The school fire was still all over the news the next day. The school committee had sent some local contractors over to inspect the damage, and held meetings for most of the morning to figure out what they’d do about it. The head of the committee gave a press conference at noon.
The contractors said they’d need three weeks to get the building back to usable condition, so the committee just decided to push the whole semester forward three weeks. They’d rescheduled classes to start up on January 22, the day after Martin Luther King Day. And instead of June 11, the last day of school would be July 2.
Stephanie took the news okay at first. Three more weeks as a girl wouldn’t be too hard. She could manage it. But then she started looking at the calendar. She was still going to be a girl on her twelfth birthday! She asked her mom if maybe Steven could get a day off from the punishment for his birthday. But Mom said that the point of this exercise was to teach Steven to honor agreements, and there was nothing in the contract about any kind of days off.
It also started Mom thinking about what kind of birthday party to throw for a twelve-year-old girl. She could invite the girls from Stephanie’s Sunday-School class, since they already knew her secret. It would be fun! Stephanie wasn’t too sure, but she just nodded anyway since Mom seemed so into it.
The other thing the calendar showed was that she’d still be in school the week of Grace and Matt’s wedding. So there would be a tiny window between the end of school on Friday and the wedding on Saturday where she could get her hair and nails and stuff done up all pretty. (And sadly she’d have to get rid of all the prettiness before school again on Monday.) That might be tricky, but they had a few months to solve that problem.
She was rummaging through her closet to pick out an outfit to wear to dance class, and wondering if her dance partner, Grace’s brother Christopher, would be cute. She narrowed it down to two dresses, and then brought them over to her sister’s room for an opinion. “Which of these would be best for dancing in?”
Michelle looked up at the two dresses her little sister was holding. “That red velvet one is a little too fancy for taking a class. I’d go with the green. It’s pretty enough so if everyone else is dressy you’ll fit in, but you can make it look a little more casual by layering something like a sweater over it.”
“Which of my shoes should I go with? I don’t know what would work.”
“Real ballroom dancers like on that show always wear heels, not flats. So maybe those pageant shoes you wore to the tea party, I guess. But see-through shoes is also a little too much for a class. Your black patents have a little heel, so you could try them, but I’m not sure.” Michelle twisted her mouth up and scratched her head. “Oh, wait! There’s your new navy pumps. Put both of those back, and we’ll go through your closet and put together an outfit that would work with them.”
The two sisters went through Stephanie’s wardrobe and ended up putting her in a sleeveless pink dress, which Michelle accented with a navy blue scarf of her own tied around her waist like a belt, and that was enough to make the outfit work with her navy shoes and purse. The pink dress also let her wear the pieces of pink jewelry that her aunt had made for her, so maybe her cousins would tell their mother she liked them. She had a pink cardigan sweater in case it was cold in the dance studio. Michelle tried to get her to wear her pink plastic headband too, but Stephanie thought her hair looked better loose.
She took it all off and changed back into her simple top and skirt to help her mother with dinner. It was meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Stephanie got to knead the meat together and get her hands all messy, but after cleaning them off she got to mash the potatoes all by herself. She was really enjoying being useful in the kitchen, and it seemed like Mom appreciated having an assistant.
The meal was scrumptious, but Stephanie didn’t eat much. She was too nervous about the dancing thing, and was a little worried that the onion soup mix in the meatloaf would make her gassy. She really wanted to make a good impression in front of Grace’s brother.
Michelle did what she could to try to calm her down while she was waiting after dinner, but it didn’t help much. When the doorbell rang, she jumped up and nearly had a panic attack. It was their cousin Dan at the door. He was slouching there in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, which made Stephanie wonder if she was over-dressed. “Hey, Steph. You ready to go?”
She gave her big sister a hug, grabbed her coat, and followed Danny out to the car where Matt was waiting. Dan claimed the front seat and she got in the back. It was just the three of them in the car. “Grace didn’t come with you guys?”
Matt tilted his head a little to reply. “She had to get Chris, so they’re meeting us there. He had some kind of thing at school. He goes to Lawnbrook, so they may be late.” All Stephanie knew about Lawnbrook was that it was a stuffy private school.
The dance studio was in a big brick building that looked like it might have been a factory once. Matt looked at the other cars in the parking lot and said that it looked like everyone but Grace was there already. Dan was just as lost as she was, but Matt explained that he’d been there before when Grace’s mother was scheduling the classes. He showed Stephanie and Dan where the entrance door was, and even held it open for her.
There was a little reception area with a couple of restroom doors and a girl behind a desk. . They gave their names to the receptionist, and she said the class would be in Room B, and she pointed down a hallway behind her.
