Book of Change

BOOK OF CHANGE
BY
thomas_the_tame

I'd never felt lower in my life. My marriage was officially over. I'd been gone for almost a week on business, and when I returned, the place was clean of everything that could in anyway be construed as "hers". Standing in the empty bedroom, reflecting on our marred union, I thought of Katie, my little girl, and wondered when I'd see her again. Marilyn had warned me, of course, had begged me to attend counseling, but pride was my master in more ways than one.

I spent the next few evenings inebriated, raging against my absent ex-love, destroying the bedroom first, then making my way around the house until I came to the pink frills of my little girl's paradise. It was in Katie's room that I sobbed and found some measure of solace. I would survive as I had survived all the tragedies and miscalculations of my life.

In the morning I decided to check the safe. I wondered if Marilyn had remembered it and what, if anything, she'd removed.

While most of my valuables were present, I realized with a shock that she had taken the book. My book, the one my grandmother had left me in the will. The book Marilyn had seen and even helped me use to further my career. It was because of my ancestor's ancient book that I'd been able to sabotage my competition and become C.E.O. A title that had lapsed into meaningless now that the company had been merged, but one that remained lucrative.

I'd used the book and its wisdom, its pages and pages of complicated spells to change myself. I'd become taller, more charismatic, profoundly handsome, and on more than one occasion, I'd used the book to assume the likeness of my adversary. Six times by my count, once as a woman, I'd undermined reputations. It hardly took much, an exceptional lack of judgment, a case of sexual harassment, a spectacle of public disgrace; those who challenged me in the company all found themselves on the short end of the stick, and clueless as to how they'd arrived there.

They refuted the accusations, of course, even sometimes provided evidence to exonerate themselves, but the executives knew what they'd seen and could never be dissuaded.

Now... the book was gone.

I could report its theft to the authorities, but I didn't want the attention. Who knew what might become of it through the chain of evidentiary possession? Who knew what expert march out to appraise it? The less awareness there was of the book's existence, the better.

I hired a private detective, known for his "creativity", who managed to break into Marilyn's new place and search for my property, but he came up empty. I discussed the matter with my ex-wife, but she feigned ignorance and had the audacity to be offended at my accusation. If I did nothing else, I would get my book back. I knew how useful it could yet be. The question was where had she hidden it?

My private detective had "acquired" itemized lists of her possessions from the insurance company; she had not reported it to them. I felt certain it was somewhere in the house. She understood its value and its power. If she was anything like me, she would not let it stray too far from her sight.

After all, it's not every day a forty year old woman retains the appearance and vitality of a twenty year old. And it's not every day a woman achieves an effervescent beauty without the aid of a surgeon. I'd allowed her that, to further my own desires, but no more. It was my book, not hers.

I spent time with my daughter, subtly interrogating her and felt certain she knew of the book. Katie was young, very young, and had yet to learn the ways of exceptional deceit. Oh, she fibbed, said she didn't know, but the lie was plain, and when I pressed her, her eyes flashed with naked fear. "Mommy told me to, uh, never ever ever say anything to anyone."

"But, sweety," I consoled her, "I'm your father."

Katie fixed her clear blue eyes on me and displayed the same stubbornness as her mother. "Mommy said especially not you. That you'd use it to hurt her."

She grew so upset at my questions then that she began to cry, and from then on always cried when I asked about the "special" book. Her tears put an end to any further attempts at inquiry. Katie would never tell. Not me anyway.

I turned to my computer. I'd scanned many of the pages, though not all. I kept meaning to, but who could've anticipated such a loss? Marilyn had outmaneuvered me again. She had thoroughly wiped the P.C.'s hard drive. Or so I thought, because after hours of hard work, I managed to recover a few lost fragments, and while most were useless or incomplete, one page had survived.

I studied it for a long time.

Soon, a plan formed in my mind.

#

I took a leave of absence from work. No one would miss me anyway. Except for the occasional consultation I was mostly a figurehead. A reassuring good luck charm to shake in the front of the shareholders. See? Nothing's changed. It's business as usual.

Next, I spent time staking out Marilyn's house. Rent a different car, park at the right spot, carry some nifty high-powered binoculars and you can learn a lot. I kept a diary of her movements. It didn't take long before I knew her routine: when she left in the morning, when she returned home, what day she stopped at the gym, what day she stopped and bought fresh flowers for her desk at work.

Finally, I studied the one page I'd recovered from the hard drive. It was long and complex. I'd changed himself dramatically before. Certainly my twenty-four hour stint as a woman (who'd I discredited by getting drunk and insisting on a lap dance from a subordinate) had been quite a transformation. And, I recalled, the transition had been particularly painful.

I gathered the ingredients, acquired a powerful sedative that would knock me out long enough for the spell to work, and drove to a nearby parking garage. It was early morning and by the time I drank the nasty concoction and invoked the spell, Marilyn should've left for work.

Marilyn's new apartment was within walking distance.

On my way to the garage, I stopped at a few stores to buy the clothes I would need. It was a guessing game, of course, because I couldn't be certain size, but I thought I had some idea about style. And if I looked the slightest bit confused, a salesperson was at my side with some ready advice. It paid to be wealthy. It paid to shop at stores that could manage the kind of one on one treatment I preferred.

With a suitcase full of new clothes, tags still in place, I found a nice, rarely used parking space on the very top floor. I shelled out the extra amount for long term parking just in case, though I expected to return home each night.

In the back of a dark Lexus with windows tinted like mirrors, a miracle of nature was about to occur. I crawled into the back seat and readied myself. I read over the spell again, just to be sure. I'd learned from experience how particular the book was. One little mis-spoken word, one little shorted ingredient or substitution and your world would change in ways you could not anticipate.

I stripped, draped a sheet around myself and paused to reconsider what I was about to do. Through the rear window I could see the first rays of dawn.

I uncapped the bottle, held my nose and drank it as quickly as I could. The taste was indescribably bad and threatened to permanently sour my tongue. I wished I'd brought a chaser of some sort.

Already my mouth and throat were burning. Already I could trace the acidic, rotten egg taste right down into my stomach. I felt as if I'd drank a glass full of diesel and was even now exhaling its fumes.

My fingers and toes began to tingle. Then my tongue and lips and nose. Then the head of my penis. This was going to be a bad one I could tell. It was already starting. I downed the sedative and prayed the medicine would not adversely affect the potion.

With the page spread before me, with only the dome light for illumination, I read the words, then read them again, and managed a few chants before my limbs erupted with a terrible rash. Prickly and hot and itchy, I prayed to the god of absorption to speed the sedative along.

