An Anthology of
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Cheryl came to him in surrender, wanting so much to please him, but he pushed her away; perhaps more so into a new life than a rejection of the old. He never really felt for her, even before she 'changed,' as many of us do. We don't so much love someone as love that they love us. She felt sad, of course; who wouldn't? So she moved on...
At a home in the San Francisco area...
Hey, Chuck, have you seen my grey hoodie?" Alan called from the bedroom. He came down the hall and walked into the kitchen, where Chuck was cooking lunch.
"No, babe, I haven't," He pulled back just a bit as Alan went to kiss him.
"Sorry...haven’t brushed my teeth. My breath smells almost as bad as your cooking." He said, only partly telling the truth. Something was going on inside of him, and he felt uncomfortable around his partner, even when things were going well, which they weren't.
"Funny...ha ha." Alan said in a dull monotone. "What's for lunch?"
"I'm trying that recipe for macaroni and cheese that I got off of Paula Dean's show yesterday.
"Oh...okay." Alan sounded less than enthusiastic, which Chuck found disappointing. He had tried everything to placate his partner since the grand failure of the other night. Actually it wasn't a complete failure since Alan always enjoyed their sex immensely while Chuck felt more and more separated and removed from their lovemaking. It had gotten to the point where it was worse than being non-involved. Like a 'dutiful wife,' he laid back and 'took' it, feeling less and less a part of their relationship and more like someone he didn't know.
"I'm off after dinner tonight; I switched hours for Saturday with Dana, and I figured we could spend some time together."
Alan had gotten almost insatiable; the only thing that slowed him down was if he had to pee in the middle of everything. And after the other night, Chuck was surprised that he still wanted to do anything at all.
"Alan...can't we talk about it?"
"We already did."
"You talked...you lectured me...like I don't have a say."
"You have a say, but if we want this to work, it has to be this way, honey, you know it!" Alan raised his eyebrows and shook his head, as if he had to deal with a recalcitrant child.
"But you don't even want to hear what I have to say." Chuck bit his tongue. He was not going to give Alan any more ammunition by crying. It didn't make a difference as Alan continued.
"What...that you think you remember something? That maybe you're not a guy after all...that what we have is just another perverted form of suburban life?"
"Now you're twisting my words. I only said I wanted what other couples have."
"And what would that be, Chuck." He never used that name unless he was becoming frustrated. That usually meant the conversation was about to draw to a close. Chuck wasn't far off.
"You want to be a woman? After all these years, you pull this crap on me. I thought I meant something to you, but apparently wanting to discover yourself takes precedence over what I want. You can be so fucking selfish sometimes." He grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge before finishing.
"Listen. Just think about it. You're just a bit confused. Let's plan on just having a nice meal at home tomorrow, no strings attached, okay. And we'll take it from there." He went to kiss Chuck once again and Chuck shied away.
"Fine...I'll see you later. You know, you oughta grow up!" Alan said as he shook his head. A moment later, Chuck stood alone in the kitchen. He turned off the stove and sat down at the table. Looking out the window hoping that Alan would come walking back in and apologize, he sat for several minutes before putting his head down on the table and sobbing softly.
Later that evening....
She looked in the mirror, surveying herself. The hair was reasonably acceptable, almost like a copy of Janine Turner or Moira Tierney in her new lawyer show; pretty but short...very short. Her ears sported new amethyst studs; amethyst being her birthstone. She sighed before moving on to view her apparel. She wore a calf length corduroy skirt; tan, with a cream silk blouse under a cocoa cardigan. Her legs were covered in dark brown tights under calf length cowgirl boots with a low heel; she hadn't mastered (mistressed) heels yet, being nearly twenty years removed from the last time she wore anything higher than an inch heel.
"Not bad, but will it play in Peoria?"
She frowned and looked over at the front door. He was going to be home any minute, and she wanted it to be just right. Maybe it was the pose, or the lingerie...that must be it...too fast...She must have moved too fast. She took one last look in the mirror before walking into the kitchen. She just needed a chance to change his mind.
"Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes and String Beans," she said aloud. Nothing fancy or unpredictable; his favorite meal.
"Can't have too many changes, not tonight," she thought. She began singing softly to herself as she put the food on the table. She heard the front door open and her heart skipped a beat. She turned to greet him.
"Oh shit...fuck no, Chuck...I told you I don't want any part of this..."
"Damn it, Chuck...no...fuck no. This isn't going to happen." Alan walked straight up to him and glared. If he had been wearing a wig instead of just his own very short hair, Alan would have ripped it off in disgust.
"Please...don't...I'll go change...we can still have dinner," he cried, grabbing a paper towel and wiping his face off hastily.
"Don't bother. I'm not hungry." Alan squeezed past Chuck and grabbed a Heineken out of the fridge.
"But?" Chuck tried to get Alan's attention as he pushed his way past him and out of the kitchen. A door slam let Chuck know that it wouldn't be a good idea to try to talk, as if the rude and cruel words weren't enough. He stood in the middle of the kitchen once again before walking into the darkened living room; a perfect place to hide with the pretty colors and wonderful fragrances of acceptance closed off by the drawn curtains. He sat down in the chair by the fireplace; it was still redolent with the smell of burnt paper from a few nights before. He looked down at the fragment of charred paper that still remained; the few legible words mocking him one last time...
"Gender identity disorder (GID) is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe persons who experience significant gender dysphoria ..."
The basement of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a week later...
"Hey, Cheryl, you look awfully worn out; what's going on," Nancy asked.
"I don't really want to talk." Cheryl shook her head but the tears in her eyes almost begged for someone to speak up.
"He still angry at you?" Bella Biseglia asked as she shook her head.
"I don't want to talk about it.....Let it go, Bella, okay?"
"Anyone want to start? Any concerns? Maybe a nice report for a change?" Nancy was certainly and understandably frustrated; most of the women in the group seemed to be dealing with the same issue out of a host of issues that were common to them.
"So I take it most of you are still facing rejection, even with your partners?" It sounded like a dull accusation; as if Nancy were bored of the topic, but really she was frustrated and sad for her fellow group members. They needed some promise, some hope.
"My wife told me she always thought there was something different about me," Leona said with a half-smile.
"We had a long talk, and she's willing to go to couple's counseling." The half-smile grew into a grin.
"She even picked out the therapist; a woman over on Tucker Avenue who specializes in gender issues. I think we've finally turned a corner." Leona's smile changed to a happy frown as she burst into tears. The women on either side of her patted her on the back.
"That's great...I'm so happy for you." Mae said and hugged her tightly.
"Yeah...I'm happy for you too." Cheryl said even as the tears began to flow. What would have been a happy occasion on another night became the opposite as Cheryl continued.
"I can't do this anymore." Bella grabbed her arm in shock until she continued.
"I'm not going to keep living a lie. This...not Chuck, is who I am, and Alan will never accept that." She bit her lip at the thought of the next few words.
"He's asked me to move out....three years and that's what the sum total of my love for him is; a request that he texted me while I was at work." She shook her head; it went beyond cruel and had lapsed into indifference....almost the hardest emotion to overcome.
"I don't have anywhere to go, so I'm going to move back in with my parents." Chelsea gasped.
"But they won't accept you either. You won't be able to be yourself with them...this isn't fair." She began to cry. A new member of the group, she was young and actually enjoyed the support of her family.
"I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, Chels.... I'll be okay." Cheryl shook her head, completely contradicting her statement.
"You will, because you can come live with me. I've got two empty bedrooms since the kids moved back to San Jose to be with my ex." Bella smiled and looked around, seeking endorsement for the idea from the group.
"Gosh, Cheryl...that' s great, don't you think? Leona asked.
"Oh...I don't know?" What was to know other than that she was so used to being put down and being rejected, even by the man she thought she knew, that it didn't occur that it was a great idea.
"You don't have to make this permanent, sis!" Dina said.
"Just to get you out from under that cloud you've been living under for the last year. I'm sure Bella would agree, right?" Dina raised her eyebrows as she glanced at Bella.
"Oh, hell yeah...you can as long or as short as you like. But this way you don't have that godawful commute from Oakland. In fact, our company is looking for a new IT person; print out your resume' and bring it on Sunday at the luncheon and I'll give it to my boss.
"She know you're a transwoman?" Chelsea asked.
"Yeah, six months now. The whole office knows and they're cool with it. Hell, if you can't come out in Frisco, where the hell can you come out. Seriously, she's been really supportive, and not just because she's the boss. Just one of those folks who has their priorities straight, if you'll excuse the pun.
"Listen, Cheryl, I know this is a hard time for you, and this is no substitute for what you've lost." Bella put her hand on Cheryl's arm once again.
"Believe me, I know. My ex still is good friends with me, but it's not the same. We love who we love, and when that doesn't get returned or goes away, it hurts like hell."
She paused and looked around the room; the nods of the women there gave sad testimony to the truth of her words.
"I've got an idea. My girlfriend is coming over tomorrow to make me dinner. She's really sweet, and obviously she understands about girls like us. Why don't you come over; you'll get a free meal and a free tour; no strings attached. Whatyasay?" She rubbed Cheryl's arm like a big sister.
"Okay..." Cheryl said after a moment of thought.
"So dinner tomorrow. Come over about five and we can talk for a while if you want."
"Oh, yes...dinner...I think....would it be okay?" She paused, almost fearing that the offer would be rescinded like a cruel joke.
"Okay, what, honey?"
"Can I move in tomorrow?" Cheryl said quietly with her head down.
"I've got my pickup outside in the church parking lot...why not tonight?"
The group broke into spontaneous applause; the one exception being Chelsea, who just said, 'Oh, that's so sweet" before bursting into tears.
Danny felt changed inside though nothing was different; the same boy he'd always been. But wearing his mother's clothes just that one time confirmed what had been stirring inside of him all along. He was different! different than other boys. Different than his brothers. Different that who his parents had long believed he was. Different than who he had felt he shouldn't have been. So he moved on....
The Benvenuto home, Omaha, Nebraska...late Friday afternoon
"Did you find out about the team?" Danny's Dad called as he walked into the kitchen from the garage.
Danny quickly turned off the TV, tossing the remote on the couch. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his dad's face, which sported his usual non-descript half-smile. It looked like his dad was in a decent mood. He loved his father and would have done anything to please him.
"I didn't make the cut." He faked a frown as his father closed the back door with his foot, putting the groceries on the table.
"I guess those budget cuts didn't help, huh? They used to field like nearly a hundred players and now it's less than fifty. Well, maybe next year, after you've bulked up, right?"
"Yeah, Dad....next year." Danny hoped that this time next year would be hugely different, but he had to convince his parents, and that was nearly impossible. Just avoiding playing football was frustrating enough. It wasn't a case of 'not doing' so much as finally 'becoming.'
Sunday afternoon at the Benvenuto home....
She stood in her parent's bedroom. The image in the mirror was disappointing and encouraging at the same time. She wasn't very pretty at all; maybe a bit like the funny side kick of the girl heroine on a Disney channel program. But she did look like a girl...
A car door slammed and she turned her head in fear. Not today...it can't happen...no. She ran to the window, the feel of carpet on her feet mixed with the pantyhose gave her a start. A quick scan of the driveway revealed that her parents were still at the flea market out of state; the neighbor's car sat in the adjacent driveway. She sighed in relief, only to turn around and walk straight into her older brother.
"Holy crap, Dan."
"Please don't tell Mom and Dad." His brother usually would hold something like this over him for weeks, but something looked odd in his brother's expression; something that he'd never seen before.
"You....you won't." Danny's lip started to quiver.
"No. I don't understand this, but you cryin' about it tells me it's serious. This isn't a joke, is
"No...Vinnie....I don't...." It was embarrassing to cry in front of his brother, and the more he tried not to cry, the harder it got.
"You sorta look like Mom from when she was a kid, you know? But you've got Dad in you as well...Danny?" Vinnie tried to be comforting; his relationship with Danny usually gravitated toward teasing and joking, but for once he really felt like he needed to be a big brother. Not the lord-it-over-you kind, but the helpful kind with advice and encouragement.
"Vinnie...this is who I am....I'm such a fuck up....Dad is going to hate me....I'm such a fucking disappointment. I didn't get cut from the team...I never went out...." He looked down at his smallish frame, which seemed even smaller in his mother's clothes. Even she was bigger than him.
"He's not going to hate you....much." Vinnie's attempt at a joke was met with more tears and an awkward moment where Danny reached out for a hug. Vinnie didn't have it in him to hug his brother;he wanted to but it just wasn't what they did in their family. And even though it wasn't 'normal' Danny really expected Vinnie to respond.
"Never mind...I don't care....the hell with it...I don’t care anymore." Danny sobbed as he pushed past his brother and ran to his room.
"I'm not hungry." Danny said as his mother set the table for dinner.
"Okay, honey, but I want you at the table just the same. Your dad and I need to talk to you and Vinnie and Joey about something important, okay. After we talk you can excuse yourself if you want." She smiled at him with her "hey, it's okay," smile, which put him only a bit at ease.
"What's for dinner?" Joey said as he walked into the kitchen.
