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Skin Deep II foreward chapter 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 epilogue

Skin Deep II: The Dance
Chapter 7: Let's Dance
by Mark McDonald
©2002 Mark McDonald -- all rights reserved

Let's dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let's dance, to the song they're playin' on the radio

Let's sway, while colour lights up your face
Let's sway, sway through the crowd to an empty space

If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

-- David Bowie, 1983

The morning of the second day of school for Beth Wright, Detective Callahan entered the school building with stampede of other students. Even though these children were close to adulthood, in fact many had breached legal adulthood; Callahan still towered over most of them a good eight inches.

As the students filed in around him, they offered him a wide birth; it was strange sight from the stairs where one might see a seething ocean of heads that swelled and surged away from what looked to be a large piling in the center of the in a harbor. Most of the kids found him creepy, even the guys were nervous around him. He had a smell that was not clearly identifiable and certainly not pleasant. His clothes were visibly dirty and a few noticed what appeared to be a couple of suspicious water stains on the crotch of his pants.

Callahan was oblivious to the segregation. He had a single-minded purpose. He was here to collect data on the disappearance of William Shipley and the acquisition of Michelle Donavan as his property. This one thing had begun to dominate his thoughts. This may be his chance.

He had spent the last eighteen hours researching the non-existent travel plans of one William Shipley. He was having his happiest day in years. There was no way Shipley could squirm out of this one. The evidence was building and Callahan was willing to be patient. He wanted a library of evidence to shove up the judges ass when it when to a sentencing hearing. The days of a trial by jury for murder cases had not been practiced for over fifty years. If he could convince a Grand Jury that he had enough solid evidence of William's murder then not only would they seal the door to Gary's cell shut, but what ever grip he had over his wife would dissolve and she would be free of him.

To his right there was a smallish girl. He staggered a step as she looked up at him. Except for her blonde hair, she could have been Michelle Shipley's sister. He regained his balance and looked back to get another look at the girl but she had vanished in to the ebb and flow of the river of kids.

He stood there trying to pick her out of the crowd but he understood that she was moving away from him but he wanted to confirm what he had just seen. After a time however he began to suspect that just thinking about his Michelle the way he had caused him to see her face on someone else.

Sometimes, he even had to admit to himself, he felt as if his brain wasn't working just right lately. He didn't like to think about it too much. If he did then a word popped into his head. Nothing in this world had ever frightened him. Not getting shot when handguns were still legal, not losing his wife in the fire that claimed his home, his home and his possessions as well. It had made him sad he had been lonely for a very long time but he was not afraid to move on into the world. Vice had not frightened him, homicide detail had not, nor smuggling. The bad guys were all pretty much pretty much the same, wimps. When you shot at one and he fired back all you had to was get out of the way and when he was distracted, grab him and kill him. Case closed.

But this word, this one little word made him feel small and helpless. This word that came to his mind did scare him. It shook him to his very core; he didn't like feeling like that. The word was, 'insanity'. If his brain wasn't no longer working right then what did that mean? It meant you were insane, at least in the simplistic terms of Callahan's limited understanding of the workings of the human brain it did, and in his heart of hearts he knew that something was not right inside. He understood that he was not as right as he used to be. The feeling was not definable to him however. He could not put his finger on just what was wrong. Sure, he was a horny bastard recently but when had he not been? Besides a little under the desk stroking, what had changed? Nothing, that's what!

Callahan was finished lending weight to that idea that he was somehow ill. The subject was closed, his brain was just fine. His hand grazed over his crotch. It was taking a lot of control and concentration to keep from playing with himself. In sixteen weeks, the disease will have advanced so that he will not be able to stop himself from openly playing with his pecker. In a year, he will have cut it completely off his body. He will die as a result of this wound. So engorged with blood when he does this that he will simply bleed to death right there on the floor of the white padded room he would be locked in at the time.

For now however, he understood that this was not the place to make Mr. Happy, happy.

He walked along the corridor in the old portion of what had been William Penn High School as the halls slowly cleared of students. The final bell sounded and those left out wondering around dashed for their classes all around him. Only a few of these left meandered to class causally seeming not to care about their futures or the rules. Even when Callahan glared at them menacingly they didn't quicken their stride.

He let himself in to what was known as the 'Core', a group of offices with one central entrance door that remained shut for the duration of the school day. The location of the 'Core' was inconvenient as it was in the older section of the school and therefore subject to the noise and echoes the tiled halls bounced around when full of students.

The secretary of the 'Core', Melinda Sores smiled even though the last thing she felt like doing was smiling. This man was dirty and a bit more than just scary. She wanted to be done with him, but years of smiling and offering "How can I help you" were ingrained deep into her brain and she vomited up the same line to Callahan even though what she wanted to do was run and hide from this strange looking man.

"How can I help you Sir?" She said and smiled a false smile. Just below the surface she felt sick with revulsion she could not help but notice three dark damp but drying spots on the crotch of his pants.

"I'm here to see..." Callahan paused, pulled a rumpled piece of paper from an equally rumpled shirt pocket and read from it. "Herald Joles, is he here?"

"Do you have an appointment with Principal Joles Sir?" she asked, hoping that if he didn't she might send him away sooner rather than later.

Callahan answered in a way that indicated to Melinda that this man was getting annoyed with the questions she was asking. "Last time I checked Miss, officers in the course of their investigations didn't need appointments, only warrants. Perhaps I should VID a Federal Judge and get one sent over here."

She risked on more question hoping the officer would understand she was working to get him inside but more importantly, a way from her desk.

"Who can I tell him is calling?"

"Detective Marion Callahan. Rouston Police Services Department."

Police? Her eyes popped open at the mention of the word police and Melinda decided she was officially finished with the questions at that point. She touched the screen of her VID. Up came a small menu of items, she pressed the Principal's dialog and up popped the image of Herald sitting at his desk, working on something there. He apparently heard the VID's alarm sound because he looked up and asked. "Good morning Melinda. What can I do for you?"

"Good morning Sir, There's a Detective..." she glanced at Callahan for confirmation and Callahan nodded yes. "Callahan here to see you from Police services."

"Really, did he say what he wanted?" Asked Joles.

"No Sir, But I'm sure he'll tell you. Can I send him in?" Melinda asked eagerly wanting only to remove the presence of this man from her own.

"Yes, that's fine. Send him in."

"Third door down that hall." Melinda said pointing behind her and to Callahan's left. Callahan said nothing, not so much as a thank you or a how do you fucking do. Instead he moved on down the hall and Melinda couldn't have been happier. She listened to Callahan's shoes squeak as he walked down the hall, grateful the man was no longer in her proximity

Herald Joles stood as Callahan stepped into the office. He ignored the obvious and visible look of revulsion on Joleses face when he assessed the Callahan's appearance. Callahan didn't flinch when Joles didn't offer a hand to shake in greeting. So Callahan extended his own hand in a ceremonial gesture of goodwill that, in Callahan's mind, Joles didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of turning down.

Joles looked at the hand blankly, not wanting to take it; but the large man held it out almost insistently, refusing to let it drop until it was taken and shaken. Joles at last took the Detectives hand and pumped it once, twice and then pulled his hand free of the meaty hook that gripped it.

Joles pulled his chair up, wiping the one that had been held prisoner in Callahan's sweaty clutch on his pants and sat down behind his desk. Callahan noticed the man's arm working below the desk and knew that he was still wiping his hand on his trouser leg. The act made him want to rub himself again. If fought to regain control of his Swiss cheese brain and conduct the interview, secure the school records of one William Shipley and put his father behind bars.

"How can I help you..."


"Yes, Detective Callahan. What can I do to help you..." get the fuck out of my sight as soon as I can possibly arrange it you creepy looking bastard you? Joles couldn't help thinking.

"There was a withdrawal of a student yesterday. I would like to see his records."

Joles smiled but had a look on his face Callahan had seen all his professional career. It was called the, You know, I'd like to help you but syndrome. Callahan hated these puny little professional men with their Ivy League education and do it all by the book mentality.

"You know, I'd like to help you, I really would. But... without a warrant, I can't possibly release personal files to you. Do you have a warrant by any chance?"

Callahan sighed and sat in the chair behind him. "Would you agree that murder is a serious matter?"

"Of course I do Detective." Joles was suspicious. In his seventeen year career at this school there had been two murdered students in all that time. Both times the NewsVID services had been crawling over the school long before the parents had even been notified. A horrifying thing to think about actually, the idea that one might actually learn of the death of their child on the news. Joles shuddered at the idea. "Perhaps if you tell me who's been murdered because it's not been in the morning news VIDS. I would like to send the parents of our extended family a condolence. You and I both know that the withdrawal of a student doesn't constitute murder. It's a practice that's used all the time. In fact we've had over thirty students withdrawal in the last six days. They withdrawal early for a number of reasons, are you sure you talking about a murder? Or are we discussing something else here?

"Callahan stood and leaned over the desk. "You have a degree in criminology then I assume?"

"Er... no." Said a now nervous Herald Joles admitted as he leaned back in his chair as far as he could make it lean.

"Well then, you must have a natural sense of all the subtle nuances of methods of deceit a murderer will use to avoid detection?" Callahan leaned in closer as Joleses chair snagged on a piece of carpet preventing him from rolling his chair away from the advancing face of Callahan.

"I consider myself a fairly smart man..."

"I'm sure you do. So you understand that as time goes by a suspected murderer's chances of escape increase exponentially. So your help right now would be greatly appreciated."

"OK, maybe I don't understand the criminal mind quite the way you do Detective, but releasing information on any of these families is also against the law. Surly you must know that. Why isn't the news broadcasting this? If you've found one our students dead then I believe I would have heard about it by now."