Room B was a big room, maybe thirty feet square with a twelve-foot ceiling, that looked even huger because three walls were covered in mirrors. There was a row of pegs on the back wall where they could hang up their coats. Stephanie felt relieved to see that Matt had on a tie under his jacket; she wasn’t the only one dressed up. She was very conscious of the click of her heels on the hardwood floors as Matt led her over to where the others were standing around, and introduced her to everyone.
He brought her first to a brunette who was around Michelle’s height, but more sturdily-built. She wasn’t really heavy, just thicker, like she was stronger or something. She was wearing a gray long-sleeved t-shirt with a blue short-sleeved t-shirt over it that had a weird design on it. She had tan cargo pants on and a pair of leather sneakers. She looked pretty cool. There were like four earrings in each of her ears.
Matt said, “This is Grace’s best friend Shelby. She’s the head bridesmaid, so that would make her your boss. Do whatever she says. Shel, this is my cousin Stephanie. Try not to abuse your power over her too much.”
Stephanie waved. “Hi. So, you’re head bridesmaid. Is that like the Maid of Honor?”
Shelby rolled her eyes. “Don’t get me started on that. Grace and her mother are arguing about it. I’m sure Joan of Bark will probably get her way, but for now the rest of us are sticking out of it.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Grace says since I’m not married I should be her Maid of Honor, but her mom says that since I have a kid I should be a Matron of Honor. Personally, I don’t feel very matronly but I really don’t care what they call me. Grace is just real stubborn about stuff sometimes, just like her mom.” Looking at Matt, she added, “You know you’re doomed, right?”
Stephanie’s eyes widened. “You have a kid? You don’t look old enough to be someone’s mother.”
“That’s sweet, but you know if you’re not careful you could end up as someone’s mother. Never trust a boy who keeps a blanket in his car. Anyway, you’ll be meeting Tara at some point. She’s going to be Grace’s Flower Girl. She’s six and very excited. I may put you in charge of wrangling her on The Big Day, if you don’t mind.”
“Ok.” It was comforting that Shelby didn’t know that Stephanie couldn’t ever be someone’s mother. Grace hadn’t even shared her secret with her closest friend. Stephanie’s mind then wandered off, thinking about whether she’d want to make a baby if she did have the right parts.
There were three other bridesmaids in the class. Andrea was a petite redhead who probably worked retail, judging by her outfit of a bright red polo shirt and a pair of khakis. Vicki was a tall who was almost as pretty as Grace. She was dressed like a secretary or something, blonde with her long hair twisted up in a bun and wearing a knee-length gray skirt and a pale blue blouse. Rebecca had dark brown hair and soft eyes that she hid behind granny glasses. She was in a beige sweater dress with black leggings underneath.
There was a fourth bridesmaid, Megan, who had to work nights and wouldn’t be coming to class with the rest. But it was just as well, since she’d be paired with Matt’s brother Jack at the wedding and he lived in California. His family would be coming out the week before the wedding, in time for the wedding rehearsal, and to get a refresher course in ballroom dancing. He’d had to learn for his own wedding. His little boy Jordan would be serving as Ring Bearer.
For the most part, the boys looked more uncomfortable than the girls. Ryan, Matt’s best man, had short curly red hair and a lot of freckles. He was dressed in a blue striped button-down shirt and a black pair of pants. He kept asking people what they were supposed to be doing, and looking around the room for the instructor.
A tall, lanky guy who Matt called “Steeples” introduced himself as Evan. He had short black hair, beard stubble on his tan face, and big brown eyes with amazing lashes. The other usher Vince was around Matt’s height and had wavy brown hair and an olive complexion. He wore a suit, but you could tell he had a muscular body underneath.
The instructor came into the room. He was an older guy, with slicked back black hair. He wore a loose shirt but tight-ish pants, and pointy little shoes. He told everyone to pair up, and Matt had to tell him that they couldn’t start the class yet; everyone wasn’t there. The Maestro (as he referred to himself) was very disappointed that all the students hadn’t arrived on time, and he originally wanted to just start without them. But when Matt explained that the class was for a wedding party and the missing people were the bride and her brother, he agreed to wait. He left the room and said he’d be back in five minutes and they would start, whether the bride had decided to arrive or not.
Grace and Christopher showed up with only two minutes left. Grace’s brother had her same blond hair, but his was much shorter, and styled with a little wave and a part on the side. He was still wearing what looked like a school uniform, blue slacks and a blue blazer over a red sweater. His blue eyes had a mischievous twinkle, and he had very full lips that would probably be fun to kiss. Grace herself was in a cute casual dress, a light floral fabric that showed off her figure without being too tight and clingy. Her shoes were black ballet flats, which seemed appropriate for dancing in.
After they hung up their coats, Grace went over and kissed Matt on the cheek, and then introduced Christopher to Stephanie.
