The Incognito Parallel -11-

Maybe having your mom pick girls' clothes for you to wear is more embarrassing than doing it yourself --

incognito.gifby Wanda Cunningham

Chapter 11
A Bunny, A Pony, A Kitty and a Duck

Chapter 11

And there was the lady we'd been talking to, pushing a cart into which she had put our basket of stuff. She wasn't as old as I guess I had thought she was but a lot older than Mom. Her hair had some gray in it but it wasn't white or that weird blue some ladies' hair turns, maybe they dye it. Maybe they used to dye it blue when they were teenagers.

Even if she had been pushy and nosey, she was trying to be nice. "Thank you, ma'am," I said. She'd even put my shoes in the basket and the box the sandals had come in.

"Oh, you're welcome, honey," she said. "Take care of your mommy, dear. Oh, no, you said she was your sister."

I nodded. I'd actually forgotten having said that. What a weird thing to have to remember.

"Well, you two look so much alike," she laughed as if that were funny. "You should get her some lemonade from the snack bar to help cut that stuff she's choking on."

That was actually a good idea so I nodded again. "Thank you, ma'am."

"Such a polite little girl!" she said. "You're just a darling, aren't you?" She practically cooed at me.

I wanted to argue with her but I just smiled, though I'm sure I turned bright red. I got ready to dodge in case she tried to pat me on the head or pinch me.

The two teenage girls came out of the bathroom just then. "She's watching her face," said the brunette. At least, that's what I heard. If I hadn't already listened to how the locals talked all morning I would probably have taken a look to see. Of course, she was washing her face so I knew I didn't have to check to see if she was watching it.

"How come you're wearing boys' clothes?" asked the blonde.

I guess girls that age notice clothes more than anyone. I didn''t feel worried about it though, for some reason. I shrugged. "I like to play baseball, why get my good stuff dirty?"

"She's got a bigger brother," said the brunette. "She wears his old clothes to play in, huh?"

That sounded pretty good as an explanation, so I just shrugged. I felt kind of odd about how easy it was to let them think I was a girl. It was like reading something funny in a schoolbook, you don't want to laugh out loud in class but who expects a schoolbook to be funny?

After a few noises, the polite kind, they wondered off and so did the nosy lady who had turned out to be nice.

I leaned on the handle of the cart, bracing it against the wall so it wouldn't roll away. I looked back at the restroom door, trying to decide if I should go back in. The little drawing of a woman wearing a skirt looked back at me.

I started to put a foot up on the wheel of the cart and decided that would not be a good idea while wearing sandals. I wondered for a moment how a girl would stand if she were waiting for her sister to come out of the restroom.

Duh. I pushed the door open and went back in.

Mom looked past me as I came in. I guess checking to see if anyone else was coming in. She stood at the mirror, brushing her hair. She looked a bit better than before. The awful gross blue light in the room made the makeup around her black eye really look like makeup, or paint, though.

"C'mere," she said to me, grinning as if she wanted to tell me a secret.

I walked over and looked into the mirror. We really did look a lot alike but that was no secret.

"I'm going to do something with your hair," she said. She pulled a comb out of her purse. "Never use a brush on wet or dirty hair, you'll break your hair and cause split ends," she said.

That probably wasn't a secret, either, but I hadn't known that so I nodded.

She started combing my hair. "I know you've got dirt in your hair from playing, so we can't do as much but I can comb a lot of the dirt out and maybe make it look -- pretty."

I saw myself blush. The bridge of my nose turned pink, then it spread across my cheeks and down onto my neck and up to my forehead. If I didn't have some tan from playing baseball half of the summer it would have showed up a lot more, I knew.

Mom worked with my hair for a bit, she even wet the comb under the tap a few times. I don't know exactly what she did, other than take a little blue and yellow hair-thingie out of her purse and pin the longer hair on the right side of my face back so it wouldn't fall in my eyes. When she finished, I looked in the mirror and realized no one would be wondering if I were a girl or a boy now.

"There," she said. "Do you like it?"

I didn't dare do anything but nod.

"Such enthusiasm," said Mom. "Having second thoughts about this wonderful disguise idea of yours?"

"No," I said, quickly. I reached up and touched the hair-thingie. It was shaped like two small butterflies, one blue with yellow wings and the other the opposite. It did look pretty and I felt a bit confused about that.