The detective moved away from the desk and exhaled in disgust. "I have found the body yet. It's been hidden from me, hidden from detection." Callahan admitted with his back to the man.

"Well then, surly this could all be a mistake. Do you have a name? Something that maybe I could provide a bit if information on. I mean after all, my job is to also make sure that these children do not fall into any harm."

Callahan smiled and turned to fact Joles, his poker face again well in place. "Well, now that you asked. I'm speaking of the Shipley's. Now if you could give me a burn of William Shipley's school records for this year. Everything you ha-"

"Oh no... No you don't." said Joles.

"I'm sorry, I thought you felt your career and standing in this community, that justice for an innocent boy that quite possibly was murdered by a serial killer was more important than allowing that murderer to get away with yet another killing."

"I just saw Mrs. Shipley yesterday as you must already know if you know that William withdrew, and I can tell you Detective, she did not appear to me to be a woman who had just lost her son." Jules reflected for a moment on the interview with Michelle's niece and added. "She was in a bit of a hurry but she was didn't seem upset. She even enrolled her niece in her son's place. Not the act of a person trying to cover up a murder."

Callahan considered this for a moment, niece? Neither of then has brothers or sisters. Where would a niece come from? The wet sponge Callahan was currently using for a brain was trying to wrestle with the idea and find storage for this new factoid when Jules added,

"Detective, if you had proof, you would have a warrant... I can't see..." The distraction was enough to infuriate Callahan. He turned on Joles, losing the previous thought and the inspiration for it all at one time. A glimmer of Callahan's true insanity shone through for just a moment. His eyes bulged and Joles thought for one frightening moment that they would actually burst from their sockets and hang there on the Detective's face by their stalks.

"Proof!" Callahan barked. "Let me tell you one or two things about a serial killer Mr. 'You Can Kiss My Ass' Principal. You see, what makes a serial killer good at what he does is that he avoids detection; that, in case your powers of deduction have been weakened by sitting on your fat ass behind this desk for most of your useless life, is, a simply put, a state where little or no proof exists to secure a conviction. Now listen carefully, this is where it gets really tricky. This allows the serial killer to, kill again!" He shouted bringing one huge hand flat down on Joles desk shattering the glass top that rested there, burying shards of glass in Callahan's hand. Blood seeped out of the flesh and under the glass between the cracks, trapping it between the wooden desktop and the shattered glass writing-surface. It spread there creating a grotesque red blotter under the glass.

"And I'm supposed to compromise my investigation for your satisfaction? You want me to alert the News Services by applying for a public warrant?" Callahan backed way from the desk dripping blood on the floor as he did. "Things have away of leaking out." Joles watched Callahan's beading fist. It seemed to illustrate that very fact. "When a body is found, I would hate to think you had the chance to help and refused. It would be a shame if this killer got another child while you were sitting on the turd you call ethics. Yes Sir, things have a way of leaking out and it could just be that one of the things that leak out is that I was here, trying to rally your support and you that fucking refused." Callahan turned and thrust a finger in Joles direction spraying blood in a thin line over the floor, on the desk and onto Joles clean, pressed white shirt. "That's just not going to look good News Service. Those vultures are going to have a fucking field day over your sorry carcass." Callahan turned and walked away, he exited the office and turned the corner. When he got to the secretary's station, Melinda was there on the phone. "Yes Sir, he's right here... No, I won't let him leave. Certainly, I'll send him back in."

Callahan grinned a happy grin.

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The next day of school at least started a little better for Beth. The outcome was much the same as the day before with one unexpected exception. That said quite a lot to Beth and signaled a healing of sorts that had been waited for but had been missing for many days. It was now Tuesday, William had been sealed in the body of this girl for five days and when one stops and considers the abrupt change and violent upheaval that would such an event cause, the fact that she was beginning to adjust was a bit surprising.

It was most surprising to Beth. Who was now answering to the name and identity she had tried so desperately wanted to deny. It still did not feel natural. She did not want the mantel of Beth. She wanted a quick return to William. But all of these were conscious thoughts. It was her subconscious she could not argue with that offered her the most peace. These things were things she was unaware of, much as Michelle had but had also been unaware of. It was what Dr. Michales had observed and had coined as the magic of the total change. Rarely seen even in with in the department, but on those rare occasions when it did, it was an amazing thing to watch. For subjects that were properly prepared, a total acceptance of either masculinity or femininity was made with in few hours. The extraordinary genetic programming held within each SKIN forced the occupant into the role of the person they were programmed to be. No ifs ands or buts, once a person donned a SKIN, the programming was the dominant factor in all behavioral manifestations that person experienced from that day forward. There was no defeating SKIN programming.

If Beth had been made aware that she was being controlled she might have rebelled against the idea of not being her own person more. As it was, this unknown aspect of her life brought her some unexpected peace.

Feeling better but not understanding why, Beth showered, dressed in her Catholic school uniform and went downstairs to gather her things. School was becoming a remembered routine. The idea that she was slipping into life as a girl sent a shiver up her spine; she felt the urge to bolt from this place, to run away and never come back rather than submit to life as Beth Wright. In the end the panic passed without explanation and she relaxed.

"Sleep well?" Michelle was back in her role as dutiful mother. She was in the kitchen alcove of at the back of the original level of the two floors, city block size room, cooking breakfast for Shelly who was also ready for school.

"Hi." Shelly said with a huge smile. She liked the idea of another girl in the house, someone closer to her own age. It didn't seem to matter to Shelly that the new comer was nearly as old as her big sister. She was closer in age and that was all that mattered.

"Hi'ya shrimp!" Beth said and ruffled her hair as she had so many previous mornings but as someone else.

Shelly giggled and said, "Mommy, Beth does the same thing that William does before going to school?" She small girl held out her rumpled hair and giggled some more. "She even calls me shrimp!"

Michelle glanced at Beth who the look of someone who had just got caught in the middle of a lie written all over her face.

Beth sat next to Shelly at the counter of the semi-circled dining bar attached to the stove were Michelle was preparing breakfast.

"Good morning." Michelle offered.

"Good morning Aunt Michelle." Beth replied with a small, resigned sigh.

"I've got a good breakfast for you this..."

"I'm not really hungry, Mo- Michelle, thanks anyway." The girl flinched and clinched her fist at the near miss.

"Mommy? Can Beth drive me to school?" Shelly had started the kindergarten at the beginning of the school year.

"No hon. Beth doesn't have a pilot's license yet." Michelle explained. She looked at Beth and offered. "I promise, as soon as things settle down, we'll get you in for an exam."

"Aw Mommy..." Shelly moaned. "She can pilot! I know she can. She can't take the SchoolHOV; she too old." Michelle cracked a grin. To the four year old, everyone over the age of ten was 'Too Old' it didn't really matter much just what they might be 'Too Old' for.

Beth looked expectantly to her Mother, "It's not an option. She can't drive yet and that's final. Sorry hon." She said apologetically to Beth. 

Beth sighed but understood and didn't object, even though as William she was a fully trained HOV pilot.

"You're both going to miss your ride if you don't hurry and eat." Michelle insisted. The school HOV for both schools picked up at their front door.

Beth stood self-consciously smoothed out her skirt making sure wasn't folded and showing off her underwear. "I'm really not hungry. Thanks though."

"Yeah Mom, we're not hungry." Shelly mimicked and pushed her plate away. When no one thought she was looking however she would snatch a bite of pancake from it and secretly chew and quickly swallow it.

Beth saw however and giggling herself reached over tried to take the plate from her sister. "Hey! You said you weren't hungry. Shelly squealed and lunged for the plate but was too late, Beth had gotten it. Now Beth made as if she were going to eat Shelly's pancakes

"You know, these look pretty good after all." Beth picked up the fork and made a playful stab at the plate.

"Nooooooo." Shelly wailed but she was laughing and giggling the entire time.

Michelle watched them and a thought occurred to her. My God they look so much alike... how is that possible? The thought didn't disturb her it was merely a curiosity. "Just because we have a guest in our house is no reason for you to start acting up young lady."

"Yes Ma'am..." Shelly said sullenly.

"OK, you both are almost out of time. It's time to go." Michelle announced.

Beth gathered her things and waited Shelly. Beth ached to be back within the family circle, to have the open community of a family. She had squandered it before and now wanted nothing more than to be able to stop having to pretend she wasn't a Shipley any longer. More than wanting to be male, she wanted her sisters and parents back. It was nothing more than a small glimmer of a realization right now. Without recognizing it for what it truly was, she had no idea that the feeling would grow to consume her.

With Shelly in the room Beth had tried to make sure she divorced herself from the family name. Shelly couldn't be included in this. She was not ready.

Shelly walked out of the building on her way to the HOV to school. Beth was almost to the door when Michelle caught her. "I love you William." She said with sadness in her voice.

"Aunt Michelle", Beth said. "We can't play the game that way. Not if we want to win." Beth smiled a sad smile.

Beth left building without another word. She was satisfied that this was the way things had to be until her parents could reverse what the SKIN had done to her. She would cooperate and make things easy on her folks. She would play the game and hope that meant a way out.

She walked Shelly to the HOV stop, watched as she got on and pulled away. She then caught her own HOV to school. She missed those days, not that long ago when Randy would drive to school every day. Now as the HOV pulled into the school-loading zone and dropped to a hovering stop, Beth exited the HOV and stood before the gaping maul of the school entrance. Nothing is ever going to be the same. Even if she were returned to her former life, she would never see the world, as it had been, not after yesterday. It was a private torture. She would have to endure the knowledge of what she had leaned and how she had leaned it alone. No one could ever know what had happened to her.

