Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

The Girl in the Mirror
Book 3 of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
©2005, ©2011

Chapter 17

October 10, 1998

"That was the beginning of my Real-Life Test," Eve smiled. "Iíve been Eve ever since. Iím still technically Denise on most of my documents, and some still have the old spelling. In a sense, Denis was a creation of Bradford, and I was happy to leave him in Bradford and not have to take him with me."

"Eve," Emily spoke up, "I think a lot of us were pretty cruel and stupid in those years, and Iím just as much to blame as anyone, and Iíd like to apologize to you. Especially knowing what youíve been telling us, itís still pretty incredible, all of that was going on under our noses, and I donít think anyone would have dreamed what was really happening. They wouldnít have believed it if they did hear of it. I mean, Iím still having a little trouble believing it!"

"If you think itís incredible, you should have been the one to live through it," Eve smiled. "I mean, I can think back to, oh, middle school, and I could never have thought in my wildest dreams what would happen." She let out a sigh. "Yes, I have a lot of bad memories of Bradford, and I think thatís understandable. But there were a few good ones, and our senior year was particularly memorable, especially the friendship with Shae as all that was going on. And I shall cherish those memories until the day I die. As Iíve told you before, I could not have gotten to where I am today without going through the hell I endured in school, so in a perverse way, Iíve become grateful for it."

"I think itís remarkable that youíre as comfortable with it as you appear to be," Hannah Baker said. Andyís wife was from out of state and not a member of the class. She was heavily pregnant, showing markedly on her thin frame. "To have a secret like that, and maintain it as well as you did under all that stress, with no one getting a hint, had to have been difficult."

"It was not easy," Eve said. "But in a way, it was good training. Transsexuals commonly find themselves faced with hate and fear, and coming out can be dangerous in the face of the ignorance that some people display. As I said, tonight more than doubled the number of people who are aware of it, and Iíll probably have second thoughts in the morning. However, since Iím no longer part of the community, and will never be again, perhaps it will work out."

Dayna leaned back in her chair, mildly amused; after all, she had plenty of secrets that she hoped would never come out around Bradford. "Everyone must have some secret or another they want to keep to themselves," she commented.

"Thatís true," Eve said. "The important thing about that year is that it taught me to keep a secret Iíve largely had to keep ever since. It was particularly difficult in that everyone in the class knew Denis, and things had to be done right under their noses. By comparison, the next year at Ball State was a walk in the park. Shae and I still had the secret, of course Ė but no one had reason to suspect that we were covering up anything."

August 26, 1988

"Wow!" Shae said as Eve stepped off the jetway at the Indianapolis airport. "You look different!"

"I think so," Eve smiled. "Whatís more, I think it was worth the trouble."

"I do too," Shae shook her head. "I mean, to hear about it is one thing, but to see it is another. But hey, Eve, good to see you again, no matter what your face looks like. Itís been too long."

"I agree," Eve nodded as they started for the luggage claim area. "I mean, itís only been two months, but it seems like two years."

Shae could barely keep her eyes off Eve. She was sharply dressed, as usual; she didnít do slob easily. Not surprisingly, she was wearing a full, if shortish dress, which was common for her, if a little out of style generally. Partly, it was intended to look good; in that day and age of jeans and sloppy T-shirts being common wear for college-age girls, if a girl was wearing a dress you knew she was trying to look above the common run. In Eveís case, though, Shae knew it was more than that; tucking was uncomfortable at times, and a loose dress would cover up much better than the best tuck job under stretch pants. In the past year, when Eve had been out in public sheíd usually been tucked, just on general principles, but might not be at home. Since erections were pretty much a thing of the past after almost a year and a half of estrogen therapy, it was even easier to get away with. Shae thought that she probably was tucked, just on general principles, but wasnít curious enough to ask.

But that hardly mattered Ė it was Eveís face that she couldnít take her eyes from! This was Eve, of course, but somehow, it didnít look quite like her. Back in June, when Bill had taken Shea to the airport for the flight back to Kalamazoo, heíd also taken Eve and Arlene for their flight to San Francisco, where Eve had long been booked with a plastic surgeon specializing in facial feminization surgery. Initially, it had been with the idea of just doing an evaluation and a little work on a bump on the nose that Eve thought unsightly, and the plan had been to hold off the major work until the estrogen therapy was completed. But, for one reason and another, the biggest one being an upcoming change in the General Hardware Retailers insurance coverage, it had been decided at the last minute to go ahead with the major work as well. A slightly protruding jaw had been reduced, as had a slightly overhanging brow, and some minor things. Shae knew all about it, of course, but knowing it and seeing it were two different things! More than ever, Eve looked like a girl!

