Girlzilla Part 2

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Girlzilla 2

By Ricky

I'd been sharing my cousin's dresses since we were toddlers. What else could you call a six foot five inch boy in a dress and his six foot four inch female cousin but Girlzilla?

Ralph

As wonderful as spending the night with Ruth had been, I was certainly confused the next day. Not about Ruth! Certainly not about Ruth; what we were developing was something special. No, it was the whole sex thing.

Sex thing. Sounds kind of stupid to say Sex Thing, but what else am I supposed to call it? I had gotten the basic birds-and-bees lecture when I started puberty and my parents were unusually open about the whole thing. Problem was, it seemed kind of irrelevant to my twelve-year-old self; I was still trying to figure out how self-gratification worked. The tales in the locker room seemed a bit unrealistic and but no matter how open they were i wasn't going to ask my parents about that! It's a guy thing, I suppose all guys go through something like that. The next problem was I wasn't sure I was a regular guy.

By the time the sex lecture was needed, Martha and I had been sharing her clothes and playing sisters for just about as long as we could both remember. Bras, panties, stockings, heels, sweeping skirts aside when you sat, using your hands to talk, taking smaller steps; all that stuff was second nature to me by then.

Playing dress-up was cute when we were little kids, mildly funny as we got older, but by the time puberty hit we both knew that it wasn't something that a regular guy did. Uncle Richard made that very clear, so we just moved our playtime to my house and my liberal and tolerant parents let us set our own rules.

For a little while we stopped, sensing that this wasn't going to go over so well with our friends, but it wasn't long before I was swiping Mom's bras from the laundry and raiding her drawers. I liked being a girl just as much as I liked being a guy, but I didn't see all that much difference besides the clothes.

When I matured enough to make sex relevant to my young life I got confused again. I was bombarded with conflicting messages: traditional sex ed at school, rigid sex avoidance from Uncle Bastard, blatant sexualization of kids on the TV, liberal sexual tolerance from my parents, feminine and masculine desires from my body, sisterly love from my cousin - what a mess!

Dad was pretty open about treating girls with respect. No meant No no matter what you wanted. If you started a baby you had a lifelong commitment and no amount of whining was going to change that. Finally, the first rule of lovemaking was to think of your partner's needs before you satisfied your own. Dad had some pretty good advice, at least Ruth agrees heartily with it.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my split personality. This is a story about my crossdressing, so naturally I'm going to talk a lot more about my life as Mary, but I really did have a life as Ralph. In fact, as I became more confident as Mary I also felt more comfortable as Ralph. Not a split personality, but two sides of one harmonious whole. I didn't hate my boy bits or whatever euphemism you want to use for my penis; actually I thoroughly enjoyed my genitals and put them to their intended use quite happily. SRS? No interest at all, thank you.

What confused me was how I could thoroughly enjoy lovemaking with Ruth and then hop out of bed to enjoy putting a bra and panties and start thinking like Mary after grunting like a lust-crazed bull.

Dad was vastly amused when Mary called home to talk to her mother about sex. (My folks talk to each other about everything - you don't have a private talk with either one without explicitly asking.) If I thought about it, I had to wonder why Mary could comfortably talk about things that Ralph couldn't. I poured out my thoughts in a jumble, the nice coherent things I'm writing today took a long time to gain any logical order. Mom wisely listened and let me ramble on.

Having a social worker for a mother can be a good thing when you're confused. She asked some questions that let me find my own answers, offered some good advice that boiled down to : 1) Remember the difference between sex and gender. 2) Talk to Ruth. 3) Talk to the school counseling service.

Then she went to the heart of the matter and asked about the sex part of sex with Ruth. We even talked positions! With my mother! Well, she's had twenty odd years of finding out what a woman likes in lovemaking and we've had a couple of weeks. I got a little confused as Ralph tried to figure out how to use Mom's advice to Mary about what Ruth might like.

Guess what? There weren't any easy answers. There still aren't, but the questions seem to be improving.

***

Ralph

You know what can be really hard? Spending so much time to perfect my feminine personality and then having to kick Mary out of my head and have Ralph replace her for an entire vacation. The theater types call it breaking character and spend years learning how to avoid it so when something goes horribly wrong on stage the show doesn't come to an abrupt halt. The way it worked out, I spent just about every minute that I wasn't in class as Mary. Damn it, I being Mary. It sounds stupid, but I felt much more relaxed and creative doing programming when I was wearing a bra. OK, it doesn't make sense, but that's how it is.

The end of November rolled around and it was time to go home for a week to celebrate Thanksgiving. Martha and I decided to save our parents a trip and travel home by bus. Knowing that Mary would be packed away for some time, I decided to travel home as Mary - after all my folks knew about her - and then spend the rest of the week as plain, old Ralph.

Why, you might ask, did we turn down the offer of a ride home in comfort for the longer and more arduous bus ride? Simple - Uncle Richard was the one who made the offer. Neither of us looked forward to spending hours alone with my uncle and having to make conversation. It was a given that the naturally liberal attitudes Martha had adopted at college wouldn't go over all that well with him.

This time we ran contrary to the stereotype of a bus ride. No drunks, no seedy old men to bother a young lady, not even a passionate Believer thirsting to save us from sin and perdition. The driver even stopped at the rest area halfway home so we didn't have to try to relieve ourselves on the mechanical equivalent of a bucking bronco in the crappy little toilet in the bus.

I don't know where he got it, but my smartass brother Dave was standing there in a chauffeur's hat and vest holding up a sign with our names on it.

How did the little beggar know I would be traveling as Mary? No sense asking the smartass, the answer would only give him opportunity to rub it in.

"Hey, sis! You're lookin' good. You too, Martha.

"Take a good look, little brother. I don't suppose I'll get a chance to be Mary with all the family activities over the week."

"I don't suppose you will unless you want to attend a few funerals for the older relatives. How does it feel to be a big sister instead of a big nerd?"

"It feels damn good, oh ye of the deprived viewpoint of the hopeless male. You ought to try it some time."

"Can I sneak into your bedroom and swipe your clothes like you did with Mom?"

"Only if you want to make it permanent when I remove your useless balls."

"Can I help?" asked Martha.

"It would take the both of you to even try. Relax, sis - I have no interest modifying my dress or my sex. I'll leave that to you as you are obviously so good at it. If you were only a foot shorter no one would think twice about what's under your clothes."

"Was that a compliment, Martha?" I asked.

"I think it was. The boy must have matured while we were gone," she answered.

"So it seems. Fortunately, it is a chauffeur's accepted duty to transport the luggage. We'll be waiting in the back seat while you perform your service, Jeeves."

"Isn't he supposed to open the door for a lady?"

"If there were any ladies around I might, but all I see is some lousy relatives who have smart mouths."

"I retract the remarks about maturity. He's still my smartass little brother despite the clothes."

"And you're still my smartass big brother despite the clothes. Don't push it, sis."

***

Ralph

Martha and I cut out early, but Ruth had a project to finish before she left. She was supposed to be on the bus the day after we arrived, but so far I hadn't found her in the bus station. The good news was that was definitely her suitcase under the bus, but the bad news was she wasn't there to pick it up. I don't suppose buses are prone to routing suitcases to the wrong city just like the airlines do, but I was beginning to wonder.

You didn't think I was going to be allowed to come home without her, did you? Fortunately for me, her parents lived halfway across the country, so flying back for Thanksgiving and then doing the whole thing again a month later for Christmas was not going to happen. What a shame she couldn't go home. See the crocodile tears?

After only a couple of weeks of sharing a bed with Ruth my bed had felt awful cold and lonely last night. We had sort of moved in together after we had surrendered our virginity to each other. Ruth's snoring roommate was happy to have the place to herself other than some residual closet space and a couple of drawers that Ruth needed until we could get some more bedroom furniture. Ruth was happy because she had a much more compatible roommate and I was happy because I had Ruth. We had every intention of making the arrangement permanent when the next semester started.

But just where had she gone? At last I saw some movement through the darkened glass of the coach and a much disheveled Ruth climbed down the stairs with a ferocious frown on her face. Not exactly the greeting I had been expecting. Spying me she growled "The next time I drink a Big Gulp before getting on one of these mechanical monstrosities just check me into the nearest loony bin! I've been pissing my way for two solid hours in that undersize broom closet they laughingly refer to as a toilet, hoping that my ass didn't turn yellow every time that misbegotten, unsprung, square-wheeled piece of crap hit a bump! I wore this damn skirt just for you and now it stinks of piss and so do I!"

"And I love you too, darling," I replied.

"Fuck off!"

"That has been on my mind, you know."

"Touch me and I'll start your SRS without anesthetic and with a dull, rusty scalpel!"

"Suddenly I'm glad my parents didn't come with us to pick you up."