Before the god answered my prayer, I was privy to a horrendous cracking sensation from my pelvis. I filled my mouth with my three hundred dollar Monte Bravo dress shirt in an effort to dampen my screams.

I passed out well before the cracking and constricting of the plates of my skull.

#

My body pulsed. From the top of my head down to the soles of my feet. My muscles burned, skin tingled, bones ached; I felt as if I'd just returned from a ten mile hike after having contracted the bird flu. I remained motionless for a long while, waited for my body to recover.

When most of the pains had faded, I risked a slow rise to gawk at what I'd done to myself. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was always a little shocked when the spells worked, and they did work... thoroughly.

This time was no different.

The first thing I noticed was how compact I'd become. Before the spell I'd struggled to find a comfortable position in the back seat of my full sized Lexus. Now, I barely took up half the seat.

I was still naked, of course, covered only in the blanket I'd brought along, but with one jerk of my small hand I was bare. And no longer male.

It had been a shock to the system the first time I'd looked down and seen a vagina, and it hadn't helped that I'd had to peek over a nice pair of breasts to do it. I will confess to a certain exploration, just for curiosity sake, and I will further admit it wasn't entirely unpleasant, and although the time it took me to bring my womanly body to orgasm was noticeably longer, I'd greatly enjoyed the crushing climax when it'd finally arrived.

But this was much different. For one, I now had not a speck of pubic hair. I was clean except for my eyebrows and my head. I gawked at my small body, marveled at the tiny hands with their pudgy fingers, my fat little knees, my short legs... everything dramatically reduced. Where I'd once been a few inches past six feet, I wasn't even four feet tall now.

Of course, long ago I'd once been this size, but one doesn't vividly recall those days. Do you remember what it was like to have to ask for everything because you couldn't reach? Do you remember craning your neck constantly upward to decipher the enigmatic expressions of adults?

The strangest thing about being a prepubescent girl was the odd sexless quality of it. You don't have breasts or hips which is a sure announcement of one's gender, and your tiny, bare vagina has all the distinction of a Ken doll. I was flat on top and bottom, and woefully uninteresting.

I suddenly longed for a mirror, and was surprised I hadn't thought to bring one. There was the rear view mirror, of course, and I used it to identify the new being I had become. I placed my small hands on my chipmunk cheeks and looked into the eyes of a stranger. They were clear and blue and big. A dab of a nose was planted above what seemed overly plump lips, but it was normal for a child, I supposed.

I'd always enjoyed my dark brooding looks, but now I was all sunshine. Snapping blonde curls, rosy cheeks, creamy white skin, all worked their magic and would doubtlessly bring smiles to the eyes of doting parents everywhere.

#

Being in a little girl body was like having had one too many espressos at lunch. I'd forgotten the enormous energy that plays havoc on the body of a child; and it was relentless, building until I found myself jumping, running, even (Lord help me) skipping. I couldn't help myself; the energy had to go somewhere.

I was glad I'd chosen the little pink jumper rather than the frilly dress one of the saleswomen had suggested. I was halfway down the block when I realized I was humming some tune that I hadn't thought of in years; and swinging my arms in an exaggerated fashion and generally making a fool of myself. I started to chastise myself until I considered that it was exactly the behavior a girl my age would exhibit.

I rounded the corner and saw the old brownstone that was Marilyn's new hideaway. Somewhere in there was my book.

A car cruised past and the passenger was a swarthy man who pegged me with dark eyes. I became aware of my predicament then: alone, small, defenseless. I did not carry the credit I was used to, not the weight nor the respect. I couldn't outrun such a man; I certainly couldn't fend him off. I was vulnerable.

I watched as the car rolled on and disappeared around a corner. The car would complete to a stop; I fancied I could hear the squeal of the brakes. The man would get out; I could hear the slam of the car door. He would rush ahead and in fact was probably waiting for me just up ahead. I could see his shadow in the alley before me.

It took several minutes before I came to my senses. I'd let my childish imagination get the best of me. I forced myself partway into the alley to satisfy my irrational fear, but even then there was a part of me whispering: maybe he'd heard me approach and had hidden; maybe he'd be waiting for me on the way back.

Were something to happen, were I to be abducted, I would be in the worst imaginable predicament. My salvation was in a parked car far away. It wasn't like I could simply wave my hand and become my old self again. I had to have more of the potion and there was a different chant to return. I'd seriously considered bringing the potion along, but was terrified of losing it. It wasn't an easy potion to make, and its ingredients took money and a considerable amount of reach, even for a man of my status.

Satisfied I was safe for the moment, I approached the brownstone and waited. And by wait, I mean, I plopped my pantied bottom down on the front steps and grew quickly bored. There were the remains of a chalk hopscotch diagram on the sidewalk, but I couldn't remember the rules. I'd never played the game as a boy.

Still, my patience had thinned with my new age, and I soon found myself making up new rules and playing a new type of game simply to entertain myself.

The rattle of the front door drew my attention. Katie and her nanny were there and I felt a smile blossom on my rosy cheeks.

They were right on time.

Katie was her usual adorable self in her small blue designer overalls, perfect for the park. Her eyes darted around the neighborhood but found me soon enough. She blinked and bit her lip, her large green eyes judging me.

I smiled and waved and said in my chipper voice, "HI!"

She marched down the stone steps and stood before me. "What's your name?"

I froze. I hadn't planned on a name. I couldn't very well say Alex, so I chose the first name that came to mind. "Miranda."

She giggled and introduced herself, and just like that we were best friends, or so it seemed. I was welcomed by her nanny and invited to join them at the park, but I would have to ask my mommy first. A pretend phone call on the phone in the apartment building lobby settled it.

Crossing the street, Katie's nanny insisted we hold hands. It was a different experience holding my little girl's hand when I was the same size. Whereas my large masculine hands had once enveloped hers, whereas I'd once held her hand a little too tightly, misjudged my own strength and had marveled at how delicate her tiny hand truly was, now our small hands combined in a mutual, equal grasp. With a shock I noticed she was actually a little taller.

I suddenly felt like a little sister rather than a conniving father.

In the park we played a few childish games, tag, a proper game of hopscotch, hide and seek, and countless others. Each game had one consistent outcome, however: Katie was the winner. Partly because I didn't mind letting her win (and as a father I'd always allowed it), but mostly because whenever I was in danger of winning, she would create a new rule to cheat me out of the prize.

There were other children at the park, and I wouldn't have minded joining them or visa versa, but they didn't seem to like Katie, and disliked me by association.

