Archive for the ‘Section 6: An Attractive Nuisance’ Category.

92 Too Much Interest

Janine? The girl in the bathroom was Janine? I was in shock. I had worried about running into her and Jeremy, but I suppose I hadn’t really expected it, not so soon, anyway. The only coherent thought left in my mind was, Don’t let him see me. I pulled Geoff around so that he was between me and them.

“What are you–?” Geoff started to protest.

“Shhh!” I hissed at him, and peered around his arm at the other couple as we danced in place. They were laughing about something, and looked incredibly comfortable with each other. Jeremy seemed to be a much better dancer than Geoff, and Janine followed him almost as though she was reading his mind.

“Why are you leading?” Geoff whispered to me, as I steered us back and forth, not allowing him to turn.

“Never mind,” I whispered back, heart pounding. “Let’s get out of here.”

He tried to drop his hands, but I forced them back into ‘dance position’ and started backing off the dance floor. Jeremy wasn’t looking my way, but I didn’t want to take a chance, and I didn’t let go of Geoff until we were out of the room.

“What was that all about?” Geoff asked when I finally dropped my hands.

“I… I didn’t want them to see me.”

“Who?” he insisted, following me as I hurried back to the table for my purse.

“It doesn’t matter. I have to go.”

“Go? Go where? What are you talking about?”

I stopped. Where was I going to go? It was still early, and I didn’t want to go back to my room, not yet. It would be admitting defeat. I could go to another dance, though, and hadn’t Lee Ann mentioned…? “Danby,” I said. “I’m going to Danby.” That would be a strategic retreat, not surrender.

“OK, I’ll go with you.”

“You don’t need to. I’m the one–”

“Marsh, you’re panicking, and I’m not letting you go out there alone.”

I glared at him. Just because I was a girl now didn’t mean that I was helpless. “I don’t need you to walk me anywhere,” I snapped.

“Hey, if I just let you walk out by yourself, and without telling anybody, Lee Ann will have my head.” As my nostrils flared, he quickly changed his approach. “Look, I know I don’t come off as a serious guy sometimes, but I’m a really good listener, and you look like a girl who needs to talk things out. I can be your sounding board.”

A good listener, huh? I didn’t remember that; of course, it’s not as if I’d ever felt the need to confide in him when we were rooming together, but I did feel the need to unload on somebody, and if he was volunteering… “Fine,” I said. “I’m going to get my coat. You can tell anybody you like and meet me at the door. If you’re not there in five minutes, I’m going by myself.”

He was at the door three minutes later. “Lee Ann says she’ll round up the gang and meet us over there within half an hour.”

I winced. “I don’t want to disturb anybody if they’re having a good time.”

He waved off my concern. “That was the plan anyway. Don’t worry about it.”

He pushed open the door and I followed him into the night. “OK,” he said as we started walking. “You want to tell me, or should I guess?”

I sighed, my breath visible in the brisk December air. “I ran into this boy this morning. I didn’t even know he was a student here, and suddenly I realized both that I had a crush on him and that he had a girlfriend. And I just saw them together. And… yes, I panicked.”

We walked on in silence for a few minutes, while he seemed to try to process what I had just said. “Um… this is a guy you knew from home and you didn’t know that you liked him?”

“The whole situation is really bizarre. I mean, I remembered liking him when I met him, but I didn’t realize… well, actually, I had been thinking about him and all, but… I mean, I knew that I liked him, I just didn’t think I liked him.”

“O… K…”

“And I guess I’d hoped he would like me, too, but it turns out he already had this girl, and that was her.” And it would be so much easier if I just could go back to not liking boys.

“Well, OK, so… yeah, I guess that would hurt a lot.”

I looked at him sideways. “You should know. Doesn’t it hurt you to see Lee Ann with Stephen? How can you bear to be around them?”

“Well… I don’t know that I ever really expected to wind up with Lee Ann. I just kind of hoped.”

“I told you it wasn’t going to happen.”

