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The Jade Boxby: Genni Smith
Amy was just coming out of the girls bathroom the next morning at school when she saw him for the first time since the night of the play. Steven Ellis was standing there, as if he was waiting for her, with a huge grin on his face.
Amy felt a mixture of emotions, none of which she liked the feeling of, a mixture of rage and impotence. She wanted to beat the crap out of him but she knew that she was too small and, as ashamed as she was to admit it, scared to confront him.
Just seeing him sent shivers right down her spine and a rabbit caught in the headlights sprang to mind. Thankfully Katie saw her and marched over, standing between Amy and Steve. Hi, she said trying to sound as cheerful as she could. Are you ready for maths?
Er yeah. Amy replied, coming out of a trance, her breaths coming fast
Katie took Amys arm in hers and led her away in the direction of their next lesson. He wasnt here yesterday. She told her friend when they were out of earshot. I dont know why. Sorry, I should have realised hed be a jerk and rub it in.
No, its not your fault. God, I dont know why its affecting me so much.
God I do. Katie replied. The guy almost raped you Amy. Its normal youre going to feel a little intimidated by you. I cant believe I ever went out with the arsehole. Do you want to give maths a miss?
Amy quickly shook her head. No, its one place I am sure he wont be.
Jeez, you really are shaken. Thats the first time I ever saw you glad to go to a maths lesson. Or any lesson for that matter.
Amy smiled weakly. Thats not entirely true. I loved science in my first year of high school.
Oh thats right. You used to rush in there like there was no tomorrow.
What was her name again?
Felicity Denham. Amy said grinning at the memories it bought back. Its a pity she moved schools. I would have got As if she stayed longer.
Yeah and I would have killed her if she stayed longer. Katie mumbled.
What was that?
Nothing. Come on.
At lunchtime Amy headed down to the spot where she, as Stuart, used to sit with his friends and band members but when they werent there she knew there was only one other place to find them.
Down on the school oval the three boys were kicking around a football, all of them wearing their team jerseys over their school uniforms, just as Stuart did. The jerseys of the Para Vista High Lions. Hi Noah. Amy said.
The three of them looked over at her obviously not to pleased with this girl who was interrupting their game. Gday. Noah Lane said quickly without even looking at her.
Almost football season? Amy asked trying to start a conversation.
Ah ha, the Lions are going to kick arse this year.
Whos playing Full Forward?
Noah rolled his eyes. You could tell straight away he was thinking that girls had no place even discussing football. Same guy whos done it the last two years, Gary Morton.
WHAT? Amy was genuinely shocked. That guy is useless.
He did kick five goals in the final last year.
The one you lost? She knew that because Stuart had kicked seven goals and the team won by three points.
What do you what? Noah spat, obviously not too happy to be reminded of the loss.
Amy just managed to duck as a football came flying her way and she watched a little jealously as Lano ran, leapt and took the ball with ease. Um Can I talk to you guys? She asked as Noah kicked it a good forty feet towards Jordan.
No, I mean all of you. The three of you. Together. All at once.
Can it wait? Noah grunted keeping his eye firmly on the ball as Joel caught it.
Not really. Amy said, getting frustrated.
Noah Lane rolled his eyes and finally looked at her, one of those looks guys give girls, an all over, up and down with a quick stop at the groin and chest areas. Were kind of busy.
The ball isnt going anywhere. Amy shrugged.
And neither are you by the sounds of things. Lano said dryly.
Amy had had enough of these games. She carefully judged the balls flight in the air and started running. All of a sudden she was Stuart again, figuratively speaking anyway. It was like she was back playing a game of football rather than watching from the sidelines with the rest of the girls. She ran like a gazelle, jumped like a grasshopper and plucked the ball from the air as if it was stationary.
All three boys were stunned with the ease she exhibited and it took them a minute to realise what she was up to. In a flash she tucked the ball up her sweater leaving her looking just as pregnant as her dads new wife.
What are you doing? Lano asked.
Jordan Davis ran over and said. Hey, we were playing with that.
Well now youre not Davey.
Give us the ball. Joel Warren said.
Come and get it Rabbit. Amy smiled. When it became obvious that none of them wanted to do that she continued. Just give me five minutes and you can have the ball.
What do you want?
Lano, youre a musician right?
I play the drums. Noah shrugged.
Close enough. Amy grinned. Davey, you play guitar right?
Ah ha. Jordan said eyeing the bulge in Amys stomach.
Okay, now were getting somewhere. Rabbit, still bashing away at the keyboard?
Amy was relieved, she wasnt sure if they still played music without Stuart being on the scene to keep on their backs about it. Good. Have you guys seen this? She pulled the flyer for the battle of the bands out of a sleeve. One more drawback of girls clothes, theres never enough pockets.
Yeah? So what?
Gee, weve got a drummer, a guitarist, some one who can play keyboards and I can sing. Theres another name for all of us. Can anyone guess what it might be? She asked sarcastically.
A band. Lano shrugged.
Give the man a cigar. So what do you think?
What do you mean no? Amy asked puzzled.
Now it was Rabbits turn to be facetious. No. The opposite of yes. An answer in the negative.
Well, we dont want to look like dicks in front of our friends. Lano said.
Because everyone knows the teachers judge that and give it to the girly swots who play crappy music. Rabbit nodded.
And we dont want to look like dicks in front of our friends. Davey added nailing the final point home.
You dont have to answer now. Amy said. Think about it and get back to me tomorrow. She turned and started to walk off.
Yeah? For a second she hoped they had reconsidered.
The ball? Davey asked pointing to her large stomach.
She fished it out from under her sweater and passed it to the nearest guy that happened to be Rabbit. By the way babe, not a bad catch before. He said, winking at her.
Babe? Amy thought. All of a sudden, a quote she had learned in History sprang to mind. That alone surprised her because she would never have though shed remember anything from History. It was probably because this one seemed so fitting to the situation. Yeah, well, she started. I may have the body of a weak and feeble female but I have the heart of a Lion.
Amy. She heard some one call. Hey Amy.
The voice was familiar and she easily spotted Danny making his way through the crowd of kids. Hi. She said, smiling in spite of her self.
Where have you been? Ive been looking all over for you.
Ah just some unfinished business to attend to.
Cool. Did you finish it? Danny asked putting his arm around her tiny waist.
Anything I can help with?
I dont think so.
So how is your Aunty?
Who? Amy asked with a blank look on her face.
Your Aunty. The one in hospital you went to see last week.
Oh her. Shes a lot better now.
Are you ok Amy? You seem a little distant?
Im fine. She said, giving him a peck on the lips to reassure him. I just have a lot on my mind.
Like what? Danny asked taking her hands in his.
Oh, like trying to work out what a crack pot old Chinese woman had in mind when she told me to look to my heart. Like trying to get back to my old male life without upsetting a guy I cant help but like. Like trying to get my old friends from said male life to join a band I need to set up in case a crack pot Aussie girl might be right. Like trying to deal with my fathers new wife being seven or eight months pregnant with my half brother or sister and my mum and sister dont know about it. Like dealing with a girl who knows I am really a guy but who still has feelings for me. She though.
This and that. Is what she ended up saying. Girl stuff.
Amy was moved by his genuine concern and the obvious worry on his face. Sure I am sure. She smiled. How can I go wrong when I am with such a great guy?
Well there is one little thing to worry about. Danny said looking a little guilty.
Well, weve both got Mr. Fisher for English next and because you went away he hasnt finished with you over that Romeo and Juliet thing yet.
What is it he called it again? The greatest massacre of the Bards work he had ever seen and that included Baz Luhrmanns version. The guy is such a drama queen.
I think youre half right. Danny grinned.
Yes? Jade answered as she sat and watched the television that night.
Have you seen dad?
Yeah, hes the older guy that lived her until I was eleven or twelve.
Der. No I mean have you seen him since hes been here this time? Amy asked rolling her eyes.
Nup. Ive spoken to him on the phone though. Why?
I dont think so. Whats going on?
Nothing, I just wondered.
Jade gave her sister a piercing look. One she learned from her mother that women seemed to use like radar looking for a lie. I dont believe you but I am enjoying the show so I will let it pass.
Amy sat on the sofa next to her sister and tried not to think of a very pregnant Francesca. Did you know he was staying at Gran's place?
Ah ha. Jade mumbled, getting annoyed now.
Why do you think hes doing that? I mean usually when he comes to Adelaide his expense account pays for a swanky hotel room doesnt it?
Usually. Jade nodded.
So why is he staying with Gran?
I dont bloody know. Maybe she asked him to stay with her. Maybe work has cut his spending. Maybe he just wants a home cooked meal. Jade shouted. great, the commercial is on now and I missed everything that was said. Howd you get on with Huey, Dewey and Louie today?
To put it in bowling terms I bowled a gutter ball. In Base Ball language I struck out. In terms of Aussie Rules Football I kicked it out on the full.
And in English? Jade asked
I fucked up. Amy sighed.
Youre kidding? And you call yourself a girl? The older sister snorted.
Like you can do better?
For a fee.