"You picked a feisty one, eh Ralph?" My sister Terri had been standing a ways back out of the path of destruction that preceded my love. Smart girl.

"Ruth, may I present my sister Terri, youngest of our clan, whose tender ears have just been burnt to a crisp?"

"Screw you, big brother. I'd rather have a catheter than use one of those bus shitters. I'm with you, Ruth."

"At least someone in your family knows what they're talking about. Show some sympathy, you macho jerk!"

"Let me go borrow a garbage bag from one of the janitors so we don't mess up the car seat."

"So now I'm garbage?"

"Keep pissing and moaning and I'll put the bag over your head instead of under your ass."

"Go ahead and try, buster." She couldn't keep up the bad mood and finally started to grin. "Damn. I've missed you!"

"Me too. Good thing we don't have to share a bathroom with my brother and sister. We got the guest bedroom."

"And your folks are cool with us sharing?"

"Yeah. A little shell shocked, but they're cool."

"Must be nice. It sure wouldn't happen with mine. When you meet them you'll have to come as Mary. What they don't know won't hurt us."

"You like to live dangerously, don't you?"

"We're living together, aren't we?"

Yeah, I like to live dangerously.

***

Janet (Ralph's mom)

"Thank you so much for helping with dinner, Ruth."

"I love helping to cook. When I'm home I don't get much chance to cook, Mom."

Janet paused a minute to reflect on how she had become 'Mom' to this girl in about a day and a half. It was no wonder that Ralph was so infatuated with her - anyone would be.

"Is there a four quart casserole around here somewhere?" asked Ruth

"Top shelf in the pantry, on the right."

"You wouldn't happen to have a step-stool around here?" came Ruth's voice from the pantry.

"Hold on, I'll get it for you." She wiped her damp hands and went back to the pantry. "Living in a house full of giants there's not much need for step-stools."

"Which makes me the token dwarf, eh?"

"If I started singing Five foot two, eyes of blue would it offend you?"

"Not at all, my uncle loved to sing it to me but my eyes aren't blue."

"Who cares? Five foot two is the perfect height for you. Don't ever be ashamed of it."

"No shame in it, but it would be nice to be able to reach the top shelf. I've offered to swap a few inches with Mary but she declined. Something about transplant technology not being that advanced."

"I suppose so." I paused. "Do you mind if I ask a personal question?"

"Depends on the question, but go ahead."

"I still don't quite understand the whole 'Mary' thing. I still have to put on my social worker hat to cope with it and not let my 'Mom' hat fall down over my face about her. Do you really like Mary?"

"You get right to the point, don't you?"

"From what I've seen I'm not the only one in the room who does."

"Got me in one. Yes I really liked Mary from the moment I met her. We're both outsiders. You wouldn't believe the crap I take being a woman in a high-tech field and I saw the crap Ralph took just because he's so tall. People make such dumb remarks to the both of us. I was trying to figure out how to approach him just because I liked him, but the whole Dumb and Dumber thing had me scared.

"Would it surprise you to know that Ralph had a hard time dating because he was so self-conscious about hulking over just about every girl in school?"

"He did? When you're so short it seems that the tall people have it made."

"And I never was too happy with being so tall. The grass is always greener, isn't it?"

"And then you find out it's AstroTurf that some dog peed on."

"So young and yet so cynical! How do you do it?"

"Natural talent and growing up with some pretty conservative parents. It was that or go bonkers. I really like seeing how your family works."

"Pretty crazy, don't you think?"

"Sure, but a nice kind of crazy never having to worry that you'll trespass over some unwritten rule or edict that that's the way things have to be!"

"Don't think we weren't tempted when Ralph started to take being Martha's female cousin so seriously. It can be pretty hard to live up to your non-sexist ideals sometimes."

"They keep saying that in my Philosophy class."

"So there wasn't any moral objection to dating a boy who likes to wear dresses?"

"Actually, when I met Mary and Martha I just about flipped out because there wasn't any way Mary could be anyone but Ralph in drag. I was pretty sick of macho jerks that hit on me and the idea of a man I already liked who didn't hide his feminine side sounded pretty good."

"You knew?"

"Sure! A woman that tall that looks like Ralph and is with the one everybody calls girlzilla. It doesn't exactly qualify as a secret identity."

"Girlzilla?" I grinned. "I haven't heard that one yet."

"Martha had the bad luck to be there when they had the Japanese Monster Film Series at the Union. I was kind of pissed off on her behalf because I've had some crappy nicknames because I'm short, but I really didn't know her since we're in completely different programs."

"She was born to be a teacher, just like her mother."

"I've figured that out since I moved in. Oh, maybe I shouldn't have said that."

"Don't worry, Mary told me all about it."

"Well, we were talking about some personal stuff. And yes, I like Mary a lot. Not that there's a huge difference between Mary and Ralph - Mary's just a softer version, easier to talk to about some things."

"I think you're right. There are things I've discussed with Mary that I would never have done with Ralph, like sex."

"Uh, yeah?"

"Relax, Ruth. I know you're living together; it's pretty much a given that you're having sex - or rather making love since there's certainly a commitment between you two and not just a quick roll in the hay."

"I never understood that euphemism - being naked on hay is just about as bad as being naked on sand. Scratched and punctured or gritty and itchy - I prefer a bed, or at least the back seat of a car."

"A bed is best, but Harry and I had some good times in the back seat. Of course, cars were a lot bigger back then. I can't even drive a Toyota comfortably, let alone screw in one."

"I never had that problem, but I never tried to do anything but drive one."

"Believe me, there are more reasons than transporting kids that suburban moms prefer mini-vans."

"No!"

"Hey, just because we're older doesn't mean we've abandoned some excitement in lovemaking. You'll find out someday. If it comes to that, give us a call and we'll babysit the grandchildren for you."

"Damn! We aren't even engaged and you're already hinting about grandchildren. We are both making very sure that I don't get pregnant."

"I wouldn't have expected anything less from Ralph, and he certainly wouldn't choose a live with a girl that wasn't responsible."

"Jeez - if my mother knew I was living with Ralph she'd have kittens. How can you be so cool about it?"

"Because we raised our children to make their own choices and trust them to do so wisely."

"You wouldn't want to adopt me, would you?"

"It's simpler to just marry Ralph or marry Mary or whatever. Less paperwork - same result."

"I think we need to know each other a little better before we think about marriage."

"See - I told you Ralph wouldn't choose an irresponsible woman."

"Anyway, my parents don't know about Mary, I just told her that I liked Ralph a lot - and I haven't let her know about our living arrangements. You're the liberal parents, not mine!"

"Even a mother can see that you two have something special going. Let it grow naturally and don't force it. First love for you?"

"I think so, but it has only been a few weeks. I thought I was serious with a guy in high school, but he couldn't take a girl that got straight A's and knew more about computers than he did."

"Well that won't be a problem with Ralph."

"Yeah. We've had an idea for a new shareware program that we're working on together in our spare time. We seem to work together pretty well."

"I never could understand the technical parts of computers, but he's made some pretty good money doing computer work. Enough that we've never had to buy any of Mary's wardrobe. I know how much Anna - that's Ralph's aunt - spends on her clothes because she's so tall, so he must have some talent there."

"Pretty handy with a sewing machine, too, Mary's made some really gorgeous stuff. Artur and I are getting some lessons in sewing from Martha and her cousin. Damn, it gets difficult to know what name to use sometimes."

"We know the problem, especially since Mary seems to have come into her own since leaving home. At least I'll have a few years before I have another grown daughter to worry about."

"From what I've seen of Terri you might not have that long to wait."

"She's only twelve yet - not even a teenager."

"That sure didn't stop me."

"Your poor mother."

"She's already hinting that I have to bring Ralph home with me."

"Looks like you're not the only fast worker in your family."

"Mother knows her own mind and often thinks she knows everybody else's, too. I love her, but she and Dad can be overwhelming sometimes. I could get used to being the child of laid-back parents like you and Harry."

"Why, what a lovely thing to say!"

"Yeah, I figure if I butter you guys up enough you'll let me keep both Ralph and Mary."

"That's up to Ralph - or Mary - but you have my vote."

"I plan to rig the election."

***

Ruth

"We humbly give thanks, oh God, for the bounty you have provided for us at this table…"

Ralph's folks had pushed back the living room furniture, brought in a couple of tables and snagged just about every chair they owned to set a Thanksgiving feast for thirteen people. It seemed like an enormous crowd to me; the most my family had growing up was five if Mom's sister and her husband came. I'm an only child and Aunt Gabriela and Uncle Jorge don't have children. But I'm interrupting Uncle Richard.

"Bless these fruits of the earth and consign them to the health of our bodies and spirits…"

My folks may be conservative, but at least they preferred saying a Grace short enough that the food didn't get cold. Apparently Uncle Richard had other ideas.

