Pigtails Are for Girls -- Part 18

Pigtails Are For Girls — Part 18
Chapter 39 
 
By Katherine Day
 
Jane finds great joy now as a lovely teen girl; she’s popular and successful, but is missing what she needs the most —
the love and affection of the love of her life. It’s an impossible love, yet she strives anyway.

With great thanks to Julie for her careful editing and ideas
Copyright 2009

Chapter 39: A Busy Girl

“I don’t know how you do it, Jane,” Heather said on Saturday in March as the two took a break from their work at Claudine’s.

“Stuff just has to get done, Heather,” was Jane’s simple explanation.

“But look what you’re taking on! The JANE / USA campaign is in full swing, you’re working on the Easter egg hunt, the spring edition of Odyssey is due, you’re looking for colleges and you need to study,” said Heather, rattling off the list in rapid-fire fashion. “You’ll die of exhaustion!”

“No, I like all this activity, Heather, I really do,” Jane said, playing with one of her pigtails as she spoke. She usually wore pigtails at the store, often putting on one of the fashions she had designed, even if they were for 13-year-old girls.

“No wonder you’re so thin. Maybe I should get so busy; I might lose some weight.”

The two girls laughed. It was true: Jane was now down to under 115 pounds which made her look so thin and fragile at her 5’7” of height. Yet, she seemed to have boundless energy. And, Heather had recently hit 160 pounds, and had developed a voluptuous figure on her 5’10” frame.

Jacques had tried to shield Jane from much attention during the JANE / USA campaign, but the news that Jane the designer was once Jarod the boy had sparked tremendous interest in Jane. The constant barrage of offers were fielded through the company’s public relations firm, but that didn’t stop reporters from local newspapers or free lance writers and producers from various media from trying to track her down at school or at Claudine’s.

Finally, Jacques was persuaded by the public relations company to permit Jane to go to Chicago to appear in an exclusive interview by television’s top-rated afternoon talk show, hosted by the eminently respected Olivia. The TV producer agreed that the interview would be conducted with good taste, that Jane would model several of the outfits in the JANE / USA line and that Jane would be accompanied by her mother, Nancy.

“I don’t want to be treated as a freak,” Jane told the representative of the public relations firm. “I’m just a high school girl. That’s all.”

The representative said Jane’s story was unique and that her transition would be covered, but that it would be done in an understanding manner. There would be a gender specialist on the show, who would explain how girls like Jane developed, the representative, a pert short girl with obviously dyed long blonde hair named Naomi, explained.

Jane received prolonged applause when she was introduced on the Olivia show the following Wednesday in a taping in Chicago. Jacques and Nancy drove her to the show, with Nancy following Jane onto the interviewees couch. More than 12 million viewers would be watching, Jane was told, adding to her nervousness.

“I want to assure parents,” Jane said as the interview began, “That our fashion line is aimed at promoting the dignity and beauty of the young teen girl. We will try to provide attractive clothes in a very modest style.”

“Don’t you think the young teen girl wants to be a bit more revealing, Jane?” The question from Olivia, the popular TV host, was accompanied on screen by photos of Jane herself in the clothes she modeled during the “Pigtail” campaign four years earlier.

“Not all girls want to be walking around like sluts,” Jane answered directly and with a sharp rebuke in her tone. “I think many girls will be attracted to this line of clothes because they are designed to make them look chic and pretty. You know girls in our early teen years are terribly self-conscious and we want clothes that will flatter us and make our real beauty show.”

“I agree, Jane,” Olivia prompted. “But how can you speak for young teen girls? As I understand it, you were still a boy named Jarod then.”

Nancy, Jane’s mother, interrupted, and in a firm voice said: “She was always a girl. She may have still worn boy clothes, but believe me she was always a girl.”

As the discussion continued, photos of Jane appeared on the screen: There was one of Jarod in a pink baby doll dress and his hair in pigtails, playing with the neighbor’s little girls on the swing set; another showed Jarod in his soccer uniform, looking fragile and slender next to a healthy looking Wanda; there was another face shot of Jarod at age seven, his hair long and looking very sweet.

“You were a very pretty child,” the famous interviewer said. “And you always felt you were a girl?”

“For as long as I could remember,” Jane replied.

The show ended with the gender specialist explaining in almost boring terms how a child could be born with male physical attributes might feel like a girl.

“Jane,” Olivia said, her words accompanied by her world famous smile “I am so impressed with you today. You were honest and direct. I like that, and I could see you even knew how to keep the interview from going into the more racy topics. Very good.”

“I’ve been tested all my life to defend who I am, and I finally decided to not hide anything and to live as the girl and woman I truly am,” Jane said. There was even a bit of anger in Jane’s voice as she spoke to this TV star.

The television interview was a huge hit; it had been promoted widely and was the highest rated show on daytime television that week. The producers, however, were not overjoyed, Jane later learned. She had prevented them from getting into the more salacious topic of sex changes; in fact, her straight-forward manner had brought a bit of respectability to the topic. That, they feared, would stifle listeners to stay and watch, and thus ruin advertising revenue.

Yet, stories of the interview appeared everywhere, and there were television talk shows consumed with stories about transgendered girls and boys. USA Today made their big story of the day on transgendered girls, featuring a huge picture of Jane taken as she sat at lunch one day in the food court talking with Heather. It showed Jane in her trademark pigtails, wearing a sleeveless summer dress with a floral design and long flowing skirt, and the heading, “Really, she’s still a boy!”

“I didn’t even know that picture was taken,” Jane protested to Heather that day as they looked at the newspaper.

“I didn’t either,” the other girl said.

“It makes me feel like a celebrity with the paparazzi after me,” Jane giggled.

“I was thinking the same, Jane. And who knows where they got that old picture of you modeling clothes when you first started here?”

Jane looked at the picture, smiling as she recalled how cute she looked at that age when she was still being Jarod but masquerading as Jane for the modeling work.

“You know, Jane, we were all so jealous of you,” Heather continued. “You were easily the prettiest and with the most perfect figure to be a model.”

“Heather, you don’t know how important you were to me,” Jane said. “I knew the other girls didn’t like me, but I always wanted to like them. Some days I didn’t even want to come to model, because of how mean some of the girls were, but you always were nice to me. I needed that so much then.”

For her own, Heather had become a successful assistant manager at Claudine’s and Jacques was considering putting her in charge of a new store he was planning to open along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Also, Heather and Wanda were becoming inseparable, with Wanda putting Heather through the same physical workout she did with Jarod to strengthen his puny muscles. In Heather’s case, it meant she had lost 15 pounds and was re-emerging as the pretty young woman she always was.

*****
As spring continued, sales for JANE / USA skyrocketed. Jacques had set up a royalty contract for Jane so that earning from her designs would continue to flow for years to come. Until she turned 21, she would receive a regular allowance (as long as earnings warranted it) that would permit her to attend a first rate university and cover most of her needs. In addition, Jacques promised, there would be sufficient funds to complete Jane’s transition, including hair removal procedures, some minor facial surgery, breast implants and, finally, the sexual reassignment surgery.

“You’ve been so kind to me, daddy,” she told her stepfather, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Honey,” Jacques demurred, “I’m giving you nothing you didn’t deserve. You must remember, dear, it was you who first brought your mother and me together, and you who first got the pigtail campaign going and you who helped make the opening of the factory possible.”

“But, daddy,” she protested. “You made it all happen. You took the risk.”

“OK, but let’s just say we make a good team.”

They both laughed. Jacques had taken Jane out for a father-daughter dinner at a first class seafood restaurant along the Lake Michigan shore on a night when Nancy was teaching a night class.

“People are looking at us, daddy,” Jane whispered. “Do they recognize me from the stories?”

