Author's Note: I thought I'd give Challenge #15 (Reverse, Reverse!) a try. The set guidelines were: 1) Must be in first-person narrative; 2) Body-switch must be explained somehow; 3) Main character is forced to kiss someone that they're not attracted to, but their crush (whose body they are inhabiting) is currently dating; 4) Fashion faux-pas on both sides; 5) Must show reactions; 6) Must have bodies switched for at least a week; and 7) Interaction with the family.
A Boy Named Sue
I could never understand why Sue had such a chip on her shoulder. For years she complained about how unfair it was being a girl and how I didn't know what it was like to suffer the injustices of being "a second class citizen" as she put it. I really didn't know what she was carping about. Other than menstrual cycles, what was the big deal?
I love Sue as a friend but sometimes I think she's a whiner who acts as if the world owes her because she was born a girl. She gets mad at me as if it's my fault she's the one with the breasts. Hey, leave me out of it – I'm a guy, deal with it.
Sue and I have been debating the subject of woman "suffrage" (whatever that is) for so long that we both know each other's argument by heart but we keep it up anyway.
"Don't forget, men and women brains are different," I'd ride her.
"Yeah, you don't have any," was always Sue's rebuttal.
I would give her the whole 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' speech and Sue would roll her eyes.
"Men are The Kings and women are their servants," she'd complain.
And of course the physical differences always came up in our discussions and although Sue never came out and said it I often thought that her penis envy what she wasn't saying.
I would usually end the argument with my standard 'Annie Get Your Gun' philosophy by reminding Sue that she could do anything I could do better if she really wanted (as Irving Berlin wrote).
"I can't pee standing up better than you," was always her comeback.
When she got on a roll about how terrible women had it in our male dominated sexist glass ceiling Lilly Leadbetter society, I'd remind Sue that statistically women outlive men.
"You drive us to our grave," I'd joke but she didn't think that was funny.
"One month with a period and you'd want to die," Sue often rebutted.
"Girls are so emotional," I'd complain. "They're crushed if someone doesn't like them. They're overly concerned with their looks, like stray hairs, pimples, and weight. Shopping is the most important activity in the world to most girls."
"Shut up!" was usually Sue's stock reply.
Deep down I knew Sue was right on many levels but I wasn't about to admit that because that would be a sign of (male) weakness. I think what she was really pissed off about was the sports issue. Sue had been playing for the girl's basketball team all four years and I think they won like a total of eight games in all that time. They played on afternoons in front of about twenty people and they never got the publicity, respect or notice the boys' sports enjoyed.
I was a male school boy athlete. Our football team played Friday Nights under the lights in front of hundreds of people. And the basketball team had been a championship squad for several seasons playing to a packed gym.
"Just once, I'd like to play in a game that mattered," Sue sighed during one of our usual battle of the sexes debates.
We were sitting in my kitchen table wolfing down brownies and the only difference this time was that my visiting Aunt Kate was sitting with us listening to our ongoing point-counterpoint discussion. Although she was the family oddball, fifty-something Aunt Kate was hip and cool, an ex-hippie flower child type who was always barefoot in the summer, wore huge sunhats, and had hair that was either white blond or white gray (it was hard to tell which). As far as I could tell, Aunt Kate never held a "real" job and I don't think she was ever married. She travelled a lot and would drop in when she was in the area although my father (Kate's brother) didn't seem to have a lot of patience with her. Aunt Kate always had a black bag with her, full of herbs, spices, and 'potions' as she phrased it. She said her concoctions could 'work magic'.
I could tell by the look on her face that Aunt Kate wasn't pleased with my sexist attitudes but she didn't involve herself much in the conversation as she intently listened to Sue and I make our points. Finally, when we had run out of things to say and Sue sat in her chair with her arms folded across her chest sulking, Aunt Kate turned to me with a frown.
"You couldn't handle being a woman," she told me straight out.
Sue nodded in agreement.
"Sure I could," I said with confidence.
A weird smirk took over Aunt Kate's face. "You really think so?"
"He's obviously a sexist with no clue," Sue growled.
"No I'm not," I said defensively. "But I find it sad that you have to blame me just because you're not happy with the card you drew in life."
"Oh, you make me so mad!" Sue grumbled.
"Look, it's not my fault your basketball team sucks," I sighed.
"This is hardly about basketball, Marty," Aunt Kate told me.
"It's about sexism," Sue insisted. "There's no way you'd understand unless you experienced it yourself."
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing myself," Aunt Kate grinned as she rubbed her fingers across the bottom of her chin.
"Well, too bad you don't have a magic wand," I said with a laugh.
"No, no wand," Aunt Kate agreed as she stood and went to the refrigerator. "Anybody thirsty? I made lemonade earlier."
"Sure, I'll have some," I said.
"Get it yourself," Sue barked. "Your aunt isn't your maid!"
"Hey, she offered!" I said.
"Its okay, Sue," Aunt Kate said calmly. "I don't mind. This time."
I wasn't really paying attention to Kate because I was making faces at the displeased Sue but out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw my Aunt digging through her black bag. After a few moments, Aunt Kate brought two glasses of lemonade to the table.
"Drink up!" She said with that weird smirk of hers pasted on her face. "Do you think you could handle being a guy, Sue?" Aunt Kate asked, tossing my friend a glance.
"Easily," Sue bragged. "At least then people would pay attention to me instead of just looking at my rear when I walk away."
"Well, you do have nice rear," I laughed.
"Shut up!" Sue groaned, punching me on the arm. "See!" She protested to Aunt Kate. "That's exactly the thing I mean."
"I was just kidding around," I said, rubbing my arm (Sue had a strong punch!).
"Yeah, right," Sue mumbled. "I can tell you one thing, though," she continued. "I sure wouldn't trip over my own ego like you do if I was a guy."
"What, you saying I'm conceited?" I frowned.
"I'm saying you're a typical guy," Sue replied, downing the rest of her lemonade. "If I was a guy, I'd prove that I really could do anything you could do better!"
"So Sue, do you think guys dismiss girls' opinions and don't take them seriously?" Aunt Kate asked.
"They treat girls as inferior," Sue complained. "Guys assume they're better. I think it's a lack of respect but most girls don't feel empowered to stand up for themselves because if they do they're called a bitch."
"Maybe some girls bring that on themselves," I suggested.
"How?" Sue challenged with annoyance.
"By dressing up like sluts for example," I offered. "How can they expect people to take them seriously?"
"If some girl dresses inappropriately, it doesn't mean she's asking to be victimized," Sue pointed out. "That's called blaming the victim."
"No, it's called blaming the girl who doesn't dress right," I mumbled.
"I don't understand how anyone can deny sexism exists when there are such double standards," Sue complained. She stood and made a face at me. "I'm out of here," she announced.
"Don't go away mad!" I called after her but Sue was out the back door without looking back at me.
"She takes this stuff way too seriously," I told my Aunt.
"Maybe you don't take it seriously enough," Aunt Kate replied as she studied me from where she stood by the kitchen island. Again, she had that weird smirk on her face.
### ### ###
I was confused as soon as I opened my eyes the next morning. It took me a moment to gather my bearings and come to my senses but I knew right away I wasn't in my own bedroom and I struggled to remember what happened the night before. I was pretty sure I had gone to bed sober and unless I had slept walked there was no reason for me not to be in own bed.
I rolled over and peered around the room, recognizing it as Sue's which was beyond odd. I felt some weight around my head and I lifted my hand up to feel a wad of hair. I shot up in the bed with my fingers tangled in long brown hair.
I scampered from the bed and rushed to the mirror, tripping over my (?) two feet as I went and I heard Sue's scream when I saw my reflection in the mirror.
"Sue?" I thought I asked but it was her voice.
I put my hand to what I thought was my face but in the reflection I saw that I was rubbing Sue's cheek. I was dumbstruck as I stared at the mirror looking at Sue. Where was I!?
A cell phone started ringing. I glanced around the room and I saw Sue's cell on the bedside table. I scrabbled to answer it.
"You never told me your Aunt is a frigin' witch!"
The voice on the other end sounded strangely like my own.
"Who is this?" I asked with confusion.
"Who do you think it is!?" the voice bellowed. "It's me! Sue! I'm in your room. In your ugly body! Your Aunt wanted to teach you a lesson!"
"That's nuts!" I replied with disbelief, sitting on the bed weak kneed and light headed.
"She was sitting on your bed waiting for you…me to wake up!" Sue insisted (in my voice). "I'm you and you're me."
"Come on," I mumbled, rubbing my forehead. "This can't be happening."
"Oh, believe me, it is," Sue groaned. "And why was I all…..stiff this morning?"
"You know…between the legs."
"It's called a piss hard on, Sue," I sighed.
"My aunt's a witch?" I asked, still not believing any of this was happening.
"Duh!" Sue yelled. "We've got to talk. Meet me like we always do as soon as you can."
There was a knock on the door. "Shower's free, Suzy!"
I recognized Karen's voice, Sue's sister who was a sophomore while we were seniors.
"Okay!" I called. "Be right there!"
"Oh my god, you can't shower!" Sue groaned. "You'll see me!"
"Does this mean I can't go to the bathroom either?" I wondered.
"Damn," I heard Sue moan. "Make sure you wipe down there," she whispered.
"After you tinkle," she said. "Girls wipe their fronts."
"Well, I didn't know if you knew that," she grumbled with embarrassment
"Did you already pee standing up?" I asked.
There was along pause. "I hate you," Sue mumbled before ending the call.
I sucked in my breath before leaving Sue's bedroom and going into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. I stared long and hard into the large mirror over the vanity.
"Sorry, old friend," I sighed as I peeled off the tank top she had put on the night before and shimmied out of the gym shorts she was wearing.
And there was Sue's naked body in the mirror for me to see. I put my (Sue's) hands on her (my) breasts and gave them a feel. She wasn't large in the chest but her breasts were firm and round. Her brown pubic hair matched the hair on her head and I turned to take a peek at Sue's ample rear with her noted wide hips. Call me sexist, but she really did have a nice rear!
"Would I be a typical male chauvinist if I told you you're sexy as hell?" I asked Sue's body in the mirror.
But then I noticed some faded bruises on her rib cage and some welts across her ass cheeks as if somebody had smacked her with a belt or stick or something. Could that have been from basketball practice? I got a bad feeling about what I saw.
I felt a weird sensation and realized I needed to pee so I went to the toilet and instinctively reached my hands down toward my groin.
"You idiot, you don't it anymore," I said aloud before I took a seat on the commode and did my duties. I wasn't about to try that standing up!
Ten minutes later I was showered, dressed and downstairs in the kitchen with Sue's family.
"That was fast!" Karen said with surprise.
She was sitting at the counter eating a banana. Mr. Sherman was sitting at the kitchen table dressed in a shirt and tie reading the paper. Mrs. Sherman was resting her backside against the kitchen counter dressed in a robe with her hair pulled up, nursing a cup of coffee.
"Good morning, dear," Mrs. Sherman said.
"Good Morning….Mom," I replied.
"Why you all dressed up?" Karen wanted to know.
I glanced at the wardrobe selection I had picked out. I wished Sue would dress up more.
"I like this skirt and sweater," I said with a shrug.
"You forgot your make up," Karen frowned.
"I don't need as much as I usually wear," I said.
Karen looked at me like I was crazy.
"You look fine, Suzy," Mrs. Sherman said with a smile. "You don't need to be spending a half hour getting ready for school every morning anyway."
"But you could brush your hair a little," Karen said sarcastically. "You don't want Bruce to think you don't care."
Bruce? Oh My god, Freedman! Sue's main squeeze and the thorn in my side! This was not good.
It took me three tries before I opened up the right cupboard with the cereal.
"What are you doing?" Karen asked with annoyance.
I pulled out a box of shredded wheat and put three squares into a bowl.
"You're eating Dad's shredded wheat!?" Karen asked. "What's wrong? Had enough of the granola stuff you usually eat?"
"Maybe," I mumbled as I poured some milk and sugar on the cereal and took a seat at the kitchen table.
"Sugar?" Mrs. Sherman asked with surprise.
"What, do I have B.O. or something?" Karen asked. "You usually sit over here with me."
"Sorry," I said.
Mr. Sherman looked up from his paper for the first time. "Good morning, Sues."
"Hi Daddy," I said with a smile.
Mr. Sherman wasn't the most talkative guy. Sometimes I think he thought I was a loser but if you ask me it was Freedman Mr. Sherman really should be concerned about. I never liked the guy but Sue felt I was being unfairly overdramatic and making stuff up about him.
"Daddy, do you like Marty?" I asked as I took a bite of my cereal.
Mr. Sherman glanced at me. "Marty McDonald?"
"Are there any other Marty's around, Dad?" I laughed.
"You're better off with Freedman," Mr. Sherman replied. "He's the better basketball player."
"Yeah, that's what everybody says!" I protested, causing Karen to burst out in laughter.
"Be careful Suzy, nobody's supposed to know it's really Marty Mc-dufus you have the hots for!"
I looked at Karen with surprise. "You think he's a dufus?"
"For wasting his time with you, yes!" Karen laughed.
"What's wrong with him hanging out with me?" I asked, genuinely clueless. "We're friends."
"Yeah, right," Karen said, rolling her eyes.
"What do you mean?" I asked with confusion.
"Never mind, Suzy," Karen said, shaking her head. "You just keep on playing your little game while you wait for Marty to figure it out."
"Figure out what?" I wanted to know.
"That you like him!" Karen laughed.
"I don't like him," I said with defiance.
"Yes, you don't like him," Karen sarcastically said while making a face.
"Never mind, girls," Mrs. Sherman said. "Just finish your breakfast."
Karen was smirking but I really had no idea what she was talking about. Sue never made any indication that she liked me in anyway. Hell, she was always insulting me and arguing with me. We were friends!
"You have a game tomorrow, right?" Mr. Sherman asked.
"Yeah, I guess I do," I answered.
"You guess you do?" Mrs. Sherman asked with surprise.
