By Katherine Day
(A chubby ‘tween’ boy who is fascinated by the magic of dolls is overwhelmed by lovely dreams of living a different, but beautiful new life. This story is told in three parts. Here is the concluding part.) (Copyright 2016)
Part Three – The Hangout
The three girls glided down the walk, taking short steps as they walked; two of them wore tight shorts that exposed slender pretty legs while the other, a bit chubbier, was sandwiched between the two. She wore a skater skirt that exposed nearly as much leg as the other two. One of the girls was African-American and had braided her hair tying it in tiny blue ribbons while the other two girls both had their hair fixed in high ponytails that bounced through the backs of their baseball caps as they moved toward the Hangout.
Theresa, the girl in the middle, felt naked, though she was in fact more modestly dressed than the other two. She was terrified since she had always been ashamed of her body and usually wore clothes – even on the hottest of days – that covered her completely. Now she was going into the Hangout where she’d obviously see other kids from her school and neighborhood.
“I don’t wanna go dressed like this,” she pleaded as they turned the corner, heading to the hamburger and ice cream joint that specialized in serving teens.
“Yes, you do, Terri,” LaKetta, the African-American girl, said.
“You’re so hot,” echoed her friend, Sharon.
Terri had no choice; both girls held firmly onto each of her hands, moving her along. She went along in nervous anticipation hoping against hope that no one in the place would realize she was in reality the boy named Terry. After repeated convincing comments by her two friends that she looked “all girl” and that “no one could see a boy” she agreed to go out as Theresa.
“You want to do this, Terri,” LaKetta said. “I know you do.”
“I guess,” Terri said, her fear of being discovered overridden by a desire to be accepted as a pretty young girl. She loved how she looked after her two friends had turned her into Theresa.
It was a hot day, and most of the outside tables (all shaded by umbrellas designed with luscious-looking ice cream goodies) were filled with a mixture of young teens, some youngish mothers with their tots and a few grandmas and grandpas, also with young children.
“Hey LaKetta, over here,” a tall boy with dreadlocks yelled as the three girls entered the patio area.
“Hi Darius . . . we’ve found a table here,” she yelled back, as she led the three to a vacant table.
“Let’s sit here. Darius is fifteen and he’s been pestering me for the whole year,” she explained.
As they three sat down on the plastic chairs, Terri looked at the neighboring table where three boys about their same age were sitting. They were closely eyeing the three girls. One of the boys she recognized immediately; he was Albie Swendson, a boy Terry had often chummed with, the two having become regular video game competitors. Certainly, Terri reasoned fearfully, Albie would recognize the girl as the boy formerly known as Terry.
“Those guys are looking at us,” Sharon said, tipping her head in the direction of the three boys.
“Nah, their eyes are on Theresa here,” LaKetta said, beginning to giggle.
Terri was horrified; twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys were notorious for doing crazy stuff to attract the attention of girls. To think that she would be the particular attention of such boys scared her. She worried about what they might do to make a scene and expose her charade? She turned her chair putting her back to the boys.
"Don't pay any attention to those boys," Terri said.
"Let's not tease Theresa," Sharon said to LaKetta. "Oh, and look who's coming?"
The girls look up to see Darius at the table, accompanied by another boy whom they recognized as Desmond Floren, a boy who was younger that Darius and was a year ahead of the girls in school.
"Why do you ignore me, LaKetta?" Darius asked, showing his anger.
"You're too old for me, Darius," the girl responded pointedly.
"He just wanted to ask you something, LaKetta," Desmond interjected obviously to support the older boy.
"Yeah, what is that Darius?" she asked. Her expression signified her annoyance with the boy.
"That picture on Facebook? It looks like this girl," he said, pointing at Terri.
"What picture on Facebook?" Terri asked angrily, turning to Sharon. "I thought you weren't going to post those pictures."
"I didn't." Sharon said quickly. "You gotta believe me."
