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    Standing Up to Life

    I've been reading this board for a long time, but have never posted anything to give back. This isn't from my AB side - rather from I guess my LG/TG side. I have posted it on a couple other sites, but I know there are a number of you who might enjoy this here too. Anyway I thought I would post it for you all to read if you wanted to. I hope you enjoy!
    --Tiffany

    Obligatory Disclaimer:

    This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people and events are unintentional and are coincidental. This work may not be reposted to other sites or medium's without expressed permission of the author. (It will be given in most cases if asked)

    This novel is copyright Tiffany Shar 2008, All Rights Reserved.

    Standing Up to Life

    Chapter 1: September 1994

    I walked up to the bus stop, hoping maybe today would be better. Maybe today wouldn't be one of the bad days I have had so often. For instance yesterday… yesterday was a terrible day. I had come home crying again.

    I suppose I should introduce myself to you, seeing as how you're spending the time to read my story. My name is Brandon, I'm 11 years old and in the Sixth Grade at Holden Middle School. My town is just about 25 minutes away from Albuquerque, NM. Close enough to go in if we want to during the evening, but far enough away to be away from the smog and such.

    I had hoped when I moved up to the Middle School to have a new start – perhaps losing the problems I had before in elementary school, but they've only compounded and gotten worse. You'll hear enough of that later - unfortunately I've arrived at the bus stop so we'll have to move past these pleasantries.

    I walked up to the bus stop cautiously watching to see if there were any plans in action that I needed to be aware of. The bus stop consisted of a dirt lot that had a volleyball court from a neighboring church in it. It's really just the standard dirt lot you see all over the southwest.

    I looked down at my watch and saw that I had arrived about 5 minutes before the bus would arrive. Looking around further I saw Luke had gotten to bus stop already… not good. As I saw him he turned around too, he gave me a look and started heading over my way.

    "Well if it isn't little Brandon. I'm surprised you came back to school today after yesterday. I see your arm is starting to turn a nice purple today… Maybe we can make your legs match it!" He said laughing, a couple of his friends came up and started to taunt me together. "You know on a lot of guys your spiked hair means they shouldn't be messed with, but on you it really doesn't do you any good!" Joe, another guy taunted.

    The bad part is Lucas is actually just a lieutenant in the group of guys that gives me trouble. If these guys were already getting on my case it would only get worse. I could tell this was about to get out of hand real fast. Joe started to make a grab for my arms about the time that the bus pulled up.

    "What are you kids doing? Do I need to write you all up?!?" Our bus driver Miss Amy screamed at us. They instantly let me go, and I instantly knew that this story would be to my Mom (another bus driver) before I got home. Great… another day of hell all around. So much for today.

    As I took my seat my eyes started welling up – I couldn't help it – I've dealt with this since first grade. It seemed like no matter what there was always another bully to take and make it their personal mission to torment me. I didn't do a very good job of dealing with it to keep it from happening.

    It didn't help that I wasn't big enough to come off as a threat to anyone. At 4'2" and 75lbs I was the smallest boy in my class. There was one girl, Nikki, who was shorter than me that kept me from having the honor of being the shortest in the entire class of 180 kids. I was also a year younger than a lot of the kids since my birthday had just fallen inside the deadline for my grade level. My parents wanted to keep me from entering Kindergarten that year, but the preschool I was at insisted that mentally I was ready. They were right on that part – I was one of the smartest kids at the school – but emotionally I was a baby in comparison. Something the kids had no problems telling me.

    Chapter 2:

    By the time the bus pulled up to the school I had regained some control of my eyes and wiped them. I went out the bus and took my instrument into the band hall storage room. I then waited outside the main door to go in for the day. I could feel the stares of the other kids burning in my backside. That's when I noticed Matt had joined up with the group of guys that had been with Lucas.

    He had brought his own group with him to make a formidable gang of kids. Matt was the leader that I spoke of earlier. As far as I could tell their entire goal in life was to see how miserable they could make other people. I was easily on the top of their list.

    I could hear Lucas snickering to Matt how he had seen me crying on the bus after I got on. They were more than 10 feet away, but I could hear them fairly clearly. I developed very good hearing as a result of my torment – it was a defense mechanism. I saw them point at me right as the bell rang and I tried to hurry to my locker before anything else happened.

    As I got to my locker I opened it quickly and grabbed my books, putting them into my backpack as quickly as I could. I closed my locker just in time to turn around and stare at Matt and Lucas right behind me.

    "So I hear Baby Brandon made another appearance this morning. Maybe baby needs to go back to day care instead of Middle School?" Matt sneared at me. As he did so he grabbed my arm and shoved me into my locker. I landed on the other arm that hadn't been bruised right on top of one of the locker dials. I was instantly in tons of pain, and I knew that I had another bruise to match my other one.

    I did my best to try not to cry – I knew that was what he wanted, but at that same moment he punched me in the stomach as he walked away from me. I was crying as I walked up the stairs to go to the second floor where my first class was. As I walked up to that class Mr. Krantz, my teacher, saw me.

    Mr. Krantz asked, "Brandon why don't you go to the bathroom and wipe off your face?"

    I nodded, "Thanks," and sniffled at the same time as I headed for the bathroom. I managed to regain control and went back to class… This was not going to be a good day.

    When I went back to class and sat down I at least was in a sanctuary of the classroom now. This class was biology – my favorite academic subject of the day in most ways. Mr. Krantz was the hardest teacher I had ever had though. A point that was going to be made clear today.

    "Morning everyone, I want to give you a chance to see what your grade is going to be when it comes out Friday. I'll call you up one at a time."

    I sat there waiting as he went through the names until he got to the R's. "Brandon, your next." As I looked down at his paper I almost fainted… A C?!?!?!?!?!?

    "Is that a mistake Mr. Krantz?"

    "No Brandon, it looks like your vocab notes are what knocked your grade down. Make sure you write neatly next 9 weeks so we can get that grade up."

    To say I was miffed would be to put it mildly. I could clearly see I wasn't the only one, and I was sure that nobody was getting an A in his class if I wasn't. I had been a mostly A student since 2nd grade… A C did not sit well with me.

    "Psst… Brandon." The girl next to me, Amy, said. "What did you get?"

    "A stupid C…" I said as quietly as I could through my anger, trying not to lose it again. Thankfully I was too in shock to cry. "What did you get?"

    "A B-, I had an 80% exactly. Laura got an 88% over there, she's the highest grade I've heard of so far." We were going to keep talking but Mr. Krantz gave us the teacher glare, so we both shut up.

    A couple minutes later Mr. Krantz stood up at the front of the class and started talking. "Many of you are no doubt shocked at your grade, indeed some of you I was worried were going to faint." The jerk smiled as he said that… "In my class I take very literally the meaning of the names of the grades. An F is Failing – I handed out 5 of those in this class. He started graphing the numbers. A D is nearly failing, I handed out 7 of those to this class. A C is average, I handed out 13 of those in this class. A B is above average, I handed out 2 of those in this class. And finally an A is excellent and superior. I did not have any A's in this class this 9 weeks."

    He continued to speak for 10 minutes on this topic before we moved on. I had a 79%, one stinking point away from being a B. It was clear I was going to have to work a lot harder to get an A in this class. I had the highest grade for a boy from what I gathered.

    I went downstairs from Biology over to my social studies class. Amazingly I managed to make it without incident. Maybe today was going to improve? Mr. Randolph was my social studies teacher, and he smiled and said hi as each of us walked in. He was a different kind of teacher… in most ways he was actually probably a terrible teacher… but at least as class went on today I found out I had an A+ in his class. Of course it seemed like the only thing we did in his class was watch Americas funniest home videos…

    I got out of that class to go to my favorite class – Band. I had just started playing saxophone this year and I was pumped about it! Mrs. Remar was also really good about keeping control of the bullies in my class – something I greatly appreciated. Especially since Matt also played saxophone. I was first chair though, which meant that I had some space between him and myself.

    I sat down and we began playing a number out of the book. "Saxophones you're playing too loud!" Mrs. Remar seemed to love saying that… That period went well, I was excited about playing and having a good time in that class. I found out from Mrs. Remar that I was receiving an A in band, and also got to see her chew Matt out for doing something stupid… Maybe today was turning around.

    I put my saxophone up quickly and took the shortcut from band to the choir room through her office. Having 2 electives as a 6th grader was definitely nice.

    Chapter 3:

    I walked into the choir room and sat down on the front riser where I stood due to my short size. Mrs. Schultz greeted me as I came in. She was the one person in this school for whom I believe more students picked on than me… As a new teacher she was making just about every mistake in the book of mistakes, and making up some new ones. Even I would place bets on the likeliness that she would end up running to her office crying some days.

    "Brandon, here, this a new piece we're going to sing. Go ahead and put it in your folder." She handed me a piece of music as she said that.

    "Thanks Mrs. Schultz." I looked at the piece, it was called, 'All the pretty little horses…' Yeah that was a real manly song to sing I thought to myself. I was sure the other guys were going to have a field day with this piece. Oh well, I looked at it and thought it sounded like it was going to be a pretty piece.

    Everyone joined me on the risers as they came in. Mrs. Schultz was in her office grabbing something when one of the boys next to me started snickering from some joke that a guy named Pete had said. I was really hoping that it didn't have anything to do with me. In the meantime another girl, Alicia, tapped me on my shoulder to get my attention.

    "Brandon can I touch your hair?" I had my hair in the spiked hair style that was quickly fading from coolness, but was still unique. I wanted to say no – I didn't like people messing with it, but it was pretty much stuck up there so I said, "I guess."

    "This feels so cool, I was expecting it to be hard and pointy, but it's actually really soft. Amy feel this!" Alicia said.

    "Ooh, this isn't what I expected either, Brandon what do you do to make it stick up?" Amy asked.

    "Well you know, I just stick my finger in the light socket everyday and it just does this. Hurts a bit for a second but it saves tons of time!" I said jokingly.

    Amy and Alicia chuckled a bit. Amy said, "You know Brandon you can be funny sometimes, I wish more people gave you the chance to do so." She said sweetly making my face turn red.

    "You're also the only guy I know that can blush like that!" She said making me really embarrassed. I didn't know what to think about this. I wasn't used to her paying any attention to me, I wasn't exactly in her social circle. Well… at the moment I wasn't really in any social circle!

    "So really, what do you do?" She asked again.

    "I just take a comb and some water and run it through it backwards. Then I spray some hairspray on. I used to have to put gel in it, but it does it on its own anymore." I replied.

    "Cool," She responded.

    Soon about 4 of them were enjoying the fact that my hair stuck straight up but wasn't stiff. I'd been spiking it for about 4 years now, so it really did do it on its' own. It was getting a little long now for it though (about an inch and a half long,) and I was going need to cut it if I wanted it to keep from having to gel it.

    In the meantime one of the boys that had been laughing leaned over and told Jordan (another girl to my right) something to which she looked at me and started laughing… Yep whatever it was it had to do with me.

    Soon Pete couldn't contain his humor anymore. "Brandon, have you seen the movie the Christmas Story?"

    "Umm… no?" I replied cautiously. Whatever this was it wouldn't be good.

    "Because other than your hair you look just like Ralphy," he said in a manner that wasn't nice.

    Another boy, Robert, asked me, "so do you have a BB gun?"

    "Yes, why do you ask?" I asked (I hadn't seen the movie before so I had no idea what was coming).

    "Because you'll shoot your eye out!" He said. He and his friends laughed really hard. As well as the rest of the class.

    Thankfully that was the moment that Mrs. Schultz decided to try and teach the class. She was a much better target than me. "Okay, up until now we've been singing songs with one part this year. The new piece I handed out has 3 parts, and I want to go ahead and split everyone up into their proper parts. For now I want all of the boys on my right side and all of the girls on my left side."

    It was an amazing thing actually, we had about 10 boys in our choir class in addition to the 20 girls. You don't see that in a lot of choir programs. I moved over to the right side and we started working on the piece. About 5 minutes later she was working with the boys on their part and she heard me having trouble getting down low enough.

    "Brandon, would you try singing this instead?" She had me singing the soprano part though I didn't know it yet.

    "Okay," I said. I was very proud of how high I could sing. Looking back at it now I wished I had been in a part of the country that had a boys or even a childrens chorus that I could have joined. I had no problems reaching those pitches at all.

    "Okay Brandon, would you move over next to Amy there?" I was petrified now… oh no… this skill backfired bigtime! Now I was going to get more crap from the kids about this. So much for things getting better this morning. I looked over at Amy as I walked over and she at least smiled at me. Behind me the other guys snickered. This couldn't get worse I thought.

    Mrs. Schultz spoke up, "Now class Brandon has a lovely voice that at certain times in history would have meant he would have been treated like royalty. Boys that could sing high were accorded a very high place in the choirs that were in the kings courts…" I tuned it out, I was wrong, it could get worse. After 3 minutes of terribly screwing things up more for me we started singing again.

    As class ended I left as quickly as I could, not looking or speaking to Mrs. Schultz as I left for lunch.

    Chapter 4:

    I got into the lunch line and heard snickering behind me. When I turned around it was Pete talking to Matt. Great.

    "Brandon, just ignore them, they're just jealous." Amy appeared next to me speaking.

    "That's easier said than done," I said trying to keep control of my voice. Couldn't anything go right in my life?

    "Personally I like your voice, I think you can actually sing higher than I can." Amy said trying to cheer me up. I was kind of bewildered. It wasn't like we'd never talked before, but at the same time for her to talk to me in public was new and unexpected.

    "Thanks Amy, I appreciate it."

    "You're welcome."

    We didn't say anything else as the line winded through lunch. I actually was feeling a little better about myself, one of the hottest girls in school was talking to me. I got my wonderfully healthy meal of French fries and went to have a seat by myself at a table as far away from Matt's thugs as I could.

    I had one Fry to go when Matt and Lucas came up to me. "Hey Ralphy, don't shoot your eye out!"

    A kid nearby asked, "Why are you calling Brandon, Ralphy?"

    "Because he looks like Ralphy from the Christmas Story," Matt said as loudly as he thought he could get away with without being yelled at. "And he cries just as much too!" He said while grabbing my last fry and pushing me off of my seat.

    "Matt!" A teacher said from across the room. "Come Here!"

    I was beside myself and went from the cafeteria to the bathroom crying. I couldn't believe it, not only did I have a bad nickname I didn't want from a couple kids, it was going to spread through the school now. Not to mention Matt was going to blame his getting in trouble on me. I stayed in there for a couple minutes before one of the PE Coaches came to check on me.

    "Brandon, are you alright bud?" Coach U asked.

    "Yeah, I guess." I replied shakily.

    "You've got to stop giving him what he wants. Anytime he can get a reaction out of you he's feeding off of it. If you can even at least keep from crying immediately after it you'll make some progress. Or, and I'm not saying this, stand up to him and push him back."
    "He's twice my size though…" I said.

    "Yes he is, and he may very well use that against you, but even just standing up to him will cause him to realize there are easier targets. Just think about it Brandon, I need you to go ahead and move on though, you can't stay in here. Matt will be out of your hair today and tomorrow – I can promise you that."

    "Thanks Coach." I said as I left. I decided to go by the snack bar real quick to get a coke and a Reese's.

    From there I went outside and found a spot on a 2 foot stucco wall we had outside and tried to stay out of sight. I managed to somehow succeed in that before having to go inside for PE. I went in and changed as quickly as I could – but not quite quickly enough.

    "Hey Brandon, the girls locker room is on the other side of the gym," an 8th grader named Bryce said.

    "Ha ha you're very funny." I replied.

    "I know I am, kind of like that face of yours," He said as I tried to get past him and go into the gym.

    "Actually I understand I'm supposed to call you Ralphy now, I sure hope you don't shoot your eye out with that BB Gun of yours." He said as he finally let me walk by. As I walked by he tried to trip me, but thankfully that was one thing I was good at recovering from. I stumbled for a step but kept on going. I made it to the safety of my line and we began warming up.

    Mrs. Bradley, our 58 year old PE teacher, got up to the front of the class and said, "Okay class today we're going to run the mile. Everyone will do 4 laps around the track and I'll time you." I groaned, I played soccer and could run for short distances at a time very well, but I was terrible at the mile.

    We walked out the door and another kid tried tripping me. I again managed to avoid falling. We got to the starting line and she said go. I ran as well as I could, but I was much slower than any of the other boys. I managed to run it in 9 minutes and 20 seconds, that was the fastest I had run it.

    By the time I was done I was exhausted and sat down on grass next to the track. Amazingly I wasn't the last person. That honor fell to the kids that didn't care and practically walked the whole way. A couple minutes later Nikki came and sat down next to me. She was the girl I mentioned earlier that was smaller than me. She was just shy of 4 feet tall, and was usually pretty nice to me.

    "So Brandon are you going to go?" She asked in and excited manner.

    "What are you talking about Nikki?" I asked.

    "Haven't you had English yet?" She asked. I shook my head. "Well you'll find out more when you have English, but they're offering that trip to Florida this summer through the school. Ms. Fitzgerald came up from the elementary school for the day to talk to all of the 6th graders that came from Maple Elementary. They'll call you out of class to talk to you. Since this was unexpected for us to go to the Jr. High instead of being at the elementary school again they decided to go ahead and offer the trip to us so we don't miss out."

    So for those of you that are a little confused, our elementary school offered a trip every year that would be offered to 6th graders. It was a really cool trip, and we all had hoped to be able to go. You had to pay/fundraise your own way to go though, so not a lot of people went. In April though our school board in all its wisdom decided to suddenly vote to move 6th graders up to the Jr. High and stop it from being just 7th and 8th graders. That's a whole other fun subject, but one of the reasons we were all mad about it was this trip.

    "So are you going?" I asked.

    "I'm hoping to, I'll talk to my parents tonight about it. I'll tell you tomorrow what they say okay?" She said.

    "Yeah, that would be so cool." I now had a reason to look forward to going to 6th hour!

    I had been to Disneyland in California the previous summer for the first time and it had been really cool. The previous summer had actually marked a huge change for my family. My dad had worked at his company for 10 years now, and they got bought out by a larger company. In doing so he had to cash out his pension that he had saved up.

    This had enabled us to move out of the trailer I had grown up in and into a real house. My parents had also surprised me in July with a trip to Disneyland. I had grown up in New Mexico, and had never been outside of the Four Corners states previously. My parents weren't rich though, so I didn't know whether or not we could afford this. Still… maybe, just maybe!

    I talked with her for a few more minutes. It was kind of funny because the 2 of us were like a couple days apart in age (she was older) – between that and our height I had always been friends with her. We talked about how we were excited about how band was going so far. (She played flute) Class wrapped up pretty soon after that and I went into the locker room to change.

    After a 4 minute hell section where I discovered that Ralphy was definitely going to stick I managed to get out of there without any more physical violence against me.

    Chapter 5:

    I hurried on to my English class, going down the one hallway that connected that wing to the main school, and down another to get to the oldest wing of the school and up the staircase. This led to the room of Mr. Tamera, probably the worst English teacher of all time. To get you to shut up he'd say, 'shut the mouth.' The more I think about it I had a lot of bad teachers that year!

    I sat down in my chair, and after he called roll he called those of us from Maple Elementary to go down the hall to an empty classroom where Ms. Fitzgerald was waiting.

    "Hi Ms. Fitzgerald," I said as I walked up and gave her a hug. She had been one of the few teachers who had really tried – and somewhat succeeded – to keep my life from being as tough even though I wasn't even in her class (she had taught 6th grade but chose to stay at the elementary). Right behind me Amy did the same thing – most of the kids did. There were about 8 students in there. I saw they had not invited some of the students, like Matt and Lucas, who were from that school too. I wasn't going to complain.

    "How are you all doing?" She asked. "You've all grown a bunch since I saw you all last year. Well I'm guessing most of you have heard about what's going on by now, but just in case here it is!" She said enthusiastically but not condescendingly, as only a good teacher can.

    "We've received permission to offer the Florida Experience trip to you guys even though you're not at the elementary anymore. We decided to only offer it to students that passed all of their classes last year and were from Maple Elementary. The district approved that and we're going to do it that way!" She smiled as she said that.

    "I won't keep you long, but basically if you go you'll go for 6 days and 5 nights to Orlando, Fl. We'll go to Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, Universal Studios, and the beach among other things. Your parents are welcome to come along if they want to. We're willing to help you setup fundraisers, but you do have to pay for it on your own. Do any of you think your parents might be interested?"

    Amy, Kyle, and I raised our bands. The other kids shook their heads, I don't think their parents had a chance of affording it, and they knew it unfortunately. I didn't honestly think my parents could either, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask. I looked at the stuff that they gave me, it was only $700! That was cheap and I knew it.

    As we left Amy spoke to me briefly, "Brandon that would be so exciting if we could all go together, and we won't have any of those jerks with us either it looks like!"

    "Yes that would be nice wouldn't it?" I replied and we went separate ways. My thoughts had paralleled hers. There was a meeting next week, I hoped I could get my parents to go to it!

    I got back to class getting plenty of stares of "why did he get to go?" But I couldn't answer even if they asked, Mr. Tamera was droning on about some stupid tense thing. I understood it within 1 minute of his 26 minute lecture I had to hear. I got the feeling he had droned on 14 minutes before that too! All in his broken English. Shouldn't an English teacher be able to speak English?!?

    I left that class still on a high from my hopes of the trip still. I got to Math and did my homework quickly while he talked on. I had my homework done and still 30 minutes of class to go. I checked the odd answers with the ones in the back of the book and fixed any I had wrong and looked and saw I still had 25 minutes. One of my other nemesis was sitting behind me and started giving me crap.

    "Jeff, leave me alone okay?" I said. He was a jerk, and a wannabe cool kid. While he was a rung higher on the chain than I was, he wasn't much higher. He wasn't much higher because he was a fat oaf to put it nicely…

    "Why, Ralphy, what are you going to do? You're just a wimp!"

    "Just knock it off!"

    "And what if I don't?" He asked. I'd had enough today, he was going to get it.

    I stood up and reached down and grabbed the hair on the top his head and yanked as hard as I could.

    "OWWWW!!! Stop that!" He cried. The other kids nearby were watching and all amazed that I was actually successfully taking on one of my antagonists.

    "Then you promise me you'll stop picking on me!" I suggested to him.

    "Alright, I won't do it anymore." He fairly cried.

    I turned around in my desk expecting to be getting sent to the office by my teacher, but Mr. Martin just turned around at that moment and looked at me. He gave me a wink and got back to doing something on his desk. I couldn't believe it, I actually accomplished something and got away with it! That never happens.

    I ran to the bus after grabbing my saxophone as quick as I could once the bell rang. As I got on the bus I heard kids talking about my 'Fight' with Jeff. It certainly earned me a bit of respect. I still got called Ralphy as I got on the bus though, so I knew it wasn't enough to get away from it. But progress is progress right?

    I shouldn't have thought I got away so cleanly for the day. As I was getting off the bus I saw Matt was behind me. How did he get on my bus? He doesn't even ride this bus I thought!

    I tried to hurry across the street and get down the block to my house but he caught me just after crossing the street. "Hey Brandon hold up! I still owe you for what you did to me earlier!" He said while he grabbed at my backpack.

    I couldn't go anywhere at that point so I turned around. "What did I do to you?!? If I remember correctly you were the one picking on me!"

    "Ooh we're talking back now that we fought like a girl to beat up Jeff huh?" He said pushing me backwards. I stumbled but managed to stay on my feet. I was frantically trying to think of a way to get away from him.

    "No, I'm just sick of your shit is all." I replied. I slowly walked backward to a yard that had some rocks in it.

    "Ooh you think you're all big now cussing at me? Well let's get this over with runt. Because of you I was in ISS today, and I'll be in the same place tomorrow and Monday!" And with that he started to rush towards me. I decided I had one chance, to use his movement against him.

    If I could trip him he would be falling the opposite way as my house. Which might give me enough of a head start to make it home… Everything slowed down, and I did a move that I used in soccer to fake out my opponents. I leaned in the opposite direction as I was going and he fell for it. I then stuck out my leg and he bowled over 2x head over heels.

    Of course, I didn't see that part because I was already running as fast as I could for home. I got my key out of my pocket in the hope I could make it there, unlock the door, and lock it before he got there. I needn't have worried that much because when I got to my door I saw he was nowhere nearby me. Still the same I decided not to chance it and locked the door quickly behind me.

    I collapsed, crying on my bed, could I not get any peace?

    Chapter 6:

    I woke up to mom standing in the doorway. She could clearly tell that I had been crying again. I was sure that she had also heard about earlier and as she saw me stir she came over toe my bed and gave me a hug.

    "Sweety, what happened?" Part of me hated it when she called me that, but part of me liked it for some reason.

    I related to her all of the bullying crap that had happened to me that day. When I told her about what happened with Matt after school. She immediately got on the phone and called her boss to find out why that kid had been allowed on the bus. He said he would look into it. After a quick dinner I put on my clothes for soccer practice.

    Soccer was the only sport I liked to play. In all honesty it was the only one I had even a modest amount of skill in – as I couldn't catch or throw to save my life. I was a defensive sweeper. Even though I was small I managed to get the ball away more often than not from my opponents and pass it to the offensive players. We were hoping our team could make the city championships this year.

    It was a coed team and I said hi to all of my friends as I got there. The nice thing about my soccer team is that they were all the same age as I was, meaning that I was the only one in 6th grade, the rest were in 5th grade. I'd been playing with the same teammates for 4 years now, and we all pretty much got along. We had an awesome coach that understood that sports should be fun. Yes hard work was involved, but there was the human aspect to it that so many coaches didn't have.

    We went through a lot of drills that night using cones and having other people try and get past with the balls, as well as some goal shooting against our goalie.

    I went through practice and was thoroughly exhausted when I was done. I came home and sat down at the kitchen table with a bottle of Gatorade.

    "Ooh I almost forgot!" I exclaimed and ran to where my backpack was to get the stuff about the trip out.

    "Ms. Fitzgerald came up from the elementary school to give this to us today!" I showed my mom and dad who were both sitting at the table. "I'd get to go to Florida and see Kennedy Space Center! They even take us to Space Camp!" I said excitedly. It had been a dream of mine to go to space camp ever since I watched the movie by the same title.

    My dad looked at it and said, "I don't know, it's not cheap."

    My mom looked at him and said, "Well I don't know that he would ever have this chance again though. This is really a once in a lifetime chance to do all of this at his age."

    My dad looked at us and said, "Okay we can look into it, I'm not saying yes though."

    I hugged him and sat back down, knowing to push it any further at this point would be a good way to get a no. "So what's this I hear about you fighting today?" My dad asked.

    "Umm… it wasn't really fighting…" I continued to relate the events of the day, though not as thoroughly as with mom. I didn't talk to him as much about stuff. In all honesty he was at his jobs beck and call 24 hours a day most of the time, which meant I didn't see him nearly enough.

    Afterwards he looked at me and said, "Maybe I should find this Matt kid and teach him some manners." Flexing his muscles…

    I had little doubt that he would think about doing that, but mom and I said, "That's a bad idea, then you would just get in trouble."

    "Well, let me know if you have any more trouble with him and we'll deal with it." Just at that time the phone rang and mom picked it up.

    "Brandon it's for you!" Covering the microphone she whispered to me, "it's a girl!"

    I blushed and took it in the other room away from prying ears. Who would be calling me?

    "Hello?"

    "Hey Brandon? This is Amy." Amy was calling me? My heart just about stopped.

    "Hi," I somehow kept from stammering.

    "Hey I heard something and wanted to make sure you were okay. Someone said that Matt got on your bus and tried to jump you today. Are you okay?" She asked, very concerned.

    "Yeah, I managed to trip him and run home as quickly as I could. How did you hear about it?"

    "Well, Halley called Lindsey, and Lindsey called me, and told me that Matt tried to beat you up after school, but he was the one that got beat up."

    "HUH??" I asked.

    "Apparently when you tripped him he went head over heels and hit his face against the concrete. The rumor going around is that he broke his nose!" She said giggling.

    "No way… Great, now he'll really be after me." I said.

    "Actually, I have a feeling you'll be alright for a while, apparently the police came by just before you ran off and saw him attempt to attack you. They were the ones that took him to the Emergency Room."

    "I can't believe that they didn't come down and try and talk to me." I said.

    "Well Halley's dad, who is a cop, said that they're going to come by the school tomorrow and talk to you to see if you want to press charges. They watched the whole thing go down and saw him clearly attack you. This could mean we could get rid of him finally!" She said.

    "Wow, I don't know what to say. I'm still scared he's going retaliate. So is this all over school already?" I asked.

    "Yeah, the fact that you 'beat up' Jeff and Matt in the same day is making waves around the phones today."

    I smiled, "Well neither are true, but maybe people will back off a bit for a while." I paused and then decided to see if she would talk about anything else, "So what are you up to besides checking on me?"

    We struck up a conversation and talked for 15 minutes before her mom started nagging her to get off the phone. "Brandon I'll see you tomorrow okay?"

    "Okay, talk to you later!" I hung up the phone, happier than I had been in years. I told mom and dad about what I heard and they both decided that meeting the principals tomorrow would be a good idea. I went to bed dreaming that maybe the next day would be better.

    Chapter 7:

    That next day was Friday, so much for TGIF? When I got to school kids were whispering behind my back like I was some sort of alien that inhabited Brandon's body.

    First hour came and went without incident. During 2nd period I got called to come down to the office where I saw my parents waiting. We went in together to talk to the Principal, Mrs. Hinther. My dad made clear, in no uncertain terms, that Matt was to be nowhere near me ever again in this school. He added that if this stuff didn't stop they would be hiring an attorney to sue the district for not doing its' job of protecting students.

    Following both my parents rants, and my own rant of facts that she asked, she assured my parents that though she could not talk about another students disciplinary action, she would go ahead and make sure we didn't come in contact at all. She switched his schedule completely around, dropping him from band as well.

    At that point in the meeting the school resource officer came in and took a statement from me, and my parents filled out the forms to file charges against him. He said it should be a pretty clear cut case since the officers had filed their own reports of what they observed – they all lined up with my statement perfectly.

    We finished up during 3rd hour and I returned to choir right after the meeting let out.

    Mom let me know that she had found out from the bus yard boss that he would not be allowed on a bus for the remainder of the school year. Mom also let my driver have a piece of her mind the night before… Crossing an only child's parents is tantamount to messing with a grizzly bear who has cubs!

    When I got to choir I stood by Amy who asked what had happened. I told her before class started. Pete asked, "So is it true Brandon? Did you really beat up Matt?"

    "Well, I tripped him and he went flying if that's what you mean?" The kids were all very impressed with this. But I knew it wasn't going to solve my problems. I knew for a fact that Lucas was talking a lot of threats towards me to get even. Matt had been removed from school pending expulsion hearings, and so he had become the leader by natural selection. Still…

    Mrs. Schultz interrupted our conversation and said, "Okay we need to get started."

    We sang and worked on the piece for about 10 minutes before she got mad about something and stormed into her office crying.

    I whispered to Amy, "I feel bad for her, but I have to say I'm glad to see there's one other person on this campus that gets picked on more than I do!" She snickered. We both agreed she was a terrible teacher. That was something we'd talked about the night before.

    We talked to each other back and forth for the rest of the period before the bell rang and we went to lunch. Lucas came up to the line behind Amy and I and asked, "Amy why are you hanging out with this loser?"

    "I don't know which loser you're referring to. The only one I'm seeing present is you." She replied nonchalantly.

    He started to open his mouth to reply but stopped as a teacher came over and said, "Lucas I don't believe you were in that spot in line. Go back to the end."

    Lucas tried arguing with the teacher but gave way eventually. I got my food and went to the table farthest away from anyone again. As I set my food down though, I saw Amy coming along with some of her friends. "Brandon may we sit with you?"

    "Sure." I said… I wasn't really sure what to do. This was strange. We sat and talked through lunch, eventually moving outside and sitting together on the grass. I decided to go get something to drink from the snack bar and started walking back inside. On my way in there I ran into Matt's 'girlfriend,' Eliza.

    "Brandon why are you sticking your chest out like that, what are you trying to look like a girl? I guess that makes sense, that's how you fight, cry, and act."

    I was dumbstruck, my day had been going so relatively well. I managed to get inside to the bathroom before breaking down for a few minutes. I came out and found Amy waiting by the door.

    "Brandon, are you all right?"

    "Yeah, I guess. I'm just tired of getting crap all the time. I was hoping it would get better today. I guess I should have known better." I said while looking down at my feet.

    "Brandon, look, you are an awesome guy, and I'm really proud to have you as my friend. Can you trust me on something?"

    I thought for a second then nodded, "I guess."

    "You are so much cooler than they are it's sickening. You're also the sweetest guy I know. You've put up with so much crap, and I'm sorry it keeps happening. But, know that I'll be here for you okay?"

    "Thanks," I said meekly.

    "Now I'm guessing you want to get that drink before the snack bar closes?" She asked.

    "Sure," I said and then got into line. Once we had gotten my drink she walked back outside with me. From that point forward in the year it was an odd time to see one of us without the other at lunch.

    I managed to somehow make it through the rest of the day without incident. Lucas didn't ride the bus for some reason that day, meaning I didn't have to worry about anything that day at the bus stop. What a week.

    Chapter 8:

    When I got home I went inside and sat down at the computer. I got on the internet and just started looking around. I saw there was a new video game coming out and would have to ask for it for Christmas. I got bored and decided to go and play with some toys. Yes I know I was in 6th grade, but really who doesn't still want to play with legos!?

    I sat down building something or another and thought about what had happened that day. Liza's words were still ringing in my ears for some reason. I kept running her exclamation through my brain again and again, "Why are you sticking your chest out like that for, are you trying to look like a girl?"

    I had read a Star Wars book a couple weeks before that the author had written something like, "if someone calls you a hutt once, ignore them. If someone calls you a Hutt twice start to wonder, and if someone calls you a Hutt a third time, buy a drool bucket and start stockpiling spice."

    It was honestly making me wonder. I had been getting called a girl so often, and now that statement… To be honest to you, the reader, I had for many years fantasized being a little kid again. Event back to being a baby again, because those were the last times I remembered really being happy. I'd been picked on so many times. Perhaps if I'd been a girl…

    Really… perhaps if I'd been a girl life would have been better. I got it into my head that girls aren't constantly beating each other up, they're not constantly picking on one girl. I got up from my toys and went to the bathroom. As I stood washing my hands I looked at myself in the mirror. I stared for several minutes.

    What would I look like if I was a girl? I looked at my body and noted that I was small enough that if I had longer hair maybe I could get away with looking like one. Ah it was no use… Even though I was probably the most clueless person on sex, I still knew that my parts didn't look like a girls parts…

    I kept thinking about it. Hair might be the key to me looking more like a girl… About that time I heard mom come in and she asked me how my day went. I told her everything but Liza's comment. I decided I wanted to think about her statement without having any other problems. I didn't have soccer practice that night so we went and rented some movies.

    She had rented some 'chick flick,' and I rented a kids movie. I grumbled at watching the sappy movie, but in all honesty I enjoyed it more… That disturbed me slightly and added to the conundrum that I was thinking about.

    When the movie was over mom announced that it was time to take my bath, since I had a soccer game tomorrow. I sat down in the bath and thought more about the idea of being a girl instead of a boy. On one hand I thought kids would probably make fun of me a lot for trying to be a girl… but really how much more could I get picked on?

    Mom and dad were already talking about taking me out of school and home schooling me or something. If it wasn't for band I was sure they would have pulled me out this week. I was already thinking about using that argument to get them to buy me a flute. At the beginning of the summer I had really wanted to play either flute or clarinet – I had done really well on both of them when I had tried them at the music store. But they had bought me the saxophone hoping that kids would have one less thing to make fun of me.

    It honestly didn't matter, as they said 'Damned if you do, damned if you don't.' It was a fact of life. Though I did see some light at the end of the tunnel if people recognized that I wasn't quite helpless after having 'beat up' 2 guys in one day. I tossed and turned most of the night, that night I dreamed of how great it would be to have long hair like a girl. Even if I couldn't –be- a girl, I could maybe kind of look like one?

    Chapter 9

    The morning came too soon, mom pretty much had to drag me out of bed and to the sink to brush my teeth. I ate breakfast quickly and then got dressed to go to the soccer game. We got down to the field early and I warmed up with my teammates. Before I knew it we started the game. I was playing sweeper on our side of the field.

    The game went fast and furious, with me getting the ball off our side of the field more often than not. At one point a player ran down the field with the ball and I kicked it hard. The player went one direction (towards the ground,) and the ball went flying to my friend, Brittany, and she went the rest of the way for a goal. The coach gave me a huge pat on the back for that one. Brittany was one of the 2 girls that were on the team. The other's name was Sarah. I had grown up as friends with Brittany since she went to the same church as we did at the time.

    I thought to myself, I could be the third girl on the team! That thought only distracted me for a few moments though, as the ball was soon heading back and forth across the field some more. The game ended with us up 7-1, and we all went out for ice cream to celebrate.

    Mom had come to the game, but dad hadn't… big surprise. He did some work for a friends company on the side occasionally, and they had called him wanting help again that night. He had been there since Midnight, and hadn't gotten home by the time we left. I was beginning to kind of resent that other job. But I wasn't going to let that get me down today. The next game we were going to play would be for the city tournament. That was going to take place over the next 2-3 Saturdays, depending on how we played.

    The coach told us to make sure we made it to the practices that week, it was important that we be there. When we left the Dairy Queen where we had gotten ice cream I sat back in my seat in the car thinking about all of the things that had happened that week.

    When I got home I decided to play a computer game since Dad wasn't there to monopolize it! I had a Star Wars game that I was playing. I loved games based on space or flight in general. I played that for a few hours until dinner, when I decided to go read a book of some sort.

    I thought about it for a bit and decided to read one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I found myself thinking not just of growing up at the time, but growing up as a girl at the time. I found myself thinking more and more that night about being a girl. Truth be told as I thought about it there had always been a nagging part of my brain that had wanted this.

    There were several opportunities that I had turned down to wear girls clothing… not because I didn't want to, but because I was scared of what people would think. Another night passed of this, and then I went to bed.


    The next morning I woke up after my parents did. I found I was sleeping later and later these days, my parents were frequently making the comments that they didn't know how I could sleep that long! Mom made me some French toast that I ate as I sat down and looked at the comics. She left the room to go do something and dad was gone to a store for some things.

    It was at that moment that I caught sight of the ad from JC Penney. It had girls clothes on the front of it. I looked at the ad with the girls in their clothes and thought about how great it would be to wear those form fitting shirts. They looked neat. They looked a lot neater than what I was wearing. I flipped the pages and for the first time looked at the pages with bras and panties. I thought that would be strange to wear, but kind of wanted to try it.

    I turned to the walmart ad and looked at some of the toys that were for girls to play. The dolls seemed kind of bizarre to me, but at the same time I could still see playing with them. They also had some legos in there for girls. More and more I was getting curious, but I knew there was no way I could talk about this with anyone. I would get yelled at… and who knows what else. Dad had always talked about homosexuals with utter hate. What would he think about his son wanting to be a girl?

    I decided that I did want to check and see if there were any internet sites that discussed this online. But I would have to wait until tomorrow when mom and dad were gone after school. They said there was an internet site for everything, perhaps I could learn more about my problem there.

    In the meantime I had some practicing to catch up on, I hadn't been practicing as much the past couple days. I worked on my book and music for saxophone for 2 hours that day and used that as a distraction so I didn't have to think about my problems. I also did that dreaded homework that day – my science teacher had given us yet more vocab to copy into our notebooks… I was still mad that he gave me a C!

    Chapter 10:

    The next day was actually fairly uneventful. I hung out with Amy at lunch time, as well as her other friends. I definitely felt like we were becoming close friends, but didn't know if that would mean we would be boyfriend/girlfriend? I honestly wasn't interested in that at this point.

    I had gone home that day and started looking up my situation on the internet. I quickly discovered there were a lot of others out there like me. I also discovered there was a name, transgendered. I looked through the sites and couldn't decide if I really qualified for that statement or not. I also found a number of stories that I enjoyed of boys being turned into girls by their mothers for various reasons.

    Many of the stories involved boys in similar situations that became more accepted when they became girls. I didn't know what to think about it, since I felt it was probably wrong to feel this way. My Christian upbringing just didn't really allow for me to feel completely alright with these thoughts. That still didn't stop me from daydreaming and watching the girls more and more to figure out what it would be like though! I also discovered that it was possible, by surgery and hormones, to make yourself look like you had been born a girl.

    I had a dream one night that I kept rolling over in my head over and over again. It was based on a time when I was about 5 at my cousins house.

    ***********************************************

    We pulled up into their driveway and walked into their house. I saw my aunt sitting at the kitchen table. "Where are Abby and Annie?" I asked.

    "They're outside swimming in the swimming pool." I looked outside and saw they had a 3 foot pool setup outside on the lawn.

    "Mommy can I go swimming?" I asked.

    "Sweetie, we didn't bring your swimsuit, so I'm sorry you won't be able to go."

    "But mommy, I really want to go! Can we go buy a swimsuit?"

    "No honey, we don't have any extra money, and I'm sure they'll be done swimming by the time that we got back. Why don't you go watch TV for now?"

    "But mommy!" I started to throw a fit.

    "Mandy, he could borrow one I guess."

    "Really?" I stopped sobbing a little.

    "He could probably borrow one of Annie's swimsuits." My aunt suggested.

    "But that's a girls suit…" I said. "Do you have anything else?"

    "Well uncle Bill's got the only other thing big enough and his is going to be too big for you."

    I stood still for a few moments thinking about it. "Okay, can I borrow one of Annie's?" I looked up at mom to see if she would be okay with it. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded. (It had after all ended my tantrum)

    "Well, let's go up and see if one of them will fit you."

    We walked back to her bedroom and looked in her dresser. She held up a pink swimming suit with purple polka dots on it. When she held it next to me she said, "It looks like it'll fit, do you want to try it on?"

    I nodded timidly. She told me how to step into it and pull the straps up. She led me to the bathroom where I pulled off all of my clothes and put it on. I liked the way it fit. I had a type of haircut that was a unisex cut (it was a little short for a girl, but there were many with this style too), and I kind of looked like a girl in the mirror.

    I went down the hall and my mom and aunt saw me. They gave me a hard time about looking 'cute' and 'pretty' before telling me to go ahead outside. Annie and Abby kind of gave me a funny look, but Annie said, 'you stole my suit!" smiling while she said it. "You look pretty in it."

    We were playing in the pool….

    ********************************************

    I never got any farther than that since mom woke me up. It was the first of many dreams that I was wearing girls clothing. I also based a lot of my daydreams off of this, since it was really close to what had really happened. My aunt really had offered to let me wear her swimming suit… but I had been too scared and hung up, so I had ended up going in my jean shorts instead. It became a really happy dream to think of during the day!

    As the week progressed the meeting about the Earth Shuttle trip came up quickly. My mom decided to go check out the meeting and dragged my dad along. They came out of the meeting telling me that they wanted to do it, my dad just had to crunch some more numbers.

    That weekend they called me into the kitchen and told me to pull up a chair.

    Dad said, "Okay Brandon, we think we can do this trip, but we have a few ground rules that we need to set down first."

    "YES!!! Okay, what are your rules?"

    Mom answered first, "Well first of all we're both going to go on the trip with you." I stared at her for a second half wondering if I should be mad… but I decided it would make life better so I wouldn't have to worry about something bad happening.

    "Okay. What else?" I asked

    Dad answered this time, "You have to fundraise as much as you can. In all honesty this is going to push us to the breaking point this year. But we've decided that this is an opportunity that won't come up again. If you promise that you'll do your best to fundraise we'll go ahead and pay the deposit to Ms. Fitzgerald on Monday."

    "Okay, I'll do whatever fundraising I have to do. If I have to go up and down every street in town I'll do it! You guys are awesome!" I gave them both a hug and when I left started day dreaming of what it would be like to go to all of those places.

    I went to bed also thinking of how wonderful it would be to go on the trip as a girl instead of a guy…

    Chapter 11: 2 Weeks later

    It was Saturday, we had just gotten done with our 2nd set of city tournament games. We learned just 2 hours ago that we were going to be playing 2 games next Saturday. If we won the first we would go to the Final match for the championship. If we lost that one we would play another for 3rd place.

    On our way home from the game Mom said, "Brandon, your hair's getting pretty long. We're going to need to cut it when we get home unless you want to start doing something different with it."

    "What else could I do with it mom?"

    "Well I suppose you could grow it out to the bowl cut that everyone has now to start with."

    "Okay, that sounds good. Let's do that." Mom kind of gave me a strange look, I hadn't wanted to do anything else with my hair for the past 2 years. This seemed like a sudden change. I thought that maybe I could use the bowl cut for a first step on my new goal of growing it down to my shoulders.

    A few minutes later I decided that I would take this one step at a time. I figured out that by the time I got to December it should be at about 5 inches long – almost longer than the "bowl cut" mom had suggested. When she asked about cutting it then I would say I just wanted it trimmed! And get them to let me grow it the rest of the way out.

    I had begun looking for guys in the media and in movies with long hair so that I could emulate them. Or at least say that I was! It was funny, the past 2 weeks I was getting less and less crap due to my run in with Matt and Jeff. The comments hadn't stopped, but no one was getting physically violent with me anymore. I think they all believed deep down that I was a wimp still, but they were all nervous to push it.

    More than anything else – damage or not, the loss of face to those two made people not want to try me. That was giving me some courage to go ahead and grow my hair out.

    I had continued hanging out with Amy at school at any chance I got. We both talked and both agreed we were just friends, not wanting to date each other. She became my first girl 'girlfriend.'

    That fall my team won the city championship soccer tournament for our age group. It was really cool, they gave us medals and everything!

    By December mom had to trim the front of my hair to keep it from getting in my eyes. I loved the fact that I basically had bangs now if I combed my hair forward. It had gotten to the point where it was 7 inches long. Definitely a bit longer than the bowl cut. It was beginning to come down my neck, I was guessing it would definitely be shoul

    #2
    Standing Up to Life: Part 2

    Part II: March 1995

    Chapter 12:
    It had been an interesting few months since September. I had basically two camps of people that I had dealt with, the girls and the guys. Wonder that. The guys began razzing me pretty hard about the length of my hair. One such incident happened the day before spring break.

    "Ralphy," Lucas had cornered me, "I used to call you a girl because you were such a wimp. Now I'm sure that you must be one – or want to be with your hair like that!" I attempted to get by him to go to Biology, but he blocked the way.

    "Go away Lucas, I don't have time for your crap." I said as I tried getting by him again.

    "Or what, the little girlie will start crying to her mommy? Or you'll fight me like the girl that you are? I'm real scared." He said this as I once again tried pushing past him.

    "You know, even if I was really a girl I know that I could take care of you just as easily as your pal Matt." He looked taken aback that I was speaking up to him already. The incident with Matt seemed to bring a spark of uncertainty to his eyes. "Now, you can either move aside, or try to beat me up. I'm not going to take any more of your pathetic trash talk." Yeah, I'd grown up a bit since September… Now if only he would move out of my way…

    "Well, Ralphy, I guess I'll let you go for now, but you watch out." He said this as he turned around and started to walk away. I noticed that part of the reason for his retreat was the principal coming towards us. Oh well, if nothing else I didn't get beaten up, that was a start right?

    I walked up the staircase to class. I got in there a minute early and started talking to Amy.

    "Brandon, I can't believe it, I think Lucas was actually afraid of you!" Amy said.

    I forced myself to chuckle, "Yeah, boy I'm glad he doesn't realize nothing has changed! I'm still just as short as I was at the beginning of the year, and I've lost weight even… I'm even less of a threat now than I was then!"

    She laughed a bit too. "Hey, what are you doing over the break?" She asked.

    "Well we're going to stay at home. My parents can't really afford to go anywhere with the trip this summer. You?" I asked, knowing that money would definitely not keep her from going anywhere. Her mom was a doctor and her dad was a lawyer. There was certainly no lack in money at her house.

    "Mom and Dad have to work next week, so I'm stuck at home." She paused for a second as if pondering something. "Would you like to come hang out at my house on Monday?"

    I didn't know what to say. I hadn't been invited over to anyone's house in a long time, let alone a girls house. What would we do? What would the other kids say? I spoke without thinking any further though, "Sure! Where is your house?"

