Of Mice and Women

“Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me” – From the poem of Robert Burns, ‘To A Mouse’

Of Mice and Women –

The young boy, no, young man to be, about fourteen, grabbed a sauce pan and began expertly to make roux. He watched the butter melt and threw in the flour next. He adjusted the flame on the gas burner bringing the heat down. The butter began to sizzle with the flour and foam up. He smiled as the roux progressed and the air became filled with a nutty scent as the flour in the butter toasted. He poured a little milk in at a time and, as soon the roux instantly absorbed the liquid, he would add more. Using a rasp, he added nutmeg to flavor and continued to work on the roux until it was done. Finally, he added salt and pepper. Satisfied with the taste, he brought over bowls with shredded cheese.

Mr. Alvin Meltross standing in the corner of the kitchen simply watched the boy with amazement begin to add various cheeses to the sauce to make a rich mornay sauce. In a moment, the boy was draining the elbow pasta and setting it aside in a pot. He then poured the mornay sauce over the pasta and mixed it. He tasted the mix with a spoon. After adjusting the seasoning, he put shredded cheese on the top, then bread crumbs, and put it into a pre-heated oven to be broiled for about fifteen minutes.

“Not bad. You seem to know your way around a kitchen, Mr. Lance.”

“Thank you sir. That is high praise.”

“Who taught you how to make mac and cheese from scratch?”

“I saw it on a Youtube video, Sir. I like to watch food videos.”

The irony didn’t escape Alvin’s attention. He was tempted to ask Lance if he had watched his food videos too. Alvin had been the food critic and resident chef for the local TV station for the last five years. Watching the boy cook was the unique thing he could evaluate him on with total confidence and with a high degree of expertise. Every thing else he did in life was a mystery to him as a reporter. Alvin wasn’t going out for a romantic time with his wife this night. She had left him with two kids to go ‘find herself’ on some sort of kinky sabbatical a few months earlier. It was a ‘I am leaving you – but not leaving you’ bunch of hooey that came out of her mouth which Alvin was still trying to make sense of for himself and for his boys. For the good of their family unity, he was patiently accommodating her capriciousness. Sadly, it was a ‘so glad you understand’ one sided conversation that did nothing to help his career. That is why he needed Lance so desperately. He was a blessing and a half!

Alvin’s professional life was food. He only became a TV food critic after he missed out on being an executive chef with the five star resort in New Mexico. Where to find the best produce? He knew. How to prepare the choicest meat? Alvin could teach you. How to select the finest wines? He could help you taste and select them. Watching this child man make roux was as close as he could get to understanding the circumstances that brought Lance into his home. Seeing him cook gave Alvin the confidence that he had made a good choice in a baby sitter and could go out and conquer the world. Not only did he admire the kind of boy Lance was. He wondered if he could help him in his future career.

“Thank you for being here on such short notice, Lance. Normally, I have to admit, I don’t hire boys to babysit. I guess it is sexism.” Lance nodded showing it was understandable. “But, you came so well recommended by my neighbors, the MacNabs, that I had to give you a try. I can already see why. Very few babysitters I have hired know how to cook at all. You might consider becoming a chef. I think you have a future.”

“Thank you sir. That means a lot coming from you.” Alvin figured out by that remark that Lance knew who he was and what he could do. Lance continued humbly to explain why he did what he did, “I learned to take the load off of my mother. She works so hard for me and I like to make nice meals for her after a hard day’s work. I am chiefly setting aside the money from my babysitting to cover college. Plus, when I heard your boys like you making them Mac and Cheese, I learned to do it myself. I don’t know if mine will compare well with yours.”

“I think it compares very well from what I am seeing. You toasted my Italian bread too which shows you think out of the box about how it looks on the plate. You used my Gouda, Cheddar, and Colby cheeses too. In fact, you shredded the cheeses too it looks like instead of cubing it and creating lumps. You have the oven set correctly. No, I think my boys will love your cooking.”

Sean, his youngest at three, came running into the kitchen. “What are we having Daddy? What are we having?” Mark, his six year old son came wandering in a moment later and listened to the conversation.

“Mac and cheese, son.”

“Yippie!!!” poured out an exuberant cry along with a dancing boy. Lance looked back to Mr. Meltross and winked.

“Yes, you really hit the jackpot. How did you know, Mr. Lance?” snickered a pleased man.

“Mrs. MacNab told me all about you. She says when your oldest comes over to play with Peter, it is all he asks for.” He shot a glance towards Mark who smiled and nodded.

With that, as Mr. Meltross was telling Lance that the boys had their baths already, the door bell rang and the film crew picked up Mr. Meltross to go off to do his latest television restaurant review. Inside, the boys sat down at the table and Lance dished out the mac and cheese on toast for the evening meal along with nice glasses of milk.

“Mr. Lance?”

“Yes Mark?”

“Can I talk to you after my brother goes to bed about Peter?”

“Sure, but you know you go to bed thirty minutes after he does. So, you won’t have long to talk.” Lance suspected that Mark was just looking for an excuse to stay up late on a school night. He wanted it to be clear what the rules were.

For the rest of the night, Lance let the boys watch Nickelodeon and then he put Sean to bed reading him a night time story. It was about a mean old man who lived down the street. Sean giggled the whole time. It was a funny story. Afterwards, he came out into the living room where he found Mark was watching Dora the Explorer. “Okay, Mark, what did you want to talk about?”

“Well. you might think it is kind of silly. But, does Peter tell you things?”

“I dunno. He just talks like you or your brother do, I suppose. Why?”

“Well, in secret, Peter tells me things?” Lance became worried. This might be more than he knew about. It might be adult stuff, in fact.

“Is it something bad you should talk to your dad about first?” He said with a note of concern.

“I-I don’t think so. Maybe it is bad. I wish I knew. I-it’s just that ...” Mark stopped to search for the word that would allow him to just talk about it with Lance. “… he doesn’t seem happy. And I am afraid it is because … ”

Lance tried to fill in the words for him and thought he could answer the question for him. “you think he doesn’t like you?”

“Not exactly. I guess it is just that he doesn’t seem happy. You know?” Mark became afraid to tell Lance what Peter was really saying to him.

After Mark went to bed, Lance went into the kitchen to clean up. As he cleaned up the dishes, he got to thinking about what Mark had said. Peter seemed okay to him. Everything about him seemed normal. After drying the last dish and putting it away, Lance went to check on Sean. He was fast asleep. He had to laugh because he grabbed a nightie of his mother’s and dragged it to bed. It seemed to relax him. He felt sorry for him. He only knew from idle comments that she had left about three months before hand and wasn’t going to be back for another four months. Mrs. MacNab seemed upset that the boys were suffering, but Mr. Meltross seemed to be handling them just fine.

After a quick check on Mark, Lance sat down and began doing his history homework. Studying the American Revolution wasn’t too much of a chore at all for him. He loved it. His late father, Mick, a Marine, had been killed in Afghanistan by a bomb planted by a terrorist who blew himself up too. Few knew that. Even fewer knew that his father was from a long line of soldiers going back to King Philip’s war in New England. So, reading about the revolution was like reading his own family’s history.

Yet, with all that love of the history of his country, his family, and his late father, he was unable to concentrate on history because of what Mark had to say about Peter. He would ask him the next time he babysit him. He was finally able to push the thought out of his mind and get back to his studies. When the front door opened and Mr. Meltross came in, he found Lance reading about the victory at Ticonderoga. Lance was startled when he heard, “I see the boys were no trouble tonight?”

“Oh no, Sir, no trouble at all.”

As Lance gathered his things, Mr. Meltross pulled out his wallet and gave him forty bucks. “Thank you sir, but I think you only owe me twenty-five.”

“The extra is for the wonderful meal you cooked for the boys. I should have thought of that before I left. I wasn’t thinking.” he said kindly. “And you earned it. Because you did your job so well, it let me do my job well tonight which is going to let me change jobs in the next few weeks. In fact, because of tonight, I may be moving to Knoxville to work for the Food Network.”

“Really, Sir?!”

“Yes, it turns out that an executive from the food network was there tonight and saw me in action. He was so impressed with my reporting he asked for my C.V. as well. I had it on my phone and sent it to him right then and there. During his dinner, he watched a few of my reports on his phone and hired me on the spot. The only question is whether I work in Knoxville or Cincinnati. It also means a huge jump in pay.”

“Wow, Mr. Meltross, that is awesome news! I am happy for you. And thank you for the generous tip too.” Biding each other goodnight, Lance got on his bike and road the couple of blocks to his house. When he got home, he found his mother asleep in her lounge chair. She had been reading her Kindle and had dropped it. Next to her, he could see the beef stew he had made earlier had been eaten and the bread he had made too was almost gone. He smiled at seeing how happy her face was. He really loved his mother. He approached her quietly and gently stroked her arm. “Mom, Mom! Wake up sleepyhead.”

She stirred and yawned. Then she stretched out her arms. Opening her eyes, she looked up at her son and softly asked, “How did it go tonight, Honey?”

“Great Mom, but it turns out I helped him get a job. So, he may be moving soon. I hope, maybe, I can get a referral or two out of him. I really need the money for college.”

“I know. Mrs. MacNab called. She wants you for Saturday night.”

“Should be no problem. How was work today, Mom?”

“Same old stuff. Handled a lot of phone calls for the car dealership. Paid bills for them. Sorted mail. Took phone calls. Called people to inform them there was a recall on their car. Dealt with angry customers. The usual stuff.”

Lance gave his mother a hug as she headed off to bed. Lance took the time to bring her dishes into the kitchen and clean up after her. He sat down at the kitchen table and finished his history homework. Turning off the lights, he headed to bed. As he began to fall asleep, he thought about the conversation he had with Mark. It must have influenced his dreams because in his dream he found himself in Peter’s room watching him sleep. Then, Mark appeared in his dream and looked up at him. Mark began to say, “Do you see it? Do you see it? Look again!” He looked again at Peter and he was gone. In his bed replacing him was a small Ken doll. He looked back at Mark who said, “You do see it, don’t you!” Looking back at the bed, the Ken doll had turned into Barbie. As he looked on with horror, the Barbie doll grew to the size of Peter and began to open her eyes to look up at Lance. He was so scared that he screamed in his dream. He woke up sweating.

He sat up in bed. “Damn, power of suggestion.” he spoke under his breath. “Now I have to blow my nose.” He fumed, “Either that dream did it or it is my stupid allergies!” He sat up in bed, grabbed a Kleenex, and blew his nose. Then he remembered he hadn’t taken his allergy medication for the night and picked up his snot blocker nasal spay. Misting both sides of his nose with the nasal spray, he relaxed and thought about what the dream meant. Was his subconscious brain trying to tell him something?

The weekend was soon upon Lance and he was getting ready to go over to the MacNabs to babysit for the night. “Honey, I have set up a doctor’s appointment for you on Tuesday. I have arranged to get off work and pick you up during your last class. It is your yearly physical that the school district requires.”

“Okay Mom. I will be home late tonight. I left a quiche in the oven cooling off for you.” They gave each other a hug. On the bike ride over to the MacNabs, Lance thought long and hard about the dream he had. Something about it suggested that Pete was hiding something, but what? Or was Mark just being a creepy friend.

