One boy is about to learn that he has already passed such an event, and nothing will ever be quite the same…
“So, like, what did you want to talk to me about, Billie?” Kelly asked her crossdressed friend as they walked from school together.
“Is there any chance that Brandon will come as ‘Brandi’ tomorrow?
“I wouldn’t count on it,” she answered him. “Our Fashion Days are, like, a tradition, but it’s unofficial. No one actually has to participate. We just like to do it. Besides, it’s a chance to show off our new clothes.”
“I think that I’d feel better if he dressed up tomorrow,” said Billy as they strolled together through the campus gate.
“I’m sure you would. I’d like Brandon to dress up for Fashion Day tomorrow as well, but Miss San-Giacomo told us not to press him about it. Besides, he has to wear a cheer uniform to school Friday since it’s a game day. It’s, like, in the dress code.”
“I don’t know how I’m gonna get through this all semester.”
“Billie, you’re doing fine,” she encouraged him. “You walk as gracefully in a pair of heels as I do. So just accept, like, it’s how you have to dress until the end of the semester. If it helps, remember that you have, like, all of us girls with you on this.”
“I appreciate your help—and everyone else’s, too,” Billy thanked her. “But having to dress like this every day is so embarrassing. I’ve thought about transferring to another high school where I could start over.”
“Oh, Billie! Don’t do that!” Kelly pled, hugging him. “I’d miss you if you left. We’d all miss you.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Billy sighed deeply. Maybe she was right. All this had happened to him because he’d wanted to appear ‘cool.’ He had smoked marijuana to be cool. He ‘blew off’ Gender-Bender Day because he thought it was ‘uncool.’ He took Mr. Markham’s dare to make the missed day up, hoping that doing so would be cool. But now he had to come to school in drag for the remainder of the semester, which was about the most uncool thing that he’d ever done. But Kelly still wanted him to stay and she talked like her friends did, too. Did he now have friends because he wasn’t cool?
So Billy hugged Kelly in return, then she noticed that he was crying. She held his hands in hers. “You’re gonna make it through this, Billie,” Kelly assured him. “You’re gonna make it one day at a time, and now you have friends who will stand with you through it all.”
“Maybe it won’t be so bad and I can make it through this,” said Billy. “It’s only until the end of the semester. I can manage that long.”
“That’s the spirit, Billie!”
“I guess that as a cheerleader, you’re more attuned to that sorta thing?”
“I do try to be, like, sensitive to moods and help everyone feel better.”
“Well, it’s working for me.
“You wanna, like, stop for coffee?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t today,” apologized Kelly. “It’s my turn to help Double Abby with her homework at Saint Luke’s. Would tomorrow be okay?”
“I think so.”
“And don’t forget tomorrow’s Fashion Day,” she reminded him. “Since you, like, gotta dress as a girl anyway, just embrace it! Wear the nicest dress you have.”
“I’ll try and do that, Kelly.”
Chuck watched out of sight of anyone else. After Kelly Harrigan had gone off on her own, he had followed Billy Danziger to the coffee shop, On Firm Grounds. Chuck waited outside almost ninety minutes until the crossdresser left and then continued to follow him. On the way, Chuck found plenty of cover behind which to conceal himself, mostly trees and hedges, walls and fences, so he was able to follow Billy home, unobserved.
So Chuck dialed the number for Barry Kingman.
“Barry? It’s Chuck,…” he said.
“Like you asked me, I followed Billy Danziger home, so now I know where he lives and one of his hangouts.…”
“Where’s his hangout?…”
“It’s a coffee shop called ‘On Firm Grounds’…”
“I know where that is,” confirmed Barry. “Where are you now?…”
“Outside what I think is his house…”
“Got anything else to do tonight?…”
“Then stay there as long as you can,” Kingman told him. “See if he goes anywhere else…”
“I’ll do that…”
“Talk to ya later, Chuck…”
Barry Kingman disconnected the call before Chuck could say anything else. But he still needed to keep surveillance on Billy Danziger. And he’d already found a convenient, concealed location for keeping watch.
“Shouldn’t you be, like, trying on something for Fashion Day?” Sheila asked her brother, who was adjusting a necktie before the full-length mirror on his closet door.