    "It's down…" It turns out she only lived 3 blocks away in a nicer section of houses behind our house. She wrote down directions during class, and wrote noon down.

    "Amy, thanks for being such a great friend! I'm really excited to come over." I somehow kept from squealing with the glee that I felt.

    We walked down the hall and the stairs together before splitting off to our separate classes. I couldn't believe it, she was a real friend that was really inviting me to come over to her house to hang out! Over the past few months we had reaffirmed to each other that neither of us wanted to date the other, but were just good friends. Still, this was the first time that we were going to have seen each other outside of school.

    I had been quiet the past few months to most people in my classes. That was part of why I think that bullies had been giving me a wider berth for the most part. My novelty as a target had worn off. My hair had also given me a bit of a status bump as well. It was almost down past the bottom of my neck now, and a lot of the girls had decided I looked like a rock star.

    What I did know was that it was becoming harder to comb in the morning. Mom said something about taking me to go look for some hair care stuff today when she got home. I didn't know what she meant, but I hoped it would be something else that would get me closer to my real goal of being more like a girl.

    This was all running through my head when I walked into Social Studies. The class was normally a waste of time, but with everyone being excited about getting off for break it was even more pointless. We got through the class after having to do a crossword puzzle while yet another episode of America's funniest home videos played.

    Leaving there I went over to the band hall for band practice. Mrs. Remar made us practice up till the last minute of the period. She was getting us ready to go to contest next month, something that sounded both cool and scary at the same time. I had maintained my first chair status, and with some lessons I was taking had gotten through stuff second year students were learning.

    I went through the period thoroughly distracted, thinking of going over to Amy's house, but getting my parts right. I put my saxophone away and hurried to choir. Mrs. Schultz knew that she had no control over her classes, so she chose to show a movie that day to avoid the fight. That took me to lunch.

    Amy and I sat with her friends talking at lunch, in what had become normal for us. One of our friends, Rachel, asked me. "So Brandon, how long are you going to grow your hair out?"

    I shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know, I'm kind of thinking I'll let it get to here," I said while motioning the just below my shoulders. "It's not as long as I want it yet, so we'll see."

    "I think it would be awesome if you grew it out that long. You look cute with longer hair. Much better than that spike you'd worn since forever." Nikki said.

    I turned bright red and the girls all giggled. "Thanks, I think." I said. They started talking about their favorite movies. I just kind of sat there and took in what they were talking about. Lunch seemed to fly by quickly that day, but everything else certainly dragged on forever. It seemed like 3 days had passed between then and when the bell rang after school.

    I got my saxophone and ran to the bus. I was truly ecstatic that the break was here now, especially now that I had Monday to look forward to. I had Amy's directions in my pocket and nothing could stop me from having a good day going home. Not even some snide comments from Lucas talking about the girl named Ralphy on the way home.

    Once I crossed the major street that ran between my block and the bus stop I started skipping for some reason. I didn't even notice it until I got halfway home. I turned around hoping no one had been watching. Thankfully, no one had. I got home and threw my backpack and jacket by the door, got some water, and sat down at the computer.

    I had found a new site yesterday that talked about ways of hiding the fact that I was a boy. From what I had read, it was possible to keep my body from becoming as masculine if I started on female hormones in the next couple years. I didn't know if it was possible or not, but my goal was to somehow let my parents know my thoughts by the time I turned 13… That was my brick wall I was afraid to hit.

    Mrs. Schultz had given me a miserable thought the day before when she said that often times boys with high voices got the lowest voices once puberty set in… I was scared that would happen to me if I waited too long beyond that.

    Since September I had begun to do a lot of little things different. For one, I had stopped drinking coke every day. I was drinking like 4 cokes after school every day, plus cokes at lunch, and I was afraid I was going to get fat – and consequently not be able to be a cute girl. My mother was not exactly the skinniest individual and I didn't want to become like her (she wasn't really fat, but she wasn't skinny).

    That brings me to something that had been a huge nuisance for me. I read in story after story about boys being able to try on their mother's clothes. I wish I had their mothers, I didn't even bother trying because I knew everything would be too big. I also didn't have a sister, so there was no chance for me to act out on this desire to dress like a girl. It was truly driving me insane.

    I heard a car door slam outside and instantly began closing the window that I had open. I also started quickly cleaning out any trace of the sites I had gone to. We only had one computer that was in the family room, so I had to be careful not to let my parents figure out what I was looking at online. I had little doubt there would have been huge consequences imposed on me if they did.

    Chapter 13:

    As Mom came in the door she asked, "Brandon, are you ready to go?"

    I had almost forgotten that she wanted to go shopping for some stuff for my hair! "Umm… sure, let me get my shoes on."

    "Take your time, I need to go to the bathroom real quick before we leave," she answered.

    I ran to put my shoes on real quick and then we left to go to the store. I wasn't exactly sure which store at that moment though. "Mom, where are we going anyway?"

    "We're going to Walmart."

    "And what exactly are we getting?" I asked tentatively.

    "Well, since you insist on growing your hair out we need to get a few things for you to take better care of your hair. Up till a couple months ago, you could just use your shampoo, a comb, and some hairspray and it worked, but now that it's longer we're going to need to do more."

    I sat their dumbstruck, was this really happening? Maybe she'd buy me my own hair brush today! Who knows what else? We got to the busy parking lot and went inside. I suddenly was a little self conscious as we went into an aisle of the store that I couldn't truly feel comfortable as a guy.

    "Well first thing we need to do is get you a hair brush, which one do you want." She pointed to 3 of them, one black, one purple, and one in a teal-blue.

    I actually had a number of things that were purple, including a jacket that I was wearing, and decided I wanted the purple one. "That one." She kind of looked at me strange but went with it, putting it in the cart. She also grabbed a small collapsible one that came in black and put it in the cart.

    "You should have one in your backpack just in case you need to brush it elsewhere."

    I smiled and said, "That's a good idea." I looked around at the rubber bands and other hair ties that were in the area. I saw a lot of Scrunchies, one of the new hot things all the girls had and wished I could get one.

    I had already decided though that I was not going to suggest anything to buy. I didn't want to tip my parents off to anything – I was afraid the first thing they would do was shave my head… In the meantime I saw she had added a pick type comb to the cart. I let mom lead me to the next aisle she thought we needed to go down. Disappointed that she hadn't brought up rubber bands at least… We moved onto the next aisle that had shampoos and stuff.

    "Well let's see. We need to get you a shampoo and conditioner set now. Why don't we go with this brand, which scent do you want?" She asked while pointing to a brand that had like 10 different scents.

    I really wanted to say strawberry, as it was my favorite flavor/fruit, but I was afraid that would give away too much. I settled on something I thought a boy or a girl could go with: "How about the coconut scent?" I asked.

    "Okay, that'll work." She said while putting it in the cart. She then looked at the shelf and saw there was a matching hair spray for that brand and grabbed it.

    "Don't I already have hair spray at home?" I asked.

    "You do, but I think this stuff will work a bit better. And it's also a match to the shampoo and conditioner, so it should work better." She replied, matter-of-factly.

    She then walked down to another aisle where there were hair dryers. She looked at several hand blow dryers before settling on one. As she put it in the cart she said, "Your hair is going to take longer and longer to dry on it's own, so it's a good idea for us to speed that process up.

    She started to go towards the front and asked me, "You are going to keep growing your hair out right?"

    "Yes," I replied.

    "Because if I buy all of this stuff for you, you can't decide to just shave it back down again." She told me. It was then that I became aware of the there being cost associated with this new hairstyle.

    "I'm going to stay with this for a while," I replied.

    "Good." She paused, then added, "Because I think you look good with longer hair." That was the first comment I had gotten from my parents one way or another as to my new style. I was shocked to say the least!

    We left the Walmart after paying for the supplies. On our way home I told her about Amy inviting me over on Monday.

    "Oh! Guess what!" I said. "Amy asked me to come over to her house on Monday!" I was excited, and she could see that.

    "Cool. So are you two going out?" Mom asked me, kind of teasingly, but genuinely wanting to know.

    "No, we're just good friends. But isn't that cool? I haven't hung out with a friend from school in I don't know how long… It's going to be great!" Mom started making more inquiries about Amy and my friendship. Apparently she hadn't realized how close of friends we had become at school.

    When we got home she looked at the map that Amy had drawn for her house and said, "She lives in a nice house over there." Mom had met her mom a few times, especially in relation to the trip we had gone to. Her parents were also going to go along on the trip as sponsors.

    "Brandon, put this collapsible brush in your backpack right now before we forget. Then meet me in the bathroom." She said.

    "Okay," I replied smiling. I didn't know why I was smiling, but I just was!

    I did as she asked and went to the bathroom. She held the purple brush in her hand. "With your hair getting longer you're going to need to brush it out several times a day to keep it from getting ratty. Turn around." She pushed my shoulders to where I could see what she was doing in the mirror while she was behind me. She spent the better part of 5 minutes telling me how to brush my hair right.

    "I'm also going to suggest that you start showering instead of taking a bath." I must have looked heart broken, I loved taking baths. "You can still take them occasionally, but it'll be a lot easier to wash the shampoo and conditioner out of your hair this way."

    "Okay, I guess I can do that then." I answered, a little mollified.

    She then went on to tell me that she wanted me to take a shower after dinner using the new shampoo and conditioner, and then she was going to show me how to blow dry my hair. She was very specific on timing of the conditioner and stuff. I acted like I really didn't want to do this stuff, but inside I was jumping up and down screaming, 'YES YES YES YES!!'

    We went out for dinner that night to a Mexican place. I liked spicy food, particularly the green chile that we enjoyed in New Mexico, and it was one of my favorite places to eat. After a good dinner we went and rented some movies, and then went home. Mom told me to go shower and use the stuff she bought. I was excited!

    I spent more time in the shower on my hair than I ever had before. Now, while my hair had reached what I thought was a magnificent start (10 inches), it wasn't going down to my shoulders yet. I probably spent as much time on it though that night as I would if it had been down to my butt. I got done and got dressed, beginning to brush my hair out and told mom that I was dressed.

    She showed me how to use the blow dryer effectively, and once I was done I noticed my hair seemed to be occupying more space somehow. "Mom, did my hair get bigger somehow?"

    "Yes I think it did. That's part of what conditioner will do for you. Also brushing and blow drying it probably poofed it out a bit more too."

    I sat down on the couch a few minutes later and we watched a movie till way past my normal bed time – I love spring break! I went to bed dreaming, scheming, and plotting to try and figure out a way to get some scrunchies of my own. I couldn't believe just how great everything had gone today.

    Chapter 14:

    That weekend we went over to my grandparents house for a while. My grandfather gave me a fair amount of heckling over my hair until my grandmother told him to knock it off, she liked it. I hadn't seen them in about a month so it was definitely longer than it had been. I had actually expected more heckling from him, so I actually was pleased that it had ended so abruptly.

    With the weekend over Monday came. I got ready and mom dropped me off at Amy's house at noon. When mom had said it was a nice house she wasn't exaggerating. It was a huge 2 story house with a circular driveway in front of it. Nervous, I rang the doorbell and she came to the door. "Hey Brandon, come on in!"

    I went into her house and she led me up to her room, which was huge. It was decorated in a mix of little girl colors and bedding, and pictures of some of the latest movie stars were up on her walls. "So what do you want to do?" She asked.

    I shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know, did you have anything in mind?"

    "Well, we could play on my Playstation for a while?" She suggested.

    "Sure, that sounds fun." I was willing to go along with almost anything, I wanted her to invite me over again!

    We played games on it for a couple hours before we got bored. "Well now what," she asked me.

    "I don't know, maybe watch a movie?" I asked.

    "Alright, that sounds good." She replied. "What do you want to watch?" She asked me.

    "What do you have?" I asked.

    "Well… I just got the Lion King yesterday, you want to watch that?" She asked.

    "I don't know, is it any good?"

    "You mean you haven't seen it yet?!? I can't believe that. Come with me!" She said as she grabbed my hand and dragged me down the their room that had their TV. I was presented with a huge TV that boggled my mind. She dragged me to the couch and turned on the movie.

    "Do you want anything to drink while the previews are going?" She asked.

    "Maybe some water please?" I asked. She brought back 2 glasses of water from the kitchen a few minutes later. And we watched the movie. We actually talked and laughed a fair amount while the movie was playing as well, and I decided I actually really liked the movie.

    "That was really good. My family doesn't go to the movies so I hadn't seen it yet."

    "I love going to the movies, you'll have to go with me the next time something comes out.

    "That sounds like fun." I replied.

    "By the way, I don't think I told you today but I like what you did with your hair today. It looks really nice." She told me.

    "Thanks. My mom took me to the store and had me pick out some different shampoo, a couple hair brushes, and a blow dryer. I can't believe how different it looks when I take care of it this way."

    "You know there are a lot of girls that would kill to have the hair that you have right now." She told me.

    "Thanks… I think." Blushing.

    "You're welcome. I've been really amazed by how much you've grown up this year. Everyone has noticed, I think that's why most of the kids have stopped messing with you. Well… that and a bit of fear after Matt's nose." She said laughing and winking at me.

    We talked about a whole lot of other things for a couple hours. The two of us had a lot in common, and we had a chance to bond in those few hours like we had never had before. Her mom came home a little later and said, "How are you doing Brandon?"

    "I'm doing well, how are you?" I replied politely.

    "Tired. It was a long day. Say, I'm going to order pizza for dinner, do you want to stay and eat with us?" She asked me.

    I looked at Amy, she was nodding at me vigorously, so I answered, "Sure, just let me call my mom and let her know that I'm staying for a while longer."

    I called her and I sat down and talked with Amy some more. Her mom joined us a few minutes later and told Amy her dad was on the way home. "Brandon, I like your hair, it looks really nice."

    "Thanks." I replied to her. We continued talking for a while and then she told Amy to take me upstairs to wash up. She showed me where her bathroom was, connected to her room (I was so jealous), and we both washed our hands before going downstairs. Her dad and the pizza arrived at almost the same time.

    Dinner with Amy's family was fun. Period. End of story. She had such a neat set of parents, and we had a good time at dinner that night. Her parents definitely seemed to begin to like me. Something that became apparent a few minutes later.

    Amy's father asked me, "Brandon do you like to ski?"

    "Yeah, the few times I've been able to go I've loved it. I just haven't been able to go that many times." I said, kind of curious as to why he was asking.

    "Well how would you like to go with us this weekend? It'll be our treat."

    "Really? Are you sure?"

    Her dad nodded, and Amy said, "You have to come, it'll be so much fun!"

    "Sure, I'll have to ask my parents first though. I don't think they'll say no but I do have to ask." I said.

    "Fantastic." We all talked for a while longer before I decided I should probably go home. Amy went with her Mom to drop me off at home. She talked to my parents for a few minutes and they said yes to me going with them. They offered to pay though, but her mom flatly refused saying it was their treat. We all thanked her and I said goodnight to Amy.

    "Amy thanks for inviting me over, I haven't had this much fun in a long time. Thanks!"

    "No problem Brandon, I feel the same way. I'll look forward to seeing you Friday. Goodnight!"

    With that I ended one of the best days I had ever had with a friend to that point. Things couldn't have been more fun!

    Chapter 15: The ski trip

    My mom took me to a used sporting goods store Tuesday to see if we could find some ski pants for me. We found a pair of black pants that fit pretty well for a good deal so mom bought them. To say I was excited and looking forward to the trip was to understate the matter a great deal. I had been able to go skiing a total of 3 times before this – all on school trips.

    That actually had me a little worried, I know that Amy and her family went a lot during the year, would she be upset with slowing down to hang out with me? Would she just leave me in her dust and all alone on the slopes? To say the least I was suffering with some insecurity. I managed to forget about that most of the time and just be excited.

    I think my mom was just happy to see me smiling and looking forward to something. Things had improved a lot at school – but only to the point that I was still crying at least 2 times a week when I came home. Of course that was down from the every day…

    Amy and I talked quite a bit over the phone each day until Friday. I found out that I was going to be sharing her room at the condo since she had a set of bunk beds. "Prepare yourself for a talk by dad though," she warned me. She had told him we were just good friends, but she knew that he would still end up saying something to us.

    For me it was just going to be one new experience after another. I had never slept over at a friend's house before. Never. Can you believe that? I was outright hyper and giddy Thursday night. When Mom told me it was my bedtime I went to bed and couldn't sleep for hours. When I finally awoke it seemed as I had just closed my eyes.

    I took a shower that morning, dried my hair, and ate breakfast in record time. I paced around the house for 30 minutes before they arrived right on time at 7:30am. Mom went and talked to Amy's parents for a few minutes while I carried my backpack of stuff out to their car. I was already wearing my ski pants, as was Amy, when I got in the car. I noted that hers were basically the same as mine except they were purple.

    "Hey, how are you doing?" I asked her.

    "Great. We're going to have so much fun!" She replied.

    We drove off and began the hour and a half drive up to the resort. After a while I asked her, "so what are we going to do first?"

    "Well we're going to go put our stuff in our condo. Mom's going to fix us something to eat for lunch, and then we'll drive up to the resort." She said.

    Her dad must have been listening in while he was driving, because he then said, "When we get up to the condo I'm going to have you try on a pair of Amy's ski boots. They're a little small for her, but I think they'll probably fit you. If they do then we'll just have you use her old skis with them. If they don't we'll go get you a rental set. Does that work for you?"

    "Sure, I'm fine with whatever is easiest." I replied. I was suddenly thinking… Girls ski boots? Or are they the same as guys? I wasn't honestly sure. All I knew was that maybe I'd get my first chance ever to wear something that was made for a girl! I didn't know if I was supposed to take a macho approach though… Oh well. Who would see me?

    We continued the drive up to the resort with Amy and I chattering away as only kids that are best friends can. Before I knew it we were pulling off the highway and up a gravel road to their condo. We went inside and Amy gave me the "5 cent" tour. On the first floor they had a closet right inside that they stored skis in when they weren't using them.

    From there they had a second closet that was a normal coat closet. They had a fairly large kitchen, dining room, and Den that were all kind of open to each other. In the middle of the room, against a wall, was a huge fireplace that had a bear rug in front of it. There were some couches and love seats in an open bracket around it. She also showed me where there was a half bath on that floor as well.

    We then went upstairs and she showed me that there were 2 Bedrooms and 2 Bathrooms. Her parents bedroom and bathroom were massive – they easily took up 65% of the space on that floor. Then she said, "and here is my room – our room tonight," and opened up the door to her bedroom. It was decorated similarly to her normal bedroom, and had a set of bunk beds up against one wall. Both beds were decorated in Barbie bedding. She also had a huge doll house and dozens of Barbies stacked on a shelf above it.

    As if reading my mind she said, "I like Barbie!" We chuckled a bit. She then added, "A lot of other girls are saying we're too old for them, but I still play with them. That's what I do when I get done with homework on most nights."

    I felt kind of awkward… what was I supposed to say to that? So I responded, "That's cool that you still play with them. I still play with toys a lot too. Where do you keep them at your house? I didn't notice there being this many there."

    She smiled at me, "I have a separate play room down the hall from my room. It's all barbies, and since I didn't think you'd want to play with them we didn't go in there. I'm so glad you don't think I'm a freak for still playing with kids toys."

    "Amy, you would be the last person I would ever think of as a freak." She smiled at me and said thanks.

    She showed me the bathroom we were going to share… it was the size of both bathrooms at my house combined… It had a whirlpool tub and a walk-in shower. It also had a large vanity and 2 sinks.

    She also had a large closet that had several more sets of ski pants, sweaters, and other cold weather clothes.

    From there the conversation got a little more mundane and we decided who was going to sleep in which bed. By 'we' decided, I mean she said, "TOP BUNK!" and giggled. Apparently that was her tradition with friends – whoever spoke up first got first choice.

    We were still talking in there when her dad came in, speaking initially to Amy, "Your mom is making lunch right now for all of us. When she gets done we'll eat and then head up to the slopes. I wanted to talk to you both for a moment while we have a chance." Here it comes I thought.

    "Brandon, from what Amy has told me I believe we can trust you two, but I'll ask anyways for you two not to do anything inappropriate. If you were both still younger I wouldn't even say anything, but middle school changes things. Do I have to say more, or do you get what I mean?"

    "Mr. Hancock I wouldn't even think of it. Amy and I are both way more interested in being friends than anything else." I replied.

    "I believe you, especially considering your response was almost word for word what Amy said. I do want you both to leave the door open tonight though okay?"

    Amy replied this time, "That's fine daddy, though there's nothing to worry about."

    "I know sweetheart, but I'm your dad, which means I have to say these things. Anyway, why don't you both come downstairs and we'll see if these ski boots fit you Brandon?"

    We followed him downstairs and went to the ski closet. When he opened it up I saw 2 sets of ski boots that looked to be our sized. One was pink with purple latches, the other set was black with purple latches. My heart skipped a beat wondering which pair I was going to be using.

    He picked up the black ones and handed them to me. I took off my right shoe and put my foot into the boot. It was a good fit. I was actually curious what my foot size was compared to her. I'd have check it out later.

    Amy's Mom came around from the kitchen "Do you mind wearing her boots Brandon? They're not overly girly, but if they bother you we can rent a set instead."

    "They're fine Mrs. Hancock, I'm really not bothered by it at all." I replied.

    "Okay but if you change your mind that's alright. Just be sure and let us know." She said.

    I then saw the skis that went with the boots and almost wondered if I shouldn't have taken that back – they were covered with a mixture of purple and lighter purple. I decided to not worry about it though – wasn't this just a really cool little step on the journey I wished to take? Yes. So I then became excited.

    Once we were sure everything was set for me we went and ate the grilled cheese and soup that her mom had made for us. After lunch I thanked her and we put all of the equipment on/strapped it onto the ski rack. Then we all got into their SUV to go up to the resort.

    Chapter 16:

    When we got up there Mr. Hancock handed me a lift ticket and told me to attach it to the zipper of my jacket. Amy's mom was talking to her in the meantime, "Amy do you have your backpack?"

    "Yes Mommy," she replied. I could tell she was a little annoyed her mom was doing this in front of me.

    "I just want to make sure that you have it and the extra stuff in it in case you guys need it. The snacks and your extra clothes are in there right?" She nodded and I stopped paying attention as Mr. Hancock had me help stack skis and poles against the car. Once everything was out of the car they told us where they wanted us to meet them at 4:30pm for dinner.

    "Come on Brandon, let's go!" Amy said to me as we made our way away from her parents. We found a chairlift that would take us up to a spot where there were a lot of green trails to start off with.

    We put on our skis before we got to the chairlift and I was a little shocked when the guy running the chairlift said, "Have a good run ladies," to us. I kind of blushed for a second and Amy giggled next to me.

    I looked at her and asked, "do I look that much like a girl right now?"

    "Not a whole lot, but the purple on your jacket, the skis, your hair, and the fact you're with me must have been enough to confuse him." She said in between giggles. I stuck my tongue out at her.

    "I have one of those too!" She said smiling and sticking her own tongue out.

    Now the jacket I had wasn't a girls jacket, it just happened to have some purple stripes on it. It wasn't the complete norm at the time, but it wasn't that unusual in that area. But apparently she had a point – one that I was not unhappy about even a tiny bit!

    We talked and giggled the rest of the 10 minute ride up to the top and then started down the slope. It was actually a really warm sunny day that day. The temperature was about 50 degrees, so we really didn't need our jackets that much even. I shed the ear warmer I had on pretty early on in our run.

    We had a lot of fun going down the slope. Usually I was a pretty timid skier, but somehow hanging out with Amy made me less so. I guess there's safety in having a friend doing the same stupid things? We went down our first run in about 30 minutes and then made our way back to the chairlift.

    "So do you want to try something harder now?" Amy asked with a slight twinkle of mischief in her eye.

    "As long as it's not too much harder I'll go for it." I replied as we looked at a map on the way up. I had finally found something to be annoyed about with my hair… it kept getting in my face – especially my mouth as we were riding up the chairlift. I kept pushing it back behind my ears to try and keep it in place, but it was still a bit short for that to be really effective. About 5 minutes later we made it to the top.

    "Hey, Brandon hold on a second." Amy said coming over to me. She opened up her backpack and dug for something for a moment. She pulled out a purple headband for hair. "I notice your hair keeps getting in your eyes, do you want to see if this'll work to keep it out of your eyes?" She asked me.

    "Umm… wouldn't that be kind of weird?" I asked timidly.

    "Well, maybe if someone knew you, but as far as most people are concerned they're not going to notice. Besides, it's going to be a long afternoon if you're constantly fighting with your hair, trust me, I know!" She said pointing to the ponytail her hair was tied up into. "I'll put one in my hair too if it'll make you feel any better?" I saw she had a pink one in there too.

    "Okay, I guess. If we see your parents though help me hide it somewhere okay? I don't want them to decide I shouldn't be around you because I'm weird or anything, alright?" I replied.

    "Don't worry, mom was the one who told me to be sure that I had one in here since she thought you might need it!" I was flabbergasted by that. With my mouth still open she put the purple one into my hair and the pink into hers and started off down the trail while I was still in shock.

    Her mom thought I would wear it willingly? Did she know I wanted to be a girl? Did Amy know at that rate? I was suddenly kind of nervous, but took after her down the trail.

    Before I knew it we were going down a blue trail that had moguls on it. For those of you who haven't skied before, moguls are little hills of snow on the slope. There's usually a section of them like rapids on a river on some of the harder trails. I had heard about them but never skied on them.

    I tried to follow Amy's lead going down them but I screwed up and my right hand ski went the wrong way – Down I went, tumbling head over heels. My ski bindings released and I just kept tumbling a couple more times.

    Chapter 17:

    When I came out of shock I ran through my brain about how my body felt. It really didn't feel like anything was seriously injured, but I didn't get up right away because it just seemed like too much work at that moment…

    "Miss, are you okay?" I turned my head to see a ski patrolman standing next to me.

    "Umm…" miss? Well, I don't want to seem like a freak, so I decided not to correct him. "Yeah, I just decided it was more comfortable on the ground." I said with a slight chuckle that sound more like a giggle. I got up from the ground and walked a few steps. "Yep, nothings broken except my pride."

    I looked down the hill and saw Amy walking up the slope to me. She was almost up to where I was. In the meantime the patrolman was nice enough to recover my skis for me. "Are you alright?" Amy asked me.

    "Yeah, like I told him, nothings hurt other than maybe a little pride. But at least it was a pretty spectacular dive!"

    The patrolman said, "it was a pretty good one, I was worried that you were actually hurt from that one. Well, since you're not I'll leave you two ladies to continue. Have a good day."

    Amy stood with a bemused expression on her face. "You know Brandon we could have some fun with this…"

    "Umm… let's just worry about me not killing myself the rest of the day!" I said laughing.

    "Oh alright, you're no fun!" She replied. "But we need to fix your hair real quick, your headband is really crooked now!" She did that and we started down the slope again.

    Fortunately for me there weren't any other mogul sections on that trail and we had a pretty uneventful trip back down the slope. As I skied down the slope I was deep in thought about the day so far. On one hand part of me was going, 'YES! YES! YES!' I mean, I wanted to be a girl, I should be happy that I'd been referred as such 2x that day right?

    On the other side I had healthy dose of fear. What would Amy say if she knew I wanted to be a girl? What would her parents say? What would my parents say? And obviously, what would the kids at school say?

    We got down to the bottom and Amy looked at me curiously. "Brandon, don't worry about them calling you a girl, it's not a bad thing. I personally don't care what they call you; you'll be my best friend no matter what at this point. Plus, no one from school would care if they saw you here today. And, my parents both like you enough they don't care what you look like either."

    "Best friend? Really?" I asked.

    "Yes, you really are my best friend Brandon. I guess I haven't ever come out and said it to you, but I've said it to my mom plenty of times." We put our skis in a ski rack and walked into the lodge at the base of the mountain. She found a couple chairs by the fireplace that we could sit in for a few minutes while we kept talking. The rest of the room was pretty vacant.

    "Brandon, I talk to you over the phone more than anyone else. I tell you more than I tell anyone else, you really are my best friend, and I'm not just saying that." She told me.

    I knew without a doubt that she meant it and that I could trust her probably more than any other person on the planet. "Thanks Amy, you are definitely my best friend too. I just never realized that you felt that way about me as well. It's kind of strange though isn't it, a guy and a girl being best friends, but not having any interest in dating each other?"

    "Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is I really don't care one way or another as long as you don't." She said.

    "I certainly don't, I couldn't think of a better person to have as a best friend myself." I said.

    "Well, now that we have that settled are you a little more okay about the comments?"

    "I guess. I just hope that no one from school sees me this weekend. I'd hate to have to endure one more thing at school." I said.

    "You'll be fine Brandon, you've been doing so much better at dealing with them that I don't honestly think it would be worth their time. Besides, I'd help you out if something were to happen, okay?"

    "Okay, anyway do you know where the bathroom is? I really need to go."

    "Yeah, I'll show you. I really need to go too!"

    We walked down a hallway and found a set of restrooms. I half hesitated when I went into the mens room… I hoped no one freaked out and thought I was a girl going in the guys room… Thankfully the restroom was empty when I went into it, and I came out without anyone seeing me. I waited for Amy outside of the restroom and she emerged shortly.

    "Ready to go back up?" She asked.

    "Yeah. Do we have time for another run?" I asked looking at my watch. It read 3:30 at that moment.

    "We should if we hurry and take one of the easier green trails we can go faster on." I nodded and we hurried off to grab our skis and go on up the chair lift.

    There was a different guy at the bottom of the lift and he said, "Have a good run ladies."

    I couldn't believe it… Maybe my plan could actually work. Amy was pretty accepting of me at this moment – and I thought she would be if I ever told her the truth too. I just didn't know if I could do that yet… I decided it didn't matter right now. The important thing was to have fun with my new best friend – or at least my newly announced best friend.

    We got to the top and Amy said, "Let's try not to kill you again okay? I want to go shopping once we're done with this run!"

    I said, "I'd certainly like to stay in one piece too, so I'll go for that plan." With that we began down the slope. Thankfully this time we didn't have anymore acrobatics from me, and we made it down to the spot we were supposed to meet her parents at 4:20. We thought we might beat them, but they were already sitting there drinking coffee.

    "How was your day guys?" Mrs. Hancock asked.

    Amy answered first, "Well other than Brandon trying to kill himself on some moguls not much!" She said with a wink.

    "You had a decent spill huh?" Mr. Hancock asked.

    "It looked pretty impressive at least. I wasn't hurt, but I definitely tumbled a bit. I had fun though!" I said grinning.

    I could tell that they decided it must not have been a big deal by the way their faces relaxed a bit.

    "Well what do you want to do now?" Amy asked her parents.

    "Why don't we go down into town and go shopping on Main Street. Then we've got reservations at a restaurant for 6:30pm. Does that sound alright?" Her mom asked.

    We both nodded. "Okay then, let's put the skis up on the rack and then get going!" Her dad said.

    We got everything loaded up and sat back down in her parents car. As we were leaving my hand moved up to my hair to scratch my head and I noticed the head band was still there… Oh no!

    Chapter 18:

    I had meant to take that out before her parents saw me with it… I decided to do damage control and just go ahead and take it off. Amy saw what I was doing and I passed it to her to put back in her bag. Her parents didn't say anything about it, so I decided they must not have noticed.

    We talked non-stop with each other on the way down to town – it was about a 30 minute drive. When we got there we found a parking space and started walking around the various tourist shops that were on the street. I just kind of followed Amy around, not really looking at anything for myself – I didn't have much money to buy anything.

    We went from one store to the other, with no one really finding anything to buy. Then we came to an Indian Craft Store. I wasn't really into the whole Indian thing, neither were they, but even if you're not into their dolls and such you have to admit the craftsmanship is top notch, especially their silversmithing. Amy's mom was taking a really close look at some of the necklaces for some reason.

    Amy and I were kind of bored of that store and she said, "Hey, why don't we wait outside for her?"

    I shrugged and said, "Okay."

    So we waited outside on a bench by the store. Her parents came out about 5 minutes later and her mom said, "Okay, let's go ahead and head to the restaurant."

    We all nodded vigorously as we were all starving. We walked down about a block to the restaurant and were glad we had reservations. If we hadn't it would have been an hour and a half wait at this particular restaurant.

    We were seated fairly quickly and I discovered we were in the nicest restaurant I had ever been in. Every table had a cloth table cloth, cloth napkins, crystal glasses, and the inside was very nicely decorated. I wondered if I would even be able to afford an appetizer inside this place. After we were seated and the menus were given to us her dad said to me, "Brandon order whatever you want, it's our treat, and don't worry about the prices."

    The waiter came by and asked, "what can I get you to drink?"

    "Iced Tea?" I replied. Do places like this have iced tea?

    "Alright," he replied. He took the rest of the tables drink orders as well. Amy also ordered an iced tea, and her parents ordered water and wine to go with their meal.

    I briefly wondered if they had a kids menu (not that my appetite was that small,) but quickly decided if Amy wasn't asking that then there must not have been. The menu featured 'fine Italian' cuisine, and I quickly discovered I couldn't pronounce – let alone understand – what half the dishes were.

    "Amy, what are you getting?" I asked. She was more used to this and would probably be able to help me I figured.

    "Probably the scaloppini di pollo." She said.

    I scanned down to that part of the menu and decided that sounded good. "That sounds good."

    A few minutes later the waiter came back with our drinks and took our orders. Her dad started off saying that we wanted an order of calamari to begin with. Her parents ordered and then took Amy and my orders. I decided to go with the Scaloppini (whatever that really was) as well since it seemed a safe bet. It also appeared to be one of the cheapest dishes at only $27.

    Our dinner came with a small salad that I found myself enjoying. The 'Calamari' came out then as well. I had no idea what it was, so I had no preconceptions. I found that I was enjoying it thoroughly.

    Amy looked amused about something, "Brandon, so you're enjoying the squid?"

    "The what?" I asked.

    "The squid, that's what calamari is." She said giggling.

    I couldn't decide whether or not to be horrified, not believe her, or just say yes. In a split second I said the polite answer, "Yes, actually it's pretty good." I ate some more at that point to decide whether or not I actually liked it or not, now that I knew what it was. I decided I did like it.

    From there our meal came out. I was glad to see it wasn't some exotic, inedible thing. I cut up a piece of the meat and discovered it tasted really good. I didn't talk a whole lot that night during dinner, but rather sat quietly.

    I became full very quickly – I figure I'd eaten a 1/3rd of the dish and was wondering how her family felt about leaving food on the plate. Thankfully Amy's mom answered that question almost on cue again, "Brandon, don't worry if you can't eat it all, we'll take the rest back for tomorrow." I was relieved at that, especially when Amy's dad spoke the waiter and ordered two desserts for the table.

    The dessert arrived, and we each took a small piece of it. He ordered 2 desserts for the table. The first one was called tiramisu. I decided I had never tasted anything as good as it. It had such a wonderful creamy flavor with the bits of cake inside. He also ordered a slice of chocolate mousse cake, something I liked, but not as well as the tiramisu.

    "So Brandon, did you enjoy your meal?" Mr. Hancock asked me.

    "Yes, it was wonderful Mr. Hancock. Thank you again so much for bringing me along today. I don't think I've ever had this much fun." I replied with what I perceived as a giant smile on my face.

    "Well we'll have to have you join us again next fall when we come back up here. The slopes close next weekend so it'll have to wait till then." He told me.

    "I look forward to it!" I said just as happy.

    With that Amy and I chatted about a whole lot of stuff for a few minutes while he paid the check. We then walked back down the street to the car and headed back up to the cabin. I must have been exhausted because the next thing I remember was us pulling into the driveway of their condo.

    I noticed Amy was also looking like she was waking up. "Well did you two enjoy your nap?" Mrs. Hancock asked us.

    Amy grunted, uh-huh.

    I replied saying "I guess. I didn't even realize I had fallen asleep."

    We woke up enough to walk into the condo and sit down on the couch in front of their fireplace. I had been kind of tired, but I was now finding that I was waking up again. I had a feeling that Amy and I would soon be hyper and bouncing off the walls again – something I sure her parents 'couldn't wait for.'

    Chapter 19:

    We both kind of plopped down on the couches and began talking. As we sat there we both commented on how chilly it was in there. Amy said, "I bet my parents forgot to turn the heater up before we left."

    "Brrr…" I said.

    We quickly became distracted talking about other things though. A short while later her mom interrupted, "Before either of you get too comfortable why don't you go change into your pajamas while we get a fire started?"

    "Though not at the same time in the same room though please." Her dad joked. I could tell he was actually joking this time though – something had changed in his worry about us.

    "But dad!" Amy joked back. We went upstairs and we took turns in her bathroom changing into pajamas. I had a set of blue flannel pajama bottoms and an old soccer shirt for a top. She, big surprise, came out wearing a set of satin Barbie pajamas. I was instantly very jealous of her – I want a pair of Barbie pajamas!

    We both talked and joked around as we bounded back downstairs to the couch. Her dad had built a blazing fire in the fireplace that felt really good on our cold bodies. We bundled up in some blankets that were there and kept jabbering on. This time, we were talking about movies that were coming out that we hoped to see.

    "I want to see the Sandra Bullock movie that's coming out in April. It sounds really cute." Amy said.

    "I'd like to go see Apollo 13 when it comes out, I think it's going to be a really cool movie too."

    We went on and on about that type of stuff. Her mom brought us mugs of hot chocolate at that point, and asked if we wanted to play a board game. I looked at Amy and she shrugged and said, "sure."

    "Amy why don't you go pick something out real quick with Brandon?" Her mom asked.

    "Okay mom, do you care what we play?" She asked.

    "Just not Candyland please," her mom said teasingly, it made me wonder – did she still like to play Candyland?

    I followed Amy to a cabinet underneath the staircase where there were a lot of board games stashed. "Well what do you want to play," Amy asked me. I saw tons of games in the cabinet including some I had never heard of. A few of them were; Candyland (it looked well used), Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, My Little Pony, something called Mall Madness, Trouble, Connect 4, and others. I was clueless on what was good. It's kind of hard to play board games when you're an only child. I wasn't completely sure how Amy's family made it work. Maybe they just had friends over more often.

    "I don't honestly know, except when I'm at my cousins house I never really get to play board games. So I really don't know what's good, you pick something." I told her.

    I thought she would argue with me on it, but a glint in her eye told me that she had something in mind already. She pulled out the game she had been wanting to play I guess, called 'Mall Madness.' "I love this game," she said.

    I thought it looked totally like a girls game – not that that bothered me, but I hoped they wouldn't say anything. We brought it back to the coffee table by the fireplace. Her mom looked at her and said, "I thought I told you both to pick out a game?"

    "Mrs. Hancock I didn't know what was good so I told her just to pick something." I replied hoping to keep her from getting in trouble.

    "Besides mom, I didn't pick candyland!" She said in an exasperated drama queen voice.

    "Alright, as long as Brandon doesn't mind. Let's get it setup since it does take a while." Her mom said.

    She wasn't kidding. It probably took 15-20 minutes for us to get the board and stuff setup. Soon after that though the four of us were all having a great time. If you've never played this game I highly suggest that you do!

    I was not surprised that Amy won the first game – she was like a card shark with her skills on this game. But, surprising to all of us, I won the second game! After the second game her mom seemed to notice that it was getting late and that we should be going to bed.

    Mr. Hancock had already left the room to go upstairs when she said. "Well, you two need to get to bed so we can hit the slopes again tomorrow before they get crowded. Before you do that though, I bought something for the two of you that I thought you might enjoy since you've become such close friends over this year." She handed us each a small box that had was closed by ribbon and a bow on top.

    We both opened our boxes at the same time and discovered a little jewelry box inside. When we opened them up we each found half a heart on a silver necklace chain. The half of the heart was made of sterling silver I noticed as we both pulled them out of the box to look at them.

    "Brandon, if you consider it too girly I won't be hurt if you don't wear it. But I got a long enough chain no one should be able to see it under your shirt if you don't want them to see it. I thought it could be at least a symbol of your friendship and a souvenir from this trip."

    I sat stunned, this seemed like a wonderful gift, but did this mean she knew I wanted to be a girl? Perhaps, perhaps not. I was always taught not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and said, "It's a great gift, thank you Mrs. Hancock." I stood up and gave her a hug to emphasize my appreciation.

    "Well then, if you're both in agreement then you need to make a pinky promise to each other of some sort and then put them on each other. Since I'm not part of this promise I'll disappear for a couple moments… But you need to go to bed in 2 minutes, so keep it quick." She said smiling while she left the room.

    "Wow, you're parents are really nice Amy. Do they usually do this kind of stuff for your friends?"

    "No. I think they like you more than any other friend I've had. Well, like she said we have a promise to make!" She smiled and held out her right pinky.

    I put out my right pinky and asked, "So what are we promising?"

    "How about that no matter what happens to either of us, no matter who else we meet, or how we change, that we'll never break the each other's trust or secrets?" She suggested.

    "That sounds good, I promise never to break your trust or tell any of your secrets." I repeated back to her. We moved our pinkies up and down and then separated. I took the necklace in my hand and put it around her neck, and she did the same to me.

    She gave me a hug. "See now we are really officially best friends!" This was the first time we had ever hugged, something I had wondered what it would be like. It really didn't seem like a big deal to me, it was just two best friends giving each other a hug – there was no boy/girl chemistry thing going as far as I could tell.

    "Well, let's go up to bed before your mom starts herding us there," I whispered to her.

    She giggled a bit and nodded. We went upstairs and both of us got in the bathroom to brush our teeth really quick. It was definitely a nice feature to have 2 sinks in the one bathroom. We finished up and headed towards the beds. She seemed to be back into a giddy mode from having won the calling contest earlier. Amy was definitely pleased with herself.

    Before she started climbing though, she went and grabbed a stuffed teddy bear and a stuffed lion from the one side of her room with the toys. In the meantime I had crawled into the bed – kind of excited to be sleeping with Barbie bedding – while she was doing whatever she was up to. She walked over to the beds and said, "Here. I don't think you brought a stuffed animal with you, and I don't let my friends sleep over without one!" She said with a big smile.

    Part of me wanted to tell her I hadn't slept with a teddy bear since I was 5… but girls sleep with stuffed animal's right? Wasn't she proof of that? "Umm… Thanks. I think."

    "You're welcome." She replied and then climbed into her bed. Her mom came upstairs and turned the light off saying, "goodnight guys." Normally when you sleep over somewhere you stay up all night talking… tonight wasn't one of those nights though. I think we were both asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

    Comment


      #3
      Standing Up to Life: Part 3

      Chapter 20:

      I felt a slight prodding sensation. Something strange was happening in my dream. "Brandon, wake up." Poke.

      "Ahh!!…" I woke up to see Amy standing over me.

      "Wake up Brandon! Geeze… how long does it normally take to wake you up?" Amy asked me as she kept poking me.

      "I don't know… I'm usually never awake for it" I said as I tried to roll back over.

      "If I have to I'll tickle you!" She said. I knew she meant it too.

      "All right I'm getting up!" I said with a groan.

      "Good, why don't you go ahead and take a shower real quick. Mom's making breakfast downstairs. Once you're done we'll go eat and then we'll hit the slopes!"

      "What time is it?"

      "7:00"

      Groan… "Way too early…" I said as I got off of my rear end and took my stuff to the bathroom. I showered, but didn't wash my hair. Mom had told me that if I was in a hurry that could save me some time – I got the feeling we were in that hurry. I got out of the shower as quick as I could, and then took care of the rest of the essentials to starting a day. I did brush my hair out really quick after brushing my teeth, and then put my ski clothes back on.

      I switched shirts to a Disney shirt I got when we went there this past summer. It was a yellow shirt with Mickey on it. I unfortunately only had one pair of ski pants though so I had to wear those again. I looked at myself and decided I was fairly presentable and went out to the room.

      "That was quick. Did you wash your hair out?"

      "I didn't think I had time to do that… So I'll wait till tomorrow I guess."

      "I didn't wash mine out today either, I was kind of hoping if we get back early I could get mom to do it for me."

      "Your mom washes your hair?" I asked

      "Occasionally, it's such a great feeling having someone else wash your hair! Maybe I can get her to do yours too!" She said. I felt a little awkward and mumbled something.

      "Do you have your necklace on?" She asked curiously.

      "Yes, you?" I asked. I didn't take it off that night, and left it on in the shower on accident. Shouldn't hurt it though I figured. I currently had it tucked underneath my shirt – I was experimenting to see if you could see it if I did that. There was a bit of chain around the front inside of my collar visible. I didn't know if I could get away with wearing it to school of not. My hair actually did cover the back of the chain though…

      Back to the present though, "Yep! Anyway, I'm hungry let's go eat!"

      She dragged me down the stairs and we sat down at their dining table to eat. I'm really not a morning person, never have been, never will be. But I did my best to act civilized!

      We drove off to the resort a short while later. Once we returned to the resort we got everything out again.

      "Okay guys, we're going to let you go off again on your own today. We'd like to you to meet us at the Timberline Restaurant for lunch though."

      "Okay," we both answered together. Amy then led me to a different lift than we had used the previous day.

      "Hey Brandon, we should do something with your hair again today." She said. Somehow I felt there was something strange going on.

      "Okay, I guess we can do the headband thing again today. Did your mom mention it last night or this morning?"

      "No she didn't, but like I said she suggested it in the first place. Are you worried about the fact you forgot to take it off before we saw them?" I nodded. "It's really okay, it's not that big of a deal to wear a headband."

      "I guess I'm not really worried about that, I just don't want your parents to think I'm a freak or something. You're too good of a friend for that."

      "If my parents thought that, do you think my mom would have gotten this necklace set for us? My dad was in the store and I'm sure she told him what she was thinking of doing. He obviously still let it happen. So chill." She said with a smile.

      "Okay, I guess I'll wear the headband again." I said smiling back at her.

      "Okay, let me get it out." She started digging through her bag. "Uh-oh…"

      "What?"

      "I think I must have taken them out this morning for some reason… Hrmm…" She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then looked at me before digging into her bag. She said, "Turn around."

      I looked skeptically at her for a second, "Trust me," she said. So I did. In a moment I felt her gathering my hair and pulling it back and forth before she said a few seconds later, "Done!"

      I felt my hair, something felt odd. It was off of my neck –that hadn't been the case in a while – and my hand ran up to find, "A ponytail?" I asked incredulously.

      "Yep! And actually I think you look cute with it!"

      I was flabbergasted… I didn't know what to say. "Okay… If people thought I was a girl yesterday that's probably only going to be worse today… I should take this out."

      I started to reach up to pull the scrunchie she had used to tie it up out. But she gave me this puppy dog look. "Come on, I'll remind you to take it out before we meet with my parents. I've wanted to do that and so much else with your hair since like a month ago. I didn't know if it was long enough though… Come on. I promise I'll never tell anyone else!" She said practically groveling.

      "Alright. But please remind me to pull it out. I don't want your parents to see me like this."

      "Great, let's go!" She put her skies on and we climbed up to the chairlift. I hoped that I had fought hard enough to not make her think I was going along with it too easily. On one hand I really wanted to be a girl… on the other hand it was such a scary road, and one I worried my best friend had pegged me as wanting to follow.

      "So Amy, why are we getting on this chairlift today?" I asked.

      "Well, we're going to meet my parents at that restaurant, and it's on the backside of the mountain. This'll get us into that area. We can make several runs down this side and then we can meet them there. Then we'll be able to ski the front side of the mountain the rest of the day. Sound good?"

      "Yeah, that does sound good. So, we're getting really close to the trip to Florida, are you excited?" I asked her

      "Yeah I am. Have you ever been there before?"

      "No, we went to California one time, but I've never been east, let alone to Florida. You?"

      "Yeah, we've been a couple times. The last time was 2 years ago. I love it there, especially Disney World! You'll have a blast there. What are you looking forward to most?"

      "I don't know, actually I think the day at Kennedy Space Center and Space Camp! Have you ever seen that movie?" She shook her head, "We'll have to watch it together sometime. I mean I guess maybe it's kind of dorky but I love science and space. It would be so cool to be able to go into space someday."

      "I don't think it's dorky at all. Actually that's the one place that we've never been – I've always wanted to go there though. The rest of the kids may not realize it, but I'm every bit as much of a dork as you are!" She said giggling as we reached the top on the chairlift.