Whatever the plan was for that evening, or the chance to talk to Peter about Mark’s concerns, Lance didn’t expect to ride up to the house and find a police car and Mr. MacNab out front being put into the back of the car handcuffed. He stopped at their mailbox and straddled the bar on his bike wondering what to do. Looking over at the door, Mrs. MacNab was standing there distraught. Her son, Peter, was being guided out the door. He heard her say, “But do you have to take him too?” At that, Peter saw Lance and jerked out of the lady’s grip and ran towards him. Instinctively, Lance swung his leg back over his bike, then flicked the kick stand, and turned to greet Peter. Peter’s arms flung around Lance's legs. “Please Lance, can I stay with you? Please?”

The lady who came running after Peter said, “Come on Peter, you have to come with us.”

“No! I won’t! I want to stay with Lance. He protects me. He watches over me. I can go home with him.”

Lance, feeling very awkward, looked at the lady. Now in the evening light, he could tell she wasn’t a cop. She was more than likely a social worker. About this time, Peter’s mother came over. She looked very embarrassed and not at happy that all these events happened when Lance was coming over. To Lance, she looked not only awkward, but was trying to hide something from him. “Please Ma’am, can we leave my baby sitter out of this. If you have to take Peter, at least ...” she halted. Emotion was crippling her ability to think and speak rationally.

Lance, reading the situation, said to Peter, “Look, Peter, I think you better go with the lady for now. It will help your mother out.” He reached down and picked him up and placed him on his hip. “But, I can help carry you to her car and spend a few minutes with you if you would like?” Peter just held him tighter. The lady nodded gratefully and he began to follow her. Peter sobbed into Lance’s shoulder. Lance stoked his back. Upon reaching the door to her car, he gently put Peter down and knelt next to him. “You will be okay sport. I just know it. I don’t know why they are taking you, but I do know they won’t hurt you.”

With tears running down his face, Peter said, “Promise?”

Lance hugged him and said, “Promise.”

As the cars drove off, Mrs. MacNab looked pained to see her boy taken away. Lance looked at her as if to ask what had just happened. She looked at him pensively. “Thank you Lance. I have to go call a lawyer right now. I can only tell you that my husband made some bad choices when he went to Latvia on business. Those bad choices just caught up to him. They have to evaluate Peter before they return him to me. If …” she began to choke out the words, “… I didn’t let them take him like I did, they might never return him to me.” She looked back up the street. “I have to be here for him Lance.”

“I understand.” The thought of his father leaving them was still fresh in his mind after so many years. Seeing his mom standing in the doorway when the soldiers came to his door to tell them about his dad was always the last thing that fluttered through his mind when he thought of his dad. His mom was a deer caught in the headlights too and, now, so it seemed was Mrs. MacNab. “I better head home, Ma’am. You have a good night.”

Mrs. MacNab stopped him with a tug on his arm. “Look Lance, I should pay you for coming over at least.”

He turned and looked up at her. She was a kind hearted soul. “No worries, Mrs. MacNab. You take care. If there is anything I can do to help. Let me know. Even if you don’t have the money.” He could see tears well up in her eyes. She nodded yes. Overcome with emotion, all she could do is walk away. Lance got on his bike and began to ride back the few blocks to his home. He didn’t notice the car start that followed him back.

Going back inside, his mother was reading in her chair and looked at him with astonishment. “What happened Honey? Why are you back so soon?” Before he could answer, the door bell rang.

When Lance opened it, he saw a slim man, about five foot five with a beard peppered with grey hair. The man’s head of hair was still dark. Lance figured out that he must be about forty. “Yes, may I help you?” The man lifted what looked like a wallet from his belt to reveal a police badge.

“Excuse me, I am detective Maldive. I would like to talk to you son. Can I come in please?”

Lance heard his mother speak up. “Invite him in Honey?” Lance obediently opened the door and ushered him in.

“Thank you. If you don’t mind my asking, what is your name son?”

“Lance, sir. Lance Baker.”

He looked over at my mother and smiled, “Thank you Lance. Are you must be Mrs. Baker? By the way, I knew your late husband in high school. It wasn’t a surprise to any of his classmates that he became a Marine. I was sorry to hear what happened to him.”

“Yes. Thank you. What is this about?” his mother asked.

“As Lance probably told you, Mr. MacNab was arrested tonight.” His mother gasped.

“Sorry, Sir, I had just gotten home and was about to tell her.” Lance said apologetically.

“Oh, I am sorry then to bring this up on you so suddenly. Anyway, I need to talk to Lance here and if it is alright with you Mrs. Baker, I would like you to be here for him since he is a minor. I just have a few questions to ask him.”

His mother got up and went over to the dining room table. Lance followed her and pulled out her chair. The detective appreciated the kindness of Lance to his mother in pulling out her chair.. “Please sit down Detective Maldive.” she said as her son pushed his mother’s chair in and sat down next to her.

“Thank you. That is very kind. My feet are killing me.”

Lance quipped, “Isn’t that homicide’s job, attempted murder by your feet.”

Detective Maldive laughed. “Yes, but they need a night off. Working that job is just plain murder. Anyway, Lance, I can’t tell you what we have arrested Mr. MacNab for, but I do want to ask you since you babysit Peter if he has said anything or done anything that has concerned you?”

“Well, not really, but Mark Meltross, his six year old neighbor, asked me the other night if I thought Peter was hiding something. He might know.”

“And you know Mark because you babysit him?” He wrote something down in a notebook.

“Yes sir. I do babysitting right now because I am too young to get a job.”

“How old are you son?”

“Fourteen, Sir.” Detective Maldive admired how polite and respectful Lance was and noted that in his book.

“How long have you been babysitting?”

“About a year. Fast food places won’t hire me until I hit fifteen. And nobody gets a morning paper anymore.” Maldive nodded. “And, a neighbor was frustrated because they couldn’t find a babysitter. I said I could do it and I found I really enjoy it.”

“That’s is very enterprising of you young man. Your father would be proud of your initiative. Like most kids, when we were fourteen, the only thing we could do was mow lawns and rake leaves. Now, please tell me what Mark said to you? How old is he did you say, six?”

“Yes, Sir, six. He just rattled on about something being wrong with Peter. It bothered me because Peter seems perfectly normal to me. But, then again, Peter goes to bed soon after I get there. Mark spends real play time with him. The MacNabs like me to show up around 7:30. I usually find Peter is most always fed and ready for bed. Tonight was going to be an exception. They were going to some movie that started at 6:30.”

“After he goes to bed, what do you do? I usually pop open my backpack and have the dinner I made for my Mom and myself. Then I do my homework.”

“Have you heard the MacNabs say anything unusual. For example, using the term swinger, going to the club, the gang is waiting for us so please hurry ...” There was an audible gasp as Mrs. Baker heard the question. Maldive gave her a quick glance as if to say be quiet and then looked back at Lance. Judging by how perplexed Lance looked, he went on with another question. “Tell me how you ended up babysitting for Mr. Meltross?”

“I don’t know much. His wife left him I gather. Well, she is off teaching some sort of classes, so she can’t watch the kids. Mrs. MacNab was kind enough to tell him about me. Sadly, he got a new job, so he will be moving soon to another town.”

“Why do you think she teaching some sort of class?”

“Mr. Meltross made some sort of snide remark about her subbing for someone. I didn’t want to ask more. I could tell he was very angry. I do know that Mrs. MacNab was good friends with her before she left. She would join them sometimes went they went to the theater. She would chuckle about enjoying some of her favorite scenes.” Mrs. Baker’s eyes grew wide and Maldive looked at her as if they both were thinking the same thought. It was then that they both realized what was going on and how innocent Lance was to what was really happening.

Maldive asked, “What theater did they go to?”

“Some sort of private one. They wouldn’t tell me the name of the play or the theater. They just said that if I needed them to call a certain number next to their phone and tell the person who answered to find the MacNabs.”

“Didn’t you think to ask what the name of the play was?”

“Not really. They were paying me to watch their kid for the night. Although, I did ask Mrs. MacNab one night how the performance went. She didn’t want to talk about it because of my age and the adult themes in the play.”

Maldive shook his head. Mrs. Baker did too. “Son, just one last question. Did she ever touch you? Did she every make remarks about you personally? About your age, size, manliness, or your lack of a beard, etc?”

“The most she ever touched me was a pat on the shoulder. And, the only thing she said was that she thought I would grow into being a fine young stud one day and she would lose me as a babysitter to the fumes? ”

“The fumes?”

“Yeah. I asked her about that. She said it was the car fumes and ...” Lance blushed. “… perfumes.” Mrs. Baker giggled.

Maldive closed his notebook. “So, you have discovered girls?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have a girlfriend if that is what you mean. I am too busy trying to help Mom and earn money for college. It isn’t easy not having a dad around.” Maldive acknowledged that with a nod. Lance briefly chocked, but then continued. “And, while I find girls pretty and nice, I haven’t really thought about them as anything other than that yet.”

“Well, I knew your dad in high school. He was fine man back then. Just like you are now. I think he would be proud of you and what kind of man you are growing into. Thank you for your time. You have been a big help.”

As the officer left their home, Mrs. Baker closed the door and looked sorrowfully at her son. She could read the confusion in his mind in the way he looked. ‘Damn,’ she thought, ‘This is when my brother Alex should have been here to have a sit down talk with him.’ Resolved to fill that large and hard to fill void, she decided that this was the time for ‘the talk,’ not later when Alex was available.

“Honey. I know what just happened isn’t the end of the world. But, there are some things about the world you are going to need to know. Why don’t you sit down. I think we need to talk about sex.”

“Oh Mom! Do we have to?” He said with the awkwardness which was apparent on both sides of the divide there in that room.

For the next hour, he listened to his mother put the pieces of the puzzle together for him. He heard about swingers clubs and alternative lifestyles. The horror on his face was evident as he realized that Mr. MacNab probably went abroad and had sex with a minor, which is against US law. She then went on to explain what kind of things they were concerned about with Peter.

Sometime later, he sat in the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror trying to figure it all out. No hair on his chest yet. Not like his dad’s had. Not even hair in his armpits yet. All the things his mother had told him about what puberty was going to do to him just didn’t seem to apply to him yet. Still, somehow he knew one day it would. The thought sent shivers down his spine. ‘How,’ he pondered out loud, ‘could someone be so fixated on being sexually excited twenty-four seven? They would miss out on so much of what life had to offer. People, friends, a good book, a lazy afternoon of cloud watching, or just the simple act of baby sitting.’

Lance began to worry about why he was really sought out for babysitting. Was he a target of the adults with a fetish as his mom suspected. He sat on the edge of the tub and played with his hair. Did his hair attract them? It was a hair flip style like Justin Beiber. Well, it used to be. He saved money by going to the barber once ever four months. Lately, his Mom kept calling him Shaun Cassidy. Someone she used to have a crush on back in the day, even if it was a show in reruns back then. He certainly lacked muscles. He could see the ribs on his chest and the bones at his shoulder protruding out. He thought about working out, but that cost money and living off of a small survivor’s pension from the Marines as well as what it cost to live off of his mother’s hard work, he couldn’t even justify having a girl friend. Not that he wanted one. That bothered him too. Why wasn’t he interested yet in girls? Or even interested in sex per se. Everyone tells him he should be.

