Five for Fifty (Chp.3)

“It wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t being punished for being bad. I … I was just stuck … stuck inside … but not no more. Maybe it was God’s fault … and maybe it wasn’t but it don’t matter no more. Now I’m outside and I’m whole … and I’m a real girl and not a lost one. I’m not sad and I don’t live on TG Misfit Island anymore!”

Five for Fifty
Chapter 3: Living the Dream

by Maggie the Kitten

Cierra’s voice trailed off as she finished the first verse … and then it slowly returned … picking up volume and enthusiasm with each word … actually … the same word.

“Mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom.”

Terry and David watched their friend stand center stage. Their appeared to be no physical transformation … but it was obvious something was happening on the inside and escaping to the outside in a single word.

“Mom … mom … mom,” she continued.

When Cierra’s eyes fluttered opened it was as if they were waking from a long deep sleep, but with each “mom” she uttered they sparkled a bit more and that smile returned with vengeance.

“Mom … mom … mom … mom … mom”. Her eyes were trained on Terry. The bouncing and wiggling kicked in and then ignited an explosion of happiness that couldn’t be contained and had to be shared.

“Mom … mom … mom”, she cried as she pounced on Terry like a giant lap kitten. The pounced prey shifted position on the sofa to accommodate 140 pounds of flying hug.

“Mom … I can say it now … mom … I can say it as many times as I want … mom … mom … mom … mom … mom … and … and it’s okay to say it … I’m allowed to say it. I’m supposed to say it. Mom … mom … mom …”

Her voice trailed off as she lost herself in the hug and the right to say to Terry the three letter word she’d always dreamed of saying … mom … so small … so simple and yet so full of love and magic for the little girl who could finally say it aloud.

“I love you … Mom”, Cierra said, savoring the sound and meaning of the sentence she had so longed to say to Terry.

“I know you do.” Terry confirmed the obvious as she patted Cici on the back.
Reluctantly, Cierra took her head off Terry’s shoulder and her weight off her lap. When her feet hit the carpet she turned to her next would be victim. David leaned back into the cushion … bracing himself for an attack he feared would come but hoped would not. 140 pounds of flying hug could cause damage and he wasn’t wearing a cup.

Cierra smiled and took a tentative baby step toward him. Yes, he was sitting down and even if he were standing … Cierra was still a good inch taller, but from where she stood in her five minute bubble, David seemed a towering imposing presence. Her hand reached out as if she wanted to pet a dog she wasn’t sure would bite.

She so wanted to drop the D word, but fear got the better of her and she retreated silently to the center of the room but not without a loving smile that spoke for her.

“Home”, she said softly as her attentions turned to her surroundings.

“Home … home … home.” She repeated, each time a little louder and a little surer.

“I’m home! I’m really … finally home … and … and I get to stay … and I don’t have to leave … no invites … no bus trips back … no goodbyes … home … my home … I belong … I finally belong here and … I get to stay forever and ever and ever.”

“As long as forever and ever means age 18”, David couldn’t resist joining in the spirit of the game ... although it was quite obvious to both he and Terry, for Cierra this was no game.

Cierra, like most kids her age, whatever that was, had selective hearing loss and never heard David’s gentle tease. She was too busy breathing in the life she’d always dreamed of.

Cierra spread her arms out and did a “Wonder Woman” twirl. Her smile and her pleated skirt spread.

“I belong here”, she sighed dreamily as she stopped before dizziness threatened to claim her.

“And”, she pointed first to Terry and then David. “I belong to you and you too.”

“And I belong to my sisters.” Another wave of new found reality hit her.

“Sisters! … I got sisters … I’m not alone anymore. I don’t have to play all by myself. I … got … sisters! I got a whole bunch of sisters and they got me! Rose and Donna and Victoria oh boy!” She squealed.

She turned to Terry and David, her eyes sparkling and her voice filled with more hope and happiness than they’d ever heard in it.

“And … and … my sisters … I know they’ll love me … even if they don’t know it yet, but they will I just know they will. They’ll accept me and they’ll love me because … well … I’m their sister now. Sometimes … sometimes they won’t like me ‘cause we’ll fight and that’s okay ‘cause that’s what sister’s do.” She added with a giggle.

“Rose … Rose … Rose”, she said getting happier each time she repeated her big sister’s name. “I know she’ll be happy I’m here … ‘cause … ‘cause I’m green!”

