Crystal's StorySite


Petticoat Rewards

by Hebe Dotson


Part 2


Laura didn't sleep well. She dozed from time to time, but she woke up whenever the train stopped. It seemed to stop every few minutes, though in reality it was usually at least an hour between stations. At 6:45, she gave up on trying to sleep and went to the ladies' lavatory, where she removed last night's makeup and washed her face. She then made her face up lightly, using only a rose-colored lipstick, mascara, and a little blush. The mirror reflected a pretty teenager -- just how she wanted to look.

The dining car was two cars forward. It wasn't crowded, and Laura was able to find an unoccupied table and enjoy a light breakfast. She returned to her coach seat. Her seatmate, a practiced traveler, was asleep. Laura sat down quietly and looked at her watch. It was 7:40 -- if the train was on time, it would reach her station in about half an hour. She opened her romance novel.

The train was only two minutes late. At 8:10, the conductor walked through the car, announcing their imminent arrival. Laura put her coat on and pulled her suitcase from the overhead rack. Although she had tried not to disturb her seatmate, the woman opened her eyes and smiled at her.

"Goodbye, Laura," she said. "I've enjoyed your company very much. I hope you have a wonderful visit with your grandmother."

"Thanks so much -- I've really enjoyed traveling with you. Goodbye!"


The station was quite busy. Laura looked around and saw a row of phone booths. She entered one, dropped a coin in the slot, and dialed the number Mona had given her. After two rings, a female voice said, "Hello!"

"Is this Mrs. Medford?"

"Mrs. Medford? I'm sorry, there's no one here by that name."

"Is this 786-2223?" Laura asked quickly.

"Yes, it is."

"Oh, dear! My dad must have given me the wrong number."

"We've had this number for two years. Perhaps your Mrs. Medford had it before we did. She might have moved and been given a new number."

"Oh, this is awful! She's my grandmother, and she doesn't know I'm here."

"Let me look in the phone book and see if I can find her. Hold on just a minute." Laura waited patiently until she heard the woman's voice again. "There are two Medfords in the book -- William and Eleanor."

"It's Eleanor," Laura said.

"She's on the other side of town from here -- her number is 434-5609."

Laura thanked the woman profusely, put another coin in the phone, and dialed the new number. The female voice that answered said, "Medford residence."

"Is this Mrs. Eleanor Medford?"


"This is Larry -- your grandson."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm your grandson, Larry Medford."

There was a pause. "I wasn't aware I had a grandson," the woman said. "Are you sure you've called the right number?"

"Oh, dear!" Laura said. "I don't know -- I'm all mixed up. My dad told me to call you at 786-2223, and the woman there didn't know you but she looked you up in the phone book for me and gave me this number."

"That was my old number before I moved. What's your father's name?"

"Roger Medford."

"Is he with you?"

"No," Laura said. "He's -- he's in jail. He told me to come here and you'd take care of me."

"That sounds like my son, all right. Where are you, dear?"

"At the railroad station."

"My daughter -- your aunt; won't that surprise her -- my daughter has the car and won't be home for at least twenty minutes. Then it will take me another half-hour to get to the station. Can you take a taxi? I can pay the driver when you get here."

"I've got money; I can pay him. What's your address?"


The taxi rounded the corner and came to a stop in front of the third house on the right. "This is it, miss," the driver said. He jumped out and took Laura's suitcase from the trunk. She paid him and he drove away.

Laura looked around, hoping that this house really was "it." She'd never seen so much snow in her life -- it was knee-deep and everywhere. The house number was the one her grandmother had given her -- that was a good sign. She picked up her suitcase and began to walk up the driveway.

Inside the house, Eleanor Medford and her daughter Susan had heard the taxi's door slam. They looked out the window as Laura began to walk toward the house. "Now, who can that be?" Eleanor asked.

"Whoever she is, it looks like she's planning to stay a while," Susan said.

"Maybe she's selling something."

"Anvils? That suitcase looks pretty heavy."

Laura rang the doorbell. The door opened to reveal an older version of Mona. Laura had been expecting an ancient blue-haired lady and was quite surprised to see an attractive woman in her early fifties. "Hi!" Laura said. "You must be my grandma -- you look so much like my Mo…uh, my Dad."

"You're not quite what I expected," Mrs. Medford said. "But do come in, child -- it's cold out there." Laura entered and her grandmother closed the door. "Let me take your coat," she said. "Just leave your suitcase here for now. Let's go in the kitchen where it's warm, so we can get acquainted."

As they entered the kitchen, Laura was greeted by a younger version of Mona. "Welcome!" she said. "I'm your Aunt Sue, your Dad's kid sister. Would you like something hot to drink? Coffee? Tea? Hot chocolate?"

"I'd love some hot chocolate, if it's not too much trouble," Laura said.

"No trouble at all. The water's hot already," Susan said. "Would you like some more coffee, Mom?"

"Yes, please."

"Can I help with anything?" Laura asked.

"If you don't mind pouring the coffee -- the coffee pot is over there, on the counter. I'll take a refill, too," Susan said.

Laura got the coffeepot and refilled the two cups on the kitchen table while her aunt spooned cocoa and sugar into a cup and added milk and hot water.

The three settled themselves at the kitchen table and sipped their beverages. Laura looked at the two older women and they looked at her. No one seemed to know quite how to open the conversation.

"I like your dress…Larry. It is Larry, isn't it?" Susan ventured.

"Yes." Laura fervently wished that she'd told Mrs. Medford that she was her granddaughter, but how could she have known? "Dad gave it to me for Christmas."

"He has good taste," Susan said.

"He always did have good taste," Eleanor observed. "How old are you, dear?"

"I'll be fourteen in May," Laura said. "Dad never told you about me?"

"No, I'm afraid not. I haven't heard a word from your father for almost twenty years. I didn't know if he was alive or dead."

"I'm sorry," Laura said.

"Don't be, dear -- it's not your fault," Eleanor said. "He is what he is, and I'm afraid he always will be. Now, I'm not quite sure how to put this, but when you called me a little while ago, you did say you were my grandson, didn't you?"

"Yes," Laura said softly.

"I would never take you for a grandson. Do you always dress like this or are you in some kind of disguise?"

"I've been a girl for almost two years now," Laura said.

Her grandmother looked at her for a moment. "Was that your idea or your father's?"

"Dad wanted me to be a girl so I could help him. I hated it at first, but I like being a girl now."

"You don't call yourself Larry now, do you?" Susan asked.

"No -- Laura or Laurie."

"You said that Roger -- your father -- is in jail now?" Eleanor said.

"I think so. The last I saw of him, he was about to be arrested."

"And you were helping him with whatever he was doing?" Susan asked.


The two older women exchanged glances. "I think you'd better tell us the whole story," Laura's grandmother said. "Right from the beginning. Sue, why don't you get Larry -- Laura -- another cup of chocolate while I make some more coffee."

