An Ode to 'Innocence;' Based on a StacyinLove story

[Note: the one change in details from 'Innocence' is that the wedding is for Pat, Bobby’s sister, not Bobby's cousin. Flowed better and sweeter that way.]

Bobby’s Story:

My name is Bobby Jones.

I don’t know if I am ready to talk to my friend’s parents about their child. Or, maybe I am because of all that I have been through since the beginning of the year with her. I am just not sure how a twelve-year-old boy can explain to adults how something strange and wonderful happened to my friend when I can't explain it to myself.

My dad thinks I can. He told me this morning that I would do a great job. And, even if I don’t know it, my dad says I am taking my first steps as a man by, of all things, telling a girl’s story.

My own story is important to understand how Stacy’s story started. It picks up after last Christmas. I am, from what I am told, an “oops” baby. My sister Pat thought she was supposed to the youngest of three kids and I figure held the title of “oops” baby until I showed up. She is six, almost seven, years older than me. First born is my brother John. He is named after my dad. He is thirty-years old. My brother Roger is twenty-eight years old. Then my sister is nineteen years old. The oldest, John, just got married last year in June. He is named after my dad. Roger got married years ago and has two kids now. Roger loves to tell the story of when I threw rose petals at his wedding and then ran around the church with my arms stretched out like wings making airplane noises until my dad caught me. Everybody laughs at it. I blush every time Roger tells it. Roger has a three-year girl named Sally and a baby boy name John, who is, of course, named after my dad. Roger lives in Phoenix and works for Lockheed-Martin on Apache helicopters.

My oldest brother is now married and living in Denver and works for the United States Mint. My dad says with a chuckle that “John makes money the old fashioned way, he prints it!” Lately, my dad has taken to calling him “Junior Mint” around the house. I was much better behaved at his wedding. I only made a fool of myself at their reception by dancing so badly that my parents made me sit down for the rest of the reception.

My sister Pat recently moved out. She is my only sister. To tell the truth, I have been feeling sorry for myself and missing my sister Pat pretty badly. Pat used to watch me after school when I got home from school and sometimes was like a mother to me when Mom went back to work. When she was here, I was never lonely. She had so many friends stop by and the house seemed so alive. Even if it was girl talk, it was nice to be home. Occasionally, one of the girls dragged a younger brother along so I had someone to play with. Now it is all too quiet.

With Pat gone, I retreated to the woods in the back of my house more times than I care to mention. Brian was there too and he was alone also. We would play for hours and then head home to our lonely quiet places. I think that is why I like to play in the woods too, because I can hear the birds and be in a place where it feels alive.

My mom became good friends with Brian's mom a number of years back. They often go out together for lunch and, in the past, wanted to drag us along. We formed an alliance as boys. I finally asked Mom to let us stay home when they went out because all they seemed to do is talk about girl stuff or how handsome we were, blah, blah, blah. You know, embarrassing stuff. Sometimes, they would do that when they sat in our home and would talk for hours. Brian laughed the day I said "Let's escape into the woods before they eat us up. You know, because we are so sweet!" Soon, they got used to the fact we would run off to the woods to play. They knew where went though. So they never worried.

Pat had moved out at the beginning of my seventh grade school year into an apartment with her high school friend Mary to be closer to her fiancée, Charles, and so she could walk to work. Now she says she can save more money to build up her “trousseau” as she calls it.

Pat’s fiancée is Charles Matthew Gilford. He is the youngest assistant manager in the Winn-Dixie chain, which was a surprise to me since Charles told me he just graduated from college. I found out why when I learned that his dad was a district manager for Winn-Dixie. So Charles, although young, was very experienced and had an inside tract to future success because of his dad. Dads are so important to a boy’s life!

At the start of her junior year in high school, Pat started working at the Winn-Dixie south of town near the high school during weekends as a cashier. It helped pay for her clothes and special stuff. It wasn't too bad for me either. She brought home cool deserts sometimes when someone didn't like the decorated cake they ordered. Even the girly ones tasted great. Although, I hate to say it. It freaked me out to poop pink the next day. I would flush twice in the john at school. I was told that was due to the food coloring.

Charles came to work at Pat's store in May of last year. They soon became an item in what Pat called a "whirl wind romance." She was eighteen and had just graduated early from high school earlier that December. Since then, she has worked days at the Winn-Dixie. Happily, for me, she managed to get home in time to take care of me though. That was, until last December. Things changed one day when Pat came home from work one day and said at the dinner table, “It was love at first sight, Mom.” Pat thought Charles was a handsome man because he was rugged and tall like dad. Mushy alert! Charles, she said, “he swept her off her feet.”

Although, truth be told, I felt odd as Pat told us about him at the family dinner table. I felt kind of proud to know that a man could really make a woman feel like that on first sight. What power is it that we men have, I pondered? Is there a secret club I needed to join to get this power? And does the club come with a secret handshake? I like secret handshakes.

I imagined myself getting an important job and then sweeping a girl off her feet who worked there, and proudly walking through the automatic door with my prize. “Bobby!” I thought to myself after the thought crossed my mind, “What are you thinking about girls for!? C'mon!” But even though I had just turned eleven at the time, there was something tugging at me about girls. I think I have changed even more since then. So have a lot of the guys I know at school too. I am beginning to get it. Girls can be cool too!

So, after I turned twelve in the fall, I had to admit that the concept that maybe girls aren't such a bad thing. And, be honest, the way they look isn’t so bad to look at either. Soon, I even began to study girls at school and start asking why they are so different than boys in how they act, look, and approach things.

By Christmas day, Charles asked her to marry him next to our Christmas tree. Charles had asked permission from my Dad first for her hand in marriage and then arranged to pop the question Christmas morning. He handed her a box about two inches by two inches and an inch deep that looked like they held ear rings. She couldn’t get it open. Charles said, “Let me give it a try. I didn’t have any tape, so I used the glue your dad had on his desk.” My dad was in on it and said in a stern voice, “Sorry son, that was super glue. Wished you asked.”

Charles then feigned working hard to open the box as my sister Pat giggled. Finally, he pretended to twist the box so hard he fell to one knee. Then, Charles, as he had rehearsed over the week, opened up real box he had hidden in the sleeve of his sweater. He then raised the open box with a ring in it up to her and said, “Patricia Debra Jones, will you marry me?” Pat looked shocked and then screamed “Yes! Yes! Yes!” We had a great Christmas dinner where Mom and Pat planned the details of the wedding as us guys just sat there and smiled. Eventually, we went off to watch a football game while the women were planning.

Anyone can see my Dad loves girls. He adores my mom. And he dotes on my sister Pat. Pat has him twisted around her little pinky and she is proud of that. Even Dad proudly says that he suffers from “twisted pinky syndrome.” Dad tells me that while the male sex just can’t figure them out, it doesn’t hurt to try. And that is why, Dad says with a smirk on his face, “Women own us guys for life.”

Pat and Charles plan to have their wedding this October or is it November. I can’t remember which month it is since it is so far off. In past autumns, Pat loved to walk through the fall leaves in the woods behind our house behind our house. Those times were often with whatever boy she was dating at the moment. So, Pat and Mom thought it would be "romantic" to have a wedding at a time of year when her favorite color, yellow, filled the trees around the church and town.

