Me And Sam -- Chapter 15

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Two young teens, life-long friends, discover each other though not in the usual way. A gentle "coming-of-age" tale.


Chapter 15

You Say It’s Your Birthday!

Friday morning arrived and I hopped out of bed excited about the pending events. I ran to the bathroom, took care of business and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. A raccoon stared back at me. In a way, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. The dark circles under my eyes made me look like a member of the walking dead. A pity that today wasn’t Halloween. I laughed aloud at my own insanity and made my way into the shower. Thankfully, my face didn’t hurt this morning. I showered and washed my hair using the new conditioner that Mom had bought for me. The fragrance of my new soap smelled of lilacs. It reminded me of a spring time walk through a garden.

I finished up, dried myself off and went and got dressed. I was running out of clean clothes. "A great way to spend Saturday night," I said aloud; "doing laundry." Ready to go, I made my way back into the bathroom. I was indeed going to need Darla’s makeup. I hoped it would be as unnoticeable today as it was yesterday. Following the instructions I applied a thin coat over the offending areas. I waited for it to dry and finished the job. Not bad, I thought. Someone would have to be looking for it to see the damage that Sam had left. As I applied the makeup, I noticed that my nails were still painted pink. I considered removing the polish but thought to myself: why? In the end, I left my hands as they were and made my way downstairs.

Lunch made and breakfast eaten, I knew I had forgotten something. Ah yes! A green plastic garbage bag! I’d put the jewelry box in the bottom of the bag and cover it with my gym clothes. No one would suspect a thing. I heard Mom singing to herself upstairs and decided to test my makeup by saying goodbye face to face.

"Good morning Mom!"

"Someone seems quite pleased with herself this morning. Let me look at your face." She eyed me carefully. "You did an excellent job covering up. No one’s going to notice." Uh huh, I thought cynically. You mean no one but you and anyone else who stares at me intently?

In the end I said, "Thanks Mom." It would have to do. "Dinner will be ready at six o’clock sharp" I said to her as I made my way out the door. I was going to need some time to get ready for the party and wouldn’t have time to linger in the kitchen with Mom.

As I made my way to Darla’s my thoughts turned to Sam. I wished that I knew how to reach her. My feelings for her hadn’t changed. I’d have to find out from Darla just what caused yesterday’s outburst. Funny, I didn’t think of that till now. I walked up to Darla’s front door and she opened it to greet me.

"Are you ready for school?" I asked her. I didn’t want her focusing on my messed up face. I wasn’t fooling anyone.

She scrutinized my face carefully and at last responded, "all things considered, you did a very nice job." I smiled at her and we began walking. She took my hand and pulled me to her. The force she exerted almost caused us to bump into one another and fall down. A bout of laughter escaped us both.

"Darla? What happened yesterday between you and Sam?" A reasonable question, I thought.

"John, it was nothing. I was outside looking for Sally when I accidentally bumped into her. She turned on me and with an insane look in her eyes screamed "YOU!" Before I knew it a crowd had circled around us and they began chanting "Fight, Fight, Fight." I attempted to apologize to her, but she’d have none of it. I was afraid she was going to kill me. Next thing, you were there and you know what happened after that."

"I figured it was something like that," I replied as we continued walking.
At length we arrived at school. Darla refused to let go of my hand. I didn’t mind. If it offered her comfort, it seemed the least I could do. I then remembered Mr. Vance’s order that I fill out an accident report this morning. I decided that I’d let it go and hoped that they’d do the same. I was reasonably sure that they would. The "accident" would taint the administration’s reputation somehow. I surveyed the crowd for signs of Sam. There weren’t any. I really was worried about her. The bell rang and we made our way inside. Darla didn’t release my hand until it was absolutely necessary. Originally I thought she was seeking my protection, now I realized she was offering her own.

Home room was a blur and history was a bore. It wasn’t till I got to shop class that I came alive. I quickly got to work putting pieces of wood in the vise and pre-drilling holes for the screws. Each hole was countersunk so I could add an oak dowel later. The effect, I knew from experience, would be beautiful. I completed everything that I needed to do with the use of the school’s tools. If need be, I could finish the project at home. It really was easier the second time around. I asked Mr. Ferris if he was going to be around after the final bell so I could pick up my jewelry box. He told me he’d be in the classroom for about five minutes after the final bell. I knew I couldn’t miss it today. The party was this evening.