"Who posted those, Darius?" LaKetta asked.
"I think it was Sharon's cousin, Emma," the boy answered.
"Oh my God," Sharon said. "I thought I told her those were private."
Darius drew out his phone, punched it a few times and then turned its face to show the three girls. "See, there it is," he said.
The image showed Terri between her two friends. She was wearing the emerald green dress and was clearly the center of attention. The words under the picture read, "My cousin Sharon with her two friends. Aren't they the prettiest ever?"
"We've never seen you before," Darius said, directing his question toward Terri.
Sharon answered, saving Terri from trying to explain her existence. "This is my friend, Theresa. I met her at summer camp and she's visiting me," she said. Sharon turned to Terri and gave her a discreet wink.
Terri hoped neither of the boys knew that Sharon had never been to a summer camp in her life and would expose her obvious lie.
"OK, I just wanted to be sure, LaKetta. You're sure you don't wanna go out with me sometime?" Darius asked.
"No, Darius, no leave us."
"I bet Desmond here would like to go out with Theresa or Sharon. It could be a double date," the boy pressed.
"Just leave us Darius," LaKetta said.
"OK, you don't know what you're missing," Darius said with a twinkle. The two boys left.
The three girls huddled together then, hoping to avoid any further confrontations. Sharon turned to Terri and apologized for sharing the photo with her cousin. Terri quickly said she'd forgiven her friend, even though he was worried someone might figure that the pretty girl in the green dress was really a boy named Terrence.
They talked quietly among themselves before LaKetta observed, "Those boys in that other table have been really eyeing us."
“And one those boys over there is watching you, Theresa,” Sharon said.
“Don’t look at them, Sharon, please,” Terri said. “I knew it was a mistake to come here. I’ll be found out.”
“You won’t, Theresa. I swear. No boy would see anything but a girl.” LaKetta put a reassuring hand on Terri’s arms.
“I know that one boy there, Albie. I can’t let him see me,” Terri said.
“Who? The tall kid? He seems most interested in you Theresa,” Sharon said.
“That’s him,” she nodded.
“We need to order something,” LaKetta said, getting up from the table. “What do’ya want? I’ll go get it and you two can hold the table.”
Theresa ordered a chocolate shake and turned to Sharon who said she wasn’t sure what she wanted and volunteered to go with LaKetta to assist in bringing their orders back to the table.
“OK, and Theresa, you better stay here and hold our table,” LaKetta said, grabbing Sharon by the hand and marching off to put in their orders.
“No, please, don’t leave me here,” Theresa said, but her voice was lost in the din of the Hangout’s crowd noise.
As she watched her friends move to the counter, she realized that Albie was looking directly at her. Their two eyes connected a flash of recognition obviously registering in the boy’s eyes. Terri quickly averted the gaze, turning her back to the boy, terror reigning in her mind.
Suddenly she felt ridiculous as if she was again an ugly boy with breasts, trying to look like a girl. She imagined the three boys were giggling among themselves and that Albie would soon realize that she was really Terrence his video game competitor friend. He could see Albie standing up in the middle of the Hangout and yelling to the other teenagers (as well as the mothers and grandmas who were also there with children) that the fat thing sitting at the table was a silly boy named Terrence and not a girl. He could hear in his mind the whole place laughing and then when school started in a few weeks he’d be the subject of mean teases in the hallways.
“Ah . . . sorry to bother you . . . but . . . ah.” Terri recognized Albie’s voice. He was standing over the table and had put his hand gently on her shoulder.
“What do you want?” Terri said, not looking up.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to freak you out,” Albie said.
“You didn’t,” she mumbled.
“I did and I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but . . . ah . . . look at you. You are so pretty,” Albie said, his words coming out haltingly.
