Plus-One With A Vengeance : 8 / 29

Plus-One With A Vengeance : 8 / 29

[ An Altered Fates Story ]
by Iolanthe Portmanteaux

 


“Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse.”
— Robert A. Heinlein


 

"Aunt Viv" brought me to a park. Vivianne was holding my hand, and she stopped me at the gate. "Let's let these people pass." It was a young mother with a boy about my age. He was carrying a skateboard. When he saw me, he stuck out his tongue and made all sorts of aggressive faces at me.

"What was all that about?" I asked when they'd moved out of earshot.

"Oh, I guess you couldn't see over the hedge," Viv replied. "The boy was trying to use his skateboard, and he fell on his butt and cried. He must have thought you'd seen and he felt embarrassed."

A group of little children were climbing in and around a sort of log structure and rocking madly on some plastic animals mounted on huge springs. There were two boys who were around my age, or slightly older — which is to say somewhere between ten and twelve years old. They ran everywhere, up and down the slides, over and under all the climbing rigs, shouting and making noises meant to represent explosions, rockets, guns, ricochets and so on. As soon as they saw me walk into the park enclosure, holding Viv's hand, they stopped dead, mouths open, staring.

"What's with those two mooks?" I asked in a quiet voice.

"They're little boys. You're a little girl. To them, you're a great enigma."

"Hmmph. What are we doing here?"

"You're here to play," she explained.

"But I'll get this dress dirty!"

"Brava!" Viv complimented me with a smile and a pat on the head. "Good girl. What I want you to do is to swing on one of those swings without getting your dress dirty and without showing your underwear. Can you do that?"

She sat on a bench and smiled at me. I slowly walked over the swings. There were two. One was cleaner than the other, but I gave it an experimental brush with my hand regardless.Then I gathered my skirt tight across the front of my legs, held the gathered fabric under my butt with one hand, clutched one of the chains that held up the swing with my other hand, took a little jump, and managed to land square on the seat with my skirt secured beneath me. Success! I couldn't reach the ground, though, so it took a bit of rocking, kicking, and swaying before I had the swing swinging the way it was meant to swing.

The boys studied my movements intently. After half a minute, they came cautiously over. When they were a two or three feet away, the two of them made a mad dash for the other swing, each trying to claim it for his own. They struggled and grunted, repeating, "It's *my* turn!" over and over. At last, the larger of the two left off and stood apart on the other side, where he could look at me.

"What's your name?"

"I'm Darcy," I told him.

"Why?"

"Because that's what my mother called me. What's your name?"

"Is that your mother?" the other asked.

"No, she's my aunt. What are your names?"

"How old are you?" the first asked.

"Ten."

"I'm ten and a half!" he shouted. "That means I'm older and you have to do what I say!"

"Oh, okay. Then tell me to do something."

"Stop swinging and pretend you're a dog."

"No."

"Why not?"

"I don't want to."

"You're mean!"

I sighed. "I want to stop swinging now," I told them.

"Will you pretend to be a dog?"

"No, but will you help me stop? My feet don't reach the ground."

He held the chain so that the swing stopped moving. I slowly slid off the seat, hanging onto my hem to keep my dress from creeping up. The two of them had their eyes glued to my legs, and watched my progress, inch by inch.

"Thanks," I said with a dry irony I knew I was wasted on them, and ran back to Vivianne.

"Did you have fun?" she asked. I responded with a growl.

"Give me a hug," she told me.

"Everybody wants to tell me what to do!" I said, half-protesting, half-joking.

"You're a little girl," she explained, and gave me a motherly hug. "Let's go get some lunch."

 


 

As we walked, Viv kept looking at my face. At last she asked, "You look anxious. Are you? Are you worried about something?"

"Yes," I admitted. "I'm worried that I could get stuck like this."

"You're not going to be stuck like that," she assured me. "How could you be? I'm going to change you back. If you're really that uneasy, I'll change you back tonight, the instant twelve hours have passed."

