married in a minute. Are you aware how your earrings bring out the color of your eyes?”

I smiled automatically at the compliment, the way I had been taught by Sharon. She had given me pretty blue birthstone earrings the previous week. They were the first birthday present I had ever received. My father didn’t believe in presents and Dee was no better.

Somehow knowing David thought they matched my eyes felt pleasurable. David tempted me with muted suggestions of mutual gratification.

Where’s my resistance to his forbidden fruit? Am I guilty of false advertising with my sweet perfume and perfect make-up? I stared into his eyes looking for answers and could see David studying my face.

Sharon had me do an exercise for hours on end where I looked directly and deeply into her eyes, with my eyes open unnaturally wide. My carefully sculptured eyebrows; the perfection of my skin -- perfected by careful application of foundation and powder -- the powder on my lids, blended to create an illusion of doe eyes -- all was framed by my perfectly coiffed hair, which was artificially thickened by falls and extensions.

His eyes came to rest on my glossy, crimson lips. When a man looks at a woman’s lips he’s thinking of one thing; how those lips would feel wrapped around his swollen penis. Is his penis swollen? Do I make him feel like that? I dragged my eyes away from him and concentrated on my water glass, which vacillated between half-full and half-empty.

I pushed on the tip of my salad fork, balancing the handle slightly above the table. David reached away from his plate of no-meat fajitas to cover my hand with his. He could undoubtedly cover both of my hands with one of his. I couldn’t guess what his gesture and attentive body language meant. Maybe, he was trying to soothe me.

Linda and John had engaged in a deep conversation. There was nothing going on between Linda and me, but I didn’t think John was right for her. Well — maybe…. She hadn’t paid any attention to me since John arrived.

“I can’t get over how fantastic you look,” David gushed. “It suits you. You seem much happier; much more content than you ever seemed to be in high school. I’ve been watching you on TV. You get more and more remarkable every week.”

Is David a switch-hitter? There had been small indications in high school that he might be open to experimentation.

As if in answer to my question, David squeezed my hand. I looked down at the fourteen carat gold bracelet around my slender wrist and thought of the matching chain around my ankle. A few hours before, I had been so proud of how trim my ankles looked and had worn the jewelry to draw attention to them. I’m getting that attention, but to what purpose?

What does he want? What do I want? I had always thought David to be quite attractive, but not specifically to me. Yet, I was hoping he found me attractive. Why? This has gone too far. “David. I’m married -- and I’m a man.” I had lowered the timbre of my voice. Instead of finding a bass clef, I sounded breathlessly husky, as if I couldn’t quite control my emotions.

“Angela, you’re more woman than I’ve seen in years. Besides, Dee’s more married to Sam than she is to you.”

I gasped, pulled my hand from David’s, and tried to cover my troubled face. Sam and Dee? What does he mean by that? The thought had never crossed my mind. We don’t have a storybook marriage. However, I’m totally loyal to her and assume. . . . My dad?

I jumped to my feet after his free hand stroked the inside of my thigh. My penis strained against my gaff. I don’t want him, yet I do want sex.

“Let’s go to the powder room,” Linda suggested. She stood next to me and took my arm. I reached for my purse robotically, and with her assistance I made my way in a haze to the ladies’ room. Once safely cloistered from men, I collapsed on the couch with Linda holding me. The aura of my failure as a man contrasted the airy pink and lavender of my new world.

“I. . .didn’t know. . .there was. . .anything going on between Sam and Dee,” I whimpered. All my recent sensitivity training became clearly visible in the tears streaming down my face, and my inability to control my sobs.

“Don’t believe everything you hear. There have been rumors about Dee and me for years, and I know those aren’t true.”

“David wants to have sex with me. Linda. . .at first I felt humiliated by David and John’s praise for my femininity, then I realized I secretly begged for it. I’m so confused.”

“Angela, look at me. You’re very pretty. At least you were, before you ruined your face with all those tears. It’s natural for a person like you to want admiration. You can’t blame David, or yourself, for being confused. It’s a baffling situation. Who knows? There might come a time in your life when you’ll reconsider. I’ve had first-rate male lovers.”

“But, I’m a man.”

“You’re what you think you are. You are also, to some extent, what other people think you are. What I love about you hasn’t changed one bit over the years, and certainly not over the past several weeks. Let’s get you home. You have a job to do in a week, and you need your beauty rest.”

It really didn’t matter what John and David had said, or thought. Linda had said she loved at least part of me, which made me feel warmer inside than at any other time in my cold, cold life.

I feared actually admitting my love for Linda, a friend I absolutely had to have.

Friendship can end in love, but love never ends in friendship.

***

Sharon and Linda worked extensively with me the next day to put that evening out of my mind. Sharon called David “a very bewildered person.”

***

By the night of the contest, Dee led in the polls by eight points, and I no longer thought of myself as strange. My Christmas-red satin dress for the evening was actually a full-length gown that tied over my right shoulder and floated down to a gored, ruffled skirt. I wore open-toed sandals with a two-inch heel. With the falls in place, you couldn’t tell my hair was becoming sparse.

Sharon and Linda attended to me like a bride. For some reason that attention calmed me, giving me an edge over the other nervous contestants.

I felt bad for the other candidates’ spouses. They weren’t beauty queens, and they hadn’t adequately prepared. Their performances looked wooden and amateurish. I would never get offered a professional singing contract, but I appeared a lot better on stage. I played a part, and everyone knew it, which made it easier for me. While in my role, it was easy to go along, as I had no position to defend, no personal stake, beyond acting.

The event had caught the imagination of Illinois. Within minutes of the start of the voting, the pride of the enormous Illinois Democratic Party came into play. The voting raced neck and neck between the incumbent’s wife and me. The amount of money that poured in stunned everyone. . .over three million dollars for cancer research. At the end of the evening, Dee watched as Linda and I hugged and air-kissed, as we had dozens of times during the preparation for that evening. Dee icily commented how nice it was for Linda to have a new girlfriend. The way she said it made me wonder once again if Linda and she had been lovers in high school.

***

It felt nice to get home and draw to a close the trials and tribulations of the beauty contest. As I took off my make-up and studied my face in the bathroom mirror, I pondered whether or not to use night cream. I decided against it. It was time to go back to being Mr. Rasch. Energized by the success of the evening, I wanted to make love to Mrs. Rasch; the woman the world would soon know as Senator Dee Lilah.

