114 Call to Action

Jeremy called to confirm that we were going to go dancing, just so that I’d know what to wear. I took my time getting ready; I went over my makeup carefully, selected a frilly pink blouse and to top the whole thing off, I found a YouTube video that explained how to tie a bow in your hair. As I surveyed the result in the mirror I found myself getting really confident that I was not going to experience Sudden Male Identity Syndrome on this date!

I do not understand why people always seem to be surprised to see me. I was at Danby a short while later, waiting while Jeremy hung up our coats, when I heard Vicky gasp, “Marsh?!”

I turned, definitely not surprised to see her with Kevin. “Hi, guys,” I said, “how are you?”

“Waiting for – oh, there he is,” I said, reaching for Jeremy’s hand when he caught up with me. “Jeremy, this is my friend Vicky and her boyfriend, Kevin.” I even managed not to let my opinion of Kevin show in my voice, which took some doing.

While Vicky stared at Jeremy, then back at me, and then at our clasped hands, Jeremy extended his free hand to Kevin and said politely, “Nice to meet you.”

Kevin responded with his usual Neanderthal grunt.

Then suddenly nobody was speaking and we all seemed to be just staring at each other, so I asked Vicky, “do you guys have a table?”

She hesitated, as though she was looking for a reason to deny it, but looked at Kevin and back at me before nodding. “Why don’t you guys join us?”

Kevin led the way, while Jeremy and I followed. Then I noticed Vicky was not with her date, but was walking close to me and giving me significant looks until I stopped and whispered to Jeremy, “Why don’t you go on ahead? I think Vicky wants to talk to me.”

He’d gone about twenty feet ahead of us before Vicky hissed in my ear, “What are you doing?”

I blinked. “What do you mean? I’m here to dance with my boyfriend, same as you.”

She rolled her eyes at me. “No, I’m here to dance with my boyfriend; you’re just confused.” I gave her an annoyed look, but before I could say anything, she added, “Look at you, Marshall. You’ve really gone overboard now. A hair ribbon? What are you supposed to be?”

“What’s the problem, Vicky?” I asked, a bit confused. “I’m just on a date and I got dressed up.”

“You’ve given up, haven’t you?”

“What? No!” I insisted. “It’s just… I’m trying to live the life I’m stuck in as best I can, that’s all.”

“And the hair ribbon?” she demanded.

“Oh,” I blushed. “That. Well…” I looked around. Nobody seemed to be paying any particular attention to us, but I still wanted a bit more privacy, so I started walking toward an empty corner, knowing that she would follow me. I lowered my voice as well. “The last time we tried to… cuddle, I had this sudden vision of myself as a boy and freaked out.”

“Hmm,” she sniffed. “Maybe somebody’s trying to tell you something.”

“Vixy,” I almost whined, “we’ve been over this. I’m a girl, now, and I’m attracted to boys. If I do change back, I’ll never have dated Jeremy or any other guy, so what’s the problem? We’ll be together again, and none of this will have happened.”

“Except that I’ll remember.”

“And I’ll remember you dating Kevin. It’s the same thing. We’re going around in circles, Vix.”

“It’s not the same thing at all, Marshall,” she snapped. “You’ll remember me as the girl you knew, dating another guy because you weren’t available, dating another guy just as you knew I had done before I met you. But I’m going to have to remember you as a girl, mincing around in your little pink blouse and a skirt with that stupid ribbon in your hair. How attractive do you think that’s going to make you when you change back, Marshall?”

I flinched. “I… hadn’t thought about that,” I admitted. “But, Vicky, I don’t see what choice I really have. Wouldn’t it be stupid to put my life on hold forever, just in case? Is it fair to expect me to be alone, when you’ve said that not being alone is why you put up with a guy who beats you?”

“He doesn’t beat–” she retorted, hotly. “I mean… he doesn’t hit me all that often, and…” she shook her head. “Don’t change the subject!”

“I’m not,” I insisted. “I’m just doing what I think makes the most sense. As long as I’m a girl, why not be the girl I am?”

“Because you’re not a girl, not really. You’re a guy, Marsh. You’re just fooling yourself.”

“And round in circles we go again. Is this what you’re telling me, Vix? That I need to be miserable and lonely to make you feel better?”

“I… don’t think that’s a good way of putting it.”

“You don’t? Why not?” I challenged her.

“Well… I mean…”

“I can’t believe you want me to be miserable.”

“I don’t!” she exclaimed. “I just…”

“Just what?”

“Can we just get back to the guys?”

