Valedictorian

Valedictorian
By: Light Clark

Synopsis: Charlie was all but guaranteed to be valedictorian until his rival Brian decides try something to fix the race.

Note: This is a rerelease of an older work, so it may seem familiar. However, it has been heavily edited since its first publishing, so it is substantially different from its original release.

“How did things go with your dad?” Charlie asked as his best friend Ethan arrived at school.

“Fine, I guess. You know how he is, man. Work is everything,” Ethan answered, sitting down next to Charlie. “I’m just glad your parents offered to let me stay with them. It would’ve sucked to have to graduate at another school.”

Ethan and Charlie had been best friends since Ethan moved to town at the start of high school for his dad’s work. Ethan’s dad was some kind of big wig corporate consultant, and four years was a long time for him to stay in one city, so when his current job was finished he was immediately packing for his next one. Fortunately for the friends, Charlie’s parents had agreed to handle Ethan for a couple months while he finished out his senior year.

“It just wouldn’t have been the same without you around,” Charlie replied, taking a sip of his coffee.

“So what do we have planned? Now that we are going to live together, we can basically hang out all the time,” Ethan asked. “Late night video game parties?”

Charlie shrugged. “I have a lot of class work this semester still.”

Ethan rolled his eyes. “You have your best friend living in your house and all you can think about is school. You’re a shoe-in for valedictorian anyway. You basically just have to turn in your homework for the rest of the semester to keep your perfect grades.”

“I can’t get complacent,” Charlie responded. “You know Brian, ever since he got that one B sophomore year, he’s been trying to sabotage me every chance he gets. He once got into a group project with me just so he could intentionally bomb the presentation. Then there was the time he burned my backpack so I couldn’t turn in my homework ...”

Ethan shook his head sadly. “Who would have thought the title of biggest nerd would be so coveted?”

“It’s best student, not biggest nerd,” Charlie pointed out in annoyance.

“Same difference,” Ethan replied with a shrug. “You should have just done what I did.”

“You mean slack off and waste my intellect rather than try?” Charlie asked facetiously.

Ethan grinned. “Exactly! You have no idea how liberating it is to just not care about anything.”

“Good morning, chumps,” a male voice called, drawing the friends from their conversation. Approaching their table was a chubby, brown haired boy with glasses and a nasally voice – Brian Spielmann.

Ethan’s eyes narrowed. “What do you want, Brian? Hoping some brains will rub off on you if you stand close enough?”

“Ha, ha, ha. You are just so hilarious, Ethan,” Brian deadpanned. “I am here to match wits with a real intellect, not some dimwitted clown like yourself.” The insult got Ethan moving to stand up threateningly.

“Ethan, excuse us please,” Charlie requested, not wanting his friend to do something that he’d regret. It wouldn’t be the first time that Brian had goaded Ethan into a detention inducing outburst.

“Fine,” Ethan hissed, turning and storming away.

Once Ethan was gone, Briant took his abandoned seat. “Well done controlling your lap dog.”

“He’s my friend, not a pet,” Charlie corrected. “Now what do you want, Brian?”

Brian sighed. “Such hostility is very rude, Charles. I merely came to ask to see your notes from calculus. I missed one of the example problems.”

“Okay,” Charlie answered uncertainly, bending down to dig into his backpack for his notebook. As he did, he missed Brian, dumping a little packet of powder into his coffee. “Here you go,” Charlie said handing the notebook to Brian, who quickly copied down one of the problems.

“Thank you, Charles,” Brian said graciously once he was done, handing back the notebook. “Have a wonderful day.”

With that handled, Brian departed, leaving Charlie to look at his back suspiciously. Brian was only ever courteous when he was being evil. That made Charlie wonder what the other boy had done this time, as he quickly checked over his notes. He couldn’t find anything amiss, though, so he supposed that maybe it had been a legitimate request.

“So what did the asshole try this time?” Ethan asked as he came back.

“I don’t know …” Charlie answered, taking a drink of his coffee.

“Well at least, we filled our asshole quota for the day,” Ethan replied.

Charlie shook his head and pointed. “It would seem not.”

Approaching their table this time was a group instead of an individual. At the lead was Ty, a tall, handsome blonde and generally considered the school’s king. Flanking him were his two buddies Chris, a shorter, brown haired version of Ty, and Tod, a hulking linebacker.

“Well if it isn’t Westridge’s most nerdy couple. When are you two finally planning to tie the knot?” Ty teased.

“We’re not gay,” Charlie pointed out.

“Stay out of this, professor, we’re here for your life partner,” Chris shot back, causing Charlie to bristle at the nickname. “Isn’t that right, Ethan?”

“What imagined slight have I inflicted on you three this time?” Ethan inquired rudely.

“It’s not imagined! You were staring at my girl!” Tod shouted angrily, slamming his fist on the table for emphasis. Tod was the current lucky boy-toy of Crystal Meyers, a bleach blonde airhead known predominately for her large breasts and sexual appetites.

“Are you sure?” Ethan asked innocently. “I mean, why would I ever want to stare at the wonderful, tanned cleavage that she was displaying in her cute, little, pink, tank top yesterday?”

Taunting bullies was one of Ethan’s worst habits. Like usual, it didn’t work out for him this time either. Tod’s fist went from the table to Ethan’s face in the blink of an eye, knocking the smaller boy from his chair.

“Let’s see how much looking you do with your eyes swollen shut!” Tod spat at Ethan, before kicking the nerd in the ribs. “I better not have to come back.”

“Message received,” Ethan wheezed through the pain.

Charlie got up the moment the three bullies left, and helped Ethan back into his chair. “You really shouldn’t antagonize them like that.”

“Psh, as if they weren’t just going to hit me anyway,” Ethan replied. “The worst part is at least two teachers saw them do it, but they’re both gym teachers. No way are they are going to punish some star football players for hitting someone like me.”

“They wouldn’t bother you, if you just stayed out of their way,” Charlie pointed out.

“Probably, but then how would I show I’m a rebel?” Ethan joked with a shrug, earning an exasperated look from Charlie.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Classes started off the same as usual for Charlie. The bell would ring and he and the rest of the students would scurry off to their classes. In spite of his slacking nature, Ethan was smart enough to still be in the advanced classes with Charlie. One might think that would result in to the two of them spending the classes chatting and goofing off, but while Ethan wished they would, Charlie took his studies very seriously. Charlie’s school days were full of intent listening and note taking, and efforts by Ethan to distract him were not tolerated at all.

That day did prove a bit different, however. By third period, calculus with the hated Brian, Charlie was having trouble focusing. He felt flush as he struggled to keep up with the teacher. At the same time, the board seemed to go in and out of focus, causing Charlie to try to wipe his glasses repeatedly.

Ethan was sitting there twiddling his pencil when he noticed Charlie wiping sweat from his brow. Given that the AC was up high enough to make the room a bit chill, he found it strange to see his friend sweatin. Furrowing his brow in concern he peered at his friend more closely. As he did, he could see Charlie’s head bob and sway about dizzily as the boy worked at his notes.

“Charlie?” Ethan whispered.

“Quiet, Ethan, I’m trying to listen,” Charlie scolded quietly, not wanting his friend to distract him when he was already struggling to focus.

“I’m not goofing off. You don’t look so good,” Ethan hissed back in concern.

Charlie shook his head. “I’m fi …” Charlie trailed off as his vision blurred. He tried to shake his head again, but, instead of clearing, his vision started to spin.

“Mr. Conroy!” Ethan called out just before Charlie’s head thumped against his desk.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

When consciousness next found Charlie, he was definitely not in a classroom. The white walls and plethora of machines spoke of a hospital. Looking around at the room, he wondered just how long he’d been out for.

Inspecting his body, or at least what he could see of it through the hospital gown and sheets, Charlie couldn’t see any visible injury. He felt a little flushed but nowhere near as bad as he had before he passed out. His inspection did reveal one thing to him, a small pad of buttons, one of which was labeled ‘Call Nurse’.

A press of the button was remarkably unspectacular, resulting in Charlie sitting there with nothing to do for a minute or so before a man in pink scrubs entered the room. He wasn’t in there long, just enough time to inform Charlie he would be right back with a doctor and his mother. It took a few minutes until finally everyone made it to the room.

Charlie’s mom, Kathleen Harris, looked the part of the mother of a high school senior. She was in her mid forties, five-five, with a few too many pounds and gray hairs for her liking. Charlie bore a strong resemblance to his mother, only five-eight and thin, and sporting the same brown hair, brown eyes, and need for glasses.

The doctor, Daniel Mueller, was a short, plump, balding man in his early sixties. What little hair he had left was entirely gray, and he made the room three for three in wearing glasses. He had an annoying tendency to not call people by their names, but one thing he did have going for him was an easy smile.

“Alright, sport, I went over this a bit with mom earlier when we got the tests back but she wanted me to explain it to you too. It seems you have an unusual hormonal imbalance going on. It’s not uncommon in teenage boys to have significant hormone fluxes like this,” Dr. Mueller explained.

“What kind of hormone flux?” Charlie asked. He was a smart boy and new Dr. Mueller was downplaying this. There were a lot of very embarrassing things that could be caused by hormone problems.

Dr. Mueller coughed uncomfortably. “Ah well you seem to have unusually low testosterone levels and very high estrogen levels.”

“How low and high?” Charlie pressed.

“Well if I only had your hormone results to go off of … I would have assumed you were a girl, not a boy,” Dr. Mueller answered. “Of course, it’s probably temporary and very treatable. I’ve already given you mom some prescriptions to inhibit estrogen and if things don’t level out in a few days we’ll see about doing more.”

Sagging back in the hospital bed, Charlie groaned inwardly at the news. Kids at school already had enough to tease him about without something like this. Plus, he’d fainted in the middle of class. It was such a mess.

“It’s really not that bad, honey. The doctor told me it should go away on its own. You’ll just have to take some pills for a few weeks is all,” Charlie’s mother tried to comfort him.

“Is there anything I need to be looking for?” Charlie asked.

Dr. Mueller nodded. “I don’t expect anything drastic but any nipple tenderness or discomfort would be a sign that the medication isn’t strong enough.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Charlie replied.

After talking with the doctor, it took a few hours to get Charlie released from the hospital, his drugs picked up, and back to his house. Even that minor amount of exertion managed to wear him out. In spite of it having been morning when Charlie fainted, it was already night by the time he got home.

“You alright, man?” Ethan asked as Charlie and his mom came through the door.

“Just great,” Charlie grumbled sarcastically as he walked past his friend.

“What’s up with him, Mrs. Harris?” Ethan questioned.

Charlie’s mom sighed. “Oh, nothing serious. He’s just embarrassed.”

“Mom, not another word!” Charlie shouted before he swallowed his new pills.

“Embarrassed huh? Hmm, what embarrassing things could he have. Explosive flatulence? STD? Oh or maybe he has that thing that makes boys grow boobs!” Ethan started rattling off ideas. The last one though earned a wince from Charlie. “Oh my god, it’s the boob thing, isn’t it?!”

“You shouldn’t harass him like that, Ethan,” Charlie’s mother scolded.

“Well, he might as well know, now. It’s better than him trying to find out if I have boobs or not,” Charlie grumbled. “It’s just some weird hormone thing that will be fixed soon, so drop it.”

Ethan sighed in disappointment. “That’s sucks. If you’d grown boobs I could have made you show them to me.”

“Well I didn’t … jerk,” Charlie huffed. “Now if we are done with humiliating me for the day, I’m going to get some sleep.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Charlie awoke groggy and alone, the sun shining in his westward facing window. That fact had him sleepily wondering how long he’d slept as he blinked sleep from his eyes. Sitting up in his bed, Charlie’s body felt odd, feverish, and tired, in spite the long rest.

“Hey Charlie!” Ethan’s voice called from the hallway as the doorknob to Charlie’s room turned. “Your mom asked me to take notes for you while you were – holy shit!” Ethan exclaimed as he opened the door, wide-eyed and slack jawed.

“Huh?” Charlie muttered, looking down at himself in confusion to see what had prompted the outburst. “Holy shit!” he gasped in mirror of his friend’s reaction.

There, tenting out the front of his t-shirt, were two mounds. They weren’t exactly huge, but they weren’t small either. If Charlie had to guess they were probably average sized for a teen – a teen girl that is.

Charlie’s hands flew to his chest to grab his new breasts, immediately regretting the decision. “Ow!” he hissed, wincing in pain from the rough treatment of the tender mounds.

“You’ve got tits, man … tits,” Ethan said in disbelief as he watched his friend groping himself.

“I can see that!” Charlie shot back angrily. He pushed himself out of bed and ran past Ethan to the bathroom. His reflection was noticeably different, a shaggy haircut that was almost to his cheeks instead of its usual short length, a slightly thinner looking body, and of course the pair of breasts that had magically sprung from his chest overnight.

A quick check confirmed that Charlie was still a guy where it counted, and other than the breasts, he didn’t really look that different. He was more androgynous than girly, but the changes implied a disconcerting trend. If only one day of his little ‘imbalance’ had managed to do all of that, he shuddered to think what he would look like by the time it was corrected.

“Honey, I heard yelling is everything alr …” Charlie’s mom trailed off as she entered the bathroom. “W-What happened?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I just woke up like this,” Charlie explained trying to remain calm and rational.

“We need to get you to the doctor. Clearly they made some kind of mistake,” Mrs. Harris told him. Relieved to have a course of action, Charlie immediately followed his mom down to the car.

It didn’t take long before Charlie was once again in the same room as Dr. Mueller. This time was far more uncomfortable than before. He was sitting there shirtless while Dr. Mueller poked and prodded at his chest. Sometimes the doctor would be too rough and elicit a hiss of pain from Charlie.

“This isn’t possible,” Dr. Mueller mused aloud, sounding more intrigued than concerned.

“Oh re-ally?” Charlie asked sarcastically, his voice cracking embarrassingly as he spoke. Clearing his throat returned his normal voice but it was not a good sign. His voice hadn’t cracked like that in years.

“You had absolutely no breast tissue when I examined you yesterday, and now you have development that would have to have taken at least months if not years,” Dr. Mueller explained.

“I appreciate the oddity of the situation, but what can you do for my son, doctor?” Mrs. Harris demanded.

Dr. Mueller looked at Charlie’s chest for a few moments in thought. “We can run some tests to see if we can find a cause, but I’ve never seen anything like this. No one just wakes up with breasts like this.”

“Well, then maybe you should do a little less gawking at my son’s chest like an idiot and a little more research to figure this thing out!” Mrs. Harris chided angrily.