She walked under the overhanging awing that covered the entrance, her head down, feeling sullen when there was bump on her shoulder. She looked up to see Randy, unaware that she was the one that had bumped into him until he too looked to see who it was next to him. This time she greeted him with a large smile and saw something her own mother had experienced for the first time only hours after her own transformation. Randy's eyes seemed to glaze over in a glassy, distant far away look, as if he wasn't really there at all but in some distant someplace.

"Hi!" Beth made an extra effort to sound cheerful although her heart was not truly in it.

To her surprise, Randy welcomed the warm greeting. It soothed her heart and warmed her like nothing she could have anticipated.

"Hi. Having a better day I see."

"Yes, I seem to be." She agreed. This time the smile she smiled was genuine and felt good on her face. "Thanks for noticing."

The two of them spoke at the same time, "Listen, I'm sorry..." they looked at each other, paused... laughed and started again. "No I mean it." They said together, laughed again.

Randy put his hand up and started to speak through the giggles. "OK, OK... Let me start. I'm sorry... I was a butt-head yesterday. So let me go on record as taking the responsibility for that."

"Only if you let me take the prize for being the biggest..." it was hard to say... but she choked it down. "The biggest bitch for miles around. You wouldn't believe the day I was having yesterday and I shouldn't have punished you with it. I'm sorry."

"We both had a bad day yesterday." He talked as they walked together into the school. "I don't want to blame anyone. What I want is to get past this and be friends. I said some pretty harsh things yesterday and I just want you know that I didn't mean any of it."

"Is that because you think I'm pretty?" Why the hell did I ask that? Oh God, wish I could pull that back.

"You want the truth?" Randy asked and Beth nodded quickly not speaking. "Yes, partly... not entirely. I was still a jerk... But to say that you're not pretty would be an injustice, and a lie."

Even with the uncomfortable request from Beth and equally awkward reply from Randy the both of them started to relax and she almost imagined their friendship as alive again, as it had once been. The chemistry that had been there before was alive again.

"You know," Randy was saying. "I truly thought this was going to be a complete and total Martian Crash, with William leaving for Europe and all. I'm glad we got a chance to clear the air before classes started. It might have been harder to see the true you.

"William was your buddy?" She said, deciding to play a game with him. She was sorry as she had as soon as he started to speak.

"Was? He IS my best friend. Has been for along time. You took his seat and his locker it seems." Randy turned and smiled to her to show her there were no hard feelings after all. Beth almost wished there had been. It would have shown William was at least missed by someone.

"I thought he'd call me last night, he has to be in Europe by now. He didn't though." Randy shook his head. "I don't understand why he took off without even saying goodbye."

Beth found her hand on his back trying to soothe him; she was surprised to discover that she felt bad for this boy. She was even more surprised to find that he was the only one showing any remorse over his sudden departure from school. Then Randy said something that took her completely off guard.

"You know, on the other hand, he could be a bit of a jerk sometimes." It was such a funny thing that she couldn't help but laugh out loud. The idea that Randy was only now making this confession and he had no idea that he was making it to the very person he didn't want to ever know just tickled Beth to no end.

"What's so funny?" Randy asked.

She had to think fast. She came up with the only thing she could on short notice. "You don't know..."

"Know what?" Randy asked he was now a bit afraid of the answer this girl had concealed from him.

"William is my cousin. I'm staying at the Shipley's house."

The blissful look on Randy's face melted into sheepish fools mask of embarrassment and humiliation. He blushed a deep rich red and buried his face in his hand. "Ah God..." Randy moaned. "Please... Please don't tell him... I love him like a brother. I would hate to hurt his feelings."

You mean you'd hate to get your butt kicked is more like it! Beth thought with a mental grin. "I won't say a word. I promise." You already did, she thought and had to stifle an enormous laugh.

The only thing that kept her from exploding laughter was the image of a man that passed to close to her to miss. It was a man that had hounded her father for years over the death of her father's best friend. She wasn't sure what the man's name was but she could remember his face. She had seen it on News Service VID's from a long time ago. He had been some kind of hero then but the case that included her father had broken that legend.

The police officer looked right into her eyes and she understood one thing very clearly, He's crazy. He's as crazy as a shit house rat. As he stared back at her there seemed to be a moment of recognition. In response she turned her head and did her best to vanish into the crowd. Beth didn't want to ever have to look into those eyes again. As it turned out, she never would.

PE class was an unexpected downturn in course of the day's events and set the tone for Beth's mood until history class. She hadn't even known where they were headed until they were almost all the way to the gym.

"Oh no... Gym class." She whispered when the memory of the classes she had missed because finalizing registration into school. "I don't want to go to gym!" she whined to Randy. She could see he was confused by her reaction to something harmless.

"You have sports in Oregon don't you?" Randy asked puzzled. "That's all that happens here, baseball, flag football, volley ball and a little track and field. Oh, and some basketball when it rains. Other than that, no big deal, you look fit enough." Randy admired her body and then smiled at her but she seemed absolutely panic stricken at the prospect of play sports and missed the weak attempt at flirting.

She started at him with large frightened eyes, to Randy it seemed as if she was struggling to formulate an answer why she couldn't go in there and participate. "I... I... I never had to take PE before out in Oregon." In reality it wasn't a lie at all. She had never really been to Oregon before so she couldn't have taken PE there.

Randy was a bit confused at Beth's concern with PE. So he thought he would offer her an explanation of how easy it would be. There was also the prospect of seeing her in her gym uniform that was silently making him very happy.

"Didn't they have P.E. out west?"

Beth shook her head. She didn't know if they had dancing crabs in Oregon let alone P.E. and further more, she didn't care. There was no way they were going to make her go into the girls locker room and dress out in one of those silly girls P.E. jumpers.

"Everyone here takes it." Randy confirmed.

"Not me. Randy, please excuse me. I have to go to the office and straighten this out." She left him standing there confused but secretly amused over the entire issue.

Randy was pleased to see she was back and dressed out. She entered the gym from the egress door of the girls. She slunk into the room and to Randy it appeared she was trying to hide herself from the view of the class. Apparently her plea to the office administrators failed.

She cautiously pulled up next to Randy; the tight one-piece gym outfit clung to her body and worked on Randy's poor heart. If she said anything to him he would burst out of his gym shorts and explode.

Then she spoke. "I hate this!"

"You look good in it." Randy said.

"I don't want to." She shot back. "I don't want to look good in it."

"I don't think you can help that." Randy said and giggled.

"Are you laughing at me?" she turned and asked.

Randy thought. "Er... Yes!" He declared, "Look you have to admit most girls would die to look as nice as you do. They would also be a bit more receptive to complements. I hope you'll pardon me if I think that's funny."

Her brow creased. If she was supposed to be avoiding suspicion then she was had probably been doing a lousy job of it if what Randy said was right. He seemed to genuinely want to be a friend to her. "I've been a little up tight haven't I?"

"A little?" Randy exclaimed and laughed. "Look if you're nervous, just hang with me. I'll protect you." He made mock strong man poses that made her laugh. The tension her body left for a while it wasn't until she felt the eyes of the boys of the rest of the class on her that she became self-conscious. She withdrew a bit and pulled in close to Randy for that protection that she knew he had only been joking about providing. But Randy didn't shy away. He in fact, did offer her a level of comfort she was grateful for and when class parings for Speed Ball were chosen Coach Harper let the new girl pair with the only friend she seemed to have found. This exploratory would take them to the end of the year, so that meant they would be partners in PE until Randy's graduation in the summer.

Upon dismissal, the boys and girls headed toward their respective locker rooms, all but Beth. She hung back pretending to look for something in the bleachers as the girls all left to change. Randy turned to take one last look at this lady that had suddenly gone from hated enemy to trusted friend and ward in less than 24 hours. There she was, her back turned to the rest of the class searching the bleachers for something. Randy thought he knew what the problem was suddenly.

Yesterday, her first day had been a harrowing one. Randy blamed himself for stoking the fires of hatred that the rest of the class had displayed toward her after history class. It had been his fault. He had then allowed Geri to get involved by comforting him when really only his pride toasted on the edges. He had had the support of the entire class after a while and she had no one to champion her and uncharacteristically, he had allowed it happen. Now she was expected to march into the vipers pit every day and humble herself before them.

Randy walked back to where she was searching for nothing. "Hey. It's not there." He said as he touched her shoulder. She leaped up in surprise.

"Oh! Oh God, you startled me." She scolded and slapped at his shoulder in return.

"I'm sorry." He said but he was clearly not sorry as the grin on his face confessed.

She smiled back soon and then asked. "What?"


"You said it's not there? What's not?"

"Whatever you're looking for under the bleachers."

She looked behind her at the gymnasium seating. "Was it that obvious?"

Randy nodded. "I understand and I'm sorry."

"What are you talking about?"

"You don't want to go in there with them because I kind of stirred the muddy waters... They'll cool off in time."

He was right, she didn't want to go in there but not because she was hated by most of the female class. To do this thing, to go into the girl locker room and dress with them, with no one able to see that she wasn't really a girl, was just one more step in a chain of events that in her mind were designed to strip her from anything and everything she had been. It would bring home the realization that she was, in fact, a girl. It was just one more slap in the face reminder, one more humbling experience she didn't want to experience. She understood she had no choice but to do this, but she could put off submitting to this in front of others as long as possible.

"The sooner you bite the bullet the sooner they'll lose interest harassing you." Randy was right about the first part. The sooner she got this out of the way the sooner she could forget about it and move on."

"Have you always been this smart?" she asked aware that she was actually flirting with him. What are you doing? Don't do that!

"Go on. Get dressed. I'll wait for you out there. If you want me to that is."

"Yes, wait for me." she said. Oh GOD! We're both flirting now.

