Adult themes, moderate sexual content, transgender issues.  Just a (relatively) harmless romance story.  So sue me, I needed a break from the raping and pillaging.

by Agnes [captain_howdy], 2003

"He is?" Lynne's eyes bugged out as if she had never heard of a thing so ridiculous.  "So... Does his wrist do this a lot?"

She mimed a limp wrist and the rest of the group giggled.

"Oh, thtop thaat!"  Dirkie lisped, and they burst into laughter.

"Come on, so what's he like?"

Jamie cleared the last of the chuckles from his throat.  "No, no.  He's not totally like that.  Just... I've only met him once, okay?  But you can just tell.  He wasn't wearing a boa, if that's what you're getting at."

His friends kept grinning.  The Will and Grace world beaming into their living rooms on weekday nights had yet to brave flouncing shamelessly around Georgia, and the promise of the real thing caught their attention

Their hands dived into the chip bowl and they chugged on Pepsi while cartoons squeaked on the television in the background.  Jamie was glad to have his friends around him.  Last year of college and a part-time job were yanking the months of his life along.  Soon the people he had spent four great years with would chase careers instead of a good time and each other.  At least he had the excuse of a housewarming to drag them away from their books and midterm papers for a little fun.  Sure, they had not been enthusiastic to find "fun" meant helping him unpack his life from cardboard boxes, but now they were sated and happy and eager to discuss Jamie's unique neighbor.

"I kinda knew there were some of them around here, but it's like... you never see one just out on the street, you know?"  Rahela, legs curled up to point knees in Jamie's direction, looked around for confirmation.  "Even here in the city."

"I see it a lot on campus," said Curtis into the mouth of his soda can.  He sat leaning into the edge of the couch, on the brink of the social circle.  "You're just not looking.  And there're clubs.  It's in every city, every town."

"Curtis is in with the Underground Gayroad," piped Dirkie, an another round of laughter flared.  Even Curtis smiled at the jibe.

"Well, he seems nice enough.  I've been here unpacking the whole weekend and hardly any noise through the walls or anything.  Sounds like his hobbies are sleeping, reading, breathing..." he numbered off on his fingers.

"What's his name?" asked Rahela.

"Huh..." Jamie frowned.  "I forgot to ask."

They left before one in the morning as school called the next day.  Jamie stretched and scooped up a few escaped tortilla chips and empty soda cans.  Rahela's he recognized from the fuchsia lipstick stain.  It came back to him: "what's his name?"  And he suddenly thought, wish I'd asked.

He had been taking a box up the stairs (number 155 or thereabouts, he estimated) when his neighbor's door had opened.  He had stopped for the expected polite greeting.  Hello, new neighbor.  Name's Jamie, college student.  Can't shake right now, ha ha.

The man walking out had had his head down, only seeing Jamie when the door to his apartment had closed.  He looked disoriented, as if another person had shaken him out of a dream.

"Hello," Jamie said.  "I'm your new neighbor."

The mouth of the man, small and slightly open, had curved into a circle.  "...Oh.  Hello," he had finally said.  "Nice to meet you."  His voice was soft, as if a physical force afraid of breaking what heard it.  He was slight, of narrow shoulder and waist, although not unusually short.  His eyes were large and the eyebrows arched high as if to escape them.  He had nodded and went on to the stairs.  His manner made Jamie think of a shocked bird, too out of it to take much note of what was going on. 

It was only later, when box number 157 had been carried upstairs and the sweat was wiped from his brow, that he put his finger on what had struck him about the man's appearance.  If the man had not spoken, he would have mistaken him for a woman.  A flat-chested, short-haired woman, sure, but when had he last seen a man look or walk like that?  It was strange, and, just in the littlest, unsettling.

He had not run into the man since and now two days later he had no idea what his neighbor's name was.  The other tenants on the floor had knocked for a greeting on the first day, an older couple with photos of grandchildren to introduce him to.  But no one else had stopped by.  "Nice to meet you" was not much in the way of an introduction.  Maybe his neighbor was the reclusive type.

The cans went into the trash.  He hoped he had not made a premature judgment just to amuse his friends.  Perhaps he owed it to the guy to make some pleasant talk next time they met.

He got his chance the next afternoon.  He took the stairs two at a time, whistling happily.  The new apartment was closer to school than his old place, and finally, with the money he made at his pathetic little job at the kennel, he could be free of pesky roommates who strewed trash all over the place, stole his video games, wore his clothes, and left dirty dishes in the sink which piled up until he lost his patience and either washed or threw them out the window.  Living by himself he was sure to get back his faith in humanity.

On the landing his neighbor's door was open.  He slowed and peeked in going past.  He caught sight of a multi-colored rug stretching into the living room and a plethora of little pictures on the walls.  Someone moved inside and he stopped spying and went to his door.  As he opened it the man walked out, carrying a spray can and a roll of paper.  He was wearing an apron stained with a spectrum of paint.  He saw Jamie and paused again, in the same distracted manner.

"Hi."  Jamie waved.  "We met two days ago.  Uh, I'm Jamie, if you don't remember."

"No.  I mean, yes, I know we met," the man stuttered lightly.  He moved the paper from under one arm to the other to compose himself.  "Sorry.  I'm Andy.  I live... well."  He colored slightly and shrugged.  Jamie felt instant sympathy.

"Hey, any time you want a soda or to chat, I'm game."  He grinned in the friendliest way he could.

"Okay.  Sure."  Andy smiled back.  "I have to go spray these..."

Jamie took it as the exit cue.  "Cool.  See ya."  He walked into his apartment as Andy went down the stairs.

They said hello to each other in a distantly friendly way for the next week.  By the following Sunday Jamie had made a goal: find out if he had jumped the gun on his judgment of his neighbor.  Sure, he had the big doe eyes and flat nose and little mouth that women were always painting on themselves and surely envied of him.  Sure, he talked in a quiet voice which had no sharp edge or sudden bursts in volume.  Sure, he jutted out a hip when he stood idly and pulled the hair behind his ear in fluid gestures.  But for concrete proof...

"There you have it," Curtis said.  He was squinting in sun which was nothing if tolerable, looking, as usual, sleepy or chemically influenced although he was never either.  His mussed clothes and hair did not dispute it, however.  At the moment he was subtly sticking out his finger in the direction of a group of guys talking and laughing under the oaks on university campus.

"Them?" asked Jamie.  "They look like my high school basketball team."

"Then your basketball team is probably not very happy right now.  Georgia's behind the times, man."  Curtis liked to say so when he could.  His first two years of college, following a brief retail career at a chain of luggage outlets, were spent in New York, on the outskirts of the city.  Associate Degree in hand, he had decided he was sick of the place and needed a change, plus a Bachelor's in anthropology.  He was the type everyone envied, Jamie included, for seemingly lying around all day yet acing whatever exam or assignment came under his nose.  Predictably, he was getting bored with school. 

