Archive for the ‘Section 1: Midterm Break’ Category.

11 Toeing the Line

I was actually in a pretty good mood now, for the first time since this horrible discovery, so I was content to let my sister guide me. “So what should we work on, first, Teen?”

She thought for a moment. “I can do your make up for you, if we have to go someplace, and help you pick out clothing, so those can wait. But I can’t walk for you, and you can’t walk around like you are afraid of being heard. So…”

She opened my closet and rummaged around a bit. I peered over her shoulder and saw more shoes than I’ve ever owned in my life. There must have been close to a dozen pairs. As Marshall, I owned a pair of sneakers, one pair of dress shoes, and a pair of boots. I used to own a pair of loafers, but they wore out and I never saw the need to replace them. But Marsha had way more than that. Eventually, Tina selected two pairs.

“Here are some flats than you can wear for around the house, Marsh. It’s going to take you a bit of time to get used to heels. Let’s start with these pumps.”

“Wait. ‘Pumps’?”

“It’s a pretty standard shoe, but the heel is a lot lower than the ones you were trying to wear this morning.”

“Didn’t you say Marsha was wearing the higher ones because of her height? I’m really not comfortable being this short, and I think I’d rather learn to wear the higher ones. At least I’d get more of my height back.”

“You can work up to those, Marsh. The shorter ones will be hard enough for you.”

Obviously, she knew a lot more about this than I did, so I put on the pair she handed me and stood up. “Now what? Do I just walk?”

“Yes. Try to walk across the room and back. And this time, step on the heels. That’s what they’re there for.”

So I did. It wasn’t horribly bad. I wobbled on almost every step, but didn’t even come close to losing my balance. I turned and looked for approval, but Tina looked pained.

“No, that’s not even close, Marsh. You shouldn’t have to stop and balance every time you put down your foot. Look. Watch me.”

She walked across the room so that I could look at her feet from the side. She wasn’t pausing at all, but neither was she spending a lot of time on her heels. She’d land on her heel and then roll immediately on to her toe.”

“OK, I think I see what you’re doing,” I said. I walked back to the closet, making it a point to slap my toe against the ground as soon as my heel hit the ground. It felt really awkward, but at least I wasn’t wobbling. Not much, at any rate.

Tina wasn’t really impressed. “That’s better,” she admitted, “but you’re still trying too hard. The toes should come down naturally, without all that slapping stuff. Try talking smaller steps.”

“Smaller steps?” I protested. “I’ve got tiny little legs, so I’m already talking shorter strides than I’m used to.”

“Just do it.”

It was like a revelation. The first couple of steps felt almost natural. I didn’t have to force my toes down, they just hit automatically. I experimented a bit, walking back and forth. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

“I think I’m getting it, Teen! Look. The shorter stride makes my foot come down almost flat, so I don’t spend a lot of time on my heel. Then if I shift my weight forward as I step, my toe comes right down.”

“Not bad,” she said, pleased. “Your walk is starting to a look a lot more natural, and it’s making your hips swing nicely.”

“Wait,” I said, my heart feeling as though it wanted to stop. “My hips?”

“Uh huh. That’s what you taught me. If you walk properly in heels, it gives you ‘a womanly stride that the guys like to watch.’”

“Um, wait. Wait.” I sat down on the bed, trying to hide my backside as best I could. “I’m not really comfortable with that part.”

“That’s what Marsha taught me,” she shrugged. “Not much you can do about it. It just happens naturally. Besides, it’s the way Marsha walks. And you want to be in character, don’t you?”

It was a good point, and I probably would have felt better about it, if she hadn’t winked at me immediately afterward. I resolved then and there that ‘Marsha’ was suddenly going to be a bit more tolerant of her lack of height. Those flats were definitely going to be my friends.

“Oh come on, Marsh,” Tina chided me. “You’re attractive. The boys will look. Not as much as if you were half-naked like most of the girls on campus, but you’re not going to be able to stop them from looking at all without really calling attention to yourself.”

It was clearly payback time. I know that I had enjoyed girl watching, and had never given any thought to how the girls felt, being watched. I guess I’d figured that if a girl didn’t want guys looking, she’d… Hmm. What, exactly? Dress modestly? I got up and looked at myself in the mirror. I guess I was dressed pretty modestly, with my skirts down to mid-calf and my long sleeves. In fact, I sometimes thought that girls in pants, especially jeans, were dressed much more immodestly, with all the creases seeming to draw the eye in one particular direction. Still. I turned in the mirror a bit. My bust wasn’t extraordinary, but my figure was pretty decent. If I saw a girl who looked like that, I’d have looked. Not that I was attracted to myself, of course. That would have been really creepy. But I had a lot of experience looking at and evaluating girls, and I’d probably have rated Marsha at least a 7 or an 8.