“Yeah,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his head, “and Chandra kept telling me I had a chance, and that Lee Ann could be talked into dumping Stephen. I guess she was lying.”

I nodded. “She…” did that to me, too, I thought. “… just doesn’t like him and apparently was hoping to get Lee Ann to dump him.”

“I figured that. That’s sort of one reason I’ve been hanging out with Lee Ann. I mean, I like her as a friend, too, you know? My other choice would have been to be with Rajiv, Mike and Tommy, but Chandra would have been there. On the whole, I’d rather be with you guys. At least Lee Ann was honest with me.”

“So you’re just shrugging it off?”

He sighed. “Not sure what else I’m supposed to do. I thought it was worth the effort, thought I really did have a chance, even though you and she both said no. I guess you live and learn, right?”


So… what are you going to do about your situation?”

“Well, I’m going to look elsewhere, of course. I’ve decided…” I trailed off, suddenly realizing that telling him that I had promised to say yes to the next guy who asked me out would be a bad idea. “I mean, Lee Ann is going to help me figure out who I can see.”

“That’s not something you can figure out for yourself?”

“I don’t know. My heart doesn’t seem very sensible right now.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” he agreed, ruefully.

“You know, Geoff, given the campus ratio, there should be plenty of girls who’d want to be with you.”

“Oh, I’m not worried. There are plenty of girls here, and a lot of them are pretty desperate.”

“But Lee Ann…?”

“I just thought she was something special, and I was hoping for somebody special, that’s all.”

I stopped and peered at him in the light surrounding Danby Hall. This was a serious side of him I’d never seen before, and it touched my heart. Only… had he said it to me just two months ago, I probably would have made a joke about it. That was something that definitely required some additional thought.

Our brief talk had taken some of the edge off of my panic. It still hurt, seeing Jeremy with… her, but as I followed Geoff into Danby, I was starting to feel that I had overreacted. I was distracted enough that I didn’t even realize, as we looked for a place to sit that I had allowed him to help me with my coat.

“Hold on, Geoff,” I said, as we passed a table. I’d spotted Jack, and a quick look showed that he was sitting with Naomi, Alvin, and Nikki, as well as several people I didn’t know.

“Geoff,” I said after I had exchanged greetings with my friends, “this is Nikki, Naomi, Alvin, and Jack. They were part of Mousetrap. Guys, this is my friend Geoff; we were with a bunch of other people who are on their way over here in a bit; we just decided to go on ahead.”

“Well, pull up a couple of chairs until then,” Alvin suggested, and we sat down, with me next to Nikki. She looked back and forth at Geoff and me, a question in her eyes.

She leaned in and whispered, “And who exactly is your… friend?”

“Hmm? I was a bit upset at something that happened at Blair, and Geoff insisted on walking me over here,” I whispered back.

“Oh? What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it in front of…” I gestured with my head.

“You guys mind if Marsh and I take a walk?” Nikki asked aloud.

“Will you be OK?” I asked Geoff, feeling guilty about abandoning him among strangers.

“Seriously, I’ll be fine, Marsh,” Geoff assured me, breaking off from a conversation with Jack.

So Nikki took my arm, and we strolled toward the refreshments table. Once we had gotten to a point where we wouldn’t be overheard, she lowered her voice and said, “OK, spill. What’s going on?”

So once again, I told the story of meeting Jeremy, and realizing my feelings for him, and how crushed I had been when he’d mentioned Janine. I told her how I had met Janine in the bathroom and then noticed her on the dance floor with Jeremy. “… so I freaked out and Geoff walked me here,” I finished.

“Well, excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor,” she commented when I was finished. “So, suddenly you do like boys, now?”

“Apparently,” I muttered. “I’m still reeling.”

“So, this boy is a rebound thing, then?”

“Who? Geoff? No, he’s just a friend. In fact, he was my roommate, a couple months ago, when I was male.”