Is that what made him vulnerable for attack, he thought? His mother said he was innocent and naive. Looking more studiously in the mirror, he realized that none of his father was there yet. Well, not that he could tell. He did have his dad’s intense brown eyes that his Mom said could put a basset hound to shame. He blushed at that thought even though he was alone. Continuing his inspection, he realized the rest of him was all his Mom’s fault. He had her aquiline nose which, if it was any sharper, could get him expelled from school for openly carrying a knife. His eyebrows had more of her shape which he enjoyed using to make a point by being almost Spock like. He loved to raise one eyebrow and freak out his teachers after they asked him a question in class. It made them uncomfortable and he loved that.

To his annoyance, the one thing he knew he did get from his dad that he wished he hadn’t was his bad allergies. He reached over and grabbed his ‘snot blocker.’ A good couple of squirts of the nasal spray really helped him. Two in the morning and two at night. If only he had more of his Dad. Maybe he wouldn’t be bait for … what did his mom say … ‘people who cared more about using someone for lust than giving love to someone for life.’ She had a colorful way with words sometimes. In this case, he didn’t understand until she spelled it out.

She said to him, “For you guys, it is all about which head you think with. The one on your shoulders or the one in your pants.” Ugh! That was something his dad should have said, not his mom. Not that she had a choice. If that was how women thought of men, how were men supposed to think of women. Almost all the girls at school these days were primping and preening to be seen by the guys. What head did they think with? Maybe it was their boobs. Yeah, that is right, he thought, men think with the wrong head and women think with their boobs instead of their brains. Gad! He hated growing up. Why did humans have to be so complicated when it came to their sex organs.

Almost without thought, maybe to distract himself, he grabbed the edge of the beige shower curtain and threw it over his shoulder like he was wearing a toga. It startled him. ‘You know,’ he said in a low voice, ‘this could be the answer for my history report. I could deliver it in a toga. Toga, toga, toga.’ He began to chuckle. He could do a report on ancient Rome. That could be interesting. Except it had to be about WWII. Maybe he could do a report on the echos of the Roman Empire being repeated in the chaos of WWII. That might work.

His mind drifted back to the curtain slung over his shoulder. It was … well … kind of like a dress too. Being that he hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet, the one his mom kept telling him would happen, he wondered if what he saw wasn’t far from what his mother would have looked like sitting before him in a dress at his age. What was she like as a teenager? Was she boy crazy at fourteen? Did she preen and primp trying to get his dad’s attention like the girls he saw at school. He pretended to primp and preen in the mirror. Finally, he yawned and thought, ‘It’s too late at night to wonder what she looked like when she was my age or even what did Dad looked like too.’ He headed off to bed.

He awoke when he heard his door opened a crack and opened his eyes. It was early morning. His mother poked her head in. “Sorry Lance. I forgot to tell you that the dealership is doing a rare Sunday sale. Some sort of three day weekend sale campaign. I have to go into work. We will have to miss church today.”

With sleep still on his mind, he responded, “It’s okay Mom. I understand. I’ll take care of myself. It will give me a chance to clean up around here. I love you.” He closed his eyes.

“That would be lovely. I think I will be home about five though. The sale ends at four. I love you too.” He heard the door shut and the car start. Getting up later, Lance got dressed in some old clothes. He started to clean the living room. It took him a while, but it was all picked up. Next, he started to dust. Flinging open the window's curtains, he watched the dust mots dance in the sunlight as he dusted the table behind the big couch. Dusting some shelves near the fire place, he saw a photo album his grandmother had made a few years back. Deciding there was no rush, he picked it up. “Ah-hah!” he mused out loud, “They are pictures of Mom before she met Dad.”

Sitting down to go through it, he loved the photos of her as a little girl being pulled around by his very young uncle Alex holding her hand. He heard a knock on the door. Putting the album down, he rose to go answer it. “Oh, hi Harold. What’s up?”

“I should do the asking. I heard through the grapevine that Mr. MacNab was arrested last night. Weren’t you supposed to babysit there last night?”

“Yeah, come on in. I am not supposed to talk about it.” Harold had been friends with Lance since seventh grade. He was much bigger than Lance now. In fact, he was well on his way to growing a beard. He was, as his mother said, a big old teddy bear. It was clear that he was going to grow to about six foot four. Maybe more. Yet, his nature was gentle and kind. Something that Lance very much appreciated. The only thing he ever bullied was his little brother. But that was only because the kid was a brat.

“I still have to clean the place. Mom’s at work.”

“I see you got a new TV.”

“Yeah, it is one of those flat panel smart TVs too. It was a cheap set we bought at Grand Buy for about $350. I can even watch Youtube on it.” Harold came and sat down on the couch next to the photo album Lance had been skimming through. It was open to the last page he had been looking at.

“Who’se the kid?”

“My Mom. Grandma did this album a few years back. I forgot about it. I was just going through it.” Harold began flipping through the pages until he stopped and looked up at Lance.

“Dang, Dude, you look just like your mom. Put a dress on you and you would be her. Look!” He held up the album. Lance stared down at it. He took it and sat back to look it over.

“Wow! You really think I look like my mother?”

“Oh yeah. Hey, where is your remote? Let’s see if your TV works.” Turning around, Lance found the remote and handed it to Harold while he went back to skimming through the photo album. Harold was more interested in the new TV. “We’ve had a smart TV for a couple of months. They do all sorts of cool things these days. You can install apps. One can even get you free TV. It is called Kodi.”

For the next half hour, Harold took Lance on a tour of the TV. “And here is the Youtube app. You can use the keyboard they have on the screen to write out what you want to look for or use the voice feature and … so … okay … push here on the remote … then I can say to it … ‘I look like my Mom.’” Harold smirked at Lance.

“Hey, that’s not funny.” Lance playfully nudged him and smiled. Part of him was happy. He thought his mom looked pretty.

“Then why you laughing boy?" Up on the screen was a whole bunch of videos of girls and their mothers dressed and made up alike. Lance shrugged and looked at the list of videos on the TV.

“See. No boys who look like their mom.” Lance announced as Harold scanned through the list of videos. “What a shame!”

Then Harold casually added, “It would be funny if you dressed up like her. We could do a Youtube video on it. Bet it would get a lot of views.”

“No. I would be too embarrassed. Can you imagine what would happen at school? I mean, look at how fast you found out about Mr. MacNab. Besides … darn … I can’t talk about it.” Lance looked away.

“Why?”

“Well, I was there when he got arrested. Mom says if I talk about it, it could hurt their family and it would be best to be silent. So, I gave her my word.” Lance crossed his heart and then grimaced as he looked on at Harold hopeful he would understand.

“Well, my mom already said that she knew they were going to get arrested after Mrs. Meltross left. Rumor had it that she was having an affair with Mr. MacNab. Some are speculating that he killed her and they found the body. He has a reputation for telling crude and kinky jokes.”

Lance looked shocked, even what he had heard the stuff his mother told him about the night before, he found it hard to believe. “No, I can tell you it isn’t about that. Let’s just say he may have made some bad choices according to my mother.”

Lance squirmed a bit. He realized that Harold was simply not going to let it go until he knew the whole story about Mr. MacNab. And if he did, it would race around the school and could get him in trouble. Thinking quickly, he picked up the photo album. He ventured, “So, do you really think that if I dressed up I could look exactly like my mom?”

“Oh yeah.” Harold still seemed intrigued by the idea.

“Well, we could do a video and just wait for me to graduate from high school. And surely, once I start changing because of puberty, that won’t be possible anymore. It could be kind of a fun idea. Let me go check something. I will be right back.” Lance went to his room, grabbed his phone, and texted his mom. ‘Hey, I need to distract Harold who wants to know all the dope on MacNab. Can U help?”

He waited for a minute on his bed hoping she would respond quickly. A text came back, “How???”

He texted back. “He thinks I look like you as a teenager. He wants to do a video of us dressed alike.”

‘Weird. I don’t like it right off hand.’

He used his voice feature and spoke into the phone. ‘I was thinking that we could do a video of you and me as girls and then as boys. It would help me get him to shut up. After all, he is my only real friend. And to be truthful, it would be funny in years to come to add to Grandma’s photo album.’

‘Is that how this got started?’

‘Yeah. He came over while I was cleaning. Saw the album and says we look alike.’

‘You know what. We do. That could be a fun video. But you can’t let anyone see it.’

‘Already taken care of. I told him no one sees it until after high school if at all.’

“Okay. I am in on it. You could use one of my Christmas dresses. But, you need to go out and buy underwear asap. I am not lending you mine ever. ;-)’

‘Got it. I’ll tell him to come back after four when you are home.’

Walking back into the living room, Lance told Harold, “Mom says she would love to help. In fact, she wants to do a shot with us as boys too. That way it will be balanced. Can you come back after four. I have some more cleaning to do and that will free up our time.”

Harold chuckled and said, “You bet. You’ll see. It will be a great video. Even if we can’t post it until you graduate. I will go get the video equipment and you just worry about the dress up with your mom.”

Lance pushed him out the door and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then a thought hit him. What size underwear do I need. Going to the old Windows XP computer in the living room, he Googled women’s underwear sizes. After looking at the chart, he thought he could probably wear his boys underwear. Then again, his mom did say he would have to buy some. The Penny Corporal outlet store was down at the corner. He could go there. Reviewing the web site information, he opted for woman’s adult sizes. Carefully checking, he figured that he was a size four since his waist was thirty-two inches.

Grabbing his backpack and some of his babysitting money, he rode down to the store and found some size four panties. He picked up several in a multi-pack too. It was the only one that wasn’t white or pink. As he rummaged around the girls section he was in, he noticed some stockings like his mom might wear. Following the same idea, he read the size chart on the package and bought a couple of pairs for women five foot five or less. He knew his mom was five foot four inches. And he was almost five feet. So he figured that would fit him too. Plus, it would mean that he didn’t have to shave his legs. Of course, there wasn’t much to shave. As an after thought, he found two identical headbands and threw them into the basket. Satisfied with his purchases, he went to the counter.

Alison Marshall, a junior at his school, was the check out clerk. She was the older sister of Rick, one of the kids in his class. Somewhat embarrassed, he had a thought. He went to the hygiene section and picked up some tampons for his mom. As he checked out, he blushed as he looked at her checking out the items. “It’s for my mom. She asked me to pick up a few things for her because she had to work this weekend.” Thankfully, Alison nodded as though she accepted the explanation.

When he got back home, he left the packages on the front table behind the couch and continued to clean the house. Time flew by quickly and before he knew it, his mom was coming through the door. “So, what is going on with Harold?” she asked bursting with curiosity. As he showed her what was in the package, he recounted what he was talking about before he agreed to do this weird thing. His mom giggled and said, “Okay. Actually, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I never had the daughter I wanted. And to have a photo of you dressed as a teenage girl would be nice before you grow up and become all manly on me.”

The thought of his being manly somehow sent chills down his spine. “Yeah, well,” he commented, “it will happen whether or not I like it or not.” His mother gave him a curious glance.

“But, we are going to have to do something about your hair if you are going to look like me. I have some ideas.” With that statement, the doorbell rang. Harold came in all excited.

“Hi Mrs. Baker. Are you really going to let us make a video where the two of you look alike?”

“Yes Harold. But, you know you can’t release it until after high school, right?”