The games themselves were fun, I had to admit. I forgot my problems, forgot about my book, forgot about Marilyn and getting Katie alone to pump her for information. I ran and squealed and giggled and smiled until my face was sore and my cheeks red with exertion, and far too soon, our play time was over.

The nanny, a frumpy agreeable Hispanic woman with deep frown lines, asked if I'd like to have lunch and after another pretend phone call to "Mommy", I agreed.

Lunch was the typical faire for children, macaroni and cheese and afternoon cartoons, though there were no cars and toys or "boy" cartoons. The cartoons were tailored to suit feminine tastes. They were about fairies and princesses and mermaids, all with special powers that emerged from lipsticks or compacts or magic wands. I should've been bored out of my mind (the productions were shockingly poor), but I wasn't. In fact, I was as enraptured with the weak stories as my dear daughter.

Afterwards, we were ushered to Katie's room to play, and I suspected for the nanny to be rid of us for awhile. She seemed genuinely pleased to have me around if only because it gave her a break from Katie's brattiness. I was appalled by the way Katie ordered the poor woman around.

I soon discovered Katie's constant need for attention was insatiable and relentless, and when she didn't get her way she could be downright tyrannical. I could attribute her behavior towards me and her style of play to our being on her "territory" - her room, her toys - but it was more than that. We played the games she wanted to play, by her rules, with her chosen outcome.

Katie was always the victor, the decision maker, hands down, without question, always. The one I time I'd dared to suggest that I be allowed to play the princess, she had crossed her arms, stomped her feet and yelled, "NO! It's MY game and MY rules!"

I'd challenged her on these points, saying while that might be true, it was only fair that I get to be the main character, or "princess", at least once. She marched over to her bedroom door, threw it open and told me if I didn't like it I could leave.

Well, I couldn't very well do that. I needed her, but for the first time I realized how spoiled my little girl had become. I wondered how much of this was my fault, but even in my current state I preferred to blame her mother.

I conceded.

Her game, her room, her toys, she gets to be the princess. Her grin appeared wider than usual, but she shifted gears and became sweet and happy again, drawing me into her arms and kissing me. I liked the attention, even if I was confused by it. Was this how little girls behaved with one another? Did they kiss and hug each other constantly?

"You're my best friend," she whispered and I reciprocated, telling her the feeling was mutual. "In fact," she added, "you're kinda like my sister. Let's be sisters."

I couldn't have planned it better: if we were "sisters", that gave me the opportunity to ply some information from her.

Unfortunately, a quick glance at the clock meant I would soon have to make a hasty exit. Marilyn would be home and I didn't relish the thought of meeting her in my current form.

Still, it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. "Okay," I said, then lowered my voice to a whisper, which wasn't hard because it wasn't exactly a rich baritone anyway. "But true sisters have to tell each other their secrets."

Katie thought about it, then smiled and nodded. "You first."

"Well," I began and then paused as if hesitating, "no, I better not. Never mind. Let's just be sisters."

Katie put on her pouty face, which always broke me as a father; it was no less cute and devastating now. "No," she replied, "you have to tell me. That's what sisters do."

"No, but I can't," I whined, uncertain of where I'd picked up that annoying little talent. "Mommy said I wasn't ever to tell anyone."

Katie slung an arm around me and squeezed my shoulders, whispering, "But I'm not just anyone. I'm your sister, so you have to tell me so we can be together for ever and ever."

"But," I tried, hoping I wasn't pushing this too far.

"Tell me," Katie ordered, her big green eyes solemn, "or I'll never play with you again."

I bowed my head, and feigned defeat. "Okay... well, Mommy has this special hiding place and this secret painting and I'm not ever supposed to tell anyone where it is or what it can do."

Katie looked awestruck. I knew what she was thinking: do all Mommys have special hiding places for their super secret things? Her mommy had a secret book; my mommy had a secret painting.

Katie licked her chops like a cat hearing a tin opener. "Where where is it?"

"It's behind the big bookshelves."

Katie nodded, and I could see her huge green eyes processing the information. I had her where I wanted her and I pressed. "Does your mommy have something like that?"

She nodded, still deep in thought, and was about to answer when the confounded nanny swung open the door and broke Katie's reverie. I could've killed the woman.

"Time to clean yourself. Su madre, she be home soon. Mama want a clean little girl, she say."

Which meant it was high time I split.

#

It was late afternoon and the Sun was almost down. I ran out of the apartment building and raced to the parking garage. It was a dangerous maneuver. Anyone could've stopped me, questioned me: what's a little girl like you doing out here alone? Where's your mother? Good intentions or no, I could easily get trapped. I dug my car keys out of my green Barbie backpack and saw my salvation the moment the elevator doors slid open.

A black Lexus never looked so sweet.

In the back seat, I downed the nasty potion, did my little chant and swallowed another sedative.

My drive home was groggy and hard to remember, but I made it and all I cared about was my bed with the thousand thread count sheets, so crisp, so clean, so cool and welcoming. I would like to say I lay awake working out my strategy for the next day, but I was so exhausted that my conscious brain never had a chance.

I did take the time to stretch my legs out beneath the covers, my long, hairy, male legs. It was good to be big and tall and masculine again. All my control was back, it seemed. Although, there was something about little Miranda that I couldn't help liking. She had a certain power I hadn't anticipated. She had drawn more than one delighted smile from the usually dour nanny, and had been on the precipice of manipulating a bossy little girl into revealing her mother's deepest secret.

I was convinced that the next day would bring the answers I so desired and the return of my book.

#

My body wasn't enjoying the transition, but I figured I could last at least a week of twice a day transformations before I ran into serious trouble. This could be defined as anything from a weakened heart to a fatigued blood vessel. It was far less stressful to change once and remain changed than to shift back and forth, but I didn't have much of a choice. I couldn't very well drive home when Miranda's feet couldn't reach the pedals. I considered maneuvering my way into a sleep over, but I couldn't risk contact with Marilyn.

The next day found me on the front steps again, only this time when Katie appeared, her nanny couldn't get the door open fast enough. Katie hopped up and down beside the poor Hispanic woman berating her. "Now, now, now, you slowpoke cow!"

The next time I had my weekend visitation with my little girl, I'd have to discuss with her the importance of manners and respecting your elders.

Katie burst from the door and took the steps two at a time to get to me. She wrapped her arms at me and squeezed until I nearly couldn't breathe. I giggled, then she giggled which made me giggle some more. I felt silly, but it was hard to resist.

We made our way to the park again, hand in hand, with Katie leading the way, dragging me along after her. We played our usual games, virtually in the same order and with the same results. Katie was the princess; Katie won; Katie always decided the outcome and the rules.

