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Growing Pains by: Traci Klawes © 2001
Tommy watched the hypnotic blur of the fenceposts whizzing toward the rear of the bus. The regular motion soothed his nerves. After the last few days, clutching the small bag on his lap was his only link to any kind of security. The fenceposts ended abruptly, and he glanced around the bus. He shifted his weight as he looked at the now-familiar passengers. Most, like he, were staring out the windows in boredom, watching scenery that changed almost as little as that inside the bus. A few were reading, making him wish hed had a book in his frayed knapsack. Unfortunately, there wasnt one in the meager pile of possessions hed managed to hang on to. He clutched the bag tighter as he ran the events of the previous week through his head.
The police had been waiting for him as he arrived home from school. Apparently, someone in "the system" had gotten wind of his family troubles. The trouble was, he had no family. After his mother had died three months before, he had been living on his own. His mother had been ill for some time, so cooking his own meals and doing his own laundry wasnt a problem. Hed been doing most of it already. If he had been five years older, he could have gone on the way he was, but thirteen year olds are generally not considered mature enough to manage their own affairs. He tried to explain to them that he was perfectly capable of going to junior high and feeding himself. Although he was small for his age, caring for a cancer-ridden mother had forced him to grow up early. He even showed them his bank statement, with most of the life insurance settlement still in it. If he had been careful, he could have made it stretch until he was old enough to get a job. The caseworker had been adamant. Living alone was no life for a thirteen-year-old boy. They had located a relative, who had agreed to take him on. If he packed enough clothes for a few days, they would ship him the rest of his belongings. They handed him a bus ticket, and took him to the station. Rita Hollingsworth would meet him at his destination. She was his mothers second cousin, and his only living relative. He would take the bus across two states to the small town where she lived.
Since hed been riding the bus forever, he figured he must be nearly there. He stretched, making a valiant effort to get blood moving in at least one part of his body. Failing that, he decided he might as well go to sleep, since most of him was already. He tossed fitfully for at least an hour before the driver called out his stop. He stumbled blearily to his feet, grabbing for his bag. It wasnt next to him, so he must have dropped it on the floor. He reached under the seat, and drew his hand back empty. His bag was gone! He scrambled around the bus frantically, looking for his bag. The bus driver laid his hand on his shoulder.
"If it turns up, well get it to you, son," the driver told him in a compassionate tone. "Moren likely, someone grabbed it by mistake. It happens all the time. Just give your name and number to the bus company, and well get in touch with you."
Defeated, Tommy shuffled off the bus. He looked around, trying to remember what little he had been told about his caregiver. He saw a gray haired lady peering around her, as if unsure what she was looking for. She was only slightly taller than he was; maybe five-three, and dressed in what he could only call "granny" clothes. Her faded floral-print dress was nearly as gray as her hair. He walked up to her, noticing that the few stray hairs which had escaped her bun gave her a distracted look, echoed by her darting eyes.
"Ms. Hollingsworth?" Tommy asked hesitantly.
"Oh! You poor child!" Her response was as physical as it was verbal. She swept him into a smothering hug. "I didnt hear about your mother until last week. I wish I had known sooner. Please call me Rita, or how about Aunt Rita? I know its not accurate, but it wouldnt do for you to call me Ms. Hollingsworth" if youre to stay with me. Let me have a look at you."
She held him at arms length, hands on his shoulders. She turned him this way and that, beaming brighter than the sun. "You look just like your mother did at that age. She was a complete tomboy, believe me. She stayed with me for a few summers, before she started high school, and youd swear she was the biggest roughneck in the neighborhood." She guided him to her waiting car, chattering merrily about his mothers childhood exploits. From the sounds of things, "tomboy" was an understatement. On the way home, conversation turned to more practical matters.
"You didnt bring any luggage?" Rita inquired.
"I did, but it wandered off." Tommy explained what had happened, ending with, "Do you mind if I use your phone?"
"Of course not, dear," she replied with a titter. Its just as much your phone as it is mine. But dont worry too much. I took the liberty of doing some shopping. I hope the things I picked out fit you. The lady who called gave me a fairly accurate description of you. Ive gotten your room ready, too. It hasnt been used much since your mother stayed here; I was never blessed with children of my own before now." She reached over and gave his knee an affectionate squeeze. Tommy relaxed. Rita was definitely a sweet old lady, and it would take a miracle for them to not get along. They pulled off the road just past the center of town.