“Ah shucks, Mrs. Baker. I would never want to see Lance get hurt at school. He is one of the few who isn’t scared off because I am so tall. And my mom likes him a lot. Okay, what is the game plan?”

Harold was holding the handles several long black bags and a big circular one. He also had a big backpack. One of the bags said Manfrotto and the other Westcott. He put them down next to the living room window. Lance piped up and asked, “Okay, what kind of camera is this you are you going to record us with?”

Harold was beaming with pride. “Well, I got the use for a few days of some pretty awesome hardware. I have green and blue screens. I have a twenty megapixel Sony camera that can shoot high definition video and take high resolution photos. I thought, for example, we could have a family portrait of your mom’s two kids. One with a pretty girl and another her well dressed handsome son. This is going to be so cool!” Lance had never seen Harold so happy. He looked over at his mom and knew he was done for. She looked just as insanely happy too.

“Oh Harold, you have outdone yourself. But, I don’t think we can do anything until tomorrow. Tonight, we should just concentrate on getting Lance to look like my twin. Besides, I just found out that I have the day off tomorrow. It seems that my holiday overtime hours will cause me to get time and time and a half overtime tomorrow. So, they said I get the day off.”

“So, can I watch you turn Lance into … um … I guess … a girl.” Harold was trying not to hurt Lance’s feelings yet at the same time see what was done to him.

Taking his meaning to be about the lack of a girl’s name, she thought for a second. “I see your point Harold. Well guess her girl name will be Lucy.” his mom said with a giggle.

Lance rolled his eyes. “Isn’t that taking it a bit far, Mom?”

“No sweetie. Because we are going to have to go out tonight to get some things done. So, Harold, if you don’t mind, leave the stuff here and come back tomorrow around nine. Or, you can take it back with you.”

“Can I stick around to see what Lucy looks like before you leave. I can enjoy your new smart TV in the meantime.”

To Lance’s irritation, she said, “Sure. That way you can make suggestions.” At that, she lead Lance off to the master bedroom with a little grumble coming out of him. “Alright, let's find something that makes you look like a girl so we can go to the store and get matching outfits.”

“Can’t we just use one of yours. I thought that was the plan.”

“Plans change. I realized just a moment ago that I wanted us to look the same. That is the whole idea. That way, should someone try to tease you, they will think I just green screened myself and pretended the other me was my daughter. If we wear different outfits, it might not be as easy to convince someone we are different people.”

Lance relented and observed, “Yeah. I get your point. But why do we have to go out now?”

“To get our hair cut the same. I know you let yours grow long. If this is going to work, we have to have a similar style. After we finish, I can redo your hair later to look different for school. But, for tomorrow, we have to look the same. So, I made an appointment for us around six thirty at a strip mall on the other side of town with my friend.” Lance gave her a concerned look. “That is why we are going to the other side of town. Come on. We don’t have much time. I have about forty minutes to make you look passable.”

With that, his mom began to grab the sack of supplies he bought. She chuckled at seeing the tampons, but knew his dignity was already to fragile to ask him why. First, she took and old pair of stockings and cut off the bottom part of the legs. Then she cut out the elastic and then cut off the top part of a tube sock. She handed him a green pair of panties, the cut off tube sock, and the elastic from her old stockings, and a print out from a website. “Here, follow the instruction and come back as soon you can.” He read the sheet and his jaw dropped. “Just go. We don’t have much time, Lucy.”

While he went off, she quickly went into her closet. She grabbed a simple dress that she knew would fit him. She found an old sports bra and laid them out on her bed. Then she went to the kitchen and grabbed a bag of bird feed they kept to replenish their bird feeder. She filled each leg of the stockings with about several handfuls of seed and then tied the stockings closed. Getting back to her room, she was pleased to see Lance standing there. He had done it correctly and his panties didn’t have any bulge. “Good job. Now put this bra on.” She handed him the sports bra which was easy, although a little awkward, for him to put on. Taking duct tape, she wrapped each stocking around and then inserted one into each side of Lance’s bra.

“Now, this could fall off if I don’t do a little magic.” She carefully reached in and safety pined the duct tape to the sports bra. “We don’t have much to do in the mall, so this should work, but no running or jumping. I don’t want to test this rig.” she teased. Lance was embarrassed, but at the same time impressed with his mother’s ingenuity.

“Mom, how do you know how to do this?”

“Let’s just say I dolled up your uncle Alex one day and it worked.” She winked leaving Lance more curious than ever. After she finished, she picked up the dress and showed him how to put it one. Cinching the belt and looking at him, she marveled at how he looked too much like a girl already. “Well, your voice hasn’t changed that much. I suspect that few will catch that you are a boy. Here are some flats. I don’t think we have the time to teach you how to walk in heels.” she giggled.

Sitting Lucy down in front of her vanity, she started to do his makeup. She applied a foundation, then added blush to his cheeks, then did his eyes with a lovely eye shadow that picked up his soulful eyes. Finally, she put lipstick on him. Through it all, Lance sat there petrified. After finishing the makeup, she took a moment to brush out his hair. “There Lucy, you look normal now. Well, except for your ears. Hmm. Oh, I got something.” She went to her dresser and pulled out some clip ons. “Now, you will hate these after a few hours, but you have to have something. And I bet you don’t want to have your ears pierced?” Lucy nodded emphatically.

When at last, the two came out into the living room, Harold turned and looked at Lucy. “Wow, you two really do look alike. I think this is going to work out nicely.”

A little while later, the two pulled up in front of a business called Cindy’s Carousel? His mother was chatting away as she led him inside. “This is a special kind of salon. It is filled with different hair dressers who have banded together to have their only little offices. They only have to pay rent for their space and share in the utilities and upkeep costs. It works out really well for us. Madeline, whom I have used for years, was able to come in and help us. She knows all about you, so you don’t have to pretend to be a girl.” Hugh breathed a sigh of relief.

His mom continued, “But it would help. So, I have told her to correct you.” At that, Lance slouched and pouted on the way up to the door. It was bad enough that they were out with him in a dress, but it wasn’t fun to be be made fun of by his mom. Behind double doors, stood a rather plump woman in a bluish smock wearing underneath an old t-shirt and jeans. She unbolted the door and opened it for them. “Hello Natalie. So, this is your … well … daughter?”

His mom giggled and said, “Yes.” They followed her turned right upon entering the foyer to the right. As he glanced at the doors, Lance saw name of women, their specialties, and hours. The door has a small vertical window. The glass was frosted. About half way down the hallway, Madeline opened one of the doors and they followed her in. There were a couple of chairs around a small table filled with magazines. Clearly, it was a waiting area. There was a large picture window that was frosted from half way down. The top half was covered in blinds that were shut. Even this late in the evening, the room was bright and cheerful. Madeline opened the blinds and Lance could see the tall trees outside the parking lot.

Madeline turned and directed Lucy into her chair much to his surprise. “Natalie, I assume this is a quickie for him and a real one for you?”

“Yes, we just need to have the same hairstyle.”

With Madeline studying Lucy in the mirror she walked around and played with his hair with the needle end of a pastel pink comb. She would lift up some of his hair and study its length. “Sit up dear. Like a proper lady.” She winked at him in the mirror. It made him feel uneasy, but, something about sitting up properly and being lady like was a nice feeling. He accommodated her request quickly. “Lucy, you clearly like Justin Beiber or his hair style, right?” He nodded yes. “Well, Natalie, I think we can take advantage of his long hair and previous Beiber cut. He has outgrown the flip look and is really past the swoosh look. So, I could give him an androgynous hair style with a pixie cut and a swoosh. I could give you the same. It would mean you two look the same for a few months. So, would that be a problem?”

It was quickly decided and, soon, Madeline was layering his hair to make it more girlish. “I will give you some hair gel, Lucy. For a month or two, use it to flatten your hair down. That way, you look girly for dress up, but no one will know at school. They might think you have gone a little goth. Or they will just think you are too slick.” Lance nodded keeping quiet for fear of being teased.

About twenty minutes later, Lucy was done. Then it was his mom’s turn. She took longer. Lance marveled at the speed Madeline was working. She clearly had been doing this for years. “Thank you for letting us come in on such short notice.” His mother said. After an hour, Mother and son were standing next to each other in front of a mirror admiring their hairdos. For the first time, Lance could see how he very much looked like his mother. The only real difference was the he was several inches shorter than her and the color of his eyes. And, since he was wearing her clothes, he was struck by how different the two of them were at the same time. His mother showed her thirty-five years. He was young and fresh faced. His mother paid Madeline compliments along with trying to give her friend money for the favor. Madeline refused and just gave her a hug. Waving goodbye, they headed off to a twenty-four hour Wal-Mart to find a couple of dresses.

Staying close to his mom and not wanting to say anything as they wandered through the store, he was happy when she spied a polka dotted dress in red. It had long sleeves. She was happy since it had a high collar. He was happy since it wasn’t really girly. It had a nice mature air to it. However, she soon found a pink dress with long sleeves and puffed up shoulders. He winced that he would be wearing it soon. Both were A line dresses, his mom said. And both, his mother thought, would fit her as well as him after the video, so it wasn’t real waste of money. The price on both was in the $30 dollar range too. Quickly, she took him to the changing rooms and found they fit Lucy and her perfectly. He would need a little padding to fill out the dress, she thought. Gathering them up in her cart, she stopped off at the intimates section and grabbed a few padded briefs to put on him.

Once they were back in the car, Lance breathed a sigh of relief. “I am glad that is over. I was scared someone would recognize me.”

“Not quite done. We still need to eat dinner still. And, I would like to go out to dinner with my little girl since this is the only time I will ever get the chance.” He looked at her as if he was about to say no, but she pouted and gave him a look that said there would be no arguing. He had seen how much she was enjoying this. He couldn’t blame her. She was, by all accounts, a girly girl growing up. And he could see that she was missing having a little girl in her life. And, to be truthful, it would have been nice to have a sister.

So, he opted to tease her a little. Lance folded his arms across his burgeoning faux chest and glared back at her with a grin on his face. “And I guess when I get married, you will want our first born daughter, won’t you?”

His mom giggled. “Only to babysit and spoil. Nothing nefarious, I promise you. And thank you for indulging me.”

“Ah, you’re welcome. I am kind of looking forward to seeing what Harold does tomorrow.”

A few minutes later, they pulled into a Friendly’s and sat down. She immediately corrected Lucy before going in. “Now, one must be a lady when one eats. Small dainty bites, wipe your mouth often, and sit like a proper lady.” Still afraid of how his voice sounded, he let his mom order him french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, and milk.

Being very careful to make it a nice experience for his mother, he forced himself to be as womanly as possible. The odd thing was, as he did so, he found he actually enjoyed it. Towards the end of the meal, his mother looked at him with a whimsical look. He stopped and looked back at her as if he was doing something wrong. “No, Sweetie, you aren’t doing anything wrong. It is just that I have never heard you hum during dinner before. Well, not since your Dad …” She choked up a bit and then continued, “… you know.”

Putting his fork down, Lance reached over in almost a feminine way and put his hand on hers. She softly cried in response, “I miss him so much dear.”

“I do too Mommy. But I know he would be proud of you. You are the best mom a … well … girl could ever have.”

“Thanks Sweetie. You are too kind to me. I never have to ask you to clean your room, clean the house, do your laundry, or hardly ever have to make dinner. I am so blessed to have you as a child.” The two hugged and began to cry.