He continued, "You'll see a queeny guy here and there but it's mostly jock types now.  It's like a fad.  There's even favored clothing labels, music, magazines..."  He shook his head.  "Kinda sad."

Observing them, Jamie could see they were very comfortable with each other.  But it was still Georgia.  They were here too early in the day for lap dances, which perhaps perhaps perhaps he had been expecting just a little.  The jocks in front of him gave him disconcerting thoughts: could it really have been anyone in high school?  Had it been the basketball team, without anyone knowing?  Had it been his classmates, his best friend?  "Okay, why do you know all this stuff?"

"Dude, I lived in New York for ten years.  My first girlfriend's dad was gay."


"I'm serious!"

Jamie laughed, not sure whether to believe it though Curtis was not a liar.


Andy was on the front sidewalk when Jamie came home.  Painted boards were laid out on the pavement and he slowly went back and forth over them with a spraycan of something foul and full of aerosol. 

Jamie stopped to admire the paintings.  They were imagined landscapes, Surrealist if he recalled his art history class correctly, which was dubious as he had nodded off more than once that semester.  But here was the silver lining of a chance to probe into the artist's life.

"It's called... Surrealism, right?"

"Oh, hi."  Andy smiled what was his standard greeting, something a touch nervous and apprehensive though trying to be friendly.  "Yes.  I love that movement.  It was so full of symbolism..."  He looked like he might go on but stopped himself.  Jamie knelt down next to him.

"So what are you doing right now?"

"Spraying them with fixative.  They're done in water-soluble crayon and it looks much nicer and doesn't get as dirty.  Won't get scratched, either."

Jamie only understood half of that but nodded along.  "So, you're an artist."

This time the smile Andy gave was different.  He pulled it back as it flowered, afraid to let it out fully.  "Yeah.  Well, until my career takes off, I'm actually a clerk at Sunshine Bakery on Fifth Avenue."

"Sunshine, yes!  I can taste the love in those bagels."  He had been there twice, but this couldn't count as a lie, exactly.  "I'm a student at ASU.  German Language, if you can believe it despite my bad English."

"Ich kann."

"Ah, Ich muß achtgeben."

Andy was not looking away as quickly at eye contact and Jamie felt triumphant already.  "Could I see some of your other work?"

"Oh, ah...  All right."  Andy's ears turned pink.  He put his pictures in a stack and Jamie carried the can.

Andy's apartment was a bohemian lair.  The little pictures visible from the hallway were art magazine cutouts.  They were everywhere.  Where the colorful rug ended more began, running all through the tiny living space.  Books were stacked into a bookcase, across the floor, on the tables and sofa.  Many bore the markings of the library or thrift stores.  Loose papers filled in spaces between.

"It's a mess," Andy said in way of apology.  Jamie shrugged in a polite, "I don't mind."

Andy put his work down and pulled a wide box out from under the sofa.   The seam where it unfolded was taped together, thinned with wear.  "This is most of my portfolio.  It's what I show off to anyone who'd want to hire me.  Well, actually, I have this smaller book with photos that I take in because this is too large."  He bit his lip, again as if curtailing what he would have liked to keep talking about.

Jamie turned each piece over carefully.  They were each wrapped in a slick, semi-transparent paper sheet which had to be peeled back to reveal the work.  There were more landscapes, and a series of figure drawings.  Each was signed Andrea Pazzinni.  Jamie could see him fidgeting in the corner of his eye.

"Um," he said when Jamie finished.

"Don't sweat, kid!  You're hired!"

Andy laughed.  It was high but with the same rounded edge, in no way abrasive.  It was pleasant to hear.

"I'm serious," Jamie said.  "I like it all.  None of my friends are visual artists.  Did you go to art school?"

Andy had gone to a state school, but had majored in art.  Jamie had struck gold with this topic, and it took hardly any effort to keep Andy going on about himself.  He was twenty-four.   He had moved to Atlanta last year, after attending school in northern Georgia.  He lived by himself.  He liked cats.  He liked books.  He liked lots of things but Jamie could not figure out how to ask about whether he liked men without making an ass of himself, short on picking up on Andy himself.


"So, is he?" Lynne asked over her foaming mocha next Tuesday.

"I don't know.  I feel bad.  I could've just been jumping to conclusions.  He..."  Jamie stopped.  He had no grip anymore on the concept of acting gay, as it had effectively been shattered last week, all thanks to Curtis.  It was the red scare: no one could be trusted.  But at least he was not stupid enough to believe homosexuals were secretly planning the Revolution, by which all men would be forced to take up crocheting and call each other honey.

"All right, we need a plan," Rahela piped up.  "This is getting serious.  We have to come up with a way to uncover the truth, or we will be stuck here theorizing till kingdom come.  Operation: Is Jamie's Neighbor Gay?"

"How about asking him?" Curtis said dryly.

"No!"  Lynne, Jamie, and Rahela chorused.

"You don't just ask people that," said Lynne.

"It's too straightforward.  Boring," said Rahela.

"How would I explain why I want to know?" asked Jamie.

Curtis raised his eyebrows in thought.  "Oh, simple.  Just tell him you and your friends have this discussion every time you meet and it's become such a burning question you're all losing sleep and failing classes."

"Har har, Curtis."  Jamie slouched down resentfully.  He liked to think he had been raised properly, and he really knew that Curtis was right and this was highly impolite of them all.  Really, it was none of their business.

Then again, he had taken to listening intently every time the door opened and shut to Andy's place.  There was always silence outside of the fall of footsteps, but Jamie waited to perhaps hear another man's voice, a giggle, a playful, "oh, you!" 

And there was the matter of the makeup kit.  He did not mention this to them, feeling it too much of an invasion of Andy's privacy.  But when he had gone into Andy's bathroom during his visit, just for a moment, just to wash French fry grease off his hands, there it had been, eyeshade and lipstick staring at him from a little periwinkle bag on the tank of the toilet.  It could be Andy's.  It could belong to a female friend of Andy's.  It could belong to a female more-than-friend of Andy's.  The question vexed him.  He had spent ten minutes in the bathroom chewing on the matter before realizing Andy would think him odd for taking so long.

But this bit of information was his alone to consider, when he left them.


The Sunshine Bakery was a good, refreshing walk from the apartment building.  A real bell rang when Jamie opened the door.  It was a nice change from mechanical beeps and buzzes or the maddening plastic frogs which never sounded like real frogs at all.  Across from a gaily painted counter were small tables with matching chairs.  A few plants and bookcase with magazines and board games completed the picture.  A friendly place on first glance.

Andy was behind the counter with two girls.  They manned the registers while he arranged doughnuts in the display case.  His delicate face was creased with a slight frown, looking as unnatural as wrinkles in paper.  Across from him was a young man in a t-shirt one size too small, his head tilted and a sly grin on his mouth, spreading his hands in placating gestures.  Whatever he was drawling was not pleasing Andy.

