Happiness and a Warm Gun

----------=BigCloset Retro Classic!=----------

★ Definitive Gemstone Story ★

Synopsis: As a young boy nineteen years ago, Cindy was the victim of a serial child molester. Now the man who did it is about to be released from prison. What does she intend to do about him; and how is she coping?

This is a stylistic change from my previous writings, a darker, leaner story. You've been warned! Parts of this story are autobiographical.

Story: This story deals with the continuing mental trauma of a victim of child molestation. While there are no depictions of child molestation, there are flashbacks that contain some details. If this sort of thing is upsetting to you, please do not read this story. All the people in this story are fictional, except for the sexual predator that started it all, may his soul rot in hell. KJT

Happiness And A Warm Gun
 

By Karen J. Taylor
Copyright 2006


Admin Note: Originally published on BigCloset TopShelf on 5-31-2006, retro-classiced on Sat, 08-29-2009 at 1:45pm (-0400), and is re-presented again as a GemStone Quality Story, a timeless classic throughout the ages, for our newer readers today. ~Sephrena
 
 

I stood outside the gun shop, building up my nerve to enter. Why was I scared? I’d been afraid all my life, now I felt ready to take the first step in setting myself free.

~~Okay, just do it.~~

I pushed open the door, walked in, and stopped because I had no idea what to do next.

“May I help you, Miss?”

Startled, I spun around, I hadn’t seen the guy behind the counter off to the side.

“Ah, I. . . .”

“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to surprise you like that.”

“I didn’t see you over there. . . .”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, I. . . . I’m fine. I want to buy a gun.”

“That’s why I came to work this morning. What kind of gun do you want?” He was tall, with dark eyes that seemed to look right through me.

“Oh, uh, I don’t know? What kind should I. . . ? I mean. . . I don’t have any idea. . . .”

“Perhaps you should tell me what you want it for; and we can go from there.” His gaze seemed to penetrate my soul, like he knew just what I planned. For some reason that made me so mad I could barely choke out the words.

“I want a gun to carry. . . in my purse. . .for self-defense, all right!”

He seemed a little surprised at my vehemence. “Of course, that’s fine. We have a nice selection of lady’s automatics. . . .”

“No.” I cut him off. “I want a big gun --, one that will stop somebody. One shot.”

“Uh, no offense, Miss, but a big gun might be a little hard for you to control. I think you’d find it easier to handle one of the smaller automatics.”

~~Yes, I’m 5’5” and weigh maybe a hundred pounds dripping wet on a good day, but I needed to be sure that I could do it with one shot. I wasn’t sure I’d get a second.~~ “You do give lessons, don’t you? I want the biggest gun you can teach me to shoot.”

 “Okay. Tell you what, why don’t we take some time in the range, see what you can handle.”

I nodded. “That would be fine.”

“I’ll need to see some ID, then. In order to use the range, you have to pass the standard firearms check required to actually buy a gun. By the way, my name’s Mike, Mike Merrill. I own the shop.”

“Cynthia Thomson.”

I opened my purse, pulled out my billfold and extracted my ID’s, driver’s license, social security card, and several credit cards. All carried the name of Cynthia Alexis Thomson, and all perfectly good . . . if I’d gotten my money’s worth.

He took them and stepped into the back. I tried to conceal my nervousness by looking out the store window while waiting for him to return. After a million years, but probably more like ten minutes, he came back out. “Everything’s in order, Ms Thomson. Here’s your range card, I’ll add the charge to the ticket for whatever gun you buy. Since you’re planning to carry a concealed weapon, I’ve also started your application for a concealed-carry permit.”

“Thank you. When do we pick some guns to try?”

We finally narrowed the choices to the Glock 26, “The baby Glock”, Mike called it, and a Smith & Wesson revolver, a 632.

“The Glock is actually the more powerful gun, the 632 is a good concealed carry gun.”

I was fascinated by them. “Which is more accurate?”

“The Glock, as it has a longer barrel.”

“Can we try them out?”

“Not today, I’m by myself. Come by tomorrow, when I have some help, then I’ll take you back to the range.”

After leaving the gun shop, I drove straight to my apartment. I was all right until I closed the door behind me. Weak-kneed, I slumped to the floor as the unwanted memories forced their way out.

 

“See how big it is, Chris? Now hold it like I taught you.”

“Uncle Jim, I don’t want to!”

“Chris, your father said for you to do what you were told. You don’t want me to tell him you were a bad boy, do you?”

“No, Uncle Jim.”

 

I don’t know how long I stayed on the floor, reliving the old pain. Nineteen years later, the memories of what he did still had the power to cripple me. I hadn’t been the first boy he molested. I also hadn’t been the first who tried to tell somebody –, anybody –, what was going on . . . only to be ignored. But I would see to it that he never did it to any young boy again.

Getting up, I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My hair was a mess, and my make-up was streaked all over. I stripped and stepped into the shower.

I lathered up my hair; it was below my shoulders now and was a chore to take care of; but it marked my first steps to freedom a couple of years before. I would as soon cut off an arm as cut my hair.

I worked my way with the soap down to my breasts; they were a wonder to me. Even after a year and a half, I was still amazed by them. Only a B cup, but my doctor said I might make it to a C, as the hormones continued their work.

After lathering my stomach, I reached the newest change, brought about by the surgery I’d desired for so many years. Visually, I was all woman. It would take a DNA analysis or a gynecologist to show that I hadn’t been born female. The surgery had been painful, and expensive, but I’d sued everybody that had ignored my desperate pleas for help as a child. Teachers, schools, doctors, ministers, even my own parents; they paid the price for pretending that “Uncle” Jim was a kind man who would never do the things I said. I told myself they owed me for dismissing my cries for help. Sometimes I even believed it.

Then I had to wade my way through the doctors and psychiatrists who insisted my desire “to be female” was a result of the molestation. “We can help you, you can be cured,” they insisted. I finally found a knowledgeable and understanding doctor who sided with me, and signed the papers that allowed me to get the body I should have been born with.

In a cruel twist of fate my SRS surgery had been scheduled at the same time as “Uncle” Jim’s parole hearing. Without me there to speak against him, he was able to convince the board to allow him to walk out a free man in a matter of weeks. Free . . . while I was still a prisoner of the memories of what he had done. Not much longer, though. I knew how to exorcise the demons, and eliminate their source. All it would take was one shot.

Drying off, I decided I’d feel better if I went out. I blow-dried my hair, and twisted it up in a knot, and then sat down and applied a minimal amount of make-up. Without it, I looked about sixteen instead of my actual twenty-six. A simple blouse, jeans, and a corduroy jacket would suffice for the kind of place I had in mind for dinner.

Driving down the highway, I surveyed the choices. Spotting a chain pizza restaurant that boasted a good salad bar, I decided to give it a try. I chose the deluxe salad bar and iced tea; they never had a pizza small enough for somebody my size.

The restaurant was busy. After loading my salad plate I didn’t immediately see a free table or booth. Then I heard my new name called, and saw an arm waving. It was Mike from the gun shop, along with two children.

“Ms Thomson . . . meeting someone?”

“No, I’m by myself.”

He smiled. “Could be a long wait for a table; why don’t you join us?”

“Well, I. . . . Thank you, I will.” I really didn’t have much choice, either sit with them, or stand waiting for a free table. Either way I’d feel uncomfortable.

“These are my two kids, Rebecca and Steven. This is Ms Thomson; she’s a new member at the range.”

“Hi Ms Thomson, it’s nice to meet you,” Rebecca said. Steven shrugged and merely said “Hi”.

“Hi Rebecca . . . Steven. Nice to meet you too. Please call me Cindy; Ms Thomson is too formal for pizza.”

Rebecca smiled at me, and resumed a discussion that was apparently going on prior to my arrival. “Dad, I’m the ONLY girl that doesn’t have them! Ask Cindy, I’ll bet she agrees with me!”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” I protested. “I’m a visitor here; don’t put me in the middle!”

“She’s got a point there, Bec. It’s not polite to drag Cindy into our discussion.”

