She’s Not Just a Pretty Face
I spent most of my days in solitary on my uniform project, stopping only to eat and speak to Grans about what to do with the designs. She would go into town for me,
as Mom made it her mission to stay on my case. By early Wednesday morning of that week, I completed the work: skirt, blouse, and tie—the whole ensemble.
I took a shower and proceeded to attempt to shave the small hairs on my legs down without slicing several holes in my skin and I kind of failed near the ankles—let’s hear it for socks—and it stung like Hell. After that, it was time to put it all together.
I stared back at the person in the mirror with a lot of envy.
“Where have you been?” I asked as I buttoned the blouse. “Hiding out, right? You should have been here a long time ago.”
The image nodded back at me as I wrapped the small tie—made up of the material as the skirt, a green plaid— and gave it a simple, loose, knot. The shoes were flats, again, basic, as I didn’t want to even attempt heels.
“Let’s go, we have an appointment to keep!” Mom yelled from the stair landing.
“Almost ready!” I replied as I took one last look in the mirror. Simple make-up job...eh, I’d have to fix it later. I walked out of my room and to the staircase. Mom looked at me and her jaw dropped down so far it looked like it would dislocate.
“No. No, you go right back up there and—”
“I’m not changing, there’s nothing wrong with this, and I like the color,” I replied as I walked down the stairs.
“Fine. Fine, this,” she moved a few loose stands of hair out of my face as she spoke, “will only prove that you need therapy.”
I wasn’t sure if she moved my hair because it bothered her or it was something that she could do as she berated me. Whatever the reason, I left the house wearing the uniform.
We arrived at the doctor’s office and I filled out the voluminous novel that all doctors make you fill out.
Mom read a magazine, her way to avoid starting a conversation with me.
“Jam—” Mom started, but I looked back at her with a scowl.
I looked toward the professional-looking woman standing at the entry of the hallway and nodded to her.
“This way, please.”
I rose up from the chair and followed her. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” I answered as she sat at a desk across from me. Her office had bookshelves crammed with large books—every one of them had Ph.D or some form of alphabetical abbreviation after the last name—, curios on the end tables, and walls covered in diplomas from various schools and facilities.
“I’m Dr. Adriana London.”
“Jennifer Kane,” I replied as I tried to read her face.
What exactly would she ask me? “Jennifer, pretty name.”
“Thank you.” I was under the assumption anything I said or did would be used against me.
“Tell me about yourself, Jennifer.”
“I live in Missoula, my parents are divorcing, and that’s about it. Are we though?”
“If you want to be,” Doctor London flatly responded.
She left it open for me to get up and go and I really did want to, but I stayed.
“No, what else do you want to know?” I adjusted my glasses as I answered.
“How have you been feeling?” she asked as she opened a folder on her desk with my name on it.
“Lately, very good. As I told Mom, this visit is about the wrong subject and about five years too late.”
“How old are you?”
“I’ll be fifteen, in a month.”
“And why do think that she’s brought you on the… wrong subject, you said?”
“She thinks I’ve gone crazy. That this,” I pointed to my clothes, “is some form of rebelling due to the fact that I hate my parents.”
“Do you hate them?” she asked as she wrote something down.
“No, I don’t hate them. Doesn’t every teenager get mad at their parents? Yeah, I’m mad at them. I’ve been mad at them for over seven years but this...this is the reason she wanted me to come here.” I tugged at the tie and the skirt as I spoke.
“The clothes, the hair, the voice, the attitude. She will not see me for who I am and that bothers her, not me. She wants her son back. Funny, she never really paid attention to him then, but I’m getting it all now.”
“Her...son?” she asked as she sat back in her chair for a moment before moving forward to loom over my folder.
The good doctor looked over the paperwork and then back to me.
“Umm, so, Jennifer is your name?”
“Legally, my name is James Fitzgerald Kane. I plan on changing it as soon as possible.”
She continued to leaf through the papers.
“But you go by the name Jennifer?” She looked to me for confirmation.
The session was over an hour later. I walked down the hallway with a light skip in my step and my hands behind my back as I stopped at the appointment desk. I was asked to come back next week to discuss things—apparently the doctor was a bit more confused about things than I could ever be.
“Well, what did she say?” Mom asked as we left the office.
“She didn’t say much of anything. I did most of the talking,” I replied as I walked ahead.
“And?” She sounded disappointed.
“And what?” I asked as I opened the front door and strolled out.
“You’re not going to tell me what she said?”
“That’s what the next session is for. We’ll really talk about things then.”
Mom shook her head. I guess she was expecting the clouds to part and for me to be bathed in a ray of glowing sunshine stating, Forgive me, Mother, for I have been a terrible kid and all that you and Dad have taught me has made me the young man I am today. Which was sort of a half-truth in and of itself, really.