      We made our way to the top of the trail we were going down and started down the slope. The ponytail was a whole new experience – something I'd wanted to experience ever since I'd decided on this path – and was everything I hoped it would be. I loved how it bounced a bit every time I hit a bump.

      We skied several trails to reach the bottom. When we got there I said, "That was fun! I think I like the trails back here better than ones on the front."

      "I kind of do too. Tell you what, let's go back up and stop at the bathroom on our way down before we go the rest of the way back here, okay?"

      "Sure, that sounds like a great plan." I really needed to go too.

      We rode the lift back up to the top, this particular lift was slower and it took us almost 20 minutes to get back to the top. I suppose it's still better than having to walk up though right? We skied down the little bit before there was a building that had a café, a small store, and some restrooms. She entered the girls room while I went into the boys room. When I finished I went to wash my hands and looked at myself in the mirror.

      I definitely looked like a girl, I loved the scrunchie that was in my hair. It was purple, and seemed to match everything else I was wearing. I left the bathroom and started to wonder if some guy saw me what he would think…

      What would happen if he wondered why I was going into the boys restroom… Thankfully no one had been around when I went in, but that was bringing up some questions I hadn't really thought about. I had not even come close to coming out and saying my desires… but my hair and my appearance were causing most people to believe I was a girl without really doing anything else. What issues was that going to bring up?

      Amy came out of the ladies restroom and we went back down the slopes via a different set of trails than last time. We reached the bottom about 40 minutes before we were supposed to meet her parents.

      "Brandon, we should head back up and start skiing to the restaurant we're meeting my parents at."

      "Sounds good, I'm starving!"

      When we got on the ski lift I started talking to her some more. It was awfully hard to talk while we were going down the slope, so it was nice to take the break to be able to talk.

      "Brandon, I was supposed to remind you to take out the scrunchie before we met up with my parents."

      "Oh that's right," I said as I started to reach up to the foreign object in my hair.

      "Wait," she said and I stopped reaching, "why don't you just leave it in?"

      "Umm… Because boys aren't supposed to wear their hair in a ponytail held up by a purple scrunchie?"

      "Who says?"

      "Well… What other guy, besides me, have you ever seen with their hair in a scrunchie?" I asked. I wasn't sure where this was going – I was mildly terrified though.

      "Well… None… But I don't care, and my parents won't care either." She said.

      "Umm… what happens if they think I'm a girl at the restaurant?" I asked.

      "Well… they may think that anyway, you could just let it slide?" She suggested.

      "Why are you so insistent on me keeping my hair like this?" I asked.

      The chairlift stopped in midair – something was wrong on one of the ends or something. "I guess… Look Brandon I don't think we could ever date, I'm not really interested in you, and I think you feel the same way right?" I nodded "But I think you look cuter like this. I don't know, maybe it's more fun having you as a friend if you look like that? You don't have to do it I guess, it's just something I think is cute. Plus, you like it don't you?"

      Chapter 21:

      I stuttered for a moment, thinking about denying it… "How do you know that I like it?" I asked.

      "You smiled when you realized what it was at first. I also saw you smiling when you felt it bouncing, and you frowned when you thought you needed to take it out."

      "I didn't do that did I?" She nodded. "I guess I do kind of like it a bit… You won't tell anyone will you?"

      "Of course not!" She said.

      "What about your parents, will they tell my parents about my hair?" I asked nervously. The chairlift started moving again.

      "We'll lie about it, we'll say that I won a bet against you and this was what I won. Fair enough?" She asked.

      "Yeah, I suppose that does work. Though I hate to ask you to lie to your parents."

      "Ah… This is something minor, and mom wouldn't mind one way or another. So, are you going to leave it in?"

      "Sure. You are right, I do enjoy it. You promise your parents aren't going to care?"

      "Promise."

      We reached the top and started down the hill towards the restaurant. We'd been skiing intermediate level trails all morning, so it didn't seem too bad getting down to this restaurant from the top. We made it with about 10 minutes to spare and sat down on a bench outside to wait for her parents.

      I sat there wondering for a few minutes if I should take out the scrunchie still, but I was committed shortly later when her parents skied up. Her mom came up to us and looked at me, "Cute. Amy, why is Brandon's hair up in one of your scrunchies?"

      "He and I had a little bet that I won."

      "You're okay with this Brandon?," her dad asked. Not really concerned but checking anyway.

      "Well I was okay enough to bet about it, so yeah." I replied.

      We then walked into the restaurant to get lunch. We sat down and had a casual lunch of hamburgers and fries. At the counter I was not surprised when the worker said, "and what would you like miss?" I was really ecstatic about it in so many ways, but I was still so nervous about what was going to come from this. We talked about the day of skiing so far, and when we were going to meet down at the base.

      "Amy, Brandon, why don't you go ahead and meet us back down at the base in 2 hours?" Her dad asked at the end of lunch. That would put it at 3pm.

      Amy asked, "What are we going to do when we get done?"

      "Well I figured we'd shop a little at the resort and then go to the condo and hang out there for a bit. I figure we can take it from there. Does that sound like a plan?"

      Amy and I nodded and took off for the slopes. We took a chairlift up from where we were to the very top of the hill. Then we followed a series of trails to get back to the front side.

      "I'm worn out," I said to Amy when we got to the bottom.

      "Me too." I looked at my watch, it was only 2:10. "I'll go if you want to, but right now I'd kind of just like to find some hot chocolate and sit down somewhere."

      "No, the hot chocolate sounds really really good." She said. We put our skis over on a rack and then walked into the lodge. It was certainly not a cheap thing to buy there – especially since I insisted on getting both of ours, but her parents had done so much for me to let her pay for that.

      The counter guy said, "hear you go miss, enjoy."

      "Thanks." I took the drinks over to where Amy was sitting next to a warm fire.

      "Here Amy," I said as I handed it to her.

      "Thanks!" We sat there quietly enjoying the drinks for a while without either speaking. Both of us relaxing and deep in thought.

      Chapter 22:

      "Brandon, what do you want to do when we get back to the condo?" Amy asked.

      "I don't know, what is there to do?" I asked

      "Well, we could play another board game – though that's a long time for games, we could go swimming in the pool that's there. Hrmm… We could play with my toys, or we could just sit there and look bored?"

      Part of me wished so much to play with her toys (Barbie's!), but my better judgment said there would be other opportunities for that if I went over to her house more. We had actually talked about me starting to come after school to hang out after school, this week. So… out of the other options I decided on swimming. I loved swimming.

      "How about swimming?" I suggested.

      "That sounds good, did you bring your swimming suit?"

      Man how I wanted to say no to see what would happen… would it be like my dream at my aunt's house? But the scared and intimidated me said the real answer, "Yeah, I did."

      "Okay then, let's go swimming when we get done with shopping!" She was fairly excited, I was glad to see that. I fed off of her excitement and we both talked rapidly for the next 20 minutes or so when we realized that we needed to go meet her parents.

      We grabbed our skis and walked down to the parking lot. Amy thought about putting our skis on the rack but we couldn't reach that high. Her parents showed up a few minutes later though and her mom went into the car for a camera.

      "I want to get a picture of everyone together before we put the stuff up for the season." She had Mr. Hancock prop the skis up in the snow behind the car (there was a pile where the plows had pushed it up), and had us stand in front of them. As she was getting ready to take the picture she saw a resort worker and asked him to take the picture.

      I had a feeling it would end up looking more like a family picture than a friend with a friends family. I stood in front of Mr. Hancock, Amy in front of Mrs. Hancock. We took like 10 pictures like that with their nice camera, and then Mrs. Hancock got several with just Amy and I.

      After we got done taking them I suddenly remembered I still hadn't taken the scrunchie out… Oh well. I didn't think you could probably see the scrunchie, you'd just see the hair pulled back. I decided not to worry about it. From there we got everything loaded back up.

      Mrs. Hancock then said, "Okay, let's go look at the shops!"

      We followed her lead to the various stores and looked around. She stopped in at one store that offered merchandise with the resorts name on it. "Amy, you need a new t-shirt right?"

      "Umm… Yeah, the other one is fading really bad." She replied.

      "Pick out a new one then," she said pointing at the t-shirts. She looked around and picked out a black shirt that had the resort logo in a bright blue. She then looked at me and asked, "which one do you want Brandon?"

      I was flabbergasted, after all they had done for me they were going to buy me a shirt too? I must have looked more questioning that though as Amy said, "Brandon get the same one as me, it's unisex, and it would be fine for a boy to wear it too!"

      I didn't know what Amy had in mind but I went along with it. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that Amy and I were the same size. That was strange, I actually thought I would be a little bigger than her. Anyway, so we got the shirts and finished up the shopping. From there we headed back to their condo.

      "What do you two want to do when we get there?" Her mom asked.

      "Brandon and I were talking about going swimming. Is that okay with you guys?"

      "Yeah, that should be fine. You guys can go swim for an hour or so, and then I'll have dinner ready for you."

      "What are we having Mom?" Amy asked.

      "Well I'll heat up the leftovers from yesterday, and then I'm making grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Does that work?"

      I of course nodded because I wasn't about to complain while in someone else's house, and Amy seemed to go along with it too.

      When we pulled up to the condo we helped them stash all of the ski stuff back in the closet, I left the purple boots on the floor there, and walked with Amy upstairs to her bedroom.

      Chapter 23:

      "Why don't you get into the bathroom first?" Amy suggested. "Make sure you put some pants on top of your swimming suit since we have to walk outside a little bit before we get to the pool. It will be cold… especially when we come back!"

      "Okay, that's a good idea." I replied and took my bag into the bathroom. I put my swimming suit on and put on a pair of nylon wind pants over them. I left the bathroom a few minutes later and she went in and out. While she was in the bathroom I pulled the scrunchie from my hair.

      I liked the way a pony tail had felt, though my hair was just barely long enough to hold it in. I looked around in my bag for my brush and started brushing my hair out. I was just about done when Amy came out of the bathroom. "Why are you bothering when we're just going to get it wet anyway?" She asked.

      "I dunno… just seemed like the thing to do right now. Are you ready?"

      "Yeah, let's grab a couple towels and let mom know we're walking over there."

      "Okay," We grabbed 2 towels and then bounded down the stairs.

      "Mom, we're going to the pool now." Amy told her mom.

      "Okay, did you remember towels?" We nodded. "Then have fun. I'll send your dad after you guys when it's time for you to come back for dinner."

      "Thanks Mom," Amy said.

      We walked around the building's backside to a building and into a building that housed the condo community's indoor pool and jacuzzi. Amy and I walked to the door and used a key she had to get in.

      "So what do you think?" she said as she opened the door and I really got a chance to look inside the building. The pool was large, and looked like it went outside as well as inside. On one side of the pool sat a water slide that was about 20 feet tall. There was also a glass wall that allowed you to view a fitness center from the pool area. On that same wall I saw signs for girl/guy restrooms.

      "I think it's really nice. I'll come up with you guys any time you want!" I said with a wink.

      "Well, I think you can plan on being able to come with us anytime you want. Enough talking, let's go swimming!"

      We both stripped down to our swimming suits. I immediately headed for the water slide using it to kick off my time swimming.

      "Hey, that was my idea," Amy said as I climbed up the slide. I stuck my tongue out at her and continued to the top. As soon as I reached the top I sat down and went down the slide. I had far too much fun with that for my age!

      Amy was right behind me, and we then had a splashing contest in the pool before going back up the slide. She beat me up to the slide this time, and it gave me time to admire her swimming suit. It was a pink one-piece swimsuit with some thick, angular, blue lines across it. How I wish I would have been able to wear something like that on this trip!

      We swam and played in the pool for what seemed like 15 minutes before her dad came and said, "Amy, Brandon, it's time for dinner."

      Amy gave me a final splash and we swam to the side where we had left our clothes and our towels. We both dried out bodies and tried to dry our hair a bit before putting out clothes back on.

      We then started back to their condo – it had gotten cold quick tonight, and by the time I got back there I thought my hair must be frozen! It hadn't quite done that yet, but it certainly felt stiff. We sat down at the dinner table and had the leftovers and the grilled cheese/soup.

      I had learned earlier from Amy that it was a tradition for them to eat that the last night before going home. Apparently she used to beg for it when she was really little, and that was their compromise for her.

      I was fairly tired so I didn't talk a whole lot during dinner – though noone seemed to be much better off. I was full about the time that Amy's mom asked her, "Do you want to take a quick shower and then I'll wash your hair?"

      "Yeah, that sounds great!" Amy said, fairly excited. "You should do Brandon's too!" Amy suggested excitedly.

      "Brandon if you want I'd be willing." Her mom said to me.

      "What exactly do you do?" I asked. Trying to remember back to what Amy told me.

      "I just wash her hair with shampoo and condition it over at the sink. I usually massage her scalp a little too. It's not really anything that out of the ordinary, it just feels nice to have done for you. So… yes… no…?"

      "Sure, it's something to do if nothing else." I replied.

      "Okay then, Amy why don't you go shower first and then Brandon can get in there. Okay?"

      "Okay Mom, I'll be back soon." She said to her mom.

      I stayed down and helped her mom with the dishes. She came down about 10 minutes later and I went up and showered my body real quick before putting on my pajamas (I noticed that's what Amy did), and coming back downstairs myself.

      When I came down I saw Amy's mom wrapping her hair up in a towel. "Brandon, go ahead and come sit down here. I saw she had setup a taller chair in front of the kitchen sink that Amy stood up from. She was smiling – I think that may have been her favorite part of the trip so far.

      I sat down in the chair. "Brandon, why don't you take the necklace off while I do this? I'll put it here on the counter." I took it off and handed it to her.

      "Okay, now lean back and relax." Her mom told me. I did, I sat back and relaxed as she first wet my hair down some more, and then began applying shampoo to my hair. As she was doing this she made sure she rubbed the shampoo into every hair and part of my scalp there was. It must have been some of Amy's shampoo, because it smelled like berries.

      I then felt her rinse it out with the sink sprayer. I thought maybe she would be done then but as soon as I heard her put the sprayer back down I felt her rub something else into my hair – it must be conditioner I thought. The whole experience was more wonderful than anything else I could remember.

      A few minutes later she rinsed the conditioner out of my hair and wrapped my hair in a towel like she had done Amy's. I sat up, kind of feeling a head rush, and then stood up. "Thank you Mrs. Hancock, that felt really good!" I said.

      Amy was sitting on the couch with her hair still wrapped up, "See, I told you so."

      "I never doubted you. So what's next?" I asked.

      "Well, now mom'll blow dry my hair and put it into some random style she'll decide on… and then we get to team up and do the same to you!" She said smiling.

      "That's only if you want to though Brandon," Mrs. Hancock said as she walked over to the couch we were both sitting on. She pulled a kitchen chair up next to an outlet on the wall and directed Amy to sit down in it.

      "Come on Brandon, you have to!" Amy said.

      "Okay, just because you want me to." I said.

      I watched her mom take the blow dryer and several combs/brushes and work with her hair for a while until it was dry. I then watched her take and separate the back of her hair in half, and then she produced some pink hair bands which she tied each side into. She whispered something in Amy's ear, and then she stood up.

      "Okay Brandon! Your turn!" Amy squealed. She was clearly more excited about this than I was able to let on myself. The truth of the matter is that I couldn't have been more excited. Maybe I would get pigtails too! Was my hair long enough for pigtails? I had wondered that recently.

      I sat down in the chair and felt Amy and her mom work together on my hair for what seemed like forever. I swore I must be in a dream… They ran the blow dyer through my hair while combing and brushing it out. After a while they turned the blow dryer off and I felt her separate my hair, they were actually going to do it – I was going to have pigtails like a real girl!!!

      I couldn't wait to see myself in the mirror. Her mom seemed to have to try a couple times to get the bunch of hair on my right just right, then she moved on the my left. A minute later she said, "Done."

      Amy giggled a little bit, grabbed my hand, and said, "Let's go look!" She led me bounding up the stairs to the bathroom.

      Chapter 24:

      When we got up to the bathroom I couldn't believe it. If I thought I had looked like a girl with the ponytail it was nothing compared to the 2 pigtails hanging off either side of my head. "Whoa." I said.

      "You know Brandon, you would make a prettier girl than most of the girls in our grade." Amy commented.

      I couldn't disagree with her on that… I had always dreamed it might be such, but here it was and she was right. If only I had girls clothes on there would be no doubt. "Yeah, but that could result in me getting beat up more…" I answered honestly.

      "Actually, I think that people are going to start leaving you alone more and more. If you came dressed up in girls clothes to school that would be a problem, but I don't think you're going to get anything from your hair. Besides…" She giggled, "I know of at least 3 girls that now have a crush on you because of your hair. They think you look like a rock star." She giggled some more. "So what do you think?"

      "It's different… it's kind of amusing…" I trailed off.

      "Okay, let's go downstairs and play a game now!" She grabbed my hand and we walked back downstairs. She went to the closet and came back with Monopoly. I think I saw her mom groan a bit, but we ended up setting it up and playing.

      You know Monopoly is just one of those games that seems to always go the same way with people everywhere. Well, we had a lot of fun, and I do have to admit I kicked some serious butt! I setup a great racket of hotels on expensive and inexpensive sites and Amy and her parents kept landing on them.

      At about 10pm I took Mr. Hancock's last set of cash and properties… It was a good day!

      "Okay, you guys need to get going to bed so we can get out of here in the morning." Her mom said to us.

      I yawned and nodded in agreement, "Yeah, I'm pretty tired anyway. Thanks again for everything you guys have done for me this weekend, it's been a lot of fun."

      "You're very welcome Brandon, again, anytime you want to come along with us, or even just come over to our house feel free!"

      "Thanks." I grabbed my necklace off the kitchen counter – I almost forgot it! – and grabbed Amy to go upstairs. I think it was the first time I ever dragged her somewhere – she was mostly asleep at this point.

      When we got upstairs we both brushed our teeth and just went to bed after that, we were both pretty tired. I think we tried to stay up and talk, but we were both asleep by the time her mom came to say goodnight.

      Mrs. Hancock shook me awake in the morning, "Brandon, it's time to get up and get ready."

      I grunted and sat up. She reached up and woke Amy up next. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and slowly got out of bed. Ugh… I hate mornings… My hair felt kind of funny I thought for a second before realizing I forgot to take my pigtails out… I pulled the hair ties out of each side and grabbed my hair brush to brush it out. I looked up and saw Amy doing the same thing.

      We ate a breakfast of cereal, they cleaned out some stuff, and we got on the road to go back home. Amy and I talked on the way home, but it was a little more subdued. Tomorrow we had to go back to school, something that neither of us were really looking forward to.

      They pulled up to my house a couple hours later.

      "Thank you so much for inviting me along," I said to them all, but particularly her parents.

      "No problem Brandon, we really enjoyed having you. Anytime you want to come over feel free to." Mrs. Hancock said.

      I spoke with Amy really quick outside of the car through her window, "So Brandon you're going to come to my house after school tomorrow right?"

      "Yeah, it sounds like fun. Hopefully they won't load us down with homework." I replied.

      My parents came out of the house and gave me a hug and said thanks to her parents. My dad grabbed my bag from me and we went inside. Of course once inside they started 'interrogating me' as I like to put it.

      "How was your weekend?" My mom asked.

      "It was great, the Hancocks were really nice to me!" I began telling them about their condo, the skiing, and most everything else. I did leave out the hair stuff, I didn't think they would completely freak out, but I didn't want to take a chance. I then told her that Amy had invited me to come work on homework after school tomorrow.

      I talked for quite a while before they let me go to my room. I played with some legos for a while before deciding to read a book. When I looked for a book to read I decided to read an old Nancy Drew book that I had. I became immersed in the book, and other than taking a break to practice, the rest of the day passed quickly.

      Chapter 25:

      The next day school went decently, except for one thing… Homework! Amy and I had first period together, and Mr. Krantz decided that this was the week to do two things. One, we had a paper due Friday based off a lab we did that day dissecting a frog. The second was a major test on Friday that was supposed to be a 'practice final exam.' We still had 2 months till the end of the year, why were we taking a 'practice final?'

      Amy and I had complained about both of those things to each other over lunch. Nikki came and sat down at our table and said, "Hey you guys have the same shirt on!" I blushed a bit.

      "I'm honestly surprised no one said anything before now." Amy commented. "Brandon went with my family up to go skiing this weekend."

      "It was a lot of fun," I added.

      "That's cool. We got back from Denver last night…" She continued on, and it was clear that it wasn't a big deal to her that we were wearing the same shirt. I was somewhat relieved, it was a unisex shirt, but still… Anyway I got through the rest of the day without being picked on at all. I was a little surprised by that, and the lack of stuff made me nervous. However, as they say, 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth.'

      After school I met up with Amy and rode her bus to her house. I showed a note to the driver when I got on and she let me on without a problem. I sat next to Amy and we chatted all the way to her house. "So you guys have your band competition soon?" She asked me.

      "Yeah, in about 3 weeks. Mrs. Remar is completely going psycho about it. Just today a kid didn't know his part so she told him to put up his stuff. I mean, it was just one note… I just hope I don't screw up in front of her this next few weeks. I don't want to lose my first chair."

      "Are you doing soccer this season?" She asked me.

      "No, my good coach is leaving and the new guy is the old assistant. In a word he's a jerk. I went to two practices before deciding it wasn't worth it. How about you? Are you doing anything this year?" We pulled up to her bus stop and started walking towards her house.

      "I'm thinking about trying out for the cheerleading squad this month. I've always wanted to be a cheerleader, I just hope I'm good enough to make it." She said.

      "I'm sure you'll make it Amy, out of any of the girls you're the most likely to make it I think. You've done so many things like gymnastics and dance I can't see you not making it." Amy had done both of those activities since she was 2. Her gymnastics coach had been trying to get her to go to some of the Olympic trials, but she said 'no' to that. She liked doing it, but didn't want to compete at that level – she just wanted to have fun doing it.

      "I hope you're right Brandon, it would be so much fun I think." We reached her house and went inside.

      "Well, shall we start on this stupid assignment that Mr. Krantz gave us?" She asked.

      "Yeah… I guess. I can't believe he wants us to do all of this the week after spring break, why couldn't he have given us at least a day without homework?!"

      "I agree, but I don't think we could get anywhere else arguing with him. Here, let's go work in my playroom, I have a table in there we can work around." She said as we topped her stairs and went into a room I hadn't seen before.

      "Okay." I replied as we entered into one of the most girly rooms I had ever entered into. The room was painted in pink and purple, and I guessed must have been her nursery when she was a baby? There were Barbie dolls, baby dolls, stuffed animals, and basically every toy that a girl her age could have wanted from age 5-12. "You weren't kidding when you said you had a lot of toys." I said to her.

      "Nope, I'm definitely a spoiled brat," she replied with a giggle. "Here, help me get this table out," she pointed to a fold up card table against the wall. We got it setup and grabbed a couple chairs from against the wall.

      "Okay, he wants us to write a narrative about the dissection first." She said and we began working on it. We set about working on the project and actually within about 2 hours we had most of it done.

      Her parents had come home by that point and invited me to dinner, but I had to turn them down tonight. "We're having dinner with some family friends tonight. I'd love to take you guys up on your offer another time though." I said as I gathered up my stuff.

      "Brandon, why don't you come over tomorrow and we'll finish up this project and work on studying for the test?" Amy asked.

      "Okay, that sounds good." I said as I went out the door to where my mom was parked on the road. She waved at Amy and her parents and we went off to dinner with our friends. It was a fun time at dinner that night and we had a great meal.

      That night I made sure that I practiced so I could avoid the wrath of Mrs. Remar. By the time I went to bed I was definitely ready. That night all I could seem to think about though when I tried to go to sleep was that wonderful room that Amy had, and how great it would be to be able to play with her and her toys.

      Chapter 26:

      The rest of that week I was over at Amy's house a couple of times, and we both made it through Mr. Krantz's test and assignment with better than a 100%. He kind of gave us both a funny look when he handed them back the following week. "Amy, Brandon, can you two stay for a moment please." He said as everyone filed out of the room.

      "Sure," Amy and I said.

      When everyone had left the room he asked, "Did you two copy the assignment from each other?"

      "No, we worked at the same time at my house, but we didn't copy or anything if that's what you're suggesting." Amy asserted. I wasn't so sure it was a good idea to be that in his face though.

      "That's fine, I don't mind that you two worked together on it at all. If anything I was going to say you two should do that kind of thing more often. I think it helped out on your tests as well. You were the only 2 that got A's on both the assignment and the test. Anyway let me write a pass out for each of you so you're not late to your next class."

      He wrote it out and we both looked at each other trying to figure out what that was about. As we left I said, "I thought he was going to accuse us of cheating or something."

      "I did too, but my parents would have been all over him in a heartbeat. That's why I said something to him first, I figured he must know my parents wouldn't put up with that crap. I don't think either of us will have any problems from him though. I think he genuinely likes both of us more than any of the other students." She giggled for a second.

      "What?" I asked.

      "Nothing, I was just thinking about how people give us a hard time about being 'teachers pets' sometimes. The truth of the matter is that it helps us more than they get any other help. I don't know, it's kind of funny." She laughed some more as we split up and went to our separate classes.

      That day we had a playing test in band to see if we would be allowed to go on the trip that was coming up. If anyone scored less than an 80% they wouldn't be allowed to go. I was really nervous about it, but when I asked her my grade afterwards she told me I had received a perfect score. That was reassuring.

      In choir we just goofed around that day since Mrs. Schultz was gone. Amy and I talked pretty much non-stop during that class period since we didn't really want to watch the movie that was put on. The sub looked at us like she was annoyed, but held back from saying something for one reason or another.

      Towards the end of class Amy asked, "Hey Brandon, do you want to go see a movie this weekend?"

      "What movie?"

      "Nikki and I were thinking 'A Goofy Movie.' It's probably going to be terrible, but it seems like something worth seeing. If nothing else it's something to do."

      "Who else is going to go?"

      "Maybe Lacey, other than that I don't think anyone else. So what do you think?"

      I thought for a second, "It sounds like fun, let me double check with my parents and I'll call you later?" I wasn't going over to her house today because she had gymnastics practice.

      "Okay, I'll be home around 7, call me then."

      "Okay." We all talked for the class and lunch. By the time I got through the end of the day I was glad to be going home. When I got there I looked on the internet for stuff and just kind of chilled for the rest of the night.

      I did ask my parents for permission to go see the movie this weekend and they agreed. I called Amy and let her know that I could go. She told me it looked like it was going to just be Nikki, her, and I since Lacey couldn't go. I said that was fine, and we made plans on Friday during school on when we were meeting at the movie theater.

      Saturday at 11:00am Mom dropped me off at the movie theater where Amy and Nikki were already waiting.

      "Hey," I said as I walked up the them. They both said 'hi' back and we walked to the ticket line.

      "What movie, Miss?" The guy asked me. I just shrugged it off with a smile (it did make me happy,) and said 1 for a Goofy Movie.

      Amy and Nikki bought their tickets behind me and came up to me giggling a minute later. "Brandon, I can't believe how often that's been happening to you recently!" Amy said.

      "Often?" Nikki asked.

      "When we were skiing a couple weeks ago everyone seemed to say that," I told her. I was blushing pretty heavily.

      "Don't worry about it Brandon," Amy said.

      "And definitely don't cut your hair," Nikki said.

      "I agree," Amy said.

      "Umm.. thanks." I replied as we got into the snackbar line.

      "So Brandon, how much money do you have left?" Amy asked.

      "Umm.. 4 dollars. It looks like just enough to get a coke, but not much else."

      "Not necessarily, Nikki how much do you have?" Amy asked.

      "I've got $5, you?"

      "I've got $6.50 left. If we pitch in the extra beyond the 3 dollars for a drink we'd have just enough to get a large bag of popcorn and a nachos that we could split. Wanna do that?" She asked.

      "Sure," I said, Nikki nodded too.

      We got up to the counter and the guy asked, "What can I get for you ladies?"

      I caught a smirk on Nikkis face and wanted to strangle her, but just answered, "3 cokes, a Large Popcorn, and a thing of Nachos please." I wondered if he would figure out I was a boy at this point.

      "Sure thing Miss." He replied and began getting our order together.

      As we stood there I heard a voice that I had thankfully not heard for a long while at this point. It was Matt. I quickly looked around and saw that he was in line, 2 lines over. I had heard his parents had sent him out of town to go live at a relatives house in Arizona, what was he doing back? If he saw me what would he do? I looked again and didn't recognize any of the other guys with him, but they were definitely thugs like him.

      I whispered to Amy, "Amy… Matt's back there, what should I do? I can't imagine he would be too happy to see me."

      "Relax, he's bringing our popcorn back right now and we'll go in the movie theater. I'm sure he's not going to see the same movie as us. He'll probably go see 'Bad Boys,' he's 'too cool' to go see a kids movie."

      Our stuff came over and we booked it to the theater and took our seats. Nikki looked over at me and said, "Brandon, you look like you've seen a ghost!"

      "I kind of have," I replied and explained about Matt.

      "Don't worry about him, he wouldn't dare do anything in a public place like this. The cops would be called and he'll go to prison for certain this time." Nikki said.

      I hoped they were right. I honestly had a sinking suspicion that I was not going to get as lucky as Amy and Nikki thought. Thankfully the movie previews started a short while later and I began to enjoy myself as we munched on the nachos and popcorn. About half-way through the movie I really started to need to go to the bathroom. I was kind of scared to go out there by myself though.

      What if Matt was in the bathroom too? I decided I couldn't wait till the end of the movie though and got up to go. Amy whispered to me, "Wait a second, I'll come with you."

      I felt a little bit better instantly and we went over to the restrooms. I went in really quick, went, and got back out. Amy got out a second later and we headed back to the theater. I thought good, we're home free!

      "Hey Amy, where's your little sissy friend Brandon?" I knew in a second it was Matts voice again, and cursed my decision to think the positive thoughts I had just been thinking. I totally had doomed myself!

      Chapter 27:

      Amy motioned to me to keep walking, something we tried to do before I saw a hand reach out for Amy's shoulder. I tried to warn her but she apparently didn't need it. The next thing I knew was that she had ducked under the grasp and we were still somehow walking forward.

      "Amy I just want to talk to you and your friend here." Matt said as he ran ahead of us suddenly. "Maybe if you won't go out with me she will." I just about dropped dead at that moment. Matt thought I was a girl and didn't recognize me?

      We both turned back around and started heading for the main area. "Matt we don't want to talk to you." Amy said fairly angrily. We had reached the area where a ticket taker was taking tickets from several people when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

      "Why don't we let her tell me that?" He said rudely.

      I was spun around and said, "Get lost already."

      "No, not until you both learn your places, which is to go out with me."

      "Look, it's not going to happen." Amy said. "If you don't stop bothering us we're going to go call the cops."

      "You think the cops scare me Amy? I'm going to get you one way or another, if I have to I'll wait for you after the movie when you go outside." Matt sneared.

      "Matt you're a real dumb-ass you know it?" I said, surprising myself – my language hadn't been reaching that 'extreme' recently. "Leave us alone." I said and we started to head off again toward the main lobby where we thought we'd have a better chance of being safe.

      "Wait a second, Brandon?!?!" Matt bellowed. "Come here, so I can teach you the lesson you deserve for getting me kicked out of school!"

      Amy and I tried to move faster but I felt the hand shove me on my back too soon. I managed to roll when I fell and got back on my feet a second later. I looked up just in time to see Matt sending a fist my way, tried to duck while I flinched, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn't in pain. I looked up to see a guy gripping his hand in his palm.

      "Sir, you need to calm down. I'm a police officer and you need to leave this establishment right now."

      "You're going to stand up for those two?" Matt said incredulously and began struggling to get loose from his grip. I suddenly thought my earlier sworn comment couldn't have been any truer. Sure enough in about the blink of an eye he was on the ground with the officer holding him down.

      "Ladies, I'm terribly sorry this gentleman lacks any real manners. He'll get a chance to learn some here in a bit though I think. Go ahead and go see the rest of your movie. I shouldn't need a statement from either of you since I witnessed his attempted assault." He said.

      "Umm… officer thanks, we appreciate it." Amy replied. And we began heading back to the theater. The movie was most of the way over now, but that was okay Amy and I agreed later, it wasn't that good of a movie.

      We left after the film and headed out to the parking lot to wait for our parents. My mom was waiting outside and came over to talk to us. "So how was it?"

      I debated about not telling her about the incident but decided that I was better off telling her. I relayed all that had happened and she decided to call the police department and let them know that there had been a restraining order in place. They had been just getting ready to release him at that point but decided to hold him.

      After determining that was a violation of his probation they ended up sentencing him back to 6 months in the state's juvenile facility. Of course I didn't know all of this till the hearing in May, but I'm happy to say this was to be the last incident with Matt I would ever deal with.

      I did spend a decent amount of time thinking though that night about he hadn't recognized me immediately. Who would have thought I could come that close to fooling someone who had known who I was by looks that well? I kept wondering if it was possible for me to really be a girl. I mean I knew that I didn't have the right parts, but it was possible to get them to be like the right parts right? I didn't sleep for a long time that night…

      Chapter 28:

      The next week and a half passed by quickly, and the next thing I knew we were showing up at the school at 7am to travel to a school in Albuquerque for our band competition. We were supposed to warm-up at 8:45, so we were leaving early enough to get there. Mrs. Remar said it would take about 45 minutes to get there. I got on the bus and sat down next to Nikki.

      We were all dressed identically, both the guys and girls, when we got on the bus. Everyone had on a set of black slacks, white button up shirt, black bowtie, and a royal blue vest. A couple students had complained about the uniform, but everyone was wearing it since she wouldn't let you go if you didn't.

      We were all fairly excited when we got on the bus, but within about 20 minutes the bus had quieted down a lot. Nikki and I kind of dozed off only to be woken up by Mrs. Remar standing up at the front of the bus.

      "Ladies and Gentlemen, we're getting close to the school where we're going to perform. There are a few things that we need to take care of before we get there though. When we get off of the bus everyone's shirt will be tucked in, and their bow tie's on. Though you will not get off the bus until I tell you to do so."

      "Anyone that has long hair will need to put their hair up into a ponytail with some of this ribbon," she was holding up a roll of thick royal blue ribbon, "before we get there. I know that some of you ladies have already done your hair into other styles, but I want everyone to have their hair the same for longer hair. Any questions?"

      She seemed to be looking at me as if I was going to put up a fight about my hair. I looked back respectfully and she said, "then I will come down the bus with the ribbon, please help each other get your hair the way it should be. Thanks."

      Did this apply to me I wondered. Nikki answered that for me, "Brandon can I do your hair?"

      I was kind of flabbergasted. I was going to get to have my hair the same way as the girls and not get in trouble for it – and it wasn't my idea too! I couldn't believe this was happening again to me.

      "Umm… I guess if I have to?"

      I put on kind of an annoyed face though as Mrs. Remar handed me a piece of ribbon. She handed one to Nikki too. "This needs to be tied into a bow around your ponytail. Nikki, if you can do Brandon's hair, and maybe Jessica can do yours."

      "Okay Mrs. Remar," Nikki said.

      When she had walked back a few seats Nikki giggled a bit. "I've wanted to see you with your hair in a ponytail for a while now! This'll be fun. Do you have a hair brush?"

      "Yes," I replied.

      "Then get it out and turn around." She ordered. I grabbed it from my backpack and turned around so she could do my hair. Several of the girls that were nearby all started to help Nikki fuss with my hair. Before I knew it I could feel that sensation of my hair being held up in the air by something.

      "Here," Jessica said as she handed me a mirror. I looked at myself and couldn't tell the difference between me and the girls on the bus. Could life get any better?

      "You look cute." Nikki said.

      "Umm… Thanks." I replied.

      The girls did Nikki's hair, and then they started pressuring me a bit. "Brandon, you have to let us play with your hair on the way back home!" Jessica said.

      Nikki said, "Yes… Please!" She said with that puppy dog expression that the little bit of guy left in me couldn't resist.

      "Alright… I guess… But you can't let anyone give me a hard time about this, alright?"

      They all nodded and agreed that they would make anyone who picked on me for their fun pay dearly. As I sat there quietly for the last few minutes before we arrived I was thinking about what to do about the bathroom situation. I looked more like a girl than a boy right now. Going into the boys bathroom could be rather dangerous.

      I decided I didn't really have a choice though, and decided that if I went in with some friends I might be okay. When I looked around the bus I did realize that there was one other boy with long hair (longer than mine) that also had his hair tied up now. Maybe I could be okay?

      I didn't really have much time to ponder any of that when we got there. She let us have a 3 minute trip to the bathroom really quick (I was in and out before any of the other boys around even had a chance to think about a girl going in the boys room), and then we had to get our instruments out. Once we had our instruments out of the cases we lined up to go inside the warm-up room.

      Mrs. Remar smiled at me when she saw me, she whispered in my ear, "Brandon you look cute." And gave me a wink. That kind of surprised me – was she really human? I'd always assumed she was some sort of alien cyborg!

      We walked to the warm-up room together, and after playing for what seemed like 10 seconds we were walked over to the stage. I think we all were pretty nervous, but we played really well! The performance ended and we walked over to another room that was setup for us to 'sight-read.' For this part of the contest we had to play a piece that we had never seen before – ever!

      I can't say that it was a performance to mark the calendars with, but we managed to stay together to the end, and for the most part there was a melody… We then went to another area where we took a group picture and were given the option to purchase the photograph. My mom had driven the second bus that had the top group of the middle school and she appeared at that point.

      "Brandon do you want a picture?"

      "Yes, if we can." I replied. Suddenly aware of my hair.

      "That should be fine," she filled out the paperwork and walked with me back to the bus.

      "Nice job sweetie, you guys played really well!" She gave me a sideways hug at that point. Then she looked around to make sure noone else was around, "I like your hair this way, it's cute!" She gave me a wink and batted the back of my hair like a cat would a toy.

      "Well don't mess it up!" I said in a playful whining voice. We both laughed a little and then I separated from her to go meet up with Nikki. Once we put our stuff up we were called into a circle by Mrs. Remar.

      "First of all I want to tell you all how proud I am of the way you played – you did a great job! I just got the scores back from the judges and we received Superior Ratings from every judge in our performance, and the judge in sight-reading!"

      We all cheered and Nikki and I gave each other a hug. "We can't leave until I get done with the Advanced Band in about another 2 hours. Once we get done with them we'll go to a mall for a bit so you can get something to eat and shop a little. Until then, you are to find a seat in the auditorium and stay there. You will be a polite audience…" Lots and lots of rules… "Once the advanced band performs there will be on more band for you to listen to. When that band finishes come back out here to the bus, okay?"

      We all nodded. "Okay, go have a seat. Stop by the bathroom if you need to on your way in. Remember, stay in pairs!"

      We walked into the auditorium via a bathroom and watched the rest of the performances until it was time to leave. The Advanced Band had been good, but I didn't know if they would get a superior too or not. I figured they were being judged a lot harder than we were.

      After the last group we were supposed to listen to we stood up and went out to the busses to go to the mall. I was kind of looking forward to hanging out with Nikki and the others at the mall – 'who knows what the girls might drag me into!' I thought.

      Comment


        #4
        Standing Up to Life: Part 4

        Chapter 29:

        When we arrived at the mall Mrs. Remar stood up to speak to us again, "If you want to you may take your vests and bow ties off. But, your shirts must stay tucked in, and you must remain in these concert clothes. Right now my watch says it's 12:15. You may eat, shop, or both as long as you are back here by 1:15pm. The bus will pull out then, do not be late! Also stay in groups of at least 2 or more at all times. If I come by and find you alone you will be staying with me the rest of the trip. Again Congratulations! You are the first ever 6th Grade Band from our junior high to receive Superior ratings at this contest!"

        We all kind of gave a holler and began getting off the bus. Nikki, Jessica, and I decided to go get something to eat first. I looked around the food court and chose to eat at a pizza place called Sbarro. I'd had their stuffed pizza before and always enjoyed it. After I got my pizza I met up with Nikki and Jessica at a table to eat our food.

        "So Brandon, are you going to take out the ribbon?" She asked.

        I noticed she still had hers in though, "yours is still in?"

        "Well, I'm afraid Mrs. Remar might get mad if I take it out now since she told us to stay in our uniforms." She said.

        "Well then I guess I'll keep mine in then too…" I said.

        We talked about a lot of things for a while and when we got done eating I noticed that we still had 20 minutes left. "What do you guys want to do now?" I asked.

        "Well first the bathroom, then why don't we go to the toy store?" Jessica suggested.

        "The toy store?" I asked

        "Yeah, I want to buy some cards or something to do while we go home. Does that work for you guys?"

        "Sure," Nikki said.

        "Why not?" I replied.

        We went over to the restrooms and I ran in and out quickly again before meeting them outside the bathroom a few minutes later. We walked down to the toy store and browsed inside. There were several games for my game boy that I looked at, as well as some new lego kits they had on sale. I walked with them through the store though, so of course we ended up walking through the Barbie section.

        Nikki and Jessica talked about having this one or that one, and how cute this one was, etc. Jessica ended up buying the deck of cards she wanted and we started walking back down towards the busses. Across from the toy store though we noticed a photo booth and decided to go get our pictures taken.

        We did the usually photo booth thing and each took a couple of the photographs. We then tried to start moving back to the busses.

        On the way back though I saw something that hadn't been there the last time I was through this mall. It was called 'Dippin Dots,' and claimed to be the ice cream of the future. I was immediately curious and went over to the place.

        I looked at it and asked, "What is this?"

        The lady behind the counter said, "It's ice cream that's flash frozen in liquid nitrogen. It's really good, if you haven't tried it before you should."

        Nikki said, "I tried this last time I was here, I love it. We should all get some!"

        "Okay, it sounds interesting. I'd like a medium strawberry please." I said.

        "Coming right up Miss." I almost rolled my eyes. But, I really couldn't blame her since I was with 2 girls with identical hair and clothes basically… "Here you go."

        Nikki and Jessica both got their ice cream too and we continued back to the bus. The first bite I took of the ice cream I was hooked! It was great, what a neat idea for ice cream! I was still eating it when we got back to the bus and Mrs. Remar looked at me and asked, "Where's mine?"

        "Back there?" I suggested.

        "Next time you have to get some for me too." She said. I couldn't tell if she was serious or not. But then a second later she cracked a smile and I could tell that she was only half serious. "Go ahead and get on the bus." She said to me.

        I got on the bus and found my seat. When everyone was on we left to go back to our hometown with a set of superior ratings! I was sitting quietly when Jessica said, "Brandon, you know how you said you'd let us play with your hair on the way back?"

        "Umm… yeah…"

        "Well, it's time for us to call in that payment!"

        Before I knew it they had me in the aisle seat and 3 girls, Jessica, Nikki, and Ashley were all playing with my hair. They tried braiding it first, but it wasn't long enough to do any really long braids so they took it out. After about 15 hairstyles and stuff being put in and out of my hair I ended up in pigtails again. They used the ribbon from my hair and one from Nikki's hair to tie each side up.

        "There all done," Ashley said.

        "How cute," Nikki said.

        "Time to take some pictures," Jessica said.

        "What… no pictures," I tried to say but they took like 6 before I could even begin to resist.

        "We should all put our hair up like that and take a few more pictures!" Ashley stated.

        "Yeah, that's a good idea, Jessica go steal a few more ribbons, we'll need 4 more to do it." Nikki said.

        20 minutes later and the 3 of them had their hair the same way. There were actually 3 other girls that did it too after seeing them having the fun with me. One of the sponsors used Jessica's camera and took pictures of the 7 of us like that. Mrs. Remar came back and got into the picture for a couple of them too. The last of which we held the 2 plaques that we had earned that day.

        "Jessica, you need to get me copies of those so I can put them in the band scrapbook," Mrs. Remar said.

        "Okay, I'll try and get my mom to get them developed this weekend and bring them Monday!" Jessica said with far too much enthusiasm for me at that moment. That would mean other kids at school would see me like this. I didn't care as much with the band kids, but how would the other kids react?

        Before I had too much time to worry about it we arrived back at the school. Instead of getting a ride directly home like every other kid I was going to be riding my mom's bus back to the bus yard. Once everything was unloaded I went and joined her on her bus.

        "Wow, your hair is certainly cute right now sweetheart." Mom said.

        Crap… I forgot to take it out! "Umm.. thanks. The girls got bored and started to mess around with it. I'll take them out now," I said as I started to reach up for them.

        She stopped my hand though and said, "No, leave them in for now. I think your dad would be amused by them."

        "Are you sure he won't pop a gasket?" I asked.

        "Yes I'm sure, he'll be fine with it." She said.

        I wasn't so sure, and for the remainder of the drive to the bus yard and to home I was completely nervous. What would he say? I would be so much better off taking them out. We got home and I walked through the door. My dad saw me and said, "Well that's different. I guess the girls are really liking this new hairstyle?"

        "Something like that."

        "Well, in all honesty if I didn't know you were my son I'd think your mom had brought back a daughter in your place. I've honestly wondered if she'd ever do that since she wanted to have a girl so much." He joked.

        I laughed politely and excused myself to my room to change into my pajamas. I then decided to call Amy and tell her about today – I was really excited that we had received the ratings we had.

        We talked on the phone for about 15 minutes before her mom started yelling at her to get off the phone, so we made plans for me to go over to her house tomorrow after school. I told my parents about it and they said okay.

        Dad went and got some fast food for dinner that we ate, and after just vegging all night I went to bed with a little more comfort in my desire to be a girl. After all, my parents hadn't completely freaked out when their son came home looking like a daughter!

        Chapter 30:

        The next day we all were kind of tired but still excited that we had done so well at contest. In the morning announcements the principal congratulated us on our fine performance at the contest. For the most part the day absolutely flew by, and before I knew it I was riding the bus home with Amy. When we got to her stop she told me, "First person to the door chooses what we do!" and she took off.

        To my credit I made it only a half second after her, but I still lost – even if it wasn't fair! (grumble) We got inside and I asked, "So what are we doing today?"

        "Come upstairs with me." She led me upstairs to her playroom. When we got up there she started getting a whole bunch of Barbies out and putting them in the center of the room. She also pushed a gigantic doll house to the center of the room too.

        "We're going to play Barbie's today, I haven't been able to play with them much in the past couple months, and so that's what we're doing. Unless you've got a really big problem with it?"

        "Umm… I guess not, but I don't exactly know what you're supposed to do with them." I replied timidly.

        "That's okay, I'll teach you!" She said. "First things first, names…" She proceeded to tell me the names of several dozen dolls before saying. "Okay, now why don't we play with these ones today… and we need to change their clothes so help me out here…"

        She continued to explain the intricacies of how to play with them for a while, and by the end of about 2 hours I'd had a blast. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I had a ton of fun that day, at the end Amy said, "You know Brandon you're more fun to play with than most of my friends."

        "Thanks Amy, I had a lot of fun too." We were cleaning up her Barbies and putting them back in their places. She had promised me we would go ahead and keep this from her parents for now. We had put a movie in the TV that I discovered she had in that room while we were playing.

        "So do you want to do it again sometime?" Amy asked me.

        "Sure, why not?" I replied with a smile. When we were done putting everything up we setup some bean bag chairs and continued watching the movie we'd put in. A few minutes later we heard her mom coming upstairs.

        "Hey Amy, Brandon, how did your day go?"

        "Good Mrs. Hancock," I replied.

        "It was good Mom," Amy said.

        "Amy said that congratulations are in order for yesterday?" Mrs. Hancock inquired.

        "Yeah, it went really well. We got the highest rating you could get – I guess we're the first 6th grade band at our school to ever do that!"

        "Well congratulations. Listen, Brandon, I talked to your parents they're going to meet us for dinner, so both of you put your shoes on and wash up so we can go."

        "Cool," Amy said.

        "Okay, that sounds like fun." I replied. We both put our shoes on and got ready. A few minutes later we piled into their SUV.

        "Where's Dad?" Amy asked.

        "He had to work a little late so he's just going to meet us there."

        "Okay." Amy answered.

        We drove to the better of the 2 local Mexican restaurants and met my parents at the door. A few minutes later Mr. Hancock joined us too.

        "Brandon how was your day?" My mom asked.

        "It was alright, I'm tired from yesterday though." I said.

        "It was a long day…" She continued talking and asking me stuff but my ears were more on what my dad was saying to Mr. Hancock.

        "I wanted to thank you again for taking Brandon with you on that trip. That was really nice of you guys to take him."

