Secret Lives Part 3

It's pretty hard to keep a secret life hidden from your twin.

Secret Lives
Part 3

By Joanne Foxcourt, 2004

Homepage: Joanne Foxcourt

Forward

Welcome to part 3 of my story about Melissa "Josh" Stevens. If you haven't read the first two parts (chapters 1-12), then you should because what happens here won't make a lot of sense otherwise.

This is a work of fiction so any resemblance to persons living or dead, in whole or in part, is purely coincidental. All of the usual copyright rules apply, but this story may be posted freely on any site that does not require a fee for accessing it. Also, the usual rules about legal restrictions on accessing stories like this apply according to where you hail from.

I hope you enjoy, Joanne

Chapter 13: Chasing Rainbows

"Melissa! What's up?" Marie asked as she opened the door to her apartment. "You're crying!"

Melissa snuffled and then hugged Marie. "Oh, Marie, I didn't know what else to do. I had to leave."

Marie pulled Melissa into the apartment and set her on the couch. "Wait. You need a nice cup of tea and then you can tell me," she instructed. Melissa nodded and curled up with duvet that Marie handed her.

Marie stared at her young friend for a moment before nodding to herself. With determination, she made her way into the kitchen, turned on the kettle, and then dialed the phone. "Judy, sorry to bother you," she said.

"It's no bother Marie. Is there a problem?" Judy asked on the other end of the line.

"Melissa is here. She's been crying and I think the left home. Judy, it's her birthday! What would cause her to run here on her birthday?"

"Has she told you anything?"

"Not yet," Marie admitted. "I'm making her some tea."

"You're positive it's serious?" Judy asked.

"Yes."

"I'll be right over."

"You don't have to do that," Marie protested.

"I'll be right over," Judy said firmly. "In the meanwhile, warm her up and make her feel a little better. Tell her to hold her story until I get there."

"Yes ma'am."

*****

Melissa smiled gratefully as she accepted the steaming cup of tea.

"Judy's coming," Marie told her.

Melissa sat up. "What?" she exclaimed. "It's not that serious!"

"Yes it is, or you wouldn't be here."

"But..."

"Hush. Wait until Judy gets here, she won't be long."

"Thanks," Melissa whispered, feeling better.

*****

"Are you okay?" Judy asked as she sat on the couch with her mug of tea.

"I guess," Melissa nodded. "Better now, anyways."

"Why don't you tell us what happened?" Marie suggested.

"Oh, okay." Melissa related the events of the party. By the time she was done, Judy's eyes were flashing angrily.

"She did what?" Judy shouted.

"Um, military school," Melissa repeated.

"I heard you sweetie, it was a rhetorical question," Judy smiled as her glare softened. "I was just very surprised, that's all."

"That makes two of us," Melissa agreed with a wry smile. "I won't go to it though."

"I don't understand," Marie admitted. "Why is she trying to send you to military school?"

"I think I can answer that," Judy said. "Denise came by to see me just before the twins started working at the store. It's pretty obvious that she isn't happy about Melissa, but wasn't sure what to do about it. It would seem that the idea of a military school gave her some belief that it would change Melissa back to Josh."

"Not a chance," Melissa said. "I'd probably end up dead there, but nothing else."

"I know," Judy smiled reassuringly. "I did some research after I decided to hire you. It would be pretty rare for someone who feels as strongly as you to be persuaded differently. Sure, it might put the decisions off for a while, but not permanently. I'm not all that convinced that the ones "cured" have done anything other than delay it either."

"Amy and I, she's my therapist, spent a long time figuring things out."

"I talked to her too," Judy admitted.

"Really?"

"Nothing very personal, she is a professional after all, but she did assure me that your transition wasn't a passing phase. She was quite convinced that you would transition and do it very successfully. I think she has dreams of writing a paper about you," Judy laughed.

"I'm nothing special," Melissa demurred.

"On the contrary, my dear, you are special because you are a person. On top of that, the rather large stack of compliments from my customers says that you have a real way about you that people genuinely like."

"Except my mother."