Laura felt a sudden overwhelming urge for a cigarette. She glanced around the room and saw an ashtray on a small table by the window. That was good -- smoking wasn't prohibited here.

The two older women were busy at the kitchen counter. Laura walked over to the small table, picked up the ashtray, and returned to her seat at the kitchen table. She opened her purse, took out her cigarettes and lighter, lit a cigarette, and drew in deeply. She immediately felt less jittery.

Her grandmother turned and looked at her, arching an eyebrow. "Is it all right, Grandma?" Laura asked.

"Well…" Mrs. Medford said. "Did your father allow you to smoke?"

"Oh, yes -- except when we were working. I'm sorry -- would you like a cigarette, Grandma? Aunt Sue?"

"No, thank you -- we don't smoke," Mrs. Medford said. "Well, I see your Aunt Sue has your hot chocolate ready, so why don't you tell us all about yourself -- your work and everything else -- while the coffee's perking."

Over the next hour, Laura told her life story to her grandmother and aunt. Her mother's death when she was only three. Her subsequent upbringing by her father. Her schooling and its end after sixth grade. Her discovery of her father's crossdressing. Her father's scams and her participation in them during the past fifteen months. Finally, her father's arrest and her own flight over many meadows and through countless woods to grandmother's house -- and safety.

While relating her own story, Laura learned bits and pieces of her family history. Her grandmother, now 54, had married at 19. Roger, her only son, had been born a year later and Susan, her only daughter, had been born when Roger was four. Laura's grandfather, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, had died in combat in Vietnam two days before Roger's eleventh birthday.

Roger had been an unruly teenager. When his mother belatedly tried to exert some control over him, he flew into a rage and left home. He was only 15 then, and she'd heard nothing from him or about him for more than nineteen years, until Laura unexpectedly appeared on her doorstep.

Laura's grandmother had taken evening courses to earn a degree in accounting. She was now the bookkeeper for a ten-member medical partnership. Susan had a nursing degree and worked at a hospital just three blocks from her mother's office. Her fiancé, an Army doctor, was halfway through a three-year tour of duty in Korea. They planned to marry when he returned to the United States.

As one would expect, neither grandmother nor aunt knew anything about Laura's mother. Though Laura knew her mother's maiden name, they knew of no local family with that name and concluded that Roger must have met his wife elsewhere.


"Is he asleep?" Mrs. Medford asked.

"Yes, she is," Susan said. "I just looked in on her, and she's out like a light. The poor child is exhausted, physically and mentally."

"What an awful story! I feel exhausted myself."

"Do you think it's all true?"

"I believe him. If it isn't the absolute truth, it's what he thinks is the truth," Mrs. Medford said. "One thing -- everything he said about Roger rang true."

"It did, didn't it? He was always looking for a way to get by without working."

"If he'd put half the effort into work that he put into his schemes, he'd be doing really well now."

"And he was always into your clothes, as far back as I can remember," Susan said. "And mine, when I got big enough for him to wear them. I wonder -- should we try to get in touch with him, just to let him know that Laurie's here?"

"I suppose we should," her mother replied. "I'll ask Larry to write to him at their apartment when he wakes up. Maybe the letter will get to him and maybe it won't. If the post office returns it, I'll try to think of some other way to reach him."

"Laura seems to be a really nice kid," Susan said. "That's a miracle after all the things Roger put her through."

"You keep speaking of the boy as if he really were a girl," Mrs. Medford said.

"She is, Mom!"

"Nonsense! He's a boy who's been forced to dress as a girl so he could be your brother's accomplice in his crooked schemes. We can't let him continue to live as a girl. We've got to help him make a complete break with the life he's had to lead for the last year and a half, and the only way we can do that is to turn him back into the honest boy he was before Roger corrupted him."

"I don't think she's really been corrupted," Susan said. "I think she's done what she was made to do without letting it change the sweet girl she really is inside."

"You may be right, Sue, but I don't think so. A grandson I never knew I had has suddenly become my responsibility, and I have to do the best I can for him. I indulged your brother too much, and I'm not going to make that mistake again. Now, I'll give you two choices. You can take full responsibility for the boy, and I'll support everything you do, whether or not I agree with it. Alternatively, I'll do things my way, the best I can, and you'll support me -- regardless. So -- are you prepared to mother this child? Think before you answer."

Susan thought for a moment. "No; as much as I'd like to mother her, I really don't feel competent. I'll back you up with her, as long as I can tell you what I really think in private."

"Of course, dear. I wouldn't have it any other way."


It was mid-afternoon when Laura awoke. She felt disoriented at first, unable to remember where she was. Then she smiled as she remembered her grandmother and her aunt, both of whom had listened to her long story with great interest and apparent sympathy.

A short time later, her smile faded as the rules of the house, hastily legislated by the two older women, were impressed upon her. First and foremost, Laura was to be replaced by Larry, immediately. Skirts and makeup were prohibited. Laura pointed out that she had no male clothing, but that possibility had been considered. Her aunt had jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers -- Larry would wear them for now, and they'd take him to the mall and outfit him properly in the next day or so. He'd get a haircut then, too.

Laura was stunned. She opened her handbag and took out her cigarettes and lighter, only to be informed that she was no longer permitted to smoke. Thirteen-year-old boys were much too young for that. Her grandmother confiscated her pack of cigarettes and threw it into the wastebasket.

Aunt Sue went up to her room and returned with a pair of jeans, two T-shirts, a sweatshirt, athletic socks, and a pair of sneakers. Mrs. Medford instructed Laura to take this clothing to her room and to return properly dressed, with her makeup removed.

Laura wondered to herself if she should just pick up her suitcase and leave. She had enough money to take the train back home, but that seemed unwise. Moreover, she doubted that she'd be allowed to go. She decided to bide her time until she could come up with a solution. In the meantime, she'd dress as Larry.

She also wondered if her grandmother would impound her suitcase and purse. Just in case, she should take out everything she couldn't replace. There was still quite a lot of money but not much else. She put all the money in the emergency envelope and added her driver's license and her blank prescription forms.

Laura might have made one argument against her forcible conversion to Larry -- she had begun to develop as a girl. Her breasts were small, just beginning, but obvious to anyone who looked carefully. Her hips had widened just a bit and her bottom had become slightly more rounded. If she said anything, she reasoned, she'd have to explain about the prescriptions and then her pills would be taken away. She had no intention of letting the development process be interrupted.

Laura wrapped the emergency envelope, the pill vials, and an unopened pack of cigarettes in one of Aunt Sue's T-shirts to keep them hidden until she could find a better place for them. She took three clean pairs of panties from the suitcase -- a reasonable act, she thought, since she had no male underwear.

Larry came out of the bedroom and joined his grandmother and aunt in the kitchen. He looked -- and was -- unhappy. Despite his conscious effort to seem masculine, his walk, gestures, and voice were feminine. He had suffered a serious reverse, but in his mind he was still undefeated.

