On an Adventure: The Tremendous Two

When you cross either of the Tremendous Two, you’re in double trouble.

On an Adventure: The Tremendous Two
By Angela Rasch

Up until two years ago I had been miserable, but all that was behind me. I’d done the necessary, and then set off on a new quest. I looked forward to a few days of strolling down memory lane with someone who meant a lot to me, who I hadn’t seen in years.

I’d been driving for four hours in the bright winter sun, traveling mainly due North from where my home for several decades had been in Minneapolis. With the temperature at zero, the air felt frigid with a ten miles per hour wind sending the wind chill factor to minus twenty-two.

Miles of evergreen-shaded highway slipped by while my light blue, 2003 Beetle GLS convertible busily transformed $1.37 a gallon gasoline into the pleasure of German-engineering driving. It’s 26 MPG rating had lost much of its allure, so it was fast becoming more unreliable and less charming. I could afford a new car, having retired recently and sold my online real estate business. I had more than adequate money to live as I wanted, but I elected to drive what made me feel comfortable.

Comfort had become paramount. For the last year, I’ve done little other than prepare for surgeries, have the surgeries, and then recover. It had been three months since I reduced my schedule to maintenance dilation, and two months since I had my first post-surgery orgasm. My orgasm had been self-triggered and tantalized with the potential of combining true love with physical stimulation.

My doctors said that yoga and a healthy diet had helped me keep my Body Mass Index at 22 with about 145 pounds on a 5’8” frame, even though the hormones and surgery had helped me develop the curves I’d dreamt about for years. I’d played some with my shoulder-length hair, but stuck close to my original auburn with highlights -- so that my stylist said I looked like Marg Helgenberger. Personal vanity allowed me to agree with her. Adding highlights had been the work of a few hours. Some changes, like swapping “Sandi” for “Robert” on my driver’s license had taken a lifetime.

An old friend of mine had reached out to me after she heard about my transition, at a recent class reunion. I hadn’t attended, not wanting to be that much of a cliché. The reunion occurred just six weeks after my last surgery. Attracting attention was the last thing I wanted to do. My goal had become simply to live a routine life. Mary had offered me a place to relax and unwind, which I gladly accepted. She said she was doing some “unwinding” of her own having just divorced her husband of nearly forty years.

After I had received Mary’s offer, I located my teen year’s diary and read with astonishment my dark thoughts. I’m not sure what would have happened to me if Mary hadn’t provided emotional support. Just the fact that I was keeping a diary spoke volumes. Some boys today keep “journals”, but at that time, boys rarely talked about their feelings, let alone transcribe them in a book with a pink unicorn on the cover. Mary had her hands full convincing me of my personal worth. I had committed the mortal sin of not being like everyone else and had to do my penance.

The crucial night of my teen years was duly noted in my diary in purple ink with some tear stains. Mary and I discovered I was actually more feminine than her when we both took a test we found in 16 Magazine. I suppose the fact that I read that magazine with interest was proof enough that I wasn’t the poster child for masculinity. The clincher was which one of us made the first move when we kissed goodnight. It had always been Mary. She was definitely the more aggressive person in our relationship.

Mary had always been kind, with her Angie Dickinson-like face and super-acrobatic body. We had dated for some time in high school before realizing we were more like girlfriends than boyfriend/girlfriend. I suspected that our breakup had been much harder on me than it was on her. In truth, I never got over her, and often wished, with all my heart, that I could have been the person she wanted.

Even though it had been almost forty years ago when we mutually decided to put an end to our “romance”, I still broke into a lop-sided grin when I thought of her perpetual smile. The way I felt about her was the only reason I had any doubts about my decision to transition.

I could vividly remember John Denver singing “Annie’s Song” on the radio while Mary gave me the bad news.

Maybe I should have asserted myself with Mary, but that would have been grossly out-of-character.

A week after we absorbed the results of that revealing test and became “just Friends”, I took an unspeakable chance and told her how I felt about my gender. There had been some mutual tears, but in the end, we became closer than ever.

She had been the first person I came out to. After that, behind closed doors, she knew me as “Sandi.” She shared my deepest secret until just recently when I sent my invitation back to the reunion committee stating, “I will be recovering from Gender Affirmation Surgery, so I will not be attending.”

