Ethan makes a rash bet with Emily . . . and you can guess what happens.
Lucky? You Betcha!
By Angela Rasch
It’s Only Gambling If There’s a Chance You Could Lose
It had been an improbable run for our Cinderella team, but the clock was about to strike midnight. Although I’d been on my feet shrieking, my bottom was beginning to feel the soreness of seating on plastic-coated bleachers for nearly two hours.
I leaned over to Emily, who was busily tying her Panther purple shoelaces so that she could rejoin the other cheerleaders, and then boost our team onto just one more upset victory. “We’re toast,” I stated flatly.
She scowled. “Don’t say that. We’ve come so far. The Panthers deserve to win.”
I almost laughed. Our high school’s basketball team had floated through the year winning fewer games than it lost. Once the playoffs had started -- through luck and a penchant for finally playing good ball -- we had reeled off twelve straight wins. Five of them had been overtime victories. All of them had been decided by less than five points.
No one had expected the Panthers to win the district, let alone the regionals and sectionals. We had been seeded eighth out of the eight teams in the state tournament.
We were facing the number one ranked team in the state in the finals. Kennedy Hall hadn’t lost a game in three years and all two of their starters were pledged to play for elite division one college programs. One was going to Duke and another to Kentucky.
With six minutes to go in the game, we were down by ten points. Both Mason and Jacob were in foul trouble and the McDonald’s All-American, who going to Kentucky, had just dunked on us.
The gymnasium reeked of popcorn, failing deodorant, and teenage angst. The temperature in the bleachers had risen at least ten points since the game started and had become uncomfortable due to the capacity crowd, most of whom were basketball junkies without real ties to either high school.
After a season of playing before crowds numbering under two hundred, consisting of friends, family, and opponent’s fans, it seemed perverse to share our miraculous team with judgmental strangers.
“I hate to say it, but there’s not one chance in hell that we can pull this one out.” I’d meant to sound pragmatic but had managed to seem uncaring, in stark contrast with her heart-on-her-sleeve jingoistic yammering.
Emily’s face turned as dark as her purple cheerleader’s shell. “We need everyone to believe!”
Our home gymnasium had been covered with signs that said, “We Believe!” for the last month. It wasn’t clear who had coined that as our slogan, but during the twelve-victory span our rooting section had roared “We believe!” at least a thousand times – and our team had responded. Along the way, the Panther fans had become a professional cheering mob dressed from head-to-toe in purple and gold.
I shook my head. “Be realistic. They can’t possibly win.” She worships those guys on the team and their over-active pituitary glands. At one time, some of them had been friends, but as they grew taller, and I stayed close to the same five-foot tall I’d been in junior high, our friendships had dissolved in a sea of taunts and bullying. Everyone except for Jacob had turned on me. He had been a good friend throughout.
It was hard being friends with Jacob because he was everything I wasn’t. He looked and sounded like a man, while I . . . didn’t. Everyone in school had to look up to his nearly seven feet of solid muscle. He ran like an antelope and moved with that confident “jockishness” of a top athlete. His broad shoulders and rippling arms and legs were perfectly matched to the full beard that he’d vowed not to shave off until after they won the state championship.
The rest of the team had followed suit in forsaking their razors for the duration of the tournament, but most of them had sprouted pathetic excuses for mustaches -- and only splotches of beard. Jacob looked like an elongated Civil War general.
“Where’s your school spirit,” Emily challenged. That was the same phrase she had used to get me to go the game in the first place.
I’m so envious of her amazing beauty, but If she hadn’t pushed me I would have gladly stayed home and played Hollywood Rising Star. Online games don’t require me to be a giant and give me much more satisfaction than throwing a ball through a steel circle. I love picking out outfits and coaching my avatar through a starlet’s career.
“School spirit is one thing, but I’m not willing to be stupid. They had a good run, but it’s over.” I smiled to show her I was part of the team but was being realistic. I didn’t want her to be super disappointed when they inevitably lost.
She stuck out her jaw. “Wanna bet?”
I grinned. Emily and I had been neighbors forever and close friends since kindergarten. Bets were as common between us as the freckles that dotted her unbelievably cute face. Bets were usually the way she shoved me toward her goals for us. “What did you have in mind.”
She stole a glance at the others on her squad, who were waiting for the opposing team’s cheerleaders to vacate the floor so they could start a cheer during the second half of the timeout. She leaned in so that only I could hear. Her Japanese Cherry Blossom perfume playfully floated through my nostrils. I’d been with her at Bath and Body Works when she bought it. “You’ve been staring at my breasts since the seventh grade,” she asserted. “If our team loses, I’ll give you fifteen minutes to ‘explore’ them in my bedroom some afternoon when my parents are out.”
I gulped. Emily had what was commonly regarded as the most desirable body in our high school. However . . . when I looked at her breasts it was a lot more out of envy than lust. “I. . .er.” I tried not to glue my eyes on the prize – es.
“If we win, which we will,” she continued, “you’ll show your school spirit by dressing like a cheerleader twenty-four hours a day for a month. If you fail to dress correctly at any time, the month will start over from day one.”
