Old Friends Meeting for the First Time

Author's Note: This is an old story of mine which I self-edited using the great suggestions I got from my last postings. I will go back and edit it more. I want to see how well I was able to implement the suggestions which I got.

Chapter 1

Tina looked in the mirror one last time to check how she looked before she went to her class reunion. She was not sure if she got the look she was going for because the lighting in the hotel bathroom was not the best. She wanted to look classy yet sexy in an age appropriate manner. The last thing Tina wanted was to be one of those ladies who dressed too young for her age. It was just sad to her that some people would not age gracefully.

Tina was not worried about the outfit itself. It was an olive-green velvet dress with dull gold trimmings. It has a v neck with an uneven hemline which fell below the knees. The shoes were plain black 3” pumps. Her jewellery was tasteful, it was a couple of thin gold bangles on the right wrist and a gold necklace with a tiger charm. Her high school mascot was the Tigers and she wanted to show school spirit.

Looking at the charm made her think about one of the many regrets she had about high school, never trying out for the cheerleading squad. She knew she would have been a great one. Tina never tried out for she knew she would have been laughed at if she did. She did not have the confidence in herself when in high school that she did now.

Before she got back to fretting about her outfit, she also thought about how happy she was that regrets were a thing of the past. She has not had one since she started to go by Tina instead of Chris. That action of going by the name which was right for her was the thing she ever did.

It might have been a small action but it led to so many good results. If she did not become Tina she would have never met her husband, Cam. She would have never had become a social worker, the job she loved so much. She would not had those three loving children.

Lastly, she believed that she would not have been alive right then if she did not make that small choice. If she was somehow alive she would had been in bad shape. Using drugs, drinking, properly divorce at least twice and no real connection. It was amazing how changing one’s name can have such a profound effect.

Tina finally formed her final thoughts on her makeup , it was fine, when Cameron called for her to come on out of the bathroom. As she came out of the bathroom Cameron mention how stunning she looked tonight. Even with the love of her life always being quick to compliment her looks, this one was especially moving. The slight rise in his voice told her it was not just Cameron helping her confidence, he really liked the outfit on her.

Tina hugged Her husband and said “Thank you dear, it is easy to look this stunning when you have such a loving husband. now let us relax a couple of minutes before we head to the reunion.”

With Tina suggesting they rest a minute before going Cameron knew she was not mentally ready. He also knew that she would never be mentally ready so he was just going to have to prod her into leaving right now.

Cameron knew his wife was nervous about going to see her old friends. He could not blame her, she has not spoken to any of them since high school. She left town a week after graduation to start uni in Washington. That was 3000 miles away from her small coalmine hometown in the middle of Pennsylvania.

Cameron to ease his wife worries said “My love, I really want a drink so let us get going. There is nothing to worry about they are old friends and will be so happy to see you.”

Christina knew exactly what Cameron was doing and it worked. Not for he said the right words, it was for how he said the words. She felt his support and that was enough for her to face Chris’s friends. She told him. “Hon, let gets going. I am ready, I should not worry. Reunions are nothing more than old friends meeting for the first time.”

Tina went to get the dull gold shawl and her purse before heading to the door. She knew she looked elegant in it, it gave her a chance to show as much or little skin as she want. Also Cameron loved how powerful she looked in shawls. They gave her an air of nobility.

Cam,being a perfect gentleman, held the door for Tina on their way to the party. She joked that he was only doing so to get a look at her ass. He quickly asked if there was something wrong with that. They both laugh. Cameron was relieved that Tina was not under pressure anymore. He knew she needed closure with that part of her life and was going to get it tonight.

Chapter 2

Tina needed to break away from her life right after high school. It was the only way to quit being called Chris or Tophs and start being called by Tina, who she was. The worse part was not telling her friends until the last moment. She wanted a clean break and that was the only manner.

The abrupt ending to that chapter of her life has led her to want closure, and going to the reunion was the perfect opportunity for it. She knew that if she did not have the closure it would lead to a new regret. She was done with regrets, Chris was the one with them. So to make sure that Chris had one less regret in his life she was going give his friends a proper farewell in his honor.