"Sorry, I have a meeting," Mr. Sherman said.
"Its okay, Dad," I replied. "Nobody ever goes anyway."
"I do!" Mrs. Sherman said loudly.
"Geez, what is wrong with you?" Karen wanted to know. "You're always begging Dad to show up. And me. And the mailman. And Old Lady Russell down the street. You keep threatening to break up with Brucie because he never goes to your games when you go to all of his, even if it is to watch Marty Mc-dufus."
"I watch Bruce," I said.
"Yeah, right," Karen laughed again.
"Well, the boys have a chance to go undefeated," I said. "We win our two games this week and we finish 16-0."
"We!?" Karen looked horrified. "Since when do you care about the boy's basketball team? You hate those guys for stealing all the attention."
"No I don't," I replied.
Karen stared at me and laughed again. "Of course, the boys' team is cool, unlike yours!" She said.
I looked at Karen and thought about her attitude which was pretty much my attitude.
"Our girls try very hard," Mrs. Sherman said. "People should give them more respect."
"You know, you have a point," I said, thinking about it for the first time, really. "Thanks, Mom."
"I'm your biggest fan, Suzy!" Mrs. Sherman beamed.
"Go ahead, Sis," Karen grinned. "Tell us again how it's all an act of sexism and how Title 9 should have forced girls' games to be played at night too and how the only reason people watch you girls play is because of your skimpy tight uniforms."
"Well, I think it's all been said before," I replied, having heard Sue's diatribe on women's sports a thousand times.
I finished my cereal and started to leave the table.
"Don't forget to bring your bowl plate to the sink," Mrs. Sherman said.
"Oh, yeah, sorry," I mumbled, bleatingly cleaning up after myself (we had a housekeeper at home).
"Have a great day at school, sweetie," Mrs. Sherman said, giving me a hug.
"Thanks, Mom," I replied, feeling awkward having Sue's mom all over me.
I left the kitchen thinking about how I was supposed to pull this off. I wasn't an actor but I needed to at least sound like Sue living her life in her body, even if it was me inside. All I knew was this was not good. What was I supposed to say to her boyfriend Freedman? A guy I didn't even like!
I grabbed Sue's backpack and headed out the front door. On most days, I picked Sue up unless she was riding with Brucie boy or her best friend Beth. Oh God – Beth. I actually kind of liked her but I wasn't her favorite because I was a jock and all that.
I lived in the Hilltop section of Hillsboro a couple of miles from Sue's nice ranch in the flats section of town. My family is better off than Sue's (my Dad is a lawyer and my mom a professor at Blue County Community College whereas Mr. Sherman is a manager at the plastics company and his wife a stay at home mom). That's another reason Sue gives me a hard time about being the clueless jock guy – she says I have it made because my family has money and for me it's all about status while she has to work hard just to prove herself.
I saw my sports car come around the corner and I cringed when I realized Sue was driving. Nobody drove my baby! I kept the car cleaned and waxed and I was proud of it. Sue pulled the car to a stop in front of the house and I quickly walked around to the driver's door.
"I'm driving," I told her through the window, although it was Twilight Zone bizarre to be looking at myself.
"No you're not," Sue replied with a frown. "People will know something is up if they see you….me…..driving."
"But you are driving!" I said.
"Everybody thinks it's you!" Sue reminded me. "Hurry up and get in. We need to talk!"
I grumbled as I went around the passenger side of the car and climbed in. It was strange not to be driving my own car.
"What in the heck are you wearing?" Sue wanted to know, gawking at me. "I never dress up for school. Jeans and tee shirts, Marty, you know that!"
"You should dress up more," I replied.
"What, so I can look sexy?" She frowned.
I shrugged. "You are very pretty," I reminded her.
"You saw me naked, didn't you?" She accused.
"How can I not?" I asked.
"You could have closed your eyes," she protested.
"Did you?" I wanted to know.
She blushed and looked away.
"So I guess we're even," I said.
"This is so beyond weird I can't even deal with it," Sue complained.
"What did Aunt Kate say?" I wanted to know.
"I told you – she's teaching you a lesson," Sue said as she peeled out.
"Hey, drive carefully!" I yelled. "This is still my car!"
"And she wants me to be able to play in a big game in front of a big crowd," Sue added.
"How long is this supposed to last?" I asked with horror.
"She said about a week," Sue answered.
"Just great," I mumbled. "We have a chance to go undefeated and I'm going to miss the games."
"Deal with it," Sue replied. "Now, I've been thinking about this little problem of ours. Neither of us can let anybody know what's going on."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because they'll toss us both in the loony bin and they'll burn your aunt at the stake!" Sue groaned. "So, for you, keep your mouth shut. Don't participate in class. Don't volunteer anything. I'm a straight A student and you can't answer half the questions on Jeopardy so you'll make me look like a moron if you try to act like me in my classes. Just phone it in this week. Get my assignments and I'll do my homework at night."
"Are you going to be able to be stupid this week?" I grinned, glancing at Sue as she drove.
"Seeing how you took all the easy classes I'll have no trouble being you," Sue replied.
"Just don't turn me into a know-it-all jerk," I warned.
"Avoid Bruce," Sue instructed me. "I don't need you wrecking things between us."
"Believe me, avoiding Freedman is my life goal."
Sue drove the car into the student parking lot of Hillsboro High School and parked where I usually did. She turned the car off and glared at me.
"Do you think you can pull this off?" She wanted to know.
"Do I have a choice?" I replied with a shrug. "Listen," I said seriously. "No lectures about sexism and all that crap," I warned. "You have to pretend you're me."
"That will be easy," Sue said. "Just be a dumb jock."
I noticed she was wearing white socks. "Have I ever worn white socks with jeans before?" I asked her.
"Don't worry about it," she said. "And you need to buy new underwear, gross," she said. "And when's the last time you washed your sheets? And what's your computer password?"
"Don't be going through my stuff," I complained, as I unconsciously picked at (Sue's) nose.
"Get your finger out of there!" She screamed. "You have to be me. You can't be a gross slob. Oh my god, you're going to make me look like such a loser!"
"Relax," I said. "I'm just nervous. You have to admit this is pretty weird."
"I can't believe you saw me naked," Sue grumbled as she climbed out of the car.
"So, what was it like peeing standing up?" I smirked as I got out too.
"Don't be disgusting, Marty," Sue complained. "There are certain things we shouldn't be talking about, okay? Can we just respect each other's privacy just a little, please?"
"I feel weird with all this weight up here," I said, motioning toward her chest. "And I can't deal with all this hair."
"You could have at least tried to brush it," Sue complained. "And where's my make up?"
"You look better natural," I replied.
"God, I should have locked you in my room for a week and told my mother you had mono," Sue wailed. "You're going to ruin me!"
"Calm down," I said. "We'll both be fine."
"I doubt it," she grumbled. "Let's swap cells. But don't answer. Texts only."
I gave Sue her phone and she gave me mine. We headed for the front door as we exchanged locker combinations and Sue gave me a quick run down of her schedule which she had neatly taped into her assignment notebook. I told her my schedule was stuffed in my locker somewhere.
"Doesn't matter," Sue grumbled. "Nobody cares if you show up or not anyway. It's the big rally week and you jocks walk on water."
"Don't be bitter," I grinned.
We both turned to see Sue's best friend Beth quickly approaching. She was an attractive girl, petite with a nice figure, long black hair, and fair skin. I always liked her but she tolerated me at best.
"Don't say anything stupid," Sue whispered.
"Hey, who died?" Beth asked with a laugh when she saw what I (as Sue) was wearing.
"Sue had to dress up for a demonstration in class," Sue said (as me).
"Great, thanks McDonald, you can go hang out with the jock club now," Beth replied, taking me by the hand and leading me away. "Why do you insist on being friends with that guy when you hate everything he stands for?" Beth asked.
"I…I….." It really was a good question now that I thought about it.
"Jesus, I can't believe you really like him, Suzy!" Beth moaned. "Sooner or later, you're going to have to tell him, you know."
"I do?" I asked, my head spinning. Sue liked me!?
"We only have three months of high school left," Beth said. "You're heading off to Green College and only God knows what McDonald's doing."
"Blue County Community," I replied. "His mom is a professor there."
"Yeah, and I'm sure she'll cover his ass there just like she does everywhere else," Beth remarked.
"She does not," I said angrily.
"You know, if you're going to like the guy you can't be in denial about him," Beth warned.
"What are you talking about?" I asked as we walked down the hall toward our lockers.
"Everybody knows McDonald is a spoiled pampered rich kid jock who doesn't have to answer for the stuff he does," Beth complained. "Remember Sophomore year when he and those guys bullied that nerd kid Jimmy-who-ever-he-was and got away with it? How many parties has he gone to and gotten ripped even though you're not supposed to drink if you're on a team? They say he's the beer bong champion. Christ, all he does is boast about how great he is and brags about the team and how you girls suck, and he gets his name in the paper all the time."
"Geez," I said, realizing how lame and shallow I sounded.
"He was in my History class last year," Beth continued as we reached our lockers. "We had to do a paper on someone in American history we truly admired. Washington. Lincoln. FDR. Eleanor. Martin Luther King. John or Bobby Kennedy. Marty did his on frigin' Bobby Knight! A lunatic college basketball coach? Really? That's your idea of a true American hero? He got an A on it too," Beth said, shaking her head with disgust. "I read it. It was a piece of crap. But Mr. Collins is the baseball coach so what do you expect?
"I guess that is kind of stupid," I admitted, feeling embarrassed about my school work for the first time in my life.
"Last year in English class, we had to read The Scarlet Letter," Beth said. "I saw that moron McDonald reading the comic book version instead of reading it for real! Can you believe that!? I bet he got a good grade too, the bastard."
"B+ I think," I revealed as I opened Sue's locker, which was clean and meticulously organized whereas mine was a mess.
"I busted my ass on that paper," Beth complained. "Even passed up a concert the weekend before it was due so I could work on it. I got a B+ too."
"I'm sorry," I said (and I meant it).
"I bet he loves getting laid on the baseball and football fields and on the basketball court," Beth said bitterly. "Hell, he probably has an orgasm when he's playing."
"I doubt it," I replied.
Beth laughed. "Sue, Sue, Sue," she said, shaking her head. "You couldn't pay me to go out with a guy like that but here you are thinking he's the All American Boy Next Door."
"I don't think that," I said, really hearing for the first time in my life how others perceived me.
I could never understand why Beth never liked me but now that I heard what she had to say, I didn't like me either!
"Oh well, at least he isn't two faced like this guy," Beth mumbled, motioning down the hall.
I turned to see Freedman coming toward us.
"Oh no," I said, watching the huge grin come across Bruce's face.
He was a good looking guy with short cropped blonde hair. He was athletically built with a toothpaste advertisement smile and the girls were always swooning over him. I never understood why he picked Sue out from the crowd and I don't think she did either which was probably one reason why she agreed to go out with him. But I knew the real Bruce and Beth was right – he was a two-faced jerk. He was a polite brown-noser in front of teachers and he always had the right thing to say to the girls (faces) but when he was in the locker room he was a fouled mouth jerk who bragged about his love life conquests and made degrading remarks about particular girls in our class.
I hated Freedman from the moment we met on the first day of seventh grade. We were both gifted athletes and we became competitive about everything, whether it was sports, girls, or popularity. Most assumed I was jealous of the guy because he was the better athlete. He was the Football QB (I was a wide receiver). He was the shooting guard on the basketball team (I was a forward). He was a pitcher/short stop on the baseball team (I played outfield).
Okay, so maybe he was better than me but I was happy to have a guy of his talent as a teammate if it helped us win. Sure maybe I didn't like playing second fiddle but the real reason I didn't like Freedman because he was a fake and a fraud – not that I was any better than him anyway.
"Hey, Sweet cakes!" Freedman grinned when he reached me, giving Sue's wide rump a hard slap.
"Hey" I protested, almost raising my hand to slap him but I thought better of it.
"I know, I know, not in public you always say," Freedman laughed. "Sorry, I just can't resist that ass of yours."
I didn't know what to say.
"Hey, you look really sexy," Freedman said, giving my wardrobe choice a second look. "You should dress up more often!"
"I didn't dress up for you," I said, more snottily that I meant to and that brought a laugh from Beth as she shut her locker door.
"See ya!" Beth said, giving me a look of pity before she headed down the hall.
"Who else would you dress up for?" Freedman frowned. "And you'd better not say McDonald either!"
"I dressed up for myself," I answered with annoyance.
"Whatever," Freedman replied with disinterest. "Hey, you coming to the game tonight?"
We were playing The Sun Rise Lake School for Boys before the big Greenville game on Friday. If we won both contests we would finish the regular season undefeated and go into the playoffs on a real high.
"Will you come to mine tomorrow?" I asked.
"We'll see, Honey," Freedman replied with obvious insincerity. "I'll see you around."
He leaned in to kiss me but I pulled back. "Yeah, I'll see you," I said unhappily, my heart racing in fear that he was going to kiss me smack on my (Sue's) lips.
Freedman gave me a look of surprise and he was confused when I turned and walked away but there was no way I was kissing that guy!"
I was pretty sure I was getting away with being Sue Sherman as the day progressed but it was definitely a weird experience seeing the world through her eyes as me. It was fun talking to kids I didn't talk to all that much and to hear stuff from the other side, and to be taken seriously by some of the teachers instead of being passed along as the athlete I was.
I respected Sue's wishes and didn't volunteer much in class, realizing just how uneducated, uninformed, and ….well…..stupid I really was as I sat in Sue's various advanced classes listening to the teachers' lectures and the classroom debates, impressed at how smart and knowledgeable some of my classmates really were.
Unfortunately, Freedman was in several of the same classes and I realized just how stinking smart he was too. The one area I decided early on where I wasn't going to compete in with him was with book smarts. Part of the reason was that my mother was a college professor and I didn't want to have to follow in that image so I went the other way, playing stupid and faking my way through school doing the absolute bare minimum to get by. It was more fun being a smart-ass King Jock, passing with my popularity and on field success.