"Here we are, sweetie!" Rita announced. "Welcome to your new home!" She strode up the walk and opened the door with a flourish. Tommy paused to take in his surroundings. The neat little house was comfortably nestled in the middle of the block, flanked by enormous oak trees. The front yard seemed huge compared to anything back home.
This is home, Tommy realized. I hope I dont have to mow all of this. He surveyed the neatly manicured lawn, then followed up the walk. The spacious front porch was as neat as the yard. As he stepped through the door, Tommy marveled at the sheer size of the house. Woodwork gleamed from every angle: the stairs, the floors, and the walls. An imposing fireplace was visible through the parlor door.
"What do you do for a living?" he asked in amazement. "Compared to my old apartment, this is a palace!"
"Oh, I own a small salon downtown. Its not much, but I get by. All of this is thanks to my late husband. I suppose you never heard about him? He was the town banker for years. Honestly, I dont have to work, but its nice having something to do."
She took him on a tour of the ground floor, pointing out first this cherished little item, then the next. They ended in the kitchen, where Rita announced it was lunchtime.
"Ill help," offered Tommy. "What are we making?"
"Shush," Rita clucked. "I can do it myself. Besides, youd have to get washed before I let you near my counter. You look like you havent bathed or changed your clothes in days." She was smiling, so Tommy didnt feel offended.
"That might be true," he replied sheepishly. "I should probably take a shower after lunch."
"You should pamper yourself a little especially after what youve been through this year," Rita objected. "From what I understand, youve spent time by yourself, but not on yourself. Ill show you the bath, and then you can soak in the tub until you prune. Afterwards, Ill see what I can do to tame that wild animal on your head."
Tommy ran his fingers through his hair and grinned. It hadnt been cut in at least six months, and it was well past the unruly stage. He washed his hands at the kitchen sink, figuring that at least his hands should be clean before lunch. He sat at the table as his aunt finished preparing soup and sandwiches. They chatted about his mother, filling each other in on details that time and two states can lose. Tommy finished first, excused himself, and began running water in the sink.
"Just let those, child," Rita ordered. "Ill clean them myself. Come upstairs, and please get in the bath. Promise me we can burn those clothes?" She made exaggerated motions of disgust until the giggles overcame her. Tommy followed dutifully. They made a quick circuit of the second floor; Ritas room, the bathroom, the workroom (She painted, she explained, and the light was best in here.) They ended at the door to his new room.
"I left most of it the same as your mother had it," Rita said, turning the knob. "Ive always been a believer in adding, rather than subtracting. If you want anything changed, just let me know. Oh, theres another surprise on the nightstand. Ill be downstairs if you need me." She opened the door and walked of towards the stairs.
"Thank you for everything."
"Youre quite welcome," she replied from the head of the stairs.
Tommy turned towards his room. The first thing that struck him was the color. The walls were a washed-out lilac color, and there was a ruffle around the bed the same shade. He saw a pile of papers on the small table next to the bed. Picking up the top one, he scanned it.
Report Card for Richardson, T. J. it read. He ran down the list of "As" to the bottom, where a note was attached. "Due to the circumstances, and the students performance, we feel it is unnecessary that this student complete the final week of school. Above grades are official and recorded."
Tommy began to dance with glee. They had not only sent his transcript ahead, but advanced him to the ninth grade as well. In a day full of good news, this was among the best. He danced his way to the adjoining bathroom, singing to himself. He lowered himself into the hottest water he could stand, and let it work the road out of his aching spine. Eventually, he lathered himself with the various soaps and such that were lined up next to him. He rinsed and stood up, wrapping a huge towel around himself. Wow! Even the towels are big here. Tommy mused. This could reach around me at least twice.
He walked through the bedroom as he toweled his hair. He opened the closet to look inside. Rita really did believe in adding, rather than subtracting. The closet was still full of his mothers old things. He shrugged and went to the dresser. He selected a pair of jeans that looked as if they would fit. The next drawer had a T-shirt in a brilliant turquoise. He grabbed that as well. The top drawer held socks and underwear, some in colors he knew hed never wear. Like she said, shes never had kids, he thought. Oh well. He grabbed something in white, and started to get dressed.