I laughed. “You’ve got a bet.” I winced a bit because her wager struck a little close to the bone. After I win, I’ll let her off the hook. I’d love to touch her breasts, but not because of a bet. I’m not in her league – but we still are good friends. She’s just teasing me with the idea of going to school dressed like she does.
She nodded, and then we pinkie-swore. Then she plastered that look of determination on her face that cheerleaders wear when things aren’t going so well. It was as if she thought she could simply will the basketball team to play better -- or place a curse on the other team to make them suddenly start falling apart.
As soon as the timeout ended, our opponent sank a three, which put us down by thirteen. I grinned and her -- and she returned my gesture by sticking out her tongue.
If only I was about a foot taller, I would love to be her boyfriend, but she and Mason have been a couple for two years and they seem to be made for each other. They did break up about once a month but always got back together.
I’d dreamed some about a possible match between me and Jacob, but that didn’t seem at all right.
The next five minutes of the game were straight out of a Disney movie. The Panthers suddenly could do no wrong and Kennedy Hall succumbed to the pressure of a state championship game by wilting. Everything we threw up went in, while they committed turnover after turnover. In the end, they were forced to play the foul game with us, and our team made nearly every free throw to win by five. Jacob scored fourteen points in the last quarter by using his massive body to dominate the paint and was named to the all-tournament team. Mason made most of the free throws down the stretch that cinched the game.
I screamed and jumped up and down with the rest of the student body. It was probably the most exciting sporting event I’d ever been at. It was the first state championship our school had ever won. . .in any sport.
After the awards ceremonies ended and the nets had been cut down, Emily found me in the crowd. I was her ride home.
“Everyone’s going to McGarrey’s to celebrate,” she enthused. Her face beamed with the pride she felt in the win. “Mason and Jacob said it would be okay if you came.”
I was often invited along because of my friendship with Emily. “I don’t know,” I said. “This is a basketball thing and I’m. . ..”
“It’s for basketball players and cheerleaders,” she grinned, “and next week you’ll be going to school as a cheerleader.”
“About that,” I laughed. “We’ll figure something out. I owe you – that’s for sure. However, the school would never allow me to dress like a cheerleader.”
Her soft hand touched mine. She pierced her lips. “That’s the second time today you’ve been wrong. I already cleared everything with Coach Wills. He’s one hundred percent behind you paying off your bet.”
“Coach Wills? What’s he got to do with it?” Coach Wills and I weren’t the best of friends. I didn’t care for what that Neanderthal made us do in physical education class, and he thought I was a worthless screw-up.
“I may have created a situation,” Emily admitted. “In all the excitement of winning, I told Coach about our bet. At first, he was upset that anyone in our student body would root against us. But then he said it would be a great character-building exercise for you.”
“Character-building? He’s still mad at me because I refused to climb that stupid pseudo-rock wall. He’s a jock-Nazi. And, I never rooted against the Panthers, I just made a bet based on what I thought was going to happen – not what I wanted to happen.”
“Coach Will’s nice enough when you get to know him,” she countered. “Anyway . . . he said if your parents signed a release, he was sure he could get the administration to allow you to dress the way you want to.”
“The way I want to?”
“Don’t you want to pay off your bet?” She peered into my face.
I searched my soul, not knowing how to answer.
“Besides,” Emily added, “I also told Mrs. Collins about our bet. She feels the same way as Coach Wills.”
“What would you expect from the cheerleading supervisor and the basketball coach,” I whined. “They both think winning a stupid sports game is the epitome of success.” My words sounded ignorant in view of what had transpired over the last few weeks. Tomorrow there would be a huge rally at the high school to welcome home the state champions, with speeches that would no doubt make the basketball goons sound like war heroes. I shouldn’t think of Jacob and Mason as “goons.” Jacob might be twice my size, but he’s nice.
Her face showed the love we’d had for each other for over a decade. “I’ve been looking for a way to help you for years,” Emily said quietly.
“Help me?” I asked, knowing exactly what she meant.
She shook her head. “It’s been nearly four years since you told me about ‘Abby.’ Don’t you think it’s time you eliminated all that guilt you feel hiding who you really are -- by finally being honest with the world?”
She’s right! But she doesn’t have to deal with all the issues. Not directly, at least.
Has it really been four years?
“If Have Self-Actualized. Pardon Me while I Adjust My Glowing Halo.” – Ted Nugent
Four Years Earlier
Most people think that sitting in the front car is the best possible spot to be in when on a roller coaster ride.
I wouldn’t know.
Amusement parks became a source of embarrassment for me in grade school. Most of the really fun rides demand that you be 4’6” or taller. I didn’t get to be legal height until I was fourteen. I couldn’t even drive the bumper cars.
When I finally was big enough, I’d already developed a habit of staying away from fairs and amusement parks.
I had studied everything I could find to determine if there was any valid reason for this apparent height discrimination. In the process, I learned that roller coasters don’t start picking up speed until the last car is over the hump after the long power-assisted climb. The chain that the cars are hooked to during their ascent doesn’t release the cars until all of them are on the way down.
When Emily got a certain look in her eyes, all I could do was hope the chain wouldn’t let go and I wouldn’t be sent flying up, down, and around a terrifying structure built to thrill.
