Going Off to School
I am glad to be home a few days. I get together with Terra and Jennifer. Sarah and Linda are off on vacation, and Sarah plans to be to her college as soon as she gets back. Terra asks if all our apartments have been rented yet for the college year. Mom hears us and says, “There were three. I’m sure there is one in the next apartment building with three bedrooms. Someone backed out on their contract. It is to rent for 11,600 a year, but if you get two other renters it’s a great savings and we’d come down some for you.
I can see Terra texting the information to her parents. She explains, “I had met my dorm roommates and one arrived three days ago and had already trashed the suite. I’m afraid I’d be prone to taking her responsibilities. I would have trouble studying there with her sometimes. My parents agreed and are open to me finding something better.”
Terra and Jennifer want to go out with me, but they say going around with Andrew has dampened their chances of having fun. I resisted as I want some Andrew time, but mom wants me to get out and relax. “You know if you stay here, you’re going to be checking your fashion line and get yourself ready for Chicago. You have enough time to do that. Maybe the next time they can accept you’re going as Andrew.”
Jennifer helps to choose an outfit for going out. Once we’re out the door Terra informs me we’re going to The Pub in Plainfield. You’ll be stuck wearing a wrist band. We’re first over to Jenn’s house and her folks are gone. We’re in Jenn’s room where she changes out of an outfit and takes a quick shower. Terra uses Jenn’s nail polish to paint my nails. I complain as she’s drastically changing the shape, giving me more feminine tips to my nails.
Terra says, “You’re going to Chicago it a few days. You should want to look your best.”
“Even JC says I could go on this trip as Andrew the designer.”
Jenn says from the bathroom, “Then you can file them down later and just take off the polish, no harm done. Sorry but we don’t want any one seeing you as a boy in girl’s clothes this time.”
It’s getting obvious Terra, Jennifer and more of the other girls around here prefer me as Andrea. And once we get to the Plainfield Pub, I get a text from JC Harper. “Aren’t you going to respond to the production message? They’re wanting to add three skirts with options, six tops with options and the two dresses you submitted to the production and distributing lists.”
I thought it was Jennifer asking but it wasn’t, as to what I was doing. I say, “I’m responding to JC Harper about the production of some clothing. I guess I missed a prior message.” Tarry says, “O yes that happens to me now and then two. The other day Beyoncé called me about some dance moves.”
I look up to see Tarry, Terra and Jenn all amused with the situation. Tarry asks, “Are you Andrea? I wanted to ask you about some of your outfits that might compliment me?”
Two guys come and ask us to dance. Tarry’s amused that she knows who I am and the guy dancing with me does not. The dance moved to a slow song and Tarry was again amused as Todd has started to cup my buns with his hands. I said, “Please move your hands up or we’re finished dancing.”
Three dances Terra and I share. Her hands moved down to my butt but I’m alright with that. We’re sitting back at the table and it’s storming outside. I mention, “That’s one thing I’m not looking forward to; being all alone when storms hit. I know I’ll be alright, but I don’t appreciate being alone.”
Terra smiles, “You are welcome to come over, but if I have others sharing the apartment; you’ll need to sleep with me if it means staying over.” I think silently; I could handle that once maybe twice. Otherwse I don’t trust myself.
When we go home Terra gives me a ride home and we go over a road that is beginning to flood. I say, “You better stay with us tonight. I think the water is still rising over Clay Road. It would be unsafe to try it again.”
The storm is down to raining when I go to take off my makeup and care for my complexion. I am at the sink working when the shower turns off and Terra steps out. It is embarrassing for both of us. She sees me in my panties and she’s drying herself off, sometimes wearing another towel.
Mom knocks and pokes her head in, asking, “Was it a good night?” Seeing Terra she asks, “Does this mean Clay Road is flooded?”
“I apologize Mom, I would have asked, but I thought you were sleeping. And regarding us being together; I was in and started on my face, not knowing she was taking a shower.” Terra responds, “That’s what happened, Ms. Stephens.”
Mom says, “I’m not very upset, just don’t try making a habit out of it.” Later lighting and thunder rolled back into the area and I was cuddled up with Terra. Though I was out of her arms before people were getting up.
Come Tuesday morning I’m ready to fly out to Chicago for seven promotion stops in two and a half days. While the tutus are doing well they don’t need promoting like our fall fashions. There is a women’s soccer bash I’m to attend and play in a celebrity charity game. The women competing are mostly 25-40 in various degrees of fitness. This allows me to appear reasonably well. I have some ten pieces of clothing to be auctioned off for various women’s scholarships. I add three outfits. My autograph is sought after by a number of people. When I ask why. Several professional and college women tell me. “If you succeed in the fashion industry, your signature now, will be worth more later.” One college woman says in another year, we won’t be able to get near you or we’ll have to wait in a long line.”