He was not very impressed. “This is my dance partner? She’s like a little kid!” He sneered at Grace while pointing at Stephanie. “She’s hardly much older than your flower girl! Is this really the best you could come up with? I mean, just look at her. She doesn’t even have any tits!” He was still pointing.
Stephanie couldn’t take it any more and ran out of the room. She couldn’t think of anywhere else to go, so she went to hide in the Ladies’. Maybe she could stay there until it was time to go home. She leaned on the sink and looked at the pathetic girl in the mirror. She was angry at Christopher, but he was right. She really was younger than him, and she even had less of a bustline than her padded bra hinted at. She was humiliated, and didn’t even bother trying to stop the tears from falling.
Grace and Shelby and the girls quickly showed up in the restroom with her. Grace was very apologetic. “Oh, Stephanie! I’m so sorry we didn’t warn you that my brother is an ass! He was supposed to be on his best behavior tonight, but he had some kind of win at a debate club thing earlier and it left him cocky and full of himself. What he said was rude and uncalled for, and I’m ashamed to be related to him.”
Stephanie sniffled. “But it’s true! I’m a flat-chested little kid crying like a little baby.”
Grace put her arms around Stephanie and held her close. “No, that’s not true at all. Your style and manners show me that you are not a little kid, but a beautiful young woman, and I am honored to have you as one of my bridesmaids.”
Shelby chimed in. “And girls mature faster than boys, anyway. So you’re at least the same age as Chrissy, maybe even older than him, emotionally.” Stephanie knew it couldn’t possibly be true, but it was nice that she thought that way.
Grace let her go and backed up, but kept a hand on her arm. “And don’t worry about your development. When we go for your fitting, we can have them put a little padding up top, if it bothers you too much.” She either forgot who Stephanie really was, or she was conscious of the other girls listening because she added, “A lot of girls are late bloomers; I’m sure you’ll fill out when your body is ready. Mine didn’t come in until I was thirteen, and look at them now!” She cupped her impressive breasts in her hands and gave them a little shake.
Stephanie could help but giggle. She gave Grace a little hug and said, “I hope you and Matt are planning to have kids. You’ll make a great mom some day!”
Grace wept a little herself. “I think that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me. Now let’s see about cleaning you up and then we’ll go out there and you’ll show that little jerk that you can be the bigger person.”
They looked in the mirror. Stephanie’s makeup could use a touchup, and her hair was a mess. At least her mascara was waterproof. Shelby left and came back with Stephanie’s purse, and then the whole team worked on getting her back in order. Stephanie was a little worried that they’d be late for class, but Shelby assured her that it would be kind of tough for The Maestro to teach the men how to dance without the women, and they were all united on refusing to go back until everyone was ready.
It was really nice that all these girls she’d just met were sticking up for Stephanie. She really felt like a part of their group. Steven had never really felt included in anything before. Stephanie wondered if girls were just better at banding together.
The six girls left the Ladies’ room as one, and did a sort of “girl power” strut back into the studio. The boys were all standing in a line in the middle of the room, spaced about three feet apart.
The Maestro was there, and he looked irritated. “Finally the ladies have arrived. Please form a line facing your partners starting here.” He pointed at a spot on the floor five feet in front of Matt.
Stephanie went to take her spot opposite Christopher. Grace had to tell the other bridesmaids who they were partnered with. They were kind of organized by height. Andrea was with Dan, Vicki was with Evan, and Rebecca with Vince.
Once the girls were in line, The Maestro got everyone’s attention. “Now before we begin, I understand there was an exchange of words earlier. It has been called to my attention that this ungrateful young man was very rude to his dance partner.” He pointed over at Christopher. “You need to make a sincere apology to her right now. If a lady does not trust her gentleman, she cannot dance with him correctly. The dance requires two people acting in harmony, so you must eliminate this disharmony before it grows. We will wait.” He stared at Christopher.
Stephanie was feeling very self-conscious, but she looked across and saw Dan smile at her and then glare at her partner. Christopher closed the distance to Stephanie and mumbled something. The Maestro told him to repeat loudly enough for everyone to hear. Christopher cleared his throat and said, “I’m sorry for upsetting you.”
Stephanie thought that was a lame apology, and knew that Steven could have done a much better job faking sincerity. But in the interest of proving herself the better person she replied, “I accept your apology. We don’t want anything to spoil the mood at Grace and Matt’s wedding, so I am willing to set aside our differences as long as you are.” Christopher nodded and went back to his position.
The Maestro looked the line of girls over like an army drill sergeant inspecting his troops. He was shaking his head. “Many of you do not seem to be dressed appropriately for the dance floor. While you were indisposed, I told the gentlemen what proper dress means, and the violators promised to be appropriately attired next time.” He stared at Dan.