"Pizza," his father's voice called from the doorway to the garage. He walked in and laid two pizza cartons and some wings on the table.
"I think he's in his room, Dad, I'll go get him." Danny said as he turned to go.
"Let Joey get him. I need to tell you something before everybody sits down, okay? It'll only take a second." Danny couldn't read his father's expression; he never could. If his Dad was angry, he'd find out right then and there by what he said rather than any tone or look.
"Can't this wait?" Danny said impatiently, almost wanting to provoke his father and getting it over with. His father surprised him by putting his hand on Danny's shoulder softly.
"No...just this, Dan.... No matter what happens...no matter what is said, your Mom and I love you. You've got nothing to fear." Danny's eyes widened as his father smiled at him before sitting down at the table.
"Guys, your mom and I need to talk with all of you about something, and I don't want you to worry. No one did anything wrong, and nobody's in trouble, but it is very serious, and it concerns Danny." He smiled again, perhaps as a way of encouragement. Danny put his head on the table and began to weep. Joey looked at him and shook his head.
"What the fuck, Dad?" His father's smile quickly turned to a stern glower which was followed quickly by Joey's "sorry."
"Is he sick or somethin'?" Joey asked.
"Well, no...not exactly, but I think he thinks he is," Vinnie said.
"Danny...I know I told you I wouldn't tell Mom and Dad, but I didn't know what else to do, bro. I’ve never seen you cry about anything that hard. I'm sorry, but I needed help." With that, he looked to his father, who continued.
"Joe...Your brother is going through something...I don't know if it's a middle child thing...maybe something your Mom and I did or didn’t do...maybe nothing at all...but we're all going to try to help him, okay...that means you as well, and what we talk about doesn't leave this house at all. This is a family matter!" His Dad used the "Do I make myself clear" stare and Joey nodded. Their mother smiled at Joey and then followed with,
"I wasn't sure, so I did some research and I think Danny is what they call transgendered."
"What the fuck?" Joey wasn't being judgmental so much as expressing shock over the revelation that his brother had some serious issues. He ignored his father's glare and looked at Danny, who hadn't lifted his head off the table.
"You wanna be a girl?" Danny's voice cracked at the end of the sentence, giving his question an odd and almost ironic tone.
"It means he believes that he is a girl already, Joe...at least that's what the books and the articles on the internet said.” Her husband shook her head and shrugged before adding,
"I want to be completely honest with you guys, okay. This goes against everything I was ever taught...in school...in church.... I don't like this one bit..." Danny turned his face toward his father and shuddered.
"But he's your brother and our son, and we'll do what we have to do to support him." His father reached across the table and grabbed Danny's shoulder.
"I...I love you, Dan....that's never going to change. We'll deal with this....we'll..." His father fell back in his seat and began to sob. He was confused and scared; the thought of losing his son to something so strange...so alien. It was too much to handle all at once. His wife touched him on the arm, rubbing it softly.
"Danny...I'm going to see if we can find someone who can help you with this."
"You mean so they can fix him?" Joey asked earnestly even if it was a bit rude.
"No, Joey...he doesn't need fixing. You only fix what's wrong or broken." She said softly, correcting her son without chiding. She knew he was almost confused and scared as her husband and maybe even almost as much as Danny.
"Dan...hey..." Vinnie put his hand on Danny's back, squeezing his shoulder.
"We'll get through this, okay? Right, Dad?"
"Yes...we all will."
Danny closed his eyes and began to sob softly as his mother came over and kissed him softly on the cheek.
"It's going to be okay, honey...we'll all get through this and it’ll be okay." She leaned close again and whispered in his ear. He turned and wiped his face with his sleeve before whispering in his mother's ear in return. After a moment, his mother stood up and put her hand on Joey's shoulder while grabbing Danny' hand.
"Okay...I think this is a good idea." She smiled at her husband who nodded in approval. He almost always immediately trusted his wife's wisdom, and somehow knew what she decided was right and a good thing. She smiled again and said,
"From now on? While we're at home? I want you to remember that your brother really is going to need our support, so I want you all to remember to call him Gina, okay?" Her husband shrugged his shoulders and nodded slowly, somewhat reluctantly but with trust that his wife was right.
Joey shook his head and said with a smile.
"What the fuck, Mom....okay, since you said it." He laughed as his father half-smiled at him with a shake of the head. Vinnie breathed out before saying finally.
"I think Nana would have liked that. Yeah, Gina sounds just right."
Monique hugged her so hard; like she'd never let go. And her lover hugged back the same way, not wanting to release her to her fears. The scars were almost healed, but the fear inside gripped her heart like a vise. Her lover reached in with acceptance and love and pulled the fear off, like a gardener removing a tenacious weed. So she moved on...
Monique looked in the mirror, checking her hair. Several strands fell across her face, giving her a harried look. A few attempts at replacing them failed. She blew out a breath and tried to smile but the woman in the mirror appeared more than disappointed; she was downright sad.
"Hey, Mo...I'm going to the drug store; did you call them and renew your meds?" No, she hadn't, which usually would have led to ill feelings on her part with herself; the anti-depressants only worked to point, and they were less effective the more negative her self-talk was.
"I'm so stupid." She said as she walked down the hall.
"Now, you know that's not true. What have we been talking about? I'm not upset with you; you're carrying twelve credits at school after everything you've been through this year. Come on, honey; cut yourself some slack." She felt her lover's breath on her neck and the embrace began, soft but strong hands grasping her waist and a nuzzle on the neck.
"Stop...staaahhp." She protested but her heart wasn't in it even as her back felt the warmth of another body next to her own.
"Okay, but you don't know what you're missing."
"I do...that's why you need to stop." She laughed as their bodies parted.
"I can pick up those barrettes you wanted; I think they've got a whole display by the entrance.
"I should have done that yesterday when I was out."
"You mean when you went to the doctor's and got the results? Honey, there's only so much you can remember. I'm just happy you're doing better." A sob came from behind and she turned to see eyes filled with grateful tears.
"I've been worried sick over you the last few months; this is great news, and I'm so happy that you're going to be around to bless my life." The same strong hands that gripped her only moments ago grasped her face gently as a kiss came to her softly, lip-gloss and salty tears mixed together.
"You've been taking care of me for so long; when do you get a rest?" Monique asked.
"Seeing you here, safe and whole and well is rest enough." A quick kiss on the cheek with a squeeze against her body before parting.
"You have anything at the cleaners while I'm out?"
"Oh, damn, I was right there yesterday and I forgot! I'm such an idiot." She looked into those eyes; eyes like no others, sparkling friendly eyes. Accepting forgiving eyes.
"Would you stop? What were you doing over there? You stopped at the post office; that had to be stressful, right?"
"The letter from Belinda had to be distracting at the very least, right?"
"She still refuses to let me see the kids.... God, that is so unfair." Her own tears began to fall, many landing not on the floor or her robe, but on soft caring gently hands that caressed her cheeks.
"What did Carter say...I bet you've got a real good case, right? And we knew she'd pull that. She's scared and you're trying too hard. It'll work out, honey, but you have to stop blaming yourself."
"I'm not healthy enough, that's what her lawyer is telling her." Monique leaned against the wall and folded her arms, hugging herself.
"Hey....that's my job." As if she were taking on even more. She felt her arms being unfolded and hand placed on her chest.
"NO....not there...not there..." She began to sob, the accepting embrace serving not as a comfort, but as reminder of her lack. Her body was slowly turned as the robe became undone, each button, one by one.
"No....I....you....I'm ugly,” She protested through her sobs.
"I'm the ugliest woman in the world!" Her sobs shook her body and the embrace.
"You're the most beautiful woman in the world," A soothing comforting voice, words interrupted only by soft kisses on her chest.
"Yes....they're beautiful to me." She shook from anger at her lack....she waited too long to get help....it's not supposed to happen to girls like her, she had heard.
"If I'd gotten help sooner," She accused herself, just like every other morning on every other day.
"You saved yourself...you're here and you're healthy and you're mine, and I love you."
"Why do you love me? I'm incomplete...I have nothing for you. I have nothing....I am nothing."
"You're everything I've ever wanted...I don't need anything else....I don't want anything else." A hand reached up and touched her hair.
"OH, please no....no..." Sobs screamed softly in protest.
"I love you!"
Words spoken softly only to be proven loudly as the hands pulled the wig from her head, revealing soft downy stubble, darker and thinner than she had remembered.
"See....it's coming in just fine....I like the color....it suits you."
Words punctuated by soft kisses on her neck. She felt her feet moving as she was led to the couch. Strong, gentle arms held her and a face against her neck reminded her once again just how beautiful she actually was.
"I love everything about you."
The testimony was borne out by action as her body arched stiffly against the licks and bites and kisses that followed. She had felt condemned, but the advocate proved that her case was weak, and that she indeed was innocent. Not guilty! Moments later she shuddered and it was over....but for the kisses that began once again to caress her tearful face.
"I don't deserve you!" She protested again through her tears.
"I don't deserve you....I never would have believed that I could be blessed with someone so special; so beautiful as you."
Even as she heard the words, Monique looked at her chest...she examined the lack she felt throughout her body; things that worked only partly or not at all. Things she wished she'd been born with but had never been there in the first place. Things that she had that were cruelly taken away by the ravages of unfair disease.
But she looked into eyes that ignored the lack. A child can grow in someone else’s womb... Her breasts still felt.... her body still responded to kisses and caresses and firm but gentle hugs and holds... And her hair was growing once again.
Those eyes that said... I don't care what we've lost. What we've kept is so much more important.
And like a garden, her heart needed to be tended to each day. Weeds of doubt and self-hate needed to be pulled out daily by strong hands that reached in to keep the ground fertile and growing. Too many years of accusation had caused her heart to be overrun; her garden would find itself choked by shouts of "no good,” and "liar." Voices screamed every day..."You're not real!"
But those eyes reminded her that she had someone who tended to her fears and doubts with great care. She still saw herself as a boy, even after all those years; her lover saw her as the most beautiful woman ever beheld. It was taking time, and a great deal of loving care, but with her lover's devotion, she was moving on to the life they wanted.
Darren looked in the mirror and was disappointed in what he saw. No one could have changed more for the better than him. But it was all on the inside. He looked down and remembered what hadn't changed. The woman in the bed behind him slept quietly, not seeing what hadn't changed, but still loving the inside of the man in the mirror. And he knew it was better not to say anything. So he moved on...
McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Friday evening at the Coolidge house...
Darren stared at the computer screen. The pictures of his friends looked very pretty; many of them taken within the last few days at a conference they'd attended. Some of them had their spouses along; acceptance was not common, but not unheard of with the community online. He sighed with envy, wondering when his time would come...rather when her time would come, if at all. The big tabby jumped off the bookshelf, landing squarely on the keyboard.
“Hey, Buddy,” he said, scratching the tom’s ears, which was returned with a loud purring and claws kneading into his legs as the cat jumped onto his lap.
"I think the dog needs to go out."
An announcement that became a request as no movement was heard in the other room. He logged off quickly and hit erase history on the browser; nothing would be worse than for her to find his connections went beyond the movie and sports links she knew he frequented.
“You won’t say anything, will you?” He joked as the cat jumped back up on top of the bookshelf, disappearing behind some boxes.
Grabbing the leash from the back door coat rack, he whistled and their Airedale came trotting in from the living room. A few minutes later he came in, unhooked the dog, and hung the leash up on the back of the door.
"Would you mind getting me some wine when you get up next?"
He heard her just as he sat down at the desk again; a not so subtle hint to get up and get her a glass of wine. He didn't mind. She worked hard while he remained at home, and he seemed to function so much better in the evening than she did. He felt torn between two kinds of guilt; both almost tormenting him. He felt bad that he hadn’t found a job in nearly three years; even part-time. The burden of earning money came almost solely from Nancy, with him only contributing with an occasional temp job at the bookstore down the highway. The man in him felt weak and useless, less than the husband she married.
But part of him felt guilty about feeling guilty. He hoped one day she’d accept the other ‘half’ of him....the ‘her’ she had yet to meet. And feeling less of a husband somehow meant he was only a man, which he felt betrayed the female part of him.
He came into the living room with more than a glass of wine; a tray of cheese and crackers was greeted by,
"That's so sweet."
He kissed her on the forehead and then walked into the laundry to put a load of her things into the wash. He looked enviously at the nicely colored tops and slacks. Her cream slacks had that nice soft cut that made her look even sexier, if that were possible. He sighed before loading the machine.
"I put a load of your stuff in; you have anything else you want washed before I start it?"
"My full slip and the green corduroy dress; we've got a staff meeting, and I want to wear something other than a suit for a change." She smiled as he kissed her forehead once again before retrieving the dress from the closet door. He stared longingly at the slip lying on the bed. It was pretty, like her. He bit his lip and took the clothes back to the wash.
"How's Jimmy doing? You said he was dealing with some depression."
"I talked to him online. He's doing much better since he changed doctors. It's been hard, but he finally got somebody over there who’ll take care of him." Darren breathed a sigh as he walked into the living room. Jimmy was a friend in Indiana as far as Nancy knew; someone Darren had met on a support website for survivors. Jimmy was a survivor, but Darren knew him as Janine.