Dr. Mueller blushed and looked away from Charlie’s chest. “I’ll have a nurse come by for some samples. You can go ahead and put your shirt back on, son.”

Putting his clothes back on helped Charlie to relax some. The material was a little rough against his nipples, but it was better than the cold air, and at least it partially concealed his embarrassing development. Looking down at them, he couldn’t help but think that Ethan had proven to be correct. He’d grown boobs.

Charlie’s mom sat down on the examination table next to him. “Don’t worry, Honey, they’ll figure this out,” she assured him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. Charlie hated to admit it but the empty promise did make him feel a little better.

After a few hours of waiting Dr. Mueller returned, once more sporting his easy smile. “Good news! I’ve figured out the problem. It was quite tough, but we started to run some genetic tests looking for specific markers …” the doctor started blathering on, using a bunch of latin words. Charlie had thought himself pretty knowledgeable in scientific areas, but he quickly grew lost in the archaic terms.

“Doctor, english please,” Charlie’s mom suggested, much to Charlie’s relief.

“Oh ... of course, sorry. It’s just absolutely fascinating. Charlie has two completely distinct genetic structures in his body, one male and one female which seem to be fighting against each other. Likely, this has always been true, but one of them lay dormant until some kind of triggering effect, maybe the end of puberty, woke it up,” Dr. Mueller explained. “It really is remarkable, and the rates at which his body seems to be capable of changing is nothing short of extraordinary.”

“That’s all well and good, doctor, but what can you do about it?” Mrs. Harris said in an exasperated tone.

Dr. Mueller’s eyes widened a bit as he was put on the spot. “Well … uhm … nothing really.”

“Nothing?!” Charlie shouted, his voice cracking into a rather shrill pitch right in the middle of the word.

“Well it's a genetic disorder unlike anything I’ve ever seen that doesn’t have any apparent cause. Something like this is really beyond the scope of modern medicine. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Whatever it’s going to do, it’s going to do,” Dr. Mueller told them. “On the bright side, other than the mild fever nothing seems to be wrong or life threatening about it, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be perfectly healthy once it finishes.”

Emotions swirled through Charlie, rage, fear, doubt. He wanted to just punch that man, but he restrained himself. Eventually the storm of emotion calmed and his shoulders slumped in defeat. Whatever this did to him he was just going to have to accept.

“Honey?” Mrs. Harris asked, clearly concerned.

“Can we go home now?” Charlie asked despondently .

Mrs. Harris looked at the doctor who nodded. “Sure, sweetie.”

Charlie didn’t say another word the entire way home. Once he was there he walked straight up to his room and closed the door, collapsing on the bed. The doctor had told him two things were fighting inside him a man a woman. It was easy to see just by looking down which was winning.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Waking up the next morning was no more pleasant for Charlie than the last. He still felt sick, the same exhaustion and fever that had plagued him since this whole nightmare had begun. Those issues, he could have dealt with easily. The other sensations from his body were far more pervasive.

The moment he awoke, Charlie was assaulted by the sensation of his chest. The mounds there were clearly much larger, pressing against his biceps as he lay on his side. They also ached slightly, and were if anything even more tender than the day before. Even rolling onto his back caused him to wince in pain.

Breasts weren’t the only thing causing Charlie problems this time. As he sat up, hair that was even longer than the day before fell into face, easily reaching past his chin, and clearly the wrong color even in the dimly lit room. He’d always had dark brown hair, almost black, but this was a light sandy brown that was bordering on blonde.

Shoving himself from his bed, Charlie hurried to the bathroom on unsteady feet. His muscles felt weak and ached with stiffness. What awaited him in the bathroom, though, made him wish that he hadn’t woken up that morning.

Between his legs, Charlie found a laughable excuse for his manhood. The thing was tiny, almost like a child’s. It was so small that it should have been lost in the hair down there, but mysteriously, that hair had diminished overnight as well, becoming much shorter and finer. All Charlie could do was laugh at his predicament.

“I look ridiculous,” Charlie muttered to himself as he glanced past the large breasts to the tiny little dick between his legs.

After taken care of the morning bladder issues, Charlie moved over in front of the bathroom mirror to assess his new appearance. Androgyny had given way to femininity, with a softening of his features, and slight swell to his hips. Of course the breasts were a giant neon sign of womanhood, large and perky, probably as big as the ones Ethan got punched for staring at. As he stared at his reflection, there came a knock on the door.

“Charlie?” Ethan called out.

“What do you want, Ethan?” Charlie answered, treated to the sound of a voice that was noticeably higher and more girly than he was used to.

“I left the notes and homework from yesterday and today on your desk. You mom also wanted me to tell you dinner's almost ready,” Ethan told him.

Charlie sighed at his reflection. He didn’t want to eat dinner, or even go out where Ethan or his mom might see him. “Tell her that I’ll eat later.”

The sounds of Ethan moving away gave Charlie an opportunity to leave the bathroom and get back to his room. For the first time since this all began, Charlie had time to himself where he wasn’t too tired to do anything. In search of something to distract him from his predicament, his gaze fell on the notebooks Ethan had left on his desk. That would certainly help get his mind of things.

Walking over to the desk, Charlie sat down. Even such a simple act proved frustrating for him, though. For one, he was now a little too short for his desk, requiring him to adjust the chair up a couple of inches. Secondly, every time he leaned over the desk to write, his new sore breasts would bump painfully against the edge, earning frequent sighs in pain and frustration.

As annoying as everything was, eventually, it all faded into the background enough for Charlie to begin his work. He started with calculus, the class that he had passed out in, going through the notes to try to learn the material that he’d missed. It proved hard to follow, as he constantly had to go back to his own notes to check things that he had already learned. It took far longer than it should have to get through the first lesson and start on the practice problems.

Charlie’s frustration only grew worse as he worked. The numbers refused to click like they usually did for him. He managed to finish a few problems, only to check the answers in the back to find that he had done them incorrectly. Furious with himself, he went back, reworking the problems over and over as he struggled to find the correct answers and even went back to past assignments, his anger building the entire time. Suddenly, Charlie snapped, rising from his desk, and throwing his textbook at the wall, where it crashed with a thud. He was standing there panting in frustration, when a concerned Ethan burst into the room.

“What just happened?” Ethan asked, as he took in the scene.

“I can’t do it,” Charlie whispered, staring at the textbook.

“Can’t do what?” Ethan questioned.

“The homework. I can’t do the problems. I can’t follow the notes,” Charlie mumbled.

Ethan looked confused. “I’m sure it’s nothing, probably just a combination of bad notes and stress.”

“No!” Charlie shouted in rage, glaring at his friend with tear filled eyes. “I went back. I tried to do the lessons that I’d already learned, that I’d already done perfectly before all this. I couldn’t remember how to do them. I’m losing everything.”

“Charlie …” Ethan struggled to find something to say as he reached out to his friend.

Charlie recoiled from the touch. “Just leave me alone.”

Ethan’s shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry, I –”

“I said leave!” Charlie shrieked, lunging forward to shove Ethan toward the door. It was a pretty weak shove, barely moving the boy. It actually proved more significant for Charlie as he dropped to his knees after doing it, tears forming his eyes. “This thing … it’s taking everything. It’s taking me.”

Ethan knelt down in front of Charlie and placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders. “I’ll help you through this. I promise you won’t lose who you are.”

“How can you promise me that? Just look at me!” Charlie questioned through his tears.

“Because I’m your friend, and I always will be no matter what happens,” Ethan answered pulling his sobbing friend into an embrace.

It was weird for Ethan, holding Charlie like that. He felt a sobbing girl in his arms, not the calm intellectual boy he knew as his friend. He had to remind himself that it didn’t matter what he felt like. He had to help his friend regardless.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

The next day was mostly some kind of hazy dream to Charlie. He only got up to use the restroom, an embarrassing activity given the loss of his usual equipment. He tried his best not to dwell on his changing body, but the busty, blonde girl he saw every time that he had to use the restroom made it hard to ignore.

Throughout the day, Charlie refused any visitors, demanding his mom leave food outside and go away. Ethan walked by several times, intending to talk, but every time that he stopped to hover in front of Charlie’s door, the soft sounds of sobs or angry mutterings would get him to back off. As he left, he would tell himself that Charlie didn’t want his help – at least not yet. There was other work that he needed to do.

With Charlie out of school, Ethan was working harder than he had for a long time. He was taking thorough notes in all the classes, mastering every detail with the knowledge that he would have to help Charlie with it. He didn’t know what his friend would be like after the changes were over, but he knew that he had to be ready for the worst.

School provided other problems as well. With all the stress from Charlie, Ethan had grown even more snarky during the day, earning an increased hatred from Ty’s little gang. They or their girlfriends would now go out of their way to harass him. Charlie had warned him to not provoke them and now he was paying the price for ignoring that advice.

“Mrs. Harris?” Ethan asked, sitting down next to Charlie’s mother, while Charlie was hiding in his room.

Mrs. Harris looked up, wiping at her red, puffy eyes. “Oh, hi Ethan. Do you need help with something?”

Ethan shook his head. “No, not exactly. I’m just wondering what we are planning to do about Charlie, once whatever this is finishes.”

“I don’t know, Ethan. I’ve been talking to my husband about it while he’s on his trip, but we are stumped. The doctor recommended some therapists, but I doubt Charlie will want to go. He also promised to write up some documentation for Charlie to prove his identity and gender change to the authorities. I’ll guess we’ll have to get him all new ID at some point,” Mrs. Harris explained.

“I’ll help however I can,” Ethan offered. “I’m doing everything I can about school already.”

Mrs. Harris smiled sadly. “It’s good that he has a friend to stick by him through this. A lot of kids your age probably wouldn’t.”

“Well, I’m hardly a kid,” Ethan replied defensively.

Mrs. Harris managed a weak chuckle. “Ah the teenage dream of being considered an adult. Trust me, it’s overrated.”

With that, the conversation trailed into silence. Eventually the two parted ways again, Mrs. Harris to drop off another snack for Charlie, and Ethan back to his room to work on some schoolwork. All they could do was stay busy while they waited for Charlie to finally come back out into the world. It wouldn’t be until the next day that Charlie finally left his room.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Waking up on the fourth day after his change began was a little different for Charlie. For once, he no longer felt sick. The fever and exhaustion seemed to have fled along with his former gender. He finally had energy, and with energy, a willingness to start trying to figure out what he was going to do.

Even something as simple as sitting up in bed assaulted Charlie with just how much he had changed. He was still dressed in nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of boxers, his usual sleep clothes, but those two things were having a hell of a time with his new anatomy. While the rest of him had shrunk, growing short and slender, his hips and breasts had grown significantly and now stretched the previously baggy clothes around them. Charlie couldn’t even see passed the massive boobs that he was now sporting. They were far bigger than any other set that he’d seen before in real life. With them blocking his vision, he couldn’t exactly see the hips that were stretching out his boxers below, but he could feel the uncomfortable tightness that they were creating down there. Looking down also showed him something else, a tangled mess of long blonde hair, the near white color usually associated with something gotten from a bottle.

“I must look like a bimbo,” Charlie muttered, wincing at the voice that came out. It was very high, soft, and feminine. The pitch made it sound a little more cute than sexy, just right to complete the bimbo effect.

Sighing, Charlie pushed himself from the bed onto unsteady feet. His legs felt a bit weak, and his body had a very different balance compared to his old one. Still, he had been adjusting over the days of changing, so it didn’t prove that hard to move across his room, open the door, and cut across the hall to the bathroom. Once inside though, Charlie had to face the mirror.

Seeing his reflection almost buckled Charlie’s legs, making him lean on the counter for support. There was absolutely no trace in the mirror of the boy that he had been just a few days before, or even any resemblance to his family. The girl that had replaced him there was certainly beautiful, though, with cute delicate features and big blue eyes. Her body, however, looked like it belonged in a cartoon with massive breasts on a thin frame, a tiny waist, and full rounded hips. Sticking out below the t-shirt was a pair of smooth, creamy legs, looking long and well shaped in spite of her at best average height.

Raising his now small and delicate hands, Charlie let his fingers trace along what he saw in the mirror. He ran them over the cute little arched nose, delicate cheekbones, and full lips. He hesitated as his hands drifted downward, afraid to touch the mounds on his chest. Finally he cupped them, the soft flesh overflowing his hands. He refused to linger there, though, instead tracing along the curve of his waist to where it flared out into his hips. There, he grabbed the boxers and forced them down.

Removal of the underwear served two purposes. The more urgent was that Charlie really needed to pee. The second, though, was too see what was now there. Charlie gave the vertical slit in the mirror only a brief glance, noting that the change had decided to leave the area hairless. Once he had given that part its look as well, he turned from the mirror and took care of business.

For a while after finishing, Charlie just sat on the toilet wondering what he was supposed to do now. It seemed likely that he was done changing. Being any girlier didn’t seem possibly, and he no longer felt so sore and tired. That didn’t tell him what to do next, though. How could he face his mother and best friend looking he did? What would his dad think when he came home in a few days and saw his ‘son’. Those fear filled thoughts roiled through his mind right up until a knock on the door distracted him from them.

“Honey, are you alright in there?” Charlie’s mom called with obvious concern.

“Here it goes,” Charlie whispered getting up his nerve. He quickly forced his boxers back up, walked to the door. Before he could chicken out, he pulled the door open. “Hi, Mom.”

Mrs. Harris eyes widened in shock at the sight of her son. She hadn’t seen any of his changes for a couple of days, and he was a far cry from the slim brunette that she had last seen him as. The look in her eyes cut into Charlie like a knife. Tears started to well up in his eyes at the knowledge that even his own mother didn’t recognize him.

Seeing the growing tears, Mrs. Harris stepped forward to hug her distraught son. “It’s alright, honey,” she whispered. The words didn’t stop the tears from coming, but Charlie appreciated them just the same. After a few minutes, Charlie’s sobs finally quieted, and his mother pulled back a bit to ask, “Would you like something to eat?” Charlie just nodded in response, letting his mom lead him downstairs.

Ethan was sitting in the living room, when the puffy eyed blonde entered the room. “Calm down, “Mrs. Harris mouthed at him, when she saw his wide-eyed look.

Shaking his head briefly to clear it, Ethan nodded at Mrs. Harris. He knew that he needed to say even tempered for his friend. In an effect to do exactly that, he tried to sound as casual as possible as he greeted the blonde with a “Hey, Charlie.”

“Hi, Ethan,” Charlie whispered, blushing a bit in embarrassment.

“How are you feeling?” Ethan inquired, trying to keep the conversation light.

“I don’t feel sick anymore. How has school been?” Charlie replied. The tension in the small talk was palpable.

