TG Universes & Series:
A mother with a handicapped young son comes to Bikini Beach for some therapy for him — and finds help in ways she didn't expect. (Note - there is a cameo by the SRU Wizard, but in altered form. That's another story!)
The Bikini Beach story universe and characters contained therein are copyright by the author, all rights reserved. .
Corinne sat on her heels, kneeling beside the high chair, spooning the food slowly and deliberately into little Jeffrey's mouth. He swiped his hand, half playfully and half because he couldn't control himself; as a result of not ducking quickly enough, Corinne got a spoonful of slop on her dress. She sighed heavily. Feeding Jeffrey was a chore.
Across the table, Jeffrey's two older brothers sat impassively, ignoring their mother's battle with their younger sibling. A long time ago, Mike and Mark had learned not to make fun of Jeffrey. It was a good way to get their parents very angry at them and end up in big trouble.
Corinne glanced at the twins, looking for any sign of trouble on their seven-year-old faces. But they sat like little cherubs, eating their hot dogs contentedly, ignoring their mother's struggles with little Jeffrey. Corinne sighed again. It usually wasn't so bad. The boys had learned not to make fun of Jeffrey, despite his difficulty. And Jeffrey was a cuddly little three-year-old.
The problem was that, mentally, Jeffrey was about eighteen months, and that was as far as he'd ever progress. Corinne cringed, praying silently and asking God what she'd done to deserve this. He took a lot of care, and the strain was showing on Corinne.
Ron Hanson rushed into the kitchen, still buttoning his shirt. He bent over and gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek. "I see he got you again," he commented.
The boys scattered. That was another thing they'd learned — to sense the trouble. "We'll get our gloves and meet you at the car," Mike called as he fled the room.
Their sense was very keen, and deadly accurate. "It's not easy feeding him," Corinne complained bitterly. "I could use some help once in a while."
Ron backed a step away. "I'd help, but I've got to get the kids to T-ball practice."
Corinne's expression changed instantly. "It's always something, isn't it? You've always got something going on so you don't have to help with Jeffrey, don't you?" There was no question in her words, only accusations.
Ron felt his blood pressure rise. "It's not my fault the boys have such a busy schedule," he started to say defensively.
Corinne was red. "What are you saying? That it's my fault? That this is all my fault?" Her words were hysterical, angry, bitter, accusing, and resentful - all at once. Like they had become so often.
Ron backed out the door without a further word, his jaw clenched and angry. Corinne heard the car door slam, and heard him starting the motor.
"Da da mad?" Jeffrey asked in his innocent voice.
Corinne felt the tears stinging her eyes, tears of bitterness, of anger, of guilt. Tears for the innocent little boy seated before her, who depended so much on her. She tried to fight the tears, wiping them with the back of her hand, but they flowed so freely, so easily - like they had so often, ever since the accident.
After getting Jeffrey to eat a little more, Corinne wondered what she'd do. Maybe she'd take Jeffrey for a swim. Playing in the pool was supposed to be good exercise for him, the physical therapist had said. It might help his motor skills and coordination.
Corinne cried inside all the way to the pool, while Jeffrey sat in his seat, babbling happily as the world went by. Why, she asked herself again and again. What had she done to deserve this? Things had started so well. Good job, nice neighborhood. And then the problems started. She couldn't conceive without help. She and Ron had worked through that — barely. She still felt inadequate, defective, and angry at herself for her failings. Eventually, though, they had managed — with hormone shots. Two boys, the twins, Mike and Mark. Two blessed miracles.
Things had gone quite well for a while. But Corinne knew that Ron wanted a daughter, and so they ended up trying again. This time, it was harder. The hormone shots didn't work. They had to go to even more drastic — and expensive — measures. The money problems started, giving them something to fight over.
Then little Jeffrey had been born. Corinne knew he was a miracle baby, even as she saw the disappointment in Ron's eyes. It wasn't the daughter he wanted. And a few complications in delivery ended their hopes of ever having more children, which meant that Ron never was going to get his daughter.
