Chapter 10 – Robert’s rules of disorder
The chaos of the next few days, while crazy, seemingly set me up to be Samantha all the time at home.
My brother Robert had been living on the other side of town with a friend for the past year. He had to finish high school quietly after “officially graduating” and being handed an empty faced diploma. He also worked at a Safeway as a stocker. Doug had found a way for him to get special scholarship to Colorado State University as someone on academic probation who could join the football team the following year. It was a gift from some alumni who made good after a bad start wanted to give out second chances. So, Robert was home for a brief two weeks before heading to college. He was aware that I had to dress as Jackie and heard some talk that I had to dress as Samantha for a dying girl. So, when he showed up to spend those two weeks and saw me dressed “normally,” he thought that was all done and over with. He didn’t know that Doug and I were determining my course to womanhood during the first week.
During that special week where I was in neutral mode, I worked around the house. I cleaned rooms. I did dishes. I cooked dinner. Since my home making adventure, I had grown to love doing those things and relish them. Robert either went to the gym or sat on the couch watching ESPN on cable. I could see that Mom and Dad weren’t too happy with him sitting around, but they felt he was headed off to college, so why raise a ruckus now. I didn’t care. It kept him out of my hair.
When the Smiths returned from their vacation, my Mom and Dad invited them to a backyard BBQ outside on the back porch with the promise that a babysitter would be in on the inside. Dad secretly hoped he could get me out of playing a girl babysitter.
Boy did Robert almost tank my life as Samantha with his macho attitude that night. Thank goodness that Doug was there.
The Smiths brought over a portable crib. I sat watching the babies in the living room. I was sitting in a chair watching them and I was Samantha and dressed very girly. My feeling was that if Dad were to be able to fix my gender issue with the neighbors, I wanted to go out with a bang and enjoy being all girl.
Doug came in from the gym and found me dressed like a girly girl, pink sweater and pink shoes. All they heard in the backyard was this, “you look like a boy!” What they didn’t hear is “When don’t you look like a boy?” Dad rushed into the Living Room and told Robert to “shut up because they had guests. Don’t say a word. Go up to your room. No questions. We have to undo the damage you just did.”
“But Dad. Sam is really a …”
“Shut up. I know, but you don’t know why. Now get up there right now before you make it worse.”
I was weeping silently because I thought the cat was out of the bag and I would never babysit again. I held onto little Carol and rocked her. Would this be the last time I hold her or not? I cuddled her against my shoulder and softly kissed her savoring what I thought might be my last moment with her.
After he left, Dad whispered to me, “Okay, honey. Doug saved the day. Just sit there and be quiet. Follow our lead. Trust me.”
He went upstairs and had a long talk with Robert.
A little while later, the Smiths, Doug, and Mom came into the living room.
I was still had tears running down my face. Mom said to me, “Are you okay, Honey? I know you don’t like to be reminded that you are flat chested. Your Dad is talking to Robert right now about that.”
“Thank you Mommy. I know he didn’t mean to hurt me.” I played along.
I heard a door open upstairs. Dad and Robert came down.
“Go ahead Robert, tell your sister you are sorry.”
“Sam … Samantha,” Dad shot Robert a dirty look. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I didn’t mean to make sport of your flat chest. Can you forgive me?”
“Yes, Robert.” I got up with Carol and walked over to him. He towered over me just like Dad does.
I hugged him with my free arm and said, “Thank you. I love you Robert.”
He looked at Mom and Dad who were furious with him. Robert spit out the words, “I love you too, Sis.” He hugged me back awkwardly. He even kissed me on the head. So, my babysitting gig was secure. And Dad’s chance to change all that evaporated because of Robert.
Then, Robert stuck his foot in it again. “Is she going to dress like this tomorrow at the mall for our family portrait too?”
Fast thinking Doug said, “Oh no Robert, she will be dressed nicely. Your Mom bought her a lovely dress, remember?” My parents were too angry at Robert again to know what to say. Robert was clearly having trouble process the fact that he just learned my Mom had bought me a dress.
Mrs. Smith broke the silence. “Oh, are you using that photography studio next to the food court? They did my portraits at home for the babies. I have an appointment tomorrow to do some more individual shots in the mall. Maybe Samantha could watch help watch the babies and wait for your family portrait session or help after your session. What time is your appointment Pamela?”
“Oh, one o’clock. We are scheduled for one o’clock.” Mom was shocked back into consciousness. I suspect she was saying to herself that there must be some way out of this mess. I was happy for the mess.
“My appointment is for eleven thirty, that could work. Do you mind? I really could use Samantha’s help!”
Dad finally responded. “Yes, that would be fine. We will have her ready by 10:30.” He sounded resigned to this new reality.
The evening was about over anyway. We all said our goodnights. I helped them go back home and then returned.
Mom, Dad, and Doug were sitting at the table talking to Robert. Jane was just coming back in from a date when I sat down at the table with the family.
“Robert, do you remember how depressed I was when Grandpa died. How much pain I was in?” I said.
“Sam, this dress up business has gotten out of hand. You are dressed like a girl for crying out loud. And how you duped Mom and Dad into letting you dress like a girl, I don’t know?” Robert was pissed. I didn’t want to tell him that it was Mom’s idea back at the start of my helping Cybil.