Lunch time arrived and I made my way to the cafeteria. Thankfully, no one had made any mention of my eyes nor did I receive a call down to the front office to fill out an accident report. I walked slowly as I made my way to my table. Sam had indeed made it to school today. I was so thankful for that, that a sigh escaped my lips. The look on her face told me that she’d lost her best friend. I so wanted to go to her, hug her and tell her everything would be all right. I made up my mind that I’d call her before the weekend was over. If she was suffering in the meantime, well, she deserved it.

"Oh John! You were so brave yesterday!" this from Sally. "I mean Sam is so big and strong I thought she was going to maim you." I didn’t want to continue with this conversation so I ignored her comments entirely.

Changing the subject I said, "Darla, the party is at 7:30, right?"

"Yes it is John, but I expect you earlier so I can inspect your attire."

"I’m afraid that won’t be possible," I said. Sarah laughed.

"He has to cook dinner for his mommy," she said out of nowhere. My eyes turned straight to Darla. Her face turned dark red and her eyes begged forgiveness.

"Yes, Sarah, that’s exactly what I have to do. Do you have a problem with that?" Sally and Darla looked at me as if I was some kind of hero.

"Leave her alone Sarah," Darla said. Sally began giggling at that and Sarah sat there tongue-tied, unable to say anything.

The rest of the afternoon whizzed by. Mr. Benson informed us that he’d have our final grades ready by Monday. He also informed us that there would not be a make up exam for those that had failed. A groan was emitted from more than a few students. The final bell rang and I found myself running back to shop class. I arrived just as Mr. Ferris was locking the door.

"Sorry John, you’re too late."

"Mr. Ferris please!" I begged. His look told me he required more of an explanation. "That jewelry box is a birthday gift for someone special and if I don’t get it now, she’ll be extremely disappointed." I could tell by the look in his own eyes that he knew I’d be the one who’d be disappointed.

"Don’t make a habit of this," he laughed knowing that only five days of school remained.

"I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Ferris!" He smiled at that and told me to be sure and sign up for his class in the fall. I promised him that I would.

I practically ran home that afternoon. Knapsack on my back and a huge plastic garbage bag containing Darla’s jewelry box and dirty gym clothes. Once inside, I let Shandy in and decided to check out this evening’s menu so I’d know what I was up against. Mom had drawn a line through the scheduled dinner and placed an asterisk at the end. Looking below it said that she’d be bringing chinese home for dinner and that I could make the salmon for her tomorrow, but only if I wanted to. Despite everything that had happened, I found myself thinking that I was the luckiest kid in the world!

I now had more time than I needed. In fact, I had time to take a nap! The thought of lying in bed and holding Jola till I slipped away became overpowering. I made my way upstairs and was asleep within minutes. I awoke at 4:30 and realized that I still had a lot to do. I wrapped Darla’s present first thing. I hope she liked it! It was only a pine jewelry box but if I must say so myself, the workmanship was beyond compare. Enough of tooting your own horn John, I thought as I made my way into the bathroom.

I knew at that point that I’d have to shave my legs. My body was relatively devoid of hair, but I promised Mom and given her cooperation, how could I refuse her simple request? I took the shaving cream and shook the can per the instructions. I lathered up both legs as I sat on the edge of the tub with my legs firmly on the floor inside it. I let the hot water run gently as I began my task. Five minutes later my legs were totally hairless. I smiled at that and then noticed that my armpits had more than a few stray hairs leaping out. I lathered them up and removed them as well. Despite my raccoon eyes, I was feeling pretty once again. It felt good. My hair was perfect from this morning’s shower and I decided that I was clean enough.

I made my way back to my room and my hands began trembling as I opened my dresser drawer. I would be wearing Darla’s panties this evening. I pulled them up over my legs and then contemplated the more difficult part. The plastic egg in my hands told me it contained a pair of sheer taupe pantyhose. I opened it carefully and removed the contents. I scrunched up each leg and began with my right foot first. Not long after, I was strutting about the room wearing my very first pair of pantyhose. They felt delicious. I put on my skort. My matching bra wrapped round my chest, I put the breast forms in the cups. The exquisite white top completed the look. Sensing how delicate the hose were, I put on my maryjanes. Next, I examined my fingernails. They were still in good shape but I thought that another coat of polish would do the trick. I ran and grabbed the tiny bottle of pink polish. As carefully as I knew how, I applied it. My nails were perfect. I sat there waving my hands about wildly in an attempt to get the polish to dry. At length, I found myself in my bathroom with my hand held hairdryer drying the paint that covered my nails.