The ride home was, again, in silence. I looked out the window, until Mom spoke.
“I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go back to Spokane for court,” she stated with no emotion.
“Why bother? It’s not like we’re going to get anything from him. Love, attention, money...he’s not willingly going to give any of it.” I waved my hands in a who gives a damn manner.
“He helped give you life.”
“Yeah, let me add that to the list I’ll talk to the doctor about.” I scoffed
“James, this is a trying situation. I have had to fill out papers, talk to attorneys.”
“Not my name and no one’s asked about my opinion.”
“I know your opinion,” Mom replied with a snort.
“Do you now?” I turned to her. This I had to hear.
“You feel the need to do something insane like, like—”
“Spit it out, Mom.”
“Wanting to all of a sudden become a girl.”
“It’s not all of a sudden as you put it. And I’m standing up for myself.”
“You could stand up for yourself as a boy.”
“Because it worked so well for you being the wife, right? He wouldn’t care if we died in a car wreck right now. Or we were robbed, stabbed, thrown to the streets—and then robbed again—”
I didn’t bother to look at her. I was so irritated I was ready to jump out and walk the rest of the way home.
“Enough. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry I mentioned it.”
“Well, you opened the door,” I replied as I continued to look out the window.
“I never liked doctors. They have their fancy diplomas and charge you so much only to tell you to take this medicine, eat this food. You’ll die anyway though.”
Grans sat across the table from me as we ate a light dinner and continued her lament.
“Your aunt once broke her nose when she slipped down
the stairs. I knew her nose was broken, she knew her nose was broken,” Grans took of a sip of her tea and continued, “but we had to go see a doctor who had to wiggle it back and forth. Oh, Lydia was screaming with tears streaming down her face before the doctor put his pen to a clipboard and said, ‘It’s broken.’”
“Grans, do you think I’m crazy?” I asked as I laid my fork down. I had only taken a bite or two,
“Why would you ask that?”
“Mom thinks I am; Dad would think so too.”
“Never mind them. What do you think?” she asked as she motioned for me to eat.
“I think the rest of the world’s a bit crazy”
“And you’re right. Speaking of which, when are you going to introduce your boyfriend to your mother?”
“Not until she’s either deaf, mute or dead,” I replied, then took a bite of asparagus. I nearly choked on it when Grans spoke.
“How serious are you with Mike?”
“I’ve only seen him for a few days, Grans, before Mom went all Gestapo on me.”
“She is trying to look out for you and keep you safe, in her own way, as am I.”
“But you’re different,” I replied as I continued to cough.
“Have you talked with Krystal about him?”
“I haven’t talked with Krys at all. I don’t want her to know anything until I see her. I know Mom won’t tell her or Aunt Lydia about me, and I just want to tell her on my own time.”
Grans nodded as she poured a glass of tea from the pitcher on the table and pushed it toward me.
“I’ve been thinking about doing something for you.”
“You’ve already done enough for me. I could never ask you to do anything else.”
“We need to work on you a little bit.” Grans placed her silverware down and adjusted her glasses.
“What kind of work?”
“We need to fill you out a little bit.”
She raised her hands up to her chest.
“Don’t want to make you too top heavy, but you can’t stay flat as a board forever, you know?”
“I know, but that’s pretty expensive.”
I had thought about surgery but I planned to have it sometime in the future when I could do it myself, assuming I could ever afford it.
“Dear, life is expensive, but we have people in our lives who we must treasure.”
“Mom’s going to have a conniption over this.”
“She was a late bloomer herself. Didn’t get hers until she was sixteen,” Grans commented with a smirk.
I got up and hugged her tightly.
“Thank you,” I replied as I tried to hold back tears of joy.
“You’re welcome dear. Of course there’s something else that we have to talk about as well.”
“Yeah, I’m seeing that as a problem too. It’s kind of hard to wear a short dress with it.”
“We’ll have to schedule a consultation,” Grans replied. “Let’s get the phonebook and see if there’s a surgeon in town.”
I was no realist on a lot of things and on this situation even less so, but I knew drastic changes had to be made. As I said, I didn’t want to leave things halfway done, and that included changes to my own body. Grans was giving me the chance to solve those issues. I had researched what I would have to go through...lots of doctors, drugs and, ironically, therapy.
“I thought you hated doctors though, Grans?” I asked as
I went into the kitchen for the phone book.
“I do dear, but we’re all still going to die. Might as well use their degrees for something, right?”
The next few days I spent the mornings and evenings with Grans and every other waking hour with Mike, as Mom stopped checking on where I was going or what I was doing while she sprinted to and from Spokane. We spent time outside and with his friends, mostly. We had a few moments of alone time but it only involved a light kiss and a little touching—mostly by me, I admit. I wanted him to explore, but I was afraid of what he might find, and I didn’t really want to explain the why behind it. I just told him to let me be in charge and that one day he’d be happy to see the present I’d give him.