“Yes, Dad.” Rebecca turned to me. “I’m sorry Cindy, but it’s always two against one, I’m outnumbered!”

“She’s right, Cindy, I forget sometimes how she misses a woman’s outlook. Would you mind giving us your opinion on something?”

“I guess that all depends on what it is,” I told him.

“Oh, it’s no big deal really. . . .”

“DAD!”

“Well, it isn’t really, Bec. She’s thirteen, and she wants to get her ears pierced. I say she’s too young, but she says all the other girls have pierced ears. What do you think?”

I noticed Rebecca’s wince when Mike used the nickname, I knew how kids could really cling to their dignity at that age.

“What does her mother think? I asked.

“My wife died several years ago, I’m a single parent,” he told me.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. . . .”

“That’s okay. It’s just that I’m not much good at understanding a woman’s point of view.”

“Well in that case. . . Rebecca, I was older than you when I got my ears pierced; my father made me wait too.” I saw her slump, she was unhappy at the thought of losing the argument. I turned to her father. “But Mike, she’s right, most of the kids her age have pierced ears. Rebecca seems like a smart young woman. If you want my opinion, I say let her do it.”

Mike looked at me, and then turned his attention to his daughter. She didn’t say anything, but her face was silently pleading. “I’d be stupid to ask for an expert opinion, and then ignore it. All right Rebecca, you can do it.”

Rebecca jumped up and ran around to her father, giving him a big hug. “Thank you, Dad!” Then to my surprise, she gave me a hug too, “Thank you, Cindy!”

The waitress brought their pizza, and four plates. “Help yourself, Cindy,” Mike said. “There’s plenty to go around.”

Well, there may have been plenty to go around, but it didn’t last long. When there was nothing left but scraps of crust, Mike turned to me, “Busy this evening?”

“No, not really. Why?”

“The mall’s open until nine, I thought I’d take my best girl to get her ears done. She could probably use some female support.”

“DADDY!” Rebecca squealed. “Can you come, Cindy?”

“Sure, I guess so.”

I followed their car over to the mall. Just inside was one of those stores where they sold everything near and dear to the teenage girl’s heart. We went inside, and Mike signed the permission slip.

"I'm going to take slugger here down to the sporting goods store; he needs a new baseball mitt. You girls join us when you're through here." He handed Rebecca a twenty. "Will that cover it?" he asked me.

"It should." I told him.

As they were leaving, Mike pulled me aside. "Make sure she gets something pretty."

Faced now with actually choosing which earrings she wanted, Rebecca had a hard time deciding. She finally narrowed it down to three choices. "What do you think, Cindy?"

"I like the crystal ones, Rebecca. They really sparkle when the light hits them."

"These then," she told the clerk. She sat at the piercing station, and the clerk marked her ears- showing her in a mirror where the holes would be. Rebecca looked up at me, and I nodded.

As the clerk picked up the piercing gun, Rebecca reached over and took my hand. I gave it a squeeze, which she returned.

Afterward, Rebecca preened in the mirror, turning her head back and forth, watching the flash and sparkle.

We met her father and brother outside the sporting goods store. “Look, Dad!” Rebecca tuned her head to show off her new earrings.”

“Pretty, sweetheart. Anybody up for some ice cream?”

I begged off, pleading an early appointment the next morning.

“Thanks for you help, Cindy. I appreciate your assistance with the woman’s perspective.” Mike told me.

“Yeah, thanks, Cindy!” Rebecca gave me another hug.

 

That night I had another nightmare, as the time came closer for his release, they were becoming more frequent and worse.

 

“It hurts, Uncle Jim! I don’t wanna do this!” I pleaded.

“You’ll get used to it, Chris. This is what men do sometimes. You do want to be a man, don’t you?”

“I, uh. . . .”

“It’ll get easier, just bend over some more. . . .”

 

I woke, gasping for breath, drenched in sweat. The sheets were soaked. I stumbled into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face. Wrapping myself in a blanket, I sat down in the living room and stared at the blank TV screen until I finally fell asleep again.

 

“I’m ready to start learning how to shoot,” I told Mike the next day at the range.

Mike looked closely at me, “Cindy, you don’t look too good. You all right?”

“I’m fine. Just a little trouble sleeping last night. I’ll get over it.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“Just teach me how to shoot.”

He looked at me again, and seemed about to say something, but apparently thought better of it. “Let’s try the pistols.”

It was obvious I had better control of the little automatic; and we put the revolver aside. Even so I was still having problems controlling the gun. Mike was standing behind me, watching my actions, “Here, hold it like this.” He reached around me to place his hands over mine on the gun.

I flinched, twisted out of his arms, and stood there panting. “Don’t ever do that!”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you!”

I waved him to be quiet, and got my breathing under control. “Not your fault. Coming up behind me, like that. . . . It brought back some bad memories . . . is all.”

“I see. Want to talk about it?”

“No. Yes. Ah, no.”

“When you make up your mind, let me know.” He grinned to take the sting out of his words. “You know, I used to be a cop. I’ve pretty much heard it all.”

“I, uh, I was molested, as a child. Nobody would listen to me.”

Mike paused, and seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. “That’s why you’re buying the gun?”

“Yes. I put him in prison; he swore he’d make me pay. Now he’s getting out. They say he’s a model prisoner. He’s getting time off for good behavior; but I live with what he did to me each and every day!”

“That’s what I hated about the courts when I was a cop. We’d bust our asses catching some scumbag, and then the judge would slap him on the wrist and turn him loose.”

“Is that why you quit?”

“No. My wife, Jackie, died of cancer four years ago. For awhile afterwards, Rebecca would cry every time I went to work. She’d ask me, ‘Are you coming back, Daddy?’ My kids needed a fulltime father. I took a 50% retirement, and a couple of other guys chipped in and helped me open this place.”

Mike shook his head, like he was trying to knock something loose. “Back to work. We need to get you up to speed. You’ll need to be able to protect yourself just in case. Now, take the gun in your right hand. . . .”

We were finishing up when the PA called Mike to the phone.

“This is Mike. Hi, Bec! She’s right here, I’ll ask her.” Holding his hand over the mouthpiece, he turned to me. “Do you bowl?”

“Do I what?”

“Bowl. You know, round balls you throw down the lane and try to knock the pins down.”

“A little. Why?”

“Bec’s having a birthday bowling/slumber party with some of her friends Thursday night, since there’s no school Friday. She wants you to come.”

“I’m not very good, “ I said doubtfully.

“She says she’s not very good,” he told Rebecca. He listened for a minute and turned to me. “She says Great! You can be on my team then. How about it

“I guess so. . . .”

“She said yes. I’ll be home in a little bit. Is your homework done? Don’t “Oh, Daddy” me, young lady! See you in a bit. I love you too.” He turned to me.

“You know where Century Bowl is?”

I nodded.

“Eight Thursday evening. In fact, if you feel really brave, we’ll be at the Chuck E. Cheese at six for dinner. A half dozen thirteen and fourteen-year old girls, plus Steven and me.

“I’m not sure if I’m that brave!”

“Steven isn’t sure he is either!”

“Then I’ll have to come and give Steven some moral support.”

“I’m sure he’d appreciate it. You know, in some ways, he’s taking the loss of his mother harder than Rebecca. He was only five at the time, and doesn’t really remember her clearly, which makes him feel guilty.”

“He seemed rather quiet last night, I wondered about that.”

“He doesn’t have many friends, and Rebecca is such a Type A person, she just runs right over him.”

“That’s a shame; he seems like a nice boy.” I felt sorry for Steven, he reminded me of myself at that age. I’d had no close friends; and there were times it seemed like I was invisible. Even the negative comments from the older kids were a treasure; at least they’d noticed me.

“He is. Are you coming by tomorrow?”

“No, I’ve got some business to take care of. Maybe Thursday afternoon.”

I stayed up later than normal, hoping to tire myself out, but as usual sleep came hard. I’d become increasingly terrified to close my eyes; sleep didn’t give me any release from my fears. I had another nightmare that night, but it wasn’t as bad. In it, a man stepped in and protected me. I couldn’t see his face, but I was sure I knew him. He was kind; and I trusted him.

