48 Casting Pearls

I awoke the next morning to find a reminder on my computer. It said, simply, “tampon.” Shaking my head, I dug one out of my dresser drawer. After my disastrous first experience with a period, I hadn’t wanted to take a chance on recognizing when the next one was starting, so I had set up a reminder for myself. I figured it wasn’t likely to start less than twenty-five days after the last one, and that time had just come up.

The insertion process was more embarrassing than difficult, forcing me to confront once again the reality of the body I was wearing much more intimately than I cared to, and stripping from me once more my comfortable but increasingly insupportable illusion that I was simply wearing an elaborate costume of some sort. It was particularly troubling to me, since I had now spent an entire fruitless week exploring the physics building, and the students who had gone to Cracraft had not called me. I had considered asking Ben, but he didn’t know me, and from Nikki’s description, it didn’t sound as though he would be particularly open to talking about the experience with me, much less helping me find other victims.

So when my cell phone finally rang, I jumped for it, eagerly. I had it to my ear and had squealed out a “hello?” before realizing that the ring tone indicated a call from home.

It was Tina, and she was crying. “Miss Pumpernickel Pastry,” she sobbed, “Take a lemon!”

I didn’t have to think. Even though she couldn’t see me, I automatically mimed taking dictation and quietly responded, “Yes, Ma’am,” while wondering what might have happened. A problem with her boyfriend? A poor test score?

“To the world at large, casting division,” she continued.

Casting division?

“It has come to my attention that the roles of Julie, Carrie, and even Nettie have been assigned to other girls. I have further been informed that this was not the choice of the director, but was the result of parental meddling. That my sister and I were resented after getting the lead in the school musicals for five straight years, and that the director was ordered not to give me one this time.”

“What?!” The partner isn’t really supposed to react at this point, but I was incredulous. How could Tina have been denied a lead?

“But I will rise above this,” she said in a determined voice, her tears starting to ebb. “I’ve been assigned the role of Mrs. Mullin, and I will do my best with it. I will show that I can act as well as anybody else in the cast, and that I can be a good supporting actress. I will hide my resentment and try again next year, when they won’t have this excuse. And I will earn the lead next year and the year after that!”

“Good for you, Teen,” I said softly. “But… Mrs. Mullin? That’s not even a singing role! How did everybody else react when the cast list went up?”

She sniffled, and her tone turned angry. “It hasn’t, yet. Mr. Condrin is posting it on Monday. He just called me; he’s really upset at being told whom he could cast and whom he couldn’t, and he apologized to me. He said that I really deserved to do Carrie, but he wasn’t allowed to cast me. People said that ‘the Steen girls have gotten the leads for five straight years and it’s time for somebody else to have a chance.’ He said that he was ordered not to let me sing any solos in the play so that I wouldn’t show up the girls who were cast instead of me.”

“That’s really horrible, Teen. That’s not fair. Just because– ” Then I suddenly realized the implications of what she had said about ‘the Steen girls.’ “Wait. Marsha got leads all four years in high school?”

“Yes, Marsh,” she said, annoyed. “You had the lead four years in a row, and when you graduated, I got the lead the next year.”

“But… wait, are you saying that Marsha was a good singer?” Then I realized what I was doing. I was making this about me, not Tina. “Never mind,” I said. “Forget I asked that, OK? It is absolutely outrageous and unfair of them to prevent you from getting the role you wanted, when the director felt that you were the best for the role. Do you think anybody else will notice?”

“Marsh, of course they’re going to notice! You know how the auditions go; lots of people heard me sing. And of course, now they’re going to blame poor Mr. Condrin.”

“Well, I think you’re handling this very well, Teen. I’m almost surprised that you’re not angry at me – I mean, Marsha, for–”

“Why would I blame you, Marsh? It’s not your fault. You earned those roles; I was just expecting to follow in my big sister’s footsteps.”

Hearing that felt weird. I suppose in the sorrow and anger over being denied a good role, Tina had forgotten, or was at least ignoring, my reality. She and Marsha had had quite a bit more in common than she and I had; certainly, I hadn’t blazed any trails that she would have been interested in following. It wasn’t a thought I really wanted to pursue.

Instead, I simply asked, “So what are you going to do now, Teen? I mean, aside from just doing a great job with the role you got?”

I could almost hear her shrug. “There isn’t much I can do, is there?”

“I mean, about the politics involved. You know, when people start asking why you weren’t cast?”

“I have absolutely no idea. You worked with Mr. Condrin for four years, Marsh. Tell me what to do. I don’t want to make things worse.”