Jamie walked right up and interrupted him.  "Hi.  Got any doughnuts?"

Andy smiled at him, relieved.  "Hello.  I'm not sure..."  He made a show of scouring the bakery, then looked down at his hand.  "Oh!  There's one right here."

"I hope the Academy's watching, 'cause if that wasn't the most convincing performance..."

"Right, right."  Andy made a sour face.  "I didn't say I went to art school to become an actor."

The other guy eyed them both.  His smile changed mind about jumping ship at the last second.  "Okay, I see, babe.  I have competition, right?"

Andy rolled his eyes.  Only two sentences and Jamie's skin was ready to crawl right off his skeleton.  The guy gave off a palpable air of creepiness.  Jamie could guess he was the type of man who used pick up lines in a way other than absurd jokes.

The creep grew impatient.  "Sure, whatever.  All I was asking was for a fucking phone number."

Andy did not look at him.  "I don't have a phone."

"Fuck you, man!"  He stormed out.  Jamie wished he could telepathically beam the collective happiness of the bakery at his doing so directly to the man's brain.  But on the bright side, it was a development.  He leaned on the counter, nothing but casual.

"Do you get that a lot?"

"Sometimes.  Sprinkles, chocolate, glazed..?"

Jamie pointed to a doughnut.  "Powdered.  So the other times nice guys pick up on you?"

"Other times no one picks up on me.  Usually."  When he looked at Jamie then it was quick, with the barest smile.  Jamie nearly did a double-take, deciding to act as if it had slipped him by.  The points were gaining on the "he IS" side.  Fast.

Andy put down his doughnut, lovingly wrapped in tissue and a paper bag with the stencil of Sunshine Bakery across its belly.  "On the house, for being my big hero."

"I didn't do anything."

"Sure you did.  Couldn't get rid of him until you came along."

One of the girls sidled up to him.  "Hey, friend of yours?"

Andy seemed to take unusual pride in introducing Jamie to Sofia and Sofia to Jamie.  They exchanged hellos and Sofia suggested Andy go take a seat with his friend (her pronunciation of the word being a mite odd to Jamie) as the afternoon was slow for a Thursday.

They pulled out a game of checkers.

Andy crossed his legs primly when he sat.  "White or black?"

"You pick.  Ladies first."

The piece in Andy's hand clattered on the table.  His ears went pink and he straightened up, scooping up his pieces.  Jamie cleared his throat.

"Uh, did I say something wrong?"

"No.  Nothing.  It's fine."  He moved a disk forward.

They played silently for five minutes.  Andy sat ramrod straight in his chair.

"Uh."  Jamie started.  "I didn't mean anything by that, you know."


Another five minutes went by.  Two little piles of pieces formed on either side of the board.

"Did it offend you or something?" Jamie asked.  "'Cause I didn't mean to say that you were a girl, just because of, uh..."  Saying "the way you act" sounded horribly out of place.

Andy reached the opposite side of the board and stood abruptly.  "I think I better get back to work.  Maybe... you could drop by when I'm off.  At eight.  I'll be home."

He looked at the board he was putting away instead of Jamie when the other said "yes."

The walk from the bakery was decidedly less full of sunshine.

He was curious but apprehensive when he knocked on Andy's door.  Another piece in the bizarre Andy puzzle?  He would like to have a full report to give his comrades this weekend.

Andy opened and let him in.  At night his apartment was illuminated mostly by small scattered reading lamps.  It was an electric version of candlelight, a little too intimate for Jamie's liking.  "So, what's up?"

"I wanted to show you some of my other drawings."  Andy pulled a portfolio onto his living room coffee table.  He sat as nervously as the first day while Jamie flipped it open.  "I don't usually wave these around at just anyone..."

It was full of dainty ink drawings.  Some were splashed lightly with watercolor, other starkly black and white.  The nude figures bent and wove around each other.  They were mostly lithe and graceful, some with a feminine roundness in their hips, faces like little mirrors of Andy: large eyes, small mouths, pert noses.  With a spark of shock Jamie realized those with breasts had male genitalia paired with them.  Just about every nymph-like creature was hermaphroditic.  They were strange, yet drawn to be beautiful.  He did not know what to say, at once shocked and intrigued.  He knew, at the very least, that to treat this less than sensitively would be a grave error.  So he went with the most direct path.

"What are these pictures, Andy?"

Andy wove his fingers together, ripped them apart, repeated the process.  "They're ideals of beauty.  For me.  It's..."  He bit his lip, funneling his thoughts into something communicable.  "There is so much beauty in man and in woman, but they're so separate.  They are not allowed to borrow from each other, to be unlike what they're supposed to be.  These checklists for what a man is, what a woman is.  It's not right.  I don't believe it is."  He leaned forward, growing excited in the need to make Jamie understand him.  "It's what I always wanted to be.  Something taken from man and something taken from woman, and I don't see why the rest of the world can't understand it.  It would be so perfect to be both and to be really neither at the same time, not to be forced to stay in one shape.  It would be freedom."  His ears were fuchsia, two meters to tell his audience exactly what he was feeling.  "I can't explain it exactly so I try to draw it like I see it in my head, like what I feel I really am.  I... I know it can seem weird but I get so tired being called a girl when I'm not a girl but I don't feel like a man, don't want to be a man, don't want to be pushed into either one, as if I had to choose this or that or... or..."  He stopped, catching his breath.  He sat back and watched Jamie.  His ideas in the open, he looked sheepish to have let it happen.  "Maybe it's a little easier to understand now.  Is it?"

Jamie closed the portfolio.  He looked at its deceitfully bare cover, trying to digest everything just confessed.  "That's all right," he finally said.  He heard Andy exhale in relief and thought about where to go from there.  "They're... nice pictures.  Um... but... you're... I mean, naturally, you've always been a guy, right?"

Andy's face fell.  "Biologically, yes," he whispered.

"And you just... didn't like me calling you a lady because you've gotten crap about being feminine and you thought I was doing the same thing."


"But at the same time, you sort of... want to be a woman?  But not completely?"

Andy looked ready to cry.  Red lined his eyeballs.  "I just thought... you seemed to be the type... to understand."


"Never mind."  Andy took the portfolio and scooted it back in place lovingly.  He gave a profound sigh and wiped his nose.  "I think I need some sleep."

"Okay."  There was a rift between them when Jamie left, although he knew Andy had only wanted to bring them closer together.


The rain came for the city in April.  Jamie sat under the bus stop shelter with Dirkie, waiting to be whisked away by a shuttle to the Life Sciences building dry and unharmed.

"So how's the neighbor?  Anything interesting?"