Christina was transgender and started the transition right out of high school. It was the hardest decision she ever made. She knew she had to leave her old life behind for a while until she was confident in being who she was. She loved her parents and they were so supportive of her decision. They also understood her not coming home for two years. They wanted what was best for their daughter.

When she finally came home after leaving without warning she could not bring herself to face Chris’s friends. She was scared of rejection, but she could handle it. It was for she did not want to come face to face to the fact she did those people she called her brothers and sisters wrong. They were more than just friends, they were each other cochises. Bad ass friends who take care of their own. She did not take care of them in the end.

Tina’s parents were so happy to see her. They did go to the west coast twice to visit her, but this was different. Their baby girl was coming home she for the summer. Also, she wanted to come home. As Chris or Tophs as his friends called him, Tina was distant to them. Now their precious daughter wanted to spend time with them, she wanted to be at home. Their hearts were having a jubilee.

The distant strained relationship they had with Trophs gave them the assumption he was hiding something. His secret, they were sure he had, became their great white whale. They were going to find out what it was, no matter the cost or time it took.

It was so frustrating for them not to know. It was for they care and was concerned about their “son”. They wanted to make sure whatever he was hiding from them was not adversely affecting him and if it did, they wanted to help their son.

Tophs’s parents went to great lengths to find out what he was hiding. First they tried to be nice to him, so he would open up. That did not work. Then they started to put a little pressure on him and that still gave no results. Then his parents started to become frustrated with no results, so mom and dad turned up the pressure. They went from just searching his room when he was out, to having him in the room while they did so. They thought his eyes would help them find what he was hiding.

Then one day at the beginning of his senior year of high school, Tophs could not take the pressure and shame anymore. He was going to end his life and in a way did. He came home from school, clean the house and then got changed into some of his sister’s clothes. He then did his makeup and wrote a letter, signed with his tears, explaining to his mom and dad he loved them and they should not blame themselves. He just could not take being Tophs and not Tina anymore. It was not from a lack of love they had for him, it was from Tina not feeling the love. He then went to his room, took some sleeping pills and waited for sweet oblivion.

Tophs was lucky that his mom and dad came home early from work that day. They did so to try to catch him in the act of his dirty little secret. They so wanted to find out what he was hiding and were devastated when they did so.

After calling for him with no response, they went to his room. Toph’s parents felt a little happy and vindicated with him not answering as they approached his room, they were sure they caught him. They knew they were going to the knowledge they wanted. They knew that they were going to be able to help their son.

They open the door to Tophs’ room and finally got their wish, they found out what he was keeping from them. The reward turned out to be the curse of getting what they wished for. They found their son, their baby, on the floor unconscious in a dress.

The site of Tophs’ body lying motionless on the ground was devastating to them. The devastation came from them knowing they drove him to this. It pained them to know their mistrust of their son along with the driven obsession of finding out what he was hiding was the cause

Byron, his father, started to panic and Betsy, his mom ran downstairs to call 911. Byron saw the note and read it. The already tear soaked letter felt more drops fall on it. After reading it, he went to hold Tophs, and kept on repeating sorry Tina.

The ambulance arrived in record time but seemed like it took a lifetime to arrive to his parents. They rushed Tophs to the hospital and was able to save him. He woke up in the hospital room and saw his parents and Fred, his older brother, watching over him.

Byron was the first one to speak. As Tophs’ dad moved his lips, Tophs dreaded the latest round of interrogation which he knew was coming his way. Instead he heard some of the sweetest words ever. “Tina we are so sorry for what we drove you to do. We did not know and should have respected your privacy. We were just concerned about what you were hiding was bad for you, it is not. We love you and will support and cherish you as our daughter or our son. We just want you to be happy.”

Betsy nodded her head in agreement and added. “Tina, you were a wonderful son and we messed up. We will not make the same mistakes raising you as our wonderful daughter if that is who you are. We are here for you.”