"I'd bet Josh was pretty likeable as well," Marie disagreed.

"Just so," Judy added. "Your mother is struggling with her own feelings. She probably feels that she failed you, that she didn't do the things needed to make you a man."

"You don't think that she failed do you?" Melissa asked, looking worried.

"Hardly. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I do know that there are a lot of transsexuals that grew up in very masculine homes, had very masculine careers, and still transitioned. Besides, if you're a product of failure, then let's have more of them!"

Melissa blushed. "What do I do?" she finally asked.

"Well," Judy decided. "For the time being, you're going to stay with me. At sixteen, you actually have some legal ability to make some of those decisions. After that, we'll see what we can do about bringing your Mother around to your perspective."

Melissa smiled her thanks and then sighed.

"Lisa." Marie voiced it, but it wasn't a question. Melissa nodded.

"She hasn't quit," Judy reminded them. "You'll see her tomorrow and make her feel at ease."

"Why is this so hard?" Melissa asked nobody in particular.

"Chasing rainbows are not allowed to be easy," Judy laughed. "If they were, everyone would have a pot of gold."

*****

Judy sank into the large "relaxation" chair, positioned in front of the fire, in her spacious home office. "Money has some uses," she decided happily as she took a small sip of the white desert wine. She had tucked Melissa into bed in one of her guest rooms and came back downstairs to contemplate what to say into the phone she was staring at now.

"Well, there's not much point in putting it off," she growled as she dialed the number. Judy prided herself on knowing the phone numbers of every employee, amongst other things.

"Hello?" asked the tired voice at the other end of the line.

"Denise Stevens?" Judy asked, more from habit. "This is Judy Burke."

"Judy!" Denise responded, sounding a bit more alert. "Has Josh contacted you?"

Judy sighed and rubbed her temples. "Nope, this won't be easy," she decided. "Melissa," she stressed as she finally answered, "is currently sound asleep in one of my guest rooms. So, she is safe."

"I see."

"Do you really Denise?" Judy asked, her irritation slipping through in her voice.

"What do you mean?"

"Do you really see your child? That child, who looks like a perfect angel nestled amongst the pillows?"

"Of course I do!"

"I beg to differ."

"Who are you to tell me about raising my son?" Denise demanded.

"That's the point Denise! Melissa isn't your son, she's your daughter! I told you, right from the beginning, that I hired Melissa because I wanted to be on the right side of the battles to come. You have a wonderful child there and you are forcing her away."

"So, I'm a battle then?"

"Yes," Judy told her. "You most certainly are."

"Why am I having this conversation with you?"

"It's simple, really. Right now, your daughter is sleeping in my guest room and she will continue to do so until her mother learns the truth. This is why we are having this conversation."

"Josh is not an adult! I'm his parent and guardian and he will return home immediately."

"Actually, Denise, you need to read up on the law a little bit. Melissa will return home when she is ready to do so."

"I'll go to court!"

"I'm not holding her Denise, so do so. My lawyers will advise her that she apply for legal emancipation."

"What?"

"It would make her a legal adult."

"I know what it means," Denise snarled.

"You are going about this the wrong way," Judy sighed. "Melissa doesn't want to leave you. She just wants her mother to love and support her."

"I love my child!"

"Only, it's the child that you wish her to be. Think about that Denise, because you seriously run the risk of losing her and that would be a terrible thing." Judy clicked the off switch to the phone and refilled her glass of wine. "Chasing rainbows really shouldn't be quite this hard," Judy muttered as she gazed into the fire.

Chapter 14: Society Matters

"Which one is the tranny?" Marty asked Arlene as they looked through the window of The Regency.

"Um, I'm not sure," Arlene admitted. "I'd have to see their nametags."

"You weren't kidding that he was passable, I can't tell which the real one is."

"Yeah," Arlene agreed unhappily. "A lot of unsuspecting women are going to have a boy fitting their lingerie for them and they won't even know it."

"Mom mentioned the twins; she said that Melissa was really quite good. She even left a note for Judy about it."

"Melissa is the tranny."