Detective Callahan, who was just now leaving the building, was all but forgotten. Beth's thoughts were somewhat dizzy. She was enjoying the friendship Randy's company offered. She was enjoying so much more as well. Beth could smell him. He smelled wonderful to her. This was confusing but exciting to Beth and she was at a loss to deny it. Everything Randy was doing and saying to her seemed so right and natural.

Next period was history; she would get the chance to do something for him in return.

Beth moved off toward the locker room. Randy was happy to see her look back once, then twice over her shoulder to see if he was watching her. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You're encouraging this. STOPIT!

She vanished into the locker room. As she passed the rows of girls standing in their underwear they all fell silent. She didn't see them though. She was helplessly thinking about how kind Randy had been to her this morning.

She went to the locker assigned to her at the start of class this morning after her plea to have this class removed from her schedule. She went to the locker to get her regular class uniform but her locker would not open. She tried the thumbprint port one more time but still it would not open for her. She rattled the door but still it remained shut. There giggles from the girls in the locker room. Beth hung her head; they had jammed her locker shut. Beth said nothing but walked to locker room attendant and asked for help. There was nothing the attendant could do until maintenance could be contacted and no girls were in here. She would have to go to her next class in her gym outfit or call and get her parent's to bring her a new uniform until tomorrow.

Beth wouldn't allow herself to show any emotion as she walked back through the locker room past the girls who hooted and called and made playful grabs at the zipper at the back of her outfit. Beth strode on with as much dignity as she could muster, walked out of the locker room

Randy was there across the hall. When he saw her he at first was confused and then understanding filled his features. "What did they do?" he asked as Geri came out of the locker room and winked at Randy.

"Aw hell Geri!" he went to Beth. "I didn't know about this." He assured her, and then called to Geri. "Give her back clothes Geri!"

"Can't do that hon, besides, we did this for you. You could at least act appreciative."

"It's OK." Beth said, taking his arm in her hand and turning him to face her. "It's only a day of humiliation.

"What happened?" He asked her.

"They jammed the lock of my locker. I can't get my uniform out and I've got nothing else to wear."

"I'm sorry. God I'm so sorry." Randy said embarrassed.

"Look at the upside, I get to 'look good in it' all day for you." Beth said with more than just a hint of sarcasm. "Come on... let's get this over with. Besides, I have something for you."

Suddenly Randy's face lit up. He gave her one of those 'Holy shit, I just got a great idea' looks she was very familiar with and said. "Wait right here, OK?"

"But..." Beth started but before she could finish he was gone, leaving her alone in the main hall of the school building in her gym-shorts jumper. People stared as she stood against the wall. A defiant streak began to fester in her and she glared back not only at the girls that had done this to her but the boys that accompanied them to their respective classes.

Randy was back at her side, but he was no longer dressed in the expensive slacks and golf shirt. Instead he had his gym shorts and white tee shirt on. She didn't ask, she understood just what he was doing.

"You don't have to do this."

"Come on... We'll be late for class." Randy said.

The kiss she gave him was genuine, unexpected and total spontaneous. Her mind didn't even voice and objection. For what he was doing, it was the proper expression of gratitude. She leaned over and lightly planted a tender kiss on his cheek and whispered the word, "Thanks" in his ear. Later she would wonder why she had done it, but at that moment, her heart was so filled with gratitude she simply felt it was the right thing to do.

They passed by their hall lockers where she retrieved the class paper she had completed for him last week when she had still be William and gave it to him. "I found this at the house. I figured you might need this. I made a few corrections to it. I don't think William is as good at history as I am." She flirted again and smiled.

"Oh man... I thought I was going to have to take a zero on this." He took the paper and looked it over. "You made corrections?"

"That's OK isn't it?" She was unsure now. Why had she said that she had made changes, was she trying to impress him? Yes, that was almost certainly it. Now maybe she had gone too far. Why are you trying to impress him?

The confusion was deepening in her mind again. She was behaving in a way that was contrary to what she understood from her own past.

"No... yes... I mean, Yes. Of course it's OK. I just thought that after yesterday, you must have just hated me. That's all."

Beth smiled. His gentle, honest and almost accidental reassurance was a great comfort to her and she felt she could manage this life as long as she had his friendship to keep her strong and warm. Even being half dressed in class didn't seem so bad with Randy there to hold her hand. She looked down and that's just what had happened. One of them had taken the hand of the other. She didn't know who had done it and she only gave letting go a cursory thought. In the end however, she kept her grip on his hand. That seemed to make the day better, not right but much better.

As students passed, they would stop and stare the couple in their gym clothes, on their way to class, neither one of them noticed outside the sphere of their soft-focus world.

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At the end of school, Randy opted to remain in his gym clothes for the HOV flight home because at the end of the day, maintenance had still not rescued her uniform for her. Randy knew the path of flight and standard glide slope to the Shipley's home in Old-Town.

When they landed, Beth asked him to come in. It seemed natural to extend the day just a bit. It was early and they had homework, they could help each other, but Randy decided, without any real reason, to decline.

Beth went upstairs and explained what had happened at school. She also explained that she and Randy had patched up their friendship and now she felt that school for the next couple of months, if this lasted that long, would be bearable.

"And, oh yeah, before I forget. You know that creepy cop that gave D... Uncle Gary all the grief about his buddy? Er... what was his name?"

"Callahan?" Michelle was had been shocked into a stupor. She had gone from room temperature to ice cold in just a second. She stood in the center of the room where she had been walking when Beth started her sentence. Now, she was frozen there, afraid to move that she might shatter to a thousand pieces to the floor.

"No, his friend." Beth said as she went to the kitchen not noticing her mothers trance like stance. She pulled a bag of synthetic chips from the cupboard and began to snack.

"Oh, you mean Mike." she said in a tone just above a whisper.

"Yeah, well anyway, that cop was a school today. Boy is he creepy. He was right next to me in the hall. He looked down at me and you know something, I think he's just a few sandwiches short of a complete picnic."

"Yes dear... that's nice... go and change your clothes and do your homework... that's a good girl."

"Homework, I had this stuff last..." she began and then realized that Michelle was acting like a zombie. "Aunt Michelle?" Beth asked and walked over to her. Then without warning Michelle came out of it.

Michelle had been so startled by the idea that Callahan was at the school where she had been only yesterday that her fear had caused a traffic jam in her mind. For a while there she couldn't move or even respond beyond programmed phrases and expressions that all of us have stored in our minds. There are times when we are a thousand miles away, thinking about pleasant or troubling thoughts, at some of those times others, out side the sphere of influence will try to communicate with us. We respond with these phrases and pre-programmed sentences without thought or acknowledgment to what was said to use to illicit the response in the first place. It's only when we are jogged back into the conscious world that by the words, 'You haven't heard a word I've said.' that we realize that we had been sleep walking in the waking world. Her point of concern was that in spite of all they had done to protect William and his chance to be released from his prison, all their precautions might have already been turned to dust.

"Are you sure you saw him? Are you sure it was Detective Callahan?" Michelle was cautious not to frighten the girl, but it was nearly impossible to keep the hysteria from her voice.

"Pretty sure. He looked right at me like he recognized me. I had almost forgotten about him when everything in gym class started going wrong. Then Randy did his thing with his gym shorts so I wouldn't feel so alone. "

"No hon, he's a cop, I'm sure its some other issue. There are problems at schools all the time. I'm sure that he was there for some reason concerning the school."

Just the same, when Beth went off to find some real clothes to replace the jumper she wore, Michelle wasted no time in calling Gary at work to tell him about this latest piece of the puzzle.

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After the kids left for school the next morning, Michelle cornered Gary in the bathroom. She was holding within her a space-tanker of fears and uncertainty. The appearance of the person who could only be known Gary's nemesis was disturbing and more than just coincidental. For Michelle it marked the beginning of the end, a sure sign of the apocalypse.

"Michelle, you have to remain calm. You said it yourself, he could have been there for any number of reasons." Why are you telling her things YOU don't even believe? It's the same as lying to her; you've never lied to her before.

Michelle crossed her arms and gave a stern look deep into Gary's eyes to see if he was confident in that statement. She could see nothing of doubt in his eyes. "I'm worried. Do you blame me?"

"No of course not." Gary was almost full to the top with the fear of this incident. If he wasn't careful he would lose his family. The business could go to hell as far as he was concerned. But to lose his family would mean the loss of everything that was real and good to him. He might as well be dead if that happened.

Careful what you wish for Gary... The idea popped into his head in the voice of a girl. Some half remembered melodic tone he could not place but felt he should. To fail to identify this memory might make his last statement come true.

His hands were now trembling and Michelle, ever vigilant caught this and it served only to magnify her fear and doubt a thousand fold. "You don't believe he was there for anything else do you Gary? Please tell me what you're thinking. I can do anything you ask me to do, but I have to know what you believe."

Gary placed his hands on the sink basin to stop the tremors and to steady himself. He bent his head and sighed. Here it comes. Thought Michelle. I asked for it and now he's going say we have to leave our home.

He cleared his throat and said, "How would you feel about moving away? Just to be safe."

Michelle uttered a weak squeaking sound from Gary's left side where she was standing. For the first time since he had first seen her, he didn't want to look at her. He didn't think he could bear the pain he knew he was going to find in those big green eyes. He couldn't take the guilt of having not prevented this from happening. He gripped the basin with a Herculean grip that caused his knuckles to go pure white and pulled his selfish emotions back in check.

He turned to face his wife who was trying equally as hard not to show him that she was overly upset at the idea of leaving the home she had built for them. The place where Gary had brought her, loved her and finally broken her stubborn streak until she confessed her love for him. This was the place where she had come to life and had brought home the lives she and Gary had created together through their love. How was she going to hide all this emotion?

