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Synopsis: Small things can have huge effects. Dave's aunt and uncle bequeath a doll house. Dave and Ron set it up in the living room, where Dave's endless string of girlfriends can ooh-and-awe. Ron's not so sure about it but there's no denying the power it has on his future.
The box came when my college roommate, David, was at class. It was huge, nearly the size of a washing machine. I signed for it, wondering what might be inside, and the delivery guy pushed it out of the tiny entry into the kitchen for me. It barely fit and he huffed and puffed as though it wasn't light.
When Dave came home from his classes, he scratched his head. "I dunno what it is. Who's it say it's from?"
In addition to the form I'd signed, which revealed -- basically -- nothing, there was a waterproofed packing slip and an envelop sealed to the side of the crating.
The packing slip said the box was shipped from Sandia Equitable Partners in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The contents were named as Doll House (1 ea.) and Furnishings (Assorted), valued at ... whoo-boy, we took a deep breath ... eleven thousand dollars.
The envelop contained a letter from Harbin, Callow & Kindred, Attys. at Law, also in Albuquerque. It said:
Dear Mr. David Preston:
The package you see before you has been bequeathed in your name by the last will and testament(s) of your existing uncle and his married spouse, hereinafter referred to as Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty. For reasons of their intent of this bequest, the will of Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty dictates that you not learn their formal names.
Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty perished in an automobile accident while vacationing. The estate has arranged for final resting of the testamentaries. No burden of kinship is required of you or any of their surviving relations.
The Court of Probate of Bernalillo County, pursuant to the revised codes of the State of New Mexico, having examined the aforementioned last will and testament(s), hereby decrees that aforestated package be forwarded to you at your last known address at the expense of the estate of said Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty. There are no attachments, legal or financial, on this bequest and you may possess it free and clear.
About the bequest: It is a hand-made doll house, constructed between 1953 and 1980 by Uncle Dave, with furnishings bought or made by the testamentaries. Its assessed valuation in the State of New Mexico is $11,000 (eleven thousand dollars US), should you desire to liquidate the bequest. The last will and testament(s) make(s) no restrictions against such action on your part.
Should you have any questions regarding aforesaid estate or the physical bequest you have now before you, please do not hesitate to contact the offices of Harbin, Callow & Kindred, Attys. at Law
William B. Callow, Atty. at Law
"Well," said Dave, lifting the packing bubbles separating the envelope's air pocket from the box' contents. Under more bubble wrap and a lot of styro popcorn, we found ... a delicately-shingled roof with two dormer windows. "Sheee-it," whistled Dave. "It IS a doll house. Too freaking weird."
I started to laugh. "Imagine," I hooted between gasps for breath, "imagine you playing with dolls." Dave's the straightest guy I know -- no deviant tendencies there. "Big dolls, too, from the look of this."
He glared at me. Taking a box cutter out of his pocket, he sliced down the corners of the fiberboard packing crate. The sides fell away, revealing the rest of the doll house. It was light blue and had a broad, beautifully-trimmed wooden porch around three sides. The railing posts were only slightly bigger than toothpicks but very nicely turned, once we picked away the styrofoam popcorn.
"Hmmm," Dave said. "since it's here, we might as well put it on display. Maybe one of the girls will find it as amusing as you do." The Girls was his pet phrase for the endless stream of gorgeous dates who poured through our living room to kiss and squeeze with him on the couch while I studied fretfully in the bedroom. Dave missed a lot of the Letterman show but his love life seemed a lot fuller than mine.
I helped him hoist the house up to the kitchen table. Repositioning our grips, we trundled it into the living room and placed it gracefully on the coffee table. "So much for putting your feet up," I quipped. "Or doing homework."
He responded by throwing a pillow at me. In the two years we've roomed together, I've never seen him do a bit of homework. Yet he always pulls down solid B grades, while I work my fingers off staying borderline. It's not fair. But he's my best friend from the dorms, and I'd rather flunk out beside him than sail through academic nirvana with anyone else.
"Look," he said, "it unlatches." He swung the front of the doll house open, revealing the interior. It was fully furnished, and quite well decorated. It had carpeting and nicely papered walls with tiny refined patterns, each room a variation on the overall flowered theme. There was a tiny television in the living room -- "it has a plug-in cord," Dave noted, pointing. "And there's a tiny electrical receptacle on the wall."
The front door on the swing-away panel entered a foyer with a classic staircase. Again, the railing posts were delicately turned and skillfully mounted. The staircase swept up to a short hallway ending in a master bedroom on the left and a bathroom on the right. There was a one-piece molded-plastic toilet with the seat down, a sink, and a jacuzzi ... and a big claw-footed bathtub.
In the upstairs bedroom was a four-post bed decorated with pink satin drapes matching its pink satin sheets. A floral quilt ... yes, a closer inspection revealed it was, indeed, genuinely quilted ... lay folded at the foot of the bed. "How'd that stay so neat during the shipping?" I wondered, touching it gently. One of the dormers gave the bedroom more space, the other dormer was at the stairway landing.
"I'll be darned," he gasped, looking downstairs again. "A kitchen. This is too cool." The kitchen had a range and oven, with working knobs, as well as what appeared to be a microwave plugged into an electrical receptacle. A dishwasher was mounted realistically into the cabinets next to the sink. A modern-looking refrigerator/freezer completed the appliances. And another receptacle.
A sink with a long-necked faucet had handles that actually turned. A telephone was mounted on the side wall. The receiver had fallen down, so I hung it back on the little cradle.
A closet off the kitchen had a washer and dryer -- plugged into another receptacle, as well as a realistic-looking hot water heater, and ... and ... a furnace. I was impressed with the detail and realism.
A back exit led to a mud-room inside the back door, which opened to a small deck with two steps down. From underneath extended a real-sized electrical power cord, obviously intended to power the miniature receptacles. It was wrapped around the tiny porch for shipping convenience, so Dave undid it and plugged it in. The porchlight came promptly on.
I whistled in appreciation. "That's some house. I'd love to live in a spread like that." I wasn't kidding, our apartment was adequate but, well, with two busy, active guys ... And the house where I grew up with my mom and her husbands wasn't nearly the show place this doll house appeared to be. "Wouldn't you?"
"I guess so," he answered. "This place has everything, doesn't it ... everything."
"You gotta admire a guy who'd spend all that time getting those little details just right," I said, sharing my appreciation of the workmanship and detail. "Your Uncle Dave was a master craftsman for sure."
He had a pensive look on his face. "I don't remember any Uncle Dave or Aunt Betty," he said. "I wonder how they knew me? Whose side of the family were they from, mom's or dad's?" He looked right at me but I don't think he saw me at all. "And what a bizarre thing to give to someone you don't know."
Good Relatives Are So Hard To Find
A few days later, Dave was late getting home from his classes. When he finally dragged in, he looked exhausted -- and frustrated. "I couldn't find them," he grumped.
"Who?" I wondered, letting my confusion show.
