Crystal's StorySite


Petticoat Rewards

by Hebe Dotson

Part 3


After breakfast on Saturday morning, Susan said, "Laura, do you have any summer clothes?"

"No, I don't. I left all my summer things in the apartment when I… I didn't want to take more than one suitcase, and I needed winter clothes more."

"That's what I thought. We'll have to go shopping, then -- you need something for tonight, and my clothes wouldn't fit you very well. Let's clean up the breakfast dishes and go."

Eleanor Medford looked doubtful, but she swallowed whatever remarks she wanted to make and simply said, "I'll clean up -- you two get going, so you can beat the crowds."

Larry had walked all around the town, but Laura hadn't been out of the house since she'd arrived in January. She looked around with great interest, seeing everything with different eyes, as Aunt Sue drove them to the large shopping mall on the north side of the town.

Sue found a parking space near the entrance to the department store that anchored the mall, a branch of a large Chicago store. She led Laura into the store and through its aisles to the juniors department. Laura was amazed by the bounty spread out before them. She had never really shopped in a good department store before, though she'd "fainted" in two or three of them. The few things she'd had that were suitable for her age had been acquired by Mona in surreptitious non-cash transactions, unencumbered by Laura's presence.

In short order, Laura and her aunt selected a flowery summer frock for the girl's movie date. To Laura's surprise, Aunt Sue kept looking through the dresses, suggesting others for her to try on. "You'll need more than one dress," Sue said to her puzzled-looking niece. "The summers get hot around here, and you'll roast to death if we don't get some summer-weight clothes for you." Laura quickly got into the spirit of things and plunged into the racks herself. When they completed their shopping in the juniors department, they had purchased three dresses, three skirts, five tops, two pairs of jeans, and two pairs of shorts.

Laura was already adequately supplied with shoes and underwear, but that was no reason not to visit the store's shoe and intimate wear departments. She and Sue selected a pair of white sandals for the evening, as well as purchasing two new bras, pantyhose, and several pairs of panties.

After stuffing their loot into the trunk of Sue's car, the intrepid shoppers decided to break for lunch. They drove to one of Sue's favorite restaurants, located in a small strip mall on the south side of town. After they were seated and the waitress had taken their orders, Aunt Sue turned to her niece. "There's one more thing we should do, Laurie."

"What's that?"

"Your hair. Do you really want to wear that wig tonight?"

"No, not really," Laura said. "But my hair's so short. Besides, it's brown, and Bill thinks I'm a blonde, because he's only seen me with the wig on."

"Well, Larry was getting a little shaggy. I don't think he'd had a haircut for more than a month."

"Actually, not since the middle of March -- almost three months."

"I won't ask you to take the wig off here," Sue said, "but I think your hair is probably long enough to attach extensions."

"But…what if I have to be Larry? I mean, it's not that I really want to, but I told Bill I'd like to go to some of his baseball games, and I can't suddenly show up with long hair."

"Maybe we could pin it up and hide it under a cap or something," Sue said. "Or maybe you could get a pixie cut."

"I've done that before," Laura said with a smile.

"How about the color? You look very pretty as a blonde -- it suits you."

"I'd like to be blonde," Laura said, "but that would never work for Larry."

"No, it wouldn't," Sue agreed.

"I could tell Bill that I was just fooling around with an old wig when he saw me, and I'm really a brunette."

"You could do that," Aunt Sue said. "Perhaps, though, it would be easier if we just made Larry disappear. He could go away to spend the summer with his other grandparents."

"What other grandparents? Oh -- I see."

"I do think we should change your hair color. The less you look like Larry, the easier it will be for you to go back to school as Laura."

"Do you really think I could do that?" Laura asked excitedly.

"Yes, I do."

"Then I guess we should make Larry go away. I -- he can call Bill and tell him he has to go away for the summer."

"I think that's the best solution," Sue agreed. "So that means you can become a blonde with hair extensions. Okay?"

"Oh, yes!"

"That's good. I've already made an appointment with my hair stylist for you, at 1:30 this afternoon. I told her we wouldn't know what you wanted done until we got there, but she works fast and she's very flexible, so we'll have you home in plenty of time to get ready for your date."

"Oh, Aunt Sue! You're wonderful!"


Bill Colby knocked on the kitchen door at exactly seven o'clock and Aunt Sue let him in. "Laura!" she called up the stairs. "Bill's here!"