"And grant that we should be the stewards of the earth and shepherds of your flock…

C'mon, no lamb chops on this table, only a great, big, rapidly cooling turkey.

"In Jesus name we pray. Amen."

There was a marginally enthusiastic 'Amen' in response and everyone dug in. You know what the conversation was like - praises for the cooks, mumbled comments around a mouthful of turkey or sweet potato, requests to pass the potatoes in two directions at once - the usual sort of thing. The sort of thing I was used to, but on steroids.

What I wasn't used to was Ralph playing footsie with me under the table. Damned if he wasn't wearing a pair of Mary's dark tights instead of socks. When I had filled my plate I whispered my opinion of his footwear and he just gave me a shit-eating grin. I was going to have to give the big lug a hug after dinner - I would have bet the farm (if I had one, that is) he had a bra under that heavy flannel shirt.

We were sitting across the table from Ralph's grandparents, who certainly looked like the unrepentant hippies that Ralph had described. Grandpa Ron was wearing a very colorful tie-dye shirt and Grandma Linda was doing the peasant blouse and tiered skirt thing. On the other end of the spectrum, Uncle Richard was wearing a suit with a hideous tie and Aunt Anna wore a well-cut gray skirted suit with little pinstripes. Martha and her sister Wendy had on dresses that she would never have been taken out of her closet at school. About the only thing worse would be a pinafore. If Ralph and I managed to make it work and stayed together I was sure to have a very interesting life ahead of me.

Naturally, we were quizzed about things at school. Ralph and I tried to explain what we were learning in computer classes without leaving everyone comatose, Martha talked about how to control a class of bored kids and Uncle Richard seemed confused that I wasn't going into teaching but wanted to be a computer geek. Ralph, the bugger, had to ask Martha about Artur.

"Hey Martha. Is Artur going to make it here for any part of the vacation. I miss having him around."

Of course that left Martha to explain just who Artur was to the uninitiated. Aunt Anna looked smug, Uncle Richard looked a bit stern and the Grandparents gave each other an elbow dig and gave Martha a thumbs up.

"I'm hoping he may come up on Saturday and we can go back to school together. I tried to invite Mary but she had other obligations."

"Who's Mary?" came the chorus. Harry had the misfortune to be swigging a shot of apple cider at the wrong time and just about showered us with his reaction.

"She's a student we've gotten close to," I answered. "She spends a lot of time at Martha and Ralph's place."

"Uh-oh, Ruth. Better watch out she doesn't steal him away from you."

"She's no rival, you might say we've worked out a time-share arrangement for his company."

"That's my big brother," piped up Dave. "A bigamist and he isn't even married. Better pop the question to him before he gets away."

"He gave me his Captain Midnight decoder ring - does that count?"

"Only if it's before midnight, then it turns into a pumpkin."

"You're thinking of glass slippers, Dave."

"With high heels, no doubt. I suppose if he's wearing six inch heels on his glass slippers he couldn't get away from you too fast."

"I wouldn't wear them, I'd use them to pound little spike heel holes in your skull, little brother."

"Children!" Harry intoned seriously, "let's confine the conversation to something that doesn't involve bloodshed."

"Yeah, like politics!"

"How 'bout them Mets."

"That's baseball, it's football season."

"That's only here, to the rest of the world it means soccer."

"Sock who?"

"If the Mets hit a homer would that mean they have a run in their stockings?"

"Enough of that!" cried Harry. "Turn on the TV before I go mad!"

"How could we tell?"

An evening with Ralph's family was an interesting experience.

***

Ralph

"That was a really great movie!" I said.

"Wasn't it? But it makes me a little sad. I have a great-grandma that even looks a little like Coco, and I think that great-grandpa may have played guitar in a Mariachi band, but he never was an all-Mexico heartthrob. Half the Mexican stuff in the movie is new to me, even if I am sort of Mexican."

"Sort of Mexican?"

"Well, the genes come from south of the border, but the culture where I grew up in was mostly American. Cowboys and Indians, and we rooted for the cowboys, even knowing they were the suckers who stole the land from my ancestors. It's a good thing that my parents found Jesus before they named me or I would have been hung with something like Rosita or Isabel."

"As Will said, 'A Rosita by any other name…' "

"Ouch! You know I don't speak any Spanish worth mentioning."

"Ancestors can be worrisome, can't they? I used to worry that my German ancestors could have been Nazis, but all mine came over in the 1800s, so they couldn't have been the bad guys."

"But where I come from my ancestors were your bad guys. Remember the Alamo! and that bugger Santa Anna. Some of the gringos gave us Mexes grief, but there were more of us than there were of them in the school. Still, I think more like a gringo than a Mex. Even now I get all yucky using those terms after being in a really mixed place like Anonymous State."

"Prejudice comes in all forms. I'm glad we haven't had to face too many jerks who think we shouldn't be a couple."

"Or a lesbian couple, for that matter."

"Like I said, prejudice comes in all forms."

"Remember that drunk that tried to pick a fight with me and shit himself when girlzilla told him to buzz off?"

"Yeah, I've always wished I had a Godzilla mask for such occasions."

"Honey, you don't need a mask."

"Are you trying to tell me that my makeup needs more work?"

"Nope, just that the other girls turn green with envy when they see me with you. I think that drunk was slightly intimidated by a six foot seven woman in high dudgeon."

"Glad I was wearing heels that time."

"I just love the double-takes when we're someplace new."

"We are as sight, aren't we?"

"And you love it!"

Ruth

Being back at school was almost boring after spending a week with Ralph's family. As an only child I had no idea what a crazy, sprawling, blusterous place a home could be with brothers and sisters. I loved it!

The other thing I couldn't believe was how easily they accepted the whole Mary/Ralph thing. In some ways I was still trying to wrap my head around having a boyfriend who was a part time girlfriend, but it just seemed to suit us perfectly well. I wouldn't admit this to just anyone, but there were a couple of times I caught myself daydreaming about lesbian sex with Mary - pretty stupid when regular sex with Ralph was improving each time we practiced together. And here I am letting sex distract me again. Life was simpler before I found Ralph.

Not that I'm complaining! Still, I need to get back to work. There's only three weeks until winter break and we have a project due. It's a team programming exercise and naturally Ralph and Artur and I formed a team. Poor Martha sometimes feels left out when we spend so much time talking Geek together, but She and Artur have become an item. He hasn't followed my lead and moved in, but he does spend a couple of nights a week with Martha when we work late into the night.

It's funny, Artur is a great guy and I could almost see me dating him if Ralph hadn't come along. I suppose most people would have paired us because we are both so short - just like they automatically pair Ralph and Martha before they find out they're cousins. The whole height thing makes for a weird connection between us, people just naturally assume all kinds of stupid crap just because I'm short and he's tall. And when they get to know he's a she they split between going bonkers or being cool about it.

When we're snuggled up together it doesn't matter if he's fifteen inches taller than me. Of course, if I'm snuggling with Mary then my nose is in her boobs - now that's a problem I never imagined I'd have! If we're doing more than snuggling we've pretty much figured out what works, but I fear I'll never know the joys of the 69 position.

This is not getting any work done. Ralph had better get back soon so I can concentrate.

I suppose I'm going to have to call my parents and tell them I'm going to share an apartment with Ralph. No wait - I may be comfortable with a gender switching partner but my folks will certainly not want me living with a man. Maybe this gender switching can work to my advantage - I'll tell them I'm moving in with Mary. No mention of whose bed I'm going to sleep in.

Will they go for it? It would certainly be cheaper, but… Worth a try, I suppose.

Ah, I hear the door. I have an appointment to get my horns trimmed. See you later.

***

Ralph

"You want us to do what?"

"As soon as we get to winter break, I want to take you home with me and say 'Guess who's coming to dinner?' Or rather my parents want you to come home with me so they know who I'm going to share an apartment with. Then we can go to your parents for Christmas."

"Should I be flattered?"

"No, it's so they'll be relieved. I told them I want to move in with you next semester."

"Oh joy! Next thing I know I'll be asking your dad for your hand in marriage."

"Not that I'd object - that is if you proposed to me first - but it would seem a little strange since I'm bringing Mary home with me."

"Oh, that explains everything."

"See, it's simple - they want to meet my new roommate to be sure she won't be leading me astray."

"Too late, kiddo. Been there, done that."

"And we both have the matching dresses to prove it. We should bring them with us and show off a bit while we're there."

"Why should I be the only one? Has it crossed your mind that your parents live about six states away and Mary can't get on a plane without getting Homeland Security really excited?"

"I get excited whenever I'm with you, why shouldn't I be generous?"

"Like the judge will be generous at the sentencing. I'll have to marry you so we can have conjugal visits."

"I'm more concerned with having you in my bed while we visit my folks and Ralph ain't never going to get past their threshold."