"Dave and Betty," he explained. "My history professor showed me how to track my genealogy on the library's Internet computer. We looked as far back as we could -- the only Dave we found ISN'T my uncle, and there's definitely NO Betty in my near ancestry."
"What did you find?"
"It's amazing how much other people out there know about my family," he sighed, flopping onto the sofa. "Kinda scary, really. Stuff I only know because I heard the adults in my family talk among themselves -- suddenly I'm seeing it in databases that have no connection at all to my family."
It was a concept I'd never thought about. "Really?" I said, lowering myself to the couch beside him.
"Anyway, dad's sister is Carole -- good old Aunt Carole, who gave us each a box of pencils every Christmas. Of course, there's my sister Amy. And dad and mom. Mom has a half-brother named Earl and a sister, Aunt Linnea. Earl's son is Dave but he's my half-cousin, not my uncle, so he doesn't count -- even if he'd been born smart enough to build something like the doll house." He slapped himself with a mock shocked look at the backhanded insult.
Continuing his cataloguing, "Linnea's kids are Tom and Shawna. My grandparents were Elwin and Margaret, and Samuel Jr. and Greta. My great-grandparents were ..." he paused, took a deep breath. and pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket, "... Timothy, Marie, Calvin, Sarah, Samuel, Evelyn, Dagmar, and Marlena."
"Interesting names," I commented. "Some scandiwhovian blood in there. And maybe a little presbyterian, too. Sounds like a real rogue's gallery."
"Yeah, right," he smiled, punching me lightly on the arm to acknowledge the joke. "And not a Betty in the bunch. We followed the side branches, too but didn't find anything there either. No point in anything deeper, he said we wouldn't find my uncle or aunt there anyway. Oh -- and I found out that I hate genealogy. Bo-o- o-oring"
That same night, I had a strange dream. Not that I've never had 'em before, but this one was distinctive.
My mother came blasting into my bedroom, slamming the door open, angry as hops. "I hope you get your pathetic life together," she shouted in the semi-dark, shaking her finger at me. "Aunt Betty and I didn't raise you to be this kind of girl. Now, you stop acting like a common whore and get out of his bed. If you love him, marry him, then have all the sex you crave when it's been properly legalized. As much as we want grandchildren, we DON'T want any little bastards."
Weird! And the weirdest part of it was -- while she was yelling at me -- I accepted the perfect naturalness of the whole confrontation. To my waking mind the next morning, she was really there, really angry, and really meant everything she said.
Never mind that she looked like the fat, frumpy, little fairy godmother from Cinderella and sounded sped-up like she was inhaling helium. Never mind that her words were truly bizarre, her attitude came through as genuine.
There were other impressions from the dream that I can't shake -- so real did my subconscious make them. First, though she was mommy all right, there was no daddy in our lives and never had been. Second, the Aunt Betty of whom she spoke was unambiguously her long-time life-partner and they were clearly happy as lesbians -- and I already knew it and accepted it. Third, I don't have an Aunt Betty but for the duration of the dream, the woman was real.
Then, mom spoke only 65 words. Since then, I've rehearsed her soliloquy over and over, and counted the words. At most, the harangue couldn't have lasted more than nine or 10 seconds. Yet afterwards, in my conscious state, pondering back to the dream, it seemed to have gone on for at least half an hour.
And finally, though I was aware -- throughout the dream -- that I was male, though my masculinity wasn't threatened by the dream, though I could vaguely feel my male body, I somehow accepted unconditionally her declaration that I was a girl and that I'd been shacked up with someone -- Dave maybe -- who was the yin to my yang. I woke up shamed by her disappointment in my somnolent extra-marital activities. It took me the better part of a busy day to shake off the dream and its emotional after-effects.
That weekend, Dave and I both drove downtown for some needed shopping. I had to get cash for lunch and parking, so I swung through the automatic teller machine before I rendezvoused with him and the girl he'd brought along. After pushing in my debit card, the screen lighted up as usual and greeted me by name, "Hello Barbara Taylor. What would you like to do?"
I pushed Cancel and grabbed my card as it was ejected. The name on it, embossed and plainly visible, was Ronald Taylor. So I pushed it back in and read the same greeting.
"Oh, well," I thought with a mental shrug. "There's been a malfunction." Okay, as long as I could get the $40 fast-cash disbursement, it didn't really matter. I could call the bank on Monday and let them know. Sure enough, two twenty-dollar bills peeked out as the screen advised me to "Remember to take your cash Barbara."
When it offered other options before terminating the session, I decided to see how much was in my account. I had to blink twice -- and rub my eyes -- when the printout showed a balance of $156,731.82.
Now I was sure there'd been a malfunction. I wondered whose account I was accidentally tapped into. I also wondered if that account, or my own, would be debited for the $40.
I almost told Dave and Sarah -- she was so chatty at lunch and made sure that we knew she was THE divine miss Sarah -- about the mixed at the ATM. But I held back, not wanting the chick to blab all over campus. After lunch, they went on to other shops that didn't particularly interest me, so I paid the garage fee and drove back to our apartment.
When I put the remainder of the cash back in my wallet, I stole another look at my ATM card. The hair on my neck stood up when I read the embossed name -- Barbara Taylor.
Quickly, I checked my drivers license and was relieved to see that it was still assigned to Ronald Paul Taylor. As I waited for Dave to get home, I debated telling him but decided it was too weird. Besides, I figured he'd only want to spend that outrageous sum of money on something -- like maybe buying a house so we could stop paying detestable apartment rents.
The Doll House Gets A Tenant
Glowing with self-satisfaction, Dave popped into the kitchen. Before I could say a word, he motioned me closer. "Look what we bought," he announced, dropping a paper bag on the table. "Go on, take a look."
I gingerly lifted the sack, half expecting a practical joke or a prank of some sort. Instead, it contained a Barbie doll in a half-cardboard half-plastic box. I slid out the shrink-wrapped box with a rush of memories.
The closest I've ever been to Barbie was in the toy store aisles, looking for birthday present for my step-dad's bratty daughters. I was an only child until mom remarried during my sophomore year in high school, so I must have led a sheltered life, if perhaps a little socially disconnected.
So I was fascinated by this Barbie. She was pretty, no doubt about it. The thing I noticed most was her neck, it was very long and she held her head proudly erect. Her lightly-curled hair was bright blonde and the look on her face was a little silly but so sweet she'd have attracted bees. She had a very narrow waist and big boobs.
Dave must have seen me sneak the look at her cleavage. "I read somewhere that if she was life size -- if she was real -- her measurements would be 39D-23-33. That's pretty incredible."
The doll was dressed in a short white skirt and a satiny white blouse with three oversized buttons, over which she wore a jacket in pale yellow and orange, with little pink triangles of accenting. Her shoes were plastic stilettos in the same pale yellow, perched precariously on her high-arched but dainty feet. Inside with her was a black leather shoulder purse with a matching ... checkbook, I guess ... and a ring of silver plastic keys.