Im listening. Amy said.
Complete creative control. I pick the music you play, I chose the clothes you wear. Everything.
Amy thought about it for a minute. She really didnt believe Jade could get the three guys to agree to it so where was the problem? In fact it would be nice to see Jade fall flat on her butt. Done. She smiled shaking her sisters hand.
You certainly have been. Jade grinned. I am going to enjoy dressing you up like my own personal Barbie Doll.
Amy went to bed early. She wasnt feeling all that well and put it down to a stomach flu that had been doing the rounds at school. She felt like crap and didnt sleep all that well. Her Mum was still up, doing some paper work, when she got up a couple of hours later to go to the bathroom. The girl smiled at her reflection as she saw her baby blue flannelette pyjamas with the Tweety birds on them. Who would have though three months ago that shed be wearing this stuff? She slipped her pants and her panties down in one fell swoop and then sat.
Oh no, She said. Shit, shit, shit. This is not fair.
You okay in there honey? Susan said, knocking quietly on the door.
No. I am not okay. The girl spat. I am pissed off. She stood up and readjusted her pyjama bottoms and then rifled through the bathroom cabinet.
Ill give you one guess. Three women in this house and not one damned sanitary pad in here.
You early? Susan asked, unsure what all the fuss was about.
Amy mentally counted the days back to her last period. No, she said. Bang on time. I just wasnt expecting this again. I stopped marking off the calendar when we went to Hong Kong. I was supposed to be Stuart now remember? This really sucks Mum.
Welcome to my nightmare. Susan half smiled. Hang on, Ill get you something from your bedroom.
The alarm went off earlier than normal the next morning so Amy could get the first shower. She liked to spend longer than normal under the hot water when she had her period for two reasons. It helped to get rid of the aches and she always felt dirty. Dirty and smelly. If she got up first she was guaranteed plenty of hot water so she made the sacrifice of sleep.
For once the three Denton women actually managed to be at the breakfast table at the same time. Susan was eating some yoghurt, Jade was munching on an apple and Amy just had some white toast.
Have you girls got much planned today? Susan asked.
I thought I might go to school. Jade smiled. Might make a pleasant change.
Oh gee. Now I dont know whether to ground you for playing truant or to check with your teachers in case you are pulling my leg. The older woman said.
I say ground her. Amy interjected and regretted doing so as soon as she had.
Susan turned and looked at her youngest child. Speaking of grounded. I havent heard from your Grandmother yet about your apology. You went right?
Ah ha. The girl said not looking her mother in the eye.
Good. Then theres no reason for me not to call in on her after work is there?
Shit. Amy thought. None at all Mum. What time will you be home?
About 5:30. Why?
It was about this time that Amy mentally apologised to Dentists around the world for all of the bad stuff she ever thought about them. Did you forget my appointment?
Damn, you have a dentist appointment at 4:45. Susan looked at her watch. Well, I better leave now then so I can leave work earlier. Your grandmother will have to wait until tomorrow. She picked up her handbag and her briefcase. Ill pick you up here at 4:30 sharp Amy. Have a good day girls.
Where are you going? Jade asked.
I was thinking of chipping a tooth. Amy said as she walked away from the table. That dentist just saved my arse. Its only fair he gets some money for his troubles.
Jade, Amy and Katie were walking down to the oval together at lunch on that Thursday, looking for Lano, Rabbit and Davey.
Okay, there they are. Down on the oval. You two had better stay here and watch a master at work.
I still have no idea how you are going to change their minds Jade. They were pretty adamant yesterday. Amy said.
Ah Glasshopper. You have much to rearn. Jade smiled.
I think shes going to do it Amy. Katie said with a look of admiration on her face. If anyone can convince them to do it, its Jade.
God I hope youre wrong. I have a feeling that shell put me in 5 inch stiletto heels if she does manage to swing it.
Jade took her time, assessing each of the three likely candidates. She didnt like any of them all that much but she knew enough about them from the time they spent at her house with Stuart. Noah Lane was cute, for a fifteen year old with the social graces of a baboon but she knew he wasnt egotistical enough for what she needed.
Joel Warren was probably the only one she could tolerate for any length of time. The two of them had even had the odd conversation of more than two words but he wasnt right either.
Jordan Davis seemed the best one to con. He was dumb enough to believe what she was about to tell him and just conceited enough not to question it.
Yeah? Davey said, somewhat surprised to see this pretty and popular girl who normally wouldnt look at him twice was actually talking to him. The football practice with Rabbit and Lano was quickly forgotten.
Look I heard that my little sister was pestering you to get a band together.
Ah ha. We said no.
Jade nodded and looked like she was deep in thought. Its probably for the best, she said. I mean with the feelings she has for you itd be silly to lead her on. If youre not interested then youre not interested.
Jade could almost hear the cogs in his brain creak into gear. Huh? What do you mean?
Come on, a man of the world like you would have to be able to spot when a girls got the hots for you. The whole band thing was just a ploy to spend more time with you.
A cocky smile spread across Jordans face and disappeared just as quickly Hang on. What about Simpson? I saw the two of them yesterday and they looked pretty close.
Come on Jordan think about it. When a girl is going out with a guy and secretly fancies another guy she feels all guilty. Believe me, Amy is only all over Danny because shes planning on dumping him for you. So you and your friends definitely did the right thing in saying no to her.
Jade walked back up to her sister and next-door neighbour. Well? Amy asked.
Very. Jade smiled as she looked back and saw the three boys deep in a conversation, all thought of football obviously forgotten. Theyll come and see you by the end of the day to agree to set up a band.
Are you sure? Katie asked.
Trust me kiddo. Ive forgotten more about boys than youll ever know.
Amy had three things to complain about that night. Her teeth were in agony after three cavities had been found and drilled. Her period was particularly bad this time and on top of it all she had thoughts of Jade making her look like a dick in front of her friends.
True to her word Rabbit, Davey and Lano had found her just before school ended for the day to tell her theyd thought about it and wanted in on the band idea. Theyd all set a schedule for practice. Lots of practice. There were only two weeks until theyd be up on stage. The first one was set for the following afternoon at Amys house.
It was around 7 pm when Amy opened the door to find Danny standing there holding a single red rose and two videos.
I rang earlier to see if you wanted to come over to my place and Jade told me you were at the dentist so I thought if Mohammed couldnt come to the mountain Id drag the mountain to Mohammed. He grinned.
Amy couldnt help but smile. Well come on in Mountain.
How you feeling Amy? The boy asked as he hugged her close.
Like Ive gone three rounds with Mike Tyson. She took the rose from him and for some reason did a really girly thing and smelled it. Whose garden did you grab this from?
Yours actually. But its the thought that counts. Ive got a couple of videos too. Both of them chick flicks.
Amy would have preferred an action movie but beggars cant be choosers. Despite wanting to back away from Danny she found it incredibly hard. On top of all of her feelings for him the guy was nice and she couldnt think of a way to break off the relationship without hurting him. Besides, she reasoned, if she works out what Mamma Chow was on about shell be Stuart again and the only ones who will ever remember Amy are Susan, Jade, Katie and herself. You set them up and Ill get us some munchies. She said.
Its pretty quiet here. Danny said as he absently flicked through some magazines on the coffee table.
Mums at a friends house and Jade is at the movies. Amy shouted back from the kitchen.
What a pity. The boy grinned.
The first movie was a little boring but Amy didnt care. She was just enjoying lying back in Dannys arms, her head to his chest, listening to his heartbeat and smelling him. Damn he smelled good.
They didnt say much to each other but it didnt matter. If anything it helped give Amy more time to think. She felt a lot better when she stopped beating herself up about it. What was wrong with it? She still might be stuck as a girl and Danny was the guy she wanted to spend the moment with.
Danny stood up and stretched. Ready for another one? He asked.
Amy checked her watch. Yeah, weve got time I guess. Ill get some more chips.
The second movie was great, not that they watched much of it. Not long after it started Danny kissed the pretty girl and from then on it got hot and heavy. Before she knew what hit her he was massaging her breast through her t-shirt and then without warning his hand slipped below and he undid her bra. Is that okay? He asked.
Um yeah. I guess She gasped. Stop now you arsehole and I will cut your balls off.
All of a sudden her mind thought back to a diary entry that sounded pretty much the same as she was feeling right at that moment. For a moment she remembered that after reading it she felt a little sick and not just because of who she had been kissing. The thought of a guy kissing her that passionately and feeling his big hands on her breasts seemed totally foreign to Amy then. Now it felt wonderful. It was incredible how six weeks and an overdose of estrogen could totally change your view of things.
She lay back on Dannys chest, one of his hands caressing her breasts and the other resting on her trim stomach.
Hang on Gringo, youre not welcome in Mexico. She told him, grabbing his hand as it darted for her shorts.
No action south of the border, she explained.
Danny looked deep into her eyes, puzzled. Oh, he said as a look of understanding passed over his face. I am sorry Amy. I didnt even think about how upset you are about that bastard Ellis. I understand.