If anything, her behavior was worse than the day before. Now she wasn't simply dictating what we played, when we played it, how we played it, how it began, progressed and ended, but she was bossing me around the whole time. I was patient and followed her direction, because I needed her. She had yet to divulge that secret I so desired, but there was time.

We followed our usual routine, watching cartoons for lunch, though this time with sandwiches, and then into her room for hours of uninterrupted fun.

He tyrannical nature flared then, without even the nanny to mediate her temper. If I even hinted at not following her wishes to the letter, she would scream at me until she was red in the face or threaten me. She would no longer be my friend; we'd no longer be sisters; she'd tell my mommy that I'd said or done something awful; and so on.

When we decided to build a kingdom out of the bed sheets and pillows, I found myself doing all the work at her command.

"No, no! The pillow goes on the floor in the front of the chair!"

"But," I tried, "you don't want it on the chair?"

"NO! Down there!" She pointed. I threw the pillow down and started to tie off a corner of the bed sheet to the post, but she shouted at me again. "NO! It has to be straight!"

I rolled my eyes and shrugged. "What difference does it make?"

Her face swelled with rage. She screamed in my face. "You're stupid! You don't know to do anything right! Do it right! Do it right!"

I couldn't believe it, but I was actually frightened of her. We were roughly the same size, but if she became violent I wasn't sure I could defend myself. "I'm not stupid," I replied.

"Then do it right."

I squatted to straighten the pillow. She nearly stepped on my hand on her way past me to the chair. She plopped down, prim and proper, and gazed down at me with disdain. "No, it's not straight."

I sighed and squared the pillow up with the legs of the chair. "That's better. Now, go fetch my crown."

I stood and looked around the room. "Crown?"

"It's there, stupid," she said and pointed at the door. Hung on the knob was a paper crown from Burger King. I retrieved it and offered it to her.

"NO!"

I backed away, my hands up in surrender. "Okay, geez."

She whispered with a tight jaw. "You have to kneel on the pillow and hold it out."

"Okay, I didn't know we were playing already."

"We're not playing!" she yelled.

I stood with the crown in my hand and stared at her.

"Well?" she asked with contempt.

I bent on one knee and offered her the crown in my outstretched hand.

"Both knees," she whispered.

I put my other knee on the ground.

"Offer it with both hands," she ordered.

I held the crown with both hands.

"Now, you're supposed to say something," she said.

My mind raced. "Um, uh... we are gathered here today to honor our queen and to... um... ensure the security of the kingdom by endowing upon her the crown and all the powers that go with it."

She nodded and gave the imaginary crowd an ear to ear to grin, eyes shining.

A wave of relief ran through me, and also satisfaction. I'd done a good job, pleased her and I felt good about it. She was demanding, but I'd risen to the challenge. It was odd, but I felt proud.

She pointed at the crown and then to her head and closed her eyes, waiting like a princess. I got to my feet and slowly placed the crown on her head.

For the rest of our time together, she bossed me around. I prepared her royal bed for her, fetched her royal snacks from the nanny, even held her royal train as we marched to the bathroom. The more I worked to serve her, the happier she became. Being no stranger to hard work, I found that I was enjoying myself. If I was on my toes I could predict her next request and carry it out almost the instant it left her lips.

Finally, it was nearly time for me to go.

We lay on the bed with me at her feet, and her legs draped over my body. Without realizing it, I'd become her damn foot rest. "My Queen, may your loyal subject speak?"

She considered it. "Ummmmmmm... okay, but make it quick. I don't want to listen to you babble on for hours and hours."

I recognized much of what she said from our princess cartoon. "Well, yesterday we were doing the sister thing."

"Oh, yeah."

"But we were supposed to exchange secrets."

"Oh... right."

"Well I shared mine, but you didn't share yours."

She thought for awhile and then smiled. "Okay, um, I'll tell you my secret about my-" she lowered her voice to a whisper, "-my mommy's secret place, but... you have to be my servant for the rest of the week."

I sighed. "That wasn't the deal."

"Smell my feet."

I looked at her, appalled.

"Wh-what?"

"You have displeased me. Smell them."

"But I told you my secret!"

She scowled at me.

"Well, I did!" I complained. My cheeks were hot and I was so angry I was trembling.

She motioned me toward her with open arms. I slipped up the bed to hug her, which was common enough. It seemed we hugged fifty times a day. But at the last second she pushed me over and I found myself sprawled across her lap. She grabbed my arm and twisted it behind me. I squealed with pain, but she fussed at me in a harsh whisper.

"Be quiet. Do you want Nanny to hear?"

"But you're hurting me!"

"Shush!"

She slapped me hard on bottom and for a moment I nearly giggled. It was just so absurd. I recalled giving her a paddling as her father once long ago, but just once. Had I had that much of an impact on her? She began to pound my bottom with her hand.

It didn't hurt exactly, but something about the position made me feel small and weak and... well, just bad. Tears sprang from my eyes and I found myself crying.

"Are you going to be a good girl?" she asked again and again.

In between sobs I nodded and replied, "Yes, yes!" but that didn't satisfy her.

"Are you going to be a good girl? Huh? Are you? Are you going to make me spank you?"

"No, no, I'll be good. I promise!"

"I promise what?"

I turned and looked at her over my shoulder, my face wet with tears. "Wh-what?"

"I'm your queen, stupid!"

With a shock, I realized this was all a game to her. She had no idea that she was actually hurting me, humiliating me. I had little choice. My arm was aching and she was twisting it harder and harder. My bottom was stinging but she kept slapping me and the more sensitive it became the harder she seemed to hit.

"Y-yes, my queen."

"Yes, my queen what?"

"I promise, my queen, to be a good girl."

She leveled her eyes at me. "Then kneel and I will tell you my mommy's secret."

She let my arm ago, but for a long time I buried my face in the sheets and whimpered. Finally, I felt her soft touch on my hair. She shushed me and patted me softly and hugged me. She seemed to be sincerely apologetic, even if she never got around to actually apologizing.

When I'd gathered my wits, she smiled and pointed to the floor. I scrambled off the bed and got to my knees. Only much later did I become alarmed at how eagerly I'd begun to obey her.

But she kept her promise. Under the bed, there was a safe. She didn't know the combination, but she knew the book was there because she'd caught her mommy placing it there.

Now all I had to do was crack a safe. And somehow avoid being caught by the queen.

#

The perfect moment was when Katie was most distracted. The one time I was not subject to her whim and constant need for attention was when she was fully enraptured by her cartoons. I excused myself with the most embarrassing of reasons: "I gotta go potty."