“Maybe, honey, but I think they may be thinking: what’s that old man doing with the pretty young lady? And, then they’re winking and giggling about it.”

“You think so, daddy?” she asked.

They both laughed.

As they completed the meal, a man dressed elegantly in a black tuxedo approached, identifying himself as Paul English, the owner and manager of the popular restaurant. He spoke formally to Jacques:

“Mr. Marcineau, I just wanted you to know how pleased we are to have you joining us for dinner tonight, and your lovely daughter, Jane.”

“Thank you Paul. We’re sorry if we’re a distraction for your customers.”

“Not at all Mr. Marcineau. We’re so proud of Jane, too. She was so adorable on the Olivia show.”

“Thank you Mr. English,” Jane said, as the manager picked up her hand in an Old World manner, kissed the hand.

“Jane and Mr. Marcineau, the business community here so needed a shot in the arm and we wish your new factory and designs will help us out. We really are grateful.”

The restaurant had grown silent, as all eyes were on the meeting at the Marcineau table, and the restaurant manager realized what had happened. He turned to face the rest of the room, announcing in a stage voice:

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you some special guests for the evening: Jacques Marcineau and his lovely daughter, Jane.”

Applause rippled through the room, and Jacques and Jane, rose from their seats and nodded their heads in appreciation. Jane’s face became a deep red, as she was still not used to the adulation she was receiving.

*****
The new notoriety did mean also that Jane again became the focus of attention just about everywhere: in school, at Claudine’s and just walking in the mall. It meant more hate mail from the groups who opposed transexuality as well as gay and lesbian rights in general.

In bed the night of the restaurant incident, Jane wondered whether Marquise had seen either her Olivia interview or the stories in the newspapers. Her thoughts alternately shifted from: “Maybe he’ll understand me now,” to “He’ll hate me forever.” Then her mind would change again: “I should just forget him. He’ll never love me.” The excitement over her notoriety had brought new stress into her life, causing her to toss and turn for what seemed hours before finally falling asleep.

On the weekend following the Olivia interview, Jane and Heather were interrupted during their lunch break at Claudine’s as they sat munching on celery and carrots in a lounge pit in the mall. The eating regimen was part of Heather’s new campaign to lose weight, a campaign Jane was only too happy to support.

“Hi, I’m Tom,” the boy standing over them said. He was moderately tall, with a rugged handsomeness that seemed to match his light brown hair. “Remember me, we played volleyball on the beach last summer?”

“Oh yes,” Heather replied, even before Jane had a good look at the young man.

“May I join you?”

“Sure, it’s a public place,” Jane replied, maybe in a more tart tone than she should have used. A second glance stirred her memories of their brief meeting last summer, and she remembered falling into his arms as she ineptly tried to play volleyball. The picture in her mind maybe embarrassed her a bit.

“I saw you on Olivia’s show,” Tom said, looking directly at Jane as he sat on a nearby bench.

“Oh?”

“And I said, that’s the girl from the beach. I remembered her, and then I found out you worked at Claudine’s so today I wondered if you might be there. And her you are.”

“And here I am,” she said sarcastically.

“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” Tom said, getting up quickly and preparing to leave.

“No stay. Sit down,” Heather said. “She’s just been getting so much attention these days.”

Jane realized two things suddenly: I’ve been rude and I like this boy.

“Jane,” the boy began, “I really respect what you’re doing. You know I wanted to know you better the first time I saw you. I even asked Caleb to set up a date with you through Heather.”

“I remember, Tom, and I’m sorry, I’m just not ready to date boys yet,” Jane said. “What we said about my mother not wanting me to date is true. You know, due to my special situation.”

“Do you really have a boy friend like you said?”

“Kinda,” she replied, blushing.

Tom, wisely recognizing it was an awkward conversation to mention another “boy friend,” said nothing more about it.

“But we can be friends, can’t we?” he finally said.

“Sure,” Jane said. “We can talk sometime again, and you can contact me by email.”

The two shared emails. Tom was a second year student at the community college where Jane’s mother taught, and also had been active in the primary election campaign in Wisconsin for Barack Obama. He worked parttime for his father’s construction company and was hoping eventually to finish his college at the University in Milwaukee.

“He’s a hard-working boy,” Heather said. “Caleb told me all about him, when he was trying to date you.”

Caleb had dated Heather a few times after their summer meeting, and Tom had urged his friend to set up several double-dates that would have included Jane. Jane always turned down the overtures, not because she didn’t like Tom (whom she hardly knew) but because she still feared the consequences that might occur when a boy would discover her former gender. Heather broke off her relationship with Caleb, partly because she never felt a strong attraction for the younger boy, but most likely due to her realization that her true affection had grown for Wanda.

*****
“Mother, can you help me do my hair?” Jane asked one quiet Sunday afternoon, after entering the kitchen where Nancy was reading the Sunday paper and sipping coffee.

Nancy looked up from her coffee to see her daughter wearing only a pair of cotton panties with a design of tiny light blue and pink bunnies cavorting across the white cloth.

“Oh Jane,” Nancy said in a rebuking tone. “You shouldn’t prance about the house half nude like that.”

“Why not? It’s just you and me here today.”

That was true. Jacques was gone for the weekend, attending a fashion manufacturer’s convention in Philadelphia. She had seen her daughter’s naked body many times before, and always marveled at how slender and feminine she had become. Her arms, shoulders and back were smooth and almost porcelain in appearance. Her tiny breasts bore round, protruding pink nipples. She had the body of a girl, it was obvious, with wide hips and lovely legs. How this girl could ever have been a boy mystified Nancy.

“Ok, Jane, I’ll be in with you in a minute. Then, dear, we can have a regular mother-daughter day, doing our hair and nails and the whole works.”

“Oh mommy, I’ll love that!” The girl leaned down to give her mother a hug.

“Go on with you,” Nancy said, laughing pushing the girl away.

They hadn’t had a mother-daughter day for a long time; both Nancy’s teaching schedule and Jane’s many activities, plus her work at Claudine’s had kept them both busy. In fact, Nancy realized that Jacques actually spent more time with Jane than she did. Jacques drove her regularly back and forth to Milwaukee for work, and the two had developed a healthy father-daughter relationship.

Later that day, Jane showed her mother how far she had gotten on Melissa’s wedding dress, and since her mother was about the same size as the future bride, Jane suggested she try it on.

“Melissa’s coming for a fitting on Wednesday night, mom, and I’d like to see if I need to make any changes before she comes,” Jane said.

Actually the dress likely would be slightly too big for Nancy, since Melissa, despite her weight loss, still had a larger figure.

“It’s lovely, Jane,” her mother said, after she had put it on and the two examined the fitting in a full-length mirror.

“I hope she likes it, mom. She’s really such a sweet person, and I want her to look so pretty.”

When the fitting was done, Nancy looked at her daughter, marveling at the energy the girl displayed in spite of the growing fragility of her body. Jane seemed to be constantly on the move, combining all of her schooling with the clothing manufacturing and the activities at school. Even so, she was concerned about her daughter’s health, noticing that the girl had dropped to under 110 pounds, far too little for a 5’7” frame. She was wearing size 4 in misses sizes.

*****
“We need to think about where you’re going to college Jane?” Nancy said to her daughter as the fitting was done.

“I know mom,” Jane said, neatly putting away the extra cloth and materials from the fitting session.

Jane had been offered a full scholarship at a renowned fashion design school in Philadelphia; the dean of the Dress-making Department had visited the Douglas plant of JJ Industries and was excited to see Jane’s talent and skills at work.

“You still could be a model, too,” she told Jane during her visit in February. “But, I think you’re right to work on your design skills.”

