Cross-Country - Part 5 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 5

Chapter 11: Rose’s Beauty Parlor

The next day was the last day of school before summer. It was only a half-day and I almost skipped on the way home. I threw my pack in the closet, stripped and took a long bubble bath. We were going to leave the next day for a trip across the country to see my grandmother in Bennington, Vermont, and my mom had a college reunion there as well. I didn’t know what we’d do when we got to Vermont; I was afraid I’d have to dress like a boy there, because I didn’t know what my grandmother knew or how she’d take it, but at least I’d get to be a girl everywhere else.

Mom had said I’d be Ann full-time as soon as summer started, but we had to treat it as the last chance ‘to see if it was what I really wanted.’ I had no doubt that I really wanted it, and I just wanted my boyhood behind me. Mom knew it too, and Dr. Livingstone knew it. I was grateful for the androgen blockers she’d prescribed, and we all knew the truth—that I’d be a girl for the rest of my life—but we had to consider this summer ‘the test’ to satisfy certain medical requirements.

After the bath, I pulled on my oversized sleep shirt, wrapped my hair in a towel, and sat down in my big chair in my room to do my nails. I’d been wanting to do this for months, and I’d been growing my nails as long as I could without anyone noticing. One guy had commented about their length in class, and I just shrugged and said I was learning classical guitar and strummed the air. Good thing he didn’t notice they were long on both hands!

I had just laid out the nail works when my mom surprised me by coming home early. I had a momentary twinge of panic that I’d been found out, then relaxed as I remembered that I was Ann now; I was her daughter now, but it had been a disconcerting feeling. Hopefully that feeling wouldn’t come again.

“Hi, honey, I’m home early,” she said as she opened my door.

“Duh,” I said jokingly, “is everything alright?”

“Oh, sure. Since this is your last day of school, and we leave for Bennington tomorrow, I thought you might like to do something special today.”

“Such as?”

“Well, put away your nail things and get dressed right now.”

“Uh, okay, but I have to dry my hair first,” I said, reaching for some jeans.

“No, damp hair’s okay. And leave the jeans. Why don’t you try that new denim skirt I bought you last week? And maybe that peasant blouse you wanted to try?”

“Sure, thanks, but …” I was confused. “Shouldn’t I get, well, really dressed?”

“Honey, it’s a surprise, but casual. Now, skirt, blouse, shoes, purse, damp hair, let’s go!”

I was really baffled. I went to her closet and pulled out the peasant blouse. I’d always loved the look, either on the shoulder or off and went back to my room to dress. Obviously, it only took me a few moments to pull on my panties, bra, skirt, blouse, and cute black ballet flats. I looked at myself in the mirror, loved the blouse and denim miniskirt, brushed my hair a bit, and decided to borrow a scarf from Mom to cover my hair. She’d read my mind, producing a white embroidered head kerchief with ties. She put it on me, then handed me my new purse—a shoulder bag, really, with almost nothing in it but a little change purse.

She’d parked the car in the garage, so we backed out and headed into town. This was really the first time I’d ever been out in daylight, and I was nervous that the neighbors would see, but they didn’t. Mom chatted about nothing in particular, not telling me where we were going, and then began to talk about me.

“I was wondering about your future. The way I see it, you have two possible futures.” She paused.

“Yes? And they are?” I prompted, after a very long pause.

“As Bobby or as Ann. Right?”

I nodded, anxious to find out where this was headed.

“I know we talked about maybe letting you be a girl this summer.”

I got a clench in my stomach at the word ‘maybe’.

“I remember,” was all I could say.

“Well, I got to thinking, it’s not really about ‘being a girl for the summer’, is it? We both know this is your future, but you know Dr. Livingstone said we had to use this summer as the Real Life Test.”

“The RLT; I remember,” I said, still unsure where she was going with this.

“I’d say you already passed the test, in terms of ‘can you look like a girl?’ It’s not about looking;  it’s about being. So from now on, you will be my daughter; you are my daughter. We both know that, but we’ve got to go through this silliness of ‘testing’, you know?”

I nodded.

“Sit up, dear; knees together. Even in a car; just get used to it.” She chuckled. “Listen to me! I’m not the mother of a son anymore, I’m the mother of a pretty daughter. Which leads me to our destination today. And here it is!”

