Cross-Country - Part 4 of 7

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I stole a girl’s dress. It was the worst thing I’d ever done—and the best!

Cross-Country, by Karin Bishop

Part 4

Chapter 9: Dinner With Jane

When we got to my house, Mom met us at the door and welcomed Jane. I think she was running interference for me, but Jane and I had decided that she’d chat with my mom, help with dinner, whatever; I would disappear and come out as Ann—in every sense of the word. I was very nervous, of course, but had already figured out what to wear. I stripped off my boy clothes, wrapped a robe around me, went in and brushed out my hair. I did a real quick casual makeup with a bit of shadow, mascara, gloss lipstick, and a couple of flicks with the rouge brush. I studied myself critically; it looked like normal teenaged girl’s day makeup, about the same as Jane’s. Back in my room, I pulled on a white cami, peach camp shirt, my blue denim mini, and white flats; took a deep breath, and went into the kitchen.

Mom had Jane tossing a salad while she worked at the potatoes, chatting away. They noticed me and both stopped talking. Mom wasn’t shocked, of course, but was waiting to see Jane’s reaction. Jane had stopped tossing the salad, actually blinked a couple of times, and broke out into a big smile.

“Hi, Ann; you’re just in time to help with dinner!”

It was the perfect thing to say, and I loved her for it. I smiled gratefully at her and asked, “Mom, what do you need?”

Mom picked right up as if there was nothing strange at all. “I’m nearly done; why don’t you girls set the table?”

I grabbed all the settings, Jane grabbed the salad, and we headed into the dining room. I was acutely conscious of all of my movements; trying to seem relaxed was making me anything but relaxed!

“Wow, Ann, I can’t believe it! I mean, I can believe it, because you told me, but I can’t believe how normal—I mean how natural—I mean how …how girl you are! You’re really cute!”

“Gee, Jane, do you think a girl should say a boy is ‘cute’? What would Miss Manners say?” I joked.

“There ain’t no boys here that I can see! You’ve got girl curves! And your legs ... have you always had legs like that? They’re great! You look so ... so real. God, Ann, I just ... wow.”

“Yeah, wow,” I laughed. “Thanks. No, I really mean it, thank you so much for being here, and taking it all so well. No matter what happens.”

“I’m still keeping my promise not to tell anyone, but it’s a lot harder now.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s so incredible!  You look like, move like, talk like—oh heck, I shouldn’t even say ‘like’ a girl anymore. You were right—you are a girl! Oh, my goodness! It must be weird having to be Bobby at school.”

“It is, believe me. I don’t think I am ‘Bobby’ anymore; I’m just wearing his clothes and acting like him.”

She nodded vigorously. “That’s exactly what it is—you’re not a boy acting like a girl; you’re a girl who sometimes acts like a boy! And you said you haven’t ever left the house? That would be hell! What do you do? How do you shop?”

“Well, what were you going to do today and tonight? Go home, do homework, make yourself dinner, watch TV and go to bed, right? Same thing I do. But I’m starting to go nuts only really being me at home. Oh, and I shop like I did today; I check things out, tell Mom what I want, if it’s okay with her she gets it. You probably figured out that the watch at Macy’s was for me.”

“Yeah, I kind of figured that. But it would be so strange to have to do everything one step removed like that.”

“It is, but it’s the only way to make it work right now. By law I have to be in school, which means I have to put up with ‘Bobby’ until school’s out. After that, Mom said I can finally be Ann full time, and my doctor approves.”

“Are you taking female hormones? Are you going to have a sex change operation? Uh, maybe I shouldn’t say that ...” She looked sheepishly at Mom, who merely smiled.

I shrugged to show her it was okay. “Actually they call it sexual reassignment surgery, or SRS. Not right away, because of my age and legal requirements—gotta be eighteen—but the first possible opportunity, I want it right away, with all my heart. Eighteen and a day!