I stared deep into the mirror and thought, "Joan!" I put the eye shadow on first and then wrestled with the eyeliner. Satisfied with the look, I began to coat my lashes. It was time to apply Darla’s magic makeup once again to the hollows under my eyes. I didn’t stop when I was finished. I found myself applying her makeup to my entire face. Joan looked back at me as if to say... "nice job." I walked back into my room so I could view myself in the full length mirror. A very pretty young girl stared back at me. Her hair needed some attention though. I fussed with it for some time before I was happy with the overall look. As a final touch, I coated my lips with my own mauve lipstick.

By the time I’d finished it was a few minutes to six. I made my way downstairs carefully, not wanting to mess up my appearance. Like clockwork Mom arrived on the strike of six. I wondered for a moment where she found time to stop and order food and still be home by six o’clock. My thoughts about time were swept away by the succulent odors escaping the bags. I literally began drooling as we made our way to the kitchen table.
"Joan, first off let me say that you look stunning," Mom said. "Secondly, let me simply say; LET’S EAT!" She did and we did. Struck me funny, but having someone else prepare the food did make it taste that much better.

Dinner over and the containers stored away I asked Mom if she’d drive me over to Darla’s. "Of course sweetheart," Mom told me. " I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think it’s time I met your new friend’s mother face to face." I wasn’t sure whether her response was meant to reassure me or make me more wary. I smiled at her and told her I loved her once again. She eyed me carefully. "Joan sweetheart," she whispered softly, "you’ll be the most beautiful girl at the party." Part of me was glad that she’d said that and another part just wanted to go and bury my head in the sand.

For the umpteenth time that evening I found myself replying, "thanks Mom."

I made my way back upstairs. It was now approaching 7:00 PM. The ride by car wouldn’t take two minutes, so I checked my appearance carefully. I hoped Darla wouldn’t be upset that I hadn’t worn her dress. I had this fear hidden in the back of my mind that everyone else would be wearing jeans and would laugh at me upon arrival. If that happened, it would be a very early night for me. I folded Darla’s clothes carefully and placed them back in the shopping bag. I grabbed her beautifully wrapped gift and added it to the mix. Mom greeted me in the foyer with a questioning look.

"What did you get her?"

"It’s a surprise Mom," I told her. I didn’t want her to see it as I was making a similar, but nicer one for her.

"Yes, but isn’t Darla the one who’s supposed to be surprised?" There was no arguing with her logic. "Open it up sweetheart, I want to see what you got her."

"But Mom! If I do that I’m going to be late. I promise I’ll bring you a picture."

"Oh, all right," she said at last and we made our way to the car.

We arrived just as Sally was pulling up with her own mother in tow. She looked at me for a moment without recognition. "Hi Sally!" I said at last.

Her face lit up as she squealed "Oh Joan! You look beautiful!" I was both relieved by her comment, but also found myself filled with fear and trepidation.

"Sally, this is my mother, Mrs. Johnson." I introduced her as formally as I knew how.

"And Joan, this is my mother, Mrs. Owens." Introductions completed, we made our way to the front door. Darla’s mother answered it and greeted Sally warmly. She then turned her attention to me.

"I thought I knew all of Darla’s friends," she mumbled. "You must be…," and then it hit her. "You must be Joan!" If her smile had been any wider her face would have cracked in half.

"Mrs. Raspberry, this is my mother Mrs. Johnson."

"Oh, call me Vivian," Darla’s Mom told her. My own mother smiled and said to please call her Joan as well.

Her mother looked at us both and said "It’s funny John said that Darla and I could be sisters. I’d have to say the same about you two." Mom smiled at that and we made our way into the family room. While our parents gathered in the kitchen, the girls began chatting feverishly about the party. The only girls I knew were Sally, Darla, and Sarah. Though I had to admit, I didn’t know Sarah at all. There were also four others in attendance. Fran and Lori I’d seen at school and knew them by name only. Sally introduced me to Janice and Jennifer. It seems they were friends of Darla’s from summer camp. Everyone was waiting for Darla to make her grand entrance. Finally Darla came in. Her eyes focused on me immediately. At least, it felt that way. She looked both pleased and disappointed. Thankfully everyone was wearing skirts and casual tops. I would have been seriously over dressed wearing Darla’s choice.