And then they noticed. Jeffrey had a problem. Actually, Corinne and Ron would have been relieved had they known that hypospadius, a defect in their son's penis, was not uncommon. But somehow, Ron seemed to blame Corinne and the hormones she'd taken for giving him a defective son. The urologist had been very reassuring. It wasn't that bad — it could easily be corrected with minor surgery, and no-one would ever know. They'd wait until Jeffrey was over 6 months old to minimize the risk.
There are a few people who have very adverse reactions to anesthetic. Corinne and Ron found out the hard way that Jeffrey was one of those people. It had taken a very long time for him to come out of the anesthesia. But the doctor didn't think it was too unusual, and so they didn't worry.
It wasn't much later when Corinne noticed that Jeffrey was having a hard time sitting up, as though his balance was gone. Over the next few weeks, she noticed other little symptoms — he didn't seem to respond to her voice, he seemed to have problems fixing his eyes on objects, he wasn't even trying to crawl. They called his pediatrician, thinking that perhaps, he was just developing slowly. They did a few tests. The doctor's grim expression told Ron and Corinne everything they needed to know. Something was terribly wrong with Jeffrey.
At one, he was barely crawling. He couldn't hold a spoon. His eyes seemed to be unfocused and glazed. At eighteen months, Jeffrey could crawl reasonably well, but still couldn't hold a spoon. His eyes wouldn't track anything for more than a second or two. And he wasn't even trying to talk. At two, Jeffrey had finally stood. The tests continued. The money problems continued. The news kept getting worse. Finally, the neurologist confirmed their worst fears. Jeffrey was retarded, very significantly retarded. He wasn't going to progress much past where he was at that point.
That was a year ago. Jeffrey's therapy was expensive, and that put a real crimp in the family budget. Corinne gave up her job to work with her son, and that hurt the finances even more. The worst part, however, was that Ron seemed to blame Corinne for their son's problems. So did Corinne. She began to resent how he seemed to ignore Jeffrey. In her heart, she knew it was only a matter of time before they split up. They couldn't go on like this.
"Ma ma sad," Jeffrey said, capturing in his own little way the anguish she felt.
Corinne wiped the tears from her cheek. "Yes, sweetie. Mommy is sad." She turned into the parking lot.
Jeffrey's eyes lit up. "Pay wa wa." He recognized the pool. It was play time.
Corinne glanced at the empty lot. The pool was closed? She fought her anger. Why? "No, sweetie, the pool is closed today. No play in the water." It wasn't fair to this sweet little boy. She pulled back onto the main road. Now what?
Corinne didn't drive directly home. Maybe she could do something else. And as she drove, she saw a curious sign for a water park - Bikini Beach. Funny, she thought, she'd never seen that sign before. Maybe it was a new water park. She glanced in the mirror, at the child sitting happily in his car seat, and made up her mind. They were going to this park.
"My, but you're getting so big and heavy," Corinne said soothingly as she stepped up to the ticket window.
"May I help you?"
Corinne looked up, and saw a nice grandmotherly woman sitting in the booth. "We'd like to get tickets, please."
The old woman looked at Jeffrey, then at Corinne. She quoted Corinne the cost of a day pass, and then added, "Children under 3 are free."
Corinne gasped. "I'm afraid he's just over 3." She started to turn. There was no way she could justify paying that much for two tickets.
"He looks under 3 to me," the old woman said with a pleasant smile.
Corinne turned, staring up at the kindly woman. She was stunned, but then she smiled. Money was tight, but she remembered Ron's face, his anger, his blame of her. She plunked down the cash and got her pass.
"The children's area is one of the best in the business, I think. Kids love it. I'm sure your son will, too. Remember to shower before you use the park. And the little one can change with you, in the ladies' room."
Corinne looked up, and smiled again. "Thanks. You don't know what this means to us."
For the briefest of moments, the old woman looked to be a thousand years old and wise. "Yes, I do."
