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Standard warning and disclaimer: All characters are fictional. If you see yourself, buy a new mirror. Contains subjects some people may find offensive. If you are one of them, why are your reading this? Protect your kids. If you are worried about them reading this sort of material, please censor free speech and use a safe surfing program such as net nanny. Or better yet, teach them early and lovingly to understand and accept different lifestyles. Before they learn from bad experiences.
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Hard Learning by: Samantha Michelle © 2000
It was lunch time when Brenna screeched and we headed around the corner to find her being manhandled by Joel, the school Lothario and center for the football team. He had her hands pinned and was trying to force a kiss. Ed tried to help her, and bounced a couple of times as Joel flicked him off like a bug.
I whispered something to Stacey, and she went after his shins as I headed behind him. So as he was trying to kiss Brenna, and avoid Stacey without killing her, I pulled a tiny black box, some wires, and a rubber glove from my briefcase. Connecting the wires to the box, I ran them through my shirt, pulled the glove on, carefully stuffed the box in my pocket, then flipped a switch. When I tapped my gloved thumb and fingers together, and felt a surge, heard an electrical "Snap" and saw a little flash I knew it actually worked!
Joel was getting upset at Stacey, who was trying to get close enough to rescue Brenna. So I moved behind him, prayed to the electron gods for support and good battery life, and goosed him. I expected him to jump, and hopefully let go of Brenna. I should have done a Beta test.
In the space of a few milliseconds, he:
Let go of Brenna
Hit a note usually reserved for sopranos and dog whistles
Jumped straight up
Totally purged his alimentary system.
When he landed he was holding his crotch, screaming in pain and twitching, and I disappeared back into the crowd. I gloated as I reached in my pocket to turn it off. When I woke up, Brenna, Stacey, and Ed were staring at me.
"Sam, are your all right?" I nodded, then shook my head, then watched as the room did a few northern lights. When they subsided, I nodded again.
"What happened?" Stacey pointed to the glove, wiring, and a still smoking little black box. It came to me. "Oh shit, I stuck my hand in my pocket and..."
"And you tried to make a fried fish of yourself. At least that's what you looked like flipping around on the floor before your latest invention cooked itself."
Stacey giggled. "Probably in the locker room trying to get clean. You turned that stinker into a real stinker. I haven't sent that much shit since old Harold dumped his honey wagon on the mayor's lawn to protest a traffic ticket."
Remembering that made me laugh, which hurt.
Ed grabbed the remains of my box, and disappeared down the hall. I saw why when Mr. McGee, the principal, came down the hall from the other direction. "Well, Samuel, it seems that you are in the middle of another disturbance." I tried to look innocent, and winced. Even the muscles in my face hurt.
"I expect to see you, and the rest of your cohorts in my office after school."
Stacey spoke up. "Er, Mr. McGee, what about Joel?"
Mr. McGee broke into a grin. "Seems he's in deep doo-doo over this." He paused as we all snickered. "And I will deal with him and his hygiene problems tomorrow morning." He then looked at us. "Be there, all of you."
He walked away whistling what sounded like the theme from "The Man of La Mancha". I wondered whether he had gotten some new medications.
By the end of the day there were rumors flying all over. Most involved me trying to electrocute Joel, then commit suicide. So when the six of us assembled at the office after the last bell, I was wondering how long a suspension it would be. The assistant principal, Mrs. Ward, was smiling as she invited us in. The last time I saw her smile was when half the students got food poisoning. I was surprised when she didn't remain.
Mr. McGee was very businesslike. "Okay, I know something happened. And you six are intimately involved." Brenna started to say something, but he silenced her with a look. "Mr. Wagner," I knew I was dead when he used my last name, "Unless I am totally convinced otherwise, you are going to be suspended for thirty days, and the rest of you, except Brenna, for a week."
I looked in horror at Stacey, who grabbed me and sobbed on my shoulder. The others just looked sick. I knew if Stacey got suspended, her mother would beat her senseless. He continued. "So for the first time since I have had the dubious pleasure of being your principal, please tell me what actually happened. All of it."
I shrugged, and peeled off Stacey, who was immediately grabbed and held by Brenna. "If you want the whole story, everyone might as well sit down, cause it's going to take a while."
Twenty minutes later I finished. I had covered the repeated harassment from Joel and the others who didn't like our little group, the lack of response from our teachers at getting it stopped, and what we had done to try and protect ourselves, including my little shocker. "So there you have it. The complete story."
I was sweating so hard I dripped. And I was shaking. Stacey and Ann both came and held me. Brenna was crying. Ed and Jonas were staring stone-faced at him. When I looked at his face, I was surprised to see sympathy. "You have given me a lot to think about. And this places today's incident in a completely different light. There is a big difference between assault and self-defense. And there is the separate issue of bringing what some would consider a weapon onto school property, although," he paused and smiled, "fortunately for you, no weapon has been identified or located."
"I am going to defer judgment until tomorrow morning. Considering that your testimony matches several others', I see no reason to suspend any of you, except possibly Samuel. Consider yourselves verbally reprimanded. And don't discuss this with anyone except each other. Is that clear?" We all nodded. "The others are free to go. Samuel, I will talk with you privately when they have left." My friends tried to stay, but I finally convinced them to go home and I would call them later. I did not add, if I was still alive.
When we were alone, Mr. McGee told me to sit, and he came out from behind his desk and sat on the couch. "Samuel, this incident is far more serious than I have let you or your friends know. Are you aware of who Joel's father is?" I shook my head. "Mostly invisibly, he owns, or controls, half the businesses in this town. Including the ones where Ed's, Stacey's, and Brenna's parents work." I cringed, and had a feeling where this was leading.