“I am,” replied Brandon. “I told you at lunch that I had something in mind.”
“But you should be wearing a dress tomorrow, like the rest of us,” she objected.
“Not at all, Sis!” he said. “The West Grove High School Spirit Teams’ Handbook doesn’t specify any type of garment. It states, and I quote, ‘Participants are encouraged to wear clothing chosen from the nicest, most stylish, and most fashionable of their wardrobes.’”
“I have a few dresses that would fit you.”
“Not quite, Sis. We found that out for Gender-Bender Day.”
“Well, they almost fit.”
“First, your legs are longer than mine,” he reminded her. “You said that the hemline is too low on me.”
“But not all my hemlines are the same length.”
“Maybe, but that was one of the reasons that I had to borrow Debbi’s dress.”
“I kinda, like, forgot that.”
“Next, I’m flat-chested and you’re—not!”
“But you can, like, pad your bra.”
“The bra that Mom got me for Gender-Bender Day can’t hold that much padding.”
“You could wear one of mine, then.”
“I could get lost in it, too!” he teased.
“Brandon!” exclaimed Sheila, indignant at her brother.
“Sorry! I let myself take it too far.”
“I’m just trying to help you fit in with the cheer team,” Sheila reminded him. “The other cheerleaders won’t like it if you show up looking dorky tomorrow.”
“I promise you that I won’t. Besides, I don’t want myself looking dorky any more than you do.”
“The cheer team wanted to take you shopping tonight.”
“And I would’ve gone, but you know I’m meeting Jenny’s family for dinner tonight. We made that date before Miss San-Giacomo asked me to join the cheer team.”
“Well, you’ll have to wear my cheer uniform Friday.”
“I know,” Brandon affirmed as he hugged his sister. “Actually, I’m looking forward to it.”
“Really!” He paused a moment. “Monday night when I put on your cheer uniform, it felt—right!”
“It does suit you, no less than what you’re wearing now. Still, you should be dressing up nice for Fashion Day tomorrow.”
“Look, I’d be out shopping with the team if Jenny and I hadn’t already agreed to dinner. I had too much fun Gender-Bender Day not to give it another go.”
“But you were so upset about it at breakfast the next day.”
“Yes, but only after you told me that a couple of guys asked you to set them up with me. Let me make it clear: I don’t date guys! Besides, now I’m spoken for, anyway.”
“I know, Li’l Bro, and I’d say rather well-spoken for at that.”
“You really like Jenny, don’t you?”
“Absolutely!” Me an’ Mom agree that you chose well with her.”
“Now I can guess that you’ve been able to get to know Jenny some at school, but I think Mom has met her only once.”
“But it was where, why, and how Jenny met Mom that impressed her.”
“Oh? You mean at the hospital?”
“Uh-huh! Jenny not only came to visit you, but she also dressed up like it was a date. And the black silk cheongsam that she wore had to have cost a few hundred—maybe even a thousand—dollars. That’s not the kind of dress you wear out unless the occasion is very special. In her culture that’s actually a formal garment. But she thought you important enough for her to wear it.”
“That’s kinda heavy, Sis.”
“Are you dating anyone yet this year?”
“Anyone maybe from last year?”
“Gosh, no! Eww!”
Sheila nodded. “That bad and worse!” she confirmed. “Remember our discussion of why I didn’t wanna be a cheerleader again this year?”
“Yeah…,” Brandon drew out his answer.
“Don’t let them fix you up with anyone! Hear me? Not anyone!
“Look, Brandon, I never thought that I might need to give this kind of advice to my little brother, but remember, I know how cute you looked in my cheer uniform Monday evening. I know how cute you looked on Gender-Bender Day, and just like the two guys who asked me then to fix them up with you, boys will come on to you. You need to know how to handle them when they do.
“I told you before that cheerleading will take over your social life. The girls will expect you to date athletes. So you need to know not only how to handle boys coming on to you, but also, like, how to decline matches arranged for you by the other cheerleaders.”
Brandon now doubted his decision. He wondered if he hadn’t weighted Sheila’s advice sufficiently.
“Was my decision wrong, Sis?”