My old world knows that I’ve transitioned, and I need to take steps to resolve differences with those who matter. I thought.

Mary “matters”. I want her to know that Sandi is finally happy.

Since Mary and I both lived two states away from our childhood home, I would start my reconciliations with her and work on the others from my past over time.

I suppose I could have been more circumspect when I RSVP’d the reunion committee, but as Miles said in Risky Business, “Sometimes you have to say, ‘What the fuck!’ Make your move!”

The longer I drove the more at ease I felt. I’d just sold the house I’d owned for the last thirty-five years and moved my possessions into storage. I was mentally at sea and wholly undecided about my future.

Despite the excitement of my adventure, highway hypnosis had almost set up permanent residence in my brain until I noticed a sign posted by the local Chamber of Commerce. “Anything Is Possible in Newport.”

Newport has a population of under five hundred. Going into the McDonald’s for a 2,500 calorie snack isn’t possible in Newport because the only fast food they have is microwave pizza at the gas station. Finding a dentist doesn’t happen in a town too small to have any health services. Outside of those notable exceptions, I would just have to take it on faith that almost anything else was possible in Newport.

Mary’s rustic stone lake cabin perched next to a lake six miles north and two miles east of Newport, Minnesota with the last three miles on gravel road. I hadn’t washed my car in months, so the sparse dust that kicked up through the frozen surface didn’t ruin my day. My chipper demeanor changed after I took one look at Mary when she came out to greet me.

The left side of her face was discolored and swollen. I’d been worried about how she’d react to seeing me in a dress for the first time, but my silly qualms became secondary.

“Who hit you?” I demanded softly.

The smile that had been on her face faded. “It was a stupid argument. These things happen. Don’t give it another thought.” She rushed to hug me. “How are you? Sandi, you look terrific.” After she had broken her embrace, she stood at arm’s-length, examining me. “You’re stunning.”

A tear escaped my eye while I involuntarily pushed her honey-blonde hair away from a purple and yellow cheek. “Did your ex do this?”

She nodded. “He has a problem with alcohol. He tries to control it, but sometimes he just can’t. It’s not all his fault. He stopped by to drop off some things I left at the house when I moved out. That much was sweet of him. Then he started to brag about all the girls hitting on him down at the municipal bar. I shouldn’t have taken the bait, but I told him he was too old to know what to do when a woman flirts with him.”

“Ohhhh,” I said -- trying not to be judgmental.

“That set him off. All he cares about is what his buddies in that stupid bar think of him. He’s such a Neanderthal. When I kidded him about being beyond his prime, he couldn’t take it. Thirty-five years I was married to that louse. You’d think I would know how to duck by now.” She grinned, and then just as quickly grimaced from the pain her smirk had caused.

I looked beyond the discoloration. The only change in Mary’s appearance was the way she wore her hair – and her eyes. Her hair had been a mass of tumbling curls in high school. Now it was short – still cute, but short. Her eyes had blazed in high school, defying anyone to get in her way. Looking at the woman in front of me I saw only brief moments when her eyes sparkled. It appeared as if someone had thrown cold water on her soul.

She reached around me, and then yanked my suitcase from the car. I almost took it from her, but realized Mary stood three inches taller than me and maybe twenty-five pounds heavier. I’d struggled loading that suitcase into my car, yet she handled it with ease.

“Thank you. The few man-muscles I once had atrophied when I started with the injections and pills.” I pulled a much smaller, personal bag from the backseat and turned to gaze at the cabin. “This place looks like you. It’s honest and welcoming.”

She stopped and studied me again. “Had you made the change during our high school years you would have been on the cheer squad with me.”

I blushed. All the genuinely pretty girls in our high school had been cheerleaders. It had been a small high school with limited sports opportunities for boys -- and none for girls. “A lot of things would have been different had I transitioned back then. For one thing, you and I wouldn’t have gone to our sophomore year homecoming dance together.”

She nodded. “Back then, two girls going to a formal dance together would have caused a riot. Was the world filled with jerks when we were kids? Or, were we all just rock-stupid?” She chuckled.