I’d been so intent on our discussion that I hadn’t noticed where we were. I looked up to see the sign ‘Rose of Ireland’, the beauty parlor where my mother had her hair done. There was a big ‘Closed for remodeling’ sign across the door, and the windows had white paper over them, blocking the view.

“What’s this, Mom? Aren’t they closed?”

“To the general public, yes. But not to special friends!” She parked and opened her door. “Come on, Ann, let’s go see Rose.”

Rose was the owner as well as one of my mother’s occasional bridge partners. Just as Mom knocked on the door, Rose opened it and startled us.

“Come in, come in, girls,” she smiled and winked at me. “Ann, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I feel like I’ve known you for a long time, and at last we meet!”

She extended her hand to us to enter, and I weakly smiled at Rose in a daze. The shop interior was definitely being remodeled, with white sheets draped over most of the fixtures, a sawhorse next to a stack of sheetrock, and a general messiness.

“Please excuse the mess; it should all be over in another two weeks. But you’ll be back East, so you’ll miss the grand opening. Now, Ann, let’s sit down for bit and get to know each other. I’ve got some fresh‑brewed tea, or you can have a soda.”

Mom and I asked for tea, and followed Rose to the rear of the beauty parlor to some uncovered sofas. Rose brought us our filled cups, and we sipped for a moment.

“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done,” Rose said, looking around at the construction mess. “Well, now it’s time to get serious. Then we have fun! Now, Ann, obviously I know about Bobby; and your Mom has told me about Ann. But I want to hear from you. What do you feel when you’re dressed as Ann?”

I thought for a moment, not sure if she wanted a specific answer; it was very much like talking with the psychiatrist. “Well, I feel relaxed. And excited at the same time, because I feel more real. Not excited like anything …kinky, but more like expectant, like I can do things. I don’t think I’m putting this very well.”

“Oh, very well, indeed. How long have you wanted to wear girls’ clothes?”

“Ever since I can remember wearing clothes. Wait; that’s not true—ever since I realized that there were different clothes for boys and girls. Since kindergarten, I guess.” I frowned. “But it’s not …the way you said it—‘how long have I wanted to wear girls’ clothes’, like ‘how long have you wanted to dress up like a superhero’.”

Both Mom and Rose chuckled; Mom was nodding because she understood where I was headed.

I said, “It’s just that …these are my clothes, you know? I wanted to wear the right clothes, I guess is what I mean.”

Rose nodded. “A fine answer; I fully understand. And you’re right, Ann; the way I’d asked it could have meant something else and thank you for straightening me out.” She nodded once again, like putting a period to the end of that subject, and on to another. “When you look at a bunch of kids at the mall, for instance both boys and girls, what do you feel?”

“Well, I look at the girls’ clothes, what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing them. I look at the boys to see if I know them, and if I know the girls, of course. Usually I just look at the girls.”

“I know this seems nosy, but it’s important. What do you think about when you look at the girls?”

“That’s easy. I wish I was one of them. If they look like they’re nice, I wish they were my girlfriends.”

“You mean like boyfriend-and-girlfriend?” Mom asked.

I knew she already knew the answer, but was asking for Rose’s benefit, so I didn’t protest. “No, like my friends. You know, to do things with. I’d be their girlfriend, too. I wish I was one of the girls. Just ... one of the girls.” I kind of ran out of words, so I took a sip of tea.

“Do you like boys? I mean, would you want to ... well—”

I looked up and right into her eyes. “Would I want to be romantic with a boy? No.” I could sense my mother’s raised eyebrow. “Not as a boy. If I was a girl—a normal girl—then, I think so …But not like I am now. Once I’m living as the girl I am, yes, I think.” Mom tensed up again and I looked at her. “I mean, it would be normal, right?”

Rose looked at my mother for a moment, then to me. “Let me ask you the million‑dollar question. If I had a magic wand and could magically transform you into anything you wished—a 100% normal boy who was happy being a boy or a 100% normal girl who was happy being a girl—which would you choose?”

“Girl. Right now. Absolutely. Got your wand ready? Do it!” I said with as much conviction as I could.

