“Turn around now, honey! Don’t be shy! Let’s see some booty!”
With a grimace, Willy turned away til his pink-clad back was facing towards the camera, which flashed in his made-up eyes as the moms took several pictures. As much as he’d gotten used to wearing it, his cheeks turned as pink as the leotard he was wearing when the other girls giggled as he slipped into the “sassy” pose. “Nice wedgie!” one of them called out, confirming his fears. “Lean over a little!” one of the moms called. “Show a little hippage!” He nervously obliged, leaning over to place one hand on his knee, with his other foot trailing pointed-toes along the ground. SNAP. “That’s a wrap!” The photographer lady called. Another one of the moms waved at him. “Good work, Lily! We’re done over here, c’mon over and join the other girls!”
Willy obligingly hopped off the little trampoline and dashed across towards the other girls, enjoying the breeze of the wind rushing past his bare legs in the cold gym, and wishing that he could enjoy it more often than this—without anyone knowing about it, of course. His sister padded over to him, beaming triumphantly, and took his hand. From a distance, the two of them were completely identical, pretty, cherubic little girls with their hair in blonde braids, differing only in the colors of their leotards—Sally’s was blue, while Willy’s was pink. “Lookin’ good, sis!” she said and he blushed deeply, wishing that she wouldn’t try so hard to make this uncomfortable. She leaned in close and whispered in his ear.
“You know, Lily, if you’d wanted to wear a leotard, you should have just asked.”
And it was true. After returning home from one of her practices, his sister had been chatting excitedly nonstop about the photoshoot coming up. She was going to get to wear her favorite pink leotard and pose for a professional photographer and have her picture in a catalog she could show off to all her friends at school. She seemingly couldn’t shut up about how much she loved her leo and how much fun was to wear, so much that even Willy got a little bit curious. So when he found it lying, fresh out of the dryer and lying among a heap of his own clothing, he thought nothing about taking it into his room and examining it for a little while. He sat for a long time there, legs dangling over the edge of his bed, running his fingers over the soft, crinkly fabric, enjoying its smooth, warm, slick feel, until he got bored and left it under his pillow. He thought nothing of it until a couple days later when at the next practice, his sister came wailing in to their mother complaining that she couldn’t find her favorite leotard. Mom calmed her down and told her it was probably just misplaced somewhere, and for the next several days his sister scoured the entire house up and down looking for it. Several times, she even accosted him, asking “Did you steal my leotard?” “No!” he said indignantly every time, and his sister would return to her despairing search. Eventually, she gave up on it, until the night before her photoshoot would happen.
That was the night Willy made his fatal mistake. “Hey, Willy! I’m having trouble sleeping, can I borrow a pillow from your room?” His sister’s voice called from the other room. “Sure,” he said while brushing his teeth. He heard her footsteps enter his room and were lost in the low buzz of his toothbrush until she let out a piercing shriek so loud Willy jumped about a foot in the hair. Their parents came roaring out of the other room ready to kill whatever it was that had scared their daughter, and Willy exited the bathroom. He crashed into her as she came tearing out of his room. “What the hell is this?” she screeched, holding up a wad of bubblegum pink fabric, and as Willy’s eyes focused in on it, he realized his life had come to an end.
“Sally! Don’t swear!” their mom scolded, then looked up. “You found your leotard, Sal! Where on Earth did you find it?”
“In his room!” She cried, pointing a finger at him like a witness at a murder trial. “He had it the entire time!”
Their parents stared at him in a kind of flat disbelief. “Willy, is that true?” His mother asked in her horrifyingly emotionless “I’m not mad at you, just disappointed” voice. Under her gaze, Willy melted like a popsicle in the summer sun. “N-n-n-n-n-n-NO,” he finally managed to stammer out, confirming that exactly the opposite of his words was true. Their dad just shook his head slowly. “Son, what the actual heck? Aren’t you getting a little bit old for playing dress-up?”
Ms. Bush folded her arms and just stared at him. “Willy,” she said. “I can’t imagine why you stole your sister’s leotard, and frankly I don’t much care. You lied to her, you lied to all of us, and you caused everyone a lot of grief.”
“You nearly ruined my photoshoot!” Sally cried. “This is my favorite leotard, and you know it!”
“So? Couldn’t she just have worn another one?” He whined.
“That’s not the point and you know it, Willy. The point is that you lied to me, and your sister, repeatedly. And I can’t imagine why you’d lie to us, and that breaks my heart. Liking pink stuff is final, Willy. Stealing from your family members and lying about is not. If you’d told the truth from the beginning, we wouldn’t have been mad at you. If you wanted to see her leotard, you should have just asked.”
Once they’d gotten Sally calmed down, his parents sent the two of them off to bed, but Willy couldn’t sleep, and spent almost the whole night laying wide awake, staring up at the ceiling and contemplating what his punishment would be. Taking away his computer, his phone, and all his video games? Making him do Sally’s chores for the next three months? Calling school and getting him assigned extra homework forever? Selling him to the circus?
As it turned out, his eventual punishment was both much more lenient than anything he’d contemplated, and so, so much worse.
On the day of the photoshoot, their dad took Sally out for icecream and the mall, while their mom spent hours brushing, teasing, shaving, and combing “Lily” until she was “ready for her closeup”, as Mom said. It was the most humiliating experience of his life –at least until she warned him that if he tried to fight it, she’d let everyone know it was him, and then it would only be the second most humiliating. At first, Sally complained about him taking her place, whining that their mom was punishing her for something Willy had done—at least, she complained until she saw the pictures of Lily, and couldn’t stop laughing for the next hour and a half. And for the entire rest of that day, he had a new nickname – he was no longer Willy, or even “Lily”. Instead, to her, he was only “Leotard Girl”.