"I guess she was wrong on my size," Tommy muttered to himself. "These are tight in the worst possible place. Well have to go shopping tomorrow." Luckily, the shirt and jeans fit him reasonably well. In fact, the pants fit him better than his old jeans. He reopened the top drawer to find socks. Since none of them were white, he grabbed a pair in turquoise. I might as well match, he chuckled. A pair of white sneakers was set neatly by the door. They were his size, so he pulled them on. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he noticed the paperwork again. He left them for later. Aunt Rita was probably waiting with scissors in hand. He hurried downstairs.
"You look so much better," Rita told him. "Now lets see what we can do with that hair."
She sat him in a kitchen chair, covered him with a sheet, and began combing and snipping. She hummed to herself as she worked. After an eternity of his fidgeting, she announced success.
"Run upstairs and have a look," she ordered. "Then hurry back down. Theres a lady from the Childrens Services Department on her way to see us."
Tommy flew up the stairs and into the bathroom. The mirror showed him his new look. Maybe Aunt Ritas starting to get senile. That looks more like a bob than anything else. His hair was trimmed in a rather neat, if girlish style just below his ears. He started to head back down, but the papers caught his eye. He sat on the edge of the bed, pushing his hair behind one ear as he read. It was all addressed to his aunt, and was mostly legal paperwork involving a legal adoption. Two sentences into it, he stopped cold. They had misspelled his name Tammy! Why couldnt Mom name me Thomas like a normal person? He looked around his room, and went to the closet. Sure enough, the clothes it contained looked as if they would fit him, and were definitely not twenty years out of date. Most still had tags on them. He looked down at himself, noticing for the first time the scalloped collar of his shirt. He went to the mirror and looked over his shoulder at his reflection. His jeans had pretty flowers embroidered on the back pockets. He dashed down the stairs to explain to Rita, but voices from the parlor brought him up short.
" and shes so well behaved," Ritas voice was saying. "And quite pretty under all the dirt. She looks so much like her mother."
"Im glad you two have hit it off," a strange womans voice replied. "I dont like sending children to foster homes. Often they are abused for years before anyone finds out."
Tommy shuddered in the hallway. The woman had hit on the exact reason he had never told anyone he was living alone. He stepped into the parlor.
"Here she is," announced Rita. "Isnt she so pretty?"
"Shes a darling," agreed the woman sitting on the loveseat. You must be the bravest girl I have ever met."
"But Im not-" Tommy began.
"And modest, too," interrupted the woman. "My name is Elizabeth Grey, but please call me Beth." She offered her hand.
"Im pleased to meet you, Beth," he said, taking her hand. "But I-"
"Shes so polite," gushed Rita. "Thats one of the reasons I didnt hesitate to take Tammy in. Im so glad Jana had a daughter. Girls are so much less trouble than boys. I hate to say it, but I dont think Id have taken in a young man. At my age, I could never adapt to having a boy tearing around the place."
"Im so glad everything seems to have worked out well," Beth stated. "I can see you two are going to do well together. Tammy, whats wrong? You look pale."
"I-Its just been a long day," Tommy answered. "I need to sit down." He sank into a wing-backed chair. He felt better immediately, and smiled. The concern faded from the womens faces. They began chatting merrily while Tommy tried to weigh his options.
What do I do? He pondered. If I explain the mix-up, will she kick me out? If I dont, how long can I keep her convinced that Im a girl? Could I go through with it?
"What do you think, Tammy? Would you like to keep your last name, or adopt Ritas?" Beth interrupted his thoughts. "I have the paperwork here, if youd like to sign it." Tommy hurriedly scrawled his signature next to the indicated X.
I guess that solves that problem. My name is now legally Tammy. Ill have to plan this carefully if I want to have a place to live. The doorbell startled her.
"Ill get that," Tammy offered, and ran to the door. A mailman stood there, offering a package. Tammy signed for it, and giggled while writing Tammy Hollingsworth.
Bringing the package back into the parlor, Tammy handed it to Rita. "This came for you."
"Thank you," Rita began, "but I dont know why they keep sending me that stuff. I canceled the prescription months ago." She leaned over and continued in a stage whisper, "They treat menopause as a disease, to be fixed with a few pills."
"Would you like me to get rid of them?" Tammy offered. "Then I think Ill lie down. It was a long trip. It was nice meeting you, Beth."