She ran over to me and gave me a huge hug. "Thank you for coming Joan," she whispered in my ear. I began to feel embarrassed and released Darla reluctantly from our embrace. Sarah meanwhile had been taking it all in.

"What’s "he" doing here?" she asked Darla.

"Sarah, this is Joan," Darla said severely, making the unnecessary introduction.

"It’s a pleasure to meet you Sarah," I replied not knowing what else to say. Talk about theater of the absurd. Sarah hesitated. She was trying to decide whether to accept me or simply leave. In the end she simply grunted in my direction and went off to talk to Fran and Lori. One crisis handled, I thought to myself.

Darla went over to put some music on the stereo. She tried not to, but I could see her eyeing the table in the corner loaded with presents. I began to worry about my humble offering. Shortly thereafter our mothers came in and bade us farewell. I loved my mother dearly, but her presence had made me a bit uncomfortable. I promised her I’d be home by lunch time as she made her way out the door. I found myself worrying about her; all alone for the first time in years. Part of me wanted to run after her, another part of me wanted to stay. The part that wanted to stay won out in the end. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but Darla was wearing my blue pleated skirt. Great minds think alike, I giggled softly. I also hadn’t noticed but now she was as tall as Sam in her three inch navy blue pumps. She was gorgeous. The first song to play was Pink’s "Get This Party Started." An appropriate selection if ever there was one.

The girls began dancing and giggling. It seemed I was the odd girl out. Darla was dancing with Sarah. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that knowing their past history. Sally had joined in with Janice and Jennifer leaving me to twist in the wind. I wasn’t going to join in with Sarah and Darla. Fran and Lori seemed to be getting a bit too intimate so, I wasn’t going over there either. Maybe it had been a mistake on my part thinking that I could fit in here? I began laughing wildly as the second song of the evening began to play. I took the singer’s suggestion and began "Dancing With Myself." Finally Sally came over and included me in the festivities. Was Darla going to spend the entire evening with Sarah as she had at the school dance last week? After about half an hour of jumping up and down wildly, I decided I needed a break. Some of the girls looked like they could go at it all night long.

I poured myself a soda and surveyed my surroundings. I still couldn’t get over how magnificent Darla’s home was. The family room was huge, but managed to maintain a sense of intimacy. The walls were covered with dark oak paneling. Sconces resembling torches stuck out from the walls at intervals of several feet. I was in awe of my surroundings. I stood there taking it all in when a voice asked me from behind, "are you having a good time?" I turned to face Darla.

"Yes, I am thank you."

"Joan, you’ve got to mix with the other girls. You can’t just hang out by yourself all evening." I looked at her and gave her my best fake smile. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but this certainly wasn’t it. "And, I’ve got a question for you," she said. "Why aren’t you wearing my dress?" I looked up at her and saw the hurt in her eyes.

"I just figured it was a little too formal for the occasion," I replied honestly.

"Oh, so you knew what everyone would be wearing?" She asked suspiciously.

I laughed aloud. "No, not really," I said. "In fact, I was afraid everyone would show up wearing jeans and I’d be the only one in a dress." Talk about the wrong thing to say. I’d meant it to be humorous, but sometimes my sense of humor didn’t jive with everyone else’s.

"Do you really think I’d have tricked you like that?" She looked about ready to cry.

"I’m sorry Darla, I didn’t mean it. Besides, don’t you like my outfit?" I asked hopefully, trying to change the subject. Her mood brightened.

"If I’d known you’d look that good in a skirt, I’d have insisted you wear one long ago."
Long ago, I thought to myself. Two weeks ago I didn’t know anything about her but her name. I smiled and we both stood there facing each other, our hands intertwined.

She released one hand and told me she wanted to show me something. We made our way through the sliding glass doors and out to her patio. "Darla! You’ve got a pool!" An in-ground pool this close to the ocean was a rarity.

"Would you like to go for a swim?"

"It’s a little too cold, don’t you think?" There was a certain crispness in the air to an otherwise perfect late spring evening.