"No, I mean, no, that's not it. I'll admit, I'm liking this — it's fun. I'm sorry that Max didn't. But the thing is, what if something happens to you?"

"Oh, you mean, what if I get hit by a bus?" she laughed.

"Yes, seriously! Or what if you have a stroke or a heart attack? Anything could happen."

She was quiet for a few moments. "Yes, I suppose anything could happen." She thought some more. "Tell you what: when we get back to the house, I'll show you where the medallion is, and how to use it. I'll give you a key to the house that you can wear around your neck, and I'll tell my husband and staff that if something happens to me, that you'll need to get into my room by yourself. Okay?"

"Yes, that sounds okay."

Viv brought me to a pizzeria. It was a little loud and a little dark, but it was obviously a family restaurant. There were children at nearly every table. There was a lot of back-and-forth at the entrance, where we were, of people getting take-out. Viv pulled me close and held me to her side with one arm. I didn't resist.

Our waiter grabbed a booster seat on the way to our table, and set it on my chair. "Do you need a lift?" he asked.

"I can do it," I assured him, but Viv nodded saying, "She needs a lift."

The waiter quickly, efficiently took me under my arms and lifted me into my seat. Viv seated herself. He returned a moment later with a menu, which he placed in front of Viv, and a kid's menu, which he placed in front of me, along with a small glass filled with crayons.

"Oh, joy," I said drily. Viv snorted with laughter.

"Oh!" the waiter cried, seeing my reaction. He asked Viv, "Is she too big for the kid's menu?"

"No, it's fine," she laughed. "Unless you have a copy of the Financial Times for her, I think it will have to do."

I rolled my eyes and looked it over. "How big is the kid's pizza?" I asked.

"Six inches," he replied.

"Huh!" I scoffed. "I usually put away a fourteen-inch pie by myself."

The waiter's eyes widened and he glanced at Viv, who smiled and shook her head.

"Why don't I let you discuss that with your mother," he said, "In the meantime, can I get you ladies something to drink?"

"I'd like a glass of your chianti," she told him.

I turned my menu over several times. One side had a picture to color, featuring clowns and balloons. The other side had simple puzzles and jokes, along with the kids' menu. I didn't see a wine list.

"For white wines, what do you have?" I asked, frowning at the paper in my hand. "House wines, I mean."

His eyebrows went up even higher, and he said, "For you, miss, our white selections are milk or apple juice. In red, we have grape juice or cranberry."

I looked up, startled, and realized. "I'm sorry," I told them. "I just forgot myself."

"It's fine," he said, grinning. "You've made my day."

"I'll have apple juice," I told him, slightly embarrassed.

"Very good," he replied, "I'll ask our sommelier to be sure the apple juice is a good vintage, but I'm pretty confident you'll approve."

After he left, Viv said, "Can I recommend the chicken fingers? If you get tomato sauce on your dress, everyone will see it."

"Fine," I said, pouting a little in spite of myself.

"Why don't you be a good girl and color for a while?" she suggested. "And see what you can do with those puzzles."

I sighed, picked up a green crayon, and got to work.

 


 

Vivianne's driver picked us up at the pizzeria and drove us to the Outlerland Mall. "There are two things we need to do here," she explained, taking my hand as we walked. "Because of the way the medallion works, we'll need clothes for the grown-up female you. You understand that in order for you to become a girl that Max could bring to the wedding, we need to find the clothes that will define that girl."

"Um, we could get those any time," I pointed out. Even if I was (temporarily) female, I did NOT relish the idea of shopping.

"You don't understand," she told me. "The medallion uses clothes to determine your form. If we buy a dress for a tall skinny girl with huge breasts, then that is what you'll become. If we buy a dress for a girl with a less striking, but more visually appealing, figure, then THAT's what you'll become. Clear?"

"Clear."

"So keep your eyes open, and look for the girl with the body you'd like to have. Not the face; the face will be your own. But the figure, the height and weight, the curves, will come from the clothes we choose."