“The guys?” I echoed. “So I’m not a guy, right?”


“This isn’t easy for me, Vix. I don’t really know what I’m doing. You could help me. Teach me about being a girl on a date with a boy, in a relationship with a boy. Teach me how to… you know… just so I can be happy. You do want me to be happy, right? I want you to be happy…”

She stared at me for a moment. “I think… you might think I’m a better person than I am.”

“No,” I corrected her. “I know you’re a better person than you think you are. I know you’re a generous, loving girl. That’s why we were together for so long.”


“I’m really struggling here, Vicky. I want the same thing any girl wants, and I’m not looking to hurt anybody. Yes, it’s weird – and I have this extra problem that I keep seeing myself as a guy and getting grossed out at cuddling with him. But… all the pain that you say you have about not wanting to be alone? I’ve got that too. All the heart-thumping oh he’s so cute thing that you get when you think of your boyfriend? I’ve got that, too.”

She muttered something that I thought might have been, “I wish I did…” but I couldn’t be sure.

“So I’m asking you to overlook me acting feminine, even going overboard a bit; I think I need to. But… maybe you can coach me through this and help me work on my relationship with Jeremy? I promise if I change back I’ll work really hard on making you forget I was ever anything but the manliest boyfriend you could want.”

“I don’t know if I can, Marsh…”


She sighed. “Let me think about it, OK? It’s a lot to process.”

I nodded. “Thanks. Um… ready to catch up with our dates?”

She shook her head, “’Our dates’ – Oh boy… you’re really going to rub my face in this tonight, aren’t you?”

I chuckled. “I’ve been living with this reality for some time – it’s about time you started really getting used to the new me and really starting to accept me for who I am now.”

“I guess…”

Jeremy and Kevin seemed to be getting along when we found them, and by ‘getting along’ I mean that they weren’t glaring at each other. They weren’t talking very much, either. Jeremy rolled his eyes a bit when I explained that Vicky and I had just needed time for girl talk, and he jumped up when I said I was ready to dance.

As we walked to the floor, he leaned over and whispered, “You know that guy is really kind of creepy? He asked me what you were like in bed. I guess that’s his way of making conversation.”

I shuddered. “Poor Vicky. So…” I smirked, “what did you tell him?”

“Well, I just said that it was none of his business, and I had no complaints.”

I grinned. “Good for you.”

“And I really didn’t like the way he just pulled her onto his lap and smooched her when you two showed up. I mean, there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing.”

“I know, right?” I said. “She really needs somebody better. I’m trying to help her see that.” He raised his eyebrows at that, but didn’t say anything.

Dancing with Jeremy was wonderful, as always, although there were too few slow dances for my taste. I took advantage of what few opportunities there to press my body against his and feel his strong arms around me. I’m sure Vicky would have been revolted to realize to what I extent I was throwing myself into this new existence; we could be having some very interesting discussions, if she could just be a bit open-minded.

It wasn’t really possible to talk much on the dance floor, but the next time we took a break, I leaned over to Jeremy as we walked and batted my eyes at him in what I hoped was a suggestive manner. “So you really have no complaints?”


“Well, I know a lot of girls here seem to give it up to their boyfriends after just a few dates, and you’ve barely gotten to second base after several weeks.”

He looked surprised and then thoughtful. “I guess we haven’t talked about that, and I suppose we need to, since… you know.”

“Um, no…?”

“Well, let’s talk when we leave, then, OK?”

Now he had me really curious. My own experience was pretty limited to what I personally had done, and what few discussions I’d had with some of my buddies; I don’t remember any of them saying that they had talked about it like this with their girlfriends ahead of time. You just sort of let it happen, or pushed for it to happen. Jeremy seemed to have a different take on things.

We didn’t actually much more time with Vicky and Kevin; we saw them dancing, of course, and I can’t be sure that they were avoiding us, but somehow they were never at the table when we were. We did see Geoff with Lee Ann and Greg with Terry and wound up sitting with them for a while. Geoff was very polite to Jeremy, but I thought I caught him shooting my boyfriend a quick jealous look once or twice. I hoped it was just my imagination.

When we left as the dance was winding down, I waited until we’d gotten away from the crowd before asking, “So what was it you wanted to talk about?”

“Well,” he answered, “I don’t want you to feel that I’m upset with our lack of… you know, physical intimacy. I don’t want to rush you into anything you’re not comfortable with.”

“You didn’t,” I assured him. “I really wasn’t upset at you touching me. It was something else completely.”