If Nancy knew learned about all of Darren's friends, she'd not only be surprised, she'd be upset; perhaps even disappointed. Maybe hurt and confused; Darren's friends online were not all survivors, but every one of them were either transgendered or the spouses or partners of transgendered folks.
Darren had been going to the website for almost two years. He had reached out in the midst of his own emotional crisis; writing stories and blogs about 'girls' seemed to help him cope with his own issues. His therapist had said as much; encouraging him to write. And it had helped.
But that's as far as it would go; at least for the time being...who could say? But it was more than likely that's as far as it would ever go, since revealing that part of himself, Darlene he had named her, would likely break her heart. Nancy had married a man, after all; she wasn't married to a woman and she wouldn't understand that her husband wanted so much to be her wife.
She stared in the mirror. She didn't like her looks at all. In fact, she avoided looking in the mirror, even when she wore her favorite outfit; nice maroon suede-like dress, full skirt, with a button down collar and long sleeves. The tops of her calf-length brown boots were covered by the hem of the skirt; their two inch heels only recently having been mastered. They made her appear taller than she wanted to, but the boots also made her feel quite feminine, and feminine trumped too-tall every time.
Darlene Coolidge...maybe she would have made a great reporter or perhaps a librarian or even a doctor. But Darren Coolidge looked at himself in the mirror on one of those rare occasions when he could muster the courage. Years of every kind of abuse possible had destroyed any chance of Darlene living the life she longed for; her 'brother" barely surviving his college years after turning his back on the lure of suicide and self-destruction. Only now, decades later, were the two of them finally integrating into one whole person.
"Honey, are you home? They had a scheduling mix-up...today was my day off." Nancy called from the hallway. He panicked until she added.
"I'm going to run to the store and get something for lunch; a sandwich? How about Chinese."
Darlene took a deep breath as Darren shouted,
"Chinese sounds great. I was just about to take a shower...I'll see you when you get back."
"Okay," Nancy said and was quickly out the door once again. Darlene took one last look at herself in the mirror as her brother stared back at her; both of their eyes filling with tears. A close call that sent a very strong message...never again. She took off the dress carefully, returning it to the hanger. The undergarments were tossed unceremoniously in the delicates hamper with Nancy's other lingerie. She returned the boots to the box marked Tax Receipts and placed them under a pair of file boxes in the corner of the office. Walking back into the bathroom, she turned on the shower and stepped in, but not before looking in the mirror one last time.
Maybe in stories....a sympathetic and loving wife discovers her husband wearing women’s clothing? A crossdresser? No...He was a twenty-eight year old man stuck at fourteen when his father found him in his mother’s dress; a scar over his right eye bearing witness to a beating that drove Darlene into a permanent psychic retreat as Darren abandoned her to a sad subliminal existence. Maybe if he had started hormones at fifteen or so? Maybe surgery at nineteen or sooner? He leaned over and placed his head against the wall of the shower and began weeping. A death in the family that would be mourned by no one except her ‘brother.’
Darren and Nancy celebrated their sixth anniversary at the local steakhouse, dining on fine food and listening to a fairly decent jazz combo. Darren wore a green polo and tan slacks along with a brown corduroy jacket. Nancy wore a green velour dress with a black belt and a white crochetted shawl. Her legs were set off nicely with charcoal hose and black calf-length boots. Darren looked at his wife with adoring eyes; somewhat for her apparel, which evoked feelings of sadness, but oh so much more for the love of his wife; the wife of his youth as it says somewhere. And he moved on to the same life he and Nancy enjoyed, hoping against hope that things might change one day.
Louise looked in her lover's eyes. And he looked back in approval. No rejection...no shame whatsoever ...he smiled at her and she felt like things were finally the way they should be. She looked at her body, remembering what used to be and wishing the newness of her change were much better than it appeared. His eyes seemed to say ' I like what i see, even if you don't.' So she moved on...
Gresham, Oregon, at the apartment of Louise Calveccia..
"Louise? Honey?" Jeff walked into the apartment. Louise sat on the couch staring at the floor.
"You okay?" He sat down next to her and kissed her on the cheek. She went to pull away, but he could see it wasn't because she was angry.
"No. I'm not okay, Jeff. I'll never be okay." She pouted and bit the inside of her mouth.
"We've already been over this, sweetie....I don't know if there's much more I can say to change your mind."
"You know....I mean how I compare with...her!"
"Cathy? You can't...." It almost sounded cruel until he continued.
"She was my sweetheart all through college. She was...is my son's mother, honey. The deck is stacked if you insist on comparing yourself to her."
"That's just it...she gave you love...she gave you a child. What have I ever given you?
"Besides that, you....." She swatted his arm playfully, but then looked down at her feet.
He wasn't really trying to focus on the physical so much as help her understand that the physical part of their relationship was just fine.
"No complaints, Louise. I've never ever been disappointed. But it goes beyond that."
"What?" She gritted her teeth and tears came to her eyes.
"I guess I serve some purpose."
"Louise, stop it right now!" His words came as a sharp rebuke, not for his sake, but for hers.
"Carla told us to focus on what you've got instead of what you're missing; your words, not hers! You’re missing nothing!" Louise turned and stared at him as if he had asked the impossible.
"It's easy for you to say...you've been exactly who you've always thought you were; you're doing exactly everything you've set out to do." He couldn't argue with her statement, but her conclusion was skewed by years of doubt fueled by the rejection of her parents. They had a reconciliation of sorts, but by that time the damage had already been done. She was so fragile and self-focused, which wasn't uncommon from what Carla, their therapist, had told them.
"I never knew what I really wanted other than to be married. Everything I did with Cathy defined who I was. Whatever she wanted, I did or tried to do."
It's often been said never to speak ill of the dead; a rider to that emotional contract for so many parties is that you can never not speak well of them either. They often remain saints and martyrs; idols left to be admired instead of the humans they actually were. Jeff had finally realized he had bought into a lie. Cathy actually was human.
"When she died, I went through a whole period of still trying to be what she wanted, but I finally realized I had to be my own person. I had to do what I felt was best."
"But she gave you a son."
"Yes, she did. He's a great kid and I'm blessed to be a father. And she was the best woman I ever knew." Louise looked at him with widened eyes, completely misunderstanding what he had said. She still read way more into his words than actually was there. Tears began to flow until he lifted her chin and smiled.
"Listen...she WAS the best woman I ever KNEW...past tense....Louise, she's not a God or a super hero. You can never be my FIRST love; that's a title reserved for her and her alone....but you ARE the love of my life. I can't imagine going a single moment without knowing you. I love you." His arguments were irrefutable, so she side stepped.
"I hate the way I look." She almost seemed to be gazing into an invisible mirror.
"My ears stick out...my nose..." Tears fell freely as she looked down at the small part in her blouse where the top button had come undone.
"You....deserve more." Jeff shook his head at her words.
"What? You're beautiful. What more could a guy ask for?" He used a general expression, but something inside him compelled him. He reached over and started unbuttoning her blouse.
He ignored her without a sound and placed his hand softly on her right breast. Not a grope, not even sexual in intent, but it was sexual nonetheless. He touched her softly, as you might caress a cheek; very personal and almost reverent.
"No...Jeff....please...Don't." Louise wasn't upset; she almost welcomed the physical sensation, but she couldn't see the heart behind the act.
"This is the most perfect breast in the history of the world."
"No...It's not....no." He felt her tears fall onto his arm, making their way through the maze of hair down to his elbow under his sleeve.
"Okay...I lied. It has a perfect match right next to it." He laughed softly, gently as he switched his focus to her left breast.
"You know what my favorite thing in the whole world is?" Her efforts at ignoring his touch were failing, and she hesitated a moment before collecting herself.
"Kissing you while touching you!” He wasted no time and kissed her softly on the lips.
"Nope...." He removed his hand and placed it softly on her shoulder. He began to massage her neck, which had grown hard and almost inflexible. His kisses, while still romantic and almost sexual, became therapeutic as he focused his attention on her tear-stained cheeks.
"I love you." He said softly, not to convince her about him but about her.
"I can't say it enough times, but God knows I am going to try." He laughed again, his laughter reassuring and encouraging as evidence that he wasn't at all trying to be serious but sincere.
"Louise Marie Calveccia, I've been meaning to ask you a question and I think now is as good a time as any.
"No....Jeff...no...." She wasn't protesting so much as expressing the fear she long held that he'd ask and she'd be unworthy; not deserving.
"I'll never tell you to do or say anything at all so long as we're together, which I hope spans decades, honey, but I'm going to say one thing only, okay." She looked at him and her eyes widened again at an expected rebuke. It was rebuke of sorts, but only in a way to clarify rather that force or insist.
"Honey...I need you to know that no matter what you think, you have to respect my decisions about what I value and treasure and hold dear. My beliefs are my own. They are subject to change, and you can influence them greatly, but never believe that you know better about what I want than I do. You cannot look at me and tell me I can't love you. You are not allowed to insist that I don't find you attractive. You can't tell me you aren't important to me. Those things are mine alone."
"I....I don't understand." She raised her hand to her face and wiped away the remaining tears.
"Just this...I'll never lie to you. I might hesitate to tell you what's on my mind, but you'll always know where I stand, sometimes quicker than others, but I'll always tell you the truth."
"Buuhh...but..." She began to cry again. He grabbed her softly by the shoulders and pulled her into a soft embrace only to hold her at arm’s length a moment later.
"Listen to me, honey. I decide whom I will love, and I love you. I've loved you for a very long time. Of course I never knew how much and why, but you know it's true." She went to shake her head, but his kiss prevented that from continuing.
"When Cathy died I was devastated...alone with a five year old son, feeling helpless and lost." It was his turn to cry. He held back his sobs and kissed her again.
"You were there all along; a friend, a huge encouragement in our lives. There's so much of Cathy in you....and so much of you in her." She shook her head no.
"You keep looking at yourself as if you're still standing on the platform waiting for the train. That was then, and this is now...you embarked on that journey, and you arrived a long time ago. I don't see you the way you used to be other than that the same caring loving man has become a very beautiful woman. You may see yourself always as her brother, but I see you as my love...my life. You're going to marry me, and I'll be the happiest man on earth."
"I...." She went to speak, but her words got stuck in her throat.
"You love me, right? You know I'm right!"
She pouted slightly as her tears flowed freely. Her nostrils flared slightly as her emotions seemed to switch at the sound of his words.
"Yehhhhyes?" Her words even sounded like a question, like she not only felt unworthy of being loved but of loving; as if she didn't deserve to bless him.
"Louise Marie Calveccia? I've got a seven year old boy sitting at his grandparent's house, probably getting bored watching videos with his Grandpa. He wants you to know that he's asking you to be his Mom. 'You can be married to her, Daddy, but she's my Mommy first, okay?'"
As if she had an inexhaustible supply of tears, she began sobbing harder than Jeff could remember. She put her head on his shoulder and shook a bit, her tears literally soaking his shirt.
"So...on behalf of Jimmy and for my sake, will you please say you'll be my wife?"
"Yeehhhhessss." She managed to say before dissolving completely into his shoulder.
Louise had felt for so long that she was second-rate; someone to settle for if the real thing weren't available. But at that moment, she looked into her lover's eyes. He gazed back and his face was beaming. No rejection...no shame whatsoever. He smiled at her and she felt like things were finally the way they should be.
So, on the 15th of June, 2011, Louise Marie Calveccia moved on...and moved in....as Mrs. Jeffrey Salvatore Petrone.
Stevie looked out the window, hoping that no one would come too soon. The soft whisper of silk and the caress of velvet brought her to tears. Nno one understood. She grasped the razor in her hand and walked back into the bathroom. No one would know until it was over and there was peace. So she moved on...
The Andruchek home, Etobicoke, Ontario.....
She looked in the mirror. If she didn't know better she would have thought the young lady smiling back at her had just come from a board meeting or power lunch. Her silk suit almost glistened in the bathroom light; subtle silver and black stripes vertically traversed the charcoal jacket and skirt, giving the suit a very professional appearance. Her silver silk blouse hung open further than any professional might find acceptable, but the image was pleasing nonetheless.
She pulled on the black pumps and stretched and peered behind her, admiring her calf muscles. She actually had considered charcoal seamed stockings, but went for the more subtle taupe seamless hose instead. Her hair was perfectly coifed, thanks to a stylist in Hong Kong who had done a superb job with her brunette locks. Her makeup was subtle; almost non-existent, but her clear smooth skin left her with no need for foundation or blush, and the hint of shadow and minimal mascara gave her a business by day - fun by night look.
She had gotten past any worry about intrusions; she had calculated the timing almost down to the second, and nothing seemed out of place that day. She was ready, but she walked to the bedroom window to check. The neighborhood seemed even quieter than she had hoped for. Taking stock of her image in the mirror on front of the closet door; she was as ready as she'd ever be.
Some make the decision out of fear and weakness; not weakness in the critical sense. They have no strength to continue, and they use their only remaining reserves to end a struggle. Some make the decision out of grief and despair; losing loved ones who still live may be the most painful grief anyone can endure. Others decide out of defiance; I'll show them. Any attempt to understand without explanation or knowledge can be futile, and certainly leads to guilt. Maybe today would be the day where mutilation gives way to finality and peace.