"Got it." Viv gave my hand a conspiratorial squeeze, and I smiled.

As we walked, I scanned the shoppers. There were plenty of good-looking women, but most of them were older; women in their forties or fifties. The young ones were far too young. There were plenty of precocious teenagers, some with amazing curves, but we needed a template that was 25 or older.

"Also, if you see a store with clothes that appeal to you, we'll stop and have a look."

"Will we just guess at the sizes?" I asked uncertainly.

"No, we can probably find a helpful salesgirl in the right size. We'll say it's for your big sister, okay?"

As we made our way slowly down the concourse, I was aware of being looked at. Parents with children smiled at me. Little children waved to me. I smiled and waved back. Even so, even with that unaccustomed attention, and in spite of my small stature and the fact that I was holding Viv's hand for security, I began to forget that I wasn't myself... that I wasn't the person I'm used to being.

So when I spotted Kitty ahead of us, dropping her phone into her purse, without thinking I called out, "Kitty! Kitty, hey!" Kitty stopped and looked over. Naturally, she didn't recognize Vivianne or me.

"Now you've done it," Viv told me. She sounded amused. Kitty, frowning slightly, trying to remember do I know you? approached us. "She's very friendly and open," Viv commented. "I can see why you boys like her." Then, more directly to me: "You are Elliot's cousin Darcy. Remember?"

"I'll remember," I said.

Kitty offered her hand apologetically to Viv, and looking from her to me and back again, said, "Have we met? Do I know you? I'm sorry, but I can't place your faces, although you—" she smiled and gazed pointedly at me "—you look VERY familiar."

"I'm sorry," I told her. "My name is Darcy. Elliot Beekman is my cousin." I could feel my face turning red. "He always talks about you, and I've seen your picture. Sorry!"

"Don't be sorry," she answered in a soft tone. Then she introduced herself to Vivianne. On hearing Viv's last name, Errison, she asked, "Are you related to Max Errison?"

"He's my nephew," she replied with a smile. "My favorite nephew."

"He's a favorite of mine as well," Kitty quipped with a little laugh. Then to me she said, ruffling my hair as she spoke, "Elliot's my other fave." She grinned. "So he always talks about me?"

I grew even redder. "Well, not always. It's just that... I just have a really good memory for faces. I'm sorry."

"Quit apologizing!" Kitty told me. She crouched down to my eye-level and gave me a hug. "You're just adorable! You don't need to be sorry for anything!"

"Okay," I said. "Thanks."

She stood and looked down at me. "You are the spit and image of Elliot, Darcy! It's like... if he turned into a little girl, he'd look just like you!" She paused, then said, "I hope you don't mind that comparison."

"No," I said. "I get that a lot."

"Well, now, he'll get that a lot!" Then she gave me another quick hug, shook Viv's hand again, and was making her goodbyes, when she was struck by a thought.

"Hey, Darcy — do you mind if we take a selfie? Me and you?" Then, glancing at Viv, "oh, and you of course! The three of us."

"No, it's fine," Viv assured her. "Just you girls — it's better."

Kitty crouched down next to me, put one arm around me, pulling me close, and extended her other arm. "Smile!" We smiled and she reeled off five or six pictures in a series of rapid-fire clicks. She straightened up, checked them, and asked, "Can I airdrop them to you?"

"I don't have a phone," I told her. "Could you send them to Elliot instead?"

"Sure!" she said, and fiddled with her phone. "I sent them to Max as well — I hope that's okay."

She was turning away as she spoke, and after turning away she said a distracted goodbye and was gone. It was good that she looked away; my face had a horrified expression that would have been difficult to explain.

"Well!" Viv exclaimed. "I'm afraid you've let the cat out of the bag. Kitty is a lovely young woman, but she may have left us with some damage control to do."

Viv and I sat on a bench at the edge of the concourse. She took my phone from her bag and turned it on. It seemed to take forever to boot up, When it did, I went straight to my messages and found Kitty's selfie, along with the comment, "This little girl looks JUST LIKE Elliot!!!."