I’d first seen that look on my twelfth birthday.
That day started like no other in that when I woke up there was a present from my father on my dresser with a card that said, “Open Me First!”
I eagerly tore off the Disney Princesses adorned wrapping paper. Much to my surprise, my father had given me Bath Bomb Gift Set.
“Dad,” I called out, while I made my way down the stairs to breakfast in a state of bewilderment.
“How’s the birthday-kid?” He answered cheerfully.
When I rounded the corner into our kitchen he was sitting at the table munching on a bran muffin.
“Did you open your present?” He asked.
“Un huh. About that. . .are you sure you meant to give that to me.”
He laughed. “You told me about a month ago that you liked the way your mother smells, so I got you a set of the same Bath Bombs I gave her for Christmas.”
I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “Mom’s a girl.”
“Your mother is a woman,” he corrected me. “She has wisdom born of pain.”
I giggled. “Dad . . . life isn’t all about song lyrics.”
“I also ordered a body wash set in the same scents, but Amazon didn’t get it here in twenty-four hours . . . so tomorrow morning will be your birthday 2.0. Seriously, Ethan,” he said, “if you don’t like the Bath Bomb Set I can take it back and get you cologne. You’re too young for perfume.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
He smiled. “Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think you should start wearing perfume until you’re out of high school.”
“No . . . I mean you’ve got to be kidding about giving me girly bath products.”
“Why?” He looked puzzled. “You do take at least two showers a day -- don’t you?”
I nodded. I actually have to use a lot of moisturizers because of the number of times I bathe. Mom does smell nice, but what would people think of me?
Dad ducked his head behind his morning copy of the Western Gazette effectually ending the conversation.
“Happy Birthday,” Mom stated and gave me a peck on the forehead. She placed a stack of pancakes in front of me. She’d decorated the top pancake with a face made out of fruit and bacon. It was a treat for me for Mom to prepare breakfast. Normally I cooked breakfast for everyone and about half of our dinners. Mom didn’t enjoy the kitchen as much as I did. She didn’t even own a decent apron, whereas I had several.
My favorite was a multi-flowered cobbler apron. It was definitely designed for a woman but men’s aprons don’t come with those handy pockets. . .and I thought I looked nice in it.
“Are you ready for another present?” Mom asked.
“About that . . . did Dad tell you what he was getting me for my birthday?” I asked.
A hand with a coffee mug jutted out from behind Dad’s newspaper, indicating he was monitoring our conversation. “Could you warm me up, please?” He asked Mom.
She poured coffee into his mug while answering me. “Of course, your dad told me what he was getting you. We always coordinate our present-buying so that we don’t get you the same thing. Remember when you were four and we both gave you a Big Wheel?”
I shook my head. “I don’t remember that.”
She laughed merrily. “Well, we do. You were pretty confused.”
“I was pretty confused when I got Dad’s gift a few minutes ago.”
Mom touched my arm. “It’s a lovely bath set. I prefer the Stressed Moms with its delightful lavender scent, but I’m thinking you’re going to just go crazy for the Yoga Sunrise with its lemony base. You know what? Come to think of it, I have a large supply of Jean Nate products that I’ve quit using that you can have.”
“But. . ..”
She moved to the sideboard. “Would you like to open a big package next . . . or something smaller?”
Three weeks ago, at my mother’s request, I’d Googled “gifts for pre-teen boys” and couldn’t find anything that really interested me. But . . . Mom always surprises me with things I don’t even know I want that turn out perfect.
“Let’s go with the little one first.” I grinned. “Good things come in small packages.” After I removed the My Little Pony wrapping paper I found a box from Sterling Jewelers. “It’s a locket necklace. This darling chain is so delicate . . . are you sure this is meant for a boy?”
Mom giggled. “The matching earrings are definitely for a girl. I’m free this morning to take you to the mall to get your ears pierced.”
“I. . .er. . .pierced?” I held up the small butterfly earrings and marveled at how exquisite they were. “Jenny has a pair of earrings just like these. She wore them to school last Wednesday.”
“Is Jenny still your best friend?” Dad asked.
“My bestie is Emily,” I stated with loyalty. “She’s always been my best friend, and I hope she always is.”
“She’s sweet,” Mom said. “You’re a pair. Yesterday afternoon, she dropped off a gift for you to open this morning.”
“Doesn’t she want to be here when I open it?”
Mom laughed again. “Emily said she wanted you to open it first thing this morning. She wants you to think about it, and then talk to her later this morning when she comes over.” She handed me a medium-sized package.
The box was wrapped in newspaper . . . the society section, which Emily and I loved to devour together. At first, I thought it was a soft cotton T-shirt. But when I held it up I recognized it as a pink nightshirt with a picture of my favorite boy band, One Direction.
“One Direction?” Dad asked. “I just use GPS.”
“That’s so lame,” Mom criticized.
“Why would Emily give me a girl’s nightshirt?” I asked.
“There’s a card,” Mom answered helpfully.
The card had a picture of a kitty on it and said: “Hope You Have a Purr-fect Birthday.” Emily had written a note on the inside. “I’m having a sleepover tonight with Jenny and Kristine. You’re invited, but only if you’re one of us and wear your new nightie.”