"It's getting tired, Dirkie."  He had not breathed a word to any of them.  He had considered Curtis, maybe even Rahela, but in the end he would feel too much like a jerk, even with the weight of it on his chest.  If the secret to life was eating raw sewage, he thought it would feel similar, a vital knowledge he did not want to share and which would not want to be known.  Dirkie was last on his list for candidates for confession.  Dirk the Jerk, they used to tease, which was now a tired thing, too, and he was not a jerk at all, simply flippant and carefree so much the information would slide right off his brain with a joke.  It would do nothing to help Jamie understand.

"I'm not sure we're even on speaking terms anymore," he admitted, however.


"I said something dumb and walked off.  Now I could go back and apologize and try to explain myself and hope things will be civil between us, or we could do the awkward forced smile and wave every time we see each other."  So it was on his end, anyhow; Andy tended to duck his eyes and hurry away like the scared animal Jamie had first likened him to.

"Well that's a dumb question if I ever heard one."

"It wasn't a question, Dirkie."

"Yeah, but it's still dumb."  Dirkie bounced the heels of his Converse sneakers on the pavement, childlike.  "I mean, what's the worst that could happen if you said 'I'm sorry?'"

The worst would be Andy playing with his fingers and mumbling it was really his fault.  Jamie hated feeling like an asshole.  "So you want me to be friends with him?  What if our hypothesis is true?"

Dirkie sat up straight.  "Never mind that crap.  I'm being serious for once." 


Now he felt like an asshole and a fool, but the iris he had found along the way was in his hand while the other knocked.  The flower was violet like one of the rugs in Andy's hallway and girls were supposed to like flowers. 

He knew he had better not voice the thought.  If things went sour, he could always argue he could not be blamed for not understanding.  It's not every day the new friend next door confesses he is some mental breed of hermaphrodite struggling to fit the outside world to what he feels is inside.  It only sounds simple, as much as replacing "he" with "it" in Jamie's mind when thinking of Andy.  Asshole point number thirty-seven.

Andy's mouth went slack when he saw his guest.  It flapped back up and he looked nervously over Jamie's shoulders, as if looking for the hidden thugs waiting to pounce him.

"I come in peace," Jamie tried to crack.  He put forth the flower.

"Oh," said Andy, taking it.  "It's pretty."

He examined it and they hesitated like this on the threshold.  The place was something new to Jamie.  He was suddenly seeing the rooms in different filters: did the girl side inspire the dried roses on the bookshelf?  If he crossed over he would analyze every detail to determine if a boy would choose it to be just so, or would it only be the work of someone inter-sexed?

"Do you want to go somewhere?" he blurted. 

"Okay," said Andy. 

Jamie missed the spout of conversation he could sometimes pull from Andy in place of his one-word, passive assents.  They took the bus down to a reservoir; the ducks were nesting there with little brown ducklings a train behind them.  They stopped to buy bread.  Sitting on the bus Andy crossed his legs primly.  Jamie looked at his nails, close-cut and neat.  Nails like a boy, nails like a girl.  Andy's profile was soft and pretty against the passing green of scenery.  He fidgeted until slipping into a daydream, his body still as if vacated.

The ducks were sparse this year.  They swam up in hungry circles when Jamie and Andy walked to the water's edge, knowing what was in store.

"I wanted to take you seriously, so," Jamie stuck his hands in his pockets, letting Andy have the joy of feeding ducks, "I had to think about everything for a while.  Sorry if I came off like a jerk."

"It's all right," Andy said in his usual feathery lilt.

"When I first saw you, I thought you looked like a girl.  But I knew you were a boy.  So... it was sort of like you were both.  I mean, you are both."  He checked Andy's face for tremors of sadness, resentment, irritation.  "I think it's kind of neat.  I'm just not used to it."

"What's there to get used to?" Andy said flatly.  It surprised Jamie.

"Uh, just... I've never met anyone like you, so..."

"Will you treat me differently?"  Now there was a slight sign, maybe fear.

"I, uh..." Jamie looked at him, and Andy reminded him of the torment girls put on their faces in soap operas, only sincere.  "Should I still call you 'he'?"

"Oh."  It was as if it had not occurred to Andy.  "Yes.  Well, since that's what I am on the outside, might as well.  If that's okay."

"It's okay.  If everything's okay, it's... Look, I just didn't want to let go of being friends.  You're great, you know?  You're a great artist and I like to listen to you talk and when I talk I think you listen.  So how about just going on like before?"

Andy nodded.  Jamie felt satisfied.  There was silence between them, until the ducks in their flurry presented antics they could latch onto for laughter and talk, and things went from there.

On the way back Jamie tried to synchronize his thoughts, the feeling that the crossed-legs prim creature next to him was Andy and Andy was halfway what he had assumed him to be.  Now he felt foolish for wondering although he could not help it: Andy as a girl, what did that mean to him?  He tried not to get carried away with the idea.  Hopefully, it meant nothing.  He was not supposed to act differently anyway.

"Thank you," Andy said when they parted, Andy to work and Jamie for home.  There was the awkward pause, the same Jamie seemed to recall from high school prom dates and movie trips, and he went forward and gave Andy a brief hug, wondering that under his hand was the same horizontal strip of brassiere as those girls had all had.


Lynne was not stupid, Jamie knew, but much too preoccupied with things which did not deserve the attention.  This time it was a storefront.  Soon enough, she convinced him to come inside and wait for her while she tried on a spectrum of pieces.  He was patient because she promised to tutor him in German literary tenses and early history, and because tutoring with Lynne was always twice as colorful as with anyone else. 

She disappeared into the jungle of dressing rooms.  Jamie wandered back and forth down the aisle.  He stopped at a dress and though it was pretty, in the context of being on a pretty girl, like his friends: like Lynne, like Rahela, like Andy.  He shook his head.  Andy had not blatantly cross-dressed in front of him so far, and he should not assume.  He looked up to see the women's undergarments.  The salesladies might think him a pervert if he went to them, as he always suspected.  He stayed away, but from a distance eyed the fanciful little scraps and straps, wondering if Andy wore them under his jeans.  He could not guess how it would feel; thinking of them on himself made him uncomfortable.  So he tried to imagine Andy, wrong as it was, he was certainly only curious...

"Okay, I'm done," Lynne chirped behind him.  He realized he had a faint flush on his cheeks.


They were in a downtown gallery, shuffling slowly from painting to painting.  Jamie liked art but hard as he tried he could not stare at one piece for as long as Andy, and found himself glancing at him each time to gauge when it was okay to move to the next one.  It was the way to experience the exhibit together.  Otherwise, why not just come alone?

He liked looking at Andy, anyway.  He tried to guess if the lavender and yellow striped sweater he wore came from the junior girls' section; the carmine t-shirt underneath certainly had. 

"Will you be in here someday?"

Andy smiled, wiped strands away from his forehead in a fluid arc.  "I'm not good enough for this one.  It's really high end."

"They say never say never."

Andy's teeth came into his smile.  "I know."

The sky was gray when they walked outside.  A chill hung in the air, promising only worse to come with the season.