“Really?” her eyebrows arched. “And does he know that? About being just a friend, I mean?”

“I…” I stared at her. “I assume so. I mean, he must, right? Ugh. I don’t know anything about this. It was so much easier when I was a guy. I didn’t have any of these problems. I mean I never had a painful crush on a girl I couldn’t have. I understood the rules. I need to be a guy again…”

“And is that likely?”

“I don’t know…” I sighed. The last time I spoke with Eric, he said he had some ideas, but nothing’s happened yet, so I’m still at ‘stuck as a girl.’”

“So having Geoff as a possibility is a good thing then, right?”

“No!” I said, emphatically. “In the first place, I’m not even all that sure that I’m attracted to boys in general. The only one I know for sure I like is Jeremy – well, Jeremy and Phil, I guess – but despite what his girlfriend thinks, I’m not interested in him.”

“Uh huh,” Nikki said, smugly.

“Look, why don’t we just get back to the table?” I suggested, feeling my face turning red. “They’re probably wondering what happened to us.”

“Lead the way…”

93 Rubbed the Wrong Way

When we got back to the table, Geoff greeted me. “Hey, Marsh! Alvin says he’s going to do Sweeney Todd next term. Are you going to audition?”

“Uh… yeah, I definitely will. Sure.” With all that was going on, auditions were not where my head was, just now.

I reached for my seat, but before I could sit down, he asked, “Hey, you ready to dance some more?”

I exchanged glances with Nikki. I didn’t want to believe that Geoff was coming on to me. We were friends, I told myself, and he just wanted to dance – that’s all there was to it. I could have done without a little bit of his exuberance, though; when I nodded, he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the dance floor.

We didn’t quite get there.

“Marsh?” Vicky intercepted us in the hallway that led to the dance floor, pulling Kevin after her. Was I going to run into everybody I knew tonight? Then I noticed that Vicky was staring back and forth at Geoff and me, staring at our hands. I quickly pulled my hand free.

“Um… Geoff and I were just going to dance,” I stammered. Vicky kept staring. “We were with a bunch of other people and just decided to come over here ahead of them.”

“But Lee Ann and the others will be joining us soon,” Geoff added.

“Will they? Then if I want to talk to you, I’d better do it now, before they get here, hadn’t I?” Vicky said, thoughtfully. “Kev, could I have a few minutes to talk with my girlfriend?”

“We were about to dance, Babe,” Her creepy date insisted.

“I know,” she pleaded. “Just a few minutes, OK?” Then her voice turned sultry. “I’ll make it worth your while,” and she kissed him so passionately that I had no doubt that they were lovers.

“C’mon, Dude,” he said to Geoff when they’d finished. “Lets grab some drinks.”

I stared in shock as the boys left and then mindlessly followed Vicky to a small nearby table. “Was that for my benefit?” I challenged her, once I had regained my composure.

“I… just wanted to talk to you,” she replied, uncertainly.

“I mean… him. That kiss. You’re clearly beyond just first date territory, here.”

“I have needs,” she said, defensively, “and they weren’t being met.”

“And now they are?” I demanded.

“Well, I’ve had better, but better isn’t available just now, so I’m doing the best I can.” Then she looked me right in the eyes. “Are you?”

“I… what do you mean?”

“I mean, what kind of progress are you making on changing back?”

“Not… much,” I admitted.

“Do you even care anymore? Last I heard, you weren’t coming to House Parties. Something about not having a date, if I remember correctly? You seem to have taken care of that little matter. And seriously, Marsh. Geoff? Your old roommate? Doesn’t that seem a bit incestuous?”

“I… no, you’ve got it all wrong,” I insisted. I could see how she could have gotten the wrong idea about all of this, but… “I didn’t go last night, but I was miserable and lonely, and Lee Ann suggested that I should really go tonight, and so after sitting home for a while I just decided to come hang out with my friends.”

“I see. And Lee Ann just handed Geoff over to you?”