“Sleepover?” I’ve always wanted to go to a sleepover at Emily’s. They sound yummy. They always watch the best movies and do the most fun things. “Do you think she’s serious?”
“Only one way to find out.”
“What would Jenny and Kristine’s mom’s say if a boy went to their daughters’ sleepover?”
Mom smiled. “It just so happens that I talked to all the mom’s the other day at soccer practice. They think it would be fun for the four of you to have a sleepover. They just don’t care much for your taste in music.” She pointed at the picture of One Dimension.
My face felt like it was on fire. “Do you mean. . .. Did Emily tell everyone that she was getting me a negligee for my birthday?”
Mom laughed and hugged me. “A cotton night shirt isn’t a negligee.”
Dad chimed in. “A cotton nightshirt is a practical gift. Emily would have had to take out a mortgage to buy you a negligee.”
“Is that why you’ve never bought me a negligee?” Mom asked Dad.
It was his turn to have a red face.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “First Dad gives me perfume. . ..”
“Not ‘perfume,’ ” he chuckled. “I give your mother ‘perfume,’ but it’s really for me because it makes me. . ..”
“Herbert,” Mom cautioned Dad.
I grinned. He was going to say Mom’s perfume makes him “horny”. He’s said that before, when Mom wasn’t around to stop him.
“. . .then you give me jewelry,” I continued, “really nice jewelry. I like it a lot, but. . .. And then Emily gives me a set of girls’ PJs and invites me to a sleepover. I don’t get it.”
“There’s nothing to ‘get,’ ” Mom said. “Eat your breakfast before it gets cold and open that big present.”
I took a bite of my pancakes, and then opened the big box. It was packed with panties and other girl’s underwear . . . like bras! “Who are these for?” I sputtered. My hands ran over the material -- loving their softness. The colors were extremely attractive. I spotted a pair of panties I thought would look good with my new nightshirt. Whoa! What am I thinking?
“They’re for you,” Mom and Dad said at the same time.
Dad chuckled again. “I didn’t have anything to do with picking them out, but your mother showed everything to me last night, and I think she did a really good job shopping for you.”
“But. . .. I. . .. What. . .. Why. . ..”
Mom giggled. “Are you done with your breakfast?”
I looked down at my plate. Somehow, I’d eaten most of my meal without even tasting it. I nodded.
“Then, Sweetie,” Mom started, “did you happen to look in your closet, or in your bureau’s drawers, before you came down?
“No. . .,” I said tentatively. More presents. That's a perk of being an only child.
“I think you should go up and see what else we got for you for your birthday,” Dad said.
I sprinted up the stairs almost afraid to see my next surprise. I pulled open the top drawer of my dresser and found a box of simple cosmetics, like Emily would use. It contained an assortment of lip gloss, nail polish, and some very pretty barrettes for my hair.
My hand went to my shoulder-length chestnut hair. Mom is always so nice about putting a little color rinse in it to bring out its natural color, whenever she does her hair. I conditioned my hair at least three times a week.
I marveled at the gorgeous colors Mom has chosen for my nails. My immediate favorite was a metallic mix of very small bits of silvers, purples, greens, and golds. I didn’t think anyone would notice that I clip my nails slightly long.
Each drawer I opened contained more feminine surprises, things Emily and Jenny would have been delighted to find in their dressers.
My boy things were still there, but they had plenty of company with the girls’ jeans, T-shirts, and shorts.
I slowly pulled open my closet door and found . . . dresses. Emily and I had shopped the mall every weekend for the last month. She must have taken notes and given them to Mom because everything I had told Emily she should buy was now hanging in my closet.
“I’m pretty sure everything is in your size,” Mom said from behind me. “Do you want to try them on?”
“There all pretty,” I remarked as I sorted through the tops and skirts that were hanging next to the dozen or so dresses. There are several sundresses. School will be out in three weeks and. . .. “But why?” I asked again. “Why?”
“Do you like sports?” Dad asked. “We thought about buying you a baseball glove or a hockey stick or a football helmet.”
“That would have been a waste of good money,” I said. “It would have been nice of you, but the only sports I like are soccer and ice dancing. And, even though I play on a co-ed team, sometimes soccer can be too rough.” Jacob was our goalkeeper. With his height and wing-span we were rarely scored upon, which was good because we only scored one or two goals a game.
“We thought about giving you a teddy bear to add to your collection,” Mom added.
“That’s always a good gift for me.” I have nearly a hundred teddy bears and love every one of them to pieces. When I couldn’t find nice outfits to dress my bears in, I had asked Mom to teach me to sew. Now I can make anything I want for them – and for me. I also collect glass unicorns. “But. . ..”
“We did get you the tickets to the ballet you asked for,” Dad said while handing me a purple envelope.
“Oh . . . thank you,” I enthused. “I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but all this girls’ stuff is a bit overwhelming, and I just don’t quite understand.”
Mom’s face became very serious. “We’ve been talking to your pediatrician, Dr. Wentz. She told us that you’ve probably reached your total adult height. Do you remember those personality-tests she gave you last month and several months before that?”