I was pissed too, so I let Robert have it. “I am still dressed as a girl no thanks to you Robert Steve Miller! Dad was trying to bring it up to the Smiths tonight so he could explain why I was dressed like this. But you had to be mean to me.” I calmed down, just a tad. “All I ask of you is to let me be able to enjoy being a babysitter. I am not like you. I cannot bury myself in sports. I can’t work out my anger at losing someone I care about by grabbing a punching bag and venting even if it is an opposing player who takes the hits. I like taking care of people which is why I want to be a professional of some kind when I grow up. That is why I couldn’t let go of my anger at losing Grandpa. He was stolen from me and I had no way to let go of the grief. I festered and got depressed after he died. Now, I finally found something that works for me and you want to take it away from me.”
“You sound like a girl. You look like a girl. You act like a girl. But you are really a boy, Sam! You need to act like one.”
“So what if I do sound like a girl? I need to deal with grief in my own way, not yours. I just told you, I can’t bottle it up. I lost the best friend I ever had. I poured my life into her. I gave her everything I had because she needed it. And those babies are my lifeline right now. Caring for them is caring for myself because I won’t have stopped giving of myself instead of hiding from life. I learned that from Mom.”
“So, what do you want me to do? Play house with you?”
“If that is what it takes, yes! Tomorrow, when we have our portrait taken, I am going to have to be Samantha for Cybil, Alice, Brian, and Carol. I expected to be Samuel, but you ruined that. Then sometime in December or June of next year, we will have another portrait taken with Samuel. But you will let me grieve even if it is like a girl, if that is the way you know I need to grieve. Because, you didn’t lose your best friend. Because you weren’t there when she took her last breath. Because you didn’t cut your hair off to give her dignity. The list goes on Robert. So tell me one thing?” I was too angry to cry, but my voice was breaking. I was pouring my heart out and I didn’t care. This was going to end on my terms.
“How did you cope with losing Grandpa?” He wasn’t expecting this question.
“Yes Robert, how did you cope with losing him?” asked Dad.
We stayed up for an hour talking about Grandpa. Robert finally said he was angry too. And yes, he took it out on the sports field. He began to understand where I was coming from. Robert at least agreed to let me be me.
As we headed to bed, Jane stopped me. “You know Sam; I don’t care if you do handle grief like a girl. But, I handled it badly and not like a girl should. I am sorry. I should have taken care of you and helped you with your pain after Grandpa died. I was angry too. I am sorry that I wasn’t there for you. I wish we could have helped heal each other.”
I hugged Jane with all my strength and softly said. “Thank you Sis. I love you! You are the best sister in the whole wide world.”
“Next to Cybil?” she teased.
“Yeah, even next to Cybil! Hey, so you only have to compete with a dead girl. Can’t be that hard?”
Jane laughed, “I love you too!” she hugged me back realizing my morbid sense of humor was coming back.
I added, “Jane, you don’t need to apologize. You should know that when you talk to me while cleaning the house together, use me to help make prom dresses, or talk to me during dinner, you have helped me heal.”
“So, what are you saying?”
“You have never been a brat to me like I have been to you.”
Jane sighed and kissed me on the head. We said goodnight and went to bed.
When I awoke in the morning, I called out to Mom. “What should I wear Mom? I need your help.”
She knocked and entered my room. “I really am okay with the dress you wore to the funeral. Do you think you could handle that now? It’s a shame we can’t do a real family portrait. I never thought asking you to dress like a girl for Cybil would create so many complications.”
“I don’t know Mom. Seems I am happier when there are complications. You can’t help it if the world isn’t ready to accept boy babysitters yet. Well, if we have to have a throw away portrait, why not one we could give to the Allens.” She nodded in agreement.
I pulled out the dress for the funeral and laid it on my bed. We both sat down and started talking.
“I liked what you said to Robert last night. Not just what you said, but also, I liked how you said it.” Mom said.
“How do you mean?”
“With confidence. You are finding your voice. You aren’t afraid to speak your mind. And, you aren’t afraid of who you are. I used to think you would never come out of your shell. Your Dad and I had been worried about you until Doug moved in.”
“Thanks, but promise me one thing Mom.”
“Tell me when I am being a jerk or wrong. Doug has taught me that you are my most valuable asset.”
“I will. Anything else I can help you with?”
“Yeah, can you help me look good in this dress? Because, if I am going to have to live with this portrait session today for the rest of my life, I want to be a knockout even if I am flat chested.” Mom laughed and rubbed my hair.
I got dressed and Mom helped me do my makeup, hair, ear rings, and nails. And we talked more. It was nice just to spend time with my Mom. Then we got a knock on the front door and I headed to the mall with the Smiths.
The family portrait session went well. Robert looked like he really accepted me as his little sister. Of course, I found out later that Jane got a hold of him and read him the riot act after I left for the mall with the Smiths. Mom and Dad wouldn’t help him and she had him cornered.
The next morning, I knocked on Robert’s door. “C’mon, wake up lazy bones.” I wore pink again just to annoy him.
Robert came to the door wiping the sleep out of his eyes. “Hey you little sissy punk, what are you waking me up for?” Well, so much for Jane’s riot act.
“Housekeeping lessons. Mom and Dad think you need a lesson or two.”
“And you are the one to teach me? Not when you are dressed like that.”
Mom came up behind me. “Robert Steve Miller, you will take these lessons from Sam. You live like a pig. Your room is a mess. And you need to learn the basics so you don’t marry a girl and treat her like you have been treating Samantha. At least, you need to learn enough to get through college.”
“What?! Why? With her … er … him?” Although he had a scholarship, he still needed my parents financial support, so he looked defeated.
“Yup, with me. Come on, I have to be at the Smiths in an hour. Time to work on your room and your laundry. And then tonight, you are learning to make dinner.”
I plowed through Robert and started to grab clothes off his floor. “Robert, these clothes aren’t going to pick up themselves.” I said.
“You heard her Robert, get to work.” Mom was giggling. I sounded just like her.