"You were pretty quiet today, Miss Sherman," Mr. Morrissey the Civics Teacher remarked as I headed for the door when the bell rang to end his class.
"I enjoyed listening today, Mr. M," I replied with a smile.
He gave me a funny look as I left.
I might as well have been looking at Greek in Sue's advanced Calculus class because I had no idea what any of it was about. It was stunning because I realized that I had been going through high school without a challenge, commitment or real education so no wonder I was headed for community college, although I was beginning to wonder if I'd even be able to get through that two year school considering I hadn't learned anything as a high school student.
I was feeling extremely humbled, embarrassed and foolish when I headed for the cafeteria at lunch. Sue was waving me over to an empty table in the corner which was odd because I usually sat with the guys (especially when Sue was with Freedman) although occasionally I'd join Sue and Beth if Freedman wasn't around.
Sue had a salad in front of her which was not something I would eat. I had three slices of pizza and Sue gave me a disgusted look when I took a seat across from her.
"You trying to make me look like a pig?" She asked unhappily. "I don't need any more meat on those hips, Marty."
"I don't like rabbit food," I replied with a heavy sigh.
"What's wrong with you?" She wanted to know, noticing how defeated I looked.
"I'm a complete and total moron," I admitted.
"Haven't I always told you that?" She asked. "Man, I knew more in the eighth grade than some of those null-sets in the classes you take."
"I'm one of those null-sets," I sighed.
Sue gave me a look of actual pity. "I tried to warn you," she said quietly.
"You doin' okay?" I asked, giving her a look of concern.
"How hard is it to goof off, make sarcastic jokes and fart?" Sue asked with a disgusted look on her face. "Your friends are all pathetic stooges, Marty."
"I guess," I admitted.
"All anybody wants to know is if you're going to go undefeated," Sue sighed. "I've done absolutely nothing all morning."
"I really admire you, Sue," I replied. "You're actually doing something with your high school career."
Sue looked at me with surprise. "Well, gee, thanks Marty," she said. "I appreciate that."
"What the hell am I going to do?" I asked. "Once sports is over and we graduate, what am I going to have to show for myself?"
"I don't know," Sue confessed sadly.
"I'm going to be one of those sad sacks nobody's going to remember or care about," I moaned.
"You don't have to be," Sue told me. "There's still time for you to get your act together."
"Do you think of me the way Beth sees me?" I asked.
Sue blushed and glanced away and I had my answer. I was going to ask her if she really liked me but Freedman barged into the conversation by taking a seat next to me.
"McDonald," he said with distain, throwing Sue (as me) a look.
"Hello Bruce," Sue said with a bemused grin on her face.
"Oh, you're calling me Bruce now instead of Freedman?" Freedman asked with annoyance, thinking he was talking to me and not Sue.
"All set for the game tonight?" I asked cheerfully.
"Ah yes, the game," Sue smiled. "Should be really interesting."
"Sun Rise is a joke this year," Freedman said. "I bet we win by thirty."
"Unless we're too busy thinking about the Greenville game," I remarked, causing Freedman to give me a double look.
"Jesus Sue, since when do you care about any of this?" He wanted to know.
I shrugged. "Well, that's what Marty said anyway."
Sue nodded her head. "Yeah, we don't want to overlook Sun Rise," she said.
"I'm not overlooking anybody," Freedman insisted. "I bet I get 25 tonight before Coach takes us out. What about you, McDonald?"
"I'm just happy to be playing," Sue replied, throwing me a look.
"I'm sure you'll have a great game," I replied.
"What about me?" Freedman frowned, all hurt that I gave me (Sue) a compliment and not him. What a baby!
"You always have a great game, Bruce," I replied, going for the quick save. I even patted his hand to make him feel better.
"I do, don't I?" Freedman grinned happily as he started rubbing my (Sue's) leg under the table and I tried to move it away but he moved his chair closer to mine. "Pizza?" He asked with surprise. "I thought you said your ass was fat enough."
"Bruce!" Sue (as me) protested. "That's not nice."
Freedman looked at her (as me) with an annoyed frown. "Who gives a shit what you think?"
"Fine," Sue mumbled, gathering her salad and leaving the table.
"What hair got up his ass?" Freedman asked with annoyance.
"He was just defending me," I said. "That was a pretty rude and insensitive thing to say."
"You know I love your ass," Freedman replied, giving my (Sue's) knee a squeeze.
"I'm beginning to think that's all you love about me," I said unhappily, knowing from his locker room perversion what he really thought of Sue.
Freedman shook his head and rolled his eyes. "What's with you today?" He asked.
"Nothing," I said, moving my chair away some more.
Sure, I was just as guilty as Freedman for making sexist remarks and ogling girls for their bodies but at least I respected Sue as a person and just wasn't interested in her ass.
"Look, I've told you plenty of times before," Freedman growled. "You're not the only chick around." He leaned in close to my face. "I don't need to take your shit so don't go all frigid on me if you know what's good for you." There was something dark and threatening in his voice.
"Or what?" I dared to say. "You gonna smack me or something?"
"I have before, haven't I?" He said meanly.
"Wha…?" I couldn't believe he admitted such a thing or that Sue had let him get away with it.
"You'd better not push me on this, Susan," he warned. He punched my (Sue's) thigh before he angrily bolted from the table.
I stared after him with shock and anger. That bastard was abusing Sue? How could a feminist like Sue allow herself to be taken advantage of like that? I hardly got through the rest of the day as my head swirled with all sorts of thoughts and emotions. I respected and cared about Sue way to much to let something like this happen to her.
### ### ###
Sue had basketball practice after school which was going to be weird for obvious reasons. She stopped me in the hall as I headed for the girl's locker room.
"Maybe you should skip practice," Sue told me with concern.
"Are you going to skip the game tonight?" I challenged.
She sighed. "Wasn't the whole point to give me a chance to play in front of a crowd? And compete on a good team? To see what it's like?"
"Well, you're going to see a lot if you go through with it," I reminded her. "You have to go into the boy's locker room just like I have to go into the girl's locker room."
"I suppose," She sighed with awkward uncertainty.
"Look, let's just agree that we'll have to be secret perverts for a few days," I said.
"I'm not a pervert," Sue insisted.
"Well, remember that when you see eleven basketball players naked," I replied.
"I'll close my eyes," she decided.
"No you won't," I replied. "Just act normal. Act like a guy."
"Oh God," Sue moaned. "And what about you?
"I'll act like a girl," I promised.
"Try not to stare," she said with disapproval.
"I'm breaking up with Freedman," I announced.
"What are you talking about?" Sue asked with surprise.
"You can't let that guy smack you around, Sue," I said strongly.
She looked pale and then she stared down at the floor with shame, humiliated to be found out.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked.
"It has nothing to do with you," she answered. "Please don't break up with him. I'm not ready yet."
"Ready for what?" I asked with disbelief. "Not to get your teeth knocked out!?"
"You just don't understand," She sighed. "Leave it alone, please."
"I understand you deserve better than that guy," I said. "What are you doing with him if you like me anyway?"
She looked horror stricken at that remark. "Well, you don't like me, do you?" She said angrily. "Boy, Marty, you're just so stupid, aren't you?" She asked bitterly. "Don't know about your aunt. Don't know about me. Don't know anything at school. Just what in the heck do you know, anyway?" Tears flowed from her eyes.
"Don't let anybody see you crying," I said, embarrassed for myself.
"Oh, I forgot, real men don't cry," she said acidly. "Give me my backpack," she demanded angrily. "I'll do my homework before the game. You, of course, don't have any."
I sighed and handed her the backpack and I watched as she turned and stormed away. Obviously, I knew nothing.
I headed for the girl's locker room knowing it was every guy's fantasy to be able to sneak into a girls' locker room and here I was marching in like I owned the place. Of course, everybody assumed I was a girl since I looked like a girl but I still felt like a pervert and guilty as hell. This was clearly a violation of Sue's teammate's privacy and boundaries but what choice did I have? I wasn't going to quit on the team for modesty reasons. Besides, Aunt Kate knew this would happen.
Joy Kilner was the only other senior besides Sue on the team. I knew her because we were classmates. She was the tallest girl on the team, but thin so she got pushed around on the court. She had long black hair and plenty of freckles. There were also four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman to make a squad of ten.
Ms. Lynch, the Freshman/Sophomore English teacher, was the coach. She was a nice lady but from the games I watched she didn't know a whole lot about basketball and she was mostly there as a cheerleader and chaperone as far as I could tell. She didn't substitute well and she didn't understand the depth of the game. The Coach had a set time to make set substitutions which was nuts. If the team was on a run she'd still call time out and make switches. And if the team was getting hammered she wouldn't make changes before her pre-set scheduled time. No wonder the team didn't win.
It was only practice but the team still seemed surprisingly laid back to me as we dressed in the locker room. There was chatter and chatting and laughter and nobody seemed to be all that fired up or intense about getting their mindset on basketball which might have been another reason they never won. I learned long ago that you had to be passionate, dedicated, determined and focused as soon as you stepped into the locker room, whether it was for a game or a practice.
I caught a glimpse of #8's naked back side (Karla somebody, a sophomore) but I mostly kept my eyes down, pretending I was concentrating on getting into the basketball mindset as I dressed and I was the first one out onto the basketball court to begin shoot around.
It didn't take Sue's teammates long to figure out that I was bringing a new attitude to the practice. While everybody else was working at half or three-quarter speed, I was going full out from the first whistle to the last, so much so that I heard grumblings and complaining from the other girls and Coach Lynch forced me to take a couple of breaks. I knocked Joanie-whatever-her-last-name is on her can during a drill which didn't go over well.
"What, did you have a fight with Bruce or something? Joy asked me as she helped Joanie to her feet.
"Yeah, we're supposed to be having fun," Joanie complained.
"It's a lot more fun when we win," I remarked, speaking from experience.
I screamed and yelled and coached and instructed all through practice and it wasn't until I saw the looks on peoples faces that I realized everybody thought I was crazy. I sensed resentment and confusion as the girls walked to the locker room at the end of practice and Coach Lynch pulled me aside for a word.
"Sue, this isn't boot camp," Coach said with a smile. "This isn't Game Seven of the Eastern Conference finals. We're a tired team finishing out a disappointing season and there's no point going overboard now. The girls aren't used to this level of energy."
I wanted to tell Coach that maybe her team would win a few more games if she got the energy level up like any good coach would but there was no point in getting Sue in trouble because of my competitive nature. It was obvious that the girls approached the game with a different mindset than I was used to and that I needed to respect the way Coach ran things even if I thought she wasn't leading the team.
"Sorry Coach, I guess I got a little carried away," I said. "I just want to win the last few games and end my career a winner."
"I appreciate that," Coach Lynch said with a smile. "But you don't want to alienate your teammates during the last week of the season either."
I smiled politely and walked toward the locker room feeling totally out of place. This wasn't the kind of basketball I was used to. Most of the girls ignored me when I came into the locker room and I tried not to look at them in their various stages of undress. I spent four years busting my hump playing for a championship team and competing with Freedman for best player honors. Every moment of every game and practice meant something and we drove ourselves to be the best team possible, which meant working hard and never giving up the edge. The girls just wanted to have fun and I couldn't get a grasp of that notion. Of course, I was still me trapped in Sue's body and that was part of my problem, especially now that I found myself in the girl's locker room with a bunch of half-clad players.
The girls shower were individual stalls with flowery curtains for privacy (unlike the guys one large communal shower) so there was a bit more modesty as I sat in front of my locker trying not to look at any of the girls as they undressed. (I'm sure Sue wouldn't want to be accused of being a lesbo and I still felt a bit perverted even though nobody knew it was me).
"You were intense today," Joy commented.
I glanced up to see Sue's teammate standing next to me wrapped in nothing but a towel brushing out her wet hair from her just completed shower.
"Yeah," I agreed.
"We're 2-10, Sue," Joy reminded me.
"Wouldn't you rather finish 4-10 instead of 2-12?" I asked.
"That would be nice," Joy admitted. "But it's not worth killing Joanie over."
"I didn't hit her that hard," I said.
"Okay, so maybe we didn't have that great of a season," Joy admitted. "But we had fun. And we get along well together. We're friends. You know, all Bobby talks about is how stressful playing on the boys' team is."
Joy was dating Bobby Joseph, a backup Junior guard on the squad. He was a nice guy but he didn't have the killer instinct necessary for winning it all. They were an odd couple because Joy was about four inches taller than Joseph.
"Bobby said that?" I asked with surprise.
"Yeah, he says Bruce and Marty hate each other and all they care about is winning," Joy said. "They'd elbow their own grandmother in the head if it meant scoring a basket! He says Coach has them programmed and they're so busy trying to win another championship and not lose even one game that they forget to enjoy themselves."
"Well, look at all the games they've won," I defended.
"Who cares?" Joy asked. "If going 14-0 means we have to step all over each other and not have fun and have a win at all cost mentality I'm not sure if I'd want to play. Nobody's going to remember our record ten years from now but I know I'll remember the friendships I had on this team and the good times we had together. Remember our Valentine's Day Party Coach Lynch gave us? I'll never have a better time than we had that day. And we lost the game!""
"Marty would say we're nuts," I said.
"Oh, for Christ sakes, what in the hell does Marty know?" Joy laughed, rolling her eyes. "He's the kind of guy who's going to be sitting around a bar twenty years from now talking about how great he was in high school as if that was the high point of his life. How pathetic is that?"
"He's a good athlete," I said.
"Yeah, but that's about all he is," Joy pointed out.
My mouth dropped open when I realized Joy really wasn't all that far off base. My entire high school identity was my sports abilities. If I broke my leg tomorrow, would anybody care about me off the basketball court or baseball diamond?
Joy suddenly dropped her towel to reveal herself in all her glory before turning to her locker to start dressing and my heart jumped in my throat. I knew I would never be able to look at Joy in the same way again.