“I do,” I said nervously. “Did I fail them?”
Dad laughed and reached to hug me. “That’s a good one. No . . . what the tests seemed to indicate was that you’re a very feminine person.”
Once again, I could feel a blush fix itself on my face. “I can change. I can lift weights and. . ..”
“We don’t want you to change,” Dad said quickly, but firmly. “You’re the best kid anyone could have. We just want you to have. . .options.”
“Do you wish I had been born a girl?” I looked to both of my parents.
“We think it’s very possible you were born a girl,” my mother said, “in the ways that matter the most. Dr. Wentz has given us her counsel. She says that you might want to consider taking a certain regimen of drugs to keep from having male puberty. What do you think of that?”
I bit my lip. The idea of developing muscles and even worse, growing a beard, had been haunting me. There were boys in my school who were no more than two years older than me who smelled terrible and had hair all over them. “I’m not sure.”
“All these gifts are our way of telling you that no matter what you want to do, we’re behind you,” Dad said.
“What if I want to become a man like you, Dad?” I asked, but my eyes were fixated on the teal jeweled neck party dress that seemed perfect for me when I’d seen it in the store. I can actually wear it!
“We want you to think things through without worrying about what your parents think. We’ll love you just as much either way,” Dad said. “You’re lucky to have such a perceptive friend like Emily. She’s been talking to your mom for years about what she calls ‘the real you.’ ”
“Can I talk it over with the Doctor?” I asked. I think I know what I want. I’ve dreamed of it every night for most of my life. “Would it be possible to live as a girl at home and as a boy at school?”
“Anything’s possible,” Mom said. “Anything’s possible.”
I need to start by talking to Emily!
Although I agreed to keep the gifts, I made an agreement with my parents and Emily that I would only dress in feminine attire within the confines of my home.
I also talked to the doctor, which led to discussions with several other professionals and eventually to shots and pills that put off puberty and caused other things.
Abby flourished. I spent six hours a day in school as Ethan and the rest of the day as Abby.
There’s no doubt I’m happier as Abby. It’s becoming a real chore to be convincing as Ethan.
Emily has been constantly nagging me to come out of the closet . . . and now it seems she’s found a way to push me out into the open.
“There’s No Point in Having Wishes If You Don’t, at Least, Try to Do Them.” Sally Nicholls
The Monday Following the Basketball Tournament
We met in Mrs. Collins’ office a half hour before first bell. She had asked that Emily and I come in to discuss our bet. She had also asked that we bring our parents.
When I walked into her office, I noted two things. Coach Wills was also taking part in the meeting and Emily’s parents didn’t seem too upset to be there. Actually, I took in one other fact. Even though it was the dead of winter and well below freezing, Mrs. Collins was dressed in her customary shorts that she wore every day for almost every occasion. She dresses to please herself. I stared at the legendary tattoo of a Panther just above her left kneecap.
She made sure all of the adults had coffee before starting the discussion. “To me, a lapse of school spirit is a cardinal sin.” She waved an accusing finger at me. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I hope you learned a good lesson from those fine young men on the basketball court.”
It was a basketball game! “Yes, Mrs. Collins. I should have known better.”
Coach Wills cleared his throat. His sense of importance had grown three times over the last few days. “What we have here is extraordinary. Emily and Ethan are two of our finest students.” He stopped to beam at our parents, as if his opinion should make them feel wonderful about their child-rearing skills. “Ethan fell down a little bit just when our school needed him the most and luckily Emily was there to set him on the straight and narrow. Now he must pay the piper.”
“Yes, indeed,” Mrs. Collins echoed. “Our administration has reviewed the situation and has agreed that while we don’t condone gambling – a bet of this nature, given the circumstances and Emily’s role as captain of the cheerleaders, must be taken seriously.”
“We agree,” my mother said, “but what assurances can you provide that my child will be safe.”
“Safe?” Coach Wills asked with some alarm. “These halls are safe. We haven’t had any instances this school year -- not one report of bodily harm.”
Evidently, he doesn’t count Bert getting de-pantsed last week as “bodily harm”.
Mrs. Collins took off her glasses and looked very stern. “Any incident of discrimination, harassment, or violence is given immediate attention, including investigating the incident, taking appropriate corrective action, and providing students and staff with appropriate resources.”
My father spoke next. “We’ve raised our son to be a man of his word. He knows he shouldn’t have made such a foolish bet, but he still wants to face up to the consequences.” He was speaking from a script we had written together as a family. Emily’s parents also knew what we all were going to say to carry out our deception.
“I’m curious, Emily,” Coach Wills asked, “what would have you had to do if you lost?”
“I’ve forgotten,” Emily said with a giggle.
“I don’t recall either,” I vowed.
“I see,” Mrs. Collins said without much conviction. “As I understand it, you two have worked out the basics of the rules so that Ethan doesn’t have to necessarily wear a cheerleading outfit every day.”
“Ethan can wear anything he wants,” Emily said, “as long as it’s an outfit a cheerleader would wear to school. He’s to stay in girl mode as much as possible with appropriate make-up and jewelry.”
“Ethan will do his best,” my dad affirmed.