Dave pulled out his box cutter and slit the protective plastic. Ripping aside the rest of the packaging, he extracted Barbie from her retail prison. "I decided the doll house needed an inhabitant -- someone to live in it and give it some love. Right, Ron?"
My head must have bobbed enough affirmation to please him, even though my tongue chose that moment to stopped working, so he took her around the corner into the living room. I followed quickly but he already had the hinged side open.
"There," said Dave, propping Barbie up on the bed. Thinking about it, he took her out again and removed her jacket. Pulling open the wardrobe door, he picked a hanger off the floor where it had fallen during shipment, and hung the jacket in the closet. There were other hangers fallen down but he made no move to pick them up.
Barbie rested, perhaps a little stiffly and not as comfortably as she might had she been real. One shoe was off, laying on its side on the bed. She kept the same silly grin, not that I expected it to change.
"Let's let her get some rest," Dave whispered as though she could really hear him. He gently closed the front of the house. I could see her through the bedroom window until he pulled my arm and led me away.
Barbie stayed in the same place for the next week. I caught Dave staring in at her but he made no move to reopen the house or to "play" with her. Personally, I had no emotional attachment to her, so I rarely gave her a second thought.
All The Amenities Of Home
Dave and I took a break from the mid-quarter intensity to watch "Captain Blood" on WTBS. We're both Errol Flynn fans and we got a kick out of the oh-so carefully-choreographed sword fights. Real, nah. Fun, yeah.
We cheered when the bad guys got it, and booed out-loud at that inevitable heavily-scripted moment when the battle seemed to be turning the wrong way. Fortunately, Flynn won through, as he always did, and the movie ended in its usual sappy way.
I woke up with a kink in my neck. The television was going full-on with some abysmal late-evening movie. The couch was uncomfortable, so I stood and stretched. Turning the tube off, I noticed an unusual bluish glow coming through the window.
I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I went to investigate. Towering over me was another television, much bigger than I'd ever seen before. It was playing the same movie and the dial read-out had the number for the Turner Broadcasting System cable channel. It was big-enough that its glow filled the living room around me with light.
That huge TV was aimed at something else equally huge, but the window wasn't in the right place to see much of it. I struggled to make it out. Finally, I leaned far enough that I could see ... a pair of hairy men's legs next to a slimmer, less-hairy pair of women's legs.
The man's knees were like skyscrapers above me, and they ended in tennis shoes the size of automobiles. Their size and proximity filled me with apprehension. My heart started to race when I thought about the manifestation.
I was ... in the doll house. Those were Dave's legs. And one of his girls. It had to be. Quickly, I turned the doll house TV back on as a distraction for the thoughts I didn't want to think. I debated pinching myself and finally decided I didn't want to know if it was dream or reality.
It happened again a couple nights later. I woke up with cotton on my tongue from sleeping on my back with my mouth open. I do that sometimes, especially when school has me stressed out. The only thing that helps is to get up and get a drink of water.
I wasn't particularly awake, just knew I needed a drink and had to go to the bathroom. Down the hall I padded quietly. The toilet seat was down so I lifted it up to pee. The flush handle was the wrong shape but as groggy as I was, I though it was my hand that was wrong. It flushed with a reassuring gurgle.
Back in the hall, I looked around. It was dark but there was enough glow from outside that I could dimly see where I was -- at the top of a staircase. This sure wasn't where I remembered going to sleep.
Still, my subconscious insisted that the drink of water I craved was down those stairs, so my feet carefully negotiated each carpeted riser. The kitchen linoleum was cold on my bare soles but the goal of my nocturnal quest was so close I kept going. In the cabinet nearest to the sink, I found a plastic tumbler. Spinning the faucet handle, I got a refreshing gush of cool water and filled the glass.
After quenching my thirst, I set the glass on the counter and went back upstairs. The only bed was the four-poster with its heavy wooden headboard -- I was still groggy and for some reason, it made sense to climb under the satin sheets and pull up the quilt.
In the morning, I was back in the real world. When I looked through the doll house's kitchen window, there was a Barbie-sized plastic tumbler sitting discarded on the counter next to the sink. The doll was upstairs, sitting awkwardly on the four-post bed.
I unlatched the front and reached into the bathroom. The toilet was one-piece molded plastic and didn't flush. The seat was up. The faucet in the kitchen had handles that spun around but no water came out.
As I prepared for the day, I decided the whole night's episode was a dream, nothing more, and let it go. I never told Dave about it, especially after what he had to say when he woke up.
"I had the strangest dream last night," he said, standing in the bathroom door with a faraway look in his eyes. "It was about you ... well, not exactly you ... but then, not exactly not not, either ..."
I finished shaving and turned to see why he hesitated. "Go on," I urged.
" ... you didn't have any clothes on. Well, you had on your bathrobe, the short blue one. Your back was toward me until I walked into the kitchen."
I put my face under the warm tap and rinsed off the excess shaving cream. "Did I do anything -- in the dream?"
"Yes," he said, handing me a towel. "You opened the robe and flashed me with a pair of huge tits. And then you said, 'Don't you like my boxers?' That's pretty strange, isn't it? You had great big hooters and you asked, 'Don't you like my boxers?'" he repeated.
I smiled. "Let me get this straight. You dreamed I was nearly-naked -- with enormous breasts. And I asked you how you liked my boxers. Brother, I'd say you had a nightmare. You weren't drunk, were you?"
"I don't do ... " he said, repressing a shudder. "... alcohol or drugs on school nights. Which last night was." And we left it at that.
I was an only child until my 15th birthday. My father was a state trooper, killed in a high speed chase when I was eleven. Four years later, Mom finally found a man she liked as well as dad, and he had twin 12-year-old daughters. When the grown-ups got married, it was instant family.
Those two were a handful. They were incorrigible -- and they didn't like me. As torment, they would steal my underwear and hang it outside the house. I tried to complain but there wasn't much sympathy from a woman clearly in love and from a man oblivious to his progeny.
So, I locked the upstairs bathroom one afternoon. The twins were home sick and since mom was forcing fluids into them to counteract the effects of flu, they needed to relieve themselves quite often. Maybe mom was subconsciously rooting for me ... she never got involved, and my step-dad was traveling on business, so he couldn't do anything.
The girls wet themselves several times that afternoon and evening. Finally, they ran out of underwear. I offered to let them wear mine and, of necessity, they accepted. Their lamentations were of Biblical proportions, but after that, whenever they started teasing me, I merely reminded them -- within earshot of their young friends -- that they wet their underwear and wore boys' briefs.
They left a sour taste in my mouth for young women. Besides the constant yakking about nothing and everything, they left their makeup and dainties all over. They bitched whenever they didn't get their way, and they were pushy. All they had to do was look pretty, and the righteous sword of parental retribution passed right over them -- and usually landed on me. Needless to say, I moved into the dorm as soon as I could, to get away.