What? Now it was Amys turn to be puzzled although to be truthful tonight was probably the first time since the party at Dannys house that she hadnt thought about Steve and how scared and angry she felt. No, its not that. She giggled. Believe me if I could I would but ah its not the right time.
Oh. The boy said shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He recovered from both his disappointment and his discomfort well however. Gee, I guess I will have to make the supreme sacrifice and just kiss you then.
Were not playing that shit. Lano said the next afternoon in the Dentons garage.
Why not? Jade asked.
Because its ancient.
You want to win dont you?
Id prefer not to be laughed off the stage. Rabbit told her.
Look, I picked those two songs for two reasons. The first is that they suit Amys voice and the second is for the simple reason that they are old enough to be enjoyed by the teacher who judge it and not so bad that the kids in the audience will think its a joke.
Cant we play something new? Davey griped. Weve got together ourself and wrote a song.
Spare me. Jade mumbled rolling her eyes. Cover versions are in. Everyone is doing them. If you do this my way I guarantee youll win and walk away with the cash.
Jade, I like you, Rabbit started. And you kind of have a reputation around school for being violent so Ill put this as nicely as I can; who died and made you boss?
If you dont want to do it then thats up to you. Jade shrugged. The door is over there.
Lano started to pack up and the other boys followed suit. Okay then. See you later.
Were out of here. Rabbit nodded.
Jade waited until everything was more or less packed up and they were heading out of the door. Youre right Amy. I didnt believe it but you are right. She said winking to her sister. Three of the toughest footballers in our school and theyll come up with any excuse to get out of this. They are just scared.
Thats smart. Amy hissed. Theyre really going to hang around if you insult them.
Give them thirty seconds. Jade whispered. And be thankful they dont know mum found you and lover boy asleep on the sofa when she got home last night.
Huh? Amy asked. What the hell are you playing at Jade?
The boys came back in and Lano sheepishly said. How about if we practice your two songs and ours and then see which one wed all prefer?
Fair enough. Jade said with a grin Amy knew all too well said Check mate
Amys life seemed to settle into a routine again and on that Sunday her period ended. With Amys entire firsthand experience with menstruation, a grand total thus far of three periods, she was always happy to see the end of them for another twenty-eight days or so. This time, with not trip to Hong Kong to focus on things went pretty much as she expected. She and Danny got closer, if at all possible, like wise with herself and Katie. Jade continued to call the shots with the band that, for reasons no band member other than Amy seemed to know, was called The Mamma Chows. It was slow going and Amy had quit her job at the coffee shop to devote a lot of her time to practice so slowly but surely they were actually getting good. They should be, Jade seemed to easily get her way and the guy song was soon ditched and they played only her two choices over and over again. Amy could ever breathe a sigh of relief when her mother seemed to loose interest in visiting her Grandmother, a visit that would result in a pretty severe punishment for her lie about apologising, and much worse in Amys mind, her mother finding out about the impending birth of her dads new child.
All things considered, if she could forget she was a girl, or conversely forget the fact that she hadnt been born that way, things were going pretty well for her. Of course, both of those options were impossible. Acting like a girl, dressing, walking, talking and even thinking like a girl now came as easy to her as kicking a football, batting in cricket or just shooting the shit with Stuarts friends had once been. Incredibly she now knew all of the names for different types of skirts, dresses, tops, necklines and fabrics. She was as competent at discussing make-up as she used to be talking about which car could beat another car in an imaginary race.
If only she could shut up the nagging voice somewhere in the back of her mind that all of her new found abilities and talents, as good as they were, were not that dissimilar to getting too engrossed in a movie. It just wasnt real. Not really who she was or who she should be. The only difference was, when the movie ended in two or three hours, you shook your head a little and moved out of the darkened cinema and into the normalities of every day life. The movie she was watching had no known end when the curtain comes down, there wasnt even an intermission where she could go out, take a breath of fresh air and think about everyday things away from the movie.
On her Eighty-eighth day as a girl, at around ten oclock pm, Amy was vaguely aware of a phone call as she watched television. Phone calls at that time of night either meant a wrong number so she fully expected the caller to be dispatched into telephone oblivion without a moments thought by her mum.
You better get dressed, Susan said around three minutes later.
Huh? Amy asked looking down at her perfectly comfortable pyjamas.
Something is up at your grandmothers house. Jade isnt here and I might need help to calm her down. Susan said as if that explained everything.
Grandma Nelson? Amy asked hopefully.
No, Grandma Denton.
Shit. Amy thought. Her mums mum was a pain in the behind on a scale Amy had yet to see matched but at the moment, even she was preferable over her dads mother. Whats up with her? She eventually asked.
I couldnt understand much of the phone call but she was panicked and I heard screaming in the background. It could be anything from her losing her remote control for the television again right up to some one prowling around her house. Amy started to open her mouth but her mother jumped in first. Before you say anything, yes. You do have to come. I dont see why I should suffer alone. Besides, if you are there I have a good excuse to leave fast if its nothing big. Last time I got called over there I ended up drinking tea and eating scones until three am.
Amy went to her room and quickly put on a pair of jeans, a bra and a pink ribbed T-shirt and as she dressed she reasoned that by now her dad and his wife were probably back in Perth. After all, he never stayed in Adelaide that long and no one had heard from him for two weeks. Nothing to worry about.
She grabbed a scrunchie and slipped her dainty feet into a pair of sandals as she walked out of her bedroom. Her mother was locking the back door and grabbing her keys as Amy deftly pulled her hair into a ponytail and used the scrunchie to keep it in place.
Her Grandmothers house was quiet as they parked the car in front of it five minutes later. If there was any evidence of a major disturbance it was long gone. The street was quiet apart from the odd bark of a dog and a distant catfight so Susan and Amy both made their way to the front door.
Just a minute. A voice shouted from somewhere deep inside. After some banging and clanging of what sounded like saucepans the door opened. Oh, thank god youre here. Marjorie Denton said somewhat pre-occupied.
Whats the matter?
I was waiting for him but now Ive left it a little late and I didnt know if I should call one or you.
Amy blinked a little as she tried to work out what her grandmother was on about. She loved her dearly but her grandmother was a dying breed of women who were bought up to leave anything remotely important to the men and just take care of the "womens things". Since her husband had died a few years before she was still coming to terms with the idea of actually making a decision. If you add her tendency to talk about the given subject without including anything remotely resembling detail, she was one of the most exasperating women Amy had ever dealt with.
Susan wondered who "he" was, what was "left a little late" and what the "one" her mother in law was referring to but knew from experience it would take too long to ask so she just entered the house to investigate things.
Amy went next with Marjorie bringing up the rear muttering. I should have done it straight away but I was waiting. I thought there was time.
At first Susan just saw a woman sitting on her mother in laws sofa. Realisation slowly dawned on her that is was her husbands new wife and it took as long again for her to digest the fact that Francesca was very pregnant and that she was very much in labor. She was so slow in working all of this out that Amy was way ahead of her and slowly inching her way to the door to escape the explosion of fury she was sure was on the way.
She neednt have worried though because as soon as the three facts had made any impact on Susans mind she shifted gears and took over. Amy stood back and watched in amazement as her mother morphed into some sort of Midwifery machine. How far apart are the contractions? Susan asked.
Oh, Marjorie said with a look that would have been more appropriate if Susan had asked her the core temperature on Pluto. I dont know dear. I was timing it but then I called you and
Four minutes. Francesca shouted as another contraction gripped her. Where the hell is he?
Jim? You dont know where he is?
No Susan, Marj said with a blank look. He was going out on a business meal and Fran was going to go but because of her legs she decided to stay home. Hes not answering his mobile thingy. Its the airlines I blame.
Now, even for her grandmother, that seemed a very large leap of logic. Susan and Amy just looked at each other and shook their heads, a silent agreement not to ask her why she blamed the airlines. Should I call an ambulance? Amy asked her mother as she worked out what "one" meant.
Susan considered it quickly. No, we might be better getting her into a car and up to the hospital. Is that okay with you Francesca?
Unless you have an epidural in your pocket hospital sounds pretty good.
You need a whatsit. Marjorie said and as far as anyone could tell she rushed off to get whatever a whatsit entailed.
A long uncomfortable silence fell over the room as Amy looked from her mother to her stepmother like she was watching a tennis game. It was also the first time she had to really look at Francesca and look she did. Francesca was almost the opposite of her mother. Where Susan was short and blonde, Francesca was tall and dark, obviously Mediterranean as her name suggested. Susan looked like a businesswoman even dressed in her casual slacks and a light jumper but Francesca appeared more laid back. Her fathers new wife was undoubtedly beautiful and it was apparent that when she regained her figure, she would have a magnificent body. Amy did what any girl in her position would; she took an immediate dislike to her.
I didnt think childbirth took this long. Amy yawned five hours later.
Are you kidding? Jade took almost twenty hours and you were a little over fifteen. This is nothing.
