Pale moonlight streamed through the window and bathed the floor of my hospital room. Through the haze of the painkillers dripping down into me, I thought the full moon reminded me of a ghostly ship, cut adrift in a sea of darkness. My name is Mark Brewer, I just turned fourteen. Two weeks ago, I was in a horrible car crash that killed my mother and has left me a ward of the state. I'm told by a case worker that my older sister.. Kayla Brewer, who lives in Benton and owns and a operates a Christmas Tree Farm has agreed to take me in. Okay I lied a little.
You see, the name Mark Brewer is not totally correct. it's a boys name, and while I was born a male, part of me feels like I should have been born a female. I've been dressing in female clothing in secret on and off since I turned twelve two years ago. I've also started to grow my hair out. Right now it reaches down to my shoulders. Well it does, right now it's tied back in a low ponytail.
How many know about this? I'm not sure.. I do remember wearing a dress.. Yes my mom caught me wearing one of her old dresses one evening. She kind of freaked out. My mom was born and raised in a strict Southern Baptist household. The King James version of the Bible was the only true version of the bible to ever be produced by human hands was there creed, along with the fact that we were all sinners, doomed to the fires of hell and it would be at the expressed pleasure of a angry God to send all those who did not agree with the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Church into the never ending fires of hell.
Anyway dogma aside. My mother did not take kindly to see her only son standing in her bedroom, wearing her new Sunday dress, her heels and holding her purse. Yep, talk about a scolding. I think my ears are still ringing and that been a fortnight ago. And what happen, she marched me to the car and ordered me to get inside. It seemed she was going to drive me to my uncle and aunt in rural Holmes County.
Holmes county is one of the most rural counties in a Mississippi. And considering how sparsely populated this state is, that saying something. And my uncle and aunt live in Ebenezer.. One of the many unincorporated communities that dot the county. My uncle Perry Howard , the one my mom was driving me too was a true "Redneck" in the fullest sense of the word. He chewed tobacco, hunted and flew the Confederate battle flag from his front porch. And he hated people like me. He loved to throw the words "Fag" and "Queer" around. And after saying such a word he had to spit, as if just saying such a word had soiled his mouth. In short it was a death sentence for me.
But something happen. I don't remember what. But right as we were entering Mississippi Highway 49 something happen. My mother lost control of the car and it rolled down a hill and we'll. She died and I lived. I don't remember much of what happen. Only being loaded up a ambulance and the rest is a foggy haze.
And so.. That why I'm sitting here in this hospital room on the eighth floor of "Mississippi Medical Center" located in the heart of downtown Jackson. The time? Going by the clock on the wall a little passed midnight. The date? Not sure, time moves slow here. There nothing to do between meals beside sleep and one can only sleep so long before even sleep loses its luster. Taking a deep breath I climbed out of bed and shivered as my bare feet touched the cold titles of the floor.
I was tired of lying in bed you see.. And I was tired of dreaming. Kayla, my older sister who was fourteen when I was born had been visiting me on and off since the wreck. Mom had died without a will, and so she and Uncle William where fighting tooth and nail for everything of value she owned. I only know bits and pieces of the legal battle being waged for me.. But my sister promised me.. She promised me that she'll look after me.
And that was good to know.. But it was also the last thing on my mind as I slipped into the bathroom. I felt the urge to pee coming on.. Once I had finished my business, I started to wash my hands, I caught sight of something. Peering back at me in the mirror of the bathroom. Was a heart shape face, taking a deep breath I reached up and removed the ponytail holder. A waterfall of brown hair fell down. A cream colored heart shape face, framed by sandy brown hair with deep blue eyes. Yes.. I was no boy, I was a girl.. Gripping the old iron sink.. I started to shake.
My whole body started to shake, my breathing became hard and salty tears started to sting my face, the salty tears ran down my hot burning cheeks. My nose then started to drip clear mucus. I can't tell you what came over me.. But I felt the whole weight of these pass fourteen days starting to fall down on me. For fourteen days I tried to keep a stiff upper lip but.. But something had finally broken that dam and the flood waters where rushing through.
I don't know how long I stood there crying out all the built in tension, but it must have been a while.. Finally feeling emotionally drained and hollow inside.. I started to snuffle toward the door of my hospital room. Taking a deep breath I pushed open the door and peeked out into the fluorescent hallway. Seeing nobody around I stepped into the walkway and started to walk, using the handrail to support myself.
I walked till I reached a small reading room located at the end of the hallway. Shrugging my shoulders I walked into the tiny room. Toward the back of the room, there was a small bookcase, I felt a strange pull toward the bookcase. Most of the books where hardback with the titles being mostly those aimed at tweens to young adults. The "Hunger Game" trilogy was there with a few of the "Harry Potter" books. One caught my eye thought the title was simple "Madeline" The author was "Ludwig Bemelmans".
The cover of the Book drew me in, and soon I found myself flipping through the pages. The gentle, child like prose of the author made me smile and I soon found myself laughing at the antics of the main character. Being something of a speedy reader, I force myself to slow down and reread the pages, so I could in a way savor and mellow in the warming prose of the story. Once I finished, I quickly flipped back to the first page and started to reread again.
For a quarter of a hour or better I stood there in that little room till a nurse in pink scrubs appeared in the doorway. She had short , honey blonde hair and deep blue eyes. For a good long minute she peered at me. It was a stern look, slowly she folded her arms across her chest and gently she started to tap her foot up and down, up and down.
