Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
March 18-19, 1987
The mood at Bradford High School was somber the next day, to say the least. The death of three students in such a violent, senseless incident sent a serious shock all through the school. Both Denis and Shae figured that there weren’t going to be any problems with teasing or horsing around in that atmosphere, and they were right. But, they’d already decided that they were going to have to keep up appearances, since the shock would wear off all too soon.
Denis and Shae happened to be the only kids from the school who had actually witnessed the collision. Denis had decided that he owed it to Steve to tell the truth about what he’d seen – again and again, he made the point that it was the Mansfield kids who had chickened out when it came down to the final instant. A simplified version of the officer’s verdict went around the school, and everyone had heard it by the end of the day: Don’t play chicken with a kamikaze. Brock and Brett had their friends who figured Steve was in the wrong whatever he did, but there was a lot of opinion going around, and probably even more of it unstated, that they’d pissed someone off once too often and got bit back, bad.
The locker incident of two days before, and the fact that there had been several kids reamed out, put on detention, and in the case of the Mansfields, given three-day suspensions that never took effect, was nearly forgotten in the face of the tragedy. Which, as both Shae and Denis figured, was a good place for it, under the circumstances. Even so, school was seriously depressing, and they were happy to be out of there at the end of the day. Sports practices had been cancelled again – the Mansfields had both been on the baseball team – and as far as Shae was concerned it was just as well since she didn’t feel much like going to softball practice. If she got hassled about it she was ready to quit the team, anyway.
While she was driving Denis home, Shae asked if he felt like messing with the clothing they’d gotten the night before, and he’d said he really wasn’t up for it, and would rather do it when he was in a better mood. She agreed. They wound up spending the late afternoon in Shae’s living room messing with a video game and not talking about anything important, just being friends. Later he had dinner with the Kirkendahls, and Shae took him home in the evening. "Maybe tomorrow night, maybe this weekend," he told her.
If there was any chance of peace between Phil Sharp and Bert Mansfield, it got blown away. Steve Sharp’s funeral at Green’s Funeral Home in Bradford was scheduled first, for 2:30 PM on Friday. When Bert heard about it he decided that the only possible time to have Brock and Brett’s funeral was at the very same time, at the other funeral home in town, Lyons, to underline that his kids had been the popular ones, and that Steve had been a hated little fat creep. The funeral director protested to Mansfield that doing so was a hell of a rude thing to do, but Bert wouldn’t have it any other way. If there was going to be a change, then Phil Sharp would have to be the one to change it – which the whole town realized almost immediately left the two playing chicken with the funerals of their kids, and that it was Bert’s idea. The general community perception was similar to Denis and Shae’s in that the Mansfield kids had started the incident and Steve had finished it, and it meant there was going to have to be some serious choosing sides, both in the school and in the community.
The phones and rumor mills around Bradford were still humming strongly when Shae drove Denis home from school Thursday afternoon, to be met by his mother. "Your father has something to do in Bolivar," she said, naming a town miles to the northeast. "He invited me to ride along, and I need to get out of this town for a while. Denis, would you have any problem making supper tonight?"
"No problem," he smiled. "When do you want to eat?"
"Can we shoot for 6:30?" she asked. "We’ll almost certainly be back by then. I have some chicken thawing."
"Sure, I won’t mind in the slightest," he said. "I’ve got a different batter-fry recipe I’ve been wanting to try, anyway."
"It’ll be good as always, I’m sure," she smiled, and headed for her car to drive out to the warehouse.
"Good grief, you cook, too?" Shae shook her head.
"Of course I cook," he sneered. "I’m as good a cook as Mom on most things, maybe better since I like to experiment, and she usually does the same old stuff. With us in school now, she’s just home more of the time, so she does it more."
Shae shook her head again. "Denis, you’re going to make some man a good wife. You want to try out the clothes, too?"
"Yeah," he nodded, glancing at the clock. "We’ve got two and a half hours, and then I’m going to have to put in some time at the stove, but we could maybe finish up some details if we had to."
They’d spent every inch of the way from Bradford to Providence two days before talking about what they wanted to accomplish in a new look for Denis as a girl – mostly what Denis wanted to accomplish. Even before they made their first purchase, they’d established one thing – he knew more, or at least had stronger opinions, about what looked good on a woman than she did, especially as it applied to him. On the other hand, she had the experience of how to dress as a girl, while he could only comment on results. He had, for example, some good ideas about makeup – but didn’t have a clue about the techniques of applying it. It was the sort of thing that Shae had picked up through her skin in seventeen years as a girl that he’d just never had the chance to learn in sixteen years as a boy.
Denis knew the effect he wanted to shoot for – feminine, but not hot. Say, about as good as a teenage girl who wants to look nice for an important date, but has to pass her parent’s approval, too. Left unsaid was that this was an important test for him; how he reacted to it was going to be crucial, even more so than Shae’s or his parents’ reaction. If he couldn’t bring it off in his own eyes, in his own mind, there was going to have to be a very serious reassessment taking place. But it meant that they were going to take their time and do the details right.
He started out with a shower and a clean shave. He hadn’t been shaving long, and his beard was sparse and blond, slow-growing, and almost unnoticeable, but still, details were important. Along with that, he shaved his legs, letting his armpits go this time, although he might not skip them again if this test was a success. With that done, he pulled his pants back on, and had Shae come in to help him with putting a rinse in his hair to darken it just a touch; it would have been unnoticeable except for a planned addition later. His hair was already on the long side for a teenage boy in that era, and he admitted he must have been subconsciously sliding toward what they were doing now anyway.