Your dad took thirty three hours. Her grandmother informed her as she peered at Susan as if she was an amateur
The three women took it in turns to go in and spend time with Francesca, which was pretty uncomfortable for Susan, Amy and Francesca herself, ferrying coffee or cola from the vending machines and trying to telephone Jade and/or her father. Jade had been over at a friends house and was due home no later than ten thirty but there was no answer to constant calls so Susan had let her imagination run wild to anything from abduction right up to elopement with some boy and all points in between. All of which made her crabby with her mother in law who insisted on making excuses for Jim. All it all it was a pretty tense time for everyone and Amy wondered if it was all going to take longer than a public holiday why she needed to be there at all.
Amy and her mother slowly dragged the story out of Marjorie. From what they could gather Jim had bought Francesca over to Adelaide for a holiday, sort of a second honeymoon before the baby was born. She was cleared to fly by her doctor in Perth but not long after arriving she felt terrible, fainted and went to the hospital. Her blood pressure was sky high and the doctor there had advised her against air travel. Now because Perth was a good 6 days drive, across a vast desert they were effectively stuck in Adelaide. Now, two weeks short of the due delivery date Jim had thought he was safe to go out to dinner with some clients.
I got your note. Where is she? Jim asked as he burst through the door at the end of the corridor and saw his family sitting on uncomfortable benches.
Shes gone for a jog. Amy said quickly. Where do you think she is?
A look passed between her mother and father that told Amy that Susan had no idea Francesca was pregnant and the matter would be raised at a later date. Shes in there. Susan said. I think shes expecting you.
Id keep your thingy out of her reach though. Marj told him, pointing in the general direction of his groin.
After what had been a pretty boring five hours things seemed to heat up pretty quickly. Where as there had been the odd nurse going into the room now and then to check on contractions or dilations or whatever they did there now seemed to be a basketball team rushing in and out of the room every three minutes.
Another hour passed like this until eventually a nurse appeared. Denton? she asked looking their way.
Susan jumped to her feet. Yes. Thats us.
The nurse smiled. Mother and Daughter are doing fine. Would you like to come in?
Just you try and stop me. Amys grandmother beamed as she followed the nurse into the room.
Amy and her mother stood back a little. Neither of them felt it was their place to go in. Its okay. The nurse said at the door. The father asked for all three of you.
Susan shrugged and made her way to the door leaving Amy the only one unsure about what to do. In the end she gave in to her curiosity and followed.
Francesca was sitting up in bed. She looked tired but joyously happy and there was a small wriggly bundle, wrapped in what appeared to be a hundred layers of fabric, in her arm. Come on. The new mother said quietly. She wont bite.
Of course she wont, she doesnt have any thingy bobs yet. Marjorie laughed. Amy figured, with out too much trouble, that she meant teeth.
She moved just a little closer and managed to see a blur of pink in the small opening of fabric.
Amy, meet your little sister, Julia Anne Denton.
Up until that point the girl has been unaware of her fathers presence in the room. It was probably natural as all eyes were directed to Francesca and the tiny little girl she proudly held. Her dad looked happier than she had ever seen him and it brightened her heart just a little when it reminded her slightly of times her dad had spent with her when she was much younger. My little sister? Amy said absently.
Well half sister but its still much the same. Jim said. Amy smiled despite herself. She thought pregnant women were supposed to glow, not new fathers.
Do you want to hold her? Her stepmother asked.
What? No I couldnt Shes so tiny.
Youll be fine. Susan prodded. Just support her neck and head.
Amy gingerly took the struggling bundle from Francesca like she was the most expensive item in an antique shop and she didnt want to be stuck paying for it if she dropped it. It took a second to get the little package comfortably and safely positioned in her arms and then there was time to look at the baby girl.
Never being one that had time for babies before, after all, she though, they all looked much the same, Amy was stunned by the pure beauty of the brand new life she held. Huge brown eyes, when they were open, gave the impression of vast knowledge that Amy could only guess at. The tiniest little nose above a mouth with deep dimples ether side, much like her own made it appear that the little girl was smiling even though she knew it was impossible. The adorable face was topped off by a mass of brown, curly hair. Shes beautiful. Amy said and she had never meant something more in her life.
Of course she is, Jim grinned. She looks like her mother and her sister A pointed look from his mother made him add something to save himself. And almost as pretty as her grandmother.
A little hand somehow made its way out from under the cloth and Amy fell in love again. Never in her life had she seen the wonder of the human hand that she was now experiencing. Shes just beautiful. She said again before carefully handing the little girl to her grandmother.
Once again Amy found herself amazed at the range of emotions she was feeling. Since her change it felt more. Her highs were higher than Mt. Everest and her lows, the few she had were deeper than the Marianas Trench compared to her memories of highs and lows as a guy. She also knew now that you could very easily get all clucky over a baby.
As the baby was handed from her grandmother to her mother, who was always happy to hold a baby, no matter whose, and then on to her Dad Amy kept looking at her the proud new father amazed how happy he looked.
I think its time to give the new parents some time to themselves. A nurse said gently when Francesca started to yawn. Amy, Susan and Marjorie all said their farewells and headed out of the room.
It was Susan who summed up Amys feelings as they reacquainted themselves with the chair in the corridor outside of the birthing room. God, hes so happy any body would think he gave birth. She said with a smile.
If men gave birth thered be a hall of fame for the ones with the longest labor. Marj added in a moment of unusual clarity.
The three of them all broke into peels of laughter and then a happy and contented silence. Susan finally managed to reach Jade on the telephone and gave her the unexpected news that she now had two sisters and not one. It turned out that Jades car had broken down on the way home from her friends house and she had tried to call them to let them know but of course no one was home. Instead she called her friends house and her friends dad had come out and spent two hours, in the dark, on the side of the road, tinkering with the engine. When starting the car looked like an impossibility she was driven home and promptly fell asleep without even seeing the note.
She could sleep through a nuclear explosion. Amy had explained when her Grandmother asked why she hadnt woken up to the sound of the phone. Jade only heard the phone when she did because she was awake to use the bathroom.
Not long after, her dad came out of the room. Shes asleep. He told them. Thanks for all your help tonight. Especially you Susan. You are the best ex-wife a man could ever have. He stopped to give her a peck on the cheek. He looked at his watch. God is that the time? It was almost five am. Can you do me one more favour and take Mum home please?
Sure. Susan said. Youre not going to get some sleep?
Sleep? Jim replied like it was an alien term. The way I feel now I could run from here to Perth and back. I wont sleep for hours.
Amy had no doubt her dad meant it.
As it turned out neither Amy nor Susan could sleep. There seemed little point in even attempting to get some shut eye because by the time they had dropped Marjorie off at her house and had a cup of coffee with real coffee instead of the pap that came from the vending machine at the hospital, it was five thirty and the sun was up.
Jade woke up to hear all about it but she was a little jealous the she missed all of the "fun" and told her mother not to expect her home straight after school because she was going to go and see little Julia Anne as all of them referred to the baby.
I just cant believe how proud Dad looked. Amy said.
Its hardly an every day event honey. Susan replied. Besides, that was pretty tame compared to the birth of you two.
Tame how? Jade asked.
Susan looked at her oldest child. Well, with you we were young and everything was new. We were typical first time parents, we read anything and everything about having kids and we followed all of the rules. Both of us were deeply in love and we dearly wanted you. The day you were born was a Wednesday, which was payday back then for your dad, a wet, cold day in the middle of winter, so I was out doing the shopping when I had the first contraction, two weeks late I might add. Mobile phones were as rare as hens teeth back then so it wasnt like I could just ring your dad and tell him it was time for the moment wed been waiting for. I steered, and when you are nine and a half months pregnant, steering is the right word, out to the road and grabbed a cab.
Why not drive? Amy asked without thinking about it.
Cars arent made for pregnant women sweetie. I couldnt fit behind the wheel after six months. Susan patiently explained. anyway, I got to the hospital without any problems and they rang your dads work from there. He was out visiting clients so the girl in the office was ringing everyone the firm dealt with to try and track him down. He arrived an hour or so later and nineteen hours later Jade made her entrance. Not before time, if you had stayed in there any longer I would have sent in a search party.
She always has been slow. Amy said.
Well your dad was over the moon with it. I thought he was going to faint at one stage there during the delivery and I even suggested the doctor give him the drugs but he came through it. He raced from the room to ring his parents and mine with the good news, raced back in to ask if wed thought of a name, ran back again, came back a few minutes later to ask the weight. He was like a five year old on red cordial. Susan laughed at the recollection. In the end a nurse wrote it all down and he headed back for the phone. Then he had the nerve to hit the doctor and two nurses up for some twenty cent pieces because hed run out.
What about my birth? Amy asked trying to sound like she didnt care and failing miserably at it.
Your birth was special, in fact the first three months of your life were very special for you dad. Susan said with a weird nostalgic look on her face.
Well Stuart, Susan started, shocking Amy by using her real name, Ultrasound was around then but we didnt take up on the option to find out your sex, or Jades. We both chose to do it the natural way. On the day you were born it was hot, very hot. I was at home, sweltering, trying to keep Jade and myself cool. It was pretty close to four pm and I was doing the washing when a breeze blew up and in next to no time the sky went from cloudless to stormy. We had a summer storm on the way and I rushed outside to take the washing off the clothesline when I felt my first contraction. I went next door and asked Mrs. Francis to baby sit Jade, she was 7 months pregnant with Katie at the time but she called me a cab and off I went. Susan stopped at that point to take a drink of tea.