"And we can share a bed while we're there? Won't that seem a little odd?"

"Not at all, my folks don't have a guest room so you have to share my bed."

"Am I going to fit?"

"Sure - I got my parents queen size when they upgraded. You're going to be just fine, honey."

"So that's solved, now back to the transportation issue."

"The answer is simple: we rent a car and shout 'Road Trip!' "

"And you expect me to be Mary for an entire week or so and not have anyone figure out there's something different about me?"

"Good thing you're so tall, they'll know that is what's different about you. Besides, as I said already it won't be the entire vacation - your Dad invited me to spend Christmas with your family. We split the time. I kind of consider being able to spend Christmas with your family a present to reward us for spending time with mine. You do realize I had a good reason for going to school so far away from home?"

"You've mentioned it."

"So I have. Have I mentioned I'm just a little jealous about how Mary can phone her mother up and talk to her as a friend?"

"That you haven't mentioned."

"I'm only a little jealous, so I wasn't going to crab about it."

"So go ahead and call my mom when you need to have some girl talk. Why shouldn't I be generous, too?"

"So let's work out when we're going to be where. I've been looking at Mapquest and some review sites and we should be able to do the drive in two days. We rent a motel room and get up early the next day and we should be there by dinnertime."

"Oh boy! You alone in a motel room. Dreams do come true."

"Hold on a minute, tiger. I'll probably be finishing up my period by then, something you part-time women don't have to think about."

"We've coped with it before. Creativity is the answer."

"That's not something they mentioned in my abstinence-only sex ed classes."

"Doesn't seem to have worked."

"It never does. The technical term for the girls who graduate is 'Mothers.' "

"You must put cynical sugar on your toast every morning to think like that."

"Reality, sweetheart. You know my folks are so conservative they didn't have any left to pass down to me."

"You keep telling me your folks are conservative, but not much else. If I'm going to be sharing your bed in their house, maybe I should know a little more about them."

"You do know you can love somebody and not understand them?"

"I assume you are talking about your folks and not me?"

"Well…"

"OK, I withdraw the question."

"You know damn well that withdrawal is a lousy method of birth control."

"You're changing the subject. Besides, you're on the pill."

"Which would be a big problem if my parents found out. They're Pentecostal, and take their religion seriously. I don't and I'm a bit jealous you can feel so calm about not believing in God. I don't think I do but I had God pounded into me all the time I was growing up."

"Funny, my white privilege would have thought they were Catholic just because of you're Latina."

"My ancestors were in the USA long before it was the USA. You notice I don't have the stereotypical Mexican accent. My Dad's father was determined that his family would be Americans and refused to teach my Dad Spanish. Mom has a little, but not much. The only Spanish I know came from Sesame Street. But when I'm around the area where I grew up I get Spanished all the time just because I look Mexican. I have to tell them I don't speak the language and I get these pitying looks."

"Well, I don't speak German and that's most of my heritage."

"But you don't stand out like I do."

"As far as looking like I don't speak English. I tend to stand out for other reasons. Sweetie, you would stand out no matter what your heritage or where you are."

"Flatterer."

"Blatantly. So your folks are conservative and ultra religious. Anything else I should know?"

"Mom will be trying to marry us both off within twenty-four hours of arrival. She should have been born Jewish, the way she tries to match every unmarried female in her sight."

"Have you told her about Ralph?"

"I've hinted, but since I'm bringing Mary home I don't want her to think about Ralph just yet."

"Now we have conservative, ultra religious, and a Pentecostal Yenta. Any more surprises?"

"There will be no talking about sex or politics at the cost of your lovely balls. I'd hate to lose them, my dear."

"So would I. Message received loud and clear, sir! It's going to be an interesting visit, won't it?"

"You are so right, just not my parent's kind of right. Let's make some phone calls and book a room."

***

Mary

I kind of thought that when we turned in our final project and went home I'd be able to relax and chill out for a while. We'd turned in the project this morning, Artur had said goodbye to us as Martha waited for her parents to come up to get her and we got out of Dodge before they could come face-to-face with Mary.

So why didn't I feel relieved?

"Mary, you look like someone stuck a stick up your ass. Need I remind you that you already have a very fine stick even if I don't want it up my ass? Relax, girl!"

"Yeah, right."

"We have two days to play before we get there. Enjoy it! We're on a road trip and are just two fun loving girls out to have a good time. Want to pick up a couple of guys at the hotel tonight?"

"You hinting for an orgy?"

"I've never tried. Not much public action in a small town but everybody knows who everybody else is screwing. I don't think my parents would approve."

"So what do you want? We pick up a dirty old man and I get to watch?"

"I had more of a sexy young man, sort of like you when you take your clothes off."

"Just what do you have in mind?"

That's what I like about Ruth. She knows just how to get your mind off being terrified of being found out. Of course my mind went straight into the gutter, but I didn't mind at all.

***

Mary

"Ernesto! They're here!"

I could hear Mary's mother through the closed front door. Showtime for Mary! The door flew open and there they were. I had seen pictures of them, of course, but this was the stark reality.

Ruth's mother was Cecilia; if anything an inch or two shorter than Ruth. If I hadn't known her father's name was Ernesto her mother's scream of joy would have let me know instantly.

"Ruth, you're home!"

Ruth was enveloped in her arms and if her mother could have physically lifted her I would have seen my lady swinging through the air."

"And you must be Mary!"

My turn for a hug, marginally less enthusiastic but I was glad I had braced myself after I saw Ruth enveloped. Yup, her nose barely reached my breasts, but it didn't phase her in the least.

"Come in, come in! Ernesto, say hello to Ruth's friend Mary."

"Hello."

"Good to meet you, Mr Rivera."

Ruth's dad appeared as taciturn as Ruth's mother was voluble. I still didn't know much about them, but it was enough to know that there was some problem between them she didn't want to talk about it.

What I hadn't expected was a mother who reminded me of nothing so much as the Fairy Godmother from Disney's Cinderella. Cecilia was short, very rounded, had breasts that would have given Martha a run for her money and I really expected to see her haul out a magic wand and sprinkle fairy dust to all corners of the room. She was dressed head-to-toe in pastels; loose, floppy sleeves, a gathered waist and her skirt billowed as she moved. She even had a silly little bow around her neck; the only thing missing was a hood to complement her fairy robes. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.

There was the usual bustle of getting us sorted and seated, and I was just about to start worrying about how to find a topic of conversation when Cecilia turned her thousand kilowatt smile on me and I realized she could handle the conversational necessities all by herself.

"I'm so glad to know Ruth has been making friends at school. You know she was always hiding in a corner with her computer and hardly even went to the dances at school. She's such a pretty thing but she won't even wear makeup half the time. I'm so glad she will have someone like you that knows how to use makeup so well, maybe you can teach her something. Did you know she never had a real boyfriend…"

Like I said, there really wasn't much need to try to break into the flow, so I was a bit taken aback by a sudden silence. I replayed the last sentence or two and found she had said something like '… so Ruth wants to share an apartment with you.' I guess I was expected to actually answer.

"That's right. We've spent a lot of time together working on school projects and she's practically living with me and my cousin already. Having another person to share the rent would be very welcome and we both like Ruth."

So we filled her parents in with the story we were going to release to the public and they seemed OK with it. No need to mention Artur or Ralph, mind you.

"Such a shame you can't share outfits like I did with my college roommate. We always enjoyed having a larger wardrobe between us."

"I suppose if I ever needed a mini-skirt I could borrow one of Ruth's full length skirts."

That got a laugh, exactly as intended.

And so the evening passed, but try as I would her father contributed about six words all evening. Self-defence, maybe? We started to yawn (we had crossed a time zone along the way) and made our excuses.

"Mary, I hope you don't mind sharing with Ruth. I'm sorry we don't have a spare room for you."

If only she knew!

"That's perfectly fine, Ma'am. I grew up sharing a bed until I got so tall. Why I'll hardly notice Ruth in there."

Talk about your big lies!

"Then good night, sleep tight."

With the bedroom door safely closed and latched we both broke into barely controlled giggles.

"You'll barely notice me! Maybe you'll notice this!" she said as she skinned out of her dress.

"I notice you still have on a slip. I don't think I've ever seen you wear a slip before."

"For the very good reason I haven't. These are 'keep-mom-happy' clothes. Besides, I'll wear this when we go to church on Sunday."

"We?"

"We - if I have to go then you have to go, too."

"Does that mean I get to help you with your makeup. You can't go to church without makeup."

"I hate it when you're right."

"I haven't been in a church in years. Religion doesn't run in my family."

"Funny, I usually run from religion in my family."

"Such a good daughter. Why didn't you warn me your mother never stops talking."

"Because I wanted you to come with me, that's why."

"I don't scare so easily, love. If I can run around as Mary I can handle anything."