Unfortunately, I'd already developed something of a misogynistic, woman-hating attitude. College isn't the place to practice misguided chauvinism, the women all seem to have chips on their shoulders. Liberated, free-thinking dorm girls are bad enough, but sorority girls really know how to humiliate guys like me.
So, by the time Dave and I hooked up, I was discouraged about dating. I didn't know how to approach woman for dates, and I was uncomfortable with the small talk. All too often, they only wanted to chatter on about themselves and their female activities. They reminded me of my step-sisters. I felt I had better things to do with my life, and soon I was known as a recluse -- and worse, a nerd.
Dave was my rescuer. He was assigned to my room mid-way through our first quarter, when my original roommate was in an accident and dropped out of school. Within weeks, Dave and I were solid friends. He got me involved in intramurals and forced me to participate in campus activities.
When we moved out of the dorm at the end of our freshman year, Dave and I bought matching futons. It made sense, we rented a one-bedroom apartment -- and spent most of our time in the living room.
As we progressed through school, and with the intent of keeping our friendship untainted by proximity arguments, we changed to a two-bedroom apartment. He sold his futon to one of his former girlfriends and bought a double-width box-spring-and-mattress combination.
I kept my futon. It stayed on the floor of my room, folded over when I wasn't laying on it. I figured there wasn't any point in spending money I didn't have to for creature comforts. My mother converted a fitted twin-size sheet to fit it, so I didn't have to sleep in a sleeping bag.
Break Down, Go Ahead And Cry
About a week after the doll house arrived, I had a late evening study session for my sociology class, with a group preparing for the final presentation. Dave was on a date, so I walked home alone sipping a milkshake from the student lounge.
As usual, he'd left the living room lamp on low so I wouldn't have to fumble in the dark. The light glowed faintly through the silhouetted windows of the doll house. In my shadowy bedroom, I had an uneasy sense that something had changed -- something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it ...
... until I flipped the light switch. There, where my trusty futon should have been neatly folded, was a four-post bed with a heavy wooden headboard and a thick mattress. I turned off the light again, and flipped it on a second time.
The four-post bed, with its pink satin sheets, was still there. Bewildered, I walked back to the living room and flopped onto the sofa. That's where Dave found me when he got home. "You gotta see what's in my room," I muttered, shooing him along.
In a moment, he was back. "Un-fucking believable. Where's the futon?"
I shrugged. "Don't know. Haven't felt like looking. That's the way I found it when I got home."
"Y'know, it almost looks like Barbie's bed," he said. I sat up as he unlatched the doll house. With a low whistle, he motioned me over. "You gotta see THIS!"
There was Barbie, sitting in the bedroom, atop a miniature of MY futon. I slid the doll off and picked the futon up. Sure enough, it was wrapped in a fitted cotton sheet the same patterned blue-and-white as the one mom converted for me. The stitching was hand-sewn and the gathers for the elastic were mom's unmistakable handwork.
Dave caught the little futon as it slipped from my fingers, placing it back in the doll house. He propped the Barbie up on it and I heard him latch the front back together.
I wandered dazed into my bedroom and sat on the thick mattress. Running my hand over the slick coolness of the satin sheet, I started to sob quietly. I don't know why it upset me, but the transposition was too much and it overwhelmed me. Tears splashed on my hands and down the front of my T-shirt.
With compassion and tenderness, Dave laid his hand on my shoulder. "Let it out, buddy," he urged. "It's all right. Weird shit has been happening and you have a right to be disturbed." I nodded through the tears, and felt a tissue thrust into my fingers.
Wiping my eyes, I looked up at him. He smiled and looked away, picking up a corner of the quilt at the foot of the bed. "Nice stuff," he said. "Fine quality. You'll sleep warm under this."
Seen In A Very Different Light
The nice thing about Dave, what I appreciated most about him, was his agreeable nature and willingness to "go away" when his plans didn't mesh with mine. He was never insistent.
But when I was interested, he was always right there. We played tennis three times a week, and when there were no girls in his life and my homework was done, you'd find us down at the campus gym shooting basketballs.
We both love baseball and watched as much as we could. I bought us tickets to a San Diego Padres game, which Dave told me "was above and beyond the call of duty, buddy." He called me his hero for my dedication to studying. And, apart from the occasional issue of The Girls -- too much of a good thing, I suppose -- nothing else could come between us.
Of those romances in Dave's life, I was never really interested. They came, they went. He joked a lot about The Girls, especially over pitchers of beer. There were some crazy ones, intent on getting their MRS degree and fortunately those didn't last long. There were some that genuinely cared about Dave, even when he was at his shallowest and behaved rudely. Those girls scared him. There were some that saw "roommate" and wanted Dave to run away with them the opposite direction; there were others who would gladly have taken on the entire U.S. Army, with Dave ... and perhaps me, too ... on top.
One of the things my sociology professor kept stressing was to look at things in a different light. I know he didn't mean to practice using a four-foot-tall, 80-pound doll house, but I kept thinking there had to be a new way to appreciate what it was.
Dave was obviously enamored with it, and so were his girlfriends. After the chatty Sarah passed out of his life, he brought Malina home. She promptly rearranged our living rooms, the big one and the miniature one. It was actually good, because she found a way to position the doll house nearer the wall, so we didn't bang into it as much.
Then came Petra, who tried to talk Dave into letting her keep the doll house at HER apartment. As little interested in it as I was, still I was glad when he gave Petra her walking papers.
We had an agreement. After he introduced me to his latest girl, I picked up my books and went to my bedroom. Or I took a long walk. Or went down to play pinball at the student lounge. Dave needed the freedom to ... well, explore the unfolding relationship.
I tried to dissuade him from infringing on my space. "After all," I reminded him. "I pay half the rent and utilities."
"You're just jealous," he said. "You can't stand it that the girls shuck their slacks so easily. You can't take it that I get better grades than you for half the effort. You ... you wish the doll house was yours."
"Do so," he said. "Why else would you spend so much time looking in the windows?"
"Do not. Do not. Do not," he mimicked. "Polly wants a cracker. And yes, every time you walk into this room, you circle the doll house. I guess your autopilot is driving the trajectory."
I straddled a chair and pondered his revelation. "I was not aware these indiscretions so annoyed you, your majesty. As you wish, your lordship, I will cease the activities which cause you irritation."
"You ... aw, forget it." He started to laugh at the comic look I was trying to portray. "Okay, very funny."
"Do I really spend so much time near the doll house?"
He smiled. "Well, not a lot of time. But enough. And with regularity."
"Still," I returned to the main discussion. "Why do I always have to leave? Why can't you make first contact at the girl's place?"
"Have you ever known a guy who is actually invited into the girl's quarters on the first date? It doesn't work that way -- the rules say the boy scores only when they start at his place."
"Those are the rules?" I mocked. "Boy, am I out of the loop on this."
"Come on, Ron, it's not like I do this every night."
"Yeah," I shrugged. "That's certainly a blessing. What happens when I bring home a girl the first time? Do you promise to leave for me?"
