Cross-Country - Part 6 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 6

Chapter 12: The First Day’s Drive

The next morning we left early. I was wearing a red sleeveless top and white shorts with sandals that I could easily kick off on the long drive. We were taking Interstate 80 across the country and then up to Bennington, VT, where my grandmother lived. Mom was going to take it easy, doing about 400‑500 miles a day, so it would take us a week. The first 500 miles took us out of California and across most of Nevada. Most of the time I stayed in the car when we stopped for gas; but once I got out and pumped gas, and somebody actually whistled at me! I blushed and was incredibly happy, but had to cool it because Mom had a funny look.

We ended our first day in Elko, Nevada, hot and tired and dusty and dreading the next week’s driving. To save money, we were going to stay in motels like Motel 6 and Best Western. We found a Best Western with the typical wagon wheels half‑sunk in the dirt, with the brown grass area roped off by whitewashed chain that appeared frozen in place. The units were in a U shape, with a pool occupying the center. A small boy was bouncing on the diving board, and a bored‑looking girl sat on the edge of the pool, dangling her feet in the water and reading a magazine.

Mom checked us in; we pulled in front of our room and each brought in our two suitcases. We unpacked in the tiny, baking room, and I couldn’t help but hear the bounce‑splash sound from the pool. Mom finally told me to go ahead outside; it had to be cooler outside in the late afternoon than it was in our room.

By the time I walked outside, the boy was heading into a motel room with a woman I figured was his mother. The girl was still by the pool, and I wasn’t certain about what to do. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was still a Bobby voice, but I knew that because of Rose’s handiwork, I didn’t look like a Bobby.

Then I remembered the wolf-whistle when I’d pumped gas, and I grinned in spite of myself.

I was Ann. And I was a girl just like the girl at the pool, so I banished the dwindling Bobby-voice and walked up to her.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she answered back, not looking up from her magazine.

“Pretty hot,” I tried. Pretty lame, I thought.

“You should be here in August.”

“Well, I might be; that’s when we’re coming back.”

She looked at me for the first time. “Coming back here? Why?”

“I meant just coming back across the country. Maybe back here, if we take the same route.”

She thought about that for a minute and nodded. “I’m Amy.”

“I’m Ann,” I said, hoping that I sounded like I’d been saying it all my life.

She smiled and said wistfully, “I wish I was going cross country. ‘Course, I’d never come back here!”

I chuckled politely; it seemed proper. “Do you live here?” She nodded. “Is it really so bad?” She nodded again.

“You bet your ass. It sucks. Nothing to do. See what I’m doing here? Lifeguarding a kid. That’s my summer. I can’t even get a job in town with my friends because Dad says I have to work here; ‘It’s our family business, we’ve all got to pull together’. It means he doesn’t have to pay me very much. It sucks.”

“I’m ... sorry to hear that. I don’t know what to say.”

“Where’re you from?”

“Just outside San Francisco. We’re going to spend summer with my grandma in Vermont.”

“From sea to shining sea, right?”

I nodded, chuckling again. Because I’d looked at maps, I knew that Bennington was still 200 miles from the Atlantic, but I wasn’t going to be a smart-ass. Her comment was pretty cool, actually. I figured that she was pretty smart, and very restless. She was also quite pretty; about fourteen; she was developing some very nice curves under her cut‑offs and T‑shirt that read ‘Lifeguard’. She had dirty blonde hair loosely tied back, and already her tan was nicely brown. I thought I might have been looking at her too long, and looked at the pool, instead.

“Want to swim? Go ahead. We have a lifeguard, you know!” she laughed, and I laughed with her.

“I’d love to, but ... uh, my suit’s packed and all ...” Actually, I didn’t have a suit.

“That’s a dumb place to put your suit. Go get it.”

“Okay, you got me; I lied. As soon as we pulled in here and saw your pool, I remembered that I’d forgotten to pack the darn thing. I don’t want Mom to know, because we had a hassle about me being able to pack for the summer.” None of this was true; I just had never needed a swimsuit before and we hadn’t thought to get one.

Amy got up from the pool edge. “That’s okay. We’re about the same size; you can borrow one of mine.” She stretched and so she didn’t see the worried look on my face. “I’m ready to bag the lifeguarding for today, so I’m entitled to a dip. Come on, let’s go.”