Her laugh reminded me why I had been so much in love with her in high school before I realized my true gender. The neatness of her cabin suggested she still demanded control of her life, but found a logical place for everything, and everyone.

“The idea of you and me being lovers doesn’t seem one bit strange, now.” The right side of Mary’s face colored a bit.

She’s always blushed easily. I thought. Is she signaling to me that she’s interested? She doesn’t use make-up to hide her age. Doesn’t need to. Although, in high school she favored bright-red lipstick and blue eye shadow. Now she’s wearing coral lip gloss and natural tones on her eyelids. Her clothes are sporty, including her Skechers loafers.

We sat on pine log chairs around a barnwood table. The kitchen was alive with the cinnamon scent of fresh pie.

“You really do look happy,” she said with enthusiasm. “You’re positively radiant.”

I thought for a moment while soaking in her observations. “I’ve been with so many psychologists over the years, trying to be ‘happy.’ The one that did the most for me said that men have an almost universal reaction to meeting people. First they determine their gender. Then they decide if the person they’re meeting is a potential sexual partner, and then they decide if that person is in their league.”

Mary laughed. “I can believe it.”

I bit my lip remembering old bitterness. “Before I transitioned, people I met obviously became confused when they tried to figure out if I was a male or female. I think that derailed the whole process for most people.” I can remember hundreds of lonely evening staring into a mirror wondering if I would ever find anyone to love me.

“No one would be confused now. There’s nothing about you that remotely suggests ‘male.’ ”

“The difference in my life is astounding. People are much more friendly. Men flirt with me all the time. Not that I’m interested, but it’s nice to be wanted. I actually feel like I’m part of the human race.”

Mary rose and went to her stainless steel refrigerator. She returned with two glasses of milk and a plate of sugar cookies. “Larry is good at flirting, when he isn’t being an asshole.” She gingerly touched her bruise.

My anger mushroomed while I thought about what her ex-husband had done. “Did you call the sheriff?”

She laughed, but this time not as merrily. “Larry . . . my ex . . . and the sheriff are hunting buddies. For all I know, he and Larry were pounding down beers together last night, before Larry dropped by to give me a little token of his affection.”

My fists clenched. “I hate bullies.”

She grinned. “You’ve always hated bullies. Remember what we did to Ken and Mike?”

I was my turn to smirk. It had happened during our senior year. Ken and Mike were two classmates who delighted in picking on freshmen. Mary and I snuck into the boy’s locker-room the afternoon before an evening football game and put analgesic balm on their jockstraps. The balm was designed to heat up when rubbed into the skin. We didn’t put on very much so that they wouldn’t notice until it was too late for them. About half way through the first quarter that evening both of the boys made unscheduled trips to the locker-room. The next day we sent them both anonymous letters that said, “Your hot jockstraps were just a warning. If you continue to pick on people, we have about a dozen other ways of making your lives living hell. Think about it.”

They both seemed to get the message, and that started Mary and me on a mission to right wrongs for those incapable of helping themselves. We called ourselves the Tremendous Twosome and spent long hours designing super costumes we could wear, if we were ever invited to join the Legion of Super-Heroes. That phase lasted less than a month. Neither of us was a big comic book fan. Other than usually having great hair, girl super-heroes weren’t all that exciting. Mary thought we should adapt pirate costumes to show our thrill-seeking side. I was less than enthused by the prospect of leather vests and boots.

“Mike and Ken’s testicles were so sore they couldn’t play the rest of the game,” I chuckled. “We should get some analgesic balm for Larry.”

“He doesn’t play sports anymore. I tried to get him to exercise, but after a day of work his world consists of watching TV and drinking beer. All he cares about is being a big-shot around town. He got himself elected mayor of Newport and somehow he thinks that makes him something. I moved out to this cabin so that I wouldn’t have to live in his town.”

“Why didn’t you move further away? Do you have to live here for your job?” If I still had a house, I would invite her to live with me, if. . ..