“Checking out the merchandise?” Tina teased me.

“No!” I said, jumping away from the mirror, embarrassed. “I was just… well, does it bother you when they look, Teen? It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about.”

She shrugged. “I think it would bother me a lot more if they didn’t look, Marsh. I like boys, and I want them to like me – or at least for certain ones to.”

“Certain ones?” I echoed. “As in boys, you might want to date?”

“Well mostly, a boy I have dated.”

“Wait a minute! You’re dating boys already?”

She gave me an impatient look. “I’m fifteen years old, Marsh! When did you start dating?”

“Um… I was… fourteen. But that’s different! I’m a boy!”

“Why is that different? How old was your first girlfriend?”

“Um, fourteen.”

“And I’m fifteen. So what’s the problem?”

“But. You’re my sister!”

“And your girlfriend was probably somebody else’s sister.”

I knew that this made perfect sense in my own mind. There were good and sound reasons that my sister shouldn’t be dating yet. I just couldn’t think of what they were. “I’m not going to win this argument, am I?” I finally admitted.

“Hardly. I waited a whole year longer than you did.”


“And Marsha encouraged me. Did you encourage me, Marshall?”

I sighed. “It’s just so hard to think of my sister… out with some boy.”

“Get used to it. It’s going to happen a lot, I hope.”

“Oh. Um, how far have you gone?” I asked, not sure if was really ready to hear the answer. “

“We went to a couple of movies. He held my hand. And. I’ve had one good night kiss so far.”

“Anything else?”

“You sure you want to know?” she said, teasingly.

“Yes. No. I’m not sure.”

She laughed again. “That’s as far as we’ve gone and as far as I’m going to go just yet. What about you Marshall? How far have you gone?”

“Um I’m really not comfortable…”

“Farther than kissing?”


“Lots farther?”

“I’m really not comfortable…” I repeated. At his point, I really wanted to change the subject, but Tina was having fun making me sweat.

“Marsha and I talked about this kind of stuff all the time. I know exactly how far she went with Dirk.”

“But… guys don’t talk about things like that.”

“Girls do,” she insisted. ‘This is going to be an interesting time for us, isn’t it? Did you talk to me at all?”

“Oh sure we talk a lot – just not about… you know…”



“Sorry – it’s just so funny to see you nervous, Marsh. If you’re really uncomfortable, we don’t have to talk but I hope you want to – I like talking about stuff with you – with Marsha, I mean.”

I sighed. “I’ll do my best, Teen. I can’t promise.”

Just then mom poked her head in. “Marsh? Ready to spend some time with me?”

Was I ever! I was glad to have that conversation end. I’d always been close to Tina, but there have been some things we just didn’t discuss. Apparently, her talks with “Marsha” had been a lot different than with me. I was sure she would understand, but she’d probably also try to get me to talk the way she was used to. It was going to be an interesting few months.

12 In a Stew

I followed Mom into the kitchen. She handed me a peeler and some potatoes and we started. Apparently we were making stew tonight. Dad and I had always liked Mom’s stew. Thinking about him, I suddenly realized something – neither Mom nor Tina had mentioned him and I hadn’t seen him all day, not since I turned into Marsha. His car wasn’t in the driveway. Where was he?

I started to worry. When he came back after walking out on us, he’d never told Tina or me why. I once asked him, and he’d tousled my hair and said simply “A man should be around to raise his son, Marsh.” What if he had been serious? What if my being a girl meant that he hadn’t come back? Had my stupidity in signing up for that experiment denied Tina a father and Mom a husband? I couldn’t just ask – I didn’t want Mom to know about the change, and there was no way to excuse Marsha needing to ask. When I was done here I’d have to ask my sister. In the meantime….

“How did midterms go, Marsh?” Mom asked.

They’d gone fine for me, so that’s what I told her. Of course, I had no idea how well Marsha had done, but I figured we were pretty similar in terms of intelligence and study habits, so the answer was likely to be the same. At any rate, I didn’t have a better answer just now. But apparently that wasn’t Mom’s focus, anyway.

“Any progress with that boy you were interested in?”

What boy? Tina hadn’t mentioned anyone; she had just said that Marsha wasn’t seeing anybody.

“Um, no, Mom,” I said, taken off guard and panicking just a little. Then I added, “And, I’ve been thinking… I don’t really have time to date right now.”

Now I knew to watch out when I got back to school. Had Marsha been flirting with somebody? Dating a guy but not seriously? That could be a real problem.

