This is the first chapter of the story I wrote before "I Am Rosemary's Granddaughter". This is the same as the sample version on Amazon, but it may be easier to read on the site.
The original story was titled "FLAW" and was based on the Shania Twain song "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" but the publisher made me change it as to avoid anyone getting mad over the word "feel" (one assumes they never heard the song).
So, here is the first chapter of "To Be a Different Someone"
Where to begin?
I suppose I could start with my family—of what it was…which was nothing, really. We were like three roommates that talked a little bit as we lived separate lives. I suppose that’s a bit blunt, but that’s how it is, or was.
I don’t want to think that I intruded on the lives of two people on the day I was born…but I kind of felt that way.
My—I guess I should still call him—dad, Daniel Kane. I can best describe him as the one who takes the happiness out of the room without saying a word, cold and bitter. He was tall and foreboding; with dark brown hair and a face that was usually locked in a scowl. I used to wonder if he sucked on lemons for breakfast every morning.
He wasn’t a drunk, didn’t do lines of coke, and he never hit me or Mom. Sometimes, I kind of wished he had because any physical contact—let alone a nice word now and then—would have been great. Was he there on the day I was born? Probably...and he probably was in the billing
office the whole time trying to see how much he could save if Mom pushed harder on her own. Perhaps instead of drugs the doctors should have gone with whiskey and a bullet as I made my way into the world on September 6th 1982.
He was a realtor, dealing with business locations and high stakes markets…but I didn’t really care what he did,
I just wanted to—maybe once—have him be at a ballgame or a movie or see me in a kindergarten concert. Many times I remember reaching out to him, wanting him to pick me up or tell me a story and he’d simply stand there, like a
sadistic stone statue, pretty much ignoring the small one in front of him. He was able to make me feel he was nowhere to be found even if he was standing next to me.
My mom, Rachel, was submissive to him—even though she tried not to be. I do not mean submissive as she let him be the man of the house or fell in-rank to the king of the castle...I mean she was the cobblestone beneath his feet.
No, she was the dirt beneath the stones he walked. I don’t know what occurred on the day they first met, but it was like Mom was destined to be a real life Stepford Wife and thought nothing more of it.
She once had light blonde hair, a thin face and was known as the fun-loving sister in her family who would never turn down a good time. I never met that person. I think my dad might have murdered her and replaced her with a shell of her former self.
And that leaves me.
My parents named me James Fitzgerald Kane—a distinguished name of presidential caliber that looked great on a tombstone but not so much on a scraggily, freckle- faced little kid with mousy hair and glasses. I hated the name, along with any shortened version of it. It bothered me the most in junior high as I cringed whenever a teacher would call it out. There were days where I wanted to scream out to everybody that I wasn’t a boy and the doctors got it all wrong.
When I was ten, I wrote a letter to my parents, telling them I was their daughter, Jennifer, and I needed their help. I was trapped in a monstrous body and couldn’t get out. I never gave them the letter. The only person who ever saw it was my cousin, Krys.
Krystal Laberdee lived two blocks away. We were born five months apart, and since Krys was older, she appointed herself guardian over me. I trusted her with my life. Most kids idolized their parents, Michael Jordan, or Curt Cobain—
but I looked up to my cousin. I wanted to look like her. She had long blond hair for as far back as I could remember, and everyone always complimented her.
When I felt bad for myself, I usually walked down the block to the park and sat on the swing set. In time, Krystal would usually find me, sit in the next swing, and listen to my diatribe.
“What happened?” Krys whispered.
“Dad found one of my dresses,” I replied as I looked blankly ahead.
“What did you tell him?” “That it was for you.” “He didn’t believe you?”
Since I was in sixth grade and learned how to work a sewing machine, I designed various outfits. Often times, I would create a design, stare at it for hours on end, and then decide to embellish it—or throw the sketch away. Krystal would give me her opinion on fabric and style. There were a few she liked and others she swore she’d never be found dead wearing—and those were the ones I preferred. Only a few actually ever made it to the final product.
“No,” I replied. “I was wearing it.”
“He just walked in?”
“I forgot to lock the door and—” It was really stupid of me to not lock it. After I got home from school, I ran upstairs to my room, closed the door, and turned up the
radio. I went into my closet and pulled out a red and white sundress, hidden in a sea of sweaters my Grans had sent me over the years. It had taken me several months to complete it; so many false starts and ripped seams. I took off my drab polo shirt and Dockers and tried it on for the first time.
The speakers pulsed a fast dance number and I moved back and forth with the beat while looking back at the mirror. I still looked a little awkward, but it felt right, if a little loose in some areas And I could just about see the person I had been looking for.