“Oh, all right.” Robert and I worked on picking up his dirty clothes and putting them into a dirty clothes hamper.
Then we headed downstairs to the laundry room with his hamper. “Well, this part I know. Just throw everything in, soap, and let the machine do the work.” Robert said proudly.
“No, Robert, we are sorting out your laundry first.”
“And why, dear little sister mine, do I need to that?”
“Because you have gym clothes and they really reek. You really reek even now and everyone can smell you a mile off even when you think your clothes are clean. All because you throw them all in together. You don’t sort out your gym clothes from your regular clothes.”
“Why? They use the same soap.”
I folded my arms and shook my head no glaring at him.
“So, smarty skirts, what soap do I use instead?”
“I use a hunter’s soap for your gym clothes which cleans them and removes their odor instead of letting them contaminating your other clothes.”
“You do?” Doug seemed impressed.
“Yes, I found it at a Wal-Mart after Mom and I couldn’t get the stink out of your football uniform a couple of years back. We started using it on your gym clothes too.”
“I’ve been wondering how to get rid of that smell.”
“Okay, here is your sorted laundry. Your underwear and socks, your shirts and pants, and your gym clothes. Now, how about your secret socks?”
“Secret socks? What?”
“Yeah, the socks you hide under your bed and then throw into the laundry at the last minute thinking we won’t notice socks.” Robert looked uncomfortable.
“Follow me, I will show you what I mean.” Before he could say anything, I ran upstairs and, instead of my going to reach underneath his bed, I lifted Robert’s mattress and pointed to a magazine lying in between his mattress and box spring to him as he came rushing in behind me. “Now where are the socks you throw under the bed after reading this?”
Robert turned red faced and looked a little angry. “Look Sam, you will do it too someday soon. It is what we guys do, when we aren’t dressed up like a little girl.” He kept up the taunts about me being a girl. I liked that it annoyed him and ignored them.
“I know about that. When I started to help Mom clean your room, she had Dad sit me down and explain to me what you were doing and what was that foul gooey stuff in your socks. And then I got the birds and bees lecture. So, yes, I know all about your filthy gross habits.”
“They aren’t filthy habits. It is just that ‘real guys’ have needs and desires.” Robert said in his defense. He grew uneasy. I could tell now that he was realizing that Mom knew all along and he found himself uncomfortable with her knowing. He must have thought he had her fooled. I hoped he was grateful I confronted him with the truth instead of her.
“They are too filthy habits if I am having to clean up after you. Now, I have showed how to do your laundry. I have to go over to the Smiths. Please take care of your secret socks too.” I left Robert seething at me and skipped downstairs and headed over to do a little babysitting. A few hours later, I returned.
“Robert, you still home?”
“Yes sweetie.” Came from the TV room.
I went to the TV room and found Robert watching Rugby. “Have you folded your laundry yet?”
“No, not yet. It’s not like I am going anywhere or in a rush.”
I grabbed a basket and poured his freshly dried clothes into it. I put his freshly washed clothes into dryer. I then dumped the basket in front of him and stood between him and the TV. “Well Robert. Are you going to fold your laundry?”
“Yeah, all right, you little Momster!”
The rest of the time till lunch went pretty much like that when the doorbell rang.
“Hello, umm, Jane is it? Is Robert around?” a confused looking man stood at the doorway.
“My name’s Samantha. Jane’s my older sister. I am his younger sister. Yes, he is finishing folding the last of his laundry. Just down the hallway. You can’t miss it.” I pointed down towards the laundry room and he came in and headed that way. I followed.
“Hi Robert, aren’t you quite the domestic servant?”
“Yeah Josh, tell me about it. My Mom and little sister here are ganging up on me teaching me how to be like them.” Robert flopped his wrist down imitating a girl and then stuck his tongue out at me. I folded my arms and gave him a stern look. Josh looked at me up and down. It was creepy.
“Tell me about it too. My Mom is doing the same thing. She complains that she should have done it years ago. I heard through the grapevine that you are headed to CSU in a few days. I wanted to swing by and see you before you left. My first year at the community college went well and I have been accepted at the university. A bunch of us are getting together at the mall to have lunch and ogle the ladies. In fact, Harry, Daryl, and Charles are in the car waiting for me. Harry is first string now. Looks like he is going to beat your rushing record. He wants to talk to you about how to improve.”
I said, “Robert, remember, you have to be home at six so I can show you how to cook dinner.” And then the blackmail began.
“Hey Robert, why don’t you bring your sister? She’ll make it easier to attract a few more bites. You’ll look cool if you are being all big brother and watching out for her. Harry wouldn’t let us bring his little sister and use her that way.”
“Oh yeah, should I?” Robert got a devilish look in his eye and turned on me.
“No, Robert, please, I have some work to do here. Just be back by six.” I wanted to run. He had me cornered.
Robert whispered into my ear, “I’ll out you right here and now if you don’t come.” He grinned at me.
“Okay Mr. Blackmailer. Let me go grab my purse at least.” I glared at him and ran upstairs. When I came back downstairs, Doug was there and said he would join us. My savior was going with me. We piled into Robert’s Sunbird and I sat in the backseat fuming at my brother’s nasty tactics in getting me to go. Leaving out of our neighborhood, after turning onto Hillcrest, we saw that there was an accident that just happened in the trees next to the road.
Robert cried out, “Oh no! Those idiot bastards didn’t! Dammit, they did!” Hillcrest was notorious for road racing teenagers. Before heading to the mall, Josh and the gang decided to test their lives with the foolishness of youth and it appears, had lost. Josh’s Duke’s of Hazzard 1969 Charger was slammed into a tree.