Terry and David looked at each other and did a duet as they turned to face the girl all in blue and white. “Green?”

Cierra nodded and then gave her silly parents a frustrated look. “Green … you know … Earth friendly cause … cause I’m not a new kid … I’m a recycled one!”

Two pairs of eyes rolled as both imagined Rose their “Green Peace Princess” and Cici the junior tree hugger joining hands on a mountain top, drinking Coca Cola and wanting to teach the world to sing.

“And Donna … Donna’s gonna love me too cause … cause she can use me to tease you Mom.”

Terry knew better but couldn’t help herself. “Okay … I have to know … how’s she going to use you?”

“Cause … cause when you tell her I’m her new sister … she’s going to say “Gee Mom … I go have a baby and then you have to go out and get a new kid. Competing with your daughter is so … lame.”

Terry didn’t laugh but David did, at least until he saw Terry wasn’t.

“And … Victoria will be happy too … although …” Her voice trailed off as her smile faded. “Maybe not so much … cause now she’s got to share both of you with another sister … and I’m kicking her off the little princess throne, but …”

Cierra’s smile slowly returned. “I’ll be her little sister and that means she gets to be all mean to me … and tease me just like Rose and Donna do her, but … I’ll get to pester her and drive her crazy too … so yeah … that’s a push. I’m pretty sure I can work with that.”

Terry and David watched in amazement as Cierra continued to glow and go. “Oh I can’t wait till they come home and get to see me.”

Cierra’s smile turned mischievous. “And I really can’t wait to hear how you’re gonna explain where I came from: Wal-Mart? Kids’R’Us? Second prize in a raffle at work? And … and I don’t care what you tell ‘em. That’s your job … mines just … just to be me.”

Cierra’s eyes went wide. “Me … me … I don’t even know … who me is?”

She looked to her parents. “I know I’m yours and … I know I’m home and I know my sisters, but who … who am I now? Am I still Cierra … Cici?”

David didn’t know what to say, but Terry did. “You’ll always be Cierra or Cici.” She confirmed with confidence and a grin.

“I’m Cierra … I’m Cierra …I’m Cici … I’m ME!” She stated proudly as she did a little victory dance.

“But …” the Cici shuffle stopped. “What do I look like?”

Her eyes didn’t make contact with Terry and David’s. She didn’t want them to answer. She wanted to see for herself. She took a deep breath and then released it slowly as her eyes searched the room for a mirror … her heart … her mind hoping to see a body that matched her soul. Spying the mirror on the far wall she started for it, but then stopped suddenly.

“Don’t matter”, she whispered and then repeated it louder and with more assurance. “Don’t matter ... it don’t matter what I see.”

She turned her back on the mirror, knowing the reality of its reflection was no longer her reality. She looked to Terry hoping to find a truer reflection of herself.

“I’m not ugly am I Mom? I’m pretty aint I? Pretty just like you … like my sisters … just like every girl. I’m pretty no matter what that stupid old mirror says. Dumb stupid mirrors don’t know nothing! Right Mom? Right?”

“Yes Cici”, Terry gave her the confirmation she searched for. “You are pretty … you are beautiful and you always have been.”
Cierra drank in the praise like water to someone lost in the desert and in many ways that is exactly what she had been … lost, but now … now she’d found herself and the love and the home she’d been searching for.

“I … I don’t know how old I am?” Cierra crossed her arms and bit her lip as she thought. “Hmmm … well … I’m really happy. I mean REALLY happy and … and I love you both and wanna be just like you Mom and … and … I want us to do things together … and I think you both know everything … and … and you don’t embarrass me and I don’t think you were put here to make my life miserable and I don’t think the world is coming to an end tomorrow and … and I don’t have a cell phone growing out of my ear.”

Cierra weighed the evidence and reached her conclusion. “I guess that means I’m not a teenager yet!” She giggled. “And I’m glad too cause their weird.”
Weird was an appropriate word for the moment … while uncomfortable and a concerned would also do nicely to describe the feelings both David and Terry had as they watched their friend seem to lose herself within this five minute fantasy. And as the clock ticked away … it seemed Cierra was drifting further away … deeper and deeper into Cici’s world.