When I woke, it was already late morning, but I still had some time before I was to meet my contact. I took a shower, and sorted my dirty laundry. Perhaps I’d do a load or two afterwards.

Finally I hopped in my car and drove over to the diner. I sat in the end booth with my back to the door as I’d been instructed.

I was beginning to think he wasn’t coming when he slid in across from me. “Everything satisfactory?”

“Extremely. They were accepted without question.” I slid an envelope across the table. He picked it up and glanced inside before tucking it into his pocket.

“It’s been a pleasure, Miss. . . .”

“Wait. I need something else.”

“Like what?”

“A gun. I slid a piece of paper with the information across the table to him. “It’s gotta be clean. No priors.”

“That will cost, and this isn’t a cheap gun.”

“How much?” He quoted me a price that was $300 higher than the retail price. “Too much.” We haggled a bit, and finally settled on $150 over retail. I slid another envelope across the table. “Here’s $400, balance on delivery.” We agreed to meet again Monday morning, and he left.

I went home and did some follow up on the internet. “Uncle” Jim was scheduled for release at seven on Monday morning, just over seven weeks away. I was sure I would be ready by then.

That night was worse.

 

“Smile Chris, you want to look happy for the picture!”

“Who’s going to see them?”

“They’re just for me. Oh, and maybe a few of my friends. Now, turn away from me, bend over and look back.”

“Yes, sir”

“Chris, don’t be so formal, we’re such good friends, call me Uncle Jim!”

“Yes, Uncle Jim”

“Now, pull your underwear down and look back at me. No, stay bent over, put your hands on your knees, look back at me and smile!”

“Uncle Jim!”

 

I got up and took a shower, trying to clean myself. Returning to the bedroom, I saw it was just 4:30 in the morning. I sat at the computer, and searched again. I’d found my pictures on multiple websites dedicated to that sort of man-boy love, as they called it. A few I’d been able to get shut down. But so many more were outside the U.S., and there was nothing I could do legally. Some I’d succeeded in hacking, usually it was only a short-term victory, as most were up and running again in a couple of days.

My search turned up another new one, so I turned loose a worm to see what it could find in the way of vulnerabilities

Looking at the clock, I saw it was after seven, so I decided to get dressed for the day, but even make-up couldn’t completely disguise the dark circles under my eyes. Maybe the doctor would help.

Sure enough, the doctor was willing to prescribe some strong tranquilizers, as well as Ambien for sleeping. When I explained the rules of my non-existent prescription drug plan at my non-existent job, he wrote a second prescription for a three-month supply of each.

I got the first ones, a two-week supply of each, filled at a local pharmacy. The others I mailed to an Internet pharmacy located in Canada, which I used for my hormone supplies.

When I walked into the gun shop, Mike took one look at me and pulled me into the back room.

“What’s wrong?”

I flared up. “The same thing that’s been wrong for the past nineteen years, only now I have to worry about it happening again. You know that half the child porn sites on the Internet have pictures of me? And the son of a bitch is getting out of prison in seven weeks.”

“Go home and get some sleep, Cindy.”

“Does it look like I’ve been sleeping?”

“You can’t go on like this. Have you been to a doctor?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I got these.” I pulled out the pharmacy bag. “But I can’t take them until I go home tonight.”

Mike looked in the sack. “These are some pretty potent drugs.”

“I hope so. I can’t take much more. Now can we get to it?”

It only took a couple of clips to show that I wasn’t in any shape to practice. Mike took the gun out of my hand.

“Come with me.” He took me into the office, which had a well-worn leather couch against one wall. “Lie down and get some rest. You’re safe here.”

As I stretched out, he pulled a blanket out of a closet and spread it over me. I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but I fell asleep right away.

Mike woke me about five; it took a few seconds to figure out where I was.

“I figured you’d want to go home and clean up.”

“Yeah, thinks. How long did I sleep?”

“Three hours, solid. You look better.”

“I feel better,” I admitted.

“I’m headed home, can I drop you anyplace?”

“No, my car is outside.”

“You don’t have to come tonight if you don’t feel like it.”

“No, I’ll be there.”

By the time I got cleaned up and arrived at the restaurant, it was already after six. They weren’t hard to find; I just looked for a gaggle of screaming girls. Mike was sitting at the head of a table, Steven by his side. I went over and dropped in the chair besides Steven.

“How ya doin‘, Steven?”

“Okay”

“How come you’re not playing?”

“With THEM?”

“Good point!”

He turned and looked at me in surprise.

I smiled at him. “Which games do you like?”

He pointed at a two-person race car game.

“Well let’s go.”

“Huh?”

“Think you can beat me? I’m ready if you are.”

“Sure!”

When we got to the bowling alley, Steven was pleased to show me how to improve my game; it needed a lot of help!

 

When I got home I felt tired, but good, maybe this would be a better night. I was able to get some sleep, with the help of the sleeping pills, but woke logy the next morning. That might be a problem, I‘ll have to see.

 

“You look better today,” Mike commented. “I take it the pills helped.”

“Yeah. Let’s see how they affect my shooting.”

My shooting ability wasn’t as good as it had been, but Mike said it could be because of the lapse in the training. “I wanted to thank you for taking Steven under your wing last night, that’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time.”

“He just needs someone willing to enter his world. He’s been having to compete in Rebecca’s world, where he’s at a disadvantage.”

“I hadn’t thought about that.”

“Steven really needs some quality time with his father. You need to make some time for just the two of you.”

“It’s hard to do, being a single parent.”

“Don’t you have a female friend, someone Rebecca likes, who could take her for an afternoon occasionally? Let them go do girl things, and you and Steven go do your guy things. Go to a ball game, or a movie, whatever he’d like to do.”

“Bec likes you, would you help? She needs to get some new clothes, maybe you could take her shopping?”

“Ah – when?” ~~Why was I getting involved?~~

“Saturday afternoon”

“I. . . . I suppose so, if it’s okay with Rebecca.”

“Okay with her, why wouldn’t it be?”

“She might have plans with her friends or something. Mike, she’s on the verge of becoming a young woman, you need to show her a little more respect. Oh, and call her Rebecca.”

He frowned. “I’ve always called her ‘Bec’, what’s wrong with that?”

“You haven’t seen the look on her face when you do. Kids get prickly about their dignity at her age.”

“Okay, okay, you’re the expert! I’ll give her a call.”

“Rebecca, this is your dad, how ya doing honey? That’s good. Hey, you know that shopping you want to do, what would you say to shopping with Cindy tomorrow afternoon? I see, let me ask.” He turned to me. “Cindy, can you handle two more girls, she’s supposed to meet some friends.”

“As long as it’s okay with their parents.”

“Cindy says sure, as long as it’s okay with their parents”

“About one?” He looked at me and I nodded.

“Okay, I’ll tell her. Now, let me talk to your brother. - - - Hey slugger, what would you say to a ballgame tomorrow afternoon? Okay, I’ll get the tickets on the way home.” Mike wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “Here’s my address and phone number.”

 

I arrived at Mike’s just before one p.m. Rebecca met me at the door before I had a chance to knock. “Cindy! This is so cool! Thank you!.”

She grabbed my hand and dragged me into the family room. “Hey you guys, this is Cindy. Cindy, this is Lee Ann and Hilary.”

Mike came in then, “Listen you three, Cindy is in charge, you do what she says.” He handed a debit card to Rebecca, “Here’s your money, don’t spend more than we agreed on. Cindy, don’t be afraid to jerk the chain on these three if they get out of line.”

“Dad!”

“Rebecca!”

They both laughed and Rebecca gave her dad a hug. “We’ll be good; I promise!”

As we headed for the door Mike pulled me back and handed me some money. “Get something to eat after you get through; Steven and I will grab some burgers on the way home.”

All the way there the girls talked about what they wanted to look for, and who they might see, especially boys. “Hey now, we’re looking for clothes, not trolling for boys!”

“CINDY!”