"No way, Jose. I'm gonna hang around just to see if you really do get into the chick's panties." He winked at me. "Those are the other rules."
"I'm trying to understand ..."
"That's your mistake. There's nothing to understand," he explained. "I have the upper hand, not because I want it, or even take it, but because the opportunity presents itself and things just ... happen. With the girls. And with you."
"So I don't HAVE to leave if I don't want to. I could sit right here and watch you and the girls steam up the windows."
Dave frowned for a moment. "No. You have no control over the situation. Whatever happens will always happen ... whether you protest or cooperate. When the right moment comes along, you'll leave."
"Those are the rules?"
"I guess so."
Knowing "the rules" didn't help. I'm not sure it didn't make my life even more miserable. Dave continued to enjoy his romantic successes, and I continued to play the part of the gracious but emotionally-crushed loser.
Dave never did anything intentionally to hurt people but he did a lot of things out of an inability to sense that they might be hurt. "I have to confess, old man," he said one evening between TV movies. "I've been with Barbie a lot lately. She's really a lot of fun. Has a great sense of humor."
"Barbie? Like in ... Barbie?" I waved toward the doll house.
Dave nodded affirmatively with that endearing sheepish grin on his face, but I was still confused. "Like THE Barbie doll? You're dating a doll?" I started to laugh.
He nodded again, cutting me short. "She's not a doll when we're together, she's full-sized -- about five-foot-seven or so, I guess. She's the best date I've ever had. Really a fun girl to be around, interested in people, like you ... and the same sense of humor as you have. She's so much warmer than the rest of The Girls."
"So ... you're dating a doll," I repeated. I realized that I was stunned by his revelation.
Dave looked at me with pity. "Sorry, Ron, old friend. I know your ... love life ain't as great as mine. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but ... Barbie's been to the movies a couple times with me. We've had dinner together. And we've slept together every night since I brought her home."
"Geez, really? You sleep with her? With the doll?" That concept was totally foreign to me.
"No shit, buddy."
"But ... where?"
He hesitated. Finally he admitted "On my bed. On the futon in the doll house. And ... in your big bed -- she loves the satin sheets, loves the canopy. She told me she doesn't resent that you got the bed, says you're too sweet to be mad at."
I rubbed my eyes. "Really ... How is she ... in bed?" Even as I asked it, I kicked myself mentally. It was none of my business. "I'm sorry," I whispered ashamed.
Ever the gracious roommate, Dave was honest. "She's warm, a flesh-and-blood woman with a fantastic libido. Best lay of my life. Nothing plastic about her -- I think there's some kind of magic going on here. God, I know this sounds weird ... she loves me. I think ..."
I waited until the suspense was too much. "Go on ... you think ...?"
"I think ... if she was a real woman, around the clock, I'd ask Barbie to marry me."
Who Am I Anyway?
I wasn't trying to see things in a different light one afternoon, when the rest of the world decided that's exactly what I should be doing. Looking back, it was the lowest ebb of my time in college, a triple low of my biorhythms.
I checked my reflection in the polished granite panels outside the student lounge. It was me, Ronnie, all male, slightly scruffy, a day away from being clean-shaven.
Yet everyone I met reacted as though I was a gorgeous girl. And they gave no indication that I was acting as anything else but female. "Hey, Barbie," waved a girl that Dave had dated from one of the dorms. We'd worked together in chem lab a couple quarters ago.
Yeah, Barbie. No matter what I did, the image they got was that I was demure and petite, and fit some sort of feminine pattern they wanted to see.
And worse, the stupid purse was back under my arm. I'd taken out the ID and cash, and ditched it in a garbage can. But here it was again, a black leather bag with a zippered top and a strap over my shoulder.
When I decided to check myself out in a mirror, I aimed for the men's room in the student union building. It was fortunate there were no others nearby, because -- no matter how I tried to force my feet to the men's room -- I ended up in the lady's room, totally embarrassed. I don't even know how it happened. Since I did have to pee, I went into a stall, and was glad of it when several others came noisily in. I waited for them to leave, then beat a hasty exit myself.
Earlier, at the student union's all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, the cashier had been suspicious when she handed me my change. "Quite a hefty lunch," she'd winked."You're not taking that to your ... boyfriend?"
"N-no, ma'am, I'm really hungry," I'd stammered.
I picked a place way back in the darkest alcove of the cafeteria and dug through the purse. There was a compact, as expected. There was a coin purse containing a silver slipper taken from a Monopoly game and a handful of change, mostly quarters. There was a mirror and a long-handled comb, what they call a rat-tail, with long blond hair clinging to it. A pair of brightly-colored athletic-shoe laces, a half-empty personal packet of facial tissues, and ... a three-pack of condoms. A silver chain with a broken clasp, from which was hung a locket with a photo of parents I didn't recognize. A billfold -- in it was $32 in ones and fives, Barbara Taylor's debit card, and a drivers license, also for Barbara Taylor.
Ditching the purse in a two-quarter locker, I jogged over to the administrative complex, stopping at the dean's office. "I'd like to know ... I have to do a class assignment about others with my last name attending this college," I explained. "Taylor, with a y."
The student clerk thumbed through the enrollment lists and came up with three Taylors, Anthony, Barbara, and Magda. "Isn't there a Ron? Maybe he goes by Ronald? Or Ronnie? A friend dated him. He swore he was a student." She searched again and shook her head no.
So officially I was not attending. But the non-existent Barbie was! That was even creepier. I suddenly felt like crying.
I was still distraught when I got back to the apartment. "Who am I?" I demanded, grabbing Dave by the shoulders. "Tell me right now who I am."
"You're Ronnie," he answered, so promptly that I knew he hadn't had to think about the answer. At least Dave saw me as I really was.
The tears suddenly flooded out -- sobbing I sank to the floor as he hunkered down trying to console me. After the first outburst, I explained my feeling of being perceived by others as a woman. "I see myself in the mirror as Ronnie," I said. "Yet people smile and wave and call me Barb."
I tried to stand up but my legs were still weak. He held my hand as I continued. "And when I asked if Ronnie was enrolled, the registrar's staff said no. There's a guy named Tony and someone named Magda ... "
"... I know her," he whispered matter-of-factly. "Quite a bookworm ..."
"... And Barbara. And that's it. No Ronald, no Ronnie, no Ron, no me anymore. If I want to stay in school here, I'll have to do it as Barbie."
I realized I still had the purse. "And this damned thing. It's a freaking woman's purse. I already threw it away once this afternoon. I dumped it in a locker but here it is again. Why am I stuck with this?" Angrily I pitched it away from me.
Picking it up, he laid the purse on the roof of the doll house. Helping me to my feet, he led me wordlessly into the bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed, noticed the pink drapings above my head, and burst into tears again, wondering why I was being so emotional all of a sudden. And with that, exhaustion set in. Before he was completely out of the room, I crashed backwards into the soft cool oblivion of the comforting sheets.
