A Second Chance
By Dawn Natelle
Three postings in three days. I’m trying to see if I can do a chapter a day. Don’t worry: I’m not trying to be another Angharad. I just want to get to the sleepover chapter sooner. I’m as excited as all the other girls. Dawn.
WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2016
Rachael got Bobby up and ready for school in the morning. She had peeked into her mother’s room, to find Maria solidly asleep in her bed. Rachael smiled, and then went down to make breakfast. The children left the house before their mother woke up.
On the bus Rachael again sat with Larissa, while Mikki went to the back to sit with the girls. “Do you have a gym suit,” she asked the tall girl. “We have two hours of Phys. Ed. this morning.”
“Oui. They told me about that when I registered,” Larissa said. “The suits, they are not very attractive, are they?”
“No. They never are. I think they have committees to search out the ugliest suits possible,” Rachael laughed. “Although with your long legs, I think the boys will all be looking at you anyway.”
At school Mikki caught up with Rachael at their lockers. “Rachael, can you babysit Danny for a couple hours tonight? Mom and I want to go do some shopping after school, and my brother is useless. He claims he has something on, but I think he just wants to avoid babysitting. Mom will pay you.”
“No need to pay me. I love Danny, and will look after him for free.”
“No, you have to take something. We will be gone through supper, so you will have to feed him. We can’t have you doing that for free.”
“Okay. Is there anything he won’t eat?”
“No he is pretty good. I doubt he will eat a salad, but anything else will be good.”
“Okay. I’ll text Mom saying you will do it. We will drop him off at your house when we are heading downtown, and pick him up after we are done, probably two hours.”
After French class the girls changed into PE suits, and as Rachael had predicted the leggy Larissa was a knockout in hers. When she shyly crept into the gym the teacher, Ms. Smith, stared at her. In nearly 10 years of teaching girls phys. ed., she had never had a student who was taller than her, and Larissa was, by a full inch.
“You are the new student?” she asked. Larissa nodded. “We are doing basketball this term. Have you played?”
“No, I haven’t. I was exempted from PE in France and took Latin instead. I’m not very athletic.”
“Latin?” the teacher sneered. “Heads up.” She then rifled the ball at Larissa’s head.
Rachael was ready for that, as Ms. Smith had done the same to her a few days earlier. So she was able to grab the ball seconds before it would have hit the tall girl in the face. Larissa hadn’t moved, and just stared at the assault.
“No reflexes, I see,” the teacher said. “Okay, Rachael. Since you are looking after her I will put her on your team for the games today. See if you can get her slightly coordinated by the end of the term.”
The first half of the class was learning some defensive setups, and Larissa, as she had promised, was not very good. She tried, but always got her long legs mixed up, and fell several times. She was also afraid of the ball. Rachael wondered how much worse that would have been if she had started the class by getting hit in the face by one.
Rachael pulled Larissa out of the class activity and took her to the side, where she merely tossed the ball back and forth with the girl, slowly getting her used to handling the ball. She missed a few passes, but Rachael kept the lobs soft, and slowly she got used to it. By the time the teaching part of the class was over, she was more comfortable with the ball, and seemed to have her feet better coordinated.
In the game that followed, Rachael’s team showed no benefit to having a six-footer on the team. The group again played hard and had fun, with all the girls getting good minutes on the court. Near the end of the game, they were down 19-15 when Larissa made a jump shot, the first one that managed to go in. She was stunned, but all the other girls on the team clustered around and hugged her. There was only about a minute left in the game, and Rachael put herself in, resting Janice. Rachael also made a shot, using her reverse layup to confuse the opposition defender, and the game ended as a tie, which led to her teammates acting like they had won a championship. They had tied a game, and they all mobbed Rachael this time.
“Good game, guys,” Ms. Smith said. “Nice work with the new girl, Rachael. It is too late for me this term. Basketball season is almost over. But if you keep working with her, she could do well in high school next year.”