"Joel made it very clear that if I tried to do anything to him, he would see that their parents lost their jobs, and would be unable to find new ones. I do not know his father, but if he is at all like Joel, it is a very real threat."
"There is more. Apparently Joel has been after your small group for a while. He hired a private investigator to dig up dirt, and apparently he thinks he has some." I sagged into the chair, my stomach churning. According to his statements, Ann had an abortion last summer, and Jonas is gay." I nodded. "Ed and Brenna have been sleeping together despite their parents warnings." I nodded again. "And he says he has excellent pictures of Stacey and you on numerous occasions, both dressed as girls down to the underwear." I grabbed his waste basket just in time and deposited my breakfast and lunch.
When the heaves finally stopped, I looked up at him. "So we are supposed to throw ourselves on our swords, and publicly apologize, right?"
He looked sick. "Something like that is what he expects. And for you to get expelled." I looked at my feet. "He made it clear that if you open your mouth, all your friends will lose. He's betting with a heavy hand he will win. In addition, Mr. Johnson is the president of the city council, and Joel made it very clear I would be out of a job if I didn't cooperate."
"And what do you expect me to do?"
"Make your own choice. I'm disgusted as much as you are. But if he does no more than release true information about you and your friends, it's not blackmail. And his father can hire and fire at will in this state." He looked at me. "Does your father know about..." I shook my head. "Well, it's up to you whether or not your tell him. I certainly won't. But either way, you need to be in this office tomorrow morning first thing. Joel and his father will be here. If your father can come, it may help. Joel also said he was going to make sure that tonight the other kids in your group are warned to keep quiet, or else."
I was shaking like a leaf when I finally left his office. The others were long gone, and I looked at the sort of green sky and storm clouds that threatened severe weather. I wondered if I would be lucky and either Joel or I would be hit by lightning before tomorrow. I walked and walked and thought about what I could do. It was after eight when I made it home.
Dad had already made some dinner, and he had just asked me why I was late when the tornado sirens went off. So we headed to the basement, and into the special storm shelter Dad had built when he designed the house. The radio reported a line of violent storms a few miles away and heading toward us. Dad went and shut off the breakers and the gas, then pulled and secured the heavy door. Many years in the military gave him too good an understanding of emergency procedures. We were going over the emergency checklist when the lights went out, and the battery backup kicked in. We fired up the battery TV, and tried out the little CCD camera setup I had installed so we could watch what was happening from outside our private bunker.
It was quite a light show. Then the wind picked up, and it rained and hailed and looked really bad for a while. But other than a few loose limbs, and someone's shed rolling down the street, nothing seemed badly damaged. The local radio station went off the air in the middle of an update. Dad reminded me their transmitter was several miles north of town, in the direction of the heaviest lightning. About fifteen minutes later they returned to the air, and announced they had taken a lightning strike, and that the weather service had declared an all-clear for our community.
We went back upstairs, and found a limb had broken a window, so we spent several hours cleaning up glass and water from the living room. It was late when I finally headed to bed, then realized I needed to call the others and warn them. When I picked up the phone, the line was dead. I told Dad, and he went outside. A few minutes later he returned, and told me a tree had fallen on the lines the next street over, and there was a crew working, but they said it would be sometime in the morning before we would have telephones working again.
I managed to tell Dad that I had gotten in a bit of trouble, which I didn't want to discuss, and the Principal wanted him to be at the school with me tomorrow morning. He pressed for details, and I claimed exhaustion, so he agreed to wait until morning.
He woke me late, saying the power was still not on, and we had forgotten to set extra alarms. It was a mad dash, but we made it to the school through the leaf-littered streets in time. All I managed to tell Dad was that I had gotten in a fight defending a friend, and the jock I nailed was really upset about it. He looked at me, and asked where my bruises were. "Um, I used something I made in my workshop." His eyebrows went up inquisitively. "I kinda built a glove with a built-in cattle prod, and well, he pooped his pants and..." His laughter interrupted my speech, and he was still laughing when we headed into the school. Dad was no stranger to subversive activities. One of the reasons he was as crippled as he was from being in the military.
The school was buzzing with whispered rumors when Dad and I headed into the principal's big conference room. Mr. McGee was there, as were Joel and his father, who looked really angry. We were seated opposite them at the table. When Mr. McGee closed the door, he did the introductions. Gesturing to my Dad and me, he began "Samuel and Mr. Wagner, these are Joel and Mr. Johnson." We acknowledged, but pointedly did not shake hands.
"Yesterday at lunch there was an altercation between Joel and Samuel, and several of Samuel's friends. Joel has stated that he and Brenna were hugging when he was assaulted by a girl named Stacey and a boy named Ed, then by Samuel, who supposedly tried to electrocute Joel, and caused him severe embarrassment and humiliation when he accidentally, well, defecated due to the shock." We stared at each other. Mr. McGee excused himself and made a call to his secretary.
"I had requested the homeroom teachers for the three other students send them to the office this morning to provide their inputs, but none have arrived at school, and the secretary says there is no answer at their houses." Joel grinned, but his father's face was steady. "Since this is a serious matter, I also talked last night with Samuel, who gave a quite different description of what occurred."
Mr. Johnson spoke up. "My son confirms what you have just told me, and says that this boy here is a routine troublemaker, who has threatened him with harm before. He says he does not feel safe with this boy in the same school, and believes he should be expelled. I agree with my son." He paused. "He also said that we will hear the same story from the others involved if they are called in to speak."
Dad was strangely quiet. Joel was smirking. I was trying to decide which was worse, when there was a loud commotion outside. When the Principal opened the door, I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Ward flat on her butt, just as Stacey came dashing in and grabbed me, gasping and wailing. I jumped up to hold her while the principal managed to get the door shut, and hollered for order.