“I don’t care anymore,” she said as she squeezed tears from her eyes. “I don’t care” is really “I can’t bear this pain...this horror...this unmanageable burden...please help me;” shouted to unhearing ears like the falling tree in the forest.
Stevie looked in the mirror, and instead of seeing the slick, professional businesswoman with the come fuck me pumps and power lingerie, saw instead the seventeen year old boy standing nervously in the middle of his mother's bedroom wearing her clothes; the same clothes she wore the first time she invited him to share her bed. She hadn't worn the suit in years, and she had yet to realize that Stevie had been sharing her wardrobe for the past year.
Every single game in his collection had been purchased used; the difference going to the cost of the wig and the lingerie he'd purchased on line. His allowance. The sacrifice had been worth it; his mother saw no change in him outwardly; he remained the same game geek she had raised. The same boy who stayed at home with few interests and fewer friends lived in house unchanged, and she saw what she wanted to see. Neglected day in and day out and used night after night. If she could only see him now.
He bore an uncanny resemblance to his mother, and the wig only served to enhance that similarity; he smiled as his mother eerily smiled back at him. Her image knew exactly what was going to happen even as her real self sat in a board meeting in downtown Toronto, clueless. He walked back into the bathroom and looked once more in the mirror. She smiled at him, completely clueless as to what was going to take place; no urgency or fear or worry.
Reaching down, she opened the bottom drawer of the vanity and pulled out the eyeglass case from under the hair dryer accessories. Opening it up, she pulled out the straight razor; the only tangible link to her father...
There would be no valiant, slow Romanesque death. She wore her mother's suit; she was her mother for all intents and purposes. No slow painless sleep....she had every intent of making her mother pay for the horror she endured. She took the razor and walked into the living room. Setting it down on the coffee table she quickly walked to the kitchen to retrieve the chilled champagne she had taken out of the supply at her mother's last party. Grabbing the crystal flute from the china cabinet on her way back, she settled onto the couch, where she poured herself a glass of champagne for a final toast. Lifting the glass, she smiled and licked her lips, savoring the taste of her mother's lipstick. The moment of decision. Would today be more than just hurt? Would pain finally give way to release? She paused in thought before saying to herself,
"To Stephanie Elizabeth Waters. I love you, Mommy! Not today...not yet!”
She quickly downed the champagne and set the empty glass on the table. Taking the razor in her left hand...her mother was left-handed; of course...she placed the blade side down against her right wrist. Old scars would give way to new; once again punished for being too much like someone else and not enough of herself. She stared at her hand for several seconds before withdrawing it. The cuts almost seemed thinner this time, but the blood flowed freely. She took the towel that had wrapped the champagne and pressed it against her wrist to staunch the blood; another challenge met successfully as the blood never reached the sleeve of her blouse.
Her blouse and her suit. A game she played from time to time to punish her mother. But her mother remained oblivious; sitting in her meeting in Toronto while the pain came to Stevie even as she wrapped her wrist in the bandages. No psychic Corsican link, her mother remained cold and calculating and cruel while Stevie sat at home feeling only powerful enough to hurt herself once again.
She looked at the razor in her hand; her hand...the hand in control...the instrument of power. More than once she had looked below, but she was too cowardly to end the miserable existence of hers. Another time and place perhaps, but the hated appendage would remain intact for yet another day. Blood would surge and flow and intrude, making her feel dirty and scared. Another night of lying still while being loved. Love? For whom? She would be used and discarded for the moment after it was over, her favorite nightgown useless in covering her shame. Her cheeks would burn red as she would lie awake remembering every horrible moment while her lover would sleep soundly in a drunken stupor.
The razor fell loudly on the glass coffee table as she began to weep. She wasn’t a child any longer even though she had yet to emerge completely from her childhood. She wasn’t a boy any longer; that part of her ended long ago before the horror began. But she wasn’t a girl either; her innocence ripped away by a victim who gave into her own fears and shame and became something cruel and inhuman.
Stevie looked at her hand...her left hand. It shook, almost as if trying to detach itself to end the destruction. But she picked up the razor. She thought about using it elsewhere; a quick swipe and it would be over. But that would be wrong. Someone had to pay for the sin in the house. She thought about beginning again, but the pain was too much. No more today; plenty of guilt remained, assuring this atonement would return another day, maybe for the last time.
She stood up suddenly but then walked slowly back to the bathroom, where she placed the razor back in the eyeglass case and replaced it in the drawer. Stevie moved on....to another day.
Corie smiled at her mother. 'There you are!' her mother had said. No other words needed to be spoken. The doctor told them it would be better to start sooner than later. She smiled when she knew that smile of her mother's was for her and her along. so she moved on...
Thursday afternoon at the Fontenot home, Houston, Texas...
"There you are!" Estelle smiled said as Corie walked into the kitchen. Corie's mother was likely the best friend she had; perhaps even the only friend she had, from her perspective. And of course you already know that your Mom is supposed to like you anyway.
"We've got a bit of time before your appointment. Do you want to go to Bejing Dream?"
"I'm not really that hungry...I guess I could just get some soup?" Corie said as she loaded the dishwasher. She gazed at the juice glasses from breakfast, noting both had traces of lipstick.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Estelle knew exactly what was wrong, but it was very needful for her to draw Corie out; her doctor was concerned about how much Corie was holding in, despite the difficulty of the past several months.
"Will Dad ever come back?" She looked out the window as if he were about to walk up the driveway.
"I hope so." Estelle lied. Vic had called her that morning, insisting that she change her mind about Corie.
"We don't have a daughter, Stel....we have a son," he had told her.
He wasn't angry as much as frustrated and perhaps a great deal fearful. He really didn't understand at all what Corie was going through and he was so adamant about what he thought he knew; more stubborn and insistent than mean or cruel. Nothing can be worse in a debate than when the other person is ignorant or indifferent. If he were passionate, it would be easier for Estelle to appeal to him, but Vic's beliefs about religion and God and sexuality and gender were rooted insecurely in a marginal understanding of someone else's understanding.
"I think he just needs to think things through, honey. I'm sure he'll come around when he realizes just how important this is to you." It wasn’t just important; it was her life.
She wanted to convince herself almost as much as she wanted to convince Corie. They had married young, and Corie was the only child that survived out of six pregnancies. She treasured her daughter while Vic valued the legacy he thought he had left in his son. A gulf that left their child hanging like a Saturday afternoon serial heroine off a rope bridge spanning a chasm; Corie was barely hanging on, and any swaying of the bridge would send "her" to an untimely death.
The office of Elizabeth Chang, MD, later that afternoon...
"It really needs to happen sooner rather than later, Mrs. Fontenot." The doctor said as she reached behind her desk to retrieve a brochure.
"She'll start very soon transitioning into the next stage of 'his' development and if she doesn't start treatment, her male characteristics will become more apparent. We really need to start now. I can appreciate the dilemma you feel, and I can't tell you what you should do." She turned and smiled at Corie.
"But I can say that you'll be fine, and we can start making long term plans for your surgery."
Liz Chang was a great doctor; not merely because of her expertise, but her understanding of the things about transgender youth that went beyond medical information.
"Now...as your friend? I think after what you've told me, your husband will come around. Has he seen Corie since he moved out?" She looked at the closed office door, imagining the girl sitting in the waiting room.
"No...It hadn't even gotten that far. He was so upset just to hear her talk about it. You know...'No son of mine,' like Corie was his and his alone." Estelle began to cry. Liz grabbed small pack of tissues and handed it to her.
"I think if you can manage it, maybe your husband would agree to meet together with you and Corie and me."
"I'm hopeful only to a point. Vic can be stubborn at times, and we've always worked through it. But this? It's like he's afraid to back down; afraid to be wrong. Like nothing he's ever stood this fast for." Estelle looked absentmindedly at the brochure, hoping that somehow there would be a breakthrough, but nothing would prepare them all for what happened.
A few days later...
"Fontenot household...my Mom can't come to ....Dad? What...No, she's not here...she hasn't gotten home from work. Meet you? I thought...what? No...I don't hate you...Dad... please... It's okay... what? About six...okay... see you then."
"Corie, I'm home." Estelle said as she put the grocery bag on the kitchen table.
"I'm in the living room." She walked into the living room and found Corie sitting on the couch watching ESPN. And then she noticed Vic sitting in the recliner across from the TV. He got up and walked quickly to her. She shied away from him briefly until she realized that just Vic being there meant something had changed.
"Vic...." Estelle tried to be cold and dismissive, but in spite of her anger and disappointment, she couldn't stay mad at him.
"Hi hon," he said sheepishly. He stepped closer to her and she received his embrace, almost feeling guilty at the affection after his treatment of Corie.
"I missed you....I missed you both." It was only then that she saw his eyes were red and his face was puffy.
"Vic...What...why?" She wanted to ask so many questions, but the words got stuck in her throat at the mention of "I missed you both."
"We've been talking. I don't know what to think anymore, but I feel horrible. I never meant to hurt either one of you." He hugged her again as she began to cry. She had been so torn; it really was almost cruel to have to pick between the two, especially since she loved her husband and her child. Vic looked at her and shook his head, not at her crying, but his part in making her try to choose.
"I...I went to see Pastor Callahan over at the Methodist Church near my job. We had a long discussion about what to do. She and her husband sat down and talked with me. Even when they showed me how wrong I was, they made me feel like I was okay, you know? That this was something that a lot of parents go through." He turned to Corie, who sat quietly on the couch.
"Listen...I can't promise I'll understand everything about this...I don't know if I ever will." He turned to Estelle and half-smiled.
"I know I'm not going to be able to figure this one out...Pastor Callahan reminded me that I can't figure anything out. But the two of them helped me understand that loving you is more important than being right. And they were nice enough to remind me that I'm not right all the time anyway. What a nice couple."
"I can't do this if you're going to walk out every time things aren't what you think they should be," Estelle said, turning her back and shaking her head.
"I can't promise anything but that I will listen and try to understand both of you from now on." He put his hand on her shoulder and she grabbed it and held it tight. Turning around she smiled at him.
"Vic...It comes down to this...we don't have a son....I'm not sure we ever did."
"I...I know....I think I've been afraid all this time....like I failed him as a father." Corie turned her head at the mention of the word.
"Dad...you're a great father. You didn't fail me....I wouldn't know how to be strong and stand for what I believe in if you hadn't shown me....I mean....I wouldn't even be here." She got up and ran to her parents.
"She's right...No one believed what we have could have lasted this long, and you loved me when no one else would...." She began to sob as Corie came and pulled the two of them together, placing her father’s and mother's hands together.
Estelle Tran Carter Fontenot; born in Columbus, Georgia in 1973; her mother the wife of a Vietnamese Colonel stationed at Fort Benning and her father an African-American Major who shipped out to Vietnam shortly before she was born. Vic Fontenot, born in New Orleans in 1975; he met Estelle when she was a senior and he was a sophomore at TCU. They married in 1996 and Corey came along two years later, his birth sandwiched between five miscarriages. Vic had hoped that Corey would grow up to be another Reggie Bush or Peyton Manning. Instead, their only child appeared more and more like she'd be another Halle Berry or Sandra Oh.
"I have no right to your love; not after what I just put you and your mother through."
"Dad...that's just it...a lot of other guys would have never come back...much less admit they were wrong. Dad...I love you!" Nothing very sweet or maudlin; less like a storybook ending and more like real life. Three people realizing their own limitations and each other's strengths; the Fontenot family pulling together.
Corie looked at her mother and father as they smiled. Her father smiled at her; the first real smile for her from her father ever. And her mother smiled at her, a smile that was for her and her alone. And Corie moved on...to a bright future.
he smiled at julie, but she frowned. they wanted to, but the time just wasn't right. and it was really more about holding and smiling and kissing, wasn't it? and what if they did...there would be no 'result' other than a good time. they wanted children but the lack always stood between then. so they moved on...
Queens, New York, October 2010…the Adler apartment…
“Hey, hon…Julie?” Dov called as he laid his lunchbox on the counter. He wasn’t due back at the fire station for three days, and he looked forward to spending some time with wife. She walked into the kitchen and hugged him. He noticed she was still in her robe.
“Rachael called…they haven’t finished going over the inspection yet.” She reached up and kissed him. Her face was red and puffy.
“Hey…none of that…I’ve got some time off…I switched with Juan, and we need to forget about everything except us, okay?” He kissed her back, grabbing her rear and squeezing. She melted in his arms; some things, even very important things, seemed to fade a bit when they kissed. He grabbed her hand and led her to the bedroom
A while later….
"Hon...Don't...I'm okay....don't worry about me." Julie tried not to cry, but the tears streamed off
her face onto his arm as he cradled her head.
"Julie...this is important, and after yesterday's news, I know what you're thinking."
"Well, It's true, isn't it? I can't give you anything but love? Isn't that how the old song goes? I can't even give you that.
"It's going to take time, honey...we knew that when we got married. We're just like any other newlyweds learning about each other, right?"