When his eyes fell on her however she appeared to be surprisingly calm. "I don't want to Gary. I can't fool you about that." She whispered. She was fighting the tears hard now underneath but Gary could not see it clearly. He needed her buy-in on this. If she didn't give it then they'd all be lost. "But we need to focus on the family. So if you think we should go, then we'll go."

"Take Shelly and Beth out of school then tomorrow. Close their year out. You and the girls go up to the lake house Thursday. The title for that place is still under the name of the Bluemoon Grill. Dad didn't own that one out right. His former partner held most of the property. It will take a while to trace that out. By then we can be long gone."

"I'm not going without you Gary."

"I'll be up Friday, the day after at the latest, I need to sign our property over to Harmon, so he can manage the money and get us funds to live on. I really need about a week to make sure all the 'I's' are dotted and the 'T's' are crossed, but I'm afraid we don't have that kind of time."

Gary cried before Michelle did. He broke down under the strain of what he'd been carrying for many years now. "I'm sorry Michelle. God I wish I had an idea. One damned idea. I would die right now if I thought it would help you and the kids stay here."

She was shocked to hear Gary speak like this. It frightened her to hear the words out loud like that. The idea of one or the other's death was always floating just under the surface. The issue of death is always there for most of us but rarely spoken of in good times. It is only when the dark clouds of the storms of our lives block the sun that we consider the unthinkable. For most of us, our thoughts turn to what our lives might be without those that have made us so rich. For some that is family. For others it's friends or work or yes, even their pets. For Michelle to hear Gary vocalize for the first time his mortality and his desire to offer it up as a sacrifice to whatever God or Gods might be out there so they could stay in their house was more frightening than anything she could ever remember hearing.

"I don't ever want to hear you talk like that again!" she said angrily. "What happens to one of us happens to all of us. If you die, we all die. So you're going here to stay here with me." She went to him and touched his face. "Do you understand that?" she said tenderly.

Gary said, "Yes, but you know what I meant by that."

"I do, you're feeling guilty. There is nothing to feel guilty about. We have all made our choices. We will live by them as a family. We will survive them as a family."

Gary smiled, "What did I do to deserve you?"

"Just lucky I guess."

Michelle kept up the happy front for the rest of the day until Gary went to work and begun the process of moving assets to places where she or Gary could access them. Michelle's head was spinning though. It had taken only a week for things to fall completely through. It made her appreciate the job the Shipley's had done keeping Michelle true identity hidden as they did. This had taken no time to end. Her mind wanted to claim they had lost everything, but that wasn't true. They had everyone, all of them intact and together. There would be no changing William back now. That realization was a hard one to come to grips with for Michelle and would be even harder on Beth; but at the end of the day, they were all alive and accounted for and that fate was better than the one they were escaping now.

Somehow Michelle and Gary would have to communicate that message to Beth. Shelly would have to be told now that William was not in Europe but was in fact, the girl they had claimed to be her cousin. Beth would have to remain Beth Wright, stabilized just outside the family circle, but in name only.

"Family... My family will survive. That's all that counts. I'll still have my family." Michelle assured herself all day as she started to pack things for tomorrow's evacuation. She packed clothes and flexible items in compression bags and rigid items in vacuum-drums. As she rummaged through her top dresser drawer, she found an old DIGIStill of her sister, Erin. She was going to pack it but as she held it her hand began to warm and face began to blush. She found she wanted nothing to do with this thing in her hand. There was something in the back of her mind she felt she should remember. Something important. Almost time now baby sister, almost time to set all things right. Be ready.

Michelle dropped the DIGIStill frame and it shattered on the hard wood floor. "Erin!" she cried but it was too late. That image was lost. "Oh Erin, tell me what's going on here. Please!" she crouched on the floor over the shattered picture of her sister and wept.

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With the completion of two school days as on the opposite gender clique, Beth had come to two very basic and rudimentary conclusions. One, she didn't trust the girls in this school. Two, she didn't trust the boys in this school.

The girls were petty, constantly bickering about the pointless or the trivial. The smiles they confronted each other with were a thin and transparent guise, easily seen through once you got used to it. She couldn't even say why they bothered with the formality of pretending to be friendly. I'm not going to stoop that low. I've always been a 'what you see is what you get' kind of guy. No reason for that to stop now.

She stood facing her open locker, picking through the now neatly ordered stack of books and papers listening to the kids as they filed in and out of the pods to their next class, feeling depressed. Each hour that passed with her trapped as Beth marked what she felt to be as a door inching closed, a door with no handle on her side, a door that once closed, could not be reopened.

Instead of focusing on the fear she selected her history book and reached to her right to close her locker when the open locker door to her left closed and there stood Larry, Moe and Curly, The stooges from the men's room the morning of her first day at school as Beth. The leader of the group was Daren Hastings. Beth knew him well and had had several run-ins with guy in the past.

Daren was a member of a group of kids known as freaks. So called because of their rebellious style of dress, long, unkempt hair and most importantly, use of psychedelic and hypnotic drugs. As in any group you have your submissive and you have your dominants, passives and aggressive. Daren was the school bad boy, a dominant aggressor if there ever was one. At twenty, it was the oldest eleventh grader in the state of Pennsylvania; and would probably remain so until he dropped out only by virtue of the fact that his father owned much of the land the new city of Rouston was built on. The city couldn't afford to upset the man too much; however, the fact that his father had allowed him to be held back without raising a stink at the school board spoke volumes about the boy's influence with is family.

Beth was grateful she hadn't recognized Daren that first day in the men's room. Realizing what she did now she might have curled up on the floor and died right there. She didn't know the names of his minions off the top of her head. Daren switched them out every couple of months trying to match them to just the right combination of stupidity and intimidation. It was amusing to her that Daren simply didn't understand that stupid wasn't intimidating, only scary under the right circumstances.

What Beth realized was that she was afraid of these boys. She might be able to defend herself against one, but in a team like this there was no chance, not without getting hurt. Beth somehow felt that getting hurt in this body wasn't going to be the same as getting hurt in William's.

"H-Hi." She said and smiled a false smile. "Look, I'd love to chat..."

"Looky here, it's our cute little chicky from the lav", Daren said grinning at Beth. He took his greasy finger and put it under Beth's chin and tilted her head up to look into her eyes. "Are we feeling better now, chicky?"

Beth tilted her head away from his hand and looked down at her shoes. She tried to smile, an attempt to hide the fear but Daren could see it was a tense smile and she sensed he was grinning with pleasure. He likes scaring women. It makes him feel powerful.

"Yes... Yes, thank you. I'm feeling much better. But I really..."

"Good. That's good. Now perhaps you and I can get to know one another better." Daren curled his fingers in to the open jamb of Beth's locker to leaned into her and trapped her deeper into the bank of lockers. His two groupies chuckled and snorted support for their leader behind him.

Without warning, Beth's locker door swung shut latching and locking on Daren's fingers. Beth jumped at the sound of it with wide; startled eyes. The wail of pain that escaped Daren sounded like what she remembered hearing on documentaries of dinosaurs and what scientists felt they might have sounded like. From behind her Randy stepped up next to her and began to speak.

"The lady was trying to tell you that you're slimy and she doesn't do slimy." Randy grinned at Beth who still had a frightened and uncertain look on her face. "Much to her credit," Randy continued, his tone was cool, quite yet confident. "She was trying to do it politely. You should listen always to her when she speaks and try to do just as she says."

"Kill you!" squeaked Daren as he fumbled with the door of the locker desperately trying to release his hand from its grip.

Randy leaned forward and slapped the locker door a couple of times making Daren scream in pain. "Not with your fingers stuck in that locker you're not."

One of Daren's minions rushed Randy followed by one that looked as dumb as rock. Beth assumed that one was the one named Bob, the only one whose name had been used the other day in the men's room. What happened next surprised both of Daren's mindless followers, Daren and most of all; Beth.

Without warning, Randy reached out with one hand and grabbed the neck of the lead minion in his hand. With all of his might he reversed the forward motion of the first boy and drove the back of his head in to the forehead of the boy behind him. Both collapsed on the floor in a heap, one on top of the other. So shocking was this that even Daren had stopped his sniveling.

The shock was short lived. Daren was soon snorting and seething, shouting at Beth to unlock the locker. Beth, afraid of the consequences began to comply. Randy had other ideas. He stepped between her and the keypad of the lock and said. "You know, my buddy William has had trouble with this lock in the past. We were the only ones that could ever really work it. Let me try."

"But..." she started, pointing at Daren as if to say. You don't understand Randy; he'll kill me later when he gets free.

Randy held up his hand at her protest and said. "No really, I can get it. You go on to class." She stepped out into the hall at this directive but went no further than the end of the row of lockers in the hall. She was riveted to the scene where Randy and Daren stood.

"Now let me see... Oh yeah..." he started punching the buttons hard as he read the numbers out loud. "Eight, One, Seven, Six, Eight!" Each time he pressed a key, Daren would grunt or wince in pain.

The lock sounded with a negative buzz indicating that the combination was incorrect.

Randy looked up at Daren and said, "See what I mean?"

Daren spat on Randy. " It's a fucking print lock! Put her thumb to the port or I'll break it off and put it there myself!"

Randy sucker punched Daren in the gut. Daren expelled a CargoHOV of air and turned ghost white. There was a collective "Ohhhhhhh" from the small audience that had gathered where Beth stood. "Be nice to the lady." Randy demanded.

Randy then addressed Daren's concern about the thumb pad of the lock, "Yes. The print recognition system has always been crap on this locker. You have to override it with the combination. Let's give it another try." Daren's head came up to watch, his attitude was less confrontational than it had been five seconds before, but there was still hate in his eyes. Randy appeared to be unaffected by the fact. "Seven, One, Six, Eight, Eight!"


