"Get A Job, Or Peter Parker's Lament."
"Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am
under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any
maudlin sentimentality, but by the higher duty I owe myself." --
Eugene V. Debs.
"A job?" I was surprised to say the least. "What
sort of job?"
"One well-suited to your talents and
intelligence," the lavender bear said, sitting primly and spreading her
skirt out around her stubby legs. "As amply demonstrated in the events of
the last few days, you're smart. You think quickly, and think well under
pressure. You also see things differently, finding solutions where others might
I wriggled around, trying to sit up, but the sleep sack kept
making it impossible to put my legs where they needed to be. Finally I stopped
struggling and rolled over to face the Arbiter.
"You are very
resilient, and can adjust to new and unusual circumstances without
difficulty," she continued. "You bend, where others would break. And
most important, you have a clear understanding of right and wrong, and a sense
of honor that will make you sacrifice your own needs if necessary to protect
those you choose to protect."
"That's all your assessment, not mine," I
thought with a smile. "But you're the ones who want me, and it's not my
job to convince you that you're wrong."
The bear flashed me a stitched-on smile. "We aren't
wrong. This position we wish to offer you is something unprecedented. To
petition the Omnipresence for an opening like this is unheard of in the history
of … well, history. And our offer comes after an extensive examination of your
own personal timeline. Rest assured, we would not offer you this position if we
were not absolutely certain you were the right person for the job."
"Which beings me back to my first question. What IS
"We require a … well, I suppose the word is
troubleshooter. Someone who can go into situations where people are being
abused by magic and … fix things. The official title is 'Advocate.' Someone who
stands up for those who are powerless." The bear smiled again.
"I wouldn't be standing for long. In case you
haven't noticed, I'm powerless, too."
"That would have to change," she said curtly.
"Your current state has nothing to do with your innate ability. In fact,
you are the perfect candidate for training. You will have to become a
I felt a chill, but it was more than just me. It seemed like
the bear's last statement changed the very air around us. The light in the room
shifted as if a cloud moved across the sun, but it was still night. The bear
saw me notice everything, and nodded approval.
"You are very sensitive, Becca," she said.
"The Universe fears and mistrusts human magic users, and with good reason.
The fact that you have been offered this opportunity should convince you of how
unique you are."
I looked hard at the bear, hearing what she hadn't said. "Why
does the universe have good reason to fear humans who wield magic?"
The bear sighed. "Because the 'free lunch rule' does
not apply. Humans have unlimited direct access to magical energies, with no
"Why?" She looked startled, as if the question had
never been asked before. Then again, maybe it hadn't. She shrugged. "No
one knows for sure. Perhaps because your very existence is a direct slap in the
face to the second law of thermodynamics. After all, human life moves from
chaos to order, at least for a time." She shook her head. "For
whatever reason, the normal rules of magic do not apply to your people."
"And that ability alone is a threat?"
The bear nodded. "Oh, yes. Too many human mages in the
past have used this unlimited access to gain power and wealth. Some enslave
their fellow humans, and all of them eventually upset the balance between chaos
and order -- between chance and history. Normally, the power is too much for
any human to wield without becoming corrupted by it."
I nodded. "But you think I'm different."
"We know you're different. The only question in the
mind of the Omnipresence is whether that difference will be enough to protect
you -- and the rest of us -- from the temptation such power holds."
"It holds no temptation for me."
"You haven't experienced it yet." She shook her
head. "It's easy to deny yourself the forbidden fruit when you have no
idea how good it tastes. We're hoping your sense of honor and justice will keep
the lure of power at bay. And apparently the Omnipresent has enough faith in
you to allow us to make the offer."
I thought about it some. "Are there any human magic
users out there now?"
The bear played with the ruffle on her skirt. "Oh yes.
None of them are full mages, however. Most of what they do is small against the
backdrop of a universe full of magic. But part of your new position would be
protecting innocent humans against their abuses."