“Well, if you want my opinion,” Jane said with a grin, “it can’t be a sex change if you’re already that sex! And as far as I can see, you already are a girl. Oh! The term now, ‘reassignment’? That makes sense in a way—reassigning you to the girls’ bathrooms, for instance.” She chuckled and then nodded. “But I know what you mean, about the surgery …So in the meantime you’ve got to keep up this schizoid deal?”

“Yeah, Ann at home and Bobby everywhere else. I’ve started some medication that isn’t female hormones, but it suppresses my male hormone production.”

“Maybe that’s why your skin is so clear. Really! You’ve got a complexion most girls would die for! And your legs are incredible! Did I say that already?”

I nodded, laughing.

She bounced with excitement.“Oh, God, I’ve got so many questions! Do you shave your legs? That’s silly of me, of course you do, every girl does. Oh, what about ... breasts?” For the first time, Jane seemed embarrassed to ask.

I smiled at her. “Don’t be embarrassed. Like you said, there’s no boys here, right? So, um …there’s a little bit of natural breast tissue there; I’ll start developing normally when they switch me to full strength hormones. God, I can’t wait! Anyway, I wear padded bras and stuff them. Mom says some girls do that.”

Jane burst out laughing. “Some girls? Darn near everybody! Wait until you’re in the girls’ locker room, you won’t believe it! Sue Ryan stuffs, Claudia Darnell really stuffs, two years ago I even stuffed! What’s really fun is Prom Night; the girls that stuff will be trying to figure out how to wear these tiny, clingy outfits and make sure their boobs stay the same size they’ve been all year!”

We were both laughing, and there was a pause as we looked each other. We stopped laughing but smiled at each other so warmly that I had no doubt we’d just shared a very special ‘girl moment’, just gossiping about Prom. We resumed setting the table.

“So where do you go from here?” Jane asked.

“Bobby by day, me by night, I guess. Feel like The Elephant Man sometimes, hidden away. At least I’m out of PE for the year. It meant I could finally shave my legs! So, I wait for summer and hope and pray that the boys at school don’t discover me before that, and beat the crap out of me.”

Mom came in with dinner. “Watch your language, young lady. Dinner is served.” We settled down to eat and chatted about all sorts of things; Jane’s family, the local theatre scene—her family was active in it—school, and so on. Jane could tell that Mom was very comfortable about me; calling me by name but also, ‘young lady’, ‘you girls’, and so on. As we were finishing, Mom said she’d drive Jane back home later, and Jane had an idea.

“That’d be nice, thank you, Mrs. Mason, but I have a thought: Ann’s never been outside, right?”

“Only to one movie at night.”

Jane looked at me quizzically. “You didn’t tell me about that. Anyway,” she turned back to Mom, “what if we visit a while longer, then Ann and I can walk back to my house. My folks won’t be home yet, and I want to show Ann some things. Then she could call you for a ride home. Okay?”

“Jane, we can’t let the neighbors know about Ann; not yet, anyway.”

“Two things about that; I was thinking about them over dinner. First, it’ll be dark and if we leave naturally, they won’t notice—I mean, they don’t stand at their window with binoculars all night, do they?” We shook our heads, chuckling at the image. “Once we’re on the street, they won’t have a clue. Take it from me there’s no way in the world that anyone would think Ann is a boy. It’s perfectly natural for two girls to be walking home at that hour; it’s not too late to be dangerous. And we girls travel in twos and threes, anyway.” She gave me a warm, inclusive smile.

Mom looked at me. “Sounds reasonable. What was the other thing?”

“The other thing is, well …you both decided that Ann begins full‑time when school’s out, right?” We nodded. “So what happens to Bobby? Basically, he disappears. Dies, for all intents and purposes. How are you going to explain that to the neighbors? I mean, if they’re really nosy, won’t they notice the disappearance and report you?” Mom and I stared at each other; we really hadn’t thought about it that way. “Or do you really care about them? I mean, they don’t have kids at our school or I’d probably know them, but isn’t the real reason you don’t want them to know about Ann is that you’d be embarrassed?”