What-Ifs And If-Onlies
Later that afternoon -- the sun was setting -- I wandered out of my room groggy from the long nap. Dave was on the couch, slurping a bowl of tomato soup. "Hi," he smiled. "There's more on the stove. Thought you might be hungry when you woke up."
"Thanks," I returned weakly. "I guess a bite to eat might be a good idea."
"Yeah, but a light bite," he said. "The courts are lit tonight and we should go play a couple sets. I don't want to overeat and then go exercise."
I shook my head. It hurt a lot. "Not tonight, Dave. I don't really feel good. I'm tired -- run-down, I guess."
"S'matter, pal? Head hurt?"
"Well ... yeah, as a matter of fact."
He launched himself from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen. I heard sounds that seemed like: a pill bottle being shaken, a bowl of soup poured, and a glass of water drawn. He reappeared with a tray holding the bowl and spoon and the cup. Handing it to me, he returned to his seat. "Oh, here," he said, holding out his hand. In it were three aspirins.
Gratefully, I took the tablets and swallowed them with a swig of water. He watched as I sipped the soup -- it was almost cold, but tasted better than I expected. In minutes, it was gone. My stomach made a grateful grumbling noise.
"Doh!" he said. "I should've gotten you some crackers, too."
"It's okay," I waved his offer away. "It's fine this way. I didn't know I was hungry." I leaned back into the couch and closed my eyes. In my self-imposed darkness, I could hear him squirm. I let the silence build.
Finally, he spoke. "I sure wish I had a girlfriend like you."
I sat bolt upright and spun on him. "What? Dave ...?You're not turning into a ... into a queer?"
"C'mon, Ron. Relax!" he waved his hands in a soothing motion. "You know me better than that. I'm not even bi. It's the ladies for me and none other."
"But, you just said ..."
"Yeah. I said 'I sure wish I had a girlfriend like you.' Think about it, buddy. I'm looking for someone who will be my friend. I don't need just a bed partner. I need someone who's interested in ME, as a person. That's why Petra's doesn't come over anymore. And Sarah. And Malina. And Jessica, and Gretchen, Samantha, Nonnie, and ... and ... you know ... all the others. All they see is a witty eligible bachelor to be conquered."
"You sure spend enough time letting them conquering you." I replied. He playfully whomped me with a pillow.
"Yeah, yeah. And no one ever sees me for the humble, intelligent, take-charge kind of guy I am."
" ... sophisticated ..."
"Yeah," he agreed.
" ... suave ..."
"Yeah." He was grinning now.
"... soft-spoken ..."
"... self-centered , condescending, ostentatious ..." I added. And he whomped me again. "... egotistical ..."
With a mock hurt look on his face, he said, "I suppose those things, too. But ... but that's just the point. You see those things, and yet you stay here. If my character traits are that bad, why haven't you packed up and left?"
I frowned. My headache had started to fade but now it was back. "Because ..." I hesitated, trying to figure it out for myself. "Because you have some great qualities. You're honest. You're dedicated -- you've never, ever let me down. You're clean. You pull your own weight ... most of the time ... except when it comes to homework ..." I whomped him back with the other pillow.
"See," he said. "No one knows me as well as you. None of The Girls has ever tried to figure me out, really know who I am ... inside, where it counts. You and I could swap skins and it wouldn't matter. We could trade places if it was needed -- I know you'd pinch-hit for me anytime I fell."
"Yes," I agreed. "I've often felt the same about you."
"So, there you have it," he said. "You basically just admitted you like me ... as I am ... not as an major oil-spill to be cleaned up. Now, if only you were a girl. Where's the genie in the lamp when you need one?"
I shuddered. What an outrageous thing to wish for. I wasn't cut out to be a girl, those asinine step-sisters had spoiled my taste for things feminine, and I didn't relish any part of being a woman. Not monthly periods, not moisture-proof padding in the undergarments, not smeary make-up, not the interminably long process of washing and setting their hair. Not the bitchy behavior. "It's never going to happen," I snapped, perhaps a little too vehemently.
He let his gaze drop to the floor, then I watched as his eyes rose to the dollhouse. "You're right," he smiled weakly. "Idle speculation. Didn't mean to distress you -- I was only thinking about what would make the most sense for me."
There it was again, that damned ego of Dave's. No matter how hard he tried to overcome it, it was always just beneath the surface, waiting for an opportunity. Yet, as he pointed out, it didn't matter. What I felt for him was the closest thing I could imagine to ... well ... love. I quickly covered my mental tracks -- it wasn't love, it was male bonding. We were like athletes, bound by a common focus -- bound by "the rules."
I set the tray with the empty bowl beside the couch. "Maybe you're right," I lied. "I ... feel better. Maybe what I need is a fast game of tennis to unwind. How about you?"
"Oops, sorry, old man." He looked at his watch and smiled sheepishly. "Got a date coming to pick me up. Wouldn't do to stand her up, would it? Especially since you're not in the eligible dating pool."
I opened my mouth to say something but shut it again. Seemed to me that he'd proposed the tennis match first, at the start of the conversation, and I'd been the one who declined. But then, maybe it was just the headache making my thoughts irrational. I closed my eyes and laid my aching head back. I don't remember the lights going out.
Things That Go Bump In The Night
I woke abruptly, frightened out of my wits. Dave was laying on top of me, thrusting up and down. With every muscle in my body involuntarily tensed, I scrambled away as fast as possible, but he followed as fast, screaming "Ow! Stop, stop! Ow, you're hurting me!" When my back got close to the headboard, he grabbed my shoulders and slammed me hard against it, shouting, "relax, girl. Dammit, let loose!"
I went completely limp. Dave let go his clenched breath -- and I realized what the problem was. His ... male member ... was between my legs and I'd clamped down on it as I scrambled away, inadvertently trying to castrate him. "Uh, sorry," I whispered. "You startled me." I unclenched and he backed away from me.
"Startled you?" he bellowed. "I make love to you ... at your consent ... and you say I startled you?" He held the poor thing gingerly in his hand.
It was my turn for anger. "Hey. I was sound asleep," I barked, "and I woke up to find you ... jumping on my belly. What the hell? You've never shown any sexual interest in me before. When did you turn into a queer?"
"Whoa, hold on hoss. I think I know what's going on." He gave a weak smile. "Wh-who are you?"
"Who am I? I'm Ronnie. Who do you think I am?"
"Ah-hah -- mystery solved. I was ... well, making love to Barbie, not Ronnie," he sighed. "Just like I've been doing every night. Girl's great in bed, y'know. All of a sudden, she's gone -- and you're here instead, trying to yank my wank off in your pussy."
"My PUSSY! What'ya take me for, a homo?"
He looked down at me, kneeling on the rumpled blankets with his legs still wrapped around mine. "Not according to what I see. You're no more homo than Jacqueline Kennedy. And a lot better looking, too."
"Look, Ronnie, what's this feel like to you?" He grabbed my hand and laid it on my chest ... on my ... I took a deep gulp of air ... on my breast. I could feel the heavy mound of flesh. A good-sized nipple plunged between my fingers -- and promptly stiffened.