Ethan shrugged. “It’s school. I’ve been making sure to keep up with everything, so we can get you all caught up.”

“Thanks,” Charlie responded quietly. Talk about school reminded him that the changes were not only physical but mental as well.

Being aware that he was now less intelligent, was an odd feeling for Charlie. He didn’t feel stupid or anything. His brain still worked. He still had thoughts, made decisions, came to conclusions. It’s wasn’t like he suddenly just couldn’t understand what people were saying either. It was much more subtle than that.

The three of them chatted while Charlie ate, going over the things that had happened and what needed to be done. It was during that conversation that Charlie got his first feel of how the difference in his mental faculties would affect daily life. He was slow to follow things, now, often requiring explanation for why something would be necessary. It made him feel helpless and pathetic, causing him to spend most of the conversation with his eyes downcast. He spoke as little as possible to not draw attention to his limited understanding.

“We need to get started on the paperwork for your new ID, so tomorrow we’ll handle that and pick up some clothes for you,” Mrs. Harris explained.

“Clothes?” Charlie questioned.

Mrs. Harris nodded. “Yes. Clearly nothing you own will fit you now and girls need different kinds of clothes anyway.”

“I don’t want to wear girl clothes, Mom,” Charlie stated.

“I know, sweetie. For outer clothes we can get stuff like you wear now, shorts and t-shirts, but your uhm … chest is going to need support. We’ll have to get you some female undergarments,” Mrs. Harris.

“Support? Undergarments? You mean bras don’t you?!” Charlie demanded as his mind slowly managed to put it together.

Mrs. Harris nodded. “Yes, dear, I mean bras.”

Charlie shook his head fervently. “I’m not wearing a bra.”

Mrs. Harris sighed. “You are too … developed to go without one, honey. It wouldn’t be proper ... or comfortable.”

“Oh … ” Charlie mumbled quietly, conceding the point in the face of that logic. If her mom said he needed one, she was probably right. Looking down at his chest, he couldn’t help but think that he was all boobs and no brains.

“Anyway, we can worry about that stuff tomorrow when we go to the mall,” Mrs. Harris said.

Charlie’s eyes widened in fear. “Wait I have to go out in public like this?!”

“Well, of course,” Mrs. Harris answered in surprise.

Charlie shook his head rapidly. “I can’t go out like this. People will stare at me like I’m some kind of freak.”

Looking Charlie over, Ethan silently agreed with his friend. It was clear that people would stare at Charlie, but not for the reason the newly changed girl thought. To an onlooker, they would see nothing but a very pretty girl – and that was exactly why they would stare.

“Charlie, you’ll have to try the clothes on for size, and you’ll need to sign things for your new ID,” Mrs. Harris pointed out, managing to make things worse.

Still shaking his head, Charlie stood up. “I can’t do this. I just … ” he muttered before racing out of the kitchen and back up to his room.

“That could’ve gone better,” Mrs. Harris sighed.

“I’ll go talk to her … er him,” Ethan offered, following after Charlie.

Once he was upstairs, Ethan walked quickly over to the door. After knocking quietly, Ethan cracked the door open. Inside, Charlie was sitting on his bed looking down at the floor, where his feet dangled just shy of ground.

“Charlie?” Ethan began uncertainly.

Charlie looked up, eyes full of fear and self-loathing. “I … I can’t do it, Ethan.”

“Sure you can,” Ethan assured him as he sat down next to his friend. “You always figure out a way.”

“I’m not that guy anymore. I’m not even a guy at all,” Charlie replied. “Once I go out there everyone will see that. They’ll all know.”

“You never cared what people thought of you before,” Ethan pointed out.

“That’s because I liked what they thought!” Charlie blurted. “I liked being a nerd. I liked the respect I got from teachers. I liked that people left me alone. Now though they’re all going to see … this.” Charlie gestured down at his body.

Ethan wasn’t sure how to argue with that. “Well if you like being a nerd so much just keep being one. No one is saying you have to stop reading, playing video games, and worrying about your school work.”

“People are going to laugh at me,” Charlie said.

“If they do, I’ll beat them up for you, okay?” Ethan offered.

Charlie laughed, though it managed to come out as more of a sad little giggle. “You’re too weak to beat anyone up, Ethan.”

“Well then I’ll get beat up so they laugh at me instead of you!” Ethan countered, eliciting another giggle from Charlie.

The jokes and support actually got Charlie to smile a little. “Thanks, Ethan.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Ow! Stop it!” Charlie wailed in pain as his mom yanked a brush through her hair working out the knots from sleeping for days.

“Sorry, sweetie, but four days of bed head isn’t easy to untangle,” Charlie’s mom informed her son.

“You should have just cut it off,” Charlie grumbled.

Mrs. Harris rolled her eyes. “We’ve been through this. You need to at least try it out before we cut it. You might like long hair and it’s a lot harder to grow out than it is to cut, trust me. Besides, I’m almost done.”

“Fine,” Charlie sighed in defeat, wincing as another knot was discovered. Long hair wasn’t winning any points with him currently, that was for sure.

“We almost ready?” Ethan asked, poking his head into Charlie’s room. The boy had insisted on taking the day off from school to accompany them on their errands. It was a gesture that Charlie was definitely glad for, wanting any extra support around that she could get for what lay ahead.

With a final stroke of the brush, the last knot untangled itself. “All done,” Mrs. Harris said with a smile. “Now let's get a move on.”

Trepidation filled Charlie’s stomach as he followed his mom and Ethan out to the car. He really didn’t want to go outside, wishing that he could just hide under his covers for the rest of his life. Even just walking around the house in his new body embarrassed him. He could only imagine how bad he was going to feel in public.

Not even the drive was comfortable for Charlie. The seat belt fit awkwardly between his boobs, and every pothole and bump in the road set the fleshy mounds bouncing. Eventually he just crossed his arms around his chest in embarrassment and hung his head in shame.

As Charlie suffered, Ethan watched quietly. It was weird for him to see Charlie the way he was now. Outwardly it all seemed very cute, a pretty blonde who was always blushing and pouting in a way that Ethan found very endearing. However inside that cute exterior his friend was suffering and he had no idea how to help him. It made him feel like a terrible friend.

With neither teen happy, the entire drive passed in uncomfortable silence. Once the car arrived at its destination, Charlie followed along behind his mother and Ethan, using them to shield himself from view until he was inside. Then he found a chair in a corner, and did her best to hide there, while his mom took care of what she could without him.

“How are you holding up?” Ethan asked, sitting down next to Charlie.

Charlie shifted in his seat, moving closer to Ethan to use him as a shield. “Awful. People are staring,” he said, nodding across the room, to where a mother and son waited. The son appeared to be about thirteen and his eyes were glued to Charlie.

Seeing what appeared to be Charlie’s first admirer, Ethan didn’t know whether to smirk in amusement or worry about his friend. In the end, he just shifted slightly to put himself in the boy’s way and shot him a menacing glare. Caught staring, the boy quickly averted his eyes.

“Look he’s stopped,” Ethan told Charlie. Glancing around Ethan, Charlie saw the boy had turned away and sighed in relief.

Shortly after the staring was taken care of, Mrs. Harris walked back from the counter and handed Charlie a clipboard. “You need to sign this for your new name.”

“New name?” Charlie muttered uncertainly. He didn’t remember anyone telling him about a new name.

Ethan reached over her shoulder to point at a spot on the clipboard. “It’s right there, Charlie.”

Embarrassed at having it pointed out to him, Charlie followed Ethan’s finger. There was a series of boxes, filled out in his mother's handwriting that read ‘Charlene Elizabeth Harris’ with the female box checked. “Charlene?”

“I thought you might like it since you can still just go by Charlie,” Charlie’s mother told him. “We can always go with something else, though, if you want.”

Charlie shook his head. “No, it’s fine.” he replied. Charlie grabbed the pen from the top of the clipboard and signed his male name. It would be the last time he’d ever be Charles Eli Harris, the last time he would be male.

With shaky hands, Charlie handed the clipboard back to her mom, letting go of her past self. “There,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Ethan put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Remember, you’re still Charlie. That hasn’t changed.” Charlie managed a slight nod in reply.

With the paperwork handled, the group moved on toward their next errand. Getting back to the car and away from prying eyes was a relief for Charlie. As she buckled in, she hoped that the fact that it was a school day would mean that the mall would be mostly empty.

The mall was definitely not empty, but instead full of off-work parents getting shopping done, kids skipping school, and the occasional elderly person just out for a stroll. Even the short trip to the department store required passing several people, all of whom at least glanced at Charlie, who had tucked herself in between her mother and Ethan in an effort to hide. While her efforts to hide failed, they did cause some problems for Ethan.

As part of her efforts to control her fear, Charlie had grabbed Ethan’s arm, holding it tightly. Of course for Ethan this meant his arm was squished up against his friend’s new, and rather soft, assets. Best friends or not, Ethan was still a teenage boy, and such a situation was more than a bit stimulating. He ended up joining Charlie in her discomfort as they walked around the mall like that. Fortunately the group soon arrived at a department store, and Mrs. Harris led them quickly to the lingerie section.

“Excuse me, do you still offer bra fittings?” Mrs. Harris asked one of the attendants, an older lady, with curly gray hair.

“We sure do,” the woman replied with a pleasant smile.

Mrs. Harris sighed in relief. “Ah good. You see my daughter has been growing like a weed and I have no idea what size she is anymore,” she told the clerk, turning to grab Charlie’s hand and pulled her forward to stand where the lady could see her better.

Charlie winced at the way the clerk’s eyes widened at the sight of her chest. Blushing, Charlie could only think about how embarrassing this all was. That, and wishing that she’d never let her mother take her here.

“Well … I can try to size her for you, but I can tell you right now she’s not going to fit in anything we have here. We only carry up to DD’s and your daughter is clearly beyond that by at least a couple sizes,” the clerk told them, while Charlie wondered if it was possible to die from embarrassment.

“I see. Where do I go for larger sizes then?” Mrs. Harris asked. Her own chest was only a bit above average, so she had never even realized that this was a potential problem.

The sales clerk thought for a moment. “If I remember correctly there’s a specialty store on the corner of Lake and Fueller that handles larger busts. One of the girls here has to shop there for her bras. If you have some other shopping to do, I can go get you the name of the place and a phone number.”

“That would be great, thank you. We’ll be in the junior section,” Mrs. Harris replied.

Charlie was so relieved to finally be walking away from the lingerie section. As her mother led the way, she drifted along beside her, looking at nothing but the floor. This whole thing was already feeling like a nightmare made real.

From behind, Ethan placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “That was awkward, huh?” he whispered in her ear, getting a nod from Charlie. “Well at least she was trying to be helpful, and wasn’t mean or anything.”

Trying to force herself to be a little more positive, Charlie nodded in agreement. Ethan was right in a sense. The attendant hadn’t been making fun of her or anything. She couldn’t help it that the story didn’t carry the blonde’s size.

In the junior’s section, Charlie’s mom, moved around the racks eagerly, grabbing a few sets of shorts and t-shirts. “Alright, honey, I need you to try these on for size. Everything is going to fit a little tighter than you are used to, though, so don’t let that bother you,” she instructed before handing her daughter the clothes and leading her to a changing room.

Ethan had to wait outside while the two girls went into the changing area and got Charlie a room. Inside, Charlie stripped out of her ill fitting male clothes, trying not to look at the girl in the mirror as she fumbled with the stuff her mom picked out for her. Some of the stuff wouldn’t fit over her hips or boobs, and some of the rest was too loose around her shoulders and waist. Charlie didn’t mind the baggier look, especially on the shorts which were all far too short and tight for her tastes, but her mom was less than pleased by it. Apparently off the rack clothing wasn’t exactly designed for girls that looked like Charlie, and Mrs. Harris didn’t like the idea of buying poorly fitting clothes.

“Some of the shorts aren’t bad, but we are going to need to find some tops for you that have some stretch in them. I’ll be right back,” Mrs. Harris finally declared in exasperation.

“Some stretch?” Charlie mused aloud, looking at the mirror while she waited. She was currently in one of the looser fitting t-shirts her mom had given her and it was definitely already stretching a bit around her chest. Of course, it also practically hung off her slim shoulders, and it was impossible to even tell that she had a waist. She reached up and bunched the extra cloth at the waist behind her back. The effect emphasized just how large her chest was in contrast to the rest of her, causing her to sigh. That was the last thing she wanted to emphasize.

Sure enough, the next set of tops Charlie’s mom gave her did exactly what she didn’t want them to. They were mostly tank tops, a few even sporting low necklines that showed off some cleavage, and every last one of them was made out of a material that stretched to accommodate her chest, while remaining fairly snug around her waist.

“I don’t like this, Mom,” Charlie stated firmly as she stood in front of her mom in a pale blue scoop neck tank top.

“I know it's a bit girly, but it fits and it looks good,” Mrs. Harris explained.

“I just don’t like it. Can’t I please just go with some of the t-shirts?” Charlie practically begged.

Charlie’s mom, smiled sympathetically. “Sure, sweetie. Is it okay if we buy a few of each?” Eager for any deal that got her out of this top, Charlie nodded. “Alright, get changed back into your own clothes while I sort through the pile for the stuff that fit the best.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Charlie told her, glad that her mom was here to help.

To round out her day, Charlie found herself at the specialty bra shop that catered to larger busted girls. This was by far the most embarrassing experience of an already very embarrassing day. She was required to stand topless in the changing room, while a stranger buzzed around her, taking measurements and prodding at her breasts.

With every ‘hmm’ the woman uttered or new measurement that she took, Charlie thought she was going to do something terrible. She stood there trembling after the woman finished, half expecting her to return and consign her to some overly frilly, pink, lace, nightie thing. When the woman actually came back, she just offered Charlie a plain, white, cotton bra.

“Here, try this on,” the shop attendant instructed.

Charlie took the bra, shyly and stared at it for a moment. Looking at the array of straps and hooks that it consisted of, she realized that she had no idea she was supposed to get it on properly. The best she could guess was that she needed to slide her arms through the straps then, maybe, hook it in the back. Trying that was less effective than it sounded in her head. Her boobs refused to stay in the cups while she tried to work the hooks.

“Let me help, dear,” the woman offered sweetly, causing Charlie to blush bright red. The woman shifted Charlie’s chest into the cups and then hooked the bra with practiced ease. Then her fingers started trailing around the bra, adjusting the straps and cups until it felt surprisingly comfortable to Charlie. “This is a pretty good fit for you.”