I pulled out a pair of my flannel pajamas, and for the first time in nearly three months I put on men’s clothing. As I stepped from the bathroom, Dee looked up at me - Steve. Her hand flew to the light switch. As I got into bed, her back greeted me.

Dee’s kind of intelligence refuses to hold two opposing ideas in her mind at one time. When she’s confronted by conflict she immediately rejects the idea that holds less promise. I had done what she had asked of me -- better than she had asked -- but in a way she couldn’t accept. As I waited for sleep to take me away from this latest rejection, I wondered if Angela was truly dead and gone.

Nature’s most splendid work must abide by the law of transience. The stately leaves of the mighty oak must fall to Earth when their season has ended.

Chapter Eight

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there, hair!
Shoulder length, longer (hair)
Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy, daddy
Hair (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My hair!

Hair — The American Tribal Love Rock Musical

There are 100,000 hairs on the human head. I lamented the loss of each I found on the floor, or in my hairbrush.

***

I hadn’t won the tiara. However, the morning papers were filled with glowing comments for what I had accomplished. A Sun-Times reporter had overheard the incumbent on a cell phone, during the show, instructing his campaign headquarters to use campaign funds to vote for his wife.

Dee’s opponent was quoted as having said, “No man is going to beat my wife in a beauty contest.”

The newspaper ran a scathing editorial about misuse of campaign contributions. Faced with the prospect of his wife losing a beauty contest to a cross-dresser, he had donated money he later could have used in his campaign to get back into the race. He had totally lost his composure, which had been painfully obvious during the candidates’ debate portion of the program. Dee easily scored point after point, taking advantage of his emotional meltdown.

Shortly after the beauty contest, Sam, Dee, several of the Phyllis Stine’s, and I met at our home. Sam filled his usual role of bartender and found a steady customer in Dee. The meeting’s agenda directed me to eliminate any sign of femininity from my appearance.

They didn’t bother to support their demands with any logic. They never did. Might always equaled right in their world. Angela’s clothing and personal items were boxed. I thought about simply giving it all to Goodwill, but at the last moment put them in a closet. Later, my thoughts often went to those boxes, in search of my soul.

For weeks after that meeting, they harped about me being a “sissy.” Their re-programming became my personal hell. Not once did Linda criticize me for a feminine behavior, although she could have many times.

Dee won the election by a comfortable margin, and then we moved to Washington. I brought the Angela boxes along, and placed them in storage for good. Perhaps I had an exaggerated sense of importance of my role in Dee’s victory, or perhaps she didn’t comprehend what I accomplished; at any rate, Dee expressed meager gratitude.

The specter of my conversation with David and John at the restaurant had been left far behind, as we allowed the freight train of Senatorial life to carry us careening into Washington. Whatever Dee had done in her sorority initiation had occurred almost fifteen years earlier and couldn’t possibly have an impact on our marriage.

I tried to get a job at the Washington Post, in the tradition of the Watergate reporters, Woodward and Bernstein. The Post wasn’t ready for me, but I did hook up with UPI as a Capitol correspondent. I didn’t sell myself for jobs and interviewers didn’t always read resumes carefully.

About a month after I started with UPI, the fellow who hired me said, “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re Steve Rasch from the Sun-Times? I’ve admired your work for years. You’re a real journalist.”

After that, my stories were published with less editing.

I normally hung around the gates of the White House, hoping to get a shouted question answered as the President hurried by. Ironically, I hated questioning politicians. I knew their answers would come from notions they borrowed and prejudices they picked up on the campaign trail.

Dee started off slowly, voting mostly a straight Party line. Linda, who was managing Dee’s office, became exasperated; as the Party line directly opposed what Dee had promised Linda would be “their” position on environmental issues.

Dee became more anxious; she wasn’t able to set every agenda and her fears of personal failure took control. She had never been good at negotiation, compromise, or accepting less than perfection. The life of a Capitol Hill politician overwhelmed her.

Power and knowledge without integrity are dangerous and dreadful. Dee cared about the environment, but it appeared her personal problems were all she could possibly bear. She was simply too busy taking care of herself to think about other things.

Linda became frustrated by Dee’s failure to use her office to create positive change. Linda thought the sole advantage of power was you could do more good; if you failed to do good, you became powerless no matter what high office you occupied.

I learned to cope with Dee’s anxieties by remaining calm. I spoke very slowly when we conversed. Patience paid big dividends. As much as possible, I allowed her to control what we did. For her own good, I often made demands on her, just to let her know I couldn’t be totally intimidated. I had a note to myself taped to my writing desk, “Those who demand the most often give the least.” Reading this every so often reminded me that Dee was Dee.

I acted like the man who fed the crocodile --- hoping it would eat him last. It was obvious by the increase in the amount of alcohol Dee consumed that she wasn’t happy. Someone would eventually get hurt. I didn’t know how to approach her. We didn’t communicate well. As Dee became more and more distant, what sex we did have suffered; we crept close together and prodded and pawed so we could sleep, preparing to go our separate ways in the morning.

Dee fell asleep quickly and rarely woke before morning. I tossed and turned, searching the bed for a comfortable position. Our relationship was more like having a roommate you never saw.

Dee made comments about my hair, or the loss thereof, seemingly to suggest my hair was the only good thing about me. She didn’t yell at me when I kept it long, even though it looked womanly. Nature wasn’t as cooperative. Every day my hair became less and less of a good thing.

My denial of the extent of my hair loss reached its zenith at a White House press conference. Bush had just struggled through an answer. He turned to me, looking for a friendly face. As a Republican freshman Senator, Dee sat in his pocket. In an effort to cover his embarrassment over the previous question, he called me, “A fine lad, fine lad.” All my press buddies got a big charge out of that.

I began my prepared question, “You’ve talked about the need to maintain technological....”

But Bush … acting like an excited party guest who couldn’t keep a funny comment inside … interrupted me to deliver his punch line. “A little short on hair, but a fine lad. Yeah!” He had provoked a new round of laughter at my expense.

“I am losing some hair,” I meekly acknowledged. I moved on with my question, realizing that I had just been ridiculed about my balding head by the president of the United States.

After the press conference, my press buddies really let me have it.

“Hey, Captain Picard … make it so.”

“Steve, when you lose hair, do you get more head?”

“Do you get nervous in a pool hall?”