Robert pulled over next to the wreck and we all raced to the scene. Josh was slumped over the steering wheel. Doug opened the rear door and pulled out Charles. Somehow, something in the car had stabbed him in his leg when it crashed and he was bleeding profusely.
“Give me your purse.” I handed Doug my purse. He instructed Robert to bring him a stick. He tore off my purse’s strap and made a quick tourniquet around Charles’ leg. “You hold this Samantha. Do you have any tampons in your purse?” It was a good thing Charles was unconscious.
“Yes, I started carrying them for the girls in the troop.” He took them out and headed back to the car.
I watched as he went up to the driver’s door and checked on Josh. He was having trouble breathing because he had some sort of trauma to the neck. I saw Doug pull out a knife in his pocket and take one of the tampons apart. He packed a wound on Josh’s neck and then took the plastic parts of a pen lying in the car and did an emergency tracheotomy on Josh. He then went to work on the other side of the car with the help of Robert and tended the victims there.
Off in the distance, I could hear sirens as the paramedics and fire department came to assist the accident. A policeman arrived on the scene and asked Robert what was the condition of the people in the vehicle. Doug popped his head up and shouted. “A lot of blunt force trauma. I am working on controlling the bleeding of several accident victims. The rest is pretty straight forward. The driver has a broken windpipe. I did an emergency trach on him. Call for ambulances. Tell them four souls and alert the emergency room at the hospital. Have them page Dr. Robert Calvin and Dr. Royce Fielder. They are the best at head traumas in the ER.”
The officer called in on his radio and relayed the message. I was holding the tourniquet as Charles lay there. His blood was all over my blouse and skirt by now. Charles started to stir. I was worried he would wake up.
The paramedics arrived and began to work the scene taking over from Doug. Doug and Robert came over to me and looked after Charles while they sent for backup. A paramedic arrived and came over he took over from us and pretty soon the victims were transported to the hospital.
The officer came over to talk to us for his report.
“Did any of you see what happened?”
Robert said, “No. I know them. They were friends of mine at school. I heard that Josh had been pretty stoked lately because he got a Duke’s replica a month ago. It looks like the idiot tried to show off to his friends and lost control.”
He took our names and information. Doug pulled the officer aside and explained who I was. I was just listed as Sam Miller on the accident report as the eleven-year-old sibling of Robert Miller.
“You saved their lives son. They would have bled out.” The paramedic said. He turned to the officer. “Someone can bleed out in two minutes if their wounds aren’t dealt with immediately. It was lucky he was on the scene. He gave them their golden hour.” Then turning to me, he said, “Good thing there was a girl nearby with a tampons too. Those can help pack a wound quickly in an emergency.”
As the officer and paramedic walked away, Robert put his arm around Doug. I collected what remained of my purse. “Let’s go home hero.” He put out his other arm and said, “You too heroine.” It wasn’t a taunt. It was a genuine complement.
My mother rushed out of the house towards me. “What happened? Are you okay.” Robert and Doug explained about the accident. Mrs. Smith called Mom to ask about me too. She saw us going into the house. I went upstairs to get cleaned up. My outfit was ruined by all the blood I thought. I came back downstairs in shorts and a t-shirt. Mom and I washed out my clothes in the laundry sink to get the blood out.
“I have been so worried about something like this happening to Robert. I hate to say it, but it was good for him to see this.”
“Well, maybe this will be a wake up call Mom.”
“I hope so.”
Later, I decided to give Robert a pasta lesson. Spaghetti and meatballs. “So this is a calendar.” he said.
“No, it is a colander. A very useful tool. You can save yourself a ton of money if you use it often.” I showed how to put olive oil in the pot and make sure it doesn’t foam up on him.
“Good to know. Thanks sis.” Robert called me his sister so naturally that I hardly noticed. I hoped it was a good sign.
The next morning, after helping the Smiths, I came back in the house. “Sam, I need you to go to the hospital with me, please?” Robert was anxious. “Harry isn’t doing well and they have put him in a medically induced coma.”
“Sure, but I can’t see how I can help.”
“His sister is there. She is eleven and scared to death. I don’t know how to talk to her. And well …”
“Of course I will come Robert. Do you want Sam or Samantha?” I wanted him to choose this time.
“Samantha. I think it will help if she has someone to talk to about her feelings and …”
“Guys don’t talk about their feelings ...”
“And she is scared.”
A little while later, we entered a hospital room with beeping equipment and Harry on a ventilator. Harry is sixteen and an incoming junior at the high school. He had been mentored by Josh and Robert during his Freshman year in Junior Varsity. Mr. and Mrs. Travers were by his bedside. His mom was sitting by the bed holding Harry’s hand and crying. Mr. Travers was standing behind her with his hands on her shoulder. Off in the corner sitting like a scared bunny rabbit was a cute black haired blue eyed girl about my age only just a little smaller than me. I could see she was budding. She was in jeans and a nice t-shirt. She looked at my brother and smiled. She clearly knew him already. But, her eyes widened when she saw me.
I went over and greeted her. She stood up to greet me. “Hi, I am Samantha, Robert’s sister.”
“Robert never told me he had a sister my age. I didn’t know until my parents said you were coming. I am Vicki. I hear you have had experience in hospitals.”
“Yeah, my best friend died of cancer here a few weeks back in the children’s wing. Her name was Cybil.”
“Sorry to hear that. So all of this must seem normal to you?”
“No, I don’t think anything in a hospital is normal. It scares me still. I don’t know half of what the stuff does or how it really works. I just know that it is supposed to help get you well.”