“Thanks coach,” Rachael said, running to get to the showers before the hot water ran out this time.
At lunch Larissa was excited at her accomplishment during the game. “I never liked sports before,” she explained. “When I was modeling they made me take Latin so I wouldn’t break a fingernail or get a bruise. But that was fun. You are a great coach, Rachael.”
“It is a good thing you didn’t explain why you were taking Latin,” Rachael laughed. “Break a nail? I’ll show you ‘break a nail’,” she said, mimicking the coach’s intense manner.
“She is pretty bad, isn’t she,” Larissa said. “I can’t believe the way she threw that ball at me at the start. Thanks for catching it.”
“Well, I was ready for it. She tried the same thing with me a few days ago, but I was ready for it.”
“A few days ago? Are you new here too? You seem so good, and you are captain of our team.”
“Well, let’s just say that I skipped a lot of PE earlier in the term, and Ms. Smith thought she was picking on me when she made me coach of the misfits. That’s what the other teams were calling us, because we hadn’t won a game.”
“But today we tied,” Mikki added. “First time ever. And most of us scored.”
“Yeah, but Rachael scored most, eight. I’m just glad that I wasn’t the one taking the last shot this time. That can be hard, the pressure,” Janice noted.
“You guys all did great,” Rachael said. “We might be the misfits, but we are a team, with everyone getting to play, and everyone getting better. On some of the other teams it is two or three girls playing all the time, getting all the points. The girls sitting on the bench aren’t having fun, aren’t learning, and aren’t getting any better.”
As they ate (Larissa brought a sandwich and a salad from home) Rachael told the others about the idea for movie night. Everyone seemed excited about it, even the boys, when they learned that this was something they could participate in, unlike the sleepover chatter they had been hearing all week. Only Robert seemed despondent.
“Something else I can’t participate in,” he said. “I’d like to take you, Rachael.”
“Aw, that’s sweet,” Mikki said as Rachael sat back, astounded at the feelings that were flooding through her. She tried to think that she was 60 years old, and a man at that, but those feelings told her she was very much a 13-year-old teenage girl who had been told for the first time that a boy liked her. She finally was able to speak.
“Don’t worry, Rob. Maybe I can do a visit to your farm. What did your parents say?”
“They think it would be cool. What about Saturday?”
“That might be hard, with the sleepover this weekend. But if my Mom has Saturday off the next week, then we could do it then.”
After lunch they worked through the afternoon classes, and then headed straight home. There was no shopping, other than a quick trip into DaSilva’s for Bobby’s apple, and into Bread Baron for a fresh loaf of bread.
At Grandpa’s Bobby and Larissa sat with the old man, while Mikki continued home so she could be ready for her trip with her mom. Rachael went over to Miss Lajoie’s to check on Goldie, and Bobby ran over to take Rudolph for his walk. The lab was better. She had eaten well and when Rachael looked into her leg she could see that the split was healing nicely. It would be healed tomorrow, she guessed, but the cast should stay on until the weekend. She told Miss Lajoie what kind of tools she would need to take it off, and the woman said she would look into her shed to see if there was anything there that might work.
By then Bobby was back, and after a quick kiss for grandpa, and apologies for ignoring him to tend to the dog, the three of them hurried off home. They were nearly there when they saw Mikki’s mom’s car pull into the front of the house.
Andrea got out of the car, holding Danny’s hand and carrying a small bag. “There are a few more clothes in there, in case he gets into a mess,” she said, handing over the bag. “Thank you so much for doing this.” With that she was back in her car.
As soon as she was close enough, Rachael had dropped to her knees and enveloped the pretty little boy in a hug. “We are going to have lots of fun today, Danny. Okay?” She could feel fear and tension flow from the timid child, who smiled and said “Okay” back in a small voice.
“Mom, we have company,” Rachael called out as she led Danny, Bobby and Larissa into the tiny house. “It is like a doll house,” Danny said, looking around at the small living room. Larissa did not comment, but must have found the house small if she lived in one of the large houses near Mikki’s.