Larry's grandmother looked at him and saw an effeminate-looking boy. A haircut, she thought, would do wonders for him. His aunt looked at him and saw a girl in boy's clothing. Her heart went out to the child, but she said nothing.


Mrs. Medford and her daughter were away at work every weekday from eight in the morning until six in the evening. They thought it would be unwise to leave Larry on his own in the house for that much time. The obvious solution was to send him to school.

Mrs. Medford discussed the situation with the middle school principal, a personal friend. She told her that Larry's father, for obscure religious reasons, had kept the boy out of school for a year and a half (she didn't mention his life as Laura). They agreed that Larry had missed so much that he couldn't be put in the eighth grade with his age group. It didn't seem right to make him repeat the last half of sixth grade. That left seventh grade as the only option. He'd be a year older than most of his classmates, but he was small for his age, so he should fit in quite easily.

Mathematics appeared to be the only subject that might cause difficulties, since Larry would need specific skills that had been taught in the first semester. Mrs. Medford agreed to hire a tutor to bring Larry up to speed in math -- the school would let him use the math period as a study period until he'd caught up with the rest of the class. He'd be enrolled in all the other seventh-grade classes and his grandmother and aunt would help him with those subjects, if necessary.

Larry experienced mixed feelings when he was told that he was going to resume his schooling. He was inwardly pleased -- he'd missed school, he really wanted to learn, and he looked forward to making friends his own age. He wasn't about to show that pleasure, however, as he strongly resented being forced out of the feminine lifestyle that he'd come to enjoy. He would have greatly preferred going to school as Laura. Moreover, he was concerned about his ability to be a plausible boy. After eighteen months as Laura, feminine mannerisms had become ingrained in him. He could try to avoid using them, but he knew it would be difficult. Added to all of this was his concern for Mona -- as his grandmother had suggested, he'd written to her to pass along his correct address and telephone number, but he'd had no reply.


One of the most difficult things for a child to do is to come into a new school in a new town, halfway through a school year in which cliques and alliances have been forged and reinforced for months if not years. If the child is sufficiently charismatic, he or she may be able to secure a respectable place in the crowd. If the child is filled with self-doubts -- good luck!

Larry was sent off to school only a few days after his forced return to boyhood, before he had time to figure out who or what he was now. His fears about his ability to show a masculine façade had been well founded. He had no one to help him as Mona had helped Laura, no one to coach and correct him in boy behavior. As folk philosophy tells us, if you walk like a duck, squawk like a duck, and wave your wings around like a duck, it's reasonable for unbiased observers to infer that you're a duck. Larry's lapses into feminine movement, intonation, and gestures occurred often enough to lead many of his schoolmates to categorize him as effeminate and therefore undoubtedly gay and in any event fair game. His hope of making friends seemed doomed -- the children who weren't overtly hostile, intimidated by those who were, avoided him.

Pre-Laura, Larry had been a street-wise kid in a tough neighborhood. He'd never been the kind to look for trouble, but he'd known how to take care of himself when trouble came looking for him. Post-Laura, he had unanticipated problems.

On his way home from his third day of school, Larry found his way blocked by three eighth-grade boys, each of whom was a head taller and forty pounds heavier than he was. When he was greeted by, "What's your hurry, fag?" he realized immediately that the boys intended to pick a fight with him, beat him up, and force him all the way to the bottom of the school's male pecking order.

In the past, Larry had often been able to overcome size disadvantages with a combination of speed, strength, and determination. Without a moment's hesitation, he charged Junior Colby, the boy who had spoken, and knocked him off his feet. Before the eighth-grader knew what had happened, he was on his back in the snow and Larry was sitting on his chest, pummeling him furiously. Unfortunately for Larry, his hormone medications had weakened his muscles and his blows were largely ineffectual. Junior quickly recovered from his initial surprise, grabbed Larry's arms, and threw him aside. Both boys got to their feet and eyed each other.

Junior attacked, swinging punches wildly at Larry's head and chest. Larry's counter-punches were ineffective -- he couldn't stop the bigger boy's assault. He covered his face with his arms to protect himself, allowing one of his opponent's wild swings to land flush on his small but sensitive left breast. Larry gasped with the unexpected pain and fell to the ground, his eyes brimming with tears.

Tears in front of witnesses were all it took to end the fight. Larry's place in the pecking order had been determined.


Larry was angry and rebellious and not doing well in school. His grades were poor, well below his capabilities, but he didn't care. As far as he was concerned, school was a nightmare -- a place where no one liked him, where he was pushed around and humiliated by the bigger boys. He tried to compensate for that by bullying the smaller boys, but there were few who were smaller than he was and even fewer who were willing to be bullied. The smaller boys who resisted his bullying were usually able to beat him in a fight. Larry couldn't understand that -- he didn't realize the effects of the hormones that he was still taking faithfully.

Larry's math tutor told Mrs. Medford that she was wasting her money. "It's not that he can't learn," she said. "He can, but he won't." Mrs. Medford thought about this for a few days and decided to continue the tutoring, rationalizing that Larry would do even worse without it. She hoped to get him through seventh grade and see if things got better in eighth grade.

What Larry really needed was an advocate, but he had none. His schoolmates found him unpleasant and strange. His teachers considered him to be just another dull and uncooperative burden to be tolerated until he could be moved on. Mrs. Medford had no idea how to deal with him. She knew she'd failed with Larry's father and she was beginning to resign herself to failure with the boy as well.

Larry felt lost. He'd done exactly what Mona had told him to do -- he'd come to this awful place in this awful town, where (in his opinion) no one gave a rat's ass for him. And why didn't Mona write to him? He wanted her to tell him what to do now that her plan had failed so badly. She must have received his letters because they hadn't come back to him. Why wouldn't she write?


"I'm at my wit's end, Sue," Eleanor Medford said. "Larry's report card is just disgraceful."

"Is he failing any courses?"

"No, he's passing everything -- but just barely. He could do better, but he won't, and it's driving me crazy."

"What can we do?" Susan asked.

"I don't know. He has to go to school, but he's not getting anything out of it."

"Perhaps a private school…?"

"That would be terribly expensive," Mrs. Medford said. "Sometimes I wish we didn't have this burden."

"But we do."

"Yes, we do. It would be one thing if he were appreciative, but he's so sullen and uncommunicative all the time. If only I'd done better with Roger…"

"Now, don't feel guilty, Mom," Susan said.

"He won't do anything around the house unless I stand right over him and make him. His language is filthy. And I've had phone calls from several mothers complaining that he's picking on their children and taking their lunch money -- for cigarettes, I suppose."

"Probably," Susan said. "I know he's still smoking -- I can smell it on his clothes. I think he's stealing beer from me, too -- every now and then I have a bottle or two less than I thought I had."

"What are we going to do with him?"

"I don't know, Mom. I just don't know. He seemed like such a sweet kid when he first came here -- but something's gone wrong, and I don't know how to make it right."