Randy pressed his lips together and whispered, "Damn."

"Get me the fuck out of here right now you fucking little puke!" screamed Daren. Again Randy reached back and punched Daren in the face. His head recoiled back and off the locker next to the one he was attached to. Again the crowd 'Ahhhhhhhhh'ed at the impressive punch and the even more impressive rebound Daren's head made off the neighboring locker. The dent in the locker where Daren's head hit was also most impressive and worthy of a short 'Ooooooo' from the crowd as well when Daren's head lolled forward exposing the dent.

Daren eyes wavered in their orbits like those of a drunken man. His day was going from bad to worse as the seconds ticked by. With great effort Daren cleared his head and focused on Randy's face.

Randy whispered, "Watch your fucking language in front of the lady, OK?"

Daren seemed about to say something but thought better of it and simply asked, "Please. Let me go. I'll leave her alone, just let me go."

There was a red light on the locker that indicated there would be one more try and if the combination was not satisfied it would have to be reset before the locker could be opened using the lock. The door would have to be removed at that point.

"One more try. I hope this is it. OK, here goes. Eight, Eight, Six, Seven, One."


"Damn, I was sure that was it." He glanced over in the hall and saw Beth smiling, almost laughing. He smiled back.

"You're a son of a bitch!" spat Daren. "You did that on purpose."

"You think?" Randy jeered.

Daren reached out with one foot and tried to clean Randy's clock. Randy side stepped the shot from Daren. He stepped in quickly and grabbed Daren by the neck as he had Hal and pressed his back to the lockers. He leaned in close and whispered to Daren. "If you ever, and I mean ever so much as look at her again. I can promise, you will not witness the sunset of the day you do."

Daren glared at Randy but didn't threaten him again. Instead he cast his down at the floor and nodded.

Randy walked over to Beth and asked. "Are you OK?"

Behind them Beth could hear Daren cry out, "Hey, what about me?" followed by a hail of laughter and the sound of someone pounding on a locker behind them.

"Yeah, I'm fine; thanks to you," she said blushing. Don't flirt with him for God's sake! Part of her screamed.

"Naw, I just hate seeing those SOB's run rough shod over everyone."

"Really," she said raising her eyebrows? Beth knew that the old Randy would never have confronted such a person. Daren, in fact, was known or tormenting Randy, had been since she and Randy had started attending William Penn. Now suddenly he was a hero, rushing in to save the day. She asked, "So you must have to set these guys straight all the time right?" She knew the answer perfectly well. She wanted to hear what he would say.

"No, actually this it the first time I've gotten mad enough to do something about it."

She creased her brow in confusion. "First time you got mad enough?"

"Yeah!" he said cheerfully. "Usually they just pick on me. But that's nothing really. I can handle that. I mean what are they going to do right? It's just never been worth fighting over before." He walked as he talked; Beth had to quicken her step some to keep up with him.

She was piqued now. Why would he suddenly find it necessary to do this? It was a side of Randy she felt certain that no one knew existed. "Then why now?" she asked.

"Because you're important to me." Randy hadn't hesitated to say just what had been on his mind. Beth was caught off guard by the directness of his statement and wasn't quite sure how to respond so she decided not to. The two walked together in silence toward their history class. For the first time since all this had started she felt safe, secure and out of the reach of harm. It had seemed so long since she had felt that she didn't want it to end. She felt almost normal here next to him and that was the disarming part. Deep inside her she knew this was not natural. She was not supposed to feel this way but having been trapped in such an unnatural state for so long and having been made to feel like something less than human she was happy not to question this new release too much and simply enjoy it.

She wanted more however. She wanted, what? For him to get closer, was that it, to talk to her, to hold her, to show her that... WHAT?

Get a grip! Get a God Damned grip girl! the voice that greeted that thought startled her.

I am getting a grip, and it's a damn good one too! came the answer in the voice of a sweet young lady someplace in the back of her mind.

She stopped walking and shuddered. Randy turned around and looked at her. "You sure you're OK?"

He was standing directly in front of the history pod. Before she could answer him a flood of people came out of the Pod and surrounded him. Apparently, news of the lashing of Daren had preceded them. As students from all the history classes encircled him, a team of teachers rushed past, one with tools. Beth alone seemed to notice them. Probably going to try to free Daren she thought as they dashed by. Bet they don't when they see who it is. The idea made her smile.

To Beth's surprise the guy's were heckling him, jeering him about something. Randy didn't seem too concerned. There was something different about this Randy and it was becoming quite obvious to Beth what it was. He seemed to be in control and confidant. Had he always been that way and she had just never noticed?

She listened closer to what was being said. "What do you think, someone like Beth could really care about you geek? But let me be the first to thank you for protecting her from the freaks now stay away from her Randy." Beth could hear the voice of someone that sounded like Tim Brown saying these things to Randy. That didn't make any sense though; Tim liked Randy. Tim was Beth's back up quarter back on the football team, next year he would be varsity, after she vacated the spot this year. It occurred to her then that Tim had made varsity early. William was gone. She had no second-string quarter back. It still didn't explain why Tim was acting this way.

Beth walked to the crowd and forced her way in next to Randy to see what was going on. Now Tim was poking Randy in the chest, all Beth could see was a finger and the shaking motion of Randy's body each time the finger made contact. "But she's a jockette. She's varsity property. You'd better remember that. Guys like you get what we don't want."

Why isn't he fighting back? He just creamed one of the biggest freaks in school! The answer was obvious. It was because she was not in any danger. He cared nothing about what others did to him.

She couldn't just let Randy stand there after what he had done for her. It had been a brave thing her best friend had done, and she had never really expected to ever see Randy step forward in such a manner. It was the least she could do to send these pathetic jocks home with their jockstraps to chew on. Not to mention, this whole, varsity property issue needed to be settled right here and now.

"I'm no one's property, Randy kind of made that clear back there with Daren." Without thinking about it she took the hand connected to the finger in Randy's chest and pushed it back to its owner.

Tim seemed confused. "You want to hang around this geek? I thought with that blow hard Shipley gone we wouldn't have to put up with this twerp any longer." Tim laughed and so did those guys standing around him, but it was a nervous laugh. Beth believed that most of them were scared of Tim. The world sure had changed she noted. It seemed that everything was back to front and all mixed up.

Beth interrupted, "Your name is Tim right?"

"You've heard of me," he said and glared at Randy and turned back to Beth with a large dashing smile.

"I know that you've backed down from Daren twice this year. Refused to fight him even when he was harassing Alison Becket." There was a feminine snicker from some place in the crowd.

"How do you..." Tim started to growl. Then went on the defensive. "That's bullshit!" He cried, "Daren wouldn't fight me!" He turned to his peers. "You know this is bullshit. What could she possibly know about it?" No one said a word about it however. Everyone had heard the rumor that Daren had cornered Tim in the men's room. That Tim had been frightened so badly he had wet his pants and wouldn't return to school. Tim had given the very plausible reason that he had in reality been sick to his stomach and had gone home for the day. William had backed up his story. William had helped his friend to the clinic that day so he could get a ride home.

In reality what happened was that William had walked in on Daren going through Tim's wallet on one side of the bathroom with Tim cowering against one closed stall. There was a set look of determination on Daren's face as he scoured the compartments for cash chips. When William came in Daren understood playtime was over and rather than make issue with two jocks, one of which that wasn't afraid of him, he marched toward the door. As he passed William, he slammed Tim's wallet into William's chest chuckling as he did and said, "Next time make sure you boy's have some real money for me. I'll be sure to let them go without fucking up their egos or their faces."

He marched out, a long black coat fluttering after him. To William, Daren seemed like a vampire, feeding of those that were afraid of him. The minute you stopped being afraid, Daren lost all his power.

William went to Tim and Tim had been defensive even then, warning William not to tell anyone or he would get even. Tim demanded his word, suddenly not afraid, not of William, Tim wanted his promise that he would tell no one what he saw. He wiped the tears away from his face and it was as Tim was distracted that he saw the wet stream that ran down the boy's trouser leg. Tim had urinated on himself. What ever Daren had done, it had been bad enough to take a 198-pound quarterback and make him piss himself.

William had assured Tim that he would never do that to a friend; he would never betray a friend and teammate. Tim whined, "He'll tell everyone." Then Tim noticed for the first time he had wet himself. "Oh God!" he cried, "I can't go out there like this. I can't!" He had turned to William with a pleading look, "What do I do now?"

They had waited for his pants to dry, William stood guard at the door was stragglers tried to wander in for a smoke or to piss and routed them to other bathrooms until the coast was clear and William could take Tim to the clinic claming that he was sick and needed to go home.

It would remain their word against Daren's; nothing would ever come of it. But suddenly, in front of everyone, here was this new girl that seemed to know about it. How could this be?

Tim stepped forward and this time Randy did step forward. He stepped between Tim and Beth and stared up at the six foot two inch athlete.

"What do you think you're going to do shrimp?" demanded Tim.

"I'm going to stop you from hurting her, the same way I stopped Daren from hurting her. Do you want to test me?" His tone was even and smooth. Randy was not excited or anxious, he was not agitated or angry. He was just, ready.

Tim started by making a demand followed by a request; a poor tactical move in the face of someone exuding the strength that Randy was demonstrating today. "Get out of my way worm. All I want to do is talk to her."

Randy looked to his left where Beth now stood just behind him. "Do you want to talk to him?" he asked.