With that, their waiter came up and looked at them. “Please tell me it isn’t the dinner. I can get you something else.”

Lance’s mom blurted out, “It’s okay. Just having girl time with my daughter.” She winked at Lance who couldn’t help but giggle. After the waiter refilled her coffee cup, she turned to Lance and said, “Besides. I don’t get to spend enough time with you these days. I suspect that is why you do as much as you do for me and I really appreciate it. I love you.”

“I love you too, Mom ... Mommy.”

The next morning, they slept in. After the morning alarm bells, set to a decent hour, rang to start their day, Lance let his mother go in and get ready. Harold couldn’t film her. But, he could film Lance’s preparations. About nine, Harold rang the doorbell happy to find Lance waiting for his arrival. First, they set up a screen that came up to over his waist. While Harold documented his transformation discretely, Lance found himself becoming Lucy behind the makeshift screen. First, came the gaff, pulling back his bits, pushing up other bits, and then putting on blue pastel panties. Turning away from the camera to check himself in the mirror to his right, he carefully put back on the sports bra with its bird seed boobs making sure it looked right. While adjusting it, it hit him that his mother knew about how to do this too well last night. What deep dark past trouble had she helped someone get into. The realization that his mother had a skill set that bordered on being, for lack of a better word, tricky piqued his curiosity of whom else had she done this for in her long life.

Harold interrupted his cogitation with a command to turn a bit for the camera to catch his adjustments. At last, in panties and a dark blue sports bra, Lucy turned to the camera as he said, “Well, do something. Just don’t just stand there, say something.”

Lance stood there, cocked his head, waved to the camera, and said, “Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” Then he gave a insincere goofy smile.

“C’mon Lance ...”

“Don’t you mean Lucy?” she said irreverently.

“Still, that is a quote from the Truman movie. I can't use that.”

“I know.” she said sweetly. “It’s because I am not a true man.”

“Dang it, Lucy!” Harold started to laugh. “Don’t make me laugh. I am trying to film you, you know. It makes the camera shake.” With that, Lucy blew him a kiss, placed her hand on her hip throwing it out in a semi-sexy and silly pose and winked at the camera. Harold was quickly finding out that Lucy could be a real ham.

Before he could say anything else, Lucy’s mom came in with the pink dress. It was a nice A line dress with a flat faux navy blue belt that formed a cute flat bow for the buckle. She commented, “Time to put this one on, Lucy.” Lucy stopped her frivolity and paid attention her mom. Her mom unzipped the dress in the back and showed her how to step into it. After guiding her into the dress, she came around the back and zipped her up looking into the mirror sizing up her work. “Now, let’s work on your hair and make up, Sweetie.” Lucy looked at her mom as if to say. ‘please watch the cuteness,' but she realized that her mother was being kind. It wasn’t meant to tease.

Almost by instinct or something else, she leaned over and gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks Mommy.” This time, her mother was flustered and smiling. Harold followed them into the master bedroom and filmed the rest of his transformation into being her that morning. His mother finished brushing her hair out, did her make up. Added plastic ear ring clips. Slowly, in the mirror before Lucy, there appeared a beautiful young lady sitting next to her beautiful mother. It bothered him for brief second that the girl he saw in the mirror was more real than the man he was going to become soon. Then, his focus changed to seeing the both of them and how much they were alike in looks and body language. He turned and smiled at her. “You must have been a beautiful teenager, Mommy. No wonder Daddy fell in love with you before he went to boot camp.”

With that, his mom reached over to the dressing table and pulled up a picture that had been turned down for a very long time. It was an engagement photo of her dad and her mom. His mother handed Lucy the photo. In it, Lucy saw his very young mother was wearing a pink dress and he was in his brand new Marine dress uniform. They were standing in a gazebo with him holding her hand showing off the engagement ring. The two of them were gazing into each other’s eyes. She looked up at him like he was everything to her. He looked down to her like he had found the most precious creature in the universe. Lucy began to cry and hugged her mother. "Oh, I miss him so much, Mommy.”

When she saw Lucy get teary eyed, she asked, “You okay, Honey?”

Lucy answered back with the emotion transparent in her voice, “Now, more than ever. I see why you picked this dress. Good choice Mom.”

Neither of them noticed that Harold caught the whole exchange in 1080p, high definition television.

The morning shoot in front of the green screen was very fun. But, Harold clearly had been trained to do this by someone. When Lucy went to the bathroom, her mom asked Harold about it. “My dad loves to take pictures of us just before April Fool’s Day every year. He then posts them to his Facebook account. One year, he had me sitting next to Forest Gump. Another time, he had me on the Moon.”

“Oh, yes, I have seen those.”

Harold continued, “Well, he likes to take lots of family photos too. So, every time he does a photo shoot with us, he has taught me how to use his equipment. He considers it his hobby. And, he has fun with his hobby. He teaches me every time he uses any camera. I guess he hopes that I will take up the hobby with my kids someday.”

“I think this is a first great step, Harold. Your father should be proud of you. And, thank you for doing this for me and Lucy. I didn’t know it at first, but, I needed this. I needed to know that I could connect with my Lance and share something with him of my life when I was his age and he would understand. I feel so jealous sometimes when he goes and talks with my brother about what it means to be a man and do man things.”

As Lucy came back in, her mom handed her the red polka dot dress. Lucy beamed and her mom helped her get out of the pink dress. “So, you like this dress then. I never thought you were into polka dots.”

“I don’t know, it is just that I like red, Mommy. And there are other reasons.” Lucy giggled as her mom zipped up the dress.

“I didn’t tickle you, did I?”

“No, Mommy. It is just that we are having fun. I don’t think we will have time today. So, we will have to leave the boys photos to some future date.”

“Just to let you both know, I have been placing a Manfrotto stand behind you both at Lance’s future height so I can get a read on where to place him in a future green screen edit. Then I take it away after getting an establishing shot with the distance to the stand placed on a card hanging from the stand.”

“I have been wondering why you have been doing that?” Lucy said.

“It is something my dad taught me.”

Midway through the shoot, the doorbell rang. Harold went to answer it and found a man in a suit with a police officer was standing there next to him. “May I come in please?”

Recognizing Detective Maldive’s voice, Mrs. Baker called out, “Please have him come in.” Before they knew what was up, Detective Maldive and the officer were standing in front of Lucy and Mrs. Baker sitting on chairs on top of a green screen which flowed back to a green screen six or seven feet behind them blocking the front door from view. Harold followed after them.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Baker, where is Lance?” He looked at Lucy and then realized who she really was.

“I am here, Sir.” Lucy dutifully said not letting her lady like pose lapse.

Taken back, Maldive stated, “Well, I have good new for you and bad news for you. Which do you want first?”

Mrs. Baker reluctantly said, “The bad news, I guess.”

“Well, the bad news is that the judge has issued a gag order.” He handed her and Lucy a piece of paper. He then handed one to Harold. “No one is allowed to discuss the other night. Excuse me son ...”

“Harold, Sir.”

“Can I ask you to step out front so I can talk with them alone for a moment, please.” Harold nodded and stepped out the front door and shut it.

“And the good news?” she asked as if it couldn’t believe there was any.

“Well, it is going to sound like bad news, but it isn’t. If my guess is correct, Lance ...” He looked at Lucy as if to ask if he should call him by that name.

Lucy, catching the meaning of his stopping and body language, said, without thinking about the implication of having a girl’s name, “Lucy, Sir.”

“Okay.” he said in a tone as if something had been confirmed. “Lucy here has to respond to a search warrant. We have to have her examined to see if her genitals match the description of a witness. A minor child.” Mrs. Baker’s face fell and she almost choked. “It is okay Mrs. Baker. The boy has described Lance, I mean, Lucy as having thick bit of pubic hair and a rather large penis. Both you and I know that isn’t going to be the case. However, it means I have to take him ... er, I guess ... her into custody right now, and take her downtown to be examined, and then we will take him ... sorry ... her back here cleared of all suspicions. It is just a formality and will stop him … I mean … her from being harassed for good.”

Wrapping her head around what was just said, Mrs. Baker said, “Can she at least go get changed into him?”

He shook his head. “I am afraid not. We have to make sure he ... umm ... she doesn’t alter her appearance in anyway before she gets examined. That way, we can protect her from future accusations. As it happens, finding her like this means that we can easily establish that the boy is lying to protect an adult. It actually is proof that Lucy didn’t molest a child at all.”

Mrs. Baker breathed a sigh of relief and said. “Okay then. But, we need to tell Harold to go home and wait for us to call. Can we take Lucy in quietly in our car so the neighbors don’t see, you know, her?”

“Not really, but, I can look out and make sure there is little chance as possible when we go to the car. I bet no one sees her like this.” he said with assurance.

“Can I come along?” Lucy’s mother asked.

“No, I am afraid not. A child advocate is waiting for her in the car and will be with her at all times and at the station to protect her legal rights on your behalf. You can follow us in your car and observe the examination, but you will not be allowed into the room or access to her until the examination is done. It is the best we can do. But, looking at him ... er ... her, I already know what we will find. The good news is that he, I mean she, will be cleared of all accusations.”

Thinking as fast as she could under the circumstances, she took from Lucy the clutch purse she had been using for the photo shoot and placed Lucy’s phone in it. “Here.” She gave it back to her. “I know they will take you back here, and I intend to follow you, but I want you to have the means to talk to me somehow.”

“It won’t be necessary, I assure you Mrs. Baker. But, if it makes you feel better.” Maldive nodded to the officer who led a frightened Lucy out to the car who carefully guided her into the back of the police car where she found a woman sitting there waiting for her.

“Oh, I am sorry. Are you Lance?”

Again, without thinking, she answered, “Lucy. I mean, I am Lance, but …”

Her expression melted into one of understanding. “No need to explain my dear. My, you are a lovely young lady. So brave too.” Lucy blushed and smiled in spite of herself. “I understand completely. I am here to protect you and I will. From what I am told, they will do a simple exam of your private parts and then let you go. I will call ahead and make some other arrangements because of your special needs, okay?” Lucy just smiled and tried to hide her panic.

As they drove to the police station, Lucy heard her call the station and talk to the officer in charge of the examination. “You will have to have another examiner come in. The child is transgender and is likely to be embarrassed if a man examines her. Yes, that is right. Her. Get over it, Jim!” After that, she made a few more phone calls. Lucy just looked out the window and wondered what was happening. Without thinking she pressed her legs together and folded her hands in her lap like she had been shown at the photo shoot. The advocate looked at her doing this and concluded that Lucy was very much a girl.

Afraid to say much more, Lucy followed them into the police station and into a room with an exam table and a one way mirror. Lucy was seated and looked like a scared bunny rabbit. About twenty minutes later, a woman, looking rushed, came in and shook Lucy's hand. “Hi Lucy, I am Dr. Nelson. I am going to exam you according to the this court order. Okay?”

“Yes, Ma’am” she responded politely. The doctor loved her sweetness.

“Okay, hop up on this table please little lady.” She put on some blue latex gloves as she said this.

“Are you taking any medication right now?”

Lucy was terrified and spat out “Just snot blockers Ma'am.”

“I understand. You are on blockers. How long?”

Not understanding what she meant, Lucy answered, “Um. Three years now, Ma’am.”