And let me guess, you couldnt find dad?
No actually, he was in the office and was there in about half an hour. He was wonderful. He had me breathing like a dirty phone call and he spoon-fed me chips of ice. All night he was there, holding my hands, giving me back massages, telling me how much he loved me. You were born a little before seven am the following morning and your dad was as proud as a pea-cock.
Why? He got his son silly. Sure we all say we dont care if the babies a boy or a girl as long as its healthy but I think deep down women want a little girl to dress up and share things with and men want a boy to teach sports and how to fix a car.
You got both. Jade added dryly.
Anyway, not long after you were born I caught glandular fever and I had to stop breastfeeding. Your dad never missed your three hourly feeds. He got up every time without complaints and he took long service leave to look after you. I was laid up in bed and Jade was staying with Grandmother Nelson so basically he was your mum and dad for three months. I didnt get near you while I was contagious in case I passed it on but I used to look out the back door as your dad carried you around in the garden and talked to you. He told you stuff a baby couldnt possibly understand. He told you the names of the plant, told you about the airplanes that flew over. Anything and everything. He was in heaven. Even diapers didnt phase him, do you know why?
No sense of smell? Jade said before Amy could ask.
No, its because they were Stuarts dirty diapers. I think your dad could have had them bronzed if you could find some one to do it. He really loved you and do you know what?
What? Amy asked.
The feeling was mutual. God, you thought the sun shone out of him. Susan laughed. Your first word was daddy and when you learnt to walk you followed him around everywhere. From the moment he got home from work until you went to sleep if I wanted to find you Id just look for your dad. You idolized him.
I dont know sweetheart. Susan said very solemnly. I can tell you that your Dad hasnt changed but you have.
Amy quickly wiped a tear out of her eye before her mother or sister could notice it. Damn emotions, she thought.
Jeez, when most people say they had a big night they usually just mean a kiss with some one they fancy. Katie said to Amy during lunch that day at school. You just have to be better than everyone dont you? She laughed.
Yeah, well I guess a baby sister doesnt come along everyday. Amy smiled despite the tiredness.
Whats she like?
Well shes a wonderful ballroom dancer and she can speak six languages fluently. Amy rolled her eyes. Shes a baby for crying out loud.
You can be a sarcastic prick at times. Katie said. I mean, is she cute?
She sleeps, sucks boobs and shits. Amy said trying to hide her true feelings.
Ah. I saw that look. You cant tell me you arent clucky, I have seven cousins and a mother who had a hysterectomy after she had me, I know the signs.
Ever thought your mother decided to have a hysterectomy after laying eyes on you? Amy grinned.
Well she knew she couldnt improve on perfection. Katie replied quickly.
Hello ladies. Danny said as he sat down next to Amy and gave her a kiss on the lips. How are you both?
Amy spent the night in the hospital.
What? The boys face became a mask of concern. Are you okay?
Im fine. Amy laughed. My stepmother had a nasty obstruction she needed to clear.
Dont listen to her Danny. Amys Stepmother gave birth to a little girl over night and Amys trying to pretend she isnt clucky. Shes also grumpy because she hasnt been to bed.
I am not clucky or grumpy. Amy protested.
Shouldnt you have the day off?
I wanted to come to school. Amy told her boyfriend.
Clucky, grumpy and sick. Katie laughed.
Jade weve been playing the same songs for three hours straight. Amy groaned later that night. We can do this in our sleep.
Shes right. Rabbit nodded. And for the last hour weve been getting worse. Enough is enough.
Jade looked at her watch and then nodded. Okay. Well leave it until tomorrow night.
Uh uh. Lano yawned. There is no way we can get better before Friday. I am not going to play this ancient music again until Friday.
Im with him. Davey said.
Why doesnt that surprise me? Jade mumbled under her breath. You guys wouldnt have an original thought between you.
Alright. Jade snapped. But dont blame me if you dont win on the big night. Its only Tuesday night and you have three more days to practice.
I think its official Jade. Amy said. Besides, you are just acting like you.
Huh? Jade asked.
Were revolting. The younger girl smiled as the boys started packing up their equipment.
You can say that again.
Im beginning to think I quit my job too early. Amy told Katie the next day.
Whys that? You missing Sammy?
God no. Amy stated strongly. I just thought Id be a guy sooner rather than later and so far nothings happened. Its expensive being a girl. I had to get moisturiser, mascara and some toner in the last few days.
Not to mention that little peasant blouse you looked fantastic in. Katie smiled.
Yeah, laugh it up. Amy grumbled. Why is it all of the women in my life think my situation is so amusing?
Oh come on. If you had told me four months ago that Stuart Denton would be shopping like a seasoned professional and worrying how his butt looked I would have laughed myself stupid.
Youre pretty much there now.
Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit Amy. But in your case its half wit.
Amy just rolled her eyes. Getting back to my original point, I am jobless, cashless and dickless.
Not to mention hopeless. Katie added good-naturedly.
And friendless soon if you keep on going the way you are K.J.
So get a job.
Where? I walked that damn mall to find the job at the Copper Kettle.
True but Sammy would give you a good reference right?
I guess so. Amy nodded a little uncertainly.
And I heard the Multiplex is looking for staff. Katie told her. Its got to be easier selling people tickets to see a movie than serving them coffee, right?
I guess. Amy conceded.
So why dont we get dolled up and go up there after school? The least they can say is no right?
No, the least they can do is laugh as us.
Thats what I love about you Amy, Katie smiled. Youre such and optimist.
Well that wasnt so bad.
True, Amy nodded as the two girls walked back home. The manager was trying to look up my skirt for the whole interview, my feet are killing me from these heels, I need to pee so badly I can almost taste urine and to top it all off, Steven bloody Ellis was applying for the same job. But apart from that I feel wonderful about it.
Alright, Steve being there wasnt part of the plan but lets face it, you have much better legs than him.
I just hate the way the creep looks at me. Amy said as they turned down a long alley.
Who? The manager or Steve?
Both but Ellis is the bigger jerk. Every time I see him hes standing there, smirking at me. When or if I get back to normal the first thing I am going to do is tap dance on that idiots teeth so he cant smirk like that at any girl.
Speaking of Teeth Amy, youve got lipstick on yours. Katie reached into her handbag and passed Amy a small Mirror.
Oh thats just great. Was it there during the interview?
I dont think so. Katie shook her head as Amy held the mirror up to her face and rubbed the red lipstick off her white teeth.
All of a sudden Amy stopped walking, looked at herself again and let out a strange sound that was part laugh, part scream of shock and part cry of "Eureka". That crafty old bitch. She managed to say after a second or two.
That scheming old cow.
Who? Katie asked trying to work out what was happening.
Mamma fucking Chow, thats who.
Ether McDonalds are serving Bourbon with their cokes and youre drunk or I am missing something huge here.
Look to your heart. Amy laughed. It was right under my button nose. She looked at Katie who still couldnt make the connection. Look at me K.J. What do you see?
Ah a girl. Katie shrugged. A girl with very early dementia.
And what is that girl wearing?
Black, knee length skirt, black pantyhose and a white satin blouse.
Correct. Amy giggled. And now look between the lapels of the blouse Katie and tell me what you see?
And what is dangling just above the cleavage?
Correct again. Amy said. A heart shaped locket wouldnt you say?
But youve had that for ages. Youve worn it everyday since your birthday.
Exactly. Its been hidden in plain sight. Not only is it heat shaped but also its close to my heart anatomically speaking. I have a feeling I just found my way out of the forest.
And into a mental hospital. Katie said.
Amy ignored her friend as she remembered the phone call weeks ago about the Rocket. Its wasnt about a stupid rocket, it was a Chinese person, probably Mei ling, telling her about the damn locket. You dont get it Katie. Dad gave this to me, I was pissed off at him so I never opened it. If I had been nicer to the guy I would have opened it ages ago. This is the final lesson.
So what are you going to do now?
Amy looked up and down the alley and didnt see anyone. I figured Id throw it away. She told her friend. Im going to open it you dopey bugger.
She did just that and in the split second before anything happened she saw a miniaturised photo of herself and her dad when she was about five. Then she smiled like a mad woman as a familiar feeling overtook her body. The same thing she had felt exactly ninety days earlier when she opened the Jade Box.
If she was asked to describe it, the closest thing she could come to, was being in the eye of a mini tornado that started at her feet and then grew wider up her body until it enveloped her. It felt like it lasted anywhere from ten seconds to ten minutes but Amy knew it was instantaneous.
When it was done Stuart looked down at himself and smiled like a maniac. Both he an Katie were too caught up in the transformation to see some one walk up the alley behind them and then duck away in confusion.
Stuart looked down some more at both himself and Katie. He moved a little bit to make sure he wasnt dreaming and then he had a quick feel of his crotch to make sure everything was as it should be. Im back. He said, stunned to hear his old voice emanate from his throat.