"My friend convinced me once to try out for a play.  I thought I would do horrible, that it was way too up there for me.  Last time I'd been in a play was fourth grade, playing Columbus.  The play was about American history.  It left out the settlers giving Indians blankets infested with smallpox, and the Indians scalping the settlers."

"That sounds like it would be much more fun."

"I agree!  That's why I was never so enthusiastic about plays.  But I tried out for this one and they liked me a lot."'

"Did it have scalping and smallpox?"


Andy shook his head.  "Another childhood dream shattered by America."

They laughed, dodging raindrops with the awnings of passing storefronts, becoming trapped under one with a sudden burst of downpour.  If he could forget for a while that there was anything different about Andy, Jamie felt being with him was natural, like there had never existed a condition of living separate lives.  

He saw Andy shiver lightly and unzipped his coat without thinking and put it on his shoulders.  It seemed to startle Andy, in a different way than simple surprise.  He pulled it around himself timidly, mumbling that Jamie would be cold now.  Jamie shook his head.  They watched the street for a bus.

Boarding the one that came, Jamie put his hand on Andy's back though no help was needed, and even this felt natural until he saw Andy's ears color pink.  When they sat down and their hands brushed it was too obvious and Jamie edged away, not liking being so confused about the whole of this.

When they said goodbye Jamie felt a touch foolish, wanting to ask Andy in because it seemed logical.  Yet he only smiled and opened his door while Andy disappeared behind his.


"Here," Rahela handed him a sheaf of papers.  "I think you should read for it."

"Are you kidding?"  Jamie took the play script and flipped through it without seeing words.

"You were pretty good in the last one.  Come on, I'm doing it, and it'll be more fun together."

"Isn't it too much?  You're already leading activities in the Union of Women Students, the Union of African-American Students, the Union of African-American Women Students..."

"It's not too much and I think you need something to do, they way you've been dragging your feet around lately."

Jamie looked at the cover.  Les Liaisons Dangereuses.  How fucking apropos.  He studied Rahela and Lynne; maybe women were the best audience for this sort of confession.  Lynne caught him and smiled and he still could not bring himself to do more than smile back.

"Um... I'll give it a try."


He still had not introduced any of his little circle to Andy.  They wondered to him where he had been disappearing to, and he only vaguely suggested a mystery bakery worker.  They insisted he give them the next Saturday night, another celebration of their friendships before the end of college and a chapter of their lives.

Jamie was waiting for the bell when he heard Andy's door open and shut.  He wished to know where Andy was going, and possibly who with, but he sat on his couch listening to the steps recede on the stair instead.  A few minutes later he heard a clatter of four pairs of shoes.  They might have even passed each other.

They were halfway to the bottom floor when Jamie looked up to see him ascending the staircase.  He looked discontent as he raised his head, the expression freezing as he saw them.  Jamie halted as well, and his friends took it as a cue to do the same.

"Hey," Dirkie said, sharing a step with Andy, "you know this lady?"  He grinned in his easy way, flirtatious but unthreatening.

Andy shifted his weight nervously, looking for a way past them, perhaps.  He wore a violet skirt reaching mid-thigh and a powder pink camisole, the straps of which mingled with the straps of what was underneath.  Jamie stared, at a loss for words.  "Yeah, uh..."

Andy was also wearing makeup and heeled sandals.  His face was staining red.  This would take more than five minutes to explain.

"Guys, this is... this is An... Anne.  She lives a floor above me.  She's... an artist."

Greetings rang all around.  Andy caught a strand of hair between his fingers, voicing a nervous hello.  Dirkie leaned towards him.

"Are you free tonight?  We're all going out dancing and damaging our livers, how does that sound to you?"

"Um... I don't..."  Andy's eyes flitted up, and Jamie stepped down to put a hand on his shoulder.

"Only if you want."  To his friends he explained, "She's shy."

Andy nodded and took his hand.  They walked out of the building and into a brilliant evening.

Jamie had not been to a club since the time of midterm stress-relief.  It was only fun with these people he was familiar with, but having Andy next to him added a charge to the experience.  His only worry was a misstep which would make the whole night blow up in his face, but after a drink and a round of jokes it was a distant thought.  They sat in a semi-circular booth, sucking up the drinks, all chatting in a yell over the dance music until the girls jumped up for a dance, joking about a man selection process.  They pulled on Andy's arm and he smiled politely but was steadfast in staying with Jamie, so they grinned slyly and bounced off.

"They're out to break some poor men's hearts, those two," said Dirkie.  "You're a good woman for sticking to one guy."  He sat up suddenly.  "Oi, you don't happen to work at a bakery, do you?"

"Yeah, actually.  I do."  Andy shot a glance at Jamie, who turned up his lips sheepishly.

"Oh-ho!"  Dirkie elbowed Curtis and winked.  "You're the mystery girl Jamie's been ditching us for."

Andy picked at his thumbs.

"Okay, okay, change of subject.  How's Operation: Blue Boy?"

Jamie's alarms went off.  The implosion was imminent.  He grabbed Andy's wrist and hauled him to his feet.  "I don't really want to get into that right now.  We'll go dance."

"Sure," Dirkie waved.  "I'll just sit here with Curtis and queer out or something."  He yawned and nearly piled himself into Curtis' lap.  Curtis shoved him off with a laugh and they began to talk and poke at each other in a casual way Jamie could not keep watching.  Andy looked to him for what to do.  He should have asked first.

"Uh, so, you want to dance?"


Jamie wove them through the crowd.  He did not want to be in sight of his friends, was almost afraid of it.

"Your friends are nice," Andy said.

"Yeah."  Damn, he felt so awkward.  Worse than the first time they had met, perhaps.  "You, er, you look nice today."

They found a spot and faced each other. 

"I was going to go out to this club," Andy said, catching his hair.  "But... I thought it was just not worth it.  I didn't actually mean to get out of the house looking like this."  He flicked the hem of his skirt.  "I'm glad I didn't go; I'd probably be getting date-raped instead of dancing with you right now."

"If we were dancing."

Andy shrugged and began to move.  Jamie followed suit, still with uneasy reserve.  "Well... I like it.  You're only halfway to hoochie-town."

Andy made a face and bared his teeth.  The tension dissipated, and it was as easy between them as before.

Andy was a fairly good dancer, and whatever he lacked was not obvious as he had no hint of self-consciousness on the dance floor, in complete opposition to his habitual demeanor.  They grinned at each other as if their moves were jokes, and every so often to break the pattern they were: exaggerations or deliberate missteps to make each other laugh.  It was a balance of joy for them: to light up the other boy's face with merriment, to get the same in return.  In the flash of lights and loud pounding of music, Jamie had an excuse to grab Andy's hands for a spin or two, letting go before the touch was called "too long" and raised the sirens.

Dirkie bounced up to them, trying to displace Jamie inch by inch. 