"Stacey, what's wrong?" I looked at her face, which was bruised She was totally winded. She breathed deeply for a moment, then gasped out
"I just ran here from the hospital. Brenna and Ed tried to commit suicide this morning at Brenna's house. Jonas and I heard about it from his Mom, cause I was hiding at his house after my mom beat me up last night. His mom said there was blood all over and she didn't know if they were breathing or not, and..." she started to wail again, and pinned herself to me. Everyone was staring at her.
Joel was actually laughing. "See, they were just little cowards afraid to tell the truth, right, Sammy?"
I looked at Dad. He quietly said "The truth is sometimes hard to live with. If the truth is known." I wished he never had studied philosophy.
I settled Stacey on a chair next to me, and kept her in my arms. "What Joel has told you is completely..." I took a deep breath "false. An outright lie." Joel's jaw dropped, and he began to mouth threats. His father was staring at me. "Last night I told the entire story to Mr. McGee. At that time I was told that Joel was planning on blackmailing the four of us, and Mr. McGee, to ensure we would go along with his lies."
Joel jumped up and yelled at his father "Dad, I don't have to listen to their lies, just tell them what they will do and let's get out of here." Mr. Johnson started to speak, but my father boomed out "Shut up and sit down."
Everyone stared at him. "No one is going anywhere until Sam gets his turn to speak." Dad limped towards the door, and blocked it. "I may be crippled up, but there is no question I can defend my position." He looked at me. "Sam, the truth, all of it, no matter how much it hurts."
I nodded, and Stacey wailed "No..." I held her tighter. "Joel is why Brenna and Ed tried to kill themselves. So the lies stop here." I looked at the others, and repeated what I told Mr. McGee last night, in a condensed form. "Mr. McGee told me that Joel was going to threaten Brenna, Ed, and Stacey's parents, who work for Mr. Johnson, with being fired if they told the truth. He also said that Joel had hired a private detective, who found some rather embarrassing information about some of my other friends, and about me, which he would divulge if I did not agree with his version of what happened. He also said he would see that his father had Mr. McGee fired if I brought out the truth."
Everyone was looking at Joel. Mr. Johnson turned to his son. His voice was icy. "Is Samuel telling the truth?" Joel jumped up and ran for the door, and tried to run over Dad. He seemed to double over in mid-air, and collapsed on the floor holding his gut. Then I saw why. Dad had his walking staff braced against his foot, and Joel had hit it so hard the lower end was driven into the carpet.
"Joel owes my son an apology." Dad turned to Mr. Johnson. "From what I can tell, you knew nothing of, and had no hand in your son's actions. Am I correct?"
Mr. Johnson stared at Joel. "I want to find it hard to believe he did anything this reprehensible." He looked at Mr. McGee. "But there is no question in my mind now that Joel has done as Samuel described. Is this your opinion also?" Mr. McGee nodded. Mr Johnson opened his cell phone, while pulling out his day-timer from his briefcase.
"Hello, Jim, Robert Johnson here. Yes, this is a business call. I need to declare my son as out of control and dangerous. No, I wish to hell it was a joke. You need to send at least two officers with restraints to the school. He is with me in the principal's office. Yes, we can control him till they get here. And yes, I will be pressing charges. Five minutes? That will be fine. I'll explain it all to you when I fill out the paperwork."
We all stared at him. He was having trouble keeping his voice steady "My son's threats against peoples' jobs are obviously void. There is nothing I can do about his releasing any embarrassing information, which if true is not against the law, no matter how much harm it may create." We could hear the sirens in the background. "He will never be permitted to return to this school again."
He looked at me. "Samuel, I do not know what he is holding over you or your friends' heads. You did the right thing when you told the truth. I will apologize for what he has done. Seeing what he has done, I doubt if his apology would have any meaning."
Joel managed to grunt out, "You little faggot, by tonight everyone in town will know about you and your friends." His father looked down at him, then at me. And shook his head sadly.
The door opened, and three county police officers quickly secured Joel, who was in too much pain to do much fighting. As they dragged him out, I pried myself away from Stacey, and grabbed Mr. Johnson's arm.
"What about Brenna and Ed? He has killed two of my friends." He looked startled, then sagged into a chair. And stared at Stacey and me. Mr. McGee broke the silence.
"Stacey did not say they were dead, just that they were bleeding and in the hospital." Mr. Johnson seemed to change states, and grabbed the telephone and his DayTimer.
He punched in a number. "Central Valley Hospital? This is to Mr. Johnson, I need to talk to Dr. Cumberland immediately. Yes, dammit, this is an emergency. Just tell him I'm on the line. And I don't care if he's in a meeting." There was a short pause. "Joe, this is Bob Johnson. Yes, it's a major emergency. You had two kids brought to your hospital this morning after trying to commit suicide. How did I know? Their parents work for me. They are? great, hang on a moment." He covered the mouthpiece.
"They are both going to make it." Stacey and I grabbed and held each other. I could hear Mr. McGee mumbling, "Thank God".
"Joe, what is their prognosis? And privacy be damned. Okay, the girl will be fine, but her wrists are pretty rough. What about the boy? Shit, is there anything you can do?" Stacey and I froze. "Well, they are to be given the best treatment available regardless of cost. My company will pay all expenses. And personally let their parents know I am putting them on four weeks of complementary medical leave at full salary. Someone from my office will contact them to see if they need any additional support. Keep me posted on what is happening. Right. And I'm still going to beat you at golf this year. Bye."
He hung up the phone and took a deep breath. "Other than losing quite a bit of blood, their injuries are not life-threatening. They should be up and about in a week or two." Stacey and I slumped onto the one couch in the room.