Katie blinked twice and looked the familiar figure up and down. Shed forgotten how good looking the boy was. Especially as he was dressed up in Black trousers and a short sleeved blue shirt.
Im back K.J. I am really back. Stuart said as he picked the girl up. Neither of them realised at the moment that the locket was nowhere to be seen.
How do you feel?
Heavy. Stuart replied after a moments though. Big and sluggish after being Amy for so long. He licked his lips. Its kind of weird not to taste lipstick anymore.
You can taste mine any time you want Katie thought. I missed you Stu. She said.
As crazy as it sounds, I missed you too K.J. We better get home and surprise mum and Jade before they notice the changes in the house and work it out for themselves.
Do you want to put me down or do you plan on carrying me the whole way?
Sorry, the boy smiled. I got a little bit excited.
It was a bit of an anticlimax for Stuart when no one was home. He had visions of returning home the conquering hero, or at least the welcome stranger. Instead he got an empty house. Excusing himself from Katie for a second he headed to the bathroom for much needed relief. The stupid thing was, he almost sat down. He had to remind himself that is was anatomically possible to go standing up.
He did just that, it was easier sure, but there was no great joy to it. If you had asked him before how it would feel to be Stuart again he would have said hed be like a kid with a new toy. Things didnt work out that way though. Stuart just felt weird. Everything was both familiar and foreign a the same time and the joy he felt in the alleyway was more over cracking the mystery and beating Mamma Chow than actually getting his old body back.
As he washed his hands in the bathroom he looked deeply into the mirror. Did I look like that before? He mumbled. Weird, I wouldnt have thought so.
He went to his bedroom, surprised by all of the mess and clutter in there. About the only thing that bought a smile to his face was his guitar sitting in its stand in the corner.
Quickly stripping off his close he looked in the mirror again and was surprised to see a large lump of muscle instead of the small curvaceous girl hed seen for the past three months. Shaking off that feeling he grabbed a pair of football shorts and slipped them on and headed for the door but the coolish breeze on his chest as he walked into the hall made him stop. Walking around without a T-shirt on made him feel uncomfortable, almost naked. He tried to shake it but in the end returned to his bedroom and slipped on a black Silver chair T-shirt.
Okay? He asked Katie when he found her watching TV in the family room.
Yeah, Im fine, the girl smiled.
No. I mean do I look ok? Stuart said as he did a feminine little turn.
Its not the height of sartorial elegance but you look fine.
Stuart nodded. You hungry?
Weve just had Burgers and fries remember?
Yeah but I am starving. Be back in a minute. He went to kitchen and looked through the pantry and the refrigerator. In next to no time hed made a few tomato, lettuce and lite mayo on rice crackers and went to join Katie in the family room.
You watching your diet sweetie? Katie grinned when she saw what was on his plate?
What? Its what I normally eat for a snack. Stuart said defensively.
No, its what Amy normally eats for a snack. Stuart has left over pizza, a bag of crisps, two chocolate milks and a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Really? Stuart asked a little unsure. I ate all that? How did I fit into my clothes?
Very well. Katie mumbled. You managed. She said louder for Stuarts benefit.
A little later on, Jade entered the house. Anyone home? She shouted as her keys rattled onto the kitchen table.
Were down in the family room. Katie yelled.
Jade soon appeared at the door. Oh great. She said, not overly enthusiastic, when did you get back?
I havent actually been anywhere. Stuart corrected. He quickly told her about the locket and how he opened it in the alley way and finally got to normal.
Thats just great. Jade said. I was going to wear that red top of yours on Friday night. Oh well, I am going out.
Stuart found himself telling pretty much the same story to his mother a little over an hour later. She was at least a little happy to see he was back and gave him a hug but it didnt make him feel any better. He wanted to shout: Hello, I have done some serious shit here. I crossed the gender barrier in a way unknown to human kind. I spent three whole months as a girl. What is wrong with you people? But then his gender was far more important to him than it was to anyone else. Boy or girl hed always be the pain for Jade and male or female he would always be his mothers child. As far as Susan was concerned he could have been some hideous mixture of the two but as long as he was happy she would be too. And really, it was a little silly to expect wonder or sympathy about three months spent as a female from women who had been that way all their lives.
Still, a little pampering or something would have been nice.
The next day at school was a case of deja vu all over again for Stuart. He felt pretty much the same as he had three months ago when he first went to school as Amy. Only then it was fifteen years of his life seemingly wiped from everyones memory and now it was only three months. He couldnt work out what affected him most.
As he walked in to school it was Hi Stuart, from some one and Gday Stu, from some one else. Amy, it appeared, had never existed. He felt the same sense of being under appreciated at first but then realised to everyone else Stuart had been at school the day before and the one before that. There was nothing special about him being there.
All morning he was accepted as one of the guys and he looked over at Katie and her group of friends, wondering what they were talking about. He kept an eye open for Danny and saw him once in the distance but he all but ignored Stuart.
During a Social Studies class he just sat and looked at Steve Ellis, thinking of diabolical ways to make him ache and scream in pain but when he went to make a move towards him after the lesson Katie just managed to grab him and keep him in one place.
Dont be stupid Stuart. Whats the point in getting suspended for beating him up? The jerk wouldnt even know why you were doing it.
Id know. Stuart fumed as Ellis walked away, blissfully unaware.
At lunch, without thinking, he headed for the girls bathroom for the usual start of lunch bitch session with the girls. Hey, Rabbit shouted. Where you headed Bingles?
Stuart was a little shocked to hear his nickname. Huh? Ah, just going to grab something to eat.
Cool. You coming down the oval for a kick of the football?
Yeah. Stuart said wondering why that used to sound like such a good idea.
He quite liked the strength he had as he mixed it in the rough and tumble with the guys but kicking a ball was a pretty damn stupid way to spend your lunchtime.
Boring until Davey mentioned the battle of the bands, or more specifically that their band was playing two of their new songs there. Two new songs Stuart had absolutely no knowledge of. This gender change time warp was not being nice to him.
The same sense of surrealism followed him that afternoon as he sat with Katie in the Copper Kettle. It was so weird being a customer there when only a couple of weeks ago he had been one of the waitresses in the same little black skirts. What was stranger was the fact that he had intimate knowledge of the people who worked there and they knew squat about him.
Hi, Jenna smiled and for a brief second Stuart thought she saw through the new façade and that she knew her friend Amy was there. What can I get you people? She asked flicking open her pad.
Ah, two cokes please. Stuart said.
Two cokes, no problems. Anything to eat?
A plate of wedges thanks Jenna.
The girl gave him a strange look but shook it off and scuttled away to get the order.
You okay? Katie asked. You look like youve seen a ghost.
Bloody hell K.J.,I feel like I am the ghost. I used to take my breaks with her. I even borrowed a pad from her one time when I was caught short. She wouldnt know me from a bar of soap now.
Go and ask her for another pad and she might remember, Katie grinned. It worked with me.
Very funny. Stuart grumbled as a glint came across his eyes.
Oh oh, I know that look. What are you planning Stu?
Moi? He said in mock innocence. Absolutely nothing. He paused for a second. What would you say if I told you I can get a free feed here?
After what you told me about the boss? Not a chance.
I bet you twenty bucks that neither of us will have to pay for the meal.
Youre on Stuart.
The two talked about the day at school and how freaky it had all been for Stuart and to some extent Katie who had to watch what she said as well. Two cokes and a plate of wedges. Jenna said as she placed the down on the table.
Stuart looked at her intently. Thats impulse ice youre wearing right?
Katie buried her face in her hands as Jenna flashed the boy a small but wary smile. Ah ha. She said.
I thought so, I have always loved that smell. Listen, you may be able to settle an argument between my friend and I.
Jenna looked around the café, which wasnt all that busy. Sure. I guess.
Stuart noted that Sammy wasnt around. Well, I say that a person can see things in other peoples eyes just by looking at them enough and she says I am full of sh well, that I am not being totally truthful. What do you think?
Jenna looked down at Stuart and shook her head. I think your friend is right. She said finally.
I bet you the price of the drinks and potato wedges that I am telling the truth. Stuart said with a completely straight face.
Jenna checked the café again to make sure Sam was still out the back. Okay. She said, a little intrigued and more than a little interested in this cute guy.
Stuart looked deeply into her eyes. Youre a Leo right?
You tell me.
Yes, youre a Leo. Id say your birthday was the eleventh, no the twelfth of August. You come from a small family, one one brother. Stuart continued trying to make it look like he was just fining all of this information in Jennas eyes. Your parents divorced when you were young and you live with your Dad.
Jenna looked from Stuart to Katie and back again. Thats incredible? She said blushing a little. You can see all that in my eyes.
That and more. Stuart boasted. They say the eyes are the window to the soul.
I Ive got to get back to work. The girl flustered as some new customers walked in.
You are pathetic. Do you know that? Katie asked when Jenna was out of earshot.
No, I just found an upside to all of this time warp shit. He smiled. And I like it.