I put my hands behind my back to unbutton the outfit when the door opened and my father walked in.
We had a large house with a lot of wood in the architecture, so sounds—like yelling and footsteps—were amplified. I couldn’t believe I didn’t hear him come up.
“What did he do?”
“He didn’t do anything,” I replied. “He just shook his head, turned around and walked out the door.”
He did yell something—I couldn’t make it out over the music—but it was probably for the best I didn’t.
“It looked very cute.”
“Going to wear it to school? Blend in with the crowd?”
“One day, maybe,” I replied. “After Hell freezes over. There’s no way I’ll blend in wearing a skirt.”
We went to one of the biggest schools in Spokane, Washington. The campus sprawled out over several buildings. It was so large Waldo himself could hide in it forever, unless he had something dark in his past—then it was like a one room schoolhouse.
“You should just do it. Wear what you want. Be who you are. ”
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Well, maybe not tomorrow, but on the first day of school next year.”
“I can think of a million reasons why that would be a bad idea.”
“Name one, besides your dad.” “Everyone.”
“Not necessarily, I’m sure there are a few guys out there who you would love to see a new you.”
I wanted to smile at that, but couldn’t. There were scores of guys at Ferris High School I wanted to talk to but I was afraid they would do more than just simply reject me—and wearing a skirt with a matching blouse was not going to change their minds. Living as a girl trapped inside the shell of a boy was one thing. Stepping out and showing it to the entire student body was another.
Krys got off the swing and walked a few feet away. “We need to start with your clothes. Get rid of the unicolor polos and the pants Grandpa was buried in. Get a nice shirt and some denim that hugs you,” she said and then spun around on her heels
“You’re having way too much fun with this.” Krys grabbed my arm and pulled me off the swing.
“Then, let’s pierce your ears.” I felt the lobes.
“We need to do something with your hair.” I had near- shoulder length hair—much to the consternation of my father—and I usually left the house without doing anything with it. Krys would attempt to fix the rat’s nest, as she called it, on my head before we’d leave for school. “We’ll each get makeovers, how about that?”
“Like, redo everything?”
“Yeah. You also need to make something new, for both of us, to wear on the first day of school so we can walk in. I’ll introduce you as my cousin, Jennifer.”
“I can’t do that. Not yet.”
“Why not? Whatever happens I will be right there for you.”
Krys was always there for me and it was a good thing because I was the weird, short kid with a bullseye on my back and forehead. No one who was bigger, taller, and stronger could resist trying to hit them. I spent a lot of time trying to avoid everyone like the plague, keeping to myself, ’cause if you don’t stick out, you’re ignored. However, there was someone who I could never avoid—Matthew Tracker
I knew Matthew from sixth grade. I kind of liked him.
He was nice to people and was the class clown. We were never really friends, just classroom acquaintances. He left me alone until eighth grade. One day he came up, sneered, and slammed me against the wall.
I didn’t say a word as my dilated pupils said it all. “You’re such a wuss.”
A variation of this occurred each day, and with it Krys threatened to knock Matt’s block off. Sometimes she said it to his face, other times she said it to me.
“What’s your problem?”Krys yelled at him one time during lunch. He wouldn’t look straight at her nor would he ever answer her. He simply waved her off and walked down the hall. “Asshole.”
This royal treatment went on throughout my freshman year. In the past, Krys and I were always in the same classes . She got involved in cheerleading and we had different schedules that kept her from me.
“You need to tell the principal if he gets even a mile near you,” she advised me on the first day of high school. It took a few days of trips, shoves and passing remarks before I told the office I was being harassed. They sent me to see Mrs. Cole, the school counselor, who wanted me to talk about what had happened. I gave vague answers because I knew if I said too much it would all be out in the open— the staff would want to bring in some program to prevent bullying in the halls. Those programs work if people care, but Matthew wasn’t one of those who did—and I had no desire to be the anti-bullying movement poster child on campus.
I told Mrs. Cole it would be okay, that we could talk it out and everything would be fine.
We never did talk. It did come to tears a few times, mine, as I cowered against the wall.
“Look at this, Kane’s a little crybaby!”
I couldn’t block out the stares by the girls and the laughing faces from the guys who passed by and saw my face all red and streaked. I didn’t really care at that point. I knew I wanted to get out of Ferris, out of Washington State, to any other damn place where nobody knew me.
I didn’t get to even enjoy the last day of school. When the final bell rang. I walked out...and fell to the ground, courtesy of a large boot.
