Stephanie’s voice, and once again I found myself frozen to the floor. Kirsty must of felt like she was dragging a dead person as she pulled me down the stairs.
During our short journey to the kitchen, I noticed an abundance of family photos on the walls. Not one of them had a boy in them, every photo either had Kaitlyn and Harpher together, Stephanie and Kaitlyn, Stephanie and Hayley. There wasn’t anyone who looked like they could be Kaitlyn’s father, which made me feel double as much horrified as I already was.
I joked to myself that one day I might find myself in one of those pictures, and not dressed as a boy. I’d have to be stuck in this house for years if that were to happen.
At the bottom of the stairs we turned into the corridor, Kaitlyn marched me straight into the kitchen where her mother was setting the table. Kaitlyn’s advice kicked in immediately as I asked, or rather spat out, my first question.
“What are we having for dinner?”
“Roast beef and potatoes, Courtney, I hope you like it.” She replied.
I was still getting used to my new name, every time Kaitlyn used it I felt my skin crawl.
But this time I had to force a smile so Stephanie didn’t get suspicious.
“Courtney loves roast beef, we were talking about our favourite foods earlier.” Kaitlyn added before I could reply, but she was still right, roast beef was one of my favourite meals. Kaitlyn gave me a sly wink when she realised what I was thinking about.
“Okay, well take a seat and wait just a minute!” Stephanie said excitedly, she was really enjoying herself tonight.
She turned away to begin dishing out our dinners evenly whilst I sat down at the closest chair with a knife and fork in front of it. Kaitlyn remained standing for a few seconds, inspecting me.
“Smooth that skirt on your dress before you sit down!” she said in her angry whisper, whilst pointing at the skirt on my dress that I’d never imagined wearing a dress at any point in my life.
“But she’s not looking, it doesn’t matter if I don’t smooth it!” I whispered angrily back at her, and I was right! Stephanie wouldn’t need to see me being all ladylike, she’d just assume that a girl would of done it anyway. Besides, Courtney would of disappeared by tomorrow morning.
“Just do it, trust me, she’ll know if you don’t!” Kaitlyn gave me a menacing glare to try and convince me to do as she bid.
“I do it all the time and she always notices!” she added.
I hastily stood back up and watched Kaitlyn as she began descended into her chair opposite me, running her hands down the back of her legs just before she touched the chair.
I nodded and did the same, smoothing the denim skirt before I sat down, at which point Suzanne turned around carrying two plates of roast beef and potatoes. She noticed me and had an impressed look on her face.
“Very ladylike manners you have, Courtney.” She smirked at me and then turned to her daughter.
“I’m glad you two met, you could learn a lot from her, Kaitlyn.” She gave Kaitlyn a pat on the shoulder before turning away to get her own plate.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I whispered across the table to Kaitlyn, she gave me an evil stare and told me to shush, then returned to a happy smirk just as her mother set her plate down and sat down between us.
Stephanie placed her hand on top of mine and grinned at me, it was almost like she was examining me closely. Shoot, did she know I wasn’t who she thought? My nerves were getting the better of me, and I nearly spewed out the truth onto the table. But it was Stephanie who spoke first.
“I’m always trying to make Kaitlyn a bit more ladylike, you know, honestly I don’t think she’s ever smoothed her skirt on her dress before.” She looked across at Kaitlyn, giving me time to take a quick breath, I was safe, she looked me right in the eye and didn’t recognise me!
“I try to, Mother…” Kaitlyn said, trying to apologise.
“You mean, never?” I spoke nervously, still recovering from that close call.
Stephanie turned to me and nodded, “Never, well, perhaps once or twice.”
Kaitlyn had an evil grin on her face while her mother wasn’t looking. I should have remembered how she liked to trick people, especially after she lured me into that lip-gloss trap earlier. She was making me act more like a girl than she was!