It was a good deception as one door down the hall was Marilyn's bedroom.

Sizing up my ex-wife's bed, I concluded she would have no desire to crawl on hands and knees to retrieve her stolen prize, and therefore the safe must be accessible. In fact, with little delay I found it under some storage containers.

The problem was the combination. I knew Marilyn well enough to know most of her important numbers. Marriage will do that to a person: not only do you begin to recognize each other's amusing anecdotes long before they can utter the first syllable, but you become acquainted with your partner's body odors (breath and bile), body sounds (snap, creaks and pops), and yes, even their "numbers".

I did not enter into this territory unprepared. I'd studied the numbers of Marilyn's life the night before, researching everything from her mother's birthday to the latitude and longitude of her favorite city in her favorite country. Unfortunately, the numbers did not agree with the tumblers of the safe. I broke out in a sweat then. There was always the possibility that the safe had been installed with an arbitrary number which she had learned but never bothered to change. It was possible, but not probable.

Marilyn had a penchant for personalizing the possessions of her life, as she'd attempted to do with me and failed. I felt certain she would've altered the combination to something that she could not only remember, but which would be impossible to forget.

I was well into the date of her grandfather's death when I heard a gasp. I flinched and jerked up with the white, guilt-ridden face of the caught shoplifter.

Katie stood in the doorway with wide eyes and dropped jaw. She reminded me of her mother, painfully so, when I'd been caught being a little too familiar with one of our more comely babysitters.

My small, childish mind was woefully underpowered for deception. "I wasn't doing anything!" I blurted out, the lie so obvious that it pained me almost much as to hear it as it did to say it.

Her pudgy arms were interlaced, her cheeks splotched with anger, her knees locked tight as she stood with accusing eyes. "What are you doing?"

"I- I was just I wanted to see if you were telling the truth," I told her cleverly. "To see if you were making up your secret or telling me a true one."

Her arms uncrossed and fell, but her face held its hostility. Quietly, she said, "You're not supposed to be in here."

"Oh, okay." I smiled at her, but it was weak and superficial at best. Still, I tried a small skip as I passed her on the way out of her mother's bedroom. "Well let's go play then."

I assumed, wrongly, that I would hear nothing more about it or that the worse she could do was send me home. She had far more insidious ideas and a far more inventive mind than I had ever conceived.

Again, we built our castle out of bed sheets, and again I knelt before her and crowned her Queen and genuflected at every turn and was utterly used to the phrase, "Yes, my queen," by then.

But her play took a far different turn.

For now, I was a traitor in the court, having given away secrets of her magical powers. (It was not unlike an episode of Pretty Princess where one of her trusted fairies is seduced by the Dark Queen into stealing her magic wand.) I was led with great ceremony to the dungeon which took the form of her closet.

She berated me for some time, calling me traitor and stupid traitor and was I sorry, and "Yes, my queen, so truly sorry!", but it was never enough. Finally, I was let go and I was the utmost sycophant, thanking her and apologizing and begging for her forgiveness, and it was frightening how truly I felt the emotions of the traitor, of being her disloyal subject willing to perform the most lowly chore to acquire her good graces once again.

But then I'd betrayed her a second time, according to her, by using my freedom to sneak away and let enter the Dark Queen into my queen's castle. The Dark Queen was quickly vanquished by Queen Katie, but there I was again, begging harder than before, and this time feeling actual tears in my eyes.

I should've been startled at how she was using my real life deception to control me, to manipulate me into an utterly compliant state, but all I could think of was carrying out her next command and fulfilling my next punishment.

She had me turn around and kneel while I was blindfolded by one of her filthy socks, whose odor was distinctive to say the least. Then she tied my wrists together behind me and secured my ankles. I wasn't sure of the composition of my shackles, but I guessed it was some form of scarf or bandanna.

I was placed back in the closet and buried under bed sheets and pillows and stuffed animals until I felt I might be smothered. I begged her to release me and squealed and cried and wanted nothing more than to end our play session and return home, but she would not have it. After awhile, she asked if she should gag me with her other filthy sock or would I promise to behave? I promised as if it were my dying breath.

The minutes passed, each moment bringing more certainty that she would tire of the game and forgive me and dig me out from my prison, but it never came. After an eternity I called out to her and when I did not receive a reply began to struggle against my binds, which were surprisingly strong and inescapable. I began to lose my mind then, fearing that she had not only left her room, but had somehow convinced her nanny that I had gone home and wouldn't be fun to go ice cream?

I began to scream louder, sobbing from the pits of hell, my heart bursting with sheer terror.

Then I felt a touch on my ankle.

You would think that I would be assured, but I wasn't. Instead, my panic swelled to an all time high. Soon, the pillows and sheets were thrown from me, my ties loosened and I was in the soft arms of my captor and being quietly soothed and shushed.

With alarm, I realized that I was in someone's lap and fully enveloped in the warm embrace of an adult. The blindfold was removed and I blinked and squinted, fully expecting to see the face of Katie's nanny.

Instead, I was face to face with the object of my consternation, the concerned, sympathetic face of my ex-wife. Marilyn shushed me and scolded Katie with a cross tone.

"But we were having a good time!" Katie defended, and she seemed convinced and even surprised by my miserable reaction.

"Shhh, it's okay, sweety."

For a long time I cuddled with Katie's mommy, which I could not think of as my enemy. After I was properly sated, however, I remembered my mission and felt an odd mixture of fear, guilt and gratefulness. On one hand I felt such love and warmth for my rescuer; on the other, this was the woman who had ruined my life and stolen my most precious possession.

As Marilyn fussed at Katie, I saw my daughter regress slightly, plugging her mouth with her finger. For a little girl who had been so regal and ruthless and unforgiving moments ago, she now appeared as nothing more than a penitent baby.

"Now, what's your name, dear?" Marilyn asked in a soft, sweet mother's voice that was utterly powerful in subduing me. Why, I wasn't sure, perhaps my size, perhaps it was just that I "felt" small and she was an adult and therefore in naturally in control.

"Miranda."

"Well, Miranda, I'd like to apologize for my Katie, who has been very bad, and I assure you will be punished so that this incident is crystal clear in her mind."

"Th-that's okay," I tried, but Marilyn would hear none of it, but did hug me close and gave me a quick kiss on the top of my head.

I excused myself to the "little girl's room" and washed my face and took care of some urgent necessities. In the closet I'd felt my bladder growing larger and larger and beginning to throb with need. My little girl body had more frequent cycles of urination I'd discovered. I was painfully aware of how close I'd come to being regressed myself, back to the age of diapers and accidents.