Personally, I thought women were supposed to love having weddings in June. Of course, maybe if they did, Stacy wouldn't have taken her first steps at all. And Brian would be, well, Brian still. It still is so much for me to understand.

Mom usually comes home from about five-thirty from work. Dad has been working extra hours on this special commercial project to help pay for the "wedding." It is supposed to be done by the end of August when he says he will get his life back again. He comes in about seven tired and exhausted. My mother does Avon too. She does it mostly to save money she says on makeup. So, after dinner, sometimes I get dragged out to an Avon meeting to learn about makeup. I pretend not to notice, but I listen just in case it is a way to meet a girl one day and strike up a conversation with her. For the same reason, I even let her use me as a model, although I don’t enjoy being made up. I like listening to their secrets.

I think Mom does Avon mostly so she can have fun with Pat or with the ladies she knows. So my mom has makeup samples all around her makeup desk. That is probably why she didn't notice Brian and I were using her makeup this year, but I am getting ahead of myself now.

I asked Dad one day why he wanted to pay for the "wedding."

I was expecting the standard response that the dad always pays for the wedding because of tradition. My dad had a different take on why. "Son," he told me, "all women need to feel pretty, respected, valued, and needed on their wedding day. And nothing makes a woman or maybe a girl feel," winking at me and patting me on the back, "that they alone are in the world are the most pretty, most respected, most valued, and most needed of the female sex is when the dad makes their dream wedding special. That went for your grandmothers when they got married, your mother when I married her, and now your sister too. And, maybe one day, your daughter also, if my current favorite little man cub is lucky enough to have a daughter.” Dad gave me a wink and a pat on the back. “Paying for a wedding is the last act of true love a daddy can give his princess after he raises her. And it is the most important lesson a dad can teach the husband of his daughter about how important his daughter is to him as he gives her away to a complete stranger and they start their lives together forever. In this way, a dad teaches his son-in-law how important it is to cherish Daddy’s girl as a woman."

Wow, my dad saw the wedding as a man’s gift to womanhood. Not as an obligation or a chore.

Dad got a tear in his eye as he watched my Mom working in the kitchen from our living room couch. "Yeah," I said, looking at how beautiful my mom was in his eyes and now in my own too, "I think I am beginning to understand that now."

At that moment, Mom walked into the living room to do something. Dad leaned over to whisper quietly in my ear, "You're starting to notice girls, aren't you?" I nodded grateful that he didn't embarrass me by saying it out loud in front of my mom. He whispered firmly and with conviction, "Okay, but remember, you be a gentleman. A good man is a gentleman first and foremost. Girls aren’t meant for sport! They aren’t to be conquered by us men. They are to be let loose and free to explore their essence. And we get to enjoy the benefits of their blossoming."

My dad was and is, as Mom says, “a hopeless romantic.” Dad stood up, looked at me, and said with warmth in a soft voice that mom couldn't hear, "Here let me give you an example. Go give your mom a hug and tell her you love her and appreciate her." He winked at me and had a mischievous grin as I did what he asked. Mom loved the hug and got all mushy over me. I felt warm inside and all wet on the outside after a minute or two of her many kisses. I looked back at my dad who stood there grinning at me. I smiled back at him enjoying how special the secret guy bond was we were developing.

So I kind of got left at home alone because of it too. I know that it is so Pat could have the "wedding of her dreams." I know it is because that is what my dad said the good guys do when we sacrifice anything for our ladies to make them happy. But it is hard to be alone in the house so much.

Still, I love my sister Pat. She is awesome. I stay at home alone for her. I stay out of trouble for her too. But, I am still lonely. Thankfully, I know it will end very soon. My folks promise me in the fall I can try out for football. That will mean new friends and maybe, dare I say it, even a girlfriend. But I worry about what Brian will do when I am not around so much. So, I set a goal to help him get out of his shell too.

Brian and I are about the same age. Brian is a lot smaller than me and the bullies at school love to pick on him. That is why he likes to hang out with me too. I don't mind him being smaller than me and I try to treat him with respect as best I can not just because my mom and dad tell me too. Mom tells me Brian will outgrow it one day and says seeing that I am nice to him now will mean that he won't turn into a bully which his parents worry about. My mom says he is a late bloomer and probably won't grow until high school. So, I may be at it for a while.

Mom thinks that is why maybe Brian is so irritable much of the time too. It is what my Dad calls "short man syndrome." One day, when we visited my Aunt Jackie's, her big Labrador ran up to the gate as we entered her front yard and wagged its tail happy to see us while her stupid tiny little corky barked its fool head off as though it was going to kill us. Dad said to me, "Just like these dogs, some short men and small boys may bark because they sense they are small and scared. You don't fear other boys because no one will touch you. You are the biggest in your class by far and will probably be six foot three or more when you grow up. Great for a middle linebacker too I might add.”

Dad went on to say, “Your mom thinks Brian barks because he is scared. If she is right, and she is a very smart woman, Brian has short man syndrome and won’t get rid of it until he grows much bigger. So, son, just treat Brian like a fart friend. A fart friend is someone who doesn’t mind it when his friend stinks up the place with something silent, but deadly." I laughed and then we both held our noses and went “Ewww!”

By the way, my dad is six foot two. Yeah! I am going to be taller than my dad!

My dad is so wise. I want to be like him. When I told him that one day, Dad stopped, looked around as if to check to see if someone could overhear him, and quietly said, "Don't tell anyone, but that is how I learned to be wise too. I learned by watching my dad and listening to him also."

Dad works in a commercial real estate development firm right now since it is paying him big bucks to do a commercial project about thirty miles from our place. It is going to be the biggest mall in the county. He will make enough extra money off of it to pay off our house, my college, as well as the wedding.

Dad says, after the wedding and the mall project are done, he is going into residential real estate sales here in town so he will be able to spend more time with me. He wants to make up for the time he has to miss with me right now and be able to go to my games and do more guy stuff like fishing (I really love to fish), and camping. Believe it or not, I already know how to poop in the woods. I carry TP with me at all times when I play there with Brian.

On the other hand, Mom says that I need “to look after Brian” for a different reason. But she is a mom. Moms are always thinking about others I guess. She says I am supposed "to protect him from the bullies" and “to treat Brian more like a brother than a friend from school.” Treating Brian like family is not always easy, but I try. And to be honest, my mom likes helping Brian’s mom because they married young and don't have a lot of money. And she says they are very kind hearted people.

It is not so bad for me too if I do it my dad’s way or my mom’s way or both. As long as I treat Brian kindly, I get more money in my allowance too. I am going to buy a new game console with the extra money too.

Plus, to be honest, I like Brian. Although he can be irritable a lot of the time, he can be lots of fun too. I just wish he would relax and be himself more and not worry about what other people think of him and be more comfortable about his size.

At least, that was how the year started out with Brian and me.

By the end of summer vacation though, our worlds fell apart. Stacy, whom Brian became, and I were attacked brutally in the woods nearby our homes.