“Excellent. That would explain your small size. Detective Maldive will be pleased. Okay, do you need help getting out of your dress, Deary?” The child advocate nodded in agreement, got up, and turned Lucy around to help her unzip her dress. “Now, all I need to do is to exam your genitals to verify their state. I am going to have to take pictures of your privates. Now, these will be destroyed once they are used in a line up if it comes to that. So, you don’t need to worry. Here, let’s help you get your stockings, panties, and, oh my, your gaff off, okay?”

Lucy responded to the gentleness of the doctor and the child advocate. Slowly, she took off her stockings, then her panties, and finally the makeshift gaff. “I have heard of home made gaffs, but I have never seen one. My, you are very clever girl. But, I suppose one must do what one must.” The doctor guided Lucy up on to the exam table and had her put her feet into the metal stirrups.

Lucy was about to panic. The doctor noticed it in her face. “It’s okay, Honey. I just want to measure you first.” Taking what looked a compass and a ruler, she began to measure and right down notes. “Penis length is five centimeters. Quite small for a fourteen year old. Lower range of normal. But, you have been on blockers. So, not unexpected. Also, you testicles are about zero point four centimeters each which would be normally be concerning.” She proceeded to exam them and take photos.

“When are you going to see your doctor next?”

“Tomorrow, after school.” came a frightened response.

“Good. I am sure she or he will follow up and check you out too.” Lucy was too scared to ask what she meant by that.

After taking all the photos asked for by the court order, they helped Lucy get dressed. The Advocate and doctor nodded to each other as they watched her put on her gaff first and pull her bits back as if she had always done it. Detective Maldive then was then let in. “Well, Lucy, you are cleared of all accusations. See, I told you not to worry. We knew the child was lying to protect someone close to them and is saying it was you because they are scared. His description matched a mature man. Not a young prepubescent boy on blockers. However, we have to treat every complaint as though it is true. The ladies will now take you to your mother who is out in the waiting room. I hope you forgive me.”

"Yes, Sir. I understand. I do." Her knees felt wobbly and she was nearly in shock.

Lucy was adjusting her bra and making sure her dress was smoothed out as he began to exit. She meekly said to him, as she wiped away a tear, “Thank you, Sir.” The child advocate offered her an arm and she accepted. She helped Lucy walk into the waiting area and into her mom’s arms. She buried her head into her mom’s shoulder and softly cried for a moment. Detective Maldive said, “I am so very sorry we had to do this, but, I hope you understand that it was best to get her off the suspect list as soon as possible. She was a real trooper, Mrs. Baker. Except for the gag order, I don’t think you will be hearing from us until Mr. MacNab is prosecuted. And the information on his crime is international, so I doubt Lucy’s testimony will likely never be needed.”

Lucy’s mom breathed a sigh of relief, still, her daughter had been violated after a fashion. “If you will excuse me, Detective, I think we need to go home. This all has been rather upsetting.”

The two walked out to their car with Lucy holding on to her mom for comfort. After she sat in the front seat, she buckled up, her mother lamented. “I wish now you hadn’t nicknamed your anti-histamines 'snot blockers.'” Lucy shot a concerned look at her mom. “Yes, honey. I was on the other side of the one way mirror. They let me watch and listen. I don’t think you understand. When they heard you say you were on snot blockers, they thought you meant hormone blockers.”

Lucy raised her hands to her face, “Oh my gosh! No. What do they think I am now?”

“They are certain that you are transgender. I kept getting compliments from the staff they about what a supportive mother I was being too. Trust me. I didn’t know what to say either.”

Lucy looked down at her nice dress and cringed. She slowly said, “O-okay-y. What do I do about it now?”

“Nothing at the moment. I wouldn’t worry about it at all. I mean, that they think your transgender isn’t important right now. What is important is that they have cleared you of wrong doing. Let’s just let sleeping dogs lie, okay, Honey?”

"Okay. But, I wonder about my accuser. I wonder if it was Peter?"

"Oh, good news. One of the people in the observation room let it slip that the accuser is moving away in the next week or so to another state." Lucy looked shocked.

"Really? Then that means it was ..."

"Mark. He was trying to protect his friend Peter and make it look like you ..." she slipped into a mafia style voice and continued, "... who was the bad guy." Switching back to her normal voice, she added. "That is why they probably knew you were innocent."

Lucy nodded silently in agreement. After reflecting on it all, she shook her head and folded her arms across her nice bird seed chest. She just concentrated on watching the scenery so she could forget what she had just been through.

It was then that she heard her phone beep in her clutch purse. “Oh, who could be texting you? I thought I was the only one?” her mom asked.

“It must be Harold. I need to let him know we are okay and on the way back.”

“Did you want to finish the photo shoot or just leave it as is?”

“I don’t know. Give me a moment to think about it. She read the text and it was from Harold. She nearly screamed when she read what it said. “Oh no! Mom, stop the car. We can’t go home yet!” Tears began to well up. After her mom pulled over to a stop, Lucy handed her mom her phone.

The text read, “This is going around the school circles. It was a link to a Facebook posting. Clicking on it, it showed a picture of Lucy being led into the police station with a caption, ‘Hey everyone, rumor has it that Lance Baker was babysitting for the MacNabs. Mr. MacNab has been arrested for a sex crime with a minor. That is all we know. And just now, I saw Lance Baker dressed like this going into the police station. You can put two and two together. Poor girl! What did he do to her? And Lance, or whatever the sweet girl calls herself in secret, is one of the nicest and kindest guys in the school too. MacNab is a monster. Pray for Lance. Posted by Sandy Grissom – Sophomore reporter at large.’

The phone call to Detective Maldive was brief. They turned around and met him in the police station’s parking lot. “Can’t I say anything about this so I can clear Lance’s, I mean, Lucy’s name?” her mom inquired.

“No, I am sorry, Mrs. Baker. It is a court order. You can’t even say why you were here or else you will be in contempt of court. And, if you do, you could also be accused of obstructing justice. So, please, just be quiet. It sounds like the students will be supportive anyway. And, that, in and of itself, is a real blessing, don’t you think?” He smiled and patted Lucy reassuringly on the shoulder.

Pulling the detective aside to talk to him with greater privacy from being overheard by passers by, “Well, what was Grissom doing there anyway?” her mom asked.

“She was doing a story about the police station for her school newspaper, Mrs. Baker.” Lucy over heard it and bit her tongue. Then she sniffed and said under her breath. “I wish I had taken my snot blocker this morning.” She grabbed a Kleenex from her mom’s purse and blew her nose. Looking at her Kleenex, she loudly commented, “Oh damn, I ruined my make up. I didn’t mean to do that. You will have to help me redo it again Mommy.”

Detective Maldive shook his head. “Women! You still look pretty, Lucy. Trust me.”

Lucy looked at him and realized how she must have sounded to him. Politely as she could, she responded, “Um, thank you for the compliment, Sir. I-i do appreciate it.” She feigned a smile and then looked at her mom for help. She wanted to go on and say that she wasn’t worried and this being a girl was just a temporary thing. Her mom looked back at her with a look that said that she too was feeling that things were getting out of control.

The second time they started home, both of them were at a loss what to do. “So, the students at the school are going to think you are transgender who read her Facebook page. Right?” Lucy fidgeted as she scanned the posting about her.

“Uh oh,” she said. “Mom, I think we have another problem.”

“What now?”

“Her post has over four-hundred likes. Did you hear that, the posting has over four-hundred likes, Mom!” Her mom could see the panic in her face. They turned onto their street at last.

“Let’s get inside and talk this out. I am sure there must be a solution Honey. It will be okay.” She reached down and patted Lucy’s knee nervously. Almost without thinking, Lucy took her mother’s hand and squeezed it.

Turning into their driveway, Lucy swung her legs out and stood up. She slipped her phone back in her purse, threw the purse over her shoulder, and closed her car door as she looked over at her mother doing the same thing. She talked to her mom over the roof of the car nevertheless. Maybe a bit too loudly she said, “Mommy, what am I going to do at school tomorrow. By now, the posting has gone all over the school. What will people think?”

“I don’t know Lucy. I just don’t know.”

After they both shut their doors and started to walk towards the front door, they both nearly jumped when they heard, “Oh Lucy. That is your name? What a sweet name. It really suits you too.” Lucy looked up and there was Sharon Milestone and Jenny Johnson holding a fruit basket wrapped in a yellow crinkly cellophane with a big red ribbon tied around it. The two girls came up and hugged Lucy. “And my, what a pretty dress, Sweetie.”

Lucy blushed at the attention and proudly said, “My mom picked it out for me.”

As if to shift attention from her, Lucy did it again. Thinking to the Friday just before, she remembered that Alex Torrez, a junior, was ogling Jenny in the school cafeteria and making almost crude comments about her body parts being sexy during lunch. Lance was sitting at the table just next to him eating lunch with Harold. He looked up at the time and thought the comments were over the top. Jenny was wearing a simple skirt that flounced around her nicely. It was white with black polka dots and with big pleats. It went down to her knees. Her long sleeve blouse wasn’t clingy. School regulations didn’t allow that. It was a basic black blouse with a V line collar that was frilly and cute. “Yes, when she picked it out for me, I was excited because it reminded me of that nice outfit you wore on Friday.”

Jenny cooed. “You remember that?”

“Oh yes. It certainly caught Alex’s Torrez’ attention. He couldn’t stop talking about how nice you looked in it.” Sharon giggled and winked at Jenny who just beamed. It was then that Lucy realized that she said exactly the right thing giving the wrong impression at that moment. Even her mother realized that as she gave a look to Lucy trying to say with her stare that she was sounding too much like a girl.

Sharon changed the subject, thankfully, “Oh, Mrs. Baker. What a wonderful thing to do for her. You must be so proud. You know, Lucy is the first transgender student at Hill Forest High. And when we heard what happened, we just wanted to come over and let her know that she will be welcomed with open arms at school.”

At that moment, Harold came up behind the girls and shrugged. He too realized what was going on and that he too couldn’t say anything. Mrs. Baker took charge briefly. “Well, ladies, it has been a trying morning and we ...” She was cut short by Jenny who verbally pushed her aside.

“We understand Mrs. Baker. That is why we are going to send you a meal via Ultimate Eats. That way you can sit down and relax for the rest of the day. I am sure whatever happened at the police station ...” Jenny turned to Lucy and gave her a sympathetic pout, “… was just awful. I can’t imagine what that beast did to you.”

Mrs. Baker interjected as quickly as she could to stop them from progressing even further, “Girls, please, we aren’t allowed to talk about it because of a gag order. You could get us in legal trouble. I hope you understand, but we can’t even discuss it with you past this point until it is lifted. The biggest favor you could do for us is to please tell that to everyone at the school that we aren’t allowed to discuss the matter. They can’t discuss it with Lucy at all.” She winced realizing that she just called him her and thus did exactly what Lucy did a moment ago when she talked about Jenny’s outfit as well as Alex’s infatuation with Jenny.

Harold, feeling he could help, almost rescued them. “Jenny, Sharon, I hope you don’t mind. But, I was doing a photo shoot of mother and daughter so they could remember this time in Lucy’s life and I need to get them inside to finish the job so I can get my camera equipment back to my dad.”