"Hey," he yelled, "how about ditching the jerk?"

"Who's the jerk, Dirk?" Jamie yelled back, shoving him away without malice.  "Find your own date."

Dirkie shrugged and winked at Andy, then melted back into the crowd.

"You didn't really want to dance with him, did you?" Jamie asked Andy, still in a yell for the noise.  Andy shook his head.

"No, I'm only your date tonight."  With that he latched his arms around Jamie's neck, grinning and sure.  Jamie wondered if it was the drink as he put his hands on Andy's waist, aware of the space created between camisole and skirt with the stretch of dance moves.

Andy's face was radiant, rotating in lights of violet and blue and red as the club hummed and blinked around them.  He moved with increasing boldness, snaking up and down, his chest and arms brushing Jamie's, his thighs periodically all but straddling Jamie's leg.  He was quick and smooth, a serpent creature Jamie pretended he could not hold, his hands trailing up and down the back of Andy's body when it moved underneath them.  Andy's lips were parted in the rush.  Jamie found his doing the same as sweat came to his forehead.  It must have been the drink: Jamie could finally say to himself, "he's really beautiful."

A lull came after a hyper beat.  The jerking and wiggling bodies took the chance to slow, wound closer to each other.  Jamie and Andy pressed their bellies together, catching their breath.

"Isn't this better than date-rape?"

Andy considered.  "I dunno.  'Cause if the guy was better looking than you..."

Jamie grinned and shook him playfully.  He was not out of his senses; far from it.  But he could not think of when the moment would be over, because what then?  It seemed they would have to face it, to take one road or the other.  Right now, it did not matter what the choices were.  Jamie did not want to make any, did not want it forced on him just yet.

The beats lunged back in.  They stayed close, finding a rhythm to move to together, almost like one hybrid of four tangling limbs.  Jamie touched the expanse below the skirt's hem to confirm what he was not sure of, and found it to be smooth and soft.  Andy's face was a breath away to the side of his.  He wanted to ask how far up he must have shaved, no, wanted to see, better yet to feel.  He slid his hands up, Andy's body grinding against him.  His other hand massaged under the camisole, brushing the bra clasp, registering a shiver and two.  Andy was breathing hard under his ear.  The pool of humanity around them could turn at any moment and see, yet they were safe in its vastness, in the dark of the blacklights.  The skin was slipping under his fingertips on sweat and impatience as he groped under the clothing.  Andy's hands caressed his neck, head tipping back.  The  flushed canvas of his shoulder was there and Jamie leaned into it, put his lips to skin and sucked.

He heard Andy moan and there was another feeling against him, pressing into his thigh with every motion.  He jerked his head up.  He could not have completely forgotten, and yet... yet it made his stomach turn and he let go.  Andy bounced off in a totter upon release, the flushed bliss on his face turning perplexed as Jamie stared at him in consternation, as if he had planned the whole thing in some dark scheme for Jamie's undoing.

"I think I need another drink," Jamie finally said.  He took a step before a semblance of politeness came back to him.  He jerked his thumb at the bar.  "You?"

Andy's mouth was still half-open.  He looked suddenly lost, the same boy who had trouble meeting eyes and gestured instead of speaking.  He shook his head now, and, with a last hopeful pause for reconciliation, pointed to the door and hurried off.

Jamie looked at the spot they had been dancing.  He glanced at the menu of drinks, then back.  It was certainly time to drink.  He put a palm to his forehead.



Jamie was miserable.  He had argued illness and dragged himself home, horny and confused.  Two days had passed and he was still discontent.  His classes became a buzz when he should be paying attention.  He could not stand to sit in the company of his friends.  Everywhere he looked was Andy: Andy in his girly sweater, Andy in Jamie's coat, Andy in a short skirt and top hiked up to flash his perfect dent of a navel.  He would rub his eyes and go on, replaying the night in his head and weighing regret against fear.

In the evening Andy would come to his mind in a slink or a crawl, this pretty, effeminate creature he could easily imagine as something safe and attainable.  He would tear off the shirt to find the bra held actual breasts, feel in the panties for a wet cavern instead of what had pressed into his leg during the dance.  He could have Andy like this, as Annie.  She was that part of him which must be turning his head in circles.

He would stare up while his imagination worked and his hand worked in his jeans and Annie was sliding against and onto him.  He could touch her like a woman, could hold a breast in his palm.  But when she twisted in coitus to show him her back he would lose his certainty, the flesh hard and flat where it had been soft.  He would hear Andy's voice whispering to him and lines he had drawn would blur, leaving a frail picture reminiscent of androgynous drawings of the boy next door.

Andy was invisible until an evening after work found him outside the building, waving spray cans above more drawings as the first day they had talked.  Jamie stopped next to him, not feeling cruel enough to walk by without a word.

"What have you been working on?"

"Oh, uh..."  Andy made a sweep with his hand.  His clothes were loose; he might have well been wearing a tent for cover.  "Just my own things.  As usual."

When Jamie knelt down the aerosol smell crawled up his nose.  He thought maybe Andy would appreciate a mask for an apologetic gift.

"Beautiful.  As always."

Andy ducked his head.  He did not dislike compliments but hid from them, and Jamie had learned to be careful when giving them out.

"I think," Andy said, "I'm gonna have to get another part-time job.  I'm an artist in the truest sense of the word, I guess.  Starving."

Jamie took the chance without thinking.  "Wanna come up?  I have leftover Chinese in the fridge.  Cashew duck?"

Andy hugged his spray can.  He was shy.  "I didn't mean it like...  Well o-okay."

When they walked up the stairs Jamie wanted to put a hand on his back, but was careful not to touch him.  Andy kept his arms wrapped around his waist, as if he were cold.  He could not have been, under his pseudo-tent.  He sat at Jamie's table as if out of place, longing to be back in his painted landscapes.

Jamie nuked the food in the microwave.

"So... how've you been?"

Andy shrugged.  "Besides poor?  I was just working on more of my drawings.  The..."  He trailed off, waving a limp hand.  His lips still moved when he changed his mind about continuing.

Jamie just nodded.  He hated seeing Andy so uncomfortable.  The dangerous topic was in his throat, crawling to the tip of this tongue.  So, when we were at the club... But he could not bring it up.

They ate in near silence.  Their apprehension was thick as the cashew sauce.  The salt and pepper shakers between them sat untouched, lest they reach for them both at once. 

Jamie had the crazy idea that Andy might as well live with him.  Halving the rent would help them both.  Not that there wasn't a place other than the bed to sleep, of course, it was absurd just to bring it up...  He went warm and shook his head.  Crazy idea, right.