“She’s still a whiz with hair and makeup though, my little beautician.” Stephanie snickered at Kaitlyn and rested her hand on top of her daughter’s. For a moment the three of us were connected, and for a moment I actually felt good. I never really had these family moments at my house, even though this wasn’t my family, and I’d be escaping in the morning. I still felt better than I had been in hours.
“Now girls, dig in and enjoy.” Stephanie declared, and the moment was over. I immediately skewered a potato on the end of my fork, and then cut it in half. This was how I normally ate at home, but apparently not in this house. Kaitlyn gave me a few discreet hand signals to tell me to take smaller bites, and I quickly cut up my potatoes into smaller bits.
I kept one eye on Stephanie throughout dinner, whenever it looked like she was about to say something, I would ask a question and make her forget what she was going to say.
“This is a very nice house Mrs Allison.” I said after about 3 minutes of silence, Stephanie looked up and me and smiled contently.
“It’s not much but we can call it home.” She nodded slowly. “What’s it going to take to get you to call me Mom huh?” she grinned at me and took a sip of her wine.
I gave her a confused look, what does a boy disguised as a girl say to that?
“Maybe it makes Courtney uncomfortable, Mom.” Kaitlyn jumped in, saving me from embarrassment, and now I could think of something to say.
“I don’t really talk to my parents much.” I said with a bit of genuine sadness in my voice. It was true, I didn’t really talk to my mom or dad, and we didn’t really talk to each other if I’m being totally honest.
“Oh you poor thing, I’m so sorry for the whole ‘calling me Mom’ thing, you can call me anything you want, okay?” Stephanie was genuinely upset for me, or for Courtney, or both of us, I wasn’t sure.
“Do you mind talking about them Courtney? We can talk about something else if you want.” Stephanie asked.
I shrugged at her, confused. I didn’t really know anything about Courtney's parents, but she was under the impression that I knew everything about them. I struggled to think of a response, and looked to Kaitlyn for some guidance.
“Well Courtney told me earlier about them…” She looked at me and I just stared back blankly, what was she going to make up now?
“How they… How they disappeared mysteriously.” Kaitlyn nodded slowly and reached for her glass. Realising her daughter wasn’t going to say anymore about this poor little girl’s missing parents, or rather my missing parents, Stephanie's decided to shift her chair closer to mine and wrap her arm around my shoulders. My face was suddenly thrust into Stephanie’s chest, whilst she rested her head on top of mine, effectively clamping me in place.
My nostrils were filled with her perfume, which I guessed was something made out of roses. It suited her incredibly friendly and loving nature I had to admit. I looked across the table at Kaitlyn who looked as surprised as I was, she also looked like she was about to burst out laughing, and thank god she didn’t!
When she regained control of herself, Kaitlyn silently instructed me to wrap my arms around Suzanne and return the hug.
Once I did that, Stephanie went into overprotective maternal mode.
She began whispering soothing words in my ear, things like “It’ll all be okay”, “You’re safe now” but the one that actually hurt was “How two parents could abandon a pretty little girl like you is beyond me”
I don’t know what did it, but after Stephanie gave all the loving whispers a rest and just kept me in her inescapable embrace, I began to cry.
I hadn’t cried for years until now, I didn’t know how, it just happened. It must have been the mixture of the clothes I was wearing and the situation I was in. I couldn’t explain. I’m glad Suzanne didn’t say ‘let it all out’ because then we’d be there for years.
In my blurred vision I noticed Kaitlyn had an astonished look painted on her face, I had a brief moment of glory when I realised I somehow surprised the ultimate trickster that Kaitlyn is. I didn’t get to see that look on her face for long, as Stephanie quietly commanded her to get some tissues.
I felt the woman’s grip around me tighten, almost to a frightening level. I guess the story Kaitlyn and I made up… actually no, the story that Kaitlyn made up was tugging all of her mother’s heartstrings. If Stephanie had even more heartstrings than this, good luck to anyone who tugs on all of them.
We finished dinner early after that, I wanted to rush upstairs and hide in Kaitlyn’s room until I died, but Kaitlyn made me stay to help with the dishes.