Mom smiled warmly at Jane. “You’re right. You’re exactly right! We don’t care about what they think; Ann has a right to live. We don’t even have to tell them; let ‘em find out on their own and ask us. I don’t think they’ll even ask, but if they do I’ll say Ann is my daughter. After all, it’s the truth! Honey, Jane’s right. If you girls want to walk to Jane’s house, it’s fine with me. Just call me when you’re ready to come home; it’s not safe for a young girl alone at night.”

I loved my mom more and more for her acceptance of me, and I went over and hugged her. We cleared the dishes, got everything washed and put away, and then Jane wanted to see my room. I was a little embarrassed about my drab unisex room after the elegant femininity of her room, but she complimented me on how I had effectively removed any overt ‘boyishness’ from it, never knowing that there really hadn’t been any boyishness in it. I showed her my clothes, and she was particularly entranced by my lingerie drawer.

“Wow, you’ve got that Lily of France bra! That’s so neat. I like that one. You’ve got some lovely stuff here, Ann. It’ll be so cool once summer gets here and you can really relax and be Ann all the time. Oh, Ann, I wish everything was normal and you were my best friend going to school with me every day. I mean ‘normal’ like it’s going to be next year.”

I hadn’t really thought about the next year; I was taking things day by day and just looking forward to summer. Obviously I was going to have to start thinking about it, but I’d have to see how the summer went, and what the doctors and Mom said but I hoped Jane was right. We decided to leave while there was a little daylight left; before, I wouldn’t have dared because of the neighbors but Jane had convinced me to ignore them. We said goodbye to Mom and strolled the two blocks to Jane’s house, looking to all the world like two normal teenaged girls. I was in heaven. It was the second time I’d been out, and now it felt so right and so natural, that I knew going back to ‘Bobby’ would be very hard. At Jane’s house, we got some more Cokes and sat back in her room, talking about other kids in school.

“Ann, you don’t know what a soap opera Leslie’s got going! Her father is trying to rape her, I’m sure of it, and her mother does nothing. I’d like to help, but I can’t because she wants to work it out herself. And she’s got a crush on Jeremy, and he doesn’t know she exists.”

“Yes he does, Jane. I heard him talking about her; he’s noticed how unhappy she’s been. I think he might be interested in her, and guys love to be the protector. If he can ‘find out’ without Leslie knowing about it, I think he might be the shoulder for her to cry on.”

“That’d be fantastic! You come to this naturally, Annie! Oops; is ‘Annie’ okay?”

“Sure, to my close friends.” I smiled at Jane; she smiled warmly back.

“You know, Annie, you do come to this naturally. Between the two of us, we’d be a couple of killer matchmakers. But that’s only because you know what the boys are saying.”

“I get you. But when ‘Bobby’ disappears, that source of information will be gone.”

“Yeah. But I’d much rather have Ann, any day of the week. But there is one other thing ...”

“What?”

“Boys. I don’t know if you really know it, but you’re really pretty. Face it; you’re a babe, Annie! As soon as the boys get one look at you, they’re gonna be all over you. Have you thought about that?”

I blushed at the ‘babe’ remark; I still couldn’t believe it was true. “Uh, yeah. Not really, actually. I mean, I know intellectually it might happen, and there’s enough ‘Bobby’ training in my head that I’m weirded out by it. But sitting here with you, being Ann, it doesn’t seem weird. But I guarantee that next week, at school, as ‘Bobby’, it’ll be plenty weird.”

“It’s only a few weeks before school’s out, and you’re leaving for the summer; you wouldn’t want to start dating now anyway!”

I stared down at my fingernails and spoke quietly. “I think the truth is that once I start thinking like that, it’ll be impossible to keep pretending to be a boy. And I don’t want to be a boy; I don’t want to pretend. I want to be 100% girl, with the surgery and hormones and everything. But I won’t be able to keep up this masquerade as ‘Bobby’, or go back to being him for even one day, once I relax and become totally Ann.”

To my surprise, Jane started laughing and clapping her hands. “Oh, I love it! That’s great!”

“What is?”