“Oh no, Li’l Bro!” Sheila assured him. “It wasn’t wrong, but it was different.”
“Different? How?” he asked.
“I know how you make your decisions, Brandon,” she told him. “I’ve watched and listened to you do it ever since I can remember. You always get your facts together and think about them before deciding. But I know you didn’t have all the facts you needed for your decision to become a cheerleader, did you?”
“No, Sis. I didn’t. There just wasn’t enough time to find out what I needed. But I also thought about everyone who needed me on the cheer team. Kelly, Double Abby, Miss San-Giacomo, the other cheerleaders, and even you were all counting on me. Even though I was afraid of doing it—and I still am—I couldn’t let you down.”
Sheila stepped up and hugged her brother and looked at him with tears in her eyes. “Little Brother, you followed your heart! You’ve never done that before. I’m so proud of you!”
Brandon couldn’t recall ever feeling his sister hugging him with such warmth. He simply waited for Sheila to let go before saying anything. “But how can I know if I made the right decision?”
“Oh, Brandon!” she sighed in near exasperation. “You already know. When I saw you at lunch yesterday, after you made your decision, you had a twinkle in your eye—a girl’s twinkle! And it’s still there. So I think you just need to let yourself feel the happiness you already have.”
Sheila dialed the number and listened to it ring twice before it was answered.
“Hello, Jenny speaking…”
“This is Sheila. Brandon’s upstairs getting dressed for tonight. He’ll be wearing his suit this evening…”
“I’ve never seen him in a suit before. I might wear another cheongsam tonight…”
“Not the black dress?…”
“No, he’s already seen me in that. I also have a red and a blue…”
“Blue is his favorite color…”
“Thanks for telling me. The shops at Billings Square close at nine. Brandon doesn’t know it yet, but we’re having dinner at my Uncle Li’s restaurant near there. We should be finished dinner no later than seven-thirty…”
“I will get there early. Debbi and Val are coming, too. They helped Brandon choose a dress and shoes for Gender-Bender Day so I think he’ll be comfortable shopping with them. I’m still, like, hoping Kelly will come, but she’s tutoring Double Abby at Saint Luke’s…”
“From what I’ve heard, Kelly must really like your brother,…” Jenny mentioned.
Sheila sighed as she wondered how to phrase what she needed to say.
“Kelly, Brandon, and I have grown up together,” explained Sheila. “Even though I’m a year ahead of her in school, Kelly and I are best friends. She and I love each other in that way. And yes, Kelly has long desired my brother, but she’s never understood him as she needs to…”
“Do I need to worry about her coming between Brandon and me?…”
“No, I don’t think so,” Sheila assured Jenny. “Brandon desires you even more than Kelly desires him. I’m not worried about Kelly because she will recognize soon enough that Brandon is yours. As wild and crazy as she seems, she’s highly intelligent and too smart to hang on to what she knows she can’t have. But she will need some time to accept that and to let go of him. Be as kind to her and as understanding as possible. That way she will satisfy herself that you’re good for Brandon and worthy of him…”
“That makes sense to me,” conceded Jenny. “You know her so well…”
“Like I said, we grew up together…”
“I’m glad we’re having this talk. You’ve removed a big worry from my mind.”
“And your idea for tonight removed another from mine and maybe from a few others as well,” Sheila affirmed. “Now, you are going to bring Brandon to Billings Square?”
“Yes, I will. After all, we don’t want him to get lost on the way.”
“I think he’s about ready to come downstairs, so I’d better go!”
“I’ll see you later, Sheila!”
“You, too, Jenny! G’bye!”
In the new Adolescent Ward at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, two girls are visiting a third where an interesting discussion is underway.
“So I would assume Coach Brenda had to do something drastic with me out for the season and you injured, too, Kelly?” Abigail Abernathy asked her fellow cheerleader. “She had to do, like, something…”
“Oh, did she ever!” Astrid Svenson exclaimed as Kelly covered her mouth vainly trying to suppress her giggling. Abby glanced at Kelly then at Astrid. She noticed them exchanging eye contact.
“Kelly? Astrid? What’s going on?”