"You said something about her wrists, and it sounded like Ed..." Stacey finally managed to find her voice again.
He nodded, and took a deep breath "Joe said the girl really carved up her wrists, to the point where she will probably be badly scarred." He paused, and took a deep breath. "I told you the truth about the boy, his injuries are not life threatening. But he cut all the way to the bone on one hand. Including the nerves and tendons. They are going to take him to a microsurgery specialist, but Joe is not optimistic he will regain full use of his fingers. I'm sorry. But no one will know for at least a few days." Stacey quietly sobbed and collapsed against me.
"Ed is a musician, and an artist. Losing use of his hand will kill him, just slowly and more painfully. I don't know how Brenna will handle scars. She's always been beautiful, and took a lot of pride in how she looked."
Mr. Johnson nodded, and shrugged. "They won't be the first to have to face something like that." He looked at me. "Will you or your friends need help to handle whatever Joel is planning to do to embarrass you?"
I looked at the floor. "I won't do suicide. It's not my way. But Ann and Jonas, I really don't know." I looked at Mr. McGee. "Could you have them come to the office? They need to know that Brenna and Ed are going to live, and about the little present Joel has planned for them." He nodded and went out to talk to the secretary. I looked at Dad. "As long as you don't either throw me out, or preach to me, I'll make it. Okay?" He looked worried but finally nodded. Suddenly Stacey started to shake, and Dad had to help me hold her while she sobbed and thrashed about. It was just before Mr. McGee came in with Ann and Jonas that she finally quit fighting.
Ann saw her and ran to her side. "We heard that Brenna and Ed are going to be all right." Stacey looked at her, hugged her, and started to cry again. "Stacey, what's wrong?"
I filled them in on what we knew about Ed's hand and Brenna's wrists. She shook, but still seemed relieved. Mr. McGee told them to sit, and introduced Mr. Johnson, saying that he knew nothing of what Joel had done. "He is trying to help mend the damages."
Mr. McGee continued. "Joel apparently hired a private detective in an attempt to find something to embarrass or blackmail the members of your group." They stared at him, and at each other in horror. "There is nothing we can do to stop him from releasing this information, which he said will happen this afternoon. If this is the case, and the information he gave me is correct, then you, and possibly your parents, need to be prepared to handle it." Ann was shaking, and Jonas looked resigned.
"Ann, Joel told me last night that you had an abortion last summer. Do your parents know?" Ann managed to get out "No..." before she collapsed to the table in tears. I managed to hold her.
"Jonas, Joel told me..."
He stopped Mr. McGee. "He told you that I am gay. Which is true." He looked at Ann. "Her parents are fundies. They will throw her out, or make her life unlivable." He looked at the table. "My mom already knows, and my Dad suspects, but doesn't want to believe it's possible. He would have found out sooner or later. So I'll be okay." He looked at me.
"Sam, does your dad know?" I shook my head. "Shit."
My Dad looked wide-eyed at me. "You're gay?" I vigorously shook my head.
"It would be a lot simpler if I was. For at least two of us." I looked at Stacey. "Has anyone wondered why her face is so bruised this morning?" Everyone except Ann and Jonas stared at me. Then at her. "Her mother, actually her stepmother, beat the crap out of her again last night. Probably when she was threatened with losing her job if Stacey told the truth. Her step-mom hates her, and her Dad's a wimp. When her step-mom finds out about me, and about me and Stacey, she will be on the street. Because if she goes home and her mom has been drinking, she's dead."
Stacey started to sob, and I moved from Ann to her. I was surprised when Mr. Johnson took Ann in his arms. Dad was watching me carefully, and I knew it was my turn. I gave Stacey a kiss, and whispered for her to be strong. "Joel's slimy private detective was thorough. I suspect that by this afternoon, there will be pictures of Stacey and me circulating around the area, in various stages of undress, and possibly even making love." No one seemed to be shocked. "Which really would not mean much these days, except we were both wearing..." I had to take a deep breath "wearing the same clothes. Panties and bras and dresses. And probably even nightgowns."
I looked at Dad, and Mr. Johnson. "I've done a lot of research. I am what is known as transgendered. Not a drag queen like they have on the talk shows. I have a deep need to express the female side of myself, and dressing as a girl, and doing girl things makes me feel whole." I paused while that sank in. "I don't want to be a girl, or have surgery to become one. I'm not attracted to guys, right Jonas?" He nodded. "But I love being and feeling like one. And I will probably be run out of town for being the way I am. So now everyone here knows what has been hiding in my closet." I looked at Dad. "Dad, I'm sorry I'm not the all-American boy you wanted. I will move away if you want me to."
I was surprised when he gave me a hug, and there were tears in his eyes. "You are my child, my son, regardless of what type of underwear you have on. Do you think I didn't know?" I stared at him "I just didn't know how to tell you I knew, because I still don't really understand it myself. But I love you and will always love you. Hell, your sister knew before I did, and when I asked her about it, she warned me that it was something I could not change, and to keep my yap shut." I cried all over his shoulder.
A few minutes later, Mr. Johnson spoke. "My son, although I am loath to call him that now, has done his best to destroy several peoples lives. I am just as determined not to let him succeed." He looked at my father. "Mr. Wagner, I take it that you will have no serious problems with Samuel's choice of either clothing or girlfriends?" Dad nodded, and Stacey tried weakly to hug me to death. He turned to Jonas. "You said your parents already suspect you are gay. Do your think they will throw you out, or assault you?"
"No, but Dad really won't understand. They're from a different culture, hence my name. It's going to be pretty rough for a while." Mr. Johnson nodded.
Then he looked at Ann. Who stared back at him in fright. "Is there anything..." She shook her head.
