First of a four-part series
Lacey Baker looked herself over in the mirror - first anxiously, and then with a satisfied smile. She brushed out her hair again, feeling even more confident in her appearance.
She was interrupted, however, by her sister Kelly. “Seriously, Lace? It’s a car ride, not a princess ball?”
“Geez!” Lacey exclaimed. “Let a girl try on her dress, will ya?”
“Well, you’d better hurry up. Mom says we’re leaving right when Lily gets home.”
Lacey started to change out of the dress and heels she planned to wear for Thanksgiving dinner. This was going to be a Thanksgiving dinner unlike any other - one she would remember for the rest of her life. Why?
The answer, she smiled thinking of as she wiped lint off of her leggings, lied in the fact that this Thanksgiving was girls’ only. It would be just the following “terrific folks” as Lacey jokingly referred to them: Mrs. Baker, Lacey (16), her older sister just returned from college Lily (20), her little sister Kelly (12), and Mrs. Baker’s sister Ida and her two daughters, Rhonda (20) and Maddie (16).
Three very notable people would be absent from the festivities this year, all for the best. First, the good-for-nothing Uncle Rick and Aunt Ida were no longer married, which, to Lacey’s delighted, subtracted the last vestige of masculinity from the celebration. Secondly, Logan and Matt Baker would not be participating, because, well, Logan and Matt were now Lily and Maddie.
“Alright! I’m ready!” Lacey put on her pink puffy coat and loaded her two suitcases of clothes into the car. She just had to show Maddie her cute new top - the black one, cut off at the bottom, that made Tevin Brantley drool whenever the cheerleaders and basketball players shared the gym.
A car rolled into the driveway and out stepped Lily - Lacey’s role model throughout her turbulent past year of change. She waved, and Lacey screamed and hugged her, with Kelly joining in.
“You look hot, princess,” Lily cooed good-naturedly. “The boys must be tripping over each other to get to you.”
“You know it!” Lacey rolled her eyes, as Lily talked to Kelly next.
Finally, the car was loaded, and the four women of the Baker household began their eight-hour trek east, from Ohio to Pennsylvania. The excitement in the car was palpable.
“So what’s the plan?” Lacey chirped to her mother, her pink fingernails moving across her phone screen all the while.
“The plan,” Mrs. Baker said, “is get there late tonight, hang out tomorrow, meal Thursday, shopping Friday.”
“What stores are we hitting?” Kelly was bug-eyed. This was to be her first Black Friday shopping trip.
“Well I thought we’d go to the usuals - Macy’s, Penny’s, your sister wants to hit Victoria’s Secret” - here Lacey beamed - “and then I want to check out this local boutique that Aunt Ida says has dresses we can get for the Watsons’ Christmas party.” The Watson, close family friends of the Bakers, threw a massive Christmas party every year, and Lacey would be going for the first time as a girl. Every year, the girls wore extravagant dresses, and Lacey couldn’t wait to at long last partake in a tradition she had so long admired.
The car wound along the Ohio backroads, as the girls reminisced about Lacey and Maddie coming out.
“Props to you two for doing it the same night,” Mrs. Baker laughed. “I called your aunt to confide to her, and she was telling me the same thing.”
“I remember, I thought it was weird seeing my brother in a dress at first. But now it’s cool with me,” Kelly shrugged.
“When was the moment you first realized, ‘Wow, Logan’s a real girl?’” Lacey asked her family.
Kelly went first. “When my brother showed up at my ballet studio,” she laughed. “When Lacey started having to help me with my bun. That’s when it really hit me, when I was sharing tights with my mean older brother.”
“Thank God we’re the same size!” Lacey giggled.
Next was Lily. “Seeing you in my cheer uniform, definitely.”
Finally, it was Mrs. Baker’s turn. “You guys are so broad. Moms see the little things,” she said. “The little twirl of the hair, the sashaying hips, the way you brush your skirt when you sit down. That’s what I really notice.”