I basically gave them their head when we got to the mall, following along in their wake. The girls hit each store like a small plague of locusts, leaving a trail of empty hangers in their wake. For every item they bought, they must have tried on twenty. I began to suspect that the sales people in the stores were grossly underpaid!

Rebecca and her friends kept urging me to try some things on, but I declined each time, saying I had all the clothes I needed. I browsed the racks as the girls ran in and out of the dressing rooms with armload after armload of things.

Then, in a rack of discounted items, I found the most gorgeous dress I'd ever seen. An aqua-colored oriental-style dress, it had the high collar and short sleeves. I took it over to a mirror, and held it up against me, imagining going someplace elegant where the dress would be appropriate.

"Cindy, it's beautiful!" Rebecca startled me out of my dreams, and I hastily pulled the dress away from my body.

"I was just curious, it's not really my style."

"You ARE kidding, right? It's perfect for you!"

"Not really."

"You've GOT to try it on!"

All three girls were urging me, so I reluctantly agreed. Stepping into the dressing room, I pulled off my jeans and blouse, and slipped on the dress. It felt wonderful, hugging my figure. I knew it couldn't be silk, but it was so soft, sliding against my skin. I wanted that dress so bad I could taste it.

"Cindy! Come out and let us see it!"

When I walked out, they ooh’d and aah’d over my appearance.

“Cindy, that is just so you, you’ve got to get it!

“No, I don’t need anything like this, besides, I probably can’t afford it.”

Just then the saleslady came over. “I see you found the diamond in the discounts. That’s one hundred percent silk, feels good, doesn’t it?”

“One hundred percent silk! Now I know I can’t afford it!”

“Have you looked at the price, you might be surprised.”

I looked at the tag, and couldn’t believe it! “What’s the catch? A silk dress can’t be this cheap!”

“It’s a sample that was sent to us, but we decided not to carry the line. You’re the first woman I’ve seen that could fit into it, it looks like it was made for you.”

I ran my hand down my sides, it felt so good!

“Do you have any shoes to match it?” Rebecca asked the saleslady.

“I think we’ve got something that would look great with it, what size do you wear, dear.”

“Ah, six narrow.” She left, and the girls were on me again.

“Sit down over here, Cindy.” I did and Rebecca pulled a brush out of her purse. She quickly pulled out the Scrunchie holding my hair, and started brushing it back. In no time at all, she had my hair fashioned in a twist. Walking around in front of me, she pulled a couple of strands of hair out on either side of my face.

The saleslady returned with a shoebox, “Girls, that looks great!” She turned to me, “Here, slip these on.” She handed me a pair of black open-toed shoes, three-inch heels, with a strap that went around the ankle. I put them on and stood up, and she fastened a narrow black belt around my waist.

“That’s perfect! Go look!”

I walked over to the mirror; I couldn’t believe it! I was beautiful! Even with the minimal make-up I was wearing, I looked exotic and sexy! I could imagine myself. . .then reality slapped me in the face. Even if it was free, there was no place for me to wear such a dress.

“Cindy, what is it?” Rebecca asked.

“There’s no point in fooling myself; I’ll never wear it. You don’t wear a dress like this to go to Denny’s.” I turned and headed for the dressing room.

“Cindy. . . .!” I ignored them and closed the door behind me. Taking off the dress and carefully hanging it up, I slumped on the bench. I wished I’d never seen it.

I came out and handed the dress and shoes to the saleslady, and then turned to the girls. “Hey y’all, anybody thirsty?”

When we settled down at the food court I asked the girls how many more stores they planned on hitting. All three admitted they were a bit tired and ready to call it a day. Gee, after only 4 hours!

“Where do you want to eat then? Rebecca, your dad gave me enough to buy dinner for all of us.” Lee Ann and Hilary both begged off, saying their parents were expecting them home for dinner. So we dropped them at their homes, unloading all the various bags of booty. When we were alone, I turned to Rebecca. “Well, it’s just you and me, what do you want to do?”

“Honestly, I’m kinda tired, Cindy.”

“How’s this for an idea? Call your dad and see if they’ve eaten yet. If they haven’t, I’ll make you some of my mother’s tuna salad with her secret ingredient.”

“Ooh, sounds good! You gonna tell me what the secret ingredient is?”

“You’re going to help me make it!”

“Cool! Let me call Dad.”

They hadn’t eaten yet, so we stopped at the store and picked up the necessary items. After arriving at the house and unloading the day’s haul, we went to work in the kitchen. I showed Rebecca the right way to hard-boil eggs, and started preparing the rest of the makings.

When it was done, I told her to put the bowl in the refrigerator. “But first…the cook‘s reward!” I made a piece of toast and laid a piece of lettuce on it, then covered it with some of the tuna salad. Cutting it in half, I handed half to Rebecca.

“Umm, this is GOOD! Thanks, Cindy!”

When Mike and Steven walked in, we were sitting at the kitchen table drinking ice tea and chatting like we’d known each other forever.

“Wash up, guys! Dinner in five minutes,” I told them. Rebecca and I made a stack of toast; and everything was ready when they got to the table.

“You like it, Dad?” Rebecca asked. “I helped Cindy make it!”

“It’s delicious! My compliments to the cooks!”

“Yeah, Sis, this is great!”

No nightmares disturbed my sleep, for a change. I awoke the next morning rested and feeling good.

 

Monday morning I met my connection and took delivery of a Glock 26, identical to the one I’d bought at the gun shop. I’d learned the hard way – always have a fallback plan. I took it home and stashed it, after checking to make sure it was in good condition. Then I headed to the gun shop.

“Hi Cindy!” Mike seemed to be in a good mood today, his smile prompted one from me. I ignored the little flutter I felt in my chest.

“Hi Mike!”

“You ready to hit the range?”

“Yes, I feel like this is going to be a good day!” And it was. Everything seemed to be clicking. My groups were good, and they were in the general area of where they were supposed to be.

“Hey, looks like a good night’s sleep was all you needed!”

“I guess so. I’ve slept really well the past couple of nights.”

I was doing so well I decided I’d try something fancy, a speed reload. After shooting the entire clip, I hit the clip release intending to drop the empty clip into my hand. Instead it fell through my fingers and hit the floor.

Mike and I both bent over to pick it up, and ended up with our faces mere inches apart. After looking at each other for what seemed like forever, he slowly leaned over and kissed me on the lips. Without even thinking about it, I closed my eyes and tilted my head to accommodate him.

Suddenly he stopped and leaned back.

"What?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, Cindy, I was out of line. That was uncalled for."

"Then how do I call for it," I asked.

"You. . . . You didn't mind?"

"Only when you stopped."

"I've wanted to do that for awhile, but I was afraid, after the way you reacted when I. . . . ."

"Mike, I didn't know you then, and you caught me by surprise. If I promise not to freak out, will you do it again, please?"

"Pretty lady, I'd love to do it again."

I closed my eyes as our lips met. He slipped his arms around my waist, and I put mine around his neck. It was a kiss that lasted an eternity, yet wasn't nearly long enough.

When we parted, I saw Mike was looking at me with a strange smile. “I suppose now is as good a time as any.”

“For what?”

“To ask you out.”

“What, where. . . .”

“I was thinking dinner at Serendipity, then maybe a movie or dancing. Saturday night.”

My heart sank. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“Nothing to wear? A little bird told me that might be a problem. Come on.”

Mike headed up front to the office and I followed him.

Draped over a chair was the dress I’d tried on Saturday, along with a bag from the store! In the bag were the shoes and the belt I’d tried on, even a black handbag to match everything else.

“Rebecca wants you to have this.”

“I can’t accept this, Mike.”

“You’d better, she’s doing all the cleaning and vacuuming for a month to pay for it! Besides, then you won’t have any excuse not to go out with me.”

“I really shouldn’t. . . .”

“Rebecca really wants you to have it, Cindy.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and slow-ly, slow-ly pulled me close. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. This kiss was even better!

By the time I left the shop, I had accepted the dress and agreed to dinner Saturday night. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into; a little voice in my head was telling me to run before somebody got hurt.

