Chapter 11Mature

I can do this. I can do this….

Mike stood in her undergarments gazing at the thing on her bed. It mocked her silently from the moment that Grace brought it into her room. She shivered.

“It’s just a dress, dammit.”

She looked at the soft knit style, empire-waist slipdress that lay on her bed. Were it on a mannequin in a store, she would have said it was pretty and not given it a second look. Blue, with pink and yellow accents, it lay still in silent challenge to her new found femininity. She’d managed to make it all the way through August without wearing one, but Grace now insisted.

“You may as well get used to it before school starts. I won’t have you dressing like a crumb bum any longer. You’re about to be a sophomore and you should dress like a young lady should dress…”

Mike had tried to argue. She tried to protest, but her pleas fell on the cold heart of her terrifying mother. Grace, in contrast to everyone in the house, did not coddle her in any way. She explained the ins and outs of menstruation with methodical precision, and even though it was a difficult thing for her to adjust to, did not hesitate to make her take care of herself like a proper young lady.

In truth, Mike enjoyed her mother’s attention. Grace was always warm and kind, but she had always maintained a sense of distance. She doubted her brothers even noticed it –that was just her personality. In the three weeks since her awakening, Grace had taken absolute authority over her education as a lady. Part of her chafed at having to be pushed so hard into things, but the other part of her felt very special to have so much of her Mother’s attention.

But now that she was a girl, her mother had taken a far more matronly and protective way with her. Grace had a way of making the daunting things she didn’t understand seem more manageable, and Mike was grateful for that. When they went out, they held hands. Grace was easier to smile. She remembered what she’d said the two of them sat together at the seaside café sipping smoothies and watching the surf.

“I didn’t have a lot of freedom when I was your age. My parents were… much stricter with me. So when I met your father I got to experience a lot of things for the first time and I remember how much brighter my world became.”

Grace seemed distant for a moment, resting her chin on her hands while she gazed out at the surf.

“I don’t get to talk with your brothers like this. Boys are always so busy trying to be men that they don’t get to see how much their mother misses their company.”

“I’m really grateful, Mom. I don’t think I could have gotten this far without you. You’ve been so patient with me.”

Grace sloughed off the haze of her daydream and looked at her. “Oh, sweetie… I don’t think I could have gotten through this without you. I don’t think sometimes just how much you mean to all of us, especially Peter.  Now that you’re back with us and smiling, I feel like I shouldn’t waste a moment because we now know how precious they are. I’m sorry if I seem a little selfish, but I’ve always wanted a girl so that I could share moments just like this one.”

Mike looked down at the garment again. As much as it made her self-conscious, she knew that Grace would be disappointed if she put it back and put on another set of shorts. She slipped the dress on over her shoulders and let the light garment cascade over her until it fell into its proper place. She adjusted the straps until it seemed to cover everything properly, then sat on the edge of the bed, taking the strappy wedge sandals and sliding them over her feet.

This is it. If you walk out that door right now, you’re totally a girl now.

 Mike got up and took a tentative step towards the door, catching a glimpse of herself in the half length dresser by her bed. It took her a moment to recognize the image before her. She realized that she was not really plagued by a sense of loss. She picked up her purse from the dresser.

Never leave the house without your purse. Jesus, isn’t there a manual somewhere of all the things I have to remember?

 Mike sighed deeply as she put her hand on the knob to her door. The rest of the things she’d done up until now, had been out of necessity.  The choice of this dress to wear today was the final nail in the coffin of her life as a boy. Even though she was ok with things on the surface, inside she felt deeply insecure. She still talked like herself, but she didn’t think of herself as being overly feminine. For a moment she wondered if she would ever truly feel like a woman. After a moment more of mulling over her doubts, she pulled back the door and launched herself into the hallway –bumping solidly into Paris.

“Hey!” He yelped while backpedaling into the wall, pushed back by the force of their collision.

Mike gasped into surprise, involuntarily looking straight up into his eyes. Paris looked back at her in stunned silence noticing her outfit instantly. The awkward exchange of glances made them both recoil in embarrassment. Paris put his hand behind his head and looked away back down the hallway towards the stairs.

“Uh… Sorry…” He muttered. “Your Mom sent me up here to get you. She said something came up at the bookstore, but she didn’t want the afternoon to go to waste…”

Mike cursed silently as she felt the flush in her cheeks. She remained looking at the floor, not wanting to show her embarrassment, but knowing that her friend was just as embarrassed.

What do I do? It’s not like I hadn’t thought about this before. It’s Paris for Christ’s sake!

She hesitantly stepped back across the threshold of the door to her room, placing her hand on the door as if she was going to retreat and seal herself in.

“I’ll change. Just give me a min-“

Paris put his hand on the door, stopping her in mid sentence. “Don’t…”

She gasped, looking up at him in surprise.  Paris looked at her with obvious concern.

“Come on, Mike… You look fine –really. I was just surprised that’s all.” Paris extended his hand, offering it to her. “Sooner or later I was gonna see you in a dress. Now that I have, it won’t be a big deal anymore.”