Sitting on the overly large toilet, legs swinging, the backs of my shoes colliding with the porcelain bowl, it suddenly occurred to me that Katie might spill my offense to her mother. I couldn't exactly hurry myself along, but I wasted no time either. There was something naturally unsettling about the way the urine just spilled out and dribbled everywhere; I missed my almighty penis with its mostly accurate and hygienic aim. So, with a quick wipe, I drew up my panties, splashed my hands in some water and hurried from the restroom. I gathered my green Barbie backpack and made a beeline for the front door.

Marilyn was concerned about me, wanted to make sure I arrived home safely after my ordeal in her daughter's care, and insisted on walking me back to my mother's apartment. I panicked, knowing that my mother was in her late eighties and several states away.

As soon as we made it to hall of the building I raced around the corner and out a side door. I heard Marilyn calling after me, of course, but once a thief affects an escape they never turn back.

#

I could've heeded the warning of my close call. I should have, but I did not. In the front seat of my Lexus, the key inserted into the ignition, my long, hairy legs fully extended to the gas pedal, I tried to slow my pounding heart. My hands shook, and not because of the stress of the change. Far from it; it was because of the realization that I'd been so close to exposure. Total exposure. I could well imagine what Marilyn might do to if she guessed my true identity, especially with the "Book of Change" in her possession. Should I stumble into her possession, she could perform practically any spell upon me and I would be defenseless.

I was so terrified, I trembled the entire drive home. I imagined myself as little Miranda, gazing up into Marilyn's omniscient face, pleading for mercy as she sneered and produced the book. My drive was made all the more eventful by the raging erection that would not subside.

Still, the fear faded soon enough. It's difficult to think of one's self as helpless when one is over six feet tall. I was myself again, lean and muscular and masculine and feeling the confidence endowed by testosterone.

By the time I stretched out beneath my crisp, cool sheets, I was convinced that I could've handled any situation. I had my male mind; that's all I needed. I conveniently forgot the submissive spell that my own daughter had woven upon me. I conveniently remembered that I had chosen to submit to her powerful will because I needed access to the safe in her mommy's room.

Despite my self-assurance, I had no plans to return to my ex-wife's house. I would find another way. I knew where the book was now; I could hire the private detective again. I would let him hire the proper miscreant to rob the place.

If only the epiphany hadn't occurred. If only I hadn't had that moment of inspiration with which geniuses and artists are so familiar. If only the combination to Marilyn's safe hadn't dawned upon me.

She had once told me of a poignant moment of her adolescence. On the verge of puberty, attending her own lavish birthday party, her first menstruation had inconveniently appeared and ruined her party dress. From that day on, she'd told me, her life had never been the same. She had ceased to be a child, and become a woman with all the advantages and disadvantages of a woman.

I couldn't remember her birth date offhand, but I could find it. With the day and month known, it was only a guess at the year of her first period, and I was certain the safe under her bed would relinquish its prize.

One more day as pretty Miranda would be necessary, but after that I could kiss my tiny female alter-ego goodbye forever.

#

When the nanny saw my happy, cherubic face the next day she frowned. "You tell me apartment number."

I blinked and shook my head, my blonde curls dancing. "Wh-what?"

"You run off and Miss Marilyn want apartment number so she can call your mama when she get home from work."

I gave her the number of an apartment on the top floor, figuring I'd be long gone before my ex-wife returned from work. It was a good plan: spend the day like I'd spent all the other days, only this time I wouldn't need but a minute with the safe, then I could slip the book into my green Barbie backpack and make a quick escape.

The day in the park with Katie differed in that Katie behaved with good manners and grace and patience and a spirit of sharing that all elementary schoolteachers try to drum into the little heads of their students. Back in the apartment, I excused myself during lunch, while Katie was preoccupied with cartoons. She'd never dream I'd pull the same stunt twice.

I was under Marilyn's bed and working the tumblers before she even noticed I was gone.

Or so I thought, because I was on the last digit of the combination when the light clicked on. I tried to draw my legs in, hoping to be missed, but it was a childish plan. I knew I'd been caught again.

My chipmunk cheeks burned red with shame. I popped my head up and felt the sorrow start tears in my big blue eyes.

I'd been caught all right, but not by my daughter.

There stood Marilyn, her eyes sharp and disapproving, her lips thinned by anger and quivering with tension. She raised an eyebrow and I shrank from the accusation. "So!"

My little throat bobbed; I wiped the first tears from my pitiful eyes, wiped my already snotty nose on my pink sleeve, and bowed my head. I struggled for words, some sort of explanation, however feeble, that I might use to squirm out of trouble, but guilt struck me dumb.

She pointed to the bed. "Sit there until I return." She turned to the door, but hesitated. "And you better not so much as move a muscle, young lady. Do I make myself clear?"

I nodded in that exaggerated way that children do and climbed the side of the bed.

While Marilyn was gone I checked the windows. It was too far to drop to the yard below. The only exit was through the apartment door. That left some sort of plausible excuse and I fought with my childish imagination to create one.

Far too soon, however, Marilyn returned. She closed and locked the door, and her stern frown rooted me to the spot. I was humbled, frozen, and already whimpering with regret and apology.

She shushed me and stood with crossed arms and a tapping foot. Shaking her head, she sighed. "What am I going to do with you?"

I bit my lip and sniffled.

"I was up all last night thinking about it. I can't let you go... not like this anyway."

I blinked. "Wh-what do you mean?"

"Shush!" She leveled a finger at me and my lips clamped shut as if by her mental command. "Not another word out of you."

She sauntered around the bed and found my green Barbie backpack, open and awaiting the deposit of the Book of Change. She threw it on the bed and began to rifle through it.

I objected, of course. "NO! That's mine!"

"You hush right this instant! It seems to me that if you can go through my personal things, I should be able to go through yours."

"But it was only because Katie-" I tried, but she cut me off. I lunged for my backpack. She required very little strength to force me back.

"Not another word!" I couldn't be sure, but I thought I saw a hint of a smile when she continued. "Unless someone wants a spanking?"

I loathed the mixture of emotions controlling me: guilt, shame, helplessness, indebtedness, an overpowering desire to please my accuser, and the terrible fear of having my will struck away by the paddling of my pantied bottom.

My predicament caused me to regress. My thumb popped into my mouth and I hugged myself for comfort and consolation. I began to tremble and quietly sob.

In no time at all, she produced the keys to my Lexus from my backpack. She dangled them before me. "I recognize these."

I recoiled.