Larry knew. The only solution was to get out, to go back home. He couldn't take it any more. And what would he do when he got home? He didn't know about that -- but it would be no worse and probably a hell of a lot better than what he was doing now.

It was early May, just a few days before his fourteenth birthday. It would be warm enough to live in the streets if he had to. He had enough of Mona's emergency money left to cover his rail fare and a few nights in a really cheap hotel. He'd just go back and see if he could locate Mona in prison and visit her there -- she might have some good ideas.

He would have preferred to leave in the morning, to get a full ten hours between himself and his grandmother and aunt. However, if he skipped school, the principal's office would call his grandmother, and she'd be home checking on him before he could get packed and out the door. He'd decided to go straight to the house from school, change clothes, pack his bag, and get out of there before the women got home from work. He'd buy a ticket to Chicago, catch the next westbound train, get off at the first station, and then take an eastbound train. If his grandmother or aunt tried to trace him, all the evidence would indicate that he'd gone to Chicago -- or, rather, that she'd gone to Chicago, for he meant to resume life as Laura.

The bell rang to end the last class of the day, and Larry was off and running. To make sure of evading his eighth grade tormentors, he went two blocks in the wrong direction and then took a circuitous way home, entirely avoiding his normal route. His harassers didn't bother him every day, but he certainly didn't want them to hold him up today.

What Larry didn't know was that his alternative route went right by Junior Colby's home -- and Junior and his two pals were already there. Larry realized his mistake when he heard Junior shout, "Where do you think you're going, fag?" Could he run for it? No; he was winded already from the pace he'd been maintaining, and Junior's pals had already moved to cut him off in both directions. He'd just have to take their crap and hand over his cigarettes and the dollar or so in change he had in his pocket. With any luck, he'd be on his way in a couple of minutes.

He had luck, but it was bad. Junior was feeling territorial, and he decided that Larry needed to be shoved around a little. The three boys surrounded Larry and began pushing him from one to the next, making uncomplimentary comments with each push. Larry knew they were trying to goad him into fighting and he struggled to keep himself from reacting. Junior shoved him, another boy tripped him, and he fell to the ground. His books flew in all directions.

"What do you guys think you're doing?" Larry looked up to see an older boy glaring at Junior and his pals. He was about sixteen, taller than the three eighth-graders, with a muscular, athletic body, and he was carrying a baseball glove.

"Nothing," Junior said. "We were just fooling around."

"Sure you were. Three of you, picking on someone half your size. Next time, you can try picking on me." He looked at Larry. "Are you okay?"

Larry scrambled to his feet. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said.

"Did they take anything from you?"


"Okay." He addressed the three eighth-graders. "Don't let me catch you 'fooling around' with this kid again." He picked up the scattered schoolbooks and gave them to Larry. "Okay -- let's go," he said.

Larry and the older boy continued down the street. "I'm Bill Colby," the boy said. "I hate to admit it, but Junior's my cousin."

"I'm Larry Medford."

"Any relation to the Medfords on Oak Street?"

"My grandma and my aunt. I've been living with them since January."

"We're neighbors, then. I live one block over, on Taylor Street."

"Oh," Larry said. He was running out of conversation. He noticed Bill's baseball glove. "Do you play baseball?"

"I'm on the Western High School team. We had practice after school -- I'm on my way home now. Do you play?"

"No, not really," Larry said. "I used to play stick ball at home. It's something like baseball, only different. I've never even seen a real baseball game, except on TV."

"You've never seen a baseball game?" Bill said. He was amazed. "Would you like to go to one of our games? The next two are out of town, but we have a home game a week from Saturday -- should be a good one, too. Want to go to it? I can get you in."

"Yeah -- that sounds like fun," Larry said, forgetting for the moment that he was leaving town. "Oh, here's Oak Street. I turn here."

"Okay," Bill said. "It was nice to meet you, Larry. I apologize for Junior -- I don't think he and his buddies will bother you again. If they do, just give me a shout -- okay?" He held out his hand.

"Okay," Larry said. He shook hands with Bill. "Thanks a lot," he said. He smiled shyly at Bill.

"Any time," Bill said. "See you a week from Saturday." No wonder this kid has trouble with Junior, he thought. He's as pretty as a girl. He turned to look at Larry as the younger boy hurried down Oak Street. He moves like a girl, too -- the poor kid.


The plan was still doable. Larry was ten minutes later than he'd expected to be, but there was still enough time if he hurried. From an earlier exploration, he knew exactly where Laura's suitcase had been stored in the attic, and he retrieved it and took it to his room.

He opened the suitcase and took out the clothes he planned to wear -- panties, a bra, a slip, pantyhose, a skirt and blouse (slightly wrinkled but they'd have to do), a pair of low-heeled pumps. He pulled out Laura's purse, her breast forms, and Mona's wig. He retrieved her pills, prescription forms, ID, and money from his bureau and put them in the purse.

Larry stripped down to his skin and stuffed everything he'd been wearing into the suitcase. With any luck, his grandmother and aunt would think he'd gone in boy's clothes. He dressed quickly. The bra was a problem -- it wasn't big enough to hold Laura's small breasts and the breast forms too. She tossed the breast forms into the suitcase and tucked a wadded pair of panties under each breast. That filled her bra satisfactorily.

Laura hurriedly brushed the wig and put it on. She'd certainly looked better with her own hair, but this would have to do. She put on a bracelet, a wristwatch, two rings, and a necklace. Her earring holes had closed from lack of use. She went into her aunt's room and borrowed a pair of clip-on earrings that went reasonably well with the rest of her outfit.

She picked up the phone and called for a taxi. The dispatcher promised it in ten minutes, which gave her ample time to put on her makeup. With that done, she found herself wishing she could have a cigarette, but she didn't want to leave a lipstick-stained butt as evidence that Larry was leaving as Laura.

She heard a car horn and looked out the window to see her taxi pulling up to the curb. Did she have everything? She ran through her mental checklist -- everything was either on her person, in her purse, or in her suitcase. She slung her purse over her shoulder, picked up her suitcase, and opened the front door -- just in time to let Susan walk in.


"Hello, Laura," Susan said. "I thought that taxi must have been for you. I sent him away -- told him you wouldn't be needing him."

"Aunt Sue!" Laura said. She was in a state of near-shock. "What…what are you doing home so early?"

"I had a dental appointment this afternoon. The dentist was running a little behind schedule, and it was too late to go back to work when he was done with me, so I came home. And what did you have in mind? Running away?"

Laura nodded.

"I can't say that I blame you. This has been pretty bad for you, hasn't it?"

"Yes," Laura murmured.

"I'm sorry, dear. Mom and I have been trying to do what we thought would be best for you, but it hasn't worked out that way. Even so, we can't let you run away. That would be a disaster for you."

"The last four months have been a disaster!" Laura snapped. "How could things be any worse?"

"A child as pretty as you are, in the city, alone, with no place to stay and no one to watch out for you? You'd be dead in a week -- or wishing you were."