Once he had his hair dried, Shae headed out of the bathroom. He pulled off his pants, then put on a pair of print bikini panties, and headed back to his room, where Shae joined him. Next up was a padded brassiere, large enough to show, but not large enough to be overwhelming; the idea was to be understated, not overstated. In their talk in the car on the way to Providence two days before, Shae had told him that there was a point of several months, back when she was about thirteen, that she’d filled out a bra with wadded-up toilet tissue. In her opinion it didn’t feel right to wear, or feel right to touches from the outside, either. Toward the end of that period, she’d switched to wadded-up pantyhose that had been thrown out by her mother. As luck would have it, just last night there’d been a wastebasket at the Kirkendahl house with a couple pairs of rejects in it, and they’d gone to the cause.
Next came pantyhose – no point in doing it halfway – and up top a nice, feminine sweater, cut a little low but not low enough to show any cleavage had there been any real cleavage to show, and a light blue print spring dress, with the hemline about mid-thigh. "What do you think, Shae?" he asked, stepping back so she could look at him.
"Looks pretty good," she smiled. "We hit the fit just about right. I’d think it’d be a little lightweight if we were going outside tonight, but we’re not, so no big deal."
Denis really wanted to head out in the hall to look in the big mirror – but he knew the time wasn’t quite right yet, so he managed to control his excitement, while sitting in a chair in the bedroom. Shae wrapped a towel around his shoulders, and together they started on makeup, where her limited knowledge was crucial. Again, the idea was to just enhance things a little – make it look like it was there without overdoing it – foundation, a little blush, some work on the brows and lashes, a little shade to the eyelids, a light lip gloss. Up in Shae’s room the night before they’d worked on hairstyles a little. There didn’t seem to be much they could do at that point without a major styling that would still have to look unisex, but a little work with comb and hairspray at least managed a mild change in appearance. Shae then contributed an old hair fall she hadn’t worn for years. It was slightly darker than his very light blond hair, the reason for the rinse earlier, but when she pinned it on, the effect was spectacular. "It doesn’t feel like it’s real secure," he said.
"It’s actually more secure than it feels," she said. "I never liked the damn thing, so I never wore it much and just let my hair grow out. Trust me, the real thing looks prettier but is more trouble to take care of."
"Yeah, but the effect is worth it."
All this had taken time, over two hours, since they’d not hurried at all, and had tried out a few ideas along the way. "Trust me on this, too, it gets quicker with practice," she said. "But it’s always going to take more time to get dolled up like this than it is to just pull on sweats and head out the door."
"Yeah, but again, the effect is worth it, especially for this. But I think we’d better get it wrapped up."
Shae helped him fasten a light necklace, then he put on a couple of bracelets, and just for a touch of modern teenager, an ankle bracelet. Last, but not least, he put on a pair of pumps that they’d bought. Since it takes practice to wear heels successfully – and to get used to wearing them – these didn’t have a big rise, only an inch and a half or so, hardly more than the athletic shoes he normally wore, and certainly nothing like the four-inch platforms Shae habitually wore. Of course, with her size-fourteen feet and the platforms, they were a lot less extreme than a four-inch heel would have been on a smaller-footed woman. "That’s it," she said finally. "You look good. You look nice enough to go on a hot date, but cool enough to go to church."
He took a couple deep breaths. "I’ve got to see," he said finally. "The suspense has been killing me." With Shae following, he headed into his parents’ room, where there was a full-length mirror and good light. "Oh, wow," he breathed as he saw the sight. "Wow. I mean, wow."
He stood there for a long time, staring at the reflection, until finally Shae got up the courage to ask the most important question of all: "How does it feel?"
He stared some more, twisted this way and that to get a better look, and then said, softly and slowly, "Shae, it feels right!"
* * *
Bill and Arlene Riley knew damn well what was going on at home, of course, which was why they’d left the kids alone – to not jiggle their elbows, to let them work it out for themselves without parental suggestions or comments. But as they headed home while the sun grew low, they knew that they were going to be getting a look into the future when they got there, and they both knew it could be a future they didn’t look forward to but would have to accept. Arlene was silently praying while Bill drove into the garage and closed the door – for what, she couldn’t say, just, "Thy will be done."
The first sign as soon as they got into the house was promising – or maybe not, it was hard to say. The house smelled of fried chicken and spice, cornbread, and something indefinable. That could mean something, or it could mean nothing – after all Denis was a good cook, which might also mean something, or again nothing. But then, they heard teenage voices yakking about whatever teenagers talked about these days – nothing in particular, just bright and cheery. There hadn’t been enough of that around the house in recent years, Arlene thought, and it both warmed her heart and scared her. She turned into the kitchen and stopped in her tracks. There was Shae, wearing a dress for once, her long frame leaning back against the kitchen counter – and Denis . . . and Denis . . . Oh shit!
He was still recognizably Denis – there had been no real intent at disguise, after all – but in a nice dress, heels, jewelry, long hair, she was forced to look at him in a feminine context . . . and he looked like a normal teenage girl! "Hi Mom, Dad!" he said cheerfully in his normal voice, which now sounded astoundingly feminine. "Dinner should be ready in about five minutes; you might want to get cleaned up."
"Denis," she stammered, "You look . . . you look . . . " She couldn’t make herself say what her eyes told her, which was nothing like what she wanted them to tell her.
"Very nice," Bill said in a quiet voice, but one that told her that he had much the same thoughts as she had.
"I think so," Shae grinned. "In fact, I think she looks better than I do."
There was one word in that sentence that turned the kitchen to silence, interrupted only by the sizzle of the frying chicken. "Shae," they heard Denis’ voice in disbelief, "What did you just say?"
"I said I think you look better than I do."
"That’s not what you said," he replied, a little awed at what he’d just heard.
"You’re right, Shae," Arlene found herself saying against her will, but unable to deny the truth her eyes told her. "I think she does, too."