"Oh really?" Marty started laughing. "Mom got a bra fitting from him!"

"See! That's the problem. I tried to tell Judy this, but she wouldn't listen."

*****

"Judy Burke," Judy said, answering the phone in her office.

"Hi Judy, it's Andrea St. Laurant."

"Andrea! What do I owe this pleasure to?"

"I don't know if it will be a pleasure," Andrea responded ominously. "I heard some disturbing news from my daughter today."

"Oh?"

"I heard that you have a boy dressed as a girl working there and that he was the one that fitted my bra!"

"Calm down Andrea, I do not have a boy working here," Judy informed her.

"Martina heard from Arlene that this 'Melissa' is actually a boy," Andrea insisted.

"Melissa is a girl. She's a transsexual going through her real life test."

"A what?"

"A transsexual. Come Andrea, I'm sure that you've heard the term before."

"Quite. You're playing semantics Judy, this Melissa is a boy and neither surgery nor hormones is going to change that!"

"You've met the girl Andrea; you tell me if she's a boy or a girl. You even raved about her and I have the note on my desk to prove it."

"That's before I knew what he was!" Andrea shouted. "I feel violated enough to call the police."

"The police? On what grounds?"

"It's sexual assault!"

"A bra fitting? Did Melissa touch you inappropriately? Did she ogle you?"

"Well, err, no."

"Hardly sounds like an assault. Sounds like a bra fitting to me. A fitting, I may remind you, that you previously indicated was very good." Judy was beginning to sound impatient.

"Well, I . . ." Andrea sputtered.

Judy sighed. "Look Andrea, Melissa is a girl. Maybe not yet in her body, but she is most definitely a girl inside. She would no more mistreat a customer than she would her own sister. I wouldn't have hired her if she was a mere boy in a dress."

"I think it's wrong. This Melissa shouldn't be working there."

"I disagree. We're probably not going to convince each other much, I'm sure."

"The other patrons of your shop are not going to like this," Andrea threatened.

"Be that as it may, Melissa stays."

"That's a mistake Judy."

"No, the mistake would be to believe that this shop matters enough to me to protect it from bigotry. I hardly need the money, as you know."

"Did you just call me a bigot?" Andrea snarled.

"What else would you call someone who judges the worth of another person solely on the basis of gender?"

Judy winced as the sound of phone slamming carried back to her. "Well, that was unpleasant," she muttered.

*****

"How's Mom?" Melissa asked during their break.

"Off her rocker," Lisa decided. "She's switching between being angry at you and afraid that you're going to leave permanently."

"Still pining for Josh, then?"

Lisa nodded. "We're not talking right now," she added.

"I think Judy called her last night."

"Yeah, and gave Mom a right blast of shit too. I thought Mom was going to have an aneurism on the phone."

"What do you think of emancipation?" Melissa asked.

"What's that?"

"I can go to court to petition them for control of my own life. It would make an adult for most purposes."

"Wow, really?"

Melissa nodded.

"Did Judy suggest it?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Amy can't prescribe hormones until I'm either eighteen or Mom approves. We both know Mom isn't going to approve, so if I'm emancipated I can actually approve the medication myself and start sooner."

"It's an idea," Lisa agreed. "Mom'll have a complete flip though."

"Probably," Melissa shrugged. "I'm finding that I really don't care what she thinks anymore. It's been too much of a struggle with her."

"She still loves you," Lisa reminded her.

"She loves Josh, she hates Melissa."

"I don't know about that. I think she's just having a hard time."

"Why are you defending her?" Melissa said, her eyes narrowing.

"I'm not! I'm just trying to remind you that she is our Mom and that she does love us. It doesn't mean that she's right," Lisa protested and Melissa relaxed.

Chapter 15: Out of the Blue

"I don't understand Amy, I thought you talked to her about this," Melissa complained.

"We did," Amy admitted. "I even thought that she was ready and willing to give this a go. I explained to her the purpose of the real life test and what it would reveal. I won't say she was enthusiastic, but she agreed with it."

"What happened then?"