And now, Stacy’s story begins.

****

Stacy's Story:

Brian is my best friend. But now, Stacy is my best girlfriend and I love her.

At the moment, I am sitting alone in a hospital conference room across the hall from my best friend's hospital room. I have been beaten up pretty badly by this gang of older teenage boys a couple of days ago who attacked us when we were walking home. I had spent a nice day out with my girlfriend Stacy and I was walking with her in the woods which is the short cut to our homes when I saw them jump out of nowhere, surround and attack us. I figure there were at least five or six of them. Maybe more.

I don't know how we arrived at the hospital or when, but we are alive at least. And they won’t tell me exactly what happened to Stacy, which scares me.

I think about the attack as I wait in the room all by myself. I remember yelling at Stacy to run, but they knocked us to the ground. I fought back as hard as I could when three boys started kicking me and pushing me to the ground and pounded me to the ground. I blacked out. I woke up here in the hospital with a concussion after two days. My ribs were taped up. I have three broken ribs they tell me. My mouth is wired up since I have a broken jaw. But, I can talk. That sucks that I can’t eat real food! And I have a hair line fracture in my arm which is in a sling. Well, if they put it in a cast, at least I will get my friends at school to sign it.

They notified my folks once this morning after I woke up and talked to the police. I don’t even know how they found us or who found us lying in the woods. A policewoman came to my bed early and asked if I was Bobby Jones.

My head was still splitting from the pain. I grunted “Yes ma’am.”

“Who was the girl you were brought in with, she asked?” The officer didn’t know Stacy was really a boy.

“That’s Stacy. She is my girlfriend.”

“Where is Brian Smith, do you know?”

“Stacy is Brian Smith.” She looked shocked.

I could tell by her response that she didn’t believe me. “Well, we are going to contact your parents first. They will be here soon I expect. And we need to talk to you about what happened, okay?”

“Yes ma’am. Tell my folks I am okay so they get here safely. I don’t want them to rush.” What I really meant to say was to tell them to take their time so I could figure out what I was going to say to them.

My parents got here soon after the policewoman talked to me. My dad saw Stacy too prior to coming to my room. He commented how pretty she was. Dad noticed her nice nails and her pretty hair. My parents and I had time to go over what happened and I gave them a brief about Stacy in a nutshell. Once I convinced my dad who Stacy really was, he told the staff there in my room to believe me and that, yes, she really was Brian. He also told them how to find her parents who had been out searching frantically for their little boy.

After they left the room, I told my dad her full story in detail. Then they let me see my Stacy because she had finally woken up too. Stacy looked in really bad shape and doesn’t remember much. They had tubes going into her and her eyes were covered because the boys hurt her nose. She became scared when I told her that her parents were on their way and mine had already seen her. I wish I could have stayed. It was nice to see her in pink though. She looks so pretty in pink.

Oh no! It just hit me, what will I say at school in a few days! How will I tell them I got hurt without revealing Stacy's secret?

Calm down Bobby, just calm down. One thing at a time.

Anyway, back to the present, my mom and dad are coming into the conference room right now. Mom rushes up and hugs me and my Dad calmly walks up to me and pats me on the shoulder and gives me a reassuring smile. Then Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Stacy's parents, start to come in. They look distraught and confused.

Mr. Smith asked the doctor walking in with him, "When will we know he will be out of recovery? "

The doctor replies, "I just finished talking to Stacy. They will move him into the room when his vitals stabilize. The procedure was pretty simple and quick, but the damage from the attack complicates the procedure. They did a thorough exploration while he was sedated and made sure that everything is normal. Well, as normal as can be given the circumstances. Plus, they needed to test the penial soft tissues to see how intact they may be for future sexual function and if there is any nerve damage too. I still need to talk to the surgeon. If there is any damage there, it could mean further surgery. So, I will know in a little while. Anyway, I will leave you in the capable hands of Dr. Shelby whom you were just talking to outside about Stacy’s fragile mental state."

“Fragile mental state?” I softly say to myself. I start to get ready for our meeting. I want to be brave and loyal for Stacy. So, I go over what my dad has taught me about telling the Smiths about Stacy. I need to be responsible and strong. Check. I must be unselfish and generous. Check. I have to be supportive and protective of Stacy. Check. I have to be honest and respectful of my elders. Check. I let out a deep breath and remind myself that this summer, while Stacy grew into a pretty girl, I grew up too and learned what it was that makes a man truly a good man.

I look at Dad as he sits down and he smiles back at me. I feel his strength become part of me and silently thank him for his wise words from just a few hours ago after I told him Stacy’s story.

I hope Mr. Smith is like my Dad. He isn’t much bigger than me. He stands about five foot seven. I don’t know him very well. He drives a garbage truck. Not much of a career if you ask me. Will he accept Stacy like when I told Dad Stacy's story this morning? My dad didn't even flinch when I told him how Brian became Stacy. I could see him frown a bit at times, but he remained calm and listened intently to my every word sometimes closing his eyes in thought. I wonder if the shoe were on the other foot if he would be as supportive.

Dad’s last words to me just before he left me in the conference room all by myself were, "Bobby, I am proud of you. You used to be a little man cub, but now, I think you are a young man. A good man. I need you to tell the Smiths the story just how you told me. It will be hard, but I think they will understand and accept her if they see the loving man in you who loves Stacy. You be strong for Stacy. She needs you now more than ever."

Did I say that my dad was wise already? I think I need to say it again. I marveled that Dad said ‘she’ and not ‘he’. My dad surprises me the way he can look at things so clearly. Is it because he loves my mom and my sister like he does? Or did he accept Stacy because I do? Or did he know more than he was telling? I will have to ask him later. But, Dad has given me a confidence that I can handle this meeting just fine.

Dr. Shelby arrives last. She is a game changer to me and I tense up with anticipation. She walks up to me and says, “Hello Bobby. My name is Dr. Marcia Shelby. I am a psychiatrist that helps patients like Stacy get better. I am going to help you tell Stacy’s story so Stacy’s parents can help too.” She surprises me again when she hugs me and whispers in my ear, "I wish more of my patients had a good friend like you. Stay strong for Stacy, okay?"

I smile at her and nod yes. Maybe this can work out after all, I think. She seems to be on Stacy’s side. I relax knowing that this meeting isn’t all on my shoulders. But, what does she know? And who did she talk to already about Stacy?

They all pulled up chairs into a semi-circle around the chair I am sitting in. There will be enough room for all of us and it doesn't feel cramped at all.

There is a table next to me though with a plastic cup with strange kind of straw that looks more like an accordion. It has been topped off with water and ice so I can sip on it while I tell my tale.

Dr. Shelby takes command, which I really appreciate, and says, "Bobby, you are not in trouble. You protected your friend. It is clear that you care about Stacy." I blush and look down trying to hide my smile knowing I have been found out.

I could see that Dr. Shelby was trying to choose her words carefully for the sake of Stacy's folks.

"And I believe that you shared Stacy’s secret and that you accepted and protected Stacy during the journey of self-discovery. Brian's parent's understand this now and know that. So this is a safe place to tell us. Are you ready to tell us everything?"