Coach Lynch came through the locker room. "Better hurry up and shower, Suzy, boys' game night and the visitors need our locker room."
"It sucks getting kicked out of our own locker room by a bunch of guys," Joy complained as she dressed.
I showered quickly knowing I needed to find Sue before the game and warn her not to mail it in tonight or Sun Rise would definitely mop the floor with her. They weren't that good a team but they would play tough and if Sue went out on the floor with her 'girl's' mentality she would get killed.
I hung around the hallway outside the boys' locker room. Most of the JV kids had already gone in. Varsity team didn't have to report until half time of the JV Game but maybe Sue would show up early to get ready in private and stuff. Sure enough she came down the hall with the backpack she had taken from me earlier.
"Here," she said, tossing the pack to me. "I did all my homework. Just turn it in tomorrow and for god sakes don't talk about it!"
"Listen, we need to talk about the game," I told Sue with worry.
"Afraid I'm going to embarrass you?" She asked, offended.
"I know you've been telling me for years that you can play with the guys and tonight you get your chance," I said. "But you need to take this seriously. Remember all those pick up games me and my friends let you play in?"
"And how great you thought you were?"
"Tonight is going to be ten times faster, harder, tougher, and more physical than any of those deals," I said with urgency. "You can't go out there with the girl's mentality."
"Girls' mentality?" She was definitely insulted.
"Yeah, I just heard the entire mantra," I said with annoyance. "Believe me, nobody's out there to have fun tonight the way your team mates like to have," I said. "Nobody is there to be friends and have a big group hug. They are out there for blood. They are out there to win. They are out there to compete. They are out there to beat you bad. You need to be on your toes, you need to be focused, and you especially need to be angry. Don't pay attention to the crowd. Don't pay attention to the noise. Don't think about your big moment. You need to play hard or you're going to get your ass kicked."
"You've never believed in me," she pouted.
"Jesus, Sue, I think you're a very talented player with a great shot," I groaned. "But this is the big time. You're not playing the girls from St. Anne's Catholic School. You're playing preppies from a private boys' school and they're not here to get to know you. They're here to beat you."
"I'll be fine," she said dismissively.
"Just play hard," I said.
"Get lost, McDonald."
Sue and I both turned to see Freedman coming down the hall with his bag over his shoulder, looking all cocky and smug as usual.
"We were just talking," I said forcefully.
Freedman gave me a dirty look, obviously displeased that his girlfriend was sassing back in front of another guy.
"McDonald?" Freedman growled, throwing Sue a look. "Do you mind?" He asked forcefully. "I want to talk to my girlfriend."
"Sure, I'm just leaving," Sue said, more politely than necessary. "I'll see you around...Sue."
She smiled before heading into the boy's locker room.
"You know I don't like you hanging out with him," Freedman complained.
"Why not?" I asked with more amusement than necessary.
"Because he's a jerk," Freedman replied, confirming that we would never be friends. "Now, aren't you going to wish me good luck in the game tonight?"
"Good luck in the game tonight," I replied, parroting him snidely.
He gave me a funny look. "What is it with you today?" He asked unhappily. "You've been...bitchy."
"Just give me my good luck smooch," Freedman ordered.
"I'm not in the mood…"
He grabbed me by both arms and shoved me against the wall, knocking me half-senseless from the force of his push. "You don't tell me what kind of mood you're in!" He yelled angrily. "You just kiss me when I tell you to kiss me!"
He pressed his lips against mine (Sue's) and gave me a disgustingly wet and tongue-y kiss before putting his finger in my face. "Don't push it with me, Susan, I'm warning you!"
One of his hands was still holding one of my arms and he squeezed it hard.
"You're hurting me," I told him.
"Tough shit," he replied before he finally let go of the hold. "You'd better be waiting for me right here after the game," he warned before heading for the locker room.
I wiped my mouth with the back of the hand and rushed to the nearest water fountain to wash my mouth out and spit. How gross was it to actually kiss Freedman!? I wanted to puke!
I made my way to the gym. The JV boys' game was about to start so I went to the concession stand and bought two hot dogs for supper. I saw Beth sitting in the stands and I joined her.
"Hot Dogs!" Beth asked with disgust. "I thought you said those things could kill you!?"
"I'm hungry," I said with a shrug.
"I heard you were an asshole at practice," Beth said. "What's up with that?"
"Who said that?" I asked.
"Everybody," Beth mumbled.
"Maybe I did get a little carried away," I confessed. "Season's almost over. Guess I was upset that I only have a few games left in my career."
"Jesus, it's just basketball, Sue," Beth laughed. "Get over it."
A couple of other girls joined us and Beth got involved in chatting with them but I watched the JV team to see if the future varsity squad had a chance to stay as great as we had been these past several years. My brother, who is six years older than me, played on some good teams and me and Freedman both made varsity as Freshman, although we didn't play all that much that first year.
Because I had an older brother who paved the way and two older sisters too I hung out with some of the older kids and cliques when I first started high school. That was one thing I had an up on with Freedman who was an only child and didn't have the connections I did. I'd been dating one of my sister Carol's friends Vanessa the last few years but she was in college now and I could tell that our relationship was doomed. Every time I called or she came home for a weekend, things felt weird and I knew she wasn't happy dating a high school kid. Being with Vanessa also prevented me from trying to put the moves on girls like Beth and I was wondering if I was wasting my last few months in high school by not pursing other girls knowing Vanessa was getting ready to dump me.
And then there was Sue, who was apparently dating a psychopath. How could she have allowed herself to be disrespected like that? Why hadn't she confided in me? Had she told Beth any of this?
I glanced at Beth who was chatting with the girl on the other side of her and I realized now wasn't the time to be asking her questions. I saw my Aunt Kate entering the gym, I assumed to watch Sue play. My parents were far to busy to come to any of my games and as the youngest of four kids they had lost interest in the whole parenting thing which is why they basically bought me off with the new car when I was sixteen.
"I'm going to go talk to Marty's Aunt," I informed Beth but she hardly seemed interested.
Aunt Kate sat high in the stands, mostly by herself. She was wearing a weird flowered pant suit and a Boston Celtics ball cap.
"Hello, Marty," she said when I joined her.
"Are you here to see me or Sue?" I asked.
"Both," Aunt Kate replied with a smile. "How was your day?"
"I'm pretty sure you can figure that one out," I said sarcastically.
"What's it like seeing the world through Sue's eyes?" Aunt Kate asked.
"Different," I admitted.
"I'm sure you haven't seen nothin' yet," Aunt Kate smiled.
"I've seen enough," I replied sarcastically, thinking of the girl's locker room.
"How's Sue holding up?" Aunt Kate asked.
"Does the family know you're a witch?" I asked.
Aunt Kate laughed. "They know I'm eccentric," she replied.
"I just thought you were crazy," I said.
"Oh, I'm that too!" Aunt Kate laughed. "But you needed to get a grip, Marty," she said. "I did this for your own good."
"What about Sue's good?" I wondered.
"We'll have to wait and see on that one," Aunt Kate replied.
"Her boyfriend's abusing her," I sighed.
'I'm sorry to hear that."
"How can such a smart, pretty, intelligent, popular, independent, strong woman let herself get smacked around?" I asked with confusion "There were times when I thought she was going to beat me up when I got her pissed off!"
"You're disappointed in her?" Aunt Kate asked.
"I feel sad for her," I admitted. "I never saw her as weak."
"Some girls measure their self worth according to what their boyfriends see in them," Aunt Kate said.
"I thought Sue measured her self worthy based on proving that she was better than me!" I replied with admiration.
"Some girls are unable to give up," Aunt Kate explained. "They believe in second chances and they hope for love so they become immune to the guy's negative behaviors, especially if they think they love him." Aunt Kate looked at me. "Do you think Sue loves this guy?"
"All I've heard today as Sue is how much she likes me!" I revealed.
"And that surprises you?" An amused Kate asked.
"Why does she stay with him if she allegedly likes me?" I asked. "Especially if he's abusive?"
"Maybe she knows you don't like her back," Aunt Kate replied. "Maybe this guy is better than no guy."
"No, having no guy is better than having that guy," I said. "Sue is a wonderful, smart, funny girl. She deserves better than that jerk."
"Yes, she does," Aunt Kate agreed. "But maybe she's afraid to leave him."
"Afraid?" I questioned.
"Marty, physically abusive relationships are ones of humiliation, intimidation, and actual bodily injury," Aunt Kate told me. "Maybe he's threatened her or her family if she leaves him."
"Well, I'm going to break up with him for her," I decided.
"It might be a good idea to talk with Sue first," Aunt Kate suggested. "She may not forgive you if you do it on your own."
"If it saves her from being physically hurt, I don't care," I said.
"Just be careful," Aunt Kate told me.
"You'll be around to see how it all plays out," I said.
"No, actually, I'm leaving in the morning," Aunt Kate announced.
"What?" I asked with surprise. "You can't leave with us like this!"
"You'll switch back in a few days," Aunt Kate assured me. "You'll be fine. Your father has had enough of me for this trip and I have a friend in Chicago who's invited me to come for a visit."
"You're going to leave poor Sue all alone in that big house with my parents?"
Aunt Kate shrugged. "You do it," she reminded me.
"Yeah, I do," I sighed.
"Have you ever treated a girl the way that guy treats Sue?" Aunt Kate wanted to know.
I was offended by the question. "No, of course not," I said resentfully.
"You sure?" Aunt Kate challenged.
"Look, there's always guy talk in the locker room," I said with a shrug. "Guys talk. Brag. And sure, I've intentionally let a girl drink too much knowing I'd have a better chance of getting lucky if I did. And maybe I've said things about them behind their back that wasn't very nice, but I've never taken advantage of any girl and I've certainly never raised my hand to one."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that," Aunt Kaye said with relief. "You'd better go back to Sue's friends now."
"I don't want to leave you alone," I said.
"I'm fine, Marty, thanks," she said with a smile. "I don't think Sue would hang out with your Aunt all night, do you?"
"Guess not," I mumbled as I stood with a sigh. "Thanks for the talk, Kate."
She smiled as I left to return to Beth and the other girls.
The Hillsboro JV Boys beat the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys 47-42 and I watched as the varsity boys came out to warm up for their game. Sue looked awestruck when she saw the stands full of people and she kept looking around all through warm ups. Now she knew how it felt to be in a front of a large crowd. The question was would she be able to play in front of a large crowd when her opponents were guys.
Freedman and I were the team co-captains which forced us to get a long enough to lead the team but it was Freedman who was the dominant leader, mostly because some of the guys took me a little less seriously because of my reputation. Freedman might have been just as much an asshole but he was on the honor roll and he was the starting guard (instead of forward like me) so his position naturally held more power and prestige.
The game started and I could tell from the opening tip that Sue was tight and nervous. She turned the ball over a couple of times, got her first shot blocked and got beaten down the floor several times. She looked stunned by the level of play and I worked my way down the stands close to courtside so I could yell a few pointers at her.
"Just take your shot!" I yelled when she passed by me. "You know what you can do."
Sue played guard on the girl's team so she wasn't used to the forward position and she was basically learning on the fly. I moved along the sidelines several times yelling out tips until several people told me to sit down and shut up.
Coach took Sue (me) out earlier than usual as she was having a horrible game and I could see the smirk on Freedman's face. We were leading by 10 so it wasn't as if Sue was going to cost the Hurricanes our undefeated season. Danny Cantrill was my back up and he did a good job with the extra minutes as we upped our lead to 16.
Coach sent Sue back out there with about two minutes left in the half. I jogged down to the courtside one last time and yelled to Sue.
"Play like you're in my back yard," I instructed.
This time a cop escorted me away from the sidelines.
"Have you totally and completely lost your mind?" Beth asked when I returned to my seat next to her. "Do you think McDonald is going to listen to you!?"
"He should," I replied.
And it seemed that Sue did listen to my suggestion because she was taking her familiar outside shot instead of moving inside like I usually do. She sank two three pointers and although she was out of position and put more pressure on our Center Jack Lamount and the other forward Steve Anderson at least she was contributing with some baskets.
Sue was on the bench for the start of the second half and it looked like Freedman was going to set his career best for scoring because Coach left him in to pick up the slack and he had 30 points when Sue came back in with about four minutes to play. I couldn't remember the last time "I" played so few minutes but Sue was having a bad game. She was physically manhandled by the guy covering her and while she ended up scoring a respectable 12 points she probably gave up about 20 so she really didn't help the team, even though we won by nine when the final buzzer went off.
Freedman finished with a career best 38 points and he was dancing across the floor while a dejected Sue headed for the locker room with her head down. I felt bad for her but I tried to warn her it wasn't going to be easy.
"I don't think that's the wish she wanted," I told Aunt Kate when I saw her making her way down the steps of the stands.
"I'm sure it wasn't," Aunt Kate agreed. "But at least now she can appreciate how hard it is for you."
"It's just basketball, Aunt Kate," I said. "She's the one who's got it tougher."
"Ah-ha!" Aunt Kate beamed, giving me a hearty hug. "You have learned something!"
"Maybe I have," I admitted sheepishly.
"Well, keep learning and you can tell me all about it when I come back next time," Aunt Kate said, kissing me on the cheek. "Good luck!"
I watched her disappear into the crowd.
"Who dat?" Beth asked.
"She looks like a whack job," Beth observed.
"No, actually she's very special," I said.
"Since when are you hanging out with McDonald's aunt?" Beth wanted to know.
"I'm going to go see how Marty's doing," I said.
"Aren't you supposed to be seeing how Brucie's doing!?" Beth asked with a smirk.
I made my way to the hallway outside the boy's locker room and waited for Sue to emerge from behind the doors. She was the first one out, looking red faced and flushed.
"I've never seen so many naked guys at once before," she lamented when she saw me.
"Sorry about that," I replied.
"Let's get out of here," she said.
"What about Freedman?" I asked.
"To heck with him," Sue said, taking me by the arm and leading me down the hall.