“You ought to watch where you’re going.” Chris Carlson jeered. Matt gained some followers in ninth grade. Chris stood the tallest of the bunch and had to brush his blonde hair out of his face whenever he loomed over me.
“Looks like you made it through the year, pussy,” the second of Matt’s minions, Damon Mercer, chimed in. Damon was only a few inches taller than me but he compensated with his mouth, making sure there was a put down in everything he said.
I tried to get up but another foot kicked me down again. “And he hasn’t been thrown into the crapper this
year,” Tyler Jensen, stated. Tyler was the most stoic of the group—or at least he gave the impression—as he hardly ever smiled or looked my way as he talked about me.
“Yeah, you lucked out, didn’t you, Kane?” The king of them all, Matt, asked the rhetorical question. “What’s your plans for summer? Gonna finally score big with the ladies?” Matt usually came to school wearing a long black jacket and had his brown hair cut short. He recently had braces put on his top teeth—and while I would have loved to say something about them, I didn’t. I may have looked pathetic, but I wasn’t stupid.
I stood up and faced the four of them. Meanwhile, the sea of students continued to flow around us like fish. I prayed for someone to come to my rescue, but no one wanted to get involved. Either fear or indifference, I couldn’t tell at the time, prevented the collective student
body from throwing a life preserver.
“Oh, so we’re sticking up for ourselves now, are we?”
It wasn’t that I was sticking up for myself—but if I didn’t get off the pavement, the stampede would trample me. Matt took the chance, grabbed me by the neck, and shoved me back to the ground.
“C’mon, wuss, get up and let’s see you take your best shot.”
“Goddammit, Matt! Let him go!”
Krystal and her friend, Lindsey Nichols, stood behind Matt and company. She was pissed and wasn’t afraid to let them know it.
“You’re so lucky your cousin’s stacked.” Matt commented on Krystal’s rack as he lifted his boot.
“Shove it, Matt!” Krys shouted as she stepped through the group to help me up. The gang simply stood by and watched two cheerleaders save my sorry ass. Lindsey picked up my backpack as Krystal led me away. Matt of course, had to fire a parting shot.
“See you, pussy!”
“You talking to Krystal or James?” Chris asked.
“You good?” Krystal inquired, and then glared back at Matt.
I only nodded, as I didn’t feel I could give an answer to anyone.
“They’re always acting like jerks, pushing people around. Someone needs to put them in their place.” Lindsey handed me my backpack. “Are you okay, James?”
Lindsey Nichols. She was always happy and had such a smile—a toothy grin with a small gap.
I simply nodded to her.
“You sure? One day we’re going to have to give them their just desserts.”
“Deserts, Lindsey,” Krystal replied.
“Whatever. This is so wrong. I’ll help you kick their butts.”
“Think of it this way, James: you’re fortunate. I think any guy in this school would love to have a cheerleader support group.”
“I’m fine,” I lied.
Lindsey turned to me and smiled. That, along with her eyes—bright, sparkling with sunshine, lollipops and
rainbows—and I couldn’t help but grin back at her. “Yeah, you’re okay now.”
“I’ll see the two of you later on this summer.” Lindsey’s parents had planned a three-week camping excursion in the western Washington wilderness.
“Lindsey?” Krys turned to her. “Yeah?”
“Work on those dance moves we talked about while you’re out in the boonies.”
“All of them,” Krystal replied.
Lindsey walked away but then turned and ran back to us. “You have a good summer for me, ’kay, James?”
“I will,” I replied as she reached out to hug me, which caught me off-guard. I did my best not to smother or resist too much.
“It’ll be okay,” she whispered. “Thank you.”
“You watch out for him.” She turned her attention to Krys.
“I have been.”
“I mean it. I want him to come back in the fall in one piece.”
“I’ll do what I can.”
She waved to the both us and ran to an awaiting car parked on the other side of the road. We walked a few yards
“You sure you’re okay?” Krys inquired.
“Trying to be,” I replied as I walked backward a little, looking at the school. One last parting glance and then I wouldn’t have to see that soul-sucking institution for three months. Ninety days of freedom from Matt Tracker and his ilk. It would almost be paradise, except for my parents.
Thirty minutes later we were at my house. Thankfully, no one was home.
We walked into my room and, not wanting a repeat of the previous day, I promptly locked the door—just in case.
“Okay, sit right there,” I pointed Krys toward the chair at my desk.
“Is this a fashion show?”
“Kind of.” I walked into the closet and closed it behind me.
“Which one was it again?”
“The red and white one,” I replied through the wall.
It was a little difficult getting dressed in the dark, but I managed.
“You ready?” Krys asked.