That night the nightmares took a new turn. Instead of flashbacks, I was an adult, and “Uncle Jim” was holding me down. I was naked, and he was unzipping his pants. The nightmare woke me up, and after taking a shower I turned on my laptop. Before starting my usual search for porn sites to shut down, I decided I’d check my email, something I hadn’t done in several days.

Good news for a change! My lawyer advised that my legal name change had finally come through, the name on my newly acquired IDs was actually mine now. I particularly enjoyed the “in your face” of my new last name. Thomson was a dig at my father, Tom, who’d refused to accept that his good buddy Jim was a pervert, but had been all too willing to call me one for becoming female.

I also enjoyed my new initials – C.A.T. I’d show everyone that this cat had claws!

My lawyer also had another settlement check from one of my lawsuits. This would cover my expenses for a considerable period, freeing me of the need to find a paying job.

The next e-mail was even more of a surprise. A software patch I’d written for a company had been accepted, and they were so pleased with it they’d included a ten percent bonus. They asked me to come in and pick up the check and sign the relevant documents.

I left the bank later that morning with a wad of bills in my purse and headed for the gun shop to clear my ticket.

“Another rough night?”

“I’ve had better. But I’ve got some good news.”

“That’s great, what kind of good news?”

“A job paid off! I have some money so I can pay off my ticket.”

“What kind of job?”

“I wrote a software patch for this company so they can run their old software on their new system. That way they can get their old records transferred over without having to pay to have them all reentered by hand.”

“That’s what you do for a living, computer work?”

“Yes, I make different programs play nice with each other.”

“Would you take a look at the computer here in the store? I bought it to track inventory and billing, but it hasn’t worked right since I got it.”

“Sure, it’s the least I can do!”

We went into the office and I saw the first problem, it was one of those box systems sold in the Sunday supplements, they never had enough memory, or anything else. I fired it up and Mike cleared his throat, “You’ll need me to put in the password.”

I smiled at him. “Let’s just see.” The password screen came up, and I tried my first guess – BINGO! The computer came up in the standard Windows interface.

“How did you. . . ?”

“Mike, you might have been a great cop, but you don’t know shit about computer security. Now, let’s take a look. I really need my laptop for this, but I can try, hmmm, yeah…”

Examining the installed equipment in the computer, it wasn’t hard to see that it was seriously underpowered. It also had some factory-installed bugs, this company was known for using substandard items. I opened a window and kept track of what would be needed to make the system truly functional. When I finished I sent the list to the printer, and handed it to Mike when it was ejected.

“Here, this is what you need to get.”

“This will take care of my problems?”

I laughed, “Not hardly! This will give you a computer that’s worth fixing. Get that stuff and then I’ll start on your problems.”

“If I give you the money, can you get this stuff?”

“Sure, but first things first; I need to pay you.”

Mike wanted to work a trade, but I refused. He finally agreed to take my money, and wrote up a sales ticket for everything.

“Now, how much for the computer parts?”

“Let me see.” I opened up a browser window and logged onto one of my e-mail accounts, pasted the list into it, and sent it to a guy I know. “Hang on a sec,” I told Mike when he started to ask me something.

A minute later my cell rang, I glanced at the caller ID and answered it.

“Yeah Joe, it’s Cindy, you got my list? No, it’s not mine, how stupid do you think I am? It’s a friend’s. How much do you have? All of it, Great! How much? WHAT! Joe, I said it’s a FRIEND! Try again, or I swear I’m coming down there and rip your lungs out through your nose! That’s better. Now knock another fifteen percent off, and we can do business. All right, ten percent, not a penny more. Box it up, I’ll be there about 3:30. You smooth-talker you; you’re a thief and a cheat yourself! See ya later!”

“All right, it’s $165, which is cheap. If you had to go out and buy this at CompUSA or someplace like that, it would be at least $100 more. Once I get this installed, I can start making this P.O.S. work. Oh, that includes better security,” I mentioned with a grin.

“Have you got time for some lunch before you meet this guy?”

“Sure, I guess so. Where?”

“There’s a pizza and sub shop down the street, how does that sound?”

“Sounds like a plan!”

Over sandwiches Mike asked me how I learned about computers. “When I was in school, my social adaptation was poor. I wasn’t comfortable with the other kids, so I tended to stay closed up in my room. I got an old computer from a neighbor, and took to it like a duck to water. I could be anything I wanted to be online.”

“So you’re self-taught?”

“Mostly. I took a computer maintenance course at the vo-tech, that’s where I met some other computer geeks, like Joe, for instance. We network a lot; that’s how I got that last job. I was referred by another guy because he knew that was something I was good at. Joe’s a hardware geek; he buys and sells parts for fixing and upgrading systems. So I turned to him for your stuff.”

“What did you mean about ‘not being stupid’, having a computer like mine?”

“Mike, people that don’t know shit about computers buy those things. Geeks build their own systems. Even my laptop has been seriously modified. My using a system like that would be like a NASCAR driver buying his ride at the local car dealership. If word ever got out that I was using a box computer like that, I’d be laughed out of half the chatrooms and boards in the country. I’ve got my reputation to protect!”

I glanced at my watch, and saw I was running late. “Gotta go, I told Joe I’d be there at 3:30. Thanks for lunch.”

Mike started to get up. “No, stay sitting,” I told him. I walked around the table, leaned over, and gave him a quick kiss. “I can’t reach you when you’re standing up!”

“You coming back by the store?”

“No, I’ll call you.”

I got to Joe’s house and knocked on the garage door as usual. He swung it open and motioned me in. Once I got inside he looked me over.

“God, I can’t get used to this being you, Chris!”

“Cindy, Joe; it’s Cindy now!”

“Sorry, Cindy.”

“Where’s the hardware?”

“Over here.” He pulled out a box and I checked everything out.

“Looks good. Here’s the money.”

“Thanks. When you going to get back online? People have been asking.”

“CKracker1 is dead, Joe. Might as well put the word out. But if you need me, look for echick10.”

“That’s you? I sent you some work awhile back.”

“Yeah, and it paid off too. Thanks!”

 

I didn’t make it back to the shop until Saturday morning, I’d been haunted by nightmares and wasn’t able to sleep. Mike was concerned that I was doing too much.

“Do you want to postpone our date?”

“Are you kidding! I even have an appointment to get my hair done this afternoon!”

“What! No ponytail?”

I made a rude sound, and asked him to hand me my laptop. Plugging it into the desktop, I started transferring programs I’d downloaded and modified.

“If that’s going to be awhile, you need to get in some practice.”

“Let’s go.”

The range practice went well, I was gaining more consistency in my groupings.

“Keep this up, and you’ll be ready for that permit pretty soon.”

“Good, I need to get that done, one less thing to worry about. But right now, I need to check the computers.”

Everything was ready to go when we got back to the office, so I went to work. Several of the programs Mike had were trying to use the same resources at the same time, so I needed to alter the timing, and reroute some of the calls. The next thing I knew, my cellphone alarm was beeping at me.

“Oh, shit! I’m going to be late at the salon!” I looked at all the cables connecting my laptop to Mike’s system, “Can I leave all this here?”

“Not a problem. I can let you in tomorrow if you need it before Monday.”

“Thanks!” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek, “You’ve still got my address, don’t you?”

“In my wallet, but I’ve got it memorized! I’ll be there right at seven.”

“See ya then!”

I hurried to my car, calling the salon on the way to let them know I was running a little late.

“No problem, you’re Sarah’s last appointment, I’ll let her know you’re on the way,” the receptionist told me.

When I ran in the door a young woman was waiting. “You must be Cindy, from the way you flew in! I’m Sarah.”

“Yes, I’m Cindy, nice to meet you, sorry I’m late. I got wrapped up in a project.”

“That’s all right. Now, what are we doing today?”

“Well, I’ve got a big date tonight, and a new dress; I want to look extra nice. I’ve got some pictures of what I have in mind. Here they are, it’s some shots of Jennifer Love Hewitt, she has this fantastic updo look, and the way the bangs sweep across her forehead is cute.”