Laura, who had been ready for twenty minutes, was suffering through an attack of last minute jitters. Did she look all right? Aunt Sue had inspected her carefully when she'd announced herself ready and had assured her that she looked very pretty and that Bill would think so too. Her new dress, sandals, and hairdo suited her perfectly. Her aunt's beauty salon had re-pierced her ears and given her a manicure and makeover in addition to coloring, lengthening, and styling her hair, and she was lightly made up in a manner suitable for a fifteen-year-old on a movie date.

She wondered if she felt all right. Could she be coming down with something? Should she cancel her date and stay home? This was all such a strange new experience for her. Would she be able to remember any of Aunt Sue's advice? She fussed and fidgeted, and then she heard Sue calling, "Laura! Bill's here!" She glanced at her reflection one last time, picked up her handbag, took a deep breath, and walked down the stairs. Bill's look of delight as she descended was reassuring, and her jitters vanished.

The teenagers were instructed to have a good time and to be back by eleven. They turned down Sue's offer of transportation to the theatre -- it was a nice evening and only a fifteen-minute walk. The show didn't start until 7:30, and Bill already had their tickets, so they wouldn't have to wait in line.

It was a nice evening, and Laura and Bill found much to talk about as they walked along. Was Laura going to be starting at Western High in the fall? She'd anticipated this question and she and Sue had concocted an answer. No; if she spent the next school year here with her aunt and grandmother, she'd be attending eighth grade with Larry. She was a year older, but she'd been in a serious auto accident when she was eleven and she'd missed a year of school. She was perfectly all right now, but things had been rough for a while.

She might not be here next fall? No; her parents were divorced and there were some crazy custody fights going on (another response invented with Sue's assistance). Her aunt and grandmother were her father's family -- he was out of the country -- but she might have to go to her mother's family in September. Or perhaps Larry would have to go -- or both of them. It was all very confusing.

Bill hoped she wouldn't have to leave. Laura hoped so, too, she said with a shy smile that made Bill's heart leap. They reached the movie theatre, and Bill bought sodas and a huge bucket of popcorn. After choosing seats toward the rear of the auditorium, they placed the popcorn between them and settled back to enjoy the film. Their enjoyment was heightened by the electrifying fingertip contacts that occurred whenever they reached for popcorn simultaneously. This simultaneity became more frequent as each realized the need to take a kernel whenever the other reached for one -- in the interest of equitable distribution, of course. When the distribution had been completed and their two hands met in the empty bucket, their fingers intertwined and remained linked together until the movie ended.

It was just after nine when they left the theatre. The summer evening was warm and delightful, with a trace of sunset remaining in the northwestern sky. Hand in hand, they ambled through the town until they came to Bill's favorite burger joint, a place that catered to the high school crowd. Since they were teenagers, they were hungry, so it was only natural for them to go in. The restaurant was nearly full, but they managed to wedge themselves into a booth with several of Bill's school friends, where they ordered burgers and colas.

At 10:15, Bill paid for their share of the check and they said their goodnights to his friends. The sunset was gone now, but the moon was rising and the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. Still hand in hand, they walked more purposefully now, since they were about half an hour from home. Laura thought that she had never been happier in her young life. If she'd been able to read Bill's mind, she'd have been overjoyed to find him thinking almost identical thoughts.

They turned down Oak Street at 10:50. The well-lighted Medford house was just ahead of them. Laura could see her grandmother and aunt seated at the kitchen table, and the outside light above the kitchen door was shining brightly.

Bill led Laura across the lawn and into the shadows along the side of the garage. "I think he wants to kiss me goodnight," Laura thought. "Should I…" Before she could begin to consider her options, Bill turned her to face him, put his arms around her, and drew her gently toward him. She tilted her face toward his and closed her eyes.

Laura had never kissed or been kissed by anyone before. She learned, in that moment, that the electricity generated by lips in contact has a much higher voltage than anything produced by fingers touching in a popcorn bucket. Her knees buckled. She wrapped her arms around Bill's neck (just to maintain her balance, of course), and he took that as an invitation to kiss her again (as, indeed, it was).

Laura pressed her face against Bill's chest and caught her breath. "I…uh…I'd better go in, since they're waiting up for me," she said.

Bill grinned at her and she smiled back. "I guess so," he said. He took her hand and they walked across the driveway to the kitchen door.

"Thanks, Bill," Laura said. "I had a wonderful time."

"Me, too. It was great. Would you like to go to a movie again next week?"

"Sure; I'd love to," Laura said. She raised herself up on her tiptoes and kissed Bill lightly on the cheek, heedless of the bright light above her head. "Goodnight, Bill."

"Goodnight, Laura." He turned and walked down the driveway, whistling softly. Laura followed him with her eyes as she slipped through the door. There was a definite swagger in his walk, she thought.