Emily continued. “So that the school isn’t embarrassed, Ethan has agreed to try to act and sound like a girl. He’s going to try to fit in so that there’s no disruption.”
“No disruption. That’s our goal as well,” Coach Wills added. “I’ve spoken to the ball team. They weren’t any too happy that Ethan bet against them, but I’ve convinced them to rise above the situation and to make sure Ethan doesn’t meet with any bigotry. Jacob and Mason really stood up for you, Ethan. Jacob said he punch out anyone who gives you a hard time.”
“I’m sure it won’t be necessary for it to come to that. There is a technical situation,” Mrs. Collins said hastily. “You see – we have a protocol. We’re prepared to approve Ethan’s mode of dress to satisfy the bet, but only if we can all agree that this entire matter comes under the district’s policy for Gender Non-Conforming Students.”
My parents both nodded.
Mrs. Collins smiled. “According to our policy, I have been instructed to ask the following questions.” She read from a form. “Ethan, what gender entity do you wish to express.”
I bit my lip. “Female.”
“Uh huh,” she continued. “You’re allowed to pick your new gender name and what pronoun you wish to refer to you.”
I frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“What’s your girl name,” Mrs. Collins persisted.
I looked at Mom and she shrugged.
“Abby,” I whispered.
“Could you please spell that?” Mrs. Collins asked.
I closed my eyes and started to see how things could quickly fall apart. “She, I suppose.”
“She,” Mrs. Collins parroted. “The staff will be notified that you are to be addressed as Abby. We’ll also tell them that female pronouns shall be used. If you want your official records changed accordingly, we will need a copy of the court order.”
“Okay,” I said. “If we decide to go through all that I’ll stop by the office with the court order.”
“Every day it’s something new,” Coach Wills said to no one – but to everyone.
“How’s that?” Mom started to stand -- but stopped when Dad lightly touched her hand.
Coach Wills attempted to sooth things by saying, “Of course, every student has the right to his own gender identity. Ethan can pick his.”
Unfortunately, his voice betrayed his lack of belief.
“ ‘Abby’ can pick ‘her’ gender identity,” Mrs. Collins corrected. She looked toward me. “You will have access to the girls’ restroom. Should you have a need or desire for more privacy, you could have access to a single stall restroom on the third floor next to the chem lab.”
“I’m okay for now using the girls’ restrooms.” Mom, Emily, and I had discussed the bathroom issues and decided that discrete use of the girls’ restroom was best.
“The same goes for locker rooms,” Mrs. Collins added. “You will be taking girls’ physical education.”
“You won’t be in my class anymore,” Coach Wills said.
I didn’t express an opinion.
“Should you desire to take part in interscholastic competitive sports teams you will compete on the girls’ teams. Okay then -- starting tomorrow morning, Abby, you will be expected to dress as an expression of your female gender identity. Does anyone have any questions?” Mrs. Collins asked.
“Why are we here?” Emily’s father asked.
He’s a lawyer and probably is concerned about lost billable hours.
“You were only needed, if things didn’t go smoothly,” Mrs. Collins explained.
“Maybe you could come to school with me tomorrow morning,” I begged.
Emily’s mother smiled broadly. “We’ll be there, if you need us.”
“Nothing to worry about,” Coach Wills harrumphed.
“Have you picked out an outfit for tomorrow,” Mrs. Collins asked.
I had but wasn’t going to give her that information. The cheerleaders had a break for a week before starting to cheer for baseball and track. I wouldn’t wear the cheerleading outfit Jenny had loaned to me, until the cheerleaders all were wearing their outfits to school. “I suppose I’ll grab whatever is the top shirt and jeans in my drawer.”
Emily laughed. “You know we agreed that cheerleaders never wear jeans. Skirts and dresses, only.”
“I guess someone will learn not to make bets,” Coach Wills guffawed.
My mother rose from her chair, but Dad got in between her and the teachers. He smiled at Mrs. Collins and Coach Wills and said goodbyes for all of us.
Emily and I headed for our first classes.
This will be my last day as Ethan for a while.
“Debutants aren’t the only people to have coming out parties.”
“OMG!” Olivia said. She and all the rest of the cheerleaders met Emily and me in the parking lot the next morning. Emily had called a special meeting of the cheerleaders right after we met with Coach Wills and Mrs. Collins. It was their unanimous decision to unite in support of me since even a faux cheerleader still counts as one of them. “That is the cutest outfit. It’s DVF isn’t it?”
I blushed. “I take some of my inspiration from Diane, but this one is something I designed from scratch.”
“You’re so luck-ky,” Olivia continued. “Your mom must love you to pieces to take the time to sew something like that for you.”
“Abby’s mom didn’t sew it,” Emily said. “Abby did. She sews all of her own clothes.”
The mode amongst the cheerleaders went from jealousy to disbelief and then landed on absolute envy.
“Imagine,” Emily said. “Abby has the ability to dream up the most wicked tops, and then bibbidi-bobbidi-boo she can whip it up on her Singer,”
“Awesome,” the cheerleaders said as one, as if they’d practiced it as a cheer.