"It's called a barrette," she said. "Or a hair clip. I keep several in my purse and that's the smallest one I have."

I could see her smiling in the mirror. She bent down just a bit to put her face next to mine. "We're obviously related," she said. "But I don't think I'm going to pass as your sister until I get rid of this mouse." She touched the discolored skin near her eye.

I laughed. Mouse. "Well, when you dye your hair dark, stop covering it with makeup and just pout a bit. It'll be very goth," I said. "A goth mouse."

We laughed. She made mouse ears with her hands on her head and then on mine and we laughed some more.

Two ladies came in the door while we were laughing and that made it even funnier. Mom grabbed her purse and put stuff away as the two women found stalls and disappeared.

They didn't say anything to us but we couldn't stop grinning at each other. Mom put a finger under her eye and said in this weird Freddie Krueger sort of voice, "Mousie!" I don't know why she did that but I got the giggles over it, tying not to laugh so the ladies in the stalls wouldn't think we were so weird.

Before we left the bathroom, I stopped to look at my hair again. I turned my head back and forth, trying to see just what it was Mom had done. "Will you show me how to do this?" I asked.

"Sure," she said. "And we'll get you some of your own hair clips and stuff."

I nodded and followed her out into the store.

When I saw the basket with my sneakers still in it, I remembered the sandals. "Can I keep wearing the sandals? Or do I have to take them off to pay for them?"

Mom thought about it a second, then stuffed my sneakers into the box the sandals came in. "Nah, keep the sandals on and we'll pay for the sneaks." She grinned at me.

I laughed at that, knowing she was being silly. Really, I giggled and I wondered a little why but then thought that maybe I wouldn't have laughed at all before at something silly. But giggling seemed okay with a barrette in my hair and pink-soled sandals on my feet.

Mom picked a couple of pairs of socks to throw in the basket. She showed them to me first. One pair was just plain white with pink stitching near the top and the other pair had little lavendar ballet shoes embroidered on the side of the cuffs. I nodded to show her those were okay with me.

Everytime we picked out something new for our disguises, my disguise, I felt this spot in my chest kind of swell up and sometimes a sort of ringing, not in my ears but in my head.

I figured that it was a bit like being scared, but like at a theme park where you're going to ride the big coaster and you're standing in line and everytime the cars go by you hear people screaming and you think maybe this isn't a good idea. But I still wanted to ride the coaster and I didn't want to think about why too hard.

We left the shoe department and Mom steered us toward the girls' pants and tops. A pair of gray-blue jeans with pink stitching went into the basket after Mom held them up against me. "These are a seven, same as the one's you're wearing," she said. "They should fit, and for nine bucks on sale, I'll chance it." She grinned.

I'm not sure what my expression might have been but she added, "You want to pick out a cute top to go with them?"

I think I nodded. A lot of the clothes in my size looked really babyish, but then girls' get to stay babyish longer than boys. Still I didn't think I wanted to go back to the baseball game wearing a shirt with a pink teddy bear on it. I picked a yellow one with flowers in a band across the chest. The flowers were blue, pink and red with green leaves. One pink flower had a purple butterfly on it. I thought it would go good with my barrette.

My hands were shaking so I dumped the top into the basket before I did something embarrassing like -- I don't know what would be more embarrassing than picking out girls' clothes to wear but there must be something.

Mom checked the size then picked another similar top, pale mint green with little cartoon animals - a rabbit, a kitten, a pony, a duck and an elephant - all in flower-like colors. I squirmed but I didn't say anything. Maybe having your mom pick girls' clothes for you to wear is more embarrassing than doing it yourself -- that shirt would make me look about seven, I thought.

"I'm trying to keep this not much over one hundred," Mom said. "But I need something black or purple myself."

I pointed toward the junior department, Mom wears petite or junior sizes. She nodded and got the cart out of the narrow aisles in the kids' department while I headed toward adult sizes. On the way, I passed a rack of underwear. I had to slow down to look. A big pack of seven briefs all had Disney princesses on them.

Without saying a word, Mom pulled that pack off the shelf and tossed it into the basket.

I didn't say anything either. I wondered if girls' panties would feel any different than boys' shorts to wear. Probably not, I decided, the label said cotton and cotton is just cotton. But... it would feel different just because you knew what you were wearing.

I giggled again and Mom smiled.

* * *

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This story is 1951 words long.