“Totally Ann! Totally Annie! Like an Italian name—Todaliani! It can be like a code word between us, like ‘confidentially’!” She affected a stuffy interviewer’s voice. “Speaking todaliani, how do you feel about nuclear disarmament?” I laughed, and she went on. “The President spoke todaliani when he admired the First Lady’s new gown.” We whooped with laughter.

“I think that eye shadow is to die for, todaliani!”

“Speaking, of course, todaliani, who’s the cutest boy in class?”

“That’s easy,” I replied without thinking. “Sean Callahan.” The second it was out of my mouth I cringed.

Jane stopped laughing, stared at me and grinned. “Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a breakthrough! You said that without thinking about ‘Bobby’ or ‘Ann’; that really was Totally Annie. Relax, girl, be yourself!”

I was still shocked at what I’d said. “I hadn’t even realized I had that feeling, but I got this warm flush thinking about him.”

“Ooh, we’ll talk about that later, girlfriend! More Coke?” She got up to get my glass, then looked at my reflection in the mirror of her vanity. She put the glasses down and stood behind me. “You know, I just thought of a great style for you. See what you think.”

I turned and faced the mirror squarely. She picked up brushes and clips and began moving my hair one way and another, clipping, brushing, unclipping, trying different things, asking me ‘How about this?’ or ‘Maybe this way’. She took a break to get the Cokes and I stopped her; I’d caught sight of the time.

“It’s getting late. Aren’t your folks due home soon?”

“Oh, darn, you’re right. Want to meet them? I think my mom’d love to see you “

”No, later maybe, but no. I’ll call Mom.”

I unclipped my hair and went to the phone in the living room to call. Mom said she’d be right over. Jane came and stood awkwardly, crossed her arms and rocked from one foot to the other.

“So,” she said.

“So,” I said.

“Quite a day!” she grinned.

I shook my head, sighing. “More than you think. More than you—oh hell, Jane, thank you, okay? Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I want to get together with you again, but don’t know when. Now, pretend none of this ever happened and all you know is ‘Bobby’.”

“I can’t. The genie’s out of that bottle! But I can keep a secret, and yours is safe with me. I’d like to get together with Ann again, too, but you’ll have to call me to tell me when it’s okay. Or, come to think of it, I can certainly call you.” Headlights shone on the street. “There’s your Mom. Tell her hi for me, and, uh, I can’t wait to say goodbye to ‘Bobby’.”

“Me too. Bye, Jane.”

“Bye, Annie.”

Somehow we were hugging; I don’t know who went first—it was an instinctive ‘girl’ thing and we’d hugged at the same time. When I walked away, I turned and waved goodbye by bending my fingers. Jane was smiling and waving the exact same way.

 

Chapter 10: Not Totally Annie

Over the last few weeks of school I resolved to not grumble about having to be Bobby; I’d just keep my head down and endure it. Each day that passed lightened the burden and I knew the day was coming when I’d be able to shove Bobby into the back of the closet forever.

My routine was simple: I’d wake up and undo my sleep braid, remove my nightie and panties and shower and wash my hair. I figured that even though Bobby had never been known for his hair being immaculately clean, it was easier to half-way brush it and rubber-band it into the Bobby style. I was afraid that my hair might retain some signs of the girl’s style that I wore after school, so the washing took care of that.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Bobby’s cologne or moisturizer or face wash—he’d never had any! Bobby had only used deodorant, a generic that came cheap and had a vaguely pine scent. It was surprising how quickly I’d gotten used to my nightly regimen, and the feeling of moisturizer and quality products.

Then I had to dress like Bobby from skin out; as much as I wanted panties at the very least, Mom was right for me not to tempt fate. It would be perfect if one of the bullies decided to ‘pants’ me one last time for the year and discover my panties. So, boring tightie-whities and baggy jeans, a t-shirt and Metallica hoodie. Then, after assuming the proper dweeb attitude, I was ready to walk to school. For some reason I wasn’t riding my bike as much. Maybe it was the weather turning hot, but maybe was because I was Ann and it felt weird. Yes, girls could certainly ride bikes, but very few rode them to school.