Charlie looked in the mirror. The bra was snug, full of soft, creamy flesh that it did an excellent job of supporting. As bras went it wasn’t particularly girly, plain white, without any lace or frills. It was a little tight and constrictive compared to clothes that she was used to wearing, but, judging by the obnoxious bounce and sway that she’d put up with all day, that was probably part of the point. If she was going to be stuck wearing a bra, this one didn’t seem so bad.

“Do you want your mom to see?” the woman asked.

“Uhm … yes please,” Charlie mumbled, still uncomfortable around the saleswoman.

The woman left and a few moments later, Mrs. Harris entered the dressing room. “So, Mom … how does it look?” Charlie asked nervously, hands fidgeting at her sides.

“It looks wonderful,” Mrs. Harris said with a dreamy look in her eyes. “Now, that you have an idea what it feels like to wear one, is it still bothering you?”

Charlie shrugged. “A little, but it’s not as bad as I originally thought it would be.”

“I remember thinking my first bra felt weird, too,” Mrs. Harris told her with smile, causing Charlie to blush a little bit.

After trying on a few more bras they were finally finished, Charlie wearing one of the bras out at her mom’s request. It proved its worth just on the trip home, providing some much needed support and comfort. By the time they made it back home, Charlie was really glad the day was over.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Damn it!” Charlie shouted, throwing her controller in anger.

“Charlie, no swearing!” Charlie’s mom chastised from the kitchen.

“Sorry, Mom!” Charlie called out in reply. She flopped against the back of the couch, folding her arms in frustration. “This sucks.”

Ethan looked at his friend for a moment. The pout Charlie was pulling off was doing a better job of being adorable than it was of conveying anger. “Come on, Charlie, you aren’t doing that bad.”

“Are you kidding me?! I’m awful!” Charlie huffed. She and Ethan had been playing video games for the last hour to take Charlie’s mind off her father’s impending return home later that day. Unfortunately the games hadn’t improved her mood any. She had spent the entire time struggling to do well and failing at it. It wasn’t that she had forgotten how to play, it was just that her reactions and decision making had diminished and her hands no longer seemed to have the muscle memory necessary for the precise controls. The overall effect had taken her from being a skilled gamer to mediocre at best.

Ethan rolled his eyes. “You aren’t awful. You still went positive that last match,” Ethan pointed out. Charlie just huffed. “With a little practice you’ll get that rust off and be back to kicking ass just like you always have.”

“Whatever,” Charlie muttered, her anger wearing down under Ethan’s relentlessly positive attitude. “Let’s just watch a movie or something. I can’t suck at that.”

Ethan was about to get up to pick out a move for them when the rattle of garage door opening began. Hearing that sound, Charlie smacked her head against the couch back. That sound meant her dad was home.

Sure enough a few moments later Charlie’s dad, Roger Harris, came through the door into the kitchen. Dr. Harris was, like his wife, a fairly average looking person. He was in his early fifties, with a bit of a gut and more gray hair than brown in his receding hairline. Before Charlie’s change, he was an inch taller than his son, at five-nine, however, that gap had increased to five inches now. Dr. Harris was also a renowned physics professor and a graduate of MIT.

“I’m home!” Dr. Harris called, walking over to where his wife was working on dinner to give her a kiss. “I missed you, dear.”

Noticing Charlie scrunched up in hiding behind the couch, Ethan grabbed her hand and whispered, “Come on, you need to go say hi to your dad.”

Charlie shook her head rapidly. “I don’t wanna.”

Ethan gave her an exasperated look. “He’s going to see you eventually, Charlie. Now get a move on before I drag you out there.”

“Fine ...” Charlie grumbled, getting up and walking into the kitchen. There she stopped, playing with the hem of her t-shirt nervously. “Uhm … hi, Dad.”

Dr. Harris’s eyes widened slightly as he blinked a couple of times. “Hello … Charlie?” he replied, his tone making it sound more like a question than statement. He looked at his wife for confirmation and she nodded.

“H-How was your trip?” Charlie stammered a bit, growing only more nervous and ashamed at her father’s reaction.

“Oh … uhm … good,” Dr. Harris answered with obvious awkwardness and trepidation. “Can you excuse me for a bit? I need to talk to you mother … in private.”

Charlie nodded as his dad hurried from the room his mom in tow. It was easy to see how uncomfortable he was with being around her. Thinking about the look on his face made her eyes burn on the verge of tears. That fact only made her feel worse.

“Charlie?” Ethan asked carefully, coming up behind her to rest a hand on her shoulders.

“My dad thinks I’m a freak,” Charlie replied.

“I doubt that,” Ethan tried to argue.

Shaking her head, Charlie pulled away from him. “I’ll be in my room,” she said quietly before walking away.

“What the hell is going on, Kathy?” Roger demanded once he and his wife were in their bedroom.

“I explained this to you over the phone,” Kathy answered, angry at her husband’s reaction.

Roger shook his head vigorously. “No, you said Charlie had some kind of genetic thing that was making him female. You didn’t say anything about it turning him into … that.”

“I’ll admit it’s a bit more than I told you, but –” Kathy tried to explain.

“A bit more?! That … person doesn’t look anything like Charlie or us. She looks like some kind of bimbo!” Roger shouted incredulously.

“Roger keep your voice down!” Kathy hissed. “Besides, she may not be a genius anymore, but she’s hardly a bimbo.”

Roger’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”

“There were apparently some mental changes as well,” Kathy told him.

“So Charlie is gone then,” Roger reasoned.

Kathy shook her head. “Charlie is that girl out there, and she’s probably pretty upset that her dad is reacting like a jerk.”

“That isn’t Charlie!” Roger growled angrily as he pointed back into the house. “That is a stranger.”

Kathy slapped Roger hard. “I can’t believe you. Charlie needs us and you’re acting like a selfish, close minded, asshole. You aren’t welcome in this house if you’re going to keep it up,” Kathy admonished, her voice full of anger. There were the beginning of tears in her eyes.

“That’s not Charlie,” Roger insisted, turning and walking out of the room. A few moments later, the house shook as the door to the garage slammed shut, followed by the sound of a car speeding away, then just silence.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Sunday passed with hardly a word shared between the three people in the house. Charlie didn’t want to leave her room. Mrs. Harris was dealing with her husband leaving. Ethan spent the day playing video games alone, hoping the noise would draw Charlie from her room, but it never did. Monday, though, proved plenty noisy.

“Do I really have to go?” Charlie whined petulantly.

“Yes, sweetie,” Mrs. Harris answered firmly. “You’re not sick anymore, so putting off your return to school would only make you fall further behind. I know you don’t want to face your classmates like this, but waiting won’t make it any easier.”

“Fine ...“Charlie grumbled in annoyance.

Ethan patted her on the back. “Look on the bright side. Once you get through today, the rest of the year will be easy.”

“And if I don’t get through today?” Charlie asked.

“I won’t let that happen!” Ethan assured her.

Charlie laughed. “You’re an idiot.”

“Only when it suits me,” Ethan replied as he started out to the car. “Now hurry up or I’m leaving you behind!”

“Alright I’m coming,” Charlie told him, grunting as she picked up her backpack. Judging by the weight of it, carrying all of her books with her all the time like she used to wasn't going to be an option anymore.

Technically it was Charlie’s car but without legal ID for her current identity yet, she wasn’t supposed to drive it, meaning Ethan was responsible for taking her places. She didn’t like having to rely on him, it was just another thing she couldn’t do for herself, but Ethan was eager to be helpful. She couldn’t really feel too bad about it.

What Charlie could feel bad about was school. She was absolutely dreading it. Her mom had taken care of things with the principal and her teachers, letting them know what had happened with Charlie and what she looked like now. To its credit, the school was being very accommodating, handling it all on faith that the paperwork would come through later. Of course Charlie knew that while the staff would probably be professional, her fellow students definitely wouldn’t be.

Walking into school put the embarrassment of shopping to shame. From the moment that Charlie stepped inside the doors, eyes were glued to her. There was absolutely nothing she could do to hide from that. Boys were especially obvious with it, but even girls gawked as she walked toward the commons. It made the poor girl wish that she would just turn invisible – or flat out die. Either option would’ve worked for her.

The day also had an added problem for Charlie. As she and Ethan had arrived much later than they normally did, much of the commons was already filled, most notably the nearby table that they would have to walk passed to get to their usual seats. This table was used by a particular crowd that Charlie had hoped to avoid – Ty’s trio, and their current girlfriends occupied the seats.

“Holy shit, look at the tits on that chick!” Chris exclaimed as Charlie came into view, plenty loud enough for her to hear him. The words caused the entire table to look straight at Charlie.

“They’re probably fake,” Crystal critiqued dismissively,

“No way, look at how they bounce,” Chris countered, earning lazy nods from his two, still staring friends.

“Even if they’re real, she’s just an overdeveloped cow,” the other girl at the table, Ty’s girlfriend Jen, shot back.

Ethan chuckled. “Seems like you two are jealous,” he called out, hoping to draw attention from Charlie. It worked. The three boys stood up immediately.

“Did you just insult my girl, asswipe?” Ty demanded threateningly.

“Insult? No. I insinuated that she was jealous because her tits were so small,” Ethan answered smoothly. Jen’s chest was definitely on the large side of things and saying otherwise was pretty much guaranteed to earn him a fist to the face. Ty lunged forward to provide exactly that, when Charlie thrust herself between the two.

“Leave him alone. It’s not his fault your girlfriend can’t compete,” Charlie declared. Everything ground to a halt asTy blinked in confusion at the busty blonde in front of him.

“Why would a girl like that stick up for a nerd like Ethan?” Tod muttered in the background.

Ethan was equally confused. He’d done this to get attention off Charlie and here the girl had gone and thrust herself right into the spotlight. He couldn’t figure out why she’d do something like that.

“She’s probably his cousin or something,” Chris answered Tod’s question.

Ty didn’t know what to do. Charlie was just standing there glaring at him as if daring him to try something. It was one thing to beat up on some male nerd, that kind of thing was expected, but if he laid a hand on a chick he could get into serious trouble.

“Having girls stick up for you now, dork?” Ty insulted trying to save face.

“I make my own choices, meathead,” Charlie countered, refusing to let the bully just talk around her.

“We’ll settle this later Ethan. Just us men,” Ty stated as he turned and sat back down.

With the confrontation ended, Charlie grabbed Ethan’s hand and dragged him away from the table. “What were you thinking provoking them like that?!” she hissed when they finally got to their own seats. “I keep telling you to stop that, but you never listen to me.”

“I was thinking that they were harassing you, and I wanted them to stop,” Ethan replied.

Charlie lost her head of steam. “They were just words. I appreciate you sticking up for me, but If I can’t handle some dirty comments, I’m not going to make it through today.”

“I think you’ve made it pretty clear that you can handle a lot more than a few words,” Ethan told her, impressed by her courage.

“Just don’t do that again,” Charlie replied.

After the stare down in the commons, the rest of Charlie’s day proved far less eventful. There was some shock that the new girl was in fact Charles Harris, class nerd, but other than that, classes went smoothly As it was the last month of her senior year, many of the students and teachers were already checked out, meaning the lessons were light, and the homework nearly non-existent. The only major worries were finals, which she didn’t even need to do that well on, and calculus.

Mr. Adam Conroy was Charlie’s calculus teacher. He was a great teacher, and until Charlie’s change it had been one of her favorite classes, but one thing he wasn’t was lenient. The lessons would continue at full pace right up to the end of the semester, with homework assignments every night, and one of the most difficult finals the school had to offer. To make matters worse, this was the area that she most struggled with now. The complex situations and massive amount of rules to memorize felt far beyond her recently limited mental abilities. Ethan had promised to help, but she doubted there was much he would be able to do given how hard the material was.

In between classes, Ethan was waiting for Charlie outside the girls’ restroom. It seemed a bit cliché to Ethan but Charlie clearly went to the bathroom more now that he was a girl. That thought got him to smirk a little.

“Well look who we have here, boys,” Ty said, causing Ethan’s smirk to vanish in a groan.

“What do you want, Ty?” Ethan asked, dreading the answer.

“I want my revenge for you embarrassing me this morning. I’ll see you after school and if you don’t show up or your fairy friend tries to interfere again, ‘he’ will get everything you do,” Ty promised.

“There’s no need to bring Charlie into this,” Ethan replied. “I’ll meet you out back five minutes after class.”

Ty grinned evilly. “I’m glad to hear that.”.

Ty and his lackeys left just before Charlie came out of the bathroom. Immediately, she noticed the worried look on Ethan’s face. “Is something wrong?”

“What? No, nothing’s wrong,” Ethan lied. “Let’s get to our next class.”

Frowning, Charlie peered at her friend suspiciously as she fell into step behind him. He had looked awfully upset for nothing to be wrong. She couldn’t figure out a good reason for him to lie about it if he was, though, so she ended up shrugging it off.

After that, Ethan spent the last few periods wondering just how badly Ty and his goons were going to beat him. He needed to make sure that it wouldn’t be anything Charlie would notice. If she found out, she’d get involved, and they’d make her regret it.

Finally the end of the day rolled around. “Hey Charlie, I have to stay after to talk to Mrs. Horne, for a while. Why don’t you just head on home. I can walk back whenever I finish,” Ethan lied, handing her the keys to the car.

“But I’m not supposed to drive,” Charlie told him.

Ethan nodded. “I know, but it’s just a few blocks, and I might be a while. I apparently messed something up pretty badly, and there’s no reason for you to wait on my mistake.”

Charlie looked suspicious briefly. “Alright, Ethan. Don’t be too late, though. My mom’ll be mad if you don’t make it home for dinner.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be there,” Ethan promised, waving goodbye to Charlie and watching her walk to her car. “Well, now that the easy part is out of the way,” he muttered to himself and turned to walk out to the back.

Ty and his friends were waiting as Ethan came outside. Tod and Chris grabbed his arms while Ty loosened up his shoulders. “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”

“If I might make one request. Explaining injuries will be problematic for both of us. Try to keep the wounds in non-visible areas,” Ethan suggested.

“I suppose I can do that. I always prefer the hassle free way,” Ty replied, right before his fist slammed into Ethan’s stomach, doubling the smaller boy over. “I’ll just have to take a few extra punches to balance it out.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Charlie asked as Ethan winced sitting down at their table in the commons for their second day since her return to school.

“I’m fine, just some indigestion,” Ethan replied, waving it off. Charlie looked skeptical, but didn’t have time to voice her concerns before a new problem reared up.

“Hello former nemesis, lapdog,” Brian said nodding to Charlie and Ethan in turn.

Charlie leveled a glare at the boy. “What do you want, Brian?”

“I just had to come and offer you my sympathies for this tragedy that has befallen you,” Brian told the blonde in a voice that was anything but sincere.