They ate their wedges, drank their coke and then got up to pay at the cashier. No charge. Another girl, called Laura, who Stuart knew said. Jennas already paid.
Stuart took the twenty-dollar note from Katies hand. Thank you. He smiled.
She just grinned even more and snatched it back. Sorry buddy. The bet was that neither of us had to pay a cent to eat here. If I give you my money then I have spent it. You lose.
Bugger. I didnt think of it like that. Stuart said as they walked out into the mall.
So you owe me twenty dollars, but hey, I am generous so well call it quits. In fact I will even chip in for your bail.
Come on Stuart, you were a girl for three months. You dont think she really bought any of that crap do you? Shes probably in there ringing the cops to report a stalker as we speak.
The two walked in silence for a while. Youre cute when youre right. Stuart said. A pain in the arse, but cute.
Stuart was pacing around backstage like a caged animal. His was the last band to go on which just gave him time to look at the tough competition they faced and to worry. He had no idea how to play or sing the two songs that he had supposedly written and only one night to learn them. A night he had squandered by watching videos with Katie.
Jade walked towards him and said. Are you all right? You look terrible, even for you.
I am screwed Jade.
I always thought so, she said.
No, I mean I am screwed right now, tonight. I am about to go onstage in front of the whole school with no idea about the songs I am supposed to play.
You had a look at them right?
A very brief look. Stuart said in a mild state of panic as the penultimate band started into their second song.
So, maybe youll remember.
And maybe I wont He shot back.
Okay, hows this for a plan? If you get out there and youre a mental blank just bend right over, so youre head is almost touching the floor.
So I look like I am in pain and I wont have to go on?
No, Jade smiled. So you can kiss your arse goodbye because your mates will kill you.
Stuart watched her walk away stunned into silence.
Next it was Katies turn to find him. Youll be fine. She said soothingly. Break a leg.
Yes. Thats it. If I break a leg I can still walk away without looking like a total dick Well I can limp away.
Yeah? He replied as applause came from the audience.
Shut up. The girl said as she stood on her toes and kissed him. A long, deep, passionate, tongue-probing kiss.
And now, give a huge Para Vista High welcome to the last band of the evening. Mr. Cox, a music teacher who was playing M.C. for the night said. He looked at a card in his hand and realised the band didnt have a name.
Stuart quickly hissed something through the curtains. Grabbed his bass guitar and plugged it into the amplifier.
The Mamma Chows. Cox said doing a pretty good impersonation of Kermit the Frog as he introduced the guest stars on the Muppet show.
The curtain rose and absolutely nothing came to Stuarts mind. The polite applause from the audience that greeted their entry soon died down and he could hear shuffling in seats starting. He tried to see the faces in the crowd but the lights made his search for his mother, Jade and more importantly Danny impossible.
His mind was still swimming from the kiss so he looked to stage left where Katie stood smiling at him. That was where the flash or inspiration, or desperation, He was never sure which it was, hit him.
Er Hi. He said into his microphone. That was one minutes silence for the music that is about to die here tonight.
A small amount of laughter made its way onstage so Stuart quickly tuned to his three mates. Okay guys, he whispered. Forget the songs we prepared. Start with "I honestly love you" but lets pump it.
We dont know it. Lano hissed back.
It will come back to you, believe me. Ill start, you guys follow.
I hope you know what youre playing at Denton Davey said.
I dont have a clue but why should tonight be any different to the last three months. A one. Two. One two three four. He shouted as he launched into the song.
Maybe I hang around you, a little more than I should. One by one he heard drums, keyboard and lead guitar kick in and he breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god for Jade.
We both know Ive got somewhere else to go It took him the first two line to get the pitch of his voice right because he was so used to singing it higher as Amy. Once he nailed it and got the tempo rocking he knew he was safe.
Ive got something to tell you. Something I never thought I would. Seems to me, you really ought to know. The audience was clapping along in time and the butterflies were slowly vacating his stomach. He could even hear Jade, obviously thought this was hilarious, hooting and hollering over the rest of the noise and he made a mental note to kiss her for being such a control freak if the rest of their bit went off as well.
I love you Katie. I honestly love you. He looked at Katie who was grinning like a Cheshire Cate
The rest of the song went off without a hitch and he sang it all for Katherine Joan Francis. The strange thing was he really felt it. After fifteen years of living next door to her it took three months as a girl before he saw just what she meant to him.
He waited for the applause to die down and then turned again to three stunned guys. What the fuck just happened? Rabbit asked.
Blame it on the boogie. Stuart smiled. Okay guys we really need to rock these people. Whams "Wake me up before you go go". Davey, you and Lano are singing back up. Lets kick it.
As their small set finished Stuart felt a jubilation he had never known before in his short but strange life. He felt even better when Katie rushed on stage and all but launched herself into his arms. I love you too you dopey fucking idiot. She said.
They didnt win, didnt even come runner up but it didnt matter to anyone. Jade thought she was the best thing since sliced bread, the rest of The Mamma Chows wondered what the hell the name meant but considered themselves some sort of musical prodigy for playing two songs theyd never played before. Susan was happy that her son had finally seen Katie as a girl and Stuart was over the moon that Katie felt the same way about him that he did about her.
The only twinge of sadness came later in the night when he caught a glimpse of Danny as he headed out of the Schools gym. Stuart wanted to go after him but the crowd was too thick and Katies arms were too warm.
Are you sure you want to do this? Jade asked her brother the next day as she parked the car on a leafy suburban street.
No. Stuart admitted candidly. But its something I have to do.
Its your funeral. The older sibling shrugged as Stuart got out of the car.
He walked up to the front door, his heart pounding faster than it had the night before. Theres nothing to it. He told himself. Youve got a story worked out, just stick to it, make sure hes okay and then leave. Nothing to it at all.
He knocked on the door and waited.
Stuart jumped in surprise; he had been running over his story one last time. Gday Simmo.
Come on in.
Stuart entered the familiar home and was shown into the lounge room where he and Danny had done so much rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet. He wasnt sure if he should start his spiel or even if it was even needed. He didnt realise until then, that he had no idea how well Stuart and Danny had gotten on for the past three months while he was in some strange parallel universe. They could have been best of friends or they could have barely said two words to each other.
So, Stuart started. How are you?
Well, its been a weird week for me.
I bet it cant beat mine.
Well how about I tell you about it and you can judge for yourself. Danny said. Do you want a drink?
No thanks, I am okay.
Okay. Well you know how when things are going fine something will always come along to stuff things up? Danny said evenly. This week was like that. Monday was no problem, Tuesday was fine but bugger me if my girlfriend didnt turn into a guy on Wednesday and totally fuck things up. Now shes walking around school and everyone is calling her Stuart.
Stuart was dumbfounded, he just sat there with his mouth opening and closing but not a sound escaped his throat.
So you tell me Amy, was your week any stranger than that? Oh I forgot, you suddenly grew a penis didnt you?
I saw it Amy, or is it Stuart now? I saw the whole thing. Danny spat. I was walking down the road on Wednesday when I saw you and Katie, nice little love fest last night by the way, head down that alley so I ran to catch up to you. I came around that bend just as you two stopped and I saw the whole magical, hocus-pocus little thing.
I I dont know what to say. Stuart said as he did mental gymnastics trying to work out the huge hole in Mamma Chows magic. Then it hit him. Danny was new to school so when he saw the transformation back into Stuart he only ever remembered Amy.
Theres an explanation for this? Oh I have to hear this, go on.
Stuart picked his words carefully as he laid the whole story out for an obviously hurting Danny.
Thats just great, Danny said, just fucking great. Now I find out my girlfriend didnt turn into a guy but that I was in love with a guy from the start.
If its any consolation I fell in love with a guy too. Stuart told him and he looked down at the shag pile carpet.
Last night was a strange way of showing it. Or maybe Katie is really a guy too. How many more of you are there?
Screw you Simpson. Stuart said as he stood up. You act like youre the only injured party here. Try spending three months as a girl and then fall for the girl next door and a really nice guy too. You have no fucking idea how torn I was. Shit, I even stood before that old Chinese woman and I couldnt tell her if I wanted to be Stuart again or not. Do you know why? Because of you, you turd, because of the way I felt feel about you. Stuart headed for the door.
Sit down Amy. Danny said softly as he reached the door. Please sit down.
Stuart was so close to leaving but there was something in the other guys voice that made him stop. Whats the point?
The point is that I am not going to leave school and neither are you. We need to get this sorted and and I dont want to leave things as they are.
Stuart closed the door and returned to the sofa. Im listening.
Okay. If I hadnt seen what I saw in that alley Id be kicking you out of here faster than youd believe.
Thats just it Danny. If you hadnt seen what happened in the alley then you wouldnt remember Amy.
Well thank god I saw it then, Danny said firmly. That is one girl I dont want to forget. He stopped talking and looked at Stuart for a minute or two as a pregnant pause developed between the two. Couldnt you I mean when we were getting close Why couldnt you? Wasnt there anyway you could have stopped it?