"Then you can start by handling me! Very quietly."

"Um, Ruth?"

"Yes?"

"This room doesn't come equipped with a chamber pot, does it?"

"Oh damn! I never thought of that."

"I think I'm going to have to be wearing a bra full time for the next few days."

"Even while you're handling me? That sounds kinky."

"It had better sound like nothing or we'll have some 'splaining to do."

"Yes, Ricky. No 'splaining, please." (If you're not from the US, check The Urban Dictionary for the reference.)

"Then pee first, handling later. I'll be back as soon as I can.

 

We learned a few things that night. First, there are ways to turn fantasy into reality.

Ruth's fantasy, honed sharply as a teenager in her lonely bed, was to have a real man replacing her hand as she pleasured herself while her parents were only a few feet away.

My secret fantasy was to be able to make love with real breasts on my body. Well, they weren't exactly real, but they did bounce quite nicely at certain times.

We both learned two more things. One - reality never quite measures up to fantasy, even if the effort was certainly worth it. Two - we needed to find a queen size bed for ourselves!

The following morning we learned a third thing. If you stay up half the night exploring kinky sex, Sunday morning comes way too early.

***

Mary

"What the hell is that?" I moaned, having been catapulted from sleep by a raucous noise that would wake the dead.

"The alarm, silly."

"What fool set an alarm, for the love of god?"

"That's exactly it: for the love of god. Not my love or your love, but Mom and Dad love god beyond all reason so we have an appearance at their church scheduled. Up and at 'em tiger."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope, I swear it on a stack of bibles, which aren't exactly hard to find in this household. Put your boobs in and let's share a shower."

"I suppose after last night…"

"We both need a shower if we aren't going to smell like a bordello. You look funny with one boob."

"I can't find the other one."

"Didn't you put them in the drawer of the bedside table?"

"Oh, yeah. If we do this much more I'm going to have to get real ones so they don't get lost at night."

"You don't seem to have any trouble finding my boobs. Why don't you just glue them on?"

"Because I couldn't afford the glue-on kind. Besides, remember how much these things weigh - I couldn't sleep at night with them stuck on."

"Ask Martha how she does it."

"She sleeps on her side mostly."

"And how do you know that little fact?"

"I asked when we were comparing our endowments. Do you know she actually found a web site that told her how much her breasts weighed?"

"I guess you can Google anything these days."

"Let's stop talking - I have to pee."

"Me first."

"I can always pee in the shower if you take too long."

"That's gross!"

"That's encouragement. You're the one that got me up at this ungodly hour."

"Believe me, you'll get enough god in the next few hours to last until summer."

"Oh, joy."

 

I have to confess I didn't really know what to expect at church. My family, from Grandma and Grandma on down with the notable exception of Uncle Bastard, had never really been interested in attending a church. That's not to say they weren't interested in religion, but I absorbed their attitude that it's something that some people appear to need that makes no sense to a rational being.

There's a book that Gram and Gramps passed down through the generations called Religion Made Simple, which is one hell of a misnomer because there is no way to make religion simple. Actually, they tell me it was part of a series of books called Made Simple Books that came before the ubiquitous For Dummies series

So I have a purely academic knowledge of religion with little practical experience. Sure, I've seen the preachers on TV, even darkened the door of a sacred building a time or two when I was in the Scouts, but I just don't get the whole concept. Maybe that's why my gender switching never bothered me or my family too much.

All that was about to change: the Riveras attended a Pentecostal church. I have to admit my dear, sweet girlfriend did tell me before we arrived, but she didn't really tellme what a Pentecostal church involved. It's going to take a long time to think of something suitable to pay her back, believe me.

It started simply enough, some dude in a suit handed us a paper and welcomed us to the church with a "Welcome, sister!" and a big smile. He did the usual thing for a man meeting me for the first time and craned his neck to see up to my eyes, then lowered his gaze to my breasts for as long as he could without being too crass. I've almost gotten used to that, but it still makes me ashamed of my birth gender.

Mr Rivera led us right up to the front of the place and we all sat together in the second row. Someone was tootling on an organ until a whole passel of people in royal blue robes with long, white lapels filed in and started to sing. Damned if everybody didn't climb to their feet and start singing along.

Well, everybody but me, I didn't know the tune. Even Ruth joined in and I found out she has a very nice voice. I'm going to have to encourage her to do some more singing, she's very good at it.

Then some guy came up and read from the bible, and everybody sang another song, and there was some more reading. Then the preacher wished us all peace and told us to exchange our peace with our neighbors.

Huh? What did that mean?

I was sitting next to Ruth's father and damned if he didn't shake my hand and kiss me on the cheek, then turn around and kiss her Mom on the cheek as I straightened up. I felt a tap on my shoulder and Ruth planted a chaste kiss on my cheek and grinned at me. It's going to take a very long time to pay her back for having her father kiss me.

I may become a prude after that experience!

Then the preacher started in to preaching. I have to say I hadn't taken any of the comedy routines on TV about an overblown preacher shouting 'Thank you Jesus' in a phony southern accent very seriously, but glory hallelujah! this sucker put them all to shame.

Then it got really weird when Ruth's dad, the guy that hadn't uttered more than twenty words since I met him, started shouting encouragement to the preacher after every sentence. No wonder he didn't speak during the week, he was saving it all up for Sunday, and he let it all out with a vengeance.

He was worse than my Dad watching football on TV. Dad really gets into the game, jumping up and shouting advice to the coach and the refs as if they could hear him. Lots of encouragement to the players, too, congratulating them on getting a first down or excoriating them when they fumbled. Mr Rivera just about called the live action on the sermon - all he needed was a sidekick feeding him statistics as he screamed excitedly into the mike. 'Right on, preacher!' 'You tell 'em, reverend!' 'You got that right!'

Through it all, Ruth sat there with just a trace of a smile studiously watching the preacher, carefully not looking at me. Then it got even weirder: when the music started again some guy with a trombone started honking and next thing I knew there was a whole band up in front playing their hearts out. The organist moved over to a piano and it was Dixieland Night in Preacherville.

Actually, they were pretty good; so good some woman got up and started dancing in the aisle and one by one the rest of the congregation got to their feet and joined her. Pretty soon there was a conga line grabbing those who were still in the pews and sucking them into the snake of people dancing and shouting.

The inevitable happened, they got to our pew and we were sucked out of our seats; I found myself doing the cha-cha with my hands on Ruth's waist and Mr Rivera's hands around my waist. I couldn't see him but it felt like he was a pretty good dancer, his hands unexpectedly warm on my body. I just kept hoping he wasn't going to move those hands somewhere I didn't want to feel them, but he was a perfect gentleman. I suppose with his wife's hands on him he didn't have much choice, but I was relieved.

By the time it was all over there was no doubt that I would be going to hell if I were a believer. Ruth and I were going to have to have a talk about this stuff before we had any children.

Whoa! Where did that come from? Was there something in the air of this place that made even an unbeliever need to get married and have kids just because we shared a bed?

That thought kept me amused through the rest of the service and it finally ended, but we didn't get to go home. No, Ruth and I were dragooned to serve cakes and cookies at the 'fellowship hour' after the service.

When you're as tall as I am you get used to people whispering things to each other and trying to point you out without being too blatant, but it always happens. The fellowship hour at the church was no exception, especially as I was a stranger to them. Since I was right there behind the table serving up the goodies, I got to meet most of the congregation and tell them I was a friend of Ruth's from school, but I could see some variation of 'just how good a friend is she?' march across many of their faces. Why is it that the true believers seem to be so ready to believe everyone else is up to something perverted?

I have to mention one more reason why the congregation was giving me more than a once-over. Ruth's home town was in the Mexican border area, where the majority of the people were descended from families that were living there long before my ancestors came along and stole their land. Bluntly, they looked like Mexicans and had darker skin much like Ruth did, not to mention they averaged somewhere Ruth's diminutive stature. Me, I'm from English and German stock and my skin is noticeably lighter; my hair is blonde and my eyes are blue.

With the current anti-immigrant climate in the country I felt a bit awkward; the bigotry these people faced living in their own country was nothing to what I saw as a crossdresser. Even writing 'these people' in that last sentence makes me cringe a bit. The awkwardness was of my own making; I grew up in an atmosphere of tolerance and the college was quite diverse, but I got a taste of what it was like to be a visible minority.

Having been automatically assigned to a minority (female) within a minority I had some thinking to do. I wanted to scream 'sexist pigs' because the women naturally did all the work, including the cleanup, while the men pontificated and congratulated themselves on being the head of their households. It was enough to make me want to get the surgery and abandon my birth sex entirely so I don't have to be associated with those chauvinist pigs.