She shook her head. “I write cookbooks for General Mills. They don’t care where I live as long as I keep turning out recipes for them. But, I’ve got nieces and nephews here I’ve grown attached to. Larry’s a jerk, but his family is ideal. My mom and dad died twenty years ago, so those kids are the only family I’ve got other than my daughter – who’s out of the country more than she’s in. I couldn’t leave them.”

I nodded. My family had been at my side over the last many months. It had meant the world to me. I’d never married and never expected to.

“My cookbooks have done well and are providing more than enough to retire nicely, but I love my work. I’m making Larry out to be an ass, but I had a bad car accident several years ago and had to rehab for over a year. He stood by me even when it looked like I might not walk again.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that you were hurt.”

“In a way, it was a blessing in that I learned a few things about myself. I’m fully recovered. I stood by Larry later on when he had cancer and went through chemo. He’s in remission and appears healthier than he’s been for years.”

I closed my eyes for a moment and wondered who would have stood by me other than my immediate family.

She smiled. “Larry and I found ourselves as sort-of friends and no longer in love. Our divorce was inevitable and the only rational thing to do. Sometimes friendship is best.”

I suddenly remembered our superhero motto. “Best friends for life, me and you. . ..”

“. . .We’ll always be . . . the Tremendous Two,” she finished for me.

We clasped our hands together in the secret handshake we had developed nearly five decades before.

“Let’s teach Larry a lesson and take him down a peg or two,” I said. I paused. I have no idea how we could get revenge. --- Her hands feel the same wonderful way they did forty years ago. “Do you honestly think I’m pretty?”

“Gawd, yes. You were lovely as a teenager. Now you’re just ridiculously gorgeous. Don’t you have anyone to tell you that?”

I shook my head. “I’m not attracted to men,” I admitted. “And, I’m not all that interested in that sort of thing, anymore.”

“You’re not dead, for gosh sakes,” she said with a nervous giggle. She apparently just realized our hands were still clasped, and then pulled me into a brief hug. “Let’s have a bottle of wine and listen to some music from the seventies and see what happens. Maybe I can convince you that you’re not ready for an assisted living center”

We sat together on a sofa looking into a cheerful fire. Our perfumes floated together in sweet harmony. I had worn Ciara because I remembered it as her favorite scent in high school. It had been new at that time.

“Larry and I were the perfect couple in college,” she started. “I was a cheerleader, and he was the star running back on the football team. I got pregnant. I had to drop out and get married after our junior year. We had a little girl, and she’s been the center of my life. We’re best friends. She’s an engineer for a heart valve company and lives in Ireland most of the time.”

“I’m envious,” I whispered. My voice only had to travel scant inches to her ear.

She took a long sip of her wine and gathered her thoughts. “Larry told me many times that he suspected there was something about me that wasn’t right. He’d catch me staring at an attractive woman and ask why. I told him I was checking out her clothes and make-up, but he never believed me. He accused me of liking girls more than men, and it drove him to. . .violence.” She touched her bruise lightly.

“That doesn’t excuse him.” Even before I transitioned I wouldn’t have been a physical match for a college football player, but I still want to track him down and, at least, attempt to break his neck. “There’s no excuse for him hitting you.” My words sounded harsh and relentless, but accurate.

“No,” she agreed. “It’s an explanation, not an excuse. His instincts were right about me. When I was looking at those girls, I was thinking of how I loved kissing you and wondering if their kisses would be as magical as yours. I would compare their beauty to yours and without fail would decide you were far more lovely. Somehow Larry knew.”

“Oh. . ..” I found myself snuggling close to her, hoping she wouldn’t mind my craving for contact.

“It hasn’t been entirely fair for Larry. I was so relieved in college when I fell for Larry and he loved me. That seemed to mean that I wasn’t a pervert, even though according to the fouled-up standards of that time I knew that I was. Nobody told us anything. I didn’t even hear the term “bi-sexual” until I was in my late thirties. Even then it seemed like a forbidden lifestyle. Larry and I stayed together for our daughter. He responded to all the injustice in our relationship by occasionally lashing out.” She touched her discolored cheek.

“There’s no excuse,” I said again.

She shook her head. “He was tossed around psychologically, just like me. I was so confused and frightened in high school. I knew I loved you, but also knew that you truly are a female. That made me a lesbian, which was more than I could handle, so I want into total denial. To prove to myself I wasn’t a lesbian, I dated bad boys and macho jerks.”