I ask JC about it and she says, “The possibility is getting more likely as we’ve already committed to a winter line. And we are planning what can carryover or be tweaked for next year’s fashion lineup.”
She says, “The bigger issue is whether you’ll blow things or go out on your own?”
I ask, “Why would I do that?”
JC says, “Your business classes and others will be telling you, you could make more out on your own.”
But I respond, “I’d have to pay an agent and others to do what you and the company are already doing. I suspect some of the costs of my own people will be borne by me in the future.”
JC says, “Please keep that good head on your shoulders. Your Mom, you and I will negotiate a contract after your school year gets underway. If that works out; I’ll help negotiate a better contract with Xpress Fashions for you.”
I ask, “Will it be possible to underwrite the cost of my sister, Terra or others helping me on trips?”
JC says, “Yes, Jeannette has already told us, you could have used another person with you today. I think your mom or Leah might be with you in Milwaukee by 10 a.m. tomorrow.”
I tell JC, “I appreciate your sensitivity and being proactive, but you need to be communicating those possibilities with me beforehand. I’m not legal age, but I’m old enough I want in on my decisions. Andrew or Andrea are going to get publicly upset by surprises sometime.”
“You’re right, point noted.”
Jeannette and I ate dinner tonight, which was enjoyable, but three days of only her could be a bit much. I’m sure part of our time together is shared by her with JC or Xpress Fashions. I met Tamara from Northwestern University today and expect to see her tomorrow. She’s going to show me a good eating place in Milwaukee, her home stomping territory.
I might be daydreaming a bit too much, but I’m thinking it would be nice to develop my own contacts in various areas on the country. And she has a brother who’s developing his own Uber service.
I was impressed with the Great Lakes. I know I heard there were large ships sailing the Great Lakes, but it is different when I see Lake Michigan. I’m taken back when people say I have an accent. I am getting to enjoy museums and art shows, but I need a change from that. We go to a stage show in Chicago. I got invited back stage but balked when Tamara was to stay out. I said, “I understand but I don’t want her waiting alone, or me being alone if I need to ask advice.” I was surprised that most of the female production staff knew of my fashion line. One person was already planning to wear on of my tutus, another person asked me to sign the shorts that were attached to her tutu.
I had showed Tamara how to place an order through my business account. Several of the actors and production crew were wanting to make special orders. This is common when I relate to personalities. Many people in major cities seem to assume they are special people.
Tamara handled a half dozen orders all with multiple items being ordered. Tamara ordered two outfits herself as part of my reimbursement to her. I’m glad she’s desiring a friendship and not a more personal relationship.
Her brother Lee drove me to O’Hara Airport Friday morning.
I’m moving to my apartment Sunday evening and staying a few days to set the place up. Leah already has most of her apartment arranged. She’s moved from campus to the apartments which she likes, but needs to get use to. The college nightlife is back closer to campus. There is a sports-cpmedy bar plus a coffee spot in our town that is used by the college people. This town also has Central Community College. Our apartment complex also has several students who are working and taking online classes.
One of those students, Dan, is into dressing like a girl, but says he’s gay and neither TG or transitioning. That might be how he really believes or it could be because his friend Trey likes seeing it that way. Leah and I agree it is a non-issue for us. Maybe time will reveal more.
The following day, Terra posts she has for her new apartment two students to interview as possible roommates.
I have two stores near the university that are carrying my clothing line. So I am stepping back from taking orders and allowing web-sites and those retailers handle that.
I am now limiting myself to special orders that JC sends onto me. I’ll dedicate 12-20 hours per week to designing new or refining old designs. For the fall I’ve added a fifties retro look with a tutu designed to look like a poodle skirt.
I planned to go home to Hillside for the weekend, but decide to experience the school communities here. I can’t go into most of the bars, except those that have IDs for underage students, or an outdoor courtyard open to the public.
Thursday night we go to the Prophet’s Pub, famed for Will Rogers a prophet of sorts from the 1920s. It is said he was to have been there several times. George Carlin is one of the few names I recognize but he was a comedian not a prophet.