"Thank you," Andy said, folding his utensils.  There was a pause and he busied himself with depositing his dish in the sink.  "It's getting-"

"Want to watch a movie?"  Jamie hastily cleaned up his leftovers, somehow determined to keep Andy here, even if they sat through the night in silence.  It had to come out somehow.  Andy might well crack first, bring it up so he did not have to.  "I have a few things borrowed from Curtis and there might be something on HBO, or we could always go to the renter's down the street.  I have a card and some leftover cash, and school starts late tomorrow for me, so it's no problem, if you want to," he rambled.

Andy pointed to a video and they sat on the couch, not too close, not so far it meant anything, either.  Jamie spied Andy's chest expanding visibly with each breath, maybe just a touch more pronounced than usual.  The television reflected him stiff and primly folded in legs and hands.

"Where's the remote?" 

Andy looked around, glad for having an excuse to focus elsewhere.  They spotted it at the same time on the end of the couch, Jamie mumbling some recognition as he reached out.  Only his arm did not make it past Andy and as if by its own will slipped around him.  Andy grabbed his hair and they had the kiss they had missed three nights ago.

It was not Annie in his grasp, yet it did not matter, not now.  Andy kissed him like he was trying to extract all the emotion he could before Jamie closed to him, so he could be sated when the contact was over.  Jamie had no such intention.  The kiss turned wet and deep.

Under the sail of clothing, Jamie felt the familiar camisole.  Andy wore it again, like a memento, and again he saw the stripe of exposed belly as Andy leaned back from him, touching his face and neck.  The coral rim of his lower lip beckoned.  In time Andy's shoulders came unveiled and Jamie pulled down a strap, the pale half-nakedness of Andy's chest inviting to put his mouth on, wetting the hardened nipple as he would a woman's.  It made no difference: Andy's stomach drew in the same way, his gasp was as much of a reward as could be asked for. 

Jamie put his hands on Andy's thighs.  Andy pulled his face close, wanting for another kiss.  Their bodies fit together, one piece with a jigsaw split.


Jamie had forgotten to set his alarm.  It was the first thought when he woke, the second one being that it mattered nothing because eight-thirty was much too early to be up, yet here he was, wide awake.  It was cold everywhere in his bedroom outside of the bed, but he quickly left it, throwing on a sweater, sweats, and two puffs of wool onto his feet which served for three socks each in their thermal prowess.  He padded out without glancing behind him.

The apartment was the same as it usually was in the mornings.  The coffee smelled the same when he put it in the machine, for want of something warm and familiar rather than a stimulant.  He was alert enough. 

The bumps in the floor, the gray weather out the window; it was still the same.  Nothing was different through a queer eye, he supposed, but he thought it should be.  He certainly felt different somewhere inside, and he could not place it through sight nor smell nor touch.

Andy was tucked in that warm bed behind the wall.

Jamie fixed buttered toast and went to the couch for some mind-numbing television.  He stopped, seeing the back cushion unearthed crookedly, remembering what that meant.  He sighed and flipped to a news channel, sitting across the room on the windowsill instead.

The glass was cold.  It had warmed from the brightening sun when he turned to the padding of bare feet on carpet.  Andy had put on one of his loose sweatshirts; on him it hung down to a few inches above the knee.  He was holding himself, this time justified by the cold.  His hair was a mess.  He tried to smile, standing at the edge of the room, shoulder touching the turn of the wall like a last grip on solid ground in a hurricane.

"Hi," he whispered.

Jamie stood.  It felt like the proper greeting.  "You want, uh, breakfast?  Toast?"

Andy started shaking his head, changed his mind.  "Okay.  Sure."

They slowly converged from their spots to the kitchen.  Andy took a breath and tilted his head up to give Jamie a quick kiss.  Jamie dodged it, like an involuntary knee-jerk. 

"Sorry," he mumbled. 

Andy stuffed the edge of a fingernail into his mouth.  He looked ready to say the same.  When the button of the toaster went down it was like the hammer on a gun, the quiet waiting for a shot, an outburst.  Andy tried putting his hands on Jamie's arm.  It got him no reaction.  Jamie swung his head around, looking elsewhere for what to do.

"Are you thinking, 'what now?'" asked Andy.

Jamie looked at him, took a step away to ease the tension.  He leaned back on the counter.  "I don't know what I'm thinking."

"They say, you know, take it one day at a time."  He smiled that faint way, the expression a ghost Jamie sometimes was not sure he saw.  He suddenly blurted, "I really l-like you," and tried to wrap his arms around Jamie's middle.

Jamie could not help flinching again.  Andy retreated, hurt and losing patience.

"Is it really that bad?"

"It..."  Jamie kept scanning the room, looking elsewhere but at Andy, hunched in front of him.  "Look, it's a little difficult for me, okay?  I wasn't expecting this."

"Wasn't expecting it?  After last Saturday?  Or is it really taking that long to deal with?"

"God, at least you understand it's not an overnight thing."  Jamie rubbed his forehead.  The toast popped up and he plucked it out onto the same plate he had been using.

"One day at a time," Andy said again, touching Jamie's wrist, running a finger up his forearm.  "I had to keep telling myself that for years." He kissed a spot opposite Jamie's elbow, finally smiling fully.

"I don't know," Jamie said.

"You don't know what?"

"I'm not gay," Jamie said.

"Yeah," Andy smirked, "I'd say after yesterday you don't know about that."

"No, I mean I know I'm not."

"I know.  That's all right."

"But you just said..!"  Jamie threw his hands up and shuffled about.  His forehead asked to be rubbed again.

Andy tried now for an embrace from behind.  "It doesn't matter either way, right?"

"I said, I don't know," Jamie spat.  He was suddenly angry at Andy, wished he would leave so he could think about this for a few hours, maybe years.  "For God's sake, Andy, I put my hand on a guy's dick for the first time in my life yesterday!  I'd say I have a right to rethink this, okay?"  He shrugged Andy's arms off. 

"But... what about me?  Not thinking about boy or girl, isn't something there?"

"I don't know.  I'm not..."  Jamie wandered by the table until it was between them. Andy maneuvered around it, coming to hold him again.  It made it hard to think straight.  "Stop touching me, okay?!"

Andy nearly toppled backwards.  His cheeks were red; Jamie might as well have slapped him.

"I can't deal with this," Jamie said.  "Boy or girl or... whatever.  Maybe I'm just getting mixed up by you and your bras."

It was the first time he saw Andy angry.  "So you think there can't be anything, because I'm a boy."

"I haven't even figured that out yet, so..."  He stopped himself.  "Okay, sorry.  That was low.  But maybe it's just a mistake-"

"That's what you're hoping for, isn't it?  That you'll figure out you were just... confused, so you can tell me you feel nothing for me, so you don't have to deal with... with this!"  Andy tore off the sweatshirt.  He was naked underneath, his chest heaving.  Jamie thought of touching him last night and averted his eyes, embarrassed.  Andy saw it, choking up.  "I can't believe I'm putting myself through this again."

"Stop being so melodramatic."  If Andy could make him feel guilty about this, he was all the more riled at him.  "I said I'd think about it, but I also said I'm straight."  He ground his teeth and picked up the plate.  "You want your toast or what?"