“We knew that we needed a sub for you,” Kelly explained. “Else, we’d hafta revise and relearn most of our choreography and all of our pyramids. That woulda, like, stressed out the entire team.”
“So Coach Brenda had me talk to Sheila MacDonald,” Astrid recounted. “Now Sheila had been on the cheer team last year, but she’s on the pom-pom squad/dance team this year. She said that she likes it better than cheerleading and she, like, declined our invitation to return.”
“So, like, what did Coach Brenda do, then?” Abby wondered.
“Well, because of my broken wrist, Coach Brenda asked me to help her out with doing, like, more administrative things instead of physical,” continued Kelly. “Now I’ve been friends with Sheila and her little brother Brandon since, like, forever. He showed me how to do database searches. So Coach Brenda had me look for someone to sub for you.”
“Who’s my substitute, then?”
“Finding a sub for you was, like, anything but straightforward, Abby,” Kelly had to warn her teammate. “None of the girls whose names came back from the database search as eligible and qualified were also available for cheerleading. They were all committed to other sports.”
“Then you didn’t find anyone to sub for me in the database search,” Abby concluded.
“Actually, we did find someone,” reported Kelly. “But you know how Coach Brenda likes to talk about thinking outside the box? Well, the name that we got from the database search that was eligible, qualified, and available was a boy!”
“You mean my substitute is a boy?”
“That’s right, Abby,” confirmed Astrid. “Your sub is Sheila’s younger brother, Brandon.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“It’s the honest truth!” insisted Kelly to her friend.
“This is hard to believe!” remarked Abby. “But can he do it?”
“Yes, he can,” Kelly assured her teammate. “Brandon and I were in gymnastics together and he’s quite good at it. Making a cheerleader of him shouldn’t be too difficult. In fact, he’s done very well starting out in Cheerleading One.”
“And not just that,” Astrid continued. “He will be wearing the very same uniform that we girls do.”
Giggling, Abby asked, “How did he take that?”
“He was a little reluctant at first,” reported Kelly, “but Sheila said when he tried on her uniform after school Monday, he continued wearing it until bedtime.”
“Wearing it until bedtime?” Abby giggled again. “Sounds to me like he really wants this to work!”
“We think that Brandon has just enough girl in him to make it happen!” Astrid explained. “So far, Brandon—Brandi has exceeded all our expectations.”
“So that’s good,” said Abby. But then she asked, “Could you bring him here, like, just to let me see him wearing the uniform?”
“Coach Brenda wants us all to visit you while you’re here, but we’ll try to get him here as soon as we can,” Kelly promised. “Besides, he can help you out with your studies. He likes doing things like that.”
“Brandon’s the smartest guy in class for sure,” admitted Abby. “But him as a cheerleader? That’s mind-blowing!”
“Kelly, do you have the video with you?” Astrid asked.
“What video?” inquired Abby.
“I don’t know if you saw Brandon dressed up on Gender-Bender Day, but he really looked and acted like a girl,” Kelly informed her. “Debbi Snyder got him on video during third period English.” Kelly handed Abby a key drive, which she immediately mounted in her laptop.
While Abby waited for the video to come up on her screen, Astrid commented, “You won’t believe how cute Brandi looks in pigtails!”
“Should I go for popcorn?” Kelly joked with her friends.
“You look very handsome, Li’l Bro,” Sheila judged. “Does Jenny know what she’s getting?”
“I guess we’ll find out,” said Brandon.
“Are you, like, walking over to her house?”
“I think that’s likely the best plan.”
“Then don’t forget your overcoat,” Sheila warned him. “There’s a bit of a chill in the air.”
“Alright, Sis,” acknowledged Brandon. “Thanks for the warning.” He paused at the door of the vestibule’s closet. His trench coat should be the right outerwear for the evening. The weather wasn’t too chilly. So he donned his coat but left it unbuttoned before shutting the closet door.
“I guess this is it,” he told his sister as she walked him to the door.
“You’ll do fine, Li’l Bro,” Sheila assured him. “Remember, they’re trying to make a good impression on you as well.”
Brandon stepped out the front door to see his father’s car pulling up in the driveway. He waited a moment while Dr. MacDonald cut the engine.