"They would have thrown me out for being pregnant. In their eyes an abortion is far worse. I have no relatives that would touch me. So I guess I will wind up belonging to the State for the next year or so. If I live that long." We all stared at her, knowing exactly what she meant.
"I will find you a place to live. There will be no more blood shed over this foolishness." We stared at Mr. Johnson.
He looked at Stacey. "Your mother beats you?" She nodded. He picked up the cell phone, and punched in a number from memory. "Cynthia, call Ray Hollis, and tell him to drop everything and get his overpaid butt over to the high school principal's office immediately. Yes, it's an emergency. No, I'll explain when he gets here. Call me back immediately here at the school if he can't make it." He hung up, and looked at his watch. "Mr. McGee, it is almost lunch time. Since I have never been fond of the slop they call school food, would you object if I had lunch brought in for all of us?, and are there any special diets?".
It is amazing how the thought of food can revive teenagers. Even Ann gave pleading looks to the Principal. "I guess the vote is all in favor." Mr. Johnson called someone. Ann, Jonas, Stacey and I all gathered together on the couch and managed a group hug. Dad and Mr. Johnson went off to a corner, and conversed quietly.
Mr. McGee pulled some aspirin from his desk, swallowed them, and went out of the office. He returned later with the delivery person. There was enough pizza for a small army. And plenty of sodas. As we were getting our first pieces, Mr. McGee handed me a small stack of photographs. "It's started. And you don't look half bad." They were exactly as I feared. I handed them to Dad, who looked them over, and handed them to Mr. Johnson. They finally made the rounds, and Ann managed to remark that I needed to shave my legs the next time I wore a short skirt. That made us all laugh, and I hit her with a mushroom. It was a needed break in the tension.
A gentleman in a suit arrived, and was introduced as "Mr. Raymond Hollis, Esquire." Ann and Stacey's inquisitive looks got an explanation. "Esquire is an honorific; Ray is my personal lawyer." That seemed to make sense. Mr. Johnson explained what had happened, including what Joel had done, and even about Ed and Brenna. Mr. Hollis asked a lot of questions, including some rather embarrassing ones of Ann and Stacey, whom we had to hold while they shook, and then made some calls.
By then we were finished eating. He got all our attentions.
"First, I don't think anyone will be seeing Joel for a while. Seems he kicked a deputy in the family jewels, and has been charged with assaulting a peace officer. Bob, here," he motioned to Mr. Johnson, "has assured me that he will be unable to make bail, and I have also been assured that the wheels of justice can and will turn very slowly for him." We all nodded, and he continued. "Because bad new travels faster than light, Bob and I have arranged for a psychologist from the city who specializes in handling teen suicide attempts to arrive this evening and spend the next couple of days working with Ed and Brenna and their parents, to see if he can start the healing process."
He looked at Jonas. "He is also an expert in teenage homosexuality, and will meet with you and your parents this evening and over the next couple of days to help them work through their feelings and fears." Jonas let out a long sigh. He looked at Ann. "Regardless of their religious beliefs, parents are responsible for the welfare of their children. Because you are sixteen, you can petition the court for emancipation, which means they would lose all control over you. But you would also be without support. Bob has indicated he will provide financial support for you until you graduate, including finding you an apartment. Would this be acceptable?" Ann shook, and nodded.
He looked at Stacey. "You are barely fifteen, so that option is not available to you." She nodded glumly. "But child abuse is a crime in this state. Are you willing to go in front of a judge, and tell the truth about how you are treated? It will not be pleasant, and they will ask a lot of personal questions." Stacey stared at him. She was shaking.
"When I get home she'll kill me." He shook his head.
"You will not be going home. Your parents are about to be arrested and charged with felony child abuse, and you will be placed in a foster home until you are old enough for emancipation. In lieu of being charged, I will have the papers already drawn up which they can sign, agreeing to pay one thousand dollars a month for your upkeep and schooling until you are twenty-three, and permanently releasing all parental rights to the State. Unless they are complete fools, they will sign without an argument." She nodded.
"But what happens to me then?"
He smiled "I will also already have the papers in hand, signed and ready, to make Mr. Wagner your legal guardian if the judge agrees, which he has already indicated he will do." We stared at him, and Dad. "But you would have to move in to their house and take over his sister's old bedroom..." I had to pry her loose from me before I ran out of air. "I take it that you approve of this idea?" She jumped up and kissed him. He looked at his watch. "We need to head to the courthouse. I suspect that Stacey's and Ann's parents are already on their way there, in handcuffs, wondering what hit them."
That caused a gasp from Ann, and a snicker from Stacey.
I want to say the afternoon was easy. But it was awful. Ann and her parents had to face off in the courtroom, and went at it for at least ten minutes. The judge finally told them it was either let her come home, and promise in writing to treat her properly, let her be emancipated without challenge, or be found in contempt and wind up in jail. They chose to emancipate her. She cried a lot, especially when they would not even hug her, but she held her head high when the judge pronounced her freedom. The Judge also ruled that they had to turn over all her clothes and belongings without argument that evening, and provide her a stipend of five hundred dollars a month until she reached the age of eighteen. They said they would not return home until midnight, as they never wanted to see her again. That brought on more tears.
After the judge looked at Stacey's face, and she showed him several other bruises, he blew a cork and read her parents the riot act, decreeing he would do his best to throw away the key. When offered the choice of releasing Stacey, they almost hurt themselves signing everything. The moment the judge approved the petition making Dad her guardian, she came completely unglued, and bawled happy tears all over me. The judge then told her parents if they were even five minutes late in meeting their financial obligations to Stacey, he would find them in contempt, and have them hauled off to jail. He then ordered them to stay away from their house for two days, to give Stacey time to collect and move her things.