Rose and my mother were a little taken aback by my fervor. Rose asked simply, “Why?”

“Because that’s what I should have been all along. That’s what I am inside. That’s how I think, that’s how I see the world, and that’s how the world should see me. I’d be happier, Mom’d be happier.” I looked at her. “Well, you would, wouldn’t you?”

Rose and I looked at my mother, who stared at her tea cup for a moment. She took a long time answering.

“Yes.” She paused, and Rose and I let her take her time to answer. “I’d be happier. Not that I’m un‑happy, but, well, it would certainly make things easier at home, since the divorce, and ...” She, too, seemed to run out of words. Then she must’ve made up her mind, because she looked up from the tea cup with a new smile. “I was hedging. I’m sorry. So, to answer …Yes. You should have been a girl. And, I guess, you’re doing your best to be one, and I’m proud of you. Yes,” she said with enthusiasm, turning to Rose. “Wave your magic wand!”

I thought she was speaking metaphorically, but Rose surprised me.

“That’s settled then. Okay, Ann, you should know this. Over the years, I’ve helped many guys become gals; whether just for Halloween or something more ... personal. But I take special pride in helping a girl inside become a girl outside, and that happens few and far between. One night your mother told me about you—don’t get mad at her; I’d already sensed it and asked her point blank and I knew the struggle you had going on inside you. Your mom’s told me about letting you live as a girl this summer, and I’ve decided to help you. I want you to take a moment and go through some of these style magazines and pick out looks you like. Anything …hair, makeup, dresses, shoes, whatever anything so I can get a sense of what kind of style, and what kind of girl, you are. I’ll clean up here, chat with your Mom for a bit, and then we’ll start.”

In a daze I took the magazines, got more comfortable, and began looking through them. I already knew what I wanted, from reading Seventeen, Cosmo Girl, and other magazines. No leather or spandex or glitter, but no Peter Pan collars, either. Mom and Rose talked by the little sink in the back that served as a kitchen; every so often I might hear a word, usually a body part: ‘ears’, ‘eyes’, ‘lips’, and so on. I signaled that I’d made my choices, and they came over to look. I was pleased to see that my mom approved every one of them; after all, they weren’t radical or anything just outfits, hair, and makeup that you’d see in a Penney’s Juniors catalog. After all, I’d studied and envied the girls in those catalogs for years!

“Okay with you?” Rose asked my mother, pointing to a few pages I couldn’t see. Mom nodded. “Okay, Ann—by the way, is it Ann, Annie, what?”

“Rose, to tell you the truth, it’s so new to me that I haven’t really gotten a feeling for what I prefer. My best friend calls me Annie but Mom calls me Ann. Try whatever you feel like.”

Rose gave me a big smile. “Just don’t call me ‘Rosie’, okay?” I nodded. “Okay, Annie, get ready!”

She pointed to a changing room, handed me a gray smock and told me to strip to my lingerie. I removed my kerchief, skirt and blouse, and wrapped myself in the smock. When I emerged, she’d uncovered one of the chairs. I sat, leaned back, and she washed my hair and then conditioned it with some lovely smelling goop. Then she sat me up and began working. The whole time, we talked about hair, how I was doing in school, shoes, what the girls were like in school, makeup, what did I think of certain rock stars and movie stars, clothes, and so on. Mom read the magazines and looked up occasionally. I couldn’t read her expression; it seemed to carry equal parts of shock, amusement, amazement, concern, all at once.

Rose had been doing things with scissors and now was doing things with brushes, tin foil, and paints. After applying whatever it was (“Highlights” was all she said), she pulled her gloves off and sat down next to me. She swung a little tray out from under the covers next to her, and began doing my nails. She trimmed, filed, buffed, and then applied a shimmery clear polish and put my fingertips under a dryer. Telling me not to move, she went to the bathroom, then to the kitchen to brew some more tea. She came back, applied another coat, then went back to prepare her teacup. She came back once more, applied a clear topcoat, told me to leave my fingers in the dryer, while she pulled on new gloves and went back to work on my hair. Now she began talking about boys.