“Do you need sunglasses when you comb your hair?”

“Is it taking longer to wash your face these days?”

“You know, Steve, I can see what you’re thinking.”

My baldness became the topic of a national debate. All three networks repeatedly showed clips of the press conference, as an example of Bush’s insensitive treatment of the press.
That incident set me in motion. If I didn’t do something about my hair, I would soon be bald. All my life I had paved the road to what passed for my happiness with acceptance of orthodoxy, only to have my male pattern baldness force me to be different. I wanted to restore my hair for a variety of reasons.

Maybe I could fix our failing marriage. Dee’s drinking bouts usually ended with her accusing me of wanting to lose my “gorgeous” hair. Possibly I thought I could hold onto a last vestige of Angela by preserving my hair. Angela’s side of me was increasing its demands, and even though my hair was quite thin, wearing it long assuaged my need for more evident femininity.

I thought about going from one extreme to another. The Captain Picard remark had started me thinking about shaving my head. If I can’t have a full head of hair, why have any at all? Yul Brynner had looked good in “The King and I.”

I talked to a friend of mine who has shaved his head for years. He asked me if I liked the sound my beard made when I shaved in the morning. Until he had said that, I really hadn’t paid much attention. The next morning I listened while I shaved, and became aware of the rasping noise. My friend told me the sound of shaving your scalp is quite pronounced inside your head.

The idea of rubbing my head with baby oil to make it shine didn’t appeal to me any more than the thought of dabbing my scalp with make-up to take away the shine.

I eliminated shaving my head as an option and moved on to plugs.

I requested information and a consultation from experts in the field. They told me forty million men in the United States and twenty million women have hair-loss problems. I found no real relief from my personal agony in those numbers. They showed me before and after pictures from dozens of satisfied customers. When I tracked down a few people I knew who had gone through the treatment, I found a constant mantra; … painful. . .limited results. . .expensive. I couldn’t find anyone who had undergone the procedure who looked natural.

As a Capitol correspondent, I had some familiarity with Ted Koppel. There would be no toupees for me.

My search centered on finasteride (Propecia) or monoxidil (Rogaine). Both were available without prescription on the internet, but I wanted a doctor’s advice. My general practitioner in Northbrook conducted tests to see if my hair loss resulted from dietary problems. He also gave me a complete physical. From the results of the tests, he advised against using either of the two most popular drugs because of my propensity for high blood pressure. Blood tests indicated a hormonal imbalance he thought might be responsible for my hair problem.

I studied his receding hairline and decided he probably knew something about what he had said.

“It’s too bad you’re not transgendered,” my doctor said.

“Transgendered? What do you mean?”

“Transgendered is a term used for men who think they should be women, or women who think they should be men. I have several transgendered male patients. As part of their treatment, they’re taking hormones to develop the secondary sex characteristics of their desired gender. In every case I’ve treated, the hormones have slowed scalp hair loss and in some cases hair they’ve lost has grown back.”

“It sounds like I should take hormones?”

“No, there are other side effects you wouldn’t want. . .not unless you have another beauty pageant coming up.” He chuckled as he told me he had no answer for my dilemma. “Nature has a plan for each of us,” he said. “Sometimes we have to commune with nature.”

His use of the word “commune” seemed like a backhanded slap at my column. I had forgotten about his staunch conservatism. The same doctor had given me my childhood inoculations with a smile on his face and grinned when he pulled on his plastic gloves before examining my prostate. I wasn’t about to seek any further information from him, but he had planted a seed. I left his office in a mental haze.

Without thought as to destination, I found myself driving toward Sharon’s salon. She was busy with a client when I arrived, but would be done in twenty-five minutes. I settled in with a “Cosmopolitan” in the salon’s waiting area.

“Come in, come in, Steve. It’s so good to see you.”

We hugged.

“It’s good to see you too, Sharon. I’ve missed our times together. Can you believe it’s been a year?” I really did miss those gentle, peaceful days we had spent in her office building our friendship.

“How’s Linda?” Sharon asked.

“I haven’t seen or heard from her in months. Shortly after we got to Washington, she asked Dee if she could run the office here in Illinois. She’s responsible for keeping communication open between Dee and her constituents. She meets with individuals and interest groups, and files written reports with Dee. Linda helps Dee form policy and make informed voting decisions based on discussions with the Illinois voters.”

“Do you miss her?”

“I miss having a friend like her. She’s about the only true friend I’ve ever had. Other than you, of course.”

“That’s so very nice of you to say, Steve. Thank you. Are you sure she requested the transfer?”

“Yes, Dee told me all about it. Linda wanted to live here, so she could be close to John. You remember John. He was one of the two men who ate dinner with us at the Chicago Diner, that night I got all upset over nothing.”

“I remember John and --- ah -- David. How do you feel about Linda seeing John?”

“Sharon, I have no secrets from you. You’ve always been able to see into my heart. I have a great deal of respect for Linda.”

“Respect?” Sharon’s eyes bore into mine demanding total honesty.

“Okay. Respect and a whole lot more. You know I love her, but I’m married; and now she’s involved with John. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The silence that followed indicated of the depth of our friendship and allowed each of us to thoroughly chew the words we had bitten off, before swallowing. My journalistic instincts told me Sharon hadn’t revealed the whole story, but I didn’t push her.

“Steve, I’ve been reading your columns.”

UPI had given me a weekly column they syndicated throughout the U.S. I had been doing a series of stories on the administration’s all-out attack on the environment, which was a continuation of the onslaught of the Clinton administration.

“Has Dee felt any repercussions from your articles?” Sharon asked.

“Bush had a luncheon with her a while ago,” I replied. “Dee’s asked me to tone things down.”

“And …?”

“All my life I’ve had to go along to get along. During the past few months, I’ve found I could make a difference by actually stating my mind. I believe every word I write. Everything is carefully researched. I won’t publish anything without three reliable sources. If Bush doesn’t like the heat, I’m probably doing my job. I’m starting to really feel good about myself. I’ve discovered that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people. I’m doing something for people with my column.”

“How do you get politicians to give you those damning quotes?”

“I just slap a Mona Lisa smile on my face and let them talk.”

Sharon laughed. “And Angela. . .how’s she doing?”

“Angela’s been put away in boxes, but I think of her all the time. Actually, I do more than think of her. I’ve become Angela more and more every day. I’m much more open to my feminine instincts.”