“Actually,” I corrected. “I have a Brother computerized sewing machine so I can make quilts for teddy bears. I’ve been selling them on e-Bay.”
“Can I get one for my cousin?” Carla asked. “She’s a Teddy hoarder.”
I giggled. “There’s no such things. Teddies are not subject to hoarding laws. If you tell me her favorite colors and a bit about her, I’m sure I can make you a sweet Teddy quilt for $10.”
In a matter of minutes, I had five more orders for quilts and was standing next to my locker. All of my anxiety had disappeared and I felt totally relaxed even though it was “Abby’s” first day of school.
“Hey, Emily?” Jacob shouted from about ten feet away. “Has Ethan showed up yet. I don’t want to miss this.”
“Jacob,” Emily said, while the cheerleaders parted so that Jacob could see me, “meet Abby.”
Jacob, who stood a head taller than anyone really has a right to be and had arms that could reach up and replace street lights without a ladder – looked like he’d finally run into something he couldn’t just knock over. His eyes got big as he realized. . .. “Whoa!”
“Yes,” echoed Emily. “Abby is all that.”
“Let me walk you to your first class,” Jacob said. “I sit right next to Ethan so. . .. Oh . . . I guess you already know that.”
Before I realized what was happening, Jacob took my books and started walking next to me . . . too close to me, by normal standards.
He kept up a patter about how awesome I looked. He seemed to be lost for words because he said again and again how lucky I was.
I was about to tell him to cut back on the malarkey, when we arrived at our classroom.
I walked to my assigned seat and sat with what I hoped was a graceful motion. Around me, I heard a variety of comments.
“She’s really Ethan!”
“That can’t be him.”
“I want a pair of shoes like that!”
Jacob was still talking to me at a mile a minute, but I couldn’t really hear him.
He seems intrigued by me.
Mr. De Leon came into the room. He must have been standing in the hall listening because his first remark was, “Abby, it seems like everyone is curious about you, so I’ll read the notice from Principal Ng.”
He read the announcement that had been sent out in an email to all the students and parents. It basically said that I was a transgender student who henceforth would be known as Abby.
“Let’s talk a little bit, and then get back into our normal curriculum,” Mr. De Leon said. He nodded toward Sarah. “What’s on your mind, Sarah.”
Sarah stood. She was a quiet girl who stayed to herself. She had been home-schooled until the ninth grade and hadn’t made a lot of friends because her family wouldn’t let her take part in any extra-curricular activities. “After my family read the email last night, we prayed. My mother asked the Lord to help us endure the abomination among us.” Sarah paused and turned to look directly at me. “My mother means well . . . and I love her, but anyone can see that you’re not an abomination. You’re lovely.” She blushed and sat down.
“Are you gay?” Tom immediately asked.
“Are you?” Jacob challenged. His face was flushed. “Being trans doesn’t mean you’re automatically gay or straight. Abby doesn’t need to answer that question any more than you do.”
“Sure,” Tom scoffed. “What if he’s trying to fool guys into dating him?”
“She!!” Several people reminded him.
I laughed. “I’m not doing a very good job of deception. It seems like everyone knows about me.”
Tom was not convinced. “But . . . you make an attractive girl . . .er . . . guys could get confused.”
“Would you want me to wear a sign?” I asked. “Or, should I simply have a scarlet “T” branded on my forehead?”
Mr. De Leon stepped in. “Unfortunately, there have been instances where trans have been killed and the assailant used as their defense that they had been tricked.”
“That shouldn’t even be allowed as testimony,” Jacob snapped.
Jacob is so huge that if he had his arms around me it would be like me hugging one of my Teddy bears.
“Sadly, it’s allowed and seemingly has persuaded juries to rule not guilty,” Mr. De Leon said.
“I’m sorry,” Ramon said, “all I know about trans people is what I’ve seen in the movies. They appear to be either pathetic, whores, or trying to trap straight men.”
“Movies shouldn’t be your primary source of information,” Mr. De Leon said. “I have a list of reference books that you can read, if you want real information.”
Several people raised their hand and received a copy of the list.
“Is being trans a mental illness?” Ramon persisted.
Mr. De Leon turned red before he answered. “We live in a world where science is often overruled by politics. There are still a small number of psychologists who believe that gender dysphoria is a mental illness, but most psychologists agree it is not. Unfortunately, it’s at that point that politics rears its ugly head.”
“Why do I see so many TV shows that portray trans people as perverts?” I didn’t see who asked the question, but it came from the back of the room and might have been Tom, again.
Jacob stood and faced Tom. “Fifteen to twenty years ago you would have seen a lot of TV shows that showed gays as perverts. That became socially unacceptable. The same shift is occurring with trans, but it takes a little time for everyone to get the message.”
Mr. De Leon surveyed the room. “Is there anything anyone wants to add? No, then open your textbooks and let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. We have a major test on Friday and I want you all to dazzle me.”
All of my classes that morning went off without much of a ripple. I did see a lot of pointing in the hall, but nothing bad occurred.
At lunch, I sat with the cheerleaders.
Carla sat next to me. She’d texted her cousin and got the information for the quilt. “She’s really going to love it,” she cooed. Then her eyes narrowed. She leaned in close, and then whispered. “This whole bet thing is a sham, isn’t it?”