"He's going to be pissed," I said. "He told me….you….to be here."
Sue hesitated for a moment giving it some thought before she picked up the pace. "I don't care," she said.
We hurried to my car and this time Sue let me drive (as her).
"You're really upset, huh?" I realized as I saw her slumped in the passenger's seat.
"You saw what happened out there," she moaned. "I was awful!"
"You weren't that bad."
"Bruce said I sucked."
"Of course he did," I replied. "We're arch enemies, remember?"
"I guess," she sighed.
"What did Coach say?"
"He said I had an off night and I'd get them against Greenville," she moaned. "I doubt that."
"We'll come up with a game plan for you," I said.
"I'm going to fake an injury in practice," Sue revealed.
"You can't quit just because you had one bad game, kid," I told her.
"I'm not good enough, Marty, it's pretty obvious."
"You're plenty good enough," I replied. "You're playing out of position and you played in a whole new environment against a caliber you're not used to. I'd say you did just fine."
She looked at me with surprise. "You're not going to tell me 'told you so'?" She asked suspiciously. "You're not going to gloat? You're not going to sing 'Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better'?"
"No," I said softly. "I wouldn't do that to you."
"So," she realized after a moment. "It hasn't been easy for you either, huh?"
"Not really," I admitted as I pulled the car into the parking lot of Denny's in Greenville. "Let's get something to eat."
We climbed out of the car and dragged ourselves into the restaurant after an unbelievable day.
"So, what was the locker room like?" I teased Sue once we were seated and the waitress brought us our water and took our orders.
"Disgusting, of course," Sue replied, her face turning red again. "How come guys prance around naked?" She wanted to know. "Do they like showing off their junk? Do they not have any modesty? I had a five minute conversation with Roy Nelson with him standing there totally naked. Talk about awkward."
"It's a guy thing," I replied. "The locker room is like a Sanctuary."
"You know, girls have the same nasty bodily functions as guys, like farting and belching and all that but at least we don't do it in public," Sue complained. "Henderson was on the toilet for 45 minutes, Jackson was spitting in the shower, and Mansfield was cutting them like he was playing a violin. If girls were that obnoxious I doubt we'd ever get a date."
"Girls have been so well trained to hide that sort of stuff," I admitted.
"You didn't tell me Bruce was such a dirt bag," Sue protested.
"You didn't either," I reminded her.
She sighed. "You need to avoid him until we change back," she said. "He could really hurt you…..me."
"I know," I said with worry. "But it's going to be hard."
"Yeah," she agreed.
"So what happened?" I asked. "What'd he say?"
"He told everybody he was getting laid tonight," Sue said with distain. "How I was great in bed after a big game. How can he talk about his girlfriend so disrespectfully in front of other people like that?"
"I don't know," I admitted.
"Do you talk about Vanessa like that?"
"Have you ever heard me say something like that?" I challenged.
"You could to your guy friends," she said.
"Well, I….." I said defensively. "Listen, Sue," I said with a heavy sigh. "I realize that I have plenty of faults and that I really am a male chauvinistic sexist pig, okay?"
Sue looked at me long and hard. "I don't think you're one now," she said quietly.
"No, not now," I agreed. "Every guy should be a girl for one day."
She buried her chin in her hand and studied me. "There's hope for you yet," she smiled.
I grinned and nodded in agreement.
"How come when I look at me I still see you?" Sue asked.
"I've been thinking the same thing all day," I replied. "I guess we both know each other better than we thought we did."
This time Sue nodded in agreement.
We reviewed our strange day, telling funny stories about our observations from our new perspectives and getting a few needed laughs to mask the stress, pain and difficulty of what we were learning about each other and ourselves.
I let Sue drive us home, her dropping me off at her house.
"I miss my family," she sighed as she glanced at her peaceful and handsome house.
"Aunt Kate is leaving tomorrow so tonight's your last chance to have an actual conversation with anybody at my house," I told her.
"Your house is kind of lonely," Sue observed.
"You'll be back here in a few days," I assured her. "Just do the best you can."
"Okay," she said. "I need to go text Bruce," she said. "He's left about 20 messages on my phone."
"You don't think he'll come here, do you?" I wondered.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "He knows my father would kill him if he found out anything."
"Maybe I'll have a talk with your Dad and…."
Sue held her hand up to my mouth. "Please, Marty," she begged. "Don't."
"Okay," I said.
I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek (I guess I could honestly say I kissed myself on the cheek!) before I climbed out of the car and went into the Sherman house where I was greeted with warm hellos.
"Hi," I said, heading for the stairs.
"Wait! Where you going!" Mrs. Sherman laughed. "You know we always have quality family time before we go to bed!"
"Oh, sorry," I said, stepping into the living room where Karen was seated on the couch between her parents watching television.
"Did you eat?" Mrs. Sherman wanted to know.
"Yeah, I had a hot dog at the game," I replied.
"A hot dog!?" Karen laughed. "Wow!"
"Then Marty and I went to Denny's," I added.
"That's a lot of food," Karen remarked.
"You okay, sweetie?" Mrs. Sherman asked with concern as I plopped into one of the easy chairs.
"Yeah, it's just that Marty had a terrible game tonight," I sighed.
"What about Bruce?" Karen grinned.
"He had a great game," I mumbled. "And we won so I guess that's good."
"We?" Karen asked, raising her eyebrows.
"The team," I said. "You know."
"Yeah, I know," Karen giggled.
"Leave your sister alone, Karen," Mrs. Sherman said. "She's tired."
"It has been a long day," I admitted.
But it felt kind of good to be sitting in the living room with other people for a change. At my house, I was always up in my room with my computer, flat screen television, satellite dish, on demand, portable refrigerator and the rest of my luxuries. I couldn't remember the last time I hung out downstairs with my parents. My brother was in the service, my sister Roberta was married, and Carol was off at college, so it was just me, the folks, and the housekeeper these days.
I was dozing in the easy chair when Sue's father shook me awake and told me to go to bed.
"Good night, Dad," I said with a smile as I headed for the stairs.
### ### ###
I was momentarily confused again when I opened my eyes the next morning. It took me a moment to remember what Aunt Kate had done and what I was doing sleeping in Sue's bed!
I once again examined Sue's nude body in the wide mirror in the bathroom and I once again got dressed up after showering, this time in a nice pair of slacks and a warm sweater.
Sue's family was once again gathered in the kitchen and this time I sat with Karen at the counter even though she razzed me for my wardrobe selection and pumped me for information on Marty, Bruce, and anything else she could think of. It was all in good natured fun and I liked the back and forth everybody in Sue's family enjoyed. Sue's mom actually listened and Sue's relationship with her sister was warm, friendly, and fun. Mr. Sherman was slightly detached but it was clear he cared about his daughters and that he had a relationship with them. This was completely different from my family in recent years.
I glanced at Mr. Sherman's sports page and saw the game write up. Freedman of course made the headline and was the main focus of the story, although I got one line. 'Marty McDonald had an off night and was not really a factor in the final result of the game.' It might have been a different take had we lost the game.
Mrs. Sherman was all excited about Sue's game against St. Anne's Catholic School this afternoon and that dominated most of the rest of the breakfast conversation. I told her I felt like I was going to have a good game!
I waited for Sue outside the house and watched as my car came around the corner once again. Sue didn't mind driving her mother's mini-van but I'm sure she was happy to be behind the wheel of my neat little sports coupe.
"Good morning," I said, climbing into the passenger seat without even bothering to ask if I could drive.
"Bruce is really pissed off," Sue sighed with worry. "For standing him up last night."
"Thanks for the warning," I replied.
"Are you going to a job interview?" She frowned when she saw what I was wearing. "Those pants really make me look fat, Marty."
"No they don't," I said.
"Aunt Kate says goodbye," Sue said. "I'm going to miss her."
"Me too," I said. "But hopefully today will be a little easier than yesterday now that we're getting the hang of it."
"You have a game," Sue reminded me.
"Should be interesting."
"Team record for most points scored is held by Margie Williams in 1995," Sue reported. "34 points."
"I'm not going to be a jerk out there, Sue," I assured her.
"Maybe you could give Joanie some assists," Sue suggested. "She's been a great team player all year."
"Okay," I agreed.
"And there's still the matter of Bruce," Sue warned.
"Let's not worry about him," I said.
"So," Sue said, pulling the car into the school lot. "No talking in class. Get my assignments. Be inconspicuous."
"Which makes me conspicuous!" I laughed. "Since when are you quiet!?"
Sue smiled. "Just do the best you can."
I walked Sue to the school and we went our separate ways as soon as Beth found us again. I knew my best plan of attack was to avoid Freedman at all costs to lessen the chance for a confrontation or scene. I told Beth that I had stood him up and that he might be in a bad mood.
"Don't tell me," Beth groaned. "You were with McDonald."
"He had a bad game," I explained.
"Poor baby," Beth replied sarcastically. "Go hide in the first floor girl's bathroom until first bell rings," she advised.
So I did. I was standing at the mirror staring at myself (Sue) thinking about how the day might unfold when Tracy Peters and her posse entered. I didn't pay attention to the chick all that much. She wasn't my type and she didn't run in my circle but I'd heard Sue and Beth complain about her, calling her a snobby mean girl. All I saw was her bouncy curly blond hair, and curvy body.
"Oh, Sue Sherman," Tracy said with surprise. "Boy, you sure have gotten fat!"
I turned and faced her. "Excuse me?"
"Gee, sorry, I know it's not exactly an ego booster, but I thought you'd want to know," Tracy said with a goofy grin on her face. "Your ass is almost the size of a truck."
I narrowed my eyes at this snarky girl. "Did you actually call me fat?" I asked.
"Why, yes, yes I did," Tracy smirked.
"Boy, you really are a mean bitch, aren't you?" I remarked.
"You're just jealous because you're not as popular as me," Tracy laughed. "You're just a lesbo jock loser with a homo for a boyfriend."
I laughed out loud at that one and I considered for a moment what Sue might say or do if she was in this situation. But Sue wasn't there – I was so I stepped right up in Tracy's grill and backed her against the wall.
"You listen to me, Princess," I said with a growl. "If you ever insult me again I'll put so much Exlax in your fancy bottled water that you'll need to wear a diaper for the rest of your pathetic life, you read me?"
Tracy was clearly caught off guard and she looked to her friends for help but the other two girls looked down and away and didn't say a word.
"I happen to like my fat ass and I know several guys who do too so I suggest you take your bony flat ass and get the hell out of here," I said.
A humiliated red faced Tracy bolted from the bathroom and her two friends silently followed, tossing me looks of admiration and surprise as they went. Okay, so it wasn't exactly mature of me to behave that way but the little priss asked for it!
First bell rang and I waited a few moments before heading for class to reduce the chances of bumping into Freedman who I'm sure was not happy with me (as Sue). That strategy seemed to be the way to go for most of the morning – I'd arrive in class late enough to avoid him and I would be out the door almost before the bell rang if we were in a class together so he couldn't accost me.
It wasn't until fourth period that a confrontation seemed imminent. I was walking down the hall between classes when I saw Freedman approaching at a road runner's pace so I ducked into the nearest classroom which was empty except for Mr. Reed, science teacher and the Athletic Director for the school district. He was an older guy – late 50's, balding gray hair, a pot belly, a goofy looking mustache. Apparently, he had been a great tennis player back in the day and he coached the sport for several years before moving up to the AD position. I knew him because of my involvement with sports, obviously, but I wasn't sure if Sue knew him or had ever had him as a teacher or advisor. I believe the guy was either divorced or a widower.
"Oh, Miss Sherman," Mr. Reed said with surprise when he saw me standing by the door. "It's nice to see you here!"
He got up from his desk, walked across the room, and stuck his head into the hall. I glanced behind me see Freedman staring at me with resentment and rage on his face.
"Move along, Bruce," Mr. Reed advised before closing and locking the door and shutting the door blinds too.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Reed, I'm in the wrong room."
"Oh?" He asked with disappointment. "I was hoping you were here to take me up on my offer from a few weeks ago."
"Offer?" I asked with confusion.
"You wanted that letter of character reference for Green College?" He asked. "In case you decide to try out as a walk on for basketball?"
Sue had never mentioned that idea to me and I was proud of her for having the guts to consider it.
"Yeah, right, of course," I said. "A letter from you would definitely help."
"Good," he said, strolling back to his desk. "I have it right here."
I followed him and I stood on the other side of the desk while he plopped into his chair and opened the center drawer, but he also seemed to be fidgeting with something underneath it too. When Mr. Reed closed the drawer, his pants were opened and pulled down, exposing his penis and balls. He was playing with himself and he glanced up at me and grinned.
"So," he said. "You get the letter after you help me out here."
"Jesus Christ, Mr. Reed!" I shouted with disbelief. "What in the hell are you doing?"
"Oh?" He asked innocently. "Am I confused? Wasn't this our little agreement? You help me out and I'll help you out?"
"You sick perverted bastard!" I said. "I can't believe you'd do this to a high school teenager!"
"Get serious, I just saw Freedman out there waiting for his hand job too, Miss Sherman, so don't go acting all sweet and innocent!"
He stood and pulled his pants up, zipping and buckling. "You fat assed cock tease," he grumbled as he ripped the letter up. "I should have known better to expect anything from you."
"What's to stop me from going to the Principal's Office right now?" I demanded.
"Nothing," Mr. Reed replied with a shrug. "I'm sure it will do your reputation a world of good. Giving a teacher a blow job."
"But I didn't," I said defiantly.
"I'll tell them you did if you're dumb enough to say anything," he threatened.
"You're a disgrace," I told him angrily.
"Yes, yes, goodbye Miss Sherman, have a nice day," he said dismissively as he walked across the room and unlocked the door. "Say hello to Bruce for me."
I felt nauseous as I left the room. I couldn't believe a teacher could be so blatantly inappropriate, criminal and disturbed without fear of repercussion, reprisal or trouble. Surely Sue couldn't be the first female student the disgusto had propositioned, bribed, harassed or abused in his long career. But did I have the guts to make her his last?