"Sounds like a full plate," I mused. "When
do I get a life?"
"You will not be alone. You will have help," the
bear said decisively. "First to train you, then to assist with your
duties." She reached a stubby paw over and touched my hand. "This is
not a punishment, Becca. This is a commitment, and an important one. But you
will have time to be the girl, and the woman, you have always wanted to be.
This I promise."
"And what if this commitment is wrong for me?"
I asked. "What if I try to be the best Advocate I can be, and fail?
"Then you stay as the Becca you will become, if you
choose to accept. No tricks, no games. That is not our way. Arbiters are
champions of fair play. You know that. There really is no obligation. You may
cancel at any time and owe … OWE … nothing." She gave a small sigh, then
looked at me seriously. "This position … it's something you have to want
to do, Becca. Becoming a mage is not an easy thing. To become as powerful as
you must be, to be the Advocate, is harder still. If you choose to try, we know
you will give the job everything you have, and then some. But you have to
"You MUST choose."
I thought about the Arbiter's offer for several days. Or
rather, I tried very hard not to think about it, and failed more often than I
The midnight session with the Other and the Arbiter had worn
me out. I half-woke in the morning while Emma changed and dressed me, then
Carolyn fed me. I napped in the car all the way to daycare. While I tried to
preserve my thoughtless state from being crushed under the weight of the decision
I needed to make, I worked hard at being the best baby in the world for all my
caregivers. I ate whatever they provided without complaint, usually waited
patiently to be changed, and smiled happily at whatever attention anyone gave
me. I did this for several days, and both Carolyn and Gina agreed that I had
been unusually well-behaved and oddly quiet. They worried I might possibly be
coming down with something.
The truth was much simpler. I was actually enjoying being
baby Becca for a while, because I could escape from the more grown-up part of
me -- the one who longed for resolution.
On the one hand, I could just say no and get on to the
business of growing up. Being baby Becca would be easy. All I would have to do
is just lie back and let others take care of me. First, be a baby girl, then
work on the little girl part, and eventually I'd wind up a teenager. You might
think it would be the lazy way out, but I knew it would be much harder on me in
the long haul. I would have to be alert all the time, playing "let's
pretend" for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years and years and
years. I would have to pretend to learn things all over again, to smile and be
entertained by baby dolls and ballet lessons and sleepovers with other little
girls. In short, I'd have to lie for over a decade until I reached a stage
where I could finally be myself, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It would be
a long-term exercise in deceit, and I had never been much of a fan of lies --
even though I spent much of my life pre-Becca lying by omission about my
transgendered state. Still, from a practical standpoint, it was probably the
right thing to do for me. Growing up as Becca the long way would give me a lot
of the experiences I would need later. Many of the things I would do as a
little girl would provide some context for my new life as a woman.
But being Becca for another decade or so would also put an
unfair burden on Carolyn and the children. Daycare costs alone would probably
chew up a lot of her income, making it harder to make ends meet, let alone send
Emma and Jeremy to college. It would eat at my pride to indulge in taking the
scenic route to womanhood while she and the children had to struggle just to
get by. It would make me feel ashamed for shifting the responsibility that was
mine as Jack onto them. If I just became … older, it would create less of a
problem for all of them, but would raise the weight on my own shoulders
Because to be older, I would have to accept the Arbiter's
commission and become their Advocate.
On the third day after the midnight meeting and job offer, I
spent a big chunk of the afternoon in the center of the play area at the
daycare center, behind an avoidance spell. When the Arbiter had sensed I wanted
to talk, he returned to the big stuffed bear to visit with me and answer any
questions I might have. He also returned my squeaky little Smurfette voice for
the duration of our negotiations, a kindness for which I thanked him most
politely. Not that I enjoyed sounding so damned cute, but mind talking involved
intense concentration on my part and made me tire easily if I had to do it for
a long period of time.