So softly, Marilyn ordered me closer. I did not want to comply, but she repeated the demand. "I said... come here."

I stretched the moment as long as I dared before I finally crawled across the bed and sat on my legs in a relaxed kneeling position before her. Her cold fingers gripped my chin and forced my eyes into hers.

Slowly and deliberately, she studied me. "Is that you in there, Alex?"

My breath caught in my throat.

Her eyelids wavered. She shook her head. "I can't believe it." She took me in, head to toe, a small girlish package. "I guess I didn't do as good a job on your computer as I thought."

With my true identity revealed, I was free (somewhat) of the childish spell this body had on my mind. "You took my book."

She sighed and nodded. "Yes, I did. I had to. I didn't trust you anymore. I saw what it did to you, what you used it for. You destroyed the lives of anyone that stood in your way. I can only imagine what you would've done to me."

My laughter was harsh and unforgiving. "You're claiming self-defense?"

Her eyes were clear; she was in control and this frightened me. "I'm not making any excuses. And doesn't it strike you that of all the things I took, including Katie, that it's that stupid book you came to get?"

"I figured the lawyers would settle things between you and I and Katie."

"Yes, I suppose they will." Her expression changed then to one of curiosity. "Did you enjoy playing with her?"

The question caught me off guard. "Well... yes, some. But I'm worried about her. She's so... bossy."

Marilyn sighed and her smile lines deepened, making her look old. "She's become... a handful. But I guess that's beside the point."

I nodded. "Maybe you should give me my book now."

She smiled tenderly and patted my pudgy knee. "No, dear. I can't do that, but if you like, you can get it from the safe." After a moment, she added with a querying smirk. "Did you figure out the combination?"

I hopped to the floor and answered her by spinning the dial until the steel door clacked. I had it then, the book, my book, and just as easily, she slipped it from my stubby fingers and opened it across her lap. "Of course," she said, "I already know what spell I intend to use, but I like to check my math, so to speak. I don't want to make any mistakes. We both know how particular the book is, don't we?"

I suppressed a nod and noticed how her tone had changed. It was soft and patronizing, like a teacher instructing a struggling student.

"If you give me the book back," I promised, "I won't use it on you. I won't harm you, but I want it back. It's mine. It's been in my family "

"For ages. Yes, I know, Darling, and I know you mean that right now, but tomorrow, when you have your manly pride again, what then? No, I can't return it just now, but I'll make you a deal."

I crawled back onto the bed and knelt beside her. "What kind of deal?"

"Well," she said and swept a blonde curl from my face, "I'll perform a spell on you, one that will ensure you will never want to use the book against me, and then a year from today, if you ask for the book's return, I'll hand it over."

I considered it.

She cupped my chin and smiled. "You're so cute when you're trying to be serious!"

I shrugged her hand away. "What kind of spell exactly?"

"You know that there are spells that change your physical state and ones that change your mental state. I've found one that will help you to be very loving and loyal. That's all."

I shook my head, my blonde corkscrew curls flying. "No, once you start, you could do anything, turn me into anything. Why should I trust you?"

"I could do that anyway, Dear, but I'm trying to be fair. Beside, when you think back, which of us broke the most promises?"

I glared at her. "Do marriage vows count?"

Guilt appeared in her eyes. She nodded and looked suddenly depressed. "Yes, you have me there, but overall, which of us was most untrustworthy?"

She had a point. "And that's all it would do, this spell, just make me think about you in a different way?"

She gave me the Girl Scout salute. "Scout's honor. It'll only tweak your way of thinking a little."

"And if I refuse, you'll do it to me anyway?"

"No, I wouldn't do that, but I can guarantee you'll never see your precious book again, because as soon as you leave, I'll build a fire in that nice fireplace there and burn it."

"You wouldn't!"

"If that's the only way I can be safe from it, and you, do you really doubt I would destroy it to protect myself?"

I nodded. It wasn't her book, and I couldn't see that she'd used it yet, and she had certainly had the time and ability. "And you'll let me leave and next year on this date I get my book back?"

She smiled. "You'll be free to leave, and next year you have but to ask for its return."

Reluctantly, I agreed.

#

I felt much like a doll. Marilyn arranged me on my back, took great care to drape my blonde curls around the pillow like a golden halo. She placed my tiny arms by my side and warmed my pudgy cheeks with her palms, cooing all the while. "You look just like a little angel."

She pushed the standing mirror beside the bed and positioned my head so I couldn't help but stare at my own image. I grew suspicious. "What's that for?"

"Hush, Sweety. You don't want me to make a mistake, do you?"

I rolled my head to get a look at her, but she gently, insistently rolled it back. I had no choice but to gaze at my own little girl face with the big blue eyes and long lashes and soft, pink cheeks.

Suddenly, Marilyn peeled back my pink shirt and plopped a handful of cold goop onto my chest. I couldn't help but squeal a little with surprise. Marilyn giggled softly and began to rub the cold, greasy potion into my skin. She caught me watching her in the mirror. "Don't look at me, Dear, look at yourself."

The ointment was still cold, but was warming quickly and the smell of mint and lavender began to penetrate my nostrils. Soon it was all I could smell and it was so strong it was making me dizzy. "What is this stuff?"

Marilyn smoothed back my bangs and gave me a light kiss on the forehead. She continued to rub the warming lotion over my chest and tummy. "Shhhh, just take in everything you see in the mirror. See that cute little girl with the never-ending curls and the deep blue eyes?"

"Yes." I watched my long lashes fold together and part as I blinked. The ointment was beginning to burn now and tingle with pins-and-needles, but it wasn't unpleasant; in fact, it was soothing and I felt my breath deepening. My cheeks were suddenly feverishly hot and I had a sudden desire to curl up and take a long nap.

"Isn't she adorable?" Marilyn asked softly.

"Yes... but "

"Shhhh, you promised you'd go along with it."

I took a breath that seemed to go on forever, inhaling the cool mint aroma and exhaling all my tension with each hot breath. I felt my lips part and soon the breath was passing through my open mouth as well. The bed seemed much bigger now, much softer, then I realized I was still staring at himself in the mirror. I had forgotten somehow, had drifted off, but there I was in my pink top and blue shorts, my frilly pink socks and blue sneakers....

"If you must think of something, you can think about how much fun you had playing with Katie. Do you remember that, Sweety? Running and playing with your sister?"

I was lost in my reflection: huge blue eyes enveloped by a soft cloud of snapping blond curls. I shook my head slightly and watched as the little girl in the mirror reciprocated. "D-daughter, you mean."