She just smiled at me knowingly, and didn’t pursue the matter. It was her usual pattern – she was good at inviting us to tell her things, but not prying. And usually, I did want to tell her. But what could I say? I didn’t know very much about Marsha’s life, and almost anything specific I could say would have to reveal that I wasn’t Marsha, after all. Was I wrong to keep this change a secret? Suddenly, I wasn’t sure.

I must have spent more time than I had realized, agonizing over the question, because she prompted me, “Something on your mind, Marsh?”

“Oh, no, Mom. I mean, yes. I was thinking about the play. Mousetrap.”


“We start rehearsals right after break.”

“Yes, you told me. And Mollie is a great role.”

“I think so, too, Mom.”

Outwardly, I was calm, but my guts were roiling. Now I had even more things to worry about. What if Dad wasn’t around? What if Mom figured out the truth and thought I was lying to her? Was Marsha so much better at acting than I was? With a good director like Alvin, I should be able handle it, shouldn’t I? Mr. Condrin had always said that the most important relationship in the theater is between an actor and his director, and Alvin probably knew that. I’d just have to make sure to establish that kind of relationship with him.

We talked more about inconsequential stuff. I had to invent answers, trying not to be specific, since I had no idea about Marsha’s actual school life. Mom seemed to sense that something was wrong, so I tried to distract her by asking what was new with her. She seemed to appreciate it. I don’t think I’d ever done that before – asking my mother about her life, her sewing and so on. With Dad gone, Mom had started doing a lot of seamstress work. I remember resenting how much of a burden this had put on Tina and me, but obviously she’d needed to bring in money; when Dad came back, she’d continued it, and the spare bedroom was full of clothes needing alterations and repairs.

Things kept reminding me of Dad, and it was hard to remember not to mention him or hint about anything involving him, since I didn’t want to admit my ignorance. I kept hoping she would say what he was doing or say that she missed him or something so that I would know.

Then I found out. The door opened and there he was. I don’t think I’d ever run so fast in my life. I threw myself into his arms with an excited cry, “Dad!”

“Wow, what a greeting, Princess!” he exclaimed, obviously pleased. “I’m really sorry I missed you last night, but I had to get up early today. Everything good with you?”

What a question! I couldn’t really give an honest answer, but at least Dad not coming back was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. At least everything hadn’t been worse in this timeline.

Hugging Dad was… strange, since I only came up to his chin now. As Marshall, I had actually been a bit taller than he was, and he had tended to greet me by just grabbing my arm or patting my back. It was very odd to have him kiss me on the forehead after hugging me. That was the way he had greeted my little sister, only now I was even shorter than she was, so apparently, I got the forehead kisses, too.

Tina had heard him and came downstairs to get the same greeting – a kiss on the forehead. Then Dad excused himself to put his stuff in his study. I probably could have found out that he was home if I had gone there, but of course I didn’t think about it until I was talking with Mom in the kitchen.

Then I realized what he had said – he had called me “Princess”! What the hell? I grabbed Tina and asked her about it.

“Yes, Daddy’s always called you that, why?”

“It’s just that I’ve never heard him do that before. Dads don’t call their sons, ‘Princess.’”

“Oh,” she laughed, “I guess not.”

“And… um…” Given everything else that had happened, I was surprised that this bothered me, but, “Is he expecting me to call him, ‘Daddy’?”

“What else would you call him? Oh… I suppose you’re used to calling him something like, “Dad’?”

“Usually.” I sighed. “I suppose it’s part of the character. But can you please try to warn me about things like that?”

“How am I supposed to know what you don’t know?“

“I have no idea. Just… try to think about what a guy wouldn’t know. Please. This is going to be tough enough as it is. I don’t want too many surprises.”

“I’ll try, Marsh,” she promised me. “I’ll do the best I can.”

We practiced heel-walking some more after that, since it really wouldn’t be in character for Marsha to wear flats all the time. The short heels Tina had me start with proved to be not all that much of a challenge. Then she had me try walking down stairs with them.

Wow! That was quite a difference. First, it was scary as Hell, although I remembered to say “scary as anything” to Tina. If I slipped while walking on a floor, the worst that would happen was that I might turn an ankle, but it was pretty obvious, even without Tina’s warning, that slipping the stairs could hurt a lot worse. Holding on to the rail was a must.

What was really funny, though, was that my original idea – of walking without the heel touching the ground – worked here! The danger was actually that I might catch my heel on a step or slip forward, since the sole of the shoe was slanted and smooth. But as long as I was careful only to land with the ball of my foot, and make sure it was fully on the step, I was fine.

After that, we finally got to the read-through, and I got yet another shock. Tina was helping me, reading the role of Giles, Mollie’s husband, when we encountered the direction that he was to kiss her.