Andy stared for a moment.  He dropped the sweatshirt on the floor, swallowed twice, and found his clothes, scattered across the hall.  He pulled on his jeans and walked out the door.

Jamie cursed him silently.  The toast went in the trash and he felt even angrier, switching to cursing out loud.  It did nothing for him and he stalked to the couch to properly arrange the cushions, but in the end he jumped on them and began to pound them ferociously with his fists.


"Jamie?  Jamie, wake up."

Rahela snapped her fingers in front of his face.  He winced and apologized.

"What's with you this week?  Really, it's like somebody died!"

"Yeah, well...  something sure died."

He got up and paced around the back of the theater, ignoring her worried expression.

"Jamie, if you don't finish memorizing your lines, we'll use the understudy.  If something's bothering you..."  She spread her arms, welcoming his problems.

"It's nothing important.  I'll be good for next week, I promise, but right now I think I need some coffee."

She sighed and went for her jacket.  "Okay, I'll just throw a word to the director and-"

"No!  Uh..."  She was looking at him even more closely.  "I just need some time alone, to think things over.  Once I get everything straight, I'll tell you, promise."

"Okay, Chevalier," she called after him, "but you better have your lines down on time!  I didn't drag you to this shebang for nothing!"

He raised a hand in response and walked outside.  His first thought was to visit the bakery; they had a machine for the morning customers looking for caffeine to go with their doughnut breakfast.  But that was nothing if not volatile territory.  It would be asking for trouble.  He ambled to a much flashier place luring in the college students with its burst of colors and loud music, disappointing the peppy clerk behind the counter with an order of a small, plain coffee.  He sank into a couch and mulled while burning his tongue on the stuff.

Andy had been gone for days but still would not leave him alone.  It was the same thing all over again but worse, much worse now that they had touched.  Since then he would let himself relive it briefly from time to time, deciding somewhere along the way "that was enough of that," readjusting his pants, and moving on.  Times in between he would see Andy angry, a little splinter of rage disappearing into his oversize sweatshirt, almost crying but restraining it last-moment.

It stung to know that Andy was right about him.  But who would blame him?  He did not know the first thing about dealing with being gay, as that must be what he was, a little.  Not completely.  Or maybe his mind was confused by the girly things, like a King snake playing poisonous.  If Andy's girly camouflage was throwing him for a loop, that was just plain treacherous.  Out of this heap of confusion, he could not dig out Andy the person, the genderless soul which got him in trouble in the first place. 

He crumpled the empty coffee cup.  What a knot.

Luck would have it they ran into each other only an hour later, when Jamie trudged up the stairs and Andy skittered downward.  He stopped when Jamie blocked his path, glancing behind to judge whether he was so far from his door that a quick retreat would be too obvious.  He had on his startled face, still a ripple of hurt passing over it.  Jamie felt a twinge in his chest.

"I'm in a play," he said.  "It's next week at the campus theater.  Les Liaisons Dangereuses.  Would you go?"

Andy rubbed his hands together and would not look him in the eye.  "I'm busy..."  He took a breath and went brusquely past Jamie like a foul stench.

"Thursday night, at seven," Jamie called after him.

"Work!" Andy called back.

Jamie slumped on the railing.  So much for that attempt.


It was a miracle he went through his lines without a hitch.  He had made good on his word about memorizing them, under threat of death from Rahela.  Like a true lovesick loser he thought of his loss at every pertinent line.  By the time he stood next to Cecile and dropped a handful of letters revealing heart-shattering deeds of carnality, he felt so pathetic it was only partial acting.  It really was too much; he steeled himself to come clean to his friends at their after-performance dinner and ask for their shoulders to bang his head against.

Rahela was jumping from actor to actor, showering each with hugs and praise.  She ran up to Jamie and did the same.

"I knew you could do it!"

"... Yeah."

"You didn't mess up once!  And you impressed the director, I could tell."

"... Yeah."

"But hell, if a poor girl can convincingly play a high-society French lesbian from the eighteen hundreds, I guess anything can happen."

"The Marquis wasn't a total lesbian."

"Oh, looks like someone showed up for you," she sang the last word and pointed with a smile.  Jamie followed her finger and gaped.

Andy was standing halfway up the aisle, nervously glancing between Jamie and his feet, on which were sandals.  Above those were stockings, above which came a pleated skirt, violet blouse, and ivory sweater, respectively.  A pin with a carmine bow glued to its front held back part of his hair.  He was wearing visible makeup.

Jamie jumped off the stage and went to him.  Thankfully Rahela bounded off for more spreading of cheer.

Although it only made Andy more embarrassed Jamie could not stop staring. 

"You... what... what are you doing here?  Like this.  I thought you had work."

"I lied."  Andy put a lacquered fingernail in his mouth.  "You can call me Annie."


Andy saw his finger had become coated in lipstick and wiped it on his side.  "Just call me Annie, and you can tell everyone that it's my name."


"I was thinking that...  I have some clothes like this.  And I could get some more.  And... I could take some hormones.  I'd thought about it before," he quickly added, "so it's not such a big thing.  I can grow out my hair.  I can..."  He ran out of changes to make.

"Are... you..."  Jamie felt like his head had just swiveled around backwards.  "Are you talking about becoming a woman?"

Andy nodded, then shook his head.  "I don't know.  I could almost be one.  I almost am one.  You wouldn't have to do anything, or ever touch me where you don't want to."

"Andy, that's ridiculous!"

Andy's ears were red and his eyes were filling up.  "What can I do?  What do you want, Jamie?"

He wanted to stop feeling like a fucking monster.  He unsnapped the bow clip and took it out of Andy's hair.  "What do you want, Andy?"

Andy's lips moved, not completely ready to expel words.  He tried to read into Jamie's face.

"There isn't a right answer," Jamie said.  "You tell me."

Andy blinked, bravely holding back the crying, and whispered, "I want to be with you."  Without permission he wrapped himself around Jamie's waist.

It was obvious as the sun; Jamie need not even have asked.

"What I want," he said, "is to stop feeling so damn confused."  He fingered the bow while Andy composed himself with his face in Jamie's costume.  Who had once decided that a clip for keeping hair at bay was for that half of humanity which was born without excess flesh between their legs?  Who would say Andy could not be a woman or a man with a simple wish, when biology played in it so little?  "I'll get the hand of it eventually.  It's not your fault, Andy.  Do whatever you want, okay?"  He hugged Andy back until he spied Rahela inching closer with his gang, Lynne and Dirkie making teasing cooing noises.  He flipped them off and grinned.  Andy immediately turned shy, dropping his embrace in embarrassment.  Jamie pulled him forward with an arm around his shoulder.

"Guys, I need to reintroduce you," he said.  "This is Andy, my new boyfriend."

-END. :D
c. Agnes;