"She only sent one picture," I observed. "I guess that's good, cause she took a half dozen." I verified that she'd sent the picture to both me and Max. Max hadn't yet replied. I pushed the green phone button, to call him.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Viv asked.

"No, but even a messed-up conversation is better than no conversation at all, at this point." Viv nodded.

The line rang briefly, then Max responded. "Elliot?"

"Um, hi, Max," I said. "Did you see the picture that Kitty just sent?"

"Kitty?" he repeated. "No, but— Elliot! Your voice! What the hell— did she change you—" his voice dropped to a whisper "—did she turn you into a little girl?"

"Yes, she did, and it's fine," I said. "It's all good. I just wanted to call you so you wouldn't freak out when you saw the picture."

"The picture? Let me take a look..." I heard him fumble with his phone. Then he swore. "Kitty..." he said. He swore profusely. "Does she know who you are? What did you tell her? Do you realize how crazy this makes both of us look?"

"No, how could she possibly know who I am? She thinks I'm Elliot's cousin Darcy."

"I see. Well, okay. So... are you going to stay a little girl forever?"

"No, of course not! I'll be back to normal on Monday morning."

Max fell silent. I glanced at Viv, who was patiently waiting. She didn't seem in any hurry for me to finish.

"Max, are you there?"

"Yes, I'm here," he said. "I'm just... this really throws me. Doesn't it bother you? Being a girl? Being a little girl?"

"No," I answered. "It's kind of fun. It's different."

"How can you-- Elliot, did you always want to be a girl?" he asked. "How could I not know this about you?"

"No, I never wanted to be a girl. I don't think I'm a girl now -- not really. I just have a different body."

He laughed. "Believe me, dude, having a different body makes you a girl. If you have to sit down to pee, that's a big clue, right there."

"Okay," I admitted. "At the moment, I'm a girl. Obviously, it's only temporary."

"Is it? Is it obvious? Is it temporary?"

"You changed back, didn't you?"

He let out a huge sigh, but gave no other response.

So I told him, "Okay, whatever — The only reason I called is because I don't want you to worry--"

"What, me worry? What do *I* have to worry about?"

"--or freak out."

"Me? Freak out? I'm not three feet tall and running around in a little dress! You're the one we should worry about. You're the one who should be freaking out. Why aren't you?"

"I'm fine! That's why I'm calling! I want you to know that *I* am fine, and I want to make sure that you're fine, too."

"I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine," he recited in a flat tone.

"Oh, Max!" I groaned. "I give up! Take care of yourself this weekend. Maybe you should go stay with your parents."

"That's not a bad idea," he replied, "but I don't want to leave the house unguarded."

I grunted in acknowledgment.

"Okay," he said. "I"m going to hang up, because talking to you like this, with you... that way, is weird as hell."

"Fine," I replied, "but call me if you need me."

He was silent for a few seconds, then said, "Listen. Just... just... If you're really having fun, then just have fun on your little sleepover, okay? You don't need to worry about me."

At that, he broke the connection.

I handed the phone back to Viv. Before she put it away, she asked, "Shall I leave it on, in case he calls back?"

"Yes, please," I said. "Though I doubt he will."

We sat there side by side for a minute or so, not speaking. At last I asked her, "Aren't you going to tell me it's going to be all right?"

"Will you feel better if I do?" she asked.

"I don't know," I answered, glum.

"I won't say that, but I can do this," she told me, and pulled me close into a motherly hug. I rested my head against her, and she gently stroked my hair, long gentle strokes from the top of my head to my neck.

"Does this help?" she asked.

"Not really," I sighed. "It feels nice, but I'm still worried about Max."

"I understand," she told me.

We stayed that way for a minute or so, until she said, "Okay, Darcy. We need to look at clothes." The two of us stood up, brushed out our dresses, held hands and walked down the concourse.



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