She began to cry. “Thank you. I thought I was the only one who felt scared.” I embraced her and said, “I know. It is okay to cry. Let it out.” Vickie sobbed in my arms for a few minutes. I just held her and looked back to my brother and her parents. Her parents looked over at me with an understanding look and then at Robert who nodded at them. I saw a Kleenex box and pointed at it to Robert. He handed it to me and patted me on the head.
As she cried, the pain of losing Cybil returned. I quietly sobbed too. Tears streamed down my face.
After Vicki let it out, she said, “Thank you. They say they don’t know yet if Harry has any brain damage or will be physically impaired. My Mom and Dad are so worried. I knew Josh shouldn’t have bought that stupid car. Oh my, you are crying too.”
“That’s okay.” We both blew our noses and then laughed at how foolish we must have looked.
“I am so sorry; this must be hard on you too. You just lost your friend.”
“No, I need to let out my pain too. Helping you is helping me. Besides, I know how nice it is to cry with someone and talk with them when all you are is just a kid. It doesn’t feel so lonely.”
“I know what you mean. Thank you for coming here for me.” She hugged me.
“My pleasure. Let’s go for a walk. I know a nice place to talk. It will be a little easier to talk without them listening.” I smiled at her and hugged her back.
“Samantha and I are going for a walk. We won’t be far.”
“Don’t be gone too long.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Travers, if you need us sooner, they can page us. Just ask for Samantha Miller. They know my name. They know me.”
We slowly walked to the door that led to the outdoor garden. I sometimes came here after Cybil fell asleep during her last days. It helped me find peace. It has lovely fountains and streams. It has nice benches where you can sit and just enjoy a little quiet and the sound of water. We sat down.
“What grade are you in?”
“I am going into 6th grade at Danvers Middle School. You go to Canterbury Middle School, right?”
“Yes, so, sooner or later we will be in the same high school.”
“That will be nice.” Oh no, Doug had better come through with that SRS or else I will be in trouble. How would I explain Sam to her?
“I know that you are scared, but they really have great people here at the hospital. The nurses care a great deal about the patients. I know they took really good care of my Grandpa after he got hit by a car. Sadly, he died.”
We both stared at the fountain. She broke the ice. “Hospitals really suck!”
“Yeah, they do. Except for the baby nursery. I took Cybil there. It was a happy place.”
“Do you have any dolls still? I loved pretending to have a baby with my dolls when I was younger.” Vicki was happy remembering her dolls.
“Not now, but I have real babies. I babysit next door nearly every day. Alice, Brian, and Carol. They are five months old. And they are so cute! Oh, changing a doll’s diaper will never teach you this, if you ever change a boy’s diaper, they might get you all wet with their little hose if it starts peeing. I went to the side of the changing table to tickle Brian while I was changing him and then he totally nailed me.” We giggled.
“What do you do for fun other than get peed on by a baby boy?” Vicki needled me with her elbow.
“I play guitar and the piano. I love to swim and fish. I love to sew. I am learning French with my neighbor, Doug. I love to read. And I love school. Everything but math. Math is hard.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I am leaning to being a baby doctor. I love babies. So, I have a reason to study math even though I hate it. I want to be a doctor too because I was born on the 29th of December, around seven weeks earlier they think. The reason I am alive today is because of the neonatal facility here at the hospital. That means although I am going into 7th grade, I probably should have been in 6th grade instead. It puts me about 16 months behind the oldest student in my class. How about you?”
“I don’t know. You seem to have your act together. I wish I did.” The flood gates opened and she started to cry again. I held her just like Mary held me when I was losing Cybil.
“No, I don’t have my act together Vicki. I just have good people guiding me to where I need to be. Like Robert, who heard his friend’s sister was hurting and thought I could help her.” I didn’t add that Robert may not be the best brother in the world, but he does have his moments.
She sniffled. “We should have brought the box of Kleenex.”
I pulled a small packet of Kleenex out of my purse and handed it to her. “Not to worry. I come fully loaded. Any bad guy will get cried under the table at thirty paces.”
She laughed. “They don’t stand a chance with us. Do they?”
“No, they don’t”
“I love my brother Harry so much. He watched me after school for my parents who both have to work. He is so kind to me. He even let me make him up. I did his nails and he didn’t care. He would let me watch video tapes of Cinderella or the Disney Channel instead of sports. He is the sweetest brother I could ever …” I held her and she cried.
“I don’t want to lose him Samantha. He is the only brother I got. Oh why did that stupid Josh have to go ruin it all for me! I wish he were dead and left my brother alone. Harry didn’t even want to go along, but Josh said that it was going to be a little get together of all the football heroes he knew from school and he could learn some new tricks to improve his game.”
I was surprised to see Jane walk into the garden. She was smiling, so I knew there wasn’t any bad news she was bringing.
“Hey Samantha. I got off of work and Mom told me about Harry. Robert said you went for a walk and I knew where to find you. I thought you could use some sisterly company.”
“Vicki, this is Jane, my fantastic older sister. Jane, this is Vicki.”
“Nice to meet you Vicki.”
Jane handed me a box of Kleenex. “I thought you could use reinforcements. I am sorry about your brother Vicki. I have talked to your folks. They are going to stay here for a while. The doctors say that they will know something in 72 hours. So, did you want to go back to the room or would you like to do something special, just us girls?”
“I don’t know. I don’t feel like going anywhere, but I know I don’t like being here.”
“Well, maybe you could come home with us and we could do something fun.”
“Do you think we could play with the babies next door to you?” That seemed to brighten up her face.
“Well, Mrs. Smith did say that she would love it if I could come over early today. She wants to go shopping and if she knows the three of us can take care of her babies while she is gone, she can go.”