She was aware, of course, that Jane was still in transition to womanhood, but felt it would matter little, given the talents the girl exhibited.

“You are so much a female, Jane, I can’t imagine you ever as a boy,” she said. “Besides you’ve made this transition with dignity. You’ll be an asset to our school.”

The dean had arranged for Jane to visit the school, and Jacques was planning to take her the following Thursday and Friday.

“Mom, I’m not sure I want to study fashions and designs,” Jane said.

“Why, honey? You love designing clothes and sewing, and you’re even good at the business side. Jacques said you really understand the business.”

“I know, and I love dressmaking. Remember when I made dresses for Emily and Angela?” she said, referring to the two young girls of their former neighbor, Amy.

“And you don’t want to do it anymore?”

“Not as a career, mom. I might like to go to law school or study social work.”

“Why, honey? You got a ready-made place to return to here when you graduate. Jacques will want you back for sure.”

“I know, and I love Jacques. You know that. But, mom, I’ve seen so many problems out in the world; I just think fashion-designing is OK, but I feel I want to do something that more directly helps people.”

“Oh?” her mother responded, mystified by her daughter’s apparent change of heart.

“Yes, mom, I’ve been talking with Latoya and Tiffany a lot about this, and they all think I could be good in working with people.”

“But, honey. You’ve been dealing with dresses and clothes. You want to throw that all away now?”

“I don’t know mom, but I feel I should do something more meaningful with my life.”

*****
To Nancy’s amazement, Jacques was not upset with Jane’s apparent decision not to continue in the dress business. “She knows her own mind, that girl does, Nancy,”
Jacques said to his wife as they snuggled together on his first night back after his convention trip.

Nancy loved being in the arms of Jacques; she wondered often if he felt the same about her. She had confessed to her former neighbor, Amy, that she felt so inexperienced as a lover next to Jacques who had had a previous wife and other relationships besides. Both women had lamented how they each had limited experience with men, both having had one lover each, the birth of their children and the departure of the man.

Did Jacques find another woman at the conferences, she wondered. After all, there would be lovely models galore and the women of the industry itself, most of whom kept themselves thin and lovely and pretty. How could Jacques not be attracted to them, while only a dowdy, slightly overweight schoolteacher awaited him back home?

Yet, Jacques had always urged her to juggle her teaching schedule and join him at the conferences? She always refused, realizing she’d hate to leave Jane home alone and to interrupt her teaching routines.

As he snuggled his face into her cleavage and patiently and slowly began his lovemaking, Nancy’s doubts left her; he consumed her totally and completely until they both reached the peak of passions, almost simultaneously. Their after-love was almost as magical.

“I so worry about Jane,” she confessed to Jacques that first night he was back home. “She’s so naíve about love and men, and she’s had no experience at all.”

“She’s a smart girl,” Jacques said, stroking his wife’s hair, and resting his head on her shoulder.

“I know, but I want her to be smarter than me about these things, Jacques. You know how naíve I am.”

Jacques laughed. “You may think you’re naíve dear, but you are so passionate, so accepting and so loving. I have the best woman in the world next to me right now.”

“Oh Jacques, don’t tease me!” They fell into a playful embrace.

Jane announced to her parents the following night at supper that she was seriously thinking of attending the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, just up the road about 40 minutes from their home in Douglas.

“I’m really interested in politics and urban studies, and they’re right in the city and it’s supposed to be a good school in that.”

Nancy was prepared for this announcement and said nothing, hoping that Jacques would immediately jump on her daughter, telling her how ridiculous it would be to turn down a full scholarship at perhaps the most renowned fashion design school in the world.

“Oh yes, Jane, I know they have a strong program in those subjects,” Jacques said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice that was no more emotional than a request to pass the butter.

“I found I liked doing that PAR stuff in school, Jacques, and Mr. Angelroth suggested I try either the University in Madison or in Milwaukee,” Jane said with a smile.

“They’re both good schools, Jane, but you know we’ve made plenty of money on your clothes fashion line and you don’t have to worry about the tuition,” Jacques said. “There’s nothing stopping you from choosing one of those other schools, even out of state.”

“I know, but this way I can live at home, unless you don’t want me here.”

Both Jacques and Nancy protested strongly: “Where did you ever get that idea?” her mother said.

“You know we both love you, Jane,” Jacques added.

Jane, of course, knew that her parents loved her, and, if anything, she had no desire to leave home, to move to a strange city and to perhaps face new issues with her gender. Even though her mother had been strict about dating and keeping track of Jane’s friends, as well as being tardy in recognizing her true female self, Jane could not picture herself without her mother being close by.

“Mom, you’re my best friend,” she said, leaning over to kiss her mother, quickly adding, “And Jacques, too, he’s my best boy friend.”

“And I hope your only boy friend for now,” her mother added.

“For now, he is,” Jane said, smiling, giving her father a girlish wink, thinking of Marquise, her lovely, sweet Marquise, but realizing he may not feel the same about her.

By the end of the following week, Jane completed her registration to enter the Milwaukee school. The decision was an easy one: she could stay home for a while as she grew into womanhood.

*****
“What do you weigh now?” Wanda asked Jane as the two stopped off at a coffee house after going to a movie.

“I dunno,” Jane said, trying to avoid answering.

“You do too, Jane,” the other girl said firmly. “You weigh yourself every day. I know that.”

Jane blushed, and a garbled number came out of her lips.

“108?” Wanda said, almost loud enough for the other patrons to hear.

Jane nodded her head, readying herself for an onslaught of nagging from her friend. She had been hearing similar pleas from her parents and Latoya that she was too thin; all of them constantly prodded her with the words: “It’s not good for your health.”

Jane always intellectually agreed with them, but still feared she’d get fat if she ate any more food. For some reason, she still recalled her young teen years as a model, and seemed reluctant to beef up her body to more normal dimensions.

“I thought you were done modeling, Jane,” Wanda said, as the two sipped on their lattes. Jane, of course, had ordered the “skinny” latte that had skim milk and no sugar.

“I am, Wanda, but I just don’t wanna get fat,” she said.

“Damn, girl, I’m going to have to get you into training, just like I did when you were 6th grade.”

Jane remembered that period of time, when she was a slender, very weak boy; she recalled the great effort her older friend had made in getting her into soccer and later cross country, and had helped the child formerly known as Jarod to lead a more outwardly boy’s life. She never got very good at the sports, but was at least recognized as a competitor. Mostly, though, Jane recalled the bicycle trips the two had taken, their quiet times at the river and their sharing of their utmost secrets.

Wanda was home during spring break from college, where she was a budding star on the girls’ basketball team. The team had developed an almost perfect record in the past season, but had lost in the semi-finals of the conference tournament to a team with a lesser record. The loss had devastated Wanda, who missed two critical free throws that could have clinched the victory.

After the coffee shop, Jane comforted her friend’s sadness over the basketball loss while sitting in the older girl’s car along the river parkway, holding hands, hugging and even kissing lightly. Their friendship was like that of sisters; there would be no sex involved.

“We need each other, Jane,” Wanda said that night. “We can tell each other anything and we both seem to understand.”

“I know Wanda, and I feel the same,” she said, giving her friend a light peck on the cheek.

“But, I love Heather,” Wanda said. “You understand?”

“I do, Wanda, I love you as a friend, not as a lover, and I still think about Marquise so much. I can’t get him out of my mind.”

It was Jane’s turn to cry and to receive the comforting hugs from her friend.

“Oh Jane,” Wanda said, her hand totally encircling Jane’s slender, soft stick of an arm. “There’s nothing to you. And with your height and as a small framed girl, you should weigh at last 120, Jane.”