We stood side by side at the sink, with me standing on top of a plastic step that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. Kaitlyn was doing the washing and I did the drying, we had a good rhythm going until Stephanie disturbed us.
“Aprons and gloves girls, we don’t want to ruin those pretty nails now, do we?”
She had snuck up behind us and lowered aprons over our heads, Kaitlyn began tying the apron’s string behind her back, whilst Stephanie had insisted on tying the strings of my apron herself. When the strings were too long to simply tie behind my back, she leaned over me and tied the strings into a bow resting just above my belly button.
I felt like dying at that very moment because it was so embarrassing.
“Wow, looks like I wont have to do any work tonight, thank you girls. Courtney I’ll go clean up Harpher’s room so you can sleep comfortably tonight, okay?” she asked.
I looked at her closely, she looked like she herself was on the verge of tears, was Courtney’s story that sad?
“Okay, thanks… Mom.” I replied, I thought I’d call her Mom to see if that’d make her happier, she gave me a knowing smile before disappearing down the hallway. I pondered what it would be like to have her as a mother, and it didn’t take me long to realise that anyone is better than my own mum. Kaitlyn is so lucky to have her.
I was brought back to the painful reality by a sharp pain on my bare arm, I looked to see Kaitlyn pinching me, and looking at me as if I was some sort of freak.
“What was all that about?” she asked.
“I thought she’d cheer up if I called her Mom.” I replied.
“No, all that crying, was that acting?” she prodded me, a suspicious look on her face.
“No… Yes… I don’t know.” I shrugged at her.
“Your parents aren’t dead or missing you know, they’re just next door.” She smirked and gave me a friendly shoulder nudge. “Now put these on.”
She handed me a pair of pink rubber gloves for the cleaning, she herself had claimed the less girly yellow pair.
“Do I have to?” I moaned at her, it wasn’t the cleaning I didn’t want to do, it was the pink gloves, and surely I had been humiliated enough.
“Yes, I worked really hard on your nails and I’m not going to let you ruin them.” She replied in a determined tone that meant I dared not refuse her. I slipped on the rubber gloves and continued with drying the dishes. For the next 30 minutes we spent cleaning the dishes, I kept thinking about that hug with Stephanie. Why did I start crying? I know, maybe her perfume was so strong that it made my eyes water?
“So why did you start crying? Is my Mom’s perfume too strong for you?” Kirsty seemed desperate to find out what happened.
“I don’t know! I’ve never had a hug like that before.” I replied.
“Did your Mom ever hug you?” she asked right after I finished speaking, like some mad interrogator.
I shrugged at her and finished drying the dishes, the truth was my parents were never very friendly. My parents were the exact opposite of Kaitlyn’s mum.
When we were done with dishes, Kaitlyn and I spent about an hour watching TV in the downstairs living room whilst Stephanie was upstairs in her bedroom - we guessed she was reading. When we were certain that Stephanie wasn’t coming back downstairs, it was around 8pm, we starting thinking of a plan for tomorrow morning.
It was simple really, Stephanie would leave for work at 8am, and Kaitlyn would wake me up at 9am. By 9:30 I would be dressed as a boy again, hair back to normal, nail polish removed and finally ready to leave the house. Nothing could go wrong. Since it was the summer holidays, making the plan was so much easier, Kaitlyn kept on saying how lucky I was that it wasn’t a school week. On a school day, Kaitlyn would wake up at the same time as her mother, has breakfast with her mother and then be driven to school by her mother, there was no free time for her on a school morning, certainly not enough time for a boy to escape the house.
I kept thinking about what would happen if this were a school week, how would I explain to Stephanie that I don’t go to school? I can’t tell her that my parents didn’t bother to find me a new school after I finished primary school, and that because of my parents I’ve missed a year of teaching. Nope, I wouldn’t tell her any of that, Kaitlyn would have to make up another wild story to cover it.