She began laughing and said, "No silly! The pool is heated." With all that I’d seen thus far, that shouldn’t have surprised me.

"Well, I didn’t bring a bathing suit," I told her.

"You can borrow one of mine," she offered. We walked back into the family room and Darla announced to the crowd that it was, "pool time!" Apparently I was the only one who hadn’t known and the other girls ran off to grab their bathing suits.

We all made our way up to Darla’s room to change. I had a feeling that Darla either was very fond of red, or she was simply determined to see me wearing something red as she handed me a dark red one-piece bathing suit. The suit had a racer back and a plunging neck line.

"Well, go on Joan and change!" she commanded.

I made my way into her bathroom where three other girls were in various states of being dressed. Could I do this in front of them? I finally decided that I couldn’t. Darla came in and asked me what was taking so long. She sensed my discomfort and suggested I climb into the tub and pull the shower curtain closed. I felt a bit silly doing it, but I didn’t see any reasonable alternative. I climbed into the tub, pulled the curtain closed and began undressing. Just as I was removing my beautiful bra, the shower curtain was ripped open.

"Oh my God! It’s true! She’s a he!" Janice exclaimed. Sarah stood next to her and began chuckling evilly.

I just wanted to die. Darla hearing the commotion came running into the room. "What’s going on in here?" she asked sternly.

"Your friend Joan isn’t a girl," Janice informed her.

"You think I didn’t know that?" Darla asked her bluntly. Tears began rolling down my cheeks. I’d never felt so embarrassed in my life. "Joan may not be a girl in body," Darla continued, "but she is one in spirit." I was both pleased and dismayed by her defense. "Now come on, let’s get going. It’s not getting any warmer outside." Darla’s statement seemed to do the trick. I quickly donned the red suit. There was an unsightly bulge in the front and I didn’t know what to do. I sat on the edge of the tub and began weeping. "All right" Darla said. "Everybody out. I need to talk to Joan." The other girls left the room. I couldn’t stop crying. "It wasn’t that bad," she said soothingly. "What’s wrong?"

I stood up and displayed my "bulge" for her to see. "Oh!" she said and began giggling. Her laughter was infectious and I soon found myself joining in. "Well, let’s see what we can do about that," she said and told me to take off the bathing suit. For the first time in my life I found myself wishing that I was a real girl instead of just a pretend one. As I took off the suit Darla exclaimed, "I was wondering how you managed to fill out your top so naturally. Ooh! You have Add-A-Cup breast forms. Would it be all right if I tried them on?" Before I could answer her she was tucking them into the top of her baby blue bikini.

"Wow!" was all I could think of to say.

"You like?" She asked me. The breast forms coupled with what nature provided her gave her an incredible figure. "Could I borrow them sometime?"

I wasn’t so sure I wanted anyone else looking at her the way I was right now, but in the end I replied, "Of course." I stood naked in front of her. She reached down and grabbed my member. It sprang to attention. "What are you doing?" I asked hopefully.

"Now spread your legs."

I had no idea where this was going, but I wasn’t going to argue with a girl holding my penis. As I did so, she released my cock and grabbed hold of my testicles. She began pushing them backwards as if attempting to drive them up into me. She then grabbed my stiff member and began moving it in the same direction. Somehow it seemed to me that she’d done this before. "Now pull up your bathing suit," she ordered. I did and the bulge was gone. "Oh, I guess you’re going to need these," she chuckled as she handed me back my breast forms. "We’d better get going before my mother comes in here," she said at last. We grabbed a few towels and made our way downstairs to join the rest of the party.

The other girls hadn’t waited for us. They were already frolicking in the pool. As I made my way uncertainly down the steps on the shallow end, I noticed that the water was indeed quite warm. I worried that my "breasts" would become dislodged and I’d be a laughingstock yet again. I needn’t have worried. They remained stuck to my chest almost as if they’d been glued on.

"Let’s play volleyball," Darla said as she began stringing the net across the shallow end of the pool. Sarah and Darla became self-proclaimed captains as the teams were picked. I smiled when Darla picked me first. Our team consisted of me, Darla, Sally, and Jennifer. It seemed that Sarah and Janice had become fast friends after exposing my anatomical abnormalities. Fran was the biggest of all of us and I wondered why Darla hadn’t chosen her first. Hell, Darla could have picked me dead last as I’m certain Sarah would never have me on her team.