“Really?” he asked, a bit skeptically.

“I promise.”

He seemed to think about that for a moment. “In that case, would you be comfortable coming back to my room for a bit? I have something I want to show you.”

My heart leapt. Was he actually being aggressive? This sounded very promising.

We got to his room, and he kissed me quite satisfactorily. I sort of leaned against him, and he backed up and sat on his bed, and I climbed onto his lap and deliberately rubbed noses with him. So far, so good – the images that had plagued me the last time we’d done that stayed away, and we kissed some more. His hands were stroking my back, but I had one more hurdle I needed to clear, just so that he would know I hadn’t been uncomfortable. I took his right hand and placed it on my breast.

He stopped kissing me for a moment and just let his hand rest as he looked at my face. I nodded and he started kissing me again, this time stroking my breast and I just leaned into him, trying to let him know that I was more than OK with it. I tried to think about how girls I’d cuddled with had done that, but then immediately shied away from such thoughts. I did not want to think about my experiences as Marshall – not now.

And then suddenly he stopped, and said, “I almost forgot,” and gently slid me off his lap and stood up. “Let me just get this,” he said as he walked away from me towards his dresser. With his back still toward me, he said, “You remember that book I told you about when we first met? Gödel, Escher, Bach? I wasn’t sure if you’d ever gotten a chance to look it up…”

My jaw dropped. Now? He had to be kidding. Then he turned around and laughed. “You should see your face! Actually, this is what I wanted to show you.” He held up a pendant on a silver chain. “I hope you don’t mind; I had some free time and I made this for you.” He brought it over so that I could see it. The pendant was actually just a pretty green rock inside a spiral of thin silver wire. “See? This is serpentinite. The shape was really interesting and I thought it would make a nice necklace for you.” And he slipped it over my head.

For a moment I couldn’t speak. “Wh-what’s the occasion? Why are you giving me a present like this?”

“It’s not expensive,” he assured me. “I found the stone and polished it. I told you, I do this for fun; but there’s no point in making a piece of jewelry if nobody’s going to wear it. Usually, I’ve given them to my Mom or my sister, but… well, I wanted you to have this one.”

“It’s beautiful,” I said, lifting it to my eyes. Then I decided to get a bit daring. “Of course, it would really look better hanging between my breasts, not in front of my shirt.”

“Well, yeah,” he answered, “but you don’t wear shirts that…” he held his hand horizontally in front of his chest, indicating the top of a shirt that would have shown off my cleavage.

“I didn’t say it was for anyone to see,” I said, again hoping to sound seductive. “Anyone but you, that is.”

He blinked as though confused for a second, and then whispered, “Oh…” He hesitated a moment and seemed to be gathering his courage before adding. “Would you… like some help trying that?”

“Please,” I whispered back, and held my arms away from my body, my heart pounding.

He took the pendant over my head and placed it on the desk next to him. Then slowly, gently, he slid his hands around me and unbuttoned my blouse. As I held my breath, he eased it off of me and gazed for the first time at the bare tops of my breasts. He seemed transfixed at the sight, and didn’t lift his eyes back to look at mine for almost half a minute. Then he put the pendant back on me and carefully arranged it to fall between my breasts.

It actually rested inside my bra. “I think the chain’s too long,” he said, starting to reach for it.

I took a deep breath, feeling excessively daring, and said, “the chain’s fine. Something’s just hiding the pendant. If you want to see it…”

His eyes widened and he started in surprise. “Marsh, I don’t need you to prove anything to me.”

“I think I might be trying to prove something to myself, actually.”

“I don’t want you to do something you’re not comfortable with.”

“Well, I won’t know if I don’t try, right?”

I don’t think any guy would be able to pass up a chance to take off his girlfriend’s bra, and Jeremy was no exception. He kissed me again, hard, and slid his hands to my bra strap. I close my eyes. I felt him move the clasp and held my breath, but his fingers slipped and it snapped against my back. He tried again, but when he pushed, the strap just bent instead of opening.

I opened my eyes when he broke away from the kiss and I saw beads of sweat on his face. I felt him reach for the clasp once more, but his fingers slipped and he seemed to slump. He was breathing more heavily, but he didn’t seem passionate now, just frustrated.

Forcing myself not to think of my own experiences in this, I said, “It’s a bit tricky; would you like me to unhook it for you?”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess I hadn’t expected to be doing this tonight; I was worried about pushing you too far, and suddenly it feels as if I’m moving to fast. Look. I want to be able to do this, but… maybe we should wait for another time.”