"If I had to guess, and that's all I'm doing here, her emotions caught up with her intellect."

"Huh?"

"Intellectually, she understands RLT and what it means for you. She even understands why you need to do this. However, until you actually started it, she didn't have to confront her own issues so directly."

"Has she called you?" Melissa asked.

Amy nodded.

"And?"

"She demanded that I take you out of RLT," Amy told her.

"What?" Melissa shouted.

"Don't shout! I refused the demand on medical grounds. She even threatened legal action."

"She's been doing that a lot lately."

"It wouldn't matter; we both know that you aren't going to listen to anyone telling you to be Josh unless that's what you really wanted."

Melissa nodded vigorously.

*****

Melissa sat at the food court table and sipped her drink. She felt exhausted and torn up after her weekly meeting with Amy. "Would it be easier to just give up?" she whispered out loud. "I'm so tired of fighting." She brushed her hands against her eyes to prevent the pending tears.

"Hey, buy any SRV lately?" asked the pleasant male voice behind her.

Melissa whirled in her seat.

"It's Melissa, right? I didn't scare off her twin?" Steve smiled.

"No, uh, it's me. I mean, Melissa."

"Cool. What's the matter? You look a little upset." Steve sat across from her.

For a brief second, Melissa was annoyed but quickly recovered with a sense of relief to chat with someone who didn't know. "Just a spat with my Mother," she finally said. "We've been fighting a lot lately."

"Ah," Steve responded delicately. "Need some cheering up?"

Melissa smiled a little. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, when I need cheering up, I like to play mini-golf."

"I haven't played that in years!" Melissa laughed.

"Are you in?"

"You're on! Just promise to take it easy on me, okay?"

"No problem, I'll use the other end of the club," Steve grinned.

*****

"You're pretty good," Steve noted as Melissa sank the put through the castle on the last hole.

"You still creamed me though," Melissa grumbled good-naturedly.

"More practice."

"Do you get depressed that often?" Melissa asked and then immediately clapped her hand to her mouth. "Sorry, that's a bit personal."

Steve waved the apology away. "Less than I used to," he said as he deposited the clubs with the attendant. "Want to get a coffee or something?"

"Tea?"

"Deal."

They walked in silence to the coffee shop and Steve picked up their orders. After a couple of sips, he looked at Melissa curiously. "Do you want to know why?" he asked.

"About getting depressed?"

Steve nodded.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want," Melissa told him.

"It's okay, really. I came out to my parents six months ago."

"Oh wow," she breathed. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, they're actually really cool about it. That's actually why I don't get all that depressed very often anymore."

"You're very lucky," Melissa said, unable to keep the envy from her voice.

"I guess I am," Steve acknowledged.

"I'm surprised you would tell me."

"Because we've just met?"

Melissa nodded.

Steve shrugged and then laughed a little. "I don't know why," he admitted. "I really like you. You could probably make me go straight."

Melissa burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?"

Melissa gasped and waved her hands for a moment. "I'm sorry, please don't take that wrong. I guess if we're in the position of revealing secrets, there's something you know about me."

"What's that?"

"Well, technically, I'm still a guy."

"What?"

"Yep," Melissa grinned at him. "That's what was so funny. If we started dating, I'd hardly be turning you straight."

"I don't believe it," Steve said, shaking his head.

"I'm not about to pull up my skirt to prove it to you!"

"Okay, okay! I believe you. Um . . ."

"What?"

"Do you like guys or girls?"

"Don't know," Melissa shrugged. "I haven't figured any of that out because I'm still figuring the basic me out."

"Oh." Steve look disappointed.

"I'm going to transition, I'm in the real life test now," Melissa told him. "Even if I end up preferring men, I'll be a woman."

Steve nodded. "I wasn't kidding, though. There's something about you that attracts me and that isn't something that I have said about any girl I've ever known."

Melissa blushed. "Thanks," she smiled.

"I'm guessing your mom isn't happy?" Steve asked.

"Nope, she isn't happy at all. She tried packing me off to military school."

Steve made a face.