I wandered down the hall with my head spinning so of course I wasn't paying attention to what was going on around me and that's when Freedman appeared out of nowhere and threw me into an empty broom closet, closing the door behind us. He slapped me hard across the face.
"Don't you ever diss me like that again, you fucking bitch!" He growled, his face red and twisted with a rage I'd never seen before.
His hand was balled into a fist and he took a swing but I blocked it with my forearm and it glanced away although it still hurt.
"Listen, asshole," I said angrily. "It would be wise to never hit me ever again and you best never fall sleep anywhere near me because I promise I will seriously cut your balls off the first chance I get."
Freedman was surprised by my response. Apparently, Sue had never spoken out when he previously struck her.
"You don't have the guts," he finally sneered after considering my threat for a few moments.
He shoved me hard and I lost my balance falling over a bucket and tumbling to the floor in a heap.
"Stupid spaz," Freedman laughed as he left the janitor closet.
This was definitely not Sue's day (as played by me). I sat there on the floor for a long time trying to comprehend the odds of one teenaged girl being sexually harassed and physically abused by two different men within the span of five minutes. Was this the sort of crap she took all the time?
I finally dragged myself off the floor and I stumbled out of the closet, not sure where I should go or what I should do next.
I turned to see Mr. Jefferson standing at the door of his classroom with his hands on his hips.
"Are you okay?" He asked.
"Yes, thanks," I said.
"You don't look okay," he frowned. "What happened to your face?"
I reached my hand up and felt a welt on my cheek. "I ran into the closet door," I lied.
"And why are you all wet?" He wanted to know.
"I fell into the janitor's bucket," I explained.
"Come in here," he ordered.
What were the chances of being victimized for the third time in a row? I didn't know Mr. Jefferson very well but I heard he was an okay guy and a good teacher. I followed him into his class room and I was surprised to see that there were a couple of arm chairs in the back of the room in between a table. It looked like a talk show set.
"Have a seat, Miss Sherman," Mr. Jefferson advised as he took a seat in the other soft chair.
Mr. Jefferson was a big man, bearded with hunched shoulders and arms the size of tree limbs. He wore baggy pants and a goofy sweater-vest but I knew he could beat the shit out of me if he so chose and I wondered if I should try to make an escape. Instead, I took a seat as asked.
"Do you want to tell me anything?" The English teacher asked.
I tried to remember if I heard Sue talk about this guy. Maybe she had him last year? I think she told me a story or two about his class but it all sort of blurred together.
"Are all guys jerk offs?" I wanted to know.
"Well, it's clear you've met at least one of the worse kind," Mr. Jefferson observed.
"I always thought…..well, I guess I've learned the hard way that sexism and disrespecting of women and sexual politics really do exist," I stated.
"Yes, they do," Mr. Jefferson agreed sadly.
"I always thought it was an overreaction," I confessed, speaking as myself and not as Sue. "That my friend who told me about this sort of stuff (meaning Sue) was paranoid and overreacting. There was no way that some of the stuff she said could be true."
"But you found out it is?" Mr. Jefferson guessed.
"Yeah, I found out for myself," I sighed.
"I'm sorry," Mr. Jefferson offered.
"I always thought I was better than that," I said in a low voice, talking about myself and not Sue again. "That I was better than them."
"Aren't you?" Mr. Jefferson asked.
"I hope so," I sighed.
"Miss Sherman, if you have a problem I hope that you you'll find solutions," Mr. Jefferson told me. "If the first person you go to doesn't help, then try someone else."
"I will, thanks," I replied, feeling better all of a sudden.
"You aren't wrong to question the character and being suspicious of the intentions of certain individuals," Mr. Jefferson let me know. "But please understand that there are plenty of good people out there who do a lot of good things so don't become cynical or give up on humanity."
"I won't," I promised.
"Even here at school there is the school nurse and Ms. Jacobs the Social Worker if you think you need to talk to someone," he advised.
"Okay," I agreed.
"There are still good guys out there."
"I know," I said, realizing that Mr. Jefferson was one of them.
"You might want to go to the ladies room and freshen up," Mr. Jefferson suggested as he stood. "You going to be okay, Miss Sherman?"
"Yes, I'm going to be fine," I assured him, smiling with confidence as I stood. "Thank you, Mr. Jefferson."
"You're welcome," he replied as he led me to the door. "Watch out for those jerk-offs."
I laughed and nodded my head as I left the classroom feeling reassured that there really were nice guys out there. In the girl's bathroom, I washed my face with hot water which seemed to help make the red slap mark on Sue's cheek fade. The water had dried from my clothes and I looked presentable to re-enter the school world again, although I was seriously beginning to wonder if it was all that safe out there.
I made it to lunch without any more incidents and I found Sue sitting in a corner table, munching on a salad. I showed up with a double helping of spaghetti after a rough morning.
"You're going to gain me five pounds this week," Sue complained.
"You're going to lose me five pounds this week," I observed, gesturing to her rabbit food as I sat across from her.
"What happened to your face?" Sue asked with concern.
"Love tap," I replied sarcastically.
Sue looked down with embarrassment but didn't comment.
"I want to apologize to you," I said.
"For what?" She asked, glancing at me.
"For never taking you seriously with all this sexism stuff," I said with a sigh. "For not listening to what you were trying to tell me. For questioning you. For being so pompous and full of myself. For being a dumb jock without a clue. For not being there for you when you needed me most."
She swallowed hard and stared at me. "Well, I've learned that you don't always have it easy either," she said.
"What do you mean?" I wondered.
"You always have to be on," Sue observed. "You're like a celebrity. Everybody wants to hear your story. Everybody wants to be part of the success. Everybody thinks they own a part of you. Everybody expects so much from you. How many touchdown catches did you have? How many points do you think you'll score against Greenville? How many homers do you think you'll hit this year? Do you think we'll win the championship? Will you talk to my kid brother about his dribbling problem?"
"Yeah, I guess," I said.
"But at the same time nobody takes you seriously when you have something important to say. I spoke out in a few of your classes and I either got laughed at or I was dismissed as being goofy. You just can't win sometimes, can you?"
"Why didn't you tell me about Mr. Reed?" I wanted to know.
"What was I supposed to say?" Sue sighed. "Would you have believed me?"
"Probably not," I admitted.
"Why, what happened?" Sue worried.
"Let's just say you're not getting that character reference," I answered.
She chewed on her bottom lip. "Did he touch my butt or something?"
"Worse, but let's not talk about it," I replied. "And of course Lover Boy was a real laugh," I added, gesturing to (Sue's) cheek.
"Did you break up with him?" She asked nervously.
"Not yet, but you need to beat the shit out of him while you're still in my body," I suggested. "You know, defend your honor and all that."
"That's kind of sexist right there, Marty," Sue told me.
"No, I'm being practical," I argued. "Physically, my body has a better chance of taking him. And you'd have the satisfaction of finally being able to stand up to him without being victimized."
"Physical violence is never the answer," she pointed out.
"Mr. Jefferson is pretty cool," I noted.
"Yes, he's been a big help to me," Sue revealed. "Thank god there are some good guys still out there."
"I'm sorry I haven't been a good guy for you, Sue," I sighed.
"You are now, ironically enough," Sue laughed.
"But I had to become a girl to get it," I sighed.
Beth interrupted us by placing her tray on the table and taking a seat. She noticed our mixed up lunch entrees right away.
"Do you guys have a body switch experiment going on or something?" She asked. "You've both been acting weird all week."
"Yes, that's exactly it!" I laughed and Sue burst out with a wide grin too.
"Very funny," Beth mumbled, insulted that we were making fun of her (even though we weren't). "What happened to your face?" She asked me when she noticed the red mark on (Sue)'s cheek.
"Bruce smacked her," Sue revealed, much to my surprise.
"What!?" A horrified Beth exclaimed loudly.
"Calm down," I said, giving Sue a look. "It was an accident."
"No it wasn't," Sue said forcefully. "He's been hitting her for a long time."
"That rat bastard son of a bitch!" Beth cried. "I'll kill him."
"Shhh," I said, glancing around, afraid someone might hear us.
"Why are you protecting him?" Beth demanded.
"I'm not," I said. "I just don't want to create a scene here. We'll talk about this later."
"You've got to break up with him right now!" Beth ordered.
"I know," I said. "I will, don't worry."
"When!?" Beth challenged.
"Before the Greenville game," I promised, throwing Sue a look. She nodded with approval.
"Don't do it alone," Beth advised. "Have someone there. Me or…..McDonald even," she said, throwing Sue a look. "You want to keep yourself safe."
"Okay," I agreed. "Thanks, guys."
"I can't believe you didn't tell me this a long time ago," Beth grumbled angrily. "I'm your friend for god sakes."
"It's not easy to talk about," I said, with more empathy than I knew I had.
"Don't be hard on her, Beth," Sue said. "She's been struggling with this for a long time."
"She told you before she told me?" Beth protested. "That's unbelievable."
"Marty figured it out on his own," I volunteered. "He always knew Freedman was a loser."
"Freedman?" Beth asked with surprise. "Since when do you call your boyfriend by his last name?"
"I meant Bruce." I tried to cover up my gaff.
"Anyway, the important thing is that Sue is going to break up with the guy," Sue said. "All we want is what's best for her, right Beth?"
Beth threw Sue (as me) a funny look. "Sure, McDonald," she said with a frown as she glanced at the two of us several times. "I don't know what it is about you two, but there's something weird going on here." She made a face. "You two didn't…..do it, did you?"
"No, No, No," I said, feeling myself blush.
"But I wouldn't mind," Sue said (as me).
"Wait! What?" Beth asked with confusion. "McDonald, do you like Sue?"
"Gee, I don't know, do I like you, Sue?" Sue (as me) asked mischievously.
"Marty has gained a new appreciation for me," I explained to Beth. "He has seen me in a whole new light. He respects me and believes in me and understands how I think and feel."
"Holy shit," was all Beth could think to say.
"Bruce is going to kill both of us now," Sue (as me) sighed.
Wow, did I really like Sue? I guess being in a girl's body and seeing her naked and seeing how she lives gives you a whole new insight to the meaning of life. But what about Vanessa? And Freedman? This wasn't over by a long shot.
The three of us finished a somewhat awkward and strange lunch together and I managed to get through the rest of the afternoon without any Freedman run-ins, Mr. Reed sightings, or other drama.
No matter what kind of day I'm having there's always basketball to look forward to and today was no different. I headed for the girl's locker room after final bell, avoiding my locker in case Freedman was waiting for me (Sue) there. Sue was waiting for me outside the girl's locker room with a worried look on her face.
"Do you think you could just play to have fun?" She asked.
"Yes," I replied with complete sincerity. "I think I can."
Sue smiled with relief. "Thank you, Marty."
I gave her a hug. "Are you going to watch the game?"
"We're supposed to go run five miles but I should be back before opening tip off," she said.
"Great," I replied happily.
"Give me my back pack," she instructed. "I'll do my homework sometime tonight."
"Don't tell me," I sighed with embarrassment. "I don't have any."
"I won't tell you," she smirked.
I usually wore my game face when I entered a locker room before a game but today I strolled through the girl's locker room with a huge smile (and not just because I got to see the girls undress!).
"Do you know what we get to do today, Joanie?" I asked, stealing one of my favorite lines from the Dennis Quaid movie 'The Rookie'.
"What?" She asked as she stood there in her panties and bra.
"We get to play basketball!" I grinned.
Joanie smiled and some of the other girls chucked and for the first time in a long time I felt relaxed and laid back about a basketball game. Usually I was keyed up, anxious, even nervous, but today I was feeling totally at peace about taking the floor. It was an entirely new feeling for me.
I heard Mrs. Sherman start to scream and cheer and yell as soon as I stepped out on the floor for warm ups and it was easy to spot her in the sparse crowd. She was waving and I couldn't help but laugh and wave back. So, this is how it felt to actually have a parent show up for a game!
I was full of pep and energy during warm ups, cheering and rooting my teammates on and looking forward to playing an organized game of basketball simply for the fun of it. Hopefully, the girls forgave me for being an asshole the day before!
The ball got away from me during warm ups and it rolled toward the visiting stands. A couple of guys – tenth graders maybe from St. Anne's Catholic 0 picked up the ball and I made a motion for them to toss it back to me.
"Show us your tits first," one of them smirked.
"What did you say?" I asked with disbelief as I stepped closer to them.
"Do you have a tight pussy?" The other one asked with a leer and I couldn't believe my ears.
I was horrified and totally embarrassed, not so such for me but for those two losers.
"You guys need to show some respect," I said with disgust.
"You need to show us your ass!" The first kid laughed.
"I'm sure your mothers are very proud of you two," I said before I grabbed the ball from the one kid and gave the other kid an elbow to the chest that knocked him back on his can.
I saw a sweaty Sue enter the gym just as we got ready to start the game and that made me feel great!
I didn't kick ass. I didn't play tough or rough or with a killer mentality. I played to have fun. That didn't mean I was willing to throw the game and lose. I still made the plays that were there for the taking. I passed the ball around. I dished off to team mates even when I had a shot. I congratulated my teammates when they made a great play. I admired the quality of play on both sides. I took a moment to appreciate the game in the moment. I didn't say anything when Coach Lynch made her bizarre time-set substitutions. I joked with my teammates when we were on the bench.
The game remained relatively close and with about two minutes left we were up by three.
"Are you ready to win us a basketball game?" I asked the team during a time out.
Everybody screamed 'Yes!' and we headed onto the floor determined to be victorious - while having fun. Guess what!? We actually won (39-37)! You would have thought we just won Game 7 of the Championship Series in OT with a game winning shot at the buzzer the way we yelled and celebrated and laughed and even cried!
"You're right," Joy said to me as we hugged. "3-10 is better than 2-11!"