All Laura could ever remember about Sunday was that she'd been incredibly happy all day long. On Monday, however, she came back to earth. At ten that morning, she had her appointment with Aunt Susan's doctor friend.

Laura moved around in a nonstop dither Monday morning, driving her aunt up the wall. Should she be ultra-feminine, or should she go to her appointment as Larry, a sort of long-haired boy with breast development? "What do you think, Aunt Sue?" she asked for the third time.

"You haven't been listening to me, have you? One more time -- I think you should wear your new pink skirt and your white blouse and the sandals you wore to the movies. You should definitely wear a bra, but no breast forms or extra padding. Just a little lipstick -- pink -- no other makeup. As soon as you're ready, I'll help you with your hair -- but get moving, Missy! We have to leave in twenty minutes."

"Oh, dear," Laura said. She hurried up to her room, still in a dither -- but this time, she'd listened. She was back, ten minutes later, dressed as Susan had suggested, with her hairbrush in her hand.

Susan had taken the day off from work so she could drive Laura to her appointment with Dr. Preston. Unless Laura or the doctor objected -- and she didn't think either would -- she planned to stay by her niece's side until her examination was over.

Laura had been a little worried, but Dr. Preston quickly put her at ease. He was pleasant and non-judgmental as he questioned the girl about her past. "Your aunt has told me a little about you," he began (actually, she had talked with him for more than an hour), "but what I really want to do today is have you tell me about yourself in your own words. After that, I'll probably ask you to take a psychological test. Okay so far?"

"I thought I was through with tests until eighth grade," Laura said with a smile.

Dr. Preston grinned. "Don't worry about it -- it's a very simple standardized multiple-choice test, and there aren't any wrong answers. After that, I want to give you a quick physical examination. Then I'll take a blood sample so I can run some lab tests, and that will be all for today. Is there anything you want to ask me about before we begin?"

"No; I don't think so."

"All right, but if you do have questions, ask them anytime. Now, Laura, let me begin by saying that you certainly look and act and sound like a teenage girl. But I understand that you began life as a boy named Larry. Is that true?"


"And who are you now -- a boy named Larry or a girl named Laura?"

"I'm Laura, except for that little bit of Larry -- down there." She pointed quickly toward her groin and blushed.

"And how long have you been Laura?"

"It will be two years next month. Since right after I turned twelve."

"Why did you become Laura?" the doctor asked.

Laura squirmed in her chair. "It was my mom's -- my dad's idea."

"Did you think it was a good idea?"

"Not then -- but I do now."

"You're happy now, as a girl? Happier than you were as a boy?"

"Oh, yes," Laura said. "Much happier."

"What's the best thing you can remember about being a boy?"

Laura thought for a moment. "It's funny," she said, "but I really can't remember anything I liked about being a boy. I mean, I was just there. I wasn't doing anything except going to school and reading or watching TV. I was just a little kid who wasn't any good at sports, and I didn't have any real friends to play with."

"How is it different being a girl?"

"Well…it's not a whole lot different right now, but I can really see how things could get better for me. After Larry came back, he never could see things getting better. He didn't like himself very much -- he thought he was too small and too girlish-looking. I like myself -- not that I want to brag, but I think I'm fairly pretty and reasonably smart, and I think I'll be able to make friends, once I have a chance."

"Once you have a chance?"

"A chance to meet other kids as Laura. I had to go to school as Larry, so I haven't met many kids the way I really am. Larry was sort of obnoxious and didn't make friends. The other boys didn't like him. Nobody liked him. I'm not him -- I think they'll like me."

"I see." Dr. Preston paused for a moment. "Life is rough for a boy who doesn't get along with other boys. Did Larry have any girlfriends?"


"Did he like girls?"

"They were okay -- but he was sort of scared of them," Laura said.

"How about you? Any boyfriends?"

"I, uh, have a friend who's a boy. He took me to the movies Saturday night. I don't know if he's really a boyfriend, though."

"You're attracted to boys?" the doctor said.

"I think so, yes."

"Are you attracted to girls?"

"Well…no. Not really. Not any more."

"Do you try to make yourself attractive to boys?"

"Um…I tried Saturday night."

"Did you enjoy doing that?"

"Oh, yes."

"And did it work? I'm sorry, Laura -- I shouldn't have asked you that. It's too personal. You don't have to answer."

"I don't mind. I think it worked. He kissed me goodnight." She glanced at her aunt, who seemed unsurprised by this revelation.