Corinne pulled Jeffrey's swim diaper on him, then his swim suit. The other women seemed offended at first to see the boy in their locker room, but then they went about their own business. Corinne slipped into her suit and picked up her son. The old woman had said to shower.
With Jeffrey in her arms, Corinne stepped into the shower, closing the curtain behind her. She turned on the water, expecting a cold harsh spray. Instead, it was warm, and almost tingly. She felt it reaching inside her, massaging away the tension and anger. And she saw Jeffrey's face light up when the spray washed over him.
Corinne thought something was different as they walked out of the locker. Jeffrey seemed ... lighter, less burdensome. Outside the locker, Jeffrey raised his hand to shield his face from the bright sunlight. Corinne blinked herself — it was a bright sunny day.
"I walk," Jeffrey said suddenly, squirming in her arms to be let down.
Corinne gave in. She'd have to chase him down, but at least she'd get a break from carrying him. As she straightened, Corinne frowned. Something wasn't quite right. Jeffrey's hair seemed ... longer? She shook her head. That was impossible. But no, it really _was_ longer, and growing with every passing second. Down his neck, to his shoulders, and down a little more until the ends were touching his shoulder blades. Corinne blinked, not trusting her eyes. And ... the swimsuit! It wasn't his little swimming suit — it was a girl's one-piece, with a mini skirt attached, and the top was growing, like cloth crawling up Jeffrey's tummy and over his shoulders, joining with the back until it was complete — a pink little girl's swim suit.
"What...?" Corinne mouthed aloud. "What's going on? This is ..."
Corinne spun. It was the old woman's voice, and she stood right behind Corinne. "What's going on here?"
The old woman smiled. "This is a club for girls. My magic makes no exceptions. Not even for your little boy."
The old woman shook her head as if anticipating Corinne's questions. "While you are in the park, and until sometime after midnight, your son will be a little girl. No one will know the difference. All will think Jeffrey was born a little girl until the magic wears off, including your husband."
The woman smiled warmly. "You and your son both need a day to play and have fun. So go. Enjoy the park. Have fun. Relax."
The old woman was right — the park was just what she and Jeffrey needed. He'd done so well — walking more confidently, splashing in the fountains, giggling and playing. Corinne had enjoyed splashing with him. It was a long afternoon, but a very rewarding one Corinne thought. Jeffrey's enthusiasm, tempered as it was by his handicap, was infectious, and Corinne was still smiling to herself as they drove home, weary but content.
With great trepidation, Corinne pulled into the driveway. The minivan was there; Ron and the boys were home from T-ball. She unbuckled the little girl, who promptly hopped down. Before Corinne could stop her, she ran toward the house.
The door opened, and Ron stood there, watching the girl. Corinne's heart leaped from fear.
"Daddy," the little girl sang out as she skipped up the walk. "We played at a new water park."
Ron bent over and scooped the girl up into a big hug. "Did you have fun, sweetie?" He gave her a big kiss, then turned and waved at Corinne.
Corinne was numb. This was ... impossible. Ron didn't notice the difference, just as the old woman had said! She realized she'd been holding her breath, and she let it out.
The boys were playing football in the living room. As usual. They paused when their dad came through the door. "Hi, Jenny," Mark called out. "Did you have fun?" Pleasantries aside, he turned and tackled his brother.
Ron took Jenny into the kitchen. "I've got a little treat for you," he said with a grin as he disappeared through the door.
"It's cookies," Mike called out, warning her. "Dad made them. Be careful."
Corinne shook her head. This was so ... different. She slid into a chair, confused. The whole house, her family, all seemed to be changed. She overheard Mike talking to his brother. "Maybe we can get Dad to take us to the park sometime."
Corinne stood by Jenny's bed, gazing in wonder at the little girl. Everything seemed so nice, so right. She felt Ron's arm wrapping around her shoulder.
"You two had a good day?" he asked, gazing at his daughter.
Corinne nodded. "It was a lot of fun."
Ron smiled. "Good. At least you wore her out."
Corinne felt a faint smile, a sensation she hadn't experienced much lately. "And me, too."