David had made eye contact with Terry several times already … silent communication asking her if she thought this was getting out of hand and should they pull the plug on this fantasy before it went any further. The look in Terry’s eyes said “No … or at least not yet.” She, like David had agreed to “not say no” and so far they’d sacrificed both their comfort levels enough to keep their word. They wanted Cierra to have her five minutes and they were willing to endure a pounced lap and a bit of embarrassment to give it to her, but … there were limits … limits as to how far they would go and how far they should let their friend go … so far neither boundary had been reached.

“School!” another revelation came to Cierra. “I … get … to … go … to school! Yeah!”

She looked down at her book bag and began inventory. “Book bag … school uniform … school girl! Yepers all here and I can’t wait to go … can’t wait to freeze to death on the bus stop or have motion sickness by the time we get there or … get a face full of water from the fountain … or to smell the varnish on the floors … hear the radiators clang … cueing up for the toilet … cringing every time my teacher screeches chalk on the board … braving the mystery meatloaf.”

Cierra faced scrunched up as she shivered. “Mom I wanna take my lunch.”

Terry didn’t have time to approve or deny her daughter’s request as Cici had returned to her dream day at school. “And sunshine on my face as it comes in through those big windows … and my desk … my books … my hand raising … my chance to get it right … to do it right and … and to make you proud when I do and … and even when I don’t because you always be proud of me as long as I try … and at the end of the day … no matter how bad or how good … someone will be there to greet me … to take me home … and to listen to what I did … no matter how boring or how bad. And homework … I’ll have homework and tests to study for … and I know it will be hard sometimes, but I’ll get it ‘cause I know you’ll be there to help me.”

Cierra pointed at the dining room table. “There … we’ll sit right there and we’ll do it together. Me and you and maybe sometimes my big sisters … but I’ll learn … and I won’t have to do it all alone in my room no more because … because you’ll make time to help me. You’ll be here and you’ll care and … and I just can’t wait to go to school. It’s going to be the best time ever!”

Cierra let out a contented sigh as she returned from her dream day at school. When she looked at David and Terry the skeptical looks on their faces said they didn’t share her enthusiasm about school and quite frankly neither would any of Cici’s new sisters or for that matter, any other normal child who dreaded eight hours of imprisonment in the public school. The adult who’d been banished outside the bubble understood this and did her best to explain to her friends why it would be different for Cici.

“Okay … okay … I know … kids don’t like school … at least once they been there for awhile, but … don’t you see … I’ve never been there … well … okay … sure I’ve been there … but … but … this little girl has never been there … can’t you see the difference. Before … all I ever did was watch, wish and dream … while the boy went through the motions … and everything was always so wrong, but now it’s my turn and I just know it’s going to be right. So don’t you see? It’s like my first day at school … and really it is … and every kid gets excited about their first day. So much I finally get to do and I can’t wait to do it and … and yeah I know … once I get there and really start doing things … it all won’t be rainbows and sunshine and smiley faces on my papers. Being a girl in school won’t make it perfect and pain free … it will just make it right. I promise you … I’ll see the darker side … so give the public school system and the playground a few days to shatter my dreams and skin my knees and I’m sure I’ll be just as miserable about “Day Scare” as my sister’s are … because I am just like my sisters. I am... a real … girl.”

Another wave came and nearly knocked her to her skinned knees. “I am a real girl … an honest to goodness and badness … real girl. Do you know what that means?”

“I think I’m afraid to ask.” Terry smiled tongue in cheek.

“I know I am!” David grinned as he played it safe.

Memories from outside the bubble intruded … but it was all right. They didn’t define her any longer. She wasn’t trapped within them. She could look them in the eye and not be afraid. When she spoke it was clear the adult had snuck in and now shared a small part of the stage with Cici.

“I’ll tell you what it means … it means I’m … I’m not this brave soul any more that had to endure loss and pain and suffering and surgery to eventually become the best man made woman that $20,000 and Thailand could create … no … now … I’m just a dumb … old … plain … goofy little girl … who had it all handed to her on a silver platter the day the Doctor said I was a girl. I’m going to have absolutely no idea of how precious the gift I have is … or how fortunate I am to be born in the body that matches my soul. I … I’m going to take it all for granted … and that’s the way I guess it has to be … because the only way to know otherwise … to truly know just how precious it is to have the body … the gender that matches you soul … is to not have it and I’ve already been there … done that … had the dilators to prove it and I never ever wanna visit that place again.”