Stephanie would probably make me tag along with her and Kaitlyn, and then register me at the same school… wait, I can’t think about things like that. If she registered me at a school then that would make this official, I’d be stuck as a pretend girl forever! And then later when I grew up, there wouldn’t just be hair on my legs… how would I explain that?
That familiar feeling of fear surging through my body had returned, again I was rooted to the spot. That is until I felt another familiar feeling, a pinching on my arm.
I jolted back to the present and snatched my arm away from Kaitlyn’s razor tipped fingers.
“Hey, focus Courtney, what were you thinking about?” she asked me, a hint of concern on her face.
“I just started thinking about this, if this lasted longer than tonight and tomorrow morning, or even if it became permanent.” I replied. A cold chill ran down my spine as I heard the word come from my mouth. Permanent? I’d be stuck like this, I’d be stuck as Lauren, and I’d have no real parents. It would be like I was born again but started my new life as a 12 year old, with no friends or family…
Kirsty clicked her fingers and waved her hand in front of my face.
“Focus Courtney! Why would you want this to become permanent? Are you starting to enjoy being a girl?” she asked.
“No! I just keep worrying about things, you know, if they don’t go to plan tomorrow. What will we do then?” I asked.
“Trust me, we don’t need to think about that, the plan can’t fail. Mom is out of the house from 8am to 4pm, for the whole week. The plan will only fail if you’re still in the house when Mom gets back, and even if that happens you’ll just have to stay here one more night. The plan can’t go wrong twice.” She replied confidently, Kaitlyn really had thought this through, she was right. Nothing can go wrong.
“Fine, just stop calling me Courtney, after tomorrow she doesn’t exist!” I grinned at her.
Kaitlyn pouted at me. “Please? I don’t have any friends called Courtney!” she tilted her head to the side and looked at me innocently.
Later that evening, Kaitlyn and me were sitting in her room watching Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn. We had spent five minutes arguing over what to watch, and then another five minutes for Kaitlyn to convince me that Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn wasn’t as girly as I thought.
Stephanie came in during one of the ad breaks, carrying a bundle of clothes in her hands.
“Hey you two. Courtney, I realised you probably haven’t brought any pyjamas with you so I found some that look about your size.” She said whilst stepping over to where we were sitting on the edge of Kaitlyn’s canopy bed. She sat down beside me.
“Oh thanks Mom, but…” I began to explain that I didn’t need them, since I wasn’t going to be a girl in the morning. But Stephanie was quick to stop me.
“No buts sweetheart, do you really think I’d make you sleep in that pink dress? These will be so much more comfortable.” She handed me the pile of clothes, which at first glance looked like another pile of pink.
I smiled and nodded slowly, She patted my knee, then took me totally by surprise with a big wet kiss on the top of my head. Before I could say anything, she spoke again.
“Kaitlyn, dear, could you see me outside for a second?” she asked, already moving to stand up.
“Sure Mom…what for?” Kaitlyn replied, also standing up even if she didn’t know why.
“Just come with me dear.” Stephanie replied quickly, and then calmly took Kaitlyn’s hand and led her out of the room.
Kaitlyn gave me one last look of confusion and worry as she slowly disappeared behind the door, which closed shut soon after she left. I didn’t know what to think of that, maybe her Mom had another package for her. I quickly realised this was the first time I was in Kaitlyn’s room alone, and that lead me into a strange train of thought. I’m dressed as a girl, nobody can tell I’m a boy, I’m in a girl’s room and I’m alone in that room. It’s like this is… my room?
If someone were looking through the window, they’d certainly think that I’m a girl in my room.
Oh god, this is just getting more and more uncomfortable by the second.
Kaitlyn had been with her mother for much longer than a second, I had to check what was going on. Did Stephanie know about me? Did she know my secret? I stood up from the bed, muted the TV and walked towards the wall. I put my ear against the wall and listened closely, Kaitlyn and her Mom were talking in Harpher’s room next door.
“So you just met her in the park?” said Stephanie.