It was true, Jane had drifted into a life style without physical activity, ever since quitting cross country. Her constant activity in school, with the work at Claudine’s and her other activities left her little time for physical endeavors. Her legs had lost their onetime firmness and softened, showing no muscle tone; to be sure, they were the legs of a fashion model.

“We’ll start right now,” Wanda said, starting up the car and heading for Leo’s Custard Stand, a popular spot for young people in the community. Custard was a local favorite in Wisconsin, an ice cream that was smooth and loaded with eggs. It was fattening, to say the least.

Jane had all she could do to down a small hot fudge sundae while her friend downed a large malted milk. She felt bloated, but somehow finished the sundae.

“Don’t worry, Jane,” Wanda said as Jane tried mightily to eat the cold, smooth custard. “Tomorrow, I’ll get you out and we’ll run off that sundae.”

Jane the next day found herself beginning a new routine. She would try to do a combined walk-run each day for up to 45 minutes. Wanda began the process by taking Jane out for a run along the parkway. Jane found she was pretty pathetic and the run quickly turned into a walk, and the two girls began talking again.

“I feel good now,” Jane admitted when they finished their run-walk. “I’ll really try to get more exercise.”

And, she did. She realized that she had been feeling more fatigued recently, but just thought it was due to her busy schedule. Maybe more eating and exercises might help.

“Oh Wanda, you’re so good for me. Don’t ever let’s forget each other.”

“Never, never.”

The two girls hugged in the car, tears welling up in their eyes, until they were interrupted by a car pulling up alongside, a spotlight pouring onto them.

“It’s the cops,” Jane said.

“We’re not doing anything wrong,” Wanda replied, as the two broke their embrace.

A figure suddenly stood, blocking out the beam of the car spotlight, and there was a wrap on the window, with a words, loud and gruff: “Roll down the window, please.”

Wanda did as ordered, and as she did, the voice yelled out: “Hey, we got a couple of lezzies here. Let’s get ‘em.”

The figure at the door was not a cop, but a large, scruffy beer-scented sot of a young man. He grabbed the door to open it, and Wanda let him do it, with Jane yelling, almost beginning to cry: “No, no, Wanda, let’s get outa here.”

Instead, Wanda let the young man open the car door and she socked the man’s midsection, a soft, beer belly, and the guy doubled in pain, giving Wanda a chance to slam the door shut, start the car motor and leave the scene.

“Are they following, Jane,” Wanda said as she sped along the parkway headed for the freeway.

Jane looked back, seeing no cars following, said: “I don’t think so, but wow Wanda you really hit him.”

“He didn’t know who he was dealing with,” she said with a smile.

Jane knew she was lucky to be in the company of this strong young woman. And, Jane wondered if perhaps Wanda was right: maybe she should start making herself eat a bit more and begin exercising again.

Chapter 40: The Easter Egg Hunt and Other Adventures

The last community-wide Easter Egg hunt in Douglas had been held more than 60 years ago during World War II, when the ladies of the Red Cross held a hunt at Lakeside Park for the children of servicemen who were away serving their country. This year’s event started off modestly enough, but now was taking on a life of its own.

Butch’s idea, begun mainly as a way to help unite the various ethnic groups at Roosevelt High School, quickly became an event for the whole community. At first, Jane tried to stay in the background among the planners of the event, but within a week she had become the de facto leader of the campaign.

She named Butch and Latoya as co-chairs of the committee of the event, but whenever decisions had to be made, they were referred to Jane.

The first real breakthroughs came when Latoya and Butch both proposed the project to their respect churches; Latoya’s church was the St. Matthews A.M.E. church, an almost totally African-American congregation in the poorest neighborhoods of the city, and Butch’s was St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, located in a comfortable neighborhood.

The leadership of both churches liked the idea, as did the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Douglas. Soon, the mayor’s office got involved and the local labor council; Jacques offered funds and Claudine’s was named a “sponsor” along with the WDOU, the local radio station.

Most surprising was the fact that Mayor Emil Waulten and City Council buried their constant feuding to endorse the Easter Egg hunt, with the mayor proclaiming the event is “a first step in healing the city’s wounds.” He singled out the students of Roosevelt High School for creating this “marvelous program for our children.”

Jane, recognizing that her gender status still was unacceptable to large numbers of people, stayed in the background and left all public pronouncements to Latoya and Butch to make. The fundamentalist Christian group that campaigned against the school for permitting Jane to attend as a girl continued to rant about it, holding occasional small picket lines at the school and writing letters to the editor and appearing on talk radio. Besides, Jane realized, it was time to remain in the background, her life having been so “public” in the last few years. Besides, she knew Butch and Latoya would do well, and they did in their talk show appearance on WDOU and in other efforts to publicize the event.

“You should be getting credit for this Jane,” Latoya said.

“No, it was Butch’s idea and the two of you are doing great! Besides, if I’m associated publicly with this is might hurt the event.”

“I know, and it’s so unfair.”

*****
A major planning meeting was held at the City Hall about 3 weeks before the event, and perhaps 30 persons showed up, including Jacques, representing Claudine’s, the mayor and president of the City Council, the radio station manager, and representatives of many churches.

Jane sat in the back row of the committee room where the planning discussion was being held, letting Latoya and Butch sit at the committee table, as Mayor Waulten opened the meeting. Mr. Angelton spoke for the school and noted that at last 80 students had signed up for duty on the Easter Egg hunt, handling chores like registering the children, handing out tee-shirts, keeping order and distributing gifts.

Claudine’s and WDOU had co-sponsored the tee-shirts, which carried a logo with two cute children, an African-American boy and a Caucasian girl (wearing pigtails), holding hands and running joyfully toward a giant Easter egg.

“This logo is symbolic of the spirit of this marvelous occasion,” the mayor said. “This hunt, it must be noted, is the creation of the students of Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, and proves again that our teenagers have lots of greatness in them, if only we give them a chance.”

Mr. Angelton then introduced Latoya and Butch to the committee, and praised their contributions.

“Finally,” he said, after outlining the plans being made by the school, “I’d like to introduce the young lady whose initiative and spirit has helped to revitalize the students at Roosevelt. She’s sitting in the back now, but she’s been the inspiration for our PAR group, Peace at Roosevelt, which has helped to unite the school and was responsible for this Easter Egg hunt project. Jane, dear, would you please stand?”

Jane, hoping to remain anonymous, reluctantly stood and gave a tentative wave, receiving prolonged applause. She was wearing pigtails, a full print skirt that went below her knees and a pink camisole under a light blue vest.

“She looks like she’s 13 years old,” someone in the audience was heard to whisper.

As she stood, she noticed a tall, well-dressed black woman seated in the front row of the audience; the woman looked back and Jane blushed. Could that be Marquise’s mother, she reflected? She hadn’t seen her for several years, and it was likely it was since her church had joined in the planning of the Easter Egg hunt. The woman eyed Jane carefully, and Jane quickly averted the stare, sitting down.

“I wished he hadn’t introduced me,” she said to Tiffany who was seated next to Jane. “I didn’t want my appearance here to cause any problems.”

“Oh, Jane, I don’t think you will,” she said. “The people who are here have either forgotten your changeover or don’t care.”

“I hope so.”

*****
The planning meeting ended and Jane was immediately surrounded by her classmates and Mr. Angelton, their teacher-adviser, for a postmortem. The mayor came over, interrupting long enough to say, “Jane, I’m impressed with your group, and the city is so pleased that you students at Roosevelt have taken the lead here.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor,” Jane said, slightly bowing her head. “We’re so happy for your support; it was so necessary.”

As the others nodded in agreement, the tall, black woman who Jane now truly recognized as Marquise’ mother, nudged herself into the conversation, almost elbowing the mayor out of the way.