“Is this the big evening with Jenny’s family?” the physician asked his son.
“Yeah! I’m going over there for dinner, now.”
“Are you excited?”
“I’m kind of nervous, Dad,” admitted Brandon.
“That’s quite normal,” his father assured him. “But the nervousness will subside once you start dinner.”
“Well thanks, Dad. I had better get going,” the boy told his father. “I want to be on time.”
Sheila dialed Jenny as she watched Brandon turn the path towards the Chang’s house.
“This is Jenny…”
“Brandon’s on his way!…”
“I’m putting the plan into motion on my end…”
“Okay! Thanks for that. I’ll see you in Billings Square…”
Sheila ended the call with Jenny as her cellphone rang with another call. She saw that Melinda was calling.
“Hi, Sheila!” said Melinda. “I finished my art project, so I can join you at Billings Square tonight for shopping…”
“That’s great! I’m getting a ride there with Val and Debbi. Brandon doesn’t know it yet, but he’s having dinner nearby…”
“So will he actually be shopping with us?…”
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” admitted Sheila, “but we don’t know if we can convince him to come…”
“Most of the girls at lunch have tried, but Coach Brenda told the other cheerleaders not to stress him out over Fashion Day…”
“Who does that leave?…”
“Really, just me and Jenny…”
“Anyway, Sheila, I can meet you there—but, like, what time?…”
“I’m going as soon as I can, but Brandon’s coming at seven-thirty…”
“Why are you going so soon, though?…”
“Because my little brother’s not the only one who needs a new dress for Fashion Day!…”
Melinda suddenly broke into a fit of giggles. “Sheila, that was just too funny!…”
Laughing along with Melinda, “I’d better be going,” Sheila told her friend. “I will meet you whenever you get there…”
Sheila found her father working at something in his study.
“Daddy, Val and Debbi will be picking me up in a few minutes,” she told him. “We’re going to Billings Square.”
“Why are you going to go there tonight?”
“Tomorrow is Fashion Day at school and Brandon and I both need new dresses.”
“Brandon needs a new dress?” chuckled Nathan MacDonald. “That’s news!”
“Well, he’s a cheerleader now, so he needs to dress up for Fashion Day like all of us girls who belong to spirit teams,” his daughter explained. “But he’s never been shopping for girls’ clothes before. He and Jenny will be meeting a few of us after dinner so we can get his new wardrobe started, although Brandon doesn’t know it yet.”
“He doesn’t know it yet?”
“No, not yet,” admitted Sheila.
“Then how are you going to get him to go shopping with you?”
“They’re having dinner at her uncle’s restaurant near Billings Square. Jenny will bring him over after they finish.”
“Oh, that’s sneaky!”
“Yes, it is!” Sheila giggled.
“No, Mom,” said Billie, “I don’t think this one looks quite right.”
Patricia decided not to argue with her son about the dress. Tomorrow was Fashion Day, according to Billie, and to her surprise, he was taking it seriously. So his mother decided that she should encourage her son to develop his own sense of fashion for as long as he needed to dress en femme. After all, if he knew enough to reject a suggestion, he likely was already learning what was and wasn’t suitable from his girlfriends at school.
“Billie, let’s go to the mall,” announced Patricia. “You need a new dress.”
“But Mom, I don’t have to buy a new dress just for Fashion Day,” her son objected. “I’m sure we can find something else in Nancy’s closet or yours.”
“I bet that you have classmates who will wear new clothes tomorrow.”
“But can you even afford a new dress for me?”
“Billie, everything you’ve been wearing until now are hand-me-downs from Nancy or me,” said his mother. “You should have a new dress or two of your own to wear. Now, get your coat so we can go!”
A white minivan driven by Valerie Schmidt’s mother pulled up at the MacDonalds’ residence and its horn beeped.
“Daddy, that’s my ride!”
“Alright, Sheila!” her father acknowledged. “You take care how you treat your brother!”
She pulled the front door locked behind her and scampered over to the minivan. A door in the middle of the passenger side slid back to reveal Debbi Snyder and Alice Johanson ready to assist Sheila in boarding the vehicle, but she had no problem getting into it, anyway.