The girls continued to chatter, about anything and everything, when suddenly the car’s speed dropped sharply.
“I gotta pull off the highway,” Mrs. Baker said, and exited to a little town off the route they were taking. Lacey fidgeted nervously. She was just so excited to see Maddie. Maddie said she’d bought a beautiful tutu for a ballet recital she had coming up, and Lacey just had to try it on. It was supposedly blue, with light pink sequining - when she wore it, Maddie said, she felt like a princess...
When Lacey awoke from her daydream, the car had stopped completely, and Mrs. Baker was on the phone. “Mom’s calling a tow truck,” Lily said. Lacey was frustrated. The happy vibe in the car had been killed altogether.
“We’re going to be here awhile,” Mrs. Baker told the family when she got off the phone.
“How long is a while?” Lily asked.
She gulped. “Three hours,” Mrs. Baker said.
Lacey felt like yelling in frustration. Here she’d been, so excited for something, and now... well, everything was just falling apart.
She resorted to all her usual time-killers. She tried texting Tevin Brantley, but he didn’t respond, and Maddie was unconversational beyond an “Ok” when informed of the Bakers’ new ETA. The lack of a signal made online shopping impossible, so all Lacey could do was sit and wait.
Lacey dozed off for a while, at 4:13 pm. She woke up to the clock reading 7:14 pm, and just blew up.
“Where’s the tow truck?” she shrieked to her mother.
“Lacey Allison Baker, it is on its way, will you just calm down?”
“No, I won’t!” Lacey vented. “I should be in Pennsylvania right now, instead I’m sitting here freezing in God-knows-where, not moving...”
“Come on, Lace,” Lily chided her. “Think about it: when we’re shopping on Friday for a dress for you to wear to the Watsons’ party, it’ll all be worth it.”
“Will it? Will it?” Lacey began to sob, and she buried her head into the side of her seat. Kelly put her arm around her, but it was useless.
Finally the tow truck arrived. Lacey got out of the car, and the family piled into the back of the truck, which was to tow the car the remaining three hours to Aunt Ida’s, where she would send for a repairman.
“It stinks in here.” Lacey was brutally honest.
“Lacey!” Mrs. Baker exclaimed.
“What, it does!”
“Try going to sleep.”
When she was sure no one was listening, Lacey began crying again. She’d managed to alienate her entire family, and she was in a stinky car, and the best Thanksgiving ever had been ruined before it had even begun.
She tried to console herself with happy memories. Going to the mall for the first time with Lily and getting her ears pierced; comparing her breasts to Kelly’s as they just started to grow; making girlfriends in cheer and ballet. All were highlights of the year that was.
But she was just so excited to see Maddie, and get away from boys - who, despite being hot, were quite frankly annoying - the emotion had become too much.
Gradually, Lacey turned her outlook around. Her journey to girlhood had not been easy. It was only fitting that this journey wouldn’t be, either.
She remembered, as recently as five weeks ago, Kelly slipping up in a conversation she’d overheard.
“Mom, I need some new training bras!”
“I thought I just bought you some?”
“Yeah, but Logan keeps stealing them for cheer...” Kelly immediately corrected her mistake, but it stuck with Lacey. It proved to her that everyone was still learning. This Thanksgiving was a good measuring stick of how far the family had come.
As the car neared Aunt Ida’s house, Lacey recalled the day back in July, when Lacey had sat at a doctor’s desk to sign paperwork approving of her undergoing hormone therapy.
“Logan,” her mother had said, calling her by her boy name for the last time, “are you sure you want to do this?”
Lacey, who’d just come from ballet practice, looked down at her white tights, which smoothly encased her delicate legs. “100%.”
The Bakers arrived at the house, unloaded their bags, and immediately made for bed - except for Lacey. The only one in the house awake, she - just for fun - stayed up a little while longer and tried on her dinner outfit one last time for good measure. Had she known the holiday she had in store, she may have reconsidered.
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