You might think I'm being over-dramatic when I say it was one of the most memorable wins of my entire career but it really was. The looks of joy and accomplishment on my fellow Lady Hurricane player faces were priceless. I also liked the way the girls from the other team congratulated us with sincerity and how humble my teammates were in return. It really felt good and it really was...fun!
We were still laughing and hugging and celebrating as we made our way into the locker room and I barely batted an eye when some of the girls started stripping naked for their showers after Coach Lynch congratulated us for a great win and singled me out for being a real team player. I felt like I had bonded with these players in just two short days and seeing them naked made me feel closer to them instead of like a pervert.
I was still on Cloud Nine when I came out of the locker room but that ended quickly when Freedman grabbed me by the arm. I honestly thought he was going to break it the way he bent it behind me and pulled up.
"You stupid bitch!" He growled. "Do you think you can disrespect me like this and get away with it?"
"Is there a problem here?"
I turned to see Sue (as me) standing in the middle of the hall with her arms folded across her chest.
"This doesn't concern you, McDonald," a seething Freedman grumbled.
"Sue, isn't your mother waiting for you in the gym?" Sue asked.
"Yes, she is," I replied, fighting back tears from the pain Freedman was inflicting on me.
He gave my arm a sharp pull before letting it go. "This isn't over," Freedman whispered angrily in my ear. "You are so going to pay for this," he threatened.
I shook my arm out as we watched Freedman storm off.
"We may have pushed him to far this time," Sue said with concern.
"'We' didn't do anything," I replied. "But thanks for rescuing me!"
Sue smiled. "It does feel kind of empowering."
"Did I do okay out there?" I asked.
"You were great!" Sue replied happily. "Now you can go on home and bond with my family while I suffer through practice and then go to your big lonely house and do my homework!"
We walked to the gym where Mrs. Sherman was waiting for her daughter.
"Oh, Marty, hello," Mrs. Sherman said pleasantly when she saw us together.
For a second, I thought Sue was going to collapse in her mother's arms but as me she knew she couldn't!
"Hello, Mrs. Sherman," Sue (as me) said with a happy smile. "It's good to see you!"
Mrs. Sherman gave Sue (as me) a strange look and then she glanced at me (as Sue), looking back and forth several times with confusion.
"Is something wrong, Mom?" I asked.
"No, I…I just had a strange vibe for a moment," Mrs. Sherman admitted. "Everything okay with you two?"
"We won!" I said happily while giving Sue (as me) an understanding look.
"You were great out there," Sue (as me) beamed. "Great game! Really!"
"Thanks," I grinned.
"Well, I've got to get to practice," Sue sighed. "It was really great seeing you, Mrs. Sherman," she added almost sadly before she walked away.
I noticed that Mrs. Sherman was watching Sue leave with an almost longing look on her face.
"Something wrong, Mom?" I asked.
"I….no." Mrs. Sherman smiled with embarrassment, seeming to shake herself out of whatever thoughts she was having. "Everything's fine, dear."
"We should probably go," I said.
"What happened to your face?" She asked with concern.
"Oh, I got hit out there, no big deal," I lied, gesturing to the basketball court.
I told Sue's mom about the game as we walked to the mini-van and I was still talking when Mrs. Sherman pulled into the parking lot of Johnny C's Diner.
"Why are we stopping here?" I asked with surprised.
"Come on!" Mrs. Sherman exclaimed with shock. "You know I always take you to dinner when you win a game!"
"Oh, yeah," I said awkwardly. "It's just that it's been so long since we won!"
"Honestly, Susan, I don't know what's gotten into you these last few days."
"I'm fine, Mom, really," I assured her as we walked into the diner.
Mrs. Sherman gave me a funny look when I ordered a double hamburger, large fries and a chocolate frappe.
"Well, we did win," I grinned.
Mrs. Sherman ordered a hot open turkey sandwich with gravy and potato salad and an iced tea.
"Are you sure you're okay, Susan?" Mrs. Sherman asked once the waitress was gone.
"Yeah, things are going well, Mom," I replied. "One more game and then basketball season will be over and things should calm down some."
I thought about the differences between my mom and Sue's mom. Mrs. Sherman was always home, my mother was never home. Sue's mom went to all her games, my mom never went to my games. Mrs. Sherman tended house, my mother tended college students. I couldn't remember the last time I went out to dinner with my mother alone.
"Do you have any regrets about being a stay-at-home Mom?" I asked.
"None whatsoever," Mrs. Sherman answered immediately. "I feel guilty when I'm out of the house."
"Well, thank you for all you do for us," I said.
"You're welcome, Sweetie," Mrs. Sherman replied.
"Seriously, I really appreciate it."
"I know you do, dear."
"I know that I'm older and more independent now and doing all the stuff I do we don't get together as a family as much as we used to," I said.
"You're entitled to an active social life, dear," Mrs. Sherman reminded me. "And we still have our family time."
"I just wanted you to know I appreciate everything you do for us."
"You kids will always be my priority," Mrs. Sherman told me.
"I'm glad that you are a stay at home mom and I respect your sacrifice for us."
"What's this all about, Susan?" Mrs. Sherman wanted to know.
"I'm just thinking about Marty, I guess," I said. "His parents are never home. He never has any conversation at the dinner table."
"Every family is different, Suzy," Mrs. Sherman said.
"It's great being with you like this," I said.
Mrs. Sherman smiled radiantly and the rest of the conversation over our meal was about silly things. I couldn't help but laugh as Mrs. Sherman told me about Karen's sophomore crush on some kid and she filled me in on some of the neighborhood gossip. It was a fun and relaxing meal and when we got home we joined Karen and Mr. Sherman in the living room for some family bonding time and I wished I had a family that was as close as the Sherman family was.
Mr. Sherman wanted to hear all about the game and Karen was up to her usual razzes and joking around when Mrs. Sherman and I got home. It was fun and I was actually disappointed that it had to end when bedtime came.
### ### ###
I awoke in Sue's bed for the third morning but by now I was getting used to Aunt Kate's magical switch and I wondered what surprises this day would bring. There was still the problem of Freeman and figuring out when the best time to dump him would be. Should we wait until we reversed back to our own bodies and then I could be present as protection when Sue did it for herself? Or should I dump him today and be done with it?
And now there was the situation between me and Sue. Had things really changed between us? Now that I was aware how she felt about me had these last few days changed how I saw her? I climbed out of bed and stripped naked, standing in front of the mirror examining Sue's body with interest (was that wrong of me?). I placed a hand on her breast and felt its firmness, toying with the nipple for just a moment. I slid my hand down to her stomach and rubbed it before daring to move further down to her southern region.
There was a loud pounding on the door and I pulled my hand away.
"Shower's ready!" Karen yelled.
"Okay," I said, almost breathlessly.
After I showered, I put on a tight blue wool dress that I don't think I ever saw Sue wear before. I spent extra time on the hair, pulling it up into a half bun/half pony tail.
"Holy cow," Karen said when I entered the kitchen. "You going to school or out on a date!?"
"There's nothing wrong with looking good," I replied.
"You look lovely," Mrs. Sherman assured me from where she was seated at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee.
Mr. Sherman glanced up at me and smiled. "Hello, Beautiful!"
I could walk into my kitchen naked at home and nobody would notice or say anything.
I had a tall glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast (Strawberry) and a banana before heading out to the driveway to wait for Sue and my car. She pulled to the curb with a gawking look on her face as I opened the passenger's door.
"Go back inside and change right now!" She groaned.
"Why?" I asked innocently as I sat in the chair.
"I haven't worn a dress to school since sixth grade!" She exclaimed.
"Well, today is a new day," I replied, glancing at her to see that she was wearing some dumb looking yellow cardigan sweater that Great Aunt Rose sent me for Christmas a few years ago and I never wore.
"Did you join the yacht club?" I asked.
"I think it looks nice," she said as she started the drive to school. "There's my book bag," she said, gesturing to the floor between my legs. "I did all my homework. Just get through the day as best you can again, okay?"
"You too," I replied.
"When are we breaking up with Bruce?" She asked with concern.
"I'm not sure yet," I admitted. "Let's see how it plays out. Beth's right, though. We need to do it in public with plenty of witnesses."
My cell went off and I glanced at the number.
"Uh-Oh, Vanessa," I told Sue. "I haven't even texted her since all this went down." I started punching keys on the phone keypad. "Hey Van."
"Oh, you're still alive?" She texted back in capital letters which meant she was annoyed.
"Sorry, busy week."
"You still coming down this weekend?"
Shit, I had completely forgotten about that! I glanced at Sue.
"You want to go to Boston this weekend as me and visit with Vanessa?"
"Have you lost your mind?" Sue asked with disbelief.
"Just asking," I shrugged.
"I'm still a girl, remember?" She grumbled. "I'm not hanging out with your girlfriend, thank you very much!"
I nodded and took my hand. "Something's come up," I typed in response.
Opps – that was definitely a mistake.
The phone started ringing just as Sue pulled the car into the lot.
"Damn, it's her," I said, giving Sue the phone.
"I'm not talking to her!" Sue said as she pulled the car to a stop in a parking space.
"You have too or she'll think I'm blowing her off," I warned. "Put it on speaker phone."
Sue rolled her eyes and hit speaker.
"Hello?" She asked tentatively.
"What the hell is going on, Martin?" A very perturbed Vanessa demanded.
"Nothing," Sue said nervously.
"Why aren't you coming down?"
Sue looked at me with desperation on her face, not sure what she should say.
"Because he's with me now!" I blurted out and Sue almost dropped the phone in shock.
"Who the hell is that?" Vanessa asked angrily.
"Sue Sherman!" I yelled.
"You've got to be kidding," Vanessa laughed. "The Fat Assed Feminist?"
Sue looked hurt.
"That's okay," Vanessa said. "Makes it easier for me. I was going to give you the dump this weekend anyway, Marty. I met someone else."
"I figured as much," I whispered for Sue to say.
"I figured as much," Sue said. "Good luck to you, then, Vanessa."
"Yeah, you too," Vanessa replied and the call ended.
"Did you tell her I was a fat assed feminist?" Sue asked, all offended.
"I've never once in my entire life ever called you fat assed," I assured her. "But I may have mentioned you were a feminist once or twice," I admitted.
"You think I'm a feminist because I demand equal rights and fair treatment for women?" She groaned. "Because I speak out against sexism? Boy, you really are stupid."
"I know better now," I said.
We both looked at each other for a long moment.
"Sorry about Vanessa," Sue finally said.
"I'm not," I decided. "You can't have a relationship with a college girl ninety miles away when you're still in high school. I knew at Christmas we were on the rocks."
"So," Sue said, slinking in her seat a little. "You're….available?"
"Are you?" I asked.
"I'm going to be," she smiled.
"We're going to be late," I said.
"That's okay," Sue said. "Less chance of running into Bruce."
She lifted her hand out and rubbed it along my (her) cheek that still had a red mark from Freedman's hard slap. "This is very weird," she said. "I want to touch you, but I touching me."
"I sort of touched you this morning," I mumbled.
"Nothing," I said nervously.
"I'm sorry Bruce hit you."
"You never told anybody?"
"I think Mr. Jefferson figured it out," Sue revealed. "But no, I've never told anyone."
"Why not your parents?"
"They would have been so hurt," Sue sighed. "They're such good people and they love me so much and it would have crushed them to know that someone could do that to me. I was too ashamed to tell them."
"It's not your fault," I said.
"I didn't leave him," Sue sighed. "That makes it my fault."
"Why didn't you?" I asked.
"I just couldn't," she sighed with defeat. "I thought I loved him and I hoped he loved me and I prayed that maybe he'd change and then when it started getting bad I was afraid to leave him because he said he'd hurt me and my sister and Beth…" Her voice cracked and her eyes watered. "God, it's been so terrible. I've felt so alone."
"You can't let guilt or fear make you stay," I told her. "He'll continue to hurt you."
"I know," she sobbed.
"You need to feel safe," I said.
"I do when I'm with you," she told me.
"When did he start doing this to you?" I asked gently.
Sue shrugged as she wiped tears from her eyes. "We had an argument last year after the Thanksgiving football game," she said. "He wanted me to stay for dessert with his family but I wanted to go home and be with my family. He threw me on the floor and kicked me really hard. We were in his room and I got really scared and I didn't move for a long time. He calmed down and tried to justifying his behavior, saying it was my fault because I annoyed him."
"Unbelievable," I said.
"After that, it got progressively worse," Sue continued. "He'd be the same sweet fun guy I thought I knew but then he would hit me and call me whore, slut and other insults when he got pissed off."
"About what?" I wondered.
"Oh, anything. Nothing. Everything. I never know."
"I'm really sorry, Sue," I said.
"I'm always afraid because I never know when he's going to get violent again," she sighed.
"There's no excuse or justification," I said. "You don't deserve this. The guy has problems you can't solve. He needs serious help but that's his issue not yours. You need to get away from him and not look back."
"I know that in my head," she said. "It's still hard in the heart though."
"I can understand your broken heart but it's only going to get worse."
"Actually, it's gotten a lot better this week," she said hopefully. "Between us, I mean."
"Yeah," I agreed. "It's been…..enlightening."
Sue reached across the seat and kissed me and I gladly kissed her back, even though it felt kind of weird.
"Maybe we should wait until we're back in our own bodies," I said.
"Yeah," she agreed, pulling away. "It does feel kind of strange, doesn't it?"
I laughed and then glanced out the window, realizing that the bell had rung and everybody had gone inside.
"Uh-oh," I said, gesturing to the empty lot.
"Oops," Sue groaned as we jumped out of the car.
We were 'fashionably' late when we got inside the school but that was probably a good thing so I wouldn't have to worry about Freedman.
"Be careful," Sue told me, giving me a quick hug before she hurried down the hall.
Apparently, Sue had never ever been late for a class before because I got all kinds of stares when I walked into first period five minutes tardy. Fortunately, the teacher didn't make me go to the office for a late slip so I guess Sue's reputation protected her. I doubt anybody cared that Sue (as me) was late when she strolled into my first period class late and of course nobody was about to send me to the office on the day before the big game.