“She was sitting on a bench and looked really lonely, I sat with her Mom,” replied her rather nervous sounding daughter.
“I hope Kaitlyn can make up a good enough story.” I whispered to myself.
“I see, and there was nobody with her, no parents or guardians?” asked Stephanie.
“Nobody Mom, she was sitting there all alone, I told you her parents disappeared.” Kaitlyn answered, there was a brief moment of silence, her mother must have been thinking.
“Does anyone look after her? Does she have a home?” asked Stephanie, the worry in her voice starting to grow.
“She hasn’t mentioned anywhere or anyone.” Kaitlyn replied.
Was she trying to make her mom upset again with another sad story? It didn’t matter anyway, tomorrow I’ll be out of this costume and all the stories that Kaitlyn told her Mom would be forgotten in a few weeks.
“That poor little girl, why would her parents abandon her like that?” asked Stephanie who sounded like she was talking through tears.
“She didn’t say, I don’t think she knows why, Mom.” Kirsty replied. I imagined they would be hugging right now to comfort each other, or at least to comfort Stephanie.
“So she’s homeless and without a parent or guardian, and you’re her only friend?” asked Stephanie.
“Yes Mom but…” Kaitlyn sounded like she was about to tell her made up story, that would hopefully make Courtney’s disappearance in the morning nothing to worry about. But Stephanie answered her own question herself.
“We’re her only hope in this world, sweetheart, we have to protect her. I’d like her to stay here a bit longer so we can sort something out.” Stephanie was speaking with a determined edge to her voice, she was definitely not joking about that.
“I’ll be gone in the morning, I’ll be gone in the morning, I’ll be gone in the morning.” I whispered over and over to myself. “She’s talking about someone who doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary Mom.” Kaitlyn sounded anxious, she was trying her best to make her Mom think Courtney would be okay. It sounded hopeless to persuade Stephanie otherwise, the story that Kaitlyn came up with was too sad, nobody would let Lauren go alone if they heard her story now.
“This isn’t something we can say yes or no to Kaitlyn, we –have- to do this. Courtney won’t survive without our help. How long has she been on her own?” asked Stephanie whose maternal instincts were going into overdrive.
“Her parents disappeared just after she finished junior school at the beginning of the holidays, so two or three weeks? She’s only eleven but she knows how to survive.”
“I’m twelve, Kaitlyn, twelve!” I whispered to myself, though I partly wanted Kirsty to hear me.
Kaitlyn was still pursuing the hopeless goal of making Courtney look like a natural born survivor, but her mother wasn’t budging.
“My decision is final sweetheart, I know your just defending her, making it sound like she can cope. But you know the truth, she is a frightened little girl who needs us!” she said.
“Ask her to stay tomorrow until I get back from work, and when I get back I’ll ask her to stay for a few more days, perhaps weeks. We can talk about all the complicated stuff another time, for now just go brush your teeth and get ready for bed, there’s a good girl.” Stephanie rushed the last few words of her little speech, clearly wanting to end the conversation quickly so her daughter couldn’t complain.
I retreated back from the wall, one thought in my mind, I have to get out of this place.
I left the pyjamas that Stephanie had given me on the bed, I stood on the spot for a good few seconds thinking about them. I have to get out of here, no more girls clothes for me. Here are my options, leave now wearing these girl’s clothes and somehow sneak back into my house without getting caught by either my parents or Kaitlyn’s Mom.
Pretend to be a girl for the night and leave first thing in the morning as planned, without any risks. But that means I’d have to wear the girl’s pyjamas, sleep in the room of an eight-year-old girl and for the first time in my life, wake up in someone else’s house.
It was a decision that took a long time to make, but it was the smart decision. The first smart decision I’d made all day actually. I walked over to the pyjamas and picked up the top half first, because it was on the top of the pile but mostly because it was one of the few things in the room which wasn’t pink!