“No! I mean… I decided to come over here ahead of everybody else, and Geoff didn’t think he should let me walk by myself.”

“How gallant of him. And you decided to reward him by spending the night in his arms.”

“It’s not that way at all, Vicky! We were just going to dance! There’s nothing special about just dancing.”

“Hey, Marsh, is a Diet Coke OK?” Geoff called, to my relief. Anything would beat getting the third degree from Vicky just now.

Kevin mumbled something that sounded like, “gotchawontoo” and put a can in front of Vicky.

“Thanks, Babe,” Vicky said, favoring him with a smile that I felt was needlessly servile. Then she turned to Geoff, who had just sat down next to me. “So, Geoff, the last time I saw you, you were with Lee Ann…?”

“Oh, yeah,” he laughed. “Marsh warned me that she had a steady boyfriend, but just ignored her. So now Marsh and I are commiserating.”

My conversation with Vicky must have dulled my wits, or I would have realized what was going to happen next and maybe figured out a way to prevent it. But I didn’t, and Vicky pounced on that word.

“Commiserating?” she asked, puzzled.

“Yeah, her crush was dancing with his girlfriend over at Blair and she got really upset, so we came over here.”

I wanted to slide under the table. This was not the way I had wanted Vicky to find out.

“Her… crush?” she repeated, faintly. “Her…?” The look she gave me was filled with horror. “You…?” I saw her lower lip quiver. She moved her mouth as though she wanted to say something, but suddenly broke into tears and ran from the table.

“Vicky!” I shouted, as both Kevin and I leaped to our feet.

“What the…? Where…” he exclaimed, chasing after her. I followed, but when we got to the hallway, she was nowhere to be seen. Kevin looked around wildly and ran up the nearby stairs, while I headed for the ladies room.

“Vicky?” I called as pushed open the door. I didn’t see anybody. “Vicky, are you in here?”

“Go away!” she sobbed from inside one of the stalls. “I don’t want to talk to you!”

“Vixy, listen to me,” I said as soothingly as I could, placing my head against her stall so that I could keep my voice down.

“Why?! I was just teasing you about Geoff. I didn’t think you really… but you are, aren’t you? That’s why you haven’t changed back. You’re not interested anymore, are you?”

“Vix, it’s not true,” I insisted.  “Of course I want to change back. Look, can we go someplace maybe a bit more private?”

“I’m not going anywhere!” she snapped, still crying. “Are you saying that Geoff was lying? That you’re not really obsessed with some boy?”

“I… Vix, I know this is hard for you. Can’t you imagine what it’s like for me? My body, brain… they don’t react to things the way I expect. I ran into Jeremy this morning, and I was shocked at my reaction. I didn’t know that I was going to feel this way about him. It’s torture, Vix! I can’t help feeling like this, finding him… well, really attractive. And it hurts that, well, he’s not available. You know what that’s like, don’t you? But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to change back. I want to even more than ever. Eric says he’s working on something; it just hasn’t panned out yet.”

I heard her still sobbing softly.

“Vixy, the way I feel about you hasn’t changed; I’m still hoping we can work everything out. But what if we can’t? What if I’m stuck? Are you saying that I shouldn’t try to find romance and love and everything where I can, if I can? Do you have any idea how strange all of this is to me? As you said, I’m doing the best I can. Do you think I like that you’re with Kevin? Don’t you think it was painful for me, seeing you kiss him like that? But I understand; I have to understand. All I’m asking is that you try to understand me, as well.”

She opened the door, and stood in front of me, hands on hips, her makeup completely ruined by her tears. Looking down at me from her greater height, she said, “You’re asking a lot, you know.”

“I know, Vix.”

“How am I supposed to accept this, Marsh? You being… in love with a boy?”

“I’m not in love with him, Vicky. I just… I just wish I could be with him, and I wish I didn’t feel that way. But I have to figure it out. I mean, I might… I might be stuck like this. Do I really want to be alone all my life… even if that means… boys? Would you want me to be alone, if I’m really stuck?”