Fred was serious for once in his life. “Bro or sis, it does not matter to me. You are my baby sibling, I love you and I will look out for you.”

Tina was weak from the suicide attempt, but her smile said more than her words “I am sorry, I did not see it getting better. I thought it was my last resort. I need to be who I am, Tina.”

Tina’s family could tell admitting who she was took all the strength she had left. They made sure she knew that she just needed to rest and they would be there for her. They also stressed that she was in charge of who she was.

After a couple of days Tina was back to being her joyful self. She had acceptance from most of her family, her sister did not approve. Her mom and dad did not tell her but she knew by the fact Laura did not show up at the hospital yet. Tina came up with a plan on the best manner for her to transition, which her parents and brother supported.

Then, later that day, a couple of Tophs’ friends, Oso and Tiny Dancer, came to see him in the hospital. Oso might have been only seventeen but he was a mountain of a man already. His beard touched his barrel chest. He got his nickname for people would say he was oh so big, then Oh so became bastardized to Oso. It became his nickname when Toph took Spanish and found out Oso meant bear. It fit for Oso looked like a bear.
Tiny Dancer was a free spirit who loved to dance, She heard music and she just started to sway if she could not dance. Being a little under 5” tall and loving to move to music made it natural for people to call her Tiny Dancer.

Tina was shocked to see them for it meant her parents told them what happened and which room Tophs was in. She was so happy to see them but she had to put on the act of being Tophs.

Tina, as Tophs, asked them what were they doing there. Oso told his cochise “We are here to support you, dude. You know we take care of our own. Dude, you better not even fiucking do that again.”

Hearing Oso said better not do it again put Tina in panic mode. How did Oso know about me being Tina. The panic was short lived for Oso continue

“Dude, what the fuck were you thinking? You took too many pills trying to get high. Fucko I never saw you take any drugs other than beer. You should not take drugs without other people around. Plus you should not take them period. You can get out of this hellhole and you better.

Me I am stuck here and love this hellhole. I know what I am going to do. Work hard and live harder, I am going to be the best mechanic this valley has ever seen. I can do drugs, you can’t, capisce.”

Getting that lecture from Oso gave Tophs relief. He knew that Oso told him off for he loved him like a brother. Tophs knew that Oso had to be hard showing his affection for he was not emotionally ready to handle showing his softer side to others. Where they are from a man showing gentleness was taken as a sign of weakness. Oso could not have his confidence while showing his kindness and caring in an mature manner.

With Oso being one of the group leaders he could not afford to show weakness, it would hurt his tribe, his clan, his band of brothers. If the leader of the group is weak other groups might try to take advantage of it. So Oso made sure he always kept a stiff upper lip for the betterment of his people.

Now it was Tiny’s turn to talk, she was there to be the sweet cop to balance out Oso’s tough cop act. “Tophs we are here for you, rents told us about what happened and wanted us to be here for you. I know, I was shocked also about their changed attitude about us. They told us they wanted us to look out for you, make sure you do nothing stupid again. They even said if it is nice this weekend they want a couple of us to come over for a BBQ, to get to know us. I am thinking that is a punishment for all of us for what you did.”

After Tophs got out of the hospital, His mom and dad were true to there word and had some of hisfriends over to get to know them. It was for they knew why Tophs hung out with the rebellious outcast and wanted to make sure he had his friends as a strong support system. To live as Tophs until he can implement his plan to be who he always was he was going to need it.

That school year went by so quick, it was bittersweet for Tina. At home she was accepted and loved but in public she had to go into hiding again. It became a real effort for her to hang out with Tophs’ friends. Tophs’ friends could feel the tension and they had it also for a different reason. They knew each day was one day closer to Tophs going away for college. Strangeways here he came. He was not going to be part of their inner circle anymore.

Even with losing a member of the pack, it was joyous for them. One of them was going to better themselves. They all wanted to and had plans to do so, but they knew that Tophs was going to do it. They were have also felt bittersweet about the final year with him if they knew he was going to just disappear on them, no proper goodbye.