“Sheila, this is my Mom, Nicole,” Valerie introduced her. “And Mom, this is Sheila, Brandon’s sister. She’s a sophomore and on the pom-pom squad and dance team.”
“I’m happy to meet you, Mis’ess Schmidt,” said Sheila. “So many are coming just to help out my little brother.”
“Well, I think that your brother must be a boy of exceptional character to be doing what he is,” affirmed Mrs. Schmidt as she drove the minivan away from the MacDonalds’ home. “I can’t imagine many other boys who’d be willing to help out the cheer squad by actually becoming a cheerleader.”
“But we’re not just helping out your brother,” Val remarked. “Helping Brandon ease into his new role also helps out, like, all the cheerleaders and, in turn, the football team and then really the entire school.”
“I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way,” admitted Sheila. “Alice, no one mentioned that you were coming.”
“Debbi called and asked me at the last minute.”
“Yes, we’ve noticed that Brandon, like, trusts Alice’s judgment on a lot of things,” Debbi explained. “So Val and I felt better about this shopping trip once she agreed to come along.”
“Brandon sits next to me in homeroom, so we talk a lot with each other,” Alice explained to Sheila. “And we’re lab partners in our German One class, so we can talk there, too, but in German.”
“So, I would guess that you don’t, like, talk much about cheerleading, then?” asked Debbi.
„Im Gegenteil, oft diskutieren wir das Anfeuern auf Deutsch!“ Alice said quite unexpectedly before sputtering into a fit of giggles.
“Omigosh!” exclaimed Valerie. “Alice can giggle?”
“I think she can only giggle in German,” Debbi teased.
„Ja, ich kichere nur auf Deutsch,“ Alice admitted, continuing to giggle.
“No wonder Brandon talks to you!” Sheila told Alice. “Your humor is just as off-the-wall as his!”
“Sheila, maybe you can answer this, but can you tell us why Brandon decided to become a cheerleader?” Alice inquired. “Debbi, Val, and I were all wondering about it earlier. We’d never have imagined him doing anything like this.”
“What I understand from talking with him earlier, was that he thought about all the others who needed him to become a cheerleader,” Sheila explained to everyone. “He knew he could do what he had to, so he focused on how they would be affected. He followed his heart to make the decision. I’ve never known him to do that before.”
“But Brandon is taking such a risk,” said Valerie. “Listening around, I’d say that most of the boys in the freshman class think he’s insane. He’s doing what they never would.”
“However, I think that all the other girls are waiting to see if your brother goes through with it,” continued Debbi. “They’re all hoping that your brother comes to school as a girl tomorrow and wears a cheerleading uniform Friday. I don’t understand why everyone wants Brandon dressing like a girl, but they do. For some reason, they need him to.”
“Brandon knows that it’s important to quite a few folks at West Grove High School,” Sheila replied, but I can’t believe it’s so important to so many. I don’t think my brother could believe it, either.”
Elizabeth MacDonald almost had to sneak into the employee lounge to take her break. Those fifteen minutes, so vital to her at this time of day, could be fleeting. Nonetheless, she had found her way into the lounge and filled up her coffee mug. Now she could call her husband, whose shift had ended more than an hour ago to find out what was going on.
“Hello, Nate MacDonald here…”
“How are you, Sweetheart?…”
“How’re the kids?…”
“They’re both out tonight and will encounter each other later in the evening…”
“You do remember that this was the big night for Brandon, don’t you?…”
“You mean meeting Jenny’s family at dinner?…”
“Yes, that’s the occasion,” said Nathan. “Anyway, instead of having the dinner at their house, they’ve moved it to Jenny’s uncle’s restaurant which is near Billings Square. Apparently, Sheila, Jenny, and a few of their friends will take Brandon shopping for a new dress to wear tomorrow…”
“I’m told it’s Fashion Day…”
“Alright then,” said Elizabeth. “When Sheila was a cheerleader, they’d always dress up nicely the day before a game because they had to wear their uniforms on the day of the game. I think that Sheila may still do that with the pom-pom squad and dance team…”
“She said that they both needed new dresses…”
“So our daughter and son are both doing Fashion Day tomorrow,” observed Elizabeth, who giggled at the image in her mind. “Seeing them off tomorrow morning should be fun.”