Passing him in the hallway. “Morning, Leotard Girl.” Calling from outside their bathroom. “Hey, are you done in there, Leotard Girl?” Knocking on the door of his room. “Hey, Leotard Girl, I think I left one of my books in your room, can you look for it for me?” Sitting at the dinner table. “Hey, Leotard Girl, can you please pass the mashed potatoes?” Until Dad put his foot down and reminded Sally that “Honey, Lil—Willy does not go to gymnastics practice five days a week, three hours a day, and spend all of that time in a leo. So if there’s anyone who ought t have that name for running around all day in a goofy pink leotard, it’s you.”
“It’s not goofy!” Sally cried and so on it went.
The first time his mom dragged him into the gymnastics studio, and that sorrowfully, shamefully, he kicked off his pink flip-flops, pulled off his “Gym Princess” hoodie, and stepped out of his Hello Kitty athletic shorts, he felt like he was going to die. When he stood there in nothing but his sister’s bubblegum-pink leotard, with all the other girls and gym moms cooing and “awwwing” over how “Lily” looked in it, he felt sure he was going to die. But he didn’t die that day. He didn’t die when he first pulled the leotard on and felt how soft and tight it was all over his body. He didn’t die when they made him do all kinds of super weird stretches that he’d never done before, and never thought he could do. He didn’t die when they had him grab his foot with his hand and lean forwards on the other foot, all pretty and stuff. He didn’t die when the other girls complimented his painted nails and makeup. He didn’t die when his mom spent what felt like hours teasing her hands through his hair, tying it into long, blonde, girly braids and intricate knots that felt cute and practical all at once. He didn’t die when they gave him a whole bunch of pretty, soft, lovely leotards to wear, besides the pink one that was so girly and embarrassing. He didn’t even die when the photographer told his mom they were so impressed with his modeling, they’d like Sally’s “twin sister” to come back next time, and when she said yes without even checking with him first. He lived, through it all. And each time it happened, he learned to enjoy it a little more.
In retrospect, it was kind of a win-win situation for all of them.
“C’mon, Lily! Come over to the trampoline,” his mom called as he emerged from the changing room in a royal blue sheen. “Sasha and Kira want a photo!” His mom called. Lily eagerly obliged, running quickly over to join the two older girls on the little mini-trampoline thing. Sasha and Kira were almost a decade older than him, both very pretty. Sasha was the taller one, with an All-American figure and supermodel’s smooth face, and long blonde hair that looked great in contrast to her bright pink leotard. Kira was the workhorse, with huge muscular hips and shoulders, and limbs to match, with a slightly rounder face, but a super-friendly smile. Her leotard was a cool silver-grey, and her hair was light brown. Lily’s not-quite-pubescent mind was still too young for girls, and would have instantly rejected any notion that he found them, or any girls, so pretty—but his almost-pubescent body was not nearly so adamant, and although Willy did not yet properly know of such things, years later he would be grateful for the cup-underwear he was wearing underneath his leotard, especially when each of them got on either side of
him, placed a strong, soft hand on each of his shoulders, and clamped his body between their hips as he put his hands on his own and smiled.
“You are so adorable!” The tall pretty blonde girl said. “I wish my sisters were as well-behaved as you.” The other smiled down at him, then it faded to a look of concern. “Oops. Looks you’ve got a wedgie problem.” Kira expertly leaned down and picked the fabric out of his buttcrack, until it snapped back against his butt with a little smack that made him squeak in surprise. The others laughed, and he felt ashamed until they both put a hand on each of his shoulders and squeezed up close to him, til the three of them were almost snuggling. Between their warm, strong, muscular bodies, strong arms wrapped protectively around his shoulders, he felt comfortable and safe, like a little baby bird in a nest or something. Comfortable and free and safe to be a boy who wore leotards, and had his hair and makeup done, and nobody knew about it, and
he wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
“Oh, you know, my other one’s the real diva. Loves the spotlight, always has to be the center of attention. Lily here’s the quiet one, very shy. Makes her that much cuter, don’t you think?” his mom replied to Sasha’s mom.
“She’s so elegant, you oughta enroll her,” Sally’s gymnastics coach was saying. “I’m sure Sally would be thrilled to have her twin on the team with her.” “I might have to,” Mrs. Bush said, laughing.
“Would you like that, sweetie?” The teacher asked. “We can get you started in gymnastics and you can practice with your sister. I taught her everything she knows, I’m sure you’ll pick it up right away.'"
“I’d like that,” he said, unthinkingly, then his face flushed in horror when he realized he’d said it out loud. Willy was, as boys always are, supremely confident in his own outward masculinity. Fortunately for him, what he never considered was that his still prepubescent voice sounded little different from his sister’s—and wearing her leotard, nobody was likely to question whether he was a girl. His terrified embarrassment registered only as delicate shyness. “Oh, now, don’t be shy,” Miss said, laughing. “There’s nothing to worry about!”
And inside, he knew she was right.
“Only girls so far, I’m sure she’ll be delighted to know. No icky boys to give them cooties!”
“Mom, will you tell them I’m not a girl?” He asked, when the others weren’t listening. Only Sally heard, and gave him a reassuring, but still slightly evil smile.
“I don’t know, Sweetie. But one thing is for sure, you can be a girl any time you want to b a girl. And your sister, your father and I are totally okay with that. And one thing I can say for sure…..you’ll be wearing leotards either way.”
And some, Lily thought he was okay with that.
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