“Wait,” I said. “Kiss?”

“That’s what it says, Marsh. They’re married, so why the surprise?” She winked at me, which just rubbed it in harder.

“I’m not surprised, I’m just… a bit taken off guard. How am I supposed to kiss a guy?”

“What’s the big deal? I saw you kiss Dirk enough times.”

“In the first place, Teen, that’s really disgusting. Anyway, it was Marsha who kissed Dirk, not me. Um… remember who I really am. I kiss girls, not guys. Kissing guys is…”

“… really nice,” she finished. “Or at least I think it would be – I’ve only done it once, so far. With everything else you’re doing, aren’t you sort of being a bit ridiculous? I mean, you’re a girl, Marsh. Why shouldn’t you kiss a guy? Anyway, it’s not for real, and it’ll be Mollie kissing Giles, right?”

I had to admit the truth of that.

“So it’s just playing a role. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it!”

“I certainly hope not,” I replied. And that was the last we spoke on that subject. It was just a play; it didn’t mean anything. It’s just that Mollie was going to be kissing this guy with my lips.

13 Getting to Know Me

Dinner was only a bit strange. As a girl, I was apparently expected to help Mom serve more than I had as a boy, something I had simply not noticed previously. I had always helped anyway, but now Tina was making it clear that I was to do more. The Tina I remembered had apparently expected her big brother not to do as much as she did, and I had simply not noticed.

It wasn’t until well after dinner that I was finally alone; alone for the first time since this… change had happened. As long as Tina had been with me, I hadn’t had to face what had actually happened, not really. I had been focusing on what I was going to do, planning my portrayal. In some sense, it had almost felt as though I was rehearsing a play, or more accurately, an improv. I had worked on techniques, on characterization – it had been very easy to see it as completely fake. But now I was alone, and I had to face reality.

I was now wearing a female body. Nobody knew the real me, the male me; everybody only knew Marsha. I was still here, of course, wearing the body and pretending, but nobody remembered me, and only Tina and Chad even knew that I was present. Obviously, I had been stupid. If I had read the papers on the experiment, would I have had a chance to back out? Possibly not, given the apparent number of other victims. But at least I would have known what to expect, and maybe I wouldn’t have reacted the same way. If I had been prepared, maybe I wouldn’t have made that boast about being able to carry off the portrayal for two-and-a-half months.

If I hadn’t announced my intentions, if I hadn’t promised to wait, I would simply confront the people who had done this to me as soon as I got back to school in a week. A quick interlude as a girl might be interesting, but a week would probably be enough; however, I had announced to Tina that I was going to wait, and to give up so easily wouldn’t be manly. And given the feminine fleshly costume that I was wearing, I needed to find something manly about myself.

Not that there weren’t some compensations, of course. The chance to do a leading role in an Alvin Tomlinson production was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it had just been handed to me out of nowhere. And given my relationship difficulties, it could do me a lot of good to get to know what being female was like in a way that no guy really ever could.

This all left the question of how I was going to deal with the body itself. The clothing wasn’t an issue – I had little choice on what I had to wear, after all. Marsha’s wardrobe was pretty uniform – modest skirts and dresses. But as for the body… I was certainly not unfamiliar with the female form. I had been intimate over the past few years with several different girls, and while I enjoyed female nudity – a lot – I wasn’t so curious that I felt a real need to play with the new parts that were now completely in my control. The thing is, while I had full access, it wasn’t my body. It was a girl’s body, and I’m not a girl – I was wearing Marsha’s body, and she was sort of my sister, and if I were to touch the body in certain ways, well, that would almost be like groping my sister, which was really creepy.

At the same time, I couldn’t completely detach myself. I felt what this body felt, and I had to manipulate it. I had to touch it, even the intimate parts, to clothe it and bath it, and I had to touch its private parts when going to the bathroom. Sitting down to pee wasn’t itself a major deal; I had done so on occasion anyway, but it was inconvenient having to do it all the time. In a way, it was fortunate that I was wearing skirts and dresses – it served as a reminder that things were different as soon as I started unfastening my clothing. Showering was odd, too, if only because the water tended to take rather different paths on Marsha’s body than it had on my own. I tried not to think too hard about exactly where it was going. And the hair! I couldn’t believe how much work it was to wash and dry hair this long. Tina pointed out that I didn’t really have to wash it every day, which helped.

Marsha’s bedtime rituals didn’t seem all that much different than mine. Like me, she had picked out clothing the night before and then dressed for bed; I had to ask Tina, though, how to select an appropriate dress for the next day. I wasn’t quite clear on which ones were appropriate when. She also warned me that I would have to remove “my” make-up before going to bed. We were going to start make-up lessons in the morning.