"I canít get over it," Shae said with a headshake. "It makes a real difference!"

"I like it," Eve grinned. "Even though I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. So, how was your summer?"

"Fun," Shae laughed. "Really different, and I got a head start on a lot of stuff for us. Donít get me wrong, Iím not sounding sour grapes or anything, but after the last year at Bradford, it was the break I needed."

Eve already knew about part of it, so Shae didnít need to explain. The day after sheíd flown in from Denver, sheíd had a call from Coach Packard at Ball State. The college held a series of girlsí basketball camps over the summer, teaching fundamentals and a few tricks Ė a few of which were how shorter girls could handle big defenders like Shae. The problem was that the upperclassman who had been going to do the camp in that role had bombed out, for what reason Packard wasnít clear, and heíd needed a big girl who knew something about defense for the kids to practice against. All of a sudden, Shae had a well-paid summer job for six weeks as a junior coach and instructor. The best part of it was that it gave her six weeks to work with Packard, picking up some of his ways of doing things, getting a head start on training for the season Ė and giving her a head start on learning her way around Ball State. Now it appeared that the big girl upperclassman wasnít coming back at all Ė she wasnít sure but rumor was that pregnancy was involved Ė so unless something untoward happened, Shae pretty well had a lock on being on varsity as a freshman!

But it had been fun to work out with the kids, and fun to hang out with some of the instructors from the boyís camp that ran at the same time. For the first time in her life, Shae was able to date guys as tall as she was, and that was a new experience to enjoy! She didnít plan on telling Eve Ė no point in making her jealous Ė but there was one guy who she went well beyond mere dating with on three separate occasions. Sheíd made it out of high school a virgin, but wouldnít have that status when she actually started college.

"Good," Eve grinned. "You needed the diversion. Now, I suppose weíre going to have to rush around to get the room set up."

"Nope," Shae shook her head. "All done, except for what you bring with you, or have shipped. The storage locker has been cleaned out and everything set up."

"I thought they werenít going to let you into the dorms until yesterday."

"Normally that would be the case," Shae smiled. "But jocks get special treatment. They had squad drills all last week, so I got to come down here a week early, and they let us into the dorms for it. Mom and Dad helped me move my stuff in last Saturday, and I cleaned out the storage shed and got most things set up in my spare time during the week."

"Good deal, Shae!" Eve said brightly. "I was not looking forward to coming here and having a madhouse setting up living quarters."

"Me either," Shae nodded. "Oh, hey, I have to tell you. The squad drills started last Monday, so thereís a bunch of us standing around with stupid looks on our faces when who should walk in the door but Tawana Patterson!"

"Miss Michigan Basketball?" Eve grinned. "I presume you were the last one standing."

"I thought it might get interesting there for a few seconds," Shae said. "I mean, if thereís anything that black chick has, itís an attitude, all that mouthy hip-hop trash talk. I thought we were going to have a fist fight back there at Kemper during the state finals last year. I took one look at her and thought, oh shit. She took one look at me, walked up to me, and said real hard, like she wanted to start something, ĎBig girl, you dat chick dat stole de state trophy from us two years straight, ainít ya?í Well, I told her I was and Iíd had fun doing it, and I thought here we go. But she got a big grin and said, ĎIf you can get da ball and get it ta me like ya did dat red-headed bitch, we goan kick some ass!í"

"So now everything is sweetness and light?"

"Well, not really," Shae said. "She still is mouthy, she still has way more attitude than I like, and all that hip-hop jive talk gets tedious, but sheís a magician on the hardwood, a hell of a shooter, and we see weíre on the same team, now. We wonít know for sure for months, but it wouldnít surprise me if sheís dead right. So, whatís happened with you?"

"It was really rather dull," she said. "I mean, I was a stranger there, and I knew nobody, and my face was nothing but bandages for a while, but then things turned up a little. You remember the house toward the mountains from my folksí place, donít you?"

"Yeah, a little," Shae nodded. "I canít remember the name, but the man and woman had us all to dinner one evening."