"Yes ma'am. I am." I hold back tears. Then, I look at my dad smiling at me and I find my strength again.

"Okay Bobby, we want to hear what happened to Brian and when he became Stacy. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have told me they will listen and not say anything mean. I can’t say this enough. This is a safe place. Brian’s parents might ask a question, but that is it. You may see them get angry and get emotional. When that happens, just stop and let them breath. When you think they are ready, continue." The Smiths hold hands and nod to me in agreement. I feel more secure now.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith. First let me say that I am so sorry. Brian didn't know it, but I was going to make him introduce you to Stacy when we got home the other day from her trip to Francine’s. She looked too pretty and too happy for me to cut off her beautiful hair and hide her from you."

"Oh my, he went to Francine’s that day?" Mrs. Smith softly cried as it became clear on her face that she was lost in thought. I waited until she looked at me again.

"You would have loved Stacy in ...", I caught myself and changed what I was going to say, " ... Pat’s sun dress. Stacy looked so pretty when she came out. Francine's gave her a beautiful haircut and treated her so nicely. And her nails were real pretty. And she smelled so nice too."

Mrs. Smith looked confused, "How did he pay for it? I mean he ... she ... I mean, I don't know anymore, but how?"

"I gave Stacy the money out of my allowance that I was saving for a new game console. I didn't want her to get depressed that school was starting and I knew that she needed a distraction. I wanted her to have," I looked up at the ceiling for a moment trying to hide my tears, swallowed hard, and then looked at her in the eyes again, "a girl's day out just like my dad does for my mom."

My mom looked at my dad with a coy smile and whispered, "One day he will understand the real payoff." My dad looked uneasy, but had a happy smirk at the same time as he shifted in his chair almost like he was hiding something with his hands in his lap. I could have sworn my dad blushed too. Maybe it is the light in the room.

Mrs. Smith, distracted by my folks, tilted her head for a moment after watching my folks strange display with a slight giggle and said gently to me, "You are going to make someone a good husband one-day Bobby Jones! Thank you for your generosity."

It was the first time I had seen her happy since this whole thing began. It made me feel better. But then she got sad again realizing why we were here. Mr. Smith looked away for a moment and then back at my dad who kissed my mom on the cheek. I hoped he was learning what a good man my dad was and how he loved my Mom.

"Okay, tell us what happened from the beginning Bobby." chimed in Dr. Shelby. "How did this all begin? Did Brian ask you if he could be a girl or wanted to be one? Did he ask to wear girl’s clothes? Give us details."

"Brian never wore girl’s clothes or talked about being a girl to my knowledge, Dr. Shelby. It was after the first three times he dressed up like a girl early this year that he became Stacy."

I locked eyes with her as I started to go on because I was afraid to look at the Smiths at the moment.

"The first three times he ever did was because of us being bored. Well, truthfully, I had something to do with it the first three times. I convinced Brian to put on my sister’s clothes by daring him to do it. And it wasn't after I put him up to it, that, it was like, Stacy took over and it was she who was wanting to be in the dresses."

Dr. Shelby interjected, "Just tell us about the first three times then. Then we will see where it takes us. But this is just a time to give an overview of who Stacy is and Stacy's history." I could still see her choosing her words carefully.

“Well, just before the first time, I was helping Mom as she clearing out boxes of stuff from the attic of Pat's that she moved to the garage so she could sort through it all. Pat’s my sister. I saw that she was crying. Mom could only do so much at a time because every dress or article of clothes brought back a nice memory or too. I helped. She would hand them to me and I would fold them up and put them in a bag for charity. We put them out on the curb for pick up.”

“It was early Saturday morning when we were done with one load of boxes and I got it in my head that I could pull a small prank on Brian. He had gotten a whole bunch of my old clothes already because I am so much bigger than him, so I knew I could convince him that the clothes in the bag were for him too. “

“So, that Saturday, after Brian commented about the bags of Pat's old clothes out front, I remembered the prank I was going to pull. I told Brian that they were some more of our hand me downs and told him to go and take a look.”

“When he opened the bag, there was this big white poufy dress and his jaw dropped. You know Mom, Pat's confirmation dress." She silently nodded. "The look on his face was so funny. After I controlled myself from laughing so hard, I dared him to try it on. It was going to charity anyway I told him and no one would ever see it again. Besides, I told him, no one was home, and it would be fun. Something we hadn't done before. And obviously, I couldn’t wear them because I was too big. Or I would too."

"Brian finally said okay. So, I laid out the veil, the lacey gloves, the dress, the panties, the tights, the shoes and socks, and the accessories on my bed. He then put out some of my mother's old makeup from Avon. Pat, my sister, had used it on us to test things and had taught us how to put on mascara and paint our nails the year before. So, after I laid everything out, Brian took off all of his clothes. I folded his clothes neatly and pushed them under my bed. After getting dressed, we went into my mom's room so he could put on some mascara like he saw Pat do all the time. Then he put on some perfume too. The job was done. Brian looked awesome as a girl."

Dr. Shelby asked, "Did he put on the panties or just use his regular underwear? And how did he know how to put on mascara again?"

"Brian put the panties on. He even played with it so you couldn't see his you know what. As for the mascara, my sister Pat taught us when she needed us to help her practice her make up skills while she was still living at home. You know, for when her friends would come over."

"Oh yes, Pat, your sister. I remember now. Thanks, please continue Bobby."

"After finishing with the mascara and putting on the perfume, all of a sudden, I heard your car coming in Mom," looking at my mom as I related the events of that first time. I continued, "and Brian and I had to run into the woods before we were discovered. “

"When we got into the woods where we couldn’t be seen, we were both panting for air. It was so funny to me, but not to him. I told him that it was okay, I would go back and check to see when the coast was clear. He wanted me to get his clothes, but I said we have to wait out our moms. I just couldn't go alone for fear our moms would go looking for him. He was very worried, so I distracted him by pointing out that he was prettier in the dress than Pat had been. Also, I called him Stacy so he would get mad and forget about what was going on. I couldn't let him get the clothes dirty, so I played while he walked around in the clothes trying not to get them dirty."

Mr. Smith calmly as he could, but quietly, said, "Why the name Stacy? And did you choose the name?"

"Yes, I chose the name. Pat, my sister, used to play with Barbie dolls and she got a Stacy doll for Christmas one year. And, I guess, in the back of my mind, Brian looked so much like a doll in that dress, it made sense to me. But, I didn't tell him that. It was just the first name that popped into my mind. It could have been Mary or Jane for all I cared. I just knew I couldn't call him Brian in case someone came up on us in the woods and we needed to keep his true identity a secret."

Mr. Smith nodded, his lips pursed and his expression contemplative. He shook his head briefly deep in thought and then turned his attention back to me.

Still looking at Mr. Smith, "Oh, Brian didn’t like the name at first, but after a bit, he was okay with it."

I turned back to the doctor. "Later, he did say that I was right about his looking pretty. And he admitted that he might have had fun too."