"Then I think it did," Dr. Preston said with a smile. "Tell me -- do you see yourself getting married someday?"

"I haven't thought about it a lot -- but, yes, I think so. I hope so."

"What qualities do you think your spouse will have?"

"Well…I think he'll be kind and considerate. And honest. And hard working. We don't have to be rich, but I want him to go out to work every day."

"Aside from his problems with the other children, how did Larry do in school?" Dr. Preston asked.

"Not very well. He didn't even go to school for a year and a half, and it was hard for him when he went back."

"Why didn't he go to school?"

"Mom -- I mean Dad -- didn't want him to. After I came here, Grandma and Aunt Sue sent him back to school."

Dr. Preston thought for a minute. "Laura, you've said 'Mom' twice and then changed it to 'Dad.' Your mother's dead, isn't she?"


"How old were you when she died?"

"Almost three."

"So she didn't have Larry become Laura, or keep him out of school. Your father did those things."


"So why did you start to say 'Mom'?"

"Because Dad decided to become my mom, and he told me never to call him 'Dad' again."

"Your father dressed as a woman?"


"That's interesting." Dr. Preston paused for a moment, and then resumed his questioning, which continued for more than an hour. He seemed to skip around a great deal, but he returned again and again to some topics. By the time he finished, Laura had told him about her relationship with Mona, her part in Mona's criminal activities, and her flight when her "mother" was arrested. She had discussed her smoking, her drinking, and her use of forged prescriptions to obtain androgen blockers and female hormones. She had described Larry's near-disastrous return to school and her Herculean effort to get him passing grades in his final exams. The doctor listened carefully, taking many notes, but never indicated surprise, shock, or disapproval.

"I think that's all the questions I have for now, Laura," Dr. Preston said, glancing at his watch. "If you feel up to it, I'd like to have you take a very simple personality test. Are you willing to take it now?"


"Good. It's multiple choice, and it should take you about half an hour. Just answer the questions as quickly as you can. Don't stop to think about them; just go by your first impressions when you look at the choices. When you're done, you and your aunt can go to lunch, and then you'll come back here and spend about another half-hour with me. Okay?"


"Good girl. Here's the test. Your aunt and I will leave you to work on it. It's 11:30 now; we'll be back at noon."

Laura smiled and set to work.


Laura and her aunt returned to Dr. Preston's office after a leisurely lunch at a nearby restaurant. Susan had deliberately steered their conversation away from Laura's main concern -- her interview with the doctor and his possible assessment of her. She didn't know what conclusions Dr. Preston would reach, and she didn't want to give Laura false encouragement -- or discouragement. They talked instead about Laura's date with Bill, the likelihood of future dates, and how they might manage to enroll her in school in the fall.

The doctor was seeing another patient when they arrived, but they had only a short wait before he called them into his office. He then had Laura disrobe so he could examine her. "You are definitely developing breasts," he said. "Has this all happened since you began taking those prescriptions you told me about?"


"And how long have you been taking them?"

"One of them for ten months -- the other, almost six months."

"Did you bring the medications with you?"

"Yes -- Aunt Sue said you'd probably want to see them." She took the two pill vials from her purse and gave them to the doctor.

"You've been taking the prescribed dosages? No more and no less?"


"You've been taking the medications voluntarily, because you want to have breasts?"

"Yes. I really do want them."

"Well, these medications will certainly do the trick, but there could be other causes for your development. Did Larry take steroids to try to make himself bigger and stronger?"


"Your alcohol use was probably insufficient to cause as much growth as you've had. Have you used marijuana or heroin or methamphetamines?"

"No -- never."

"Then I suspect that your development is entirely due to those prescriptions," Dr. Preston said. "I want to take some blood samples and get a urine specimen so I can run some lab tests. That will be all we'll do today, but I want you to come back in a week so we can talk about the test results and decide what to do next. Okay?"


"Good -- I'll see you then. Susan, please see my nurse on the way out and set up an appointment for next Monday. Tell her we'll need an hour."


"How's Larry doing?" Bill Colby asked. "I haven't seen him for a while." He and Laura, hand in hand, were meandering back to her house from their second movie date.

"Oh, he's fine," Laura said, realizing that she'd barely thought of Larry for several days. "He's been helping Grandma clean out the basement." This was actually what Laura was doing -- it was her grandmother's way to help keep the girl occupied during her summer vacation.

"That sounds like real fun."

"I don't think it's too bad. She's paying him, and he hasn't complained very much."

"We've got a ball game coming up the week after next -- I'll call him and see if he wants to go."