Beth shook her head. As she did, she noticed that the girls in the group were now looking at Randy in quite a different way. This should be a good thing for Randy. He had never been popular with the ladies. Now they were all seeing in him a protector, a person of strength, a man. Beth should have been pleased for him. She was not pleased however, not pleased in the least. She really didn't want them looking at him this way. It was trouble. These girls couldn't be trusted. She felt terribly protective of Randy now with all of them looking at him... how was it exactly were they looking at him? Hungrily... yes that was it.

Without thinking about it she curled her fingers into his and gripped his hand. She felt a bit more secure now anyway. Randy was still between Tim and she, "The lady doesn't want to talk to you. The conversation is over, go to class Tim." She looked up at Randy and smiled. Is he really that tall or am I just that short now?

Tim glared at Randy for a moment.

"Varsity property indeed." Beth exclaimed turning the focus from Randy back to herself. She wasn't done stirring up the muddy waters. She looked around at the girls now looking and listening to her. "Are you varsity slave girls?"

Each of them looked shocked at the idea and when their jock boy friends tried to pull them close to confirm their loyalty most pulled away annoyed.

"Why don't you just shut up about it and take your geek and get out of here. No one on wants you here anyway Cowgirl." Tim insisted. That was met with same obligatory nervous laughs and giggles from the guys as his comment about William and Randy but dead, flat stares from the girls in the crowd.

"Take my geek, I think I will, thank you for your permission varsity slave master." She turned put her hands on each side of Randy's face and pulled it down and planted a deep, passionate kiss on his face.

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? Her mind screamed but she was going full force. To stop now would be bad for both her and for Randy. She would have to clear things up later, in private.

The rustle of a whisper could be heard in the crowd, male and female voices. The male voices mumbled things like creep, geek, asshole, looser the female voices sighed words like sweet, wonderful, loving, and romantic and the opposite tone seemed to polarize the two groups. It was suddenly clear, the jacketed had more of what the jocks wanted than the other way around. As they began to disperse, the girls walked by Randy and each touched him on a hand or shoulder and flattered him with complements or wishes that they had someone like Beth had found. Again Beth should have been pleased for Randy. Sometimes all it takes is one simple act to turn the fate of one individual around. This should have been it. But now Beth wanted these girls to stop touching him. She wanted... what... to thank him herself. She hadn't had much of a chance to do that yet. But they kept stopping by, hanging out... flirting!

You're actually jealous.

Am not. She argued with herself.

Are too.


She knew that none of these girls gave a crap about him. She wanted to shout at them and tell him that. Her grip on his hand tightened but Randy didn't seem to notice. When she looked up to read his face she saw he was only glancing at these women as they passed. Most of his attention was focused on her. She managed to relax just a little when she realized this.


Things almost came to a head however, when Marsha Townsend came up and reached around behind him. "If you ever have the notion..." she said and squeezed his left bun, "I don't think that Tim and I will be seeing much of each other after today."

Beth came around on Marsha like she was going to remove her hand at the wrist. "He doesn't need you," she said removing Marsha's hand from Randy's backside.

"That's his deck..."

"I said he doesn't need you. Now unless you want me to do to you what he did to Daren, you might want to get to class."

Ok, I am SO What?

As the crowd began to file into the classes, Beth and Randy stood there in the opening of the Pod and just regarded each other. The tranquility was broken by the voice of Mr. Lynden.

"Ah, young love..." he slipped up behind them, "I hate to break up this happy little... bonding session, but courtship time is for after class, por favor!"

The two didn't move.

"Squire Benton!" barked Mr. Lynden


Mr. Lynden moved his hands in sweeping motions toward the class, "Zoom zoom zoom!"

Beth blushed as the totality of what had just happened fell down all around her feet. Still she could not seem to separate herself from Randy's side. No matter how humiliated her male consciousness felt at the idea of what was happening her female consciousness had a steady control over her.

At their desks, with the commotion of ten minutes between classes behind them Beth had a chance to examine what she had been feeling, the thoughts and ideas that seemed to spring up without control.

What the hell is happening to me?

What had happened had been a mistake. She was sure of that now. The problem was that there was no way to reverse it without totally defeating everything that had been gained for Randy...

You are so full of crap. Girls break up with guys all the time. Hell, you could make so he wanted to break up with you! You just don't want that to happen.

A thought occurred to her, I'm thinking like we're a COUPLE! I'm not a couple. I don't have a boy friend! Oh God please don't do that to me too! JUST STOP IT!

She wanted to be revolted at the idea that she had full mouth kissed him there in the opening to the pod of classes but she couldn't. Yesterdays kiss at the entrance to the gym after his gallant offer to wear his gym clothes in their class rotation sparked warmth in her she couldn't explain. It had been spontaneous and pleasant, almost innocent. She had been able to dismiss it from her mind quickly as nothing more than a peck on the cheek. This one had been different. Worse, it had excited her. She had felt something strange going on with her body and the sensations frightened her.

She tried not to think about it.

After fifteen minutes of class, Principal Joles and two armed Police Services officers showed up at the entrance to Lynden's class. Lynden signaled for Randy to join the quartet at the door. The fear in her when they vanished around the corner was impossible to define. What if they locked in jail for the assault Daren? Were they not going to ask her what he had done to protect her? That thought sent even greater waves of terror through her. She didn't want to confront the police either. She wanted to stay as far away from the authorities as she could until she was free of this body and back in her own. But she had been protected by Randy twice today, was she going to allow her fear to keep her here instead of speaking up for the man she loved?

The thought had no control to it. It was simply there before she could kill it. She whispered, "Oh God." in a manner that many in the class heard. Geri heard it from Beth's right and a comforting hand rested on her shoulder.

"He'll be fine." Geri said. "I know you have no reason to believe me, but I'm sorry. You must be something special to have inspired so much in Randy so fast. I know he'll be fine." Beth looked at her barely aware of the words she was saying. Her head spun with fear, longing, doubt, amours and yes, love. She wanted none of it and could not seem to get enough of it.

She turned her attention to the door of the room again. She could not see where they had moved off to from her seat in the back. Tim, at the front of the room acted as if he could hear what was transpiring outside the open doorway. He face was grim. He turned to the back of the class and shook his head slowly and then allowed a slow evil grin to spread over his face.

"Mr. Lynden." Beth said as she sprung up making her way to the door. "I have to excuse myself please."

"Young lady, you sit down right now." The man was saying but she was already out the door.

There were the four, huddled about talking. Randy was smiling and the two officers were laughing. Randy gestured a mock punch that Beth recognized at the shot to head Randy had given Daren, and then indicated how Daren's head had bounced off the locker and the officers chuckled.

Joles noticed the young lady standing in the doorway, coughed to clear his throat, and quickly allowed his expression to sober. The two officers also saw Beth and became very official in their behavior. Randy, whose back was to the door, noticed everyone's behavior had changed. He spoke, just loud enough to for Beth to hear, "She's standing right behind me, isn't she?"

The men looked about as if they hadn't heard him as Beth approached. Randy asked, "So we're done then?" trying to give the officers and Joles an opportunity to beat a hasty retreat. Gratefully, the officers took their queue thanked Randy for his cooperation and moved out of the pod and down the hall. Joles however stood his ground.

"You're supposed to be in class young lady." He said firmly.

"Yes I know, I'll go right back now. I was worried. I wanted to make sure that the officers knew the whole story." She said flatly trying to remain indifferent.

"Seems you have a love interest Randall."

No I'm not! Beth thought.

"Well, both of you need to get back to class." Joles turned and he too left the pod moving in the direction of the old building and the administration offices of the school.

Randy smiled at Beth but she was a little off set by her feelings for Randy and the idea that the four of them had been out here yucking it up while she had been worried sick about him.

She turned and walked back to class without saying a word to him. Randy caught her before she got in the door. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." She said with a confused and annoyed look on her face and thought to herself. Everything!

"Don't be mad." Randy encouraged.

"Oh, I'm not." She assured him and then she turned and walked back to her desk. She wasn't mad, she was furious, she was confused and she was upset about not being able to control the way she felt about Randy. All she had really wanted was his friendship. That's not exactly right now is it?

She sat at her desk looking away from him. She heard him take his seat and looked at Randy and her heart melted. Quickly she looked away. She grabbed the corners of her desk and worked hard to concentrate on the surface of the desk. This is not happening! This is not happening! I am not losing control!

She could not control the urge; she wanted to know if Randy was looking at her too. Expectantly, she glanced at Randy trying to move her head as little as possible. Anyone else that seeing this would have seen a most provocative glance from this doe eyed little blonde, full of hope and longing but trying to hide these emotions and still test the waters.

Randy was not looking at her. He was working hard on his class work. The hurt was clear in her eyes and as she started to look way. Beth snorted a weak feminine grunt as she did and at the last second thought she caught the beginnings of a smile on Randy's face as she looked away. She did a double take and saw the smile just starting to fade.

He's playing games with me. She was helpless against the idea that he was aware of her, even as he worked. She was helpless against the smile that formed on her lips, even as she professed to hate it, it broke there and she could not wipe it off her face.

The entire hour of class was spent with these thoughts. As much as she wanted to run from them they gave her intense pleasure. She became encouraged, discouraged, excited and depressed. It was a roller coaster of emotions she had never experienced before. Not as William at least. As William, things had been so much more simply defined before. She realized that as a guy she had been only concerned with satisfying the immediate, the here and now. This was something different, very different indeed. She wanted this to go on and on... The excitement and uncertainty of what might happen next was intoxicating. It made her physically light headed with the excitement of it.

Don't play these games with him. It's encouraging him.

But she didn't need to know that to understand that his games were encouraging her. Where the hell did he learn to do this?

She didn't like being ignored. She shouldn't have minded, this should not be a game but there was something happening here needed to be finished, and if not finished, then addressed.