“You’re not being fair, Marsh! How can you ask me that?”

“Because it’s important!” Why wasn’t she getting this? “My life, my very being has been turned upside down. I don’t want to go through life alone, never having anybody to hold and to love and to kiss… What’s not fair is you expecting that for me. What’s not fair is you sleeping with another guy when you keep expecting us to be a couple, and yet getting all bent out of shape if I even hold hands with a boy!”

I saw her flinch. She looked away and wrung her hands for a moment before speaking. “It’s… it’s like I don’t know you anymore, Marsh. Like you’re not the boy I knew and loved.”

“No, you stop that!” I yelled. “I am me, Vixy. I am the guy you knew.” And raising doubts about that right now is about the worst thing you could do to me. “But I’m stuck for now like this, and I have to deal with it. And if you really care about me, you’ll try to accept that and cut me some slack. It’s not my choice to be attracted to Jeremy. It’s not my choice to be a girl. This is harder on me than it is on you!

“You’re making me out to be a bad person,” she protested.

“I’m not…” I started, but just then, the door opened and another girl came in and saw us.

“Um… are you guys going to be yelling at each other for a while? Would it be OK if I used the toilet?” she asked.

Vicky and I looked at each other. “I think we’re done here,” I snapped. “Vicky, call me if you want to talk about this anymore,” and I walked out to find Geoff. I felt bad, having left him alone like that. I had probably just completely destroyed my relationship with Vicky, and I felt horrible about that, but just now I was so angry, I didn’t feel like doing anything about it. But Geoff hadn’t done anything to me, and I owed him an explanation or an apology, or something.

I found him waiting impatiently for me, alone, at Alvin and Nikki’s table. When he spotted me, he ran to greet me.  “Hey, Marsh, is everything OK?” he asked. He actually sounded concerned, which made me feel even guiltier.

“Not particularly,” I told him, trying not to snarl, as he escorted me back to the table. “Vicky and I had it out in the bathroom, and for all I know, she’ll never want to talk to me again.”

“Wow… I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, it’s complicated,” I said, “We’ve had some… disagreements, and it all came to a head tonight.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

Talk about it? I stared for a moment, realizing that I had no desire to talk about it whatsoever. Somehow, fighting with Vicky had made me feel less feminine than I had in weeks. My blood was boiling, and the last thing I wanted to do was to talk about it to anybody else. “Not really,” I said.

“Well then, did you want to dance?” Geoff asked hopefully, managing to find something I wanted to do even less than talk.

“No, I’m sorry, Geoff. I’m just really not in the mood right now.”

“I could rub your back,” he offered.

I sighed and shook my head. “Geoff, you’re really being sweet, but I’m in a rotten mood right now. I’m not sure I’m fit company to be with. I’ve got half a mind to just go home, although I’ll probably be miserable, sitting by myself.”

“If  I could suggest…” he started.  I looked at him, and then he continued. “Why don’t we just take a walk? You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to – you can even pretend I’m not there – but if you do decide to talk, I’ll be there to listen.”

It was really generous offer, and I couldn’t think of any objections. Besides, I did feel I owed him something, so I nodded. A few minutes later, we had grabbed our coats and headed out into the night.

94 Strangers in the Night

The House Parties’ organizers had illuminated the paths between the dance locales by lining them with fat candles in white paper bags, using sand to both keep candle and bag in place. The overall effect was somewhat ethereal, and Jackie had commented the year before that it gave a romantic air to the night. For my purposes, it simply showed that the path in front of Danby Hall led to dances in both directions. To my annoyance, Geoff started down the path that led back to Blair without asking me. I caught up with him and grabbed his bicep. “If you’re going to walk with me, Geoff, at least let me decide where,” I demanded. “I want to walk and clear my head, not talk with people.”

“We’re going to find people in both directions,” he pointed out. “Does it really matter which way we go?”