I’d never played water volleyball before. It was a lot more fun than the usual game. You could dive with impunity while attempting to move the ball back over the net. If you fell along the way, you simply were surrounded by the warm water’s gentle embrace. The girls took the game seriously. I was surprised by that, figuring it would just be an excuse to splash about in the pool. We were playing to eleven points. The game was tied at ten all and Darla was serving. She hit the ball cleanly over the net and Fran, playing the front-line and towering over me, jumped up and smashed the ball back at me. The ball struck me on the bridge of my nose and I went down for the count. I slowly fell into the water. I couldn’t stand up. Darla ran to my aid and lifted me up. I began coughing and sprouting water as a fountain would.

"Are you all right Joan?"

Before I could answer her, I heard Sarah’s voice screaming, "GAME’S OVER WE WIN!"

The rest of the girls looked at her like she was out of her mind.

The next words out of Sarah’s mouth were "Hey look! There’s a raccoon wearing a girl’s bathing suit!" My makeup had come off in the water. We made our way out of the water and sat down on the lounge chairs surrounding the pool.

"Joan," Darla asked again, "are you all right?"

"I guess I’ll be ok," I said though not really believing it.

"Well, if it bothers you in a bit, I’ll have Daddy take a look at it for you."

The last thing in the world I wanted was coming under Dr. Raspberry’s scrutiny. Especially dressed as I was. "Darla, do you think I could take a shower?" A serious look of concern crossed her face as she knitted her eyebrows.

"Why would you want to do that?"

"I’m not sure, I just feel like I need a shower." She walked me to the small pool house at the back of the property. It had several shower heads sticking out of the wall and it seemed I wasn’t the only one feeling the need to rinse off. Janice and Lori were already there soaking themselves under the warm spray.

"Darla, I really need some privacy. Could I please use your bath?"

She sighed grabbed my hand and said, "come on John." Oh, so now I was John, was I?

"I’m sorry Darla and thanks, really."

"It’s ok," she said softening. I practically ran up to her room. I didn’t want anyone else to see or comment on my battered face. Poor Fran, she must feel horrible. I needed to let her know that it wasn’t her fault, but that could wait. Even the shower was better than anything I’d ever experienced. The flow of the water could be controlled by a nozzle up on the wall. I selected the pulsating mode and luxuriated in the spray. Twenty minutes later I turned off the shower feeling a hundred times better than I had. I dried myself off and realized that I hadn’t brought my clothes in with me. I knotted the towel high on my chest in an attempt to conceal something that wasn’t there and made my way over to Darla’s bed where my clothes were waiting.

Since no one else was there at the moment, I got dressed where I sat. Fully dressed I risked a look in the mirror. If possible, my face looked worse than it had before. Oddly enough, I found myself thinking of Sam and worrying about her. I knew I’d have to speak to her. Things just couldn’t go on as they had. It took me another twenty minutes to put my face on and fix my hair. At last I was satisfied that I wouldn’t be mistaken for a witch on Halloween.

Darla knocked on her own door and entered slowly. "Are you feeling better now Joan?"

"Yes, thank you," I said smiling at her. She came over and gave me a hug. An instant later her tongue was in search of my own. I let her find it. It felt wonderful holding her in my arms as I whispered, "Happy Birthday," to her. We finally disengaged and made our way back downstairs.

"Now girls, get ready. The pizzas should be here in a few minutes." I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. I guess it was true what they said about chinese food.

The pizzas arrived and I found myself inhaling a slice. I was back in line for a second before some had had a first. "Joan, I’m so sorry" the voice behind me in line said. I looked back to see Fran looking at me as if she were about to burst into tears.

"It’s all right Fran," I assured her. "It wasn’t your fault," I added. I almost congratulated her on her team’s victory but figured that would be in poor taste. I reached the head of the line and grabbed another slice of the vegetarian pie. There were three pies. One plain, one vegetarian, and one "meat lover’s" pizza. The latter was the only one that hadn’t been touched. Darla came over and laughed while I was surveying the table and explained that the "meat lover’s" was her father’s favorite. Eight girls and two large pies seemed sufficient to me. Still, I found myself hungry when I’d finished my second slice.

Darla said, "Don’t worry Joan, there’s cake and ice cream yet to be served." I smiled wondering how she knew I was still hungry.