“I think it’s marvelous you students have started this,” the woman said.

“Yes, Mrs. Jackson,” the mayor replied, smiling at the woman. It was obvious that Marquise’s mother was well-known by the mayor. Jane knew she had been active in her church, and Marquise had mentioned she was active in the Democratic Party Club as well.

There were further exchanges of information and strategies and as the group broke up, Marquise’s mother touched Jane on the arm, saying firmly: “I’d like to talk to you a minute Jane.” Jane allowed herself to be led away from the group into a side alcove where a few chairs were placed; it was obviously a place where local politicians and lobbyists must sit on a regular basis to exchange ideas.

“I’ve asked Marquise to help us out in this project, Jane,” she began.

“I thought he’s at school,” Jane replied, puzzled at this news.

“He is, but he’s coming home for the weekend; I promised the mayor that Marquise could handle some of the publicity. And of course he’ll be in town for the entire week before the egg hunt; it’s his Easter vacation period.”

Jane was both excited and frightened by the news; how could she face Marquise? She knew of his disgust for her; yet, she still felt enthralled by the fact that she’d again be working with him. She was silent.

“Jane, you know he’s been taking mass communications in college and has been an intern in the school’s public relations department,” Mrs. Jackson continued. “He’s really very good.”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Jackson, Marquise is good at that,” she replied, “But I don’t know if he’ll want to work with me.”

Jane sat primly on her chair, her legs together and both hands folded together in front of her; she was feeling tense and not sure how to respond to this news. Mrs. Jackson reached over, putting a hand on Jane’s folded hands, smiling:

“Dear, I know what Marquise has said about this, and I must admit I too have been shocked about your change from Jarod to Jane. But, I saw the brochure you gave to Aniesha about transgendered persons and did some of my own research online.”

Jane nodded, surprised that this middle-aged woman was using the Internet.

“And I can see now that you Jane probably have no choice in this, that this feeling that you are a girl is just a fact of nature. Isn’t that right?”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Jackson,” Jane began, a bit anxiously. “But I heard that Marquise feels I’m an abomination or something like that, that it’s against the religion.”

“Maybe so, but that’s just some church people,” she replied. “My own church doesn’t seem to worry too much about such things. I know Marquise has been hooked up with that minister in his college town, but that guy is just too extreme. Marquise should know better.”

“Have you talked to Marquise about this?”

“A little, Jane. I mailed him the brochure and told him that the important person in all this is God. And, who knows what God really thinks about this. The God I worship believes we’re all His children and that’s good enough for me.”

“Oh Mrs. Jackson, you’re so . . . so . . .” Jane stumbled for words, but none came.

Mrs. Jackson patted Jane’s hands. “I think you and Marquise will work together just fine, just as you did on the school magazine. You know you two were quite a team!”

“Thank you, Mrs. Jackson.”

“Don’t thank me, Jane. You’ve done marvels; I can see you’re quite a young lady and I told Marquise you’re a credit to the school.”

The two parted, but as they separated, Mrs. Jackson said: “By the way, you look so cute in those pigtails.”

*****
Jane’s reaction in learning that Marquise would be working on the Easter Egg project seemed to go into two different directions. At first she felt an excitement that he would be working closely with her and that she would become his friend and maybe eventually his lover. Then, came the apprehension that he would ignore her or, even worse, continue to show his disgust for her.

That night as she prepared for bed, Jane took an inordinately long time in the bathroom, lounging through a bubble bath and drying her hair and putting it up. She stood before the steamed mirror, wiping it off with a towel and then looking at her nude body, so delicate and fragile in its thinness.

She folded her arms across the upper part of her body, hoping to exaggerate her tiny breasts, soft mounds of flesh with nipples protruding from pink areolas the size of quarters. She looked at herself through the mist on the glass, wondering if indeed she was as pretty as everyone said she was.

“Could Marquise love me?” she said softly to herself.

Am I too thin? Too white and pale? Too amoral because of my gender switching? Could he love a Caucasian girl? She questioned herself mercilessly, almost coming to the conclusion that Marquise could never find it in his heart to love her.

It seemed to take hours for her to fall asleep that night, her apprehension rising so that she tossed and turned relentlessly. Yet, morning came soon, and she was surprisingly refreshed and eager to go to school to experience another day in her own amazing life.

*****
The Saturday meeting to complete plans for the Easter Egg hunt was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in a committee room of St. Matthews A.M.E. Church, the church that Latoya and Marquise’s mother attended.

Jane arose earlier than usual for a nonschool day, all keyed up for the expectation of seeing Marquise again; his mother had said he’d be there. Again she tried on several sets of clothing, rejecting each. One dress was too fancy and formal for such a casual meeting, and she rejected jeans and a sweatshirt as being too ordinary for a meeting with key adults of the community. She settled finally upon wearing a beige pair of Capri pants and a camisole under a light blue-layered blouse with a scooped peasant collar.
She fixed her hair in pigtails.

Her mother entered her room as she was putting on a pair of sheer, dark brown colored knee-highs.

“You really have lovely feet, Jane,” her mother offered.

“Thanks, mother,” she replied. “Is it warm enough to wear sandals today?”

“No honey. It won’t get much above 40 today. You better wear flats.”

Jane enjoyed it when her mother and she shared their thoughts about what clothes to wear and how to dress up.

“Now try to calm down, Jane. You’re all jittery. That boy will either . . .”

“That boy, mother, is Marquise,” Jane interrupted sharply. “His name is Marquise. He’s not ‘That boy.’”

“Jane, I know his name and I’ve always liked him. Don’t jump all over me.”

“Oh mother, I’m sorry. I’m so worried about this. I don’t know what I should say.”

Nancy Marcineau stood in front of her daughter, and took hold of her by clasping her hands around both upper arms of the girl. She looked squarely in her daughter’s eyes:

“Look, Jane, I know you think highly of this . . . of Marquise . . . and he’s a good, decent young man. Today is a meeting of the planning committee. You should not think of it as being a time to deal with your feelings about Marquise. Go to this meeting as you would for any other meeting. Act as you always have.

“You’ve gained lots of respect around school and the community. So, honey, just deal with the planning stuff and try not to focus on whether Marquise loves you, or even likes you now.”

Jane dropped her head down and mumbled, “I’ll try mother.”

“You do understand, don’t you?”

“Yes, mother, I should take care of business first and my feelings for Marquise should not interfere.”

“Yes, honey, and I think if you make no special notice of Marquise at the meeting, and let him come to you, that might be best.”

“You mean ignore him?”

“No, Jane, of course not. Be courteous, say hi and ask him about his college work, but be very casual. If he’s interested in you, he should take the bait.”

Jane hugged her mother, and said: “Mommy, you’re the best. I love you.”

She completed her makeup and awaited Tiffany who was picking her up and taking her to the meeting. She wore a pleated jacket for the Roosevelt Vikings, satiny in black and gold colors.

*****
Nancy Marcineau watched her daughter walk toward Tiffany’s car, musing to herself. “How could she be anything but a girl? She carries herself with natural feminine mannerisms, and looks so cute in the Vikings Team jacket.”

Later that morning, Amy Tankersley, their former neighbor stopped by to visit. She brought along her two young daughters, Emily, now 10, and Angela, 8. Amy was still just as chubby as ever, her breasts seeming to have blossomed as well, obviously being held up by a firm underwire bra. As always, Amy exuded a bright, cheerfulness that was infectious.

“The girls were hoping Jane would be here,” Amy began. “They said Jane promised to show them how to sew. Paul has said he’s buying them a sewing machine.”

“Paul?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you, I’ve been dating Paul Jordan,” Amy said, blushing.

“Paul? That young man who lives across the street from you? I don’t know him that well, but he seems nice, Amy.”