"Well, by that reasoning, everything should be just fine, right? Just a matter of time; so we'll just go out and get a kitten or a puppy to tide us over. It's not fair. We’ve been married for nearly nine years, and things…well, if things worked with the adoption, I could almost deal with everything else."
"Hon...Have I ever complained? You’re beautfiul and I love you. And you're going to make a great Mom...we both know that." Dov said as he stroked her hair. He did; she didn't know what she was capable of. Her parents had been distant and self-absorbed with their careers even before she came out to them in her junior year in high school.
"Oh...we don't care…Do what you want."
Her mother had said before leaving for a business meeting across the globe somewhere. She rarely saw her father, and when she did it was in between phone calls and quick departures. So anything she knew about being a parent came from books. She read everything she could and took as many parenting classes as she could and prayed as hard as she could.
"My Mom will help you."
Dov had said. His mother was like most mothers-in-law, at least from the daughter-in-law's perspective. She couldn't seem to please Rebecca no matter how she tried even just as a new bride; how much harder would it be to pass inspection as a new Mom. And the difference between her and any other daughter-in-law was glaring, no matter what Rebecca told her. No grandchildren...ever...at least in the biological sense. Julie felt like a failure on all fronts; not unlike every other new bride might from time to time. But she could only count her successes on one hand while the shortcomings seemed to be piling up day by day.
"She asked you how I am in bed, Dov."
Julie might have been angry at that, but she had little inside her that was proud or confident, and she could only cry in embarrassment.
"That's not what she said." He shrugged his shoulders, feeling nothing would make his wife feel good about her self.
"She might as well have. What did she say? Oh yes...When we came back from the honeymoon, she looked at you and just said, ‘Well?’ With a grin, no less.”
"She talked with you just before we left. She wanted you to know that she loved you and accepted you, no matter what. And she told you not to worry about our time…that everything would be okay. She wasn't mocking you; she wanted to know if her encouragment helped. Honey...you read way too much into what she said. She loves you…you’ve got to let it go.
"I...I know...I just feel like I'm just the biggest failure ever." Julie began to sob. Dov took her in his arms and kissed her.
"I don't think you're a failure...Doesn't my opinion count for something?"
"Shhhhhh." He put his finger over her lips to shush her and then finished by kissing her once again.
"I love you, Mrs. Adler...very much. Nothing could ever make me as happy as you have. No matter what we can't do or have or hold, it doesn't mean a thing stacked up against the love I have for you, okay?" He kissed her again and she kissed back, partly out of need for comfort, but with a new stirring inside that helped her growth and change...she was feeling more and more loved and that helped her heart.
An hour later they lay in bed, tired and warm and peaceful. Julie had settled into a nook, resting half on his chest while her arm rested on his waist, her hand half into his pajama bottoms. Dov lay back, tears in his eyes; even now frustrated at his decision to marry. He loved her but he doubted his ability to sustain the kind of encouragment his bride required; not unlike many husbands who feel inadequate to the task of providing support. The phone rang.
"Yes....yes??? Oh, thank you...thank you...yes...oh gosh yes....She's right here." He put a hand on the mouthpiece of the receiver and woke Julie.
"Hon...It's Rachael...she wants to talk to you." He handed her the phone, giving her little time wake and respond.
"Hello...yes...yes, I'm fine...what's...what???? Oh..yes...yes." She began to cry. Dov took the receiver from her hands.
"Thanks, Rachael...yes...say hello to Aaron for me, okay? Yes.....she's just fine."
"She said we passed every test...every test." Julie shook her head. Dov nodded.
"She said we can pick him up tomorrow at her office. He's ours, Dov...he's ours...we have a son."
"Yes, dear wife, WE have a son. I think my brother is smiling down on us. One Joseph blessing another, I think."
"Joseph Steven Adler, I like the name...He sounds strong with compassion and courage. Dov...we have a son." She melted into his arms in tears.
"Joseph Steven Adler. We have a son," he agreed before he kissed his wife once again.
dale stared at the paper. someone somewhere agreed with him...no one would need know that...it just was what it was, and now it was official. he was a she. she thought for a moment and looked at herself...she was a she, wasn't she? so she moved on...
The Office of Nancy Manfredonia, LPC, Phoenix, Arizona...
"I’m a little nervous about tomorrow." Dale said as she looked away. Nancy smiled and repeated.
"You're a little nervous?" She emphasized 'little.'
"Okay...I'm very nervous about tomorrow."
"And?" Nancy laughed softly.
"I'm meeting Rick's mother for the first time." She sighed and shook her head, almost as if she were going to meet her door. From her perspective, it was almost like that.
"She....Rick hasn't told her anything about....me."
"Well, won't this be a good time to find out?" Nancy asked.
"I mean...haven't you been wondering if you'll pass with his family?"
"Yes," she said and put her head down.
"I feel so dishonest, like I'm trying to trick them."
"But you're not trying to pass as a t-girl, are you? You're just trying to pass inspection just like any other future daughter-in-law, right?"
"Yes..." She raised her head only long enough to answer the question.
"Why didn't Rick help you explain?" Nancy had an idea, but she wanted Dale to arrive at the conclusion on her own.
"He's...he's afraid that they'll....reject me."
"Why would they reject you? What is wrong with you?" Nancy didn't think for a moment that anything was 'wrong' with Dale; no more than any other at least. But Dale had a habit of focusing on what could go wrong or be wrong, in spite of everything positive about her.
"I can't have children. His first wife gave her two grandchildren." Rick's daughters were in college, and Rick wasn't looking for more children.
"Have you two talked about that? He's certainly aware of your 'situation;' who really is wanting children here?"
"I suppose I would want them but I'm not exactly equipped for it, am I?" She said it almost in a self-mocking tone as she looked down again.
"It sounds like you're angry with yourself again.... Dale....look at me, okay?" Her words lifted Dale's face. Tears had welled in Dale's eyes.
"I spent all this time and money and I'm just a fake...a sham."
"Is that what Rick says?"
"So who keeps telling you that you're a fake, Dale?" Nancy's tone was soft but her look was insistent; almost demanding an answer from Dale.
"I...I do." She shook her head again.
"You feel angry at yourself and you feel like a fake. Like you're pretending to be something you aren't, is that right?"
"Yes...I'm not real...I'm not..."
"Has anyone ever told you you're not real, Dale?" Like an attorney, Nancy never asked a question to which she didn't already know the answer.
"What did he say?"
"What did he say??? He told me that he didn't have a daughter...only a son."
"But don't you have a sister?"
"Ginnie....you know that. Why do you ask?"
"How does he look at Ginnie, Dale? What does he say to her?"
"He's...proud of her."
"What makes him so proud of her (and not proud of you)?"
"She's got three kids...all great kids."
"And?" (What have you given him?)
"I'm just a fake...I can't give him grandchildren...either way now!" She shrugged her shoulders.
"Did you realize how important it was to him?"
"No...He never even gave me a second thought when I was....before I transitioned."
"But it's important now?"
"Yes...." Her voice trailed off as she put her head down again.
"Did you please him before you transitioned? Was there anything between you?"
"Nnno...?" She asked her self the question as much as spoke the answer.
"So you never knew where you stood? How is it between you two now?"
"We...haven't talked since Mom's funeral."
"Didn't you tell me your sister tried to get you two together?"
"He said I was welcome...that he was sorry we hadn't gotten along."
"He rejected you and it's 'we hadn't gotten along?'" Nancy thought but said instead,
"And he wanted you to come to visit now that he's not doing so well. What could possibly be bad about that?"
"He said to Ginnie, 'Tell HIM that HE can visit anytime HE wants.'" She looked up and her face was covered in tears.
"Tell Him??? It's not like I can go back...and he knows that. What does he want from me?
"It looks like he wants his son back."
"But I'm not his son...I'm his fucking daughter...why can't he see that?"
"It's important to you that he sees that; isn't it?" Almost a foolish question, but Nancy wanted Dale to express that...to deal with the root of her disappointment in herself.
"Yes....I tried so hard growing up...he kept at me...tried to get me to change, but I couldn't... This is who I am...I'm not a man....I'm a woman...why can't he see that?"
"What do you think...why?"
"Because he wanted a son to leave behind, not another fucking daughter."
"Can you be that for him?" (Of course you can't)
"No! I could never please him...why won't he accept me for who I am?"
"What are you, Dale?"
"I'm a freak...a fucking freak!"
"Does Rick think you're a freak?"
"Does Rick think that you're a freak? Do you disappoint him?"
"No...Rick...I don't know." She began to cry.
"Really? Does Rick think you disappoint him, Dale? What did he tell you when we met together last week?"
"Yes, when he sat next to you...What did he say to you?"
"Thhaat...that he loved me....?"
"That he....he thought I was.....wwww....."
"Go ahead....I know you remember...can you believe what he said...what did he say, Dale?"
"He said I was wonderful." She choked back a sob.
"So your fiance tells you that you're wonderful and that he loves you?"
"And the father you couldn't please even before your transition sees you as a disappointment, right?"
"Yes." She choked back another sob.
"It's not like breaking a tie, Dale.... Whom do you see yourself as? The disappointment or the wonderful woman who's about to get married?"
"The wonderful woman?"
"Is that what you believe or what you want me to believe?"
"It's so hard..." She cried.
"Yes it is, Dale... but it still is very important."
"I'm a woman, damn it...why couldn't he see that?"
"Which is more important? His opinion or yours?" She excluded Rick's opinion for a reason; Dale needed to accept herself.
"Mine." She lifted her head.
"Because I'm the one I have to please?"
Nancy tilted her head and smiled,
"Is that a question?"
"No...I'm the one I have to please. I'm a woman and a daughter and I'm going to be a wife!"
"And?" Nancy smiled.
“I’m transgendered and it’s just fine with my fiance!"
"I’m going to be a step-mother! And a good one."
"I think you'll be a great mom, Dale."
Nancy smiled and for the first time that day, Dale smiled back.
Caution: Domestic Violence
and Strong Language
Betty looked out the window. He'd be home soon. She lived for him even if he lived only for him. She told herself it was better than being alone, even if he did hit her once and a while. Sleeping in a bed with someone who cared most of the time was better, wasn't it? So she moved on...
He sat in the back of the closet in his bedroom, listening to the sounds of terror down the hall. His mother was crying and his father was crying, but for different reasons...reasons that would be visited again one day....
The Jensen apartment, Plainfield, New Jersey....
"No...He's still at work. I'll tell him when he gets home. Would you mind telling me what this is about?" She asked quietly and calmly, but the voice on the other end was anything but calm and quiet.
"Please, I don't deserve this...please..what? I can't...I don't know where he is right now if he's not at work...I'm sorry...I'll tell him you...hello? Hello?" Betty looked at the phone with dread, knowing what would come next. She thought about getting into her car, but remembered he'd taken both sets of keys with him. The walk to her mother's was not too far, but it was pouring outside. She returned her attention to dinner, hoping that the meal would please him.
Later that afternoon...
"Hi, honey, I'm home." Jack walked in and threw his jacket over the chair in the hall before kissing her on the cheek.
"What's for dinner?" He looked on the table and saw that the dishes hadn't been set. He glared at her.
"Your favorite. Roast beef and scalloped potatoes. They ran out of fresh asparagus the other day so I got the frozen. I'm sorry." She spent three hours preparing a meal fit for a king, but the king was not amused.
"Jeez, Betty...what the fuck? You know I can't stand frozen...can't you do anything right?" The meal would have made the finals in any food challenge, but it didn't matter.
"I'm sorry, Jackie...the produce guy said the truck got held up in Bayonne at an accident. He's going to have it in tomorrow, okay?"
"What about A&P...why didn't you get it there?" She would have reminded him about how he had taken the car keys, but that wasn't a very good idea.
"I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sorry Jackie. Here...have some roast beef and potatoes. Let me cook some carrots...you love fresh carrots." She put the food on a plate and set it in front of him, hoping he'd agree.
"Okay...I don't know why you can't just get one thing straight. You know how I hate frozen. Okay...carrots will have to do."
"Here...I made some biscuits to go along with the meat...you like them with gravy." She hoped the homemade biscuits would please him.
"Yeah...that's good. You got any margarine?" He stared at her as if she had offered to feed him dog food."
"No, honey...you used the rest of it up this morning for breakfast...you know how you like that with your waffles?"
"What does it take for you to get things straight around here? All I as is for dinner to be ready when I get home and you manage to fuck it up once again. Got any fucking butter?"
"Gabbie had some butter...I got some from her this afternoon."
"So she knows I used up the margarine? What the fuck are you spreading our business around the neighborhood for?"
"NO...no....I told her I dropped the margarine on the floor and that Rusty ate it." She lied; Gabbie had guessed that Jack had used up the margarine. She offered to take Betty to the store, but that would have made things worse.
"Well, okay." He blew out a breath and took a bite of the roast beef.
"Did I get any calls today?" The dreaded daily question made her cringe.
"Ye....yes." She poured him some juice.
"Betty, who called."
"Goddamit...what the fuck...who called." He snapped as he took a sip of juice.
"She wouldn't leave her name." As if that weren't bad enough, his face turned sour.