Mr. Smith opened his mouth as if he were going to say something, but stopped after looking at Dr. Shelby who softly shook her head telling him no.

"When you guys finally left that day," I looked at my Mom and Mrs. Smith as I said this, "we went back in and he got all cleaned up. Took him a while too. But, I could tell he was checking himself out in the dress in the mirror as he walked by it. It seemed he was liking what he was seeing."

"So, the second time was when Mom put out a charity bag a few weeks later, seeing how he enjoyed it before, I talked him into trying it again by agreeing to do his homework for a week."

Dr. Shelby asked, "Why did you bribe him to do it?"

"Because, for the first time in our friendship, Brian seem to like doing something instead of just doing it because he had to or because he was bored or to get along. At the time, I just saw it as an acting role, like in a play. I wondered if Brian would like it enough to go into drama instead of football. I was worried about him. He is almost the smallest kid in class, and that include the girls too.”

"Sounds reasonable. You wanted him to think about other options in school. And how did this time go?" she asked.

"Brian seemed to be taking it more seriously this time and spending more time getting to know how to move and act in the clothes. I watched him use his hands and learn to walk in the shoes he had on. I even helped by correcting him when he didn't sound like a girl. In fact, after that, he started using a girly voice and soon was holding himself like a girl almost without thinking."

Mr. Smith let out a sigh and said in a quiet voice, "So that explains the girl voice."

I continued, "And, Brian truly seemed to be relaxing and enjoying it. And frankly, he was much nicer than he had been lately. But, I didn't mention it that time."

After we got back to the house, I pulled out a bunch of outfits and hid them in my closet just in case Brian said that if he wanted to do it again.

The third time, I agreed to do his homework again for a week, and he spent another few hours as Stacy. Except this time, I thought I should be honest. I mentioned how bad his attitude had been for months and how much nicer he was as Stacy. Plus, I told him that I could tell he really enjoyed wearing the dresses. But more than anything, I wanted him to realize how mean he could be."

Brian got really mad at me, went in and changed, and then went home angry. He ignored me at school for a whole week.

Mrs. Smith gasped, "I remember that week. It really was like Brian was throwing a hissy fit twenty-four seven. He was most disagreeable." Mr. Smith looked at his wife and concurred with a vigorous nod.

Dr. Shelby considered what Mrs. Smith said and then asked me, "Which do you think mattered more to Brian from what he told you out of anger, being told he liked being a girl or being told he was nicer when dressed up as a girl?"

I grabbed a sip of water while I thought about it. "Being told he was being nicer when dressed up as a girl." Dr. Shelby made wrote a note on a notepad she had. I hadn't noticed it before, but it finally hit me that she had been taking notes all along.

Dr. Shelby looked up at me again as if to say continue.

"Then," I said, "one day at school, Brian came up to me and said he was sorry. We both said we were sorry. I told him I really shouldn't have picked on him and made him do those things. Or tell him he enjoyed wearing dresses. I promised him I would never bring it up. We were friends again."

And that is the three times Brian dressed as a girl before Stacy took over."

Dr. Shelby shifted in her chair, looked at me for a moment, and asked, "Did Brian freely admit that he had a bad attitude, or was he just trying to make up with you because he was lonely?"

"No, Brian really realized that he was being nasty and admitted it. At first I think he found that Stacy brought some niceness out of him and I think he liked her better too. But, looking back on it, I think Brian had come to think that he was being nasty because he wasn't allowed to be Stacy."

Dr. Shelby then said, "Now, I have to be careful here. Because of patient privacy concerns, I want you only to talk from here on about how it affected you, and not Stacy, unless it is her actual words. It is my job to figure out what Stacy or Brian was thinking. As strange as it may seem to you Bobby, telling me how you felt and heard Brian say will help Stacy more than you realize. Are you okay with telling everyone how you felt from here on out. Besides, you have been doing a great job of it already."

I nod yes and blush at the compliment. Dr. Shelby said, "Go on."

"After we made up, when we were home alone the next Saturday, I asked Brian if he liked dressing up. He said he did, but only because of my doing his homework. Then, unexpectedly, Brian asked if I still had the clothes. I told him I did. He said that he needed to try on a dress for "old time's sake" so he could "see something through" I think. He even said that I didn't have to do his homework. I told him okay, but that he didn't have to do in order to be my friend. Just as long as it was his choice."

Dr. Shelby leaned forward as though something important detail was about to be shared.

"Why didn't you stop him and just lie? You could have said you didn't have the clothes anymore" asked Dr. Shelby hurriedly, but softly, as she put a hand up to Mr. Smith signaling him to be quiet. Mr. Smith rustled in his chair and settled down.

I hung my head down thinking of how to put it. I looked up at her again and got lost in her friendly eyes. "Because, secretly, I had questions too. When Brian put on those clothes before, I felt different too. I felt like I was learning how to be a man just like my dad with my mom or like I had a girlfriend or maybe a daughter. I found myself wondering what it would be like to talk to a girlfriend, what we would talk about, and what kind of things we would want to do together. Would we go to dances together or the movies? So, I think we were both being selfish. I guess I was getting answers too and I didn't want to lose that chance either. I didn't think about how it would affect Brian. I'm sorry for being so selfish."

My mother let out a heavy sigh. I knew what she was thinking. Her little boy is growing up.

Dr. Shelby relaxed back into her seat looking at Mr. Smith briefly like she had been through this before, maybe even with Mr. Smith out in the hallway. I shrugged off the thought and refocused.

Dr. Shelby then said, "Thank you for your honest and being so frank Bobby. I can see your parent's have taught you well. But, really, I don't know about your being selfish. Boys and girls your age often ask those kind of questions too and it isn't selfish at all to wonder who you are becoming when your body is changing by leaps and bounds every month, is it? In fact, it is very healthy to ask those questions under proper supervision and guidance. But, please continue with your story." It seemed her words were directed to the Smiths as much as they were to me.

It looked like Mr. Smith listened to them too. He relaxed more and even smiled after he got a faraway look in his eye.

Dr. Shelby was just like my dad. I marveled at how she could make me see something so clearly I hadn't seen before. I smiled at her. "Thanks Dr. Shelby, you're good! I can see Stacy will be in good hands."

Dr. Shelby smiled and looked down at her pad adding more notes. For a brief moment I thought, if Stacy wasn't going to be my girlfriend, I could marry Dr. Shelby, who I perceived for the first time wasn't that bad looking. She was around thirty, had a good figure, a pretty face, and had long black hair that cascaded nicely around her white lab coat which concealed a nice yellow flowery summer dress not unlike the one Stacy wore the day we were attacked. I wondered for a moment if she wore it for Stacy. She had nice legs and wore white shoes that the hospital probably made her wear because they were kind of dumpy. Although her ankle socks had nice yellow tassels. Why, I thought, hadn't I noticed this before? Especially her nice figure. I caught myself and tried to not show her that I was looking at her breasts when she looked back up.

Suddenly, remembering Stacy, I panicked, I find myself breathing hard, my heart racing, and asked, "Is there any news on Stacy? Is she okay? Please tell me."