“I wasn’t pleased with the guys you dated.”

“That’s what led to us drifting apart as friends,” she reminded me. “I couldn’t tell you the truth, so it was easier just to avoid you. There was no one for me to talk to in high school without violating the confidence you placed in me when you told me about your inner thoughts. While I was in college, I did talk to a priest and my intro-to-psychology professor. They were less than helpful. The psych teacher said you had a treatable illness.”

I sighed. “At that time, they thought girls who were born in a boy’s body had a disorder. Thank goodness most people have moved beyond that.”

“Yep. I’ve read how every brain starts female and how gender is differentiated by how much testosterone is absorbed during the developmental stages. That Newman Center priest was worse. He advised me that Lucifer was tempting me with a life choice that I had to stand up to. I half-believed him and became even more determined that I wouldn’t be a lesbian, but yet, here I am.”

Ohhhh. . .. “You shouldn’t have had to go through that. I’m so sorry that I’ve caused you so much pain.”

“Noooooo,” she wailed. “I went into counseling after my baby girl was born. Everyone thought it was postpartum depression, but I was mourning losing you. I was too ashamed of my feelings for you to even tell the psychologist. I just described my symptoms. The psychologist taught me how to go to my happy place when I was feeling blue. He told me to dwell on my happiest memories. It worked. Throughout my life when I’ve felt depressed I’ve remembered how happy you and I were when we were together. My ‘happy place’ is my memory of the first night you and I made sugar cookies together. I can’t make sugar cookies, like I did today, without thinking of you. Those happy memories have saved me.”

“Larry must hate me,” I said. “He must hate the idea of you thinking about me – like that.”

“I never told him a thing about you,” she said softly. “No one knows how I felt. . .how I feel about you, but me -- and now you.”

“I don’t know what to say. . ..”

“At first, I didn’t want people to know I had any lesbian thoughts. Over the years, I decided that my sexual preferences were just as natural as breathing. But by then I’d decided that my memories of you were too precious to share with anyone. I haven’t even told my daughter about you . . . and we talk about everything.” She bit her lip. “My daughter’s name is “Sandi.”

I gasped. “It is?!!”

“What else could it be? I told my daughter she was named after Sandy Duncan, remember her?”

I nodded. I haven’t seen her act in anything for years.

“Larry hated the name right from the start, but I insisted. He kept trying to hang a nickname on her, but I made sure none of them stuck.”

“Why would you name your child after me?” What would ever possess her to name her child after me?

“Because you and I should have married.”

“But . . . I would have ultimately become as I am today. It’s been my destiny to transition.”

Her broad smile signaled her concurrence. “All you did was make a few physical changes to align your body with your true self. That’s no different than some of our classmates did with their bodies over the years. Carolyn had her nose straightened, and Walter lost all that weight. They both look like different people.”

“You’re okay with me. . .really.”

“Much more than okay. I’ve been having dreams about you ever since I heard about you at the reunion,” she said. She tightened her arms around me. “Sexy dreams.”

For the first time in years, I felt aroused and sensual.

“Do you. . .?” She started shyly. “Do you still kiss like you did forty years ago?”

She evidently thought I did because she seemingly couldn’t get enough of me.

We didn’t sleep together that night, but by the end of the week we were blissfully sharing a bed. Neither of us left the cabin for more than a brief walk in the woods.

***

Breakfast on our eighth day together started with an argument.

“I could never allow you to do that,” she stated flatly after I told her my plan for punishing Larry.

“It’s perfect,” I whined. “Don’t go soft on me.”

“Your transition isn’t something to be ridiculed. I won’t allow it.”

“The Tremendous Two don’t let pride stand in the way of justice,” I reminded her. “Your ex thinks he’s God’s gift to woman.”

She nodded. “Larry also hasn’t changed his mind about anything in the last forty years. He’s a chauvinist, as well as a brute.”

We have to do it. The Theme music from Raiders of the Lost Ark took over my mind. Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-duh!