“Is there any chance Angela will ever come back?”

“That’s why I’m here today. I need to talk to you about things: hormones and lifestyles.”

“What do you want to know about hormones?” Her posture changed slightly as she took on a professional demeanor.

“Have you taken them?” I asked.

“Of course, Honey. I take them every day.” Sharon had gained weight through her hips and chest. She looked marvelous.

“Are you pleased with the results?”

“Very,” she purred.

“What do they do for you?”

“Marvelous things, Sweetie. First of all there’s the fat migration to more — ahem - feminine positions. It took me two years to develop my bosom.”

“Do you have any regrets about that?”

“Heavens no, Honey. They’re the texture of my female spirit. They’re two of my favorite things.”

“What about when you dress as a man?”

“On those rare occasions when I absolutely must, I simply tie them down with an Ace bandage.”

“Doesn’t that hurt?”

“Not half as bad as it once hurt me not to have them.” The residue of her past suffering showed in the corner of her eyes.

“I understand exactly what you mean.”

“I know you do. . .Angela. From the day you first walked in here, I’ve been well aware how much you need to express your true self.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“It is to those who care about you.”

“Are you including Linda?”

Sharon nodded.

It’s no wonder Linda took up with John. She probably hated every minute she had to spend with someone as femininely spirited as me. “What else have the hormones done to your body?”

“I lost upper body strength. Every once in a while it would be nice to be able to lift as much as I once could, but I seem to get by okay. My skin has become noticeably softer.”

“Isn’t that because of the creams and lotions you use?”

“In part, but mostly it’s because of the hormones. I had a big decrease in body hair, ambisexual hair, which cut down on the electrolysis I had to have done. My testicular size is much smaller than it was, and at times I have less firm erections, but that might be age.”

“You aren’t that old.”

“You’re sweet, Angela. I’m old enough to be your mother. I’m getting too old to work in the transformation business.”

“Too old?”

“It takes a great deal of energy and stamina. You have to be on your game and able to carry a conversation for a minimum of six hours straight. You can never let down your alertness. You have to set a pace and keep ahead of someone who’s pumped to the gills. It’s fun, but sometimes very draining, especially with clients who are too nervous, too scared, or just too shy to carry their weight in the conversation department.”

“I can see where your work would be hard.”

She grinned. “If I sound like I’m complaining, just slap me. I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone. I love guiding my clients on their journey to find their feminine selves.”

“I could never slap you, Sharon. You’ve been like a mother to me.”

“Angela, I would adopt you in a minute, if you would have me.”

Sharon laughed and we hugged. The warmth of her body welcomed me. There was no self-conscious embarrassment when we parted, only satisfaction.

“You came here looking for information. What else do you need to know?”

“What about scalp hair? Is it possible I could grow back the hair I’ve lost?”

“That happens sometimes, but not always. It’s happened in at least a dozen cases I know of. I think you have a very good chance of getting back your hair, as you haven’t reached the stage known as Hippocratic baldness. That’s when a man has only a ridge of hair around the sides of his head. It all has to do with DHT, a chemical in your body.”

“What if I start taking hormones, and then stop? Are the effects reversible?” I sounded ambiguous, which was exactly how I would have described my gender orientation at that point.

“Most changes are reversible. Things aren’t going to happen overnight, so you’ll have plenty of time to change your mind during the process. Do you have a doctor?”

“I do, but I would rather not use him. He’s our family physician. Do you know of anyone?”

“I can give you the names of several very good doctors who understand the needs of the transgendered.”

“Is that the illness I have, Sharon … being transgendered?”

“Oh, Honey. You don’t have an illness. Psychologists don’t classify the transgendered ‘ill.’ You have a blessing.” She sighed, apparently emphasizing how she welcomed her blessing. “You have been given the ability to know and understand yourself. Not many people get to do that.”

We talked about her life journey, the turbulence, the constant conflict, and her resolution. I wasn’t convinced living full-time as a woman would be right for me. Yet, I couldn’t make a strong argument against using hormones to solve my hair problem. The “negative” side effects seemed like a bonus.

That was the last conversation I ever had with Sharon. Less than a month later, two young men, looking for drug money, beat her to death. I was out of the country with Dee on a political junket at the time. I was told of her death when I called her salon the next time I visited Chicago.

Chapter Nine

A fellow columnist, Robertson Davies once said, “As a general thing, people marry most happily with their own kind. The trouble lies in the fact that people usually marry at an age when they don’t really know what their own kind is.”

How terribly, terribly true!

I sat in a quandary in my tenth floor in the D.C. Ritz Carlton. Normally, I didn’t stay in suites. Normally, I didn’t stay in hotels like the Ritz-Carlton. However, it wasn’t everyday I became a millionaire.

The room cost $595 a day. With my tremendous wealth I could stay there for the next 24,114 days, at $595 a day with fifteen percent gratuity. That would be about sixty-six years, give or take a few Leap Years. That would also be about 24,113 more days than I planned to be around. It wasn’t that I felt compelled to shuffle off my mortal coil. I planned to walk away from my past life; and to move on to something entirely new, but first I would kill off a few thousand brain cells.

I had already finished the two tiny bottles of scotch in the mini-bar, and called down for a quart of Johnny Walker Blue Label. In my anguish, top of the line Johnny Walker represented about as much class as I could muster. I had never gotten drunk as Angela, and rarely been drunk as Steve. There had been that one time in high school when John and I snuck vodka from his dad’s liquor cabinet. I had been sick for two days. There were two other occasions with Dee. That first night with Dee, the night we conceived Sara Jayne, and one night two weeks ago, when Dee begged me to try to fix our marriage. Even though I had been drunk at the time, I did set an appointment with a marriage counselor.

At the subsequent meeting the counselor asked us to state our main problem with one another. I said I would do anything to help Dee quit drinking. Dee said she would go on the wagon, if she could cut my hair. She said she had wanted to cut my hair for years, something I had been totally unaware of. I agreed. That night, she cut my hair with her scissors, to an average length of less than two inches. I hadn’t bothered to go to a barber to try to fix what she did. I felt naked. . .exposed. . .betrayed, as she continued to drink heavily.

If only I hadn’t interrupted my morning shower to answer the phone. I loved to shower and shampoo, even as short as it was. I also loved the feeling of a warm shower against my breasts. I had grown to almost a B-cup after nearly two years of hormones, both injected and by mouth.