What I thought it came down to for me was a simple question.
Did I really want to be a superhero? The whole Spider-man axiom kept popping
into my head. "With great power comes great responsibility." But my
dilemma was sort of the flip side of Peter Parker's problem. By accepting a
great responsibility, I would have to become a great power -- the first
Universe-sanctioned human mage. Also, being the Advocate would be like being a
gunfighter or a police officer. I would become a target for any magical being
who might want to take me on. And apparently, there were thousands of different
types of magical creatures, each with its own quirks and eccentricities, and I
would have to learn them all along with magical counter moves.
The Arbiter assured me it was not as daunting as it sounded.
"We will provide all of the information you need,"
he said, his voice once again the rumble I remembered from our last daycare
visit. "We will place it all into your mind when we age you. You won't
have to memorize anything. But to turn that information into useful knowledge,
you will need experience and training. There will be teachers, carefully woven
into your daily life as Becca, who will help you to master the skills you
"If I choose to grow up slowly, I won't be much use to
you as an Advocate for years."
The bear nodded. "This is true. We would have to wait
for you to reach an age where you would be less defenseless and command more
respect, and where your body would be strong enough to withstand the rigors of
training. And we would have to protect you and your family for more than a
decade from those who would see you dead before you could assume your new post.
However, if you choose to become a teenager directly, we could begin your
training almost immediately."
"It makes sense to me," I said slowly. "I
would dearly love to miss out on the whole potty-training and finger-painting
segment of the growing up thing. But if I agree to grow up as far as you can
take me in a single jump, I will lose things I need. I'll miss out on what it
means to grow up as a girl. And I won't develop the social skills and attitudes
needed to just jump into being a teenager."
The bear looked down for a moment, then raised his eyes and
looked into mine. "We have given that possibility much thought, and there
are ways around both the lack of experience and the need to fit in as a
teen," he replied. "If you choose to become a teenager, you will be
gifted with an innate understanding of who the older Becca is and how she fits
into the landscape of her time and place. Think of it as a personality overlay.
It will give you access to her responses, skills, and feelings that you
wouldn't ordinarily have, making it easier for you to fit in. Eventually, that
overlay will become part of who you are -- merge with the ego that is still
very much Jack."
"Will I still be … me?"
The bear smiled. "Very much so. You will never lose
Jack. After all, you spent far more time as Jack than you have as Becca. And
your soul is your own. It always has been, through all of this. That won't change.
This overlay process will just give you the ability to … 'hit the ground
running,' I believe the expression is. It will allow the Jack inside you to
slowly become the Becca you've always wanted to be, without losing those things
about Jack you and we wish to preserve."
As I thought about it, I suddenly realized my thumb had
crept into my mouth and I had been sucking it absently. I quickly removed it,
even though the actual sucking part had a definite calming effect. "And
the experiences I'll miss?"
"We can send them to you as vivid dreams. You'll
experience everything as if you're actually living them, as both the Becca you
are inside and as the Becca you would have been had you been born the way you
are now." The bear looked at me, and I could see him weighing something in
his mind. Then he spoke.
"This is not what bothers you, truly. I feel a deep
sadness in you that you won't confront, but can't dismiss. Something that makes
you want to find ways to refuse what we offer. Why does this decision bother
you so much? What's wrong, child?"
For a while, I said nothing. Then I avoided his eyes, and
spoke to a small stuffed duck near my right foot.
"The truth is, I'm wrong. The wrong choice for the job.
I don't deserve this," I whispered. "Not any of it. I wanted to be a
woman for so long. Almost every day of my life, it lurked there in the back of
my mind, this need. Even in my happiest moments as Jack, it would rise up and
taunt me, taking the pleasure out of everything." I reached down and plucked
at my play dress. "Well, I finally got my femininity, didn't I? I got my
wish, in the end. But I made so many stupid mistakes getting what I wanted that
my family wound up fatherless, and I wound up in diapers."