Mrs. Smith was thrilled. Three babysitters, no charge. And, we were in seventh heaven.
“What are you going to teach Robert today to cook?” asked Jane. She was holding Ben and he was eating up all the attention.
“We did pasta last night, so, I was thinking hamburgers with sautéed onions, fried egg, French fried onions, and a few other tricks. If Robert learns how to make a tasty burger, he will always be popular with the guys.”
“Oh, that sounds good like a good plan. Maybe you should include beans so they can serenade themselves afterwards though.” Jane giggled. ”Oh, would you like to join us for dinner Vicki, we would love to have you?” Jane said.
“Yes, if it is no trouble.”
The thought hit me that Vicki will want to see my room. And then my secret will be given away. I said to Jane, “And of course, she’ll want to see my room. I left it in such a mess though.”
Jane caught my message. “Oh, Samantha, I better go tell Mom to set another place at the table. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Jane put Ben in the crib and went next door.
“Are you sure there will be no problem? I don’t have to come.”
“Oh no, we have more than enough hamburger meat. I bet Jane went to go put it out in addition to telling our Mom that you are coming to dinner.”
My room is pretty non-descript. But it isn’t classically boy either. I had the wall’s painted “comforting green” from Home Depot because, while not pink, it was a nice color that was both relaxing and not very much one sex or the other. I chose a brown bedspread with and beige sheets. My furniture is a faux cherry. So, it is a little masculine, but not overly. There are no posters in my room, except for Rick Wakeman. Some pictures in my room have scenes of mountains. There is Mt. Everest and Mt. McKinney. And then I have a nice picture or two of meadows with wild flowers. That way I could sneak in pink without anyone noticing. The carpet is a Berber that my mother talked me into. It is not my favorite, but it is pretty neutral. There is a stand for my guitar and I have an electronic keyboard for practicing the piano next to my dormer window. I have a music stand with whatever song I am working on at the moment. And a chair so I can sit down and play either instrument. And then I have a bookshelf, chair, and a desk for doing my homework and studies. The only thing that directly communicates boy are the clothes hanging in my closet and in my dresser. Frankly, it could pass as a girl’s or boy’s room without those. But, just barely in either direction.
So, I was anxious when Vicki came up to see my room, but Jane winked at me. So I knew that she had done something real fast to make my room passable. So, her reaction to my room could not be as surprised as my own would be. My sheets were now yellow and my bedspread was pink. My bed looked a little unmade and like I got up and ran out the door. My pajamas at the foot of my bed were replaced with a girl’s night shirt. There were no boy clothes hanging in my closet. Rick Wakeman was still there, but now it had hearts and kisses drawn around the border of the poster in ink that looked like lipstick. I so wish I had a Justin Hayward poster so I could do the same for him. My makeup was still up on the dresser and mirror, but it was flanked by a Ken and Barbie doll. My pillow was a little frilly now. My room was a girl’s room now. I noticed it didn’t take much to make it that way.
“I like your room. It is very simple. Yeah, what do you mean big mess! Would you play a song for me on your guitar, please?”
“Sure, I would love to Vicki. But I don’t do any current songs. I really don’t like them. Recently, I have been learning French songs to improve my French. So, Vicki, do you want to listen or sing along.”
“Just listen. You know, I have never heard a song in foreign language. Sing me one please.” Jane and Vicki sat on the bed. I tuned up the guitar.
I started to play and sing a song by Jean Jacques Goldman. “J'ai compris tous les mots, j'ai bien compris, merci … Raisonnable et nouveau, c'est ainsi par ici …” ending the song with the repeating phrase, “Pour que tu m’aimes encore,” which is the title of the song. Vicki and my sister applauded. “That is a Celine Dion song, by the way.”
“Really! What is the song about?” Jane asked. “I have heard you singing it often lately, why?”
“Well, Mrs. Duncan says I should learn to sing. She likes my voice. Somehow, it is easier to sing in French since no one knows if I have blown it or not. The song is about a woman who is so madly in love with her lover that if she ever lost that love that she would become all sorts of people or do anything ‘pour’ so ‘que tu’ that he ‘m’aime encore’ would fall in love with her all over again. It is a fun song to sing and easy for a novice singer like myself. Goldman writes his song on a guitar, so that makes it easy for me to find his music for guitar.”
“How about one more in French?”
I thought for a moment and began to sing ‘Comme Toi’ by Goldman.
“Elle avait les yeux clairs et la robe en velours.
A côté de sa mère et la famille autour ...”
I finished with tears flowing down my face.
“Why are you crying? Is it a sad song Samantha?” asked Vicki.
“Yes, terribly sad. It is about a young girl that will never live beyond eight years of age because the song hints that she was taken out of Warsaw by the Nazi’s and gassed in the camps of World War II. Goldman wrote it so we would never forget the holocaust. In it he sings about her loving to play with dolls, how she loved music like Mozart, and loved her boyfriend Jeremy whom she might marry one day. I thought about singing it in the memory of Cybil at her funeral, but it wasn’t fair since only a few would know what the words meant in French. But, it really does apply to a young life taken by cancer too.” Tears continued to roll down my face.
“I should sing a nice one to cheer myself up. Heard this one too often thanks to Robert.” I began the riff for ‘Take My Breath Away.’ “Watching every motion in my foolish lover's game …” We all began to sing it together and finished making fools of our selves laughing and giggling.
Jane said, “Oh that was nice Sam! Hardly a surprise that you would chose that one since Robert always puts in the video tape for Top Gun. I can’t tell you how many times he has watched that dumb movie. He feels the need for speed.” Vicki began to cry.