We went so far to keep the Bobby thing going that I had Bobby’s breakfast at first—instant oatmeal and toast—but I felt so bloated after the third day that we decided that Bobby should have Ann’s yogurt and melon. At school I tried to remember what Bobby’s life had been like. It’s funny; people don’t analyze themselves on a day-to-day basis and if they had to recreate exactly how they walked and talked …I don’t think many people could do it. I know it was difficult for me to do, but fortunately nobody ever paid any attention to Bobby so I had always been under the radar, so to speak.

The only one who did pay attention, of course, was Jane. She’d give me a little thumbs-up when nobody could see, and once she appeared at my side to whisper near me that I was kind of walking like Ann. So I ‘butched it up’ immediately …as much as Bobby could ever be butch.

It all gave me a chance to examine where my life had been and where it was headed, in terms of school. I was shocked at how insignificant Bobby was to the student body, but remembered that I’d preferred it that way. A part of me longed to be in a crowd, part of a posse, whatever; and to go to dances or sporting events or school plays—or at least get asked! But Bobby was invisible, content to observe girls while longing to be one …and that’s what the next few years of my life would have been. And maybe the rest of my years beyond that …what kind of future life did Bobby have?

As soon as I came home I’d take another quick shower, only with my girl stuff, and powder and scent myself and feel a thousand times better, even naked. I was keeping myself tucked and up inside—the one non-Bobby thing I did was stay tucked. Everything seemed to fit differently and a bit better that way. I’d dress in typical after-school girl clothes: shorts or capris, maybe a skirt, maybe sweat pants. A t-shirt or top. The difference was that every piece of clothing was feminine—even the sweat pants; they were pink and had ‘Juicy’ across the butt. Mom thought they were borderline obscene until I showed her the whole Juicy Couture line and she realized it was a trade name …but she still raised her eyebrow at me.

I’d do homework, housework, watch TV, surf the net, whatever. The only thing I didn’t do was go outside because of the neighbors. Mom and I had worked that out, and decided that as long as there had to be a Bobby, don’t make it Bobby-switching-to-Ann-to-Bobby or the neighbors might think it was deceptive or frivolous. Once school let out and I would be 100% Ann, I’d face them proudly. So even though it was warm outside, I didn’t sunbathe, as much as I’d like to, because our fence was rather low and we had houses on three sides.

There were only two things that happened those last weeks, one bad and one good. Somehow I did run afoul of one of the bullies; a moron with three goons whose claim to fame was that they were dumber than he was. They zeroed in on me and pinned me to the lockers, knocked my books out of my hands, and told me to fork over my lunch money. I convinced them it was a half-day and there was no lunch so I didn’t have any lunch money. This was true but they still stopped other kids to confirm it, even while keeping me mashed against the lockers. They let me down to the ground and the leader hesitated a moment and then kneed me in the groin, dropping me in a heap on the hallway floor. Of course, my testicles were back up inside of me, protected, and my penis was tucked back. So the kneeing didn’t quite have the same effect they’d hoped. Instead of shrieking, staying down, and maybe retching, I just …got up. I picked up my books and headed in the opposite direction. I knew enough not to look back but would have given a lot to see their faces!

The good thing that happened was that I got called in to see my counselor, Mrs. Babbage. We’d always gotten along fine; I was one of those ‘good kids’ who got As and Bs and never a detention. The only mark against me was that I didn’t participate in any extra-curricular activities; no sports, no clubs, no theatre. At our infrequent meetings, she would tell me that any extra activities would help my college application, but we hadn’t gotten any farther than that.

So it was odd that she called me in on the next-to-last day. I had to go, of course, because I was a ‘good kid’ but also because I was curious. Even though the school seemed half empty from kids leaving early and the seniors mostly gone, it was unusual to be meeting with a counselor. I presented myself to the secretary and was waved into Mrs. Babbage’s office.