“Oh, Harold’s right ladies. We have to finish our mother daughter shoot. If you don’t …”

Sharon grabbed Harold’s arm and squealed, “Oh, what a sweet thing to do for them. Can we help?” Harold’s eyes pleaded with Lucy and Mrs. Baker next as the two girls pushed their way into the Baker household. The truth was, they were a much better help than what Lucy’s mom could offer. They corrected her mother’s make up mistakes and promised to come over and show her how to do her’s right.

In the midst of it, they said that Lucy needed to have pierced ears and they grabbed ice and potatoes from the kitchen with a needle they had handy for piercing their friend's ears. But, even Mrs. Baker had to admit that Lucy looked better with pierced ears. The girls even had pretty little studs for her to put in her ears.

The photo session became a dream for Harold. They would move lights and seemed to already know the kind of lighting he wanted for the different shots. He figured that they had done some sort of modeling before. Shot after shot was better than before. So much better, that they went back to the pink A line dress that Lucy wore that morning before being interrupted by the police.

“Oh, Mrs. Baker, we simply must take Lucy shopping some day. We really have to say that your hair styles complement each other nicely. Who did them?” Sharon asked.

And, once again, her foot went into her mouth again as Lucy told them about Madeline and her doing their hair late on Sunday. Going through Mrs. Baker’s closet, the girls found a few more outfits and had them dressed differently this time. Their goal was to have a full range of photos for posterity. The time that Lucy was born. In all the hustle and bustle, Harold took Lucy and her mother out in the back yard and photographed them next to an old weathered red hued playhouse that Lance had outgrown. It made for a sweet back drop for mother and daughter. Unbeknownst to Harold, Sharon took a photo of the two of them and posted it to Facebook and Twitter. Soon, Ultimate Eats delivered the evening meal and the day drew to a close.

As the girls left, Lucy hugged them. “Thank you so much for your help. And, remember, you must tell everyone that they can’t talk to me about what happened with the police.”

“Okay, but if you need to talk, you know.”

Lucy shyly answered, “I know.”

Sharon stopped for a moment. “Will we see Lucy or Lance at school tomorrow?”

Lucy said as calmly as she could, “I think it will be Lance. This is happening much faster than we expected. I don’t have permission yet to come as Lucy.”

Her mother chimed in as well. “Really, we are just getting used to having Lucy here for the time being.” The girls nodded sadly.

“Oh, but you must come to school as Lucy as soon as you can. You are such a natural girl. We could tell you were so awkward as a boy. And now we know why. It explains why you were so kind and sweet to us. You were one of us.” The girls giggled. Lucy just blushed and smiled demurely.

It was about six thirty when it was finally just the three of them. Harold spoke first. “I am so sorry man. I just thought I was going to give you a memory from the past you could laugh about.”

Mrs. Baker was the first to respond. “It’s alright Harold. You were just being a good friend. I thought it was a fun idea too, which is why I agreed. I had no idea that it was going to turn into what it did today.”

“I don’t think it could get any worse, if you ask me. I am so glad today is over. I am just going to pretend that the whole thing never happened. In a few weeks, I hope everyone forgets.” Lucy proclaimed.

Lucy added, “Speaking of which, do you mind if I go change. I think I need to be Lance again. Can you please unzip me Mom?” Lucy ran off into her room and in just a few minutes, Lance came out.

Harold and Mrs. Baker both looked at Lance. They realized the pierced ears the girls had given him and the hairdo make him look too much like a her. Mrs. Baker comforted herself in realizing that at least tomorrow, Lance could use the gel and look boyish again.

They both went to bed early. Totally exhausted. The next morning, Lance stirred first. He took a quick shower and got dressed in a pair of jeans and a loose fitting Star Wars t-shirt. That way he could relax. To his surprise, when he came out, his mother was fully dressed, but hadn’t gone to work like she usually does since the dealership opens at seven. “I called in son, I get to go in late. I think this morning we need to go in and talk to the principal privately. I know we can’t talk to her about the police case, but, more importantly, I am sure she can help us with your problem.”

Lance commented, “Thanks Mom.” and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Now, where is that gel?” Lance asked.

“I thought you had it.”

“No, you were supposed to bring it from Madeline’s. I am almost sure.”

Breathing a heavy sigh, Lance simply said with a tinge of resignation in his voice, “Guess I am going to look a little girly today anyway. Truth is that it won’t matter. The ‘word’ is out about me.”

About thirty minutes later, they pulled into a parking spot at the school. Lance followed his mother as she navigated the office staff’s endless maze of go here and go there. Finally, they were ushered into the Principal’s office. Mrs. Jerri Halquist was a nice principal. She stood about five foot six in her stocking feet. She had been principal of Hill Forest High School for twelve months exactly. Prior to that, she had been an assistant professor of Educational Psychology at Auburn University with a specialty in adolescent behavior. She also had a lesser degree in business administration. She was a qualified and efficient administrator whose reforms were already transforming the school into one of the best in her district. “Hello Mrs. Baker, and this is Lucy, I mean Lance. I read all about you on the Facebook accounts. I am so proud to meet both of you. I want you to know Lucy that we are going to do what we can to make your transition as pleasant as possible. I was so proud of Jenny and Sharon reaching out to you. They are such wonderful girls, don’t you think?”

Before they could say anything, she got on her intercom. “Felicity, could you come in here please?” I just wanted to take a moment if you don’t mind.” Felicity came in the door and greeted them with handshakes. “Here, take my phone. You know what to do?”

In a moment, Felicity had taken a picture of the three of them. “Do you mind if I post it to the Facebook account? I want to announce that administration has your back. We won’t allow any bullying of you Lucy. I want you to know that.” As Felicity left the room to go post the photo, she turned to them, “And I am so happy you two came in. This isn’t the best time, sadly. It is budget time and I have to get over to the district and explain some of my predecessors mismanagement before all hell breaks loose. But, I want to make an appointment with you Lucy to go over how we can facilitate your transition here. Okay?”

And, before they knew it, they were out in the hallway wondering what just happened. “Honey, are you going to be okay?”

Lance rolled his eyes and said, “I guess so. This isn’t going to be easy, but I will manage. I just don’t know what to do at this point.”

She patted him on the shoulder and said, “I do. I have been wanting to put you in a charter home school for a year or so now. I think if this continues, I will transfer you into it at the semester break. That way, you don’t have to live anything down.”

“Are you talking about that Nine2Twelve online program I see advertised on TV?”

“Yes, I found out that they will give us a computer that is better than what we have. And, they also support an international baccalaureate which Hill Forest High hasn’t gotten yet. It means we can get you into a better school. Plus, because your dad was a Marine, I can get you a full scholarship too. So, maybe this is a good thing?”

Lance’s shoulders sagged for a moment. Then he looked at his mother. “But, where would I study?”

“At home or in a special unused office at my work. Either way, you wouldn’t have to worry about this following you into the future.”

During the morning hours, Lance found students all giving him pats on the back and saying they thought she was brave. He grudgingly smiled and said thanks. Finally, about lunch time, he found that the nurse called him into the office to discuss some details.

“Lance, I mean Lucy, are you taking medication?”

“Yes, at the moment. I can’t tell you what it is because it is all Greek to me.”

“When do you see your doctor?”

“Today, right after school.”

“Who is it?”

“Dr. Johnson. Avery Johnson.”

“Good man. Have him write up a note for you. With things properly documented, I can get you assimilated into the school faster as Lucy. Until then, you will have to remain as Lance.”

As he left the nurse’s office, he said a thank you prayer for bureaucracy. He could use the reluctance of the school to give him some protection. His mother’s plan would work. However, even before he could get to the cafeteria, he heard a booming voice in the hallway. “Hey you, stop. I want a word with you.”

Lance turned around and there, towering over him, was, gulp, Alex Torrez. All six foot one hundred and ninety-five pounds of mean muscle that could flick him against the wall with his pinky, Alex Torrez. He glared down at him.

“Ah, yes ...” panic came over him. He was about to plead for his life when Alex smiled and said, “Thanks man. I got a date with a really cute chick thanks to you. She said you thought I was okay and that she should date me.” He came up to him and his big arm engulfed his tiny body in a man style side embrace. “Hey, anybody who gives you trouble for wanting to be a girl, you send them to me. I will teach them a lesson. See you later.”

“Your welcome. And, thank you for protecting me. It is very kind of you.” he giggled out of relief that he wasn't a dead man. ‘Gad!’ he thought, ‘Do I have to sound like a girl all the time!’ But the truth was, he thought, I didn’t know people liked me as much as they did or even noticed me until they thought I was a girl. It gave him a warm feeling. Even though Sharon and Jenny drove him crazy the day before, he realized he had fun having them dress him and talk about clothes with him. He liked it. It might not have been the deepest of conversations he ever had with anybody. But, they were sincere and nice girls. The kind he would love to have as just friends.

He saw Harold coming out of the boys bathroom as he neared the door to the lunch line. Harold stopped him. “Do you know what Jenny did?”

“Yeah, she said to Alex that I said he should date her. He is real happy.”

“No, man. Not that. Jenny published that photo of you and your mom in the backyard to Facebook, and now every body knows you are a trans girl named Lucy.”

“Oh no. You don’t mean that the whole school …”

“Oh yes, the whole school knows.”

“I think I am going to be sick.” Lance quickly pushed pass Harold and ran into the boys bathroom. He found an open stall and began to throw up. After a bit, he calmed down and went to the sink to clean up. Harold stood by the door to the bathroom. When Lance came out, Harold pinched his nose and said,“Oh crap, you got some of it on your shirt. You can’t wear that to class. You will stink of vomit.”

At that moment, one of the cheerleaders near by getting something from her locker overheard what Harold said. As she opened her locker, she turned to Lance and offered, “Oh, here. Let me help. I have to wear my uniform shirt today and forgot. So, I happen to have a spare in my locker.” She pulled out a long sleeve pin strip twisted front blouse and showed it to him.

Lance responded, “Oh, I can’t. I can wash my shirt. I am sure.”

“Not in time for your next class. And if you can’t get it out, they will send you to the nurse.” Lance panicked at that thought. The nurse would have him in a dress almost right away the way things were going. And the shirt didn’t look too girly. Then it hit him. He still had studs in his ears and they matched the faux diamonds on the blouse’s buttons.

“Well, okay.” Embarrassed to undress in the hallway, Lance stepped inside the doorway of the boys bathroom and pulled off his Star Wars shirt. Then he put on the shirt she handed him. The problem was that, while he had no cleavage, it made him look very much like a girl. The sleeves were long, yet stopped half way down his forearm.

“See, my blouse fits you. Although, you need some boobs, girl. But, I hear that you will be growing some soon.” she stated sweetly and giggled. “Plus, I think you will make a real cute girl. I love your hair too. Oh my, I forgot my manners. Hi, my name in Monique. You must be Lucy. And you … “ she looked up at Harold and smiled, “…. are the kind photographer hunk who took photos of her coming out. What a sweet thing to do. You are a real gentleman.” Harold blushed. “And here I find you sticking by your friend too when she needed you at school and protecting her too.” She stroked his arm and smiled. “I am glad that there are boys … no … men like you in this world. Good job!” With that, she turned to Lance and said, “Look, return it to me when you can. You look adorable in it. And if there is anything we all can do to help you, let us know.” She pouted and added, “I hear you have been through a lot because of a monster out there. So sad.”