“I’ll remember the kindness when I offer you my sympathies for not being valedictorian,” Charlie quipped.

Brian's’ eyes narrowed. “Please, do you really think you’ll still be able to beat me like you are now?”

“Why wouldn’t she be able to?” Ethan asked, suddenly suspicious. “Being a girl will hardly stop her from doing her school work.”

“Well … I mean … obviously, but the stress surely will impact her work,” Brian stumbled clearly taken aback by the line of questioning. “Now, if you will excuse I must be going.” As the boy turned to go, Ethan glared at his back.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Charlie commented, drawing Ethan from his glare.

“I think Brian had something to do with your change,” Ethan announced his suspicions

Charlie looked surprised. “What? Brian’s smart but he’s hardly capable of completely changing a person like this.”

“He knew that something would be hindering your ability to be valedictorian. No one at the school knows your mind was affected,” Ethan pointed out. “Plus, remember the other day we were wondering what he’d done. His scheme never seemed to happen because you got sick and had to go home. I’m thinking you getting sick was the plan. He must have done it to you that morning.”

Charlie thought back to that morning. It seemed so long ago, even though it was only a week. “All I remember is lending him a notebook.”

“Think about it. Who else has anything to gain by making you less intelligent. The only person who would want that is Brian, so that you might slip up and give him first in class,” Ethan explained.

“Well, we’ll just have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Charlie stated firmly.

“How are your grades?” Ethan asked.

Charlie pulled out a notebook where she tracked her grades. “They’re all good. Four out of six are guaranteed A’s. Of the other two, language hasn’t been too hard since I got back, but calc is going to be a nightmare. I can’t even follow what Mr. Conroy is saying during class anymore.” Having to say that last bit had Charlie looking down at her lap, embarrassed by how bad her math skills had become.

“Alright so we’ll buckle down and work on it every night. We’ll go back through all the homework this semester and figure out how to catch you back up,” Ethan told her.

“I’m not sure that will help. It’s really hard …” Charlie replied.

“Don’t worry. There’s no way we can lose to an asshole like Brian,” Ethan promised.

The sound of the bell ringing for classes, put an end to the conversation, getting the teens to get up and go to class. They started the day with physics, which was a lab that day where they were building simple circuits. Ethan and Charlie were of course lab partners, as they had been in every science class that they’d shared. Normally, the studious Charlie did all the work while Ethan goofed off, but all that had changed. Now, Ethan was doing most of the math work for them while Charlie placed the circuit components on the board.

“You said to put in three resistors but I only have two left,” Charlie told him.

Ethan looked back over his math to make sure it was right. “The kit is probably just short one. I’ll go find another,” Ethan replied before heading off to talk to the teacher.

While Ethan searched, Charlie sat there waiting patiently. As she did, she tried not to think about how much Ethan was babying her during the lab. She knew that he was, though. Still, she found some comfort in the fact that she could at least help with the lab. Sticking little things to a board wasn’t exactly rocket science but being able to do that much at all was a big help to her confidence.

“Excuse me, Paul and I were wondering if you could help us with a little experiment,” Louis, a boy in the class asked, interrupting Charlie’s thoughts.

Charlie shifted nervously. “Well, you’re supposed to do the lab with just your partner.”

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s not about this experiment. It’s something my friends and I are working on outside of class,” Louis explained.

“Uhm ... okay?” Charlie answered uncertainly.

Louis smiled. “That’s great news. You see Paul says that only girls can clasp their hands behind their backs like this,” Louis explained, extending one hand over his shoulder and the other up from his waist. His hands failed to meet in the middle of his back by a couple of inches. “None of us boys can do it, but we need a girl to try to make sure it's possible at all.”

“Like this?” Charlie asked, mimicking Louis’s motion, though, she was able to link her fingers easily.

Louis and Paul grinned weirdly as they watched Charlie do it. “That’s perfect. Can you just hold it like that for a moment, so I can take a picture? You know … as proof.”

“Charlie, put your hands down!” Ethan ordered as he came rushing over.

Charlie put her hands down in confusion, eliciting groans of disappointment from the two boys. That sound, combined with the way Ethan was chasing the other two boys away confused her, though. She couldn't figure out why Ethan was so upset.

“You need to be careful about what you agree to, Charlie,” Ethan chastised her once the two boys were gone.

“What’s so wrong about putting my hands behind my back?” Charlie asked.

“How about you take a quick bathroom break and go see what you look like when you do that,” Ethan suggested, earning a slight frown from his friend.

Taking Ethan’s suggestion, Charlie heading to the bathroom to check what she looked like. Once she was there, she stood in front of the mirror and repeated the action the boys had asked her to do. Immediately she blushed as she saw the way it made her chest thrust out lewdly. “Perverts …”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Groaning, Charlie shoved her notebook away in disgust. She and Ethan were sitting around the coffee table in the living room trying to work through her calculus homework. “I can’t do it.”

“You were doing just fine a moment ago when I was helping you,” Ethan pointed out.

“It’s a lot easier to do when you are constantly pointing out where I should look next. I have a hard enough time just keeping track of how regular integration works, now we are doing this weird by parts thing and my mind is like ... boosh,” Charlie replied, making an exploding gesture with her hands.

“You know, for someone who’s worried people will treat you like an airhead you sure don’t like working to avoid that,” Ethan teased.

Charlie glared at her friend. “Great, now the world’s biggest slacker is telling me I don’t work hard enough. Fine, let's go through it again.”

Ethan scooted around the table beside Charlie and started going over the process for integrating by parts again. It was the third time so far that night, but he didn’t mind. Whether Charlie would admit it or not she was learning, it was just slow. Ethan had never worked this hard in his life on school work, but he didn’t mind that either. Charlie needed help and he was going to love seeing the look on Brian’s face when he lost valedictorian to her.

“What did you do there?” Charlie asked, leaning in to point at part of the problem. The lean caused her to brush up against Ethan in a rather suggestive way.

Sighing inwardly, Ethan prodded Charlie into a more appropriate position. At the same time, he really wished that she’d be more aware of herself, and specifically how desirable she was. She was always bumping into him while they were together. Plus, he’d had to stop her a couple of times at school when guys tried to take advantage of her naïveté.

“That is dV. Do we need to go over the derivative rules?” Ethan asked.

Charlie looked at the work for a couple moments. “No … I think I’ve got that …”

It was hard for Ethan to tell when Charlie’s uncertainty was from her lack of self-esteem or when she really didn’t know something. “We can go over them. A refresher won’t hurt.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got it. I just need to plug it into the formula here,” Charlie replied pointing on the paper.

“Exactly,” Ethan told her. “See, you didn’t need my help after all.”

Charlie tilted her head to the side with a surprised look on her face. “I guess not …”

With the problem handled, the two delved back into their work for a while. They had agreed to work as much as it took to get Charlie caught up. Unfortunately it had been almost a week since Charlie had gotten back to class and she was only just now finishing up the homework from while she was out.

After an hour of work had passed, Charlie leaned back from the homework rubbing at her temples. “I’m going to get some ice cream. You want any?”

“No, thanks,” Ethan told her watching her get up and walk into the kitchen. He caught himself watching her like this more often than he should. Charlie was his friend, but she was hard to not look at. ‘Studying’ with a girl like her was most nerd’s fantasy.

“No one can change your life except for you,” Charlie sang quietly in the kitchen, the sound piercing into Ethan’s thoughts. “Don’t ever let anyone step all over you …”

Ethan blinked in surprise. He’d never heard Charlie sing before, even as a guy, though apparently as a girl, she was quite good. “What are you singing?”

“Oh … uhm … nothing,” Charlie answered shyly. “ I just heard this Wilson Phillips’ song earlier and it’s stuck in my head. Kind of speaks to me now … you know?

Ethan chuckled. “I guess it would. Is it the only thing you sing?”

“I … I don’t sing,” Charlie muttered.

“Really? Cause you were doing it quite well a moment ago,” Ethan remarked.

Charlie looked away. “I don’t do anything well anymore.”

“You know for someone who just said ‘Hold On’ speaks to her, you are letting go pretty quick,” Ethan pointed out. “You know maybe you managed to get something good in all the mess.”

“Uhm, I guess. What should I sing, though?” Charlie asked.

“You could stick with what you were doing,” Ethan suggested.

Charlie shook her head. “I don’t know the lyrics that well, just a few of the opening lines.”

“Hold on a sec, alright?” Ethan told Charlie, receiving a nod. He raced off to his room and grabbed his laptop, returning with a music video with lyrics loaded up. “Here you go, lyrics, background music, and someone to sing along with.”

“I don’t know, Ethan,” Charlie said uncertainly, trying to find a way out of this.

“Hey, it’s not like you haven’t heard me make a fool of myself trying to sing. You can’t be any worse than me, and no one else will hear,” Ethan pointed out.

Charlie sighed. “Alright fine, one song.”

Ethan clicked play and Charlie started to sing along to the song. It started off rough, nerves making Charlie’s voice pitchy and uncertain, but as the song hit the chorus she moved passed the nervousness. Ethan sat there quietly just watching Charlie as she sang. For once she was actually smiling, and that smile made his heart skip.

The music finally came to an end and Ethan clapped enthusiastically. “See that wasn’t so bad was it?” Ethan asked.

“I guess not,” Charlie admitted, still smiling.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Miss Harris I need to speak with you, if you can stay after a moment,” Mr. Conroy announced as the bell rang to end calculus.

Charlie let the other students file out before she met Mr. Conroy at his desk. “Is something wrong, Mr. Conroy?”

“I’m not sure. It’s just, you’ve been unusually quiet in class. You used to always ask and answer questions, now you hardly say a word. The homework you’ve been turning in also bears a strong resemblance to Ethan Hartwell’s,” Mr. Conroy explained.

“What are you saying?” Charlie asked.

“I’m saying that I would like you to work out a few problems on the board for me to make sure you have actually learned the material that you’ve been turning in,” Mr. Conroy explained.

That accusation sent Charlie’s eyes wide. After all the work she’d done, her teacher, her favorite one at that, thought that she was just copying it all. That hurt so much, and worse, he’d asked her to prove otherwise. That was a very terrifying prospect, but all she could do was nod in agreement and pray that she didn’t screw it up.

Mr. Conroy got up and wrote a couple of problems on the board. “If you don’t mind working these for me real quick, I’ll write you a pass so you aren’t tardy for your next class,” Mr. Conroy instructed, offering Charlie the chalk.

Gulping, Charlie took the offered chalk and faced off against the problems that she’d been given. While she had done her homework, she hadn’t done a single problem since her change without Ethan there to answer questions for her. It was quite likely that she would mess up, and if she did, the teacher might report her for cheating. At the very least, he would take away the points from the homework, points that she sorely needed. This class was the hardest she had, was the one she had the least cushioning in her grade, and had a brutal exam at the end that she was sure she wouldn’t ace. She needed all the points she could get to secure the A she needed.

Oddly, thinking of the grade that was at stake steeled Charlie’s resolve rather than crippled it. She couldn’t just give up and let Brian win. She and Ethan had been working too hard for that. With that thought in mind, she took a deep breath, and started in on the first problem.

Charlie worked slowly, still struggling to remember formulas and when they were necessary. In spite of the sluggish pace, progress was made as she ground through them one by one. Eventually, all the problems were finished.

“There,” Charlie declared triumphantly and handed the chalk to Mr. Conroy.

The teacher looked at the board a bit surprised. “I’m sorry I doubted you, Miss Harris. The second one isn’t perfect but it’s clear that you understood the material, after all.”

“Ethan’s been helping me catch up since I was out for a while. That’s why I don’t talk to so much … I’m still a bit behind,” Charlie admitted.

“Ah, I see. Well if you ever need help with something you can always come to me. It’s hard working students like you that made me get into teaching,” Mr. Conroy told her.

“Thanks, I’ll remember that,” Charlie said, smiling as she turned to go.

“Ahem, Miss Harris,” Mr. Conroy coughed getting her to turn around. He stood there holding out a piece of paper. “Your pass.”

Charlie blushed slightly. “Sorry, a little scatterbrained today. Thank you!”

Watched Charlie hurry out of the room, Mr. Conroy pondered the blonde’s performance. The old Charlie wouldn’t have made any mistakes or forgotten his pass. Clearly, more had changed than just his appearance. In spite of that fact, the teacher quickly shrugged. It wasn’t his place to pry. If she was willing to keep up with the work, then she deserved the grade, no matter what else might have changed. With that decided, he turned back to his desk and updated Charlie’s grades with the homework that she’d turned in so far.

“What did Conroy want?” Ethan asked as Charlie sat down next him in their next class.

“He had me stay after to do some problems to prove I was doing the homework myself. Apparently my work looks too much like yours,” Charlie explained.

“Well that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t constantly ask me questions when you know how to do it,” Ethan pointed out.

Rolling her eyes, Charlie smiled proudly. “Well I did these problems all by myself, so nyah.”

Seeing her smile like that caused Ethan’s heart to skip a beat. “Well done.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Hmm,” Charlie hummed as she looked down at her shirt. One of the biggest problems with her chest was that it insisted on getting in the way a lot. Most of the time the random bumps and nudges were harmless enough, although, occasionally painful to her, but sometimes they bumped into things they really shouldn’t have, like this time. Right now the right part of her shirt sported a big brown stain from some chocolate ice cream.

Charlie looked at her dresser drawer. Her second problem was that all her t-shirts were dirty. It was laundry day, and none of the laundry had been done yet. Her mom had only bought her enough t-shirts for a week and with her Dad off doing God knows what, she didn’t want to make her mom waste a lot of money on clothes.

Picking up one of the tops that was in the drawer, Charlie gave it serious thought. It was the pale blue tank top that her mom had wanted her to get. There were a few other similar tops in the drawer, all a lot more feminine than what she was used to.

“Mom will probably be glad to see me actually wear it,” Charlie mumbled. “Plus, it doesn’t look so bad, and it’s not like anyone but Mom and Ethan will see me in it.”

Finally, Charlie gave in, stripping off her dirty shirt and pulling the tank top on instead. The light stretchy material felt soft and cool while the low neckline made her feel a bit exposed. It was funny to her how just a couple of weeks ago she’d been shirtless at a pool, and now a low neckline made her self-conscious.

Properly attired again, Charlie walked downstairs to put her t-shirt with the rest of the laundry. She arrived just as her mom was loading the washer. “Got room for one more t-shirt?”

“Sure do,” Mrs. Harris replied before looking up at her daughter. The sight of Charlie in one of her other tops, stopped Mrs. Harris mid load. “You aren’t wearing a t-shirt,” she stated, her voice carefully neutral.