"That would be nice -- I'm sure he'd enjoy it," Laura said. Especially with his new long blonde hair, she thought. I really don't think so.

"How about you? Would you like to go?" Bill said.

"Me? I don't know anything about baseball."

"I can teach you all about it."

"Well…maybe," Laura said. "Can I let you know in a few days?"


"I'll tell Larry about it, too. What day is it?"

"Wednesday, the nineteenth."

"If I go, will you hit a home run for me?"

"Only one?"

"That will be enough. I'm not greedy."

"I'll do my best."

They rounded the corner and turned down Oak Street. Laura was pleased to see that her aunt and grandmother had apparently gone to bed -- at least the lights were on in their bedrooms. There was only one small light on in the kitchen. The front porch lights were off, but the light above the kitchen door looked as bright as a full moon.

"Would you like to come in for a few minutes?" Laura said.

"Your folks won't mind?"

"No. Aunt Sue suggested it."

"She did?"

"I helped her make cookies this afternoon," Laura said. "She told me I had to find a victim to try them. She said you might be a good one. Are you feeling brave?"

"Sure!" Bill said.

"Okay; you're my victim." The kitchen door was unlocked. Laura pushed it open and led the way inside. "Actually, I tried them myself and I'm still alive, so I don't think you have to worry too much."

"I'm not worried at all. I'm sure they'll be real good."

Laura took a large cookie jar from the kitchen counter and transferred a dozen or so chocolate chip cookies to a plate. "Would you like some milk with them? Or a soda?"

"Milk, please," Bill said.

Laura filled two glasses with cold milk. "We can have our cookies out on the porch if you'd like," she said. "It's nice out there in the evening."

"Sounds good," Bill said. He picked up the plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Laura took the other glass and led the way to the front door. She opened it for Bill and pointed to a wicker coffee table. He set the plate on the table and they sat down side by side on the old wicker sofa. Everything they wanted -- cookies, milk, and each other -- was within easy reach.

Several cookies and many embraces later, they heard a voice from the kitchen. "Laura? Are you out on the porch?"

"Yes, Aunt Sue," Laura said as she and Bill slid to opposite ends of the sofa. "We're trying the cookies."

"How are they?" Sue asked as she opened the front door. "It's dark out here. Is Bill still healthy?"

"Yes, ma'am," Bill said. "You're a good cookie maker."

"Laurie made them -- I just watched. Can I have one?"

"Of course," Laura said. She stood and held out the plate to her aunt.

"You're right, Bill -- they are good," Sue said. "Well, it's past my bedtime, so I'll say good night to you two. Please make sure the doors are locked, Laura."

"I will, Aunt Sue. Good night."

"Goodnight, Ms Medford," Bill said. "Do you mind if I take the last cookie?" he asked Laura.

"It's all yours. There are plenty more in the kitchen."

"Thanks. Well, I guess your aunt was giving me my signal to go home."

"I guess so," Laura said.

"Is it okay if I kiss the cookie maker goodnight?"

"It's all right with me if Aunt Sue's willing. Do you want me to call her back?"

"No -- I'd much rather kiss her apprentice." And he did, with gusto partly -- but only partly --fueled by a chocolate chip cookie high.


Monday brought Laura's follow-up session with Dr. Preston. She and her aunt arrived at the doctor's office five minutes early and had to wait only ten minutes before they saw him. Laura was nervous and apprehensive. What had Dr. Preston learned from the tests she had taken? What fate would he ordain for her from the Olympian perch from which he viewed her little world?

The wait seemed to take forever. On the one hand, she wanted it to end immediately, so she could move bravely into her future. On the other hand, an endless wait had its own advantages -- if she never learned the doctor's decision, she'd never have to face overwhelming disappointment. I'm being silly, she thought. I know what I want and need, and if I have to wait until I'm legally old enough to make my own decisions, I can manage that. At that moment, Dr. Preston opened his door and invited them in. He was smiling, and Laura took that as a good omen.

"Well, Laura," he said when all three were seated and ready to get down to business. "As we suspected, your normal male sexual development has been inhibited and you've begun to develop as an adolescent girl. There were a number of possible explanations for that, but we've managed to eliminate most of them, and it looks as if the medications you've been taking are almost certainly the sole cause." He paused.

"Is that good?" Laura asked.

"From your standpoint, yes. You're going in the direction that you say you want to go, and we know why. You have no abnormal physical conditions that are being masked by your medications, and that's good, because some of them could be unpleasant -- even life-threatening."

Laura nodded.

"There's something else that's good from your standpoint. The multiple-choice test you took for me was designed to measure the degree to which someone has a masculine or feminine personality. The results show that your personality is quite strongly feminine."