"I reacted a little stronger than that," Melissa grinned. "I'm staying with my boss right now. She's helping me prepare papers for emancipation."

"What's that?"

"It will give me legal authority over my own life, essentially like an adult."

"Whoa," Steve said. "I didn't know we could do that."

"Apparently it isn't all that easy," Melissa said. "Still, even if I move back home, having it will give me some control."

"Does your mother know?"

"She will soon."

Chapter 16: Into the Black

"What the hell is this?" Denise demanded of no one in particular as she opened the official looking documents. "A notice of suit for emancipation? That bitch!"

"What?" Lisa shouted, running down the hall from her bedroom. "Who?"

"You know who! Josh has filed for emancipation; it's that Judy Burke's fault."

"I see," Lisa said, sounding tired.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Denise snarled.

"I warned you again and again, but you wouldn't listen to me."

"I'm not in the mood for games Lisa."

"It's not a game Mother. You blame Judy for this, but you ignore your own role. You drove Melissa from our house and you act surprised when she takes action."

"Don't call him Melissa!"

Lisa sighed and sat on the couch. "What will it take to get through to you?" Lisa finally asked.

"If you expect me to lose my son without a fight, you're mistaken missy!"

"Do you know why Melissa has filed this?"

"Stop calling him Melissa!"

"I won't! She filed this because she is tired of fighting you. She doesn't want to have to fight to be herself, so she's going to take away your control of her life."

"You knew?" Denise asked, sounding surprised.

"Of course I did," Lisa said, waving her hand. "The lawyer is filing for an emergency stay of the three month requirement due to circumstances. Melissa thinks that the judge will agree."

"I can't believe you wouldn't tell me about this, I'm your mother!"

"I've been telling you all along, but you just ignored it. I told you that you would lose both Josh and Melissa if you kept up with this."

The court summons crumpled in Denise's hand. "I was already losing Josh, Melissa isn't mine."

*****

Melissa absently pushed the piece of steak around the plate with her fork. She couldn't muster the appetite to eat, her stomach churning as she visualized her mother's reaction to the lawsuit coupled with the sense of fear about being emancipated. Even her phone chat with Steve had failed to cheer her up.

"You should eat," Judy cautioned. "I know you're tied up in knots, but you need your energy."

"I know," Melissa sighed and took a lifeless bite of food, not even tasting it.

"You don't have to do this."

"No, I do. It's just scared me witless and I really wish it hadn't come to this."

Judy patted her gently on the hand. "I'm not surprised, Lisa said that nothing has changed at home. Apparently, even that uniform she bought you is hanging in your closet."

Melissa winced. "Is it really the right thing?" Melissa asked, sounding almost plaintive.

"I wish I could answer that," Judy sighed. "We both know it's not all that simple. It would be better of you could reconcile, but if you cannot, then you need to be free to make necessary decisions for yourself."

"I guess."

"Remember, too, that it is not necessarily permanent."

"That makes me feel a little better about it," Melissa admitted. "I love her, you know."

"I know."

*****

"Are you serious?" Sue asked.

"Yep, she filed yesterday." Lisa confirmed as she dipped a french fry into her ketchup.

"How did your Mom take it?"

"As expected; she blames my boss and tried to tell me I had to quit working there. I told her that I wouldn't. We had a big fight over it."

"I wouldn't have figured your Mom would be like this," Carla said. "She was always so cool."

"I wasn't sure," Lisa told them. "Mom and I saw some show on TV where guys were dressing as women and she reacted kind of funny."

"Funny? How?"

"She said they needed help; mental help. I guess she meant to make them stop."

"Ms. Dickenson said that almost never happens," Sue reminded them.

"Yeah."

"Where is Melissa?" Carla asked.

"Ms. Burke's place right now."

"Cushy!"

Lisa laughed. "Yeah, she's got an amazing place; indoor swimming pool and everything."

"We need to get her out and have some fun," Carla decided.

*****

"Okay, where are you dragging me?" Melissa asked, giggling at the girls towing her to the front door.

"Out!" The three said in unison.