As if to prove him right, two couples passed us, heading for Danby, and at about the same time, three girls left Danby and took the path towards Holder.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” I retorted, using his arm to urge him after the couples now ahead of us. They moved to the right to allow another group to pass them, going the other way. To my surprise, it was Lee Ann and the gang, who quickly spotted us, with me still hanging on Geoff’s arm.

“Are you guys leaving already?” Lee Ann asked.

“Marsh wanted to take a walk,” he replied. I glared at him for answering on my behalf as though we were a couple. Then I realized that my hand on his arm reinforced that impression, so I grabbed it back.

“So you’ll be coming back?” Lee Ann continued.

This time I answered before Geoff could. “Maybe, but probably not.” I could imagine what Lee Ann was thinking, and couldn’t meet her eye.

She gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “Be careful. I approve, but take things slowly.” If I hadn’t already been bristling, that would have sealed the deal, and I seethed inwardly as our friends passed us, some looking at Geoff and me curiously, and a few smiling at us. Possibly the worst were Susie, who shot me a smile that I read as triumphant, and Phil, who looked surprised, and – if my imagination wasn’t play tricks on me – almost a bit hurt.

“OK, Let’s go,” I said, hurrying him along the path once they had gone. I grabbed his bicep again, just because it seemed the most practical way to get him moving. He didn’t resist, which was fortunate, considering that he probably had about eighty pounds on me.

“Are we going any place in particular?” he asked.

“We’re just walking, remember?” I snapped. Then we came to a tee, and I hurried us down the unlit path.

“Ah, we’re going for a moonlight walk, then?” he commented, brightly. “How romantic!”

I stopped. Testily, I said, “Geoff. You know my mood. I’m trying to avoid crowds, which we would certainly run into on the lighted paths tonight. You suggested that we talk a walk and said that I didn’t need to engage in conversation. Why are you joking around? Should I just leave you here and walk by myself?”

“Sorry,” he said, sounding maybe a bit contrite. “I’ll be good.”

Yeah, right, I thought. I should have known better; Geoff cannot stand silence – he just has to fill it.

“You know there are going to be people on these paths, too, right?” he continued, proving me right. “Coming from the dorms, going back to the dorms… mostly back, this late, probably.”

I sighed in exasperation. “I know,” I snapped. “Let’s go down here,” I said, taking another path as I spotted some more students passing us on our current one.

“Do you think we can avoid everybody? There are a lot of students walking around tonight.”

“I’m going to try,” I muttered.

“Well then, we’d better go back the way we came, because here come a whole bunch of people.”

I looked, and he was right; there were several couples heading our way, so we back-tracked and returned to our previous path.

“No good,” he said, “Here come some more. We’d better cut across the quad.” And he took my hand and pulled across the grass.

“Wait, Geoff,” I protested. “I think you’re getting a little–”

“Uh Oh,” he said about a minute later. “I hear somebody over there, too. Let’s duck behind this tree!”

“OK,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Now you’re getting a bit ridiculous.”

“Whoops!” he exclaimed. “There’s squirrels in the tree. Their chittering is bound to disturb you.”

“Squirrels?!” I said, trying to keep from smiling at his antics. “Now that’s–”

“Look out! A bat! How can you unwind with all that squeaking?”

“Stop it!” I yelped, starting to laugh.

“Oh, you’re in a good mood, now!” He said, sounding very pleased with himself.

“I am not!” I insisted, trying to force a serious expression back on to my face.

“But you’re smiling.”

“No, I’m not!”

“I can see you…”

“No, you can’t! It’s too dark.”

“But I can see you when I put my face close to yours,” he said, his actions matching his words.

Suddenly it got a bit hard to breathe, and I was starting to lift my face to his when I realized what I was doing. I put my hand on his chest and pushed him away. “No, Geoff,” I told him, “I think we…” I clamped my mouth shut as I realized what I had been about to say: Let’s just be friends. It was such a stereotypical girl thing to say, and every guy I knew hated that line. So I amended it to, “I’m really confused about a lot of things, and this is a bad idea. I mean… I’m not thinking straight. I just found out about Jeremy this morning, and… I mean, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about anything.”