She was back after two years and that was the last time she put an effort into making contact with Tophs’ old crew. Time can do funny things, it can make the love and affection of people from your past stronger yet make it harder to reach out to reconnect to them at the same time.

Chapter 3
Tina and Cameron made it to welcome the reception area. Getting her name tag was the first hurdle from Chris’ past Tina had to clear. Tina had to deal with Marylou Murphy. Marylou was a nebshit, always poking her nose to find out everything is can about things which she should not be concerned about.

Tina walked up to the table on the right to look for her nametag. Marylou told her that the women’s name tags were on the left. Tina told Marylou she knew. Marylou then said they wanted the classmates to get the nametag not their spouses. Again, Tina told her she knew.

Tina was happy that Marylou got distracted by one of the other organizers asking her a question. She was able to quickly grab her nametag without giving Marylou the pleasure of finding out who she was. Tina knew who she used to be would spread like a cold in a daycare center and she did not care. She just did not want Marylou to be the first one to know. Someone from Tophs old crew should be instead of a gossip queen.

Tina looked at the name on the nametag and it just did not feel right. None of them were right. Her name now was Christina Neely not Christopher “Tophs” Moog. Looking at the picture made her remember she was not always a woman. She used to be that stranger on it. “Wow he was so different than me in every aspect.” she thought.

Tina went back to get Cameron and told him she was ready. Cameron offered her his arm and she took it as they walked in. Seeing all her classmates brought back so many memories and she fought the urge to put on her Tophs performance. She did wonder how her husband would react to meeting Tophs. How would Cameron take to meeting an untrusting, cynical, smart ass who had a chip on his shoulder?

Tina scanned the room looking for anyone from her crew: Oso, Tiny Dancer, Bones, Logan, The Professor or the rest of them. As scanning the room a small middle age man came up to them.

Politely he said “Sorry I am Joe Hettinger and I do not recognize either of you. It will drive me crazy for I am great with names and faces so I had to introduce myself.“

Tina smiled for Joe was one of Chris’ first friends. They were inseparable in grade school. They started to drift apart when they started middle school, they had different interests. Plus Joe was a people person and wanted to know other people. He had a genuine concern about his friends well being and that would have made it hard for Toph to hide his secret from him.

Tina hugged Joe and told him she was Tophs. After the hug, Joe looked in disbelief and then a smile came on his face. He then return the hug.

“I am sorry again, Tophs. I just did not expect to see you here, with how you just vanished right after graduation. Plus, not how you are dressed. Wait, what do you go by now, it is not right to call you Tophs for you are not him anymore. You look great. I know I am a little scatter with what I am saying. It is from that I am so happy to see you.”

Tina knew that Joe was telling the truth. They were good friends at one point in their life and the friendship faded not from anything either of them did. It was just they grew into different people.

They talk for a couple of minutes and Joe left the couple to go mingle. Tina was so happy to see Joe that she initiated them exchanging emails and told him that she and her husband were going to be in town for another week so they need to get together to do a proper catch up.

Tina had a great time mingling with all of the people from Chris’ childhood.Their reactions to Tina ran the gamut of supportive to apathetic to disgusted. She was not fazed by the people who showed their disgust or made rude comments. They were small minded people who she would never see again.

Being who she was made Tina become a popular destination to the other minglers while so her mingling became her holding court. Her classmates had to know if the rumors were true.

Cameron enjoyed his wife reaction it this. Tina, by nature, was a outgoing person but talking about going to the reunion made her go into a shell. He did not want her to become a wallflower there. This was for he knew how important the reunion was for her. In some manner it was a wake for Tophs. Seeing those people who were fundamental in tophs’ adolescence allowed her to give him a proper rest.

Then while talking, out of the corner of her eyes Tina saw a hulk of a man walk in with his daughter. That had to be Oso and no that was not his daughter, it was Tiny Dancer. She quickly excused herself from her audience for she finally saw who she came here to see. This reunion of friends was 20 years in the making and she did not want to wait another second.