“Yeah they were all dirty so I thought I’d try one of the other ones you got me. How does it look?” Charlie explained, looking down at her shirt.

Mrs. Harris had never had a problem with having only a son. Charlie had always been a great boy and given her every reason to be proud of him. Still, suddenly having a daughter had made her realize there was a lot of stuff that she’d missed out on before. She’d never have wished this on Charlie but seeing her standing there looking every bit the pretty teenage girl, she had to admit, at least to herself, she wasn’t as unhappy about it as she probably should have been.

“You look great, honey,” Mrs. Harris assured her daughter. She didn’t want to give her any reason to hate the garment now that she was actually trying it out. After all, she’d managed to convince Charlie not to hack off her hair, and the girl hadn’t complained about that since.

“Thanks. I’m going to go work with Ethan on my homework. If we really buckle down this weekend, he said we should be able to get me caught up!” Charlie declared excitedly, before scurrying off to the living room.

Mrs. Harris frowned slightly at the mention of Ethan. There was one aspect to having a girl that she never had to worry about with a boy – boys. Mrs. Harris had never been all that attractive, but she knew what boys would do to get with a girl that looked like Charlie. She’d caught Ethan staring more than a few times, already. Ethan was a good kid, but even good kids can be tempted into doing bad things, and she certainly couldn’t count on Charlie to be aware of anything. The girl seemed almost completely oblivious to how attractive she was.

Once she finished loading the laundry, Mrs. Harris immediately went out to check on the two teens. Charlie, like always, was intent on her work, occasionally making a mistake that she’d erase furiously. On the other side of the table Ethan sat, his homework already done, and his focus instead on Charlie’s cleavage. Seeing that made her wonder if maybe convincing Charlie to accept that top might have been a bad idea after all.

Not wanting to be too overt with her concerns, Mrs. Harris interrupted the two with an innocent, “Could one of you help me with dinner?”

“Sure, mom,” Charlie chirped about to get up.

Ethan waved her off. “You have work to finish, Charlie. I’ll help with dinner.”

Charlie plopped back onto the floor with a sigh. “Darn, I almost escaped,” she muttered as she went back to work.

Ethan chuckled softly and shook his head as he got up and went to the kitchen. “What do you need Mrs. Harris?”

“I was thinking of doing some stir fry tonight, so you can cut up the vegetables while I get the meat ready,” Mrs. Harris instructed.

The two set about their tasks silent, an obvious tension in the air. Mrs. Harris was always bright and cheerful around Charlie. When Charlie wasn’t around, though, things had grown notably cooler over the last week. Ethan figured that she was just stressed about everything that had happened with Charlie and her husband.

Even as Ethan noted the woman’s stiffness, Mrs. Harris glanced over at Ethan, happy with her little scheme. In the kitchen, he couldn’t leer at her little girl. Still, she couldn’t very well make him help her cook dinner all the time. In the end, she knew that she was just going to have to hope that nothing bad happened.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Why do girls always take so long to get ready,” Ethan remarked, tapping his foot in mock impatience.

Charlie glared at him. “Keep making jokes like that and I’ll tell everyone at school you wet the bed.”

Ethan blanched. “You wouldn’t!”

“Try me!” Charlie threatened. Ethan raised his hands in defeat and walked quietly out to the car.

Meanwhile, Charlie checked her reflection in the mirror. That day was the first time that she was going out in one of the tops her mother got her, a tank top that she’d been assured was salmon colored, not pink. It looked nice, but it also showed some cleavage, which made her very nervous.

Steeling her resolve, Charlie turned from the mirror, grabbed her notebook, and headed out the door. She’d long ago forgone carrying a bookbag with her. It was too heavy for her to lug all her books around all day, and Ethan had suggested that she just carry a notebook for her notes. After all, the only class that she really needed her actual book for class was calculus, and Ethan had been happy to share his with her.

Once they arrived at school, the two walked to their usual table and sat down. They immediately started going over the homework that Charlie hadn’t quite caught up on yet. Little did they know, however, that they were being watched.

“Damn it. Why isn’t Charles slipping?” Brian cursed as he watched Charlie and Ethan working. “Her clown of a friend must be keeping her right on track,” Brian muttered angrily. He needed a way to mess with their little buddy system. That was when Brian noticed two girls.

Crystal and Jen hated the new Charlie. From day one, Charlie had been showing both of them up without even trying, and it had made them furious. Brian grinned as he approached the two women. “Excuse me ladies, may I have a moment?”

“What do you want, nerd?” Crystal spat in disdain.

“I just wanted to tell you that I overheard Ethan boasting that even if the two of you pooled your boobs together you still couldn’t compete with Charlie,” Brian lied smoothly.

Both girls frowned in anger. “Thanks for the tip, loser. Now get lost,” Jen said icily. Brian did as commanded, watching the two girls immediately rush off to find their boyfriends.

“That should give Ethan something to worry about besides helping Charles,” Brian whispered diabolically.

Moments later, Ty was on his way over to Ethan’s table. “Hey Ethan. My friends and I were wondering if you could stay after and help us out again like last time.”

Ethan looked up confused. “But I thought we had this all sorted out already?”

“This is something new,” Ty informed them.

Ethan sighed in resignation. “Fine. I’ll meet you after school.”

Ty grinned before turning to leave. “Thanks, buddy.”

From her seat, Charlie watched the whole exchange in confusion. She couldn’t remember Ethan helping Ty out with anything. In fact, the only time she could remember her friend staying after school was to talk to a teacher, so unless they were there he …

It was at that point that Charlie realized the truth. Ethan had lied to her. It explained why he suddenly stayed after, and why he was in so much pain the next day. She silently cursed herself for being such an idiot. She should’ve noticed sooner.

“It looks like I’ll be stuck here after school again. I’ll meet you at home?” Ethan said.

“Uhm … sure,” Charlie agreed with a nod even as she thought about what to do. If she told Ethan that she knew, he would just try to keep her out of it. She needed a plan – a good one.

Charlie spent the next few hours trying to come up with such a plan. She needed a way to get Ty and his friends for good. They were always careful, doing stuff away from people that might actually punish them. She needed a teacher or someone to help. It wasn’t until calculus started that she remembered that Mr. Conroy had promised to be available to help her if she ever needed it.

“Mr. Conroy,” Charlie began nervously after class ended.

“Do you need something, Miss Harris?” Mr. Conroy asked.

“Uhm, sort of. You see I’m pretty sure that my friend Ethan is going to get beat up by some bullies after school today, and I need someone with some authority there to catch them in the act,” Charlie explained.

Mr. Conroy rubbed his chin. “I see. Why not just take it up with the principal?”

“Because they’ll just get away with it like they always do. I need more than just my word to get them to stop hurting Ethan,” Charlie told him.

“So what’s your plan?” Mr. Conroy asked, and the two spent several minutes going over exactly what Charlie was plotting.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

Once class ended for the day, Ethan said goodbye to Charlie and hurried to the back of the school. He knew a beating was waiting for him there, but he didn’t really care about that. It wouldn’t be the first time that he’d been beat up. It was the first time that he didn’t remember earning it, though. That last part annoyed him a little.

“Welcome back. I would have thought after the last time you’d have learned to not bad mouth my girlfriend,” Ty said as Ethan left the building. Like before Chris and Todd grabbed Ethan’s arms and held him in place for Ty.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, man. I haven’t said a word about either of them,” Ethan argued.

“That’s not what Jen says, and who do you think I’m going to listen to?” Ty countered, before throwing his first punch.

The air whooshed out of Ethan’s lungs as he doubled over. “I didn’t … say … anything …” Ethan wheezed as Ty wound up for another punch.

“Leave him alone!” Charlie shouted, bursting out of the school and rushing at Ty.

Tod released Ethan’s arm and snatched up the angry blonde. “Well if it isn’t Ethan’s fag friend.”

“I’m not a fag, moron! Now let me go!” Charlie exclaimed, struggling against the Tod’s grip.

“You know what? She’s right,” Ty remarked. “After all, it's normal for a ‘woman’ to like men. Of course, she’s not really a woman yet, but maybe we should … initiate her.” Ty walked over to Charlie and held her chin. “You’d like that wouldn’t you?”

Charlie spat in his face. “The idea of you touching me makes my skin crawl. You’re no more a man than the monkeys at the zoo.”

Ty grinned wickedly. “I do like ‘em feisty and Ethan has been right about one thing. You do have a much better rack than Jen,” he teased as he reached out and grabbed Charlie’s chest.

“I think this has gone on long enough,” Mr. Conroy said from the door, a smartphone in hand. “Attacking a student, attempting to rape another. You three will be expelled at the very least, although, you might want to worry more about the cops I just called.”

Ty and his friends all stood there like deers in headlights for several moments. Ethan yanked himself free of Chris’s slack grip and rushed over to get Charlie. Finally Ty snapped out of it.

“Leave the other two and get that phone!” Ty ordered his goons.

Mr. Conroy smirked as he stepped back into the school. The door clicked closed behind him as Ty and his friends slammed against it trying to pull it open, but they couldn’t. After all, it was locked. Mr. Conroy waved the phone at them from inside then cupped his hand to his ear. The sound of sirens was approaching.

Naturally Ty and his friends tried to run, but the cops rounded them up with ease. Charlie, Ethan, and Mr. Conroy had to give statements. They took Charlie’s phone which had been recording as well. After that was over, though, they were free to do as they pleased.

“Thank you for helping, Mr. Conroy,” Charlie said once the cops were gone.

“Always a pleasure to help a student out, although, I wish such things weren’t even necessary,” Mr. Conroy told her, before waving goodbye and walking back inside.

The moment Mr. Conroy was out of sight, Charlie spun on Ethan. “I can’t believe you would lie to me so that you could go get your ass kicked after I told you to stop provoking them!”

“I don’t know why they were mad this time, honest. I haven’t said a word to them or their bitch girlfriends since the last time this happened,” Ethan said defensively.

“Why wouldn’t you just tell me the truth?” Charlie demanded

“They told me if you got involved again they’d hurt you, and I didn’t want to risk it,” Ethan explained.

Charlie’s anger deflated almost instantly. “You’re an idiot.”

“Only when it suits me,” Ethan joked, earning himself a punch on the shoulder. “Ow! I thought you were here to protect me!”

“I changed my mind,” Charlie shot back, turning to. “Now let's go. I have better things to do than listen to you be an idiot all day.”

“Charlie,” Ethan began, getting Charlie to turn back around. “You had a really good plan. Thanks for saving my butt.”

“You’re welcome,” Charlie told him, smiling brightly. “But you’re still an idiot.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Hi, Mom!” Charlie called out as she and Ethan got home from class. Other than the nonsense with Ty, her second week as a girl had gone well. She was caught up on her work, and was a lot more comfortable with her new clothes. Of course, bringing down Ty had made her even more famous around school, but at least, no one was really bothering her.

“Hi, sweetie,” Mrs. Harris greeted her daughter. “I left some mail for you on your desk.”

Charlie gave her mom a little hug. “Thanks, Mom,” she said before turning toward her room “I’ll be back after I take care of the mail,” she promised Ethan, hurrying off.

Once Charlie was gone, the atmosphere turned icy. Ethan went to sit in the living room waiting for Charlie, while Mrs. Harris returned to her work. The two almost never spoke when Charlie wasn’t around anymore. Ethan was starting to think he must have done something wrong.

For a while, Ethan waited, but Charlie never came back down. At first he just figured she was taking care of something important, but after waiting for over an hour, he realized something must be wrong. He approached Charlie’s room cautiously, knocking gently, but there was no answer.

“Charlie?” Ethan questioned, cracking open the door to look inside.

Inside the bedroom, Charlie sat on her bed with a dazed look on her face. She didn’t even look up when Ethan entered. In her hands, she held two papers that she just sat and stared at.

“What’s wrong? Ethan asked, walking over to see what was in her hand.

“Everything,” Charlie whispered.

Ethan looked over her shoulder at the papers. In one hand was the paperwork for her identity change, it had come back and made her legally Charlene. In the other hand was an acceptance letter – from MIT.

Charlie’s father had gone to MIT for his undergraduate work. It had always been Charlie’s dream to follow in her father’s footsteps and study physics there. Now in her hand was the acceptance letter that she’d worked so hard to get.

“Wow, congra-,” Ethan started to say.

Charlie looked up at him on the verge of tears. “Don’t say it,” she pleaded. “I can’t go there … not anymore.”

“What are you talking about? Of course you can,” Ethan argued.

“Don’t patronize me!” Charlie blurted, tears starting to stream down her face. “I can barely handle calculus, and that’s when it’s basically my only class. There’s no way I can get through a place like MIT. Charles could have but not Charlene.” She raised the other document to emphasize that Charlene was who she was now.

Realizing Charlie was right, Ethan averted his gaze. She wouldn’t be able to handle the course load at a school like that. Convincing her to go would just be setting her up to fail. He couldn’t do that.

Charlie threw the papers away in disgust, planting her face in her hands. “It’s just not fair. All those years of work – all pointless.”

“So you don’t go to MIT. With your grades and test scores you can get a full ride almost anywhere. I know you applied all over, even to state,” Ethan tried to help.

Charlie shook her head. “And do what? Study physics? They’ll laugh me out of the department. Even if I manage to pass the courses no one is ever going to listen to me, and they would be right not to. I’m useless.”

“You’re not a useless, Charlie,” Ethan assured her, sitting down next to her and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Useless people don’t spend hours every day making sure to keep their grades up. Useless people don’t orchestrate a sting on a bunch of asshole jocks.”

“None of that matters,” Charlie muttered looking away from him.

Ethan reached out and turned Charlie’s face back to him. Her eyes were full of the same self-loathing that had been there back when the change had first completed. Seeing that made his chest ache.

“It does matter. You matter … especially to me,” Ethan told her before leaning forward to press his lips against hers.

For a moment, Charlie was motionless in the kiss, too shocked to respond in any way. Eventually, though, the shock passed and she raised her hands. With them, she gently pushed Ethan away from her. “I think you should go.”

“Charlie I …” Ethan began. Charlie just turned away from him, one arm wrapped protectively around herself. Ethan nodded in defeat. “Alright, Charlie,” he conceded. Standing up, he walked out of the room.

Once Ethan was gone, Charlie just continued to sit there, her mind racing. Part of her had liked the kiss, had felt safe with Ethan, had wanted it to keep going. The other part of her recoiled at the knowledge that she’d just kissed her best friend – a boy.

To make things worse, it was Charlie’s first kiss. She’d always been too focused on school, too much of a nerd, to ever really pursue a girl, and none had ever shown much interest in him either. She had liked girls before the change, though. Like any teenage boy, Charles had had his share of alone time to prove it. Now though, she didn’t know what to think. Was she now attracted to boys … to Ethan?