She put up a sign reading “No Lifeguard On Duty” and walked out of the pool area. I followed her across the dying lawn to the back of the manager’s office. It was nicely air‑conditioned and surprisingly well‑appointed with real furniture; I don’t know why I expected motel furniture. I followed Amy to her room, wondering if this was such a good idea. She had a nicely decorated room; not as feminine as Jane’s, and with several posters of sports stars—mostly hockey players, I noticed. She noticed me looking at them.

“It’s silly, I know, but the one thing we don’t have around here is ice. And let’s face it,” she said with a wicked grin, “before they get their teeth knocked out, some of them are very cute! Do you follow hockey?”

I shook my head.

“Check out this guy with the Rangers. And look at the hair on this guy; too bad it’s mashed under a helmet. He’s with Vancouver. Oh well. I’ll never get to meet them. Here’s my suits; take your pick.”

She pointed to a drawer that had nearly a dozen suits; suddenly I got freaked at what I was going to try to do. I started to shake my head, but she picked up a multicolored suit; I knew from catalogs that it was a ‘maillot’ and offered it to me.

“Here, try this one. It should fit, and I think the color will look good on you.” She flopped down on the bed and thumbed through a magazine.

“Uh ...” I didn’t know if she expected me to strip right there.

She looked up from the magazine. “Oh, I’m sorry! Bathroom’s over there. Uh ... you’re not having your period, are you?”

I laughed and shook my head before I realized that I could’ve used that for an excuse.

“Well, hurry up, then. It’ll start cooling off real soon. Besides, I’m supposed to be guarding,” she looked out her window at the pool, “not that there’s anybody needing it.”

I went into the bathroom and stripped, folding my clothes neatly. I caught a glimpse of a girl in the mirror and realized with a start that it was me. I guess I’d been so busy with the end of school and getting ready for the trip that I hadn’t really checked my reflection lately. My skin had gotten softer and smoother, and I appeared, well, rounder than before. My nipples seemed a bit bigger, and there was a puffiness to them. I was still a long way off from having actual breasts, but I was so glad to see that it was finally going to happen! My penis had gotten used to staying between my legs; that is, I didn’t have to clamp it in place with the gaff all the time; usually I could keep it in place with panties.

I pulled the suit on, and she was right that it would fit nicely, and the blue-and-green colors flattered me, I think. It was amazing to be standing there in a girl’s swimsuit. My penis was invisible in the fabric design, and the puffy breast area was slightly emphasized by the cups of the suit. I don’t know why I hadn’t gotten a swimsuit before, but I realized that I’d need one. Maybe I’d get one just like this one; I didn’t think I was secure enough for a two‑piece. I walked out, holding my clothes.

“Fantastic! I was right about that suit. Don’t need caps. Let’s go hit the beach!” She grabbed a couple of towels and I followed her out of her room and back to the pool. Crossing the parking lot, I was really self‑conscious that everybody was staring at me. Of course, that was silly, since there was almost nobody around; there were only two other cars besides ours and not a soul in sight.

We entered the pool area; I tossed my clothes down on a lounge and jumped in after her. I felt fantastically free for some reason. I think it had to do with the girl’s swimsuit, the feel of the water, my hair floating around me, or maybe that I’d made friends with a girl who knew me only as a girl. Whatever it was, I was deliriously happy.

“Hey, Annie!” Amy called out. I looked over and she splashed me and laughed, then swam quickly to the other side of the pool and slid out of the water as slickly as a seal. Sitting on the edge, she tossed her hair, then reached around behind her and grabbed a life ring. She tossed it to me and said, “There I’ve saved your life. Now you owe me!”

I pulled myself up and into the ring and floated there, tilting my head back and hanging my hair in the water, feeling the sun on my face. Amy turned on a radio that I hadn’t noticed on the pool deck. I turned and watched her flop down on a lounge chair, pull up another magazine (about hockey, I noticed), and start to veg.

We stayed like that for a long time, her reading and me floating; then I got too hot and rolled off the life ring into the cool water. Suddenly I was aware of someone else standing at the pool railing. I shielded my eyes from the sun with my hand, and saw an older woman.

“Are you guarding or not?”

Amy looked up casually from her magazine. “Sure, Mom. This is Ann. She’s a guest.”

Amy’s mother’s attitude changed a little once she realized I was a guest; she actually smiled. “Oh, I thought you were somebody from town. My Amy’s got a suit just like that one.”