“Oh, I am sorry Vicki. I forgot.”
“That’s okay Jane. I understand. Boys do stupid things and hurt people because they have to have their way. And we foolishly let them have their way.”
Dad poked his head in the door. “Vicki, I called your parents at the hospital. Everything is fine, but they said that if you want, you can spend the night here. They don’t think they will make very good company for you and we would love to have you stay. We have set up Jane’s room for you, Samantha, and Jane to have a sleep in. Robert is coming home with a change of clothes for you. But, we do expect everyone to get up somewhat early. School starts on the 8th of September, which is a little over a week away.”
“Do you guys mind?” Jane and I smiled and nodded yes. “I’d love to stay then.” said Vicki with a big smile on her face.
We filtered downstairs. Robert came in with Vicki’s clothes and I began to give him his cooking lesson. We had all the hamburgers cooked with the fries in no time. Robert loved sautéing onions, but he hated cutting them. So, I taught Robert a trick to ease the crying by heating up the onion in the microwave first and then cutting it. We sat down at the table, ate, tried different ways of making a burger, and talked.
Someone asked about the weather for tomorrow, so Robert turned on the news. It was about 10:00 pm or so and we were about to head to bed. CNN began was doing a special broadcast. “Princess Diana is dead …” We sat transfixed as the news reports came in about the accident and the details of what they knew about her death. I looked over at Vicki. Of all the things that could happen that would make this night any worse for her, the death of Diana in an auto crash could not have been any worse news. Vicki was more than shaken at the news. She was reliving the pain of what was happened to Harry yesterday and the shock of losing someone she loved and idolized.
Vicki didn’t know that Jane was my chaperone that night. I was dressed in the night shirt she gave me. It felt nice. It went down to my knees. Jane carefully steered subjects away from what might be discussed during a sleep over. So, inevitably, we hit upon the one subject that she couldn’t shut down. Her brother Harry.
“Did you know him in school Jane?”
“Oh yes. But, I was a senior and he was a sophomore. Boys may get to know younger boys and girls, but girls tend to ignore the younger girls and boys. Harry is a nice guy. I like him. He was always polite to me and I never caught him trying to look down my dress like the other football players. You notice it when a boy looks you in the eye after you grow boobs.”
“Thank you. I like knowing that Harry is a nice guy. Is Robert the same way?”
“Sadly, no. But he isn’t too bad either. He is just a macho jock. All talk. But, if it is something important, he will do the right thing. Like asking Samantha here to help you.”
Exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep. I woke in the morning as lay there quietly. I had a morning woody. I waited until it went away. I have gotten them before, but with the drugs I have been on, they are very rare now. I think it must have been the excitement of the previous evening. After it went away, I quietly repositioned my insert so my male member was disguised again. Oddly enough, even after my Dad gave me the lecture and my brother said what he said, I hardly ever touched it when mine got hard. So I really didn’t know what it felt like to do what Robert was doing. Dad said after puberty, I would know. And, I had looked at the magazine. I was intrigued with how a mature woman looked more than being interested in seeing her with her clothes off. That part didn’t make sense to me. Why would a woman want to expose herself for the whole world to see? Very confusing.
Jane and Vicki were still asleep, so I went to the bathroom. I was sitting when the door opened. I was pushing my member down at the time so I could start to pee into the bowl and not out the rim. The door opened briefly. Vicki apologized and closed the door. Whew. It looked normal to her. I could have seriously blown it had I been standing up to pee. I was grateful I changed my habits lately. I couldn’t remember the last time I stood to pee was.
I washed up. I went to my room and got dressed. I knocked on Jane’s door. “Bathroom is free.” I then woke up Robert and we headed downstairs and started to cook breakfast. I showed him how to crack eggs right and temper the heat in the pan so the eggs don’t bake onto the pan or turn into dried egg. We cooked bacon, eggs, pancakes, and sausage. I showed him a technique for cooking bacon in the oven, a cookie pan, and in the microwave. He saw why I liked to cook them in the oven. I then showed him how to set up a coffee pot and not make killer coffee. Robert actually enjoyed my teaching him. We never had so much fun before we were done, I hoped he liked my being Samantha.
Mom got up and found us busy working on breakfast. She sat down drinking a cup of coffee and read about Princess Diana in the paper. I was tall enough now to not need a step stool anymore. I was actually liking being a little taller now. But, I wished I had breasts growing so I would look like other girls. I knew that wouldn’t happen until next year. Doug said he would show me later, but that it would take about eighteen months to get to the budding stage. He wanted to sit down with me and go over a timeline.
I whispered to my Mom what happened in the bathroom. Jane and Vicki came down late. Vicki had showered and cleaned up. Jane I and would do our showers later. Mom was sure they could watch Vicki and make sure she doesn’t see me get dressed or walk in on me in the bathroom again.
“How are you feeling today, Vicki?” asked my Dad.
“Fine, thank you. Any news from my parents?”
“I talked to them a few minutes ago. Harry is improving. The brain swelling has gone down. They asked if you would like to stay with us so they could stay with your brother. It will be just for another night. We will still take you over to the hospital if you want. It is Labor Day weekend, so I am off work. We would love to spend the weekend with you.”
“Thank you Mr. Miller, I would like that. I feel safe here and you have been so kind. Yes, maybe later we can see Harry.”
A little later, I went outside with my guitar and sat on the front porch while Jane got cleaned up and dressed. The previous night and all that happened with Princess Diana was getting to me. I needed to let it go. Plus, something wasn’t adding up. Vicki, Jane, Robert, and the family were inside. Robert would be leaving on Sunday to head to college and starting classes on Tuesday. I had some time to myself to think.