“How are you, Bobby?” Mrs. Babbage asked. She was a grandmotherly type but very sharp, especially seeing through students’ lies, I’d been told. I’d never lied to her so I didn’t know firsthand.

“Um …fine, Mrs. Babbage. And you?”

She smiled. “I’m fine. School’s almost out, so we’re probably both fine.”

I nodded and decided to go for it. “Mrs. Babbage, why am I here? Have I done something wrong?”

She waved a hand. “Oh, no, no, no. Have a seat; I only want to chat for a moment.” Her hand wave indicated the chair across from her, as if I didn’t know.

I sat, concerned. I’d had a ‘chat for a moment’ in my first year that had lasted an entire period, and I’d wound up with double homework. Rather than plunging in, though, Mrs. Babbage fiddled with a pen for a bit and then looked up.

“I guess you’re glad to see the year end, huh?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She nodded and thought. “We haven’t really talked for some time. What are your college plans?”

“I’m not really sure right now. There are a couple of things I’m interested in, and I thought I’d probably settle on something next year, and that would determine the college. I’m a good student but not outstanding, so it’s not like a choice between Harvard and Yale!”

She nodded again and said, “Actually, I think if you really went for it, your grades would improve even more. You’re usually around 3.5 but you could hit the 3.8 region if you applied yourself.”

We’d had this talk before. I decided to ‘yes, ma’am’ her and then sit in silence. Finally she put the pen down and leaned forward on her elbows.

“Bobby, is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

“Tell you? Ma’am?” A voice inside was yelling to keep calm, don’t say anything about Ann, but it got to be like ignoring the pink elephant in the corner.

“Bobby, just to remind you, anything we say is strictly confidential and doesn’t go beyond these four walls. It doesn’t have to even go in a report. Is there anything you’d like to discuss?”

I tried to deflect her and get some info at the same time. “Mrs. Babbage, maybe if you tell me what you’ve seen or heard that made you call me in and ask that? I mean, if it’s a rumor or something, we could take care of it quickly.”

She sat back and looked at me, really looked at me. She pursed her lips, took up the pen again, and made a cryptic doodle on the edge of her blotter. Then she seemed to make her decision.

“Please don’t take offense at what I say. If it bothers you, just raise a hand and I’ll stop immediately.”

“Well, no offense, Mrs. Babbage, but the last time I heard that I was in the dentist’s chair.”

She chuckled at that and nodded. “Fair enough. Bobby, I’ve known you for some time and I think we have a good relationship, but lately I’ve noticed a change in you. I’d see you in the distance walking in the halls, and twice I’ve been around the corner when you were talking with someone.” She trailed off, embarrassed about what she’d already said.

I tried to keep it light. “See? That’s what I call a full-service counselor!”

She smiled. “Thanks. I’ll come right out with it. Bobby, you seem increasingly …effeminate.” She frowned. “No, that’s not quite right. Not effeminate; not swishy. More like …”

“More like a girl.” The words just came out. Too late to reclaim them, so I went for it. “More like Ann.”

She started to nod and said, “Who’s Ann?”

“I am.” I made a quick note of time and circumstance, and said, “Mrs. Babbage, I will explain, but could I first call my mother, or try to?”

“Certainly,” she said and turned the phone around. I already knew these phones had speakerphone ability. I dialed and got Mom at her desk—a kind of lucky thing because she was often in meetings—and explained that I was in Mrs. Babbage’s office and we were going to talk about Ann. I asked Mom if she’d be able to join in and she said sure. I pushed the button for speaker.

“Hello, Mrs. Babbage,” Mom’s voice came through loudly and I turned it down slightly.

“Hello, Mrs. Mason. Um …Bobby was just mentioning someone named Ann. “

Mom said, “Bobby? You or I?”

“I’ll start, I guess,” I said. “Mrs. Babbage, I’m transgendered, a transsexual. I’m a girl trapped in this boy’s body, if you will.” I paused.

Mom jumped in. “This is not speculation, Mrs. Babbage. It’s medical fact; my child is under the care of Dr. Lee Livingstone at the University Hospital with an official diagnosis of Gender Identity Dysphoria.”