I was a bit embarrassed. “It is Amy’s, ma’am. I’m sorry. I forgot to pack one. She was nice enough to lend it to me.” I felt caught in the middle of a family scene that I’d caused.

Instead, Amy’s mom surprised me by laughing. “That’s okay. I’ve forgotten toothbrushes, maxi pads, you name it. Well, if she doesn’t mind, I certainly don’t. But don’t throw the life ring, Amy; the county says it’s got to be hung and visible, not floating in the pool.”

“Okay, Mom. I just thought Ann’d like to float for awhile and we don’t have any floats around.”

“Oh, thinking of the guests, were you?” She laughed again. “I guess I can’t argue with that. Well, float away, then. Just put it back on the wall if anybody else comes around.” She turned to leave.

Amy leaned down and asked me quickly what I was doing for dinner. I didn’t know and told her, and she called after her mother. “Mom, is it okay if Ann has dinner with us?”

I tried to address both of them. “I’ve got to ask my mother “

Just then Amy’s mom looked past us and said, “Amy, get the ring on the wall. We’ve got company.”

I quickly pushed it to the side and was about to flip it onto the deck when I turned to look and saw my mom walking toward the pool. I could tell she was a bit confused; she knew it was me floating in the middle of the pool, but didn’t know about the suit. I tried to ease her into the situation.

“Mom, hi! I’ve just made friends with Amy and her mom. They own the motel. They were just inviting me to dinner.”

Amy’s mother jumped in. “The invitation is for the both of you. I don’t know if you had any dinner plans, but as a native I’ve got to tell you that no matter what your AAA guide says, there’s very little choice around here. So, every so often we head down the road to an outdoor cafe with the best barbecue I’ve ever had. You’re more than welcome to join us.”

Mom picked right up, bless her. “That sounds lovely. Thank you! I was just coming to get Annie so we could go find a Denny’s or something, but there’ll be plenty of Denny’s ahead for us.” We all chuckled. “If it’s not an imposition?”

“Not at all. The girls seemed to have hit it off, and Amy gets so bored out here. There’s almost nobody of her age around. Well, we’ll leave at seven; you can follow us or squeeze into our car.”

The moms discussed plans in more detail. I handed the ring to Amy, and she put it back on the wall, then turned and gave me a wicked look. She held up her hockey magazine so only I could see it, and I realized it was full of naked men.

“Must be hung and visible, isn’t that what she said? How’s this for hung and visible?”

I burst out with a nervous laugh and sank under the water again. Mainly to drown my laugh, but also to hide my blush—and the sudden burst of warmth I’d felt. I was startled by how quickly I’d become aroused by the photo. More to think about ...

I slipped out of the pool and grabbed a towel, wrapping it quickly around me. I could see Mom out of the corner of my eye, watching me while she talked to Amy’s mom. I flipped my head down then up to throw my hair back, and pulled it back over my shoulders. I hadn’t realized how long it was getting, but all the moves just felt right, somehow. I walked over to the two mothers, and it was agreed that we’d follow them to the barbecue place. Once my hands were dry, I picked up my clothes and followed Mom across the parking lot to our room. I put the clothes on the bureau, went into the bathroom to shower.

“Wait, could you come back for a moment?” Mom called. Puzzled, I did, holding the towel in front of the suit.

“Honey, hang the towel on the door; I want to see you in that bathing suit.”

I did so, inwardly smiling at the older term.

“Turn around, please. Slower; that’s it. Hmm.” She studied me for a moment; I had no idea what was going on. “Okay; take your shower, and be sure to rinse out the suit and hang it so we can return it nicely.”

“Mom, what is it?”

She was distracted; she seemed to focus past me onto the wall. Then she shook herself and smiled rather sadly, I thought. “Nothing. Don’t worry. Take your shower, honey, we have to get ready.”

I stepped in and took the shower, first with the suit, then I removed it, rinsed it thoroughly and hung it on a hook before I continued with the shower with soap. When I was done, I stepped out of the steamy bathroom with a towel wrapped around my chest, brushing my hair.

Mom was sitting almost as she’d been before; I was getting a little bit worried. I hoped she wasn’t having a medical problem, and I sure hoped she wasn’t having second thoughts about me being Ann. What she said next startled me.