Corinne opened the door, and caught herself. The little girl décor was gone, vanished with the magic. Jeffrey was rolling around on his bed, constrained by the bedrails so he wouldn't fall and hurt himself. She picked him up, giving him a big kiss. And she smelled it. "Let's get you changed. Then let's go get some breakfast."
She heard the boys fighting even before she and Jeffrey got down the stairs. And Ron. Yelling at the boys, and yelling at her to come and help.
"Dammit, I told you we were leaving by eight," Ron yelled as she came in the kitchen. "We're going to be late."
Corinne looked at him as though he were from another planet. The anger washed over her like a wave, tearing at her. "Well, someone has to take care of Jeffrey," she snapped back.
"Come on, boys. We'll grab something at McDonalds on the way," Ron snarled, glaring at Corinne.
As she strapped Jeffrey into his high chair, she struggled to remember. Fishing. Her dad wanted to go fishing with the boys and Ron. That's where they were going, leaving her alone to take care of Jeffrey. Again. Like usual.
As the tears streamed down her cheeks, Corinne wondered if yesterday had been a dream, if she really had experienced some peace and happiness in this house.
And then it hit her like a thunderclap. Jenny had been interacting with the others, with her family.- like a normal child. Corinne shook her head. That was impossible! Her baby was brain-damaged, retarded, crippled for life.
With a determined look, Corinne carried her little boy across the hot asphalt. She headed to the ticket counter, and was disappointed.
"May I help you?" a pretty young woman asked.
Corinne seemed startled. "I was looking for an older woman," she muttered.
The girl smiled. "That would be grandmother. She's in the office." The girl pointed to a low gray building.
Corinne mustered her courage and marched, Jeffrey cradled lovingly in her arms, to the building. She pulled at the door, but it refused to budge. Locked. Then she noticed the door buzzer. She pressed it.
"Yes?" The voice, tinny as the speaker made it sound, was unmistakably that of the old woman.
"I need to talk to you. I was here yesterday with my son, and...."
She heard something click in the door. "Do come in, Corinne."
Corinne was startled at hearing her name. It was as if the woman was expecting her. She opened the door and stepped in.
It was dark and gloomy, Corinne thought before realizing that her eyes were adjusting. Compared to outside, it was dark; in reality, it was a well-lit office.
The old woman was sitting behind a huge paper-strewn desk, leaning back in a huge leather chair. Across from her were a few chairs, one of which was occupied by a very attractive young lady. The old woman gestured to an empty chair. "Please, have a seat."
Corinne eased herself down, still clinging to Jeffrey. "You act like you're expecting me," she finally said hesitantly.
The old woman smiled and nodded. "You're a very perceptive young lady," she acknowledged. "Yes, in fact I was expecting you. You're late."
Corinne flushed. This wasn't quite what she'd expected. "I'm sorry, but..."
The old woman smiled, shaking her head, while the younger lady laughed aloud. "It was a joke. Now what can I do for you?"
Corinne looked down, giving Jeffrey a quick peck. "I don't understand what happened," she began. Her nervousness gave way to her curiosity, and the words spewed forth. "Last night, it was like everything was okay, like nothing was wrong. My family was ... happy! And Jeffrey! He — she — seemed like a normal little girl! I don't understand."
The old woman glanced at the young lady, and both shook their heads slowly. The old woman looked back at Corinne. "My dear," she began, "when Jeffrey changed into little Jennifer, the very fabric of time was rewoven."
Corinne was honestly trying to understand, but she was confused. "But..."
The young lady glanced at the old woman. "Your son was born as Jennifer, not as Jeffrey."
Corinne shook her head. "Is that why everyone acted like it was normal?"
The old woman nodded slowly. "And much more. You see, Jennifer never had a hypospadius. She never had to have surgery."
Corinne finally understood. "And she never had the brain damage."
The old woman nodded. "Correct."