        "No problem, it was our pleasure. The two of them seem to be joined at the hip anymore, and that's fine with us…"

        "Hey Brandon, you want to hang out tomorrow?"

        "Umm… Mom can I?" I asked.

        "Yes, but don't forget you need to be selling candy bars for the trip too this weekend." Mom said.

        "Why don't they do both?" Mrs. Hancock suggested. "They can walk around the neighborhoods between our house and yours going door to door. I'll follow in the car to keep an eye on them. You'd be welcome to come too if you want."

        "That sounds like a great idea! Does that work for you two?" Mom asked Amy and I.

        "Sure Mom," I said nodding. Amy also nodded her approval.

        Our food arrived at that time and we all became more focused on food for a bit. I deeply enjoyed my Chile Releno plate. There's nothing like green chile! For those of you not from the promised land of New Mexico, a chile releno here is a roasted New Mexican Green Chile Pepper stuffed with a white cheese, breaded and deep fried, then covered with more cheese (usually cheddar or Colby-jack) and plenty of green chili sauce! It really is some of the best food in the world…

        After we finished our meal dad picked up the check. "Here let us get that," Mr. Hancock said.

        "No, you guys took Brandon on that ski trip, we'll get this."

        "Well thank you," Mr. Hancock said.

        I always hated moments like that, they're always so awkward! In the mean time my mom was talking to Amy's mom. "So we'll come by at 1?" She suggested.

        "Sure, that sounds good."

        We all stood up and headed for the door. "Well thank you for dinner," Mr. Hancock said at the door, "we'll have to do this again more often."

        "Well we'll all be together on the trip next month so we should get some opportunities then." My mom said.

        "Yes, I think it's going to be a great trip for all of the kids." Mrs. Hancock said.

        "We're certainly excited," Amy chimed in for us.

        "Well, let's get going, good night guys!" Mr. Hancock said.

        "Goodnight," I said to them and we all got in our separate cars and drove home.

        On our way home we stopped and rented some videos. We all just kind of vegged in front of the TV that night before going to bed. All-in-all I thought it had been a great day. How many times do you get to play with Barbies for the first time?

        Chapter 31:

        That next morning I woke up feeling really good and excited for the day. I had 3 boxes of candy to sell, and that was going to all go to my own pocket for money to spend. Through other fundraising, and the amounts my parents were willing and able to spend, I had paid off my trip. I also already had about $140 in my account for spending money. Each of the boxes had 30 pieces of candy, and at a $1 of profit/candy I would be able to have $90 more dollars if I sold them all.

        Amy had told me already that any of the money she raised went to her own spending account, I think she had about $150 in her account at this point. She was hoping for a similar sales spree today. This was our last fundraiser so… yeah… if I wanted to be able to buy anything really cool I'd have to keep raising the money!

        We got in the car and put my candy in the trunk. Each box had my name on it so it would be easy to keep track of whose was whose. It was a really windy day today, but it was still pretty warm. I had on shorts and a school t-shirt. When we got to Amy's house we went in for a moment and I saw that she was dressed really similarly. We left there fairly quickly, and began just walking down her street.

        We walked up to the first door together and Amy took her first sale. We alternated who was the one selling every other door. After that block we had both done pretty evenly and had managed to each sale one box. We got into my mom's car and found that she and Mrs. Hancock were getting along very well – perhaps too well… We moved onto the next block and began all over again.

        My hair was once again beginning to show one little thing that made it annoying… it and the wind did not get along so well. My hair kept getting blown into my eyes and face. When we finished that block Amy offered a black hair tie to me, which I went ahead and used. I was impressed, I managed to put my hair in a decent ponytail without any help.

        "Cute," my mom said. "If you keep growing it out I might have to have some fun with your hair myself. It seems like everyone except me has gotten to play with it!" she joked. I knew instantly that Mrs. Hancock had told her about my pigtails on the ski trip…. I got really nervous.

        Thankfully I didn't have to respond as we reached our next block and the two of us started going to doors again. It was kind of funny – I could be wrong – but I think I sold at a higher rate after my hair went into the ponytail. Amy seemed to notice too. "Brandon, you know if we put you in some of my clothes I think you could sell twice as much as you are. I think that when you put your hair in that ponytail they began thinking you were a girl." She giggled a bit and I joined in.

        Within another hour we had all of our candy sold, and we each had an additional $90 to put to our accounts. "Do you two want ice cream?" Mrs. Hancock asked.

        "Yes!" We replied in unison. I'd been noticing we were doing a lot of that recently, it was really cool. It kind of reminded me of some of the characters in the books I read when I was younger.

        "Okay, let's go to Dairy Queen then." She said. Mom started driving down that direction while Amy and I jabbered along in the back seat. Selling the candy bars seemed to bring a new immediacy of the trip to mind.

        "So tell me about Disney World," I had said to Amy.

        She told me about all sorts of things there. "You'll love Epcot center, especially all of the countries that are there."

        "Countries?"

        "There are a bunch of countries that have 'embassies' setup at the park in an area. They have restaurants, shops, and rides that reflect themselves. You can even get a park passport and get it stamped at each of the different places."

        "That sounds neat, we should do that." I said to her.

        She went on about a bunch of other things that you could do as we reached Dairy Queen. We each ordered an ice cream cone and sat outside to eat them. I think everyone, including our mom's had a lot of fun today.

        "Well, what are we doing now?" I asked.

        "Well, if you want to go hang out with Amy and her family tonight that's fine. I'll come pick you up at 9?" She suggested.

        I glanced at Amy and she nodded vigorously. "Okay," I replied.

        Mom went and dropped the 3 of us off at Amy's house with a promise that she would come hang out at our house on Friday.

        "So what are we going to do?" I asked Amy when we got inside.

        Her mom answered before she could though, "Well, in about an hour I'm going to go bring in some Chinese food for dinner. Then I thought we could all sit down and watch a movie in our living room?"

        "That works mom," Amy said.

        "Until then?" I asked.

        "We go up and play or something. Let's go," she said and dragged me upstairs. Her mom smiled behind us.

        We went upstairs and she closed the door. "Barbies?"

        "But what if your mom catches us?" I asked.

        "She won't care, besides, this was another one of my harebrained schemes!" She said.

        So we went ahead and began playing. We played for about 50 minutes and were putting things away when her mom peeked her head in to check on us. "Barbies?" Her mom asked.

        "I decided Brandon needed to be inducted into my way of playing!" She said.

        "Well, okay, as long as Brandon doesn't mind." She hedged.

        "It's okay Mrs. Hancock, we've done enough things I've wanted to do – it seemed fair." I replied.

        "Okay then. I'm going to go pick up the food, I'll be back in about 10 minutes." She told us and closed the door.

        "Amy, I can't believe your mom didn't say anything more." I told her.

        "Why would she? I play with Barbies all of the time – she had actually asked me at one time teasingly if I'd made you play with them yet!" She giggled a bit.

        I was torn in my emotions on what to think of this but decided to giggle as well. "Well let's finish putting stuff up," I told her.

        After we did so we washed our hands and headed downstairs just before she opened the door with food. She sat the food on a bar that was in the middle of their kitchen and we dished up the food that we wanted. It was great. I guess you've realized by now I'll eat almost any kind of food. I do draw the line with mayonnaise, sour cream, and salad though… those items make me sick!

        We sat down at their dinner table and ate until we were full. "So are you guys ready to watch a movie?" Her dad asked.

        "Sure, what are we going to watch daddy?" Amy asked.

        "Well I just bought a new movie today it's called 'Stargate.' Several of my clients have said it's really good."

        "Okay… that sounds okay then," Amy replied.

        It sounded like a good science fiction film to me – and as someone that liked Star Trek and Star Wars, I didn't think you could go wrong there. "Sounds interesting," I added.

        We sat down in their living room and put the movie in. Amy and I sat on one couch while her parents each sat in a chair on either side. I don't know about Amy, but I loved the movie. It was great! That may not have been the most girly movie to like… but I loved it nonetheless.

        My mom rang the doorbell shortly after the movie was done and I left with her to go home. I said thank you to the Hancocks and told Amy I'd talk to her tomorrow or see her on Monday. On the way home mom said, "Why didn't you tell me that I'd missed an opportunity to see you in pigtails already?"

        "I don't know… I thought maybe you would get mad?" I replied.

        "Of course not, laughed a bit, but not gotten mad. Look I'm honestly not surprised to hear that happened, especially with you hanging around Amy so much."

        I was in shock, I honestly thought I was going to get in trouble… Why I don't know, but I did. "Mom, while we're on the subject, could you pick up some of these pony tail holders like I've got in my hair right now?" Why not try?

        "Sure sweetie, I'll pick some up at Walmart tomorrow. I probably should have gotten some for you sooner."

        "Thanks!" I said.

        We got home at that point and went inside. I went to my room and read a bit before going to bed. I couldn't believe how accepting everyone had been about everything today… I mean it wasn't really that many things. But you get so many things pent up in nervousness – to actually have people accept that was kind of surprising. I went to bed thinking that maybe my ultimate goal might not rub my parents the wrong way as much as I thought it would.


        PART III: Filmmaking
        Chapter 32:

        Monday came far too quickly that weekend. Mom dropped off my candy money with Ms. Fitzgerald at the elementary school and discovered I actually had $260 extra in my account. She said that a couple corporations had given some donations that had helped. I was ecstatic when she told me that night about it. I'd never had that much money to spend before!

        On Tuesday I went over to Amy's house and we played some more with her Barbies. She made a comment during that episode that if we kept playing with them she was going to have to get me my own dolls. I couldn't tell her, but I could think of few things that I wanted more. I was glad that we had become such good friends. Amy had really filled a void in my life as I really had not had any friends like her before.

        Mom had commented on my necklace that Saturday night. Somehow they had never really noticed it. She had asked me if she could see it. After looking at it she had told me she couldn't believe that Mrs. Hancock had spent so much on us.

        I looked at her questioningly and she told me she guessed that the set must have cost $300 from where they got it. My mouth was open for most of the rest of the evening. I had no idea.

        That Wednesday we were sitting in our English class when Mr. Tamera said, "we're going to have a major assignment due the week after next. It's going to serve as a major grade for this 9-weeks, and it's also going to serve as half of your semester final grade."

        He let that sink in for a moment as we all got a bit nervous. After he handed out project guideline sheets he continued. "This will be a group project. You will each be in a group of 4 people. Each group will present its' project in class in 2 weeks. You have several options here on what you can do…" He explained the options and said, "You must do it on one of the books that is listed below. The more unique and exceptional your project is the higher grade you will receive."

        He talked for a few more minutes before we divided up into groups. I was so glad that Amy was in this class! She actually hadn't been at the beginning of the year but had been transferred into this class at the semester. Why? I don't know. I thought she had a better English teacher before. Within a few minutes Amy, Nikki, Ashley and I had our desks together and were brainstorming on what to do the project on.

        Amy was looking at the paper and said, "We should do a video for our project!"

        "That sounds like fun," I replied.

        "We could be really creative and use Barbies for the characters," Nikki suggested.

        "That sounds like a great idea," Ashley added.

        "Umm… okay." I said. Ashley and Nikki didn't know that I played with Amy and her Barbies before… I didn't really want to give them any indications otherwise.

        "My dad has a video camera that we can use for it." Amy said.

        "Okay," I replied.

        "Well let's start working on a script then," Amy said.

        We did as she said. Amy suggested using one of Nancy Drew books as the basis for our movie. She seemed to think that would be one of the easiest books to use for what we had planned. I wasn't so sure – I had read all of them – but I went along with it. After about 10 minutes of sitting in class we went down to the library with a pass to see what we could find.

        We picked out the book we were going to use and the 4 of us divided up the book to come up with a script from it. At the end of class we each agreed that we should work on this Saturday so if anything went wrong we'd still have a week to fix those problems.

        When I came home that day I told my parents about the project and they seemed to think that it fit the 'unique' criteria for the project. I worked on the computer that night coming up with my part of the script for the book. I was amazed I managed to get as much done with it as I did that night. I really only had about 4 pages of my portion of the book left to do when I got done that night. I printed out what I had done and took it with me to school the next day.

        We were sitting in the group talking when Ashley said, "Hey guys, I told my dad about this project and he offered to let us use the TV Station for it."

        I had completely forgotten that Ashley's dad was one of the managers at the local TV Station. "We can use their cameras?" I asked incredulously.

        "Yep, and he said we can use their editing equipment too. He'll help us out with everything."

        "Wow, cool!" Nikki said.

        "Yeah," Amy and I said at the same time.

        "Then it's settled?" Ashley asked.

        "Definitely," I replied to her.

        We spent the remainder of the class period working out what we would need for Saturday. The girls discussed what Barbies they had, what doll houses they would need, and how they would get all of it there. I just sat there in stunned amazement, taking part where I thought I could. Before we left that day we agreed we would have our scripts completed the next day.

        That night I finished my script at home and then called Amy. We talked for a short while before I reminded her she was supposed to come over to our house the next night. She said okay and went from our phone call to go get a note from her mom so she could ride my bus home.

        She called me back a few minutes later and said, "Hey, my mom wants to talk to your mom."

        "Okay," I replied quizzically.

        My mom got on the phone and after listening for several minutes said, "That sounds like a great idea… No I don't have any problem with taking her for the night… I can drop them both off at the station Saturday then…. Sounds great!" I wondered what she was talking about.

        "Okay, here's Brandon," She said as she handed the phone to me. She whispered to me, "Amy wants to tell you."

        I got on the phone and asked, "Tell me what?"

        "Well, mom and dad need to go see my grandparents in Las Cruces tomorrow. They were originally going to drag me along but I told them about this project and so they thought they'd see if I could stay with you guys over the weekend… Anyway I'll be coming over to your house tomorrow after school and I'll stay until Sunday afternoon. Cool huh?!?"

        "Yeah!" I paused for a second and suddenly wondered something, "Umm… Amy? What are we going to do about getting your stuff over to the TV Station?"

        "Ooh… that's a good question. Let me ask my mom." She came back a second later and asked, "Is your mom going to be home during the day at all?"

        I went and asked and told her that she'd be home around 10 for a bit. She went and talked to her mom for another quick second and said, "Okay, my mom's going to bring over my clothes and stuff and the things we need for Saturday at 10. Just let your mom know that she's going to do that k?"

        "Sure," I replied. We finished up our conversation and I let mom know of the plans.

        I went to bed that night excited about the project. I thought it was going to be a blast to work with the TV Stations stuff on Saturday. It was also going to be great having Amy over to spend the weekend.

        That night I went to bed with a dream that playing with Barbie dolls was a normal thing for boys to do. Everyone played with them right? At least in the dream they did. For my birthday I imagined my parents buying me a great big dollhouse and filling my room with Barbies… It was a great dream.

        Chapter 33:

        In class that next day we combined all of our work into one script and fixed some problems that we saw in our storyline. I think we all left looking forward to Saturday and the filming we were going to do. Ashley's dad was going to meet us at the TV station at 9am. We were planning on being there till 5pm or later working on it. The girls all made sure that they had their lists together of stuff they needed to bring.

        After school Amy came over to my house and we hung out. We found 2 of her dollhouses that we were going to need the next day on the floor in the living room. We made sure that we had all of the dolls and clothes for the next day that we would need before I made her play with legos for a bit. It wasn't that I didn't want to go out and play with her Barbies, it was more that I didn't want mom to come home finding us playing with her Barbies!

        Dad was out of town to a convention for the weekend, so it was just Mom, Amy, and I at home. She made dinner for us and then we sat down to watch a movie in the living room. When we were done she said, "Listen Brandon, I think it's time for my turn to play with your hair!" she said.

        "Ooh yeah," Amy said. "I think it might even be getting long enough we can braid it decently now!"

        My hair at this point had reached just past my shoulders. I loved it, and was genuinely happy that she was going to play with it. "Okay, I guess." I said non-committingly to her.

        Before I knew it I was getting attacked with all sorts of things including getting my hair braided. After looking at me like that she said, "let's do something different." She whispered something in Amy's ear and she nodded. She made me get my hair wet real quick and began from scratch working with it. She also brought out something that I had wondered about for some time – the curling irons.

        A little while later she had my hair curled under at the bottom, and I had bangs that were also curled up top. She soon snapped some more pictures (she'd been snapping some every time they set my hair with something,) and said, "That's enough for tonight."

        "Umm… will this come out in the morning?" I asked.

        "It should." Amy said. Mom had done her hair the exact same way and took pictures of the two of us together before we all sat back down and watched another movie. Amy took the bottom of my bunk beds and we went to bed.

        Or so we wanted mom to think… We actually talked for a long time that night about all sorts of things. I don't think we actually fell asleep until 3 hours later. I think mom knew that, because she had even less pity for me about waking up the next morning than she normally did! We both got dressed and ready while mom made breakfast for us. I used a ponytail holder that mom had bought for me to put my hair up after breakfast.

        We gathered everything and put it into our minivan to go down to the station. To say that Amy and I were hyper would have been the understatement of the year.

        When we arrived we found Nikki and Ashley waiting for us outside. They gave us a hand taking everything into a studio her dad had set aside for us to use. The room was actually a lot larger than I ever figured we'd have available to us, and we had a sky backdrop behind it that we were able to use. There were actually several types of backdrops that were available to us that they used for commercials.

        Ashley's dad gave us a tour and showed us how to use one of the cameras and setup several microphones for us to speak into. We practiced using them for a while and after about 2 hours of setup and such we were ready to begin filming. Her dad had actually worked in the film industry before moving to news broadcasting, so he helped us immensely.

        He left us pretty much hands off to do our thing. Occasionally he would make a suggestion about a camera angle, or suggest that we move a light to another place or something. But, overall it was definitely left in our hands to do what we wanted to do. At one point he actually took another camera and recorded us working on the project. He thought it might be a good idea in case someone accused us of letting him do all of the work!

        At 1 O'clock we took a break and ate some pizza he ordered for us.

        "Mr. Sanders, thank you so much for all of this. We really appreciate your help!" I said to him.

        "It's no problem Brandon! I'm really impressed with what you guys are doing. I think it's going to turn out to be a great project! Certainly a lot better with this equipment than it would have been with a normal video camera."

        "Yeah, definitely. Just how good is this equipment?" I asked.

        "Well, a lot of TV shows are actually shooting with cameras like these now. Plus, since we're able to do a higher quality set of mics and lighting this should look pretty professional."

        "Cool, I can't wait to see our finished product!"

        "Neither can I, I think it really is a cute project." He said.

        After lunch we got back to work, and about 3 o'clock we were able to wrap up our filming. I looked over at the stack of 3 'Digital Betacam' tapes that were on the table. Mr. Sanders had explained that they recorded the best of the cameras that the studio had.

        "Well what do we do now?" I asked.

        "Now I'll show you guys how to edit your video down to just the good cuts and what you guys need."

        He led us to an editing room the studio had, and began to show us how to move the parts we wanted on to one 'master' copy. I couldn't believe how much time it took just to go through this part. We all ended up calling our parents and letting them know we were going to be there for a while still.

        At 6 o'clock Mr. Sanders went to get some burgers from sonic for us while we continued editing. We finally had a good rough cut done at 7:30pm. He helped us come up with some titles for the beginning and end of the film then.

        "Tell you what guys, it's almost 9pm. Why don't we meet back here tomorrow at 2pm and finish up by adding some music to the project and cleaning it up?"

        "Okay, that sounds good to me," Nikki said with a yawn.

        "Yeah Daddy, I'm tired," Ashley said.

        "Then we'll do that," he said.

        We cleaned up the dolls and the doll houses and everyone took their stuff home. I had called my mom and she was waiting to help us out.

        That night Amy and I were only up an hour past when we were told 'lights out.'


        Sunday mom made us get out of bed at 11am and get ready to go. We arrived at the station on time with a bunch of CD's in hand. Her dad had suggested that we bring some CD's to put behind the film.

        We worked tirelessly for another 3 hours on the project before declaring it done. I couldn't believe how cool the project looked. He even showed us how to include a clip that he had recorded of us working in the ending credits next to the credits! I don't know about the rest of the group, but I was pretty psyched about it.

        Her dad then showed us how to transfer the master copy to VHS tapes. We made 10 copies of the tapes and put them in the nice black hard shell cases that he gave us. He also handed me the original beta master.

        "Why are you giving me this?" I asked him.

        "Because you basically were the director for this film. I was really impressed with what you did this weekend. In a couple years when you're a bit older I might be able to find a place for you to work down here at the station." They had put my name in the credits as the director, I liked that part!

        "Really?" I asked.

        "Yep, anyway I thought you should have it. Now let's get you all out of here before we're here till 9pm again!" He said laughing.

        We were basically done, but Amy wanted us to add a nice cover to the front of the videotape cases. She had suggested using her dads computer at home – so we were all going to meet at her house Wednesday to work on that. She also had suggested we come up with a movie poster type thing of some sort. Ashley thought that would be a good night to try out the movie on all of our parents – with everyone planning on getting their parents to watch it at 7pm that night.

        When we were done Mom picked us up and dropped Amy and her stuff off at her parents house. They gave her a hug when she got there – apparently they had just gotten back themselves, and we left her at house. I had a lot of fun that weekend, and couldn't wait to show off our project to the class in a week and a half.

        By the time I got home that night I was completely exhausted. I ended up laying down on my bed at 7pm, and the next thing I knew I was being woke for school the next day.

        Chapter 34:

        The days between Monday and Wednesday seemed both close and yet so far away. I hung out at Amy's house both Monday and Tuesday, with her mom joking that they should make the spare bedroom my room with as much time as I spent over there. Amy seemed pretty enthralled with the idea as well, but of course I couldn't say yes to something like that! That would be cruel to my parents, who both really did love me.

        On Wednesday the four of us caught a ride with Ashley's mom to Amy's house. When we asked about riding the bus together there we were told it was too many additional students – and I wasn't about to rock the boat with my mom's workplace. Once there we went to her dad's study on the first floor and began working with his computer.

        To say they had an amazing setup was to understate, big time! He had the latest computer, software, scanner, and printer that you could get. Within about an hour we had created a great color cover for the outside of the VHS tapes. We also were able to design a 'movie poster' for our movie as well.

        At 5:30pm her mom came in to find us wrapping things up and said, "Okay I need help setting the table please!" She was especially looking at Amy and me. I wasn't sure when I had reached the new status, but I was no longer a guest and had been accepted as a member of the family. Of course I was honored, but apparently that meant I had to help take care of guests when they came over.

        "Okay," Amy and I answered at once. We left the others to finish cleaning up.

        We helped her mom put several massive leafs in their formal dining room table so that we could seat 14 people for dinner. Everyone had 2 parents, plus Ashley had 2 big sisters that were coming for dinner too. Monday when we had talked to Amy's mom she had gotten this idea of having a really cool and great pre-movie dinner get together. She was a great cook – especially for events like these – so we were really looking forward to it. My mom had also gotten in the spirit and created a really great chocolate mousse cake.

        Amy and I made a bit of a game of setting up the table and we were done pretty quickly. "Okay you two, go get Ashley and Nikki and get washed up for dinner."

        "Yes ma'am," Amy replied. I think she'd gotten in trouble for a smart aleck comment last night – she was being pretty respectful today.

        We dragged the two of them upstairs to the bathrooms and washed up before coming down just in time for all of our families to arrive. Mrs. Hancock had outdone herself on this meal. She had cooked several Prime Ribs to absolute perfection. She also served mashed potatoes, broccoli, and homemade bread. I had found out when we got there that she had taken the afternoon off from her patients so she could do this.

        At the end of dinner we had dessert which was also excellent. Following dessert we all gathered around in their living room. The 4 of us ended up sitting on the floor while our parents got the sofa and some other chairs that they brought in.

        "Well, thank you everyone for coming to our premiere of our movie," Amy stood up and said in front of everyone. "We hope you enjoy our short film!" Our parents were all a little obnoxious at that point and clapped.

        I then started the VCR and we began watching the film. Okay, at this point I should preface this; it was a bunch of Barbies with voiceovers in different locations… That being said though, it was actually really incredibly good. The main part of the film lasted 22 minutes, and the credits went on for another 3 minutes.

        Our parents of course had to tell us that it was good, but we all agreed we didn't think that they were lying… In fact they even made us show it again, so we decided we had something here. After the second showing we all helped clean up from the movie and put our project in a safe place to take to school next week. They also made us take several photographs holding our project and the posters in front of us.

        We all left to go home around 8:30pm with everyone saying thank you to the Hancock's for hosting the premiere. All-in-all I think we all had a fantastic time.

        Chapter 35:

        The next week actually passed by rather quickly, and I was amazed at just how close we were to getting out for the summer. It was a Tuesday, and we had just 3 weeks until we were on vacation. I was sitting in my English class talking and enjoying myself with my friends when the office came over the intercom and said, "would you please send Brandon down?"

        I went down to the office wondering what was going on. I had managed to avoid that part of the school for the entirety of the semester and didn't want to start dealing with more problems again. I was actually more worried about a gut feeling I had that something must be wrong.

        When I got down to the office I found my Mom was standing by the reception desk. She looked like she looked really stressed. She was able to pull me into a conference room that was attached to the office and said, "Brandon, sit down."

        "What's wrong mom?" I asked

        "Well… your Grandfather had a heart attack a couple hours ago. They flew him to Phoenix. They think he's going to pull through, but your dad and I want to go out there with your grandmother to Phoenix to be with him."

        "When do we leave?" I asked, tears coming out of my eyes.

        "Well, that's what I came here to talk to you about. We want to leave at 4:30, but your dad and I think you should stay here."

        "But…"

        "Brandon there's nothing you'll be able to do there. We called and they said they wouldn't allow anyone under 16 into the ICU where he's being kept… Plus you have your project due tomorrow."

        "Are you sure there's nothing I can do?" I asked worriedly.

        "Yes, I'm sure. I called and talked to Amy's mom and she said that they would be happy to have you stay there until we get back. Would you be okay with that?"

        I sat there and thought for a moment. I really wanted to be there for Grandpa, but I figured my parents had their reasons for not wanting me to come there. This way I wouldn't miss out on the project too. Plus, I could only imagine how much fun it would be to stay with Amy for a while… I immediately felt guilty about thinking of having fun when Grandpa could die from the heart attack…

        "I guess. But why did they fly him to Phoenix instead of Albuquerque?"

        "They were supposedly better situated to handle him. I asked the same question. So you're okay with staying with the Hancocks?" She asked.

        "Yeah, but you have to call me and keep me updated about him okay?"

        "Of course. Well, we need to get your stuff packed up. Amy's mom told me to go ahead and pick her up too – that way she could let you into their house."

        "Okay, I can go get her really quick." I cleaned up my face, and while my mom was signing us both out, I went to get Amy.

        She looked at me with a concerned look and came with me. I told her what was going on and we both grabbed our backpacks and stuff from our lockers.

        When we got outside and were getting into my mom's car she gave me a hug and said, "I'm so sorry Brandon, but I'm sure everything will work out."

        "Thanks Amy." I replied returning the hug.

        We drove to our house and I quickly packed several days worth of clothes into a suitcase along with my toothbrush and all that jazz. Mom spent a while triple checking on things and writing out a letter so Amy's mom or dad could take me to the hospital or a doctor if they needed to. Though having Amy's mom being a doctor would probably be enough to smooth any of that over anyway.

        When we thought I had everything I could need we headed over to Amy's house. Mom helped me carry everything inside and made sure I was okay.

        "Now I think we have everything, but if we don't call Dad's cell phone and we'll try and figure out what to do. You have a house key with you right?"

        "Yes Mom, I'll be fine, you guys just worry about Grandpa, okay?" I said.

        She gave me a hug and said, "Okay."

        We talked a few more minutes before she finally walked back out to the car, giving me one last hug and I love you before taking off. I honestly didn't know what to make of the last hour or so, it had all gone along so fast.

        I must have had a strange look on my face because Amy came up to me and said, "Hey, are you alright?"

        "Yeah… I think. It's just been kind of a strange hour. One minute I'm sitting in class talking to you guys, three minutes later I learn my grandfather is in danger of dying and my parents are leaving me here while they go away…" I paused. "I think things will be alright, but I guess you just never know do you?"

        She gave me a hug and we went to get a drink in the kitchen. We sat down on some barstools next to a breakfast counter they had. "I'm sure things are going to work out fine. Besides, look on the bright side!" She paused and gave me an exaggerated smile, "You get to stay with me!!!"

        She hugged me again and said, "Let's go upstairs and get your mind off of this." She dragged me onto my feet, grabbed some of my stuff, and led me upstairs. She stopped by her room first and had me leave my stuff in there.

        "I'm not going to be able to stay in your room am I?" As far as I knew she just had a daybed in there.

        She nodded, "I have a trundle bed underneath my bed, I talked to my mom while you were saying bye to yours, and she said that's where she planned on you sleeping."

        "Cool. They already say we're joined at the hip, we'll just make it more so," I said with a lopsided grin.

        "Uh-huh, it'll be like a several day sleepover!" Apparently she had decided that even though I was here because of a sad thing; that we were going to be a lot of fun. "Okay, first things first – neither of us have homework so let's go play." She dragged me down the hallway to the playroom and we began playing with her Barbies.

        Actually, that was kind of nice because I was able to lose myself in the activity. Both of us lost track of time and soon Amy's mom came into the room. "Hey guys." She walked over to me. "How are you holding up Brandon?"

        "Pretty good I guess. I mean he's still alive, right?" I replied.

        "Yes, and from what your mom told me I'm fairly certain he should be fine after some rehab. They just have to get him through tonight and things should be okay." She's a doctor, so that must count for something right?

        "Thanks Mrs. Hancock. And thanks for letting me stay here while they're gone too." I told her.

        "Anytime sweetheart, anytime. Do either of you have homework?" She asked.

        We both shook our heads. Amy said, "We just have to take the project to school tomorrow for our presentation. I kind of feel bad for everyone else; we drew the first spot out of the hat. Our project is going to be hard to top!" I nodded with her.

        "You're probably right. You guys just do whatever you want tonight, Amy I'll do your chores for tonight."

        "Really?" Amy asked.

        "Yes. I'm going to go work on getting dinner going, I'll let you know when it's done." She left and we continued playing with her Barbies. I was still a little nervous about what her mom thought, but at the same time she didn't seem to have any real problem with it so we kept playing. About an hour later she came upstairs and told us to clean up.

        We put away her Barbies and washed our hands before going downstairs. Mrs. Hancock made spaghetti for dinner. It was really good, at least when I was paying attention. I honestly was more worried than I had realized.

        I hadn't been going to my grandparents a lot this year, but I usually have spent a lot of time there in the past. From the time I was 4 I have also spent at least 2 weeks with them in the summers, and so it was pretty unnerving to me that something had happened to one of them. I managed to get through dinner without breaking down, but did excuse myself at the end to 'go to the bathroom.'

        Amy found me a short while later with her bathroom door open to her room, but I was in tears. She gave me a hug and we talked for a while. I cleaned up my face and we went back downstairs to watch TV with her parents then. They seemed to want to ask about me, but decided not to.

        We watched a few TV shows, not really saying a whole lot, just chilling on the couch. After a while Mrs. Hancock went upstairs for a little bit and then came back down. She talked to us about how we would get up and make the bathroom bit work. They had a 3rd bathroom down the hall that I could use in the morning. Wakeup times were decided, and then she said, "Okay you two, it's time for bed."

        Neither of us really grumbled a lot, and went upstairs. Her mom had apparently been upstairs putting blankets on the trundle bed. I hadn't really looked at her bed a whole lot earlier, but now that I had one next to it I looked a bit more. Her bedroom looked like the next step up from Barbie, though Barbie's presence was still felt. My bed was covered with a matching bedspread that was mostly pink with some bright green thrown into it.

        We both got into our pajamas and climbed into our beds. Amy turned out the light before she got into her bed. It was 9 when we turned off the light, but we actually talked until at least 10. I was feeling a little better – and that meant that some excitement for tomorrow had welled up inside of me.

        Actually we talked about a lot of things, including that her parents were having their swimming pool filled the next day. She said, "We'll have to go swimming!"

        I sat there thinking that I didn't have my swimming suit… what was I going to do? I didn't mention it that night though, we eventually stopped talking and went to sleep.

        Chapter 36:

        The next day we got ready for school – it was hectic but there really wasn't anything remarkable about it. I did get a phone call from my parents telling me they made it to Phoenix all right, and that Grandpa was stable. He wasn't completely out of the woods yet, but that he should be okay. It was a quick phone call and then Amy and I grabbed all of the project stuff and headed to the bus stop. Once we got to school we went together to first hour. Some of the kids like Nikki asked why I had left suddenly yesterday and I told them.

        The day went by incredibly fast – I had hardly a spare moment to devote to thinking about anything. About the only thing I did have time to think was that it was probably a really good thing that I had stayed to keep my mind busy. At lunchtime we all talked about the project.

        Somehow we had actually kept what we had done a secret from everyone else. I really did feel bad about going first… Almost everyone else was going to stand in front of the class talking. There was one other group that did a video, but that group apparently just sat at a table and talked about the book like a news cast.

        "Hey, why don't we suggest we go last?" Nikki suggested as we talked about it.

        "Well, the rest of the kids won't think it's fair though…" I said.

        "Well they'll probably want to lynch us anyway." Ashley said.

        Don't get us wrong, we were all very proud of our project… we were just very aware of the fact that we overachieved big time on this project. In the end Amy said, "Look we can offer to go last, but we'll have to do it in just the right way."

        "Okay, you're in charge then," Nikki said.

        I thought Amy would argue for a second, but she shrugged and said, "Okay."

        When we got up to English 6th hour we went straight to talk to Mr. Tamera. Amy quickly explained that our project would be worth waiting till the end for. He looked at us and said, "I'll ask the class if they're okay with it… I don't want to just change it though."

        A little while he asked the class and they all grumbled about it so we went ahead and went first… Boy were they sorry! We got up in the front of the class and said just the absolute bare minimum, including unveiling the poster we had kept covered the whole day. I was pretty impressed that we had managed to print off the entire poster onto 16 sheets, and make them look like it was one for the poster.

        Then we started the film. I had seen it enough times at this point that I really didn't have any desire to watch it anymore – so instead I took in the other students faces. The guys started watching the film with sneers on their faces when they heard it was done with Barbies… that quickly turned to astonishment… and finally to genuine admiration. The girls instantly thought it was one of the cutest things in the world – and several of them whispered that to us.

        The final reaction I was watching though was Mr. Tamera. He didn't hide his emotions very well, which was good in this case, because he was clearly shocked by how incredible our project was. There was definitely a look of suspicion on his face about our having done the project by ourselves until the ending credits and he saw us working and laughing on the project. Definitely needed to thank Mr. Sanders for that.

        At the end of our film the students all started cheering and whooping loudly. Mr. Tamera stood up and said, "Now if that made any of you more nervous, remember they offered to go last!" I saw a lot of faces go sullen with that remark.

        I wasn't expecting everyone to be able to go in that class period, but I wasn't expecting the amount of suckiness of everyone else's projects either! At the end of class after the last presentation Mr. Tamera stood up and said, "I will have your grades for your projects to you on Monday after I look at them all again. I will also submit the winning project from this class to the whole English department so we can decide a 6th grade overall winner." The bell rang at that point and he said, "Amy, Ashley, Nikki, Brandon I need you to stay for a moment please. The rest of you have a nice day."

        Uh-oh… were we going to get in trouble for something? "First of all, Brandon is everything okay?"

        "Umm… Kind of, my grandfather had a heart attack yesterday. My parents drove to Phoenix where they took him for some reason. They called this morning and said he should be okay though."

        "That's good, let me know if you need anything. You're not staying by yourself right now are you?" He asked.

        "No, I'm staying at Amy's house until they get back."

        "Okay, well anyway… I just wanted to tell you all I was completely floored by your project. For a while I was concerned that maybe Ashley's dad had done all of the work, but when you had those scenes at the end I could see that Brandon was doing a lot of the camera work. I can honestly say without hesitation that you will be moving onto the grade level contest, and you should win it."

        "Thanks Mr. Tamera," Ashley said. We all chimed in with our thanks as well.

        "Okay, well anyway go ahead and head to your next classes. If your teacher needs a note come back and get one okay?"

        "Okay," I said and we all headed for our next class. We each had a bit of a spring in our step from there on. It was nice. That is until I got to my next class.

        "Hey, look it's Brandon. He plays with Barbie dolls everyone!" one kid decided to sneer. He was from another English class, and apparently word of our project had gone around quickly.

        "Hey, at least I produced a decent project. We'll get an A and probably get the prize as well! Enjoy being left behind at school in 2 weeks when we're off having fun!"

        That seemed to shut the kid up. He did make some

        Comment


          #5
          Standing Up to Life: Part 5

          Chapter 37:

          I stammered a bit, "What do you mean?"

          "Well… I'm not saying any of this to be mean, okay?" She said sitting up and looking at me. "But I've been wondering since the beginning of the year. I know you've told everyone that you grew your hair out to be more like a rock star, but you keep letting anyone that wants to style it like a girls. You also are the first boy I've ever met that played Barbies with me more than once. And, you make a better best friend – girl wise – than any girl I've ever known. You don't have to answer me I guess if you don't want to, but know that I'll be your friend even if that's what you want."

          Silence.

          Roll out the tears.

          "Maybe?" I said timidly.

          Another moment of silence, I think she could tell I didn't want her to say anything right then.

          "I don't know. All I do know is that I have been thinking about that a lot since the beginning of the year. I'm scared that I'm a freak… and I really never intended to tell anyone any of this…" I started quietly crying some more. Amy got out of her bed and wrapped her arms around me.

          "It's okay Brandon, I really mean that. I don't care if you are a boy, a boy that wants to be a girl, or you're a girl, you'll still be my best friend."

          I slowed down a few minutes later, looking up at her and said, "Why? I'm a freak."

          "You're anything but a freak Brandon. And, as for the 'why?' I already answered that, we're best friends. I know that you never take your necklace off, and neither do I. That should tell you something in itself."

          "Thanks Amy. I just don't know what to do anymore. I think my mom might be cool with this, but I know my dad would freak out and disown me – or have me committed to a mental institution. Which maybe I should be…"

          "That's absolutely not true Brandon. You may be dealing with some stuff, but you don't need to be committed. I also think you're underestimating your parents a bit."

          "Maybe. Amy please don't tell your parents… I don't want them to keep me from being able to be friends with you!"

          "Brandon, I'll be honest, my parents are the last ones that would have a problem with this. But I promise you I won't tell them." She held up her pinky to me. I grabbed it and she said, "I even pinky promise on it."

          We heard footsteps coming towards the door. Amy quickly got back in her bed under the covers and we faked sleeping while her mom peaked her head in. She left a few moments later.

          I think Amy sensed that leaving the conversation here would be a bad idea, so she asked "So Brandon, when did this all start for you? I have a pretty good idea, but I'm curious."

          "Well, in all honesty I think there has always been a part of me that's wanted this – I just never recognized what it was. I also was raised in such a strict environment against this kind of idea that I didn't even have a chance to consider it. I guess it really started though when Liza – matt's ex-girlfriend – told me, 'why are you walking with your chest out like that, are you trying to be a girl?'"

          "That made me start thinking of how much better life would be if I was a girl. I went from that thought to trying to figure out a way that maybe I could move towards that. A couple weeks later I pushed mom into not cutting my hair and letting it grow out some more. I think you know the rest of the story from there about the hair. Then when we were on the ski trip when everyone kept calling me a girl it reinforced all of that as a possibility. From there things just kept getting crazier and I was able to do things like play with Barbies with you."

          "I honestly don't know what to do. I've decided that if I'm going to do anything about this I need to decide by the time I'm 14 at the latest – since that's like the last age that I can get stuff done to me that will make me look pretty naturally like a girl… But at the same time I don't know if I should want that… does any of this make any sense at all?"

          Amy looked at me, I could see her in the dim light, "Yes, I think it does in a way. Brandon have you ever worn any girls clothing before?"

          I shook my head. "My mom isn't exactly my size. And since I don't have any sisters… I did have 2 opportunities when I was kid that I kick myself for missing now." I told her about the swimsuit dream, and then told her about another one as well.

          "When I was like 7, we went shopping with my mom and a friend of hers. Mom found this really cute dress, but didn't know if it would fit my cousins. Well my mom's friend suggested I could try it on for her – since we were like triplets we'd be the same size. My ego at the time couldn't take it though so I had a fit and said no. If only I had said yes! Who knows, maybe I wouldn't be in this situation now."

          "Wow, you really are just realizing something now that's been there for a while aren't you?"

          I nodded. "What do you think I should do?" I asked.

          "I don't know… I do know I won't tell anyone, though I'm sure I'm not the only that suspects."

          I panicked and whispered, "Who else knows?"

          "Suspects, not knows. Nikki and Ashley definitely do I think. I'm sure there are some others as well. Most of them are willing to just take the rock band hair explanation, but a few girls do wonder. I don't think there are any guys that have given it that much thought at this point. And, well I think my parents suspect."

          "Your parents?"

          "Yeah. My mom's a doctor remember? While she's not a psychiatrist, she had to study a lot of that and I think she's put 2 and 2 together as well as I have. Like I said, don't worry she would be cool with it."

          "I'm afraid though if they find out something and don't tell my parents that they might hate your parents then… It could get bad."

          "Actually, I have a feeling that our moms probably both suspect and have talked to each other about it. Remember that day when we were fundraising?" I nodded – I was terrified. "I think I caught the end of a conversation about it as we got in the car one time."

          "So you think my parents already know?"

          "It's possible."

          "…I don't know, I just don't know."

          "Look, you missed it earlier. My mom said we're going to have to wait one more day past tomorrow for the pool so she's going to work normal hours tomorrow and come home a bit early on Friday instead. That means we'll have about an hour without her home." She paused as if debating about something. "If you want you could try on some of my clothes then. We're the same size."

          "Really?"

          "Really."

          "Wow… I've kind of dreamed and hoped for this… but I don't know. What if your mom catches us?"

          "I don't think it would be a terrible thing, but I think she would have to tell your parents."

          I thought for a few moments. "I think it would be worth the risk. Are you sure you don't think I'm a freak?" I asked.

          "I'm positive. I'll be honest, I've been kind of curious to see what you would look like dressed in the right clothes. You already get mistaken for a girl 4 out of 5 times, in the right clothing I don't think anyone would possibly guess that you're a guy."

          "Okay, let's do it." I said with a bit more enthusiasm.

          We finished our conversation to a little bit of a lighter note and finally fell asleep. I kept waking up that night though, wondering if our conversation had been a dream…

          PART IV: Dreams do come true

          Chapter 38:

          I woke up with that question in mind. Amy quickly settled that though when she whispered into my ear, "I'm so excited for after school," to me on our way out to the bus. To say I wasn't focused during school that day would be to understate my lack of focus. I almost ended up with detention with one teacher, but thankfully he decided I should be given a break for a bad day.

          Amy and I talked like normal through the day, but there was something different. I think it was just the shear fact that she now knew my deepest darkest secret. I had decided that morning that I could do one of two things; live in constant fear that she would tell someone, or I could trust her to be my friend. I had decided I would do the second, and I didn't think she would let me down.

          I had several people try and give me a hard time with the Barbie bit that day, but I just brushed them off. Something about having the unconditional friendship of one of the coolest girls in school put me at ease. I also just honestly didn't care, as long as I wasn't getting beat up I was okay. The nice thing is that people still remembered the incident with Matt and Jeff, and even with them thinking I was a 'sissy,' they were too scared to mess with me. Boy if they only knew how much of a wimp I really am…

          Finally the end of the day came and we got on the bus to go home. When we got home the phone was ringing. Her mom was calling to say that she was running late, and she wouldn't be home till 6 that night. That was the time when her dad normally came home too, but he was in court and wasn't expected to come home until at least then tonight.

          "Okay then, shall we go upstairs?" Amy asked. She was really excited.

          I was excited too, and nervous… really nervous. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and say, "Okay!" She and I raced upstairs and went into her room.

          "Okay, first thing's first. We need to get you into the right type of underwear!" She went and dug through her drawer and brought 2 items. I just kind of stood there wondering if I was in a dream. "Okay, here is a pair of panties that should fit you, and one of my training bras. Go put them on in the bathroom and then put on my robe that's in there, okay?"

          "Oh-oh-okay." I stammered. I did as she said and removed all of the clothes I had on before pulling the panties up my legs. Wow… They weren't like some sort of exotic type of panty, they were just cotton, but they had a different type of elastic, and just felt different. I finished putting them on quickly and fought for a few minutes to get the bra fastened. After several tries I managed to get it fastened.

          My image beckoned in the mirror and I looked at myself with girls underwear on. Instantly it was like I suddenly recognized myself and how I was supposed to look. I smiled and giggled, I couldn't believe it was finally happening!

          I looked for Amy's robe and found it hanging on the door. I then put it on, tying the belt in front of me. At that moment I took a deep breath, looked at myself in the mirror again, and then went out to her room. "You look great already!" She told me. "What do you want to try on first?" She asked me pointing to a bunch of clothes hanging up around the room. Clearly she had her ideas of how I should dress.

          I looked around and saw a dress that I just had to see myself in. "How about that dress?" I said pointing to a dress that must have been for easter this year. It wasn't extremely frilly, most of the dresses that girls wore in our grades weren't frilly so that didn't surprise me… but it was a dress!

          "Okay! I was hoping you would choose this one first." She said handing it to me. "Put this over your head like a t-shirt. If you can't get the back zipped up I'll do it for you."

          "Okay!" I said very happily. I took it back in the bathroom and put it over my head as she told me. I actually tried to get it zipped a couple times before deciding I'd just let her do it.

          I came out and she said, "Wow, Brandon… Actually I don't think we should call you Brandon anymore… have you picked out a different name for yourself as a girl?" She asked.

          How could she know I had? She came and zipped up the back of the dress. "Actually I've had it narrowed down to 2 for a while."

          "So what are they?" She asked.

          I hesitated for a moment; this was like the last secret. "Brittany or Tiffany," I said.

          "Hrmm… I like Tiffany better for you. You're not really like any of the Brittany's I know."

          "That's kind of what I had decided. So what next?"

          "Well… Why don't we do something with your hair really quick?" She suggested.

          "Okay, where do you want me?"

          "Just sit down in this chair," She pointed to a chair that was sitting in front of a dresser with a mirror above it. She had it sitting away from the mirror though. I started to sit down and remembered one of the things that every story I'd read on the internet talked about – you were supposed to smooth your dress beneath you. I did my best to do it, catching a smile from Amy before she began working on my hair.

          "What are you doing with it?" I asked.

          "I thought I would do it like mine, where it's curled at the bottom. I'd love to be able to do it in layers for you like I've seen on some stars recently, but that would involve cutting it. So, we'll just go with this." She said.

          She spent about 20 minutes working on it (I glanced at the clock, it was now 4:10) and then she said, "Done! But hold on a second okay?" I nodded and she went to a jewelry box on the other side of the room. She came back with some earrings.

          "Amy I don't have pierced ears." I told her.

          "I know, these are clip-ons. I used to wear them until I was 9 – I was too scared to let them pierce my ears!" She said with a giggle. "I think I was rather silly looking back at it. It stung, but it didn't cause me to fall on the floor and cry like I thought it would. Anyway, here let me put these on your ears!"

          She fastened the clip-on earrings to my ears and told me, "stand up and tell me what you think!"

          I couldn't believe it, I honestly could have hung out with the cool crowd look wise. Maybe not the dress (definitely a pretty, but non-cool dress), but my face and everything seemed to work together with this hair style. "Wow, thank you Amy, this is like so cool." I gave her a big crushing hug.

          "No problem." She gasped. I walked around for a few moments before looking at the clock and seeing it was only 4:22.

          "So do I get to try on other stuff?" I asked.

          "I thought you would never ask Tiffany!" She said. Hearing myself called Tiffany sent a shiver down my spine.

          From there I tried on all of her skirts and other dresses first. Then she said, "Okay, most girls don't wear dresses to school anymore, let's put you into something that is more normal."

          "Okay."

          She dug up a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, which she insisted I call 'a blouse,' and told me to put them on. I went into the bathroom yet again and came out. "You know it would be so cool to take you to the mall like this! No one would recognize you as Brandon, and I know all of the guys would be looking at you!" Amy was beside herself with excitement.