Mike sheepishly reached for his hand, taking it with her own. She exhaled slowly, taking a step out of her room.

“I think your mom planned this…” He announced.

Thanks Mom… Just great…

She looked each way down the hall before stepping out completely. Paris looked at her in puzzlement.

“Just looking for the cameras” she said.

“Well, where you planning on heading today?” He asked.

“We were just heading down to Point Loma, and then maybe over to Horton Plaza. I haven’t been to the comic book shop in ages and I’m itching for a gyro plate. I just never could find them better than the ones they make at the Kebob Café!  I’ve been Jonesing for one!”

Mike halted as they reached the bottom of the stairs. With her mother gone, there was no way for them to do all the travelling she had in mind without taking mass transit –which took forever. She realized too, that she hadn’t let go of her best friend’s hand, literally dragging him behind her the whole way.

“Ummm… How are we gonna get there?”

“I figured we might start with some healthy walking….” He smirked.

“Are you kidding me? I can’t walk all day in this getup! I’ll get all sweaty…”

God, that sounded sooooo gay….

Paris laughed. “You didn’t figure that I’d have actually come if that was the plan, did you? I’m just as lazy as you are… No, today we ride.”

“In what?” She chided. “Neither of us has a car…”

As soon as she finished her sentence, she could see the smug smirk forming at the corner of his lips. Paris turned to her sporting a wolfish grin.

“You meanYOUdon’t have a car.” He quipped. “You forget, I turned sixteen like almost a year ago. I’ve had my license for about six months.

“Yeah, but you said you wouldn’t drive you’re dad’s car because it was an old man’s car.” She coyly pointed at her chin as she recited the speech he gave whenever the subject of cars and driving came up. “If it’s not a GTO, it ain’t a car… Wasn’t that what you said? Are you telling me that you caved and got a non-car?”

Curiously, Paris did not stop grinning. In fact, her chiding merely increased the width of his grin almost to the size of the Cheshire Cat’s. He had his free hand in his pants pocket the whole time, rhythmically jangling a set of keys. With dramatic flair, he yanked them from his pocket, letting the rounded upside down triangle drop to the end of the chain, bearing the distinctive GTO logo. Her look of smugness faded as she cocked an eyebrow.

“So you bought a keychain. Big whup…”

“Mike… You know me. Would I be sporting this kind of smile if I were bluffing? Haven’t we played enough poker for you to know when I’ve got the hold card?”

She cocked an eyebrow while mulling it over. “Put up or shut up… I think you’re bluffing.”

“What do I get if I’m not? Let’s make this interesting….”

“I don’t know… What do you want?”

“How deliciously naïve a question, Mike…. Ahhhhhhhh…. I feel the evil surging through me.” He clenched the keychain his fist, waggling it back and forth at her.

“Don’t be stupid. Something I can do!”

“Oh, I know what it will be, Mike. I know what it will be…”

“Are you gonna tell me or not?”

“After you accept the bet. Since I’m gonna win, I want to build the suspense.”

Mike shot back a worried look. Paris realized instantly that she must have remembered some of the bet payoffs in the past. Mike never turned down his bets, and more often than not had to pay up. Only this time, the young woman before him made him realize what she might be thinking. They lapsed back into their playful banter easily enough, but he sensed a fragile vulnerability that would sometimes peek out from behind her usual combustible personality.

“Nothing likethat, Mike. I promise…”

She looked nervously to one side for a moment. “But if I win… You are my personal chauffeur until Christmas Break.”

His crooked grin returned. “That’s the Mike that I know! Sporting to the last!”

He led her out the front door. Mike gasped in a mixture of horror and amusement. Technically, what sat on the curb before her was a GTO. About the only way you could tell was by the general shape of the vehicle.  It was mottled with a dozen sanded bondo patches, and dotted with multiple shades of primer mottled in a hodgepodge manner from the hood to the trunk of the car. The convertible top was apparently missing or not installed, further accented by the mismatched seat covers. Before her stood perhaps the beginnings of a GTO, or maybe you might call it the last dying gurgles of the legendary muscle car.

“It’s a 1970, GTO convertible. I’ve been working on fixing her up, but she’s a runner.” Paris added.

Mike folded her arms, standing rooted to the spot in disbelief. “It runs?”

He nodded.

“Without smoke?”

He nodded.

“We won’t get pulled over for some as yet unnamed infraction?”

“My sister’s ridden in it dozens of times.” He shot back.
            Mike shrugged. “What is she? Like four?”
            “Five. She starts kindergarten this year.”

“Yeah, but she’s five. What does she know?” she shrugged.

Paris couldn’t stop grinning. “You’re just mad because you lost the bet…”

She shook her head in utter defeat.  “How do I let you rope me into these things…”

“Oh, come on, Mike… Secretly, you’re a masochist. You could have said no. But you never do.”

He walked her to the side of his car as though he were escorting her to the door of the President’s limousine. In mock triumph he swaggered the whole way, graciously offering to open the door, allowing her to get in.

Neither of them seemed to notice they’d been holding hands the entire time.

The End

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