“Well hello, who have we here,” Maria said as she came in from the kitchen. “I’m making dinner tonight, since I was off today. I hope you don’t mind, Rachael.”
“Not at all, Momma. Meet Larissa, who walked home with us, and Danny, who will join us over supper. His Mom and Mikki are shopping for the sleepover.”
“Welcome Larissa. Rachael told me you just moved to Canada. How are you liking it so far?” Maria asked.
“Better, now that I am meeting new friends. And Rachael has shown me some better shops in the town.”
“Well enjoy it while the weather is nice. It won’t be too long before it is winter again, and I think that will be a change from France.”
“We have snow in France, but not much. Does it get very deep here?”
“No, in this part of Ontario the snow will come for a few days, but then no more for many days. Not like in the north where it might pile up into deep drifts. This is the warmest part of Canada.”
“Come on, Larissa,” Rachael said. “Let me give you the grand tour of the house. It will only take a minute. Do you want to come too, Danny?”
“Yes please,” a small voice said.
Rachael took them upstairs and showed them the three rooms and bath up there. Luckily Maria had made Bobby’s bed, and tidied up his room. Rachael’s room was usually kept neat, and the ‘master’ bedroom was as well.
After a few minutes Larissa left for home. Bobby was reading, and Maria was in the kitchen again. Rachael wanted to talk to her mother about the date, but decided it would have to wait until the kids were gone.
“So Danny, what do you want to do? You can read, like Bobby is, or maybe he will read for you. I could read to you if you like.”
“Did I see dollies up in your room?” the boy asked. “Can I play with them? My Daddy won’t let me play dollies at home, so I have to use my animals, and pretend.”
“Sure,” Rachael said. “I haven’t played with my dolls for a long time.” She led the little guy back upstairs, and they sat on the bed.
“So you like to play with dollies, do you?” she asked as she tried to remember the names of the various dolls from her memories.
“I used to have one, but when I went to school Daddy said I was too old, and he made me give it to Goodwill. Some little girl somewhere else is Ariel’s Mommy now.”
“Well, you can play with these dollies all you like, and if you come back and visit me, they will be waiting for you.”
“Thank you,” Danny said. “I like your room. It is very girly. Bobby’s room looked boyish to me. My room at home used to be nicer, but Daddy made me paint it blue when he took away my dolly. He said blue was a boy color.”
“Do you like blue?”
“Not as much as pink, but yellow is my favorite color.”
“Maybe because your hair is such a pretty shade of yellow. Blonde, they call it. You have pretty hair.”
“Your hair is very short, like a boy’s.”
“It used to be longer. And blonde, like yours. Look.” Rachael bent down and showed Danny where her hair was starting to come in blonde at the roots. “They call me Pepe at school because of that, because I look like a skunk, a bit.”
Danny giggled. “I like my hair long. Daddy doesn’t. He says it makes me look like a girl. Why doesn’t he like girls? He likes Mikki.”
“Would you like to be a girl,” Rachael asked: the million-dollar question.
“I … I think I am a girl, inside,” Danny said. “I just have a penis, that’s all.”
Wow. Classic transgendered response, Rachael thought. She wondered if she had been too leading with her questions. A professional really should talk to the boy. All she could do is provide a bit of support.
“Tell you what, Danny,” she said. “Some girls are named Danielle, and people shorten it to Danni too, but with an i at the end and not a y. How about I call you Danni with an i from now on, and you will know it means I think you are a girl.”
Danni’s eyes lit up. “Can I be a girl for other people too,” she asked.
“Well, you have to see doctors first. I am going to talk to your mother sometime after the sleepover and see if she can take you to one.”
“I don’t like doctors,” Danni said.
“I don’t either,” Rachael said. “But girls need doctors more than boys do. And it takes a doctor to find out if you are really a girl inside.”