The next morning began, as the previous one had, with Tina yelling through my closed door, “Marsha! Get up… We have a lot to do today!” I groaned and tried to sit up, but the tension of the previous day had apparently found its way to my lower back and belly. Either that, or I was having a reaction to Mom’s good cooking, after subsisting on the institutional food they served us at school. In either case, getting out of bed was a real effort, and the prospect of my impending girlification lessons was not an incentive for action.

But I knew I had to do it; I only had a week before I had to start portraying Marsha in school, and there was way too much I needed to learn. So I forced myself out of bed and opened the door. “Just give me a sec to get dressed, OK, Teen?” I said.

“Actually,” she answered. “Why don’t you wash up first? You’re going to want to let the moisturizer soak in for a while before we get started.”


“Uh huh. You need to moisturize your skin for ten minutes before you put on makeup.”

“Wait. How long is this make up thing going to take me?”

Apparently, I was starting to sound resistant, and I got the look from Tina again. “That depends on you, Marsh. But it’s going to take forever if you don’t get started.”

So I shut up and followed her into the bathroom, where she coached me on the proper way to wash my face in the morning (it seemed that the way I had always done it wasn’t good enough for some reason), and then had me put on this lotion which was supposed to do something to my skin that was somehow important.

It’s not as if I’d never worn make up before. When you’re on stage, you have to wear it or look totally washed out, and part of the ritual before going on stage through middle school and high school had been sitting in front of a mirror while the girls made you up. I just figured that it was the same thing as what they did every day. Apparently not.

“One big difference, Marsh,” Tina explained after I had dressed and was back in the bathroom, “ is that stage makeup is intended to be seen under very bright lights and from very far away. Regular makeup is seen from just a few feet away or sometimes even closer.”

“Closer?” I asked, at this point not sure I understood anything at all.

My sister blushed a bit and answered with a dreamy smile. “You know, when you’re getting cuddly with a boy, and he’s looking into your eyes…”

“I think we can skip that lesson,” I told her hurriedly, finding myself blushing even more than she had. “That, at least, is something I know I can avoid.”

Girls’ make up turned out to be lots more complicated and time-consuming than I had anticipated, and there was room for plenty of variations. I hadn’t actually watched my girlfriends when they got ready for the day; I had just always had the impression that it took them an eternity. I was starting to see why. In the end, we compromised. Tina taught me the basics, including the way she remembered Marsha wearing her own makeup. She also insisted on teaching me an ‘evening out with girlfriends’ version, but I drew the line at ‘date makeup.’ I knew that she was trying to turn me into the sister she remembered, but I was just acting, and I had to draw the line somewhere.

Still, it was a lot to take in. The base wasn’t too bad. We’d often had to apply our own base for plays. But Tina had me applying something she called concealer under it. Then I had to put on powder, whereas with stage makeup, that was the very last step. But we were just getting started. There was blush, and shadow, and mascara… there was just no way I was going to be able to manage this properly. Tina promised to write it all down for me, but I had a feeling it was going to take me at least an hour each morning, especially, since I couldn’t easily start over without washing all of the base off.

After make-up practice, we went back to heel-walking, so that I could tackle walking up stairs. Tina said that there were different ways to do it, but that Marsha had taught her always to use just the balls of her feet, just as with going down stairs. The trick here was actually stepping on the edge of the steps so that the heels didn’t catch. It meant that I couldn’t do my usual two-steps-at-a-time run up the steps; but then again, my legs didn’t really feel long enough for that now, in any case.

I really wanted to take a break from all of this Marsha practice and relax – or at least do some of the EuroLit reading, or something, but Tina had school, and Sunday was my last chance to get her coaching full time for a week. We did take a short break just to talk – she wanted to know more about Marshall’s life, and wanted to tell me more about things she had done with Marsha, which I suppose I needed to know. This would all have been so much easier if we could stretch it over a month, especially if I could relapse to being myself in between.

So we worked and worked, and the tension in the pit of my stomach just seemed to get worse and worse.

14 A Difficult Period

OK, I admit it. I panicked. It’s possible I even sort of screamed – just to myself. Actually, I guess, that’s kind of a lie, since Tina heard me, but in my defense, I think it’s a perfectly natural reaction when you wake to discover that you’re lying in a pool of blood.

It was Tuesday of break, three days since I had been stuck in this strange new life. Sleeping in a nightgown instead of pajamas was becoming almost familiar, and I no longer freaked out upon discovering myself to be female. I had even managed to put on parts of my make up mostly on my own Monday morning, and gotten a grudging, ‘not too horrible’ rating from Tina – before she made me take it off and do it again, of course.