"Alright young man." She said to me in a scolding tone of voice. "What are you doing up? She directed the question at me. And judging by the tone of voice she wanted a good answer.
I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and peered down at the floor. Gently I shrugged my shoulders and formed my lips into a pout.
"Young man. I'll have you know, I've been having every nurse in this ward searching for you. When I made my rounds at one in the morning to check on you. Your bed was empty and light in your bathroom one. I had no idea what to make of it." She scolded as she moved into the room. She was about a arms length from me when she unfolded he arms and sighed. "Honey, I know you must be going through a lot. But still.. You gotta follow rules and the rules say all minors must be in there beds between ten o'clock and seven o' clock when we bring breakfast."
I nodded my head. My mind was still blank. My eyes remind fixed on the women as she entered into the room and in front of me. She then kneeled down and for a minute are two eyes connected. She then reached over and took my hands into her and smiled.
"I'm not mad or anything. I was just concerned that all.. I know your going through a lot right now Mark.." She said in a voice thick with concern and kindness.
"No," I said taking a deep breath. "I'm not Mark." I said again. I drew in a deep breath, it was now to take the plunge, I can not tell you how I felt, at that moment. I was full of doubt, I felt like Julius Caesar standing on the banks of the little Rubicon. And like Caesar before me.. I must cross that river to archive my goal.
"Oh?" Said the nurse clearly confused.
"I'm Madeline.." I paused. "Madeline Brewer." I said trying to summon up all the courage I could muster.
A small smile formed upon the bow of the nurses lip as she gave my hand a little squeeze and gave me a knowing smile. Then in the same motherly tone of voice she said to me.
"Okay, Maddy. We'll young lady, your going back to bed." She then pinched her nose and shook her head. "But first we're going to give you a nice warm bath and change your gown." She said reaching down and taking me by the hand and leading me out of the room and back down the hallway, back to my room.
Once we reached the room. The nurse guided me to the bathroom and drew a nice warm bath. The air inside the bathroom filled with steam and giving me a little wink she reached into one of the drawers and pulled out a small plastic bottle. Giving the bottle a little squeeze, a stream of blue liquid squirted out and once it touched the water, the surface of the water became covered with bubbles and fresh scent of Lavender and Magnolias filled the air of the bathroom and set me at ease.
The nurse then kneeled down and removed the stained hospital gown and tossed it to the side. She then helped me into the tub and a series of soft, sighs escaped my lips as I settled into the warm water that seemed to melt away all the pain and suffering that had seeped into my bones since the wreck. Smiling then she started to scrub my back. Then she scrubbed under my arms and my private area.. Then she shampooed my head with a sweet smelling shampoo.
The smell of strawberries and vanilla-sugar filled the air as the nurse rubbed the shampoo into my hair. Its safe to say, that I was in heaven as I dipped under the water and mellowed in the soothing scents and feeling that seemed to surround me. What happen next I have no idea. For I only remember warm water washing over me, washing away the suds and leaving my hair nice and shiny. The rest of the soap was washed away and I was helped out of the bathtub.
The nurse then took me by the hand and wrapped a nice warm towel around my body and gently started to pat me dry. She then brushed my hair and in a playful, almost teasing tone of voice asked me.
"So, ponytail? Pigtails? Or are you going to let me decided?" She said smiling sweetly as she ran the teeth of the brush through my hair, breaking the knots and leaving nice, silky smooth hair behind.
"You decided." I said smiling, to be honest I was enjoying the attention being shown to me.
The nurse smiled and divided my hair down the middle. Slowly she started to tied each section back. For several minutes she worked her magic with those wonderful fingers and that brush that seemed to sooth away my worries. With each gentle stroke of the brush, I felt my eyes becoming heavier and heavier, till at last I felt like I was going to fall asleep right there and then.
"There.." She said smiling. "Where finished." She stood me up and walked me toward the mirror over the sink. "Take a look princess. Now you look like Madeline." She said placing her fingers on my shoulder. I noticed her touch felt a little light this time. A little less real if that makes sense. But none of that seemed to mattered as I peered into the mirror and noticed that standing there was a young lady with sandy brown hair. She was sporting two cute pigtails and a bit of freckles splashed across the ridge of her nose. Slowly I lifted my hand up and pressed my hand into the mirror. It was me, and it felt so right.
"Now." The nurse said as she called my attention away from the mirror. "We need to get you dressed and into bed. There only four hours till the morning nurse arrives. And I'm afraid I've taken a little too much time with you. There others I still need to visit. " She said holding up a pastel pink hospital gown. "Now, arms up."
I held up my arms and she fitted the gown over my head and pulled it down and smiled. "Very Pretty," She said smiling as she looked me over. "Okay, Madeline. It's time for you to get into bed." She said as she guided me out of the bathroom. She pulled down the covers of my bed and I climbed in.
Once I was settled, she pulled the covers over me and tucked them under.
"Oh my name is Mindy, if you ever need anything. Just ask for Nurse Mindy." She said smiling as she bent down and kissed my forehead. "Now get some shut eye princess. You have a busy day tomorrow." And with that she seemed to almost vanish. Like a cloud of smoke being carried away by the wind. I only found that odd.. As I drifted to sleep.