Laura hung her head.

"Please give me your handbag," Susan said. "I'll take care of it for you." Laura reluctantly handed it over. "And take your suitcase back to your room, but don't change your clothes. I want your grandmother to see you just as you are. I'm going to call her and ask her to come home now. Why don't you start on your homework while we're waiting for her?"

"Homework?" Laura felt disoriented. She hadn't expected to ever do homework again.

"Yes -- tomorrow's a school day, isn't it?"

"I guess so."

"Then you'd better get busy -- your grandmother will probably want to talk with you, and that may not leave much time for studying."

That was a cheery thought. Laura made a face and picked up her suitcase. "I'll study in my room until grandma gets home," she said.


"I really don't know what to do with him," Eleanor Medford said.

"With her, Mom."

"Now see here, Susan…"

"We tried your way, Mom. It didn't work. In her mind, in her heart, she's a girl named Laura now. She's been absolutely miserable trying to be a boy. We can't just keep forcing her to be what she's not. She'll find another opportunity to run away and she'll be gone!"

"That might be the best solution," Mrs. Medford said.

"No, it wouldn't -- and you know it! It might be the easiest solution, and the best one if we didn't have consciences -- but we do. If we give up on her, she'll try to find her way back to Roger. If she succeeds, she'll live her life as a petty criminal. If she fails, someone will find her -- and she'll have no life at all."

Mrs. Medford grimaced. "You're right, I know. But what can we do?"

"We'll make her earn the right to be a girl," Susan said.

"What do you mean?"

"We saw Laura as a boy with problems, and we thought those problems could be solved if we made her go back to being Larry. Now we have a boy with even worse problems. The one thing she really wants is to be Laura again, and we've forbidden that. I say that we should confront her. She has to be a boy for now -- we can't let her lose this year of school -- and she has to work on her behavior. If she begins to improve, we'll let her have some time as Laura. The better she is, the more she can be Laura -- and if she does really well, she can become Laura full-time."

"Petticoat rewards," Mrs. Medford said.


"I've read about an authoritarian approach to behavior modification called petticoat punishment. In a nutshell, a boy who has behaved badly is forced to dress full-time as a girl and learn feminine graces. The idea is that he quickly realizes the need to adapt so he can pass as a girl in public -- otherwise, he'll be humiliated by being seen as a boy in a dress. So he takes on female traits -- good manners, gentleness, consideration for others. They become ingrained and he becomes a better person when his punishment ends and he's allowed to be a boy again."

"In this case," Susan said, "we have a badly-behaved boy who already has female traits and desperately wants to be a girl, so…"

"So we reward improved behavior by letting him dress as a girl," Mrs. Medford said. "Petticoat rewards!"


"You're going to let me be Laura again?" Laura said.

"Only a little at first," Eleanor said. "Three or four hours a week -- but more if you earn it."

"What do you mean?" Laura asked suspiciously.

"We want to see some real improvements in your behavior," Susan said.

"Like what?"

"Like doing your homework and trying a lot harder in school," Susan said. "We know you can do much better than you have so far."

"Can't that wait until next year?" Laura asked. "There's only three weeks left this year -- that doesn't give me enough time to make my grades better, no matter how hard I try."

"We're not looking for all A's," Mrs. Medford said. "We're looking for effort. You haven't shown much so far. We want to see you really trying with your homework, and we want your teachers to tell us that you tried harder and your attitude improved in the last three weeks of school."

"Can you do that, dear?" Susan asked. "We really don't want this year to be a complete waste. You're already one year behind your age group, and we don't want you to lose another year. If you make an honest effort to do better, I'm sure your teachers will take that into consideration. Can you do it?"

"Can I be Laura while I do my homework? That might help. I hate it so much, being Larry, that I can't think of anything else when I'm him."

The two women exchanged glances. "Yes, as long as we can see that you're really studying," Susan said.

"I'll really study," Laura said. "I'll try as hard as I can to do better in school."

"There's more," Mrs. Medford said. "No smoking."

"That's for your own good, Laura," Susan said. "Smoking is bad for anyone, but worse for a kid. And you've got to stop taking my beer -- that's bad for you, too."

"And I don't want to hear any more complaints about you bullying smaller boys," Mrs. Medford added. "And I want you to clean up your language -- it's filthy and not at all lady-like."

"One more thing," Susan said. "We'd really like you to be a little more helpful around the house. You were very good about that the first few days you were here, but now you don't do anything unless we yell at you."

There was a pause. "Is that all?" Laura asked.

"I know it's a lot," Susan said, "but I think you can do it."

"What if I slip up?" Laura asked.

"I beg your pardon?" her grandmother said.

"What if I try real hard but I don't really understand my math homework? And I say some word I'm not supposed to use? And you yell at me and I get mad and go to my room instead of helping with the dishes?"

"Let's think positively," Susan said. "We'll start by assuming you're going to try to do everything we've asked of you. In return, you'll get to be Laura while you're studying and for three or four hours more on Sunday. If you try hard, you'll earn more Laura time. If we decide you're not trying, we'll cut back -- but that's not going to happen, is it?"

"I hope not," Laura said.

"We're going to do our part, too," Mrs. Medford said. "I know these last few months have been very difficult for you, and I'm afraid I haven't done much to make it any easier. I'm still not going to make it easy -- you've got to work if you want to be Laura. But Sue and I are at least going to try to make things more pleasant for you. We want you to feel at home here. We really want you to be happy. We've wanted that for you all along, but we haven't done very well at making you happy, I'm sorry to say."

"So there's just one more little thing," Susan said. "One little tiny thing that we all three have to do." She smiled at Laura. "Every now and then -- smile!"


Laura wondered if her life really would be better. She was willing to try to make her grandmother and aunt happy, but would they really reciprocate, or would they quickly return to finding fault with everything she -- or, rather, Larry -- did?

The next morning, when Larry came down to breakfast with his hair combed and his homework completed to the best of his ability, he was greeted with smiles -- and he smiled back. So far, so good -- let the experiment continue, Larry thought.

He came straight home from school that afternoon, noting that Junior Colby and his friends were going out of their way to ignore him. He knew he could try his escape plan again -- Aunt Sue had returned Laura's purse, so he had money -- but he had already decided not to do that. He'd give his grandmother and aunt a fair chance (besides, they might be parked just down the street, waiting to see if a taxi appeared). He changed into Laura's clothes and immediately began to do his homework.

When she heard her grandmother and aunt come into the house a few hours later, Laura hurried down the stairs to greet them with a smile. "I've been studying," she said, "but I'm not done yet. I need to review everything I should have done this term, so I'm going to get back to work after dinner."

From Dead-End Kid to Miss Goody Two-Shoes in twenty-four hours, Mrs. Medford thought. I hope this isn't too good to be true -- I hope she can keep this up. "That's good, dear -- that's just what we want to see," she said.