“Honey ... Ann ... you are turning out to be a beautiful girl. But you know that.”

“No, Mom, I don’t ... think that.” Inwardly I was thrilled.

“This ... experiment. The Real Life Test. I think it’s largely over.”

I nearly froze in place. I may have started to shake with fear, I was that upset. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, there’s been so many changes going on in the last few months that maybe ...”

“Mom, if you’re going to say that this was a bad idea and that I’ve got to go back to being Bobby ... I don’t know what I’ll do!”

She smiled a very sad smile. “No, no, that’s just it. I think that it just hit me for the first time that for all intents and purposes, Bobby is ... gone. Forever. I’ve been going along with you and Dr. Livingstone—although I wasn’t being untruthful; I really do think you are 100% girl—but there was always the question in the back of my mind that somehow, some way, this might be only a temporary thing, you know? Not that I wanted it, but that I’d keep my mind open to whatever was best for you. As a mother, I have to keep that open, or had to, but I think I’m finally coming to grips with it. I absolutely know now, deep in my heart, that I have a daughter. But there’s this lingering feeling of …It’s hard for a mother to accept; in a way I feel like Bobby has died somehow.”

I had never thought of it that way before! Tears welled up in my eyes. Despite the towel, I went to her and kneeled next to her, taking her hands in mine. “Mom, I never, never, never wanted to cause you any pain.”

“I know, honey,” she said, patting my hand. “But understand I’ve had nearly fifteen years of raising a boy, and I can’t help the thought if I’ve failed somehow or—”

”No, not failed! Not at all! The important things are there; I’m honest and loyal and all that Boy Scout stuff—” At her look I almost laughed. “Excuse me; Girl Scout stuff! I think I’m a pretty good person, and isn’t that what counts as being a good parent? The only thing is, this is not about you at all. It’s what’s been inside my head and heart since birth. You can’t change that anymore than you could change the color of my eyes; you’re not responsible for that, so don’t beat yourself up about it, please?”

She chuckled ruefully. “Well, if you put it that way, and since you are so honest and all ...” We both giggled with relief. “Oh, my baby, you don’t understand. I’m overjoyed to have my darling daughter Ann! I really am! But I’ve had many years with Bobby, and now I know he’s not coming back. Right?” She looked deeply and seriously into my eyes.

I smiled at her with as much confidence as I could. “Right. I guess Bobby’s ... dead. Or retired,” I quickly amended, seeing her stricken look.

“Yes, maybe that’s it. Retired. Like a sports jersey for a superstar. I like that! Oh, Annie, are you sure? Are you really sure?”

“Yes, absolutely. I couldn’t be more definite. Mom, I just feel better being Ann. I feel more ... me. It’s as simple as that. It’s like Bobby was closed off from the world, and always afraid. I mean, really, how many friends did I have?”

“None, really. And I thought you were just solitary, but you were pretty lonely.” I nodded. “But now, look at you. First day out and right away you make friends with—what’s her name, Amy? Just like you’ve been a girl all of your life. Getting her to loan you a suit and now we’re invited to dinner—oh, dear,” she stood up quickly. “We’ve got to scurry if we’re going to make it! Well, then. Here; I’ve got something special for you.”

As I stood up, she reached into her suitcase and produced a pill bottle; when I read the label, it was beyond my wildest dreams—it was a prescription for female hormones, and my name was on the label!

“Oh, mother, this is fantastic! But when ...?”

“Well, right after your last checkup, just before we left.”

For several months I’d been taking androgen blockers prescribed by Dr. Livingstone. They’d basically halted any further male development, but she’d told me that by doing that, they’d also allow the female hormones (normally secreted in small amounts in an average male) to be more pronounced. Part of the therapy was seeing just how far my body would change (if at all) without any additional female hormones.

The last week of school, Dr. Livingstone checked me out and said she was pleased with the changes so far. My skin had softened some, and my hair had a much softer texture. There was some shifting of my body fat—I was actually starting a waist and curves and getting that wonderful puffiness around my nipples! My nipples themselves had darkened slightly and looked like they were bigger; she said that was exactly right. So, she said that my body seemed to like the estrogen it was already producing. Heck, I could have told her that! I hadn’t had any crying jags or moodiness and Dr. Livingstone said that my body should do well with more estrogen in my system. She was interested in my body development catching up with a normal girl’s my age—once the Real Life Test was over at the end of summer.