Grabbing Cameron by the hand she led him to hers cochises. The love, affection and caring for those two made it that she saw them as her friends not just Tophs. She came up to them and with glee in her voice and joy in her heart said “Oso and Tiny Dancer I have miss you two again.”

Oso and Tiny looked at her inquisitively, they both had no idea she was Tophs. Oso thought she was one of those busybodies who never had time for his crew while in highschool and now wanted to act like they were dear friends. Tiny Dancer thought she was a classmate who was an introvert and talked to her in class.

Oso try to blow her off “Listen here hun, you did not have time for us in high school so I do not have time for you now.”

Tiny smacked Oso on the arm, showing him her disapproval of his rude greeting to her. Then she said “Dear do not mind Oso, you know he is a grumpy grump. It is nice seeing you also.”

Tina knew that they did not recognize her. She thought they might for a couple of people did. She smiled and said “Come on you two, is that the right kind of greeting to give to your old friend Tophs.”

Rage came across Oso’s face, whoever this was thought it would be a funny joke to play on him to remind him about his brother in arms never returning back home. That he never had closure over losing his best friend. Plu,s it was a bad joke for Tophs was a man not a lady. If you were going to joke at least have it be a good one.

Oso raised his voice “Very funny, not.”

Cameron tensed up for he did not like Oso treatment of his wife. He was from the good side of the tracks so he was not used to the harsh in your face manner of interacting with other people. Tina gently squeezed his forearm to let him know she wanted him to simmer down, the situation was fine.

Tiny Dancer saw Tophs as soon as Tina said who she was. She was able to put the mask which Tophs really was on her friend face. She hugged her long lost friend

“OMG, it is so good to see you, Tophs. I do not care what you go by hun I will always call you Tophs. Only old friends still call me Tiny Dancer, now I go by Renee. Come on we are going to get a drink and then join us at a table. We have a lot of catching up to do. We really do.”

Tina was exuberant over Tiny’s ecstatic response to seeing her. Oso anger exacerbated when he realized that the lady standing in front of him was Tophs. It grew not for Tophs was transgender, it grew for Tophs did not trust him to take care of his own. That Tophs thought that Oso would disregard their brotherhood over who she was.

Oso said in a stern voice “No, she will not be joining us at the table dear.”

He turned around and left. The pain of the reopening of the old wound of losing his friend was too much for him to handle. He thought it would lessen if he ever saw Tophs, it was worsen. He found out that he was not there for his friend in her time of need. Now if Tophs was still Tophs it would be different. It would be joyous.
While leaving Tiny said “Don’t worry Tophs, you know deep down Oso is a big teddy bear. I will make sure he comes around before the end of the night.”

Tina smiled and said fine. She knew that part of what Tiny Dancer said was true, but also knew it was not going to happen tonight it would take weeks if not months. Oso was not only as big as a mountain, he was also as stubborn as one. She looked at her husband and gave him a smile to show she was still doing fine. Cameron knew she would be for it was the action she came to do for closure not the results which was important. She came so Tophs’ friend could say goodbye and they were able to do so.

Cameron checked on what his wife wanted to do now and was happy when she told him to mingle some more. He took the smart course of action and did not state his opinion of how Oso treated his “Coshise” Cameron did not want to break the illusion of how close Tina was to Tophs’ friends. He thought “yeah they take care of their own.”

Chapter 4

Even with getting the cold shoulder from the rest of Tophs’ crew Tina had a good time at the reunion. After her interaction with Oso, she knew to expect unity from the rest of the crew. She was just satisfied that she was strong enough to make the gesture of giving a proper goodbye to that portion of her life.

Tina and Cameron were talking to Tophs old chem lab partner when Oso came storming over. Cameron thought,” I do not care that he was a friend of Tophs, he better be respectful.”