"Cottrills," Eve prompted. "Do you remember them saying that her kids were off visiting their dad for a while?"

"Yeah, I guess," Shae shrugged.

"I wasnít too clear on it myself," Eve admitted. "I mean, I thought we were talking maybe middle schoolers, so I didnít pay any attention. It turns out that Beth just finished her freshman year at Colorado State, and Jack just graduated from high school. They got back about the time my bandages were all off, although my face was still quite puffy. They were as surprised as I to find that we were about the same age, so as it turned out we spent a fair amount of time messing around together. Beth has an old boyfriend she used to run around with in high school, and Jack and I made a second couple several times."

"Oh, some serious dating, huh?" They were at the luggage pickup by now, but they had to stand and wait for the bags to start coming through.

"Well, not serious; Jackís not my type, but he was fun to run around with. Of course, they know the area well, the places to go, and all the sights."

"Hey, great," Shae nodded. It was a good deal, too, she thought. Eve apparently felt confident enough in her appearance and ability to pass as a girl that she was willing to risk having friends, even dates, without Shae around to keep things from getting out of hand. Even with guys like John and Paul, there had been some tentativeness, some concern. "You think they got a hint?"

"I doubt it very seriously, and I suspect if there had been suspicions they would have said something," she replied. "Shae, weíre talking popular kids who apparently arenít very tolerant of differences in other people. At times it was troubling to hear them put down this kid or that kid they knew, especially when racial slurs were involved. But they were next door and convenient, and it wasnít as if I had to put up with them for very long. On the other hand, it was nice to be able to run around with people like them for once. It gave me a taste of what it would have been like to have been popular in high school."

"Thatíd have to be different."

"It was, and it gave me a view from the other side of the fence. Maybe itís just from what happened to me in school, but itís not all sweetness and light from that side, either. There are so many appearances to keep up if youíre going to avoid all the backbiting that goes on. I suspect my puffy face may have actually helped me with them. I told them Iíd had corrective plastic surgery, of course, as if it could be covered up. Obviously, I didnít tell them why, and let them think it was from pure vanity. Vanity they could understand. When youíre running in a class like that, thereís a continual front that has to be kept up."

"Of course, we know how that works on a different level," Shae grinned, knowing that they had to talk around the subject since they were in public. But, over the last year theyíd had quite a bit of practice doing it, so it wasnít anything new.

"Do we ever," she agreed. "All in all, we had some good times, and I could at least claim a fear of infection on my face to keep from having to use the pool. There might have been some awkward moments otherwise."

Shae understood what she meant. While the swimsuit that sheíd used at Disney World last winter had been fairly hot, even with a good tuck the gaff was on the verge of detectable, so sheíd often worn shorts over it when they were in the pool or otherwise messing around. But under the circumstances it might have been difficult to explain why she wasnít wearing a bikini. If things went according to plan, though, it wouldnít be an issue in another year. "Got a little lucky, then," she smiled.

"A little sneaky, anyway," Eve sighed. "Actually, itís not as if it matters a great deal, I finally came to realize. Except for having my parents around, Wheat Ridge never seemed like home. As much as I hate to say it, I still identify with Bradford. But then I started to realize that I probably wonít be in Colorado much over the next few years, if ever. I mean, Iíll probably have to spend part of next summer there, but in years after that I hope to be involved with internships or working somewhere else."

"Yeah, I wouldnít be surprised if it works out like that for me, too," Shae agreed. "Coach Packard has already asked me to work the basketball camp next summer. I might just do that if I donít come up with some internship, and Iím not likely to find something in broadcasting after my freshman year except maybe for sweeping the floor."

"Youíre still looking at the electronic journalism major, then?"

"Yeah, unless I think of something better in the next year. Iím still not sure itís exactly what I want to do, but itís the best idea Iíve had so far. Youíre still looking at business, right?"

"Yes," Eve sighed. "Like you, Iím not sure thatís what I want to do, and my perspectives have changed so much in the last year and a half that I wouldnít be surprised if they change even more. But itís a good base to start with as freshmen."

"Yeah, itís not like we get a lot of classes in our major areas this year anyway," Shae agreed. "I guess itís just a bunch of horse manure they make you take so they can keep you around for four years."

"True," Eve sighed. "I just hope that the next four years are more interesting and rewarding than the last ones were. I am so glad to have those behind me that you canít believe it."

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