“Let’s see it.”
I turned the knob and walked out. “Well?”
Krys stood in front of me and walked around me. “You got a little fuzz on your legs.”
“I know, I know.”
“Under the arms—”
“The dress, Krys. The dress,” I said with a sigh.
“Well, it looks cute, as you said.”
“I’m still working on it.”
“What else you got?” Krys asked as she walked back to my desk and picked up one of several neatly stacked
She flipped to a random page and looked over a set of drawings for a pleated skirt.
“Why navy blue? It looks like a uniform.”
“It is a uniform—it only needs a few touches, like a bow on the back. What color?” I asked as I looked at a map of Europe I had on the wall. I was born and raised in Washington State but my dream was to one day leave and go across the pond, preferably somewhere in the United Kingdom and, also preferably, never come back.
“The bow.” I loved to add flourish to my designs. Krys would either smile at the addition or she would roll her eyes.
“I think a shade of red would look good. Maybe an orchid pink? What’s the blouse going to look like?”
I took the book, flipped through a few pages, and handed it back to her.
“Nice. Including the tie too?” Krys asked as she tapped at the drawing.
“Yeah, it goes with it.”
“You have enough fabric or do we need to go and buy more?” Krys gave the folder back to me.
“Yeah, we should—”
“James!” The staccato, harsh, voice of my dad reverbed from downstairs.
I looked at the mirror on my bedroom door with what must’ve been a deer in the headlights expression. I got up from my desk as I heard heavy footsteps come up the stairs. The freaking radio wasn’t on and we still didn’t hear him.
I ran into the closet and slammed it shut.
“James!” He yelled as he thumped his hand on the door.
“One moment,” Krys said as she went to unlock it. I had
hoped she would have kept it locked and not said anything at all, but he probably would have kicked it in. “Hello, Uncle Daniel.”
“Krystal,” he responded with a little courtesy. “Where’s James?”
I prayed she would lie and tell him I was gone and left no forwarding address.
My dad’s shadow blocked out the light bleeding in from the bottom of the closet door.
“James, are you wearing that damn dress again?” He opened the closet door and it was déjà vu. “Shit, James, what is wrong with you?”
My dad was a master at asking rhetorical questions. I didn’t bother to answer. I attempted to avoid eye contact.
Krystal buried her face in my sketchbook.
“Stand up straight. Be a man and look at me.”
I didn’t dare.
“I said, look at me.”
I finally looked at him, not sure what he would say next.
I had several ideas, all bad. “Where’s your mother?” “I don’t know.”
He looked at me and then through me, as if I weren’t even there. “Damn woman,” he muttered as he left my room.
For the past few years, we never really ate dinner together. Usually it would be Mom and me...or I’d be over at Krystal’s house. I still don’t recall when we last had Christmas dinner or Thanksgiving as a family. Sure, my grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles would come—but my dad would be absent for whatever reason. After a while, Mom stopped trying to find out and I never asked. Did I think their marriage was doomed? I didn’t really know what made a marriage. If it were about love and roses, then yes, they were hopelessly, no doubt in my mind, done for. If it was about keeping things civil...well, I supposed they were, but kind of hollow and without any emotions…or at least positive ones.
With his footsteps descending the staircase, I looked toward Krystal.
The front door opened and then closed with a loud thud. I ran out of my room and down to the foyer. Dad was already in his car, backing out of the driveway. I stepped back from the window and looked up the staircase at Krystal.
“I have an idea. Something that might cheer you up,” she said as she walked down the steps.
“Maybe you should join the cheer squad in the fall?” “I don’t think so.”
“We could use someone to help with our stunt work and new uniforms, maybe?” Krystal asked as she stood next to me.
“You help me practice these cheers all the time, so you know them as well as I do.”
“Like I need another target on me. A male cheerleader? I might as well tattoo a large, red X on my forehead.”
Krystal stepped forward and put her hands on her hips. “I!”
“I really don’t want to do the fight chant right now, Krys—”
“I said: I!”
“I,” I stated with no emotion.
“I,” I said with a smidgen of enthusiasm.
“I believe.” The Ferris High School Saxon Fight Chant was said before every football game, right after the fight song and again if we were losing later on.
“I believe that!”
“I believe that!” It was repetitive, but it grew on me. “I believe that we!”
“I believe that we!” It riled me up to want to kick a football.
“I believe that we will!”
“I believe that we will!” Or maybe someone’s ass.
“I believe that we will win!”
“I believe that we will win!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. For some reason, I felt a little better.
“What do you say?”
“Would they really want me?”