It was kind of fun gabbing with the ladies, though. who were gushing over our matching dresses. When you're a woman as tall as I am you become a seamstress out of necessity, so I talked sewing with a couple of the ladies as we worked. Oh, yeah - I got to put the dishes away on the top shelf because I didn't need a ladder to do it.

***

Ruth

I know it was a dirty trick to throw Mary into that pack of sharks at the church without much warning, but really, how could I have explained? I know she doesn't have much use for religion, but how could I explain just what my parent's church was like? After several months in the liberal atmosphere of school, the sexist, male-dominated, holier-than-thou world of my home town almost seemed unreal - that is until I was thrown back into it.

As much as I love her, Mary still has an idealized view of femininity; now she had a taste of what growing up a woman in a small town in the border country was like and she obviously didn't like it any more than I did. I was proud of her for the way she stayed poised and confident during the fellowship hour despite the sometimes blatant gawking of the congregation. I was sure everyone was so distracted by her height that no one guessed Mary was really my boyfriend, kind of like a magician uses misdirection to hide what's in front of your eyes.

In any case, we arrived home and I said something about getting out of my dress and relaxing, but it was not to be.

"Oh darling," said my mother, "we have company coming for dinner. You should wear those beautiful dresses for them."

"Company?" I suddenly was certain what was coming, but had to ask. "Who's coming?"

"The Vegas and their son Jeremy and his brother Joshua. They're such lovely boys I knew you'd want to see them again."

Yup, she's matchmaking again, and this time she had another victim to match with Mary. One of my father's favorite phrases came to mind. Help me Jesus! The Vega boys were jocks of the first order. My poor mother just hadn't a clue about the real world.

"Mother, are you trying to find a boyfriend for me again?"

"Why dear, nothing of the kind. But it would be wonderful for you to find someone to settle down with, you know."

"You don't need to worry about that any more, Mother, I've taken care of that myself. His name's Ralph and he could be the one."

Mother's face began to shine and Mary's face got a little flushed. I had kind of warned her when I told her Mary was going to come home with me, but then I hadn't really known what I was going to say before I said it.

"Why, that's wonderful darling! Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you showing up at school with the preacher in tow to rent a hall before I even had a chance to propose to him."

"You couldn't propose to him, that's not the way it's done!"

I've really got to stop doing things like this to Mary, but it's such fun!

"Mother, I'm joking. I like Ralph a lot but no one is getting married quite yet. I have quite a few years of school to get through before I think of marriage. It may surprise you, but I'm perfectly happy as a single woman."

"We just want to see you happy, dear. God tells us that a woman should cleave to a man."

"Well, I'm not quite ready to go under the cleaver or on a chopping block. If it comes to that, someday I'll bring Ralph home to dinner and introduce you."

Mary was having a hard time keeping a straight face. Speaking of faces - I wonder what Mom's would be like if she knew Ralph was watching this little scene behind Mary's face?

"If you're serious you had better. What's he like?"

"Tall, fair and handsome. He's Martha and Mary's cousin, by the way."

"Is he that tall, too?"

"He's exactly the same height I am," spoke up Mary. "We were constantly measuring ourselves when we grew up. I won because I wear high heels and Ralph doesn't."

"Oh, my!"

"I can be rather intimidating in five inch heels. Sorts the men from the boys when I'm on a date. He has to be pretty confident to go for a kiss when he leaves me at my door."

"He has to bring a ladder, you mean, girlfriend." was my reply.

"That's why I like to date boy scouts, 'be prepared,' you know."

My poor mother - with her sheltered life she had no idea why that was a joke.

"I'm sure that Ruth and I will enjoy your guests at dinner. Is there anything I can do to help? "

See why I love her - and him? It was the perfect thing to say to my Mom.

***

Mary

"So you're seeing my cousin Ralph, are you?"

"Why Mary, he's a pretty nice guy."

"Glad you think so. Serious about the guy, are you?"

"I'll answer that question after we go to bed tonight, OK?"

"Well, if you can say it out loud to your mother…"

"Bedtime. I think I can give you a more complete answer."

"What happens if I like Jeremy or Josh or Dasher or Dancer or whatever their names are."

"Good luck with that, girl, but be careful of Cupid and Vixen. Besides, if Dad turns on the game they won't even know you're in the same county, let alone trying to seduce them. Trust me."

"Oddly enough, I do trust you - enough to let you talk me into being Mary for the whole time we're visiting you parents."

"You've gotten pretty good as a girl, girl. I kind of appreciate having you around so I'm not the only one Mom is trying to marry off."

"Think she'd go for a two bride wedding?"

"Hush your mouth, child! We Good Christian Ladies don't even think of such things. We're too pure and virtuous."

"Until you get into bed, I assume."

"Or the back seat of a pickup. Or a hayloft. Or any damn place we can get away with it without our parents finding out. There's a reason that several of my classmates left school early, you know."

"I'm glad you made it to graduation."

"I was a nerd. I lacked an essential ingredient - a guy willing to entice me into a hayloft."

"Their loss."

"It hurt sometimes, but now I'm glad I waited until you came along."

"So am I. Well, between us we ought to be able to make it through dinner with the jocks."

"First we have to cook dinner for the jocks, little lady. Remember, good girls make food in the kitchen, not whoopee."

"Little lady? First time anyone's called me little since I started kindergarten."

"Down here, all ladies are little, despite any objective observation. Deal with it."

"I'm more worried about dealing with table conversation. After the fellowship hour this morning it seems people here don't talk about the same things we usually talk about."

"I suspect we'll spend more time talking with Mr. Vega than the boys. He's a tech at the mill so we'll at least have some vocabulary in common. He's bilingual; speaks both football and English."

"That would make me a disappointment to your mother. How can I find my true love if I spend all my time talking to his father?"

"That's her problem. So far her success as a matchmaker has been very limited."

"Especially since you came home pre-matched."

"All this talk is not getting the table set or the potatoes peeled. Shut up and get to work, little lady."

"Slave driver."

***

Ralph

"Cecilia, this roast is simply wonderful," gushed Mrs Vega.

"Thank you, Teresa. It's such a pleasure to have Ruth and her friend Mary helping in the kitchen. Mary tells me the potatoes are an old favorite with her family."

"Mary, your mother must be a wonderful cook."

"She's not too shabby, but the recipe came from my Dad's parents. He does most of the cooking at our house."

"He does? How unusual."

"Not in my family. Grandpa Walter and his brother ran a hotel years ago. Grandpa was the cook and the bartender before he took the pledge, so my father inherited his abilities in the kitchen. Grandpa's no longer with us, but nobody turned down his invitations for dinner."

"So who will do the cooking when Ruth moves in with you?"

"Whoever gets hungry first - at least that's how my cousin and I handle the cooking now." I replied.

"I suppose without a husband to feed it wouldn't be like a normal family."

"No, ma'am. With all of us on different schedules I doubt there's much you could call normal in our place. Bedsides, I'd be rather foolish to get married before I finished school, I have to have the skills to support myself before I think of marriage."

"But…"

"I'm sorry ma'am, but I think we have a generational difference here. My parents brought me up to be an independent person, not someone who defines themself by someone else's needs. I intend to get married and I think I may have found the person I want to marry, but we'll be equal partners."

"I see… Perhaps we should find something less… controversial… to talk about."

"That's fine with me. Tell me Josh, since Ruth hasn't said much about you, where are you going to school?"

Now that was nasty, since Ruth told me that both of them were working dead-end jobs in the mill, the only real place to work in the town.

"Uh, I'm not going to school. I got a job at Dad's place. I drive the forklift and stuff."

"Do they have much automation at the mill? Ruth and I have been working on some software to help sorting products on an assembly line."

"Perhaps I can speak to that," Mr Vega answered for him, which had been my intention. It was pretty clear that Josh or Prancer or Dancer or whoever he was wasn't a sparkling conversationalist.

"We're a pretty small operation, we have machinery that fills and seals the bags but that's about it. For us it's still cheaper to give people jobs rather than buy machinery."

"Of course. One of the things my profs emphasize is that we need to think of how our society is going to keep people working as technology advances. I sometimes struggle with that as I learn more in the computer field."

And so we were off to the races as the male adults found themselves in technical conversation with two young women who challenged their ideas of how things should be. I found it kind of sad; here I was a guy who liked to be a girl sometimes, trying to break through the gender assumptions of adults who just knew how men and women were supposed to act based solely on their sex. Ruth and I were a team, working together to shift those assumptions and growing closer as we did so.

We made it through dinner, and the rest of our visit, without any major incidents, but Ruth and I still wound up washing the dishes while the menfolk watched the game. Not a bad deal, as I could really care less about sports. Which makes me an ideal woman for some men, doesn't it?

***

Ruth

"My god, Mary, that open road looks so good. I love my family but going back is like diving into a pot of molasses, cloying and too damn sweet. I almost forgot how sweet freedom is."