“He is nice,” Amy said, “And he’s not that young. He’s 24 and taking a masters degree in computer science at Parkside.”

“I’m happy for you, Amy,” Nancy quickly recovered, knowing that the age question might be sensitive, since her friend was to hit 30 that year.

“Would Jane mind helping the girls?” Amy asked.

“Not at all, although she is so busy these days, but she loves Emily and Angela so much. I’m sure she’d find some time.”

Nancy invited Amy to join her for coffee in the kitchen, leaving the girls in the living room to watch Saturday morning children’s shows on television. Emily, however, had different ideas.

“Can I go in Jane’s room? She has such neat stuff,” the girl asked Nancy.

“I guess you can, Emily, but don’t disturb anything or use her makeup. Ok?”

Amy interjected: “No Emily. You shouldn’t go in another girl’s room without her permission and she’s not here.”

“But, mommy,” the girl said. “I just like looking at the fashion books she has and her other books. They’re so awesome.”

Nancy laughed, hearing the “awesome” coming from the lips of such a young girl. “Let her go, Amy. Jane won’t mind.”

Angela, the younger girl paid no attention to the exchange, content to sit on the floor, crosslegged and watching televison.

“Can you imagine me this morning, Amy? Giving advice to Jane about how to deal with boys? Me? How can I advise anyone about dating? I never really had any dates until I met Jacques.”

Amy laughed. “Me too. I married my ex right out of high school. He was my only boy friend, ever. Now I hope that changes.”

“Here’s what I told Jane about dealing with boys,” Nancy said, proceeding to describe what her advice was to her daughter.

“Well, I think your advice was sound, but what do I know?” Amy said. The two laughed, but in Nancy’s case, her laughter merely covered her own apprehension over what her daughter was to experience when meeting Marquise that morning.

*****
Jane didn’t return home until nearly 2 p.m. that afternoon, just shortly after Amy and her daughters had left.

“Hi mom,” Jane said as she entered through the back door. “I’m home.”

“I’m in here, in my room, dressing, honey. Come in here, tell me everything.”

The minute she heard Jane bound up the stairs, she knew it must have been a good morning for her daughter.

“Oh mother,” Jane said, bursting into the room, a broad smile beaming from her face, still red from the early spring cold. “You were right! I played it cool, and he talked to me, and we all went out for pizza afterward, Marquise and Tiffany and Latoya and Aniesha and Sam and me.”

“Oh, I’m so happy for you, honey. Do you plan on seeing him again?”

“I don’t know mommy,” Jane said. “But we did exchange email addresses, so we’ll be in contact.”

“That’s nice, Jane.”

“I don’t know what he thinks of me now, but at least he treated me like one of the girls,” she said. “It was just like old times at the pizza place, just like our old lunch table.”

Nancy was trying on a new blouse, and paused to ask Jane how she looked.

“Mom, he’s still so handsome and I don’t think he’s got a girl friend.”

“Jane, honey, don’t get your hopes up. He’s in college and he may have other interests. Don’t push it.”

“I know mom, and I took your advice. I just tried to be professional as you said, and work on the project. And, it seemed to work. He noticed me.”

“Now, Jane, I asked you about how I looked in this blouse, and all you talked about was Marquise.”

“I know mom, I’m sorry. But that blouse is perfect for you. Fits you well.”

Nancy took her daughter in her arms and held her tight, excited again for realizing how sweet it was to have a lovely and lively daughter.

*****
“Mommy, mommy, mommy,” Jane squealed as she bounded down the stairs about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, bursting into the kitchen where Nancy and Jacques were reading the newspaper and drinking coffee.

“What is it, honey?” Nancy said, looking up from the paper, seeing her daughter, still in her nighty with her hair still put up, her face flushed with excitement.

“He emailed me, mommy and daddy, and he wants to have coffee with me at 11 a.m. before he heads back to college.”

“Calm down, Jane,” her stepfather said. “You’re giggling like a 13-year-old girl at a rock concert.”

“Oh daddy, it’s Marquise, he wants to meet me,” she said, instinctively going over to kiss him.

“I know, honey, but it’s just for coffee,” her mother said.

In her enthusiasm, she plopped herself down on another chair at the table, and lifted her legs up, putting her feet, with their painted toenails, on her mother’s lap.

Her mother pushed her feet off her lap, grunting, “Don’t put your feet up here.”

“Don’t you like the color of my nails? It’s called autumn leaf.”

“Yes, dear, and you have pretty feet, but they don’t belong on my lap while I’m trying to drink my coffee and read the paper.”

“Oh mom,” Jane protested and put her feet down.

“Can’t you get that boy out of your mind?” Her mother asked.

“Oh what should I wear?”

“Here we go again,” Jacques said, putting down the editorial page he was reading. “The world’s going to hell in a hand-basket and you’re fretting over what to wear. And all for a boy who maybe doesn’t want you.”

“Jacques,” Nancy said, gruffly, “That was so mean of you. And you’re in the business of selling women’s clothes. If it weren’t for girls like Jane, you’d be out of business. You don’t know anything about being a girl!”

“I guess I don’t,” he said.

“But I know what it’s like to be a girl,” Jane said, beginning to giggle at the remark.

“You certainly do,” Jacques replied, and they all burst out laughing.

“And daddy, I said you or mommy would drive me over to the coffee shop,” jane said. “The one on Randall? Can you?”

“I will,” Jacques said. “It’s the least I can do after my ‘mean’ remark.”

*****
“Is this OK?” Jane asked, appearing in the kitchen as she was about to leave for the coffee date with Marquise.

“Oh that’s fine, honey,” Jacques said.

“It’s not too dressy, is it?”

“A little, but that’s OK,” Jacques added. “A man likes to see his girl dressed up a bit.”

“If I know Marquise,” her mother said, “He’ll be dressed nice. He always was well-groomed and he never looked trashy.”

“I know, he’s so handsome,” Jane gushed.

Jane was dressed in a full floral skirt that featured light blues and yellows; it ended at the knees. She wore sheer tan pantyhose and dark navy blue flats. She wore a crá¨me-colored peasant blouse and had her hair in pigtails.

“Darling,” her mother asked. “Are you sure you want to wear pigtails? You’re almost 18 years old, dear.”

“Oh yes, mommy. Marquise mother told me I looked cute in them.”

On the way to the coffee shop, Jacques told Jane that she looked just so fresh and lovely, reassuring her, since the girl was fidgeting and so excited over the visit with Marquise.

“Honey, please don’t gush all over him,” Jacques advised. “Just act normal like you did when you and he were friends in high school. Your mother told me how well you two worked together on the magazine. Try to be the same person you were then.”

“Really, daddy, but I want him to see me as a girl?”

“Oh, he will honey. He will, but remember he knew you and liked you as Jarod once.”

“I know daddy.”

As he dropped Jane off, he said, “I’ll wait in the parking lot to see if he’s there.”

“Ok, daddy.”

“Do you have any money?”

“No, daddy, why would I need any?”

“Because, dear, this is not a real date, and you should offer to pay for your own, to go ‘dutch.’”

“Oh daddy, that’s gross. I’m a girl.”

“Yes, you are, but in today’s world, girls often offer to pay their own way,” he said. “That way they can feel they don’t owe the man anything. It keeps you equal.”

“Oh daddy, I don’t want to be equal.”

He smiled. “Yes, Jane, you do. Now put this in your purse. You probably won’t need it, because he’ll pay, but you need to show your independence.”

Jacques handed her several bills and some change, and kissed her as she got out of the car. He watched her walk into the coffee shop, smiling at the sight of his daughter headed so excitedly and yet tentatively for her coffee date. She waved as she reach the door, signifying Marquise was there and that he should go.