“But I–” never had a lead, I had been about to say. But now was not the time to remind her that I wasn’t really Marsha, and it didn’t matter all that much anyway, just now. As a mere chorus member in the musicals, and playing supporting roles in the straight shows, I might never have been the focus of attention the way that Tina – and Marsha – were, but I had been in a position to observe.

It also gave me a chance actually to play big brother again, advising my little sister on how to handle something. “The biggest danger, Teen,” I suggested, “is that some people will want to use you to get at Mr. Condrin for giving in, or at the girls he had to cast over you.”

“I figured that much.”

“’Cause they’ll assume that you’re resentful–”

“Of course I’m resentful!”

“… and that you want to get even.”

“Oh!” She hesitated. “Well, I don’t want to hurt Mr. Condrin, of course. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Marnie Woodcock look bad over this.”

“She’s the one who got Carrie?”

“Mm hmm.”

“But you can’t, you know. This is between Mr. Condrin and the administration. They’re the ones who have to have pressured him, and if you show that you’re resentful, it will just disrupt the show.”

“I don’t want that.”

“I know. You were cheated, and you just have to deal with it. As you said, you have to hide your resentment. And you need to tell your friends that, too – not to talk about you being cheated. I mean, you can let them know that you’re upset and all, but not to tell anybody else.”

“If I tell them, Marsh, they’re going to tell their friends. You know how that works.”

It took me a moment to catch on, but then I remembered Maddy telling me about how she had told just two friends a secret and later found out that dozens of girls knew it. I wasn’t quite sure how that worked, or why, but it gave me a sudden chill. Surely Nikki wouldn’t tell anybody about me…? Maybe I had been too open with her? It was yet another thing I didn’t want to think about.


“Oh, sorry, Teen,” I said, forcing myself out my reverie. “In that case, you’re going to have to pretend with your friends, too. You’re going to have to convince them that you’re a little disappointed, but not resentful at all. That you think it’s perfectly fair that, um, Marnie, got the role, and that you look forward to the acting challenge of doing Mrs. Mullins. Um… because it’s not the kind of role you’re used to, or something like that.”

“You know they’re not going to believe that.”

“You’re an actress, Teen,” I insisted. “I have to pretend things in real life now. You’re going to have do the same. Or at least be so consistent about it that they really understand that you don’t want them telling everybody else that you’re upset and angry. Mr. Condrin knows how you feel, right?”


“So he’ll appreciate the effort you’re making, when it’s obvious nobody can get a rise out of you. And you have two more years. There’s no way he’ll let them do this to you again.”

She took a moment before responding, and when she did, she sounded optimistic for the first time in our conversation. “Marsh, you’re right! And he’ll make sure I get the right roles in the next show…”

“… because he’ll know that you’re a team player. Acting is a team exercise, and you have to be willing to contribute, even if you’re not happy with your role.”

“Right. And if I sulk about a lot, he might not want to cast me again?”

“Maybe. But you can always call me when you want to complain about this. I’ll be here for you, Teen. It’s safe to tell me anything you want.”

“Marsh, thanks. And you know you can call me when you’re upset, too, right?”

“Oh! Sure, Teen. Of course I know that,” I claimed, while actually knowing nothing of the sort. I was the big brother; I wasn’t supposed to show weaknesses like complaining to Tina.

But she must have picked up on something in my voice. “What’s wrong, Marsh?”

“Nothing, really,” I insisted. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. You…” Then she hesitated. “I called you Marsha, didn’t I?”

“No,” I admitted, “but you treated me like her. I didn’t get leads, Teen. Not one. This role I’m doing now? It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten to do one. You’re the one who always got leads. Not that I resented you, or anything,” I added hastily. “I was proud of you. But I hate that Marsha seems to have been better at so much than I was – I mean than I am.

“And what’s worse,” I went on, “I’m starting even to doubt who I am. I went looking for the guys who did the experiment–”

“I thought you were going to wait,” she said softly.

“Not to ask them to change me, Teen. Just to be sure they’re there. To be sure that there is a way back. To be sure I really am who I am. I’m not sure that Chad believes me, not completely. I can’t play the guitar, Teen. I’ve tried. I’m horrible at it. Almost ten years of practice and it’s all gone. But I can sew. Can you believe that? I mean, it’s great that I can sew, since I need the money, and it’s kind of fun and all, but it’s not me, it’s Marsha. And I thought that I could find somebody who might remember me as me, but the stupid reporter won’t tell me who they are. I’m not sure you really believe me, sometimes. And when you kept insisting that I got all those roles and calling us, ‘the Steen girls…’”

“Oh, Marsh, I’m sorry. That must feel terrible.”