I lifted it up and examined it closely, the long sleeves were still pink, but the chest…oh god. This was a Minnie Mouse pyjama set, with Minnie on the front surrounded by pink hearts on a white background. The bottom half were just plain pink pyjama bottoms, reaching down to my ankles when I was finally dressed in the outfit. It had taken a while to get out of those pink and white striped leggings. When I was ready for bed, I sat down on Kaitlyn’s bed and turned the volume back up on the TV, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn was still on and I wanted to see how it ended.
Kaitlyn came back into the room a few minutes later, wearing a silky pale pink shirt with a matching pair of loose fitting trousers. Clearly her pyjamas were for older girls, and mine were for little girls. “This will be over soon.” I told myself repeatedly as Kaitlyn sat down on the bed in silence.
“We have a problem.” Kaitlyn said in a blank voice, looking defeated.
“I heard everything, but it doesn’t change our plan does it? I’m still getting out of here tomorrow.” I said confidently.
“Yes, you’re right, it’s just Mom, she’ll do anything to keep Courtney here.” She replied.
There was a brief moment of silence, we looked at each other, Kaitlyn looked as worried as I was.
“We’ll think of something.” We said together, equal amounts of determination in our voices.
Stephanie came into the room just as Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn finished, she was wearing a silky white robe with lace around the edges and white fluffy bits around the neck.
“Now girls, I know how much we all like Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn but it’s really time for bed.”
She said with a smile directed right at me. “Your room is this way Courtney.”
She walked over to me and placed her gentle hand on the back of my shoulder, I took the hint and slid of the bed. “Good night Kaitlyn.” I said over my shoulder, Stephanie continued to shepherd me out of her daughter’s room with her arm now around my shoulders.
“Good night sweetheart.” Stephanie said in a gentle voice as she turned off the light and closed the door just as Kaitlyn replied with a long winded “Niiiiight.”
Stephanie guided me to the right, the door to Harpher’s room was right next to Kaitlyn’s so it wasn’t much of a journey. She turned the room’s light back on to reveal a little girl’s paradise. I thought Kaitlyn’s room was a little girl’s room, but Harpher’s was on another level of girlyness.
The entire room was pink, except for the chest of drawers below the pink window frame, that was purple. The bed was to the left, against the wall. A much simpler bed compared to Kaitlyn’s, no curtains on this one, but the sheets were pink, the bed frame was pink, the carpet was closer to white than pink, but still looked pink. To the right, against the wall I had listened through earlier was a large white cabinet with its doors open. A small pink TV sat on the center shelf, framed with plastic hearts of different colours, on the top and bottom shelf was a collection of Disney Princesses. I knew from what Kaitlyn told me that Harpher loved everything relating to the Disney Princesses, even the pink bean bag sitting in the center of the room had a picture of Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle and Cinderella sitting together on a pink cloud. The walls were pink, with the bottom sections decorated with different princesses dancing together. To the left of the door, the last thing I noticed was a glossy pink vanity table, complete with several hairbrushes and a load of Disney branded plastic toys.
I could not wait to get out of this room, I just wanted to turn around, run down the stairs and out the front door, But Stephanie kept me under her control, slowly guiding me towards the bed. I did as I was told, repeating the “I’m leaving this place tomorrow” line in my head over and over.
“Forgetting something?” Stephanie suddenly asked, pointing at my hair.
“What?” I replied.
“Don’t worry, Mommy can handle it.” She was quick to act, within seconds I was sat down in front of the vanity table, staring at myself in the mirror. Stephanie removed the flowery hair clips and the hair tie keeping my hair in a ponytail, and then spent what seemed like an age on brushing my hair.
“I always loved brushing my daughter’s hair before they went to bed.” I saw her beaming smile in the mirror. She was getting way too comfortable with this, she’s starting to think of me as her daughter. When she finished with my hair, it was silky smooth like the material of her robe, just as wavy as Kaitlyn’s hair and looked double the length it was when I woke up in the morning, reaching a few inches below my shoulders. Now I really looked like a girl, all traces of my boyishness were gone, replaced by an 11-year-old girl with my face.