*****
Marquise was dressed a dark brown suit, with a yellow shirt and a plain brown tie, looking just elegant.

“I just came from church,” he explained, as he arose, helping Jane into the booth. They sat opposite each other.

“You look very nice, Marquise,” Jane said.

“And you do too, Jane.”

The comments were stiff and awkward; yet, it was apparent both meant what they said. To onlookers in the coffee shop, including many others who were well-dressed obviously having just come from services, they were indeed a handsome pair. They drew a number of glances, some probably critical glances because the racial mixture of the couple, but most obviously pleased to see two nice looking young people enjoying each other’s company, even if they were hesitant and awkward together.

“My mother . . . ah . . . said you’re a nice girl,” Marquise said, “and . . . ah . . . that you’re doing lots in school.”

“Yes, I guess,” Jane said. “And you’re mother’s proud of you, Marquise. She told me.”

Marquise hesitated for a while, then asked: “What can I get you?”

He started to get up to go get their orders, and Jane started to rise, too. “Let me go with you.”

“No, I’ll get it. What do you want?”

“Just a skinny vanilla latte and one of those blueberry muffins,” she said, digging into her purse for money.

“Oh no, Jane, it’s my treat. I asked you to come.”

“Thank you,” she smiled.

After he returned with the drink and food, Marquise told her about his college; he liked it well-enough since it was a small liberal arts school with an excellent reputation for its English department; it had graduated a number of known authors and poets and was often called the “Athens of the Midwest,” a title often used by other aspiring hinterland colleges.

“But, there are so few blacks there,” he said. “Oh, everyone treats me just fine and I have friends, but sometimes I feel like a duck out of water. I miss this place, even with all our problems.”

“Yes, home is still home, isn’t it, Marquise?”

He asked about some of their friends from high school, and she gave him rundown, and they were finishing up their latte when Marquise’s voice took on a serious note:

“My mother said I was rude to you yesterday. Was I?”

“No, Marquise, you were OK,” Jane answered, carefully. “You just didn’t seem to happy to see me, and you didn’t say much to me.”

Marquise blushed: “I didn’t know what to say. I kept remembering you as Jarod. It just seemed so strange. I’m sorry.”

Jane looked at him, seeing that he still seemed to be struggling in talking to her. “I suppose you still feel that way, Marquise.”

“I guess I do. But you are so beautiful, Jane. You really are.”

She smiled.

He smiled back, and said, “Jane, Jane, Jane. You know that’s the first time I’ve said your name as Jane.”

“Do you like saying it?”

He nodded yes, reaching over and patting her hand. The two remained silent for a while, before he said: “Jane, I can’t stay longer, since I have to drive back to college, but I’ll take you home.”

All eyes were upon them as they left the coffee shop. Jane wished Marquise would hold her hand as they left, but he merely did the routine gentlemanly duties, such as opening doors for her.

“You two lovely people have a nice day,” the coffee shop owner, an older man, said, as they walked out.

In the car, Jane sat primly, her knees together, and hands clasped on her lap, looking straight ahead, but steeling short glances at the young man driving the car. Marquise was truly so handsome and so sweet.

Marquise made no attempt to kiss Jane as they stopped in front of her house. He turned off the engine, though, and turned to her.

“I’d like you to read some of my poetry and writing, Jane,” he said.

“Oh I’d love that,” she said, turning toward him, shifting her legs to face him.

“Good, I’ll email them to you and I want you to be honest about them,” he said.

“Oh, Marquise, I’m sure whatever you write will be good.”

“No seriously, Jane, I respect your opinion on this.”

“OK.”

“And I want us to be friends, OK?” he said.

“Oh Marquise, you’ll always be my friend.”

Marquise nodded, and Jane began to open the door to leave, but Marquise stopped her, putting a hand on her arm to hold her back.

“You know, I’m still not comfortable with all this, Jane,” he began. “I still feel strange calling you Jane, even though you are probably the prettiest girl I know.”

Jane sat still, saying nothing, awaiting his next words.

“My mother gave me that brochure and I did lots of checking on the Internet, and I think I understand your situation, but it’s still seems weird. Mother and I talked about the Bible and all that, too, and there seems to be different opinions about what you’re doing.”

“I know, Marquise, and I respect you for that. I like you so much, and hope you can some day accept me for who I am.”

“I do too,” he said. “I always liked you when you were Jarod, even though I got teased by some of my friends for being with what they called a ‘sissy.’”

Jane nodded. “I always felt grateful to you then. You were the only boy I knew who seemed to like me. I really only had girl friends, otherwise.”

“I know, but I could always talk to you,” Marquise said.

“Everyone said we made quite a team in putting out Odyssey.”

“Thank you for having coffee with me, Jane,” he said.

“I loved it that you invited me, Marquise.” She desperately wanted to throw herself into his arms and feel his caresses all over her and their lips meeting in passionate love.

“We’ll be friends then Jane, OK?”

“Oh yes, oh yes.”

“Jane, Jane, Jane. I like the sound of your name better now.”

“Bye bye, Marquise. I always liked the sound of your name.”

They both laughed, and Jane got out of the car, literally skipping her way into the house, her pigtails bouncing along with her gait. Marquise started his car and slowly, very slowly, drove away.

*****
(Email from [email protected] apr308 2103)

Jane, dear Jane: I got back to school and my dorm room about 8 p.m. tonight. I thought about you all the time on my drive back. I was trying to think about all the things I wanted to write, but now I seem tongue-tied; no, that’s not it, maybe it fumbled-fingered. LOL

I don’t know quite how to put this, but I find you just about the prettiest, most smart girl I ever met. But, yet, I still can’t accept you as a girl. My church tells me all sorts of things about this sex, or is it gender, change business and I don’t know what to think. My mother thinks I should be more open-minded. Maybe she’s right: But what would God want me to do? Besides, I think my mom likes you, Jane. MMMMMM … I know she likes you.

I’m in tears as I write this Jane, because I want to be with you so much. You’re the only person I’ve ever been able to talk to with total honesty. Back in high school, I always looked forward to being with you, even though I got teased for being with you.

I’m still having trouble accepting the fact that you never told me about your desires to be a girl; I would have understood, I think. Latoya told me how tortured you felt during those years and how happy you are now living as a girl.

But seeing you today almost felt like old times. You really are the same person, Jane. And that means you are kind and generous and fun and smart.

I re-read all this and hesitate to send it off. I don’t want to hurt you and I want to remain your friend always. Thinking about you, Marquise

(Email to [email protected] apr308 2155)

Dear Marquise: My eyes are still red and tear-filled. You are so important to me and I have read and re-read your message over and over. Thank you so much for writing it.

I am lucky to have so many friends here at school, but you have always been my special, special friend. Always. I hope we can remain friends forever.

I look forward to reading some of your writing, so send it soon. It’s late now and tomorrow’s school, so I will sign off now. Thinking of you, your friend, Jane.

*****
Jane wanted to write so much more: she wanted to tell Marquise that she always loved him, realizing that even when she was still Jarod she dreamed of being in his arms, welcoming his caresses and kisses. She recalled those many nights she thought about being Marquise’s lover, only to reject them because that would have signified a gay relationship, something she didn’t think Marquise would accept.

Yet, she realized she had better not express her love for Marquise too strongly, fearing she might scare him away before he could fully accept her as a girl.

She looked at her hands: they were really pretty, maybe a bit too large, but truly lovely, slender and smooth. How sweet it would feel to rub her fingers along his strong neck and muscular shoulders, to run them lightly across his lips and to feel the bristle of his beard, which always was present even though he shaved daily.