Cierra shook her head and stepped back from her words and those memories as if they could still reach her and pull her back in. She shook her head. “Oh no ... that’s not me anymore. I’m just dumb … but not so dumb ‘cause I know you will teach me … both of you will … and not so old … ‘cause I am the littlest sister … and not so plain … ‘cause I’m pretty and I got that from my momma … but yes … I’m a goofy little girl. I’m a whole lot of that and I love it.”

Finally the happiness, the joy, the excitement and the satisfaction of a lifelong dream pushed the adult back into the shadows again and the child could no longer contain herself. She had to explode … and she did.

“I’m ME! Cierra squealed. “I’m YOURS! I’m HOME! I’m HAPPY!” Cierra jumped up and down … her child’s enthusiasm and her adult weight causing knick knacks to wobble on the bookcase shelf and Terry and David to wonder if the floor could hold her.

Both had promised not to say no … but the disapproving looks on their faces rained on Cierra’s victory parade. She stopped when she saw them … but she wasn’t defeated or about to be dissuaded.

“I know … I know … I’m TOO happy. REAL kids don’t get this happy … don’t appreciate what they have. You’ve told me that loads of times … but … I wasn’t always like most real kids. Most real kids don’t spend the first fifty years of their life stuck in prison … most real kids aren’t invisible to the outside world … most kids … get to be kids … at least a little bit … but I never really did … at least not the right kid.”

The shadow of the adult continued to play hide and seek in Cici’s world. Memories intruded into the bubble.

“I was always this messed up lonely little boy … who never fit in … never felt right … wanted clothes and hair and toys he couldn’t have and didn’t know why he wanted them … only that he did with all his heart. Lonely … so lonely for friends, for sisters for anyone to play with … for parents to put down their newspaper or their novel to spend just a little time with him … and tired of waiting for angels to come make him a girl and give him those things or … or just take him to heaven so he could ask God her questions.”

Deep sadness was on her face and in her voice as she returned to the many nights she’d hit rock bottom and her knees had hit the floor. It was always the same question: “What did I do God? What did I do so wrong that I have to be punished like this?”

For over forty years she’d waited for answer … tonight she found it herself.
“Nothing! I didn’t do nothing!” Cierra said with relief and conviction as her smile returned like sunshine from behind dark clouds.

“It wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t being punished for being bad. I … I was just stuck … stuck inside … but not no more. Maybe it was God’s fault … and maybe it wasn’t but it don’t matter no more. Now I’m outside and I’m whole … and I’m a real girl and not a lost one. I’m not sad and I don’t live on TG Misfit Island anymore!”

She ran to Terry … she had to share her joy in a hug. She wrapped arms round the Mom of her dreams and gushed. “Finally … finally … I’m getting to play the role … live the life … that I should have been born to play! Everything …”

Her arms swept the room. “Everything I ever wanted … I ever wished for … that I got sadder and sicker because I couldn’t reach … couldn’t have … couldn’t love myself without … couldn’t be me without … has finally come true. Don’t you see? All my dreams … all my prayers … all my stories … have finally come true. It’s … it’s like today is Christmas and my birthday and every holiday rolled into one for the last fifty years and I’ve got everything I ever wanted right down to the pony!”

“Pony!” David sat up straight. “Pony? Who said anything about a pony?”

Terry giggled as Cierra kept pouring it on. “And … and I’m not sad … I love Eeyore still … but I’m not sad and blue like him. I’m … I’m not the princess of pessimism no more. I’m happy … really … really happy for once … for the first time in my life and … and I’m entitled to be Pollyanna if I want to. It’s my birthday! Damn it!” She punctuated her gleeful gush with a stomp.

Two hands quickly covered her mouth as both of her eyes went wide. And in that moment … if not before … Terry and David truly saw the little girl they’d been listening to.

“Damn it? Really?” David said with an alligator smile.

Terry shook her head. “My … what a little potty mouth you are girl”.

Cierra looked down and squeaked. “I’m sorry … I … I didn’t mean to. I … I just got excited.”

When she looked up expecting to face the music … she found it was a happy tune as both her parents couldn’t contain their laughter.

“Oh Cici … I love you.” Terry laughed as she found it harder and harder to not lose a small part of herself in Cici’s bubble and unbridled joy.