"Yes, please. You are such a dear."
Tammy tiptoed up the stairs and placed the box on the bed. If these were what Tammy supposed them to be, they could solve a lot of problems. Opening the box revealed them to be estrogen supplements. Tammy read the directions, and followed them quickly.
"I might as well get used to being a girl," Tammy said, surveying her room. She stripped off her jeans and fished a nightgown out of her dresser. She got ready for bed, remembering to brush her teeth. When she woke, it was well past midnight, so Tammy rolled over to sleep until morning. Rita must have decided to let her sleep rather than wake her for dinner. She woke again to birds singing and sunlight streaming through the windows. The racket of a lawnmower cut through the air. Tammy peered out the window, to see a boy slightly older than her mowing the back yard. Nausea forced her into the bathroom. When she had cleaned off her face, she downed two more pills. The vomiting had left a pain in her gut, and she dressed gingerly. She discovered a training bra in her drawer, and decided to play the whole part.
She chose a pretty sundress, and found sandals on the floor of the closet. There was a jewelry box on the dresser containing a varied selection of things. Tammy selected a charm bracelet and gold necklace, but left the earrings. Im going to have to get my ears pierced.
She came downstairs to the smell of breakfast cooking. Aromas of bacon and eggs filled the house. She offered to help, and soon they had enough cooked to feed a small battalion.
"I invited Chuck to have breakfast with us," Rita said. "He does such a fine job on the lawn that I regularly supplement his pay with meals. Youll like him. Go meet him, and tell him its ready."
Tammy walked across the yard to where Chuck was pushing the mower. Chuck smiled and shut off the machine at her approach.
"Hi," Tammy said shyly. "Aunt Rita said that breakfast is ready."
"Hi. Im Chuck Phillips, from next door," He introduced himself. "Tammy, right? Ms. Hollingsworth told me you were moving in, but she never told me you were so pretty."
Tammy blushed and looked at her feet. It amazed her how quickly she had adapted to her new life. She led him inside, where they had a pleasant meal. Rita insisted on doing the dishes afterwards.
"You two are getting along so well that I hate to break it up." She explained. "Chuck, you can finish the lawn tomorrow, if youd like. It would be a great favor if you could show my niece around town."
"Id be happy to," Chuck proclaimed. "Ill go put the mower away and tell my folks." He dashed out the door.
"I think he likes you." Rita winked. "There are worse ways to be introduced to a new town. Theres a purse for you in your closet. I put anything I thought you might need in it. I even put a little spending cash in." She kissed Tammys cheek. "Now go get yourself pretty before he gets back."
The purse contained an assortment of cosmetics. There was eye shadow, lip gloss, blush, and anything else a young lady needed to do her face. Im glad I helped mom with all of this when she was sick. She thought, applying eyeliner. A quick brush of mascara finished the job. She sprayed perfume on her neck, and dashed back down the stairs. I wonder if this qualifies as a date. She checked her purse on the way down, finding fifty dollars in a pocket. This is "a little spending cash?"
Chuck was waiting when she got down. He was obviously impressed with her work, since he grabbed her hand and said, "Lets go!"
"Have fun," Rita called from the kitchen. "Stop by my shop later. Chuck knows where it is."
With that the two left, heading for Main Street. Chuck showed her all the local landmarks, like the Town Hall, where the grocery store was located, where to find the best ice cream. "Well stop there later, my treat," he told her. He pointed out the school as they passed, and cut across the grass of a park. There was a knot of teens on and around a picnic table. Several of them came forward as they approached.
"Hey, Chuck," greeted a sandy haired boy. "Whos your cute friend?"
"This is my new neighbor, Tammy," He replied. "Shes staying with Ms. Hollingsworth."
"Lucky you," the boy shot back. I dont have a neighbor that cute." A blonde girl on the table threw the stick she was holding at him. He ignored it, fixing a friendly smile on Tammy. "My names Ed. Welcome to town."
The girl who had thrown the stick came up and put an arm protectively around Eds waist. She fixed Tammy with a not-so-friendly smile and announced that her name was Samantha. Tammy answered her smile with her own sheepish grin, as if to say "Men. Go figure."