"Do you want me to go back to being Larry for dinner?" Laura said. "If I do, I'm going to change again after dinner. I really can work better when I'm Laura."

"That seems like wasted effort," Susan said. "Come to dinner just as you are now."

"Thanks, Aunt Sue!" Laura hugged her aunt. "Can I do anything to help get dinner ready?"

"I'm sure we can think of something," Eleanor said. "Why don't you go back to your studying for another fifteen minutes? Then you can join us in the kitchen."

"Okay," Laura said. She hurried back up the stairs to her room.

"Night and day!" Eleanor said to her daughter.

"Jekyll and Hyde!" Susan replied.

"Gin and tonic!" Eleanor said. "I'll make them."


"Laura!" Mrs. Medford called. "It's ten o'clock -- time to get ready for bed."

"Okay, grandma!" Laura called back. She put her books aside and got undressed. For a moment, she was tempted to slip into her satin nightie, but that would be stretching her side of the agreement. Not that she hadn't already stretched it, but she'd done so in the interest of achieving the agreement's goals -- she really could study much better as Laura. She sighed and dressed herself in Larry's pajamas.

Larry came downstairs to say goodnight. "I'm really tired," he said.

"You'll sleep well tonight," Aunt Sue said.

"I know I will." He hugged his aunt and kissed her cheek and then repeated his actions with his grandmother. "See you in the morning," he said as he went back upstairs.

"Interesting," Sue said.

"Yes, it's been an interesting day," her mother said.

"No -- I mean something new, something very interesting."

"What's that?"

"Laura is developing breasts."

"You're joking."

"No, I'm not," Susan said. "I could see them through her pajamas. They're small, but they're definitely there."

"How could that happen?"

"She must be taking hormones. That's something else we've got to check on. She could do a lot of harm to herself."

"Do you want to say anything to her tonight?" Mrs. Medford asked.

"No -- let her sleep. She has enough on her plate for now -- let's let it go for a few days."


Laura wished she could be Laura all the time, but she understood that Larry had to be the one to finish up the school year. He couldn't drop out and he couldn't be replaced by a substitute. All she could do was push him and prod him, and she did. She made him pay attention to his teachers, ignore the unfriendly teasing from his classmates, and be polite. He wasn't hard to convince -- he wanted to be Laura just as much as she did. It's safe to say, however, that almost everyone who knew Larry at school was convinced that space aliens had abducted him and substituted a look-alike robot in his place. They could believe that, but the substitution of a look-much-alike Laura would never have worked. That would have been unbelievable.

Larry found it easy to give up bullying smaller boys -- that had been something he'd done only for image-building purposes, and his heart had never really been in it. It was a little harder to clean up his language, but it tended to be bad only in moments of stress, and he was having fewer such moments.

It was also easy to give up beer, especially since he knew Aunt Susan was keeping track of her supply. Smoking was a real problem, though. If he went too long between cigarettes, he became tense and jittery. He felt that way a lot, now, because Laura made him come straight home from school so she could start studying (even though she felt tense and jittery, too). No more afternoons spent wandering aimlessly around with his head wreathed in smoke. He allowed himself just four cigarettes a day, two on his way to school and two on his way home. He hoped the jitters went away soon. Focusing on studies, both in class and while doing homework, helped take Larry's thoughts away from smoking -- though there were times when tobacco cravings threatened to take his mind off his studies. Those were the times when Laura had to really prod him.

Larry didn't know it, but he was lucky -- he had a smoking habit but not an addiction. In time, with effort, the habit could be broken. The first weekend was really bad, since he had no trips to and from school to indulge his habit. Laura let him take a fifteen-minute walk Saturday morning, but then it was time to study. Laura's Laura addiction was more powerful than her craving for tobacco. She knew her Laura time would be cut back drastically when she no longer had to study, unless Larry improved enough scholastically to earn more hours in skirts. She was determined to keep working. She let him have another short walk Sunday morning, but that was all.

Laura considered smoking to be Larry's problem now, even though she was the one who'd gotten him hooked. She had her own problem -- she was running out of hormones, and she thought that Larry might have serious problems if he tried to have a local drugstore fill a forged prescription from an out-of-state doctor. Sunday evening, just before getting ready for bed, she came down to the living room. She knew her grandmother had already retired, so this gave her a good opportunity for a quiet chat with her aunt.

"Aunt Sue?"

"Yes, dear."

"I…uh…have a problem."

"Anything I can help you with?"

"I hope so. I've got these…uh…prescriptions and they're almost gone."

"You must have brought a lot of medicine with you -- you've been here for more than four months now." Pretty conscientious for a teenager, Susan thought.

"Yes…well…Mom took the same stuff, so I brought hers, too."

Uh-oh! "What are they for, Laurie?"

"Just…medicine. You know."

"No, I don't know," Susan said. "What condition are you treating?"

"They're helping me to…uh…be a girl."

Of course! The hormones! "May I see them, dear?"

"Sure -- I'll go get them." Laura went upstairs and returned almost at once with two nearly empty pill vials in her hand. "Here they are."

"Hmmm. An androgen blocker and estrogen tablets. That's what they're for, all right -- to help you become a girl. Did the doctor give you a thorough examination before he gave you these prescriptions?"

"Uh…no. I never saw him. Mom got the prescriptions."

"I see. You really should have had an examination, you know," Susan said. "These medications can be very dangerous if they're not properly prescribed. Did you know that?"


"Just what did you want me to do?"

"I thought maybe you could get them refilled for me. At your hospital."

"That wouldn't be ethical."

"Oh. Okay. Sorry I bothered you. Thanks anyway." Laura turned to go.

"Laurie. There is something I can do for you, dear," Susan said.

Laura turned back. "What's that?"

"I can take you to see a doctor I know. He'll examine you and then decide what medications you should have -- if any."

"If any," Laura repeated. "Are you saying he might not give me any new prescriptions?"

"He might not," Aunt Susan said. "I don't know. He's a good doctor and he'll do what he thinks is right. That's all I can do for you. Are you willing to see him?"

"Would you see him -- if you were me?"

"Yes, I would."

"Then I'll see him."

"Good," Susan said. "How many pills do you have left?"

"Three weeks worth of one -- a little more of the other."

"I'll make an appointment for the Monday after school closes. That way, you won't have to miss any classes. Is that okay?"

"Yes -- thanks, Aunt Sue."

"You're welcome, dear. Now, get yourself off to bed -- tomorrow's a school day."


Laura continued to study with great diligence, striving to master a semester's work in just a scant few days. She couldn't undo the bad grades that Larry had received on his quizzes, tests, and homework, but she could try to learn what he'd failed to learn in his classes.

Larry made it through the next week of school with relative ease. He paid attention in class, turned in neatly prepared and mostly correct homework, and got respectable grades on his quizzes. And he noticed something interesting: his teachers seemed to have become friendlier and more interested in him.