“I can persuade the others to start you off as, say, a mascot at first, but eventually a uniform—letter and all.” “Sure,” I replied as I looked out the window to the empty driveway. “It might be fun. Why not?”
An hour later, and after changing back into my pants and polo, I was—as usual—sitting at the table with Krystal’s family. My mom’s sister, Lydia, worked as a registered nurse at a hospital downtown.
She was older than Mom, but she was the second one married. I don’t think it was a competition or anything between them as they talked to each other often. Aunt Lydia always welcomed me into her home; to the point there was a room I stayed in down the hall from Krystal’s when home life became unbearable—which was increasing by leaps and bounds as my freshman year came to a close.
“How is your father doing, James?”
My uncle Alan, on the other hand, was the one who would ask the uncomfortable questions. He didn’t do it to be crass or nosy but more to actually talk to me, and since I didn’t share his love of football or business talk,
family life was about the only subject in which we had any commonality.
“He’s okay, I guess.”
I shrugged my shoulders...I didn’t really know anything else.
“Alan?” Aunt Lydia gave him the look I had seen time and time again: the 'don’t ask him about his whacked out father and my sister who married him,' look
“Dad, remember what we talked about?” Krys broke the awkward silence.
“Krystal, I talk to a lot of people,” Uncle Alan worked at some large corporation, which had him fly off to remote locations around the world. The man was a polyglot and could converse in many languages at once, “and a lot of conversations come up—”
Aunt Lydia glared at him and he had an oh yeah, I remember expression on his face. “James. You’re welcome to stay here for the summer.”
“Thank you, but—”
“But nothing, you should stay here—” Krystal exclaimed.
“Krystal,” Lydia raised her eyebrows. “Mom, I—”
“No, I think I need to solve some things at home...like getting my parents to try and talk to each other.”
“If that’s what you want,” Lydia responded.
There was a lump building up in my throat. As much as I wanted to say, Yes! Please take me in; please rescue me from the Hell that is my home life. Let me sit at a table with people who actually care...even if one cannot relate to me. Two out of three’s not that bad. I couldn’t say that. I was the poor, down-trodden, and invisible rich kid who had no life at school—but I did not want them to see I felt helpless. I put in such a performance, I deserved a Tony award.
I walked home alone, by choice, and went through everything I could think of to say to my parents. Surely, I
could steer some sense into them—and get us all talking together. Families are supposed to do that. The books I read, the television shows I watched...my cousin’s family. Why couldn’t we be that way?
Well, on my eighth birthday, my dad decided I should have a bowling party and he had me invite several boys from class—such as Tyler Jensen, Chris Carlson and Matt Tracker...and, well, let’s just say that it was the last birthday party I ever had. Dad ignored me, and Mom refused to see anything wrong with the three other guys whispering and laughing at me as I fell to the alley floor—after one of them blatantly tripped me up.
Or the time when he decided to tell Mom how stupid she was because she had rear-ended a car and she started crying. I thought after seeing the tears start he’d try to reach out to her and say he was sorry, or maybe say, Hey, here’s all of my money because I’m an unforgiving ass who doesn’t deserve a family like you. So, go out and buy something for yourself and a mallet to whack me over the head with. No, he simply walked into his office like nothing ever happened.
It probably would’ve been easier to just go back to Krys’ house and tell them I was just kidding about everything
and take them up on their invitation. I stood on the porch with my eyes closed and thought. My aunt and uncle wouldn’t care if I paraded around the house in a dress or a nightgown—as long as I was wearing something. They would never ask me hypothetical questions, yell or ignore me.
I turned around to leave when the door swung open. “James!” Mom stood in the front hall, her face a mess
with running make-up and puffy eyes. “Where the Hell were you?”
“Krystal’s,” I replied as I tried to read her face.
She turned around and we both looked toward my dad.
“Get in here and shut the damn door!”
I stepped inside and closed it. A feeling of dread hung in the air.
“Your mother and I are divorcing.” Divorce.
For obvious reasons, the word did not jar me. I didn’t feel pain or sadness when I heard it. I thought more along the lines of whoa, now it’s official then, eh?
Mom walked to the staircase, her back to my dad and me.
“Pack up a few things, we’re leaving.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“We’re leaving,” she ordered without looking back.
“Where?” I put my hand on the railing and wondered if I was dreaming.
“Just…just go pack a few things.”
“Just some clothes for a few days.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Stop asking questions and just do it!”
I ran up the stairs to my room and didn’t bother with securing the door.
I grabbed a few garments from the closet along with a duffel bag and threw the clothes in along with my sketchbooks.
I left the sundress behind.
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