          "Okay Amy… Hold on… I'm not ready to be seen in public like this… and I don't think guys are necessarily my thing. At least not as long as I have boy parts." I replied.

          "Well, at least we know that you could be a really cute girl if you wanted to be. Is there anything else you want to try on Tiff?" She asked me. I kind of liked the shortened version too.

          I thought for a moment, "Could I try on one of your swimsuits?"

          "Sure, here let me grab one." She went through one of her dressers and came back with a bright green swimsuit with pink neon swirls on it.

          I took it into the bathroom and pulled off everything else. I pulled everything else I was wearing off and pulled the swimsuit on. I remembered reading something about tucking my parts in, and decided to try doing it. I wasn't sure I did it the way I was supposed to, but when I looked down I couldn't see my parts sticking out anywhere – so I guess it was marginally successful.

          I found this was a lot harder to go out like this. It was a one-piece swimsuit, but it showed my legs all the way up. That was strange for me but I mustered up my courage and went out to her room.

          She whistled at me. "You look cute like that!"

          I blushed. "Are you just saying that? I'm worried that people could tell that I'm a guy like this." I said.

          "I can't tell that you have anything that girl doesn't. I honestly think you could get away going to a pool party like that. Maybe we'll even have to arrange for that," she said with a twinkle in her eye.

          "Umm… don't get evil on me here Amy." I said half jokingly. It was then that I looked at the clock and saw it was 5:42. "Hey, we'd better clean this up and I'd better get back into my clothes before your mom gets home."

          "You're right. Go ahead and get out of the swimsuit, I'll start putting all of this up." She said and began to get to work. I went into the bathroom and took one last look at myself before slipping out of the swimsuit. I put my own clothes back on and took what clothes were in the bathroom back out to Amy. We worked together to put everything up when I felt like we were forgetting something.

          "Amy, I feel like we're forgetting something." I said.

          "Oh no, the earrings and hair!" She said.

          I pulled the earrings off and said, "What should we do with my hair?"

          "Just put it in a ponytail, no one should be able to tell we did anything with it after that." She said.

          That's what we did, and I found myself massaging my earlobes to get the dents out of them. We then sat down at the table in her room and worked on homework until her mom got there – 3 minutes later! It was cutting it close.

          "Hey guys, what are you up to?" She asked.

          "Just working on homework," I said. She's going to know… somehow she's going to know… I kept thinking to myself.

          "Well I'll let you two get back to it." She said and started to go out the door.

          "Mom what are we doing for dinner?" Amy asked.

          She turned back around, "we're going to go out tonight. Does Olive Garden sound good?" She asked.

          "Yeah!!!" Amy said.

          "Yes that does sound good." I said.

          "Okay, we're going to leave in about 20 minutes. Work on your homework for a little bit longer though, it looks like you guys have a bunch of it." She said and turned around.

          Amy started giggling and so did I once she was out of earshot. "That was close," she whispered to me.

          "Yeah. Thanks though Amy, you let me do something I've been wanting to do for at least 8 months now."

          "No problem Brandon, maybe we can figure out a way to make it happen some more." She said.

          "I think that would be nice on one hand. I'm just worried about getting caught though."

          "You know I don't think anyone would be able to tell that you were Brandon if you were dressed as Tiffany." She said and we got back to working on the homework. We made amazing progress in 10 minutes – almost done with it progress – when her mom came to the door.

          "Okay guys get ready so we can drive into town to go eat. Your dad is just going to meet us Amy."

          We got ready to leave and drove off. The two of us sat giggling in the back seat talking about nothing of important during the entire drive.

          When we arrived at the restaurant and waited for a table. That took a good 30 minutes, but we all thought it would be worth it. After the wait we got called up and went to the table. The waiter came to me and asked me, "And what would you like to drink miss?"

          "Umm… Iced tea please." I said.

          Once he left Amy giggled a bit. "Brandon that has been happening really frequently now!" she whispered to me. "Just think…" She added. Just those two words had a new meaning to us.

          "So Amy what are you going to order?" I asked.

          "I don't know, you want to split something?" She asked.

          "Sure." I replied.

          "What sounds good to you?" She asked.

          "I don't know, how about this Tour of Italy dish?"

          "That sounds good, we get a little bit of everything then." She said. We chatted about the next day a bit until the waiter came back. We told him that we were going to split the dish and he said, "certainly ladies," the giggling started up again with Amy as soon as he left.

          Mr. Hancock leaned over towards us and asked, "so should we correct him, or is this some sort of game you two are enjoying?" He asked with a wink.

          "No we're having fun with it," Amy and I said at the same time.

          "Okay, you two might be spending a little too much time together," her mom said jokingly.

          Amy turned towards her dad, "So how did your case go daddy?"

          "It went well, I think we should win this easily." He said.

          "What was the case about?" I asked.

          He told us about the details. Apparently a company in town had fired an employee for some unjust cause. The employee had come to him and they had ended up taking it all the way to court. Mr. Hancock was really surprised that they hadn't settled. Their closing arguments from both sides were definitely leaning more towards his client winning.

          Our food came and conversation lulled while we ate. They had actually split the plate for us already, which was nice. The portions were still huge for our appetites and we both had enough leftovers for a decent snack the next day. We were on our way out when Amy leaned over to my ear as we walked and whispered, "Did you see that boy checking you out?"

          "What?!" I whispered back.

          Chapter 39:

          "You heard me." Amy whispered.

          "You must have been mistaken," I said back as we got inside the car.

          Amy's mom got in too and said, "Are you two talking about the boy that was checking out Brandon?"

          "What, you too?" I asked.

          "Well he was," Amy's mom said. "As soon as you walked towards the door he couldn't take his eyes off of your face." She then giggled a bit, "Then your rear when you walked past!"

          Amy was practically rolling out of her seat in the car, the only thing holding her there was her seatbelt.

          I was trying to decide whether or not to laugh or cry. I guess I should have known this was going to happen if really wanted to start looking like a girl…

          "Brandon, we're not trying to make fun of you," Amy said, "It's just really really funny."

          I decided to laugh, I mean perhaps this was just another step to girlhood? "I guess it kind of is isn't it?"

          "Yes it is. I think it might have something to do with the hair though… did you do something to his hair earlier Amy?" She inquired.

          Oh crap.. she suspects? What do I say? I was kind of not panicking, but at a loss for words.

          "Yeah, you got us. I talked Brandon into letting me play with his hair earlier. I just used a curling iron though, I didn't really do anything that significant to it." She said.

          "It's okay, I wouldn't have noticed in all honesty if I hadn't noticed the ends of the hair out of the ponytail were curly." I wanted to look in the mirror and see what was going on there. "Also, guys don't usually do that high of a ponytail. That's certainly the highest I've seen you do it Brandon." She added.

          "You're not mad are you, mom?" Amy asked.

          "Absolutely not, as long as Brandon was okay with it I don't see any issue with it."

          I sighed with relief. "I'm okay with it," I answered back.

          "So what do you two have going on tomorrow?" Amy's mom asked.

          We talked about the different things that were going on the next day. When we got home it was about 8pm and she told us to go finish our homework.

          Amy and I worked as quickly as we could, since we didn't really want to waste the rest of our evening working on homework. We had been working for about 2 minutes when I decided I wanted to get the pulling sensation the ponytail was giving me out of my hair. I pulled the holder out of my hair and let it down.

          Her mom came up a few minutes later from downstairs with 2 bowls of strawberry ice cream. "Here, I thought you two might enjoy some ice cream." She said.

          "Brandon, I just talked to your mom, when you finish your ice cream why don't you call her back. Then when you're done talking let me know, I want to talk to her for a few minutes too."

          "Okay, I'll do that as soon as I get done." I replied and she left the room. I ate my ice cream and continued to work on my homework. After about 10 minutes I finished up and headed downstairs. Amy stayed behind to keep working on her work.

          I found the phone that was in the kitchen and sat down on the bar stool to talk to my parents. I dialed and mom answered, "Hey sweetie, how are you doing?"

          "I'm doing okay, I'm kind of tired." I replied. Not lying in the least… staying up late last night talking had worn me out. "How's Grandpa doing?"

          "Well he was moved to a normal room today, and they will be ready to send him home on Tuesday. Your dad and grandmother are going to stay through then, but I'm going to go ahead and come back on Sunday. I'll pick you up around 7pm when I get back."

          "How are you getting home and they're staying there. Didn't you guys just take one car?" I asked

          "Your dad drove out your grandparents car. And I drove ours. I'll drive ours back home."

          "I guess that makes sense." I replied. We talked for another 10 minutes or so about stuff – I think she was dealing with separation problems – and I said goodnight to her, but told her, "Don't hang up though, Mrs. Hancock wants to talk to you about something."

          I handed her off to Mrs. Hancock and went upstairs to work on finishing my homework. Amy had gotten far too much of a head start there so she was done 15 minutes before I was. I finished right around 9pm and was surprised that we hadn't been told to go to bed yet. Amy ran down real quick with our dishes and saw that her mom was in her office still talking to my mom.

          "Brandon, I think my mom is still talking to your mom." Amy came back up and said.

          "That's strange."

          "Yeah, but oh well. We should probably get ready for bed now so that she doesn't give us a hard time when she comes back upstairs to check on us." Amy said.

          "Yeah, you're probably right. Why don't we get ready quick though and watch TV in here until she says to go to bed?" I suggested.

          "Okay, I'll go for that!" She said and we walked down the hallway. We both went in and changed real quick in the bathroom then shared the sink to brush our teeth and stuff. Amy grabbed her hairbrush and told me to do the same. We went back to the playroom and sat down on the floor.

          "Okay, I've done your hair enough, it's your turn!" She told me with a wink. She moved to where her back was in front of me and handed me her hairbrush. "Can you brush my hair out?"

          "Sure!" I replied. I wouldn't even be close to being even with her. I started brushing her hair out, she practically purred. I gave her a hard time about it, "Are you sure you're not a kitty?"

          "No. I think all girls are actually kitties at heart!" She replied. I brushed her hair out for about 5 minutes and we switched places.

          Okay, we'd done the hair thing before, but just flat out getting your hair brushed out by someone else was indeed a different experience. It felt really good.

          "You said I purred, you must be a decent part kitty too!" She said.

          "Well, you said the previous statement, so it must be true for me too." I said.

          She stopped after a bit and we moved into bean bag chairs to keep watching TV. I thought maybe we would get a reprieve, and be able to watch TV till 10, but her mom came in at 9:30 and said, "Time for bed guys. I'll let you stay up as late as you want the next 2 nights though okay?"

          "Okay mom," Amy said.

          We went down to her room and got into bed. Her mom turned the lights out and closed the door. When I thought the coast was clear I said, "Amy?"

          "Yeah?"

          "Thanks."

          "You're welcome Tiff." She said. I went to sleep that night dreaming of a day that I could have my own wardrobe like Amy's. All of my dreams that night involved me dressed the way that I felt I should be. It was a good night.

          Chapter 40:

          The school day flew by the next day. When we got to English Mr. Tamera gave Amy, Nikki, Ashley, and I passes to go to the office. He wouldn't say why, and we discussed it as we went downstairs and to the office.

          "Obviously it's about the project," I said.

          "Yeah it probably is, but what about it?" Ashley asked.

          "Well maybe we're getting rewarded for a really good job?" Nikki suggested.

          "Let's hope so," Amy said.

          We reached the office door and walked in. The principal, Mrs. Hinther, was standing there, "How are you all doing?"

          "Okay," Nikki said.

          "Good. Would you four step into the conference room in here?" She asked.

          We followed her in there where we saw a big screen tv was sitting recessed in the wall (I hadn't noticed it before when I'd been in there), and there were 8 other adults sitting in there. She introduced us to them, "This is Mr. Jameson, he is the superintendent for our district. Here we have Mr. Winters, he's the school board president." She continued rattling off names of a couple more school board members, a newspaper reporter, and two tv reporters. One of them was from Mr. Sanders TV station.

          "Well, you're all probably wondering why we brought you in here?" She asked as she motioned for us to take a seat in 4 empty chairs.

          We nodded.

          "Well, let's just say Mr. Tamera showed the other English teachers your video. From there they all thought that I should see it, and I decided that these ladies and gentlemen should see your film. Could you guys give your presentation just like you did the other day?"

          "Okay," I said. "But do you have all of our stuff?" I asked.

          "It's all right here," She said handing me the stack of our stuff.

          The four of us huddled for a second before starting our presentation again. Talk about unexpected! We managed to do at least as good of a job introducing the video as we did Wednesday, and started the video. I spent time watching the reactions of everyone on this one again.

          I especially enjoyed the reporter from Mr. Sanders station. She just seemed to be enthralled by it, laughing at all of the right times. Even the Superintendent and the School board members seemed to be unable to control themselves and they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

          When the video was over they all gave us a round of applause. There were all sorts of back patting comments and such; we got to thoroughly enjoy the attention and accolades. They ended up telling us that they wanted us to present it at the school board meeting, and maybe at a state board meeting. Wow, talk about more than we planned on.

          They also asked us if we would mind talking to the 3 reporters there. We talked amongst ourselves and told them that we would talk to the newspaper reporter and the reporter from Mr. Sanders first. If the other one wanted to talk to us next week we would do so then, but the one TV station deserved first crack.

          The other reporter was very gracious about it and said that seemed more than fair to her, and that she completely understood.

          A phone call was made to each of our parents, in my case they called my dad on his cell phone, and we then sat down for interviews.

          "So first of all what are your names?" The reporter for the TV station asked.

          "I'm Amy."

          "I'm Ashley,"

          "I'm Nikki."

          "And I'm Brandon," I finished. I saw a quick double take from both of them when they heard my name. Clearly they were expecting another girls name.

          They asked several questions including, "So where did you guys get the idea for the project?"

          I started, "Well they gave us the option of doing a video project, and that seemed better than talking in front of the class for a long time."

          Amy then chimed in, "At that point I suggested we do it using Barbies."

          "And then it just all kind of flowed together," I concluded. "Ashley talked to her dad that night and he offered to help us out with the facilities at your station."

          After a few more questions she concluded the interview. The interview had lasted for the rest of the day, with the newspaper reporter having a cameraman coming down to a spot outside the school where they were able to photograph/film us in front of a school sign. The cameraman said they would splice that footage in with excerpts from the video and our personal interviews. We all knew it was going to add up to about 45 seconds of a story at most.

          We were told the interview would run on TV that night on the 6 and 10 o'clock newscasts and be in the paper the next day. We had 10 minutes left in the day and Mrs. Hinther told us to go grab our stuff from our lockers and then come wait in the office till the end of the day.

          At that point we came back and found Amy's mom waiting for us. She went ahead and signed us out and we rode with her home. "Congratulations you guys, this is exciting!" She exclaimed.

          She decided that we would do KFC that night so that we could watch the interview and not miss it. We got back to the house and threw our stuff upstairs in Amy's room. After that we just kind of chilled. I did call my parents and tell them about the event and they seemed really excited for me. I was also able to tell that though we were taping it to be sure, Mr. Sanders had called and said that we would get an official copy from the station too. All-in-all it was pretty incredible.

          Dinner was around the coffee table in the living room waiting for the interview. Mr. Hancock was home for the news and we all got really excited when the interview came on. It was cool. There's really no other way to describe the experience.

          Afterwards Mrs. Hancock asked, "So do you two want to go swimming now?"

          Crap. I had forgotten that we needed to go to my house to get my swimming suit. That was going to be a pain now.

          "Umm… I don't actually have my swimsuit with me." I said.

          "You left it at home?" Amy asked.

          "Yeah, would you mind going with me to get it?" I asked.

          "Well, my husband went out to change the oil in his car, and unfortunately that's blocking in my car as well. So we won't be able to go for a while. I guess why don't you two go watch something else for now… unless."

          "Unless?"

          "Well, Amy has a couple extra swimsuits, you could borrow one from her." Mrs. Hancock offered.

          My jaw absolutely must have hit the floor.

          Chapter 41:

          "One of Amy's suits? Wouldn't that be strange?" I asked. I just had one on yesterday oh how I wanted to wear it again!

          "We have a fence around the backyard, no one would see you. It really wouldn't be that big of a deal." She hedged.

          "Well… what do you think Amy?" I asked.

          "You should do it. That way we don't have to wait for my dad forever," She answered.

          "Okay, I suppose that would be fine then." I replied.

          "Okay then, Amy why don't you two go upstairs and get dressed. I'm going to finish cleaning up dinner."

          "Okay mom," Amy said.

          We got upstairs and we closed her bedroom door. "You didn't tell her anything did you?" I asked Amy.

          "No, of course not."

          "I believe you, I just had to ask."

          "I know, it's okay. Here's your chance though, who would have thought that mom would suggest that?"

          "I wouldn't have. Do you sense there's something fishy going on?" I asked.

          "What do you mean?"

          "Well… I don't know. I guess maybe I'm wondering if it's connected to the phone conversation she had with mom forever last night."

          "I don't know. All I do know is it's time to get dressed! I haven't been able to use our pool since September!"

          She picked out a swimsuit for herself and gave me the one that I had used yesterday. Once we were dressed we headed downstairs. We grabbed some swimming toys and goggles from a closet downstairs. I hadn't seen Mrs. Hancock yet, I felt very self-conscious, when I heard "You two go ahead and head outside, okay?" from her mom behind us.

          I kind of jumped a bit at that point. "By the way, you look nice Brandon," her mom said with a wink.

          For whatever reason out of my mouth sprouted the words, "Thanks Mrs. Hancock." Where the heck did those come from? I quickly turned back around and headed out the back door to the pool. We sat our stuff on the side of the pool and jumped in.

          Amy and I just kind of dived in and out of the water for a few minutes before she said, "Brandon you really do look nice. I don't know if she was being serious or not, but you do. I think you could honestly get away with going to a public pool like this for now."

          "I don't know… I'm a little bit surprised that your mom would suggest something like this." I said.

          "I am too honestly." We were speaking in the middle of a shallow end area of the pool. Her mom was still inside. "But, are you enjoying it?" She asked.

          "Absolutely!" I replied. I loved the way that the swimming suit felt in the water. It was more like a second skin than anything else. Much more comfortable than what I'd been forced to wear before I thought.

          "Well good! Let's enjoy the pool, I haven't been able to swim in it for a while!" She said.

          We swam, diving in and out of the water for a while and then grabbed some of the pool toys from the side. We had a bunch of diving toys that we played games with seeing who could get the most toys first type thing. After a while Mrs. Hancock and her husband came out and sat in the Jacuzzi. "Why don't you two join us in here?" she suggested.

          I had forgotten all about what I was wearing while we had been playing, suddenly I was afraid of what Mr. Hancock would think.

          "Cute," he said to me, and then asked, "So I hear you two had a big day?"

          "It was great dad…" Amy proceeded to tell him everything about today with me tossing in an additional detail here and there.

          "That's awesome guys. I have to confess I did hear about it first from the Superintendent."

          "Really?" Amy asked.

          "Yeah, after he got done with you guys he gave me a call and asked if you were my daughter. He told me that you and your friends had done an amazing job."

          "Cool," Amy said.

          "I have a feeling the district is going to milk your project for everything it's worth. Because of that I made a phone call earlier." He added.

          "To where?" I asked.

          "A guy I went to law school with has been working for the Mattel corporation for the last 10 years. I thought it might be a good idea to consult with him about the project – just in case they decided to have a problem with it for some reason."

          "And?" Amy asked.

          "Well, he said they shouldn't have a problem with it. But, and this is the cool part, they want to see it to see if they can use it for any sort of promotional thing. I had one of the copies sitting around at work and sent it to him through FedEx earlier. They should get it Monday."

          "So do you think it's going to amount to anything?" I asked.

          "Who knows, maybe some scholarships for you guys? They may just throw in some free toys or something even. We'll see. I mainly called them because sometimes companies like Mattel have a fit anytime someone uses their trademark merchandise. The good thing is that in the credits you guys credited them, so they should be cool with it. Anyway, nothing we can do until we hear from them next week."

          "Thanks for doing that Dad," Amy said.

          "Yeah, thanks." I said. I certainly couldn't afford to have my family sued by that company…

          We sat in the jacuzzi with them for about 15 minutes and then we all went inside. Amy's mom sent us upstairs to go take showers and change into our pajamas. When I got up to her room I said, "Thanks for letting me use one of your swimsuits Amy."

          "Anytime Tiff."

          "Thanks. Well, I guess we should go take these showers huh?"

          "Yeah, when you're done just bring my swimsuit back here so we can dry it."

          "Okay." I replied and walked down the hall with clothes and such in hand. When I got to the bathroom and closed the door I looked at myself in the tall mirror that was on the door.

          I was honestly looking at myself to see just how much or how little I looked like a girl. Truthfully between my hair and the clothing I didn't resemble a boy at all. I looked down to where I figured I would be betrayed and found myself pleasantly surprised. There really wasn't anything to see there. The only mound at all was between my legs and didn't look like my parts.

          Unfortunately as they say, 'All good things must come to an end.' I hated that saying.

          I stripped the suit off and got in the shower. I tried to make it a quick shower and was soon in my pajamas. I walked back to her room and I found Amy just opening the bathroom door. I handed my suit to her and she hung it up on the shower curtain rod.

          "Are you going to blow dry your hair?" I asked her.

          "No, let's just go downstairs with it wet. Bring your brush though, k?"

          "Okay," I said. We both headed downstairs and sat down in the living room with our hair brushes. We sat down on the sofa in the living room. Once we had sat down I started brushing my hair, I didn't really want it to get tangled or anything. Amy started doing that as well.

          Amy's parents had us pick out a movie and we just all kind of vegged on the movie until 10pm. At that point we started recording the news again and watched our interview go out on the air again. This copy was actually a little longer and both of the news anchors commented, 'impressive.'

          My parents called about that time and I talked to them about what had happened today. I thought about leaving out the details about the swimsuit, but I thought I could present it as a funny story since they would probably hear about it one way or another. Mom and dad gave me a hard time about it, but the shock was not as high as I thought it would be. The both took it in stride, I decided that was a good thing. Maybe Tiffany might have a future?

          My parents and I talked for a while and at the end my mom asked, "Can you hand the phone to Mrs. Hancock?"

          "Sure, I love you guys, goodnight!"

          "Mrs. Hancock my parents want to talk to you." I said handing her the cordless phone I'd been talking to them on.

          "Okay Brandon." She said while taking the phone.

          I heard her say 'hi' and saw her walk back to her office again to talk. That was kind of strange.

          Amy and I kept watching movies and TV that night till we both fell asleep on the couch. At about 2:30 am Mrs. Hancock came by and prodded us up to bed. We got there and fell back to sleep very quickly.

          Saturday Amy and I were allowed to sleep in till we woke up, which ended up being at 11:30. The story of our project was on the front page of the newspaper – slow day. The paper made the film sound so much cooler than I thought it was. Mrs. Hancock went ahead and bought several more papers so that we could all have copies for our 'scrapbooks.'

          For the rest of the day we vegged out, playing her Playstation, playing with her Barbies, and watching tv/movies. That night we once again stayed up late, but didn't really do a whole lot. Sunday evening came and mom came to get me.

          While I put my stuff in the car my mom talked to her mom for a bit. Finally pulling me away from talking with Amy (I'd given up that she was going to finish whatever they were talking about – she had told me to go away for a bit). I told them thanks again for everything and then we drove to our house.

          When I entered my bedroom with my stuff that day it was a bit of a let down. I had a couple stuffed animals still, but not many. My walls were basically a blank white with a few pictures and awards here and there. The 5 days I'd spent in Amy's room I had grown accustomed to having that girl presence in the décor. Oh well, maybe eventually I could decorate my room like Amy's.

          Comment


            #6
            Standing Up to Life: Part 6

            Chapter 42:

            On Monday mom made me come home instead of going to Amy's house because she figured her parents were sick of me. They must not have been too sick of me though, because Amy and her parents stopped by at 7 and rang the door bell.

            "Amy!" I said excitedly. I'd been kind of down that I wasn't hanging out with her tonight.

            My mom came from the kitchen, "Come on in, how are you guys?"

            "We're doing well." Her dad answered.

            "Good." They sat down on the couch and side lazy boy chairs, while Amy and I sat down on the floor on the other side of the coffee table.

            "So what's going on?" I asked Amy.

            "Actually, I don't know. This was dad's idea to come over – he refused to tell me what it's about."

            At that point Mr. Hancock seemed to have cued in on our conversation. "Well, now that I have both of you in one spot I'll tell you at the same time, okay?"

            "Okay?" I asked. Amy nodded. Apparently she must have been really pestering her dad to find out.

            He actually started to talk to my mom first. "Did Brandon tell you that I called a friend at the legal department of Mattel?"

            "No?"

            "Sorry, I forgot to tell you," I told her. I'd been too busy feeling miserable about not having a girls bedroom.

            "On Friday I called a friend of mine from law school that works at Mattel. The school seems to want to make this a big deal and wants to promote their work, so I wanted to make sure their company would be okay with it. After talking to him I sent him a copy of their video. That's all that Brandon and Amy know so far."

            "Not for lack of trying." Amy whispered to me.

            "Okay," my mom said. "So did you hear back from him already?"

            "Yes, today he called back first this morning at 11. He was chuckling and told me he was genuinely impressed with their work. After talking for a few minutes, he asked some questions about whether or not they did this on their own or not, he said he was going to walk it down to one of the executives."

            "Wow," I said.

            "So, what happened," Amy fairly begged.

            "He called back at 3 and said that there are several execs at the company that would like to meet with the 4 of you on next Wednesday night. They want to take all of you, plus the parents, to dinner."

            "Really?" I asked.

            "Yeah. I don't know why, but I guess they were really impressed with the film you guys made. They also asked me for addresses for you guys, as they wanted to send something to you. I made sure that it wasn't some sort of lawsuit first and then gave them the addresses."

            "What are they sending?" Amy asked.

            "I have no idea. I don't think he even knew at this point. So, do you guys think you can make the Wednesday night meeting?" He asked my mom.

            "We should be able to. Where are we going to meet?"

            He named off a restaurant name and I was fairly shocked. "That's probably the most expensive restaurant in town…" My mom said.

            "They're buying, and apparently they've eaten there before and liked it." Mr. Hancock said.

            "Well if they're buying…" Mom said.

            "Cool," Amy and I said together. We looked at each other and started giggling.

            "So what's so funny you two?" My mom asked.

            Mrs. Hancock answered, "I think it's just how frequent the two of them have been doing that. They've been finishing each others sentences and saying the same thing for the better part of 3 days now!" She laughed a bit herself.

            We all talked for another 20 minutes or so and then they left to go back home for the night. I worked on some homework I'd needed to finish and got on the phone for a little bit while mom talked to dad. They were driving Grandpa home tomorrow, since they lived about 40 minutes away mom was going to go pick dad up from their house. I asked if I could go along so I could see Grandpa and they said okay.

            Mom ended up calling her boss and getting the afternoon off – she was going to pick me up just before lunch from school. I tried getting out of the whole school day but she figured out that that was because I had a test first hour. Couldn't I get away with anything?

            When we got done with the phone I got back to my homework and then watched some TV till I went to bed. That night I kept trying to think of what Mattel could be sending us. Would they send us toys? If so would they realize I was a boy? If not would I be able to get my very own set of Barbies? Or something? When I fell asleep that night I had tons of dreams of my room being full of Barbies and other toys.

            Chapter 43:

            The next day our group talked outside about what we thought might happen next Wednesday. We were all really excited, and hoped that it would be something really cool. Just before lunch I was called to the office. Mom was there to check me out. We had lunch and began heading over to my grandparents place.

            They lived outside of a small town on part of my grandmothers family's old ranch. It had originally been a large property, but they had sold off bits of it until they only had 10 acres at this point. We were going to beat them to their place by about an hour we figured, but that would give us some time to make sure everything was ready for them.

            Mom made me especially help out in making my grandfather's bedroom as ready as possible for him to be comfortable. In the end we ended up sitting down to watch TV just as they drove up. We went out to help them out.

            "Grandpa!" I gave him a soft hug since I didn't want to hurt him.

            "Brandon, it's good to see you."

            I then gave Grandma a hug.

            "It's good to see you sweetie," she told me as I gave her a hug.

            We helped them get grandpa inside and actually got him settled into a recliner in the living room. "How are you feeling Grandpa?" I asked him.

            "I've been better before." He said with a wry smile. "But, I'm still here – and I definitely feel better than I did a couple days ago."

            "Good."

            "And how are you doing?" Grandma asked me.

            "Great, I've had several really cool things happen in the past few weeks at school." They had heard about most of this stuff, but they listened attentively anyway.

            She asked my mom, "What do you think they want to meet with you all about?"

            "Mr. Hancock has no idea. It could be interesting though, if nothing else it sounds like we're going to get a really good meal out of the deal."

            "Yeah. I'll make sure that I'm not on call that night," My dad said.

            We all talked for about 30 more minutes before we all gave grandpa hugs and headed towards the car. At the driveway I gave grandma a hug. "I like your hair," she told me.

            "Thanks." I replied.

            "How long are you going to grow it to?" She asked.

            "Probably not a whole lot more. I like this length I think." I told her.

            "Well it looks very nice. Have a safe trip home sweetie, and we'll see you again in a couple weeks, okay?" We gave each other another hug and I got in the car.

            The drive home was fairly quiet since dad fell asleep from fatigue about 3 minutes into the drive. We arrived back home at about 5:30 and stopped by Burger King for a whopper for each of us.

            It was another quiet evening that night, and I made arrangements to be able to go Amy's house that next day.

            ************************************************** **********************

            The next week went by very quickly. I had hung out at Amy's house half of the time, and she had actually come over to our house the other days. When I was at Amy's house I had put on some of her clothes each day while we were doing our homework or playing. Each day I switched back to my clothes in plenty of time before anyone came home though.

            Amy had also invited me to an 'end of the year' slumber party that she was having that next week on Friday. Besides me, Ashley, Nikki, and several other girls were also invited. I didn't know the others as well. But, they were all going on the trip with us, and I'd never had any major problems with any of them. I had no idea what to expect on Friday night, I just knew that it would probably be a really good time.

            Mrs. Hancock had made sure it was okay with the girls' parents that a boy would be there – some had grumbled a little but went along with it. Amy and her mom had been shopping and preparing for the event for the better part of 6 days by the time we got to our Wednesday meeting.

            Dad had actually gotten off of work early that night so that we could be sure that we met up with the executives at the proper time. Mom made me wear a button up shirt and black slacks for the meeting. Amy and the girls all came in dresses – I was really jealous that I wasn't getting to wear the same thing.

            Mr. Hancock's friend – Al – was the first person that we saw. The two of them exchanged handshakes and backslaps before introducing everyone to each other. There were 4 other people from the corporation there. The first was actually the CEO… I couldn't believe that part. He asked that we call him Billy. There was also the head of their Marketing department - Dave, the head of their Barbie division - Lilly, and a lady who was Billy's 'executive assistant' – Amanda.

            We sat down at the table and the waiter took our drink orders.

            "Well let's get down to some business shall we?" 'Billy' said after some small talk and ordering appetizers.

            "Okay," Mr. Hancock answered.

            "When Al showed us the video you girls had made we were completely shocked by how good it was. We usually get about 3 dozen films a year that people send in trying to get something out of us for it. Al told us you were just wanting to make sure that we would be okay with it being shown elsewhere, but we decided that we needed to do more."

            "Okay. Like what, sir?" I asked.

            "Well, first of all we sent a package to each of your houses, have you gotten them yet?"

            We shook our heads.

            "Well it should be here tomorrow then. Amanda can you check on that tomorrow?" He asked her off to the side.

            "Yes." She said simply.

            "Anyway, there'll be some things for each of you arriving – but we wanted to see if perhaps we could reach a deal for the film itself."

            "What kind of deal?" My dad asked.

            "A deal for us to be able to use the film for a series of long commercials on one of the cable networks. We'd also like to sponsor it's entry into a couple of film festivals this year. Does that sound like something you all would be interested in?" He asked.

            Mr. Sanders took this one. "If we do this what are you willing to offer?"

            "First we'll give each of the kids a $2000 savings bond for college – there are 4 of you involved in this project right?" Billy asked us.

            "Yes," Amy said.

            "And?" Mr. Sanders asked.

            "We'll give them each $20,000 in cash too."

            "Whoa." Amy and I said together.

            "You're planning on showing this on tv networks?" Mr. Hancock asked.

            "Yes."

            "And you're hoping maybe that the film will get picked up by a studio for distribution through the film festivals?" Mr. Sanders asked.

            "Well, we could distribute it ourselves, but we want to see what kind of a reaction and buzz that we can generate with it first." Lilly said.

            "Fair enough," Mr. Sanders said. "But that does mean we should be talking more for the film."

            I was aghast… How could he push our luck with this?

            "What would you consider to be a fairer offer?" Billy asked.

            He and Mr. Hancock spoke to each other in low tones for a quick minute before Mr. Hancock said, "Well… We would think at least $70,000 each initially. Plus 25% of any gross of box office/VHS sales that happen."

            I couldn't believe it. I trust Mr. Hancock a lot, but it seemed like he was blowing this opportunity for us.

            "That's a little steep Mr. Hancock." Lilly said.

            "Not really. When you consider the fact that these kids did all of the production work for you and that your only expenditure would be promotion of the film. In all honesty it's still highway robbery for you." Mr. Sanders replied.

            "You make a good point, but we still can't pay that much. We will also have to deal with the rights to use the Nancy Drew brand for the film. How about $50,000 each, and 20%?" Billy suggested.

            Mr. Hancock and Mr. Sanders both huddled for a couple moments again before saying, "We'll go for that as long as you also throw in trips to those festivals and let the kids show it at the State school board meeting next month."

            "I think that can be arranged." They shook hands and Al wrote up a contract for those terms at the table real quick. After looking it over all of our parents signed the contract as well as us. We really didn't have to sign it, especially since it didn't make a difference one way or another, but they asked us to.

            We completed this all before our dinner came. Once dinner came we ate in relative quiet. Lilly seemed interested in how and why we came up with the project we did.

            "Well, I thought a video was far better than having to talk for all that time in class. So we settled on the video idea pretty quickly." I said.

            "Then we came up with the idea of using Barbies for the characters in the movie." Amy said.

            "And then we just got really lucky that my dad works for a TV studio." Ashley added.

            "And Brandon, you were okay with doing it with Barbies?" She asked me.

            "Sure, why wouldn't I be?" I replied. I was wondering where she was going with this.

            "It's just you're not our normal target audience for dolls, and I'm trying to figure out if there's something we can do to change that." She said.

            "No, I doubt you'll change that." I told her honestly.

            "Probably not," she replied. She had kind of a strange look in her eye still, but the conversations moved on. After we finished dinner we had a sort of 'ceremonial' signing of the contract over dessert.

            "Well it's been great meeting you all and doing business with you." Billy said.

            "Thank you so much for coming out here and taking this interest," My dad said. I think my parents were in a state of shock – I know I was. There were some final details such as sending in the Master of our film on the Beta tape I had. After that was done though we all kind of filed out and the Mattel Corporation officers left. We all kind of stood by our cars while they drove off.

            "YES!!!!" I screamed and found that my voice was joined by those of the other girls. We gave each other all big hugs. Something we had done in 2 days had earned us more money than my parents had ever had at once.

            Chapter 44:

            My parents had finally snapped out of the shock about the time that we had our screaming session. They were absolutely ecstatic about the sale that we had made.

            That night my parents and I talked about what to do with the money on our way home. We decided that for now it was going to go into an account that was going to earn interest, and we'd do something with in a month or so. I had offered to pay off the house, but they seemed to think it had other places that would be better to put it into.

            We called my grandparents that night, they couldn't believe the news either. I think we would have gone out for ice cream or something that night, but given we were already full from dinner that didn't seem that appetizing of an idea. Instead we just sat around for a bit and talked before mom and dad forced me to go to bed.

            The next day I went to school and things seemed normal. A silent pact had been formed between the four of us not to say anything to the other kids about our experience last night. Telling them could only mean trouble we had decided. Thus the only real news and excitement we talked about at lunch was the slumber party the next night.

            "What are we going to do?" I asked Amy.

            "All sorts of things! But I'm not telling you or anyone else the events until Friday night." She said mischeviously.

            "Come on Amy.."

            "Nope, you're just going to be surprised like everyone else!" She stuck her tongue out at me.

            "Oh, I have one of those too," I stuck mine out. We both started giggling and the other girls just looked at us and shook their heads.

            Ashley asked, "Are you two sure you aren't twins that were separated at birth?"

            "Fairly," I answered. I had never given it much thought, but most of the time that we were out together doing stuff most people probably assumed we were sisters.

            We had a fairly quick day and Amy came to my house that night. When we walked back from the bus stop I looked over and saw a large box sitting outside the door. As I got closer I saw there were actually 2 boxes there.

            "Brandon this must be the stuff that Mattel sent us." Amy exclaimed.

            "You're right. Help me get it inside and we'll see what it is." I said as I reached over and picked up one of the boxes. Actually I should say tried to pick up one of the boxes. It was heavier than I expected, and bulky. I decided to open the door first then pick it up again to carry it in.

            I got that box inside the door and Amy brought her box inside too. "Brandon why don't we take these to your room to open?"

            "Okay." I replied.

            Easier said than done I thought for a second as I picked the box back up. It was large and weighed at least 50lbs I figured. It took me several minutes to get it into my room and set it on the open floor area in there. She sat hers next to the one I had while I grabbed a pair of scissors real quick to open them up. We decided to open the heavy one first, just what was inside of it?

            As I got the flaps of that box open I saw another box inside that had a pink exterior. Could it be? Could I really have received a set of girls toys of my own?

            Amy helped me pull the inner box out and we found a huge, really expensive, really nice doll house. "Wow Brandon, you won't have to come over to my house to play Barbies anymore."

            "No I guess I won't will I?"

            "What else is inside of here?" She asked as she dug through the box. We found several sets of doll furniture inside. "Wow, this is a really nice doll house set. I think it's nicer than the one I have!"

            "Well actually I think you're going to find this same doll house sitting at your house." I replied. "Let's see what's in the other box." I said excitedly.

            A few cuts later and I found that they had given me 18 dolls in that box, featuring most of the Barbie characters. Amy was ecstatic upon looking at all of the dolls that were in there. "Brandon, this one is going to be a huge collector's item. They are already over $70 new. And this one too! Wow…" She went on for a while.

            We inventoried that box finding that there were 6 collector's dolls, and the rest were all okay to play with. Inside that box were also several fashion sets of clothes for all of them to wear. I was absolutely in heaven, but what would my parents say?

            "Amy, I doubt my parents will let me keep these."

            "Why?"

            "Well they're probably going to say that it's rather strange for a boy to have a doll house and Barbies. Especially one my age. I mean you even get some razzing for still playing with them." I said.

            "Who cares? Tell your parents it's like a trophy for a trophy case. There's really little doubt that you could argue that. I mean after all think of how much money this Barbie project earned you."

            "I guess you're right."

            "Besides, this is part of who you are Tiff." She said.

            "Thanks Amy," I replied. "Well, why don't we wait until my mom gets home before we do anything more okay? She'd kill me if she missed out on doing something with these dolls and stuff."

            Amy laughed, "Yeah, I think that you're right on that." We left all of the toys on the floor of my room, still in their boxes, and went to sit out in the living room and watch TV while we worked on our homework. My mom came home about 30 minutes later.

            "Hey Amy, Brandon, how as your day?"

            "It was good." I replied.

            "Did the package come from those execs?" She asked.

            "Umm… yeah, it did."

            "Well what was it?"

            "Why don't you come see for yourself?" I said as I led her down to my room.

            "Oh my… Wow! This is a gorgeous doll house. I would have killed to have had one of these when I was little girl." She looked over all of the dolls and such. "So do I have to say goodbye to these or what?" She asked.

            "What do you mean?" I asked.

            "Well are you giving them to Amy?"

            "Why would I do that when she should have an identical set sitting at her house?"

            "I don't know. You hadn't gotten them out yet though."

            "You mean you wouldn't mind if I hung on to them?" I asked incredulously.

            "No. I think this is a great way for you to remember this experience." She said. A second later after a hesitation she added, "And, I happen to know you've been playing with her Barbies at her house. I wasn't going to go out and buy you Barbies, but seeing as how they're already here…"

            I was astonished. I hugged her and said, "Thanks mom. I figured you were going to make me give them away or something."

            "And deprive myself of the chance to have this doll house and these dolls being in this house?" She asked. "Well come on, let's get to putting this all together."

            We started opening the packaging of the dolls (talk about a pain in the butt!), and setting up the doll house. I ended up setting the doll house up in a corner of my room on the floor. We had thought about putting it on top of a dresser that was in there but it made it way too tall to be able to do anything with, and it also blocked the window. We setup the dolls inside of the house until 5:30 when Amy's mom came to get her.

            "Brandon, tomorrow when you come to the sleepover, bring two of your Barbies okay?" She asked.

            "Umm… Okay. Hey give me a call later and let me know if you got the same thing or not?"

            "Okay, talk to you in a bit then," Amy said as she went and got into her mom's car.

            "Mom?"

            "Yes sweetie?"

            "Is dad going to be alright with me having that dollhouse?"

            "Yes. We'd already talked about it."

            "What do you mean?"

            "Well when we heard they were sending you something we had a feeling it would probably be Barbies or something. I asked your dad if it was if he was okay if you kept them and he said yes."

            "Really?"

            "Yes sweetie. It's a great way to remember this by. Now go get washed up. I'm going to have dinner ready here in a few minutes.

            "Okay mom." I said as I went to go wash my hands. What was going on? That was far easier than it ever should have been!

            That night dad came home and mom showed him what they had sent. I watched his face and read something, I wasn't sure what it was, but it went away as quick as I saw it. Before he said, "Well, it definitely looks like a nice memento from this whole project."

            "Speaking of which, they said the check should arrive tomorrow during the day. If it's here when you come home Brandon, please put it in the safe and lock it, okay?"

            "Sure Dad. Are you sure you guys don't want me to pay off the house with it?" I asked.

            "Yes Brandon, that money has other uses like paying for your college and such. Plus maybe in a few years it'll help pay for a car for you to drive." He added.

            "Well okay." I said. "Do you know what we want to do with it until then?"

            "Well I talked with a tax guy today and he figures that we need to go ahead and pay 20k in taxes on it to be safe. We should hopefully get 5k of that back since you're under 18. The thing that may really throw things for a loop is the 20% revenue. If that turns out anything – and Mr. Hancock and Mr. Sanders believe it will – it should add up a lot of money there."

            "How much do those two think that could bring in?" I asked.

            "Well they're thinking that it could end up making it onto the front of a movie at some point this year. If it does there'll be a revenue split. If, you're even talking of a box office/vhs revenue of a Million dollars, that's another 50 grand for each of you."

            "Cool." I said.

            We all talked for a while that night before mom told me to go ahead and work on packing my stuff for the next night. I filled an extra backpack with clothes and stuff along with two of the Barbie dolls like Amy had asked. For good measure I also put some extra outfits and accessories inside a Ziploc to take with me.

            That night when I went to bed I saw something else in the doll house's presence that pleased me. It was the first girls item decorating my room!

            Chapter 45:

            That day all of the girls were talking about the end of the year slumber party Amy was hosting. When some of the other girls who weren't going, but thought they were in the 'in crowd' found out that I had been invited, but they had not, they were jealous. I had several girls make some nasty comments to me that morning before we were let out at noon.

            I honestly didn't care.

            We had yearbook signing that morning, and I was actually really impressed with the number of people who signed my yearbook. Not only that, but they were giving genuinely kind and decent comments in my yearbook. I actually had a lot of fun that last half day. Looking back at the year I couldn't believe how much things had actually improved. The beginning of the year had easily been one of the darkest times of my life, but things were beginning to look up.

            When noon came and we were released everyone let out shouts of joy for our freedom. I took the bus home so I could get my stuff for tonight. Amy went to her house to get everything ready, and I told her I'd get there as soon as I could to help.

            When I got home I looked through the mail and found something that could have been a check – I put it in the safe as I was asked. I sat at home for about an hour before my mom came home. "Sweetie, do you have everything for tonight?" She asked me.

            "Yes mom. Now can you go ahead and take me over there?"

            "I guess let's go." We got in the car to go over there.

            We got there at 1:45 and I went in to find Amy working on some decorations. "Hey Brandon set your sleeping bag up in the living room, and then come help me out over here okay?" She said.

            Once I had my sleeping bag out, I helped her put balloons up around the living room and do some other decorations. I was actually really amazed with how many things that they had done since I'd been over Tuesday. We worked on stuff until 3:30 when she decided that we were done. The girls were all supposed to arrive at 4-4:30.

            "So what all are we doing today?" I asked.

            "You think I'm going to tell you now?" She said teasingly.

            "Well… I was kind of hoping…" I teased back.

            "Okay, here's my plan of events. First thing when they get here we're going to do is have a scavenger hunt. Then we're going to have dinner, play with Barbies for a while, so that we can go swimming next without getting cramps, then twister, watch a movie, and all sorts of other things!"

            "Sounds like fun." I replied.

            "Oh it will be. Umm… Brandon?"

            "What?"

            "Before tonight starts I want to promise you that no matter what goes on tonight you can trust the girls that are here."

            "Even Lindsey and Amber?" I asked

            "Even Lindsey and Amber. I wouldn't have invited them unless I knew that I could trust having them over. I thought about just having it be the 4 of us from the film, but I decided 2 more people would make it more fun."

            "That's fine, if you trust them I trust them. Just out of curiosity why are you telling me this?"

            "Well… I'm also planning on us doing some other girly stuff."

            "Like?"

            "Well we're going to do everyone's nails, hair, and makeup for starters!" She said with a big smile on her face.

            "And you're sure Lindsey and Amber won't get onto me for this? Or tell anyone from school?"

            "I'm more than sure. If you don't mind I'm kind of thinking of you as one of the girls tonight." She said.

            "That's fine… I'm honored." I added the last bit. I was really trying not to tear up.

            "Brandon, you really are my best friend in the whole world." She said.

            "And you're definitely mine." I replied.

            "Okay, let's go finish setting up some stuff upstairs in my playroom!" She said.

            For the next 20 minutes we setup her new dollhouse and a couple others into a 'neighborhood.' At 3:50 her mom came home. She came upstairs to find us.

            "Hey Amy, Brandon, how was the last day?"

            "Great, it was the last day, how else could it be?" I stated.

            "I agree." Amy said.

            "Well, I'm going to work on getting the scavenger hunt setup okay?"

            "Sure. Do you need anything from us?" I asked her.

            "Nothing except for you guys to stay in the living room to wait for the others to get here. Please don't come outside so it can be a surprise for all of you." She said mysteriously.

            "Okay," Amy said.

            Once she walked downstairs we started down ourselves. "So Amy, your mom planned the scavenger hunt?"

            "Uh-huh. I know of a few things that we're going to have to find, but where and what exactly for certain I don't know." We talked about some other things downstairs while we waited.

            The first other person to arrive was Ashley at 4:10. Then the others all trickled in until everyone was there by 4:30. We were all chatting loudly when Amy's mom came into the living room where we were.

            "Okay guys, I need you to listen to a few rules alright?"

            We all nodded.

            "First off, everyone will be sleeping on the floor – no one on couches or beds okay?"

            "Yes ma'am," a couple of the girls answered.

            "Next, if you need to go home for whatever reason let me know and I'll let you use the phone. Please don't go into get food anytime you want, ask first. Lights will be out at 1am at the latest. Once lights are out please try and sleep. Let's see what else… Do not run around the swimming pool, and don't dive in the shallow end. If you sit in the jacuzzi don't sit for anymore time than 10 minutes – I don't want anyone getting dehydrated. Please be nice to each other and have fun okay?" She said.

            We all nodded.

            "Okay, I'm going to help you guys start one activity, then I'll be mostly out of your hair. Amy wanted to have a scavenger hunt, and to make it more fair I've set it up so she doesn't know what's where. You'll all be competing on an individual basis, the first person to find all of their items will get this teddy bear." She said holding up a large teddy bear. "All of the items you have to find will be useable tonight okay?"

            "Sounds like fun Mrs. Hancock," Lindsey said.