I looked right at the Arbiter, and tears filled my eyes.
"You all seem to think I'm the perfect choice for your 'Advocate,' but
none of you seems to remember that it was my stupidity that got me involved
with the Other in the first place. Maybe I did better than most out-thinking
her, but I caused the problems in the first place! I should never have even
talked to her. I knew how much it would hurt everyone I loved if I took her up
on the offer, and I knew I should just walk away. Instead, I let the need have
its way. I gave in to my own weakness, and I hurt myself, and my family. Now
you want to put me in a position of authority, so I can screw up the lives of
total strangers? And on top of that, you want to give me the kind of raw power
that can REALLY cause some damage when I make another mistake! What makes any
of you think I can DO this?"
I sat there and cried, and the Arbiter watched me. He let me
sob and waited for me to stop. And when I finally wound down, exhausted, he put
a well-worn paw on my arm and lifted my chin with the other.
"You can be the Advocate precisely because of
the mistakes you've made," he rumbled from the depths of his furry chest.
"You weren't a bad or evil person. You just wanted something so much, and
you always believed it was forever out of reach. You were played, that's all.
Anyone can be played, if someone knows what they really want, deep inside. How
do you think the Others survive?" I looked away, and he moved closer and
put both arms around me.
"Despite what you think, or feel, or believe, this
experience has not been all bad," he whispered in my ear. "You have
bested one of the Others and made them all cautious, and less prone to cause
grief instead of harvesting what is already out there. Your family has lost
Jack, true, but they also gained Becca and a closeness that only comes by
overcoming a loss."
The bear pulled back and looked me in the eye. "And you
have learned things that make you the perfect defender for those threatened by
magical attack. You know how dangerous magic is, and how easily even the
smartest can be fooled. You understand the needs of both predator and prey. And
you know the cost of magical power misused firsthand. You won't forget that
your first duty is to protect the innocent, because you're all that stands
between them and a living hell on Earth."
He wrapped his stubby arms around me again and just held me.
"You can do this, Becca. You won't be alone. We want
you to succeed. And we want you to be happy. Just say yes."
I couldn't trust myself to speak, so I nodded. I could feel
"Good. We'll do it tonight, then."
Just before I opened my eyes, I woke up.
You may think this is an example of stating the obvious, but
maybe I'm not making myself clear. When I say I woke up, I mean I became aware
of all of the millions of tiny things that make up a person's world. They all
hit my senses at once.
And they were all radically different from the signals I had
received when I had closed my eyes the night before.
First, there was a sense of bigness. From last night's stubby
arms and legs and compact body, I had become … long. And thin, everywhere,
except for a warm softness at hip and chest level that felt different, but not
wrong. I felt one breast pressed into the bed, half-compressed under me, but I
didn't move. Not yet.
I was laying on my side, with my legs drawn up and one hip
slightly cocked to accommodate the curve of hip opposing my narrow waist.
Again, not wrong, but definitely different. And the feeling of nothing between
my legs as gravity pressed them together was just … right.
And I had hair. LOTS of hair. Instead of the wispy cap of
soft curly red that covered my head yesterday, I could feel a mane curling around
my neck and shoulders, spread out across the pillow and partly covering my
face. A few strands were stuck between my lips, as I discovered when my smile
began. It was a grin that bubbled up from the bottom of my soul -- a happiness
that had finally escaped being trapped under the weight of the thousands of
disappointed mornings that had come before.
You have to understand what this meant to me. How it felt.
For forty some-odd years, I'd woken up every day knowing I was in the wrong
body. I'd go to bed, and the last thing that went through my mind every night
before I drifted off was a simple prayer.
"Please, God. Let me wake up in the morning as the
woman I was supposed to be."