"We already told Ms. Burke," Carla added. "So she won't stay up worrying about you."

"So, where already?" Melissa demanded.

"Dancing!"

"Dancing? Save me!"

"Hush, you need to learn," Lisa told her. "Besides, it's fun."

"So is shaving your legs with an axe."

"Oh poo! You're coming and you're going to have some fun."

*****

"It's loud!" Melissa shouted.

"What?" Lisa shouted back.

Melissa put her head close and shouted, "It's loud!"

"Yeah! It's great!" Lisa dragged her to the dance floor.

Melissa stood on the floor, momentarily confused before beginning to move to the music a bit. Her movements were a bit stiff, but she tried to copy what the other girls were doing and soon started to get the hang of it a bit. Sue threw her a big smile.

After about a half-hour of dancing, Melissa and the girls were feeling a little winded. They managed to find a table and Lisa waved that she was going to get something for them to drink. "Wow, that's a lot of work," Melissa noted as she panted.

"Fun though," Carla grinned.

"Yeah, it is," Melissa admitted.

"See!"

"Okay, okay. It's fun to dance to it, but I wouldn't just sit there and listen to it."

"Stodgy," Sue commented as Melissa stuck out her tongue.

Lisa arrived with four Cokes. "Wow, they charge a lot," she commented.

"No cover, they get you at the bar," Carla told her as all four started gulping the drinks.

"Whew," Sue finally said, "I needed that!"

"Hello ladies," a male voice said from behind Melissa.

All four turned and recognized Turner Davis from their high school. Turner looked momentarily confused at the sight of Lisa and Melissa. "Uh, so, what's going on?" he finally asked.

"Just dancing," Carla told him.

"Some buddy's of mine are here," Turner said as though his meaning was obvious.

"Oh?"

"We managed to sneak in some stuff."

"Not really interested," Carla told him.

"So, where's Josh?" Turner suddenly asked, not taking the hint.

"Josh?" Lisa asked.

Turner looked a bit more confused. "Your brother?"

Lisa shrugged. "I don't have a brother," she told him.

"Huh?" Turner looked between Melissa and Lisa again. "Josh?"

"Melissa," Melissa said firmly.

"What the fuck is this?" Turner asked, his eyes narrowing a little.

"This? This is none of your business Turner Davis," Sue told him. "We didn't ask you to come over here."

"I knew you were gay!"

"You don't know anything it all," Melissa told him.

"Fuck you!"

"I'll pass."

"Why don't you just go back to your buddies and leave us alone," Carla suggested.

"Fucking freaks," Turner snarled as he left the table shaking his head.

"Well, the air smells better already," Sue quipped as the girls broke out into laughter. They ignored the glare that Turner sent their way.

*****

Melissa tried to ignore the looks and laughter, directed her way by Turner and his friends, as she danced with the other girls but they were getting irritating. Finally, she turned to Lisa and said, "I can't take anymore of this, let's get out of here." Lisa nodded and motioned to the other two.

"What's the deal with Turner?" Melissa asked as they left the club.

"I think he's in the closet," Carla offered as the others giggled. "No, really! I mean, he's always been pretty prejudiced against gay people."

"That doesn't make sense," Sue declared. "If he hates gay people, how can he be one?"

"It's just a theory."

"He was beginning to scare me," Melissa offered. "He kept staring at me and giving me nasty looks."

"He won't do anything," Lisa comforted.

"Oh?" The four girls whirled around to see Turner and his friends. "We just came out to let you know that Josh isn't welcome here," Turner added.

"You don't own the club!" Lisa spat at him.

"So? If you bring that sissy around here again, we'll make him pay."

"What is your problem?" Lisa demanded.

"We don't like people trying to fool us. You keep your faggot brother away from here and there won't be a problem."

"Fuck you Davis!" Melissa snarled, jumping in front of Lisa. "I'll go where I want and you can't stop me."

"Really?" Turner asked, his grin turning nasty and his eyes lighting up. Melissa felt the urgent tug on her arm just as she saw Turner's fist from the corner of her eye and then everything went black. She could hear the shouts and screams of her friends as she collapsed into unconsciousness.