"Wait a minute! Home is too sweet and freedom is sweet. You sound like Goldilocks."

"Grin and bear it, sweetie."

"Does that mean I'm somewhere between too sweet and not sweet enough?"

"It means you're lucky you're driving or I would clock you with a sticky bun."

"Aim for between my lips, will you?"

"Does it mean I'm a bad daughter if I think your family is a lot nicer to visit than mine?"

"No, it means you've grown and your family has stayed in the same place. It would drive me crazy but your parents seem to be happy, just like mine. Different standards, love. Actually, you have some pretty good parents. Conservative, yes, but I did notice that neither of them tried to ram their religion down my throat. In fact, we didn't even talk religion very much outside of the church. It was, if you'll pardon the word, a revelation seeing your dad in church. Maybe that's why they don't go out much, they get all the entertainment they need shouting and praying."

"Just be glad it isn't revival season. You want entertainment, they go whole hog with the shoutin' and prayin' and hell raisin'. That's where you will have religion rammed down your throat in a circus tent with a crappy sound system and choirs of angels rattling their tambourines."

"Could you put revival season on our calendar so I can find a conference or something I just have to attend?"

"Certainly, we'll do a drive-by meeting when I introduce them to Ralph and get out of town before the dust settles."

"Now there's something to be nervous about. Cousin Mary is one thing, boyfriend Ralph is likely to get a lot more scrutiny. 'Why you look so much like your cousin Mary, Ralph. It's uncanny!' "

"Somehow they're going to have to learn to love both of you, just like I do. Mary is just a much a part of you as Ralph."

"You know, when I went off to college I was thinking Mary would be a sometime thing that would stay in the apartment and just enjoy being dressed once in a while. Now I sometimes wonder if I should see a shrink about multiple personality disorder. I'm so damn comfortable as Mary it makes me wonder if I've grown or just plain jumped off the deep end."

"Face it love, when you're wearing a dress you are Mary down to the heart. If you weren't completely Mary in your soul we could have never spent so much time with my parents without them realizing that Ralph is in there somewhere."

"I have to ask: are you really all right with me being so completely Mary? Most girls don't have to wonder why their boyfriend is their girlfriend half of the time."

"I was a little weirded out at first, but I like Mary. I like her a lot. I think we figured out she's a little intrusive when sex is involved, but it was an interesting experiment, wasn't it? I kind of like the variety."

"I'll be glad not to have to keep quiet tonight in the hotel."

"And how thick are the walls?"

"Who cares, we'll be gone in the morning. Then we have to be discrete again."

"Will we still be this horny when we're old and gray?"

"You want to find out?"

"Sure, we've got plenty of time, don't we lover?"

***

Harry (Ralph's dad)

"Relax, Janet. Ralph called and said they ran into traffic and they'll be here a little late. Well, actually it was Mary who called - it seems that it was Mary who visited Ruth's family, sans any of Ralph's clothes."

"It's times like these that I think I should have gotten a degree in psychiatry instead of social work. I'm actually starting to think of Mary as someone real."

"She is real, darling. Perhaps you should be seeing a shrink, not being one."

"Or maybe our son needs to be seeing one. It's almost scary how he's become Mary after only these few months."

"Thanksgiving was a bit of a revelation, wasn't it? I almost wish Mary could have attended the dinner and we could have watched Mount Richard erupt, but that would have put us all in the soup."

"You're mixing your metaphors again, Harry. Let dormant volcanoes lie, please."

"I knew there was a reason I married you, you're far more sensible than I."

"Not a very high standard to aspire to. It's uncanny how Martha and Mary look more like sisters than cousins when they go all out. Now that would start Richard's lava flowing."

"I rather like the girlzilla nickname they've earned. That's a whole lot of woman in one package. Impressive."

"Intimidating would be my choice for any mere male. I wonder when we'll meet this Artur that Martha is dating?"

"Depends on how serious Martha is about him. And how much courage Artur has to face Mount Richard."

"Make an honest woman out of her, Harry?"

"Speaking of marriage, do you get the feeling that Ralph is getting pretty serious with Ruth?"

"The feeling is obviously mutual. If we hadn't eloped six weeks after we met I might have some fatherly words of wisdom concerning patience and forbearance in the arena of romance, but I fear they may do as we did and not as we said."

"But at least we met in our final semester. I wouldn't want either one of them blowing off school because of a baby."

"We've raised a responsible child. Ralph and Ruth paid a visit to the Planned Parenthood clinic when they decided to get together in bed. Makes a social working mother proud."

"Did you catch Ruth's face when she saw your bowl of condoms in the front hall? Not your everyday decoration in most homes."

"Mary said that Ruth didn't really believe her when she told Ruth how we put safe sex ahead of conventional morality in our house."

"Those conservative parents, I suppose."

"I wonder what her parents are like? Ruth doesn't seem too ready to talk about them other than they're pretty conservative. I suppose Mary wasn't unmasked or we would have heard about it on the six o'clock news. Earth tremors at the very least."

"In that area they do so much fracking that they might not notice the odd parental tremor."

"Well, Mary didn't sound like she's spent the last few days in an emergency shelter."

"Do I dare speculate on whose bed she spent the last few days?"

"No speculation needed - why else would Mary be the one to visit?"

"I should have guessed."

"Do you think there's enough time to order a matching copper mug with Ruth's name on it so she can be part of the family for our Christmas Eve round of hot chocolate?"

"No need, I ordered it and it arrives tomorrow. Terri even made a stocking with Ruth's name on it."

"We aren't rushing things a bit too much, are we?"

"Unless you've ordered a wedding cake we should be on solid ground."

"There you go inciting earthquakes again."

***

Ralph

"I never thought I'd want to say this, lover, but…"

"Remember, no secrets between us, Mary."

"Which is why I'm telling you that I'm very glad to turn back into Ralph again. I enjoyed a whole week as Mary, but I need to be Ralph just as much as I need to be Mary."

"Sounds reasonable to me. Well, as reasonable as having girlzilla as a boyfriend, anyway."

"Watch it or Martha might be offended."

"Not a chance! She told me that she kinda likes having a rep as a standout."

"True, but it can get old. You've seen how people looked at me over the last week. Sometimes I'd just like to be normal."

"I'll go on Amazon and order Doctor Miracle's Incredible Shrinking Machine and give you a treatment. Well, at least most of you - there are parts that I wouldn't want to shrink."

"Thank you. Without my falsies I can say I'm feeling like a new man, but I don't want to go too far."

"You're still wearing panties, buster."

"And I will for the rest of my life. I gave up tighty-whities ages ago."

"Does that mean you're wearing kinky-pinkies?"

"You looking for kinky, lover?"

"I found it, lover. Put your pants on and let's visit with your family. I need some sanity in my life."

"From my family? Dream on!"

"Just put your pants on and stop talking.

***

Harry

"It's good to see you, son. It's been a while."

"Yeah. I keep pretty busy at school."

"Glad to hear it. How was the visit to Ruth's folks?"

"Weird? Surreal? I'm searching for words to explain or describe or perhaps even understand the whole extraordinary week."

"I hear through the grapevine that Mary was the one who visited."

"Can't keep any secrets around this place! Yeah, I was Mary for the whole week, nonstop. That's part of why I'm searching for the right word."

"And…"

"You're starting to sound like Mom."

"After twenty-five years I seem to have absorbed some of her expertise. You're stalling, son."

"Right. I'm confused and I've been doing a lot of thinking. About Mary and Ralph and Ruth and just how to balance things in my life."

"Not surprising, Ralph. You're at an age where you have to make some heavy decisions about who you are and who you want to be. That isn't easy for most people, but you have the whole gender thing to work on as well."

"Yeah. When I realized there was part of me that wanted to be a girl I had a lot of fantasies. Mostly about being a girl all the time, living in skirts and dresses and forgetting I was a boy. It makes a sweet fantasy, but I think I learned that it's only a fantasy after this week."

"How so?"

"Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed being Mary for a long time, but the last few days I started to fantasize about being Ralph again. Which sounds pretty damn silly to fantasize about being who you already are."

"Is Mary really so different from Ralph that you think of her as a different person?"

"In some ways, I guess. I do seem to think and react differently as Mary, but I don't have some kind of multiple personality where one half doesn't know about the other. I just let different parts of me be more dominant, I guess."

"Not too different than most people, Ralph. I'm a different person at work and at home, for example. Your mom tells me that she doesn't know the risk-taking idiot who sits at the poker table on Thursdays. He must be pretty sharp or he wouldn't win so often."

"I think I see what you mean."

"In your case you have the physical changes and the societal expectations of gender to pile on top of that different personality facet, so it can get really confusing."

"That's it! I had a couple of fantasies come true in the last week and it just wasn't what I expected."