“Going after Lee Ann was a mistake,” he said, his face still uncomfortably close to mine. “I see that now. I should have paid more attention to you from the start.”

I backed up. “Geoff, I don’t want to give you any false hopes. This is not… I mean, I don’t know what I want right now. I’m not ready. I’m still… really upset about… well, Jeremy. I need to work through this first. I need to think about things, and you’re not making it easy for me.” It was all happening way too fast. I had only discovered that I could be attracted to boys for the first time, about twelve hours earlier. Actually trying some kind of relationship with a boy, well with a boy I wasn’t attracted to, anyway, was still way too disturbing to contemplate.

He stopped. “I guess I’m better as the goofy friend, huh?” he asked, now resembling a scolded puppy.

“Your timing is off. That’s all I’m saying for now.”

“Alright,” he said, his shoulders sagging. “Do you want to go back to Danby now?”

“No… I think I’m just going to call it a night. It’s been a really emotional evening for me, and… I think I’m done.”

“OK, I’ll walk you home.”

“No!” I said a bit more forcefully than I needed to. “No. You go back to Danby and hang out with the gang. I’m just going to walk back alone. Really. It’s better that way.”

As he stared at me, I added. “And thanks for the walk, and for making me laugh. It really did take some of the edge off of my feelings. I appreciate it.”

“OK… I mean, no problem. You’re sure…?”

“I’m sure. Good night.”

“Good night.”

When I looked back, after reaching the nearest path, he hadn’t moved. He was still standing near the tree that supposedly had squirrels, and I didn’t see him move until I could no longer see the tree.

Getting to sleep that night wasn’t easy. After two months as a girl, I thought I would have been getting used to feeling more and more, but today had just outdone everything else. My world had been turned inside out once again. I couldn’t believe that I was now crushing on a guy, attracted to another, and had almost kissed a third. I had also made a ‘take a lemon’ promise to go out with the next one who asked me, a promise that seemed dumber and dumber every time I thought about it.

But what had happened with Geoff? Had I actually been giving out ‘kiss me’ vibes? To be sure, his persistence with Lee Ann suggested that he wasn’t all that great at reading girls, so maybe it hadn’t been my fault at all.

But dating boys? Is that really what I wanted? Having a boy kiss me, fondle me? I shivered – but with anticipation or fear, I wasn’t really sure. My brain said that it was a sensible thing to do, a logical step in this new life I was living. My heart was anything but certain it agreed. I think I must have fallen asleep through shear exhaustion, because I certainly never felt the calm that sleep usually required.

I woke up the next morning, determined to put all this guy-girl romance stuff out of my head for now. I had to focus on my exams, and as a pre-med student, my grades were critical. Fortunately, I was current with all my reading, and I had been keeping good notes, so I started by recopying my notebooks once more. I told my roommates to tell anybody looking for repairs or alterations that I might not be able to get anything done before January. I hated to give up the work, but I couldn’t afford the distractions.

My roommates drilled me before breakfast about what had happened with Geoff, but I just told them the truth – that I hadn’t felt ready, that I was still too upset about Jeremy. Lee Ann shook her head, but our agreement about me dating boys had been for next year, so she backed off.

The first distraction I could not put off, though, came about an hour before lunch in the form of a phone call from Vicky.

“Marsh, could I talk to you?” she asked, her voice sounding as though she had been crying for some time.

“Of course, Vicky,” I assured her. I wasn’t about to cut her off now, not after all we had meant to each other, but I considered her to be on probation just now.

“I don’t think you realize just how different–” she started, but I cut her off.

“Vicky,” I said firmly. “If you’re planning on telling me how you’re right and I’m wrong, this is going to be a really short conversation, because I’m just going to hang up on you.”