Pulling up a mental image of Ethan, Charlie tried to think of her friend like that. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, mostly just kind of average, but he wasn’t exactly stirring any primal emotions at a thought. At the same time, he was funny, supportive, and helpful. She felt safe around him, even when it came to her most vulnerable moments. When did like end and something more begin?

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Are you sure you want to give the speech?” Mr. Edwards, the school’s head principal, asked. “Mr. Spielmann has offered to do it in your stead, if you are uncomfortable.”

Charlie nodded. “Yes, I’m sure. If I end up as valedictorian, I want to speak.”

“Alright, I just thought that, with everything that’s happened, you might not want to get up in front of everyone,” Mr. Edwards told her.

“I appreciate the concern, but I’ll be fine,” Charlie assured him.

This weekend was the rehearsal for graduation. While many of the other students were checking their gowns and learning how to line up, Charlie had bigger problems, like she had to get a new gown size ordered and go through the stage proceedings with the staff. She had spent her morning before coming here looking over her speech. She’d written it before her change, back when being valedictorian had been practically assured, but now it didn’t seem nearly as impactful as it once had.

In spite of her assurances to the principal, Charlie was very nervous about getting up in front of the crowd. The graduation gown and cap would do an good job of disguising her appearance, but not even the loose gown could fully hide her chest. It would do nothing about her voice, however. She’d grown used to it over the last couple of weeks, even derived some joy from her new talent for singing, but she knew it was very ditzy sounding. She wondered just how bad it would sound to the audience.

Charlie had tried practicing other voices, but it was futile. Efforts to lower her voice just made it sound even sillier. She soon gave up on trying to alter it and instead just practiced it the normal way. Hopefully, if she presented herself as someone who was trying to be taken seriously, people would just go along with it.

Of course, Charlie had bigger problems than just her speech to worry about. She wouldn’t even get to say it if she didn’t end up as valedictorian. Next week was finals’ week. Most of her classes she would easily get A’s in even with her current abilities. In many of them she didn’t even need to pass the final to keep her A. Calculus was another story, though. She needed at least a high C on the test.

If it was just doing the problems, Charlie wouldn’t be so worried. She’d already proven to herself that she could handle that. The problem was that, in addition to getting the work right, she also had to work in the time limit. Struggling through the problems took her a long time, and she doubted that she would even be able to finish the test in the allotted time. That meant that she either needed to be practically flawless or a lot faster than she had been so far.

While the staff went over the Ceremony with Charlie, Brian was sitting across from. He had glared at her with undisguised hatred and contempt the entire time that they had sat there. If Ethan was to be believed, he had done this to her, changed her into Charlene, all to get her coveted position at the top of the class. She couldn’t let him win. The only problem was her greatest supporter had throw a wrench into everything last night.

Ethan’s kiss had really thrown Charlie’s mind into a state of disarray. Until that had happened, everything had been about getting her back to where she had been. She realized now how foolish that goal had really been. Even if she acted and dressed like her male self had, others would still see her differently. She would just have to find a new way to define herself, something that she could accept and make others see as well. Part of that definition would have to include what to do about Ethan.

Oddly, Charlie was somewhat relieved. The pressure to be who she had been when that was no longer possible had caused her no end of stress. Her father had left, her dreams for the future were in shambles, and her relationship with her friend was strained at best. In a week, though, she would leave high school behind for somewhere new, maybe college, maybe a job, she didn’t know yet. What she did know was that, wherever she went, she would be able to be someone new there, and that was a liberating thought. Of course, before Charlie left this place behind, there were still things that she wanted to resolve.

During a break in the planning, Charlie got up and walked over to Brian. “Brian I have something I want to say to you.”

“And what is that, former rival?” Brian taunted.

“I know you did this to me. I could be angry with you, or try to seek revenge, but honestly I just feel sorry for you. That you would try to destroy someone's life over something so trivial is just pathetic,” Charlie told him. “Something powerful enough to do this to me must have come at a terrible price. I hope you think it was worth it.”

“It was. I’d have paid any price to see you laid low,” Brian replied, smugly. “When I am up there giving my speech because the once brilliant Charles was too stupid to pass his classes, it will be the most satisfying moment of my life.”

Charlie shook her head. “And what will you feel when I’m up there because, in spite all your evil and supposed genius, you still failed?” Charlie asked rhetorically, as she turned and walked back to her seat, thinking about the other people she still had to talk to.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Hey Mom, want to go shopping with me? I could use a few more clothes so that I’m not always in danger of having to go naked if something gets dirty,” Charlie asked, after she got back from graduation practice.

Mrs. Harris lit up at the prospect. “Sure, honey. Did you have anything in mind?”

“I was thinking about trying some stuff out, like maybe some skirts. I’m not really sure. I figured you could help me pick some things out you think would look good,” Charlie replied.

“Let me just grab my purse and we can go,” Mrs. Harris told her, rushing to grab her purse.

The trip to the mall went much quicker than Charlie’s last visit. She still got stares as she walked around, but weeks of walking through school with that had made it not bother her so much. She still felt out of place in the women’s section, too, but she had her mom, who was definitely at home there, to guide her.

For her part, Mrs. Harris had been so excited when her daughter had asked her to go shopping. Charlie had always seemed so set on being the boy that she had once been that she wasn’t sure that the girl would ever really try new things. Mrs. Harris realized not every girl had to like skirts and dresses and heels, but she’d always believed, even when Charlie was a boy, that Charlie should give things a try before dismissing them.

Charlie soon found herself back in the dressing room, trying all sorts of things. Skirts, dresses, and a wide variety of tops, were passed into the room for her to try on and assess. The last time she was there, she had been so focused on hiding who she was that she would never have given any of this stuff a chance. Today though, she had a new purpose, not to hide who she was, but to find out who she even was anymore.

The dizzying array of clothes showed Charlie a few things. The big one was that she looked good. Without all the self-loathing clouding her vision, she could finally see how pretty the girl in the mirror actually was. Sure, she looked kind of airheaded, but no one liked everything they saw in the mirror.

The second thing Charlie learned was that she definitely had a style. It took a bunch of clothes before she realized it, but after awhile, she started to get to the point where she just knew the moment she saw something if she’d like it. She was thankful the style wasn’t slutty, but it was definitely more girly than she would have expected. She liked bright colors, and things that were attractive, but not too showy.

There were still body issues for Charlie, not for how it looked, but because her absurd figure limited her clothing options. Lots of things that seemed good, either wouldn’t fit, or would look far too slutty on her. She still managed to find plenty of things to wear, though.

“Mom, can I ask you something?” Charlie asked as she stood in front of her mother in a white sundress.

“Of course, sweetie,” Mrs. Harris told her.

“Ever since Dad left, I’ve been wondering. Does it bother you that I’m like this? I mean, I don’t really look like you anymore, and I act different, and I’m a daughter not a son ...” Charlie stopped herself when she realized she was starting to babble.

Mrs. Harris smiled warmly. “It doesn’t bother me at all. No matter what you look like, you're still my child, and I love you. If I’m being really honest … I am kind of glad I had a chance to have a daughter too. Not that I didn’t love you as a boy, it’s just … different like this.”

“Different is one word for it,” Charlie remarked fiddling with the hem of her dress.

“I hope it doesn’t upset you that I like you like this,” Mrs. Harris said uncertainly.

“Upset me? Why would I be upset that my mom cares for me and enjoys spending time with me?” Charlie asked rhetorically.

Mrs. Harris laughed. “Some sons might be upset that their mom’s preferred them as daughters.”

Charlie shrugged. “I know you’d change me back if you could. Since I’m stuck like this, though, I’m glad that at least someone likes me. I don’t know if I could have handled this without you, mom. Dad certainly wasn’t much help.”

“No, he most certainly was not,” Mrs. Harris commented angrily.

Charlie interrupted her mother’s anger with a hug. “I love you, mom. Thank you for always being there for me.”

For a moment Mrs. Harris stood there in shock, before she returned the hug. “I love you too, sweetie.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“It’s going to be close,” Charlie sighed as she leaned back in her desk chair. Her calculus final was tomorrow and she’d been running through practice problems. She was neither perfect nor fast, and she really needed at least one of those. Right now, she wasn’t sure she’d get enough problems done to manage her C.

It still felt weird for Charlie to be worrying about if she would even pass at all. For so long these things had been so easy. Of course, she’d worked hard even back then, but she hadn’t really needed to. Until he had started helping out, Ethan had never even tried and managed to get mostly A’s and B’s, and they had once been pretty similar in intellect.

Thoughts of Ethan drew another sigh from Charlie’s lips. She’d been avoiding him since the kiss. The two had said less than ten words to each other in the last three days. She still had no idea what do about him. She liked Ethan, they’d been friends for a long time, but just friends probably wouldn’t cut it after what had happened.

Ethan was clearly far more certain than Charlie was. While out shopping, her mom had told her that he’d been looking at her for a while already. Charlie hadn’t shared that she and Ethan kissed, but she got the feeling that her mom knew anyway. Mom’s were scary like that.

Shaking her head, Charlie tried to clear thoughts of Ethan from her mind. She needed to practice if she wanted to pass this test. With that focus in mind, she was soon back into her work, singing softly while she worked.

“Someday … when I’m awfully low … and the world is cold … I will feel a glow … just thinking of you …” the words of the song carried out to the hall where Ethan stood, bringing a faint smile to his lips. He loved hearing Charlie sing, and the words certainly encapsulated how he felt at that moment.

Ethan often stood outside Charlie’s room, trying to get up the nerve to knock. The last time he’d gone in, he’d made such a mess of things, though, that it was hard to even consider going in again. If only he’d been happy just being friends with her. That was what she’d needed him to be. He hadn’t been, though, and he’d let her down because of it.

Sighing, Ethan turned away from the door. Knowing that he’d blown everything, he just trudged back to his room, silently cursing himself for his actions. The problem was that he’d never felt this way about a girl before. Unlike Charlie, he had some experience, but most girls soon found his personality grating, and his lack of effort frustrating. Ethan had just never really cared to work for anything or anyone before. Of course, the one time he actually did care and put in the work, he still screwed it up. He figured that was just what he deserved.

“What chance did I even think I had? She’s gorgeous, fun, friendly, not to mention she used to be a guy. Why would she even want to be with a guy, much less a loser like me?” Ethan asked himself as he flopped on his bed and sighed. “It was stupid of me to even try.”

In the other room, Charlie felt her mind drifting to Ethan again. He wasn’t a bad guy. Would it really hurt her to give him a chance? There were all sorts of things that her lingering male ideas had thought that she wouldn’t like, but she had. She’d despised the idea of girly clothes, yet she was sitting there in some spaghetti strapped thing and a skirt and was quite happy with it. Being with a guy, with Ethan, might be like that, too.

Charlie clutched at her head in frustration. She wished Ethan would just get out of there so she could focus on her work. She didn’t have the brainpower to spare on him at the moment. She had to practice. Trying to do exactly that, she forced herself to dive back into her work, but she never could quite get Ethan to stay out of her thoughts.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

The next day saw Charlie in her calculus class waiting for Mr. Conroy to hand out the exams. It would be a grueling two hours of testing, and she still had no idea if she would pass or not. Brian, who shared the class with her and Ethan, sat several seats down the row grinning triumphantly at her. To Charlie though, the bigger distraction sat in the seat right next to her.

Ethan had broken their awkward silence to wish Charlie luck that morning. It was the most they had spoken to each other since the kiss, and it had been full of awkward shuffling and stammered words. Worse than that though, it had put Ethan in her head right before the test. It was a distraction that she really didn’t need.

Finally the tests were passed out and Mr. Conroy signaled the class to begin. Charlie shoved Ethan from her mind as best as she could and set about her task. Each problem was a maze to sort her way through, trying to go quickly but not too fast. She had learned the night before that if she pushed herself too hard, she made a lot of mistakes, which would be even worse than not finishing. She couldn’t afford to mess this up. She had to show Brian that he still couldn’t win. She had to show her dad that she wasn’t just some bimbo. She had to show her teacher that she deserved her grade. She had to show Ethan that he hadn’t wasted his time on her. All those needs raced through Charlie’s mind, threatening to interfere with her test.

A tap on her shoulder, drew Charlie’s attention to Ethan. He sat there with a thumbs up and a reassuring smile. Charlie scrunched her face up at him in annoyance and went back to work. Inwardly, she cursed the idiot for distracting her while she was working before finally managed to get her focus fully on the test.

As the minutes ticked by, the students started trickling out of the classroom. People were allowed to leave whenever they finished their exam. The first out of the room was Brian, smiling triumphantly as he watched Charlie still struggling on some of the earlier problems on the test. Others followed behind him, one by one, until finally, there were only two people left in the room.

The deadline for the test was only fifteen minutes away and Charlie and Ethan still sat there. Charlie was grinding her way through the problems, but Ethan had finished a long time ago. He sat there pretending to work as he stuck around to keep Charlie company. He couldn’t help her with this, not like when they did homework together, but at least he could be there for her as moral support.

After finishing a problem, Charlie looked up at the clock. She still had a few minutes left. It was enough time to at least start one last problem, maybe even finish it. As such, she quickly turned back to the test, flipping the page to find that problem. When she did, all she found was her desk waiting for her, that and the blank back of a finished test. In disbelief, she picked up the paper again and started flipping through the pages, assuming that she must have missed a problem or even a whole page. When she finished her search, though, she found that everything was finished. Just as she was sure that was the case, the last few minutes finished running out.

“Alright, you two, times up,” Mr. Conroy announced.

Confused, Charlie stood up and walked over to hand Mr. Conroy her test. Ethan followed suit. “Uhm … do you mind … grading mine now?” Charlie asked. “It kind of determines whether I get to be valedictorian or not.”

“If you don’t mind sitting around while I do it, I don’t see why not,” Mr. Conroy told her.

“I don’t mind at all,” Charlie replied sitting back down and resting her head on the desk. She had her arms folded in her lap, and her eyes focused directly on the floor. In a few minutes she would know whether Brian had beaten her or not.

Ethan sat down next to Charlie. “I’m sure you did great.”

Charlie sat up and looked at Ethan. “Can you … wait for me at home?”

“Why?” Ethan asked sounding hurt.

Charlie looked away. “It’s just … I don’t want you to be here if I fail.”

“You aren’t going to fail, Charlie,” Ethan told her.

“You don’t know that!” Charlie hissed before slumping despondently. “Please just go.”