I ran back out and grabbed the dress, along with the bag of underclothes, shoes and accessories. “This is the dress, can I change here? I don’t want to mess anything up after you get through.”

“Sure, there’s a room in back where you can change. This look will go well with that dress. Is that silk?”

“Yes! It was a sample, so I got it really cheap.”

“Lucky you! Now, about this style, two questions. First, do you want the bangs like this?”

“I think so, it really completes the style, I think.”

“You’re right, it does, but I wanted to make sure before I started cutting. Second, her hair is darker than yours, did you want that too.”

“No, I like my color. Uh, what do you think?”

“Your color will do fine, and it’s right for you. Any darker, and it might make your face seem washed out.

Sarah set to work, she first washed and conditioned my hair, and then sat me in her chair and starting the trimming.

“You haven’t had it cut in a long time, have you?”

“Not for four or five years. It was short, kind of a pixie cut, and I decided I wanted it long.”

“It’s going to look better for the trim, but I’m going to turn you away from the mirror before you faint. You’re holding your breath every time I make a cut!”

The rest of the cutting was done with my back to the mirror, but I don’t think it made me any less nervous. Sarah finally finished cutting and told me to change before she styled it and did my make-up.

I got a look at myself in a mirror when I changed, and the difference was remarkable! I no longer looked sixteen without my make-up, the new cut gave me a more mature look.

When I walked back out, Sarah exclaimed at the dress, “You’re gorgeous and that dress is beautiful! This must be an extra special date tonight.”

“No, well, maybe. . . .”

“Maybe, my ass! I can tell from the look on your face, this is a biggie! Trust me, when he gets a look at you, he’ll never look at another woman again!”

Sarah went to work on my hair after she covered my dress with a smock, I hardly noticed. What was I doing? I had a mission. I wasn’t here to do anything else. I was confused.

“Ta-da!”

“Huh?”

“I’m done, what do you think?”

I looked at my watch, two whole hours had gone by! I looked in the mirror, and was amazed, Sarah had even done my make-up, and I didn’t remember! Then I took a second look. That was me? Involuntarily I raised my hand to touch my face, and saw I even my nails were done!

“Well?”

The woman that looked back at me was me, but she wasn’t. She was the woman I’d always wished I could be. Smart, sexy, maybe even beautiful!

“Uh, do I have to be home by midnight?”

“Not as far as I know, why?”

“I was afraid the spell would wear off at midnight, and I’d go back to looking like me, instead of this.” I waved my hand at the image in the mirror.

Sarah laughed. “Honey, everything there is you; I just added the artwork.”

“You’re going to have to show me how you did this; I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention.”

“You were a little out of it,” she told me, “but you did everything I asked. I may have gotten a little carried away, but you didn’t seem to mind.”

“I don’t know what to say, you exceeded my expectations! I didn’t know I could look like this!”

I paid Sarah, and gave her a healthy tip on top. “I’ll be back!”

 

I had just enough time to get home and drop my stuff in the bedroom before Mike knocked at the door.

Hi, Cindy, I’m a little ear. . . .”

“Mike?”

“Wow! You don’t look like a Cindy tonight, that’s much too ordinary a name. You look like a Cynthia, or maybe a Cleopatra!”

“You like?” I did a little twirl for him.

“Yes! Now I understand why Rebecca said you had to have that dress! You’re beautiful!”

I think my blush extended all the way to my toes, but I managed to say thank you.

“Shall we go, fair lady?”

“By all means!”

When we arrived at the restaurant, Mike offered his arm to me, so I placed my hand through it. We walked in, and heads started turning our way. Mike looked good in his suit, and I thought I was holding up my end, but I was amazed at the way people were reacting. The hostess looked at us, and headed straight over.

“Good Evening! Table for two?”

“Yes, I have a reservation, Merrill.”

“Of course you do, right this way, please.” As we walked away, I heard a woman behind us hiss “Robert! Stop staring!”

She took us to a table by the windows looking out on the city, and whisked the “Reserved” sign away. I wasn’t sure, but the name on the sign didn’t look like “Merrill.” “Your waiter will be with you in a moment. If there’s anything you need, please feel free to ask.”

I watched her walk over to a small table near the kitchen door, and swap the “Reserved” sign on it for the one she’d removed from our table. I turned to Mike, “Did what I think happened just happen?”

“Yeah, we just got an upgrade in status, thanks to you I’d say. She probably figures you’re somebody famous - an actress or something.”

I looked around the restaurant; most of the men, and not a few of the women were frankly checking us out. One woman gave me what can only be described as a hostile look, before jerking on the arm of her male companion.

I turned back to Mike, and so help me, I giggled! “You know, normally when I go out, everybody looks at me like I’m somebody’s kid sister playing dress-up. I could get to like this!”

Dinner was wonderful! The staff was right there, often before we even voiced our needs. My glass never got more than half-empty before it was refilled. It was a fairytale dinner, and I was lost in the wonder of it all.

After dinner, we went to an upscale club, with live music and dancing, and the same thing happened again. We were given a table down front by the dance floor, and the waitresses were constantly at our elbows.

I was in a stall in the Ladie’s when two women came in and started talking:

“Who IS that woman by the dance floor?”

“I don’t know, but I’d kill to have that silk dress! It had to have cost a thousand dollars!”

“You wouldn’t look half as good in it as she does, that look requires somebody petite like her. Isn’t she on that TV show, “Vegas” or something like that?”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. What’s she doing here? Slumming?”

“I haven’t a clue, but when she leaves, I hope she leaves that hunk she’s with behind!”

“Yes! I told Bill if he didn’t stop drooling over her, I was going after her escort.”

The women finished and left, so I stepped out of the stall, touched up my make-up and walked out. I got back to the table and collapsed with laughter.

“What’s so funny,” Mike asked.

“I overheard a couple of women in the Ladie’s, they think I’m some TV actress from Hollywood!”

“Well, you look the part.”

“They’re hoping I leave you behind when I go back, they think you’re a hunk! They‘re right!”

Now it was Mike’s turn to blush!

The rest of the evening was just as wonderful. We danced several slow dances, my three-inch heels helped with the disparity in height, though I found myself wondering if I could learn to dance in five-inch heels.

All too soon we were headed home. It had been a magic evening, and I didn’t want it to end.

“Mike, would you like to come in for a cup of coffee, or something?” ~~Not very original, I know, but I’m new at this!~~

“Yes, I think I would. But I can’t stay long, I’ve got a neighbor watching the kids.”

~~Darn, I’d forgotten about Rebecca and Steven!~~

It was Mike that noticed something was wrong, “Cindy, get behind me!” He suddenly had a gun in his hand. Where did he have that hidden? My door had been kicked in! Mike told me to call 911. In no time at all, there were several police officers there.

 

“Pete, Jim”

“Mike, what have you got?”

“I was bringing Cindy home, and found the door kicked open when we got here.” Both officers turned for a glance at me. The older officer, Pete, I think, had a smile on his face as he turned back to Mike. “Have you been in yet?”

“Nope, I was waiting for you guys to handle things. I’m just a private citizen now, remember?”

“Sure, and that’s a squirt gun in your hands, I suppose. Okay, I’ll go in to the right, Jim you go left, and the civilian here can back us up.”

Jim pushed the door open and Pete went in, followed by Jim, and finally Mike. A few minutes later, Mike came back out, ‘’It’s clear, you can come in now.”

I gasped when I walked in; the place had been trashed! I didn’t have many possessions, but they were strewn all over.

“Where did you have your medications?” Mike asked me.

“On the nightstand.”

“Gone now,” he told me. Turning to the officers he said, “It was a drug burglary; she has prescriptions for tranquilizers and sleeping pills; they’re gone.”

I stood there in shock, looking at the remains of my apartment. It hadn’t been much, but it was all I’d been able to build since I’d been on my own. I started shaking, and Mike was immediately beside me, holding me tight. I buried my face in his chest and gave in to my emotions.