Then I'd wake up, and Jack would still be waiting in the
bathroom mirror. He would stare back at me with a slightly sad expression, the
night's stubble waiting to be tackled with Gillette's latest morning machete,
and I'd sigh and get on with it. Over time, I learned to adjust, even found
some measure of happiness with wife and family, but I'd never stopped hoping
that, just once, God would hear me and make it so.
Oh, I knew it would never happen. Logically, rationally, I
knew. But the hope was still there, that I would one day be whole. Lurking
under my suit as I met with clients. Hiding beneath my sweats when I played
catch with Jeremy. Even when I made love with Carolyn, I always wondered how it
would feel to BE her -- to be loved by a man, yielding to his touch, melting in
Now, suddenly, I woke up, and I knew, I KNEW I was right
where I belonged, in a body that finally fit, and I was so happy I could feel
the tears running down my cheeks and wetting the pillow.
Part of me didn't want the moment to end, but just then the
clock radio went off. It took me a minute to realize that the song it was
playing was by Counting Crows, "I Wish I Was A Girl," and when I did,
I laughed out loud, breaking the spell. It was a big laugh, but definitely
female, and I pulled back the covers and sat up, swinging my legs out over the edge
of the bed. I watched the cooler air raise a few goose bumps on my exposed and
definitely hairless calves, and my eyes traveled down to my feet (so tiny!) and
the coral polish on every toenail.
I pulled those stray strands of hair from my mouth. When my
fingers brushed the rest of my hair, I laughed again, and shook my head just to
feel it slide over my shoulders. The shaking made my breasts shift underneath
the nightgown, and my nipples rubbed slightly against the soft fabric. Not an
explosion of pleasure, not anything close. Just a little … spark, a hint of
something more. Another confirmation of the me that was me, now.
I slid out of bed, standing easily on those tiny feet at the
ends of those long legs. My bottom added a bit of bounce to the bouncing of my
breasts, and I waited a short second for all of me to settle. I held up my arms
in front of me, thin and hairless, and stretched out my fingers. The nails were
longer than I used to keep them as Jack but not excessively so, and painted the
same shade of coral as my toenails. I could barely make out the tips of my toes
past my chest, but I didn't need to see them to use them, and I twirled happily
in place with another laugh.
"Well, somebody woke up happy today."
I stopped, facing the door. Carolyn was looking in with a
"Morning, Mom," I chirped, smiling, hands behind
"Morning, Becca," she replied. "Sleep well?
No, wait. Stupid question. I wish I felt that good waking up." I nodded,
still smiling. "Just remember, it's a school day. Plenty of time tomorrow
morning to dance around in your nightgown, 'kay?"
"'Kay, Mom." She pulled her head back, but I
rushed over to the door. "Mom?"
Carolyn stopped, and turned towards me. "Yes,
I wrapped my arms around her in a big hug, eyes scrunched
tight. "Love you," I whispered. I felt her sigh, my chest against
hers, and her arms came up to hug me back. "Love you too, Becca." She
squeezed and let me loose.
"Where did that come from?" she asked tentatively,
looking me in the eye. I took a step back and tapped myself once in the middle
of my chest.
"Right here," I answered, smiled again, and
twirled back into my room.
"Teenagers," I heard her mutter as she walked down
That's me, I thought happily. Just another
teenager. Thirteen makes me a teen, and thirteen I am. Teen, teen,
teen. I stopped and waited again for various body parts to realize the rest
of me wasn't moving.
This was exactly how I wanted to wake up. The Arbiter told
me that, since the last age jump the Other put me through was from my first
period back to babyhood, I could theoretically advance my age to anywhere from
what was at the time my current age of six months to immediately before my
first menses and still be within the boundaries of my agreement with her. I
almost told the Arbiter yes -- after all, I wanted to be as old as possible, as
quick as possible. Then I realized that this would mean my first day as a girl
would be full of cramps and aches and mood swings and blood, so I wisely
decided to roll back my new age to several weeks prior to my first period to
give me a chance to adjust. And hopefully to have some fun before getting my
face rubbed in the downside of being a woman. Again.