My heel-walking was improving dramatically, and I had graduated to one-and-one-half inch heels. That wasn’t where I needed to be, but it was definite progress. Id been careful to walk in flats where Mom and Dad could see me – if they had seen me stumbling around in heels, they would have known a lot more was wrong. By this time, Tina had me walking with my shoulders back and chest out, which also meant that I was giving “my” breasts a lot more prominence than I would have liked; but once again, it was supposedly just part of how Marsha walked. And it had all seemed so easy when I’d made that boast!

I was trying hard to see ways to think of this as an adventure of sorts, but my belly was just feeling more and more sour. I’d tried drinking milk, but that didn’t help. I tried exercising, in case it was a muscle strain of some kind, but to no avail. I was so bothered that I woke up earlier than I should have, around 7:30. This being break, I had promised myself that I could sleep in, but as soon as I woke up I could tell something was wrong.

My legs were sticky. My abdomen was sticky. And my clothing was plastered to my skin, but it didn’t feel like sweat. I reached down to touch the sheets under me and felt a sticky liquid. I couldn’t see my hand in the dark, but I brought it to my nose and smelled it. It was blood.

I stopped myself from screaming as soon as I realized I had done so, and sort of froze in panic. I wasn’t fully awake yet and my brain hadn’t quite clicked in when Tina started pounding on my door and shouting, “Marsh! Are you alright?” I think I probably just croaked out something and she opened my door and ran in, asking, “what’s wrong?” in an extremely worried tone of voice.

She turned on the light and I pointed, “Look… blood! I’m bleeding! I’m…”

But instead of the sympathy I expected, she put her hands on her hips and scolded me. “Oh for… Marsh, this is why you wear a tampon.”

“A tampon? Why…? Oh. Period. Right. Um…” My brain was only starting to click into what was going on; after all, this was new to me.

Just then we heard Mom running down the hall. Her and Dad’s bedroom was at the opposite end of the hall from ours, and if I’d been luckier, she wouldn’t have heard me. But Tina poked her head out and said, “I’ve got it, Mom. Marsh just had a bad dream.” Then she tossed my comforter on top of me before Mom came in to the room.

“Marsh, are you OK?” Mom asked, obviously concerned about why her elder daughter might be screaming about a bad dream.

I wasn’t quite sure why Tina had made that claim, but I trusted her enough to stammer, “I’m fine, Mom. Really.”

She looked at the two of us, evidently decided that we had the situation under control, and went back to whatever she had been doing. I looked at Tina, confused.

“Marsha probably wouldn’t have forgotten to insert a tampon, but even if she did, she wouldn’t have screamed about a little bit of blood.”

“A little?” I echoed. “Look at me! I’m covered in it!”

My sister pulled back the comforter, which now also had a bit of blood on it and then pulled back my sheet as well. “No,” she insisted. “You got a bit on your sheets and on your nightgown, but that’s it. I guess you couldn’t tell it was coming.”

“Tell? How was I supposed to tell?”

“Well, didn’t you feel a bit funny or something the last two days?”

“Funny? Teen, everything has felt funny the last few days. How am I supposed to know the difference between a normal funny feeling and a funny funny feeling?”

“What about cramps?” she asked. “Or some kind of tension in your guts? Did you feel anything like that?”

“Oh,” I remembered. That was supposed to be my warning? “I thought that was just indigestion.”

“Well it’s not.” She sighed, again. She seemed to be doing a lot of that lately. “Let’s get you cleaned up. You can use a wash cloth to clean up the comforter. I’ll sneak the sheets and all into the laundry while you wash up.”

“Wait,” I protested. “Why all the secrecy? Is Mom not supposed to know that Marsha has periods?”

“I just thought you might be embarrassed about freaking out over a little blood.”

“Well I’m not. I mean, yes I am a bit, but not enough to sneak around. I mean… I’m not really sure I’m thinking clearly, here. This whole thing is new to me. If you think we need to keep it from Mom…”

“Maybe you should just tell Mom and Dad everything?”

“No!” I snapped. “Don’t be stupid!” Then I clapped my hand to my mouth. “I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I- I don’t know where that came from.”

“Feeling a bit irritable?” Tina guessed.

“Irritable? I guess you could say that! Things are coming at me from every direction and I’m not in control. My old body – my real body – didn’t surprise me with massive bleeding in the morning, I never had to do balancing acts when I walked or stick goo all over my face.”

“Well, your hormones are making you irritable. That’s pretty normal when you’re having a period.”