Terri could hardly believe the boy’s words; she knew Albie to be shy and that during their video game sessions the two had discussed whether they’d ever be able to get up the courage to approach a girl. The two boys had realized that they were getting to the age when boys were expected to have girlfriends and both confessed to feeling they were not very good-looking and that no girl could possibly be interested in them. Terry was too fat and unmuscular while Albie was thin and gangly with an acne-marked face. Now here was Albie approaching her as if she were an attractive girl.
“What do you want?” Terri said, still looking down at the table.
“Won’t you talk to me?” Albie asked.
“Why should I?”
“Won’t you even look at me? I’m not that ugly.”
Terri thought that was funny and tried unsuccessfully to hold back a giggle, remembering how the boy had always characterized himself as “ugly” in the past during their video sessions. She remembered how she argued with him then saying he had a nice face and a nice smile; even now she thought him sort of “cute,” even with his acne.
Terri finally looked up at him. “No, you’re not ugly,” she said, beginning to smile at the boy.
“Thank you. I just wanted to say ‘hi’ to you and also that I think we must have met before,” he said looking down at her.
“No,” she said, her heart beginning to pound, fearing that Albie would soon recognize her. She turned her face away from him to concentrate upon the contours of the plastic table top.
“Sorry to have bothered you,” the boy said.
Without further comment the boy left, returning to his table. Terri continued to keep her back to him and even in the din of the place she could hear the three boys discussing the girls. She even caught the words, “lesbians” and “she’s hot” and “I know I know her,” coming from the boys. Terri had never been so scared in her life. Why can’t Sharon and LaKetta get back here now? What’s keeping them?
It seemed like an eternity, but Terri’s girlfriends eventually returned with the drinks. “Those guys are really interested in us,” Sharon said as she placed Terri’s shake in front of her and sat down.
“Did I see that tall kid over talking to you?” LaKetta asked.
“Yes, he was,” Terri said. She spoke in a soft mumbled tone so that her two friends had to lean in close to her to hear.
“What’d he want?” LaKetta looked quizzically at Terri.
“He said I was pretty and he thinks he knows me,” Terri said, adding quickly, “And he does; he’s a kid I play video games with all the time. I’m scared he’ll figure me out.”
“Oh my god!” exclaimed LaKetta.
“But he still thinks you’re a girl, right?” her friend said.
Terri nodded, her face flushing up as she realized how much of a girl she had become – at least to the outside world. She liked the idea!
“We should go to the mall sometime,” LaKetta suggested, fortunately changing the subject.
“Yeah, Terri should get her own bra and panties and stuff,” Sharon added.
“No way,” Terri objected. “This is just a onetime experiment.”
“Why should it be? You’re a hot girl, Terri. Admit it!” Sharon said.
“No. I’m a boy, remember!”
“Not that I can see,” Sharon said, beginning to giggle.
“And those guys think the same, that tall one is still eying you up and down, girl,” LaKetta said.
“Hey, they’re getting up to leave now,” LaKetta said.
“And they’re coming over here,” her friend said.
Terri tried to keep her head down, hoping not to show her face to Albie, who was soon hovering over her, accompanied by his friends.
“What school you all go to?” he asked.
“We’re entering Hamilton this semester,” LaKetta volunteered.
“Oh, too bad, I’d hope to see you around, we’re going to Grant,” Albie said. “I’m Albert, but my friends call me Albie, and my buddies are Jay and Frankie.”
Still keeping her head down, Terri looked sideways toward LaKetta trying to signal her to get rid of the boys, but the girl seemed eager to engage them further.
“I’m LaKetta, and this here is Sharon and I think you’ve already met Theresa,” LaKetta said.
“I hardly met her since she would hardly talk to me, much less look at me,” the boy said.
“Oh Terri is just shy and her mom’s real strict so she’s not supposed to date boys or anything ‘til she’s sixteen,” Sharon said.
Terri smiled at her friend, pleased to hear she was being given an excuse.
“Oh you call her Terri. That’s a sweet name for a sweet girl,” Albie said. “I wish she’d talk to me.”