I had never regretted my decision to take hormones. Dee never said a word. I’m not sure she had noticed the change. She never saw me naked with the lights on. My body had changed as predicted by Sharon. In addition, I had developed a mental sensitivity that allowed me to take pleasure in a full array of emotions.

I had my ups and downs.

Dee, Sam, and the Phyllis Stines had another “fireside chat” with me. They all had been “concerned” about my mental state.

I had been having my hair styled for some time, and they thought it looked “over the line.” The meeting mainly centered on me “losing my moral compass in regards to what was good for our nation.” My allegiance to the tree-huggers embarrassed Dee. After what proved to be a very contentious waste of time, Dee met with me alone. That’s what our marriage had come to -- husband and wife having a scheduled meeting.

Dee cried bitterly after everyone left. She apologized for being a poor wife. She wept over her failure to try to enjoy sex with me and said it was “all her fault.” She claimed to be frigid. According to Dee, she had never enjoyed sex with anyone. She promised to be a better marital partner, and more attentive to my sexual needs. In return, I was to agree to drop out of the journalistic game, and take care of her personal affairs. She supposedly needed my help. She talked glowingly of a probable book deal that would make us quite wealthy. I wouldn’t have to work and could take the time to do all those things I hadn’t been able to do, “what with newspaper deadlines and such trivial nonsense.”

In the world she described, I would finally be able to take advantage of all Washington, D.C. had to offer: the opera and arts. It would be great and she would find a way to be with me “as much as possible.”

All I had to do was give up all my “silly writing” and be a nice little house-hubby.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I did neither. Instead, I told her I would think about it. I continued my work exposing Bush’s environmental onslaught.

My work had become relatively easy with so many people in government disgusted with the way we destroyed our land, water, and air to gain immediate profits for the big corporate raiders. I didn’t have just one solitary Deep Throat; I had several dozen bureaucrats who provided information on a consistent basis. I had too much inside information pouring in to write about everything, so I concentrated on four or five key issues and kept my published facts to those I could easily prove. I had so many sources I established a personal rule of four reputable sources before I submitted my column to my editor.

A few weeks after the meeting with Dee and her friends, UPI fired me because of the pressure Bush put on them. They told me it was because of my abnormal sex life. As I had no sex life, I found that rather implausible.

A friend of mine from National Public Radio had been in my office when I received the fax telling me I was no longer “UPI’s type of reporter.” I drew solace from not being the “type” of reporter that used “type” when I should have used “kind.” My friend took me out for a drink at the St. Regis lounge and hired me on the spot.

I should have gone to the St. Regis for a room and saved four hundred bucks. Of course, Sam and Dee had been in a room at the St. Regis when he died.

The nice thing about a suite is you aren’t always visible in the mirror. Most hotel rooms use mirrors to give the illusion of space. When you have all those mirrors, you can’t get away from yourself. It’s not that I didn’t like how I looked. I loved how I looked. On my way to the Ritz-Carlton, I had stopped at our storage unit, and got a few things.

Angela had come back.

My clothes fit without all those pads I once had to wear. Thirty months of hormones had registered a wondrous change.

My cosmetics could have used a little updating and my dress looked outdated, but it mattered little. My taste had always gone to traditional, classic lines; and only a few outside of the garment district would realize my dress was no longer in vogue.

After picking up my things from storage I had gone to a wig shop and bought a golden brown wig of human hair, with an average length of seventeen inches. It had been styled to fit a successful young businesswoman. As I looked in the mirror at my wig, I felt weak and defenseless. My life could only be described as a mess. That fact couldn’t be hidden by someone else’s hair.

The call I received this morning had been from George. He told me Sam had passed away in his sleep. Well not exactly in his sleep, as it turned out. George softened the blow as only a heartless bastard could. He told me I had inherited everything Sam had. . .roughly $16.5 million after taxes.

After receiving word of being fatherless, I also received a set of visitors. . .two of the Phyllis Stine’s. They had been waiting years to tell me what they really thought of me. I was no longer Sam’s son and had become fair game.

They had hated me from the very beginning.

The very beginning, as it turned out, had been the fall of Dee’s freshman year at college. They had gotten Dee inebriated, as a PKK pledge. They had asked her who would be the most embarrassing person for her to have sex with from her high school class. She had picked me. Later, when asked to join the Phyllis Stine’s, she was told she had to seduce me to prove how badly she wanted to be a member.

The other initiates had to go to their hometowns to nail their misfits. Dee had been fortunate in that I delivered. I had eagerly made the trip to her. To provide proof she actually had screwed me, they set up a video camera in a room in the inn where we enjoyed our dinner cum sex. The Phyllis Stine’s had their initiation ritual down to a science. They had even supplied Dee with a new drug called Rohypnol. I had been date-raped!

Her two, sorority sisters told me how Dee bragged about her ability to get me hard, even when I had been on the verge of blacking out. They told me how I looked on the video, as Dee sucked with vigor on my uncooperative cock. They said the video had become a sorority favorite. The Phyllis Stine’s got to see a Senator suck on the cock of a cuckold any time they felt like it.

I had been cuckolded, as they graciously shared with me. “Dee’s screwed half the cabinet.”

Dee was the kind of woman who climbed the ladder of success - wrong by wrong. They took great delight in telling me the details of Sam’s last moments of glory. Those rumors John and David mentioned back in Chicago had been true. Sam had been banging his daughter-in-law when the Grim Reaper came to call. He died in the saddle. . .a “rocky feller” to the end.

The Phyllis Stine’s broke the details to me using their scalpel tongues to expose one layer of skin at a time. They seared every receptor in my body with ribald stories of Dee on the campaign trail buying votes. They said she crowed about the tongue-lashings she had given the pricks of the most powerful men in America.

They trashed my “prissy” role in the beauty contest. The Phyllis Stine’s roared, as they told me how totally appropriate it was for a doofus like me to help his wife by being the most effeminate man in the state.

I lost the strength to fight. All I could do was cry. I couldn’t even find the energy to order them out of my house. They left only after they had completely trampled my ego.

I had no one. Solitude and the feeling of being superfluous could be the most terrible form of destitution. If only I could pick up the phone and talk to someone. . .anyone. Linda would be perfect, but she hates me. She hadn’t been back to Washington for almost a year. When she had come to town, she arranged with Dee so she was too busy to see me. Six months ago, she had quit working for Dee altogether. She told Dee she was engaged to John; and he thought it best for her to remove herself from any connection to me.