Mom told me that Dr. Livingstone had actually given her the prescription already, and my mom had filled it! Dr. Livingstone said that she’d leave it up to Mom when to begin the dosage, figuring that since we were going away, at some point Mom would make the decision whether to continue or end ‘the test’. As far as we were concerned, it was over. Completed. Scores were in, and the winner was Ann!

“Omigod, Mom, do you know what this means?”

“Yes, dear. It means I’m going to have a beautiful, happy daughter.”

“I love you, Mom!”

“I love you, too, hon—”

There was a knock at the door and Mom opened it to see Amy. She was wearing a pair of pink gingham shorts and a red halter top. With her tan she looked as ready for summer as possible.

“My mom said I should tell you to dress casual, ‘cause it’s a barbecue.”

Mom smiled at her. “We were just going through our suitcases trying to figure out what to wear.”

I pulled a dress out and held it in front of me, turning to Amy. “Too dressy for a barbecue?” Amy nodded. “That’s what we thought.” I put it back.

“It’s nothing fancy. Just dress casual, you know?”

“Okay, I guess just a shirt and shorts ...?” I looked at Mom.

Mom frowned a little. “Amy, I really think Ann should wear a dress. After all, we are the guests, and it’s our first meeting with your friends and family—”

“—and Miss Manners would die if we didn’t!” I said, and we all laughed.

Amy nodded. “Yeah, I understand. Well, I just wanted you to be comfortable. But nothing fancy, or my mom will make me change! Ready in five?”

We agreed, Mom handed her a plastic bag with the rinsed swimsuit, and Amy headed back to her home. I wasn’t sure what to wear; some of the clothes we’d bought for the trip were so new that I really didn’t know what we had. Mom suggested I keep the sandals on and wear a dark blue sundress that had pink and red cabbage roses on it; she said it would hide any spills—but I wouldn’t be eating ribs like a boy, I knew that! As the dress slipped over my head, it truly did feel like a rite of passage somehow. When I spun in front of the mirror, I only had to see the huge smile on Mom’s face to know that she totally accepted me. Not just accepted me; she totally accepted me as a female from now on.

“So. The pills. Are you sure you want me to start them?”

“Well, do what you think is right, but, yes, I do. I want you to have the most normal, natural girlhood possible.”

I hugged her, went to the bathroom, unwrapped one of the glasses, filled it with water and opened the pill bottle. So much depended on these pills, I thought. Even more than the androgen blockers, because those could be discontinued and my body would swing back to ‘normal’ development for a boy. But these pills …these were the direct route to female, with no way back. I was at a fork in the road, and here was a signpost, and I had absolutely no doubt it was the direction I wanted to take. I shook the dosage out and swallowed the pills.

I wish I could say that I suddenly became a total girl, but of course that didn’t happen. No Rose’s magic wand. It was silly and irrational, but just swallowing them made me feel slightly more feminine; I know it was all in my head. But I did feel fully confident that I was doing the right thing—that I was correcting a biological error.

“Mom? I want you to know that love you, and I want to be your daughter.” Just the way I said the words ‘your daughter’ let her know how serious I was. “And no matter what happens, I always was your daughter and will always be your daughter.”

“Until some boy swoops along and—”

We both realized the magnitude of what she’d said. Everybody around me was beginning to treat me naturally as a girl, and that meant that I’d have healthy female appetites for the opposite sex, which now was male.

“Maybe we should ...”

“... cross that bridge when we come to it? Yes, Mom.” I felt like I was somehow guilty of a crime I hadn’t committed—yet

Mom reached out, straightened my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “I see a beautiful girl. Any red‑blooded American boy is going to see a beautiful girl. And I want that beautiful girl to do whatever feels natural, comfortable and safe with that red‑blooded boy. Understand? Whatever feels natural,  she repeated.

I nodded, still feeling guilty. “Yes, I understand. Well, it’s only the second day of a long summer. Let’s not start counting chickens, or something.”

“Fair enough, but I want you to understand that I want you to be happy, and if that means dating boys, then so be it. Understood?

“Understood. But don’t worry; with all this traveling, and visiting Grandma, the likelihood of boys is mighty slim.”

Amy knocked at the door, and Mom and I gave a final quick hug and grabbed our purses.

End of Part 6