Just then the boy named Jay interjected. “Come on Albie, can’t you see she’s not interested? Let’s go.”
“Hmmmmmmm, Terri,” Albie began. “I really think we’ve met somewhere before. Well, hope we meet again anyway.”
The boys left and Terri let out a sigh of relief. “That was so close,” she said. “I hope he never figures it out.”
“Now you know what girls have to go through, Terri,” Sharon said.
“Yeah. Do I really look like a real girl?”
“How many times do we have to tell you that?” LaKetta asked. “I bet you like being a girl.”
“No,” she protested.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” LaKetta said, beginning to giggle.
Terri turned away, afraid to admit even to herself, that she liked the idea, if even it was just for one day.
Back at home that evening, having been restored to his boy identity by the girls, Terry was shocked to get a text message from Albert Swendson.
"Do have a girl cousin?"
"Why?" Terry texted back.
"Saw pretty girl looked like you."
"Not my cousin She in Oregon."
"Her pic on FB. Check it, OK?
"Can I call u?"
Within a minute, Albie was on the phone. "Yeah, the picture is event floating around Facebook and it shows her with Sharon and LaKetta, the girls you hang out with, Terry. What's with that?"
"I dunno," Terry lied to his friend.
"You should. You told me you couldn't play that Monster game with me 'cause you had something to do with those girls. Remember?"
Terry was uneasy, as his friend pressed on. "When I saw that Facebook picture, I began thinking that that girl looked just like you, if you had a dress on."
"I didn't see the picture," Terry continued to lie.
"That was you, wasn't? That's why you wouldn't look at me at the Hangout. 'Fess up, Terry."
Terry didn't say anything.
"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to," Albie said.
"Thanks, Albie," Terry said finally admitting he was the pretty girl at the Hangout and in the picture.
"You were really pretty and you really looked like a girl. You were hot."
"It was just for fun. Sharon and LaKetta forced me," Terry explained. "Never again."
""Why not? You should."
"I can't never, never, never," Terry said, his voice rising in excitement.
"Don't say never, Terry. I think you liked being a girl. You seemed to be giggling right along with Sharon and LaKetta," Albie said, following with a laugh.
Terry thought back to those few moments at the Hangout when he and his two girlfriends were giggling and chatting together. He felt so comfortable and welcomed as part of the group, just as if he were one of them.
"I can't really. Can you imagine how I'll be teased in school?"
"You're so beautiful as a girl, Terry. I'd be afraid to ask you out. A girl like you wouldn't be seen dead with an ugly guy like me," Albie said.
"You're not ugly, Albie. You're a nice guy. I'd be happy for you as my date," Terry said, immediately wishing his words hadn't come out as they did. In his haste to protest his friend's self criticism, he'd been careless in speaking.
"You would, Terry, dress up and be pretty and be my date? You mean it."
"No, no, no," Terry protested. "I didn't mean it that way. I just meant that any pretty girl would like being with you. I'm not a girl."
Albie laughed. "You fooled me this afternoon. Really, think about. We have a school dance coming up next month."
"In your dreams, Albie. Let's play that new game soon, OK. As two boys."
"OK, maybe next Wednesday after school," Albie said.
"See ya' in school on Monday."
"Bye, girlfriend," Albie teased.
"Shut up," Terry replied, giggling as he did.
The call ended.
“You’re so lovely in that dress, Theresa,” her mother said.
Terri examined herself in the mirror; she wore a lovely dress in black, providing a touch of elegance. Its feathery lace formed a flouncy scalloped skater dress ending at mid-thigh with a sheer mesh yoke above the bodice accentuating the girl’s blossoming bosom. It was a sleeveless dress exposing the girl’s soft fleshy arms.
She wore a short heeled pair of crème-colored sandals the exposed her toenails, painted in a blush pink, matching her fingernails and lips. Terri had been given a manicure and pedicure in the salon earlier in the day and her hair was piled fashionably on the top of her head.