"What the fuck is this?"
"Pomegranate and Cranberry. You remember the doctor said it was good for your kidneys?"
"I'm not stupid; I know what the doctor said...why the fuck is it on the table. You know like tomato juice."
She cringed again. He drank the rest of the tomato juice that morning and had mentioned that he was going to pick some up on the way home.
"I...I ran out of it."
"Dammit...this shit tastes terrible." He put the tumbler down hard enough to splash juice on the table cloth. His mother always had a clean table cloth ready for dinner.
"Jackie...I'm sorry...I'll get some tomorrow." She hoped it wouldn't rain the next day; the walk to the store was nearly two miles, and even at that, they rarely had tomato juice.
"How about a glass of vegetable juice?" She cringed.
"Fuck, Betty...you know I hate that...you just can't fucking do anything right, can you?" He stood up.
"I'm going out." He grabbed his jacket.
"What about dinner?" She looked at the table. Apart from the juice stain on the tablecloth, the meal looked like it had been set for a layout in Gourmet Magazine.
"What about dinner? This shit? Fuck it, I'm going to get something at the diner. They can get things straight, and they don't fucking forget things...."
"Jackie, please sit down." She regretted her words even as they left her mouth.
"Listen...don't tell me what the fuck to do, okay? Get me the phone...I want to look up the calls." She ran and got the cordless off the cradle.
"What the fuck, Betty. Where's the call that you forgot to ask about?"
"I'm sorry, Jackie...she wouldn't tell me her name and she blocked caller ID."
"Why do you need to know her name? Are you checking up on me?"
"I thought you wanted to know..." He cut her off.
"That's your problem..you try to think...it just doesn't work because you are so fucking stupid. Stop trying to check up on me."
"Jackie...I'm not...." He cut her off again, but not with a rebuke. His open hand hit her face hard enough to send her backward against the sink.
"You just don't learn..." His voice was almost conciliatory, like a reluctant parent unwilling to discipline an unruly child. He shook his head and began pulling his belt off of his pants.
"Jackie...please..." She began to sob and she fell to the floor, covering her head with her hands.
"You just won't fucking learn, will you!" He said once again.
"Jackie...please....Jackie, don't..." She cried as she went to ward off his blows.
"Try to hit me??? You fucking bitch!!!" He said and his hand raised up and brought the belt down across her hands until she dropped them.
"I'll teach you, you fucking ungrateful whore. I'll teach you."
Two days later...
"I told you this would happen. You should never have done it... Your father told you what would happen, and there it is, right in front of you. See what happens..." Betty nodded as her mother once again stood up for Jack.
"I'm sorry, Mom." She wanted so bad to cry out, but her cries would have fallen on deaf ears; a heart that grew numb even as her mother had cried out in the same way years before.
"If you want to be a woman, you're going to have to give him what he wants...it's just the way things work.
She sat at the kitchen table and drank her tea, hoping her father wouldn't walk in. As she sipped her tea, her mother stared at her, a worried look on her face.
"Ben....your nose is bleeding." Her mother snapped at her, as if it were her fault.
"See...I told you. It's judgment it is..pure and simple... You didn't want to hear it, but you're in for it now. See.." Her mother pointed at her as if she had commited some heinous crime by bleeding onto her own blouse.
Betty got up and walked over to the phone on the pass-through into the dining room. She picked up the phonebook and thumbed through it, her left hand reaching up to squeeze her nose.
"Now what are you planning on doing. You don't want to upset him....Come sit down and finish your tea. Ben??"
Betty put her finger in the phonebook. Blood and tears dripped onto the page as she punched in the number.
"Hello? Is this the Resource Center of Somerset? Yes...I need help...."
Petra looked out the window. She'd be home soon. They'd spend the night looking at each other in wonder; how the two were different and yet alike. How the two started out different and yet changed into who they always were. So they moved on...
The Olsen-Janeway apartment, Webster, New York....
Petra looked out the front window as the rain began to let up. While the walk home usually proved good for Darien, she hoped that the exercise wouldn't be too much for her. It was nearly nine months since her surgery, and she was undaunted by her recovery. The cat jumped up on the window seat and began rubbing his whiskers against her thigh as she scanned the street.
"Don't worry...she's a trooper...she'll be here any moment." True to her word, Petra pointed down the block as if the cat could understand her.
"There she is..." The cat rubbed against her hand before leaping across and landing on the recliner; his claws digging into the corded fabric of the old chair. Petra smiled and walked into the kitchen.
"Let's see...eggs and turkey sausage I think... and rye toast.”
It was a little treat; Darien's weight had only recently begun to return along with an improved appetite. She had fought against the cancer and had prevailed, almost like a prizefighter facing a long-time rival. The championship was bestowed with the surgeon's scalpel, but not without a steep price. She had lost her left breast and had elected to have the other removed as a preemptive strike against any return of her foe.
Petra sighed as she started cooking.
"You want some, too?" She said as the cat hopped up on the counter.
"No. Sandburg! Get down and I'll get you some sausage, okay?" Sandburg was always reasonable when Petra requested cooperation; her tone soothed any disappointment the grey tabby might have felt as she nudged him onto the floor.
"But you've got to share, okay?" The cat rubbed against her ankles and walked over to his bowl.
"There's a good boy!" She finished cooking the sausage and began the eggs; two over easy with a bit of pepper and some salt. The toast popped just as Darien walked in the front door.
"Lucy, I'm home!" Darien called as she put her jacket in the hall closet.
"Lunch is almost ready...Just buttering the toast right now."
"Oh...gosh...I'm not hungry, honey."
"Oh...Eggs and turkey sausage...Are you sure?" Petra shook her head. More for her; something she felt she could ill afford given her latest attempt at a diet. She was fairly trim to begin with, but she wanted to stay in shape for the 10k run next month.
"Yeah...I'm not feeling all that well. There's a bug going around at the gallery, and I guess I'm in the on-deck circle."
"Okay...no big deal. I'll eat quick and we can take a nap, sound okay?
"A nap would be wonderful. The walk home took a bit more out of me than I expected. Must be this bug." She walked into the kitchen and kissed Petra on the cheek before grabbing a water out of the fridge.
"I thought we could hit the mall this afternoon, but if you're not feeling well we can go tomorrow or Friday...no hurry."
"Oh...no...That’s alright. I know you wanted to get the paint for the porch. Go ahead and go...I'll be fine." Darien sat down on the couch and grabbed the National Geographic from the coffee table before stretching out.
"Hey...nice article about wallabies!"
"Well, we can go to the zoo this weekend to get your marsupial fix, but just think; January we get to go over there for real." Petra said as she walked into the living room. She had a cup of coffee in one hand and the last of the sausages on a fork in the other.
"It'll be good, honey...you'll see."
"Yes...I know it will because you'll be with me." She sat up as Petra came around the back and began rubbing her shoulders.
"Oooh...a little to the right and up....ahhhhhh."
"Have I told you how much I love you today?"
"You're telling me right now." Darien leaned back and pulled Petra close and kissed her. She turned back as Petra came around and sat down beside her.
“I’ve only just begun, my dear!” She giggled as she tried to offer the last sausage to Darien who relented and took the fork from her.
“Almost as sweet as a bouquet and chocolates, sweetie. You cook this with maple syrup? This is good.”
“I’ve got more in the fridge...won’t take but a few minutes.” Petra pointed back to the kitchen with her hand. Dairen smiled and nodded quickly with approval, prompting Petra to get up and walk back to the stove.
“Oh...yes...any more rye bread?”
“I saved the rest for you....nothing too good for my honey.” She laughed, pointing to the generic store brand ‘soft’ rye loaf sitting on the counter.
“These are the things that true romance is made of!” The last comment evoked laughter from both women and the cat jumping off the counter once again.
“It’s so good to see you laughing again. I don’t know how you stayed so strong; I know I couldn’t have gone through that with such resolve. I’d probably have just folded up.” Petra said, turning her face to hide the tears that began to well in her eyes. Her tone, however, made no such pretense.
“Now stop or I’ll start crying too! And you’re the one that gave me strength. When I felt the worst; when it felt like things were never going to get better, your faith lifted me up. I wouldn’t be here without you.”
If Darien had really wanted Petra to keep from crying, those weren’t the words that were going to make it happen. Petra burst into tears, dropping the sausage, which happily fell onto the floor where it was promptly scarfed down by Sandburg. Darien got up and walked into the kitchen.
“Honey...I’m all right. The doctor says that I’m completely clear. She said that Dr. Weiss can fit me in next month. Good as new.” Her words did little to comfort Petra as the woman wept in her arms.
“I was so afraid of losing you. I don’t know what I would have done if I lost you.”
“I know...I love you so much. You gave me hope and you gave me life."
Darien didn’t know why; Petra almost always was the one to initiate their lovemaking. It was not a hierarchy so much as a preference by both of them. But Darien took the lead and pulled Petra close to her. It was like for months she had been the patient to Petra’s nurse. But Darien felt strong; perhaps even stronger than she had in her life.
“Let me....I need to do this,” she said. Not a protest, but an urging. She walked into the kitchen and turned off the stove. Sandburg had finished the sausage and looked up in petition. Darien poured some dry food into his bowl before walking back into the living room where Petra stood nervously awaiting her lover.
“Come with me,” she said, grabbing Petra’s hand. She led her into the bedroom and turned on the bathroom light before leaving the door slightly ajar.
“I’m strong because of you. Let me show you what your love has done for me.” She pulled Petra into a very hard kiss. Her tongue invaded Petra’s mouth and did slow tango. Placing her hands on Petra’s breasts, she caressed them softly through her cami, paying particular attention to her nipples.
“I like the way you feel against my palms...it almost tickles.” She kissed Petra’s neck, sending a shudder up her lover’s spine and coaxing an ‘aaahhhhuhhh from her already parted lips.
“Your neck is soooo graceful, my sweet girl.” Darien kissed Petra’s ear, which lead to her cooing, almost singing to Darien in response to the attention. Petra began to cry and shake. Her hands found Darien’s face, and she began to stroke her cheeks softly while saying softly,
“I don’t deserve you.”
Deserving or no, they were meant for each other, even if their final destination took a circuitous route.
They had been married for twelve years when too long neglected issues drove them apart. Peter and Darien loved each other, but his insecurities and panic left Darien fearful for her husband’s life. He only got help after the divorce was final.
Feelings of inadequacy born out of neglect and nurtured by abuse from his mother after his father died did little to bring him any release. A spiritual awakening took place on his thirtieth birthday, causing him to embrace a new found faith, an new purpose in life that brought him to return to seminary to get a degree, and finally a rediscovery of his femme self after years of dwelling alone and abandoned in the back of his heart.
And the miracle came to pass. Darien had a lumpectomy almost a year after the divorce, but her health had only gotten better for a short period of time before the cancer returned. She had moved by then and she was being attended by Dr. Sharon Weiss, working out of Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.
After her mastectomies, Darien had requested a visit from one of the Chaplains on staff. A nice woman dropped by while she was a bit out of it from her meds, and it wasn’t until after she had left that it dawned on Darien just who the chaplain was.
“Excuse me...May I come in,” a pleasant voice called from the doorway. Darien sat up in excited anticipation.
“Certainly.” She beamed when she saw the face; a bit softer and perhaps prettier than she remembered, but Peter never was very rugged.”
“Peter? Is that really you?” She shrugged and smiled, almost like a teenager.
“Yes...I can get someone else to see you, if that’s what you’d like. I don’t want to impose, and I never would have agreed if I’d known 208B was you.”
“208B...oh you always knew how to make me feel special.” She laughed and Petra turned away, her cheeks burning red.
“Really...I’ll get Cal Naismith to come by...he’s due in about three anyway. I’m sorry to disturb you.” Petra tried to smile, but the moment was just too much for her, and she covered her face.
“No...no...Don’t go. It’s been way too long...Peter...what do you call yourself these days?” She smiled and shrugged again, feeling a bit awkward herself.
“Petra... my name is Petra.” She looked down at herself, feeling underdressed; the last time they talked was in court five years before and Peter was wearing a suit. Petra wore a suit that day, but it was a navy pants suit with a soft baby blue silk blouse.
“You look good...Petra.” Darien said softly with a wistful smile.
“I, on the other hand look like hell.” She gazed down at her chest and laughed softly, but tears began to fall.
“Darien...you have never looked more beautiful than right this very moment.” She knew that Petra wasn’t being polite or even being merely encouraging, if being supportive could be considered mere. Petra smiled at her and continued.
“I know you don’t owe me anything after what I put you through, but if you need anything...I’ll be here for you. And obviously things have changed, so you’ve haven’t so much lost an ex-mate as gained a new sister, okay?” She walked to the bed and kissed Darien on the cheek lightly before walking out the door.
Over the next few weeks the two saw each other; first as sister to sister, but Darien was so blessed by Petra’s faith, that they became closer. And the closeness became more than proximity as the two rediscovered just what had brought them together years ago.
“You’re so strong.” It was a statement that Peter would never have heard from Darien, but that came so easily to Petra.
“I see so much potential in you. I’m so glad you’ve returned to your painting.” Petra told her. The chemo would have worn out Darien but for the constant words of support and praise.