We sat at a long table eating our food and chatting. Sarah was the only one who insisted on discussing the beating I’d received. Even her new best friend Janice seemed appalled by her behavior. At length Mrs. Raspberry came into the room and announced that it was time for Darla to open her presents. A few of the girls got their cameras out as we made our way over to the table.

"I hope she likes what I got her," Sally said her voice dripping with concern. Considering all that the Raspberries had, I couldn’t imagine Darla wanting for anything. Mrs. Raspberry controlled the gift opening procedure.

"This is from Jennifer," she said and handed Darla a small box. It contained several swimming caps of very garish design. I hoped it was meant to be funny. Several of the other girls began clapping and giggling and I echoed their approval.

My own gift was next to last. My stomach began doing flip flops as Darla received the package. I don’t know why Sally was worried. Her own gift, subscriptions to several teen magazines, was warmly received. Darla looked at the rather large package, looked at me and smiled. She undid the bow first and meticulously removed the wrapping paper. Everyone gasped. Had I done something wrong?

"Oh John it’s beautiful!" Darla exclaimed. I didn’t care what anyone else thought of my offering. As long as Darla liked it, that was all that mattered. The crowd "oohed" and "ahhed" as Darla carefully began examining the box.

"Joan you shouldn’t have," Mrs. Raspberry informed me. I looked at her wondering what I’d done wrong. "A jewelry box such as this must have cost far in excess of $100.00," she said finally. I was both proud of my own craftsmanship and delighted that Darla loved it.

"Oh Mommy! This will look perfect on my dresser," Darla’s voice begged, thinking that her mother would make me take it back.

"It’s really nothing Mrs. Raspberry," I said. "I made it myself." She looked at me incredulously. Her astonishment grew as she examined my work more carefully.

Upon completion she said, "you couldn’t have." Now I was getting a bit annoyed. I assured her that I had indeed designed and constructed the box all by myself. "Forgive me Joan. It’s just so perfect. Would you make one for me? I’ll pay you for it," she said sincerely.

"Mrs. Raspberry it would be my pleasure," I told her feeling very proud of myself at the moment. Darla ran over and hugged me tight, not caring that her mother and friends were looking on.

"OK now girls, settle down," her mother commanded. "Sweetheart, this is from your father and me," she said proudly handing Darla her last gift of the evening. Darla accepted the small package gratefully and slowly began to unwrap it. It contained two pair of diamond studs one large pair and a smaller set as well.

"Oh Mom! Do you mean it?"

"Well, I figure if Joan has her ears pierced in several places then so should you!" She exclaimed to everyone’s laughter and approval.

Mrs. Raspberry graciously accepted the hug and kiss from her daughter. "All right girls, it’s time for some cake and ice cream." We made our way back to the table where we’d sat a short time before. The cake was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It reminded me of a wedding cake. The only thing missing was the bride and groom on top. Mrs. Raspberry carefully lit the candles and told Darla to blow them out and make a wish. She did. As she finished her eyes met my own knowingly. We all sang a resounding chorus of "Happy Birthday to You."

"If I may," Darla said when we were finished "I’d like to thank all of you for being here this evening. This is without question the best birthday I’ve ever had."

I couldn’t restrain myself. Although I’d never been considered the life of the party I found myself leading the group in, "Three cheers for the birthday girl HIP HIP HOORAY!" Thankfully everyone followed my lead. I really was having a good time, I realized at last.

We sat there eating cake and ice cream and Sally still questioned me skeptically. "Did you really make that jewelry box?" She said that as though she suspected I was trying to deceive everyone. The look of hurt in my own eyes convinced her that I’d been telling the truth. Thankfully, she didn’t ask me to make one for her too. I began wondering just how I was going to make one for Mrs. Raspberry. I didn’t have the proper tools at home. Could I match the perfection using a hand saw? Oh well, I’d worry about that another time.

"Ok girls," Mrs. Raspberry said,. "Time to get ready for bed." She left the room and quickly returned with eight inflatable mattresses. Was there anything these people didn’t have? Mrs. Raspberry hooked up the air pump and within minutes we each had our own mattress to sleep on. I couldn’t believe it, I’d actually forgotten to bring pajamas. How could I be so stupid?