We journalists pride ourselves on our detachment. It’s how we kept our integrity. We stayed above the fray so no one could take advantage of us. What sanctimonious garbage. I’m the poster child for the seriously duped. My entire life has been an unadulterated joke.

Where is that concierge with the scotch?

As I looked in the mirror all I saw was a woman. I had retained my skills. My make-up had been perfectly applied. I was as appealing as I had been three years ago, but I could take no joy in it. Making my face was a conditioned response. At least I had that one talent. I could totally, completely, most definitely -- fool myself.

I was the perfect foil for Dee; a changeling exceptionally well-suited for the amusement of the master manipulator.

A sharp knock signaled the arrival of my elixir of sweet stupor. I swung open the door and found the last person in the world I expected.

Linda.

“Angela, may I come in?” She didn’t seem at all taken aback by my appearance.

“Linda. - Why are you …? How did you know where to find me?” As she pushed passed me into the room, I was suddenly embarrassed by the perfume I wore, even though Linda had picked it for me, so long ago.

“Sam didn’t make a very elegant exit,” she said. “The story of Dee and his last tryst was all over Chicago this morning. I jumped on the first plane. When your maid said you weren’t living at your home, I figured you had left Dee, so I called hotels until I found you. I didn’t want you to be alone.”

“Why should you care about me?” That didn’t come out right. “Does John know you’re here?” I thought about John in the suit he wore the last time I saw him. A suit and a tie -- John would never wear high heels and a bra.

She looked at me with what seemed to be concern. “How much have you had to drink? Are you drunk?”

“No, but I will be as soon as someone I really want to see comes to the door.” I dialed the concierge’s desk, and inquired as to the whereabouts of my scotch. Why am I lashing out at her?

For a moment, the concierge was confused. “There are only fifty-three rooms in the Ritz Carlton and “Mr. Rasch” is registered in the penthouse suite. Who is this?”

I had unintentionally spoken to him in my “Angela” voice.

The concierge coughed. “The scotch will be right up.”

The Ritz Carlton understands its trade.

While I was on the phone, I watched Linda search all the drawers and go through the clothing that I had hung in the closet.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

She turned toward my and smiled to hide her embarrassment. “I want to be sure you don’t have a gun or pills.”

I shrugged. “I’m on the tenth floor!”

Linda understood my dark humor. “The windows don’t open and are shatterproof.”

I grinned, feeling the tension between us dissolve a little. “I’m planning suicide by sixty-year old scotch.”

“Can I join you?”

“Really, Linda, you don’t have to do this,” I said becoming serious again. “You’re getting married. You don’t need trouble with John.”

She shook her head. “John? That’s the second time you’ve babbled something about John. I don’t even know a John; and I’m certainly not getting married.”

“John who? John Locke. That’s who --- your fiancé.” My voice sounded much more accusing than it should have.

Her eyes went wide. “John Locke? I haven’t seen him since that night he bored me to tears at that restaurant. What makes you think I would even date someone like him?”

I sat, beginning to suspect things weren’t really as I had been led to believe. “But, you moved back to Chicago to be close to him?”

“I did not.” She shook her head again.

“But, Dee said....”

She joined me on the couch. “So you....”

“You’re....”

She touched my hand with hers. “Please, Angela -- let me go first. When we moved to D.C. from Chicago, did you tell Dee that she had to make a choice between you and me?”

“What? No. There was a time when I thought. . .but, I don’t think that any more. And, I certainly didn’t. . . . Dee told you that?”

“She said that it would mean the end of her marriage, if I didn’t move back to Chicago.”

“That witch! She told me you were moving back to Chicago to be with John. You mean to say that you never even dated John?”

She bit her lip. “Never. He did pester me a few times, but I told him I only liked girls, which he readily believed. That prick thought any girl that turned down “The John” had to be a lesbian. What a pompous fool.”

I laughed, feeling tremendous relief. “Dee told me that you quit working for her because you were getting married. She said that John didn’t want you associating with me.”

“Noooo.” She clenched her fists in rage. “I quit because Dee lied to me repeatedly about how she intended to vote. Do you know that she has the worst possible rating you can get from the Sierra Club? I would assure all my contacts in Illinois exactly how Dee would vote; and then she would backstab me. I couldn’t take it any longer.” She almost immediately relaxed as her brief anger past.

I had forgotten the beauty of Linda’s face -- tranquil, like a sunset. “Didn’t Dee realize she was driving you away?”

“Dee has an infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” Linda took my hand in hers, conveying her tenderness.

“There’s no John in your life?” I asked, hoping I had completely understood.

“Angela -- you’re the only one I’ve ever loved.”

“Me?” An aroma of caramel filled the room I hadn’t noticed before she arrived.

“Yes. I’ve loved you since high school. What started out as puppy love grew over the years. I picked a college on the east coast to be close to you at Harvard.”

“Really?” I asked shyly.

“Of course. I was crushed when you married Dee; and I have never gotten over you. Even after Dee told me how much you disliked being around me during the election I still couldn’t stop loving you.”

“I loved being with you! Those weeks were the happiest of my life, but what about all this?” I gestured across my feminized body. “I’ve done some things to myself, you don’t know about. I’ve been taking hormones.”

“I love you --- Steve or Angela --- it doesn’t matter to me. I had so many talks with Sharon and have done research on my own. I know a great deal about people who struggle to find their true gender identity. I’m ready to support you in whatever you decide.”

My mind reeled as I went from the depths of despair to bliss, and then remembered another tragedy. “Sharon was killed.” I whispered.

“I know. I was at her funeral. Her wife made sure she was buried with that string of pearls you gave her. Sharon loved you almost as much as I do. Sharon said that you’re one of the most feminine people she’s ever known.”

There was a knock and a mortified concierge entered with not one, but two bottles of Johnny Walker Blue label. “I’m so sorry madam. They’re compliments of the Ritz Carlton. Will there be anything else?”

With what Linda just told me, I don’t need a thing. I shook my head.

After he left, Linda and I decided I should get out of my female clothing. We also decided that she should get out of hers. I didn’t know what sex was, until she and I spent the afternoon, evening, and night catching up for lost time.