“I think you look like Catherine Bell; the hair’s a bit short, but it suits you. You’re beautiful, and I can see how you’ll make some guy very happy very soon.” Inside it hurt that she was encouraging something that would take the one love she had ever had further away, but she felt that Darien deserved to be happy, and with someone who would love her and treasure her.
“I don’t know what you mean, Rev. Olsen. I’m not quite sure I’m not looking at the person who will make me happy.” Darien smiled at Petra and motioned her closer. She leaned forward and stepped into a very tender kiss, complete with arms draped around Petra’s waist.
“It took you being apart from me to remember how much I love you. I want to be with you, if you’ll have me.” She kissed her once again and pulled something out of her pocket.
“My grandmother’s ring...I had it resized to fit you...it’s your turn to say yes.” She did, and they were married in Montpelier a week later.
The present...later that evening....
"What do you see in me? I don't understand." Petra had gotten better, but still was plagued with doubt and fear.
"What I see is a very attractive woman....in every sense of the word. Whatever was good and true and right about Peter is still the same; maybe more so now that you finally let go of the past...well for the most part." She drew Petra in for a kiss.
"I think that this is the one thing I was so afraid of losing...that had slipped away when we split."
"Our kissing?" Petra lowered her eyes, almost in embarrassment.
"Our connection...the kissing...the hugging...the closeness no matter what. I'm so glad I found you again. I was so afraid that we had lost each other, but I never lost hope." Darien kissed her again as their tears mingled.
And so they moved on...into the loved ones they had always been and were destined to become.
Calleigh sat at home, happy for the rest after a hard day of work. She was confident and secure because of who she was and what she'd finally become. he didn't so much complete her as complement Her completeness. And she complemented him. They didn't care where they had come from, but they knew where they were going. So she moved on...
The Flynn home, Morton Grove, Illinois....
Calleigh put her purse on the table by the front door. She picked up the pile of mail that Bobby had
placed for her review. Bills and more bills, at time discouraging; they had since become nothing more than a mere distraction. She set them aside and looked through the remainder, focusing on a nicely lettered envelope.....Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Flynn.
Probably an invitation to Susan's wedding. It amazed her how quickly things had changed for her. She met Bobby in church of all things only a year before. After a long disappointing spiritual journey she had settled on an Evangelical church situated in the same neighborhood as the clinic where she worked.
"Hi, I'm Calleigh McMartin, I'm a veterinarian." That she was transgendered was left unsaid, at least for the moment. She had dreaded her introduction, having been immediately rebuked at the first six churches and 'tolerated' at the last two as a sinner needing redemption.
That she felt a sinner, there was no doubt; she was just as capable of being indifferent and uncaring and perhaps being self-centered at anyone else. But that was the sticking point in their minds as well as hers. How 'much' of a sinner seemed to be the question. When she introduced herself a nice older lady (older being about eighty-eight) placed her hand on Calleigh's arm and smiled.
"Hi, I'm Calleigh McMartin...I hope I fit in."
"That's okay...we take anyone here," which immediately caused the hair on the back of Calleigh's neck to bristle until the woman continued.
"They let me in here, after all,” followed by a strong pull downward as the little old lady kissed her like a grandmother.
"It's okay, honey...welcome home."
She had been going to the church for about three weeks, trying to remain in the periphery of congregants that sat in the back, seeking a quick exit. One morning she ran late, and was forced to sit in one of the "3D" seats in the front of the church....you know, the seats with the view that is too close and overwhelms? Only this time, it wasn't so much her own view that seemed too close, but the critical eye of the man speaking that morning.
Bobby Flynn was the 'performing arts' pastor of the church, which really meant he was the worship leader and erstwhile director of a small but growing drama group. He stood behind the podium and made a plea for the members to consider participating in the group; its purpose initially was to help illustrate the pastor's sermons once monthly. Bobby was very animated and stepped from behind the podium several times; once stepping up to the front row.
"Perhaps this young lady might be the next Meryl Streep," he said, pointing with a broad gesture of his hand to Calleigh. She felt two things immediately as he jaunted quickly back up the platform steps.
First, her face grew very warm, and she knew if she had a mirror her cheeks would appear crimson. And she realized also that the warmth and redness wasn't just because of the embarrassment of being singled out, but also because Bobby Flynn was a very nice young man to whom Calleigh found herself attracted. She tried in vain for the rest of the service to both sink lower in her chair and pay attention to the pastor's message.
"Hello, I'm glad to meet you," the pastor said as Calleigh shook his hand after the service.
"Hi. I've been coming here for a while." She smiled as he looked to the back of the church and looked back at her.
"I completely understand. There are some Sundays that I wished I was sitting back there myself." He laughed, which put her more at ease.
"I see you've already met Bobby Flynn," he said, recalling the awkward moment earlier.
"Yes...he makes a good argument for participation; very convincing." She looked back up at the podium where he had stood.
"Well, don't feel pressured to join the group. We don't want folks to do anything unless they believe that's what they should be about. I understand you're a veterinarian. My favorite all-time TV series is All Creatures Great and Small, and I know there's a special place in God's heart for those who care for animals."
Calleigh looked at him nervously, wondering just how much he knew about her until he added.
"Mrs. Barone keeps me abreast of all the comings and goings. She's an elder, believe it or not." Calleigh found it almost hard to believe in fact. Women in leadership in the church and open arms as well? This truly was a great place to be.
"We usually don't canvass for help; most folks just tell us what they're doing already or plan to do to help folks and we come along side them and offer support. My job here basically is to help you and others discover what your 'job' is in the kingdom and encourage you. It would seem you've already found your calling, but if you'd like to put your hand to something, let me or Mrs. B. or any of the other folks here and we'll see if there's anyone who you might find helpful.
Calleigh didn't know what her calling was, but she was convinced for certain that it wasn't drama as she recalled the too-welcoming smile of Bobby Flynn.
Morton Grove Animal Hospital, a few days later...
"Dr. McMartin, could you get the front? I've got my hands full with Ginger Calcaveccia here," Cindy said as she wrestled with the Calcaveccia's Golden Retriever. As Calleigh walked into the reception area, she noticed familiar figure sitting in the waiting room with an animal carrier beside him on the bench.
"What's up, Doc,” Bobby Flynn said with a laugh, doubly meaningful as he held up the carrier with the door facing Calleigh, revealing a rabbit.
"Bugs?" She said, reflexively. He smiled and shook his head.
"Jessica Rabbit...she can't help it, she was just created this way." He laughed again as Calleigh leaned over the counter.
"Well, Jessica, what can we do for you today, young lady?" Calleigh asked, immediately placing her focus on the rabbit.
"I cut my hand on my fender changing a tire yesterday." Bobby explained.
"Well, Jessica, changing tires doesn't seem to be your forte'“ Calleigh laughed at her own joke and then felt her face redden as Bobby looked into her eyes and smiled.
"Actually, I changed the tire while she supervised," he said as he held up his bandaged hand.
"I can't seem to get a good grip on the nail clippers and she really needs a trim." He laughed softly and smiled warmly at her.
"We...we can help you with that. Put her on the counter and I'll get right to that." Once again, Calleigh hoped her focus on the animal would alleviate the awkwardness between her and Bobby Flynn; one sided it would seem as he continued to smile at her.
After a few moments Jessica was back in her carrier and Bobby Flynn was reaching to his pocket for his wallet.
"Oh...no charge. Anyone that's a friend of Jessica's a friend of mine." Calleigh immediately regretted her attempt at cute humor almost before the words left her mouth. It was cute and funny, but it drew Bobby's big welcoming green eyes back to hers once again.
"That's very kind of you. I did want to apologize to you for Sunday. I usually point to Joey Petrocelli...my audience 'shill' when I make my appeal for participation, but he was home with the flu. I'm sorry to have embarrassed you, but you're always welcome to join the group if drama and/or music is your forte'.
"That's okay. I played trumpet in high school and not all that well. I sing when I'm home alone, but I don't know if anyone would care to hear me sing anything in public." She smiled awkwardly.
"Well...if your singing is anything like your speaking voice I'm quite sure you'd sound just fine." He smiled and Calleigh felt her face grow warm once again.
"If you'd like to, worship practice is Friday at 7 at the church and we usually rehearse whatever skit we're working on Saturday morning at 10. You're welcome anytime." It almost seemed like he emphasized the word 'you,' which Calleigh expected had caused her cheeks to grow redder. He smiled once again and nodded before walking out the door. She heard him singing as the door closed behind him,
"I know my redeemer lives...." She turned and faced the wall, noticing her reflection in the glass covering her diploma. Could he know?
Welcome Arms Fellowship....Friday evening...
Calleigh walked into the sanctuary, trying to be inconspicuous, but the church was nearly empty apart from the worship team at the front of the church.
"Dr. McMartin...I'm so glad you could come tonight. Why don't you come up and meet everybody." Calleigh had hoped to sit in the back and just listen for a while, but there was no escape.
"Hi, I'm Jennie Carbone. I play guitar. That's my big brother Tim up on the platform behind the drums,' a petite redhead said as she offered her hand. Tim waved with his drumsticks before hitting the hi-hat.
"I'm Dave Washington,” the tall African-American said as he pointed to his bass.
"I'm Julia, Dave's wife. I sing harmony to Bobby's lead. Do you sing? I bet you sound awesome." Her bright smile was the most welcoming countenance Calleigh had ever seen.
"I sing a little."
This was getting very awkward very fast, and not because of the new people she was meeting. She remembered that the last time she sang in church was when she sang in the boy’s choir at St. Michael's back in Chicago. How far she'd come, but still part of her remained stuck in the past. She was about to find out that her past would finally be past.
"I hardly feel like I fit in with all of you... I think I’ll just sing along for tonight, but I don't know if I'm ready to get up in front of a group of people." Here she was, a professional with a doctorate in veterinary medicine as well as a master's in social work, and yet the shy little boy in her still hung on tenaciously, unwilling to let her move on it seemed. Bobby hopped down from the platform and ran up to her, hugging her unexpectedly.
"I'm so glad you came, Calleigh. You'll fit in just fine, but don't worry. We'll stick you in the back behind the old organ and you can just sing along softly if you like." He pointed to the old Wurlitzer gathering dust on the platform.
"You might say we're like the Island of Misfit Toys, but with flesh and blood instead of plastic and wood, " Tim said as he stood up, revealing that he wore shorts that did much to complement his very muscular right leg and his prosthetic left leg.
"100% government issue." He smiled as he played a beat on the fiberglass with his sticks.
"I'm eighteen months clean and sober," Jennie said as she hugged Calleigh, kissing her softly on the cheek.
"Don't worry...you'll be just fine."
"Dave and Julia are our youth pastors. They sorta had to leave their last church after their stand for gays met with the decided disapproval with their church board." Bobby said as he stepped next to the couple.
"And what would your misfit status be," Calleigh felt herself thinking as she watched Bobby turn to hug the two friends. He turned back and said softly,
"So whatever you're thinking about your own lack of talent or whatever, I'm sure you'll fit in just fine.
Over the next few months Calleigh felt herself growing more confident about her singing. She had a nice alto, not overpowering, but sweet and very complementary to Bobby's and Julia's. She still stood back, but was less likely to leave quickly after the service. She hadn't revealed anything of her past, nor did she feel compelled to do so, but the nagging doubts would arise from time to time as the little boy inside her spoke.
"I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere, and you're a liar!" She still cried herself to sleep from time to time, feeling inauthentic and dishonest. She felt the need to open up, but to whom? The question was answered one Sunday after church.
"Honey...you seem to be troubled lately." The soft hands of Connie Barone held Calleigh's face as she kissed her cheeks.
"Oh, I'm fine, Mrs. B." Like you've heard all along, anyone who says they're 'fine' usually isn't. Mrs. B. patted Calleigh's cheek and smiled.
"You may be a lot of things, but a liar isn't one of them. What's wrong, honey?"
"Oh, Mrs. B....I...I've got a secret....If anyone found out...." Calleigh began to cry softly.
"Whatever it is, it can't be worse than anyone else's...You can tell me...I listen good and I don't talk! Come...sit down here...we're pretty much alone with everybody in the fellowship hall for lunch.
"I don't know...I'm so afraid." Calleigh rarely cried in front of anyone; the last time being when Penny Simpson's collie had died and she had to tell Penny.
"You can be like a daughter to me, honey...what's wrong?"
"I'm...I'm not who I seem to be."
"None of us are, child....what's wrong? Mrs. Barone was gentle but insistent.
"Transsexual?" She smiled with the most welcoming smile that Calleigh had ever seen. Calleigh looked at her askance.
"Well, I may be in my eighties, dear, but I'm pretty much with it!" She laughed softly.
"You mean you don't...."
"Mind? Why should I? You're a very nice young lady and you seem to be as kind and caring as anyone should be. You sing like an angel... maybe a very quiet one...and you love God. Why would I care?" Just a few words from a woman she hardly knew, but that day the little boy inside her shrugged his shoulders, not in surrender so much as understanding that he and she were the same person, and that his future lay in her hands, as it were. It almost seemed like a parting whisper as she heard,
"Just don't forget me, okay?" He said and she almost felt a peck on the cheek as his presence finally melded into hers.