She gave Lance a hug and then reached into her purse. “Oh, just in case.” she giggled. She spritzed him on the wrists and behind his ears with some perfume before he could stop her. Not that he wanted to stop her. “There. I don’t mind sharing my signature scent with you today. I think you need it.”

All Lance could say was, “Thank you Monique for all your kindness. I really appreciate it.” He had been taught by his mom as well as his late father to be always polite. Especially to someone being kind to you.

“You’re so welcome.” Lance waved at her as she ran down the hallway to her next class.

After she left, Lance stared blankly off in to space and started shaking his head. “Wasn’t I was supposed to grow up and marry someone like her. Tell me someone, wasn’t I?”

Harold gave him a funny look hearing the resignation in Lance’s voice. “It could have been worse you know.”

“How? Tell me how?”

“Well Lucy, you could have been born with bright red hair.”

Lance folded his arms and stared at Harold who said nothing. Both couldn’t help but smile after thirty seconds. Finally, gathering his wits to go on, he threw his old tattered shirt that now reminded him of his past into the garbage can and said to Harold, “C’mon Ricky. We have to go to class.” The two friends busted up laughing.

Nobody bothered Lance as he went through the day. They noticed his shirt, the studs in his ears, and his perfume. The whispered rumor must be true, they would say to each other out of his earshot, Lance is really Lucy. Some stayed away from him while others gave him a thumbs up. Somehow, in the matter of twenty-four hours, he had become the school mascot, or, something akin to being one.

During English, his last class, a student came in to hand the teacher a note. She nodded and signaled Lance to come up. He knew it was his mother who had come to pick him up for a doctor’s appointment. Confident that he could escape at last, he was jolted back into the twilight zone when the teacher quietly said to him, “Here is a pass to go up to the office for your doctor’s appointment. Oh, and Lance, I mean Lucy, you are the bravest student I think I have ever had.”

Like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights, all Lance could say was, “Thank you, Mrs. Newberry. I really don’t think of myself as brave. There are real heroes out there like my late father who were even braver. They gave their all for us.”

“I know, your dad was a true hero. But, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His bravery lives on in his daughter.” She patted him on the shoulder and sent him off to the office.

Mrs. Baker turned to look for him and was looking for him in his Star Wars shirt when she spied an adorable girl standing in front of her in a pin striped shirt. It was a shock when she realized that the girl was Lance. “Hi mom. I kinda had an accident. Some girl lent me her shirt. I guess I forgot to tell you.”

“Oh no. And we don’t have any time to go home. Well, we will have to go just as you are.”

As they checked in at the doctor’s office, the nurse asked, “Did you bring all of his medication Mrs. Baker.” She nodded yes. The nurse took his snot blocker bottles and typed in the prescription information into the computer. “And what pharmacy do you use?”

“Oh, because this is so expensive, I order it online and it is sent from Mexico.”

The nurse nodded. “Yeah, we get a fair amount of that. Either Mexico or Canada. Please wait in the waiting room and the doctor will call you in soon.” It didn’t take long either. They measured Lance on the way in. He was five foot exactly and ninety pounds. Well, at least until he kicked off his shoes. He was four eleven and a half inches and eighty-nine pounds. His vision was twenty twenty. And he had no color blindness.

They didn’t have to wait long in the exam room. But, just when there was hope at the end of the tunnel, things conspired once again to push Lance towards womanhood. “Hello Lucy. Yes, I know your name. It was all my Jenny could talk about at dinner last night. I had to bite my tongue though and not tell her you were my patient.”

He sat down and pulled up all of his paperwork on the computer. “Okay, how are your allergies?”

“Just fine doctor. The snot blockers you gave me are really working.”

He chuckled and said, “Good, good. Sudafed is a great snot blocker.”

“Now, who is your endocrinologist young lady?” Lance winced at that statement. Mrs. Baker looked baffled.

“I don’t have one, Sir.”

“That isn’t possible. You are taking Suprefac nasal spray.”

“No, the only nose spray I am taking …” then it hit him. Suprefac and Sudafed sound alike. He looked at his mom. “Um, Mom, Suprefac and Sudafed sound alike don’t they?” The look of horror crept over her face as she realized what had happened.

She asked the doctor, “What exactly does Suprefac do, doctor? It was never explained to me.”

He turned to her and said, “Well, it blocks the testes from producing hormones.”

She gulped and then Lance asked, “So, that explains why my privates haven’t grown.”

“Of course, your endocrinologist should have explained that to you already. How far along are you in your transition. It sounds like you are ready to do RLT.”

“R L T … what does that mean?” his mother asked cautiously.

“Oh, real life trial. Oh, I need your psychiatrist's name too for my records.”

She went on to say, “Well, we don’t have one, actually. This … well … “

“What my mom wants to say is that this has been just between us, doctor. We only ...”

“Decided to come out … “

“Yes … only recently. Do you have a good doctor in mind?” Her mother cringed at asking the question as though it was true.

“Oh yes, I will give you a referral to someone under you medical insurance Mrs. Baker. I realize that you have financial issues and just went with what is on the internet. Jenny was telling me that you are baby sitting to earn money to transition. You really do need professional help to do this right Lucy.”

He typed a few things into his computer and went out of the room for a moment. Coming back in, he handed them a piece of paper with the names of a few doctors and a note for the school. “Both of these doctors are here in this building. I can call them right now and get you in right away. Given the fact that you have been self medicating with medicine from Mexico, I would feel better, young lady.” They agreed and at least one of the doctors could see them right then.

They left the doctor’s office in stunned silence. Like zombies, they headed up a flight of stairs to an endocrinologist whose staff was quick to usher them into his examination room. Doctor Nuygen was dry and almost mean in his delivery. His bedside manner was more like a head on collision that a refreshing breeze. “I don’t normally do a genital examination, but I have been trained to do them in cases like this. So, I need you to disrobe.” He handed Lance a gown and left the room. A moment later, even before he could change, a nurse came in and announced coldly that she needed to draw blood. After finding a vein in his arm, she stabbed him like a matador at a bullfight. Filling four vials of blood, she left the room with a “Hold you arm up for a few minutes” speech.

“How the hell am I supposed to change?” he asked his mom.

“Do you mind my helping you?”

“At this point, no.”

The two work together in halting steps and soon, his pants were off as well as the nice blouse he had been lent. Slipping on the gown, his mother turned around as he took off his underwear and put it on the chair next to her. And then they waited, and waited, and waited. There was nothing to read or to access since the signs announced very clearly that all cell phones had to be turned off. The started talking about what he would take in summer school, what he was learning in maths, what he thought of the English assignments. They even were able to discuss in some detail how he ended up wearing a girl’s blouse as well as her perfume. Before the doctor returned, they had even gone over the fact that he was an item on Facebook.

“Stand please. Turn your head and cough. Jump up here please.” A moment later he shook his head and said, “Not good.” He grabbed the phone. “I had the blood run across the street to the hospital for quick lab work. Did they get the results back yet. Good.” He sat down at his compute monitor screen and looked at some numbers. He went back and examined Lance’s testicles again. “Lance, have you experienced severe pain down here at any time?”

“Only when I was fighting an infection a few years back. I had bronchitis and I was given steroids.”

“Is that about the time you started the Superfac?”

“Yes.”

“I think you need to see another specialist to confirm my diagnosis, but I suspect you had drug induced testicular torsion. I can tell it happened some time ago. Did your pharmacist talk to about taking Superfac with steroids?”

“No.”

“Well, I suspect that an unusual mix of Superfac and steroids being used to treat his bronchitis caused a rare drug induced testicular torsion. More than likely, he would have been on a pain killer too which would have masked what was happening to his testicles.”

“Yes, he was. When he started his Sudafed, the doctor gave him a narcotic so he could sleep at night and rest during the day. He was complaining of aching all over, like the flu. So, what does this mean Doctor?” She sounded terribly concerned.

He coldly replied, “It means Mrs. Baker that his testicles are dead. That is why he needs to see a specialist to confirm it. But, for all intents and purposes, Lance has been permanently castrated. Normally, this might be a problem ...”, he looked back down at the computer screen and saw the notes from Dr. Johnson to make sure she was being treated correctly and then went on, “… but am I to understand that you are transitioning to being female anyway? If that is the case, it actually helps your transition. It also means that you don’t need to take the nose spray anymore. Your body isn’t producing any hormones at the moment, so the medication does nothing for you.” Mrs. Baker gasped at realizing that her son was now a eunuch. It was taking Lance longer to comprehend what he had just been told.

As they exited the office, Mrs. Baker was crying slightly. They were too stunned to argue or figure out what to do. They were so stunned in fact, that Dr. Nuygen gave Lance a shot of female hormones and a prescription. Slowly, they walked to the car holding on to each other. In some ways, it was like they had gotten the dreaded cancer diagnosis. In others, Lance felt strangely liberated. The appointment with the shrink was for later in the week. But, Dr. Nuygen was sure that Lucy would receive a recommendation for the shot and prescription that he went ahead anyway. After all, HRT for either being male or female was in Lance’s future now regardless of a psychiatric recommendation.

When they got home, Lance just sat on the couch and stared off into space. “Talk to me Lance. What are you thinking?”

Lance just sighed heavily and, barely hiding an anxious voice, commented, “Maybe all of this has happened for a reason. Me finding the photo album. Harold suggesting that we dress alike. And my baby sitting a couple of sex perverts.”

She sat down next to Lance and began rubbing her legs as if to get the circulation going. Both remained in stunned silence until the door bell rang. Lance got up and answered the door. It was Harold who was invited in.

He sat down on the couch with them. They were trying to be pleasant with Harold, but it was clear that things were weighing heavily on their minds. Harold didn’t miss that either. “I thought I should bring this over rather than trying to send you an email or a text.”

“What now?” asked Mrs. Baker dejectedly.

Harold handed her a tablet with a web page up. Apparently, Monique had set up with Sharon a web page collecting donations for Lucy. It was kind of an online reverse shopping registry for someone where everyone contributes from well known stores an item of clothing they feel the person could use. It was designed to help someone out after a tornado, hurricane, or other disaster.

Looking it over, Lance could see blouses, skirts, dresses, and shoes had been donated for his wardrobe. The endorsements on the page included his teachers and principal who said that they admired Lucy’s going out and earning baby sitting money so she could transition. The story of how Lucy lost her father was told too. What got them both was the last line from her principal, “We brought the soldier home, and forgot about the family’s struggles. Let’s not leave the family behind this time. Lucy needs us to be her family now more than ever as she begins her new life.”

As the three of them stared at the shared tablet screen, they all realized that choices had been made. Lucy turned to her mom and said, “I love you Mom. I think I am ready for this now. In fact, I think I really want it. Are you? Do you want it too?” Her mother caught the wonderful smile she now had.

The two women hugged now ready for a future they never knew was waiting for them to want to embrace it.

Wednesday morning, with a doctor’s note in hand, Lucy, dressed in a beautiful pink dress her mother bought for her, with nice stockings on, and a pretty hairdo, held her happy mother's proud hand as they went into the office and updated her status to that of being a student who was happy with who she was and feeling very blessed.

Copyright © 2018 by AuP reviner

[Author's note: Due to an impassioned request from someone special, I will be doing a followup. Expect the last three paragraphs to be slightly changed when I do that. This will remain, however, a stand alone story. -- AuP]



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