“You’re just twelve, Terri,” her mother said after Terri complained that color of her nails and lips was too dull. “You’re too young for nails or lips in any striking color.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“I don’t want you looking like a wild girl,” her mother said.
“I hope Albie likes me in this,” the girl said, twirling about, checking herself from different angles in the mirror.
“He will, honey,” her mother said.
“But mommy, I’m so fat,” the girl said, patting her tummy.
“Just a little, but the dress makes you look so nice and hides that little bit of a tummy you have. You have a very nice figure, dear.”
If Albert Swendson saw her as too fat, he failed to show it when he stopped to pick her up for the middle school’s fall dance. Albie was driven by his mother and Terri’s mother would ride along since both mothers were among the many chaperones at the dance that was held in the early evening so that the children could be home by ten o’clock.
“Here,” Albie said, thrusting a corsage into her hand as Terri ushered the boy into the Seager living room.
The boy wore a dark suit with a white shirt and tie, but looked a bit awkward. Terri however saw him as tall and handsome.
For a minute, the two children looked at each other, uncertain what to say. Finally, Terri said in stiff, formal voice, “Albert, you are so handsome.”
Terri could see the boy blush, but the fact was he was handsome. His face was free of the acne that had once marred his face and he had developed graceful movements having grown out of his earlier awkwardness. She yearned to be walking into the dance arm-and-arm with him.
Finally the boy spoke: “Terri you’re so beautiful.”
The dance was a blur in Terri’s mind, even though she knew that neither she nor Albie were particularly adept at dancing. They blundered into other couples on the floor and Albie kicked her feet more than once and always profusely apologized. Terri knew she might have bruised toes at the end of the night but she didn’t care; she loved being with the tall boy.
At a few minutes before ten, Albert Swendson led Terri Seager to the door of her home as their two mothers stood in the background, both full of pride at the sight of their two beautiful children. At the door, Terri looked up at Albert her lips poised for a kiss. . .
“Terry, wake up,” he heard his mother said. “You’ll be late for school.”
“Wha . . . Wha . . .” the boy exclaimed, still awaiting the good night kiss from Albert.
“Terry, you must be dreaming. Get up. It’s six-thirty. You have to get out for the school bus by seven-twenty.”
His mother shook him again, and the boy looked up, seeing only a hazy image and wondering when he was going to be kissed by the young man. He finally realized the young man was gone. Terry was confused and he looked blankly at his mother wondering what he was doing in his pajamas that portrayed a football them. Shouldn’t he have been in a pretty pink baby doll nightgown or some other dainty feminine outfit?
“You were all smiles, son. That must have been some dream, Terry,” his mother said.
“Huh?” the boy replied only now coming to his senses.
“Care to tell your mother about it, Terry?”
“Ah, no, mom. That’s all right. I’ll get up.”
“Time for dreaming is over. It’s back to school for you young man.”
Unlike most boys and girls of his age, Terry usually got out of bed promptly and rarely had to be chided to “hurry up.” He always liked to follow rules particularly to assure that he would never be late, perhaps because he was afraid to call attention to himself. Once he realized he was no longer about to be kissed and that he was Terrence (and not Theresa), he got up. His mother left the room feeling confident that the boy would be ready in time to get the school bus.
He rummaged in his closet – which was neatly organized – to get his clothes for the day, he spied the three shoes boxes that he had neatly labeled “Baseball Cards.” He carefully pulled the bottom box out, opened it and looked into to it.
He smiled broadly as he looked at a Barbie Doll, dressed in a lovely lace dress; it was the same black gown that Theresa had worn while dancing in the dream with Albie. He loved dressing the pretty doll in his private moments; he had bought the doll at a rummage sale that summer with his allowance money, saying it was for his little sister.
He slowly and daintily replaced the doll in his makeshift cradle, covered the box and replaced it in his closet buried beneath the baseball cards he never looked at any more. Terrence Seager knew that Theresa would always be a part of his life.
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