Some minutes later, I realized Mike had his arms around me and was rubbing my back. I finally pulled away, and the younger officer, “Officer Reed”, according to his name tag, handed me some Kleenex. The older officer, “Malloy”, tapped Mike on the shoulder, “She can’t stay here.”

“Yeah,” he said, turning to me, “Cindy, why don’t you gather a few things together.”

“Where will I GO!” I sobbed.

“You can stay at my house; I’ll bump one of the kids out of their room.”

I nodded and headed into the bedroom, my suitcase had landed in the middle of the floor. I put it on the bed and started picking things up at random and dropping them in. Mike saw what I was doing and stopped me. “I’ll straighten this up, why don’t you get what you need out of the bathroom.”

I went into the bath and closed the door behind me. I was sitting on the toilet seat when I suddenly remembered, the gun! Getting down on my knees, I reached up under the back of the toilet. YES! It was still there! I pulled the tape loose and put the gun in my make-up bag. I was able to focus then, I repaired my face, and added some make-up and other things to the bag.

Walking back into the bedroom, I saw that Mike had brought some order to things. The clothes that had been on the floor were sorted into piles on the bed. I pulled out some jeans and a couple of t-shirts and placed them in the suitcase, adding a blouse from the closet and a pair of sneakers.

When we went back into the living room, Malloy took Mike aside and talked to him. Mike nodded and came back to me, “Let’s go, Pete and Jim will wait for maintenance to come secure the apartment.”

Mike opened the car door for me and I sat down, fastening my seatbelt. All the way to his house, I could see him glance at me from time to time, but he didn’t say anything, and I didn’t feel like talking. When we got to his house, he got my suitcase out of the trunk, opened my door, and I got out.

Mike looked at me. “Cindy, are you all right?”

“I don’t know, I just don’t know.”

He took my arm. “Let’s go in.”

Rebecca rushed up and hugged me when I walked in. “Cindy, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Rebecca, just a little shook up.”

Steven came up at that point. “Cindy, you’re gonna stay in my bedroom, I’ll stay with the Andersons. You can stay as long as you need, okay?”

“Thanks, Steven, that’s very nice of you.” I kissed him on the cheek. To my surprise he gave me a hug in return, and then headed out the door, calling back, “See ya in the morning”.

“Come on, I’ll get you set up.“ Rebecca grabbed my suitcase from her father and practically dragged me down the hall, pointing out the bathroom and her bedroom on the way.

Steven’s room was your typical nine-year old boy’s room, with models hung from the ceiling and posters on the walls. The bed was twin-sized, so I wouldn’t be cramped for space. That was good because I felt drained.

“Cindy? Cindy!”

“Huh”

“Cindy, are you sure you’re okay?”

I shook my head, more to clear it than in answer to Rebecca’s question. “I’m sorry, I guess I must not be, ‘cause everybody keeps asking me that. Rebecca, I’m really tired now, I need to get some sleep.”

She came over and hugged me, “That’s okay Cindy, I understand. I’m really glad I got you that dress, you look wonderful!”

“I’m glad you did too! Remind me to tell you what happened tonight; just between us girls.”

“Ooh, I can’t wait! Night, Cindy!”

“Night, Rebecca.”

I took off the dress and carefully hung it up, stripped off my pantyhose, pulled on a clean pair of panties and a t-shirt, and collapsed into bed.

 

“Uncle” Jim had a hold of me and was pulling down my underwear, “You’ll like this, Chris, it’s something special.”

I was seven years old again, but I was a girl, not a boy like I’d been then.

“Chris, you’ve been holding out on me! This is going to be even more fun!”

I couldn’t scream, I kept trying, but nothing would come out. I gathered myself for one last try….

“CINDY! WAKE UP, CINDY”

I came up in bed, struggling against the hands that held me. I didn’t know where I was, not right away. Then I heard a girl’s voice, “Cindy, please, it’s all right!”

“Rebecca?”

“Right here, Cindy!”

I grabbed her and sobbed. She held me, right then she was someone I saw as non-threatening. When I finally pulled myself together, I saw Mike standing behind Rebecca. I scrubbed at my face with my hands, which came back streaked with make-up, I hadn’t even washed before falling asleep.

“I’m sorry. What time is it?”

“3:30 in the morning,” Mike said, looking concerned.

“That’s when they usually happen.”

“Your nightmares?”

“Yeah. Look, I’m sorry, maybe I’d better get a motel room. . . .”

“No! You’re not going anywhere!” Mike shook his head. “Right now you need to be with friends, Cindy. We’re here for you.”

“But I woke you in the middle of the night. . . .”

“Cindy, you can cry on my shoulder anytime,” Rebecca said, “day or night.”

I managed to pull myself together, and then went into the bathroom to wash my face. When I came out, Rebecca was waiting. She took my hand and led me into her bedroom. “You’re going to spend the night with me; Dad thinks you might sleep better that way.” She giggled. “It’ll be like a sleepover! Good thing we’re both small!” She handed me a clean nightshirt. “Put this on and hop into bed!” She turned off the light and we both snuggled down under the covers.

“Night, Cindy”

“Night, honey.”

The next time I woke, the sun was streaming through the windows, and I felt rested. It was the first time I’d ever gotten back to sleep after one of those nightmares. I looked over at Rebecca; she looked like an unfinished angel, lying there asleep.

I was thinking about getting up, when there was a knock on the door, followed by Mike’s voice. “Rise and shine, girls! Breakfast in fifteen minutes!”

“Okay, Mike!” I reached over and shook Rebecca. “Come on, sleepyhead, time to get up!”

I went across the hall, grabbed some clothes, and then headed for the bathroom, emerging ten minutes later dressed and somewhat cleaner. Rebecca sat up in bed. “Let’s go, kiddo!”

Mike handed me a cup of coffee as I walked into the kitchen, “You’re looking better. I take it you got some sleep?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I did. That’s unusual, normally I’m afraid to go back to sleep and end up sitting up all night.”

“It’ll be tomorrow before they can get your door fixed. Why don’t you plan on bunking with Rebecca again tonight? Then Steven can have his bedroom back.”

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

“You’re not. Rebecca wanted you in there to begin with, but I thought you might be more comfortable having a room to yourself.”

“Well, if she doesn’t mind, okay.”

Rebecca came in a few minutes later, giving her dad a hug and a “Morning, Dad!”, and then she also gave me a hug!

“Morning, Cindy!”

“Morning, Rebecca. Think you can stand having a roommate for another night?”

“Cool! Sure!”

Steven showed up about then, and I told him he could have his bedroom back.

“You’re not leaving are you?” he asked.

“Well, I need to get home tomorrow, but I’m bunking in with Rebecca tonight.”

Breakfast was a pleasant experience. The four of us sat around the table, making conversation as we ate. It reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Meals when I was growing up had been a catch-as-catch-can affair; I couldn’t remember a meal like this.

Steven wanted to go to a ball game that afternoon; Rebecca didn’t. Before things got heated between the kids, I volunteered to stay with Rebecca, so Mike could have some guy time with his son.

Mike went along with it. “But remember, Rebecca, you’ve got some housecleaning to do.” Rebecca started to pout, but I gave her a wink and she brightened up.

“Okay, Dad!”

Mike missed my wink, and seemed surprised at his daughter’s easy acquiescence, but what could he say?

After the guys left, Rebecca and I plopped down on the couch.

“All right, what’s on the list, kiddo?”

“We’ve gotta vacuum and pick up the living room, and do the dishes and laundry.”

“Okay, lets get the dishes started first.”

Most of the dishes could be put in the dishwasher. we started that and whipped out the remaining items in no time.

We then tackled the laundry, starting with the cold water wash.

“Where’s the vacuum, I’ll start vacuuming while you put things away.”

“Great, Cindy!”

By the time we finished, the first load was ready to go in the dryer, the dishwasher was done, and we could start the warm water wash.

“Let’s take a break, Cindy. Do you like chocolate ice cream?”

“I LOVE chocolate ice cream.”

We dished up a couple of bowels and plopped down on the couch.

“Thanks for the help, Cindy!”

“I should be thanking you, I love that dress!”

“I knew you did, and you looked so good in it. Dad really likes it too.”