The other girls went up into Darla’s room to change and I just stood there not knowing what to do. Mrs. Raspberry asked me what was wrong. I told her that I’d been so overwhelmed this week that I’d forgotten to bring night wear. She laughed at my concerns and told me to head on upstairs. She was sure that Darla had something I could borrow. I looked at her sheepishly and headed back to Darla’s room. I entered and all the girls were getting changed. Most of them were wearing pajamas. Fran however, had on a lacy nightgown. I stood there like a commuter lost on the subway. Finally Darla came over and said, "you didn’t bring any pajamas with you, did you?"

I laughed and told her, "you know me too well." She quickly returned with a pair of satin pajamas for me. Of course they were red. About half an hour later we all made our way back downstairs.

All of the air mattresses were lined up around the fireplace. The fire crackled loudly as the flickering light illuminated the room. I was totally exhausted, but before I could make myself comfortable Jennifer asked, "who wants to begin?" It was time to tell ghost stories. I did my best to pay attention, but by the time Sally started on her tale I was beginning to drift off. I’d never worn anything like satin pajamas before. I couldn’t believe how sensuous they felt. Every time I moved they slid across my body. It was a good thing that I kept the panties on, I thought, as sleep threatened to claim me. I had to admit it was a fantastic party. Not at all what I expected. I thought the evening would be spent applying nail polish and gossiping. Perhaps those kind of parties were for different occasions.

Darla seeing my head fall closer to the mattress came over and gently eased me all the way down. I was surrounded by my two best friends: Darla to the left of me and Sally to the right. Darla began cooing words of love softly into my ear. The rest of the girls were too busy listening to Sally’s story to notice. I’d never fallen asleep with someone’s warm moist breath reverberating on my ear lobes before. It was heavenly. She brushed the hair away from my cheeks and kissed them tenderly. "Goodnight sweet prince," she said as my eyes closed at last. It seemed like only moments later that someone was shaking me.

"Shhhh!" Darla said as she finally got my attention. I awoke with a start not remembering just where I was for a moment. "Come on Joan, get up! And be quiet about it or you’ll wake the others." It was pitch black outside as the sliding glass doors appeared to be opaque. "Hurry up or we’ll miss it," she beckoned with a sense of urgency. "Come on Joan, we have to go upstairs and get dressed." I began to wonder if this was a dream that I was experiencing.

As we entered her bedroom I said to her "Darla, is this a dream?" She chuckled and lightly pinched my arm. "Ow!" I replied as softly as I could.

"Now hush up and get dressed. No, don’t put your hose back on. Just the skort and your top. Yes, wear your bra too," she said anticipating my next question. "Ok now don’t put your shoes on till we’re out the front door." This was becoming more mysterious all the time. We descended the stairs like cat burglars.

Darla was carrying two blankets with her. Once outside I just had to ask her what was going on. "You mean you haven’t figured it out yet? And here I thought you were smart." We slowly began making our way to the ocean.

"Ah!" I said at last.

Darla started laughing and said "It took you long enough." We were off to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. A truly magnificent sight. I’d only done it once in my life. When I was little my parents took me.

"But why the blankets?"

"Damn Joan, you really aren’t a morning person," she said and laughed aloud. We walked down the ramp to the beach and made our way to water’s edge. Darla quickly considered which way to go and headed away from the fishing pier. If they weren’t there already, there would soon be people casting their lines in hope of a free meal. "Hurry up Joan, I want to be seated for the show." I’d never thought of a sunrise as a show, but I suppose it was appropriate. At length we found a spot secluded enough and far enough back from the reach of potentially rogue waves. Darla spread the blanket and pulled me down beside her. She took the second blanket and wrapped it around our shoulders. We sat there staring out into the night.

"I’m so glad you’re here," she said as she put her arms around me.

"Me too," I replied and held her tight. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay awake. Then, she kissed me. Her lips embraced mine tenderly and I could feel her silky skin sliding against my own. I wasn’t sure if I loved her, but I knew that I wanted her. It was the former thought that kept my actions in check. I so wanted to explore her naked body with my tongue.

We kissed passionately for some time and then the bright yellow orb began emerging up over the ocean’s horizon. It was absolutely awe inspiring. "Thank you Darla for bringing me here this morning. I feel as though I’ve just been born anew.

"Thank you Joan for being here to share it with me." We held each other close under the blanket and for a brief time nothing else in the world seemed to matter…


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