Ethan nodded slowly. “Sure thing, Charlie,” he answered standing up and leaving.

Watching Ethan leave like that made Charlie think about the that night he’d kissed her. It also made her think about something else. She really didn’t like how it felt watching him walk away like that. That thought caught in her head for a moment as she stared at the door her friend had gone through. It would seem that she had her answer to that question at least.

“All done, Miss Harris,” Mr. Conroy said after a few minutes.

Charlie got up and walked slowly to her teacher’s desk, taking the test paper tentatively. She took a deep breath and flipped it over. “Ninety-two?!” she blurted out at the sight of the score written on the page.

“That’s right, and I don’t think any student I’ve ever had has worked harder to earn their grade. Congratulations,” Mr. Conroy told her.

Charlie stared at the test in disbelief. She hadn’t just passed, she’d gotten an A. She hadn’t just skated by on her success as Charles, she’d actually earned the A that would show up on her report card – the A that would consign Brian to second place. She was so happy that she felt like she was going to burst. She darted forward to wrap Mr. Conroy in a hug. “Thank you!”

“You don’t need to thank me. You earned it,” Mr. Conroy said, puzzled by and a bit uncomfortable with the outburst.

Charlie pulled back from the hug with a big smile on her face. “I sure did,” she replied, returning her test and waving to Mr. Conroy. “Goodbye Mr. Conroy, and thank you. You’ve been a great teacher.”

Mr. Conroy waved back as Charlie left. “Who knew she had it in her?” he mumbled to himself. He shrugged and sat back down at his desk to grade the rest of the papers.

Having decided to wait outside to see how Charlie did, Ethan was right in position to remark, “I take it you did well?” the moment she burst out of the classroom.

Charlie was too excited to be angry, immediately rushing forward to hug Ethan. “I did better than that. I got an A!”

Ethan was almost too stunned by the hug to respond. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you so much for spending all that time studying with me,” Charlie said, looking up at him from the hug that she still hadn’t released.

Ethan raised a hand to rub the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Aw you don’t need to thank me.”

Charlie pouted. “I sure do, now close your eyes.”

“My eyes?” Ethan questioned.

“Close ‘em!” Charlie ordered.

Ethan snapped his eyes shut. As he did, he wondered what she was up to now. That question was answered a moment later when Charlie thrust herself up on the tips of her toes and kissed him on the lips.

The kiss didn’t last long, nor was it full of tongue and other such things. In spite of that, it was enough to make Ethan’s whole body flush with heat. A moment later, Charlie pulled away from him with a big grin on her face and Ethan stumbled back a step in shock.

“Thanks for all the help,” Charlie told him, before reaching out and grabbing his hand. “Now come on I want to go tell my mom!”

Charlie dragged Ethan out to the car and raced home. Once there, she burst inside and raced off to tell her mom, leaving a dumbfounded Ethan to watch her go. He didn’t mind watching though. Seeing her so excited, made him very happy, all those hours of work finally paying off. That happiness didn’t stop a lewd thought about how fun it was to watch her run from slipping into his head, though. As Charlie bounced her way through the house to go tell her mom, Ethan quickly chastised himself for such thoughts. Just because Charlie was excited about her results didn’t mean that things were resolved between them.

A moment later, Charlie returned with a proud looking Mrs. Harris in tow. “So I unless something goes horribly wrong on my last two finals I get to be valedictorian!”

“That’s great, honey!” Mrs. Harris told her, more than a little stunned by her suddenly happy and very energetic daughter.

“Yeah … ” Charlie said trailing off with a satisfied smile on her face. “Oh but that reminds me. I’ll need your help to get ready for graduation. Some of the girls warned me that the lights might ‘wash me out’ whatever that means. Apparently I need makeup or something.”

Mrs. Harris giggled. “Sure thing, sweetie.”

“This is so exciting,” Charlie squealed and raced off to her room.

Ethan and Mrs. Harris both watched her go in shock. “What got into her? I’ve never seen Charlie that excited about anything.”

“I have no idea,” Ethan told her, just as baffled as she was.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

The next few days passed with Charlie buzzing around the house like an over-caffeinated bee. All her remaining finals went well, and sure enough, by the time the weekend came, she had her straight A’s. The time for graduation was at hand.

Ethan waited with Charlie while everyone got situated for the event. Charlie looked beautiful in her gown, her hair pulled back with a few clips, and a light touch of makeup on her face to bring out her cheeks and eyes. Watching her bobbing on her feet, though, made Ethan worry she was going to vibrate right through her gown.

“You should try sitting still for a nanosecond,” Ethan joked.

Charlie shook her head rapidly. “I can’t … too excited.”

“What’s so special about today? You never seemed that into graduation before,” Ethan pointed out.

Charlie looked at him and smiled. “Because a month ago I thought my life was over, and once today is over my new life really starts.”

“That part of your speech?” Ethan inquired.

“Not exactly,” Charlie replied, still bouncing on her feet.

“Alright you need to do something to settle down or you are going to bounce right off the stage,” Ethan told her.

Charlie just kept bouncing. “Too excited!”

Ethan put his hands on Charlie’s shoulders and pushed down to hold her in place. “Ha! Try to bounce now!”

Charlie pouted. “Meanie.”

“I’m not a meanie,” Ethan argued, releasing her. Charlie immediately started bouncing again giggling at Ethan. “You tricked me!” Ethan exclaimed “How dare you use a pout for such nefarious purposes.” Charlie booped him on the nose.

Ethan stood there blinking in disbelief as Charlie burst into a giggling fit. “You look ridiculous!” she managed to say through the laughter.

“What has gotten into you?!” Ethan demanded.

Charlie shrugged. “I just realized that I was too caught up in who I used to be, instead of who I wanted to be. So I decided to try being who I wanted to be instead.”

“You just decided that?” Ethan asked incredulously.

“Yep,” Charlie told him.

Ethan shook his head in disbelief. “How did you decide to be like this?”

“Well I thought about it. Everyone see’s a cute blonde girl with big tits when they look at me, and I realized I should probably just give that a try. I mean sure, I could dye my hair, hide my body, pretend to be all serious, but I tried that and it wasn’t much fun. In fact, I realized I generally felt better when I stopped trying to fight who I was. So I listened to my feelings, picked out some cute clothes, let myself get excited about things that are important to me, and just actually had some fun. Turns out fun makes me a lot happier than sitting around hating myself,” Charlie explained. “Who knew, right?”

The solution was so simple for such a complex problem, that Ethan could only stare for a moment. “You’re a marvel.”

“Oh and speaking of things that are fun, remind me after the ceremony that I have something I want to tell you,” Charlie told him.

“What is it?” Ethan inquired.

“I said AFTER, jeesh. I’m supposed to be the airhead not you, idiot,” Charlie teased. “Now, go get in line. I have to go over my speech!” Ethan let Charlie shove him away, heading off to find his place in line.

Sure enough, it was only a few more minutes before the music began and the line started to move. Ethan had never been one for ceremony, but he had to admit, the act of walking out in front of thousands of people, all dressed up, was a little moving even to him. Then, there were introductions, and some staff people talking, and a lot of other boring, needless, pomp, until finally Charlie was introduced.

“Now we’ll hear from the valedictorian, Charlene Harris,” Mr. Edwards announced.

Charlie stood and approached the podium. Looking out on the crowd, Charlie felt the butterflies in her stomach. There were thousands of people there, all waiting to hear her. She cleared her throat quickly and began her speech.

“I wrote two different speeches for today. The first, I wrote several months ago, and it was long and boring and full of the usual clichés about how much we’ve learned and grown and how important our memories of school will be. I was a different person back then. I had a different name, a different look, a different role to play in the world around me. Circumstances forced me to reevaluate who I was and what mattered to me.

I realized that, in a way, that is what high school does for all of us. We all have our nicknames, our little fashion statements, our roles in school. Whether you are the star athlete, the school slut, the class clown, or the biggest nerd, in the end, none of that really matters. We all graduate and move on. We are all forced to redefine who we are once we leave this place behind.

That’s the real lesson of high school. Sure our teachers taught us science, and math, and language, but what they really did was expose us to possibilities. They gave us a chance to try out new things and see who we wanted to be. Most importantly, they gave us the chance to start over again if we didn’t like what we tried.

Leaving this place, we can forget all our past glories and failures. None of us has to define ourselves by what transpired during our years here. We move out into the world, not as completed products, but as potential incarnate. That potential is something we all share, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where mine takes me.”

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Great job, honey!” Mrs. Harris called as she found Charlie and Ethan after the ceremony.

“Thanks, Mom. I don’t think the principal was too happy with me poo pooing on the importance of learning in high school,” Charlie replied.

“Yeah, but what’s he going to do about it? You are free from him!” Ethan pointed out.

Charlie laughed. “I don’t have my diploma yet as you might recall. They don’t give it to us until we return the gowns.”

“Which we aren’t doing yet,” Mrs. Harris stated sternly. “It’s time for pictures.”

Ethan waved his hands defensively in front of him. “Not a chance. No pictures.”

“Not even if they are with me?” Charlie asked.

Ethan rubbed the back of his head with his hand. “Uhm I guess those would be okay.”

Charlie snatched up Ethan’s free hand and pulled him next to her. “Hurry Mom, before he tries to escape!” she exclaimed, leaning against Ethan with a smile on her face.

Mrs. Harris was soon posing them all sorts of ways to get pictures. Some were together, and some were just Charlie. They even managed to get a few of just Ethan in spite of his protests.

“Ahem, Nice speech,” Mr. Harris said clearing his throat to get some attention as the photo session wound down.

“Dad …” Charlie gasped in surprise.

“What are you doing here, Roger?” Mrs. Harris demanded icily.

Mr. Harris adjusted his tie nervously. “It’s Charlie’s graduation. I couldn’t miss that.”

Mrs. Harris was about to unleash a rant on Mr. Harris when Charlie spoke up. “Can I speak to Dad alone please?”

“After what he did?!” Mrs. Harris asked in shock. Charlie nodded. “Alright … come on Ethan.”

Mrs. Harris and Ethan walked away leaving Charlie and her father there alone. “Charlie I’m sor–”

“Don’t. You walked out when I needed you most. Sorry can’t make up for that,” Charlie told him coldly.

Mr. Harris sighed sadly. “I know. I left for a trip with a son and he was smart, looked like me, and wanted to follow in my footsteps. When I came home there was this blonde girl in his place – a stranger.”

Charlie’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, well, imagine how I felt about it. Everything that I thought I was was taken from me. Then, my Dad comes home and flips out about it and I don’t see or hear from him for weeks. I heard you through the walls, you wouldn’t even accept that I was your child.”

Mr. Harris hung his head in shame. “I know. I was an idiot.”

Charlie shook her head. “You were so much worse than an idiot. Everyone else was there for me. My teachers handled it professionally and were willing to help. Mom and Ethan were by my side for everything I went through. The only person to handle it worse than you is sitting in jail right now.”

“I guess I should go. I don’t want to ruin the celebration for you,” Mr. Harris told her, turning to go.

“Dad, wait,” Charlie said. “I don’t want you out of my life if you really want to be in it, but this isn’t going to be fixed easily. I’m glad you were here tonight, at least.”

Mr. Harris nodded. “I’m glad I was here too. I’m really proud of you, Charlie.”

“Thanks, Dad. Maybe try not vanishing for a few weeks this time?” Charlie suggested.

Mr. Harris chuckled. “I’ll try not to,” he promised, waving goodbye.

Waving back, Charlie watched her father leave. She wasn’t sure that she could forgive him, but she was willing to try. In fact, ‘willing to try’ had sort of turned into her catch phrase over the last few days.

It was well into the night before Charlie and Ethan made it home. Her mom had taken them out to eat after the ceremony. They’d spent hours talking about all the stuff that they’d done during high school. Now, they were back home, and Charlie’s mom had gone to sleep leaving Charlie and Ethan sitting on the couch to reminisce together.

“So, it’s after graduation now. What did you want to talk about?” Ethan inquired.

“Oh I almost forgot about that,” Charlie replied ditzily.

Ethan waited for Charlie to elaborate but no more words came. “Well?”

“Well what?” Charlie asked.

“What is it you wanted to talk about?!” Ethan exclaimed in frustration.

Charlie grinned to show that she was teasing Ethan. “I wanted to talk about you kissing me.”

“I’m sorry about tha-” Ethan began, but Charlie placed a finger on his lips.

“Shush, don’t ruin it,” Charlie scolded. “I’ve thought about it a lot since it happened, trying to figure out how I should react, what I should do, what made sense. However, it turns out it’s a lot simpler than that.”

“How so?” Ethan asked.

“Well I realized something like this isn’t about thinking, but feeling, and I like the feeling of you being around, and don’t like the feeling of you walking away,” Charlie told him.

Ethan once again waited for elaboration that wasn’t coming. “What does that mean for us?”

“It means that I’m willing to try ‘us’ … if that’s what you want,” Charlie explained.

“Try huh?” Ethan questioned.

Charlie shrugged. “No one knows what to expect from this. Trying is the best either of us can do. What do you think?”

“I think I can’t believe you are actually willing to go out with me,” Ethan replied honestly.

“Idiot,” Charlie sighed, sliding her arms around Ethan’s neck and pulling him into a kiss.

*********************************************** ***********************************************

“Well if it isn’t Brian Spielmann,” an eerie voice said in the night.

Brian jumped in surprise, turning to face the voice. He nearly jumped a second time when he recognized the shadowy figure. “I-It’s y-you.”

“That is correct, Brian. Since you recognize me I can only assume you remember the deal we made, yes?” the shadowy figure asked.

Brian gulped. “It’s not my fault. Charlie had help and the powder didn’t affect him as much as I thought and ...”

The shadowed figure shook its head sadly. “Tsk tsk tsk, Brian. Excuses don’t change the wager. I gave you the ability to do exactly what you requested, to the exact specifications we agreed on. You bet that Charlie couldn’t possibly beat you for valedictorian after he was changed, yet tonight, I saw a pretty blonde by the name of Charlie up on stage giving her speech, while you sat among the rest of the students.”

Brian shook with fear. “No … she must have cheated or something … it’s not over yet!”

“Oh, but it is, Brian. I hope you enjoy servitude,” the shadowed figure countered. With a snap Brian and the figure vanished.

The End

Author’s Note: Hey all, Light Clark here, also known as lightivation or lightoffury or just Light. If you liked the story, consider checking out my free fantasy series, The Trials of Tannen, which is being told in serial at my website here: https://lightivation.wordpress.com/

Also, if you want to support my work, and have a little money to spare, stop by my patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/lightivation No pressure, though. If you just wanted a free read, that’s fine too.



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