“You think?”

“Oh, yeah. You should have seen him yesterday. I’ve never seen him so nervous.” She giggled. “He kept trying on different ties, ‘Does this one look better.’ ”

She poked me with her elbow, “He really likes you, you know.”

“Really?” This was something I hadn’t counted on. I had planned on getting a gun and taking care of “Uncle” Jim. Nothing else.

“Really! Do you like Dad?”

“Uh, I, well, maybe. . .”

“You Do! I can see it in your face! Cool!”

I was saved from having to say anymore by the buzzer on the dryer. “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

By the time the guys got home, we had everything spiffed up, the laundry folded, and all the dishes put away.

“Looks good! What’s for dinner?”

“We figured you’d take us out for pizza!”

 

After eating we settled down to watch some TV. When I sat down on the couch, Rebecca sat on one side of me and Steven claimed the other. Mike sat next to Steven. While we watched the movie, Mike casually rested his arm on the back of the couch. He reached over and played with the hair on my neck, and then started stroking the back of my neck. It was a strange but pleasant sensation.

When some commercials came on, Rebecca asked if we needed anything to drink, and grabbed Steven to help her. Coming back with the drinks, Steven claimed the space previously occupied by Rebecca. Rebecca then told her father to scoot over, and she sat on his far side, effectively squeezing Mike and me next to each other.

Mike looked at me with a “what can I do” look. I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled. When Mike oh so carefully placed his arm around my shoulder, I settled back and relaxed against him. Rebecca leaned over from the far side, caught my eye, and gave me a wink! The kids were playing matchmakers! It was a nice, relaxed evening, and I slept like a baby that night.

The next morning the kids went to school; and Mike took me back to my apartment. He wasn’t happy with the repairs that had been made; and called a locksmith he knew to install reinforced locks on my door and windows. After the locksmith finished, I went to the shop to reclaim my laptop, and then we went to lunch.

This set the pattern for the next five weeks. Several times a week I’d go by the shop, and Mike and I would go to lunch. Sometimes I’d make something and we’d sit in his office and eat. Friday afternoons I’d pack an overnight case and head to his house, meeting the kids as they got home from school. I’d spend the weekend, staying in Rebecca’s bedroom. Rebecca had cleared a drawer and I kept a few items of clothing over there.

We didn’t do anything big or thrilling, just rent some movies, or go to the park for a picnic. Mike took us all to a ballgame one Saturday, and Rebecca and I went to the mall a couple of times. The kids didn’t have to try anymore tricks to get us together. Mike would sit down next to me and put his arm around me, and I’d snuggle up to him. It was all so blessedly middle class normal, but it was the kind of comfortable home life I’d never had before; and I loved every minute of it.

But all good things must come to an end. Suddenly, it was the weekend before that S.O.B. was to be released, and I had to get ready to do what I’d planned on for so long. I went by the shop to pick up my pistol, and let Mike know I wouldn’t be over that weekend.

“What do you mean, my pistol’s not here!”

“I sent it out to have that laser sight installed that we talked about.”

“When will it be back?”

“Sometime next week.” Mike seemed uncomfortable and a little embarrassed.

“How could you do that without telling me!” I was angry and I knew my face showed it.

“Sorry, I was trying to surprise you.”

“Well, you certainly did that!”

“What time are you coming over?”

“Uh, I can’t this weekend. I’ve got a job I need to do.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, it’s really important. It’s got to be done Monday morning.” I swear Mike winced at that! ~~What was going on? He couldn’t know!~~

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, very sure.”

“The kids will miss you . . . this weekend.”

“I’ll miss them too. Look, I’ve got to run.”

“If you feel you have to. . . .” He wrapped me in his arms and gave me a long, tender kiss.

When I got back to my apartment, I sat down and stared at the walls. Suddenly I wasn’t sure about what I was doing. The next I knew, it was ten, and I was sitting in the dark. I got up and went into the bedroom and got ready for bed. That night my nightmares returned, for the first time in weeks. I pulled out my laptop and started looking for porn sites to attack. I’d been so wrapped up with Mike and his kids I hadn’t done anything like that for a long time.

Saturday afternoon my phone rang. It was Mike. “Cindy, can you come to dinner tomorrow night.”

“I don’t know, Mike. I really have to work hard on this job.”

“The kids are really disappointed that you couldn’t come this weekend. They miss you.”

“I miss them too.”

“It would really be nice if you could come over, please?”

“Okay, I’ll try.”

“Please do, I miss you.”

“I miss you too.”

“Is this job that important?” He asked.

“Yes, it’s something I swore I’d do.”

“Please come to dinner tomorrow night.”

“I. . . . I’ll try. Goodbye, Mike.” and I hung up.

That night was the worst I’d had in months. It was dawn before I got back to sleep after my nightmare, and I slept until mid-afternoon. I got up, showered carefully, and dressed in one of my best outfits. The backup gun was still where I’d stashed it after the break-in. I dropped it in my purse after checking to see that it was loaded.

I got in my car and drove to a motel across town, where I rented a room. I shut my cellphone off and threw it in a drawer.

I didn’t have any nightmares because I never went to sleep. My wake-up call came at five a.m. I got dressed and headed for my car. I had to go back and get my phone out of the drawer, but I didn’t turn it on.

I left my car in front of the gun shop, walked down the street to a payphone and called a taxi. The taxi dropped me a block away from the prison. From there I walked to the little park across the street. I’d always thought it was a strange place for a park, but the benches gave me a good place to wait. At 6:30 I got out the pistol, worked the slide to chamber a round, and clicked off the safety.

Just before seven, I heard the gravel crunch behind me, spun around, and brought up the pistol.

“Mike! What are you doing here!”

“I figured a smart girl like you would have a second gun. I can’t let you do it, Cindy. Or should I say Chris?”

“You - - - know?”

“I used to be a cop, remember? Some of the things you said didn’t add up. I didn’t want to look, but I had to. Please, don’t do this.”

“I have to Mike. It’s for the best. I’m removing a cancer, for the public good.”

“You’ll go to prison. It’s premeditated murder.”

“I’ll bet a good lawyer can get me off on an insanity plea.” I laughed, an ugly sound even to my ears. “Look at me. Look at what happened to me and what I’ve become. Do I look sane?”

“Cindy, you can’t throw away your life like this.”

“Who cares? My parents didn’t care; my teachers didn’t care.”

“What about Rebecca and Steven? They care.”

“And if they were the ones that had been molested? How would you feel then?”

“I’d be angry. I’d be mad enough to kill the S.O.B. But I wouldn’t.” He shook his head. “Cindy, if you do this, you’ll be destroying five lives. Not just yours and his. You’ll be destroying Rebecca’s and Steven’s lives. The kids love you. They’ve already lost their mother, don’t do this to them!”

“Who‘s the fifth, Mike?”

“I‘m the fifth, Cindy. You’ll be destroying me, too. I said I wouldn’t ever love again, after Jackie died. I told myself all I needed was the kids. Then you showed up. I didn’t want to admit it, at first, but I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“Oh, Mike. Find a real woman to love. I’m just an imitation.” Tears poured down my cheeks. “I’m not good enough for you. I pretended. . . . I fooled myself for awhile, but you deserve better.”

“You’re the woman I need. I love you! Please, for me, for the kids, don’t do this!”

“You’re just saying that, you can’t want me knowing what I am!”

“Cindy, the kids want to know when we’re getting married. They can’t wait to show off their new mother. If you’d come to dinner last night, I had this for you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. Inside was a beautiful diamond ring. “It’s not too late. Come home, your family’s waiting for you.”

I stared at him; everything seemed gray and fuzzy. Then something seemed to burst in my chest.

I collapsed to the ground like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Mike picked up the gun and put it in his jacket pocket, and then gathered me in his arms and carried me back to the his car. As he placed me in the car seat the prison gate opened and a man walked out. It no longer mattered; I had been set free from my past a moment before he had


The End

Notes:

Thanks to Angela Rasch for her expert editing on this story, which helped me immensely. Any mistakes left are my fault.

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