Her face had healed, except for a persistent small bruise that she used concealer to hide. “He’ll hit on you like a bee to honey. First of all, you’re as pretty as an anchorwoman on FOX. Add to that the fact that when he hears your name he’s going to put two and two together and lose his mind with blind jealousy.”

“Would it make you jealous if he liked me?” I giggled.

“It would,” she admitted, “but not in any way he could imagine. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. I won’t allow you to degrade yourself. My vengeance isn’t that important.”

“It is important,” I said. “What he did to you is awful. What anyone in Newport thinks about me isn’t going to bother me one bit.” Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-duh!

“I want them to like you,” she said. “They’re my friends, most of them. Small towns are different. None of them would get involved in a dispute between Larry and me because you just don’t do that. But that doesn’t mean they’re not my friends.”

“I don’t understand small towns,” I said.

“There are rules. Your plan would be perfect in a way,” she allowed. “Larry would always be known as the guy who tried to pick up the girl who had once been a guy. But his humiliation would be based on the nonsensical garbage that there’s something wrong with you. And, that’s messed up, because you’re perfect.” She hugged me tightly to remind me of the love she had expressed physically just moments before in our bed.

“What matters for the Tremendous Two is what Larry thinks. He’s going to a do whatever he can to catch my eye when you and I go down to the “Muni” tonight. Is that right?”

She nodded. “With those dazzling blue eyes of yours, you can count on it. Larry is the most eligible bachelor in the Newport area, who is near our age. He’ll think it’s his duty as a stud to make a move on you.”

“And, after he’s made sure everyone in town knows he’s staked his claim on me, he’ll feel like a complete joke when he finds out you and I are lovers.”

“Are we lovers?” She teased.

“Guilty,” I pleaded. “He’ll be doubly embarrassed when you tell him that I was once your boyfriend. He just might be so embarrassed he’ll withdraw from pubic office.”

“Okay, let’s not argue anymore,” she suggested. “If you’re game, so am I. It will totally embarrass him when I slide my tongue down your throat, and the town knows he was married to a lesbian.”

Yet, something in how she said it left me with the feeling she wasn’t completely on board.

Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-duh!

***

On the way to the bar, Mary stopped at the convenience store/gas station and bought five large bags of cotton balls and two pairs of rubber gloves.

“What are those for,” I asked.

“Are we the Tremendous Two?” Mary asked.

“We most definitely are,” I said with pride.

“Then we should act like it. We can’t lower ourselves to Larry’s level by denigrating ourselves. Larry’s going to get hammered tonight. You and I won’t go to the bar. We’ll wait at home until an hour or so after closing time when he’ll leave the bar. He’ll go home and pass out, and then we’ll go to his house with a bucket of water. We’ll dip the cotton balls in the water, and then stick them to his pickup. In this weather, they’ll freeze on contact. There isn’t a car wash within forty miles of here. His pickup will look like a maxi-pad on wheels. He’ll have a heck of a time getting them off.”

I laughed. “The Tremendous Two strike again.”

“I’ll write a note to leave in his pick-up telling him that if he ever has the ‘balls’ to touch me again, I’ll paint his car with a bucket of tar and a broom.”

I shook my head and promised myself never to cross her. “What if he files a complaint with the sheriff.”

“His buddy will laugh at him and call him a wuss.” She smirked. “Come on. Let’s forget about going to the bar tonight and go home,” Mary urged.

I nodded. Swashbuckling has its place, but not in Newport.

“Good. We have better things to do for the next few hours before it’s time to mess with Larry,” she said with a grin. “Besides, I want to introduce you to my friends at a time and place that will make it easy for them to love you as much as I do. Newport is small, but there are already three gay couples living here that I know of. Larry and his crowd are in the minority when it comes to accepting same-sex couples. We’ll have a party at the cabin next weekend, which will afford us a much more controlled environment than the bar. When they get to know you, they’ll accept our love much easier and we’ll just become part of the community.”

“That sounds like a great idea!”

“I love you, Sandi. What you were willing to do for me tonight was sweet, and totally unnecessary. Larry’s a dick, but I can handle him. I just needed to be reminded who I am. I’m one half of the Tremendous Two!”

Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-duh!

The End

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