“Now for bed, come on you.”
I was perfectly fine with getting into bed myself, but Stephanie didn’t think that when she lifted me up, cradled me against her shoulder, and then placed me in Harpher’s bed. She sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the covers over me, tucking me in like a mother would do for her child. She smiled down at me, I gave her a nervous smile back.
“Courtney?” she asked just as I was about to turn over onto my belly to sleep. I really wasn’t used to having someone tucking me in at night like this. I looked at her blankly, forcing a smile, why wont this woman leave me alone?
“You can stay here for a few days if you want, okay?” she placed her hand on the covers, where my knee was.
“I know Mom… but I don’t think I’ll stay.” If Kaitlyn couldn’t make Courtney sound like an 11-year-old survival expert, then I’ll give it a try. She smiled knowingly at me, as if she knew what I was doing.
“Think about it, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk then, okay?” she asked.
“Good night Mom.” I said quickly and turned to face the wall. I wont be there in the morning to talk to her, she’ll just have to live without Lauren.
In the corner of my eye I looked at Stephanie as she sat on the bed looking at me, a smirk on her lips. I closed my eyes, thinking she would leave after that, conversation over. Then I felt her weight shift on the bed, her fingers on my face, brushing the strands of hair away from my eyes, and then her soft lips kissing me on the forehead. I kept my eyes closed to hide my discomfort. She left the bed, the light turned off, and her voice turned into a quiet whisper.
“Good night sweetheart.” Were the last words I heard that night
(This is over tomorrow, this is over tomorrow, this is over tomorrow)
~ The Next Morning ~
I was woken up the next morning at around 9am, as planned, not by Kaitlyn, but by the sound of the front door closing.
Not as planned.
I jumped out of the bed, something was definitely wrong. The plan we had made, the plan that we knew wouldn’t go wrong, was already going wrong. Maybe Kaitlyn just slept in… and the door closing, that was just Stephanie leaving late for work, she must have slept in too. Yes, that has to be it.
I looked around the room, I needed to find my boy clothes quickly if the plan was still going to work. I couldn’t find them anywhere in Harpher’s room, so the next stop was Kaitlyn’s room. I quietly snuck out of Harpher’s room, still dressed in my Minnie Mouse pyjamas, and grasped Kaitlyn’s door handle. One simple twist and I was in… a simple twist. I turned the handle and pushed the door, it didn’t budge one bit. I tried again, turning, twisting, pushing, turning the other way, pulling, kicking… every method failed, the door was jammed. But it was working fine yesterday, it must be locked, yes, locked. Why would it be locked? Did Stephanie lock her daughter into her room? Was she onto us?
It took me a while to notice, but if Kaitlyn wasn’t awake after five minutes of banging on her door, she probably wasn’t in the room. Stupid. Think smart. Kaitlyn must have changed the plan, just to scare me a little more, since her fun was soon going to end when Courtney no longer existed. I rushed back into Harpher’s room to think things over.
Kaitlyn clearly wasn’t around, her Mom would be on the way to work by now. I was alone in the house. The front door would be locked again, the two keys with Kaitlyn and Stephanie, and I would have to leave through the back gate. Now I just needed to find my clothes so I could actually go outside, Kaitlyn must of put them downstairs. After pacing back and forth for a minute to sort things out, I turned to the door, and there hanging from a hook was a fluffy pink robe, with Minnie Mouse printed onto the breast.
“This must go with my pyjamas, I might as well put that on too.” I said quietly to myself.
I pulled the robe on, tied the sash around me into a rough and manly knot and headed downstairs. No sign of my green shirt and shorts yet, I turned into the living room, still no boy clothes. Into the kitchen, still nothing. The last place left to check was the conservatory, Kaitlyn wouldn’t leave boy clothes in her Mom’s room, unless she wanted her to find out about my secret. I stepped into the conservatory, but before I could actually have a good look, I froze.