I started to answer and then stopped. No words would come. I felt my breasts, touched the sensitive nipples, traced the delicate line of my stomach to the pubic thatch surrounding a pair of labial lips. It was ... quite pleasant and I guess my shallow panting was a little suggestive.
"Who are you now?" he asked. "Are you back, milady?"
"Still Ronnie," I whispered.
"Oh." He rolled off my legs and sat on the edge of the bed. "Damn."
"How did I get this way? I'm supposed to be a guy." A tear trickled down my cheek.
Brushing the tear aside with a finger, Dave said, "I'm not sure what's going on but I'm sorry I scared you so. I guess this took us both by surprise."
"How do I get myself back? B-back together, I mean? As myself?" I cringed, I sounded stupid, not quite connecting the thoughts in my head with what I was saying. I tugged the sheet around me and shivered.
Dave frowned. "I suppose we could try again ... to ... you know?"
"To ... jeez, Ronnie, this is hard ... awkward. I mean, you're a guy and all -- were a guy ..."
"I don't understand."
"Well, I was making love to Barbie when Ronnie woke up. Maybe ... if I, ummm, maybe making ... you know, love ... to Ronnie -- would wake Barbie back up. And Ronnie would be back asleep and you'd wake up refreshed tomorrow, just like every morning." He shrugged self-consciously. "But I know you don't want to do that ..."
"Do what? Make love to you?"
"As Ronnie, the guy. Only in a girl's body."
I thought for a minute. My life was making no sense, between the weird dreams and odd episodes, the doll house and the bed, the TV and the water faucet, the purse and the registrar, and now this. Maybe, in a distorted way, maybe this might make more sense. I felt something stirring, deep and low, that I understood even less but that was becoming insistent.
"Dave," I whispered, "Who am I?"
"Ronnie," he said, with a bit of frustration.
"Mentally maybe," I agreed. "But certainly not physically." Both of my nipples were so stiff they ached, and there were other ... umm, interesting ... sensations farther down. I realized I was sweating -- and the room wasn't even hot. "This is Barbie's body, and she had ... an appetite, I guess ... for sex. Didn't she?"
He nodded assent.
"Then you SHOULD make love to Barbie ... Barbie's body, again ... please. She wants it, I assure you. Maybe I might enjoy it, going along for the ride. Yes, make love to me."
And it was a wild ride, better than any roller coaster I've ever ridden, better than anything I've ever done -- or had done to me -- in my life. Wherever Barbie went, she left behind everything that made her attractive to Dave, and it all contributed to a night of incredible sex. Dave was tender but, boy oh boy, did he ever know what would make me climax.
And then he lay beside me, arms wrapped around my chest, with his heart beating a racing tattoo against my flushed skin. His wetness pressed into my hip and I felt his juices dripping from the void between my thighs.
As he drifted to sleep, I wondered why I enjoyed it so much and where my inhibitions might have gone. I'd actually given my mother some slutty behavior to bitch about, if she ever found out, just like in the dream.
But ... but, I was a guy. Yeah, right. Was. That's the operative word. As Dave lightly snored with his arm around me, I reached out in my mind to feel the parts of my body -- my new body. I was surprised that it felt right to me. How could it? I'd grown up male, and yet ... yet, being female felt wonderful.
A Morning To Remember
As the early-morning sun peeked into the apartment, I slipped out of bed over the bottom edge, leaving him snoring gently among the crumpled covers. Pulling on my short bathrobe, I found a pair of boxers on the floor. They fit, barely, around my hips. I knew what I wanted to do, and had to start while he was still asleep.
The timing was close. "Hi," he said, standing in the kitchen doorway. "That smells delicious."
"You made me feel great last night," I smiled. "Maybe that's making me a little domestic this morning." I flipped the pancakes over. "Sit down, it's nearly ready." And I served him the bacon and eggs waiting in the warming oven. Then I poured his coffee and piled a plate with pancakes in front of him.
"This is the best." he complimented. "You come have some, too."
I declined with a shake of my head that flounced blonde hair into my peripheral vision. Leaning back on the counter, I watched him enthusiastically mop up the whole meal. Inside, I had a warm feeling of satisfaction -- probably the first time in my life I was really aware of it.
Wiping the last bit away, he smiled up "Thanks. That's the first time you've ever cooked just for me."
"I know. Maybe it's the Barbie in me that's changed." I slid his plate away and put it in the sink. "Maybe I like ... being your girl."
"Do you want to be my girl?"
"Does it matter what I want? It seems I'm not in control anymore."
"Yeah," he nodded. "That's how it seems. So, who are you this morning?"
"Ronnie?" I shook my head so my long blonde curls flipped into view again.
"But you look like Barbie -- except you aren't dressed right. We've got to find you something that looks better on you."
"Better than this?" And I opened the robe, flashing him with my breasts. "Don't you like my boxers?"
I could see astonishment in his eyes. "God, that was just like in the dream. That's exactly what you said in the dream."
I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He grabbed my face with both hands and pulled my lips to his. The next thing I remember is sitting in his lap locked in a full-on tongue-trading kissing session, breasts pressed into his chest as far as I could thrust them.
We both sighed deeply when lack of oxygen forced us to break the embrace. The crotch of my boxers was damp. "I ... I need to change," I murmured, pushing myself off his lap.
Dave stood and gave me a bear hug. "You sure seem to be taking this well."
"Not sure what else I'm supposed to do," I replied, as we walked out of the kitchen. "I don't seem to have a lot of alternatives," I smiled hesitantly.
"Once you get dressed, you'll feel a lot better," he advised. "You'll see what a knockout you really are."
"I don't have any girl clothes."
"Oh, yes, you do!" he replied. "I've been buying two or three great outfits a week, lots of them, everything Barbie told me she wanted. Here, take a look." He stopped at the doll house and swung the front away. Reaching in, he opened the tiny wardrobe.
I looked inside. "It's empty."
"It is?" A look of panic crossed his face as he peered inside. "She hung them right here." He pulled a dresser drawer open. It, too, was empty. "Sheee-it. Where did they all go?" He winced.
"Never mind," I said, patting his hand. "They wouldn't fit anyway. There's got to be something in the bedroom. Sweat pants, a T-shirt, something, I don't know what all."
And in the bedroom, we got an even bigger shock. There in MY closet were dresses and skirts and blouses. My guy clothing was all gone. "This is exactly the stuff I've been buying for Barbie," Dave whispered. "Exactly. Only big enough to fit you now."
I let him select the outfit. Dave picked a soft, slightly fuzzy, sweater-kind of pullover with sleeves that came just below my elbows. It was medium gray at the top near the round-necked opening and it faded to white at the bottom, with a narrow strip of light blue at breast level. It wasn't particularly tight, but I felt it hugged me in all the curvy places.