            "Okay then, here's your first clue. Don't open it until the count of 3 okay?" She said handing each of us an envelope. I had a feeling that this was going to be fun. Amy definitely would still have an advantage, but I should be a close second to her advantage with as much time as I had spent here. "All of the items are hidden outside. So don't come inside until everyone is done okay?" She led us outside and gave us each a big cloth bag to hold our stuff.

            "Everyone ready? Then 1-2-3 Go!" She said.

            I quickly opened up my clue. I read it for a second and then realized that it was leading me over to the wall on the side of the house. I ran over there with Amy right in front of me. Behind a bush there in a plastic Ziploc was a white pillow case and another clue.

            That clue led me to a bush on the opposite side of the yard. I actually beat Amy there by about 20 seconds! At that location I found a plastic bag containing a couple colors of fabric paint. I opened that clue and stared for a couple moments. At this point the other girls were catching up, and Amy had taken off in a run in one direction. Oh duh! The trash can!

            I got to the next spot about 20 seconds after Amy and found a bag with 2 colors of nail polish. I put all of the stuff inside the cloth bag and opened up this newest clue. It led to a water spicket that Amy and I were basically there at the same time to. This location gave up a couple of small bubble bottles and led to the bottom of a swing set that was on the side of her yard.

            There I found 2 tubes of lip gloss and a note that led to the front of the house. At this point Amy and I had built up a decent lead, and I ran at full speed to try and beat her! At that location I found a small makeup kit that had a bunch of different things in it. Boy Amy wasn't kidding about the girls stuff today was she?

            I found a towel at another spot along the front of the house before it led me back to the back. On top of the swing set I found a pair of pink pajamas in a Ziploc that had my name on it. I threw them into my bag. The clue led to the changing room they had outside the pool and I slid down the slide to make it there – it said it was the final object. Amy tripped behind me. Seeing that she was alright I opened the door and grabbed the final object – a one piece swimsuit with my name on it again.

            By this point I was breathing really hard. I sat down on a lawn chair beside the pool while the rest of the group finished up. I looked at a watch I had on and was surprised to see that all of that had actually taken a while – it was already 5pm.

            Chapter 46:

            I was still sitting there when the last girl – Nikki – finished. I looked at the stuff that was inside my bag and remembered that there was a girls swimsuit and pair of pajamas for me in there. All of the girls gathered by the pool and we all looked at the booty. Amy's mom came out and handed me the teddy bear.

            "I can't believe you beat me Brandon," Amy said with a smirk and a stuck out tongue.

            "Neither can I." I replied.

            I looked at the swimsuit and pajamas. They both had Ariel from The Little Mermaid on them. They all had a base of pink for the color.

            "Brandon," Amy's mom said speaking to me, "I got a set of pajamas and a swimsuit for you for the scavenger hunt, but you don't have to wear them if you don't want to." She said with a smile.

            "Come on Brandon, if you wear them we'll all be identically dressed!" Nikki said.

            "Yeah," the other girls all insisted. Amy just nodded her head, I could tell she was being careful.

            "Well… You can't tell anyone about this okay?" I said.

            "Okay we all pinky promise," Ashley said. In turn I ended up getting all of their pinky's in that most sacred of vows.

            "Well then," Amy said. "First things first, Mom is the pizza here?"

            "Yes it is if you all want to come in to eat." She said.

            When we entered I saw that she had added a huge Barbie party banner in the living room that said 'congratulations,' to the 4 of us.

            "Mom, where did you get that?" Amy asked.

            "I had it made a couple weeks ago when I figured out that you were going to win the class project."

            "Thanks Mrs. Hancock," Nikki said.

            The 6 of us all sat down at the table in the dining room to eat the pizzas that she had bought. You know, I never would have guessed that 6 girls – uh… 5 girls and a boy… could eat so many pizzas! When we were done eating Amy said, "Look, why don't we all go play Barbies for a while in my playroom upstairs until the food settles. Then we can go swimming!"

            Everyone agreed with this plan and we soon got upstairs – everyone brought 2 of their own Barbies. Ashley and Nikki both commented on how their doll houses that they received were all identical. I did notice for the first time though that they had sent some different furniture sets to Amy than I had gotten.

            "Brandon have you always had Barbie Dolls?" Lindsey asked.

            "Umm… no… Mattel sent us each a set of them and these doll houses this week for our project."

            "So you did get one too?" Nikki asked.

            "Yeah… I didn't know what to do with it really, but I decided with my parents that it would be worth hanging onto as a memento of our achievement." We then filled in Lindsey and Amber into some of the details of the deal we had gotten. We didn't tell them about the exact figure.

            "Wow that's really cool. I'm glad that you all got that lucky set of breaks." Amber said.

            "Thanks" I replied.

            We played with the Barbies upstairs for about 30 minutes and then Amy dragged us all away. She told us to go ahead and get into our swimsuits. I used 'my' bathroom upstairs to do so. I tucked in stuff again so that maybe the girls wouldn't see anything that could disturb them.

            The girls only comment was one from Lindsey, "Brandon, you look really cute in that." She was being serious. We all jumped into the pool, and I pitied Amy's mom. She may have done something really cute by doing the identical clothing stuff, but I didn't know how she would ever be able to tell us apart in the pool!

            We swam in the pool for 45 minutes or so and then Amy suggested that we all sit for a little bit in the Jacuzzi. Once we were sitting down in there Nikki said, "Brandon, I think we need to find another name for you for tonight…"

            "Umm… Okay… Like what?"

            Soon it became a big contest to pick a name for me. I kept shaking my head hoping to hold out for Tiffany. I was hoping Amy would figure out a way to put that name out when Lindsey said, "How about Tiffany?"

            Amy said, "That would be good."

            "What do you think of that one?" Nikki asked.

            "Well, I guess that one will work. But again no one can tell anyone else alright?" I pleaded.

            They all nodded. Amy's mom came up a few minutes later with the family camera and told us all to huddle together on one side of the jacuzzi. She took several pictures of us like that and told us that it had been 10 minutes.

            "What now?" Amber asked Amy.

            "How about twister?" Amy suggested.

            Everyone chimed in their agreement and we played twister for half an hour. I wasn't even close to as flexible as Amy and the other girls were so I was usually the first one out in the 4 games we played. I did manage to get into 3rd place on the last game. Her mom had been on the side taking more pictures during that game, and I wondered just how freaky I looked in some of those awkward poses!


            Amy suggested that everyone get into the shower real quick to rinse their hair out and then switch into their pajamas. I took that bag upstairs with me – each of the girls paired up with a bathroom. Amy told me to come up to her room. Lindsey and Amber used 'my' bathroom, and Nikki and Ashley used Amy's parents bathroom.

            Amy had suggested that we just get in the shower in our swimsuits and then we could stay in there at the same time. Everyone agreed to this plan including myself. Amy and I were done with washing our hair after about 10 minutes. She put a towel around my hair and I did the same with hers. I left then so she could change with us trading places a few minutes later.

            Inside the pajama bag I was pleasantly surprised to find a pair of matching panties to the pajamas. I had actually thought about that just before I found them – I had left my underwear downstairs. The pajama set had a top shirt that was like an extra long t-shirt. It had that same color scheme of pink with Ariel on it.

            The bottom 'pants' weren't really pants I figured. I thought they must actually be leggings? They had a strap that went underneath the bottom of my feet. There was a set of socks in there to match – I put them on underneath the strap. I wasn't honestly sure which order they were supposed to go on. Once I put the pajama set on I walked out the door find that I looked basically identical to Amy. The two of us got the other 4 into her bedroom next.

            While I had been changing Amy had plugged in like 4 curling irons and several blow dryers around the room. "Okay girls, I think we all need to do each other's hair now, what do you think?"

            "Sounds good!" Nikki said. "Can we all work on Tiffany's hair first?" She asked

            "Yeah, then we'll all pair up to finish everyone else's hair." Lindsey suggested.

            "Okay," Amy said.

            With that they led me to the same spot Amy had done my hair a couple weeks ago. They all huddled for a second and then the craziness began. They must have fussed over my hair for half an hour before declaring me 'done.' They took me to the bathroom mirror with my eyes shut and said to open them.

            It was actually really impressive.

            They had first of all taken the majority of the back of my hair and curled it under like Amy had done before. They had then given me some bangs as well. But from there the creativity had started. I had lots of little spirals of hair here and there that were dangling from my head. They had put tons of other cool little details into it, and the whole effect was stunning. The next thing I knew Amy said, "Tiffany turn around."

            The flash of a polaroid camera went off. I honestly couldn't wait to see that photo.

            Comment


              #7
              Standing Up to Life: Part 7

              Chapter 47:

              We all began working on someone else's hair at that point. Actually, I helped Amy with Nikki and Lindsey's hair. They in turn did Amy's hair. When we had all finished the hair I saw that it was 8pm. Amy's mom showed up about that time and took a group picture of us in Amy's playroom with the dollhouses and Barbies behind us. She also took like 4 individual pictures of us as well in different poses. I discovered that night that she was an amateur photographer – Amy said she was really good.

              "What's next?" I asked.

              "Well I think it's time to do makeup!" Amy said. "Lindsey, can you do everyone?"

              "Umm… I guess. I'm not really that good with it." She replied.

              "You're definitely the best here!" Amber said.

              I was then informed by Amber that while the rest of the girls were still deemed 'too young' to wear makeup, Lindsey had been able to wear it for pageants and stuff since she was 3. She also had 3 older sisters that she did their makeup from time to time as well.

              This time we started with Amy and finished up with me. She didn't make us all out to look like tramps, or little girls putting on makeup, we actually looked pretty. The 5 of us then worked on her makeup the best we could – with her fixing a few things. When all was said and done it was time for more pictures with the Polaroid and then 'mom the photographer.'

              I looked at a clock and saw that it was already 8:45! How quickly this night was going! From there we went downstairs to the living room to do each other's finger and toenails in polish. Amy turned on The Little Mermaid while we were doing it. Amy's mom walked in at that point and Lindsey asked, "Mrs. Hancock, why little mermaid on the swimsuits and pajamas?"

              "Well I looked at first for Barbie, because of their project, but couldn't find any sizes big enough for you, Amber, and Ashley. Amy, Nikki, and Br… I mean Tiffany are all small enough they could have fit in some of the 'little' girl sizes, but you all were too tall." She had been told that I was Tiffany for the rest of the night. I saw a look of inquiry on her face at that point, but she sent it away soon after. "Anyway I then thought since you are all going on the trip, and we're going to Disney World, that a Disney set would be appropriate."

              "That's so thoughtful of you Mrs. Hancock, thank you so much!" Lindsey said.

              We all chimed in our thanks and got back to finishing up the polish jobs. Actually, this had turned into a bit of a contest. I worked on Nikki's nails and then she worked on mine. The goal was to make decorations above the base coat of nail polish as pretty as you could. We all had sets of little brushes that I tried my best to do something like I saw everyone else doing for Nikki.

              Actually my work wasn't terrible… but it wasn't as good as Nikki did for me. She painted alternating stars and music notes on my fingernails. Then she painted little hearts and flowers on my toenails. She also then painted the words – Barbie Girl on my big toes. After everyone's nails had dried we got Mrs. Hancock in there to judge. I thought Nikki had done an impressive job on mine – but somehow Lindsey had put everyone to shame on what she had done on Ashley's nails.

              We then all had a good laughing session and got out some board games while the movie finished up. It was then about 10:15 and everyone was kind of running out of steam. Amy decided we had time for the last activity – painting pillow cases.

              Each of us took our pillowcases, and combined the paint collection, and painted some sort of main design on it – including our names in big letters. I almost painted Brandon, but decided what the heck? I painted Tiffany in a scrolling flowery'ish writing that I had been practicing writing for a while.

              Then we each walked around signing/writing notes to each other on each of the pillow cases. At the end we looked at our finished pillow case.

              I about cried when I looked at mine. That girl named Tiffany had an awful lot of good friends! Every girl had written on it how much fun they'd had with Tiffany. Several even wrote that they hoped they could see her again soon (Lindsey, Amy, Nikki, and Amber).

              I actually started crying a few moments later when Lindsey said, "Tiffany, whether you're Brandon or Tiffany we all like you a lot." She gave me a hug. "I do think you may make a better Tiffany than a Brandon though!" She smiled. "I've never really taken the time to get to know you before now – but I can definitely see why Amy has been hanging out with you so much this semester." They all gathered around me for a bit until I got control of myself.

              Thankfully no one asked why I was crying. In all honesty I knew, but I didn't know myself. Did that make any sense? After all of my hopes and dreams of being a girl – tonight I actually had been one. The other thing is that now that I had been introduced as Tiffany to these 4 other girls – and they had accepted me – it made me think that maybe I could actually go to school as a girl.

              There was certainly a large amount of fear involved with that thought. Would I be able to be safe going to school as Tiffany? I knew that the 5 most popular girls in the sixth grade were with me right now, but would that be enough?

              I got myself together finally a few minutes later. Amy's mom came in to check on us about that time and suggested that we all go wash the makeup off our faces before we watched a movie in our sleeping bags. We all agreed and I started to walk up to Amy's bathroom where she had some makeup remover for us to use. Mrs. Hancock intercepted me though.

              "Are you alright?" she asked me when the other girls were out of earshot.

              "Yes… I think." I replied.

              "Do you want to talk about it?" She asked.

              "Maybe. Sometime. Just not tonight." I said.

              "That's fine, but if you ever do want to talk about it feel free to come see me. You don't have to come over here just to hang out with Amy you know." She said and gave me a hug.

              I ran upstairs and the girls showed me how to take the makeup off my face. Actually, it was already half off when I got up there. The mascara that Amy had put on my face had run down my face badly. Once we all had clean faces – Mrs. Hancock checked us coming down too – we got into our sleeping bags on the floor.

              "What are we watching?" I asked Amy.

              "The Princess Bride." Lindsey and Amber seemed very happy with this choice, the other three of us had puzzled expressions.

              "You mean you've never seen this before?" Lindsey asked us.

              "Nope," I said.

              "Well, I can kind of understand Brandon having not seen it before… But Ashley? Nikki? Amy quick put it in – these three have to see this movie!" She ordered with a gigantic smile on her face.

              The movie went on for a long time it seemed before Amy's mom came in and checked on us and turned out the lights. I then noticed that they had put a couple night lights around the room so we could see if we needed to. I think everyone except Amy and I had nodded off by the time the end of the movie came.

              "Amy?" I asked seeing if she was still awake – her sleeping bag was right next to mine.

              "Yes Tiff?"

              "Thanks."

              "Anytime." She replied.

              I sat there just enjoying the memories of that afternoon for a long time before falling asleep.

              Chapter 48:

              The next morning I heard several of the other girls stir in the morning and start walking around. I decided that meant it was time to get up. I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag and sat up. We all gathered around the table for a breakfast that Mrs. Hancock had sat out. There were all sorts of food and things laid out on the table for us to eat, including cereal, bacon, eggs, muffins, and bagels.

              "Morning Tiff." Amy said to me.

              "Morning." I said.

              We all ate and talked animatedly about the fact that we now had just a little under a week before we were going to Florida! "What are you looking forward to most Tiffany?" Nikki asked me.

              "Kennedy Space Center. I've always loved space and stuff." I replied. "You?"

              "Magic Kingdom, I can't wait to go by the castle!" She said.

              Conversations went like that for a while until we all finished breakfast and changed into our regular clothes. We then helped clean up around the house so that everything was as neat as it had been when we had started.

              Mrs. Hancock told my mom she could come a bit later than she had told the other girls parents – so I was the last one there. At that point Mrs. Hancock asked, "Brandon what do you want me to do with Tiffany's swimsuit and pajamas?"

              I thought for a second, "Can you keep them here for when I stay over next time?" I asked.

              "Sure. You don't have to wear them again though if you don't want to." She hedged.

              "I know. Thanks for all of that stuff," I said.

              "No problem. Hey Amy why don't you help Brandon get his nail polish off?" She told Amy.

              "Come upstairs with me," Amy said. Once we were upstairs she helped me use nail polish remover first on my fingers. When we were done I almost thought about telling her to leave on the toe nails, but decided I couldn't do that and wear sandals this week. She removed the stuff on my toes and we just started sitting around chatting.

              After about an hour of talking we heard footsteps coming up the stairs and my mom came in the room with Amy's mom. "Brandon are you ready to go?"

              "Yes," I said and headed downstairs with her.

              I saw Amy had put on some shoes to leave too. She must have seen that I was curious cause she said, "we're going to go get pictures developed."

              "Brandon, if you want to come over Tuesday to work on scrapbooks with us you could." Mrs. Hancock said.

              I looked at mom and she nodded, "Okay, I'll be here!" I said to her. I grabbed my sleeping bag and backpack, and then we drove home.

              Dad was sitting at the kitchen table when we got home. "Hey, how was the sleepover?" He asked.

              "It was great!" I proceeded to go ahead and tell them about the sleepover. I had thought at one point about leaving out some of the parts – but had since decided to just tell them everything.

              "So you had fun with them then?" Dad asked. There was definitely concern in his eyes.

              "Yeah, it was good. It's probably some of the most fun I've ever had." I replied.

              "That's good honey, why don't you go take your stuff to your room and put your dirty clothes in the hamper."

              "Okay." I replied and took my stuff to my room. The clothes went in the hamper and I went through the rest of the stuff that was in my bag. I found my two Barbie dolls and put them in the doll house. I then remembered I had forgotten the teddy bear I had won from the scavenger hunt. Oh well, I'd be able to get it on Tuesday if nothing else.

              I decided to lay down and read a book on my bed for a bit. I must have fallen asleep because mom woke me up for dinner that night. After dinner was cleared away mom served up some bowls of ice cream and we started enjoying it.

              "Brandon, your mom and I have something that we need to talk to you about." Dad said.

              "Okay. What?"

              "Well… We've been noticing something as this year has gone on." Dad petered off towards the end.

              "It started with you deciding to grow your hair out." Mom said. "You told us that it was because of the rock star thing, and so we decided to just let you do as you wanted."

              "Thank you for letting me do that." I said. I was getting nervous.

              "But Brandon, then some other things have happened… and I don't want to say we're worried about you… but we are." My dad said.

              "Worried about me how?" I asked. Oh crap… I wasn't expecting this today.

              "Well… Brandon, what would I say if I said we had to cut your hair?" My mom asked.

              "YOU CAN'T CUT MY HAIR!!!!" I practically screamed.

              "Hold it." Mom said before I could storm to my room and hide. "I didn't say we were going to, I asked what if we said you had to cut it. But I guess that was a pretty clear idea of that. Why do you want your hair like this? I don't believe it's because of the rock star idea." Mom asked.

              "Umm…" Crap, crap, crap… How do I answer this?

              "Your mom and I have our own theory, and I don't want you to be afraid to tell us. I guarantee no matter what you tell us we'll still love and support you." Dad said. Mom nodded.

              I sat there for a moment with a blank look on my face… "Because…" I started crying… "I want to be…" I couldn't go any farther.

              "A girl?" My mom asked gently.

              I nodded and the tears just flew out at this point. Both of my parents hugged me and kept saying reassuring things to me. I cried and cried for the better part of an hour before I finally calmed down.

              I had heard my parents trying to get my attention somehow and I hadn't been able to focus on anything. I heard, "Tiffany." That brought my attention to my mom's face.

              "Sweetie, do you think you can talk now? Or do you want to wait until tomorrow?" Dad asked.

              I didn't know what to do. My parents said they still loved me, but they would never let me keep my hair now would they? What was worse is they would probably never let me go over to Amy's house again. They'd also be taking away my barbies and doll house of course… would they even keep me? Maybe I could go live with Amy's family…

              "Tiffany come back to us." Dad said. He was calling me Tiffany. How did they even know about Tiffany?

              I decided I had little choice but to focus on my parents. I found that I was now sitting on the floor in the living room. How had I gotten here? I saw that they had moved the coffee table out of the way.

              "What?" I managed to say.

              "Sweetie, it's okay. We really still do love you. Here take a drink." She said handing me a glass of water. I managed to take a sip and grimaced at the taste through all of the salt from my tears and such.

              I managed to mutter, "Thanks."

              "Look sweetie, why don't you just listen while I tell you what we know and how long we've known, okay?" Mom said. I nodded. "We suspected something about the hair early on, but didn't say anything. On the ski trip Mrs. Hancock noticed some things and let us know about them. She didn't know anything for certain, but she thought it was something we should know about."

              "On the band trip then, when I found out that you had let the girls play with your hair, but didn't take it all out on the first chance I started looking into things a bit more. Then when Mrs. Hancock found you two playing with Barbies she also decided that their might be something more to it and let me know. She also called me when she found that you two had been playing with your hair again – and it looked like you had been wearing some of Amy's clip-on earrings." How could she possibly have known that?

              "We talked on the phone that night – and after speaking to your dad – we decided to put a test out there to see if we couldn't find out for certain. That's when Mrs. Hancock suggested that you wear Amy's swimsuit. She said you didn't exactly jump to it, but you definitely were trying to look like you weren't jumping to it."

              "The final two pieces for us were put in place when you didn't just give the Barbie stuff away, and went along with last nights stuff." Mom finished.

              I sat there in stunned silence. Not only had they known for a long time, but they had set me up with opportunities to try being a girl. I had always assumed that dad would beat me senseless or something. He'd always talked so many times against 'queers,' and I figured I fit that description better than anyone. "So you're really not mad at me?" I asked.

              "No sweetie, we're not." Dad replied.

              "But… you always said…" I stammered.

              "Forget what I've always said. I'm not saying I agree with this, but I do think there is more to this than you just being different." He said gently.

              "Look sweetie, we both love you very much… and we can tell that there is something to this for you. We want to take you to see someone on Monday."

              "A shrink?" I asked.

              "Well, in a manner of speaking yes." Mom said.

              "Look, before we can do anything with this, we need a professional opinion. This lady has seen a lot of cases like yours, and Mrs. Hancock holds her in really high regard. She's also really nice – we've already met with her once." Dad added.

              "You already met with her?" I looked at them incredulously. "Okay, I'll see her. But, you have to promise me something." I said.

              "What?" Dad asked.

              "You can't break up my friendship with Amy, you can't take away the stuff in my room, and you won't make me cut my hair if I don't want to."

              "We promise." Mom said quickly.

              At that point I started sobbing some more and I don't really remember much more of that evening.

              Chapter 49:

              The next thing I honestly remember was waking up in my bed. I was really startled. Did yesterday really happen? I could feel that my face was all salty and I was still in my clothes from yesterday. What could I do now? I know my parents said it was alright… But my life seemed like it was so over. I built up the courage to go outside of my room to go to the bathroom.

              I finished up in there and found mom waiting outside. "Do you want to talk?" She asked.

              How could she possibly want to talk after all of that? "Not really. Can you just let me sit in my room today without you guys bothering me?" I asked.

              "I don't think that's a great idea Bran… I mean Tiffany. I… What do you want us to call you?" Mom asked with a really worried expression on her face.

              "Tiffany." I whispered very quietly.

              "Tiffany, I don't want you to be in your room alone today. If you want I'll help you move your dollhouse into the living room so you can play in there."

              "You're not just doing this so you guys can get rid of it are you?" I asked.

              "No, we made you a promise. I'm just worried about you and don't want to see you alone today, okay?"

              "Okay." I said. She and dad helped me out with the dollhouse and I played with my Barbies for most of the rest of the day. At seven that night mom came in and said, "Amy wants to talk to you on the phone."

              I debated back and forth on what to do, but decided she was my best friend – I had to talk to her. Mom handed me the phone. "Hi," I said.

              "Hi." Amy said back. "Tiff I'm so sorry about what happened… I didn't know anything about it… I'm thoroughly mad at mom right now… Please don't hate me… Please don't hate my mom either though…"

              She went on for a little bit long before I said, "Amy I don't hate you and I don't hate your mother."

              "Are you sure?" She asked nervously.

              "Amy, without you and your mother I never would have been able to be Tiffany at all… I'm more scared than anything."

              "You don't have anything to be scared about. I guarantee you I'll stick by you all the way, and so will my parents."

              "I know Amy." We talked for a while longer before things became a little more relaxed and she told me about the pictures her mom had taken. Apparently they had turned out really good and she couldn't wait for us to do scrapbooks on Tuesday.

              She told me her mom was starting her vacation for our trip that day and wanted to help us out. They also had everything we would need for it too, so not to worry about bringing anything more than some photos.

              I told her about the appointment tomorrow at that point. "Amy what happens if she decides that I have to be a boy?"

              "Look, you can be whoever you want to be. You'll be fine. If all else fails when you come over here you can wear my clothes okay?"

              "Okay."

              "What happens if she says that I should be Tiffany though?"

              "What would be bad about that?" She asked.

              "The other kids…" I started.

              "I won't let the other kids mess with you, and neither will any of my friends. Tiff, that means that you have the cool kids all behind you. No one will dare do anything serious against you at that point. And, if they do we'll take care of them." She answered.

              We talked for a long time that night. I was honestly surprised Mom didn't yell at me to get off of the phone, but I think she and dad had decided that would be a bad idea. I ended up hanging up 3 hours later. Feeling at least a little better.

              I went to bed shortly after that to try and make Monday come sooner.

              The next morning mom woke me up and told me to shower and get dressed. My parents and I drove into the city to one of the hospitals where my appointment was going to be. My dad actually drove in a separate car though – he was going to have to go to work afterwards. We sat in the waiting room for a while before someone said, 'please follow me.' The assistant asked me if I would wait inside a room off to the side while my parents talked to the doctor first. I agreed.

              Inside I found they had put together a playroom for all ages. I had a pretty good idea that they were probably observing me, but didn't care. I saw they had some Barbies I didn't have and went over to play with them for a bit. After 30 minutes I heard the door open and saw a lady who must be the doctor. "Hi, I'm Doctor Reynolds. Would you come with me?"

              I followed her into her office where my parents gave me a hug and then went to wait outside. "Today I just want to spend some time talking to you alright?" She asked me.

              I nodded.

              "Well first of all what name would you like me to call you by right now?" She asked.

              "Tiffany please." I responded. There was a lot more to my voice that time than there ever had been.

              I expected her to say something like, 'that's an unusual name for a boy,' but she just kept on talking to me and asking questions. Somehow in about an hours time I figured that she knew more about me than anyone else.

              "Tiffany, can you wait outside for a few minutes while I talk to your parents?" She asked.

              I waited in a chair right outside the door for what seemed like an eternity before she brought me back in.

              "Tiffany… After talking with you and your parents, we want to offer you the chance to dress as Tiffany for a few weeks. Would you like that?" She asked.

              "Yes, more than anything!" I responded. I figured that I had seen the end of my time as Tiffany on Friday night.

              "We do have one condition." My mom said.

              "What?" I asked

              "Well we're concerned about how people on the trip might react to you showing up as Tiffany… so we want you to come dressed as Brandon for the trip."

              "Do I have to?" I asked.

              Dr. Reynolds spoke up, "I do think it would be a good idea Tiffany. The reactions might get really bad if you're not careful with this."

              "Okay." I replied. "But otherwise I can be Tiffany?" The all nodded. "Starting today?" I asked.

              "Starting today," My dad said.

              I was so excited I couldn't control myself. I was hugging Mom and Dad, and Dr. Reynolds before I knew what was happening.

              "Now Tiffany, I do want to discuss some things with you now that your parents are here. Have you ever heard of the term 'gender identity disorder?'"

              "On the internet, it's the term for someone whose body doesn't match what they are?" I replied.

              "That's basically it. I think at the moment that term is a pretty close descriptor of you."

              "For the moment?"

              "Well, that's the one thing at the moment – you are still only 11 – and I want to be sure this is a long term thing before we start doing anything permanent. It's still going to be another year or two before you hit puberty, so we have time for us to do this right and make sure that nothing gets done that shouldn't be."

              "So that's why you said for a few weeks first?" I asked.

              "Yes. If you are really supposed to be Tiffany and not Brandon we'll have a better idea if that should be the case or not starting then. Until then – with the exception of the trip – I do want you to spend every moment as a girl. That means restrooms and everything," she said.

              "Okay."

              Dr. Reynolds told me some other things as we sat there and talked to my parents some more before we left the hospital. I was smiling the biggest smile ever.

              "So umm… can we go shopping?" I asked.

              Chapter 50:

              "Sure sweetie." Mom replied as we got to the car. "Joe, you said to use the mastercard?"

              "Yes, we'll pay it off once her check clears. They said it should clear by tomorrow."

              "Okay. We'll see you at home for dinner." Mom told him and then I got in the car with her.

              "Mom, are we really going to do this?" I asked.

              "Do you want to?" She asked.

              "YES!"

              "Well then let's go shopping for some stuff for you to wear."

              We left the hospital and she drove a ways and soon pulled into a Walmart. "We're not getting all of my clothes here are we?" I asked mom. I didn't want to be the most uncool girl ever…

              "No, we're just going to pick up a few things and get something for you to go shopping to the rest of the stores in, okay?"

              "Okay."

              We walked to the girls section of the store and we grabbed a couple packages of panties, socks, camisoles, and a couple of training bras to start with. Thankfully we knew what my size was from my borrowing of Amy's clothes. She then led me towards the shorts and picked out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to wear with it.

              I tried on the shorts really quick in the fitting room – they fit! We made a quick stop to pick up some sandals, then we went to the checkout line and checked out. Mom pulled a pair of panties, the shirt, shorts, and sandals and sent me into the bathroom to go change into them.

              I was kind of nervous at first… but everyone had been mistaking me for a girl for several months now… who would question me going into the bathroom? I got in the unfamiliar bathroom and found a stall where I could change. I must have changed clothes in a record amount of time because I think mom was very surprised to see me already. We put my boys clothes in the shopping bag and walked out to the car.

              "Where to next?" I asked her.

              "Well why don't we go to Penney's and see what they have?"

              "Okay," I replied. I was glad that we had started out with getting me some basic clothes so that I could be a little more comfortable when we were shopping. Actually, I also was just happy to be in the clothing that felt right to me. I don't think I had smiled that much ever.

              We drove through the city traffic for a while before pulling up to the mall. I was so excited to be going to the girls section instead of the boys section. As we got closer I have to be honest – I got nervous… I knew that I looked like a girl as people had been telling me that for months, but it's still a nerve racking experience your first time shopping.

              We got to that section and started browsing through all of the different clothes in the section. "What do you think of this shirt?" Mom said holding up a t-shirt in front of me.

              "I like it… I like this one too," I said holding up another one. We picked out 5 shirts and moved onto some jeans and more shorts. When we had like 6 pairs of each mom led me to the fitting room so I could try them on.

              I put them on and modeled each of them for mom before we settled on 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of shorts. "Okay Tiffany, let's go pick out a couple skirts and a dress or two now." Mom said as she led me on the hunt for some more clothes.

              We ended up picking out several long skirts and several dresses that I then tried on. After talking back and forth (she liked one that I didn't like and vice versa) we took 2 of each of those as well. Mom and I decided that we had picked over the clothes there and checked out.

              We were walking by the shoes on our way out to run this set of clothes to the car when I saw a pair of tennis shoes that I loved. While I was trying on two pairs of those shoes mom brought back several other pairs of shoes. When we left I had another pair of sandals, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of flat dress shoes.

              "What now mommy?" I asked as we put the clothes in the trunk.

              "Why don't we just go wander the mall and see what else there is?" Mom asked.

              "Okay!" I said and we walked back into Penney's so we could go into the main mall. The next 3 hours were some of the most memorable hours of my life. We went into store after store after store. I picked out a couple more swimsuits, some more pajamas, and a bit of everything else over that time period. Mom showed considerable restraint in not buying everything in the mall for me. At the same time I was sure we had easily spent a $1,000 by the end of the time in the mall.

              When we walked by 'Claire's' on our way back to Penneys and I made mom go in. I picked out a ton of hair accessories, bought a fannie pack, and tried to convince her of something else.

              "Mom can't I please get my ears pierced?" I asked in a low tone so no one else would hear me. "They even say they'll even do it for free!" I begged.

              "Sweetie, I want to wait until we get back from this trip, alright?" She told me.

              "But why?"

              "It'll be kind of hard for you to keep care of them while we're on this trip… plus I kind of would like to see you wait until we've gone through another meeting with Dr. Reynolds."

              I looked really downtrodden and pouted.

              "Look, if everything goes towards that after the next meeting I'll take you directly to a place to get it done, alright?" She temporized.

              "Alright, but you promise right?" I asked.

              "Yes, I promise." She replied.

              We moved on with some more stuff in hand from Claire's arriving at the car at 4:30pm. Mom said, "look we have one more stop I want to make." I looked downtrodden – I was really enjoying the shopping. "I think my daughter needs some stuffed animals and other things for her room."

              I perked up again and said, "Okay." We drove down the street to a Toys'r'us and went to the girls toy section. Most of the stuff was too young for me, but we picked up several stuffed teddy bears, kittens, and a baby doll. I also got some more Barbie stuff, some craft type stuff, and a camera that I was going to take on the trip.

              We got out of there with a bill that was a little scary, and crammed everything into our now full mini-van.

              "Tiffany, why don't we go home and you can change into one of these other outfits and we'll meet dad at Applebees at 6?"

              "Okay!" I said with excitement as we drove towards home. I didn't have much time to change – which was most unfortunate because I was trying to make up my mind of what to wear. Do I wear a skirt? Wear shorts and a t-shirt? Wear a dress?

              I think mom realized that I was going to be very slow in making this decision so she did what any intelligent mom does… She picked for me saying we didn't have much time… I ended up just wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Mom did help me put my hair into pigtails though – so at least it was a little more girly. (Really the shorts and such were very girly… I just wasn't content with it.)

              We hopped in the car and left for the restaurant. Dad had gotten there already and had a table that we sat down at. "Tiffany, you look nice." He told me.

              "Thanks daddy." I replied.

              "So how was your shopping trip?"

              I giggled… "Well, I made mom leave some of the clothes in the mall for other people…"

              "Hey! You were the one that wanted to buy everything…" Mom said. We bantered back and forth for a while before we all broke up into laughter.

              The waiter came and took our order and we began talking some more. "Are you sure I can't go like this on the trip?" I asked them.

              "Look sweetheart it was Dr. Reynolds suggestion that we pace this slowly through the trip. We don't want everyone to get into an uproar on the trip." Mom replied.

              "But mom, I slept over with 5 of the girls on Friday, and they were all okay with me like this!"

              "There are 2 other girls, 5 boys, and more difficult – their parents." Dad said gently.

              "Maybe one day? Not the whole trip, but maybe one day?" I asked.

              "Look sweetie I think it's a good idea that we do as she suggested." Mom said.

              "Will you at least think about it?" I asked.

              "Tell you what, I will talk to Ms. Fitzgerald and call Dr. Reynolds tomorrow okay?" Mom said. "But I still don't think it's a good idea."

              "Aren't they going to have to get used to it soon anyway? I'll be going back to school in August, that's only 3 months away!"

              I think I saw my parents shudder there. "Look sweetie we'll talk about it… Take that for what you can okay?" Dad said, effectively ending the matter.

              I said, "okay," and we moved on. At the end of dinner I told my parents, "thank you."

              "For what?" dad asked.

              "Well let's see, first of all for not freaking out and beating me to death, not disowning me, not locking me up in a psychiatric ward… etc. And secondly for letting me do all of this!" I said pointing to my clothes.

              "Sweetie we could never do those things to you." Dad said.

              "I guess I know that now… but I didn't until today. So thank you again." I did my best not to tear up and realized I needed to go to the restroom. "Umm… I need to go to the restroom," I said.

              My mom said, "I'll come with you."

              "I guess I'll take care of the check," My dad said as we headed to the restroom.

              As I approached the doors I reminded myself which bathroom to go into. I took a deep breath just before I went in – this was only the 3rd time today that I had gone into this sanctuary. I went in and out without any real fanfare, but it really was still a big thing for me.

              I waited for mom before coming out and we went back to our table. Dad had paid the bill so we piled back into our cars and headed home. Once home dad helped us finish unloading the car and I modeled several outfits for them before letting mom start to wash everything except the clothes I had worn to dinner. The phone rang about that time.

              "Tiffany it's for you!" Mom said.

              "Okay." I said.

              "Hello?"

              "Tiffany?"

              "Amy?"

              "How did it go?!?" Amy asked.

              "Well… I'm Tiffany!" I exclaimed. I think that statement said it all.

              "The doctor decided you really are?" She asked.

              "She said she thinks so, at least 'at this moment.' We talked for a while about how she doesn't want to consider doing anything 'permanent' until after I dress properly for 3 weeks. They still won't do anything drastic at that point, but we'll start talking about the long term road then."

              "That's great Tiffany! So this means you get to be Tiffany on the trip right?"

              "Well… I want to be… but my parents and Dr. Reynolds were kind of against that. They say they're worried about how the other kids'll react to me." I said forlornly. "But I did talk with my parents at dinner tonight, they said they'll talk with Ms. Fitzgerald and Dr. Reynolds tomorrow to see if they can't work something out… I really hope they can."

              "So after your appointment what did you do?" She asked.

              "Shopping!!!! Lot's of it!" I exclaimed. I proceeded to tell her about how much fun I'd had shopping and about much of the stuff we had gotten.

              "Wow, I wish I could have been there!" She said afterwards. Her mom apparently began pestering her on her side and she said, "Tiffany I have to go, you're still coming over to scrapbook tomorrow right?"

              "Yes, what time?" I hear her talk to her mom for a few moments on the other side before she said, "Noon? And mom'll make mac and cheese for lunch?"

              "Okay, I'll see you then Amy."

              "Congratulations Tiff, goodnight!" She told me and I hung up my phone. The rest of the evening I helped mom move most of Brandon's clothes out of my closet, unboxed all of my toys (which mom told me were for decoration if nothing else), and I helped her finish washing everything.

              That night I didn't need to be told to go to bed… I just put on a pair of my new pajamas and laid down in my bed – sleeping as I hadn't in a very long time.

              Chapter 51:

              The next day I was woken up by my parents getting ready for work. I tried to go back to sleep but no matter what I tried I was still awake. At 9:30, after 30 minutes of trying I went ahead and woke up – going to the kitchen for something to eat. As I walked in the kitchen I heard mom was talking on the phone to someone.

              "Are you sure you think that is an okay idea?" I heard her ask someone. "No. I think this is probably more than just a phase…" She must be talking about me. "Okay, that sounds fine. We'll meet you there at 10… See you in a bit."

              "Who was that mommy?" She smiled at me. "You haven't called me mommy since you were little. Why the change?"

              I shrugged, "Amy still calls her mommy that – in fact I think most of my friends that are girls do."

              "I could get used to this." She said still smiling. "That was Ms. Fitzgerald. I called to talk to her about you. She and Mrs. Manning want to meet with you at 10 to talk about you."

              "Really!?"

              "Now, I don't think that we're going to have you go as Tiffany full time necessarily Tiff. But, they do want to see you and talk about it."

              "How long do I have to get ready?" I asked.

              "About an hour or so. Why don't we go pick something out for you to wear then take a shower and I'll do your hair?"

              "Okay!" I said. I skipped to my room – mom just walked (slow poke!). I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to wear today. I had a pink jumper/white t-shirt set that we had bought yesterday that I loved. It might have been a little on the juvenile side… but Amy had one almost identical to it that she had worn to school at least two times in the past couple months.

              The one thing that I had noticed that I had to be careful about more than anything else when we were shopping was that I was still only a size 8. Most of the time anything available in larger sizes was also available in my size. But, a lot of the other stuff that was available in my size made me look like I was in 2nd grade…

              Anyway… I liked this outfit and couldn't wait to put it back on. I showed mom what I wanted to wear and she nodded. I took my shower – being sure that I really got my hair nice and clean – and then put on the outfit. As soon as I had it on I had to twirl around like I had yesterday. It didn't poof out much, but it still flared out a little. I stopped when I became slightly dizzy. I quickly brushed my teeth and sat in a chair in the kitchen.

              Mom came up behind me and used a curling iron to curl the bottom of my hair and my bangs. She worked on my hair for a while before I was able to get up and see. I immediately ran to the bathroom to look at myself – I squealed! I was happy. Mom had used some clippy things that we had gotten from Claire's in a couple spots on each side. I really liked it.

              "Thank you mommy." I told mom when I saw her behind me.

              "My pleasure sweetheart. We'll have to work on teaching you how to do this yourself this summer."

              "Okay." I replied.

              "We also need to go get some curling irons of your own and stuff probably too. We'll look at that when we get back from the trip though, okay?"

              I nodded, "Okay. How long do we have before we're meeting with Ms. Fitzgerald and Mrs. Manning?"

              "We've got about 45 minutes, do you want something for breakfast?"

              "Scrambled eggs?" I kind of batted my eyes at her.

              "Stop batting your eyes at me young lady…" She said laughing. "Alright."

              She walked away to go make me some eggs and I stared at myself in the mirror. Apparently I must have been staring for a while, because mom hollered, "They're ready," and that was what made me realize I had been staring for a while. I walked to the kitchen and enjoyed my eggs.

              "Sweetie, I have all of the pictures that I thought you might want to scrapbook with in this box," she said pointing to a note card box. "I put in the ones from soccer, Christmas, from the band trip," she continued naming off some events.

              "Thanks." I replied to her. We put that on the TV so that we would be able to come by and grab it really quick when we were done with the meeting. "Did you talk to Dr. Reynolds?"

              "I spoke with her for a little bit. She still doesn't think it would be a good idea for you to go as Tiffany on this trip."

              "Why?" I said with a frown.

              "She's concerned that if we don't go along with this for school next year you will have a stigma attached to you."

              "But I'm sure this isn't just a phase!" I exclaimed.

              "I know sweetie, she did however suggest a couple of compromising ideas that we're going to talk to your teachers about."

              "What are they?" I asked.

              "I want to wait until we are at the meeting okay sweetie?"

              "No… but I guess…" I replied. I was definitely sure I was going to not be allowed to be Tiffany at all now.

              We left for Ms. Fitzgerald's house – Mrs. Manning was going to meet us there too. Mom found it without a problem and we went up to the door. Ms. Fitzgerald greeted us before we had a chance to ring the doorbell. "How are you guys doing?" She asked.

              "Fine, how are you?" I responded.

              "I'm doing well… Tiffany right?" She asked.

              "Yes ma'am."

              "Well come on in, Mrs. Manning is already sitting down in the dining room." She led us to her dining room where Mrs. Manning was sitting. I hadn't really known her a lot until this year. I'd had Ms. 'Fitz' as we called her, and only had occasional contact with Mrs. Manning.

              "How are you guys?" Mrs. Manning asked as we walked up.

              "Good" mom answered.

              "Okay," I answered. I was being truthful… I was getting really nervous now. These were the first two outside of my parents and Amy's family to hear about what I wanted to do.

              "Have a seat," Ms. Fitz said.

              I pulled a chair out and sat down – being mindful of smoothing my dress out behind me. "Tiffany, you look very nice," Mrs. Manning said.

              "Thanks!" I said perking up a bit. What girl doesn't like being told she looks nice?

              "Well, I think she answered one of our questions for us." Mrs. Manning said to Ms. Fitz.

              "Yes, I do believe she did." She responded.

              "What question?" I asked.

              "Well, when your mom first called I said that you would probably be able to pass as a girl very easily… but Mrs. Manning wasn't so sure." Ms. Fitz said.

              "I am now though," Mrs. Manning assured me.

              "The biggest problem as we see it is the other kids reactions. You've dealt with a lot of problems with kids over the years, I'm a little afraid of what they'll do on this trip…" Ms. Fitz said.

              "They're going to have to find out one way or another at some point," I told her. "Besides, I know that 5 of the girls will be fine with me – we had a sleepover last Friday… So at the very least I'd have 5 people that I could hang out with."

              "That may be true, but I'm more worried about the parents." Mrs. Manning said.

              Right about that time the doorbell rang. We paused for a moment while Ms. Fitz went to go get the door. She surprised me by bringing in Amy's parents, and Ashley's dad with her. We exchanged greetings with them. Amy's mom actually came over and gave me a big hug. "You look nice sweetie," she told me.

              "What are you all doing here?" I asked.

              "Ms. Fitzgerald called us this morning to ask us what we thought about Tiffany going on the trip instead of Brandon." Amy's dad said.

              "Have a seat," Ms. Fitz told everyone.

              "So what are your thoughts?" Mrs. Manning asked them.

              Ashley's dad answered first. "I have to be honest, it kind of left my mouth agape for a moment… but once I thought about it for a second it didn't really surprise me. Ashley told me about the events at the slumber party on Saturday – and honestly I don't really have a problem with it. Ashley will be willing to be her/his friend regardless."

              "Thanks," I told him.

              "What do you guys think?" Ms. Fitz asked Amy's parents.

              "In all honesty I think the only difference you're going to see on the trip between Brandon going, or Tiffany going, is the clothing. Everywhere we've gone together Tiffany has been getting called a girl – even without the right clothing. I know for a fact that Amy has thought of 'Brandon' as a girl for at least three months now." Mrs. Hancock said.

              That was news to me. "What?" I asked.

              "When she got done talking with you the other night I made her come clean on how you two had been dressing you up – and that came out. Don't get upset that she didn't tell you Tiff, she wouldn't have told me that if she hadn't been absolutely scared that you hated her."

              "I'm not upset," I replied. 'A little puzzled though,' I thought to myself.

              "Good, I thought you would be more reasonable than she thought you would be," she said with a smile.

              Mr. Hancock began to speak at this point, "The only concern I have for you Tiffany is if for some reason it's decided you shouldn't go to school next year as Tiffany… It might be wise for you to go ahead and be a 'boy' on this trip…"

              I couldn't believe he was siding with that!

              Mom spoke up then, "Unfortunately that's pretty much what Tiffany's psychiatrist thinks. She did offer a couple suggestions for a compromise though."

              "And?" I asked.

              "Well she suggested that you room with someone like Amy, who knows about you, and that while you're in your room you may be Tiffany."

              "Is that all?" I asked pleadingly… I was sure tears were going to start pouring from my eyes.

              "Well, she did suggest that maybe you could wear a pair of girls shorts one day. She also suggested a couple of your less girly t-shirts that could be worn each day. I think you have enough to make it through the trip like that." Mom smiled a bit trying to cue me into that.

              "I guess… what about underwear? No one has to see that…" I suggested.

              "She said that would be fine if you're careful. You'll need to use the stalls though so no one can see them."

              "I would have done that anyway, I'm a girl." I said stubbornly.

              "Well I think that's a good compromise Tiffany," Mrs. Hancock said.

              "I think that's definitely a safer way to go," Mr. Hancock added. "Are the rest of you okay with that?" He asked the rest of the adults. They all seemed to think it was the best anyone could do. "How about you Tiffany?"

              I paused for a second, but decided to leave while I was ahead. "I guess… Although I wish I could go as Tiffany… Can my friends still call me Tiffany? When we aren't near everyone else?"

              Ms. Fitz said, "As long as you're sure there's no one else around Tiffany, that seems fine. We're not doing this to be mean to you, it's more so that we can keep you safe and make sure that you don't go through anything you don't have to." She said calmly and reassuringly.

              "I guess I know that, thanks."

              Mrs. Manning said, "This also means we're going to have to reshuffle some room assignments."

              She looked at my mom, "Do you mind if Tiffany rooms with the Hancocks? I'd like to keep 2 boys in your room so we have your husband with them."

              My mom hesitated for a second but said, "That should be fine."

              "Will that work for you guys?" She asked the Hancocks.

              "Of course." Amy's dad said.

              "Do you think some of the kids will question that?" Ms. Fitz asked.

              Amy's mom took that one. "I doubt anyone would think that's strange – the two of them were constantly together at school all year. This spring they've been completely joined at the hip."

              "Okay then, let's see what other bugs we need to work out here," Mrs. Manning said.

              We talked for a good 20 minutes on how rooms were going to be affected and who was rooming with who.

              We finally all started leaving soon after that and I said thank you to both of the teachers, Mr. Sanders, and the Hancocks. Mrs. Hancock offered to just take me at that point, but mom told her we needed to run by the house first. When we got home mom and I walked inside our house. As soon as the door was closed I gave her a big bear hug and said "Thank you." I knew that she had done as much as she could for me, and I appreciated it.

              Chapter 52:

              We arrived at the Hancocks house at 11:50 or so. I had no sooner walked up to their door before it was flung open and I was pounced on by Amy. "You look so pretty Tiff!"

              "Thanks," I choked out, somehow managing to not drop my box of photos.