Samantha relaxed into a warmer attitude. The rest of the group came over and introduced themselves. The boy in the plaid shirt was Johnny; the girl in red shorts was Chrissy. Tammy struggled to attach names to faces under the onslaught of introductions. They all settled back on the table and began to bring her up to date with the gossip that, although an annoyance in a city, is the lifes blood of a small town. They interspersed town drama with polite inquiries about her life.
Tammy tried to be as honest as she could. She told them about the long months caring for her mother and the long, lonely months after her death.
"Didnt you have friends back home?" One of the boys asked Steve, she thought.
"No," she answered. "Honestly, I was always a loner, and I didnt really have time. Between taking care of Mom and then myself, I didnt have any free time."
"You poor girl," Chuck murmured into her hair, wrapping his arms around her. Tammy blushed for the umpteenth time that day.
"It really surprises me that a pretty girl like you had no friends," Ed stated, earning a jab in the ribs from Samantha.
"I um havent developed as fast as the other girls in my class." Tammy confessed, looking down ruefully. The laughter that followed was not unkind, as several girls glanced down themselves. One girl actually claimed that her chest was concave!
The conversation took a less somber tone after that. They discussed music, movies, and that wonderful invention, the boob tube. Tammy realized she was among friends, and soon settled into the group. After a bit, they all decided to go to the ice cream parlor. Tammy learned who was with who by which boys paid for whose order. True to his word, Chuck paid for her sundae. They clustered in twos and fours at the available tables. Samantha glared when Ed invited Tammy and Chuck to their table. Tammy grabbed Chucks hand and smiled sweetly at her new friends. After they were seated, she whispered to Samantha.
"Dont worry. I dont like skinny guys," she assured her, then more loudly, "mind if I sit by you, Samantha?"
"Friends call me Sam," was the reply. Tammy was amazed at how quickly she could win people over. Why had it never been this easy before? She shelved her thoughts for now, and fell into the animated debate over whether ice cream was actually real food or junk food.
Tammy glanced at the wall clock after her third soda. It was already mid-afternoon! She jumped up.
"I have to get to my aunts salon. Chuck, could you show me where it is?" She looked at him, hands on hips. "Why are you laughing?"
"Look out the window," he forced between giggles. "Do you see that sign across the street? The one that says Ritas Salon?"
"Very funny. I really should go though. Its been fun-"
"Ill come with you. I need to ask her about her flowerbeds. They need oh never mind. Lets go." They left to a chorus of good-byes. It occurred to Tammy that she had never heard her name come from so many throats at one. She waved through the window as they crossed the street.
Rita was sitting at the front counter as they came through the door. The place was nearly immaculate, save for a few clumps of hair beneath one chair. A row of dryers stood at attention along one wall, with two sinks guarding the opposite wall. Three chairs claimed the back wall, looking at their reflections in wall mirrors. The front area was dominated by the counter, with various chairs and tables as satellites.
"Hello, maam," Chuck said as he sat on one of the more comfortable chairs.
"Hello children," Rita beamed. "Dont sit down over there, young man. Its been so long since you were here, that Id rather you sat here." She dusted off one of the big chairs. Chuck grimaced and sauntered over to the proffered seat.
"Hes just afraid Ill cut his ears off," she confided to Tammy. "Boys are always such babies about this." Her hands blurred as she spoke. "See, no nicks, no cuts, and your ears are both still there." She finished trimming his hair with astonishing speed and skill. Moments later, he was up and running his hand through neat hair. The few minutes the haircut took were all the time Tammy needed to find the broom, sweep up the old hair, and start in on Chucks trimmings.
"Thank you, dear." Rita glowed with affection. "You are such a help. Put the broom away, and sit here."
"You just gave me a trim yesterday," objected Tammy. "Did you miss a spot?"
"Silly. I never miss. Im going to pierce your ears. Single, double, or triple? Hmm Triple might be too much to handle at one time. Single or double?"
"Thats what the man across the street asked me when I ordered a sundae," Tammy chortled. "Same answer. Double, please."
"This wont hurt too bad," her aunt said, holding a gun to her ear. "This is why Chuck doesnt like coming in here. When he came in for his first haircut, I had just finished a little girls ears. She came out crying, with a little spot of blood on each ear. He thought I had nicked her, and it took forever to get him calmed down. To this day hes uneasy coming in here. Done."