Friday night Sheryl Dobbs picks us up with a friend and takes us over to Central City and shows me some places; telling me which to go only with a Central City person or without my State Center clothes. Finally Sheryl stops at café near the campus, telling me, “Don’t worry this is no ordinary old coffeehouse.” With that we’re walking over a brick patio to get inside. The inside is larger than it looked from the outside. Once we’re in Sheryl is looking around, obviously for someone she expects to see. We walk into the larger room before someone calls her, “Sheryl over here!” Surprisingly I recognize the person waving to her as Sheryl’s phone rings. It is Janice Richards, the artist I came to know in the spring.
Janice comes over gives me a kiss on the cheek along with a hug and steps back. “Wow, Andrea you’ve coming a long way in a short time. Come hurry and get settled in. Chad’s on at nine and then art takes over.
Sheryl and I sit with Jan and her group. We’re taking up two good-size tables. Janice shares that Chad Bacon is here trying out a number of songs he’s adding to his repertoire for a tour of shows. I giggle a number of times through the first fifteen minutes. During a pause as Chad changes instruments, Janice asks, “What’s with the giggle?”
I apologize, “I’m sorry but my folks wouldn’t identify with this.”
“Nor would you dad or mom wear most of the clothes you design.” Jan yells up to Chad, “Sorry but we have a novice just getting into your music and philosophy.”
Chad adjusts his seat as he yells back, “Janice, if she can’t sing especially well send her up later.” Chad resumes his conversation with the crowd and another song, ‘No Rhet” (rhetoric).
I am a novice to this music so I lean to Janice and whisper, “Is he serious he doesn’t want a good singer? I don’t understand, his songs are good.”
Taelor a friend says, “The message can be lost on a good singer. This isn’t a concert, it’s for those slowing down to think.”
‘Lost Souls’ is a commentary or politics and power, inferring parties and would be leaders have not only lost their souls but are urging others to join them. It hits me hard, as did Taelor’s comments.
Leah sees me the next morning and asks, “What happened to Momma’s little girl?” She right I changed last night. I’m mostly the same person, but my innocence was cracked badly last night.
Mrs. Dobbs calls me around 10:00 a.m., “Hey, Andrea or is it Andrew today? I’d like to take you behind the scenes of the University’s Art Department.” When she told me to dress casual, I opted for sandals a casual skirt and peasant blouse. The skirt is at least five years old from Leah’s old clothes.
Megan Hach and Ruth stopped by before Heather Dobbs had arrived to pick me up. Heather says, “You can come on the tour, if you can get lost when I want to visit with Andrea.” Ruth stays back while Megan comes with us, which makes me happier.
The tour includes art work being restored, some of the pieces are treasure worthy. I had no idea stuff like that was done near where I’d be going to school. Some of the art work I see, Ms. Dobbs says usually isn’t shared with the public. I guess and am told I’m right. ‘Most of the pieces would be offensive to enough people that it’s not generally shown. Late August there is an Art for Artists Exhibit. It will be a rare time some of the sculptures and painting are shown.
Heather asks, how I feel. I say, “I guess it’s a compliment that you trust me from the very beginning. Or were you trying to scare me to see if I’d go running home?”
“Yes I trust you, but I never had a thought of scaring you to go home. I thought your tangle with Mr. Murphy established that you don’t scare easily. I and some of your friends like J C want to be able to speak to you as an adult.” We stop for lunch and Heather takes off her light vest as we sit down to lunch. Her blouse reveals that she’s well-endowed and is wearing no bra.
When I have trouble not looking, until she says, “That’s one of a number of areas you need to mature. I know down inside you’re a teenage boy, hormones or not your mind still thinks as one. You have breasts and you want people to understand. Between my daughter and others being safe with you and you growing as an artist and business person, I think you need people to be honest with you and expect more out of you.”
She smiles, “If I would bare my chest and pose nude for you. I’d want you drawing me and not drooling over me. And whether it’s me or someone else, I don’t want things spreading over social media or being shared with your friends. You do that with a design, and copycats will be in production first. You play with a friend or client’s heart and relations are compromised and deals could be destroyed.
“You’re going to make mistakes and I believe I’m one of those people you can come to and trust when you do. But I’m also someone who will dare to offend you beforehand. I hope you can handle that or know it’s your problem. I don’t need to be a friend.”
A half hour later Megan catches back up with us, asking, “Did I miss anything?” Back at my apartment I change into Andrew’s clothes and I’m sketching designs into the morning and the rising of the sun. Megan’s amused that I wanted to be Andrew as I was designing and sketching. It was nice to have her beside me when I was thinking of fabrics and colors.