“But I am!”
“Yes, but you need a doctor before you can become a girl for everybody else. It isn’t easy, but if you really want it, and your mom and a doctor will help you, you could become a girl.”
Just then Maria called them down to dinner. Bobby had set the table with four places.
Rachael said the prayer, holding a small hand in each of hers, with her mother at the other end of the table. “Dear Lord, please bless this food that Momma has made for us, full of love. And let Goldie and Rudolph be well, as well as our new Grandpa. And all of Danni’s family. And finally, let Danni and Bobby grow up into the fine adults they want to be. Amen.” Danni glowed at her in admiration at the thought of growing up to be the person she wanted to be.
Dinner was a simple spaghetti and sauce, using some of the mushrooms left over from the pizza last night. There had been half a pizza left, and Bobby ate half of that, while the other quarter was sliced and shared by Maria, Rachael, and Danni.
“Boys eat more,” she said with a wink to Danni.
After the meal Rachael said she had to wash dishes, and Danni insisted on helping. Rachael washed, while Danni stood on Bobby’s stool next to her and dried. In short order they had the dishes done, and then they went into the living room. There wasn't room for three on the easy chair, so all four of them wound up crowded together on the sofa to read. Bobby read a bit at first. Danny couldn’t read well, so Rachael just had him look through the words to find the letters in his name. When he got to the end of the name, he picked out an i.
“Oh, Sweety, I think you need a y for your name,” Maria said. Danni looked up at Rachel, and winked. “I like it with an i,” she said. Rachael took over the reading, using various voices that made the little ones giggle. Then Maria took a turn, also using voices.
A half hour later Mikki and Andrea appeared to pick Danni up. Andrea tried to pay Rachael, but the girl refused. Rachael made tea, and Mrs. Stoner and Maria had a short chat over tea and some of Rachael’s cookies.
After the Stoner’s left, Maria volunteered to clear the tea dishes up, and then called Rachael. Sitting on the counter near the door were two twenty-dollar bills.
“I said no money,” Rachael said. “Mrs. Stoner must have left that. It is too much, too.”
“I’ll say. If I could get $20 an hour I’d be baby sitting too.”
“What do I do?” Momma.
“You keep it,” Maria said. “It is a gift, and a very generous one. Andrea apparently thinks very highly of you, and wants you to be available to baby-sit for her at other times. If it bothers you, save a part of it, and use it to buy Mikki a present for Christmas or her birthday.”
“Okay. But I was just looking after Danni, I really like her … him.”
Maria laughed. “I keep thinking he is a girl too. Isn’t that hair adorable? And she … I mean he, is so cute. If you put him in a dress he would look beautiful. Although he would probably scream bloody murder if you made him wear a dress.”
“I’m not so sure,” Rachael said. “So tell me. How did the date go?”
Maria smiled enigmatically. “Good. I enjoyed myself. Dinner was lovely. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten in such a fancy place. And dancing after was fun. I probably had too much to drink, which is why I missed seeing you guys in the morning. It is so nice to have a daughter who can man the ship when I am a bit overboard.”
“You deserve it, Momma.”
“Anyway, Steve kept me till closing, and we had a lot of laughs and such. He was a gentleman, and brought me home. We kissed at the door.”
“And nothing. There was no spark. It was like kissing a brother. We just don’t connect in the way a couple needs to. Steve wants to take me out again, but I don’t know. I just don’t think Steve is the right guy for me.”
Rachael went and hugged her mother tightly. “Only you can decide who is right. Just don’t pick up a drunk or violent person please. Get someone that loves you, and loves Bobby and me. That’s is all I ask.”
“Honey, if he doesn’t love the two of you, then it is a deal breaker. Don’t worry on that score.”
That night, as Rachael went to bed, she prayed as usual. Most of her prayer was for Danni, who greatly worried the girl. But she also asked that her mother would meet someone who would ‘rock her world’.
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