"I could have told you that," Susan said.

"No doubt, no doubt," Dr. Preston said with a smile. He turned back to Laura. "Much of this is new to me -- I've never had a case like yours before, and I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. Since I'm not, I've done a lot of reading in the medical journals since your last visit. Now I know that girls like you are not exactly common, but they're not exactly rare, either."

"There are others like me?" Laura said.

"Quite a few -- including, I have to suspect, your father. There's even a name for what you have -- gender identity dysphoria."

"Gender identity what?"

"Dysphoria -- a ten-dollar word for dissatisfaction. GID is a likely diagnosis for a person who was born in one gender but believes himself -- or herself -- to really be a member of the other."

"Like someone who's physically a boy but feels like he's really a girl?" Laura asked.


"If I have a medical condition, does that mean there's a cure?" Laura asked. "Could I be made to want to be Larry again?"

"As I understand it, probably not," Dr. Preston replied. "There are treatments that try to erase feelings and desires like the ones you have, but they are usually unsuccessful and -- in my opinion -- cruel. I wouldn't recommend them."

"Good," Laura said.

"What would you recommend?" Sue asked.

"There are treatments that accept the validity of the patient's feelings. Instead of trying to force Laura's mind to accept Larry's body, these treatments would modify Larry's body to place it in better harmony with Laura's mind. In my judgment, that would be a better approach to Laura's well-being."

"Sex-change surgery?" Sue said.

"Sexual reassignment surgery -- SRS -- could be part of the treatment. Laura is probably a good candidate for SRS, since she seems well adjusted as a girl, but she may decide that she doesn't want to go that far when she knows all the options available to her. In any event, she's too young to commit to SRS now."

He turned to Laura. "I hope I've made it clear that I'm no expert on gender identity problems. I want you to see a good therapist, one who can give you a better diagnosis than I can."

"I like your diagnosis just fine," Laura said.

The doctor chuckled. "I'm glad to hear that," he said, "but we really need to be sure I got it right. I'm going to recommend a first-rate therapist for you. Her office is in Chicago, but she comes out here for half a day every other week. I've talked to her -- she's interested in your case and she can fit you into her schedule. The idea is to be certain that we understand your needs and can help you understand your options. The road you've started down is full of potholes, twists, and turns, and we want to be sure, for your sake, that it's the right road for you. So, we'll take it slowly for now."

"Okay," Laura said.

"As far as your medications are concerned, I'm going to give you new prescriptions that will keep you in place until I get some feedback from the therapist. If she decides it's appropriate, I'll provide stronger dosages."

"Thank you," Laura said.

"You're welcome, Laura. Now, if you don't mind going out to the waiting room for a few minutes, there are some financial details that I need to discuss with your aunt."

After Laura left the room, Dr. Preston advised her aunt that the treatment could be quite expensive, especially if Laura were to go through SRS. "Fortunately, Sue, you work at the hospital, so she could get all sorts of professional discounts if you could become her legal guardian. Is there any chance of that?"

"I don't know," Sue said. "Laura and I have both been trying to track down my brother. If we can find him, perhaps he'll let me become her guardian. I certainly hope so, because he certainly didn't do much good for her."


The next day, Larry called Bill to explain that he was going to have to spend the rest of the summer with his other grandparents. He was leaving that evening, so he wouldn't be able to go to any of the baseball games.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Bill said. "Is Laura going too?"

"No; she's going to stay here all summer. She'll probably go to school here next year."

"Will you be coming back in the fall?"

"I don't know yet," Larry said. "I just go where they tell me."

"That's rough," Bill said.


"Well, good luck -- give me a call if you come back here."

"Thanks. I sure will."


Sue made a serious effort to find her brother, but with no success. The roads to Roger appeared to be closed. Laura's earlier letters to him had disappeared into postal limbo, which had seemed fairly positive. The post office people apparently knew where he was and Sue took this to mean that they were forwarding Laura's letters to him. He was simply choosing not to acknowledge them. Now, however, Sue's and Laura's letters were coming back to them with cryptic messages scribbled on them -- "UNKN AT THS ADRSS" or "CANNOT FWD" or "NO FWD ADD."

With the aid of a map and a telephone directory, Sue located the four post offices nearest to Roger's former apartment and sent registered letters to the four postmasters, enclosing self-addressed stamped envelopes for their replies. She got responses from all four. Three said that they had no record that "Roger Medford" or "Mona Medford" had ever resided in their delivery area; the fourth said simply that the information she'd requested was no longer on file.