I bit my lip and hoped that things weren’t about to go south. I nodded. “I suppose in a way it is.”
“I knew it,” she laughed. “Isn’t Emily just the best? She’s always finding ways to make everyone do the hardest things to help themselves.”
My smile was a foot wide. “She is the best.”
“You’re not going back to being Ethan. . .ever. . .are you?” Carla asked so that just the two of us could hear.
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly.
“You really shouldn’t,” she said. “Ethan is a nice guy and everything, but when you were Ethan it was like looking at a negative picture someone made in Photoshop. Now you look natural. Have you been Abby for long?”
I almost started to cry. “I’ve always been Abby. It’s been so hard to come to school and pretend to be Ethan.”
She took my hand. “I have a psychologist who works with me. I was having so much trouble understanding my mode swings. He says I’m an introvert who wants really bad to be an extrovert. He says I have to use so much energy to fake being an extrovert that when I get tired I just can’t do it, and then people think I’m having a mode swing and don’t like me because I’m not totally predictable.”
I stared into her eyes. Up until that moment I had thought Carla was one of the luckiest girls in the world. Great hair. Perfect bod. Electric smile. Millions of friends. Everyone has problems!
She continued. “I’ll bet it’s exhausting for you to pretend to be Ethan. Now that you don’t have to pretend anymore you’ll have so much more energy.”
“Maybe so,” I allowed.
Her gaze fell to my chest. “Your breasts look amazingly real.”
I felt like I could trust her. “That’s because they are. I’ve been binding them down and wearing bulky clothes to hide them. Of course, my bra does accentuate what I’ve got.”
“So does mine,” she giggled. “So does mine.”
We both blushed.
“Oh oh,” Carla said, while poking me. “Here comes Jacob. He broke up with Isabella about a month ago. Just about every free agent in school has been trying to hook up with him. How do you feel about big, hairy guys?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a slight frown. “It hasn’t been an issue.”
“It soon will be,” she giggled. She turned toward Jacob. “If you’re coming over here to ask Abby to the basketball celebration dance you better get it done, because I heard at least a dozen other guys are thinking the same thing!”
“Can I talk to you in private,” Jacob asked me.
Carla grinned at me from behind him.
“I suppose so,” I said. I’ll have to find a way to let him down. I’m not ready for dating boys and might not ever be.
Jacob steered me out of the cafeteria and into an empty classroom.
The student handbook has a rule about staying out of empty classrooms. The don’t want any PDAs that are non-P.
He’s always been nice. But I’m helpless if he decides to force himself upon me. For a brief moment, I felt repulsed by all his stark maleness.
“I need your help,” he said, his voice cracking. “You can’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you. Promise?”
I nodded. “I promise.” He’s going to tell me he loves me.
“Here goes.” He took a deep breath. His face turned scarlet. “I’m. . ..” He stopped. “This is so hard. No one knows.” He walked to the window and stared at the parking lot where a group of students were holding some sort of a protest about something – like they did every day. “I’m like you,” he said softly.
“I like you, too,” I responded.
“No,” he corrected me. “I didn’t say ‘I like you.” I mean -- I do like you. You’ve always been a true friend. What I said was, ‘I’m like you.’ ”
“You mean. . ..”
“Inside . . . I was born a girl,” he whispered.
For years, I’ve felt so sorry for myself. I’ve whined to my parents about how unfortunate It was for me to be born in the wrong body. I looked down at my almost perfect size two. I’m soooo lucky.
The rest of the day went on without any more surprises. Things happened to me that I could have only fantasized about. I never went to that dance with Jacob. As it turned out, the love I had for Emily continued to grow. Even though Carla was right and I never went back to being Ethan, I never became attracted to boys . . . or men.
I could see my future laid out like a roadmap. Emily and I would marry. My bear quilts would go from a small cottage hobby to a large business. I would branch out into several other novelty items for dolls and action figures using my designing talent and sewing skills to create prototypes that would be replicated by local manufacturers.
Although Emily and I would never become rich, we would make enough money to occasionally go to Las Vegas. Even though we would be surrounded by gambling we would be there for the shows and I would never place a bet. After you’ve won the biggest gamble possible there’s really no reason.
Jacob and I remained very close. Occasionally, I would make things for him to wear that would allow him to privately express his true self. He remained in his personal closet throughout high school. Caitlyn Jenner came out the end of our senior year. Her courage gave Jacob the strength he needed to feel good about himself. He went away to college determined to find a way to live as Ashley . . . who he really is.
I hope he finds an Emily to help him. Jenny’s told me she wants to be his Emily, but that’s for them to decide.
This is the 100th TG story I’ve posted online. Every day I think about how lucky I was years ago when Erin invited me to post my stories on her site. I’ve found a home for stories that are appreciated. I’ve gotten a lot of positive response from my readers, which makes writing the next story that much easier.
When I look in the mirror I see Abby. However, I’m well aware that since I’m built more like Jacob -- that the world doesn’t agree with my self-perception. I know that in the very near future what a person wears won’t matter to anyone anymore, but I probably won’t live to see that day. Pity.
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