With her help I had chosen not only the winter colors, but bright lighter colors to contrast with them. JC Hopkins immediately responded, “I am glad you have colored outside of the lines again. Congratulations, we like what you have done, but more is asked of you.” They’re wanting me to design special outfits for winter galas and begin to design several prom or unusual bridesmaid dresses for the coming year.
Once off the phone with JC, Megan says, “Let’s go to breakfast my treat. Take a quick shower and wear the outfit of your choice.” I look in my bedroom and she has an outfit of Andrew’s and an outfit of Andrea’s. I turn around to ask her preference, but I hear the apartment door closing instead. I shower and put on my granny dress of white linen with embroidery around the neck and bust-line as well as along the bottom of the skirt. I am doing my makeup in Andrea’s apartment when there’s a knock.
I unlock the door to let Megan in and go back to finish my makeup. She says, “I was hoping I’d find you in here.” I smile at having a woman watching me finish my makeup and brushing my hair.
We’re to the restaurant ordering, when I tell the waitress to, “Make sure I get the check please.”
She says, “I’m Donna, do I have the pleasure of waiting on the young Andrea Stephens?” When I tell her I am. She says, “It is a pleasure to wait upon you and your guest.”
Our breakfast is simple and our conversation is delightful. I am immersed in conversation as Andrea. Megan and I are developing a deep friendship. Somehow we both know to keep it as a friendship and not respond to our attraction of each other.
I am back home the next two weeks and most of it is purely a time to relax and make sure thigs are ready for school. I do have one overnight to Charlotte, North Carolina with a side trip to Ashville. The later might be a smaller community, but it is a very good market for my clothing. The warmth of the young women I meet with, is especially heartening for one on the road. I take an extra night to meet with a bunch of them over dinner. Suzanne and her Aunt Bree become friends that I will keep.
The last week I make a day trip into the Big Apple and another day into Philadelphia and back. While I visit some stores, the trip is mostly because their media people were upset I had not been back yet. The Philly media had previously talked to Andrew so this time it’s Andrea that shows up with JC Harper. Upon our return we went to my apartments. JC is happy that it is set up form my work as well as school. But she took me to a specialty store and we selected a designing table with all the blings as well as a tablet exclusively for work.
Mom came along for the first week of school to help me settle in. She did take one day to be back with Heidi sending her off out of state to college. Dad is traveling with her hauling her essentials and more.
The first two days at University High are rather pleasant, as I’m making a few new friends. Tina (Christina), Gil, Hennessey and Shannon are all in my grade with Holly a friend of Sheryl’s. Sheryl and Holly both have boyfriends but I’m not ready to Brett and Harvey friends quite yet.
Mr. Hanks my American history teacher feels a need to tell me out loud, “Please be upfront with any difference you have with me or trouble in understanding what I am asking of you. Your teacher Mr. Murphy is distantly related to me.”
I ask, “Should I be changing classes or something? I thought I was to have Mr. Deemer for Current World History?”
He says, “Deemer’s class was filled up by the time you registered. I’m the American History teacher and it is required for graduation. My suggestion is that you learn to work through your problems and not play games.”
I have history on Wednesdays and again on Fridays and Friday I’m back in class but now me is Andrea. Mr. Hanks asks, “Would it be agreeable for you to sign all your work for this class as Andy?”
I say, “Andie with an ‘ie’ and we have a deal.” We agree. Though part of me is leery, I like his teaching style and rapport with the class. Going out of class on Friday I go by his desk and compliment him. “I like the way to teach class. I think it should be easy to get along.”
Coach Bedford has me penciled in for the girls’ volleyball team. She dares to predict I will see limited playing time on the junior varsity team if I’m good and learn the rules.
Frau. Schneider my German II instructor asks me to take the name Frau. Lena. I ask, “What if I’m Andrew?”
She responds, “Are not Andrew and Andrea the same person, so Lena is you. A week from today I want each of you to write a story introducing yourself with your German name. Please find a city or village in Germany where you or your ancestors might live or come from. Include what rivers are nearby and/or the topography of the land?”
I will have Women in Literature with Ms. Hopkins this semester and I scheduled to have her for advanced composition next semester. I speak to her after class asking, “Why can’t it be just Literature instead of Women in Literature? I feel like I’m being inundated to be a girl.”
Jennifer Hopkins says, “You might want to address that question to your Faculty Advisor Ms. Stein. My guess is you already know a lot more about being male and Andrew. This might help immerse you more in the mindset of how Andrea and females sees their world.”
Mom picks me up after school as we are heading back to Hillside for a long weekend…
Story to be continued…
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