I heard nothing but silence for a few seconds, while she must have been trying to decide if I was serious. “May I tell you how I feel, then?” she asked.

That seemed safe enough, so I said, “Go ahead.”

“I’m afraid, Marsh. I’m afraid of losing you.”

“So you decided to cheat on me with Kevin?”

“I… that’s not fair!”

She was right, it wasn’t. It was a measure of my lingering anger with her, though, that I didn’t let it go so easily. “Don’t you think it hurts me? Knowing that he’s with you? Flaunting him in front of me? Making it really clear that you’re sleeping with him? Do you think I have no feelings?”

“But… if you change back, it won’t have happened. You and I will have been together the whole time, so it doesn’t really count.”

“Well, it still hurts! And if it doesn’t count, why should you care if I find a relationship of my own? As you say, if I change back, I certainly wouldn’t have been dating a guy!”


“But what?” I pressed her.

“It’s not the same,” she whined.

“Why not? Why is it any different?”

“Because… look, when you wanted to go after Lee Ann, I backed off. It hurt me, but I thought that I didn’t really have a chance to keep you then, and I hoped that maybe one day you might get tired of her and come back to me.”


“My being with Kevin is sort of the same thing. You know that if you can become Marshall again, he won’t even be in the picture.”

“Go on…”

“But if you find… if you start dating boys, what if you fall in love with a boy? What if you decide to stay a girl? Then we’ll never be together. Never!”

“But why would…?”

“Don’t you see? If you change back, it won’t matter if I was dating another boy. But if you date a boy, you might not change back at all! Then where will I be?”

“With Kevin, probably,” I pointed out, sourly.

“Which is not as good as being with you, just better than nothing.”

“But… what if I can’t change back, Vixy? What if I’m stuck? So far, it really looks that way, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know… I don’t want to think about that.”

“But I have to, don’t you see? I can’t imagine not wanting to change back, but shouldn’t I try to live this life as a girl as best as I can, just in case?”

“You’ll never be a proper girl, Marsh,” she snapped. “You don’t have the feel for it. I mean, seriously! Do you realize that you were wearing daytime makeup last night? You looked ridiculous!”

“Well… maybe you could teach me? Show me how I should be wearing my makeup for something like that?”

“I am not doing anything that might make you more comfortable as a girl, Marsh. I want you to want to change back, remember.”

“OK…” I made a mental note to ask Nikki, instead. “But think about this, Vix. If I’m supposed to want to be a guy again to be with you, shouldn’t you be nicer to me, so that I’ll want to be with you?”

She didn’t answer right away. “OK,” she finally said. “Maybe I have been a bit bitchier than I needed to be. I’m just… really scared, Marsh. I feel like I have no control, and… I don’t want to lose you.”

“Maybe you just need to trust me a bit more, Vixy. This is hard for me, and you’re the only person who even remembers the old me. I need you to keep reminding me who I really am. Don’t push me away, Vixy.”

She sighed. “OK… OK, you’re right. I’ll do better.”

“And you won’t give me grief if I decide to… explore my feminine side?”

She laughed. “If you ask me, you’re doing that a bit too much now, but… OK, I’ll try. I can’t promise anything. Um… so you’re going to be dating Geoff, now? Your friends said that you left together.”

“And he tried to kiss me, but no, I’m not attracted to Geoff at all. At least right now.”

“Then, is there somebody else? I mean, besides the guy who… and really, this is hard for me to say… the guy who have a crush on?”

“Not yet. But I figure it’s going to happen, and I don’t mind telling you I’m nervous. I don’t think most girls realize what guys are thinking when they’re with a girl. I do, and I’m scared stiff.”

Vicky laughed again. “Maybe this will be good for you, then, Marsh! Just… I don’t know, I feel really uncomfortable giving you advice on dating boys.”

“I understand.”

We talked for a while after that; I knew we were far from repairing our relationship, and we had a ways to go on figuring out what kind of relationship we should have now, but we seemed to have made a start. And that was worth a lot.