There, sitting on a wooden garden chair, sipping her morning tea… was Stephanie. She was wearing a colourful summer dress with some sort of cardigan on top. She hadn’t spotted me, so I snuck back into the house and hid behind the kitchen table.
This was NOT part of the plan.
What was she doing here? Shouldn’t she be at work by now?
(Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap)
Then that means Kaitlyn was the one of closed the front door to wake me up, why would she leave me here with her Mom? I couldn’t think of why my best friend would betray me like this. She better have a good reason. She probably told her Mom everything, and Stephanie is just sitting there waiting for me to wake up so she can start shouting at me.
My first thought was to run, but where? The front door was locked, and Stephanie would see me if I left through the back gate. There was no way to get past her. The only chance I had was to climb out of some window, but wearing Minnie Mouse pyjamas? What are my parents going to say when I ring the doorbell?
I had no choice, I had to escape now, get as far away from Stephanie as possible. I slowly stood up and crept into the living room. There it was, my escape route. The large front window which I hoped wasn’t locked was just a few feet away, I took one step forward, and then everything went dark.
I heard Stephanie’s familiar voice, but it wasn’t angry or psychotic like I thought it would be, it was sweet, loving, like it was last night.
“There you are dear, Good morning,” she said, I was not planning on hearing her voice ever again, but a nice “Good morning” was better than “I’m going to kill you!”
I was still in darkness, I turned to where her voice was coming from, my fists readying themselves to punch something. Stephanie thought nothing of my raised fists and quickly pulled me into her warm embrace once again. She pulled away whatever it was that was blinding my vision and kissed me on the forehead, again something I wasn’t planning on getting in the morning.
Stephanie was sitting in front of me, her eyes level with mine, and a beaming smile on her face.
“And your wearing Harpher’s Minnie Mouse robe!” she said, her voice over flowing with maternal love, I still got the wrong idea, thinking I did something wrong.
“I’ll take it off if…” I began, but Stephanie interrupted me with a finger on my lips.
“Sweetheart, Harpher is at camp for the summer, she wont mind if you wear her things, and nor do I.” She smiled at me, and then grinned evilly.
So that’s where Harpher is.
“Besides it makes you look absolutely adoraaaaable!” Her voice seemed to turn into a strange mix of laughing, squeaking and yelling. Her hands crawled up my sides and started tickling beneath my armpits, even through the robe and the pyjamas I was incredibly ticklish. My body collapsed onto the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter, Stephanie was relentless, she moved to sit on top of me, her fingers tickling up and down my sides.
All my fears seemed to disappear during that fit of laughter, Stephanie clearly didn’t know who I really was, or she was hiding it well, or she knows but just reacted in the exact opposite way Kaitlyn and me expected. I was safe for now at least.
I had never laughed so hard until that point, Stephanie had to hold me against her shoulder like a baby for a good few minutes before I calmed down. When I was finally feeling normal, I was sitting in the same chair I sat in last night at dinner with a glass of orange juice on the table in front of me.
I reached for it, and for the first time in a while I noticed my polished pink nails, or bubblegum pink, as Stephanie would say. That was a harsh reminder of my situation, I’m stuck pretending to be a girl here, and I’m still a boy. I had to remind myself of that.
I think during that laughing fit, I actually felt like this was my home, I felt like I was happy. But I would rather have a happy life as a boy, not as a pretend girl. I would just have to survive my parents until I was eighteen, and then I was free to do what I wanted. A happy life as a boy was all I wanted right now.
Stephanie rested her hand on mine and gently stroked it with her thumb, bringing me back to the present once more.
“Courtney?” she asked, concerned.
“I was… daydreaming.” I replied, and then took a sip of the juice. It was just right, cool, refreshing and only slightly sour.
“Can we talk?” she asked.
I nodded slowly and waited for her to say something.
Oh god, I forgot… she wants to ask me… it was too late to stop Stephanie from talking without raising suspicion.
“I was wondering, how do you feel about staying here for a bit longer, maybe something more… permanent?”
I cold chill ran down my spine.
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