I twirled again. Not for a few weeks, Becca, I sang
in my head, and my spinning put me in front of the full-length mirror on the
closet door. I had that "just woke up" look going for me, with my
hair tousled, my face puffy, and my green eyes just a little squinty. The sky
blue nightgown fell to mid-thigh, and on its chest just above my breasts was
the words, "chicks rule." Underneath the words was a tiny cartoon of
a baby chick, wearing part of its egg as a hat. I smiled, then reached over to
the door and eased it closed. I didn't want an audience.
I reached down and pulled the nightgown up and over my head.
It caught slightly on my chest on the way up, but the small bounce as my
breasts settled down afterwards actually felt nice. Heck, everything felt nice.
I knew I would get used to it all eventually, living as Becca day after day,
but I hoped I would never take it for granted. It's good to be reminded how
precious it is to be who you are, and who you want to be. I wanted to hang onto
everything that reminded me of the girl I had become.
A small voice in the back of my head whispered, "you
don't deserve it," but I did my best to ignore it. This was me, now. I was
about to take on a job that would require all of my energies and dedication. If
anyone deserved to have her dream delivered with a pretty red bow as payment,
it was me.
At least, that's what I kept telling myself.
As I draped the nightgown over the back of my desk chair, I
glanced in the mirror at the young girl in the plain gray bikini-cut panties. I
slipped the underwear over my hips and let it slide down my legs to the floor,
then bent at the knees and picked it up to put in the hamper. I watched the
girl in the mirror follow suit, the smile never leaving her eyes. My breasts
rested on my knees just for a second, then swayed slightly as I rose. My eyes
flickered down to see the small mount of reddish-copper hair between my legs,
and my hand moved an inch or two towards it, just to feel what I knew was there
beneath it. I willed it to stop, and shook my head. You don't need to touch
it, Becca, I said to myself. It's been there since you were born. It's
part of who you are, now. I smiled, slipped my bathrobe on and headed for
Same old kid's bathroom, I thought as I closed the
door. Stuff scattered around the sink, towels hung askew. I turned on
the shower and tucked the curtain in around the bottom of the tub, then brushed
my teeth with the brush I knew was mine. Then I went to use the toilet
-- a new experience in this body, but a welcome one, considering my recent
escape from several years worth of diapers. I had to touch myself there, then,
and felt the strangeness beneath my fingers that wasn't really strange, just
different. The Becca template in my head warred briefly with the remnants of
Jack, then settled down and accepted the here and now. I shivered.
I couldn't afford to get my hair wet this morning, so I put
it up in a bun before getting in the tub and kept my head well away from the
shower's spray. Just a fast wash and rinse today, or I'd keep Emma or Jeremy
from getting ready in time. I soaped up quickly, then started rinsing.
Sure enough, there was a knock.
"A shower, Becca?" Jeremy's voice was plaintive.
"Oh, come on!"
"I'm almost done, Jer!" I shouted back over the
water. "Only be a minute!"
I turned the water off and reached for my towel, then
stepped out onto the bath mat and starting drying myself.
"Becca," he yelled, "I need to GO!"
"OH! Sorry!" I wrapped the towel around me,
snatched my robe off the hook on the back of the door, and ran across the hall
to my room as Jeremy slipped past me. I heard a muffled "thanks"
before the bathroom door slammed, and I closed the door to my bedroom to finish
drying myself. After I was dry enough, I let the towel slide to the floor and
walked over to the dresser. I applied lavender-scented body powder from neck to
calves, then opened the top drawer and started digging through bras and panties
for something special to wear.
Fiifteen minutes later, I danced into the kitchen. Jeremy
was sitting at the table, eating cereal, but the spoon froze halfway to his
mouth when he caught sight of me. Emma was making her lunch, and when her eyes
rose from the sandwich she was making, she looked at me and smiled.