“The thing is, Ann, most girls have been dealing with boys since day one. That’s where you’ll have it a bit rough. Right from birth, girls are encouraged to like boys, to be pretty for boys, and to want boys to like them. You’ve spent most of your life being trained to do the exact opposite. Now, the Women’s Movement will have my head for this, but as much as a woman loves to be pretty for her own sake, we mostly like to be pretty for the men, and to get attention from them. Every time I hear a woman complain about men whistling at her, I know that deep down inside, she’d be complaining if they didn’t notice her!”

Mom laughed. “It’s true, honey. I was never as pretty as you are, so I just never had many wolf whistles—but you will!”

It felt very strange to have my mom talk about me so casually as ‘pretty’, but I also felt a great thrill inside. Rose kept working at my hair with a brush and her fingers, stepped back and examined me, and seemed satisfied. Then she focused on just above my eyes and frowned. She pulled out a tray of things and started dabbing some sort of goop on my eyebrows. I’d read about this and was steeling myself.

After checking and reaching ‘the time’, Rose gave me a regretful smile. “Gonna hurt a little, sweetheart.”

And rip!

Reading articles about waxing is not anything like the—rip! reality of it!

I was in shock and had tears in the corners of my eyes. Mom smirked.

Rose was sweet, though. “There, there, honey; it’s all over. Oops! ‘Cept for this one!”

I winced as she pulled one straggler out with tweezers. She put some soothing lotion on and I immediately felt better. Meanwhile, she studied my face and murmured, “So pretty!”

Next she started on my makeup; she got out a palette of sorts and brushes and went to work on my brows, doing the final plucking and shaping of them. She went on to do eyes, cheeks, and finally lips. It felt strange and wonderful and a little decadent to have somebody put on my makeup; my own first attempts had been pretty lame but always felt like an achievement. Rose talked to me as she stroked and brushed my face.

“I’m not doing anything radical for your makeup, and later I’ll tell you what I’ve done and you can practice so you can apply it yourself. But don’t be afraid to experiment! Part of the fun of being a pretty girl is experimenting with different makeup and ‘looks’. But at least you’ll have a good workable look to start with that you can use in almost any situation. Now, hold still.”

She seemed to pinch my earlobe, there was a coldness and a sting, and she did the other ear before I could react. I realized immediately what she’d done, but I felt a great warm happiness well up inside as I realized that Mom had just given her approval to piercing my ears and wearing earrings!

“Can I look? Please? I’ve just got to see everything you’ve done!”

Rose laughed and looked at my mom. “What do you think, Liz? Should we keep her in suspense, or let her see?”

“Oh, by all means, let her see. I know she’s dying to see your work!”

Rose spun me around in the chair, and I was absolutely stunned. Sitting in the chair in a gray smock, was a lovely young teenaged girl. Her hair was a warm brunette with reddish highlights that flowed over the ears and curled slightly behind. She had bright blue eyes and graceful, arched eyebrows. She had a warm blush tone on each cheekbone, and her lips were a raspberry gloss. Her face had the twinkle and natural beauty reminiscent of young Meg Ryan, I thought. When the girl raised her hand to feel her hair, her shimmery nails set off her delicate hands. From her ears winked two small gold studs. And best of all—she was me!  I couldn’t believe how pretty Rose had made me, and suddenly I felt pretty! I felt delightfully feminine, and forever and forever female.

“Oh, thank you, Rose! It’s beautiful! I mean, I’m beaut—I think it’s very pretty.”

Mom and Rose burst out laughing at my primness. Rose handed me a mirror, and spun the chair slowly so I could see her handiwork.

“Annie, you were right the first time—you are beautiful! Now the world will see just how beautiful you are inside and outside!” Mom said.

I looked at her with tears in my eyes. “Thank you, Mother. Thank you-thank you-thank you!”  I got up from the chair and went to hug her. She met me halfway and I saw she had tears, too. We sat there laughing and dabbing at our eyes.

Rose cleared her throat. “Darn good work, if I do say so myself. I wanted to give you a style that was easy to manage but unmistakably ‘girl’ and could never be mistaken for a boy. Annie, you could wear boots, jeans and a work shirt and no one would have a doubt that under all that you were a pretty girl! Now—if you two are done crying—Ann, your mother and I had a very serious discussion, and you and I need to go to the changing room.”