Mrs. Babbage said, “It may surprise you both to know, but I’m familiar with the terms, and not just Jerry Springer-familiar. As it happens, I’ve worked with transgendered children a little bit over the years. Two boys and a girl …well, two boys to girls and one girl to boy. I had to have a training session at the hospital, and I think your doctor was one of the lecturers.”

“Oh,” was all I could say.

Mom said, “So you understand?”

Mrs. Babbage smiled, although Mom couldn’t see it. “Yes, Mrs. Mason, I think it fully explains what I was trying to discuss with Bobby, and doing a pretty poor job, too.”

“What made you want to discuss it, if I may ask?” Mom asked.

“As I was telling Bobby, I’ve known him for awhile now, and I’ve noticed recently that he’d become much more feminine. It was odd because he’s not effeminate. We have some boys here that are quite …well, quite swishy and subjects of ridicule, but they revel in it. That training session I went through had taught me to differentiate between effeminate and feminine. Bobby has been moving with a grace he hasn’t had before, and I overheard some conversations with other students that indicated that as well. It was word choice and …well, I guess you could call it the ‘musicality’ of his sentences. I mean to say, he didn’t talk like a homosexual; if I hadn’t known the identity of the two students I would have been sure it was two girls talking.”

“I was probably talking with Jane,” I explained to the two ladies, and Mrs. Babbage nodded. “Mom, she’s nodding. I got careless and she heard me talking with Jane. I’ve been trying to be really careful with everybody else. Jane’s helped me a couple of times when I was getting too relaxed.”

“It must be tough on you, having to maintain the image of a boy here,” Mrs. Babbage said. “And I assume …you mentioned ‘Ann’ …I assume that’s your name at home?”

I had my mouth open to speak but Mom jumped in first. “Mrs. Babbage, standing before you right now is my daughter Ann. She’s not Bobby who dresses up as a girl. She’s Ann, who dresses as Bobby to finish school. I think it’s important that you understand the difference, Mrs. Babbage. I have a daughter, plain and simple. We’ve begun the course of medical treatment for her to live full-time as Ann, and once school is out …Bobby is no more.”

I knew how hard that was for Mom to say. “Thank you, Mom,” I said. “Mrs. Babbage, in two days school is out and Robert Mason will cease to exist for the most part. I say that because there are some hoops to jump through before my paperwork is changed, but I think you know what I mean.”

She nodded. “I do indeed, Ann—if I may call you that.” I nodded and she continued, “Mrs. Mason, I can smooth the way for Ann to join us next year; if you’d like I’ll prepare a packet of information and send it home with her tomorrow.”

“That would be wonderful, Mrs. Babbage. And thank you for adapting so quickly.”

Mrs. Babbage looked at me. “Truth be told, Mrs. Mason, it’s a lot easier to see a girl here in my office than a boy. By the way, Ann, you can …what did you call it when you talked with Jane Harrington? Relax. Yes, you can ‘relax’.”

I didn’t really do anything, but I felt comfortable, but whatever it was, Mrs. Babbage’s eyes widened and she nodded. Softly, she said, “Oh, my! It must have been so hard for you …”

“I had Jane to help me; she’s my best friend. And knowing that school—and Bobby—was ending soon helped, too.”

Mrs. Babbage seemed embarrassed. “I hope this doesn’t sound too odd, but I’d …I’d kind of like to meet Ann—I mean, really meet her.”

“As she is at home, you mean,” Mom supplied. “Would you like to drop off the packet tomorrow? I know Ann will be home.” I could almost hear the grin in her voice.

“That’s a possibility,” Mrs. Babbage said, and smiled. “I’d like that. I’ll be leaving school around four tomorrow.”

And that’s how the day-before-the-day-before-school-let-out ended. I thanked Mrs. Babbage and went home.

I’d told Jane about the meeting and had to almost restrain her from marching on Mrs. Babbage’s office immediately. Jane asked if I’d mind if she said anything to her, and I told her it was fine with me. But I told her Mrs. Babbage might come to my house to meet Ann, so Jane really didn’t have to talk with her. Jane had just grinned. I’d asked what she was grinning at.