"Well, look at you!" she said. "Way too
pretty for the eighth grade, Becca!" I laughed and did a twirl, causing my
skirt to flare slightly. I was wearing a scoop neck pale green tee shirt with a
thin white button-down blouse over it, open. The blouse ended just above my
hips. On the bottom I wore a short dark green skirt that fell just above
mid-thigh, in a very light fabric with several layers of ruffles. On my feet
were white sneakers with gray trim over white socks. My hair was back in a
loose ponytail held with a dark green scrunchy, and I wore just a touch of
eyeshadow and lip gloss.
After I completed my twirl, I curtseyed at Emma. "Thank
you, Em!" She wore a purple tee with a pair of worn blue jeans and dark
blue sneakers, and her hair was loose around her shoulders.
"You're going to make me look bad, sis," Em
growled slightly, still smiling. She went back to her sandwich. "Mom's
going to want me to start dressing all girly too."
"And what's wrong with that?" Carolyn asked,
surprising both of us as she glided into the kitchen in her work wear. "In
case you haven't noticed, Emma, you <i>are</i> a girl. Might be
nice for you to go through the motions once in a while." She turned and
saw me. "Oh my, Becca! Very nice, hon."
I threw a curtsey at her with a smile. "Thanks,
"Do you have your kit for dance class and for tae kwon
do ready?" I looked over by the door. A lavender sports bag sat by what I
knew to be my backpack, so I turned back to her and nodded. "Good!"
I grabbed a banana from the bunch on the counter and started
peeling. Jeremy kept staring at me, cereal dripping from the end of his spoon.
"Earth to Jeremy." I took a bite of my banana and
spoke around the mouthful. "You're dripping, Jer."
He put the spoon down. "What are you all dressed up
I smiled and swallowed. "Because I can, dufus. I just
wanted to feel beautiful today."
"Well, you look good," he said, and blushed.
"How do you feel?"
I cocked my head to one side as I finished the banana. Then
I put the peel on top of his head
"Just right," I replied and giggled.
He started to get up to chase me, and Mom took the peel off
his head and pushed him back in his seat gently. "Jeremy, finish
breakfast. Becca, make a lunch. Everybody get moving, because it's almost time
to leave!" She glided out of the room with a purposeful stride, dropping
the peel in the kitchen trash. God, I loved it when she took charge, back when
she was my wife. It was pretty impressive from my Mom, too. I sighed.
As I threw a yogurt and plastic spoon in a bag with an apple
and a granola bar, Emma sidled over and spoke softly. "You all dressed up
I gave her a sideways look. "Nope. I'm all dressed up
for me." Then memories of Tommy flashed through my head -- and my body --
and I shivered with the sensations they created. Then I smiled at her.
"Of course, if Tommy likes it too, that will definitely be a plus."
"I bet," Emma smiled back, then she grew quiet.
"Be careful, sis. I've seen how you look at him, and I know how he makes
you feel. But in the end, he's just a guy. And he'll hurt you without even
realizing it if you give him too much room in your heart."
I shook my head. "You don't know him." More
memories of hugs, kisses, casual touches, soft words came bubbling up inside.
"He's … special."
"Maybe, but he's still a guy," she whispered as
Mom came back into the kitchen. "Just be careful, 'kay?" I nodded and
gave her a quick one-armed hug.
"Out, everybody," she announced, clapping her
hands. "Remember, bus drivers wait for no one, so leave now before they
leave you." Shaking his head, Jeremy got up and rinsed his bowl in the
sink, I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and shoved it and my lunch into
my backpack as I headed for the door. I snagged my shoulder bag from the
doorknob of the hall closet on the way, and slipped the sports bag and backpack
over the other shoulder.
"Bye, guys!" I called. "Love you!"
"Bye, Becca! Love you too!"
And as I slipped out the door, I realized that they really
did. We all did. And I smiled.
It was going to be a good day.