“It’s like I’m fading away. I have one friend, Nikki, who figured things out. I mean, at least she believes that I was a boy…” I had to stop. It was as if there was something in my throat or something.

“I believe you, Marsh,” Tina said quietly. “And I’m really sorry that I treated you like Marsha.”

“No, it’s OK, Teen. You were upset and you had a right to be upset. I’ll manage. I don’t know how yet, but I’ll manage. It’s my job to be here for you.”

“And it’s mine to be here for you, too, Marsh,” she said. “After all, we’re si– siblings, right? We have to look out for each other. “

“Yeah,” I agreed quietly. “OK. I’ll look out for you…”

“… and I’ll look out for you. You know? I think this is about the best talk we’ve had since you were home. I feel better, Do you?”

I had to think about that a minute. I didn’t feel a lot better. But sharing my pain had been kind of nice, so I told her, “Yes. I think I do. I feel a bit guilty, though for talking about myself when you were doing ‘take a lemon,’ but…”

“No. Marsh, if you’re in pain, you’re allowed. Seriously. I’d feel horrible if I couldn’t listen to you because of my own problems. And you helped me, Marsh. You really did. I just wish I could help you, too.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Teen. I really appreciate that.”

“So? What are you doing this weekend?”

“Well, I have rehearsal tomorrow, and I have a bunch of sewing jobs I’m almost able to tackle. I’ll have to ask Nikki for another lesson. The last one sort of got cut off because I freaked out about not being able to play her brother’s guitar.”

“I’ll bet that felt horrible.”

“Yeah, and she wound up lending it to me so that I could sort of teach myself.”

“That’s great!”

“So I’ll probably be doing that for part of the weekend. That’s about all I have planned. Oh, and I’m hoping that one of the other victims of the experiment actually does call me. I just want to be sure…”

“… that somebody remembers you as Marshall.”

“Yeah. That’s about it for me. What about you?”

“Well, Danny and I are going to a movie tonight, and I have homework. That’s about it. I’ll probably look for some videos of Carousel on YouTube to see if I can start figuring out Mrs. Mullins.”

“Great idea,” I told her. “Um, that’s all I have.”

“Me, too… it was really great talking to you, Marsh. Take care, and be sure to call me, OK? Let me know if you find somebody who remembers Marshall.”

“Will do,” I promised. “’Bye, Teen.”



  1. von says:

    >>I’ll be hear for you

    A great pun, but not sure it was what you meant to say 🙂

  2. scotts13 says:

    I liked this quite a bit more than some of the other installments. I’m not sure why.

  3. von says:

    >>I liked this quite a bit more than some of the other installments. I’m not sure why.

    Yes, I said that to him on private email. The why for me is the relationship with Tina is moving forward and getting explored. That to me is one of three or so keys to the book, and I like it when he gets to it.

    There was some stuff I liked less (sent by email) but in general this was my favorite chapter.

  4. Crystal says:

    I also like the “tampon” part, which is why I like this story: it’s so realistic. The transformed character needs to adapt to her new life with every single detail, both mentally and physically.

  5. Harri says:

    Having said that, it’s bad for your health to put a tampon in before you have started your period.

  6. Russ says:

    Ah… very useful information. I did not know that, and obviously Marsh didn’t either. I think somebody may mention that in the next month. Thanks!

  7. von says:

    Yes, I wondered about that too… just blindly inserting it without knowing when you would begin. My wife doesn’t use tampons, so I didn’t comment.

    I found this:

    Change your tampons at least every 4-8 hours or more often if necessary.
    Choose the correct tampon absorbency. Use smaller sized tampons when your flow is lighter. TSS occurs more often when super-absorbent tampons are used. Don’t use these unless your menstrual flow is particularly heavy.
    Alternate between pad and tampon use. You might want to use pads at night, and tampons in the daytime.
    Wash your hands before inserting or taking out your tampon.
    Don’t use tampons to absorb anything other than your menstrual flow. Only insert a tampon once menstrual blood is present.


  8. Russ says:

    I thought it was obviously a “male” solution to the fear of “how do I avoid another mess when I don’t know when it is going to start – not one that any girl would consider sensible.

  9. von says:

    Well, you succeeded there 🙂
    I don’t remember how long ago he did this, but you could have Vicki find out and freak out.

  10. Harri says:

    It makes logical sense, and I did it once 😛 it’s not an unreasonable way of beating the system but I read the label that came in the box and it said don’t do it or you’ll get Toxic Shock Syndrome…

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