I was in a surprisingly good mood even with the pall of Freedman hanging over me. We beat St. Anne's yesterday and I had a great night last night with Mrs. Sherman and Sue's family. I didn't even feel guilty that I didn't miss my own family and I hardly gave Vanessa a second thought now that we were officially over. I had spent so much time being Sue that all I could think of was Sue.
I was troubled by the conversation Sue and I just had which was an intense bummer but if I dumped Freedman hopefully that would be the end of his terrorism. I even cracked a few jokes in a couple of Sue's classes and some of her classmates seemed to get a kick out of it.
I caught up with Sue as she was entering the cafeteria for lunch and I grabbed her arm as she started toward the salad bar.
"You know, you don't have to watch what you eat while you're in my body," I grinned.
It took her a moment to comprehend what I was saying. "Oh yeah!" She realized and suddenly she almost resembled John Bulushi in Animal House as she made her way down the fast food line grabbing French fries, a hamburger, a hot dog, two cupcakes, some potato puffs, a couple of cheese sticks, and a large chocolate pudding (and a diet coke).
I laughed as I followed her to a table with some chicken and mashed potatoes for myself.
"I wouldn't mind if you ate some salad for me," Sue remarked.
"I'm getting plenty of exercise with basketball," I said.
"So, you were going to give me some tips for the Greenville game tomorrow?" Sue asked.
"Just play your game," I advised. "I mean the game you play as Sue Sherman. You know where your shot is. Take it. But try to be a little bit more like me too. Use your body more. Throw a little weight around. Give some hip checks once in a while. Don't be afraid to be aggressive. Run faster on defense. You need to get down there quicker and be in position to help out the other guys."
"Okay," she said, nodding with understanding. "Makes sense."
"You don't have to be nice," I told her. "If you score some points and play tough Coach will leave you in as long as you don't give up too many."
"Okay," she agreed.
"You excited?" I asked. "The place is going to be packed. Greenville rivalry. Chance for an undefeated season. What a way to go out."
"Sorry I took your spot," Sue sighed.
"Hey, we're playing Greenville too," I said. "We'll have fun."
"Maybe you'll get some of the early crowd and there will be more than twenty people there," Sue said.
"Maybe," I agreed.
"I'll try not to embarrass you this time," she said.
"You never embarrass me, Sue," I assured her. "I've learned so much about you these past few days."
She smiled. "You're not so bad yourself."
It was the best lunch period I remembered having in a long time.
I headed for basketball practice after last period. Surprisingly, I hadn't been bothered by Freedman all day. He left me alone in the classes we shared, he didn't stalk me in the halls, and I didn't see him during lunch. Maybe he had gotten the hint after accosting me in the janitor's closet yesterday.
The girls and sometimes the JV Boys often got delegated to the old auxiliary gym giving the varsity boys first dibs on the main gym for practice. Sue always argued that they should rotate the practice schedule so everybody got a chance to use the good gym. I never paid attention before but now that I was being Sue I agreed with her.
Sophomore Marina Boyle was waiting for me outside the girl's locker room. The only reason I knew the girl (other than her being on the basketball team) was because Sue referred to her as Freedman's Fan Club President.
"She's a groupie with a capital G," Sue had remarked several times.
"Um, Coach Lynch wants you to help her in the old storage room," Marina told me nervously.
"Oh?" I said, naively stupidly I would later realize. "Okay, thanks."
I headed down to the basement where the old storage room was located underneath the auxiliary gym. It contained mostly smelly old practice uniforms, busted equipment, old music stands, desks, blackboards and other junk. This section of the basement had been semi-condemned years ago and nobody was supposed to go down there but I figured Coach must have had her reason.
"Coach?" I called as I stepped into the large dark room at the end of the musky hall.
I was hit from behind and I went flying across the room, smashing into a bunch of music stands and old arm desks like a bowling ball knocking over some pins. I crashed to the floor and in the shadows I saw Freedman standing above me with an evil grin on his face.
"I'm no longer your punching bag, asshole," I told him. "It's over. I'm breaking up with you."
"Oh, are you then?" Freedman laughed before kicking me in the stomach with such force that I was sure I was going to puke up my lunch. "News flash, loser, nobody breaks up with me," he said, leaning over and grabbing my by the front of my dress and lifting me to my feet. "I break up with them!" He tossed me hard against the cement wall and then he ripped the front of my dress with such force that I almost fell over.
"You know, the only reason I went out with you was so McDonald couldn't have you," he laughed almost psychotically. "And every time I fucked you I laughed to myself knowing it was me and not him."
"You're fucked in the head," I told him.
He was momentarily stunned because Sue never dropped the F bomb or talked vulgarly. But then Freedman slapped me so many times I lost count. I was dazed but he was holding me up by pressing his forearm into my throat. He ripped the bra off and punched my breasts several times.
"Marty McDonald is ten times the man you'll ever be," I said, my voice raspy from the pressure he was applying to my throat. "You may be the better athlete but who gives a shit?" I said that as me, of course – not Sue.
"Shut up, bitch!" Freedman seethed.
Now both hands were on my throat as he lifted me off the floor. He was strangling me and I tried to kick at him but he was too strong and I realized he was going to kill me. Everything went black.
### ### ###
When I opened my eyes, it took a moment for things to come into focus. There were florescent lights above me that stung my eyes. My head was pounding. My throat hurt. My entire body felt like it had been put inside a cement mixer. I heard soft crying and when my eyes finally came into focus I saw a sobbing Mrs. Sherman standing over me, her tears plopping on my face.
"Oh, Suzy!" She wailed, hugging me like a rag doll. "You're finally awake!"
"Wh..." But my throat hurt too much to speak.
"Don't try to talk, Sues," Mr. Sherman said. He was holding my hand in his. "You have a bruised windpipe and a strained larynx."
"That boy nearly killed you!" Mrs. Sherman said bitterly.
"Hey." It was Karen standing next to Mr. Sherman, looking as white as a ghost. "You okay?" She worried.
"I..." I couldn't talk.
"I hope you weren't attached to that dress because it's in shreds," Karen said. "But so isn't Bruce."
"Thank God for Marty!" Mrs. Sherman cried. "He saved your life!"
Mr. Sherman and Karen stepped back and I saw Sue (as me) sitting in a chair in the corner. She gave a little wave and I couldn't help but smile. Sue's family spent the next fifteen minutes telling me (as Sue) how much they loved me and how thankful and grateful they were that I was okay. There were plenty of tears but some powerfully positive emotions too and I could see how close this family really was.
"It's two o'clock in the morning and I need my beauty sleep," Karen finally announced. "Can we go home?"
Mr. and Mrs. Sherman reluctantly agreed that they should leave and after five more minutes of kissing and hugging the family finally left. They gave Sue (as me) several hugs and thank yous on their way out and when they were gone, it was just Sue and me in the hospital room.
"So, my family loves you," Sue grinned as she stepped closer to the bed. "You're the new forever hero and they'll let you marry me tomorrow if you want!"
I smiled but I knew I couldn't talk.
"Your Dad was here too," Sue informed me with amusement. "He wanted to make sure they weren't going to charge you…..well, me…with anything for almost killing Bruce."
My eyes went wide.
"Another ten seconds and he would have killed you…me," she revealed. She thought about it for a moment. "Gee, I wonder if I would have been trapped in your body forever if you had died in mine," she said. "I guess that would have made me a real transgendered person, wouldn't it!?"
I gave her a frown and she waved her hand away, dismissing the thought.
"Anyway, your Dad is very proud of you for coming to the defensive of a helpless girl so I guess I see where you got some of your sexism from," Sue noted.
I shrugged. My father could be rather opinionated but he was married to a college professor so I'm not sure if he subscribed to the barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen adage.
"So, you want to know what happened?" Sue asked, sitting on the edge of the bed and taking my hand in hers.
I nodded yes.
"I forgot to get my homework from you so I went to the locker room looking for you," Sue explained. "Nobody had seen you – I kept asking as the girls came out. Then I saw Miss Groupie and I could tell something was up because she looked frightened and nervous as hell for some reason. So I played the tough guy and got in her face and told her she'd better tell me what she knew or I'd fly her up the flagpole dressed in her underwear. She cracked like an egg and I rushed down to the storage room. He was strangling you and you had already passed out. I hit him over the head with a chair and he let you go. He was stumbling about when I punched him in the face. I guess I broke his jaw because he's in handcuffs chained to a bed downstairs with a police guard and his jaw wired shut. Your Dad says he's under arrest for assault, attempted rape, and attempted murder. I guess I should feel bad for him but I don't. When I saw you…me..lying on the floor like that, all blue…well, good thing I know mouth to mouth! You know, it's a weird feeling trying to save your own life…..well, your own body anyway."
She wiped a tear from her eye. "I'm sorry I got you into this mess," she said. "I know you'll say it was Aunt Kate who's responsible but it's really my fault for not stopping Bruce before. I never thought he was capable of losing it so totally like that and I'll never be so stupid again."
I squeezed her hand and nodded my head to let her know it was okay.
"Well, you should rest," Sue said. "You have a concussion, bruised and cracked ribs, bruising around your neck, and your…..my!...face looks like Rocky Balboa's after a fight. They think my voice will be okay in a few days when the swelling goes down."
I nodded in understanding and gave her a smile. I was very proud of her.
Sue kissed me on the forehead before rising from the bed. "I love you, Marty," she whispered.
I smiled and nodded my head with approval before I felt my eye lids getting heavy and I guess I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew it was morning and Sue was gone but Mrs. Sherman was sitting by my bedside.
They kept me for most of the day for observation. The girl's basketball team showed up at lunch to wish me luck and promising to win the game for me although I doubted they had a chance against Greenville. The school principal, several cops, and Mr. Jefferson all showed up, as did Beth who spent most of her time crying.
It was decided that I was stable enough for discharge late in the afternoon as long as I agreed to continued bed rest at home. Mr. and Mrs. Sherman brought me home and settled me in Sue's bed as if I was a Princess.
Karen showed up all out of breath to report that they had a moment of silence for 'reflection and gratitude' in my honor and then the girls team went out and….lost by 37 points to the mighty Lady Giants. Oh well. So much for my last chance to play basketball and I felt sorry for my Lady Hurricane teammates. I don't imagine they had a lot of fun but their hearts probably weren't in it after one of their own nearly got murdered by a classmate.
I asked if we could listen to the boy's game on the radio – telling Mr. and Mrs. Sherman that we owed it to Marty, so they agreed as long as I didn't get overly excited or upset.
The pre-game was all about the "scandal" and "tragedy" of the "incident" and although the announcers weren't specific in what had happened it was clear that Freedman wouldn't be in the lineup and that the chances of Hillsboro winning the game were pretty slim without him.
"Oh, I think Marty might have something to say about that," Mrs. Sherman smiled.
There was another moment of silence for 'reflection and thoughts' for "Sue Sherman who was injured last night".
I was happy for Sue to be able to play in front of a "standing room only" crowd in a "really big game" but to be honest I was pretty sure Greenville was going to blow us out because of the controversy. I imaged morale was in the toilet and that Coach was extremely upset that there had been such a horrible honor code violation by one of his players, a co-captain, leader, and star. Also, with Sue out there (as me) it was going to be tough on our front line.
Surprisingly, the Hurricanes hung in there pretty well at least for the first half and the announcers seemed to think that "hero" Marty McDonald was having "a pretty good" game. Sue ended up with 17 points in about 28 minutes of playing time which wasn't bad but Greenville was able to run on us in the second half and our undefeated season went down the drain with an eighteen point loss to the Giants.
Oh well. At least Sue got her wish to play in a meaningful game in front of a big crowd and I was happy for her for that.
I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from my injuries. Mrs. Sherman treated me like a four year old she and wouldn't let me leave the bed. I liked the attention at first but after a while it started to become a bit suffocating and restrictive and boring. By Sunday, my voice was coming back enough that I could talk in a soft whisper but I really didn't have much to say. The last week had been such a whirlwind of adventure and drama and chaos and strangeness that it was hard to figure out what was going on.
Sue showed up on Sunday afternoon and Mrs. Sherman let her visit me in the bedroom, leaving us alone for some privacy.
"Did you have fun playing the game?" I asked with a horsed voice.
Sue smiled happily. "It was everything I dreamed about," she admitted. "I found my shot and I tried to play the way you told me. It was fun."
"I'm glad you got your wish," I said.
"That was never really my wish, Marty," Sue said, taking a seat on the bed.
"It wasn't?" I asked with surprise.
"You were always my wish," she whispered as she lay down beside me and cuddled me close.
As sore as I was it felt good to have her next to me like that.
I guess we both must have dozed because I had this weird dream about being naked and Sue being naked and us flying around in the clouds. When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was looking at Sue in her own body! The switch happened! I was back in my own body!
I was stunned at how beat up Sue looked (I hadn't seen her body since that night). Her neck was red and swollen with finger marks embedded in her skin. Her face was striped with red marks and her eyes were blackened. Her lip was fat and there was a bruise by her temple.
"Jesus, Sue, you look terrible," I said.
"Thanks," she mumbled as she opened her eyes and looked at me. "But I have to admit you look pretty good!"
"Welcome back," I said.
"You too," she replied before glancing around to get her bearings. "God, it's good to be back in my own bed in my own room with my own family again," she sighed with relief. "No offense," she added.
"I'm going to miss it here," I admitted in truth.
"Oh, I have a feeling you're going to be spending a lot of time here, Marty," Sue assured me.
She reached out and took my hand in hers. "Will you kiss me now?"
"Even with that fat lip?"
"Please," she begged.
So I leaned in and gave her a soft and tender kiss on the mouth and I held it there for a long moment.
"Thanks," she smiled when I finally slowly moved away. "I've been waiting for that for a long time."
I studied her for a long moment. "I see you so differently now, Sue," I told her.
"Of course you do," she grinned. "You were a Boy Named Sue!"