Mr. Hollis took Ann with him, saying he had made temporary hotel arrangements for the night, and had a moving crew standing by to help Ann get her stuff.
Stacey, Dad, Mr. Johnson, and I went to the hospital. While Stacey and I explained to our two friends what had transpired at school, and who were now in the same room at the direction of a psychiatrist, Mr. Johnson talked with their parents and the doctors. Dad just stayed outside. He has this thing about hospitals.
Ed was scheduled for additional surgery in three days. He said they were going to drive him to the Mayo clinic in Minneapolis, where a specialist would try to repair his hand and reconnect the nerves. I could see the fear in his eyes. I told him we were all rooting for him, and he cried a bit.
Brenna was quiet, and seemed relaxed. She told us the doctors has explained about the scarring, and she was scared, but said she was prepared to face how she would look when the bandages were removed. We knew she had been considering modeling to pay her way through college. When I asked, she shrugged. "I doubt if I will be going to college. In the business world, appearance in a woman is everything. Why bother if you are going to fail anyway." When we left, I told her doctor what she had said, and he told me she was under a close watch already.
Mr. Johnson got more upset, and made several calls. He wrote Dad a check, and said it was to help get Stacey settled in, and to pay for a counselor for us to work out my situation. He left, saying he would be in touch with the school, and all of us, to do whatever he could. When Dad showed me the check, I gurgled. I counted the zeros twice. I may be a math genius, but it was still hard to comprehend the actual amount. Twenty thousand dollars. I knew Mr. Johnson was wealthy. I had no clue how wealthy he was.
We stopped by Stacey's house, and she loaded the entire back of Dad's truck with her clothes and books. There was little left but furniture, which she didn't need, and we scoured the place for anything she might have missed. We even put her bike on the roof rack. She said she never wanted to look back, and asked me to lock up.
We slept together, both in our nightgowns. We both needed the snuggles. From the calls on our answering machine, if someone did not know about us, they were deaf and blind. I determined to get a complete set of the photographs for our album.
There was a school assembly first thing on Wednesday. Mr. McGee announced in a condensed form what had happened, including to Ed and Brenna. There were a lot of tears in the audience. Jonas came on stage, and confirmed all the rumors. There were a few rude comments. Those who made them barely escaped with their skins. Ann acknowledged what had happened, and revealed she had been raped last summer when visiting the city. She did not ask for anything except understanding. As she left the stage a dozen girls who had probably never even spoken to her gathered and hugged her. Stacey and I looked at each other. And walked down the aisle to the stage. Mr. McGee said we did not have to say anything. We said we did. We just were not yet sure what.
Stacey took the lead. "You have all seen or heard about the pictures Joel's private detective took of Sam and me. We are not ashamed of them. Regardless of people's prejudices, Sam and I are in love, and do not plan to change the way we are for anyone. And now that everything is, shall we say, spread out in front of you, we won't have to hide anymore." There was laughter in the audience. When someone hollered out, "How can you be satisfied with a fairy?" she gave me a hug and a deep kiss, then turned to him. "I have it on very personal authority that Sam is definitely not gay, and no, we won't demonstrate." I turned bright red, there were lots of giggles and "way-to-go" comments, but the guy with the loud mouth was silent.
It was my turn. "Regardless of what you have seen on the television talk shows, I am not a danger to society. Everyone has a masculine and feminine side to their personality. What makes me different is I have about the same amount of each. This is a small school. You all know me. I am exactly the same person when I am wearing panties and a dress as I am now. All that changes is the clothes. If statistics are correct, at least half of the guys here have tried on girls or women's clothes. And I don't know a girl here who hasn't worn jeans and a guy's shirt at least once." There was a lot of giggling, and guys staring at each other.
I took a deep breath. "My name is still Samuel Wagner. Sam to most of you. If I am wearing a skirt, I prefer being called Samantha Wagner. Or Sam. Thank you." I hugged Stacey, who was crying, and as we left the stage we were shocked to get a standing ovation. We joined Ann and Jonas as Mr. McGee gave a very short speech about tolerance. And a clear warning that tolerance was expected, and problems would be dealt with swiftly and publicly.
Somehow we made it through the day. And Thursday. Someone painted "fag" on Jonas' locker. He added "And proud of it." The janitor cleaned all of it off. One of Joel's buddies tried to rough me up. A teacher got there in time to save him from the other students who were busy beating the tar out of him. He was suspended for thirty days. Ann suddenly had friends she had never even talked to. So did Jonas. Once the stigma of the first day went away, people wanted to actually meet someone who was gay. And were surprised when they found it made absolutely no difference. Stacey seemed immune to the comments. Especially when I was there. She explained that no one could make her as unhappy as her parents. This I understood.
When Stacey told me to shave from the neck down Thursday evening, I got really skittish. "You are sure about this?"
"Let's do it now, while everyone is off-balance. It won't be as much of a shock, and they won't be able to claim ignorance in the future." I asked Dad, and he said she was right. So Friday morning I shaved and bleached my beard roots, and for the first time, dressed from the skin out to go to school. A padded panty-girdle to keep everything where it belonged, my favorite bra with the silicone inserts I had scrimped and saved to get, stockings, a long, soft denim skirt, and a very conservative sweater. And of course, my beloved high-heeled boots. Stacey helped a bit with the makeup, and I added earrings, and styled my hair. She dressed almost the same way.
Dad looked me over carefully, and I cried and messed up my makeup when he said he loved his new daughter. Just before I left, he brought me one of Mom's necklaces, and put it on. I had to fix my makeup a second time.