She loves my new breasts as much as I do.

Chapter Ten

She stood there laughing
I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more
My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
So before, they come to break down the door
Forgive me Delilah, I just couldn't take any more
Forgive me Delilah, I just couldn't take any more.

Delilah - Tom Jones

The next morning Linda visited a few old friends at the Capitol, while I went to say goodbye to Dee in person. My love for Linda had freed me from any fear I might have had of Dee’s corrupt soul. With all the flak she would be receiving from the press, she would more than likely be spending Sunday morning in the sanctuary of our home. As I drove up to our neatly appointed, four-bedroom home in Georgetown, I thought of how many lies it projected about our lives.

When I walked into our living room she sat alone. The world, as it often does when someone is humiliated, had decided she needed space. Her mouth formed a perfect circle.

I suppose my arrival might have been less of a surprise had I not dressed to the nines.

I had wanted to look better than Dee ever had. By the look on her face, I accomplished my goal. I wore an Alberta Ferretti deep purple wrap, doubled layered with chiffon and chalk-striped silk -- quite possibly the most feminine dress I had ever seen. My wig was a mass of seductive curls; my make-up -- mature and alluring. Everything about me shouted that I had been made love to the night before.

The Ritz Carlton can be quite obliging when you have $16.5 million to spend. They opened their salon on Sunday morning, and found a way for their personal shopper to buy something special for me to wear, even though the stores weren’t open.

“It’s Steve,” she smirked and then set in something that strangely resembled a remorse-filled expression. “You’re back from the dead.”

“Hi to you too, Dee.”

She waved a glass of scotch toward me. “I hear my sorority sisters paid you a little visit. Sorry about your father.”

“Why did you take up with him?” I asked quietly -- getting to the three-hundred pound gorilla who was sharing the room with us. “What good was Sam to you, after you became a Senator?”

“He still was Sam Rasch. He had long arms when he wanted to reach out for a favor.” She stopped, and then spoke accusingly, but without rancor. “You don’t look like you’re in mourning.”

I blushed in recognition of my lack of sorrow. I wasn’t the least bit embarrassed by how I looked. As far as I could tell, I was the most honest person in the room.

It seemed by our opening remarks our goodbye might be as dreadful as I had expected. I need closure on a wasted decade, but at what cost? And — what’s with all those strange non-verbal messages Dee’s sent from the moment I walked in.

“Can I fix you a drink, Angela?” She rose and moved a bit shakily toward the bar.

She must want something. She didn’t even choke on “Angela”, even though that was the very first time she said my name. How grateful I would have been just over three years ago had she found it in herself to utter my name, but at that time all it would have bought for her was my appreciation, something that carried no value in her world. “I would like a little sherry. There are some things in my room I want. Do you mind? I’ll just put together a small bag and get out of your life.” I can’t stand being in the same room with her; and she wants to act like were buddies.

“No problem. George tells me Sam left you enough money so you can probably afford a place of your own. We’ll have to see how much a divorce attorney can get for me. Let’s chat after you get your things.”

Money, that’s what she wants.

When I came down the stairs from my room, she had glasses sitting on a small table in front of the couch where she was sitting; hers was filled with water mine with white wine.

She smiled at me graciously, and then patted the couch next to her. “Angela, we need to talk a little about things. George tells me Sam’s will is contestable. I think we should try to reach an amiable agreement. I know money means very little to you. I want you to be able to move on to whatever it is you want to do as quickly as possible.” She hadn’t mentioned Linda. She apparently didn’t know where I had spent the night or with whom. “Steve - Angela, it’s time for a little honesty.”

I hooded my eyes. “Why?”

“Because, Angela…. Because I need to clear the air. You see....”

I’m not willing to go through a scene if we can avoid it. “Hold it Dee. If this is about the money, you don’t need to do this. I’m prepared to give you half. I have a form for you to sign that states you will accept that amount in exchange for not contesting the will.”

Her eyes snapped wide open. “Angela — Steve — that’s more than generous. After all I’ve done to you; why would you do that?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do, and because I need a future without skeletons from the past hanging about. This document includes language that states you will agree to a mutual divorce and will ask for nothing in the way of alimony.” I passed it to her with a pen.

As she signed, tears ran down her face. “It’s too late for us, Steve. Isn’t it?”

I nodded, surprised by the imploring tone of her question.

“Even so,” she said. “I want you to know some things. You need to know that Linda loves you very much -- as much as I should have. I’ve been trying to call her all morning. I think if you call her, she’ll run to your arms.”

I smiled brightly. “You might be right.”

“I would be happy for the two of you, if you got together.” Dee returned my smile and touched my arm. For a second she appeared to want me to embrace her. “I’m so sorry I worked all these years to keep you apart. Angela, I’ve spent my life trying to please George. He wanted a boy he could make into a trial attorney. He envied Sam because of you. I, in turn, envied you. Even when I was elected Senator, George said it was mainly because of your cleverness.”

Her voice faltered as the tears flowed from her eyes. She got up and went to the bar. “He said that you were the boy he always wanted. During the beauty contest he told me I could learn things about being womanly from you.” She filled her tumbler with ice and more water before coming back to sit by my side. Dee’s thigh pressed into mine. She patted my wig. “It feels natural. I don’t know what got into me. You have such wonderful hair. It went so well with your boobies.”

I blushed again. “I didn’t think you had noticed.”

“Noticed?” She stroked my hair with unmistakable fondness. “Ever since you started taking hormones, your body has come to life. You’re very attractive.”

“I thought you hated me.” It was my turn to move to the bar. I wanted something strong, like scotch, but settled for a glass of compassionate ice water.

“Hate you? No, I hate me. I hate what I’ve become. I hate what I’ve done to you. I’m to blame, but our fathers had a lot to do with it.”

At the mention of my father, Dee looked away from me. What would I do if I were in her shoes? Offer more condolences? It’s wrong to speak unkindly of the dead, but sometimes it’s wrong not to.

“Do you know that you were the only boy that I respected and admired enough in high school not to …?” She didn’t finish; she didn’t have to. You’ve been the apple of George’s eye for years. He was overjoyed when I told him you were the father of my child? Do you know what he said?” Her nostrils flared as she seemingly searched the air for the soul of her aggravated childhood. “He said my tricking you into marriage was the best Christmas present I had ever given to him. That was the only time he ever said he was proud of me. He was proud because I managed to get knocked-up by you. Sara Jayne is our baby, in case you’ve ever wondered. You don’t know how many times I’ve cried over the years -- missing her.”