 I was curious and did as she asked me, but couldn’t resist the temptation to check myself out in every mirror on the way! Once we both got in the changing room, I noticed she held a box. She told me to remove the smock. Standing there in bra and panties didn’t feel as strange as it did before, now that I knew how feminine I looked from the shoulders up. I just wished that things were more feminine from the shoulders down!

“Now, Ann, this is very personal, but you probably already have done something with your private parts, am I right?”

I nodded. “The testicles are up inside me, and my …penis is tucked between my legs.”

She seemed a little surprised. “Wow! No moss on you! You didn’t waste any time. I’ve got to hand it to you; you’re such a natural girl that all this …half-way stuff must be terrible.”

“I’m used to it but will be glad when it’s over and I’m 100% girl.”

“Honey, you already are in all the ways that are important; I already know that about you. Well, I know that your mom gave you those old inserts of hers—I’d told her they wouldn’t keep him around,” she added under her breath. “And they look fine. I understand that your doctor has you on something and you may begin developing on your own; all I can say is ‘mazeltov!’ to you. But I do have something to help.” She opened a box from a shelf, muttering, “Makes me feel like the Wizard of Oz. Okay,” she opened the box to show a tiny piece of flesh-colored cloth. “This is called a gaff, or a dance belt, or a lot of other things. You can wear it …next to your skin, now that you’re already tucked, and it’ll keep your secret safe even under bikinis. Thongs are out, though!”

I laughed. “As if Mom would let me wear a thong!”

Rose gave me a knowing look. “Don’t be so sure those days aren’t coming sooner than you think! Anyway, there are three in this box, and take it as a gift from me.”

I thanked her and hugged her.

She patted my back. “If you have any questions any at all about girl things, give me a call. Talk to your mom, or give me a call. Okay? Ann, you’re a beautiful young girl, and I’m just glad I got to help you out on your wonderful journey. Oh, one last thing.” She reached in her pocket and took out a small box, which she opened and pulled out a delicate gold necklace. “I’d like to add a small part of myself to you, so I’d appreciate it if you’d wear this necklace of mine.”

“Oh, Rose, it’s beautiful, but I couldn’t possibly—”

”Yes, you can, because I say so. This is something above and beyond what your mother and I talked about for you. This is because you’re just such a beautiful young girl, and I feel good knowing you, so I want you to have this. Just accept gracefully and wear it in happiness.”

I didn’t know what to say; I was overwhelmed at her generosity and her skills. I only hoped that I could be as real with other people as I felt with her. The special moment had passed, so we chatted about things—real ‘girl talk’—as I dressed. She gave me some pointers on dressing, and threw in some tips on walking and sitting as we rejoined Mom on the sofa. Mom looked up from her magazine as we approached.

“Oh, my, Rose, you do have a magic wand! My word, she’s beautiful. I have a beautiful daughter! Oh, my!”

Rose and I burst out laughing. Then we were all laughing. Rose wished us a safe journey; I gave her a big hug and a kiss as we walked to the door, and then diplomatically went to the car as my mom lingered with Rose. Rather than quickly hiding in the car, I felt like a pretty girl standing outside, looking at the world. I knew that to anybody who happened to look at me, I was a pretty girl!

Mom came out and we waved at Rose as we got in the car. Then she turned to me.

“Well, let me see you in the daylight.” She leaned her head back to examine me critically, telling me to turn my head to the left or right. “My word, she does excellent work. But you know, Ann, as good as she is, you wouldn’t be as beautiful as she’s made you if you weren’t pretty to begin with. Now, now,” she held her hand up as I began to protest. “It’s true, so just accept it and say thank you gracefully. That’s a good rule in life, by the way: Decline once, then accept gracefully. Or gratefully—I forget which!”

We laughed some more; we were giddy with delight. Instead of heading home, she turned the car towards the mall.

“If you could possibly stand it, young lady, I think we could do with a spot of shopping.”

“Okay with me! For the first time, I really feel like I could pass in public without anyone noticing!”

“Oh, you’ll do more than just pass, Annie—you’ll turn heads and break hearts!”

End of Part 5