I think we should have let Mr. McGee know what we were going to do. Talk about traffic jams in the halls. I got a lot of comments from everyone. But I felt so right dressed, the remarks seemed to just float away. Most of the girls seemed surprised at how good I looked. They expected a guy in a dress, despite the pictures. My teachers simply stayed with calling me Sam, which really helped. It was after lunch I panicked. I needed to pee. Bad. And I stood there looking at the two doors, trying to decide which bathroom I was supposed to use. Several girls saw me fidgeting. Giggling uncontrollably, they solved the problem by dragging me into the girls bathroom, stuffing me into a stall, and warning me to sit. By the time I escaped, I could have lit up the gym.
The bad news hit the next Tuesday. Ed and Brenna returned from Minneapolis, and we met them at the hospital. Ed was silent, and Brenna seemed almost lifeless. We talked with the doctors, and understood why. "The plastic surgeon spent several hours on Brenna, and made things much better. But when he finished, he told us that she would always have visible scars, especially if she tanned. He also said that since the area flexed too much, makeup would not work. She seemed to accept it, but she has withdrawn from everyone, and refuses to talk about it." That got us into a discussion of what the psychiatrists had said.
Then we asked about Ed. "It's almost certain he will recover full strength in his hand, but he probably won't have much feeling, and he definitely won't have the fine control needed to play an instrument. The surgeon was blunt about it. When Ed started to whine, he told Ed to grow up, accept what had happened, and get a life. I guess he really ragged on Ed about how many of his patients would be happy to still have fingers to move."
We gave them both hugs, and left, very subdued. Thursday one of the girls at school, who was aware of Brenna's scarring, came up with an idea. Dad had put several thousand of Mr. Johnson's dollars into a checking account for Stacey and me, so we decided to try her idea out. Her doctor supplied measurements, and said the bandages would be off by next Wednesday. Stacey talked with Brenna's parents. The last piece was ready by Tuesday night. So on Wednesday all of us, including Nancy, the girl with the idea, showed up at the hospital. She was still as listless as before, but perked up a bit when the doctor removed the restraints from her arms, cautioning her that she should not strain the areas that were healing.
She carefully stretched, then examined her wrists and started to cry. We told her we had a solution. She shut up and stared at us. Nancy led off. "Remember when you kept showing up as Madonna?" She nodded. A moment later she was wearing fingerless crocheted gloves. Which had a thin lining that completely hid her injured wrists. Brenna was fascinated. Stacey had trouble getting Brenna to let her take them off.
"For the Prom" A pair of beautiful, thin black leather elbow-length elbow-length gloves were zipped on. "They are also available in white and tan." Brenna stuck out her tongue. Finally, it was my turn. Stacey removed the leather gloves.
"Your mom said you love lots of jewelry, right?" This we already knew, as she often jingled from too much metal. She nodded. It took Nancy and me almost five minutes to put the silver cuffs and attached slave rings on her. Each finger, and thumb had a ring, which was connected by fine silver chains to the two-inch wide woven-link bracelet. The bracelet was lined with glove leather to protect her injuries. Her "My god, they're beautiful" was music to our ears. She carefully shook them and listened to them jingle. "Can I keep them on?" I called the doctor in, and after checking them over, he nodded.
Stacey looked Brenna in the eyes. "So if you are worried about the damned scars, you'll just have to wear fancy gloves or a lot of jewelry. Can you live with that?" A flood of tears and a string of "thank you's" was the answer we were looking for. Ed congratulated Brenna, but muttered that jewelry would not help him a bit. When we left, the doctor told us that if he was not better upstairs when he was healed, he would have to be transferred to a psychiatric ward. We all cringed.
It was the next week when I had an idea at school. I was dressed again as Samantha, and decided that my appearance was less important than Ed's health. So I scrounged a ride to Ed's house, and waited for his parents to get home. His Dad had a lot of trouble trying to be polite. His Mom loved my outfit, and said outright that all boys should get a chance to experience their feminine side. Finally I got the chance to speak. "What kind of music was Ed working on, and do you know what his plans were?" We talked for a while, and I left by taxi for home. I spent an hour on the phone Wednesday, and told Stacey that Saturday was the day. Then I called Mr. Johnson, and told him my idea. Friday the Pentium laptop arrived via overnight shipping, pre-loaded with software, and accompanied by cables.
Very early on Saturday we carefully escorted Ed and Brenna, who were both strapped into canvas transport sleeves for security, into one of Mr. Johnson's company vans, and headed up the highway. He was all questions, and we told him to enjoy the scenery. He almost panicked when he thought we were taking him to a mental hospital. That got him razzed, and we stopped and asked if he trusted us. That got a lot of tears from both of them. We pulled into Minneapolis several hours later. When we carefully escorted our two packaged friends into a rather shabby looking warehouse, they got scared.
We managed a dingy hallway, and entered a brightly lit music studio. Ed froze, and Brenna stared. Jonas handed the box with the computer to a weird looking guy with jewelry stuck through places that made me shiver. "Is this the dude that's feeling sorry for himself?" He pointed at Ed. I nodded. Well, I had requested the best. I guess I should have also requested someone with tact.
Ed looked disgusted. "Well, haul his ass over to the equipment, and take off his security blanket." He paused; "He is wearing clothes, right?" That got us all laughing. We placed Ed on a stool in front of what looked to me like a bunch of stereo equipment that had mated with a computer and spawned. Ed, however, seemed fascinated. The weird guy sat next to him, and asked how much he could do with the controls using his injured hand. We unstrapped him, and Ed demonstrated. "'Shit hot, man, half the guys shake so bad all they can do is push buttons. Now watch, and learn from a pro." We carefully backed off. Ann was keeping a close grip on Brenna, who was looking for a way out.
"Can you promise to behave so I can unwrap you?"