“I’m grinning because she’ll know!”

“Know …about Ann? We already told her,” I said, confused.

Jane shook her head. “Not the same. You told me about Ann, but until you walked into the kitchen, I truly didn’t get it. Ten seconds—or less!—and she’ll have no doubt that you’re Ann.”

Nobody’s mind was on school the next day but the hours still seemed to drag. Finally I got home and knew what I was going to wear. I had a new lavender bra and panty set, which worked perfectly with a white scoop-neck top with thin horizontal purple lines. That way if my bra straps showed they complemented each other. A simple denim skirt and white flats with silver sparkles. My hair was brushed back and held by a silver clip and I had a touch of lipstick, blush, and mascara, but no more than a girl would during the day.

I felt perfectly at home with myself and had gotten so fast at getting out of Bobby that I decided to take care of some dishes for Mom—we’d had some vegetarian lasagna last night and the stuff had really baked on the pan. When the doorbell rang, I ran to answer it and realized I was still wearing the rubber gloves, so I was wearing a glove and holding the other with my left hand when I opened the door.

Mrs. Babbage automatically said, “Hello, is Bobby ho …” and that’s as far as she got. A huge smile burst out. “No, I don’t believe Bobby is home! Hello, Ann.”

“Hello, Mrs. Babbage. I’m sorry about the gloves; I’m trying to scrape some lasagna from the—it doesn’t matter. Would you like to come in?”

“Is your mother home? No? Then I’m afraid I can’t. School district rules, you know; no district teacher or staffer can enter a student’s home without the parent’s presence and permission. But I wanted to give you and your mother these.”

“Just a sec,” I said, and tossed the gloves on top of an old newspaper on the table. “Thank you,” I said, taking them. “I’m sorry you can’t come in. Is there anything you’d like me to tell Mom about them?”

Mrs. Babbage looked at me for a long moment, and then shook her head. “No; I think they’re self-explanatory. There’s the information about the procedure for name change for next year, and I added some others I found; one about an outreach program and parent group. But, Ann …tell your mother that I fully understand what she meant.”

“Okay. Um …meant about what?”

She was still looking me up and down. “About you truly being her daughter Ann. If I may say something personal …” At my nod, she continued. “Bobby always seemed …not complete, not whole. It was like there was some deep sorrow, some black cloud hanging over him. Then I’d noticed the recent change in your—his behavior, and it was similar to what I’ve seen with boys coming to grips with their homosexuality. But even that felt wrong. Not wrong, as much as not fully explaining things.”

“Well, Bobby had some …things to work out,” I said, lamely.

“Seeing you now, finally meeting Ann, it all becomes clear. There is no black cloud hanging over you; there is only bright, happy light. I’m sorry; that sounds a little New Age-y! But right now I’m seeing a whole person, a complete girl that could certainly go anywhere in the world proudly. And I think she will.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Babbage,” I blushed. “Now you know that I was also telling the truth when you asked me about college and I said that there were a couple of things I’m interested in, and I thought I’d probably settle on something next year. It’s obvious why. Tomorrow’s the last day of school, and once I come home, Bobby’s history. Mom and I—and my doctors—are decided on that; I will start fully living my life—my real life, as Ann—and be able to …what was it you said? Go anywhere in the world.”

She nodded and smiled. “And proudly, I said. You’re really a very pretty girl, Ann, and the difference between you and Bobby is more than just a skirt and some makeup, remember that. I certainly hope you will come back to us next year—or I should say, that you will start with us next year—and that I can be your counselor again. I’d consider it a privilege. And if you go to another school—and I would certainly understand that—then I hope that you will occasionally keep in touch.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’d like that, ma’am.”

“Tell your mother she has a fine daughter and to call me if she has any questions or just wants to talk. A pleasure meeting you, Ann.”

I said goodbye and watched her go and knew that I’d made the right decision.

 

End of Part 4