"Sadly, that's almost always true. Fairy tales are better in the telling than in the living."

"Especially if some people think you're a fairy."

"Goes with the territory, I suppose. You getting much grief on campus now that you're out?"

"Not a lot, not really. A few of the macho types make snide remarks and some of the feminists, but most people just think I'm nuts and let it go. Apparently there was some gay bashing a while back and the administration came down hard on the bashers.

Oddly, we get more grief when we're together because of the color difference than I get when someone clocks me; not so much on the campus, but when we are in town together. What's even weirder is that when I'm Mary we get less grief than when I'm Ralph. Some of the looks are worse than when I'm clocked as a crossdresser."

"One of humanity's least worthy traits is to find someone else to shit on when they are shat upon. I don't see any way to change it except bringing up a few new generations to think more clearly."

"That's what I've been trying to do - think clearly. I think I know I like being both Ralph and Mary enough that I don't want to give up either one. Finding that balance has to be the goal, not being a woman or a man full time. I like and need both."

"That's good - clearly setting a goal is half the battle. Getting there is another thing."

"Right. Learning all I can to get a good job comes first - Ruth and I are in agreement on that. I still have a hard time believing how well we work together on a project. It's like we feed each other ideas and they grow and change and develop almost magically."

"And Ruth seems to be comfortable with both sides of you?"

"Yes. That's another fantasy, but this one came true in a good way."

"She's good people, Ralph. Don't let her become part of the furniture, make sure you keep the relationship alive and vital."

"I'm trying. Dad?"

"Yes?"

"How did you and Mom know you were right for each other?"

"That's hard to say. It happened fast, but it snuck up on us. We just seemed to know what the other was thinking, we liked the same things but had enough differences to keep things interesting. It helped that the sex was damned good, but there was a whole lot more to sustain the relationship. For me, I just couldn't imagine life without your mother."

"Funny, she said pretty much the same thing."

"Not surprising. Is this leading somewhere?"

"Yeah. I think I want to propose to Ruth. I can't imagine living without her in my life."

"I think this where I'm supposed to get all manly and say something like 'This is your first real romance, son. Take your time.' Of course that would be hypercritical and hypocritical since I proposed to your mother much the same way. What I will say is to wait to get married until you both graduate. If you're still in love by then it will be the real thing."

"My idea exactly. Ruth's, too. We both know we need to have that degree if we want to do the things we want to do."

"You make a father proud, son."

"Thanks, Dad. For everything. I guess I need to go ring shopping pretty quick if I'm going to give it to her for Christmas."

"I may have a solution for that. You never met my mother, she was gone before you were born, but I have her rings in my jewelry box for just such an occasion. If you want, I'd be pleased to see that ring on Ruth's hand, sort of a blessing from my mom to her."

"That sounds wonderful, Dad. Family is important to both of us."

"Speaking of family, how do you two intend to tell her conservative parents about your engagement? For that matter, how are you going to tell them about Mary?"

"Um, we move to Tasmania and live in a shack on a mountain?"

"With high-speed internet, of course."

"Certainly. Solar powered computers and catered lunches. As long as we're spinning daydreams, why not go all out?"

"Just take a video when you ask for her hand so we can all see what happens."

"I think you might feel the shock waves right here, Dad."

***

Janet

Bam! Bam! Bam!

"C'mon David, get up! It's Christmas!" shouted Terri.

My younger son may have mumbled something that I'm rather glad that I couldn't make out. Looking at the clock I could see it was 6:02 AM. I guess there's something about Christmas morning that causes a twelve year old girl to revert to about five years old. It had been a long time since I was a kid and had such excitement over Christmas.

"Wake up, Harry. You're not going to sleep because…"

Bam! Bam! Bam!

When the Bam! occurs in your own door it seems a whole lot louder.

"Wha? What's going on?" My poor, confused husband mumbled.

"Christmas. Santa. Daughters. Presents. You know."

"Bah! Humbug!"

"Wake up you old Grinch."

"Coffee. Did Santa bring coffee?"

"I set the timer so it will be ready by the time you get to the kitchen."

"Oh, good! That should be sometime around noon?"

"Nice try, buddy."

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

"If Ralph and Ruth managed to sleep through noise they're awake now. If you don't want our daughter to make like the big bad wolf then get out of bed."

"Slave driver!"

"If you want to miss Ruth getting her ring, just snuggle back and be a slug."

"You're hard, woman."

"That's your job. Get your lazy carcass out of bed!"

***

Ruth

Bam! Bam! Bam!

"Wake up you two! Christmas is here and the presents are waiting!"

Could that cute little girl really be shouting like that so early in the morning?

"Go away, pest!" shouted my bedmate. I couldn't have said it better.

"Does insanity run in your family?"

"You're sleeping with me and you have to ask?"

"If it's hereditary I might make the birth control permanent."

"Temporary insanity, it goes away after the presents are opened. I was just as bad before I had someone in bed with me to keep me up late."

"It was a fine way to celebrate Christmas. Nothing like that happened in my house."

"What, you were peeking in your parents' bedroom?"

"I was speaking of my room, darling."

"I think we fixed that last week."

"But it wasn't Christmas."

"You can't have everything, like a night's sleep for Christmas morning."

"Do we dress for the occasion?"

"In your dreams, which you can't have since we have been cruelly awakened. A bathrobe will be sufficient. I might be able to tie it up with enough concentration."

Bam! Bam! Bam!

"Last warning, Ralphie. I can pick locks, you know!"

"Terri, you are a first class pest."

"I always come in first. You, however, would lose a race against a slug, let alone a tortoise. Get up!"

"I'm getting. I need to return your present. After your boorish behavior you made Santa's naughty list."

"I've known about Santa for years and years. You can't manipulate me with that crap."

"Watch it, sis. You could end up a social worker like Mom if you get too good at the manipulation bit."

"Oh woe! Oh fear and trembling! Oh…"

"Just shut up and let us get dressed. You win."

"See, I told you I always win, big brother."

When the silence stretched long enough to be sure that Terri was gone, I could only remark "There are certain advantages to being an only child, you know."

"I wish someone had told my parents that about a decade ago."

"She's twelve, it wouldn't have helped."

"Literalist. I'm up, let's see what Santa brought."

***

Harry

Christmas morning. We've done this for as long as I had the good sense to marry Janet, but once again it's changing. That first Christmas with Ralph, almost a year old and gleefully drooling and messing about with the presents is still with me. As each child came along it grew and helped us feel young again as the kids excitedly opened their presents. Then there was the bittersweet Christmas when Ralph figured out that Santa was a children's story, but still wanted to believe.

Christmas is a good marker to look at how the family has changed and how it's still the same. This one is particularly poignant with Ralph returning from his first taste of living on his own. The family is together, but no longer a single unit. We're becoming a collection of separate lives that returns to home base from time to time.

Terri still has that little girl joy but keeps fooling me when she suddenly becomes a thirty year old woman before reverting to angst-ridden teen. Life is never dull with a teenager, even if she has a few months to go to be official. At least she waited for sunrise before dragging us out of bed. There have been some years…

Now we're adding Ruth, who has found Ralph and may just share his life with us. I wish I could have had Janet spend our first Christmas together with my parents, but life sometimes just doesn't work that way. Both my parents were gone by that first Christmas, but I was able to spend it with her parents, so I think I know a little of what Ruth is feeling right now.

I do love how the place gets buried in torn paper and decapitated boxes. I never could figure out why some people want to carefully unwrap and save the paper. Last night with Richard's family was a lesson in patience, but watching Martha, Ruth and Ralph whisper made it interesting. Wish I knew what they were saying, but I can make a pretty good guess. I really shouldn't laugh at how they mock my brother-in-law, but he does invite it.

Looks like we're just about at the end, so Ralph's big surprise should happen any time now. Yup, he's going to do the traditional thing, he's kneeling in front of Ruth.

"Ruth, there's one more present for you."

Not very original, but how original can you get unless you're proposing via a radio disc jockey or some such public occasion. With that smile I think she knows just what it is.

"Ruth, will you do me the…"

"Yes!"

"I haven't even finished."

"You don't need to, you big lunk. Of course I'll marry you!"

"I love you."

"And I love you, Ralph. I have a present for you now."

Hmm… This isn't the way it's supposed to go.

"Well, really it's for Mary. Open it."

That minx. Ralph is going to have an interesting life ahead of him.

"Mary, I don't have to ask if you'll marry me, but you really need your own engagement ring so I don't have to beat any other suitors off with a stick."

"It's beautiful. Ruth, you're a wonder."

"I love you, both of you."

They didn't say much more, their mouths were too busy. I reached over and took Janet's hand. We both had a bit of moisture around the eyes. Life was looking pretty good for our family.
 

To be continued...

Once again, my thanks to Alys for her help and advice!



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