Oso said “Listen here Tophs, you hurt me bad leaving how you did. You did not trust me to take care of my own, that was disrespectful. Worse you did not have our support when you needed it. I gave your parents my word when you OD that I would take care of you and I feel like I went back on it. You know how important my word is to me.

I should have talked to you when you came over. I showed disrespect by turning my back on you. I also went back on my word, that was wrong. You needed the time away to be who you really are. I am so happy that douchbag, Andy Zupp, came over to me and talked smack on you. That got my head in the right place, for I know that when I act like that douchebag I have to be in the wrong.”

Oso looked at Cameron and put his hand out to shake his. Cameron took Oso’s hand and then Oso pull him in for an embrace and patted his new friend on his back.

“The Brit, I like you. You need to lighten up some, but you showed restraint. I know you want to tell me off about how I treated your old lady. You did not for you wanted to let two choshies work out their differences. You treat Tophs good,I am happy. “

Cameron was confused about the quick change in Oso attitude towards Tina. He also had no idea how to take being call The Brit. Was that a local colloquialism and what did it mean?

The Brit was the nickname that Oso just gave Cameron. It was an initiation ritual, a welcoming ito the tribe. Brits were known for their restraint and Cameron showed he had it.

Cameron said“ Oso, it is easy to treat Tina well, she is a great woman who treats me great and is great for me. Her name is Tina, now. Please call her by her name. This is not highschool anymore and she does not need to or want to hide who she is to anyone “

Oso was getting more impressed with The Brit. He did not care what Oso called him, he was looking out for Tina. The Brit wanted to make sure that everyone treated her like the woman she was. He also showed his disapproval in a respectful, yet forceful manner. Oso knew that those two were going to get along as soon as The Brit figured out how to handle him.

Oso responded “I am sorry Brit, Tophs was Tina’s nickname back in highschool and it is just me showing her we are still thicker than blood. Like your nickname now is The Brit, I want to become thicker than blood with you also and that is how I am showing it. She is Tina and I respect that.”

Tina was pleasantly surprised by how Oso could now express how he was feeling. She also knew she needed to pipe up and join the conversation.

“Oso I understand you calling my Tophs, it is was anyone else other than someone from our crew I would have corrected you as soon as they did so. It is fine for you to call me that.

I know I did you and everyone else wrong. That is why I never reached out before today. Each time I thought about doing so it just became harder. I was further away from being able to act like Tophs. I felt like a stranger to you. Even with Tophs being me, I am different. I am the same at the core, it is just shown in a different manner.

I felt like you meeting me as Tina would lessen the bond and memories we had. Until recently I did not have the strength to allow someone to call me by my old name. I much rather have had our bond fade from time than it fade from who I am. That is just wrong for me to deny you to call me by Tophs, for I am him to you.”

Oso grinned. “Tina you were Tophs but not anymore. It is not right to call you that. I know you think it will honor the past by having us do so. We need to honor the present while acknowledging the past. How about T 2.0, short for Tophs 2.0. To show you are the new, better version of an old brother who is now our new sister.

Come to our table and spend time with your family.”

To Tina it was fitting that Oso reference the gang as family, for she felt like the prodigal brother who came back as the devoted sister. She was going to make sure that her friends knew how much she cared for them even after all these years of absence in their life. She was going to make sure that they become a part of her life again and her a part of theirs.

Tina and Cameron went over to join the Rejects from the Projects, that was the unofficial name of the crew. Oso found out Cameron’s name on the way. When arriving to the table Oso made a declaration

“People everyone here knows Tophs 2.0 or T 2.0 for short and here is her husband Cameron or how I like to call him, The Brit. Now let’s raise a glass and make a toast.”

Tina was so happy with the welcome back she got from her brood, and looked over at Cameron and thought.”The Brit fit him as a nickname”. The Brit was never so happy to be proven wrong about people. He wanted to show his appreciation on being welcome into the fold, and said “Oso if I may, please allowed me to make the toast.”

The Brit paused to allowed Oso to respond to his request. Oso nodded. The Brit raised his bottle of beer and said “To old friends meeting for the first time.”

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