Then an obvious and interesting thought struck her. I have all the weapons! I have everything he's attracted to. I can play by his rules and beat him at his own game. And so she tried.

For the rest of the class period she did even so much as look his way. She copied her notes, material she knew already anyway but since she needed the credit, she copied. Three pages of notes filled not only her time but the small note pad she brought to class each day. Mr. Lynden insisted on using paper. It would be turned in and kept in a file in a really old-fashioned file cabinet. She had to admit, it leant an air of authenticity to the history angle.

She packed up her papers, bent to get her things, remembering she was wearing a skirt and bent at the knees to prevent a flash of panty. Hey, I'm getting the hang of this! She thought. When she turned to walk out of class with Randy, she was surprised and hurt to see that he had slipped out of the room without her.

Her hurt heart; turned to an angry one. Why would he leave her, not wait for her? Had she been imagining all of it? And why the hell DO YOU EVEN CARE? He's done you a favor; he set you free to become yourself again. Take the gift and shut your mouth.

But she found that much to her dismay she did care. Further more she had believed he had cared as well and no matter how much she wanted differently, she was hurt.

She hung her head, unable to keep her eyes from tearing and no wanting anyone to see and left for the next class.

She walked out the door she come through, deeply enthralled and infatuated, drew a deep breath and exhaled.

"Where ya goin?" She spun around at the words, causing her skirt to fly out to her sides. The whoops and hollers from the guys standing around the pod caused her to blush but she didn't really care. He was still here.

Careful... Don't lead him to believe you were upset, that you care.

The problem was that she did care. She did. She couldn't hide it from herself. No one had ever been this nice to her. Maybe as William she hadn't cared as much, maybe but she didn't think so. He had waited; he had worn his silly gym shorts all day yesterday because she was forced to. Today, he had taken on and out smarted the toughest guy in school to protect her. He was good looking. Where the hell did that come from girl? He WAS good looking though. How is it she was only now noticing that? Why had none of the other girls noticed that?

"I thought you'd left." She said angrily and slapped him on the arm.

Randy smiled. "That game you were playing in there. I thought you were cooling off."

She reached for his hand. "No more games." He took hers and it was warm and soft.

"From the feel of it, you don't seem to have cooled off any." Randy said. She smiled at him and the two left for math class together.

  _         _         _         _ 
(_)   _7  (_)   _7  (_)   _7  (_)
  +   (_)   +   (_)   +   (_)   + 

Michelle did not with draw the girls from school Wednesday as planned. She decided to do it Thursday morning, tomorrow. She desired one more night as hostess of The Red Fish, one more good memory of the life she had grown to love so much. One more piece of normalcy before the crap hit the fan.

She wanted to wait until Beth had arrived home. Michelle wanted to make sure that the message that they should all stay at home in the morning was delivered but in a manner that wouldn't panic any of them. Erin had been given the message already. She didn't understand it, but she was willing to comply. Shelly wasn't going anywhere without Michelle, that left only Beth, who was frustratingly late for the first time since enrolling in school.

If she didn't leave soon, there would be no reason to go to work at all. The evening would be over and done within about a three hour span. Most of the work at that point would have shifted from the front line service to the kitchen.

"Erin?" Michelle called upstairs, she could hear the sound of Erin's acoustic guitar being strummed from the landing.

The music stopped "Yeah Mom?"

"Could you please tell Beth to stay put when she gets home? I have to run."

"Sure Mom."

Michelle waited for more, shrugged. "Thanks hon."

She waited and still got nothing else in return. She finally dashed out the door and down to the basement for her HOV and flew to the restaurant.

  _         _         _         _ 
(_)   _7  (_)   _7  (_)   _7  (_)
  +   (_)   +   (_)   +   (_)   + 

Twenty minutes later, Beth and Randy arrived in front of the Shipley Building. "Thanks for the tour of the area." She wanted to be polite and seem grateful. He didn't know that she'd seen all this before. Besides, it was nice to spend time with him out side the school environment. On the few times she, as William had gotten him dates and they had double dated, Randy had always seemed reserved and quiet. Today however, he had picked out things he felt she might be interested in. Places of historical value, mostly remembered from conversations they had when she had been male.

It touched her to think that he would struggle with his own lack of knowledge to show her these things. She knew that his world was a scientific one and she knew that he would rather be building something or in a museum of science some place. Not that he didn't like the mindless entertainment of Holotheathers or the alcohol free youth night clubs of the university district, he did, but his head was buried in science.

It was one of the reasons he did so poorly in history.

"You want to come in today?" She asked.

"Ummm. I think..."

"I could help you with that history homework, and I sure could use some help studying for that science test tomorrow."

"I was just going to say... boy... I bet she could use some help studying for that science test tomorrow."

Beth stuck her thumb in the security port, waited for the buzz of the lock being released and when it came opened the door and the two of them went in.

At the top of the stairs Beth smiled and said. "We can go up stairs and study in my room. I'll get us something to drink; you spread the books out on the floor. I'll be right up."

Randy stood there for a second. When she turned with two drinking glasses in her hands and saw him still there she seemed puzzled. "You want to help?"

"Which room?" he asked.

"You know which room is mine! You've only been in it about a thousand times."

Randy blinked. "What? There are three guest rooms up there." He said with a slight laugh.

"Randy. What are you talking about? You know where my room..." her voice just sort of trailed off. The color left her face and Randy became scared that she was taking ill.

"Beth!" He rushed to where she was standing in case she toppled over. "What's wrong? Are you OK?"

She had almost blown it. Worse, Randy might still figure it out; he was no slouch in the brains department. It had felt so natural having Randy here with her, that she just blended into the environment of her home. She had forgotten who she was and what was going on here. She remembered thinking that this was what it felt like to be completely content as she was getting the glasses for their sodas.

But letting her guard down like that could be a fatal mistake.

"I'm fine Randy. I guess I got confused for a second, thought I was back home for some reason. Being here is going to take some getting used to." She turned to look at his face. She smiled a weak smile. "I'm staying in William's room. I assumed that because you two were friends, you knew where it was. That's all."

"Oh. William's room huh? Nice of him to let you use it."

"Well, actually, it was my Aunt Michelle that let me use it. Since it was already set up with tie-ins to the school VID net and all."

"Makes sense... OK then, you want some help here?" he asked.

"No I've got it, you go on up."

He stood for just a moment more and looked at her. Before the two kisses had been spontaneous He wanted to kiss her now, but was hesitant uncertain. He felt his window of opportunity closing and finally it was gone. To stand around much longer would have made him look foolish.

Bale me out here! She wanted his reassurance desperately, a touch, a... a kiss. Yes from him this time. Listen to yourself! For God's sake what are you going to tell him when you go back? It was clearly the voice of William calling out to the half in control of the reasoning centers of her brain.

If you get back... The voice of his now female self came through loud and clear. And if you don't do you intend on denying me a happy life? At some point I will have to move on and be who I have become. Or would want me to live the life of a nun forever and hide from everyone? The part that controlled her heart told her selfish male counterpart. She needed Randy to be there emotionally for her. She felt the moment passing. Maybe it was the way she screwed up, or the way she handled the recovery. Maybe... it could be anything! She was mostly afraid he was letting the moment slip past because of something she did.

Do all women worry this way?

"I'll be upstairs." He said and turned.

"Be right up." She smiled but did really feel like smiling. She was concerned about a number of things, not the least of which was, why had she invited him in? If confusion had been an Olympic sport she would be sporting more gold medals than she could carry. This may have been a mistake. It was hard hiding in plain sight. When she looked around nothing had changed. All the people and surrounding she had known before were all the same. It wasn't until they looked at her or she looked in the mirror that you discovered that something was profoundly wrong. The worse part of this was that she had no one to really talk to about this. Her parents were set on her following her assumed roll as Beth Wright to avoid a slip like she had just had with Randy. She didn't feel she could talk to them about what was going on.

Not to mention, how embarrassing would it be to tell her mother or father that she had kissed Randy and worse, liked it. Had in fact wanted him to kiss her.

No, she needed a friend!

Did she want to get caught? Did she want the excuse to confess her to Randy and hope that he wouldn't run away in disgust?

She shook the thoughts from her head. Things had been easier when she had just acted and hadn't thought about it. She put first one glass and then the next in the drink conveyer, selected cola and collected them after they had been filled and chilled.

Upstairs, she turned the corner to her room and almost bumped into him. "Oh!" she said the glasses of cola trembled in her hand and Randy quickly enveloped her hand in his larger ones to steady them.

"I'm sorry. I was coming down to see..."

"I know. I'm sorry, I'm just kind of messed up right now."

"I thought I sensed something." He said. "Do you want to talk about it?" She hadn't noticed it right away but he had not let go of her hands yet. He had in fact, pulled her closer to him almost imperceptibly.

"I can't. It's not that I don't want to. I would love to have someone to share it with, but..." she bent her head and looked to the floor and shook it gently. You can't! Don't do it. There is no way he'd understand, hell I don't understand!

When she lifted her head, he was there, face to face with her. Her heart stopped and her breath sunk to the bottom of her lungs. I'm dying! She thought. Then he gently placed his lips on hers and with a spark that felt as if it might have been the big bang, her heart leapt to life. She drew in a deep breath through her nose and dropped both glasses of soda. The exploded on the floor sending glass, liquid and ice over the floor of the bedroom. Both ignored the mess. There was an itch that needed scratching for both of them. Only the other knew precisely where that itch could be found on their partner.

Beth let her arms slip around Randy and she pulled him in tight. She moaned just softly. One thought slipped into her mind. How in the hell am I going to get out of this?

Skin Deep chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Skin Deep II foreward chapter 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 epilogue
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