"Sweetie, are you okay?" Mrs. Barone put her hand on Calleigh's arm and smiled warmly.
"I'm okay...really...at least as far as that's concerned. You just..." Calleigh's tears were still mixed between joy and sadness.
"What else is going on, sweetheart?"
"Falling in love?" Sharp as a tack, as the saying goes, Mrs. B. patted her on the arm, causing her eyes to grow wide.
"Don't worry...your secret is safe with me. I remember when my Patty met Angelo for the first time...she had the same look you do...they've been married for thirty-eight years."
"That's wonderful....I'm so glad for them." Calleigh sighed.
"It can be wonderful for you, honey....I'll let you in on a secret...not so much a secret, but something you may not have noticed. Bobby may be very confident behind that microphone, but out in front of people in real life he's awfully shy. He hasn't been all that good around people other than when he's singing or acting in those little dramas your group does."
"How does that happen?"
"We all hide in a way from time to time. He hasn't been able to be himself so much since his wife died."
"Bobby was married?" she asked, shaking her head in unbelief. Bobby was about her age, which would make him twenty-six or so.
"He got married right out of high school. She died of an aneurysm just before their first anniversary. Probably the saddest day for the church. After that he threw himself into studying, and got a music degree. He's been the music pastor since...going on I guess about four years."
"That's so sad....I wondered about him...he seemed so...."
"Broken? Oh not like damaged, but broken inside. He's really the most humble gentle man I've ever met, and at nearly ninety I've met a great deal of folks." She laughed softly.
"But that's just it...why would he want someone like me after having such a beautiful story?"
"If you mean someone who is a nice girl? Who knows? But don't let your past get in the way of what God wants to do right now, okay?" She patted her lightly on the cheek and smiled before getting up.
"Come now...let's go get something to eat. I heard Mrs. Lazzara made calzones!"
Mrs. B. also knew another secret; one that she was dying to reveal but would leave it to the secret-holder to tell.
A few weeks later, after music practice...
"Calleigh, do you have a couple of minutes?" Bobby said softly, putting his hand on her arm. She pulled back a bit nervously but answered,
"Yes," adding in thought, "for you, anything." He smiled at her.
"I have something I'd like to talk with you about...a couple of things." He smiled hoping that any answer for the first question would give him courage for the second. She nodded, giving him at least enough strength to continue.
"I'd like you to consider singing a solo sometime next month. You have a very nice voice; it's sweet and gentle, and I think you'd do a great job. You don't have to answer now, but just think about it, okay." He put his hand on her shoulder, a non-threatening gesture to be sure, but it was somewhat threatening none-the-less. But her talk with Mrs. Barone had given her courage as well.
"Su...sure....I'll do it. But I have to talk with you about something before you decide for sure if you really want me to sing, okay." She put her head down slightly, missing his smile.
"I have to ask you one more thing, okay? Let me ask you this first?" His voice spoke warmly but there was a tremble in it as well.
"Oh...okay." She almost wanted to blurt out her secret; getting it over quickly would alleviate at least some of the pain when he rejected her.
"I've....I've grown.....fond of you. I ....you probably have heard about me and Christine? I...I thought I'd never..." His eyes were filled with tears, but she still had her head lowered, and she clenched her teeth as he continued. Worse than being rejected, she feared his love and then his disdain as he learned who she really was.
"I'm....I'm in love with you, Dr. McMartin...very much..."
"But...you don't know anything about me...if you knew who I really was?"
"What? A kind and caring person? A creative, simply beautiful child of God? What, Calleigh?"
"I'm...I'm transsexual." With that horrible confession she burst into tears. Her hand flew up to her face as she covered it in shame. A moment later she felt gentle hands pull her hand away from her face."
"You're the most precious person I know...don't get me wrong..." She shuddered at the qualifier she expected to hear but he touched her cheek and raised her chin.
"I'll never forget Christine...she was my first love; my childhood sweetheart; she filled my world for so short a time. I'd like it if you would do the same thing for me....for a very long time."
"Didn't you hear what I said...I'm a sham...a fake? If you knew me back then we'd have played on the same soccer team...hung out and played Nintendo...I was a guy."
"No you weren't...." His voice was a soft but firm rebuke.
"You were a young woman with a need to become who you always were." His caressed her cheek with the back of his hand; the hairs on his hand brushing against her face.
"And now you're exactly who you're supposed to be...up to this point."
"I'm going to tell you something about me. I have a very stubborn streak; I don't take no lightly. You're a beautiful woman...at least in my eyes, and I expect in a lot more folks' eyes here as well."
She choked back a sob.
"But as much as they've grown to accept you, they don't see even more of what I see; that you're the woman I've fallen in love with; past and all. You know about my past and that my heart was broken. I thought beyond repair, but your voice and your gentle hands...the way you tend to your animals ...the way you take so much time to listen to our team and find just the right thing to say to encourage them. The way you look at me when you think I'm not looking. Yes...I've seen that." He laughed again, but more at himself.
"I love you, Calleigh McMartin, and I have a feeling that you love me...or at least would love me if you actually gave yourself a chance.” He cupped her cheek and kissed her softly on the lips. It was the first kiss for them and her first kiss ever. She gave into the moment, crying softly as her lips surrendered to his.
"I love you....so much." He said it again and while she made no sound other than a soft cooing, he knew that she loved him as well.
Back in the present...
I wanted to write this note to you in addition to the invitation. You've been such an encouragement to me. I wouldn't have had the courage to love and to let love in. You're a blessing to both Dave and me, and I'm so glad you're my friend. Much love, Susan Martinez."
Calleigh smiled and laid the note on the table next to the invitation. She looked at the clock. Bobby wouldn't be home for another hour or so. She kicked off her shoes and walked over to the couch. Sighing at the sight of her wedding band, she smiled once again before laying down for a very well-earned nap.
Autobiography of Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Drea finally saw what others saw. They saw her even if she didn't; even if she still worried about those who saw him. No change on the outside could ever match the wonderful change on the inside; the change that helped her know how she helped others change and grow, even if she had to wait. Everything to that point was for a purpose that went beyond what she wanted for herself; for the benefit of the changes others would finally realize. So she moved on...
Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.....2010...
She sat down at the computer. One of those long and lonely nights. Everyone was either at work or out with friends, leaving her alone to write. It was very lonely but for the two cats that sat on the desk next to the open window.
"Come here, Momma," she said as the smaller tabby walked across the desk and hopped onto the bookshelf, ignoring her. The big tom rolled over on his back, effectively bringing the writing to a halt as he lay across the mouse with his head on the keyboard, purring loudly. She scratched his head before the dog poked his head in the office with a whimper. The cats literally ran into each other like a cartoon as they both scrambled to be the first out of the open window. The dog snorted once at their departure and walked out.
Her nightmares and flashbacks had abated for the time being, leaving her with a calm dread as she waited for the other psychic shoe to drop. The flashbacks were almost always unpredictable as to specifics; just an underlying anxiety that caused her gastric distress. Sometime soon she expected to be visited by another ghost from her past. If the first few specters were increasingly terrifying, what would the next visitation bring?
She was startled to hear the front door open. Turning around quickly to the monitor she restored the spider solitaire game that stood as a guard against undue curiosity.
"Al and I are going to the courts over by the lake to play some hoops with Mike and Terry. You got any cash?"
A moment later he was gone, leaving her alone once again with the pets and her thoughts.
"Jeez...I wish she'd call back,'' she said to herself, looking at the phone as if to prompt her doctor's return call. The phone rang, but caller ID revealed "Unknown Name." She frowned and went back to reading her messages.
"I've been worried about you," the letter went. "Your stories seem to have gotten so dark. I'm so sad for you having to go through this. I think about you and I pray. Write back and tell me you're alright?" Her online sister was right to be concerned. She had been getting little sleep; the flashbacks usually were accompanied by increased hyper vigilance. Getting to sleep never seemed to be a problem. Staying asleep was another matter entirely; her rest was interrupted by invasive horrific nightmares that evoked screams loud enough to wake her family...at least they did, but lately she was almost always able to detach herself from the horror, like it wasn't actually happening.
And while she didn't get much sleep, her rest time was increasing steadily. Between the walks with the dog and the added hours of rest, her overall health was improving. The dizzy spells had gotten worse, however and she was dealing with an almost grief over what she had lost, health wise. The tremors had almost entirely disappeared, thanks to the medicine and reduced stress. And the near-violent shaking had abated to the point of almost non-existence as she learned to cope with the physical and visual sensations that accompanied the flashbacks. It wasn't a great situation by anyone's estimate, but all of her caregivers were convinced that she was doing much better than anyone could have expected.
The phone rang. Her wife called; another late night at work left her alone. While she was disappointed, being by herself, which was once a totally counterproductive time, had become instead a time of connection; first in her writing. Earlier work helped her tentative exploration of her femme side. She had initially written fanciful stories of couples dealing with the hero's coming out or the couple embracing that 'side' of him. Then, in the midst of the worst flashbacks of her violation, the stories became introspective and cathartic. A nightmare in the early morning hours might provoke a story in the afternoon or evening.
As the nightmares and flashbacks waned, the cathartic work gave way to fanciful music and parodies and new exploration into opera and music. She even wrote an extended story about boys who became girls, all to the tunes of a Disney movie. It was becoming fun, and yet in the back of her mind and deep in the center of her heart, a longing and yearning was growing. A burden too big for herself to carry, but no one she knew in her own life could or would be able to shoulder some of the weight. She wanted so bad to tell her family, but the stress of the past year, coupled with everyone's poor health and her near breakdown from the PTSD left her holding her tongue.
So she wrote more...a nice story about a detective had a subtext of loss and grief. Romantic stories featured sad laments and doubts about orientation and gender confusion. Even the songs went back and forth between being silly and tragic. One might give homage to the struggle of women like her while another might dream of a wonderfully impossible time where wives love their former husbands as new brides.
And she cried. She cried for nearly a solid year; every day filled with wrenching sobs of disappointment and horror over how she and her sister had been utterly violated over and over by their uncle. She wept to learn of the horrific legacy of her grandfather and the evil his generation visited upon her mother's and her own. And how her own mother had hurt her....
She cried over what might have been as she remembered that she had 'always wanted to be a girl.' Nice memories of her sister supplanted the horrible sad ones of the abuse. She breathed deeply the sighs of contented release, knowing that her heart had always been soft and tender, even as her behavior had been affected for years by the hurt she and Joann had endured.
She laughed to remember the first time she had ever wanted to be a girl and cried at the events that precipitated her first dress. No more shame or guilt or doubt, she was convinced that she was a girl, if not in body, in spirit and in name. While forgetting the anger and the shame of being hurt by her namesake, she reveled in the fact that people from all over the world only knew her as Drea or Sis or Aunt Andrea or Mom. And she knew she had hope; instilled by loving family members she grew up together with separately as the old joke went.
A Sister from across the world would tell her of her day, brightening a week that promised to bring challenges as she fought her mental illness and her physical disorders. A silly note from her younger sister half a country away lifted her sprits and a description of a nice long bike ride from her big sister let her know that knowing her big sis was enough to make her day special.
A "Mommy" and a description of her daughter's day caring for troubled children reminded her of how much she loved that work herself, and her sister to the south brought her acceptance and love and connection as with no other person as she wrote I love YOU! every day as if they had been born to be together. And she wrote.
She wrote poems. She wrote songs. She wrote children's stories. She wrote whenever she could; hardly missing a day. Her therapist had told her at the very beginning,
"This is your work...this is your ministry."
As frustrating as it was to have no job and limited resources, somehow she and her family continued to make a way. And her writing not only helped her, it helped others. Weeping where hearts had been quieted by abuse and shame. Sobbing where rejection was replaced with acceptance. Laughter at a shared joke at each other's expense. And sighs and soft tears of joy at knowing she had friends and family who knew what she felt and hurt and loved.
Friends who knew of her failures; her cruel past and selfish behavior. Her pitiful misguided beliefs that spanned decades, hurting many and helping no one. And the acceptance of those who saw her even as she failed to see herself. Perhaps so unattractive to her own gaze, she became attractive as someone people actually called beautiful despite her ugly deeds and hatred that stained her life. No longer angry and scared, her rage and panic were replaced with a serenity for which she could find no adequate words to explain.
And she wrote. She wrote notes of support to girls only just a bit 'younger' than she even if she was approaching sixty and they were in their twenties. She spoke of music and jazz and opera and classical and Muppets and Mermaids.
She wrote notes of encouragement as she shared the heart that was forged in her own sadness and wept tears of grief with those who suffered loss. She wrote notes of glee; rejoicing over the new found friendships her sisters had made; even noting the pride she had over her friends and sisters' accomplishments. And she beamed to know that her child would be blessed again with love, and that her mentor loved her as her dear sweet sister. And her family loved her, even if they didn't know that she was a 'she.'
So her heart was buoyed by all the support she received and strengthened by the resolve and courage and hopes of others; hope that said, maybe not today, but someday... And she moved on.
With much love and thanks, Andrea
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