"Done?" Tammy was startled. "I didnt know you started."
"It only hurts when you think about it. Thats why I kept you distracted." She held up a hand mirror. "Take a look." There were two glittering stones in each ear, evenly spaced. Tammy turned her head back and forth, admiring her aunts work.
"Is there anything youre not good at?" She praised her aunt. "If so, Ive never seen it."
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Rita blushed. "I just do the things Im good at. I have a customer due in for a perm in about five minutes, so-"
"Lets go, Tammy," Chuck broke in. "We definitely dont want to be here for that! It smells like-" He glanced at the proprietor and grinned, "feces."
"Good save," Tammy whispered. She turned towards Rita. "Ill start dinner. Just tell me what you want me to make, and what time youre getting home."
"Theres steak in the fridge, if you dont mind. Other than that, improvise. I dropped a key in your purse this morning, so you could let yourself in. I close up here at five."
They pair slipped out the door, holding it open for Ritas customer as they waved good-bye. Chuck walked her home, and informed her he had chores of his own to attend to.
"Are you coming to school tomorrow?" Chuck seemed hopeful.
"Sorry. I already finished last week. Stop by afterwards." Tammy gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and went inside. Since she had two hours before dinner, she dashed up to her room and began inspecting her wardrobe. A few items didnt fit. Those that were too small, she bagged up to return. Things that were too large were relegated to the back corner of the closet. Her aunt had good taste, she observed, looking over the remaining articles. She put things back, matching skirts with blouses. Several things would go with certain outfits, so she grouped these together. She finished with time to spare, so she decided to familiarize herself with the kitchen.
The kitchen was very straightforward. Everything was neatly stacked, drawered, or hung, each in its own place. The refrigerator was well stocked; so was the pantry. Tammy set out what shed need to make a nice pasta and salad to go with the steak. She started to wash the vegetables while the oven warmed and the water boiled. She finished setting the table just as her aunt walked in.
After dinner and a few hours of relaxed television viewing, Tammy excused herself. She changed into a nightgown, then remembered to wash her earrings with the solution Rita had provided. She took her pills before drifting off.
She awoke nauseated again, with a searing pain in her belly. Her aunt heard her cry out, and rushed in.
"It hurts!" Tammy complained, holding her belly.
"Is this your first time?" Rita had a maternal look in her eye. "We should let you lay in bed for a while. Ill have to run to the store. I havent had that problem in a while."
Confused for a moment, Tammy nodded when she understood. "Do I have to see a doctor?" she asked plaintively.
"Not right away, sweetie," Rita reassured her. "If things arent better in a few days, there might be a problem, but for right now, no."
Rita left, and returned with a package for her niece. Later, she came back again, bearing a tray with a light breakfast on it. Tammy ate sparingly, then set it aside. By noon she was back to her feet. The pain lasted two days, slowly fading into a dull ache, then nothingness. The nausea went away after that second attack. She spent most of the time in the house, reading. When she was well, she discovered her friends had finished their semester, and summer was officially here.
The summer went by in a whirl of bliss. Tammy and her friends spent long afternoons biking, playing softball, and hanging out at the ice cream parlor. The first time they went swimming, she was more than a little concerned about her secret, but soon learned that nearly all of her problem could be shoved back inside her. She blossomed by her August birthday, noticing that her training bras were getting tight. She went to the mall in the next town with her friends. The boys hung out in the arcade while the girls giggled and chatted through department stores.
Tammy wasnt the only one who needed a new bra. Cheryl, the gangly girl with the concave chest, was concave no more.
"I guess Im just a late bloomer, too," Tammy confided in her. "Dont worry, well catch up." They giggled as they darted into a changing room together, each trying to outdo the other with uplift bras. When the contest devolved into sock-stuffing, the manager stopped it. They paid for their selections and left. When they got back to town, Rita had decked out the house in lights.
They had a wonderful party for Tammy, taking her by complete surprise. After blowing out the candles on her cake, she broke into tears, running around the room, hugging friends. She saved the biggest hug for Rita, whose eyes had begun to leak tears as well. Tammy tore wrapping paper from gift after gift. Her friends obviously knew her tastes. She got the C.D. shed wanted, and several outfits she would have chosen herself. The best gift was the necklace she received from Chuck, who was becoming more than a friend. She looked at the diamond hanging from the delicate gold chain, then wrapped her arms around his neck, planting a huge wet kiss on his mouth.