“Now, Ladies, I’m not asking you to be in ball gowns, but you do need to wear something that will move as a ball gown moves, so I want to see you in a skirt or dress that doesn’t grip your legs too tightly. And most importantly, I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to wear heels. The dance steps would feel completely different on your feet if you tried to learn in flat shoes and then went to dance for real in high heels.”
The Maestro hated Shelby’s and Andrea’s outfits because they wore pants. Vicki almost passed, but he thought her skirt was too tight for her legs to move freely. He didn’t like Rebecca’s hemline and commented, “We will be learning ballroom dancing, not pole dancing.”
He liked Grace’s dress but vetoed her shoes. She tried to complain that she might end up with flats under her wedding dress, so it would be the same kind of shoe she was learning in. The Maestro countered by saying that she wasn’t learning to dance at her wedding; she was learning to dance for life, and if her husband was the kind of man who wouldn’t take her dancing after the wedding, she should call it off. If she learned in heels, she’d be able to dance in flats, but it didn’t work the other way.
When he got to Stephanie, he smiled. “You, my dear sweet Princessa, are dressed to dance. I applaud your sense of fashion.” She thanked him and smiled back.
After that, the class itself was almost anticlimactic. They started out simply walking back and forth, the ladies going backward while the men went forward, and then vice versa. The focus was all about using the correct foot at any time. When everybody had it down and was moving in step, The Maestro clicked a remote and started music playing. They still were only walking, but they had to do it to the beat.
The lesson then added a step to the side and back, so that everyone was walking in a square. And when they got that down, finally they were touching their partners, but it was palm to palm with their arms out in front of them. They ended the class with the boys finally holding the girls closer, holding their arms in a special pose.
Stephanie still thought Christopher was kind of creepy, and it felt a little icky having him touch her. She was nervous, but The Maestro picked on just about everyone for standing too stiffly, so she wasn’t alone.
When the class was finally over, her legs were pretty tired. She got her coat and purse and waited for her cousins. Matt needed a couple minutes to give his sweetie a proper goodbye.
In the car on the way home, Dan tried to reassure Stephanie. “Don’t you worry about Grace’s brother saying crap about you again. I set him straight.”
Matt nearly had an accident, slamming on the brakes to yell at his brother. “What did you do?”
“Chillax, bro. I just told him that I didn’t like that he made my cousin cry. And he may be older than her, but I’m older than him, and I have forty pounds and nine inches on him, and unlike some people I’m not trying to marry his sister, so he’s got no leverage on me. I think he got the message.”
Stephanie was glad her cousins were supporting her, but he mainly just reminded her about how mad she was at Christopher. It really bothered her that he picked on her lack of a chest, because she knew that was one of her shortcomings in trying to look like a girl.
When she got home her folks wanted to know how the class went, and she truthfully told them that her legs and feet were just tired and sore, and she just wanted to change her clothes and go to bed. Mom had a better suggestion, and she ran a nice hot bubble bath for Stephanie to soak her tired muscles in before putting on her nightgown.
The bath felt really nice, and Stephanie had some fun playing with the bubbles. She was still thinking about Christopher, and she molded a pair of breasts on her chest out of foam, bigger even than Grace’s. She imagined what Christopher would say if she showed up at the wedding sporting a big pair of boobs. He’d be speechless — that would really put him in his place!
It was too bad that it was only a fantasy — or was it? She remembered how at the tea party a week before that there were ways that drugs and doctors could reshape boy bodies into girl bodies. Maybe there was a way she could order some pills or something to make her boobs grow.
That would show him! He couldn’t call her a little kid if she had grownup breasts.
She’d grow herself a couple of boobs and rub his face in them! Wait, that came out wrong.
She’d whipped herself up into enough of a frenzy that as soon as she dried off and put on her nightgown and a clean pair of panties to sleep in and threw on her robe and slippers, she crept down to the living room to check the internet for ways to grow breasts.
She logged into her mother’s account and turned off the program that tracked what websites she visited, and then logged into her own account. A web search on “boys growing breasts” led to an article about a study that linked use of products containing lavender and tea tree oil to breast growth in prepubescent boys. And the best part of the story was that it said that as soon as they stopped using the products and regular male puberty hit, the abnormal breast growth went away.
So if Stephanie got some products with those oils and used enough of them, she could get boobs by the wedding, and then stop using the stuff when she was ready to go back to being Steven and they’d disappear.
She did some more searching to see where she could get tea tree and lavender oil, and found out that they actually sold the pure oils at amazon.com, so she could use the gift card her grandmother had given her for Christmas. And with pure oils instead of just products containing the oils, she figured it would have a stronger effect.
Just in case Mom noticed a package showing up but couldn’t figure out when it was ordered, she turned the tracking software back on, and then went to amazon and placed her order. Even with express shipping she had enough money on her card. She’d still have to wait a few days, though.
She crept back up to bed to dream about getting even with Christopher. She was almost too excited to fall asleep.
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