Corinne finally understood the power of this park. And she knew what she had to do. "Please, I need your help," she finally said. "I can't ... we can't ... go on like this. We're falling apart, as a family. I can't take care of Jeffrey by myself." Tears were flowing freely, tears of confession at her burden, tears of anguish at what had become of her family, tears of guilt at what had happened to her sweet innocent little boy. "I'll do anything. I'd give up my life if you could make Jeffrey whole again."
The old woman nodded sadly. "I know you would, my dear. Such is the love of a mother." The old woman looked at Corinne as if staring into her very soul. Finally, she spoke. "You have to give up your son."
Corinne's head snapped up; she looked warily at the old woman. "I'm not sure I understand," she finally said.
"As long as your son has a membership in Bikini Beach, he will stay a girl." Corinne's tear-stained eyes showed that she still didn't comprehend the old woman's words. "If you buy him a lifetime pass, he'll be a girl - permanently. An undamaged, whole,,healthy girl." She pushed a clipboard across the desk at Corinne.
Corinne picked up the clipboard and started to read. After a few moments, she glanced up. "It's so ... expensive."
The old woman nodded. "But compared to the alternatives?"
Corinne digested her words slowly and nodded. She began filling out the form. Finally, she dug out her credit card and handed it to the old woman. This membership would max out the card - if it even went through. And Ron would kill her for spending so much — after all Jeffrey's medical bills, this membership would nearly wipe out any savings they still had. She crossed her fingers, saying a quick prayer, as the old woman slid the card through the scanner. The printer spat out a receipt, which Corinne signed. Then the old woman spun her chair. With a few deft strokes on a keyboard, she entered the data, and then waited as a card was printed. A quick lamination, and Jennifer Hanson was a member of Bikini Beach - permanently, irrevocably, for all time.
Corinne took the card and stood, holding her son tightly in her arms. "Thank you," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "How do we change?"
The old woman chuckled. "You are expecting maybe a bolt of lightning or a thunderclap?" She laughed to herself. "I don't work like that. It's too flashy. Just use the showers like yesterday."
The two women watched as Corinne walked out of the office toward the locker. Finally, the younger woman spoke. "You're an old softie, you know that?"
The old woman chuckled. "And you're going to claim you aren't?" She laughed aloud. "I've seen some of the things you've done in your time, old man. You can fool some people into thinking you're a lecherous old trickster, but you can't fool me."
The young lady started to protest, then shut her mouth. "I guess I am a bit sentimental at times," she finally said. "Now can I change back? I've got to get back to the store."
The old woman grinned. "You lost the bet. I'm going to make sure you pay up. Another ..." she glanced at her watch, "fourteen hours."
The young lady frowned. "But..."
The old woman wagged her finger. "You knew the consequences when you made the bet!" She grinned. "You're lucky I don't have your taste in breast sizes."
The young lady glanced down at her modest bosom, and then nodded her acknowledgement to the old woman. "Okay, I give up. You got me this time." She arose and started for the door.
The old woman smiled. "And tell Danni I said hello."
Author's Note: Some folks have commented that the attitude was toward Jeffrey and his handicap. This was not my intent, and perhaps I should do a rewrite. In the meantime, I feel the need to explain the 'back story' and behind-the-scenes motivations.
There was stress on the family due to the infertility issues. That can also get quite expensive. Ron wanted a daughter, so he was disappointed. When they conceived Jeffrey, through extreme fertility assist means, it hit the finances hard, and they had another boy. You can imagine Ron's frustration growing, and then when Corinne became infertile, his guilt that he may have been responsible by insisting on another child. Because of the hormones, Corinne would feel like a failure as a woman by not being able to conceive easily, and a defective boy (however minor) would add to her feeling of failure, accentuated by the emergency surgery. The seeds of discord were planted even before Jeffrey's accident. Jeffrey's situation was a catalyst to bring those issues to the front, not the proximal cause. Ron's difficulty interacting with Jeffrey would stem from his guilt over what happened to Corinne and Jeffrey - the distance between them was growing. Corinne would subconsciously resent Ron, because his insistence on trying for a daughter led to her feelings of failure and then to Jeffrey's condition.
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