What just happened? I wondered. How could he stop now? Was he not really attracted to me?

“It’s OK,” I said, trying to cover my disappointment. I tried to make it a joke. “I don’t want to make you do something you’re not comfortable with.”

He winced, and I bit my tongue. “I don’t think that came out right.”

“It’s OK, Marsh,” he said.

“Do you want me to put my shirt back on?”

“Uh well, you know, I have an early class. Um… why dont I walk you home?” he said, in a tone that suggested that the sooner he got away from me and back to his safe engineering work, the better.

I had to bite my tongue. Apparently, this was going to be a lot more work than I had anticipated.

Vicky called the next morning way too early, considering what time Jeremy had walked me home and suggested that go out that evening to see a movie and talk. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what you said, Marsh, and I’m not happy.”

“Vicky,” I said, “I’m sorry, but–”

“We’ll talk tonight, OK?” she interrupted. “And I think this time I’ll pick you up. It’s time to move outside of my comfort zone.” Then she hung up before I could ask what she meant.

I went back to sleep and then spent much of the day practicing for the Sweeney Todd callback, doing my homework, and working on some sewing projects, all the while wondering what Vicky was going to say. But she avoided the subject when she came by for me in the evening, and all through the movie. It was only afterwards, when we went to the Grill for a late dessert, that she got to the point.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking,” she repeated, “and I don’t like it.”

“What don’t you like, Vicky?” I asked, trying to be as patient as I could.

“It’s as though you’ve forced me to look in the mirror, Marsh, and it’s not a pretty sight.”

I waited. I could tell that now was not a good time to open my mouth.

“You say you think I’m a good person. You called me ‘generous and loving,’ but that’s not how I feel. The way you’re acting now… I don’t know if it is the stress, or you’re just trying to play a crappy hand with a smile, or…” she looked at me, and I saw tears in her eyes. “The fact is, for all my bitching, this is ten times worse for you – a hundred times worse – and you’re handling it so much better than I am, and I’ve been treating you horribly.

“I’m not a nice person, Marsh. I don’t know why you think I am; I wish I were. I want to be a nice person, but I don’t know how. It’s like all of my instincts are wrong. Maybe you’re right. Maybe there is a ‘generous and loving’ girl inside me, and you’re the only one who can see her. I want your help, Marsh. I want your help to try to be that nice girl; to let her come out. I just don’t know how.

“So, all I can think of is to try to do what you asked – to ‘coach’ you in… in being a girl with a boy. That’s something I know, I think. At least, you never complained. I can’t promise that I won’t get jealous, or try to… well, I’ll try not to give you bad advice. I mean it, Marsh. I think I need this. I need something to shake me out of my pattern.”

For a moment, I couldn’t think of anything to say. Then I said, quietly, “Vicky, I really appreciate that. I need you, Vicky. I think we need each other. This is going to be very different, but I think if we help each other…”

“That’s what I’m going to try to do,” she said, wiping her eyes. “So… tell me… um… where do you stand with Jeremy? How far have the two of you gone? And note, please, I’m only asking because I’m helping you know, right?”

So I told her about the night before – well, I told her about the important things. Not the joking – I thought that was a private thing between us. Not the pendant. That was hidden away between my breasts, as I had said it would be – where only Jeremy was going to be able to see it. But I told her about him taking off my shirt and failing to take off my bra.

For the first time that evening, I saw Vicky crack a smile; in fact, she seemed to be trying not to laugh. “He had trouble taking off your bra, Marsh? That’s so… so high school. No. Middle school, even! You’ve really picked a winner, there. Had he even looked at a girl before?”

“Be nice, Vicky,” I pleaded. “He’s a bit innocent, but… as a girl, so am I, sort of, kind of. He’s very sweet and… I’m comfortable with him.”

“You don’t want advice on dealing with his innocence, do you?”

“Well, maybe not just yet. Lee Ann said to take my time, and with Jeremy, I think that’s going to be the answer. I’m just going to be patient.”

“OK,” she said, putting on what sounded like a professional air. “So why were you so eager to bed this guy?”

“Aside from the usual, you mean? You know how much I like sex, Vicky. I figure I’ll like it as a girl, too, but somehow, it doesn’t feel exactly the same – looking forward to it, I mean. Plus, as I said, I’ve had times when I started seeing myself as a male again; as male when I’m with Jeremy, and believe me, that’s serious freak-out time.”

“I can imagine.”


“But you’re serious about this? You’re actually sexually attracted to him?”

I nodded.