Mr. Smith quietly looked up, his voice cracking, "Calm down Bobby, they will come in and tell us what is going on soon. You are being a good friend right now and a better parent than me it seems." He dropped his head for a moment, and looked at me with a half-hearted smile and said, "Please, I really need to know more and also it is keeping my mind off the surgery results more than anything else right now. Can you help me?"

For the first time, I see that a grown up can be scared and confused too. It was nice that he called me by my first name and not a four letter word as I thought he might.

I continued. "Well, if this was the last time I was to be with Stacy, I thought it ought to be very special. I gave the black dress Pat wore to the prom to Brian with some tights Mom said she bought as a backup in case her stocking got a run. I gave her Pat's four inch pumps. And, I pierced her ears too. Plus, I did Stacy’s hair like you had helped Pat do once before when she was in a rush." I looked over at Mom and she nodded with a wistful look as though she was remembering Pat in the dress too and the hurried date night.”

Dr. Shelby cocked her head asked with a bit of grin, "Now how did you know to pierce ears?"

"It was nothing special. My sister Pat taught me how to pierce ears because she did it for her friends when they came over and their parents wouldn't allow them yet. See, if I did it, then Pat could say honestly "don't blame me, I didn’t do it." She called it “plausible deniability.” Pat also taught me how to hide the piercing too with fishing line and some makeup, so parents never find out."

Mrs. Smith just chucked and said softly, “Of course, that is why I missed it. But, then again, I wasn't looking either."

“Then Stacy did her nails with red polish and let them dry.”

Dr. Shelby wrote a note and then asked, “Was this the only time she did her nails.”

“No, but it was the second time I think. I know from that day on, she pretty much did them all the time she dressed up as Stacy. All except the day we were attacked. She wanted to have the salon do them for her. She was really happy they did her feet too. She was so proud of how she looked after Francine’s.”

Dr. Shelby wrote more notes down.

I chuckled at the cat being let out of the bag and continued, "After it was all done, Stacy just looked at herself in the mirror."

Dr. Shelby asked, "Did she say anything about what she saw in the mirror."

"Not until I told her she looked beautiful. She said thank you."

"After that, we stayed inside. I watched her as I played video games. We watched TV. Then she played a few video games with me too. Mostly she practiced sitting and standing. I would watch her sweep the dress with her hand and sit down and smile until she could do it effortlessly. Stacy paid attention to how she positioned her legs and feet too when she sat so I couldn’t see up her dress. She then practiced walking in the shoes and giggled at the sound they made. I told her I like the sound of the shoes on the floor too. Soon she was so good at everything that she said maybe it was time for her to stop. "

Dr. Shelby, “What did you think she meant by stop? Stop for good, for the day, or what?"

"I don’t know. I never found out. You see, I had other plans. My mom and dad had been telling me to practice dancing for Pat's wedding, and I knew I couldn't miss this chance. So, I put on some of their dorky music and we danced the rest of the day away."

I heard my mom let out a giggle. "So that was why you got so good all of a sudden!" Mrs. Smith winked at her as if it was some sort of secret girl code.

"Well, not danced exactly. We learned to dance together." I added, "We did a lot of dancing this spring and summer. Every time it rained, we danced. If we stayed home, we danced. I saw a lot of that prom dress. We learned to waltz, swing, and cha cha cha from videos too that we found online and from what my mom had been teaching me when she could."

Dr. Shelby leaned back in her chair playing with her hair for a moment deep in thought and said, "How did that make you feel when you danced with Stacy?"

I blushed as I looked up into the ceiling and then, when it passed, I looked at her again, "I can't really say. I did practice with my mom too, but it wasn’t the same. She is, well, my mom. Sorry Mom! But there was something about putting my hand on the small of Stacy's back, taking her hand, and us moving to the music together as she looked up at me. I don't know why, but I really liked it. I felt strong and she felt so graceful. I liked leading her, teaching her, learning with her, and the way she looked up at me with trust made me want to earn that trust. It made me feel protective and important in her eyes. I felt like, maybe, what my dad feels when he comes into the kitchen and does a quick spin with my mom and kisses her in the morning."

Mr. Smith eyes were closed, but I saw a smile come on his face. He almost laughed. Dad beamed at mom. Mom blew him a kiss.

Mr. Smith smiled for the first time and said to my dad, "Better make time for that talk, eh John?"

Dr. Shelby asked, "Did you ever feel like kissing Stacy?"

"No ma’am, well maybe, yes, but not then. There were other times I felt like it. I was still getting used to Brian being Stacy."

"At this point, if I understand it correctly, Stacy was pretty much a weekend thing during the school year and an everyday thing this summer. Did you have any Brian time where there was not Stacy at all during the day you spent together?" It sounded more and more like my dad did some talking to her before our meeting.

"You are right, I saw Brian less and less. By the end of the summer, it was all Stacy all the time. But no, there wasn’t a day she wasn’t Stacy. There was a time I was sure she was going to stop, though."

I had gotten used to Dr. Shelby directing me, so I was startled for a moment when Mrs. Smith asked the next question, "Please tell me about that time Bobby?"

"I’ll get to it Mrs. Smith. First, I found Pat's old bike on the curb and hid it in the woods for Stacy’s use. And, one day, I showed it to Stacy and convinced her to go into town with me on our bikes. One of many days to come. I knew she would have been seen as a girl since her hair had gotten so long. I knew if we did it at least once and then we had ice cream, Stacy would be hooked. She was scared that first time and finally began to enjoy being seen as a girl. It worked!"

I saw the doctor taking notes. She asked, "Did Stacy say she liked going into town like that and being seen?"

"No, not that I know of. But she never stopped me and almost always enjoyed being in town. And, except for one time, she loved the town trips. That is what I am getting to with this part of her story and the answer to Mrs. Smith’s question ... Okay, the next time we went out, Stacy and I were on a park bench and she was eating yogurt because she was watching her weight. I think she wanted to stay slim so she could stay in Pat's clothes."

Mrs. Smith and my mom looked at other and nodded. It was like a light switch went on. I heard my mom quietly say to Mrs. Smith, "Tell her after the meeting, but do tell her."

Looking at Dr. Shelby, I went on, "That time, out of the blue, I saw my mom and Stacy's mom walking toward us. I told Stacy to stay there on the park bench and wait. I ran behind a bush nearby and hid. As they walked by, I heard my mom and her mom talking about Brian going out for sports and how he needed to get out of the house more. I couldn't understand why they said sports were adorable though. The important thing is they walked by and didn’t see Brian as Stacy and find her out. Anyway, when I came back to the bench, I found Stacy looking down still. She looked up and told me she hated me."

"How did that make you feel?" the doctor asked.

I blushed deeper than I ever had before, looked down and said, "I wanted to kiss her because she looked so damn cute when she was angry. But then she broke down and cried. I realized she was scared more than angry. She was trembling, so I sat down and just held her and let her cry her heart out. I felt, like her tower of strength. It took a while. We went home and she changed back into Brian for the rest of the day."