Marilyn's tone became soft and slow and deep, almost as if she were on the verge of falling asleep or was under the effect of some powerful sedative. "Oh... but didn't you once say you would deny little Katie nothing?"

"Yes, but "

"And didn't Katie ask you to be her sister?"

"Yes-" I wanted to object, but I was so tired that all my thoughts had deserted me. I took a deep breath and felt warm and relaxed and heavy. I gazed sleepily into the mirror: Miranda was such an adorable little girl.

"Sisters, then, running and playing and having fun like little girls do."

My mind was filled with the memory of playing with Katie in the park. I heard Katie's bright, happy voice exclaiming, "Let's be sisters!" Katie was always the princess or the queen, and I, I mean, Miranda, was always her servant.

"It was sooo much fun playing with your sister. Wasn't it, Sweety?" Marliyn hummed and I was sure I heard a smile in her voice.

I answered in my mind and waited for my throat, for my lips, for my voice to come; it seemed to take forever, but finally it emerged, soft and quiet and agreeable. "Sisters are fun."

"Sooo much fun, you and your sister... and there is always an older sister and a little sister. Which were you, Darling?"

Katie telling me what to do in the park, directing our play. Katie choosing the cartoons and what we would eat at lunch. Katie being crowned queen by me, her little sister. Katie punishing me, her little sister, for doing something naughty."

"L-little."

"Little," Marilyn agreed. "Little and young and naive and following her big sister around because little sisters love their big sisters, because they're older and wiser. Little sisters always do what they're big sisters tell them, don't they?"

Crawling from the depths of my sedated thoughts came a sense of wrongness. What was she doing? She was just supposed to to change me a little, not.... I couldn't remember. It seemed like an agreement made ages ago and the details were fuzzy. "I... I'm her father "

"But no father would let a daughter tell him what to do, would they?" I started to shake my head, but she continued without giving me a chance. "No father would let his daughter dominate him so, tie him up and punish him like a little girl, only a little sister would let her big sister do that. Only a little sister would love her big sister sooooo much that she would obey the tiniest little think asked of her."

I did not agree, but I did not disagree. I felt caught somehow, constricted, trapped between thoughts. She was right, but so was I. I felt I was alone in the darkness looking for a lit doorway.

I was enveloped in the cool mint of the potion, my chest burning with pleasure, making me feel so sleepy, so heavy and hot.

"Is that a father in the mirror? No, that's a darling little girl, that's a little sister, that's a happy child named Miranda."

Blue eyes, blonde curls, milky white skin with pink cheeks, pink clothes. Miranda.

"Sisters love each other. Little sisters listen to their big sisters. Miranda loves Katie. Katie is her older sister. Miranda loves her big sister. That little girl in the mirror is just a child, and all a child cares about is being happy, being loved. You do love Katie. Don't you, Dear?"

I knew there was a flaw in her logic, but before I could analyze it, refute it, I was presented with a question so easy to answer that it required no thought. I loved Katie. "Yes." Somehow, I felt I'd just said yes to everything.

The ointment had soaked into my skin, but Marilyn continued to rub her warm hand in slow, soothing circles around my chest and tummy. She watched my little girl face change from fear and tension to relaxing calm, spotted the little crease of confusion and hummed lovingly in my ear until my face was at ease and had the beginnings of a carefree smile.

"Miranda loves her big sister. All she cares about is being happy and being loved and having fun with her big sister and her mommy."

I nodded slightly, and closed my eyes.

"Nothing else matters. The world is soooo big and sooo scary, but you have your big sister to protect you, to tell you what to do and as long as you listen you will always be happy and loved and have fun. Isn't it wonderful to have a big sister like Katie?"

I nodded again, a feeling of dreaminess overwhelming me.

"Does Miranda love her big sister?"

I nodded and plugged a thumb into my mouth, removing it only long enough to reply, "I love my big sister."

Marilyn smiled. "Any time the big, bad world scares you, any time you have nightmares or bad dreams, dreams which seem real, you can count on your big sister to make it alright."

I nodded.

Marilyn whispered into my ear. "It's almost nap time, but not quite yet. Will you hold on for just a little while longer, Miranda, Sweety?"

I nodded. I was so ready for bed, to sink deep into a warm, dreamy sleep.

"Good girl. Now I know you love Katie, because she's your big sister, but Katie has a mommy, doesn't she?"

I nodded.

"Who is Katie's mommy, Miranda?"

I unplugged my thumb and said with a soft, quiet voice. "You're Katie's mommy."

"That's right, Darling. You're sooo smart. Such a good girl. So, if I'm Katie's mommy and Katie's your big sister than who is your mommy?"

Marilyn was prepared for some resistance and was elated when I replied almost immediately, "You are, Mommy."

I smiled and could hear myself starting to snore softly.

#

For a long time, I didn't know who I was. I knew myself as little Miranda, knew Katie as my bossy sister and Marilyn as my loving mother. Through the years, I had dreams, of course, but Mommy would always rub that sweet lotion on my chest and whisper to me until I fell back asleep. When I awoke I would only remember having had a nightmare and not its content.

To Marilyn's credit, she was, uh, is a good mother, and I, for the most part, have been a good daughter. It's been ten years since that fateful day, and I think I remember everything, but I can't be sure. I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, though Mom was able to delay it for quite some time.

But to say I remember the details isn't to say that I remember them firsthand. I remember the thoughts and feelings of Marilyn's ex-husband, but I can't conceive of what I was really like when I was him.

I have access to the book now, so if I wanted to I could probably change myself back, but I've been Miranda so long that I can't really see myself doing so. I've been through so much, a first crush, first period, first dance, first date. I'm popular at school, and have developed pretty nicely I think. Mom's always saying what a cute figure I have, to which I can only blush and complain, but I know she's right.

Besides I've spent all this time collecting a full closet of clothes and shoes, how could I give those all up? And there's a boy I like who likes me and it's sweet when we're together, all naked and desperate for each other. I like how easy he is to manipulate, only because of Katie though. She knows more about boys and sex and how to get what she wants than anyone else I know, more even than Mom. I can't help but admire her, even when she turns those techniques against me and has me doing all kinds of things for her. I love her so much. She's the perfect sister.

So, I guess Mom won in the end; she always seems to anyway. I'll place this with the book in Mom's safe and probably take a few days to think about things. Or maybe not. Remembering it all is a little depressing.

Maybe I'll have a nightmare tonight. Maybe I'll ask Mom to rub some lotion on my chest and help me forget.

Maybe before I nod off to sleep and listen to those soft whispers of hers, I'll ask her to burn this letter.

I think I will.

# # #


 



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