"That's because you're trying harder," Aunt Sue said when Laura reported this phenomenon to her. "Teachers are human, and the fact is that they're going to be nicer to students who are really making an effort to learn."

"It's too bad it's so late in the year," Laura said. "I got off to such a bad start."

Susan refrained from saying, "I told you so" to either her mother or Laura. "I've talked to most of your teachers," she said. "They say they'll pass you if you keep working as hard as you have in the last two weeks. Not A's and probably not B's, but you'll go into the eighth grade."

Laura smiled. "Then I'd better go to my room and do some more studying," she said.

Larry still had a smoking problem. On Monday, he'd tried starting the day without smoking and he'd found himself nervous and jittery in class. He had to keep focused, he knew, or he'd blow his quizzes and homework assignments. He sneaked a cigarette in the boys' room and felt better. For the rest of the week, he maintained his two-cigarettes-in-the-morning routine, but he cut his afternoon ration to one, and he decided to limit himself to one per day on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday morning, Larry had household chores to perform. The last thing on his list involved a trip to the hardware store. On his way back, he smoked his Saturday cigarette. That cleared his schedule, and as soon as he got home, he changed into Laura's clothes and settled down with her books.

Laura usually studied in her room, but this morning she was working at the kitchen table. Her aunt and grandmother had appointments at the hairdresser's and they'd asked her to let the repairman in when he came to fix the clothes washer. He was expected around ten, and they wouldn't be back until almost eleven. When she heard a rap on the kitchen door at 10:15, she opened it without checking first to see who was there. To her surprise, it wasn't the repairman after all. It was Bill Colby. She -- or should she blame Larry? -- had forgotten all about the baseball game.

Bill was even more surprised. He'd expected Larry or his grandmother or his aunt to answer the door, but who was this pretty young girl? "Uh…umm…ah, is Larry here?" he stammered.

"Uh…ah…no, not right now. He's…ah…running some errands…but he'll be back soon." Oh, dear -- what if Bill decided to wait for Larry? "Well, not really all that soon," Laura said. "In about an hour…maybe."

"I'm…uh…Bill. Bill Colby."

"Oh, yes; Larry told me he'd met you. He's going to a baseball game with you?"

"Yes -- we talked about it. I just wanted to remind him."

"I'll tell him about it. When is it?"

"This afternoon, at two," Bill said. "I'll come by at one."

"Okay; I'll tell him."

"Thanks, uh…?"

"I'm Laura, Larry's sister."

"Pleased to meet you," Bill said. "I thought you might be related -- you look a lot like him."

"Everybody says that," Laura said. "I can't see it, myself."

"Well, uh…I can. I…uh…I guess I should be going. See you."

"Nice to meet you, Bill. I'll tell Larry." She smiled shyly as she closed the door. Oh, dear -- this was going to cut into her studying time. And Larry had never mentioned the baseball game to his aunt and grandmother. Maybe they wouldn't want to let him go.


The repairman arrived at 10:25. Laura let him in and he disappeared into the basement. Grandma and Aunt Sue returned home about twenty-five minutes later. Mrs. Medford went to the basement to consult with the repairman, and Laura told Aunt Sue about Larry's visitor.

"Is it all right if I go to the game with him, Aunt Sue? I'm sorry I forgot to tell you before -- but there's been so much going on."

"Is it all right if you go to the game with him? Or Larry?"

Laura blushed. "Larry."

Aunt Sue smiled. "Of course it's all right, dear. You've been working very hard, and it will be good for you to take a break. I know the Colbys, and Bill's a nice boy. So, go ahead and get changed while I fix lunch."

Laura smiled happily at her aunt and hurried off to her room. A few minutes later, Larry emerged, looking just as cheerful as Laura had. He insisted on helping Sue with her lunch preparations. "After all," he said with a grin, "I know at least as much about making lunch as Laura does." Sue could only marvel inwardly at his helpfulness and good cheer. "He really has needed a friend," she thought. "Why couldn't we see that earlier?"


"What a wonderful game!" Larry said. "It was so exciting! And we won!"

"It was a lot of fun," Bill said. "A great way to end the season."

"It was so nice of your coach to let me sit on the bench," Larry said. "I felt almost like I was part of the team."

"Hey; you were! When we got two runs behind in the ninth, we really needed someone to cheer us on. You did a good job, Larry."

"What a finish! I got so excited, I almost fell off the bench. Thanks for bringing me along, Bill. I hope I can go to some more games next year."

"You sure can," Bill said, "but you don't have to wait that long. There's a summer league with teams from all over the county -- the American Legion sponsors it. It'll be starting up in a few days, and I'll be playing for our town team -- and so will a lot of the other guys you met today. You want to come to some of the games?"

"I'd love to," Larry said. "That would be so much fun!"

"How about your sister -- does she like baseball? Maybe we should have invited her along this afternoon."

"Laura? Uh…I really don't know. I've never heard her say anything about baseball."

"Is she your twin? She sure looks a lot like you."

"She's…uh…older. A year older."

"She's really pretty," Bill said.

"You think so?"

"Sure -- don't you?"

"I haven't thought about it much. But if you say so, I guess she must be."

"Has she got a boy friend?"

Bill seemed awfully interested in Laura, and Larry didn't have any idea how to handle that question. If he said "No," would Bill ask Laura for a date? If he did, how would she deal with that? If he said "Yes," would that discourage Bill? And would that be what Laura wanted? Larry couldn't think clearly. He really didn't know what Laura wanted. In any event, Bill didn't seem to be the kind of guy who'd be easily discouraged. Larry thought he was probably just trying to gather information and he'd do whatever he meant to do regardless of what Larry said.

He decided on a non-answer, an easy way out. "I don't know," he said. "I don't pay much attention to that stuff."

"Is she dating anyone?"

"Uh…I don't think so -- not around here, anyway. She might be dating back home."

"Okay. Well, I'll see you later."


"This is Oak Street. You live here, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, thanks again."

"Okay. I'll call you in a couple of days when I get the summer league schedule."

"That'll be wonderful! See you later!" Larry said.


As soon as Larry got home from the game, he changed clothes and Laura went back to work on her studies, pushing Bill's questions out of her mind. Just a few more days to go and so much studying to do, with final exams in all subjects Wednesday. She worked until late in the evening and arose early Sunday morning to study some more. There was no time for a morning walk for Larry.

She studied all day, taking time out only for meals. After dinner, she returned to her room and her books. She planned to study until about ten. That would complete her review of everything except math, and Aunt Susan had arranged for Larry's tutor to work with him Monday and Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Shortly after seven, she heard a gentle tap on her door. "Come in!" she called, and Aunt Sue entered.

"You have a telephone call, Laura," she said.

"For me? You mean for Larry, don't you?"

"It's for Laura."

"Who'd call me?" Laura asked. "Nobody even knows me. Oh! It must be Mo -- uh, Dad!"

"No; it's Bill Colby," Susan said.

"Oh, dear. What does he want? Why is he calling me?"

