With daddies money in hand. Mom, Lily and I headed to Johannes Malt Shop, Benton favorite and only mom and pop burger joint. Once we walked through the door, the smell of beef patties being grilled on a open flame hit us like a ton of bricks. Once we were inside, mom guided Lily and I toward a table. Once we were seated a women around Lily age appeared. She had honey blonde hair and deep blue eyes. She smiled toward each of us and placed a small paper menu down upon the table.
"Hey ya'll." She said reaching down into her apron. She the pulled out a small yellow pad of paper and a pen that read 'Bank of Yazoo'. Once both of those where in her hand, she said. "Evening, my name is Wendy and I'll be waiting on you tonight. Tonight are specials include a fried catfish basket. Served with six pieces of fish and your choice of either French fries or a bake potato. Also possible sides include coleslaw and your choice of either Texas toast or a dinner roll. Are other special is half a fried chicken, sides include a house salad, or French fries or a baked potato and finally your choice of Texas toast or a dinner roll."
She paused and placed the tip of her paper down upon the paper. "So, what can I get y'all three lovely ladies." She peering my mom first, then Lily and finally me.
"I'll take the catfish plate." Mom said. She then peered toward my sister and I. "Make that three catfish plates. I'll like a baked potato with mine and a dinner roll. And you Lily would like."
"Double French Fry." Lily said.
Mom rolled her eyes and then turned toward you.
"And for you Jamie?" She said peering toward me.
"Double French Fries for me too!" I called out with a small smile, I was after all following the example of my big sister.
"So, that three Friday night specials. One with a bake potato and a dinner roll. And the other two with double French fries and dinner rolls. Okay got that, so what can I get you three ladies to drink?" She said smiling.
"Sweet tea!" all three of us said together. We both then exchanged looks and fell into a wild chores of giggles. See in the South, sweet tea is like the house wine, we have it with every meal or just about. And fish on Fridays? That was another southern thing. And since me and my family where Episcopal, we normally reframed from eating meat on Fridays and instead dined on catfish. I'm sure that made the catfish farmers very happy!
"Okay." Wendy said smiling. "I'll turn this end and get your drinks for y'all. Just give me a howler if y'all need something." And with that she bounced away.
Once she was gone, Lily turned to me and smiled. In a teasing tone of voice she said.
"Totally fooled her! Can't believe she brought it!" She said smiling. "Boy, if we can keep this up we got this cat in the bag."
"Lily Elizabeth Potter." Mom said as she peered toward Lily.
Lily blinked and flushed with color as here full name was called.
"Yes ma'am?" She said as she peered down at her lap. You could tell she quite taken back. Any time somebody calls your full name. You know you've crossed a pretty big line there and normally there no turning back. And since Lily has been a bit of a bossy butt. Watching her get fussed out was pretty good.
"Lily got fussed at! Lily Got fussed at!" I chanted over and over again in a sing song tone of voice. My chanting had the desired affected, as Lily quickly flushed a deep reddish color.
"And that quite enough out of you.. Jamie Sarah Potter." She said fixing me with a look that would melt through the polar ice caps. She folded her arms under her chest. She then fixed Lily with a look before she added. "Your both still not old enough to go over my lap. And I'm sure my lap can fit two young ladies who should know better." She said in a stern, scolding tone of voice.
"Yes ma'am." I said. Looking down at my lap.
"Yes ma'am." Lily said peering down at her lap as well.
My mom nodded her head and smiled.
"Good, now, make up you too. Hug and all." She commanded.
And much to my surprise, Lily stood up and pushed her chair under the table. At first I was lost, but I soon followed her lead and stood up, and then much to my surprise, she walked over to me and wrapped her arms around me and held me. Slowly I picked up my arms and wrapped them around her. For a good minute we stood there, all eyes where fixed upon us as we hugged.
"Sorry for teasing you." She paused. "I know your kind of coming out of your tomboy phase." She whispered the last part.
I felt a deep blush bloomed on my cheeks as I leaned into the hug.
"And I'm sorry for making fun of you too." I said and for another minute we held each other. And I started to feel something bloom between us.
Finally we broke apart and each one us took our seats. Small talk was made till are tea arrived and a few minutes after are tea our fish plates. Sharing a meal with my mom and sister as well, as a girl was different than a guy. I found myself noticing how they ate, I started taking smaller bites and chewing my food more and more. I noticed too how they sat, how they held themselves and I did my best to mimic them. Toward the end of the meal, mom and Lily both noticed me impersonating their behavior. Both smiled and giggled.