Chapter 17: Pride and Prejudice

Melissa came awake feeling very stiff and sore. Her face hurt, her ribs hurt, and she was having a little trouble focusing her eyes. She let out a soft groan.

"You're awake," Lisa said, her voice laden with relief.

"I wish I wasn't," Melissa groaned as she struggled to sit up. "Where am I?"

"No, lie back," Lisa told her. "You have some cracked ribs. You're at the hospital. Judy insisted on a private room."

"Why am I here?"

"Turner."

"I remember," Melissa said, suppressing another groan. "I don't know why, though."

Lisa shrugged. "Are you hungry?" she asked.

Melissa felt her stomach grumble and nodded. "My jaw aches," she complained.

"It's a little bruised, but not too bad. You kind of fell face first, so they just kicked you."

Melissa gently chewed the food Lisa propped on her bed. "Does Mom know?" Melissa asked after a few bites.

"Yeah. She might come by."

"Just what I need, another lecture on the dangers of being Melissa."

"Maybe," Lisa agreed. "She was pretty upset about it. Enough that she actually went with Judy to press charges."

"They busted Turner?"

"Oh yeah," Lisa nodded. "Mom and Judy are trying to get just about everything in the book applied to him."

*****

Denise and Judy stared at each other uncomfortably. It had been a long night for the both of them and they had finally taken the opportunity to get some breakfast at a local diner.

"Maybe this incident will finally sort this thing out," Denise finally said as she sipped her coffee.

"I would be surprised at that," Judy disagreed.

"After being beat up? I warned Josh that this could happen!"

Judy sighed and rubbed her temples. "Denise, please, I don't really want to get into an argument right now."

Denise hesitated and then nodded. "I worry," she finally said.

"So do I."

"Then why do you support this?" Denise blurted out.

"I don't know sometimes," Judy admitted. "I really like Melissa and that is probably the biggest reason."

Denise let the name reference pass. "All of this suffering," she implored.

"I wonder, Denise, if you ever asked Josh about his school life?"

"What do you mean?"

"Melissa and I talked about Josh, or being Josh more precisely. The school kids thought he was gay and abused him badly."

"He never said anything," Denise protested.

"Are you sure?"

Denise leaned back in her chair and looked thoughtful.

*****

"Hello?" Denise asked, sounding almost tentative, as she poked her head into the hospital room.

"Hi Mom," Melissa replied, glancing up from the magazine she was reading.

"How are you feeling?" Denise asked, taking a seat beside the bed.

"Sore, but okay I guess."

Denise fumbled around with a few of the cards on the bedside table. "Josh . . ."

"Melissa," Melissa told her firmly.

"Even after all of this?"

"Yes, more than ever."

"I don't understand. This Turner kid is only the tip of the iceberg," Denise implored.

"I'm well aware of that," Melissa said, her eyes giving Denise a penetrating look.

Denise blushed. "I suppose I deserve that," she mumbled and Melissa sighed. "I'm just trying to do the best I can for you," Denise added.

"I wish I could believe that."

"That's harsh."

"So is fighting me every step of the way," Melissa told her.

Denise looked down at her hands. "Are you going to go through with the suit?"

"Yes."

"Why?" Denise protested.

"Mom, I'm tired of fighting you. You told Amy to halt my treatment. You even threatened her. It's my life and it's what I want. I can't risk you trying to prevent things."

"But . . ."

"No," Melissa said, shaking her head. "You have no idea how long I have felt this way. You have no idea about the pain I've gone through to get to this point."

"Judy mentioned you talked about school."

"Yeah."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Denise asked.

"I did. You put it down to 'boys will be boys' if I remember."

"I didn't realize."

"No, you didn't," Melissa told her. "You didn't try to find out either."

"I . . . Do you still love me?"

"I do."

"Then?"

"No. This decision isn't because I don't love you, it's because I do."

"I don't understand," Denise admitted.

"Sometime, I don't either."


 
To Be Continued...



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