There was no telephone listing for Roger or Mona Medford. The prison system was unresponsive. After a barrage of phone calls, she finally learned that there was no Roger Medford or Mona Medford in custody. As to whether or not there had been in the past, that was a privacy matter and she would need a court order to get that information, if it existed.

The only remaining possibility that Sue could think of was to hire a private investigator. Someone actually there on the ground, familiar with the city and its arcane systems, might be able to trace Roger. That could be expensive, however, and neither she nor her mother felt able to sink their modest resources into what might well be a wild goose chase.


"Mom!" Laura shouted joyfully. She'd answered the doorbell and opened the door to find Mona on the front porch -- a weary-looking and somewhat bedraggled Mona, to be sure, but she looked like a movie queen to the happy girl. "Mom!" she said again. She hugged Mona eagerly and pulled her into the house.

"Laurie! You look wonderful!" Mona said, returning Laura's embrace.

"Grandma! Aunt Sue!" Laura called. "Look who's here!" She led an unresisting Mona into the kitchen.

Eleanor and Susan stared at their visitor. "Roger?" they said together.

"Uh…yes," Mona said. "But I go by Mona now."

There was a pause -- a decidedly awkward pause -- as everyone stared at everyone else. Laura's initial look of happiness began to fade into uncertainty, while Mona's initial look of uncertainty took on a touch of sadness. Eleanor's expression was a mixture of sadness and hostility, while Susan's was noncommittal. "I guess it's up to me," Sue thought. She walked over to Mona and embraced her. "Welcome home, Mona," she said.

Eleanor swallowed hard and willed a smile onto her face as she followed Sue's example. "Welcome home, son -- uh, Mona," she said. "It's been too long. Much too long."

All four expressions had become tearful smiles.


Over coffee, Mona began to recount her recent history. She didn't want to say much about prison. She made it clear that it had been a most unpleasant experience and one that she had no wish to repeat. Sue gathered that the first few months of her confinement had been spent in a men's prison, where the worst things had happened. She'd finally found a sympathetic prison chaplain who'd persuaded a liberal-minded public defender to see her. The public defender had then managed to get her a hearing before a not-unfriendly judge. The judge had refused to transfer Mona to a women's prison out of fear of the political fallout that might result if she (Mona) were to impregnate a fellow prisoner. She'd been helpful nevertheless. Although she'd returned Mona to the men's prison, she'd issued a court order requiring her to be held in solitary confinement for her own protection. This had still been unpleasant, but much less so than life as a man with female buttocks and breasts in the general male prison population.

Mona's note to Laura, tucked into the emergency fund envelope, had implied that prison would be a piece of cake. Her words had been a combination of bravado and ignorance -- she'd never gone to prison before. She'd been too ashamed to answer Laura's letters -- she couldn't bear to tell the girl what her life was really like, and she'd resolved not to give her the false impression that it was indeed a piece of cake.

She'd been sentenced to a year in jail but had been given four months off for good behavior. Her public defender had taken an interest in her and had brought her a shirt, jeans, and a pair of cheap shoes to wear out into the world when she was released. So there she was, a pulchritudinous apparition in male clothing, with a short prison haircut and a paper bag containing the clothes she'd worn and the purse she'd been carrying when she was arrested.

Mona's purse had held about twenty dollars in cash and, sewn into the lining and thus undetected by the police, the key to a safe deposit box. The safe deposit box had contained only a second emergency fund, which she'd used to buy herself a wig, some female clothing and cosmetics, a small suitcase, one night's lodging in a cheap hotel, and a one-way rail ticket to her old home town.


"I'm dying for a cigarette," Mona said as she finished her second cup of coffee. "Can I borrow one from you, Laurie?"

"Sorry, Mom," Laura said. "I don't smoke any more. Would you like a sugar cookie? They're fresh -- I made them yesterday."

"A sugar cookie?"

"Try one, Mom. It gives you something to do with your hands." Laura took a plate from the cupboard, filled it from the cookie jar, and set it in the middle of the kitchen table.

Mona frowned, selected a cookie, and nibbled on it. "These are good, honey. I haven't had one of these since I left home."

"It's Grandma's recipe," Laura said. Mona took another cookie.

Eleanor decided to cut to the chase. "It's not that you're not welcome, uh…Mona, but why are you here?"

"For Laura, of course -- not that I'm not glad to see you and Sue again."

"You want to take Laura away?" Mrs. Medford said. "After all you've done to her? I won't hear of it!"

"I won't either," Sue said. "You were a terrible influence on that poor child."