Brandon walked over to the Chang’s house and turned up the path towards the door, when Jenny stepped out wearing a beautiful cheongsam of shining blue silk embroidered with silver thread. She came towards him and they met at the midpoint of the footpath.
“Jenny! You’re stunning!” Brandon praised her. He held her hands in his and they kissed briefly. Then he offered Jenny his arm which she accepted by thrusting her own through his as they walked up the footpath to the door.
Mrs. Chang opened the door for the teenage couple and they entered.
“Brandon, you already know my mother,” began Jenny. “Now I’d like you to meet my father.”
Mr. Chang extended his hand to Brandon, who accepted it with a warm, firm handshake. “Pleased to meet you, Mister Chang,” said Brandon.
“Dad, this is my friend Brandon MacDonald, who lives down the street from us,” Jenny introduced her boyfriend to her father. “I hope that we will have many happy occasions to invite him to return.”
“We will discuss it over dinner this evening, Jennifer,” said Mr. Chang. “Thank you for coming, Brandon. I look forward to learning about you and learning why and how you have captured my daughter’s imagination.” And with that, he nodded towards a young boy standing nearby.
“Brandon, I’d like you to meet my younger brother, Bo,” said Jenny. “Bo, please meet my friend, Brandon.”
Brandon extended his hand to the boy and said, “Pleased to meet you, Bo.”
“I’m happy to meet you as well, Brandon,” Bo returned the greeting.
“You’re ten, eleven years of age?”
“I’m ten years but my eleventh birthday will be in about a month.”
“Jenny, are your other brother and sister here?”
“They will meet us at Uncle Li’s restaurant.”
“Oh! I thought we were eating here.”
“That was the original plan, but after thinking about it, my uncle’s restaurant seemed a better choice.”
“Yes, it is,” agreed Mrs. Chang, “although I don’t like to admit that my brother cooks better than I do!”
Seeing that Jenny giggled at her mother’s remark, Brandon felt that to chuckle would be alright.
“I think that we should be going now to arrive at the restaurant as soon as we can,” said Mr. Chang. “Please, Brandon, come this way to our garage.”
“Thank you two for coming by to help,” Abby offered her fellow cheerleaders. “Seeing you girls on the team is so important.”
“I know it can’t be easy, stuck in here all alone, away from friends and family,” noted Kelly.
“That’s the truth!” Astrid concurred.
“Who’s coming tomorrow?” inquired Abby.
Touching the screen of her smartphone, Astrid consulted an app and told Abby, “Tomorrow, Tillie and Colleen are scheduled.”
“Okay, seeing them will be fun,” said Abby.
“Well, sorry but we gotta go now,” lamented Kelly.
“Hey! Don’t sweat it, now!” Abby told them. “It’s great for you to come around to help with my homework.”
“That goes both ways, girl!” said Astrid. “You gave me more than a little help with my American History project.”
“Same here!” Kelly agreed. “You might have broken your arm and your leg, but despite a concussion, your mind works just fine.”
“That’s good to know,” replied Abby, feeling that she still had something to offer her friends and teammates.
Kelly and Astrid stood up and each gathered up their own books and notes.
Astrid asked Abby, “Do you have any assignments that we can take in for you?”
“Just this for Miss Nakamura’s class,” said Abby. “And I guess I can start reading her Voices Straining Yet Unbroken. These are all El-Gee-Bee-Tee?”
“Yep!” Kelly confirmed for her. “We discussed ‘The Feeding and Care of Huggles’ by Dorothy Colleen in class today—kinda spontaneously.”
“We’ll see you next time, Abby,” said Astrid as she carefully hugged and kissed her. Kelly did the same.
Kelly and Astrid walked down the corridor to the elevator together.
“Is Brandon on the schedule to visit Double Abby?” Kelly asked Astrid.
“I don’t recall seeing his name.”
“Do you know who made the schedule?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I think that I’ll talk to Coach Brenda, then.”
“Do you need a ride home, Kelly?”
“No, my Dad is picking me up now.”
The two cheerleaders paused to wait for the elevator.