"I have no idea," Sue said. "Well, that's not quite true -- but go talk to him yourself and find out."

Laura hurried to the kitchen and picked up the phone. "This is Laura," she said.

"Hi! It's Bill -- Bill Colby."

"Hello, Bill. Did you want Larry? I'll get him."

"No; wait! I want to talk to you!"

"Oh. All right." There was a brief pause as Bill mentally reviewed his prepared speech. "Are you still there?"

"Yes; I'm here," Bill said. "Um…I know we only met yesterday for a minute or two, but I was wondering if…uh…if you'd like to go to a movie? Um, with me?"

This phone call and this question had been on Laura's mind ever since it had become apparent, on the way home from the baseball game, that she would soon have to deal with them. She had decided that there was no way she could go on a date with Bill. It was too dangerous. It was too likely that she'd be exposed as Larry-in-a-dress or that she'd find herself in a situation that she couldn't cope with, just from her complete lack of experience in dealing with males.

Laura had been too busy studying to actually work out and rehearse her non-acceptance speech. Now she tried to find the right negative response, one that would say "No" without hurting Bill's feelings or damaging his friendship with Larry. Needing to say something, she said, "Yes, that would be nice, Bill." Why had she uttered that surprising reply? She wasn't sure. Perhaps she felt that she had to begin getting experience in handling boys, and one as shy and stammering as Bill might be a good place to start.

"Great!" Bill said. The stammering had departed from his voice and he sounded strong and confident. "How about if I pick you up Saturday night?"

"Uh…that would be fine." What had she done? Was there a way out? "Uh…that will be fine if it's all right with my aunt and my grandma. I'll have to ask them." They'd save her from herself.

"Okay. Do you want to check now, or should I call you back?"

"I'll check now. Hold on; I'll be right back." Laura set the phone down and went into the living room. "Aunt Sue, he wants me to go to a movie with him Saturday night. I told him I'd have to ask you and Grandma."

Sue looked at her niece. "Well, school will be over, so you won't have to be studying. I don't see why not." She looked at Laura again. "Do you want to go with him?"

"Um…I think so. It's just…"

"You're worried?"


"You're a girl, dear. You know it and I know it. And Bill's a nice boy -- you won't have to worry about defending your virtue. If you want to go, you should -- that's my advice."

"Where's Grandma? I should ask her, too."

"She's gone to the grocery," Aunt Sue said. "I'll talk to her. It will be all right."

Laura returned to the kitchen and picked up the phone. "Bill?"


"It's all right -- I can go."

"Great!" Bill said. They settled on seven o'clock and Laura returned to her books.


Monday and Tuesday were difficult days for both Larry and Laura. First of all, Larry forgot to put his cigarettes in his pocket when he left for school, and he had to do without his morning smoke. It bothered him less than he'd thought it would. He'd expected to be nervous and jittery in his classes, but now that he was participating more in classroom discussions, his mind was too busy to dwell on his lack of tobacco intake.

His difficulty really began when he got home, because Phyllis, his math tutor, was right there waiting for him. She allowed him a few minutes for an after-school snack, and then it was time to settle down to intensive study. Larry and Phyllis worked right up to dinnertime. Mrs. Medford had already invited Phyllis to have dinner with the family, and it was back to the books as soon as the meal was over. Larry kept working until ten, when Aunt Sue said he'd done enough for that day and sent Phyllis home.

Laura's difficulty, of course, was that she'd had no time to exist. When Larry got ready for bed, he decided not to wear his pajamas. Instead, he took Laura's prized satin nightgown and slippers from the closet, and it was Laura who came down the stairs to say goodnight to her aunt and grandmother. She feared she might be stretching the terms of her agreement with them by spending eight hours as Laura, but neither of the older women looked displeased or voiced any complaint when she hugged them and kissed them goodnight.

Monday's patterns were repeated on Tuesday, except that Larry didn't forget his cigarettes. He decided not to smoke on his way to school, however. He'd been fine without nicotine the day before, and perhaps he could do without it again. He could.

Wednesday was examination day. Larry set off for school with his cigarettes in his pocket. He began to feel tense as he walked toward the school, and he took out a cigarette and lit it. He took one puff and threw the cigarette down on the sidewalk and stepped on it. He could do without them, he thought -- and if he couldn't, he could sneak a smoke in the boys' room.

In his first class, as he went through his first examination, Larry could feel his nervousness sliding away. He knew the answers to most of the questions! All that work was paying off! The second examination was much the same, and all the rest -- even math. On his way home from school, he took his cigarettes from his pocket and threw them into a trashcan.

When Larry arrived home, he wondered if it would be all right to change to Laura. The original agreement had been that he could be Laura for a few hours on weekends. It had been amended to allow Laura to study, but there was no need for studying now -- exams were over and there'd be no more homework until next fall. He wanted to change, but he didn't want to lose his Laura privileges -- especially not when she was looking forward to her Saturday night date with Bill. He decided he'd better stay Larry until he could talk things over with Aunt Sue. He looked through the bookcase, selected a book that seemed interesting, and went up to his room.

"Laura! Are you upstairs?" It was Aunt Sue's voice. Larry stuck a piece of paper in the book to mark his place -- he'd become so absorbed in it that he hadn't noticed the passage of time. He tossed the book on his bed and hurried downstairs.

"I'm right here, Aunt Sue."

"Larry! I wasn't expecting you -- I'm become so used to coming home to Laura."

"I know, but…I'm all done studying now. My exams are over. So…I didn't know what I should do -- so I decided maybe I should stay like I was."

"How did your tests go?" Susan asked.

"Pretty well, I think. I knew most of the answers."

"Are you sure? Or just hoping?"

"I'm pretty sure," Larry said.

"That's wonderful, dear. Tell me now, honestly -- are you happy being Larry now, or would you rather be Laura?"


"That's what I thought. Well, as far as I'm concerned, you can be Laura as much as you want to from now on. I think you've earned it."

Larry threw his arms around his aunt. "Oh, thank you! Thank you, Aunt Sue! I'm going to go get changed, right now." He started up the stairs to his room.

"Laura!" Larry stopped, halfway up the stairs, and turned around. "There's just one thing you have to remember, Miss Medford," Sue said.

"What's that, Aunt Sue?"

"You can't go back to your old ways, dear. You've got to stay the sweet girl you've been for the last three weeks. Otherwise, you'll have to be Larry again as long as you're living here."

"Don't worry, Aunt Sue. I really want to be Laura -- the same girl I've been since you let me come back."

"I'm so glad, Laurie. Go ahead and get changed." With a happy smile, Larry ran up the stairs and into his room.

A few minutes later, Laura walked sedately down the stairs and went into the kitchen to help her aunt prepare dinner.


The school year ended on Friday. Larry had indeed done well in every exam. He received passing grades in all of his classes -- undistinguished, but passing -- and was promoted to the eighth grade.




© 2003 by Hebe Dotson. 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.