"Dressing up as a girl is one thing." Mom said taking a small drink from her tea. "But learning to act like one is something totally different. Girls learn from each other. The secrets of girlhood have been passed down from mother to daughter since the dawn of time. Older women teach the younger ones vital skills, like how to dress for formal events, how to flirt, how to style their hair and how to properly apply makeup. Girls always try to develop a support network.."
Lily nodded her head and took a deep breath.
"Like, since I'm a cheerleader.. And your now I think my little sister? The girls on the squad are going to take a keen interest in you. Like, your part of a big sisterhood. I've heard it called the 'PomPom Fortress' before. More or less, as Jamie you'll get a big social promotion. No more sitting alone during lunch or with the fishers. Nope, your going to be sitting with us." She said smiling softly.
Mom blinked and blinked as she peered toward me.
"I thought you had friends? You never told me you sat alone during lunch?" She said pushing her plate to the side. "Jamie.. Are the others being mean to you? Are you being bullied?" The questions where shot at me at quick succession
And with that all eyes turned toward me.
I took a deep breath and shook my head, yes I was teased. The football boys often mistook me for a really tomboy girl. They often played 'Monkey in the middle' with me, tossing my books from one player to the other. They made fun of my accent, a light southern tone one. Mine was different, years of reading fiction online, and some British Editions of some books, ones that often surfaced in the local charity shops that colored my voice. My accent had the soft ring of Dixie and the refinement of the Northern states. But I could not tell her that, Mom worries about me, maybe a too much.
Mom gave me a look and so did Lily. And both let the matter drop. We returned to are meal and small talk was made. I mostly kept silent and listened to Lily talk about what cheer she was going to do, I learned more about my role as hostage.
"Oh! One good thing about being the hostage is, you get like a really big meal. See before the game, The whole squad will walk you toward the center of the field. There we'll exchange you for the other student. The Manchester cheerleaders will then keep you company. There honor bound to treat you with respect. And to oddly enough feed you.. A ribeye steak is the common meal.. then at the end of the game, like I said if we win, they release you and you know the rest."
Mom took a deep breath and shook her head.
"I swear, I'll never understand these crazy traditions. I mean I attended St. Katherine's Episcopal Academy. And we never did anything like that. But then again, Vicksburg is different from the rest of Mississippi. Being a big port on the Mississippi river and civil war battlefield. Its more, hard to put into words." She smiled. "And that how I met your father. Your father was the linebacker for Manchester, and I was cheerleader for St. Katherine's Episcopal Academy, in one of our games. Your father broke his leg. I was in girl scouts at the time and knew a little first aid. So.. I tended to him and rode with him to the hospital.. And from there the seeds of our love was born." She blushed and giggled a little.
"Cute." Lily said smiling softly.
"Really cute!" I added.. As a boy, I would find mom talking about how she meet dad, boring and dull. But as 'Jamie' I found it cute and something I wanted to know more about.
Finally, I felt a question bubbling in me, a question I could not contain. So taking a deep breath I blurred it out.
"So.. Why do you keep calling me a 'tomboy' and why did you and dad just shrug off the fact that I appeared wearing Lily old cheerleading uniform." I paused and awaited for the backlash.
Mom blinked and blinked again. She reached over and took a deep draft from her tea glass. She paused and peered toward me and after a few minutes she started to speak.
"Dad and I knew something was brewing when you wanted to play the part of the girl in that play. You never liked 'boy' games growing up. You read a lot, but the stuff you read is not really aimed at boys. I remember you reading 'Little Women' and 'Wuthering Heights' and my old copies of 'Nancy Drew'. You know girl books."
Lily then chimed in.
"I remember you use to watch me style my hair. You never seemed bothered when I drafted you to play dress up with me. And when we played house, you were always the daughter and I was the mother." She said in a almost gentle tone of voice.
"All that aside.. Where not going to force anything on you." Mom said. "If you happen to be our son, we will still love you. If you happen to be are daughter, we'll still love you. If tomorrow you proclaim yourself genderless.. We'll still love you." She said smiling
And so another episode comes to a end.
#eld. Its more, hard to put into words." She smiled. "And that how I met your father. Your father was the linebacker for Manchester, and I was cheerleader for St. Katherine's Episcopal Academy, in one of our games. Your father broke his leg. I was in girl scouts at the time and knew a little first aid. So.. I tended to him and rode with him to the hospital.. And from there the seeds of our love was born." She blushed and giggled a little.