She looked sad. "My jewelry is back at the hospital and..." Ann held up the crocheted gloves. Brenna promised to sit up and beg. Soon she was relishing her first freedom in a very long time. Even if Ann was her shadow. We all cringed at the weird noises coming from the electronics. So we sat in some comfortable chairs, and watched as the noises slowly went from dropped trash cans to automobile accidents to someone abusing a room full of gerbils. Then we started to hear instruments, and then a few chords. My watch beeped, and I knew our time was up. I crossed both fingers and toes as we went to collect Ed.
He was doing something on the laptop with his right hand, and his bandaged and splinted left hand was sliding controls and clumsily flipping switches. "Hey, like it's time to split!" He jumped, then looked sheepish.
The musician helped him up "Still feelin' sorry for yourself, bucko?" Ed blushed, and shook his head.
"You made your point, Stevie. I'm still bleeding from the damned point cause you keep jabbing me with it. Now all I need is to save up for some equipment in addition to the computer, 'cause my keyboard will hook right up, and..."
"And this is your equipment, Ed. Courtesy of Mr. Johnson."
He stared at me. "But, but.."
"That's what you sit on, stupid." This from Stevie. "Or you can do like one German group, and eat sauerkraut, then put microphones on your chair."
Ed had trouble closing his mouth. Then he saw Brenna was standing, unwrapped. We finally wound up strapping the two security sleeves together, and then around the both of them. The tighter we made the result, the more they smiled. We managed to sort of secure them with a seat belt. Ann complained of starvation. Ed and Brenna mentioned weeks of hospital food.
We stopped at a pancake house and got a lot of stares when we led our weird pushme-pullyu inside. We unwrapped them, and all enjoyed a good meal. Service was great, and for some reason we had a section to ourselves. We refused to let either of them have a butter knife. They begged to be allowed to travel unsecured. The driver didn't care. They said they would be too busy snuggling to do anything else. So we agreed.
The nurses pitched a fit when we brought them back unwrapped. But they were really surprised when Ed climbed carefully into his bed, and Brenna secured his restraints. She kissed him, and got in her own bed, where Stacey did the honors. She and Ann and I cried all the way back home. We dropped Ed's new stuff off at his house.
Ed and Brenna returned to school the week after Thanksgiving. He still had a brace on his left wrist, and Brenna wore her bracelets. For safety, they were to be escorted at all times. We all met in the conference room after school. They were dead tired. And so far behind they were ready to give up. Mr. McGee offered them a partial solution.
For the rest of the year, they would take all one-semester classes, so they would start out fresh after Christmas. Mr. McGee had arranged for several students and teachers to provide tutoring, so that next year they would be ready to return to a regular schedule. It meant no summer vacation, but they agreed it was really all that could be done. Their parents came and collected them. We found out that they were to be secured to their beds at night like convicts. They said it was lots better than being stuck in the hospital.
We all had a huge laugh the next week, when Brenna announced she was going to have Ed stay overnight. Ed mumbled that being secured hand and foot next to her on the same bed was not quite what they wanted. Ann giggled and mentioned it was fool-proof birth control. Stacey and I just smiled at each other.
I wish that there had been no more problems. Jonas and I were still harassed a lot, but the novelty wore off. We also got a lot of hate mail from various fundamentalist groups. Ann moved to a tiny old house that Mr. Johnson bought outright. We called for donations, and within a day it was furnished better than any of ours. One of the kids' dad worked for the Ford dealer, and got her a rusty and beat up looking sedan, which was like new inside. So she drove herself to school. And us all over the place, as long as we paid for the gas.
At Christmas, we all got together at Mr. Johnson's huge house. His older kids were home for the holidays, and they were nothing like Joel. It was there Stacey and I made our announcement. After the new year, I was donating all my extra guy's clothes to charity, and would be Samantha full time. Mr. Johnson's oldest daughter Julie gave me an unexpected present. She was a surgical resident in Seattle. Stacey and I flew to Seattle two days later, and that evening Julie and several of her cohorts did some very careful, and for my age illegal, surgery.
I convalesced for two days at her place, then we flew back. With me as Samantha. It was the only choice now. There was no way to hide the nice breasts she had created. They ached wonderfully.
Jonas, Stacey and I will start school in the fall as juniors. Ed, Brenna, and Ann as seniors. It was a busy summer. I started on a very small dose of hormones, and electrolysis to remove the extra fur on my face and body. Ed is now the electronics guru for the school band. Brenna managed to get arrested for indecent exposure at the city park. Her bracelets covered more than her bikini.
And me? Stacey and I are now sixteen, and actually engaged. My name has been legally changed to Samantha. Except to a few die-hard idiots, I'm now just one of the girls.
Joel finally got his day in court. Since he was eighteen, he also got ten years. I doubt he will have to worry about time off for good behavior.
I forgot about Ann and Jonas. She is now doing co-op work-study at Mr. Johnson's office, training to be a department manager. She says she will do the same for the next few years till she gets her degree in management. And she now has a steady boyfriend, who also works in the same department.
Jonas is happy. He and his boyfriend and his boyfriend's girlfriend have been accepted by all three sets of parents. With a lot of help from a couple of psychiatrists. His friend is bi, she is straight. All three are apprenticing to be carpenters. Her father gave them an old farmstead, and they are slowly building a beautiful house when the time and money are available. Dad has been looking for land for us, and they have promised to help us build our place at cost. It will be a bit, because both Stacey and I have received early admission to the state university, on scholarships.
I guess I should include Mr. Johnson. He was still living under the cloud left by Joel's actions. And he had done all he could to help us. So at the next board meeting of his company, after spring break, we all got together and presented him with a plaque honoring him and his other children for supporting us, our school, and the community. He had a tear or two in his eyes when it was over.
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