This turned Cierra’s frown upside down and got Terry a pounce for her efforts. Cierra hugged her tightly but couldn’t sit still long as she was back up and bubbling over once again.

“You know … anything and everything is possible now … nothing is too late … nothing is outside my reach … except the cookies and David’s Gatorade.” She added with a giggle.

“Cause … with the two of you and my sisters I’m part of a real family now … and … and oh my goodness … over the river and through the woods … I got grandparents too. Thanksgiving road trip … yeah! And … and I know they’ll like me … cause I’m cute and easy to spoil.”

Cierra succumbed to the giggles. She was drunk … drunk with delight.

“I wanna do a cartwheel!” She asked but mostly informed and quickly readied herself to do so.

“Cierra Marie!” Terry shouted in a voice all of Cierra’s sisters knew well and respected. Cierra froze, proving she was a quick study.

Terry had promised not to say no … but she wasn’t going to sit there and watch her friend with the heart and enthusiasm of a child risk cartwheels on arthritic fifty year old knees.

Terry shook her finger. “Not in my living room and not on my watch!”

Cierra sulked. “Ohhh … kay”, but she was still too high to let one missed cartwheel opportunity get her down.

She filled her lungs full and then sighed dreamily as she released it. “Do you smell that?”

David sniffed the air. “Last night’s chicken tacos?”

Cierra shook her head.

Terry scrunched her nose and frowned as she sniffed. “Victoria didn’t clean out the litter box like I told her to.”

Cierra giggled and shook her head.

“No … no … its home … it’s … sweet … it’s … it’s …” Cierra sniffled and frowned. “Okay it is the litter box … but it’s still home and I still love it even when it does stink.”

“I think I’m going to have a diabetic coma”, David groaned and got a stern glance and an elbow to the ribs for his remarks.

Cierra cupped her ear. “Can you hear it?”

Both Terry and David shook their heads … wondering what “home” sounded like, other than three girls fighting.

Cierra sighed. “Neither can I … and that’s the sweetest silence I’ve never heard.”

“What?” Terry said what her soul mate was thinking.

Cierra’s smiled drained away as she left home for a moment to go back to the dark place. “The voice … I can’t hear it anymore ‘cause it knows it can’t hurt me now. It wouldn’t dare try to come here ‘cause … ‘cause it knows you two would kick its butt.”

“Whose butt?” David didn’t have a clue.

“The voice … the icky black voice that won’t be quiet … that always says bad things to me. It … it tells me I’m bad and I’m wrong … and … I’m stupid … and no matter what surgeries I have … or what I call myself … I’m still just a boy. And … it tells me how ugly I am … and how sick I am … and hopeless everything is … and how I can’t do nothing … and it tells me to be scared of everything … and … and it tells me how I can’t love nothing and how nobody can love me and how I gonna end up all alone.”

“Oh Cici”, Terry’s heart broke for her friend and girl who would be her daughter.

“Stupid voice!” Cierra cursed angrily. “Always whispering in my head … always telling me to watch the girls play … and then torturing me by telling me I can never really play with them … encouraging me to write the stories and dream the dream and then when I do … it laughs at me and tells me that nothing I wish for … or believe in … will ever come true … and everything is hopeless … but wait … there’s more! That voice … that voice is so bad ‘cause after it tells me everything is totally hopeless … it tells me not to worry. It tells me I can stop the pain. I can always quit … I can go to sleep … and not hurt no more and … it won’t stop telling me that … teasing and tempting me with that … dangling death in front of me every time I get really … really sad.”
This time David didn’t need to search Terry’s eyes for permission. Cierra was crossing the boundary into something neither wanted to hear and Cierra didn’t need to experience. This was turning dark and nasty and they couldn’t sit by … not as friends or fantasy parents and let someone they loved sink deeper into self destructive madness. They had to burst her bubble and pull her out … fortunately for Cierra she found the strength to walk out on her own.

Sad tears threatened in Cierra’s eyes for the first time since the five minute meter started running, but she sniffled them back finding strength and a joy she never had until now.

“No … no tears”, she ordered as she shook her head. “Not gonna be sad … already cried enough … and besides … I can’t hear that stupid voice no more. It can’t hurt me no more … not now … not in our house … and not on my parent’s watch. Never … ever … again!”

To Be Continued...

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