Mrs. Smith let out a heavy sigh and said, “I remember that day. I saw a girl on a bench with a white skirt and a cute flowery top eating ice cream with pretty pink nails. I was so engrossed in our conversation about Brian that I couldn’t stop. But in the back of my mind there was something about her that called to me. I saw her trembling and wanted to run up and hold her and tell her everything was going to be okay. I wish I had.”

“I think you will get your chance,” said Dr. Shelby, “in a little bit.”

"After that scare, Dr. Shelby, I thought for sure that Brian would start playing with me as Brian. But the next day, to my surprise, I found my room locked and then Stacy came out."

Dr. Shelby wrote something down, looked up at me with a tone of surprise asked. "Your door was locked? Was it not locked before?"

"No, actually it wasn’t before. I helped her get a dress so often. I would take out the clothes for the day and then I left her with the door ajar. I never saw her lock it. But, from that day on I just knew that Stacy would dress in private, with the door closed, and never around me again."

"Not fun being locked out, eh?" escaped Mr. Smith's lips. It sounded more mournful than bitter. Immediately, Mr. Smith was apologetic. "Sorry Bobby! I am really sorry. I should never have asked that. It was mean and cruel. Please forgive me and go on."

I smiled at him as if to say, I understand. I didn’t know what to say to him. He was trying so hard to listen and that meant Stacy had a chance. I could only continue.

"I got worried about what was going to happen to her. On one of our trips to town, I saw that there was this woman's clinic when we entered town. I got to thinking that maybe they could help Stacy, you know."

"So, on one of our many trips to town, we stopped in front of it while I pretended to read it for the first time, and I dared her to go in. She did, but it didn't work. They gave her birth control pills and condoms instead."

I didn't tell them or my dad about my taking a pill. I felt that would hurt Stacy's case. And it has remained our secret to this day.

“After Stacy showed them to me, I knew enough from our health classes to comment to her that the pills could cause her to grow … ummm …. Breasts. Then, I could swear I heard her say that she wondered what that would be like.”

"Did Stacy tell you what she did with them after she said that?" asked Dr. Shelby. I noticed the ‘she’ in her question.

I lied a little and said, "I suspected that she was taking them at some point. I kind of knew for certain when she started complaining about her chest itching a week or so back. I had overheard some of the girls at school say the same thing."

It was the only flash of rage I saw in Mr. Smith. He looked away from me towards the door. I could tell he was holding back his temper. I hope it wasn’t me.

"I knew by then that Stacy needed someone to talk to, but I also knew that if I did anything during the summer, it would disrupt both our families. And, for the moment, I knew she now had a clinic to go to talk about her problems if she really needed to discuss her needs."

Dr. Shelby changed the subject. I think she got all she needed and just wanted us to relax and hear all about Stacy. “Tell us about your favorite moments this summer with Stacy that you haven’t told us about.”

“Well,” I said, “You mean like the time I had her put on the prom dress again. We didn’t do the hair this time because she found a nice way to make her hair online that worked too. We were dancing again and Stacy said she had to go powder her nose. I went to get a drink in the kitchen when I heard her yell. I ran to the bathroom door to ask what was the matter. After a moment, she opened the door and said, “Bobby Jones, you left the seat up!” I just laughed as she stormed off and got changed into a different outfit.”

Our mom’s giggled at that story.

Dr. Shelby smiled and made a notion about it and then asked, “Did Stacy really like doing her hair in different styles?”

“Oh yes, she was really good at it too after a while. She picked it up from books in the library and online resources. She loved hair styling, makeup, and doing her nails.” She made another notation.

“Good to know. How about another memorable time then?” She asked.

“Well, we went to the library in town to get her some books to read. I had a library card, so I got them for her to read. But, she liked being there, so one day she starting reading a Nancy Drew mystery while I read a book on pirates. Soon, this lady came by and asked if Stacy could watch her little two-year-old boy in the play area while she went to the bathroom. So, Stacy started walking this little boy around the library to the kid’s section nearby and watched over him in the play area until the mother came out of the restroom. The lady came out about twenty minutes later to pick up her boy and thanked Stacy for watching her little boy and gave her a little money. The little boy wanted to stay with Stacy because she was so nice to him. As the mother was leaving, the woman gave Stacy her phone number and said, if you would like, I need a babysitter and little Bobby here needs watching. Call me if you are interested. When I asked Stacy latter if she would really babysit the child, Stacy crossed her arms and shook her finger at me and said babysitting one Bobby at a time was quite enough hard work already. We both laughed.”

“Did she talk to people at the library.”

“No, it was pretty much like what happened at the park bench. We went places, but she remained quiet and talked to very few people. She said she was afraid they might know her mother or dad.”

“Any other moments?”

“Well, one day, Stacy’s tire went flat and we went into the gas station to see if we could get some air for her. This really nice man repaired the tire and said he wasn’t going to charge such a pretty little girl any money for such an easy repair. Stacy thanked him, curtseyed, and gave him a hug. The she jumped on her bike and started peddling away. I was still standing there when he told me never to let her get away or she would become another boy’s girl. I laughed as I caught up to her.”

Mrs. Smith said, “You really are sweet on Stacy, aren’t you Bobby?” I blushed and smiled more than I wanted in front of her parents. Mr. Smith was still hard to read though, but I could tell Mrs. Smith wanted to get to know the real Stacy now.

I went on to tell more stories about Stacy reading books on the couch while I watch baseball on TV. I told them about how I hated Stacy making me watch Little House of the Prairie reruns and how happy I was that Stacy wasn’t like Nellie or Mrs. Olson. I even told them about the time we bought panties in the dollar store for Stacy. I told them I don’t want to ever watch General Hospital again, but it was Stacy’s favorite soap opera. By the end, most everyone, but Mr. Smith, was laughing and talking about the fun things we had done during the summer and how much I had changed too. Mr. Smith just sat there and listened. My Dad, my Mom, Stacy’s Mom, and Dr. Shelby seemed to be hearing about Stacy as a girl and forgetting about Brian.

Eventually, Dr. Shelby looked up at the clock, stood up and came over to shake my hand. "Well, my gosh time has flown. Sadly, the time has come to end our meeting. I want to thank you Bobby. I think that is all we can cover today anyway. You were very brave and I know the Smiths really appreciate it. I think we have most of the answers we need. Will you let me call you and ask you questions?"

“As long as it will help Stacy. I would do anything for her!” I really meant it too. "Dr. Shelby, can I say something to the Smiths please before we are done?"

"Sure."

"Mr. Smith, Stacy is a very scared girl now. She means a lot to me. She is my friend. And ..." I dropped my head for a moment, and then looked at Mr. Smith and said, "I don't know what is going to happen next sir, but I do know that from this day forward, Stacy will carry with her the memory how of you go into that room today and hold her.” Mr. Smith’s shoulders slumped as he fell back in his chair not knowing what I was going to say next.

“Please Sir, I want you to hold her like I learned to dance with her. I just know if you gently hold her and lead her so she can follow and be graceful, Stacy will become the beautiful and happy girl I have come to know and love this summer and blossom for everyone to see. And I worry if you don’t, some nasty part of her could show up again who was in horrible pain like before. Because, my dad has taught me that is what a good man does for someone he loves. Please, Sir, be a good man to my best friend Stacy and love her and accept her as you see her again. She really loves you."

