Love Less -3- Home?

Sharing a room? With a girl?

Love Less
Love Less -3-
Home?

by Erin Halfelven

 
Les yawned hugely when they lined up at the McDonalds counter to order. He’d suddenly felt hungry after leaving the restroom when Maddy expressed an intent to order breakfast.

“Egg on a muffin,” he told the bored lady behind the counter when his turn came. “No meat, no cheese. And a milk.” He yawned again while they waited for their food.

Maddy had ordered coffee, sausage biscuit with egg and cheese, hashbrowns and an OJ. She carried both their orders to a corner table and Les followed. Even the smell of the acid in the orange juice made him slightly ill.

“Is that all you’re going to eat?” Maddy asked after he declined all offers to share her food.

“More than I usually have for breakfast,” he told her. “This milk is good.”

She broke her hashbrown patty in two and put half in front of him which he nibbled at while she finished eating. They cleaned the table and Les finished the milk carton on the way out.

“Let’s get you out to Evandale to meet your new family,” she said. They made their way out to the car and climbed in.

New family? he thought, yawning again, but he was fast asleep in the car seat almost before he could get the seat belt fastened. He didn’t even notice when Maddy got the car moving with her usual jerking start.

*

Les woke up when they got off the expressway again. Around them, wide lawns fronted deep properties with large, mostly two-story houses and lush tree-lined driveways.

“Holy crap,” said Les.

Maddy glanced at him.

“Sorry,” he said. “Where are we?”

“This is Evandale,” said Maddy. “It’s part of the city, though the people who live here like to pretend it isn’t.”

“It’s not… It isn’t….” He didn’t know what to ask.

“It is,” she said. “The foster family that is going to take care of you lives here — the Davenports. He’s a doctor, and she’s a veterinarian. They already have five kids, three of them adopted.”

“They’re rich,” he said.

“Not relatively. Some of their neighbors are twenty or fifty times as well off as they are.”

They took two turns after getting off the expressway. The houses got smaller and older while the properties got larger. He saw horses behind fences in some places.

Maddy pulled into a driveway and stopped in front of a medium-size dwelling for the neighborhood. Back home, Les would have called it a mansion.

“I timed this so the other kids will have already left for school,” Maddy commented. She pulled something from the briefcase and handed it to him, flipping down a mirror on the sun visor. “Can you put that on?” she asked.

He expected it to be the lib balm she had used on him before but what he had in his hand was a tube of candy pink lip gloss with a clear cap so he could see the color. He looked in the mirror, and before he could think of any reason not to, he had taken off the cap and applied the gloss, just as he would have the lip balm.

He replaced the cap and tried to hand it back to her, but she shook her head. “Keep it, put it in the pocket of your jacket. Use it whenever you get to thinking you might be mistaken for a boy.”

Les thought about that for a moment, looked at himself in the mirror again and put the lip gloss in the pocket of his Disney Princess jacket, blushing as he did so.

A middle-aged woman came down the sidewalk from the house to where they had parked as Maddy and Les climbed out of the car. The woman rushed toward Maddy making happy noises, and the two women hugged, both talking at once.

Les stood quietly, feet together, hands folded in front of his chest, acutely aware of what he was wearing (the padded bra especially).

Both women turned to him at the same time, smiling.

“This is Elle or Ellie,” said Maddy, reaching out and taking his hand to pull him closer. “Lesley Frances Love and isn’t she lovely?” Les blushed, startled more than embarrassed.

The woman laughed. “I don’t think she knows what a beauty she is,” she said. “I’m Jessie Davenport….”

“Dr. Davenport,” Maddy interrupted.

“Don’t call me that,” Jessie protested. “None of my patients do.”

Both women laughed, and Les remembered that Jessie was a veterinarian. He smiled.

Jessie laughed again. “Mom-humor as my other daughters call it.” She took Les’s hand and led him toward the house as Maggie let go of his other arm. “And I was serious about your looks. Pris is going to be jealous, she’s my middle girl and just about your age, uh, how old are you, dear?”

“Thirteen,” Les answered.

“What grade are you in?”

“Sixth,” said Les. “I got held back because of missing so much school. We moved around a lot,” he finished lamely.

“When’s your birthday?”

“Uh, December.” He glanced at Maddy. This woman asked a lot of questions he had answered before.

“Oh. Already passed. Well, you’ll be in the same grade as Pris then. She turned twelve in January. We’ll have to get you into classes, go over to the school this afternoon, hmm? Come in and let me show you your room.”

Still astonished that he had not been called out for being a boy dressed as a girl, Les followed her into the house.

Maddy caught up with them at the door. “Jessie, I have to get back to the office, so let’s get things signed. And I’ve got a receipt for what I spent on getting her some clothes. Poor thing had nothing but a pair of dirty PJs.”

Jessie looked Les up and down and smiled. “She’ll be able to wear some of Pris’s things. But let me sign things after I show her where she will be sleeping.”

It felt very weird to hear himself referred to as she and her, thought Les, following Jessie up a curved staircase while Maddy distributed paperwork in piles on an enormous dining room table. He couldn't take it all in. The entryway had marble floors.

At the top of the stairs, Jessie called out. “Bettina, are you up here? Maddy is downstairs with papers for me to sign. Can you make us some coffee?”

An older dark-skinned woman with crisp grey curls emerged from a doorway. “Okay, Jessie. I can do that now. And who’s this? She’s lovely!”

“That’s her name, sort of,” Jessie laughed. “Ellie Love, this is Bettina. She keeps the house organized, does the cooking and looks after things I am too busy or too scattered to remember to do.”

“Oh, she’s blushing,” Bettina cooed. “Oh, isn’t Owen going to crow about having a beauty like her in the house! We’re teasing you, love. Oh, Love! It’s your name!”

Both women laughed.

Les wondered if he were going to have to run to the bathroom to throw up; the tension of pretending to be a girl had him wound too tight. He regretted having eaten anything at McDonalds. Where was the bathroom?

Bettina started down the stairs, still chuckling. Jessie took his hand again and said, “Owen is my husband, he’s the real Dr, Davenport. And Bettina is right; he’ll make a big deal about how pretty you are. Men.” She ended with a sniff and a grin.

Les smiled weakly. The idea of meeting Dr. Davenport, the male Dr. Davenport, scared him. How had this charade ever seemed like a good idea?

“That’s the master bedroom that way,” Jessie was saying. “And this is Kimby’s room. She’s our eldest. Carol’s room is downstairs. You’ll be sharing this next room with Priscilla….”

Sharing a room? With a girl?

Jessie held a door open, and Les saw a large bedroom with two twin-size beds, two desks, some other furniture, one open door that was certainly a walk-in closet and another door that seemed to be a bathroom.

“Excuse me,” he said taking a step in that direction.

Jessie took one look at his face and got out of his way. “Oh, dear,” she said trying to follow.

Les didn’t know if he were going to make it, but once in the bathroom, he closed the door in Jessie’s face and dropped to his knees in front of the toilet bowl. The room smelled of sachet and cologne. That didn’t help.

He flipped the lid and ring of the toilet up and retched, bringing up bits of the egg, milk, and muffin he had eaten for breakfast.

His stomach hurt when he finished, but Jessie was kneeling beside him, holding his hand in one of hers while she wiped his forehead with a cool, wet towel in the other.

“It’s all right, honey,” she said. “You’ll be all right. I know you’re scared, but you’re home now. You’re home.”



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This story is 1555 words long.