“I guess our uniforms must be attracting attention,” remarked Kelly.
“Ya think?” Astrid replied with just a little tone of sarcastic humor.
They heard the elevator chime twice and the door opened.
Patricia Danziger turned around to watch Billie walking up the main concourse of the mall. She decided for now to conceal her pride in how easily and how well her son was picking up feminine mannerisms. Watching him was fascinating. His walk had become very feminine in only a few days. He became a little better applying cosmetics each day. But whatever had happened at school today left him positively beaming when he came home. And it was the first day since his punishment began that he didn’t rush to change clothes. He was still wearing a skirt and blouse now. Something or someone had made him smile and taken away the embarrassment and humiliation that she had expected he would endure until the end of the semester. But here they were at the West Grove Mall so that her son could get a new dress for Fashion Day tomorrow. He seemed to be anticipating it rather eagerly.
Billie caught up to his mother. “Where do we go?” he asked.
“This is why I wish your sister were here,” said Patricia. “Have you heard any of the girls you know at school talk about where they shop for Fashion Day?”
“Well, I did hear a couple of girls mention that they found dresses for Fashion Day at a place called Kaufmann’s.”
“That’s here in the Mall,” his mother told him, “but Kaufmann and Kauffman’s sell mostly formal wear.”
“They were talking about a sale, if that helps.”
“Well, if the sale is still going on, then maybe we should check it out,” reasoned Mrs. Danziger. “What do you think?”
“I don’t have any experience shopping for dresses, but I agree with you that we should check out the sale.”
“Then let’s go to Kaufmann and Kaufmann’s.”
Brian Harrigan drove his Mercedes into the waiting lane in front of the entrance to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. He did not wait long, as his red-haired daughter wearing her cheerleading uniform emerged from behind the large glass doors of the building, together with another cheerleader. The girls hugged briefly, then his daughter came directly to the car and opened the passenger side door.
“Good evening, Daddy!” Kelly greeted her father as she slipped her backpack off.
“Good evening, Sweetheart!” he answered. “Who was the other cheerleader?”
“She’s Astrid,” Kelly identified her friend as she sat down. “I don’t think you’ve met her.”
“So, how’s Abby?” Brian asked his daughter as he prepared to exit the waiting lane onto the main street.
“Her spirit is definitely better, but she’s frustrated because her whole left side is immobilized.”
“That can’t be very comfortable.”
“No, it’s not,” agreed Kelly. “But what she wanted most from Astrid and me was to hold our hands for a few minutes. She’s such a ‘high-touch’ person. Being restrained like that is so very hard for her.”
Brian thought a moment about his daughter. To notice someone’s need like that was just like her. It was one of her strengths. Still, he needed to follow up with Kelly about another matter.
“Have you spoken with Sylvia Brennan at Union Charities Mission yet?” Brian asked. “It’s important that you schedule your hours for community service.”
“I’ve tried calling yesterday and today, but she seems only to be in her office the same time that I’m in class,” Kelly told her father. “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Have you tried to leave a message?”
“Yes, but I haven’t heard back from her.”
“What name did you leave?”
“My own—what other would I use?”
“Well, Sylvia Brennan is most likely expecting to hear from Judge Riley’s daughter.”
“Agh! She has no way of knowing who I am! I always give my name as ‘Kelly Harrigan.’ She doesn’t know I’m the judge’s daughter.”
“So this is a situation where you need to identify yourself as Judge Riley’s daughter.”
“And not Riley-Harrigan?”
“Sylvia Brennan needs to connect your name with your mother’s. After she knows who you are, then you can argue the correct form of the name.”
“Now, if I understand this correctly,” began Brian, “tomorrow is ‘Fashion Day’ and you’re expected to wear something especially nice for school?”
“That’s right,” answered Kelly. “Why?”
“When you get home from school tomorrow, keep your nice dress on,” her father told her. “We’re going to dinner together—just you and me. We need to talk about things you like and your successes. I’ve been thinking about taking you to dinner since I returned from New York.”
Kelly looked at her father and smiled. “I’ll make sure my calendar’s clear for tomorrow evening, Daddy.”
©2017 by Anam Chara
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