Mr. Smith thought for a moment and leaned forward putting his face in his hands. He began letting out quiet sobs as Mrs. Smith gently stroked his back. Mrs. Smith didn’t say anything to him, but I think she liked what I said and allowed my words to sink into his heart.

Mr. Smith finally put his hands on his knees, and slowly stood up. His expression was softer than when he came in as though something inside him had changed. He ignored my rudeness and disrespect of my elders and calmly walked up to me offering his hand of friendship. I stood up, shook hands with him firmly like grown men do. Then he said with a new found tenderness in his voice, "You are a good man Bobby Jones. You are just like your dad! I am glad to know you were there for Brian. And, I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to Stacy. I will try to do as you ask."

Just then, the surgeon came in to the room, he quietly said to Dr. Shelby in a low voice, "Extensive tissue damage that can't be repaired, but nerves seem to be intact. You have a green light for an SRS pending a positive GID from you."

He then turned to the Smiths and asked if he could talk to them in private.

Before they left the room with the doctor, Mr. Smith turned to me and said in a kind tone, "Please stick around son. I'll let you go in and see Stacy after everyone is done seeing her, okay?" Mrs. Smith looked at him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek and a quick hug.

Did Mr. Smith just say "Her?" "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir! I would like that very much!" Inside, I was very happy. I grinned like a Cheshire cat on the outside too.

I was hugged by my mom and dad as we left the room “Is that okay with you, Mom and Dad? Can I stay, please? I really don’t want to go home and leave her all alone.” They said in unison, “Yes, of course son.” Then Dad and I said in unison, “Jinx.” Mom just smiled and said, “Boys!”

Dr. Shelby came out with us and stopped me along the way. “Bobby,” she said, “I like what you said about dancing and how to hold Stacy. Do you mind if I use that analogy in my practice?”

“No, ma’am.” I was too stunned to say anything else. I didn’t think I had anything important to say as a twelve-year-old kid to adults. I looked at my dad who grinned from ear to ear at what she said to me and thought, “Maybe he was right, I am a young man now.”

Dr. Shelby then hugged me and whispered in my ear, “You made a convincing case in there that Stacy is a girl and made my job a whole lot easier.” Then she went off to meet with the Smiths in the corridor who were already talking with the doctors.

As we walked down the hospital corridor to a waiting area, I asked my dad, “Can I ask you a question about college?”

“Sure son. What is it?”

“I may not be as wise as you, but even I know that this is going to cost Stacy’s parents more than they can afford. If I promise to get good grades and work my very hardest to get a scholarship to college, could we help Stacy’s parents pay for her hospital bills and the help she needs to get better with my college money?” He smiled at my suggestion carefully considering what I had to say.

“Oh, and one other thing dad. Can I help buy her some new dresses too with my college money too. I am tired of her looking like Pat. She needs to look like Stacy.”

My mom, listening to our guy talk, broke down with tears but with the biggest smile I had ever seen on her face. She hugged me and kissed me all over. “Bobby,” she said, “you are becoming so much like your dad every day!” Mom reached over and drew Dad into her loving embrace. “I love having men in my life like you both.” And looking at me, she said, “And so will Stacy!”

***

Pat winked at me as dad stood there waiting outside the doors of the church sanctuary in the foyer.

"How’s it going pipsqueak? I keep hearing you got a great future as the Eagles’ middle linebacker once you heal. It’s all dad wants to talk about. Sorry about the broken wing keeping you out this season little punk! But, I think it was all for the best, don’t you?" She winked at me and then pointed to the bridesmaid I was partnered up with.

I felt good being in a tux. Almost like I was James Bond. I felt grown up.

I smiled at Pat and grinned from ear to ear. Pat looked gorgeous in her wedding gown and Dad was all smiles.

“Pat,” I said, “I love you! Thank you.” She said, “I love you too, pipsqueak! And you’re welcome.”

Sally, my niece, and a little boy name Doug from Charles’ side of the family started up the aisle spreading rose petals. I prayed for Doug to do something bad so my airplane story is forgotten.

Then the groomsmen started to file in one by one, each taking the arm of a bridesmaid and taking her up the church aisle to the alter where Charles was standing. He looked dapper in his tux but nervous too. I would be the last groomsman to go in and the smallest since I was the youngest. Charles' brother Larry, who was eighteen, was going to go in just ahead of me. He adjusted the tie on his tux and said to me, "I hope my bridesmaid has combat boots. I am worried I will kill her feet dancing tonight with so many missteps.” Then he whispered to me, “But she is hot!"

I saw him take the arm of Mary, Pat's friend from high school. I laughed because I was the one who pierced her ears years earlier. And yes, her parents never found out. She and all the bridesmaids were dressed in a long beautiful yellow evening dresses with hems that came down to their ankles with shoulders with puffy material. They had matching four inch pumps too.

Next, it was my turn. Up came to me this beautiful blonde haired button nosed dream girl whose eyes glowed when they looked up into mine. I looked down on her lovely face so beautifully made up and she smiled back at me. Her hair and nails were perfection. Her lipstick said kiss me. Her smile made me blush. And I could see that her young figure was getting nice and curvy too.

I leaned over and whispered in her ear assuming she heard Charles. "I've decided to forget all my great dance lessons tonight and dance with two left feet so the other groomsmen don't look so bad when I am dancing with my dream girl. It just wouldn’t be fair to them. So, sorry about your pretty toes in advance."

I stood back up, winked at her, and smiled. I glanced at my sister and dad. He was crying and using a handkerchief to dry his eyes. I thought to myself that he was indeed a hopeless romantic and I wanted to be one too.

I looked up the aisle and thought to myself that one day I will be where Charles is standing waiting for my bride too. I hope I will be a good husband. I pondered who my bride would be.

As my bridesmaid gracefully took my arm and we entered the church joining the slow procession, she said in response to my very silly comment from just a moment ago in a low, pretty, and sweet voice that still melts my knees, "I hate you Bobby Jones!"

I leaned over and kiss her cheek. She giggled and I blushed, as we continued up the aisle together. I was sad to let her go so we could get into our respective positions on either side of the alter. I smiled at the Smiths who were on the bride’s side of the aisle next to my mom and brothers. Mr. Smith shook his finger at me and then winked. I blushed. He must have seen me kiss her cheek. Mrs. Smith was smiling and crying at she looked back towards my sister. Women can be such contradictions at times.

Then the music started and I look across to my bridesmaid’s big excited smile as she watched my sister coming in with my dad on her arm, and then she starts to shed a tear too. Mom looked back to the bride coming in and just beamed.

I think growing up to be a man is going to be awesome. I can’t wait to be a groom. I look over to my bridesmaid and smile at her. She smiles back and then holds up the flowers in her hand to smell them.

I start to daydream and picture my bridesmaid in a white dress and veil. I suddenly get chills down my spine, goosebumps, and my knees go weak. I am starting to understand the benefits my dad talked to me about.

I agree with my dad. Girls are really awesome!



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