He handed me a pair of shorts. "Ought show off that pretty ass," he smiled. The thought of looking great for him was a warming alertness in my gut, as though my new body had opinions of its own.
Dave watched with an increasingly puzzled look as I dressed. Finally, he asked, "Who are you?"
I smiled. "You already know that -- I'm Ronnie."
"No, you're not," he shook his head. "Ronnie was a guy. He's gone." I must have looked startled because he added quickly, "What do you have on?"
"A chenille pullover and shorts."
"Lift up the pullover," he ordered. I pulled it up, exposing my bra. "Touch your breasts," he commanded. "What do you feel."
"Just my bra," I said, enjoying my hand on my firm breast.
"Exactly!" He grinned. "It's a BRA! There's no way in heaven or hell that my roommate, MISTER Ronald Paul Taylor, could have put on that bra as effortlessly as you just did. You didn't even notice yourself putting it on, it was so natural. Ronnie would have struggled -- and protested."
"Umm ..." I shut my mouth as I realized he was right. I hadn't given it any thought at all. "So ..."
"So ... you're not Ronnie anymore."
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Putting his arm around my shoulder, he pulled me into a hug. My breasts pressed into his chest again, an interesting sensation I might want more of. I wrapped my hands around the curves of his firm buttocks, wondering why I'd never noticed them before. He smelled ... mannish, masculine ... dreamy, and I'd never noticed that either. I maneuvered my head so we locked lips for another kiss that lasted years.
Later -- after I got dressed for the second time -- we went together into the living room. We both noticed immediately it seemed larger ... emptier. We looked around, and laughed nervously when we realized the doll house was missing.
"Damn," he frowned. "I was beginning to enjoy having it around. I liked using it as a chick magnet."
"Well, maybe now that your living doll fantasy has been achieved, you don't need it anymore. Maybe it's more magic than magnet."
"You're the philosopher," he smiled.
I picked up my purse, which had fallen to the floor. The driver's license fell out, so I scooped it up and it caught my eye. I gave a tiny shriek. "D-Dave, look. The name and address have changed."
He came to my side and together we read the details. According to this new license, I was Barbara Taylor Preston -- Dave's last name, my old last name as a middle name. The picture was me ... well, the new me ... Barbie, the blonde bimbo doll, kind of a stupid look on my face. The address was listed as 19513 Easterbrook Road.
"I know where Easterbrook Road is," he said. "It's the other side of the old rock quarry -- you know, the place where we went swimming with Winston and his friends."
"Oh, right. Out past the Swanson barn." We'd gone to a dance there with a couple of sorority girls and hadn't had a very good time.
"Let's go see what the place looks like," he said, giving my elbow a jiggle to start me moving. As I walked toward the door, he handed me a yellow-and-orange jacket, with hot pink triangles at the accent points -- the same jacket Barbie has worn when Dave first brought her home in the shrink-wrapped box.
The address turned out to be about seven miles from town. The main road was a quite busy four-lane affair with the silly name of Farm-to-Market Road. We met a few trucks on the drive out, mostly carrying ... farm products. Easterbrook Road tee'd from it at about 17800, so by the time we reached 19513, we could barely hear the trucks.
The house was an absolute ringer for the doll house, except for the color scheme. The doll house had been a pleasant light blue with white trim, this was slate gray with dark blue trim. "We can change it," Dave said, when he saw me chew on my lip. "It's only paint."
The driveway was paved only about 100 feet into the property, then it switched to tightly-packed gravel for the remaining two-thirds. There was a detached two-car garage, and a concrete sidewalk up to the three-sided porch. Someone had done a very nice job of maintaining the place.
On the edge of the lot, a real estate sign swung its "For Sale" shingle in the gentle spring breeze. Dave parked beside it. The porch railing, from where I stood by the car, looked like nicely-turned toothpicks.
We held hands as we approached the house. The front door was locked and there was a real estate box hung around the doorknob. We couldn't see anything through the window in the front door -- which was identical to the little octagonal one in the doll house except this one was real beveled glass.
Walking around the perimeter, we peered in the curtained windows as much as possible. The house was empty but the rooms were exactly as we remembered. There was the well-equipped kitchen, there was the stairway to the bedroom upstairs, there was the parlor where I'd awakened after falling asleep watching "Captain Blood." The flowered wallpaper, the carpet, the interior trim -- all just like the doll house.
When we got to the little two-step deck by the mud-room door, we turned around. As far as we could see, there were no fences, only a rise of pasture that hid more property. In the breeze, the grass swayed in waves across the unmowed field. A flock of small birds swooped and fluttered, stripping grain-heads from the tops of the weeds.
The gravel of the drive crunched as we walked back to the car. We were exhilarated. Here was the perfect spot for ... for, well, happily ever-aftering, as King Arthur sang in "Camelot." Silent, we sat with the car doors wide open, listening to the breeze, and the faint, faraway hum of tires on Farm-to-Market Road, and the creak of the real estate sign.
Dave used his cell phone to call the number on the sign. He chatted with someone for a moment, then asked "how much?"
"$253,000," he echoed disappointedly, hanging up. "For the house and ten acres. It has two more bedrooms, and a den. With a fireplace."
"Oh," I said, with maybe a touch of regret in my voice, too. "Well, it sure looks like a nice place. Kinda pretty. Probably worth the money. No wonder it seems bigger than the doll house."
He brightened. "There's a creek with a wide spot just down that slope -- perfect for a little ice-skating pond in the winter. She thinks it'll be a great place to raise children." He patted my belly and I felt a flood of warmth where his gentle hand touched me.
I scuffed my foot on the floorboard of the car for a moment. "Dave, I have ... there was $156,000 in Barbie's checking account last Saturday. We could use that for a down payment. That would lower our monthly bill to a reasonable level."
"Really? Wow, that's ... I don't know what to think. This is happening so fast. What would we live on?"
I smiled at him. "I could drop out of school and work until you get your degree."
"You would do that? Oh, man, I love you, Barbie," he said. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," I agreed instantly. "Yes. But, I really don't want my name to be Barbie. If we're going to live in a doll house, I don't care to be a Barbie doll the rest of my life."
"Well, what would you rather be called?" he wondered.
I stared at the driver's license with my mind racing. "Barbara Taylor Preston," I read from it. Muttering, I experimented with name similarities. "Barbie Taylor. Barb. Bart, Bartie ... BT ... Betty ..."
We spun in our seats, open mouthed, to stare at each other. In astonishment, we locked eyes for the longest time. Slowly I turned the drivers' license around to show him ... it said Betty Taylor Preston.
We looked at the house, the big grown-up doll house we wanted so much it made us ache. "Uncle Dave," he broke the silence, lightly touching his chest -- "and Aunt Betty." Leaning over, he kissed me.
"There's a blanket in the trunk," he whispered in the sexiest voice. "What'ya say Betty and Dave mosey over that rise and see what we can stir up by the little pond we just bought to go along with our new house."
© 1998-2002, Trainmaster, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
© 2002 by Trainmaster. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.