Mona looked down at her feet. "I know," she said. "I won't argue with you. But I'm her mother and I love her, and I don't want to be separated from her again."

"Perhaps we should ask Laura what she wants," Sue said, mentally crossing her fingers and praying she knew what Laura would say.

"What do you say, Laurie? Do you want to come with me?"

"Oh, Mom," Laura said. "I've missed you so much, and I was so worried about you." She paused. She loved Mona and she'd really missed her, but school, SRS, and her future as a woman lay ahead of her, and she had no wish to sacrifice these opportunities that had come to her, opportunities that she couldn't have imagined a year ago. "But Aunt Sue is right," she continued. "You really were a very bad influence on me. She and Grandma -- and Bill -- helped me to turn my life around, and I just can't go back to working scams with you."

"Bill?" Mona said. "Who's Bill?"

"Laura has a boyfriend," Sue said with a smile.

"Oh, Aunt Sue!" Laura said as she began to blush. "He's a friend, Mom. I've begun to make friends here, and I'll make more next month when I go back to school. And I have a doctor and a therapist who are helping me, too, and I just love them and I can't leave them now."

"A doctor and a therapist?" Mona said.

"Yes, Mom. They're helping me to become a real girl. Someday. As real as I can get, anyway."

"You know, Laurie, it sounds like you're doing just fine without me. Maybe I should just move on."

"Oh, no, Mom -- don't do that!"

"What choice do I have, honey? You've got a future here, but you'd have nothing with me."

Laura felt shattered by the thought of regaining her mother only to lose her. She burst into tears and threw her arms around Mona. "Don't leave me again, Mom," she sobbed.

Sue and her mother exchanged glances. Eleanor raised an eyebrow and Sue nodded. "Mona, why don't you stay here, too?" Eleanor said.

"Do you mean that, Mom?" Mona said.

"Yes, I do, dear. But -- there are conditions."

"I was afraid of that," Mona said. "What are they?"

"You'll have to get a job," Eleanor replied. "A real, honest-to-God job."

"How?" Mona asked. "I've never held a job for more than a month or two in my life, and now I'm an ex-con."

"I can help you," Sue said. "There are jobs at the hospital -- it's menial, minimum-wage work, but no one's going to ask you for a résumé. They won't worry about your criminal record, either, as long as you're up-front about it. And you'll have chances to train for something better."

"I don't know," Mona said.

"You'll have to work as a man," her mother said. "For that matter, you'll have to live as a man…"

"Jesus, Mom!" Mona interrupted. "You know damn well I've always wanted to live as a woman -- to be a woman. I'm not going to go backwards now."

"Yes, you are, if you want to live here with Laura."

Mona cupped her breasts in her hands and jiggled them. "These things are real, Mom. How can I live as a man now?"

"We'll bind them down," Sue said, "and you'll wear loose clothing. It won't be awfully comfortable, but it'll work."


"As I was about to say a minute ago, before you interrupted me, you'll have to live as a man most of the time, but not all the time," Mrs. Medford said.

"What do you mean, Mom?"

"If you get a job and stick with it, and if you start some kind of training program and stick with that, too, and if you do your share of household work, you can be Mona for four hours every Sunday. If you keep doing well, your time as Mona will increase, and in six months or a year, you'll be able to be Mona all the time."

"I can do that. Why don't I just get a job as Mona and start a training program as her? I'll be fine."

"Because you're my son, and I know you much too well," Eleanor said. "You're not stupid, but you're lazy and you're a quitter and you've got to learn how to do better for yourself. This way, you'll have three goals -- to stay here with Laura and to earn the privilege of being Mona."

"What's my third goal?"

"When you're allowed to become Mona full-time, you can see Laura's doctor. Perhaps he'll point you in the same direction as he has your daughter."

"There's one more condition," Sue said. "I want you to agree to me becoming Laurie's legal guardian. That way, with me working at the hospital, we may be able to afford surgery for her when she's eighteen."

"Sex change surgery?" Mona said.

"Yes -- and if you're still working at the hospital when you're ready for it, you may be able to afford it, too," Sue said. "But you have to let me be her legal guardian. I don't want you to quit on us and disappear right when Laurie's ready to transition."

Laura had been following this conversation intently. "Say yes, Mom," she pleaded. "Then you can stay here with us and you and I can become women together."

"Is that what you really want, Laurie?" Mona asked.

"Yes, Mom -- that's what I really want."

Mona put her arms around her daughter. "Then that's what I want, too. When do we start?"

"Right now," Eleanor said.




© 2003 by Hebe Dotson. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be 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.