Somewhere among all of the feelings, I could tell that made sense. Certainly, I had seen my girlfriends’ moods change from time to time, but hadn’t realized to what extent it was biological. My friends and I used to joke when a girl got angry that she was “probably on the rag.” Suddenly, that didn’t seem particularly funny any more.

It also served as a real low point for me. I had been holding things together by treating this whole thing as a role I was playing. Wearing female clothing wasn’t bothering me too much because it was all part of the role; a role which I was only going to be playing for a limited time. But the period was something else. Unlike a costume, it affected me from the inside out. It wasn’t just something on top of my skin; I couldn’t even look at it the way I was trying to look at Marsha’s body – something for appearances only. I was bleeding from deep inside, using body parts I wasn’t supposed to have, and it was throwing my whole emotional state off – and of course, an actor’s emotional state is something he’s supposed to control, above all.

“Great. Just great. How are we supposed to keep Mom and Dad from figuring out I’m not used to this nonsense. That would just put the topper on everything. It would be super weird.”

“Weirder than Chad and me knowing?”

“Yeah. You and I are really close. We’re used to helping each other. And Chad and I are – or used to be – best friends. Mom and Dad are… parents.” Besides, Tina was already hot on persuading me to stay this way; what if Mom and Dad agreed? It would be horrible, having to resist that kind of pressure from my whole family. It wasn’t something I wanted to face. I didn’t tell her that, of course. I didn’t want to give my sister any ideas.

But meanwhile, I was covered with blood, and probably still bleeding. I didn’t really know how this “period” thing worked; it was one of those details I had chosen not to learn too much about. “OK,” I said. “I’ll get washed up; if you think you can get my sheets and things into the wash without Mom noticing, fine. Otherwise, I’ll just do it myself in a bit. But I guess I need you to show me how to do this tampon thing.” The very idea grossed me out, but I didn’t see a real alternative.

We eventually decided that there was a simpler way to deal with the blood. I bundled up my sheets and nightgown and soaked them in the sink while I showered. Then, following Tina’s instructions I managed to perpetrate this new indignity upon the body I was wearing. Telling myself that it wasn’t really my body helped a lot.

If there was any plus side to this latest experience, I admit that it helped me develop a greater respect for girls, given that they had to do this every month and still managed not to go totally insane. It’s really too bad every guy couldn’t experience it for himself, just once. At any rate, I was very glad that I was only going to have to go through it two more times.

15 Daddy Time

I spent most of my break learning to act like Marsha. Tina had school, of course, but in the evening, she was my teacher and coach. We did yet more practice with walking, and Tina had me practice shaving my legs and my armpits. I’d always been sort of aware that girls did those things, but never really gave it too much thought. I just figured that girls were naturally pretty, and ignored just how much time some of them spent on getting that way. I had been used to simply getting up and tossing on some clothes. Marsha had put her clothes out the night before, as I did, but only to cut down on how much she had to do in the morning.

I spent a lot of time reviewing Marsha’s notebooks. Normally, I did this anyway, as I’ve found that it reinforces learning, but in the case of EuroLit, I had an additional motivation. I also recopied some pages, yet another review technique that I’ve sometimes used. It was interesting to compare my handwriting and note-taking style with Marsha’s – and Marshall’s, for that matter. My new handwriting didn’t quite match either, but seemed something of a combination of the two. I suspected that this was the result of a combination of my habits with Marsha’s muscles and reactions.

Reading the books covered in EuroLit consumed a lot of my daytime hours, but wasn’t as painful as I had feared, and I found that I actually liked some of them. I suppose that’s why they’re called classics, since people generations later can still enjoy them. It occurred to me that I had another problem waiting for me when I changed back – since Marsha wasn’t taking Boolean Logic, I wasn’t really going to have time to focus on learning what was taught in the second half of the term. I didn’t have to worry about the final, of course, since I was going to change back afterwards, but I had planned on taking the next level course, and that meant that I was going to have to make up what I was going to be missing.

A somewhat trickier situation was my relationship with Dad, or rather, “Daddy.” As Marshall, it had been easy. We hung out, played tennis sometimes, watched baseball or football on TV, all typical “guy” things. We didn’t talk an awful lot; but we bonded just by being together and sharing stuff. It was pretty obvious that wasn’t going to work for “Marsha.” I watched Tina – she practically flirted with him. There was no way I was going to be able to do that. Beyond my initial enthusiastic, relieved hug, therefore, I took to mostly smiling at him silently while giving the air of being on my way to do something important, and otherwise avoided him as subtly as I could. After all, I was going to spend most of my “Marsha” time away at school, so I figured I could probably get away without ever learning how she was supposed to handle him.