I tuned my guitar before I played. In my research of French music, I found a song that had recently been turned into an English song by Peter Kingsbury, but the original French version was so much better for me to express my personal feelings. The English version changes the pain of the singer to that of a lover in pain. While beautiful, I wasn’t interested in a love song. I also liked it because it forced me to use a full range of three octaves with my voice. That is why the song was written in the first place. The song was written to show case the singer Daniel Balavoine’s talented voice. Sadly, he passed away in a helicopter accident while in Africa working on getting wells dug in poor villages. I don’t know how competently I sung his song. I would have to get training to improve. But, it felt good to try and practice such that if I should ever get training, I would know what to look for in a voice coach. I am sure I ruined it with my vain attempts.
I began to play and sing,
“Pourquoi je vis, pourquoi je meurs. | Why do I live, why do I die
Pourquoi je ris, pourquoi je pleure … | Why do I laugh, why do I cry
Voici le S.O.S. D'un terrien en détresse …” | Here is the S.O.S from a land in distress.
Doug came across the street and sat with me as I played.
“I bet you like that lyric in the song, ‘J'suis mal dans ma peau,’ don’t you?”
“Yes, ‘I feel bad in my skin.’ Apropos de moi, elle a raison, non? It is such a beautiful melancholy song. The French can really express their feelings in a gut wrenching way. Like Jacques Brel’s ‘N’me quitte pas.’ It is so passionate and filled with emotion.”
“You’ve come a long way from 3rd grade. You are feeling free to talk about how you feel now and not retreating into a dark rabbit hole.”
“Thank you Doug. We aren’t there yet. But it is coming so close. I really appreciate all you have taught me and are doing for me. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel abandoned. Somehow, being able to sing those words takes away their pain and their sting. I am freer now than I have ever been.”
“Your welcome. That is what friends are for. How is Vicki doing?”
“All right I suppose, but I feel there is something I am missing that has been under the surface with her. It is why I came out here. Something is bothering me and I can’t put my finger on it. I think I must be crazy.”
“You aren’t crazy. I sensed it too. Her brother’s accident isn’t her problem. At least that isn’t the only reason why she is crying. I talked it over with my Dad, and he thinks Harry will recover just fine. But, the family was told that yesterday before Vicki met you. He may not be able to play football for a while, but he will be fine. So, why their concern for Vicki? My Dad said if anything were to go south, Vicki would have been kept at the hospital. He knows Harry’s doctor. He got his info as insider information, so don’t quote me with anyone, got it?”
“Got it. What do you think it is?”
“I think you may get the answer if you sing to her a Patrick Bruel song you enjoy playing.”
I flashed on the song he was thinking about. “You can’t suspect her parents then?”
“No, but someone close to them or using them, Harry, or her? They are good people from what Robert tells me. They could be keeping her from the real problem, or not. I hope they suspect something is wrong on some level.”
“A relative then?”
“Maybe? Or a co-worker or boss. Someone who if they were found out could cost one of them a job. It is just speculation right now. There are too many angles to consider. And what have they done to her too? That is another elusive question. What I do know is that she wanted to stay with you too easily. Not that she wouldn’t have come here anyway, but you gave her an option to be free from harm and she accepted it right away. She didn’t fight to stay at the hospital. And, this is hard for you to hear, I think Robert knows too. He may not know the details, but for him to encourage you to be Samantha around her, Robert has heard something. He is still too dead set against you being Samantha for him to suddenly accept you in twenty-four hours and then just as suddenly be fine with your dressing like a girl and acting like a girl. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, why don’t you go in and get some breakfast? Maybe Vicki will say something while I get cleaned up that gives you a clue. I am going to sit out here and think about what we have talked about for a moment or two. We can talk later. And thanks for telling me. I did think I was crazy.”
Jane opened the door and said the shower was ready. I said I would be in shortly to take mine.
Doug went inside. I looked down the street to the stop sign watching a car stop. Without thinking about it, I began to play Patrick Bruel’s song while in deep thought about what Doug said. I sang in French,
“Qui a le droit, qui a le droit | Who has the right, who has the right
Qui a le droit d' faire ça | Who has the right to do that
A un enfant qui croit vraiment | to a child who really believes in
C' que disent les grands ? | the things adults say?”
I stopped playing Patrick Bruel and I began to play a few other tunes to get my mind off the subject. I whimsically played the first few notes of a few Disney tunes just to lighten my mood before I went into take my shower. I hit a few more notes of a Disney tune as I watched another car turn onto our street and then my eyes welled up with tears and I began to hyperventilate. I was overcome with anger and fury. I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. No, I thought! No! I simply can’t be right! The answer was in front of us all along.
I calmly got up to go talk to Doug when the front door opened and Doug came out and shut the door quickly. He looked at me with furious eyes that matched mine. I could tell he figured it out too and was just as mad and seething with anger.
I said out loud in a voice quaking with fear from the very implication of its meaning, “C’est Gaston, non?” [It's Gaston?]
Doug said, “C'est à peine croyable, mais je sens que ça doit être vrai.” [It doesn't seem right, but I feel that it has to be true]
Copyright © 2017 by AuP reviner (revised March 2017)
[Author’s note: Sorry for the delay. After reading a comment from Kitten about not being afraid to go deeper after reading chapter 9, I rewrote this chapter and it took the story off on a tangent for a few new chapters.
Totally unexpected results.
Same ending. Maybe even more fun than before.
Think Blake Edwards.
A la prochaine semaine [Next week, I am going to publish weekly from here on out.]
… AuP reviner ]
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