“OK…” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll try to help you. Um… how am I doing so far? I’m really trying not to be selfish here, and it isn’t easy.”

“I think you’re doing just fine,” I said. “Um, maybe you would have an idea about something… he had a bit of trouble trying to take off my bra, and then he sort of just gave up. I even offered to undo the clasp for him, but he wouldn’t let me. I mean, we kissed a bunch more afterwards, but he had the chance to see me topless and backed off. Do you have any idea what that was about?”

She looked pained for just a moment. “Wow, this is really not going to be easy… OK. Excuse me while I recover from imagining you wanting a boy to take off your bra. Um… I can’t say this ever happened to me, but one of my girlfriends…”

She took a breath. You probably can’t relate to this, Marsh, but not every guy has the confidence you… did. If he hasn’t had a lot of girlfriends, he might really have been more worried about not making a fool of himself undressing you than he was about seeing your… um, boobs.”

“Which means…?”

“Just that he’s nervous. And I really apologize if I’m a bit relieved. I need time to adjust to the whole idea of you wanting to be sexually active as a girl and if your boyfriend is tentative, that just works in my favor.”

I couldn’t help tease her… just a bit… by asking for reassurance that he was attracted to me. But she put up with it very well. I think I like this new Vicky.

The next morning, my phone rang again, at about the same time, only this time, I was already awake, trying to get myself mentally ready for callbacks that afternoon. I picked up the phone, expecting it to be Vicky again, or maybe Jeremy, but it wasn’t. It was Eric. “Marsh,” he said, “We got a nibble. Somebody triggered your camera. Somebody’s been in the lab.”


  1. scotts13 says:

    OK, magical gender changing, mysterious overlapping memories, time-traveling causality tamperers and/or brainwashers, characters who bounce up and down 40 IQ points in a single paragraph – all believable.

    But a healthy young man, alone with a girl he finds attractive (who herself is doing everything short of a fertility dance) lets himself be foiled – for the night – by a BRA STRAP?! That’s just crazy talk!

  2. Russ says:

    Rewrote the bra strap sequence and the ending with Vicky to try to make it clearer what was going on.

  3. von says:

    Preach it Scott!

  4. scotts13 says:

    >> But I’m going to have to remember you as a girl, mincing around in your little pink blouse and a skirt with that stupid ribbon in your hair.

    It occurs to me Vicky, and to a lesser extent Marshall, are being a wee bit presumptuous in assuming either of them will remember anything about the current, alternate timeline. If the mechanism of the tampering is as presented, no one should remember their former existence. That they do implies some form of special modification or memory transfer. Even making the very tenuous assumptions that the tampering can be undone, and that events proceed EXACTLY as they had before, should they be assuming the memory transfer can or would be duplicated?

    For instance, if Marsh’s past gets fixed, Vicky (unless she’s also fixed and her memories preserved) should have no idea Marsh ever wore that ribbon.

    Stretching the assumptions even farther, if the researcher(s) are found and forced to undo what they’ve done (it’s unlikely to be a push-button process) would any sane person trust a person under duress to tamper with their memories? Sure, wishful thinking and all, and it may be the only way to plot the story as desired – but they both should have cut themselves on Occam’s Razor by now.

    Anyhoo, don’t get the idea I didn’t like the chapter. Vicky’s turnaround seems a little too quick and easy, but I’ll run with it – it makes her more likable, and I was getting tired of her sniping anyway.

  5. von says:

    Check out the change in the chapter right after Jeremies big failure.

  6. BMeph says:

    Frankly, I don’t like it. If Marsh’s brassieres have force fields protecting the clasps, you should be honest enough to say so, and not make us “guess”. 😉

  7. BMeph says:

    Also, just to show that I’m only a clown most of the time, in the line: “He seemed transfixed at the sight, and didn’t life his eyes back to look at mine for almost half a minute. ”
    …”didn’t /lift/ his eyes…” seems better.

  8. April says:

    about not wanting to be along <- alone, I assume

    so am I, sort of, Kind of <- lower case K

  9. TJ says:

    It really odd reading this chapter, and any of them mentioning Marsh thinking of a guy. I guess it the thought of male on male, even if one is currently fully female. It really a bizarre thing, and i feel guilty thinking that bad when i would have no problem female and female, even if one was a guy trapped in the female body. I find my self really enjoying what i am reading though, and your doing an amazing job Russ, it very differnt, and differnt is good. As always, looking forward to the next chapter, and getting sadder knowing i will be on the waiting list like the rest.

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