Come on Danny. It wasnt my fault we got stuck together doing Romeo and Juliet. Remember here that until I went to Hong Kong I had no idea if Id ever be a guy again. If I was going to be stuck as a girl then there were worst ways I could have spent my time and looking back at it, there were far worse guys around to have as a boyfriend. You only have to look at Steve Ellis to know that.
Dannys mind flashed back to the scene he discovered at the party at his house on the night of the play and he looked at it for a second through Amys eyes and then through Stuarts.
Stuart continued. So yes, I could have dumped you leaving both of us miserable and I might have still regretted it when I was an old lady in a nursing home. I tried to pull away after Hong Kong but Well it didnt quite work out. I had no way of controlling my feelings and believe me I tried. I tried for weeks to keep you away from me as anything other than a friend. Do you remember the other night on the couch?
Danny blushed as the memory flooded his mind. Yeah.
I never would have gone any further than that and believe me at the time I wanted to, in case I was ever a guy again. I wouldnt be able to look at you if we did it.
Danny was silent for a while. Then, out of nowhere, he started laughing. Quietly at first but before long he was laughing so hard he held his sides and smacked his knees. Oh Jesus He managed to get out between fits of laughter.
Whats so funny?
Most guys have girlfriends who are happy with "Not tonight, I have a headache". Trust me to have the only relationship in the world where the girl says, "Not tonight, I might grow a dick". Am I unlucky or what?
Stuart shook his head and looked at the other guy strangely, then, he saw his point and he too started laughing.
Friends? Danny said after his laughter slowly died down. He thrust his hand out for Stuart to take.
Friends. Stuart replied shaking Dannys hands. Out of nowhere the two boys hugged, as if they were saying goodbye to an old friend and in a way, thats exactly what they both were doing.
Danny suddenly realised what they were doing, he broke the embrace and took a step backwards. Good, he said smiling uncomfortably. Now let us never speak of this again.
The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet, Stuart had taken the week off of football, whats one more game? And on Sunday afternoon Stuart, Katie and Danny even spent some time together at Stuarts house. It was a little uncomfortable at first but soon enough the three of them were laughing and joking like old friends. Stuart was a little careful how much emotion he showed towards Katie for fear of upsetting Danny but Danny seemed to be okay with the new arrangement. If he couldnt have Amy then at least he knew that she was somewhere inside of Stuart and that she was happy.
Some time after the pizza was delivered and devoured one of them, Stuart would never remember exactly who, came up with the plan.
Are you sure you can do this? Stuart asked Danny early the next morning.
Sure Im sure. These lockers are pretty crappy, hardly in the Houdini league. Danny said as he fumbled with the lock. Just shut up Denton and keep an eye out for anyone, you too Katie.
Yes Sir. Katie saluted with a deliciously anxious smile on her lips.
It took a few minutes more of fumbling with the lock but the door was eventually opened, the present left and the three of them hid in a class down the hall and waited for the guest of honour to arrive at this party.
Ten minutes ticked by, then fifteen, then half an hour and there was no sign of the victim. Somewhere a bell rang, announcing it was time for homeroom and the three of them looked at their watches. Shit. Danny said. I thought it was too easy.
They were about to emerge from the room when Stuart saw who they were looking for. Hold the phone, he hissed.
Steven Ellis wandered up the hall, in no particular hurry to get to class. He stopped at his locker and quickly spun up the combination. Grabbing a handful of thick textbooks that he never read he put some in the locker and pulled a new batch out. He was about to close the locker when he spotted something. What the ? He said as he grabbed the object.
Battle stations. Katie grinned.
Steve shook the little cardboard box and read the card. He didnt know whose hand writing it was but it was definitely feminine. The card gave no other clues than "From a secret admirer xxx ooo." He held the box up to the light as three unseen figures emerged from a classroom up the hall. Slowly he undid the ribbon and then looked inside. For some reason he thought about those Russian dolls inside each other that got smaller and smaller because inside the cardboard box was a decorative green stone box. He pulled the new box out and looked around at the stragglers heading to homeroom trying to work out where it might have come from. There were no girls standing around on their own so he couldnt tell who might have left it for him.
Shrugging he opened the Box and a strange feeling that seemed to start at his feet and spread over his whole body. Just as that stopped some one crashed into him from behind. Steve crashed down heavily on the ground wondering what freight train had hit him. He was a big guy so it took a pretty big collision to make him fall so bad.
Sorry. Danny said as he kept walking.
Stuart moved quickly and grabbed the Jade Box as it tumbled from Ellis hand, in a blink of an eye the box was stashed safely away in his backpack
Katie stopped and offered Steve a hand. Guys, She said rolling her eyes at the new girl. Theyre so immature. Katie was going to enjoy the day ahead, that was for sure.
Stuart. Jim said, a little surprised as he opened up the door of his mothers house and found his son on the doorstep. Ah come in.
The boy followed his father into the house. Great, he said looking at the TV where a cricket match was on. Whos winning?
The Bushrangers are beating the Bulls. Jim said unsure why his son was there. I guess you want your grandmother?
Not really. The boy shrugged. I sort of bought a present around for little Julia.
You did? Jim asked, surprise evident on his face. The kid had shown little more than unrestrained resentment since he found out his step mother was pregnant, refused to be at the hospital during the birth and made his thoughts pretty clear the last time the two Denton men had been together.
Ah ha. Stuart smiled. Can I see her?
Yeah sure. Jim stuttered. Ill just check if shes finished sleeping.
Francesca and his grandmother walked in with some shopping as Jim came out of the makeshift nursery with the little girl. Hi Gran. Stuart smiled. Gday Fran, I am glad you are here too. I just popped around with a present for the baby.
Francesca gave her husband a look, which clearly said "Where the hell did this come from?" and "Make sure you check the present isnt ticking" at the same time. Jim just returned a small shrug.
Well, Stuart continued. Its only small but I want her to have it. He passed the wrapped parcel to Francesca who put down the shopping and slowly began to unwrap it.
Thats very nice of you Stuart. The new mother said as she pulled the last of the tape away and pulled a Teddy Bear out of the wrapping. A Teddy Bear with a weather beaten exterior.
Thats whats his name. Marjorie Denton said upon seeing the bear.
English, Jim said in amazement. Youre giving English to Julia?
Stuart looked at the old bear one last time. He had had that bear for as long as he could remember. An elderly Aunt bought it for him on a trip to the U.K. hence the name and when he was little English was his security blanket. The two were never apart. Yeah well, the boy shrugged. us Dentons have to stick together.
It was a small gift but it meant a lot to Stuart and looking at his dad he could tell it had the desired affect. Do you want to hold her? Jim asked.
Yeah, Stuart grinned. Id really like that. His dad passed a barely awake baby to him and Stuart made sure he supported her neck, a fact alone that amazed Jim. Looking down at her Stuart could see how much she had changed in just the past few days. If anything her hair was darker and more abundant and she didnt have that "Put me back in" look about her that she had the first time he saw her. Shes beautiful Dad.
Both of the Denton girls are. Jim said proudly.
Ah ha. Stuart mumbled, all three of them. He cleared his throat. So, when do you head back to Perth?
Tomorrow. Francesca told him. Julia and I have had the green light from the doctor now so we fly off tomorrow afternoon.
Hey dad, I was wondering if I could come over and spend a week or two during the holidays.
Jim did a double take. Was this the same kid? Sure, he said. Wed be happy to have you Stu.
I dont suppose I can bring a friend? You dont know him, his name is Danny Simpson and hes a great guy.
Jim looked at Francesca who just shrugged, too shocked to speak. Sure Stuart, why not?
Great. I have to come and make sure my little sister is doing okay and that English is looking after her. He looked at he watch. Well, I have to go, I am meeting Katie at the Mall so she can tell me about her day. He kissed his grandmother on the cheek. See you soon Gran.
Ill believe that when I see it. Marj grumbled.
Stuart gave Fran a quick peck on the cheek too. Have a safe trip home. The he walked over to his dad, whose hand was already outstretched, waiting for his son to shake it. Stuart ignored it altogether and he gave his dad a hug.
Jim didnt know what to make of it. At first he let his son hug him and then one by one he wrapped his arms around the boy too.
I miss you dad.
Ditto mate. Jim said hoarse with tears that were yet to fall.
Stuart dug into his pocket for a bit of paper and gave it to his dad. Its my e-mail address. He explained. I want weekly photos of Julia.
You got it.
And we can sort out the school holidays later. Stuart said. One last look was exchanged between father and son before Stuart turned and made for the door.
Hey Stu? Jim asked as his son was almost on the other side of the door. Why the change of mind?
Stuart smiled. Its wasnt so much a change of mind as it was a change of body dad.
That night Lisa Ellis period started and her mother couldnt understand all of the fuss. The girl had been menstruating since she was twelve yet here she was at fifteen shaking in fright at the sight of blood and acting like she was going to die.
The girl was already in trouble up to her neck, throwing herself at anything in trousers, her mother thought. Well this is the last straw. She made a mental note to call that girls only boarding school in the morning and enrol Lisa in it. Maybe they can make a lady out of her.
© 2001 by Genni Smith. 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.