I dont care who sees this, she thought, exploring his mouth with her own. Let them stare. Chuck must have had similar thoughts, as he returned her kiss until they were light-headed from want of air. They spent the rest of the party hand in hand. Tammys eyes were the only things that outshone the necklace she was wearing.
As summers do, this one finally gave in to advancing autumn. The kids all trudged into school with downcast faces concealing excited eyes. They were about to start high school, all with mixed feelings. None had more concerns than Tammy, who was especially worried about gym class. There was a small issue she didnt want anyone to know about. Her fears were allayed, however, when she was called into the office. She wasnt allowed to participate in P.E., the principal informed her, until she had a complete physical from her doctor. She spent gym class on the sidelines, cheering her friends on as they played basketball. The other periods were a breeze, most rehashing what they had learned the previous year. The only class that seemed like it might be a challenge was English 101. The teacher announced that they would spend the year discussing the complete works of William Shakespeare. The teacher smiled when a chorus of groans answered her. Then she relented, saying that they would only review a few. The groans resurfaced from the boys when she mentioned that the first would be Romeo and Juliet.
After school, Chuck and Tammy stopped by Ritas shop. Rita was applying perm solution, so they only stayed long enough to hand her the note from school. They sat at Tammys kitchen table for the rest of the afternoon, reading and discussing their assigned chapters from various classes. Rita came in, and apologized to Chuck.
"Im sorry, dear, but we need to have some family time. Kiss your girlfriend goodbye." After hed done that and left, Rita sat next to Tammy. "Ive made an appointment with Dr. Elliot. Dont worry about your modesty, shes a woman doctor. Ive been seeing her for years, so I know shes competent. We can have a frozen pizza when we get home. Grab your things we have to be there in fifteen minutes."
Tammy felt a cold shiver run down her spine. How was she going to explain her problem to the doctor? Rita patted her on the head reassuringly.
"Theres nothing to worry about. She knows what shes doing. Now hurry along."
Tammy spent most of the trip in abject terror. She tried to keep her racing thoughts from showing on her face. As she drove, Rita kept filling her in on the various gossip gleaned from customers. Tammy relaxed a little, but not much. Maybe I can convince the doctor not to tell her.
They arrived, and Dr. Elliot greeted them at the door. She introduced herself to the girl as she ushered them into the office. Tammy was surprised to find Beth sitting there. Though Beth had stopped in regularly to check on them, Tammy hadnt expected to run into her here.
She sat primly in the offered chair, wondering what was going on.
"I ran into a few discrepancies while reviewing your records, so I called your aunt," Dr. Elliot began. "She referred me to your social worker, who explained it to me. Dont worry, were the only ones who know."
Tammy looked in shock at the other two women. "Y-you knew?" She asked them.
"They did," Dr. Elliot stepped in. "After going back over your records, I can see why they hid it from you. You remember the tests your home state ran on you before you came here?" When Tammy gave a wide-eyed nod, the doctor continued. "Your medical tests showed you to be intersexed. That means that while you were apparently male on the outside, you were born female on the inside. Your psychological profile confirmed that your mind was that of a girl."
"We decided that you would adapt better to this drastic change if you were given the opportunity to initiate it yourself. We only gave you the opportunity to start what you would have done eventually." Beth confessed. "Im sorry if you feel that we were untruthful, but we were trying to spare you the pain of a long, awkward change later in life."
"You took to it right away," her aunt spoke up. "If you had reacted differently, we would have explained things to you. However, since you were moving to a new town, it was the perfect opportunity to make the change."
"That would be why I never fit in at my old school," Tammy offered. "They saw me as a boy, but without boyish interests. I would have never fit in."
"Thats right," Beth answered. "The psychologist on your case recommended that we allow you to be your true self. Are you happy now? If youre not, we could reverse the effects of the hormones youve been taking. You could be placed in a foster home in a new town, and no one would know this ever happened."
"Happy?" Tammy was incredulous. "Ecstatic is more like it! I think Im in love." She blushed furiously, and began carefully examining her wringing hands.
"Well, if youd ever want to marry the lucky boy, were going to have to correct a few things. " Dr. Elliot announced. "Step into the next room and let me have a look at you."
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