              She released me and we walked into her house. "Mom told me you looked pretty today, but she wasn't kidding!"

              "Thanks."

              "Hold on a sec, I'll be back down in a couple minutes!" She said running upstairs for something.

              "Tiffany, are you happy with what we worked out?" I heard Mrs. Hancock's voice behind me.

              I turned around and faced her. "It was better than I hoped for… I wish I could really be Tiffany on the trip, but I'll definitely settle for what I got." I replied to her.

              "I know you're not going to be as obviously Tiffany on this trip, but I want you to be really careful on this trip – don't leave one of our sides. Your parents, us, Amy, and the other girls should be able to keep you safe… But I could see something going wrong if the boys discovered that you were wearing panties for instance." She said looking somewhat grim.

              "I know… but this is me, they're going to have to come to terms with it sooner or later." I said, a little teary eyed.

              She came and gave me a hug. "Yes they are. And, no matter what they say or do please know that we'll always be here for you okay?"

              "Thank you Mrs. Hancock."

              "You're very welcome Tiffany." She hesitated for a second then said, "Tiffany why don't you call me Melanie instead of Mrs. Hancock?"

              I felt very awkward right then… "Why?"

              "Well… I can't ask you to call me mom – that would be wrong. But, I think Melanie would be okay." She told me.

              "Um… okay Melanie, thanks." I replied. I sat there and talked to her for a few more minutes before I heard feet pounding down the stairs. I turned around and saw Amy in her dress that was like mine.

              "So what do you think?" She said as she came up to me.

              "Well, I don't think we'll be confused as twins… but you never know!" I told her giggling.

              "Well let's get to scrapbooking!" She said and led me to their formal dining room. In there I saw tons of scissors, paper, pens, and other stuff. For a while she spent some time showing me what all they had – and how to use it.

              From there she handed me several stacks of pictures that she said were mine. There were photos from the ski trip and the slumber party mainly in it. There must have been 6 dozen pictures though from those two things, and that didn't even include some other misc photos of the two of us that I didn't even know Mrs… I mean Melanie had taken of me. There was also several clippings from the newspaper about our project.

              The two of us had been working pretty hard on scrapbook page after scrapbook page for the better part of an hour when her mom came in and asked if we were hungry. I had completely forgot about lunch – I'd been too busy with everything else.

              We went and sat down at their breakfast counter to eat some macaroni and cheese her mom had made for us.

              "So mom said you have to go as Brandon?"

              "Yeah… unfortunately." She looked as downtrodden as I did. "But they said I could be Tiffany with my friends! And they said I can wear girls clothes when I'm in the room, and I can wear underwear underneath my clothes… They also told me I could wear a girls pair of shorts one day, and tops that are girls as long as they're not too girly…"

              "Well that's better than nothing I guess." She said.

              "If the other kids found out how do you think they would react?" I asked her.

              "I think it would vary… I think you would have 70-80% behind you. I'm sure there would be at least one kid that would be a jerk about it just because they could. But, you have Ashley, Nikki, Lindsey, Amber, and Myself that would be behind you 150%. I'll make sure that we all stay in our group together during the trip."

              "Thanks Amy." I replied to her with a smile.

              We moved onto another bit of conversation for a bit. As we were getting up from lunch she said, "Tiffany, I have really really really good idea!" She exclaimed.

              "What?"

              "Well, I'm supposed to get my hair done tomorrow morning… We should get yours done too and get the same style!" She was clearly excited about this.

              "Well… What are you going to get done?" I asked her. I actually really liked what she was going to do. If the two of us had the same haircut that would be one more way of making it look like we were sisters to anyone who didn't know us. I decided that would be kind of handy on the trip. The only unfortunate thing was I didn't know if it would be too girly to be allowed under the 'Brandon is attending the trip' guidelines.

              "I like the idea, but I'd have to ask my mom first to see if I can do it…"

              "Do what?" Amy's mom asked.

              Amy filled her in and she said, "I think that would probably be an acceptable idea. Tiffany I'll set it up if you want, my treat for the trip."

              "Really?"

              "Yes, but we do need to call your mom. Tell you what, why don't you two go keep working on your scrapbooks and I'll call your mom Tiffany?" She suggested.

              "Okay," I said. We left to go back to the table to work on our scrapbooks. I was amazed at how slow I had been going at first compared to now with the pages. My first page had taken me a good 50 minutes, now I was doing one every 7-10 depending on what I was doing. I had gotten through all of the pictures I had brought, the ski trip, and 2 of the slumber party when her mom came in.

              "Hey Tiff, your mom said okay to getting your hair done. So I called the salon up to see if they could work you both in tomorrow. They said they were fully booked tomorrow though."

              I was disappointed, but not everything can go my way right? "Thanks anyway for trying," I told her.

              "Now hold up just a second, I said they couldn't work you both in tomorrow. They do, however, have 2 openings in half an hour if you two want to get ready to go and leave right now."

              "Cool!" I said. I hadn't even said that when Amy ran upstairs and back down with her shoes.

              We all jumped into her car and drove into town. Between traffic and the distance we just barely made it there before our appointment.

              When we pulled up I was instantly glad that Melanie had said she was going to pay… I had in my mind some run of the mill hair stylist salon, this was anything but that. The building was designed in a really pretty adobe style. It featured the typical posts coming out of the roof, but definitely somehow took on a new level of sophistication. All of the cars in the parking lot were at least $50k and up.

              The name of the place itself was in Spanish, and I guessed the meaning to be something about Life's Dreams… I don't speak Spanish so don't put that down as a for sure translation, that's just a guess.

              Amy's mom led the way inside the salon and we were immediately met by a lady dressed very stylishly.

              "Ah… Mrs. Hancock, I'm so glad that you were able to come today." She said. She turned to Amy, "Amy it's very nice to see you again as well. And I take it this is Tiffany?" She asked.

              "Yes, ma'am." I replied to her.

              "I'm Elizabeth." She said giving me a feminine hand shake that I returned. "Well ladies, let's go ahead and take you on into the salon." She said leading us down a hallway. She led us to a large open room that had skylights letting in large amounts of natural sunlight.

              Off to the side of that room were several doors – she led us to a room and given pink robes to change into. Amy's mom whispered to me, "We'll turn around here and change, you just change the other direction okay?"

              I stripped out of my jumper and quickly donned the robe. I told them, "I'm done." They then let me know when they were finished (Amy's mom took the longest). We left the room and met Elizabeth right there and she showed us each to our station in the large room.

              I say 'station' because there really is no comparison to any 'normal' hair salon I had seen before. I was sat down in a chair that was very nicely upholstered in soft leather. The chair was actually more comfortable than any chair in my parents' living room. We each had an attractive lady come to attend to us at that point.

              Mine introduced herself as Lynette. "How are you doing miss?" She asked me.

              "I'm doing well, and yourself?" I asked back.

              "I'm doing great!" She said enthusiastically. I guessed she was probably about 25 or so, so she was fairly young. "I was filled in a bit on what we're doing here for you, but I was told you weren't?" She asked.

              "Umm… I thought I was just coming in for a hair cut?" I said in a tentative manner. "Are we doing more than that?"

              "Absolutely! You're in one of the finest salons in the country – and the Hancock's are our favorite clients – I'm not just saying that. So, here's the deal. We're going to start off with washing your hair out, then I'm going to work on it for a bit, then we'll let it sit for a while. While your hair is setting we'll go ahead and do a facial on you as well as a manicure and a pedicure."

              "Wow…" I gasped.

              "Sound good?"

              "Yes!"

              "Okay, I would like you to make a couple decisions though about your nails.

              Comment


                #8
                Standing Up to Life: Part 8

                Chapter 53:

                We were going the opposite way of home, and she seemed to be in a bit of a hurry.

                "Where are we going mommy?" Amy asked. Apparently she was in the dark as much as I was.

                "It's a surprise for both of you okay? We'll be there in 2 more minutes." She said.

                We both took that as a sign that we weren't going to get anything else out of her and started focusing back on our selves. Both of us were ecstatic with our new hairstyle and everything else.

                "By the way Tiffany, I think you've got to do your makeup that way at school next year everyday!"

                "Is it really that good?"

                "Tiffany, with everything that's been going on most people would expect you to look like a boy in a dress. Truthfully when you were wearing boys clothing you looked like a girl in boys clothing – now that you're in girls clothing I don't think anyone would even guess that you were a boy. With that makeup on I guarantee every boy that you pass will be staring at your pretty face."

                I blushed. "You're exaggerating," I told her.

                Amy's mom piped in, "no, she's not exaggerating. Though I have to say I think Amy is in the same boat!" A moment later she pulled into the lot of a building that said 'Rogers Portrait Studio.'

                "We're getting our pictures taken?" Amy asked.

                "Yes, and I've got some surprises waiting for you inside Ladies. But we only have till 6 to get this done before we have to meet Tiffany's parents at Chili's for dinner. So hustle up!" She ordered.

                When we got inside the photographer was ready for us. The first thing we did was take several dozen shots by ourselves and together in about 10 different scenes he had setup around a massive warehouse type room. Then he asked, "Do you two have your next change of clothes?"

                Amy's mom walked up then and said, "Yes they do, they're in the changing rooms." She said. She led us to two changing rooms that were both unisex.

                "Both of you change into the green dress that's in there. Don't worry about tying the bow guys, I can do it better and faster out here okay? Don't forget to put on the white tights that are there!" She said pushing us inside the room.

                When I saw the dress that she was referring to I just about froze up completely. It was absolutely gorgeous! I was sure I had never seen a dress that pretty in all of my life. It was a dark green taffeta skirt and puffy short sleeves. The bodice was also in dark green, but it was embellished with embroidery crisscrossing back and forth making diamond patterns. At alternating points across the tips of the diamonds were little pink flowers and pearl looking beads.

                I pulled my jumper off carefully to avoid ruining my makeup. Then I saw the tights and pulled them on first. I know a lot of people say this is such a tricky thing, but to me it was honestly just like pulling up soccer socks. I still enjoyed it very much though. The dress had a built in petticoat so I was able to just slip it on. Of course by just slip it on that was the process of getting into it.

                The feelings that went through me on the nature of this were unreal. I did as Amy's mom asked and didn't bother zipping up. I went outside and found Amy's mom putting a pair of Mary Jane style shoes on her feet. She zipped me up, tied my bow, and then did the same for me with the shoes. We both looked adorable!

                I had seen some dresses like this on a website from an Italian dress maker before – they weren't cheap, but I had dreamt about them since I had first seen them. Amy and I talked briefly while her mom touched up our makeup, but we didn't have much time to talk because we got right back to the picture taking. Again several dozen were taken at each scene, plus a couple others, before we were led back to the changing room.

                We went through several other sets of clothes. Jeans and T-shirt, Shorts and T-shirts, skirts, a prom-dress style dress, a sundress, a swimsuit (that one was scary with the possibility of someone figuring out stuff…), and even pajamas followed before we were done. In most of the cases we wore the same thing – though sometimes in different colors. Often times we put on jewelry, tiaras, or other accessories to add more appeal.

                When we were done with the last outfit Amy asked, "Mommy can we wear the green dresses to dinner? Please?" She begged.

                "Yes, please?" I asked as well.

                "You two will be a little overdressed for Chili's." She said.

                "That's okay, we'll be pretty!" Amy told her.

                "Alright, but you only have 4 minutes to change and help me get all of this stuff packed up!"

                "Alright! Thank you!" I told her and we both rushed to quickly put the dress back on. We were both out in 2 minutes for her to help us again, before helping her move everything to her car on the way out.

                "So when will we get to see these pictures?" I asked her as we drove away.

                "Well he said he would have proofs of everything tonight, and would bring them to us at our house to pick out the packages if we wanted. I told him to drop by at 8 and your parents could help us pick them out Tiff."

                "Cool," I said.

                I was excited. I was beyond excited. Amy and I were both bouncing off the walls of the car on that ride to Chili's. We walked into the restaurant and found my parents and Mr. Hancock sitting at a table. When they saw us their jaws all collectively dropped.

                My mom was the first to speak, "Where did you find these Melanie?" She said as she came over and started examining my dress.

                "A friend of mine owns a dress shop – she told me about them a while back but I thought they would be perfect for our trip to photographer. I hadn't planned on us going today, but thankfully she already had them and dropped them off at the studio yesterday."

                "They're absolutely gorgeous." My mom reiterated. "You two are a bit overdressed for here though," she chuckled.

                "We don't care. We're pretty mommy!" I responded.

                "Actually I don't think pretty does you both justice," my dad proclaimed.

                "I love the new hair," my mom said as I sat between her and dad. Amy was sitting across from me, Melanie across from mom, and Amy's dad across from my dad.

                The conversations all continued about Amy and I being gorgeous princesses well through dinner before switching to plans about the trip. They all discussed about meeting together to walk in so that we would be a cohesive group meeting everyone else. I think they were hoping that it would help with any potential, 'problems' we could run into. We all know that those problems that were all possible involved me. Oh well.

                Following dinner we split a few desserts around the table with my parents picking up the check. Mom and dad both agreed to come over to Amy's house to look at the proofs after we finished. The 6 of us drove to their house and Amy and I got busy frantically cleaning up our mess on the dining room table. We put all of our pages into a couple boxes – we were going to finish up after we got our pictures back from the trip. The photographer arrived minutes later with a mountain of proofs in hand.

                I never was able to get a full count – people kept moving pictures too much – but I think we must have had a good 800 pictures we had to look through to choose just a few. There were so many comments of, "How cute!" that kept flying buy Amy and I were in a perpetual state of blushing. We ended up placing a couple separate orders for each family, with us taking about 30 pictures each to get made into various shots. We also bought the proofs which Mrs. Hancock would be able to pick-up with the photos tomorrow.

                "How are you doing this so fast?" I asked the photographer.

                "Well I'm in kind of a lull for the year right now. Plus I have several printers and staff to help out with this stuff. This was also a fun shoot though, so I'm probably putting a little more into it than normal."

                "Well thank you for doing so." I said to him.

                He left with the orders in hand and Amy and I helped sort out which clothes were going to which house that night. Mom had tried to pay Mrs. Hancock back for some of the dresses and such but of course they wouldn't have any of that. My parents and I all profusely thanked her and then went home for the night.

                After a good 30 minutes of rearranging my closet to fit everything I finally was talked into taking off my dress and putting on a pair of the pajamas that we had used in the shoot earlier. The pajamas really weren't anything that special, but they were in a cute pink color and were really comfy. That night when my head hit the pillow I was out like a light bulb.

                Chapter 54:

                I dragged myself out of bed at 9am the next morning. I got in the shower and mom helped me do my hair. I then helped mom pack for all of us. I was excited about leaving tomorrow – it was going to be my first time ever on a plane! Mom helped guide me to keep from packing too much stuff for the trip – I really wanted to take plenty of options, but she limited me to just taking 2 extra shirts, shorts, and 1 pair of extra jeans.

                Also I worked on packing my backpack – it was going with me on the plane – with different things. I had my gameboy, several games, a couple books, a Barbie (I told them no one would else would see it!), a coloring book mom had bought me along with some crayons. She had bought 2 of the coloring books – one for me and one for Amy.

                Dad had taken the day off so that he could help out with stuff and found plenty of things to do until lunch. We had all finished packing about 12:30 and had sat down to each some cheese crisps (melted cheese on a tortilla in a skillet with butter 'crisping' the bottom,) when the door bell rang. I was the first to get up and walk to the door and found the photographer standing there.

                "Who is it Tiff?" My mom called.

                "It's the photographer," I replied.

                She came out and took care of paying for the prints that we had ordered (they had managed to get the Hancocks to let them do that.) We then looked through the stack and mom said, "Greg, we should take some of these with us today for you parents."

                What? I thought to myself… Take them with us… when were they going to tell me we were going over to their house?

                "We're going over to Grandma and Grandpa's?" I asked.

                "We have to drop the dog off sweetie."

                "But do they know…" I stammered.

                "Yes they do, and while your Grandfather is going to take a little while to bring around… still your Grandmother is just anxious to see you." She told me. I was a little concerned with the way she put that – it did not inspire confidence.

                "Umm… So… You're sure?" I asked

                "Sweetie, you'll be fine. Your grandparents will love you no matter who you are." My dad said soothingly. I think they were both rightfully reading that I was on the brink of a freak out here.

                "Okay then… When are we leaving?" I asked.

                "30 minutes?" She looked at my dad.

                "How about sooner?" He asked back.

                I decided to put my foot down at that point. "I've been packing all morning, there is absolutely no way I can look good in less that 30!" I told him.

                "Look good? You look great now." Dad told me.

                "My hair is a mess! And I'm not going to let Grandma and Grandpa meet Tiffany in shorts and a t-shirt!" I went on for a few minutes before I saw mom raise an eyebrow at me. "Sorry… I'm just a bit nervous." I told him.

                "It's okay. Go ahead and get ready and we'll leave when you are okay?" He answered soothingly. Boy things had changed the past few weeks… Before last Saturday I probably would have had my rear end blistered for that one…

                "Thank you daddy," I said and hugged him before running to my room. I decided to wear a sundress that we had bought Monday that I hadn't worn yet. Once I had that on I put on a pair of sandals that I had and went into the bathroom. That morning had caused my hair to go off on it's own in certain places so I fixed all of those.

                I debated about putting makeup on… but decided I would go without this time. There were enough pictures with me and makeup to show them. Plus mom didn't seem so thrilled with her 11 year old daughter wearing makeup for some reason… I quickly double checked everything and went out to the living room. My parents were both waiting for me, with my dad looking at his watch. "See you even still have a minute left!" He said with a smile.

                We walked out the door with the dog jumping in the car ahead of me into the back seat. I sat down and smoothed out my dress before putting my seatbelt on. The 40 minutes it took for us to get to their house seemed to go by far too quickly. I was so scared as to what they were going to say… I was more scared of them than I was the kids on the trip and at school.

                We pulled up their long driveway to their house and drove up underneath a tree they had there. I saw that both of them were sitting on swing that was under their patio. Well here goes nothing, I thought to myself. I climbed out of the car – letting the dog race ahead of me first – and walked up to them.

                Grandma came down from the porch first and hugged me before pushing me to arms length. She spun me around so she could see my dress and then embraced me again. "Well you certainly make a beautiful young lady Tiffany." She told me. At least grandma was behind me!

                I walked over to grandpa and gave him a hug. He didn't really say much except, "I love you darling." It was definitely a much colder reception. He definitely did not approve of this, but as he said he did still love me. At least I wasn't being disowned.

                "Thanks Grandpa, I love you too." I replied.

                Grandma took back over me and looked at my hair. "Sweetie your hair is absolutely adorable!"

                "I went with my best friend and her mom to a salon yesterday to get my hair done."

                "You look very nice like this sweetie," She told me as she embraced me again.

                We all walked into the house and sat down at the dining room table to talk for a bit. Mom then pulled out a folder of pictures that we brought with us and started passing them around.

                "My heavens, what a beautiful girl you make Tiffany!" Grandma gasped. She hadn't even made it to my favorite picture of the one dress yet!

                When we did get to the one picture set Grandpa finally complimented me, "Tiffany you really are a very beautiful young lady."

                "Thank you Grandpa." I replied to him.

                They chose several pictures for themselves and we all talked about nothing and everything at the same time. We didn't stay long though as we had to get back home to finish up with some things. Before I left Grandma pulled me off to the side.

                "Tiffany, I wanted to make sure that I told you again how beautiful you are. When your parents first told us what they thought was going on last week we were flabbergasted. I think your grandfather and I honestly expected you to look like a boy wearing a dress… but truthfully I think you make a better looking girl than a boy. No matter what happens we'll stand behind you and love you sweetie." She told me with a hug.

                "Even grandpa?" I whispered.

                "Even he feels that way. You know he used to wear some of my clothes from time to time when he sold cars." She said with a wink.

                "What?"

                "It was a gimmick he and his boss did. So don't be afraid to be who you are okay?"

                I gave her an even bigger hug and said "Thank you grandma." As we left grandpa and grandma both got hugs again before we got in the car.

                "What now?" I asked mom.

                "Home. I want us all to be in bed by 8 since we leave so early tomorrow." I looked at the car clock and saw that it was 5:00pm. "We can grab a pizza on our way home to eat okay?"

                So after all was said and done the day finished flying by. Mom had to make a last minute trip to Wal-Mart that night to pickup some luggage tags. We also put some curly ribbon on all of our bags too. Before bed that night mom had me come to the living room. There I saw 2 wrapped presents on the table. As I got closer I saw that they were both wrapped in, 'it's a girl!' wrapping paper.

                I looked at mom and dad and they said, "go ahead and open them!" I opened the smaller one first and found a cute pink watch – I realized with that I hadn't had any girls watches. We had all been told to wear watches on this trip so we could keep track of where we were supposed to be. It wasn't obviously a girls watch though – so I would be able to wear it on the trip still. "Thank you!" I said to them before moving onto the next one.

                I opened up the box and found a camera of my very own. It looked to be nicer than my parents old camera (they had bought a new one for this trip last week,) and mom and dad had put 10 rolls of film in the box along with a small bag for it. This warranted an immediate hug to my parents.

                "Make sure you're careful with it sweetheart," Dad said.

                "I will be. Say do you think this'll fit into my Fannie pack?" I asked mom.

                "It might. Why don't you check?" She suggested. So I did so. It fit, though it was a tight squeeze with my little wallet and hair ties. I had just enough room inside of there to put one extra roll of film.

                "It fits, it's tight, but it fits." I told them.

                "Good honey. Now why don't you go ahead and get to bed so that you're rested tomorrow.

                "Okay mommy, thanks!" I gave them both another hug and then went to bed. That night I dreamt of all sorts of adventures we were sure to have in Florida.

                Chapter 55:

                I woke up the next morning to the sounds of mom getting ready. Though I tried to go back to sleep for a few minutes I soon got up and started doing what I could to get ready myself. 2 hours later it was 4:30am and we were pulling up to the airport. Amy's parents and Ashley's dad and Ashley all arrived right behind us. We all took our bags to the airline counter and checked in.

                Everyone had been given their tickets last week so that we could all check in when we got there. Our teachers were right behind us and we started forming up as a group. That day I had dressed in a pair of boys shorts and a girls top that was in a light blue – but could have been a boys shirt. I had done my hair today, but mom wouldn't let me do my makeup. She said she'd let me once I got back from the trip. When Ashley was finally able to come over she said. "Tiffany I love your hair!"

                "Thanks Ashley. But I'm going as Brandon on the trip, so you can call me Tiffany, but keep it to only when the 6 of us from slumber party are around okay?"

                "Sure… I wish you could be Tiffany the whole time, but at least that's something." She told me.

                My family, the Hancocks, Ashley and her dad, and our two teachers walked up to a restaurant to get something for breakfast. I ate just a standard fare of scrambled eggs and bacon. We then started to head through the security checkpoint, and once we were through there headed towards our gate.

                It was then that I started feeling it. I rushed for the bathroom and made it to a toilet just in time to throw up… When I got back outside mom asked me quietly, "Tiffany are you okay?"

                "I think so" I said groaning a bit, "I just needed to throw up all of the sudden."

                She handed me a pill from her purse, "Here," she said handing me a small pill, "take this."

                "What is it?" I asked.

                "Dramamine. It's probably just your nerves that made you sick."

                I did as I was directed and then went out to the waiting area by the gate. As time went on everyone in our group arrived in the waiting area.. The entire group from the sleepover gathered quickly into a spot in a corner. We were all talking in lower tones so no one else could hear what we were talking about. I had decided to fill them in quietly – if they wanted to rat me out they wouldn't need any more info to do it with anyway.

                After we got to the part about the hair salon Lindsey said, "Speaking of that Tiffany, I love your hair!" Lindsey said. "Yours too Amy." She added.

                "Thanks, please remember I'm supposed to be Brandon on this trip… unfortunately…" I said quietly.

                "But you're going to be Tiffany after that right?" Amber asked.

                "I hope so Amber." I replied.

                "Well, I can kind of understand them making you hold off for now on it… But I think we can all agree that we will think of you as Tiffany on this trip," Nikki said.

                "Thanks, I appreciate that." I told them.

                "Hey why don't we just call you T when everyone else is within range. We won't tell any of the others what T stands for if they ask, but that way you can at least be called by your name." Amy suggested.

                "It's better than nothing I guess," I replied.

                Lindsey made a small motion to be quiet about stuff a second later as Jennifer and Brittany both walked up. "Can we join the rest of you girls?" She asked.

                "Sure," Amy said. I took note of the fact she hadn't figured out that I was in the group at that point – or something like that.

                We expanded the circle a bit and I noticed Brittany and Jennifer both were kind of staring at me for a second. "Brandon?" Jennifer asked.

                "Yes?" I replied.

                "It just took me a moment to recognize you. I really like your hair." She told me.

                "Thanks." I replied.

                "Is there some reason you got it cut like that?" She asked.

                Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding… Warning… "We…"

                Amy thankfully interrupted, "We had a bet and he lost so he had to get his hair done in the same style as me for the trip."

                "That's big of you to follow through with that bet Brandon," She responded. I don't know if she bought it or not – I didn't think she did. "It really is a cute hairstyle for you." She replied seriously. I decided she knew something somehow.

                Thankfully the conversation moved away from that – I didn't want to get into that conversation with those 2 yet. It's not that I really had much more time to get to know the other girls, it's more that I hadn't had any with them. I would not be surprised though if by the end of the trip these two found out.

                Their conversation eventually ended up on a topic that affected almost all of them, cheerleading. The only 2 that weren't on the cheer squad next year were Nikki and I. Maybe next year I could try out? Ashley actually suggested that at one point, and I said maybe I would. I think I could do it – I'd actually helped Amy practice a bit before the tryouts this year.

                The next thing I knew they were boarding elderly and children. We were considered in the children category so we were able to go ahead and get on the plane. The walk down the ramp to the plane was really cool to me, and once we got on the plane things just were so… new and cool. I got to my seat, which was on the aisle side of 3 seats, and dad my backpack in the overhead bin.

                Mom was on the window side so she could see, and that left Dad in the middle. Across the aisle in those 3 were was Amy on the aisle, her mom, and then her dad. In front of me Ashley, her father, and Nikki sat. And in the seats cattycorner to mine sat Lindsey, Amber, and Jennifer. Brittany, Ms. Fitzgerald, and Mrs. Manning we in the seats back and to the right of me, and the boys took up a few rows behind us.

                We were all pretty chatty and the flight stewardesses introduced themselves to us really quick. As everyone else piled on the plane I definitely felt my nerves coming back… What if something went wrong? I knew statistically that was a rare… but still your first time… The sensation of the plane being pulled backwards was interesting, and when we finally were on the runway getting to leave I looked over my parents laps to the window as best I could.

                Amy and I had been talking non-stop up until this point – a feat I considered impressive given how nervous my stomach still felt. We stopped for a few moments while the plane sped up down the runway and leaped into the air. It was definitely a fun experience I decided, if not a little unnerving.

                Once we reached altitude Amy and I got our gameboys out and started playing various games. We also chatted a good amount across the aisle way for a bit before she fell asleep. At that point I needed to go to the bathroom so I headed back to the lavatory in the back. Mom had given me a motherly instruction to be careful and I took a new adventure to go to the bathroom at 33,000 feet.

                It was actually kind of disconcerting in there, but I put the seat down and pulled down my shorts and the panties I was wearing underneath. Sitting down I took care of things, wiped, and then put everything back on again.

                Even though I was supposed to be Brandon on this trip – I was determined that I was going to do everything as Tiffany. I might be going in the men's restrooms but I was still going to be a girl. Maybe in a couple years I'd be able to get my parts readjusted to the proper plumbing…

                I walked out of the bathroom and back down the aisle to get back to my seat. Amy was still asleep when I got back so I was debating about going to sleep myself. I didn't even realize that the debate had been lost until Amy poked me. "Wake up sleepyhead." She taunted me. I was just awake enough to stick my tongue out at her.

                I suddenly realized that we must be getting close to landing because it felt like we were dropping out of the air gradually. I watched out the window and watched the clouds slip by as we slipped through the ceiling. We neared the runway in Houston, and once we landed I loved the rapid deceleration that we had! That was a great feeling.

                When we landed we were very quickly ushered through the concourses to another gate on the other side of the airport. We got there with about 30 minutes to spare, we were all encouraged to go use the restroom at that point, so I went again. When I came out I had several men stare at me as if 'why are you in the mens restroom girl?' I didn't have a good answer for them. I was glad dad was right behind me for safety – I think he also noticed the looks.

                He went over and spoke with mom while I rejoined the girls for waiting to leave Houston. We were all kind of drowsy but decided to go to a couple stores that were right there. We browsed through – all trying not to spend the money that was in our pockets – and I got away with just buying a pretzel at a counter next to the shop.

                In no time we were boarding that plane and the whole experience repeated itself to go up in the air. On this leg of the race Kyle asked one of the stewardesses if he could get a set of 'wings.' She brought a set to him, and gave all of us a set while she was at it. I thought it was kind of childish and embarrassing on one hand… but it was kind of cute too! I put it in my fanny pack to save it for my scrapbook of this when we got home.

                That actually reminded me that I wanted some pictures of us in the airplane – and I began snapping some pictures of everyone sitting there. This was a longer leg and they actually 'fed' us with some sandwiches. They weren't great, but it was better than just having had the pretzel for lunch.

                As the flight drew on we all got excited that we were getting close to Orlando. The excitement turned to nervousness as we hit one of the craziest thunderstorms to fly through trying to land in Orlando. We all watched as lightning stuck incredibly close to the wings while we were all moving up and down, and side to side, from the turbulence. I located the barf bag in front of me just in case I needed it, and silently read the card for the emergency procedures that would never do us any good.

                To this day I have to say that was the worst storm I've ever flown in. Ever.

                Chapter 56:

                Eventually we landed and started through the terminal in Orlando. After following corridors for a while we got on a train to go to the car rental part of the airport. As students we all just kind of sat around bored for a few minutes while the adults setup the rental vans that we were using today.

                Our first destination for today was to go to the Everglades on an air boat ride. I didn't really know what to expect from this, but I did hope we'd get to see some alligators or something. I did really hope that I wouldn't become a meal for one though! We were going to the hotel for a little bit to check in first though.

                Ms. Fitz came up to us a few minutes later and said, "Okay, let's go!" We were led out to some large passenger vans to put our stuff in and sit down. I sat down in the second seat of a van that my mom was driving. Amy and Nikki sat next to me, with Amy's parents sitting in the seat behind us. Amber, Jennifer, and Kyle were also in our van.

                As we drove down the streets and freeway to get to our hotel I was in complete astonishment by how green it was. I'd seen the mountains fairly green before, but nothing like this! Everywhere I looked was in a shade of green. The day was overcast unfortunately, but it was nice and warm as we pulled up to the hotel.

                By hotel… I mean resort of course! I couldn't believe how nice the place was! It wasn't in Disney – something we all kind of were disappointed by, but it was a 4 star establishment that had a really cool set of swimming pools and jacuzzis. Mrs. Manning pointed us towards our rooms, and before we knew it we were heading right back out again. As I walked out of my room with the Hancocks Kyle asked me, "Didn't they do rooms by boy/girls?"

                Uh… What to say? "Amy and I requested to room together. We're best friends and have done so on many occasions." I half told the truth.

                "Wow dude, that's lucky. I wish I could share a room with Amy!" He said.

                "Her parents are in there anyway Kyle," I replied… trying not to let my disgust show through so much. Amy and I were definitely not having problems with that one.

                "Well, I was just curious." He said. Amy joined us in the hallway at that moment and gave me a funny look. Apparently my face must have given away some of my annoyance. As quickly as we arrived we were led right back out to the vans again.

                We drove for a long while and I watched the scenery go by. By scenery the main thing was pine trees. Who would've thought that Florida had Pine trees? I certainly wouldn't have.

                We pulled up to the place about 40 minutes later. The guys spent some time explaining what we were going to see, and handed out life jackets. When he did that he explained what we were to do if we fell in somehow… I just hoped I wouldn't become food by the time someone pulled me out in that case!

                I think we were all kind of in a daze from the trip, but were still very excited to go on this ride. They also handed out some ear protectors for the noise and then we were off. We rode through the swamps and saw a few things here and there, but nothing really cool for about a half hour.

                At that point I felt a drop of water. Then another. In a matter of seconds we were in a huge downpour and our guide drove as fast as he could to get us back to their shop. In the meantime we were going so fast that every drop of water pounded into our faces – it hurt. After what seemed like forever we pulled up to the shop and all of us ran inside.

                "Ow!!" I said to Amy standing next to me.

                "I agree, and I'm cold now." Amy replied.

                "Yeah." Ashley agreed with us. I checked my camera to make sure it had stayed dry enough in my fannie pack – thankfully it had. I pulled it out an had mom take a picture of all of the girls and myself – our hair was an absolute wreck! I told them all I wanted to have something to put in the scrapbook about this.

                We all shivered and looked through their store for souvenirs. It poured for another 15 minutes or so while we were in the store before stopping. I did look at the alligator heads as something to take back… but since I hadn't seen any what was the point?

                "Is everyone ready to go to dinner?" Ms. Fitz asked us.

                "Yeah," all of the guys said. The rest of us just nodded.

                I was personally happy to walk outside at that point as it was warmer than inside the store. We were all still soaked though as we sat down in the vans.

                For dinner that night we went to a pizza place where there was a buffet. We ate quietly for the most part at first, but everyone started winding up quickly after that. Laughter filled the restaurant and everyone began to discuss going swimming at the hotel when we got back. I was among the really excited kids about that, it had looked like a really neat system of pools.

                Soon after dinner we headed back for the hotel. When we got there we all split off into our rooms. I looked very forlornly at my swimming trunks – I wasn't allowed to wear a girls swimsuit. Amy came out of the bathroom in one of her swimming suits and I went in and changed myself. We all walked down to the pool together and started swimming.

                After about 10 minutes Amy pulled me away and said, "Come with me." She led me up to the top of a path that was attached to the pool and was the source for a waterfall that fell to a series of jacuzzis that cascaded down to the main pool. We sat down in the warm water and just talked for about nothing for a few minutes before Nikki, Ashley, and Jennifer joined us.

                I wasn't real happy when Jennifer joined us – she wasn't part of my inner circle of friends. I was feeling pretty torn about the swimsuit thing right now. I knew I didn't have anything that I needed to hide on my chest (yet!), but it still seemed weird. There was a lot of tension within me about this one, but I didn't want to talk about it with Jennifer there now.

                "Brandon?" Jennifer was talking to me.

                "Yes?"

                "Umm… I noticed something earlier… and wondered if I could ask you a question, a kind of personal question…"

                I had a bad feeling that this was leading towards the obvious question… But they were going to find out sometime or another. "Umm… I'll answer it, but if it's what I'm thinking of I'd prefer you keep my answer a secret."

                "I promise. I was just wondering why you had on a girls shirt today?"

                "What do you mean?"

                "I have that exact same shirt – I almost wore it today but decided to save it for another day. And then there's your haircut, I would love to have it myself – but it's definitely not a boys style…"

                Yep, she had something figured out. "You're sure you can keep a secret?" I asked.

                "Yes you'd better keep this secret," Amy and Nikki both stated looking like a pack of hyenas.

                "I promise, but what's going on?" She was smart but hadn't figure it all out.

                "Well Jennifer, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a boy." I told her.

                "That's ridiculous, you have boy parts right?" She asked. I loved the juvenile way she asked that question.

                "For now, though I hope to deal with those in time. Look, I have what they now call gender-identity disorder. My body doesn't match up with what I feel I should be…" I replied.

                She interrupted, "So… that's weird… but that's okay. You all already knew?" She asked Nikki, Amy, and Ashley.

                They all nodded, with Amy saying, "I'd suspected for a long time. Brandon has been over at my house for most of the year. I've probably known longer than he has."

                "You don't go by Brandon when you're a girl do you?" She asked.

                "No. My name is Tiffany when I'm a girl. So… what are you going to do?" I asked nervously.

                "What do you mean?"

                "Well you know my secret now, what are you going to do?"

                "I'm going to keep your secret. It's weird, but I'd still like to be your friend if you'd let me." Jennifer said sincerely.

                "Thanks Jennifer."

                "So does that mean I can call you Tiffany now?"

                "Sure, just make sure no one except…" I listed all of the names off, "are around."

                "That many people know?" She asked, surprised.

                "Well most of the girls found out when we had Amy's slumber party." I replied.

                "Actually I think Nikki and Ashley had figured out before hand during the Barbie project too." Amy added.

                "So Tiffany, why did you come on this trip as Brandon?"

                "The adults all decided it would cause too many problems." I replied.

                "But they're letting you wear some girls clothing?" She asked.

                I explained the guidelines that they had decided for me. We then chatted about a good many other things before I heard someone coming up the trail to where we were.

                "There you all are!" Ms. Fitz said. "We wondered where you all had gotten off to. It's time to go ahead and head inside alright? We need to get an early start tomorrow morning!" She ushered us back down the trail and up to our rooms to go to bed.

                As we split off Jennifer said, "Good night Tiffany."

                I looked back at her and said, "Goodnight, and thanks!" I said with a smile.

                See I could have come dressed as Tiffany! I knew that while that meant I had almost all of the girls on my side, I couldn't necessarily say that the boys reaction would have been okay though. Once Amy and I were back in the room we were ushered into the shower one at a time so that we could skip that step in the morning. I went first since I really wanted to get into my pajamas – because of course they were thankfully girl pajamas.

                10 minutes later I was brushing my hair out while Amy was in the bathroom when I heard a knock at the door. Amy's parents were out somewhere so I decided to go ahead and answer the door. When I looked through the peephole I saw it was my mom.

                "How are you holding up sweetie?" She asked me.

                "Well I wish I could be me on this trip…" I told her.

                "I know sweetie, know that it won't be too long until you're able to be yourself." She told me soothingly. She grabbed my hairbrush out of my hand and began brushing it out for me. I was pretty much purring when Amy came out and sat down on the other side of the bed. Her parents came in a second later and she held her own hairbrush out to her mom.

                A while later as my mom had declared herself tired of brushing my hair we heard another knock at the door. It was Ms. Fitz this time. "You both look cute," she told us as she came in. She explained a few things with our destinations the next day, and then we were both told it was time for bed.

                This was a new first in the level of trust… we were both allowed to go ahead and share the other bed in the room. Not that anything was going to happen, but it really did help reassert the fact that they believed that I was indeed a girl. Before going to bed we both got a stuffed animal out of our bags for sleeping with.

                The last thing I remember for that day was Melanie saying, "Good night girls."

                Chapter 57:

                The next morning we were prodded out of bed and pushed to an area where they had a continental breakfast for us. We each had a bag with us this morning that had our swimsuits in them since we were going to go to the beach when we got done with going to Space Camp and Kennedy Space Center.

                That day I had dressed in a pair of girls shorts and a guys shirt that could have been a girls. It was actually the ski resort shirt that Amy's parents had bought me on that trip. Essentially there really was no way that someone could tell I was a boy today. Amy and I had both used a black ponytail holder to put our hair up that morning – we were both far too tired to do more.

                We all gathered together in the lobby when we were done eating to board the bus that would be taking us everywhere now. It was awesome getting on this bus – it had TV's, comfortable seats that leaned back, and even had a bathroom! The bus driver was also really cool and we all settled in for the drive pretty quickly.

                I'll be honest, this was the part of the trip that I had been looking forward to the most. I had wanted to go to space camp for several summers since I had learned about it. My parents could never possibly afford to send me though. This would be my chance to see everything they had there.

                The first part of our tour allowed several of us to try some equipment that let us experience how inertia could send us out of control very easily. It was actually a lot of fun. Amy and Kyle both tried out another simulator that let you feel what a flat spin would be like. I had no desire to go on that one and get sick!

                We were shown a bunch of different science experiments and given a short tour of a shuttle mockup that the space camp attendees were able to run shuttle missions through. I was really disappointed that none of us were able to give that one a try.

                After a long tour that I found to be a blast we were shown to another shuttle simulator that gave us a tour of an idea of a passenger version of the space shuttle. It was a neat experience that concluded our tour. When we went into the store I looked around for some stuff to take home as souvenirs.

                I ended up picking up a girls t-shirt and a couple postcards to take home. I also couldn't resist the freeze dried ice cream. Amy and Nikki both followed my lead on those items before we all went to find a bathroom. Once again I felt some strange looks on my back as I went into the boys' bathroom. I really wished I could just use the girls!

                We left from there a little while later and drove over to Kennedy Space Center. At Kennedy we were given a science demonstration with things like the shuttle's tiles and a blow torch among other things. From there we got to go on a tour of their museum – seeing some really cool things like the command modules and space suits.

                At that point we were led to the outdoor area where the rocket garden was located. That was honestly really cool and we all just kind of wondered around aimlessly for a bit. Our last structured stop at Kennedy before lunch was to the memorial for fallen astronauts. Even at such a young age I think we were all affected by the gravity of the memorial. I definitely felt like those astronauts deserved to have their names memorialized for their efforts to bring us to space.

                By that point all of our stomachs were seriously growling by the time we were taken to a café to eat a lunch of burgers or hot dogs. Amy and I ate quickly so we could grab a cup of "space dots" for dessert before going to see an Imax film on a shuttle launch. Let me tell you, the Imax film was probably one of the cooler moments of the visit – even though I wasn't expecting it to be as cool as it was. The huge screen combined with the huge sound was a great way to experience a shuttle launch!

                We had about 30 minutes inside the gift shop there where we all bought a couple things. I purchased a couple patches, some pencils and pens, and a few more postcards. I had my eyes on one of the space pens that you could write with upside down, but my parents talked me out of that purchase. We ended up leaving Kennedy at about 2:30 for Cocoa Beach.

                It felt like a long drive, though it really wasn't more than about 40 minutes. In the meantime I gabbed with Amy and Jennifer. As the day had gone on I wondered why I had never gotten to know Jennifer. She really was a lot of fun. When we pulled up to the beach our teachers led us to a set of bathrooms we could change into our swimsuits real quick. Actually it was pretty much only the boys that needed to change as most of the girls had worn their suits underneath their clothes.

                I actually kind of cheated – I changed in the bathroom on the bus real quick when we got on. Personally I hated all of the stares I kept getting whenever I went to the bathroom. I was probably honestly drawing more attention to myself by going in the boys room than going in the girls restroom. That meant I was able to go straight down to the beach with Amy and the girls.

                All of us were commanded to put sunscreen on, and told we would need to get out of the water in an hour and a half. That would then give us a little bit of time to go through Ron Jon's. It was about 3:15 or so at the point we entered the water – and the beach wasn't busy at all.

                As I got in the water I found it truly amazing! The water was so warm, salty, and made me float more than I had in swimming pools. I enjoyed swimming in the water and went a little farther out after a bit. Someone had brought a beach ball that we started tossing back and forth at one point.

                After a while we all kind of got tired and just floated around and talked.

                "So Amy what are you doing the rest of the summer?" Ashley asked.

                "Well I'm going to go to a cheerleading camp in California in a couple weeks. I'm hoping to get some experience before we start the school camp a few weeks later." She told her.

                "I wish I could go with you," Lindsey said. The other girls that were around all agreed too.

                "How about you Nikki?" Lindsey asked.

                "Well there's a music camp that my parents want to send me to in like three weeks. I've heard it is fun. We'll see though."

                Nikki looked around for a second and then asked, "Tiffany what are you doing after this?"

                "I haven't really made it that far. I'm just looking forward to being myself when we get back I guess. Really I've been planning for this trip so long I haven't made it much past it…. I do know I'm going to have a lot of doctor's appointments when we get back."

                We moved on to each person, and soon after we were finished were told to go ahead and start heading towards the shore to go shopping at Ron Jon's.

                We were first led to some outdoor showers, and then I put on a shirt over my chest so that I didn't look quite so out of place. I actually also quickly changed back into my normal shorts in the bathroom. Once I was dressed I went quickly to meet back up with everyone going into Ron Jon's.

                It was an incredibly cool store. I really can't do it justice in words. They had so many cool things all over the place in the store. In particular I saw a couple of swimsuits that I desperately wanted. I whispered them to my mom – but I didn't think she would do anything about it in all honesty. I did buy a key chain and a few post cards there. One of the guys bought a waveboard thing – how he was going to get it back home I wasn't sure.

                I had already spent more in those few things than I could have imagined spending on a regular basis. I guess I was kind of holding out for the Disney parks at this point. Amy and I walked through the aisles pointing to this or that before we were all ushered out to the bus. It was 6pm by the time we pulled away from the beach and headed for dinner.

                We pulled up to a 50's style restaurant about 10 minutes later. I sat down at a table with Amy, our parents, Nikki, and the 2 teachers.

                We had been sitting for a couple moments when the waiter came by and asked the adults, "Does she need a booster seat?" indicating Nikki.

                Amy and I couldn't help it – we giggled.

                Nikki replied, "sure." I was a little shocked.

                "Why did you say yes?" Amy asked.

                "I get one at a lot of restaurants. I mean look. I have to put my arms at my shoulder level to eat at this point. I don't have a problem with it." She amazingly didn't look embarrassed.

                "Neither do we," I replied. "I'm sorry if I laughed though… it was kind of funny…" I said sullenly.

                "Yes it was." Nikki replied. "We should have asked for one for you though too Tiff." She said giggling just before the waiter came back with it. I stuck my tongue out at her. Truthfully she did look a lot more comfortable sitting that way – it was just kind of strange.

                "So are you girls having fun?" Ms. Fitz asked us.

                "Yes," the three of us answered in unison.

                "What was your favorite part today?" She asked us.

                Amy answered first, "The Beach. I love the water."

                Nikki said, "Ron Jon's was great."

                "I think it was Space Camp, I've wanted to go there for a while now," I replied to her.

                "I'm glad to hear you guys all had something you liked today."

                We moved on conversation wise to what we were going to eat. The waiter soon came around and asked me, "and you young lady?"

                "A strawberry shake first – and a bacon cheeseburger with fries please." I replied. I was pleased that he had called me a lady - even though I definitely ordered a non-lady like meal. As he took Amy's order next to me I noticed that Kyle – sitting at a table across from us – seemed to stare at me for a moment. I wondered if he had heard the waiter refer to me as a lady? Nothing wrong with that I figured.

                I whispered to Amy, "I think Kyle heard me being called a lady. He just looked at me kind of strange."

                "What's he going to say? It's not like you introduced yourself as Tiffany to him. He just assumed that you were a girl – Kyle shouldn't be a problem Tiff," she whispered back to me.

                "I hope not," I replied to her. Our shakes came shortly after that and my mind went solely to eating that. Every once in a while I swore I saw Kyle staring at me, but I decided I must have just been going nuts. Food came and went from there, and before I knew it we were heading back onto the bus to go to the hotel.

                The bus driver put on a movie while we were going back – that was incredibly cool! – and I actually must have drifted off to sleep because the next thing I knew Amy was poking me and telling me to wake up.

                "Why'd you go to sleep?" Amy asked me.

                "I went to sleep?" I inquired sleepily.

                "Duh! Come on, we're supposed to go to our rooms and get ready for bed. They said that we can stay up a bit later, but they want us in the rooms." She prodded me to grab my stuff and we went to the room. As soon as I got in there I woke up and started getting hyper. I could actually change back into my girls pajamas!

                I had been asleep up until the door was open – it was amazing because immediately after that I grabbed my pajamas and ran into the bathroom to change. I came out smiling with a huge grin and hopped onto the bed nearly knocking Amy, who was sitting on the edge, off.

                "Hey!" she exclaimed.

                "Sorry… just a little excited." I replied sheepishly.

                "What's gotten into you?" Amy's mom asked.

                "I hate having to be Brandon… I feel so scared every time that I go into a bathroom that someone's going to ask why that 'girl' is going into the boys bathroom? I get stared at every time. If it wasn't for the fact that I've been going in with my dad I think some people would have commented… or worse…" I told her. A lot of my fears were being stated for the first time tonight.

                She came over and hugged me. "Look Tiffany, let me go get your parents and let's talk about this okay?" She said. She looked at me as if she was concerned I was going to cry, but something was keeping me from doing that. I'm still not sure what.

                I just kind of sat looking off into space for a moment when I heard the door open and close again with my parents, Amy's Mom, and Ms. Fitz into the room.