I should have known better. At dinner on Thursday, he said, “You know, we haven’t spent any time together since you got home, Princess. Are you up for a Dad-and-daughter night out tonight?”

When I hesitated, Tina kicked my foot under the table to get my attention and then nodded urgently, so I agreed. But I pulled her aside while the two of us cleared the table. “Tina, what is the ‘night out’ thing with Dad?”

“Haven’t you ever done this with him? It’s something he does every few weeks with us. He takes you out for ice cream and maybe buys you something nice and you sit and talk for a while.”

“Really? Ice cream?”

“Sure,” she responded. “What’s wrong with ice cream?”

“I’m nineteen years old. I figured I’d be kind of old by now to get excited about going out for ice cream.”

She looked at me as though I was stupid. “The point of the evening isn’t the ice cream, Marsh, although that’s nice. The point is to spend time with Daddy. I don’t get it. Didn’t you ever spend time with him as a boy?”

“Well, yeah, but not ice cream. If we were going out, it was to do something. Like maybe he’d get sports tickets. Or sometimes he’d have to run to the hardware store and he’d ask me along just to keep him company. But we didn’t really talk. The point was to do something.”

She shook her head. “Talking is doing something. I’ll never understand boys.”

An hour later, “Daddy” and I were walking in the mall, eating ice cream cones. “Everything good at school, Princess?” he asked. I nodded, neutrally. “Mom tells me you got a great role in a play. Are you excited about that?” I nodded again.

He looked at me curiously. “You don’t seem to be yourself, Marsh. Something on your mind?” That was kind of an understatement. I knew that I wasn’t acting the way Marsha should; it’s just kind of funny that Dad noticed. I hadn’t thought he’d paid all that much attention, and if I were going to reveal my situation to either of my parents, it would have been Mom, not Dad. Not that I didn’t love him; I was just a lot less certain about how he would react, and I didn’t want to take the chance. Which meant that I had to come up with an excuse.

The first thing that came to mind was the conversation I’d had with my sister. “Dad,” I started, “how do you feel about Tina dating?”

The question clearly surprised him. He stared at me for a couple of seconds before favoring me with an indulgent smile. “About the same as when you started, Princess.” He motioned me to a nearby bench. Once we were both seated, he continued.

“Like any father, I get nervous when my daughters are out with a boy. I remember my own inclinations at that age, so I know I have reason. But Tina is responsible, so I don’t worry too much. As long as she is home on time, I think everything should be fine. And it’s not as if I could – or would – forbid her to date. You wouldn’t have liked that if I had stopped you, would you?”

“Well…” I started, automatically, and then checked myself. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if my parents had stopped Marsha from dating Dirk, but Marsha wouldn’t have felt that way, and I was supposed to be reacting as she would, so I changed it to, “… that’s different.”

He chuckled, obviously believing he had caught me being hypocritical.

“I’m just worried,” I continued. “I mean, what if some boy persuades her to be, you know, intimate?”

“This isn’t about Tina, is it?” he said, suddenly.


“Your mother told me about this boy at school you were interested in, and how you suddenly got evasive when she asked you about him.”

Now it was my turn to stare.

“This boy. Did he… force you to do something you weren’t comfortable with? Is that what this is about?”

Wow, was Dad ever off the mark. I could see where he’d gotten it, though. The combination of Marsha’s apparent enthusiasm for this mysterious guy, combined with my own queasiness over the idea plus concern for Tina seemed to have led him to put two and two together to get five. I guess I was out of character, and that’s what I needed to fix, quickly. How might Marsha have handled this?

“No, Dad-d-dy,” I answered, stumbling over the name a bit, “I just don’t really want to talk about… um… dating right now. Like I told Mom, I have a lot of school work.”

“School work.” He definitely did not look convinced. It was time to improvise.

“Um… yeah,” I said, trying to look a bit guilty. That would reinforce his suspicions without me needing to confirm anything.

He gave me another long look, and then shook his head. “Marsh, your mother and I met at Piques, remember? The idea that boys and girls find each other… attractive is not a surprise to me.”

“I’m really not…” I started, speaking slowly enough to make it easy for him to interrupt me. And he did.

“We’ve tried to teach you girls what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s important and what’s not. Beyond that, we just have to trust you. And I know that we can.” He winked at me and added, “All I ask is that you make sure to finish school. And make me a father-in-law before you make me a grandfather.”

It wasn’t too difficult to look embarrassed at the implication. Of course, since I wasn’t even going to be dating a boy during my brief portrayal of Marsha, he had nothing to worry about. I found it a bit interesting, though, that he had never given me that speech as a boy. But I just said, “Yes, Daddy,” and that seemed to satisfy him.