*****
More than 2,000 children, from toddlers to about ten years old, filled Lakeside Park on Easter Saturday for the hunt. The days before had been hectic, with the PAR group from Roosevelt providing the bulk of the volunteers in setting up for the event. Various civic groups set up tents offering games for the children, while a stage was erected, with a sound system donated by the Parks Department. There would be a clown, jugglers, some singing of children’s songs and a speech, hopefully brief, by the mayor.

Jane arose early that Good Friday even though there was no school. The group planned to meet at 9 a.m. to begin the setup. Jane wore jeans, a “Wisconsin” sweat shirt and tied her hard in pigtails.

Marquise joined the setup crew on Friday, working closely with Jane, Latoya, Tiffany, Sam, Butch and Aneisha who constituted most of the crew. Shortly after he arrived, Marquise’s mother joined them along with the women’s group from her church and the church’s pastor, W. C. Winchell, a tall, muscular, elderly man with white curly hair and a twinkle in his eye.

“So this is the young woman who has put this all together,” he said, after being introduced to Jane by Marquise and his mother.

“Oh, pastor, lots of people were involved,” Jane said. “The idea actually came from Butch over there.”

She pointed to the crew-cut boy assisting with putting up a tent.

“Pastor,” Mrs. Jackson interrupted. “Jane is always too modest. Without her energy this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Jane,” Pastor Winchell said, “I know about your situation here. Mother Jackson has filled me in and I don’t know how religion fits in here, but I told her that God must have special plans for someone like you. As long as you are doing good works, I think God will confer His blessings on you.”

As the pastor spoke, he looked directly at Marquise, who quickly averted his eyes.

The conversation was interrupted when Butch came running up, yelling, “Jane, Jane, the police chief is here and wants some information.”

“You better go, girl,” the pastor said, with a wink.

The day, which began with a cold wind off frigid Lake Michigan, began to warm up as the sun brightened. The setup had lots of fits and starts, a few arguments, but lots of giggles and light-hearted banter. They broke for a lunch, provided by a local pizza parlor, and resumed their work, finishing setup by 2 p.m.

“Now it’s time to hide the Easter eggs,” Jane announced and with more laughter the crew spent nearly an hour hiding the eggs (actually they were plastic eggs filled with candy) with constant warnings from Jane: “Don’t hide them too good, and not up high. These kids will be just toddlers and we don’t want them crying.”

The following, the Saturday of the hunt, dawned bright and sunny with unusual warmth for early April in Douglas. Fortunately the wind, though calm, had shifted from the west, no longer coming off the lake, which only a few weeks earlier had shed its floating crusts of ice.

The games and booths opened at 11 a.m., with the Easter Egg Hunt set for noon. The event was a huge success.

After the cleanup was done, Marquise and Jane stopped off at Chet’s Custard Stand. (Such custard stands were fairly unique to their community and popular among people of all ages. The custard they served was a soft form of ice cream, made richer with use of more eggs in the recipe.)

“You’re sure you don’t want to come to church with my family?” Marquise asked, as they shared a banana split, the custard growing soft as their conversation interrupted their eating.

“I don’t think so,” Jane said. “This is a time for you to be with your family and I’ll be a distraction.”

“No you won’t Jane, and I know Pastor Winchell likes you,” he said. “Besides there are other white people there.”

“Oh that’s not it, Marquise. I love your mother and Pastor Winchell is cool, but you know we don’t go to church. I never go to church. It would be hypocritical for me to go.”

“Oh Jane, I know you’ve always said you don’t go to church. I just wished you could believe in a God somewhere?”

“I just don’t know, Marquise,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind, I’d love to be with you otherwise.”

Marquise smiled. “I know you would, but I’ll have to be with the family, so I won’t see you anymore this weekend.”

*****
Though Jane didn’t see Marquise until he returned home in late May for the summer, she talked to him almost nightly on a cell phone that Jacques gave her as an Easter present. It had unlimited minutes, but both young people were serious about their studies and other activities, so the conversations were limited to about 20 minutes each night.

“I love hearing your voice,” Marquise said one night.

“And I always want to hear yours,” she replied.

Jane’s voice had taken on an almost sultry quality as she had adapted to the reality that her voice remained in lower masculine register. She now talked softer, almost daintily, using feminine expressions. Her voice was warm, friendly and open.

The conversations mainly were about their activities that day; rarely did they offer each other open expressions of affection or love. Yet, both welcomed the nightly calls.

Jane meanwhile refused offers of dates from several boys, including Tom, the young man she had met at the beach. The sole exception was Sam: he took her to the prom, and their relationship was purely platonic and enjoyable.

*****
“My mother wants to take us out to dinner tonight,” Marquise said. He called Jane on the Saturday after her graduation from Roosevelt High School.

“Oh that would be nice.”

“She wants to honor you for graduating with honors and your awards. We’re going to the restaurant along the lake. It’s really something fancy, Jane.”

“Oh, that means I’ll have to find something nice to wear.”

“I guess,” he said. “You’ll look pretty in anything.”

“Oh Marquise, I can’t wear just anything. I know your mom will dress so nice, so I better too.”

*****
“Jane, you look divine,” Mrs. Jackson said, as Marquise joined his mother and Marquise’s aunt, who were already at the table.

“Thank you, Mrs. Jackson, and I’m sorry I made us late. I couldn’t decide what to wear.”

Marquise smiled. “Mom, she’s just like all the girls, kept me waiting, but I had nice talk with her father.”

They all laughed. Jane had fussed as usual over what to wear, finally settling on a black cocktail dress, with thin straps across the shoulders. It had a flared, layered skirt that ended just above the knees, and light trim of lace. She wore a short white jacket over her shoulders, since the weather was still cool.

“And where are those cute pigtails, girl?” Marquise’s mother asked.

Jane’s hair was piled in waves atop her head, exposing her slender neck.

“Pigtails are for girls, Mrs. Jackson. Now, I’m a woman.”

Epilogue

Jane, however, would not become a woman until July when she’d complete her sexual reassignment surgery; she recuperated easily, having gained a few pounds of weight and having strengthened her body through regular exercise.

Marquise left the outstate college and entered the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he hoped to finish his studies in English; Jane picked up some modest scholarships at the same school where she was to study political science and urban affairs. They remained friendly but their future together was still to be determined when classes began in September.

The JANE / USA fashion line continued to grow in popularity, and Jane contributed designs and oversaw, with Miss Amelia, the designing work. Jane, however, spent less and less time with the dress designing work; still she received royalties from the sale of the dresses, helping to make her to have economic independence. She continued to live at home, becoming even closer to her mother and father.

Her friends Wanda and Heather became partners, with Wanda becoming an acknowledged basketball star. She and Jane remained good friends, and Wanda continued to push Jane to exercise regularly and eat properly in order to lead a healthy life. “You’re such a nag,” Jane said to Wanda one day, and the two had a good laugh together.

Melissa’s wedding that summer was a warm, lovely affair. Marquise escorted Jane to the event and marveled at how lovely she looked in the wedding party. Melissa looked particularly radiant in the dress Jane had designed for her.

Amy Tankersley, Jane’s next door neighbor, still dated Paul, the young man from across the street from her house; despite the difference in age between the two, they seemed enamored with each other. Amy also returned to college, taking a light class load at Parkside.

Nancy and Jacques Marcineau beamed with pride over the successes of their daughter.

“Our girl has done so well,” Nancy said one summer night, as she snuggled in bed next to her husband.

“She really is something special, isn’t she?”

“Yes, Jacques and you have been so good to her.”

“She’s been so good for all of us, hasn’t she?”

Nancy said nothing, nestling next to her husband, truly in love with a marvelous man. Could her daughter ever find such love?

(The end)



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