Twice that week I watched him play ball with his friends. One of them, Travis, dared me to try to hit the ball. I was never into sports but I took him up on the offer. He was a tall guy with dark brown hair and it always appeared as though his razor blade was either old as Hell or he shaved in the dark—patches of hair remained above his lips and on his chin.
“You ever play baseball?” he asked.
“Travis, don’t be a dick,” Mike yelled from first base.
“I think I got this, Mike.”
“Think you can hit the ball?” Travis asked as he stood on the mound.
“Only if you think you can actually pitch it,” I shouted as I walked to home plate.
“She’s gotcha there, Trav.”
“Whatever. Not going to go easy on you,” Travis replied as he threw the ball to Mike.
“Don’t even think about it,” I replied.
“He’s the best pitcher in Missoula County,” James, the catcher, stated as he adjusted his mask.
Mike returned the throw to the mound.
“I hope so, because his bravado is a bit lacking.”
James stared blankly for a moment—as if he were waiting for me to explain the comment. I merely picked up the bat and prepped to swing it.
Travis brought his body back and threw a fastball very close to my head.
James caught the ball and threw it back to him.
“Trav, what are you trying to do?” Mike yelled.
“My guess is he’s attempting to compensate for something,” I whispered.
“Just testing her, Preston,” Travis replied to Mike.
“You ready?” came the question from the mound.
“Give me what you got.”
Travis again wound up and pitched a fastball. I stepped to the right, placed the bat out, bunted it to the left side of the field, and then ran like Hell to first base.
Mike stood on first base as I ran toward him. I watched as he looked to his right, caught the retrieved ball, and held his glove up. I did what came naturally to me. I ran into him. He grabbed me and I allowed him to kiss me in front of everyone.
“You do know you’re out, right?”
“Good thing we’ve made it to first base already then, huh?”
We spent the remainder of the day by ourselves at the park, just walking about and hanging around on the large rocks.
“So, when do I get to see this outfit you’ve been working on?” he asked as I leaned back and looked up at his face.
“How about tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow’s good,” he replied. “I mean, only if you really want me to see it.”
“Of course, it’s just that…well, I don’t fill it out exactly the way I want to,” I answered as I took his hand and laid it on my chest.
“I’m sure you’ll look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I replied as I closed my eyes. “I’m sorry about Travis.”
“Why, because he can’t pitch?” I smirked at him.
“Funny. No, because he’s the way he is. He can be a dick sometimes.”
“There’s someone out there for everyone, including him,” I said.
“Yeah,” he replied as I stood up, turned around, and took his hands in mine.
“Mike, I have to ask you something...and it’s kind of personal and—”
“Only ask if you want to...but now you got me curious.” He moved his face close to mine.
“And I’d like to ask you this as a friend. Not my boyfriend, okay?”
I had already confused him so if I had asked him to do the task I was about to perform anyway, he probably would have had an aneurysm. I looked around, saw no one was watching us.
“I’m not that well-endowed right now, but I want to be.
What size should I get?”
I looked into his eyes but now they were really glazed and almost rolling into the back of his head. I knew breasts—the look or image of them—were powerful, but I never thought they had much influence. Never crossed my mind up until then.
“Yes?” His pupils darted back to meet mine and he pulled his hands back. “I’m sorry, I—”
“Why? I asked you to. So...what do you think?”
He swallowed hard before he responded with a stammer,
“I-I don’t know, I don’t know sizes and....”
“You just know what you like. Go ahead, be honest.”
“I think they’re nice as a part of the complete package. Brains are required too,” he replied as wrapped his arms around me.
“You are definitely good boyfriend material.” I lightly touched his cheek.
“Can I touch them again?”
Mike drove me home that evening. I kissed him goodnight, then got out of the truck, and walked to the front door as he backed out and drove down the street.
“What did I see you just do?”
Mom met me in the foyer, with her now not-so-unusual “Dad” behavior.
“Walk inside the house?”
“No, with the guy driving the truck!”
Grans walked out of the living room. “Rachel, you don’t have to shout.”
“Is that your boyfriend?” Mom asked as she loudly tapped her foot on the wood floor.
“Yes,” I replied as I walked to the staircase.
“Does he know?”
“Know what? That I adore him? He’s aware of that. I haven’t exactly said the words—”
“That is so disgusting, I can’t believe...that doctor...she didn’t do anything for you.” Mom paced a bit in front of the stairs, looking like she was ready to rip her hair out.
“It was one session, Mom. Not like she’s Anne Sullivan.”
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