                Mom came over to me and gave me a hug, dad did the same. "What's going on?" Mom asked.

                "Well, Tiffany was just talking to me about a concern that she's had – and I'm frankly kind of worried about." Amy's mom started off.

                "Actually when she vocalized it a little bit ago I realized I had been kind of concerned about this today too." Her dad added.

                My parents looked really worried, and Ms. Fitz didn't look like she was looking forward to this next part either. "Tiffany, why don't you tell them what you told us?" Amy's mom asked sweetly.

                "I'm worried… Every time I go to the bathroom I'm afraid that someone is going to comment, or jump me asking why this girl is in the boys room. Even dressed as a boy everyone is assuming I'm a girl. If it wasn't for the fact that people could tell that I entered with you, daddy, I'm sure there were some boys earlier today that were going to make fun of me…"

                My dad responded first, "Actually, kind of like Greg, I'd been noticing this too. I've been trying to keep an eye on you Tiff, but I think this is something we need to address."

                "How?" I asked. I was staying calm… I was amazed by that.

                "Well why don't we go one day at a time with that?" My mom suggested.

                "…Okay… What do we do tomorrow then?" I asked.

                "Well tomorrow morning is Discovery Island, it shouldn't be a big deal since we'll be in a group by ourselves," Ms. Fitz answered. "So there shouldn't be any of those issues that we're worried about. We can just keep it as status quo there."

                "And the afternoon?" I asked. It was at this point I noticed mom had a shopping bag with her.

                "Well how about wearing this?" She asked showing me one of the swimsuits I had pointed out earlier.

                "Really?" I asked. "… but what about everyone else?"

                Ms. Fitz answered first, "Why don't you wear it underneath your clothes tomorrow. It may be kind of difficult to deal with in the bathroom in the morning, but that way you can just pull your shorts and t-shirt off when a few of the girls that know about you, and you go off somewhere and enjoy yourselves."

                "If for whatever reason you run into a person of our group who doesn't know you can probably hide behind the other girls. It could get dicey, but if you're going to come to school next year as Tiffany anyway there's not a whole lot to lose at this point. I think some of the kids that don't know are already starting to pick up some stuff anyway." She finished.

                "It's up to you though Tiffany. What do you want to do?" Mom asked me.

                Was that a simple yet completely scary question or what?

                I looked at Amy, "do you think we can pull it off?"

                "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if someone sees us… but if we're careful we can probably make it work." She replied.

                "Okay then, I guess Tiffany will be going to Typhoon Lagoon tomorrow." I replied.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Standing Up to Life: Part 9 (Final)

                  Chapter 58:

                  The next morning I woke up and put on my new swimsuit first, and then pulled on a pair of boys shorts and a shirt on top of the swimsuit. My mom came and knocked to get in the room about that time, "Are you sure you want to do this Tiffany?" She asked me as she came in.

                  "I think so…" I replied timidly. I had a lot more butterflies today than I did yesterday. In general the idea was simply that I was going to be Brandon until we got to the waterpark, then several of us – and Ms. Fitz, were going to split off and I would become Tiffany for the afternoon. I was not worried about strangers, I was mainly worried about other members of our group that didn't know.

                  At this point six of the other girls knew… but that was it. That left one girl and five boys I would have to deal with if they found out. Oh well.

                  While I'd been sitting there thinking about all of this, mom had sat down next to me on the bed and was braiding my hair into one braid. "Won't people figure this one out?" I asked mom.

                  Amy answered, "It'll be easier to deal with when we go to the water park." When she walked in front of me I realized she too had braided hair. "All of the girls are doing it," she added. As if that made me feel like I wasn't sticking out at the moment. Before I knew it we were on the way out the door.

                  "Hey Brandon, who braided your hair?" Brittany asked.

                  "Umm… Amy did. She said it would keep my hair out of my eyes when we go swimming later." I responded. Slight lie… not huge though.

                  "That's a good idea. I'll have to get someone to do it for me when we get on the bus." She said thoughtfully.

                  We all boarded the bus and took our seats. As we drove through Orlando we followed the signs to Disney World, and soon we got our first look at the outside of the Disney Park. After driving through the park roads for a while we came to a beach where we got off the bus to take a boat out to the island.

                  Everyone at the island was dressed in 'safari' gear and we were soon on a tour of the island. They had a number of big Galapagos turtles there. We easily could have ridden one, they were so large. The island had a number of things in it, but I definitely think my dads favorite was the bird cage. There were so many different types of birds in the cage, and they were all very colorful.

                  There were also some flamingos, some lemurs, and some swans… but it really wasn't that special beyond that. The workers gave us a fairly thorough set of science lessons with everything, it wasn't uninteresting, but it wasn't the highlight of the trip so far. Kennedy and Space Camp definitely were better science lessons.

                  We stopped by their bathrooms on our way out. I found the farthest stall away from the door and moved quickly to take stuff off in such a way that the guys couldn't figure out that I had a girls swimsuit on underneath my clothes. I honestly thought that Kyle might have seen a strap hanging out of the neck of my shirt at one point, but I don't think he was paying attention. I was just lucky that the shirt I was wearing was heavy enough to hide the suit.

                  As I left I noticed that one of the guides gave me a funny look trying to decipher why I had been in the boys room. Oh well… that's why I was going as Tiffany to the next park!

                  As we drove to the next park I wondered why I was getting stranger looks on this trip – then I remembered that my hair wasn't just long anymore, it was styled in a girls style. I didn't want to change that one bit, but I was looking forward to being less uncomfortable after this trip was done.

                  The bus didn't have to travel far before we were at Typhoon Lagoon. We were each given food vouchers to eat lunch and turned loose. Ms. Fitz led Amy, Amber, Nikki, Ashley, and I away from the rest of the group, dragging behind everyone else as they hurried through the entrance to the park.

                  Once we were in the park she suggested we go ahead and eat lunch first to give the others some more time to get out of sight before enjoying the park. We paid with our voucher and got a slice of pizza and a drink. All of us ate quickly before Ms. Fitz led us into a ladies locker room. The four girls and I all were ready to go outside pretty quickly – everyone had worn their swimsuits under their clothes – and we were in and out of the locker room in almost no time.

                  We had locked up all of my clothes in a separate locker that I could give a key to someone else to get them if we got desperate to hide my appearance. I didn't care that much at that moment, I was just happy to not be acting like Brandon at that moment.

                  I skipped and giggled as we headed for the 'lazy river,' for a bit. Amy said it was kind of relaxing and fun – plus more importantly we knew the others weren't heading there first.

                  The lazy river wasn't overly exciting – but it was relaxing to sit down in the inner-tube and it gave me a chance to kind of calm down my nerves. After we floated around a good chunk of the park we all got out and headed for the 'shark reef' attraction. You could snorkel with the sharks in a tank that had a coral reef and lots of other fish. It sounded really cool!

                  As we approached the front of the line Ashley said, "This is kind of crazy isn't it?"

                  "Naw…" I replied, "they wouldn't let us swim with them if they were dangerous."

                  "Tiffany's right Ashley," Amy replied.

                  "Alright then, let's get this over with." She replied. I was really amazed that she was so scared of this.

                  They handed each of us a partial wetsuit type thing and a snorkel as we got to the waters edge. After a little bit of discussion we started swimming in the tank.

                  It was soooo cool! I took my time moving through the water so I could stare at everything below. By the time I got to the other side the girls and Ms. Fitz had handed in the gear that they loaned us and were ready to move on. Part of me really wanted to stay behind and go through that again – but they didn't want to do that. My safety really stemmed from being with friends at this point so I moved on with them.

                  Our next stop was a few really tall water slides. Ms. Fitz just kind of found a seat and watched as we climbed the stairs to the slides. As I came down the 3rd and final time on those slides the bottom part of my swimsuit slipped a little. Nothing became shown… but it sure made me nervous. I quickly put everything back in order as best I could under the water in the pool that it splashed into.

                  That was unnerving.

                  We moved on from there to a white water raft ride. Ms. Fitz said that was going to have to be the last thing we did if we were going to make it back in time to avoid running into anyone we knew in the locker room.

                  It was a fun final ride at the park with the raft ride. We all screamed and squealed a fair amount throughout the ride. Really it was more about having fun screaming than it was being startled or scared. All of us girls, including Ms. Fitz, skipped our way back to the locker room where I pulled my swimsuit off in a bathroom stall and put on a pair of panties that were in my backpack and my shorts/t-shirt back on.

                  I had been in a store with Amy for about 3 minutes when everyone else started to arrive back. Nothing was said to the rest of the group about the extra girl that joined the group for the afternoon. As far as any of us could tell no one else ever ran into our group that day – that surprised me a lot, but I wasn't going to slap a gift horse in the mouth.

                  That night we had dinner and ended up in our rooms watching TV for a bit before going to bed. I went down the hallway before I got into my pajamas and knocked on Ms. Fitz's door. Brittany came to the door.

                  "Hey Brandon how are you doing?" She asked me.

                  "Pretty good, is Ms. Fitz in here?" I asked.

                  "She's in the bathroom, she should be right out." She replied to me. "So Brandon did you have fun today?" She asked.

                  It was really strange being called Brandon for some reason at that moment. "Umm… Yeah I did. How about you?"

                  "Yeah I did too. So what else are you doing this summer?"

                  "I don't know. We were talking about that yesterday at the beach; I really don't have any more plans this summer." I replied.

                  "Is it true that your project with that video got you guys a lot of money?" She asked me.

                  "A fair amount…" I answered. Where was this going?

                  "And… doll houses for all of you?" She asked me.

                  "Umm… yeah, that one was kind of funny in my case wasn't it?" I asked ironically, hoping that we could get around this soon. My luck hung in there for the day.

                  "Hey Brandon," Ms. Fitz said from behind me. "What's up?"

                  "I just wanted to come by and thank you for earlier… I really appreciated it." I told her.

                  "It was no problem. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but we'll see if we can work out something similar." She replied to me.

                  "What are you guys talking about?" Brittany asked.

                  "Nothing… she just helped me out with something earlier…" I replied knowing I was leaving a question in there. "Maybe I'll tell you about it tomorrow night or something. I really should be going back to my room. Goodnight guys." I replied…. Umm… Yeah… Way to blow that one Tiffany.

                  Chapter 59:

                  That night I didn't sleep real well. I didn't really know Brittany, but I knew she wasn't dumb enough not to realize there was something more there. Had she pumped her roommate (Jennifer) for information last night? Would Jennifer have told her? I had pretty much decided that I was going to have to fill in Brittany if she asked anything more out of me.

                  Today we were going to Epcot. It sounded kind of interesting, but I'll be honest I was kind of afraid that they were going to be too focused on learning today to be able to have a really good time. As I got up that morning and took a shower I put on another pair of panties and a pair of girls shorts. I also decided what the heck and put on a shirt that was really a girls shirt as well – it could have been a guys shirt (it wasn't though).

                  I had a pair of tennis shoes and white socks on when I stepped out of the bathroom. I saw Amy's mom putting her hair into 2 pig tails with red and white ribbons in each side. (red and white were our school colors, and as she pointed out later Minnie and Mickey's colors). "Tiffany you want to do yours like this too?" she asked me.

                  "Umm… I'd love to… but what about everyone else?" I asked.

                  "I think you'll be fine, but you can always say that I made you do it," Amy answered.

                  "Okay, twist my arm why don't you," I said. What I wasn't expecting was Amy to come over and do just that. I stuck my tongue out at her.

                  We dried my hair as best we could (man we woke up early that morning!), and soon my hair was put up exactly like Amy's had been. I liked it. Really we were all too old for pig-tails to be cool… but still. I guess I missed that part of my life so I didn't mind it at this point.

                  When we got down to the breakfast area for breakfast I saw that all of the girls had their hair done in the exact same way. My mom came over to me and gave me a hug. "Your hair is cute sweetie. I think Melanie was right that it would look cute – and make it easier to find all of you later too."

                  "So there was an ulterior motive then huh?" I asked.

                  "Well yeah. But you like it don't you?" She added under her breath to me.

                  I blushed and nodded. She sent me off to get some breakfast and I sat down at a table with Amy and Nikki. A few moments later Brittany came over by herself, "Can I join you guys?"

                  "Sure," Amy and I chimed in.

                  Her hair had been done the same way too, I don't know if she thought it was as cute as I did though. "I see the adults have had fun with your hair too Brandon?" she asked me.

                  "Umm… yeah. Actually I'm blaming Amy for my hair at the moment." I stuck my tongue out at her for show. "They may have had a little too much fun this morning?" I asked timidly trying to feel her out.

                  "Actually it is pretty cute – especially on you," she replied back. "You know with your hair done that way you actually would make a much cuter looking girl than a guy." She told me. I just about choked on the orange juice I was drinking.

                  Amy looked a little worried when we exchanged glances.

                  Nikki had her wits about her though and said, "Yeah, he probably would. Would you have a problem with that?" She asked innocently. I think she was the only one – being so short and such – that could have pulled off that question.

                  I'm not sure if Brittany was actually thinking of this as a possible exchange leading to a nuclear war before – now she seemed taken a bit aback and looked at us a bit. Her face bore a really puzzled expression. After a moments thought she laughed and replied, "No, I don't have a problem with that. If Brandon was wearing a dress that might be a little weird, but I wouldn't have a problem with it. Why are you all so touchy on this subject?" She asked.

                  Houston we may have a problem. At that moment I had a decision to make… Amy and Nikki wouldn't tell my secret – it was mine and mine alone to tell and they knew it. Brittany could pressure any of the others, I didn't think they would tell, and could get information. What it really boiled down to was the fact that…

                  "Wait a minute." She had the thoughts about her to whisper and look around to see if anyone else was around (they weren't thankfully). "You're wearing some of Amy's clothes today aren't you?"

                  Moment of truth… "No actually I'm wearing my clothes." I replied back to her.

                  "So… you want to be a girl?" Her face was an incredibly frightening thing to look at right then. She looked puzzled, horrified, smiled, and a whole lot of other things.

                  Keep it simple stupid… "Yes." I replied back to her in the same whisper.

                  She just sat there silent for a moment as she looked around a bit. "I'm the only girl here who didn't know?" She asked.

                  "At this point." I replied. "I'm sorry I don't really know you that well. 'The adults' decided it would be best if I still came as Brandon on this trip. But they're starting to recognize that is causing more trouble than it is really worth."

                  She still looked stunned but was getting over it. "I guess I should have wondered when you had that one shirt on when we left. Jennifer has that same top…" She paused for a few moments.

                  I looked at her and asked, "So are you going to be okay with knowing this?"

                  "And with keeping it a secret," Amy added fairly fiercely.

                  "As long as you'll consider letting me be your friend." She replied.

                  "That's an easy part," I replied with a smile.

                  "I'm assuming you don't go by Brandon when you are a girl?" She asked.

                  "No." I extended her my hand, "I'm Tiffany." She took it and shook it before extending her pinky to me and offering to let me swear her to secrecy without even me suggesting it.

                  With that our conversation lightened up a lot! Brittany was actually pretty nice. She had a lot of the same interests as we did – she just wasn't in our school so we didn't know her. That apparently was supposed to change next year though, she was going to come over to our middle school. Of course I wasn't even sure if I was going to be at that middle school after this summer…

                  Someone had suggested that I relocate to another school where people didn't know Brandon – they thought it would be easier to fit in. I didn't want to leave Amy and all of the rest of my friends though. I was honestly tempted to just show up as the 'new girl' at the beginning of the year and see what happened.

                  Before too long we were herded back onto a bus to go to Epcot at Walt Disney World.

                  When we got there we were met by a tour guide who took us around to the main attractions and helped us avoid being in any lines. My favorite stop on this tour was probably when we 'went inside the body.' It was a neat simulator ride – and honestly one of the most entertaining things that day. Also really neat was the moving fountain jets of water over a garden they had. Along with the sculpted animals out of plants it was a really neat place that a lot of pictures were taken at.

                  We finished our tour by riding up to the top of the big ball thing and seeing the different future possibilities inside of it. When we came down our tour guide left us and we broke up into some different groups. The group that I was in was definitely the largest. It was my parents, Amy's parents, Amy, Lindsey, Jennifer, Brittany, and myself.

                  At this point Amy and I started leading our group to food. We were both starving.

                  We ended up at another one of the many places in the Disney parks that cater to American needs in food – another hamburger. I was getting really sick of the burgers, but at least for dinner Amy's parents had made arrangements for us to eat at a better restaurant. All I knew about it was that it was in the French Embassy area of the park.

                  After lunch we then started moving towards the other side of the park where all of the embassies were. We stopped in a store at the first stop and picked up 'passports' for each of us. We then started going from place to place hitting the attractions and finding souvenirs from the different countries. At one point we stopped at the restrooms and I went into the girls with everyone else. (Well except our dads!) I was really glad that all of the girls knew about me at this point – it made life a lot easier.

                  It was probably about 4pm when we went into a jewelry store in one of the sections. With the girls we walked through and were pointing out different necklaces and earrings to each other. A couple minutes later we came to the part of the counter that had different studs for piercing your ears.

                  "Tiffany, you should get your ears pierced." Nikki said.

                  "My parents don't want me to do it till we get back." I said sullenly.

                  "What don't we want you to do?" My mom came up behind me.

                  "Get my ears pierced before we get back." I replied to her. I managed to do it without too much attitude. There was certainly some bitterness present though.

                  She looked at me for a moment and then walked over to talk to my dad for a second. "Which ones do you want?" She asked pointing to the studs. I couldn't believe it – I figured there was no way that I was going to be allowed to do that yet.

                  The girls all had an opinion on which ones I should get, but I finally settled on a pair of gold studs that had a deep blue sapphire in each of them. I really wanted the pink – but if I was even going to maintain a half-hearted effort at this lie then pink would be the wrong color to get.

                  I have to admit that I was kind of a bit on the wimpy side with the earrings. I definitely flinched and nearly cried from nerves before it got done – but at least once it was done I didn't really feel that much. They gave us some stuff to clean my ears with – something mom said I had to do. She wasn't going to pay to get them re-pierced just because they got infected.

                  Of course once we had that done that opened up a whole new avenue of souvenirs to buy to take back home! I ended up with 6 additional pairs of earrings that I would be able to wear once my ears healed. Finally we were all pulled away from the various attractions and shopping by Mr. Hancock to go to dinner.

                  Chapter 60:

                  When we walked into the restaurant that Mr. Hancock had made reservations at I was suddenly concerned that we would be kicked out because of dress code. I mentioned that to Amy and she replied, "They're used to people coming in like this from the park. As long as you make reservations they don't have a problem with it."

                  I knew Mr. Hancock had in fact called earlier to expand the number since we had more people than he had expected originally. We were actually seated rather quickly, and they didn't even give us a second glance for our clothing as far as I could tell. Our waitress came to the table soon after that.

                  "Bonjour! Je m'appele Elodie, your waitress for this evening. May I start you out with an appetizer?" She asked.

                  Mr. Hancock ordered several things for us all to share and then she came by for our drink orders. "And for you mademoiselle?" She asked me.

                  "Iced tea please?" I asked.

                  "Bien sur. By the way I love all of your hair," She said to all of us with a thick, authentic, Parisian accent. I know I blushed – I think Amy and Brittany did too. With that she was off to take care of our appetizers. The menu gave all of the stuff in both French and English. I was personally intrigued by the French stuff – maybe I'd have to study it some time.

                  We all took a stab at ordering something and she actually came back and interacted with us a lot. 'The girls,' as the adults had taken to calling us, all headed off for the bathroom before we got our food. It kind of amused me that I used to be someone that gave girls a hard time about 'flocking' to the bathroom.

                  For me it was more of a safety factor than most girls… I was so thankful that I was actually able to go in relative safety to the girls room instead of being locked into the boys room. That's the way I had been doing things all day pretty much – and it made me far more comfortable.

                  I definitely enjoyed the food that was waiting when we went back. It was so rich and tasty. We split some desserts and began going through the rest of the embassy section. Amy and I began racing each other to see who could get their 'passport' book finished quicker.

                  We were of course slowed down by our parents… couldn't they see we were racing? We actually ended up finishing about 45 minutes before the fireworks show was supposed to begin.

                  My mom pulled us off inside a store real quick at that point. "Hey why don't we all go ahead and get one of these?" She asked holding up a yellow rain jacket they were selling.

                  "Do we have to mom?" I asked her. Amy also looked like she wasn't real fond of it.

                  "Do you want to get soaked again?" Mom asked me in return.

                  I grumbled but took the jacket that she bought for me and put it in a bag I had of souvenirs. Hopefully we wouldn't have to wear them.

                  Before we split up we had a predetermined time and location we were all supposed to meet at before the fireworks show. Amber, Nikki, and Ashley showed up and we became a group of girls in a circle pretty quickly. Nikki was the first to notice my new earrings.

                  "Tiffany, those are pretty!" She said as she examined them.

                  I had forgotten all about them. 'I wonder what the guys are going to say?' I asked myself.

                  "Thanks," I replied to her. "Do you think it's going too far at this point?" I asked her quietly.

                  "No," I think you'll be fine. She pulled me aside and whispered to me, "I think Kyle has figured out something. He asked me if I knew of anything going on with you. I didn't say anything though," She added quickly.

                  "Maybe it would be better if I told him?" I asked her.

                  "I don't know. I think you should just wait and see what happens for now. I just wanted to let you know."

                  "Thanks Nikki, you're a really great friend." I gave her a brief friendly hug and we rejoined the group of girls that had now grown to all of the kids.

                  I stayed in between a couple of the girls to keep the guys from getting a good look at my ears. I really didn't want to have to deal with that quite yet. As the fireworks show began to start all of the lights dimmed around the water where they were shooting them off.

                  The show was really cool – I'm definitely a pyro, so that meant I would have done about anything to have been involved with it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching things explode! As the last volley of fireworks went off as a finale I felt raindrops begin to fall onto my head. All of us began ripping open the packaging on our raincoats and putting them on.

                  I think, from later accounts, that the adults realized quickly they had a problem. Suddenly every one of us looked exactly the same! They all ordered us to hold each others hands and I ended up with Kyle holding my right hand.

                  That was strange. He looked at me kind of funny – and I realized he must have seen my earrings at that point. He kept hold of my hand still and I hung onto Amy's hand. It was at that moment that it really occurred to me that eventually I might have/want to date a boy… that would be really strange.

                  Between all of the sheets of rain and our constant trek back to the busses holding hands I didn't have a lot of time to ponder that much more – but I knew I would have to think about it eventually. As we got on the bus and I sat down in my own seat Kyle looked at me and asked, "Can I sit next to you?"

                  Chapter 61:

                  "Umm… Sure." I replied

                  "So are you enjoying the trip so far?" He asked me.

                  "Yeah, I'm having the time of my life. How about you?" I asked.

                  "It's great. I've never been east of New Mexico before. My parents have never wanted to go this way for some reason. Have you been here before?"

                  "No, my parents have never had the money for it. If not for the film we made I'd say they would never again… but hopefully that won't be as much the case now." I told him.

                  "Was that fun making that film?" He asked me.

                  That could be taken as a loaded question. Did I have fun playing with Barbies? Well might as well go for broke. "Yeah, it was a great time. And, it certainly turned out well for us."

                  "How so?"

                  "Well Mattel, the company that makes Barbies, bought the film. They paid us each a large sum of money, and promised us a share of profits if they ever show it publicly. It sounds like they're at least going to pay for it to be entered into a film festival or two for us. So, if nothing else, we should have college paid for each of us." I told him.

                  "Wow that's cool. So Brandon, they guys and I have been kind of wondering something." I casually stood up for a second to stretch and look around to see who else was around. "Why haven't you been hanging out with us on this trip?"

                  Perhaps I could avoid the truth coming out for a little longer? "Well Amy and I have become really good friends this year – really you never see us apart at this point. It seems like I live at her house more than I live at mine." I paused for a second, "but it's nothing against you guys."

                  "Good, I didn't really think it was. When they made us all hold hands earlier I noticed that you had both your ears pierced… I also noticed that you looked like you had on some of Amy's clothes today?"

                  'Oh Crap'

                  "Also, I didn't think much of it the other day but when I saw Amy and your group I didn't see you. I did see another girl with them. Is there something else going on with you? I mean I don't have a problem if there is, I just was curious…"

                  "Umm…" I was at a loss for words all of the sudden. This was the first time that I had to tell a boy my age that I wasn't really a boy – I was a girl… and to make it worse I didn't really know if I could trust him or not.

                  "Look Brandon, I know I haven't exactly gone out of my way over the years to be your friend, but I haven't gone out of my way to be your enemy either. I don't know if you heard or not but I beat up Matt one time last year?"

                  "I heard something about it." I replied. I did remember it. Last year in 5th grade Kyle had beaten Matt to a pulp one day. Matt had been so badly beaten he didn't bother me for a solid month. At least that's what I thought had happened. No one had seemed to know why the two had gotten into it.

                  "Well the reason was I was tired of him giving you all of that crap. He needed knocked down a few notches." He told me. But why was he telling me?

                  "Well thanks, I do appreciate it." I replied.

                  "So what's going on with you? You can trust me – I won't tell anyone else." He told me.

                  Nope, I wasn't going to get out of telling him something. And if I'm telling him something might as well be the truth right?

                  "You promise?" I asked.

                  "Yes, I promise."

                  "Well… I've had kind of an interesting last year. Last week a psychologist diagnosed me as having a 'gender-identity' issue." I couldn't say disorder that would make it sound like I was even more of a freak…

                  "What does that mean?" He asked me.

                  "Well it's a really long story, but to make it a short one basically my body doesn't match up with my brain. On the inside of me I'm a girl – the only thing keeping me from being so is my body."

                  "That's strange…" Thankfully he didn't just jump up right then and scream 'you freak.'

                  "It's not something I picked to have, or even wanted, but it's something that I am dealing with." I replied back.

                  "So does this mean that you're going to be a girl at school next year?" he asked me. He was taking this far better than I expected.

                  "I hope so. That's the plan at least." I replied back to him.

                  "Let me know if anyone gives you any trouble about it – I'll take care of them." He told me in a way I knew he meant it.

                  "You're… o… okay with this?" I asked him incredulously.

                  "Well the girls all seem to be fine with this. You're a nice person, and I have little doubt that when you actually dress completely as a girl are going to be hotter than I'd like to think. How are they going to keep you from becoming a guy with a deep voice and all of that?"

                  "Well…" I explained some more of what was ahead for me. Or at least what I hoped was ahead for me.

                  "So eventually you'll be completely a girl?" He asked me.

                  "In every way except having kids." I replied back to him.

                  "Well that's not a bad thing. That has got to hurt more than it would be worth!" he told me laughing a little.

                  I nodded. Though I wasn't so sure that I wouldn't jump at the chance to have been able to have a kid myself when I got older. Definitely not until I was much older! Unfortunately I knew it would probably never happen.

                  "So when are you going to tell everyone else?" He asked me.

                  "You think I need to?" I asked him. Strangely I did feel like I could trust him.

                  "Yeah, the rest of the guys are starting to ask questions – it's only a matter of time before they do something stupid. More than anything the pierced ears are going to push it over the edge for most of them in figuring it out." He told me.

                  "Do you think I can hold off till tomorrow?" I asked him.

                  "Yeah. I'm the only one who has seen your ears so far I think. Beyond that I don't think it'll hold off though." He told me.

                  About that time we were pulling up to the hotel. "Kyle thanks for not freaking out on me."

                  "No problem." I had started to get out of my seat, but he motioned for me to stop for a second. "I didn't catch your new name though." He said.

                  "Tiffany, my name is Tiffany." I replied to him with a smile. He returned it and I went upstairs with my souvenirs and such from the day. When we got in the door Amy immediately started pestering me.

                  "What did Kyle want?" She asked me. Well at least that was the way you would interpret it.

                  I got her calmed down a bit and explained what had happened. "So you're going to have to tell tomorrow?" She asked me.

                  "I don't see any other way, do you?" I asked.

                  "No. I really don't, we should talk with Ms. Fitz and the adults about this though." She told me.

                  "You're right. I'll go down and talk to them and my parents real quick." I told her about the time that the door opened and Amy's parents, my parents, and indeed all of the adults.

                  "Well I guess I don't need to go find you guys?" I asked.

                  "You were already going to come find us?" Ms. Fitz asked.

                  "Well yeah… I think my 'secret' is basically out of the bag." I told them. Kyle's dad was in there too – I don't think he knew yet.

                  "What's going on?" His dad asked.

                  "Umm…" I started to talk but Mr. Hancock took over here.

                  "I know Brandon's not our kid but may I break it to them?" He asked my parents. They seemed relieved about that. One thing my mom and dad had commented to me earlier today was that I couldn't have had a better person on my side than him. If I was ever to be able to return to my same middle school as Tiffany instead of Brandon he would make it possible.

                  "Yes," my mom said simply.

                  Mr. Hancock motioned for them to sit down in the seating spots around the room. "Look, this has been kind of a difficult year for Brandon. He's had a lot of events that have happened this year, and thankfully some of them have been good. Among probably the best events for both him, and Amy, have been their becoming best friends. The two of them have probably one of the strongest childhood friendships you could have."

                  I smiled at that and saw that Amy was doing the same.

                  "It's a long story that really doesn't matter – and it's not really my story to tell – but over the course of the past few months everyone around Brandon had been noticing some changes. After a few events in recent months it became clear to my wife, my daughter, and Brandon's mom that something was eating away at him. Everyone seemed to agree that it started about the time that Brandon decided to grow his hair out."

                  "At one point Amy innocently dragged Brandon into playing with her Barbies a few months ago. They tried to keep it from us so we wouldn't find out, but my wife came home one day and found them playing with them. If they weren't working on their homework they always seemed to be doing something with her toys."

                  "From here things just slowly escalated till one day Amy dressed Brandon up in some of her clothes, and it came out that he really wanted to be Tiffany." The mushroom cloud from the bomb definitely hung in the air for Kyle's parents and Lindsey's mom. I had forgotten she didn't know. There weren't any knee jerk reactions thankfully. I think a lot of that had to do with Mr. Hancock telling the story.

                  He continued on and explained the past couple weeks and how the psychologist had suggested that I come as Brandon still. Pieces were filled in on how that had ended up not really working out, and my parents finally gave in today to me getting my ears pierced.

                  Finally we came to a part the rest of them didn't know. "I don't know what happened earlier, but I have a feeling Kyle found out about you?" Kyle's mom asked.

                  "He saw my earrings and asked me about stuff on the bus." I replied. "I was just getting ready to come find you guys to let you know I think I need to just tell the other 4 boys since everyone else knows already."

                  "Lindsey knows?" her mom asked.

                  "For a while, she was at the slumber party." I told her.

                  "She never told me." She said kind of talking off into space.

                  "All the girls that didn't know have put together the pieces and asked me over the past couple days."

                  Mrs. Manning spoke up at this point. "I think we are going to have to tell them something tomorrow. I don't think we have to do anything tonight, but we do need to take care of this before we leave for Magic Kingdom tomorrow." She announced.

                  "I think you're right," Kyles mom said.

                  "My first question is will there be any problems from you all that we need to work out tonight?" Mr. Hancock asked. Have I mentioned how awesome he is? It's not that my dad is a bad guy, he just tends to lack the will to really be aggressive a lot of times.

                  "It's weird, and I believe in all honesty religiously it's wrong," Kyle's dad started out, "but with all of the research that's coming out I don't really think that it's hi… er… her fault. As long as she's not trying to put our son into the same situation we don't have a problem with it." He answered.

                  "If Lindsey's known about this for a couple weeks and hasn't said anything to me it means she's okay with this. I'm not going to get in the way. Besides I do have to say Tiffany is a lot cuter."

                  "You should see the pictures from last week," my mom added with large amount of pride. I knew that they would get broken out later. I was pretty proud of those though so I didn't mind.

                  "Well, how do you want to do this Tiffany?" Ms. Fitz asked.

                  "Well… why don't we just have a gathering at breakfast tomorrow and I'll tell all of the rest of them what's going on. I don't know if it'll make it easier or not , but I want to come as Tiffany with my hair done like last week and such."

                  "I don't think that can hurt." Amy's mom added.

                  "I'll come over and help you," My mom said. "For now I guess we all need to head back to our rooms and go to bed. Tomorrow will take care of itself tomorrow."

                  They all started leaving the room and Amy and I dug through what I had left that was clean to pick out an outfit for tomorrow. Her parents pushed us to bed sooner than we liked, and told us to be quiet more than once as the two of us talked about what we thought might happen tomorrow.

                  When we went to sleep we were hugging our stuffed animals, thinking about the next day. I woke up the next morning and found that I was being held as a stuffed animal. Actually I woke to a camera flash taking a picture of us like that.

                  Chapter 62:

                  "Mom! Why are you waking us up like that?" Amy asked still holding onto me like a giant teddy bear.

                  It was then that we both realized what was going on and starting giggling. It really was innocent, neither of us were capable of thinking of the other in any way other than as sisters at this point. But it was definitely something that her parents – and later mine – would razz us about for a long time.

                  They didn't have a lot of time that morning though, because as soon as I was woken up I was hurried into the shower to wash my hair. I think they definitely woke me up a good hour earlier than I had been woken up so far this trip. I wasn't exactly real personable that morning at first, but when mom came over and started working on my hair it started to make me smile.

                  Between mom, Melanie, and Amy my hair was really pretty when it was done. We still had a half-hour before we needed to go downstairs so we made Amy's hair look similar to mine too. All three of us shared quick hugs before heading downstairs to breakfast.

                  We had timed it so that everyone else would already be downstairs, and gathered around in a circle before I came down. As we came and joined the circle I saw every guy – even Kyle – drop their jaws in astonishment. Only one of the faces looked at me as though I was a monster – that was Jarred – the rest just were shocked.

                  "Hi guys," I said.

                  "Umm… Brandon?" Anthony asked.

                  "Actually that's why everyone is supposed to be gathered right now. I need to tell you all something."

                  I paused for a second.

                  "I'm not going to be Brandon anymore, my name is Tiffany now." I told them. Maybe that wasn't the best way to break it… but I didn't come up with anything else at that moment.

                  "Huh?" Anthony asked again.

                  "Look, over the past few months I've discovered some things about myself. I've talked to my friends, my parents, and even a specialist. The gist of it is that my mind is that of a girl, even though my body is that of a boy. My doctor has suggested that it would be better for me to live life as Tiffany than it would as Brandon. It's a much longer tale – and is a lot more difficult than I'm making it sound, but eventually I will have a body that matches that of a girl." All of that came stammering out of my mouth. I was beyond nervous.

                  From there the questions flew about me. I answered a lot of them, but my parents and the other adults fielded a lot of them too. The only guy who seemed to have problems with it was Jarred. The rest for whatever reason actually seemed cool with it. None of them seemed to think that I was contagious – definitely a good start.

                  When we seemed to have run out of objections we went ahead and got breakfast. Amy and I ended up sitting with Kyle and Anthony. They actually made for 2 fairly cool people to talk to. I honestly wasn't completely sure what their reason was for sitting with us, but I was happy to see that things weren't going south. Every now and then I noticed Jarred staring at me strangely – I was kind of worried about him.

                  After breakfast we boarded the bus. Lindsey said, "Your hair is really pretty today, Tiffany."

                  "Thanks."

                  "Do you feel better now that you're not hiding it from anyone?" She asked me.

                  "Actually I do. I'm sure this is going to cause a lot of trouble going into next year though. 10:1 by this time next week the school will already be talking about 'that freak' that thinks he's a girl. Oh well though, they're just going to have to deal." I said the last bit with a bit of a bob of my head that made my hair bounce. Lindsey giggled a bit.

                  "What?" I asked.

                  "You just bobbed your head up and down like one of the cheerleaders – it was cute." She replied.

                  Amy had been within view of this too and she said, "Tiffany you should try out for cheerleading this year!" She had a huge smile on her face.

                  "Umm… first of all I would kill myself, but second haven't you all already had tryouts for the team?"

                  "For the fall football games yes, but we actually have a separate set of tryouts that will happen in October to recheck everyone and for new girls. I think you qualify as a 'new girl.'" Amy answered.

                  "Umm… You still haven't answered the killing myself part of this." I told her.

                  "Well, you're really not as clumsy as you make everyone think you are. Plus my parents were planning on sending me to this cheer camp next month to get ready to go for the school's camp. I bet we could get you into that camp still if you want to try." She told me.

                  "You really should Tiffany, it would be great to have you on the squad," Lindsey told me.

                  "There are a thousand insane things that will probably go wrong with this plan, but I won't say no, okay?" I temporized. Being a cheerleader would be a dream come true… but it was probably just that, a dream.

                  I managed to steer them onto other topics from there, but I had a feeling that this would not be the last I would hear about it. Not that I wanted it to be! Our bus driver drove us back towards Disney World, and this time we entered Magic Kingdom. Today was going to be a less structured day for all of us.

                  We were all supposed to still remain in a group with at least one adult, but other than that our only guideline was that we had to meet up at the busses at 8:30pm.

                  Our group was a bit different today. Amy and I were of course in it – just try to separate us! Lindsey and Ashley also joined. But we also added in Kyle and Anthony today too. My parents and Amy's parents stuck with us, while the others split up between everyone else.

                  We began by immediately heading for Space Mountain to start off our day. Amy and I both agreed that it was a better ride than the version in Disneyland. The day basically flew by from there with us moving from one spot in the park to the next. We took a very quick break for lunch and were on the move again.

                  All along the way the 6 of us became a closer group than I expected. Kyle and Anthony seemed to be dealing with my announcement and such very well. I honestly was really surprised that I wasn't dealing with tons of problems now.

                  At some point in the afternoon we ended up on the main street shopping for souvenirs. Now that I was 'out' mom bought me a set of Minnie mouse ears and made me wear them in the pictures for the rest of the day. Of course Amy wasn't to be left out and had her own set within that same amount of time.

                  My parents had certainly been taking their share of pictures this trip, but they seemed to renew their fury with this after we got the ears. Time went on and it got kind of hot, by around 5 or so we were all absolutely drenched in sweat. Kyle and Anthony dragged us all over to splash mountain – which we hadn't hit for some reason – in the hopes that we could cool down a bit.

                  Amy and I wore our ears on the ride so that we'd end up with them in that picture. Mom took some bobby pins she had in her purse and secured them a little bit better to our hair (it hurt!) before we went on the ride. It was a 'splash!' When we got the picture I was really proud that I had managed to put my hands up in the air for the picture and smile. It looked exactly like something that Disney would have advertised for the park with.

                  Of course after that flash I immediately grabbed for the bar and screamed! But the picture came out really good!

                  From there we hit various rides we had missed for one reason or another. At about 7:15 we got in line for the "Pirates of the Carribean" ride. It had a really long line, but we figured we would have just enough time to ride it before we needed to head to the bus.

                  As we stood in the line the 6 of us kids just chatted back and forth. Pretty soon Kyle asked me, "So are you happier now?"

                  I nodded. "Yes. I've been tired of hiding this for so long. Now I just have to deal with the fallout from everything."

                  "Well next year let me know if anyone gives you any problems, I'll take care of them for you." Kyle told me.

                  What was going on? Why in the heck was he being so nice to me about this? I decided I had to ask. "Umm… Kyle why are you being so cool about this?"

                  "Well… I don't honestly know. I think part of it is I've gotten tired of seeing people put down so often in our school – I think you deserve a lot better treatment than you've gotten." He paused for a second, "Part of it is also that you've got a lot of guts to push through with this – I respect that a lot." Another pause during which I was tempted to speak but held off.

                  "And finally I think it's going to be a lot of fun to throw people off their feet with this. Yeah, they're going to hear about 'Brandon's some freak now and is going to wear dresses to school,' this summer. The look on their faces when they try to figure out where Brandon is – it surely can't be that new girl – is going to be hilarious." He ended with a gigantic grin.

                  "Really?" I asked.

                  "Were you looking at everyone's faces this morning?" He asked me.

                  I shook my head, "No I was too nervous."

                  "It was priceless, honestly the guys sort of recognized you… but not really. Especially the way you had your hair done and were dressed. They had the advantage of having seen you these past few days and still didn't recognize you real easily, I had already learned about what was going on from you last night so I was just kind of watching everyone."

                  About that time Anthony moved over to our side of the conversation from the other one. "Yeah, I didn't recognize you at all," Anthony said to me.

                  "And you're okay with this too?" I asked. I was really not trying to sound incredulous, but I did expect to have a bomb go off over my head at any time. This was all going far too smoothly.

                  "It's weird. But you've always been a little weird. Now I can just chalk it up to the fact that you're a girl, and girls are weird though. No big deal. I'm with Kyle, if anyone gives you any trouble this fall at school let me know. I think we can make this a lot of fun for the whole group of us that came on this trip."

                  Amy, Lindsey, and Ashley had all been acting like they were talking in another conversation while the 3 of us had been talking. I say 'acting' because I could tell that they were managing to listen into us while we were talking and then joined up with our conversation now.

                  We all talked about lots of stuff, including maybe the 6 of us getting together for a pool party at Amy's house in a couple weeks. Just as we were finalizing some plans we reached the ride and got to experience all that there was to experience about the Pirates of the Caribbean. The amount of animatronics they used in the ride was cool. It honestly wasn't anything too incredibly spectacular, but it was fun.

                  We all got off the ride and walked out to the bus that was waiting for us. On the way out of the park we took one last picture of the 6 of us, then the 6 of us plus Amy and my parents, and then we forlornly left the Disney park. Tomorrow was our last day here in Florida, but we wouldn't be coming back to the Disney Parks.

                  Honestly it had been a blast, and truly the 'trip of a lifetime.' When they had said that it would be that at the beginning of the year I had no idea just how much that would really ring true. My life was definitely not going to be the same after today. I had officially become Tiffany in my group's eyes.

                  All of this was going through my head as we pulled into the hotel and headed for our rooms. Before we went up though I saw Ashley talking to everyone behind me, before she rushed up to me. "Tiffany hold up a second!" She exclaimed.

                  I turned around to her, "What's up?" I asked her.

                  "We talked Ms. Fitz and Mrs. Manning into letting us gather downstairs with just the students for 30 minutes. Everyone's going to get into their pajamas and then meet downstairs okay?" She asked me.

                  "Okay, why?" I asked back.

                  "It's a surprise." She told me.

                  "Alright," I replied hesitantly before going on upstairs to change. What was going on?

                  I went upstairs with Amy right behind me and changed into my pajamas. We headed back downstairs shortly thereafter and found everyone else there. Somewhere popcorn appeared along with some cokes and it turned into a pretty fun little gathering of all of us.

                  We all kind of just hung out for about 20 minutes before Ashley said, "Okay, can I get everyone's attention?"

                  Everyone was slow to look over at her but eventually she had everyone's attention. "Look, we've all had a pretty cool week this week right?"

                  "Yeah," David and Jake exclaimed fairly solidly. We all gave our agreement.

                  "Look today we had some pretty surprising news that was delivered to the boys. All of the girls already knew about Tiffany by this morning, but we had kept it from the boys. I hope you aren't upset by that, but everyone was worried about what would happen when the truth came out." Ashley said.

                  "It's okay," David said.

                  "We do understand why you didn't tell any of us," Anthony added.

                  "Good, because that's1 why Ashley and I wanted to get everyone together tonight," Kyle said standing up.

                  "Look, I know that some people are not exactly going to stand up and be Tiffany's cheer squad," he said looking at Jarred, "but I think we all owe it to her not to tell anyone about what's gone on with her on this trip to anyone else."

                  "What do you want from us?" Jarred asked. "People are going to find out about 'it' no matter what you do." He was very irritated.

                  "Yes people are going to find out about her, but not until the first day of school when she walks into class." Anthony replied catching on at about the same speed I was. They were trying to keep it from becoming a huge wave of outrage going into the new school year. I didn't see any way that could actually work though.

                  "You can keep this a secret, right?" David looked at Jarred with a very sinister glance. You have to understand something I haven't made real clear here. David was already 3 inches taller than any other guy in our grade. He was also easily the strongest guy that I knew too. Jarred on the other hand was only about average, if not a little small for average, and looked rightfully nervous.

                  "Umm… yeah I guess…" He stammered in reply.

                  "Good, we'll talk more about this later then." He added.

                  "So can we all make a promise that no one will tell anyone not on this trip – including parents that don't know – until we get back to school?" Ashley asked. Everyone assented with real smiles on their faces – excepting Jarred's scowl. From there she made everyone do something that was really strange, but okay whatever, and grab pinkies of everyone next to each other and repeat a vow not to tell.

                  From there we spent our remaining 5 minutes or so of time laughing and having a good time about lots of different things. It was a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. As Ms. Fitz came downstairs to send us off to our rooms I saw Kyle, David, and Anthony gather around Jarred.

                  I didn't know what they were talking about – but I sensed it might have been some sort of threat. I wasn't going to pay any more attention than that, I didn't want to.

                  When I got to our room I found that the parents had been having a meeting of their own in our room. Mom stuck around for a bit to talk with me before heading back to their room. Before long I was in bed and falling asleep.

                  Chapter 63:

                  The next morning was pretty frenetic in that we had to pack up all of our suitcases and souvenirs to go home with after we finished in the Universal Studios park. We quickly ate breakfast and headed for our final destination.

                  Once we were at the park we were again met by a park representative that sped us through lines. I would really hate to have been one of the people that was stuck in line for an hour or more at times while we just got put in the front of line…. Yeah, we definitely were getting special treatment. No complaints here though!

                  Among the first rides we went on was 'Jaws.' Between the shark attacking the boat and things exploding everywhere we had a lot of fun. I definitely spent some time screaming as a girl on that ride – more because I was having fun than anything.

                  From there we moved on to an Alfred Hitchcock attraction. We all got to see how they made special effects come to life in his films. It was really neat actually, and after we'd learned about that kind of stuff we watched clips of some of his movies in a theater they had. The biggest thing there was it was in 3D. Watching birds flying through the air towards you is definitely not the most comfortable event!

                  We had fun though and moved on to a couple of other things like a Flintstones ride and finally ended up at a 'Double Dare' game show. Kyle got chosen out of our group to go and play. We got to watch him do some pretty messy and stupid things – it was a blast. We made sure that our parents got plenty of pictures of it. I was really jealous that I didn't get to play.

                  Our group separated from the tour guide at lunch. Eating lunch soon led to more souvenir shopping, a couple other small attractions, and finally back to the bus to go to the airport. The last day seemed to have lasted absolutely no time at all.

                  In a really short amount of time we ended up back on a plane to go back home. I had gotten a window seat this time, with Amy in the middle, and Kyle on the end of our 3 chair section. I wasn't really paying much attention to either of them though, I just stared out the window thinking.

                  Over the past year everything in my world had gotten turned upside down, and gotten shaken about quite a bit. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would now be going by Tiffany I never would have believed you. The sheer fact that I sat in a pair of girls shorts and a top right now would have made me scratch my head.

                  But, I was happier, a lot happier. I had an incredibly cool and close friendship with Amy, and a growing friendship with many other kids that I had never had before. That friendship with Amy had already led to more incredible experiences so far that I never would have expected. Her parents had mentioned to mine about the Cheer camp, and they were considering sending me. Me a cheerleader? Maybe, who knows.

                  I still had a lot of things in front of me that weren't going to be so easy though. I knew without a doubt that I was going to be struggling from day 1 in school this fall. If I had thought I'd been getting picked on before I feared it was just going to be the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully I had plenty of friends that should be able to help with that. We would see.

                  I was truly amazed and set aback that I was having as few of difficulties right now as I had. The fact that no one had been completely berating me since I came out yesterday still had me shocked. I knew it couldn't last forever.

                  I stared out that window the whole time we were up in the air as though it symbolized everything in my life, 'up in the air.' Eventually I drifted off to a light sleep letting all of my thoughts and concerns fade away.

                  Copyright Tiffany Shar 2008

                  I am currently proofreading the second novel of this series. Please let me know if you would like me to post it on this website when I finish. It is going to end up being a trilogy that I hope to finish this fall!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Re: Standing Up to Life

                    Hi I'm a transgender guy. I love your story Stand Up to life! Please write more?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Re: Standing Up to Life

                      I love this Infy!! I was wondering if you had made the sequel yet, I would love to read it

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Re: Standing Up to Life

                        Holy necro post … search for Tiffany Shar on Lulu dot com, the first three books are available there.

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