I no longer had the ability to love Dee as my wife. That was long gone, but I felt a certain amount of pity. After everything, I trusted what she told me to be the truth.

“When I became Senator,” she went on, “I thought the world would be mine. I thought I would have power. Power. . .that’s a joke. I’m told how to vote. If I don’t follow their advice, I’ll be ruined. They told me right away how the game is played. They showed me examples. George is as big an environmentalist as Linda; every vote has been killing him. He tells me how wonderful your columns are. . . . They’re quite good, you know.” She stopped to take a long drink from her glass.

I reached to refill it and our hands touched.

I’ve never seen her tremble before. Imagine, someone as talented as her, never measuring up to her own standards, or the dreams of her father.

She allowed me to take the empty glass. “Companies and special interest groups fall all over themselves paying me to vote one way or the other, as if their money matters more than the threats from my Party. You would think the lobbyists would know how the game is played. Those fools have given me millions.”

As I went to the bar for more water, she walked to the window, and threw open the blinds. Turning from the window, she continued. “You see Angela; I thought I could learn to love you. I wouldn’t have married you, if I hadn’t thought we would eventually fall in love. Less than two months after our wedding Sam entered the picture. It all started out so innocently. We met for lunch several times -- always with drinks. One lunch went too long, because Sam kept ordering drinks for me. I don’t want to sound blameless. I found him attractive. I should’ve stopped drinking. I have a bad combination of ambition and weak character. After the first time, I hated myself. I hated you, because you were so good. I thought you were being good to make me feel bad. Sam tried to make me believe I had seduced him in order to get his support to run for the Senate; and maybe I did. Who knows in these things?”

She walked back to the couch and beckoned for me to sit with her. “My hate became universal. I hated you, me, Linda, George, Sam -- mostly Sam. I decided the best way to hurt him was to spread myself around, so he didn’t have sole access to my body. In high school I had been promiscuous to hurt George. I should’ve known my sleeping around wouldn’t bother Sam.”

She held my hand. I don’t know if she’s aware of how hard she’s squeezing. I ignored the pain because I needed her to go on, and didn’t want to do or say anything to disturb the flow of her confession.

“The Party owns me, Angela. If I don’t do what they say, I will have no chance for re-election. The Majority Leader met with me late yesterday, and told me to pull myself together. He made it perfectly clear they will do nothing to help me through this crisis. If I step an inch out of line during the last three years of my term, they’ll bring me before the disciplinary committee and will strip me of my office. My sorority sisters have also shown their true colors. They’ve already told me that they’ve issued a press release claiming I was under psychiatric care while in college. Their press release states they’re willing to stand by my side, only if I voluntarily commit myself to a private hospital.”

“They’re sweethearts.”

“I’m so ashamed, Angela.”

I had no idea what to say or how to feel. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, but what Dee had done would always be between us. I couldn’t imagine what she wanted from me.

“I’ve made some decisions,” Dee said. “First, I’m going to fly to Chicago, find Linda, and drag her back here to you. You two will be together as you should be.”

“You don’t have to do that, Dee.”

“Yes, I do. It’s the very least I can do. I could see the love between you two back during the beauty pageant. I hated you both for that, even though I knew I was pushing you away. Linda has been the best friend I could have ever hoped for; and I repaid her by trying many times to destroy what she should have had with you.”

“I’m pretty sure Linda and I can get together on our own, Dee.”

“Probably, but I need to be a part of it to be able to go on. I also need to vote the way I know I should. Tomorrow and every day after that, I’m going to vote my conscience. Let them do what they must. I owe that much to myself and the people that elected me.”

“They’ll come after you, I’m certain of that.”

“Let them. The worst they can do is throw me out of a club that no longer appeals to me. . .a club that’s as despicable as I’ve become.” Dee became stronger and more resolved by the minute. “After I’m done as a Senator, I’m going to devote the rest of my life to promoting the understanding of gender. I’ve watched you grow as Angela -- far beyond where Steve could have gone. You should be Angela. You are Angela. You have great taste, and you’re so elegant.”

Dee finally let go of my hand, which throbbed with relief. She crossed the room to the bookshelf, fingering the spines of several history books, as if she were searching the past. “A man died in my arms. Death is the most real part of our lives. It made me wonder about the things in my life that are so false: my career, my so-called friends, and my father’s pathetic goals for me. When I looked around yesterday for friends to console me. . .I have no friends. I deserve none, but I can change. I will change.”

Strength ran through her words -- not that phony stump rhetoric that had clouded her message for so long. Her strength told of a woman whose life had crashed around her. She sounded like a woman rising, like the Phoenix.

“When your beautiful hair grows back, I’m going to throw Linda and you the biggest wedding imaginable; complete with matching gowns. If that’s what you want.”

“That would be nice, but, we don’t have to wait for my hair to grow out. Hair’s not all that important.”

The End

Thanks to Jezzi, Geoff, Jaycee, Amelia R., and Jenny for help with this story in the past. I did the final edit on this myself, which accounts for the errors.

This fictional story of Sam’s son, Dee Lilah and the Phyllis Stine’s is based on the Biblical story of hair and deception. That Biblical story is filled with seven of this and seven of that, as is “Hair Soup.”

The monologue of Steve’s mother giving birth is actually Meg Ryan’s famous faux orgasmic scene from “When Harry Met Sally.”

The George Bush press conference is quoted verbatim, although a contemporary played the part of Steve.

Steve continued life as Angela and is working fulltime as a voluntary writer for moveon.org. In her free time she writes fiction. Dee was sanctioned by the Senate for the salacious act of voting her own conscience. She has decided to run for Mayor of Chicago, counting on Sam to deliver the necessary dead voters. Linda found work during the last election working for an unknown by the name of Barack Obama, whom she thinks might have a future.

Why “Hair Soup” for the name of this story? It’s homage to the Marx Brothers’ great movies “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera.”

Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, uh, I suppose you would think me a sentimental old fluff, but, uh, would you mind giving me lock of your hair?

Mrs. Teasdale: A lock of my hair? Wh-why, I had no idea.

Rufus T. Firefly: I'm letting you off easy: I was going to ask for the whole wig.

The Second End

Notes:

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