Strange change front

STRANGE  CHANGE

1

THE DREAM OF THE WINGED MONKEYS

Standing at his open locker and tightly clutching his gym bag, 14-year-old Trenton Letreque, a popular student at Lakefield High School, knew he could do it. Knew it the moment the childhood memory seared his mind like a lightning bolt two weeks ago. A memory provoked by an advertisement for the annual showing of The Wizard Of Oz, with several scenes from the classic film, one of which was the winged monkeys flying to the wicked witch’s dark, monolithic castle.

His eyes shifted to the full-color Wal*Mart ad, big red letters emblazoned across the top screaming, BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL! torn from the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Supplemental Magazine and scotch-taped inside his locker. Way inside. In the very back where it would be obscured from the view of passersby when he hung his gym bag on the hook just above it. He had taped it there so he could see it every time he went to his locker. He’d been staring at it for a week.

The cute, dark-haired green-eyed girl in the ad wore a frilly blue party dress with ruffles around the short-sleeved cuffs, identical to the dress he’d purchased only yesterday. The one which was now secreted in his gym bag along with a rather dainty pair of girl’s panties, simple white lace socks and a pair of girl’s black patent leather shoes. She was probably a ninth-grader too, he’d guessed when he first opened the newspaper and saw the ad last Sunday. Probably 14. Just like him.

Trenton Letreque had first seen The Wizard Of Oz and the image of the winged monkeys on TV when he was three. That had been a long time ago, but now the dream of the winged monkeys had been vividly re-etched into his 14-year-old mind. Now, for the first time in his life he realized what had happened. The wailing scream that startled him awake. His mother dropping to the floor with a loud thump as he sat bolt-upright in bed. His father rushing into the room while he sat there groggy, confused, blinking against the sudden flood of light when the switch was snapped on.

Then daddy on one knee beside mommy, gently lifting her head as she came to and began babbling incessantly about the winged monkey that had been thrashing about in her son’s bed. How it startled his three-year-old mind to realize he’d been dreaming he was what she claimed she had seen! He’d been flying. In a dream. As a winged monkey in a squadron of winged monkeys. And all at once he knew what had happened all those years ago. He had actually become what he so vividly dreamed he was. A winged monkey.

With this startling revelation two weeks ago so many ancient memories came flooding back. So many things all at once made sense! Like the way Mr. Brezniak, proprietor of the candy store in the downtown district of Chicago’s West Suburban Community of Lakefield, had always given him whatever he was wishing for on those rare occasions when he came through the door without any money. And this without the boy ever asking. Toys, candy, ice cream. Whatever. And never so much as even a hint that the merchandise proffered was a loan. Never so much as a suggestion that any kind of pay-back should be forthcoming. It was all just given freely. Joyfully.

Curiously, it had never occurred to the lad to question why. Perhaps because in a way he knew. It wasn’t just the old man. It seemed everyone everywhere, parents, friends and teachers included, deferred to him. For some inexplicable reason he was special. He never thought to question why. It just was. What a lucky guy.

And then there was the summer when he turned ten and was left alone with his 13-year-old cousin, Angela, from his mother’s side of the family. There was going to be some sort of backyard party that afternoon and all the adults were off on errands of preparation, getting watermelon, corn-on-the-cob, Charcoal, beer, soda, pretzels, whatever.

Sprawled comfortably on the floor, they were watching cartoons on TV. Or rather, she was watching. All he could think about was her tits. They were really starting to bud-out and he was intensely curious as to what they looked like in the flesh. He didn’t say anything, of course, all he did was think about it. A bit obsessively perhaps, but the next thing he knew he was reflecting that it was hot and wouldn’t it be cool if girls could take off their shirts just like guys could?

He giggled with the thought, imagining her standing up and peeling off her shirt just so, when she announced she was hot, stood up, peeled off her shirt just so and plopped back down on the sofa with nothing between his eyes and the rosy nipples of her tits except thin air.

In any case, by this time he was discovering that he had amazing powers of perception and persuasion. To the point that he could perceive the thoughts of others before they were spoken, or even if they were never spoken at all. And not unlike a ventriloquist’s ability to throw his voice, he could throw his thoughts into another’s mind and compel the individual to do his bidding to an absolutely astonishing degree.

Of course not everyone was as easy to sway as his cousin Angela or Mr. Brezniak down at the candy store. Individuals, as varied as the sands of the sea, had widely varying levels of susceptibility to Trenton Letreque’s powers. Furthermore, their susceptibility was proportionally affected by the extremes of whatever it was Trenton was compelling them to do.

Nevertheless, much to his delight he was quickly learning that with him it wasn’t really a matter of wishing or persuading, but rather of taking a strong, psychically commandeering position. To Trenton’s amazement his poor victim was almost always rendered utterly helpless to resist his silently dictated demands. As if the individual fell under some sort of odd spell. And the more he exercised his strange powers, the easier it got for him and the greater his powers became.

As a result, his parents were practically his servants, his friends as subjects to royalty. In short, whatever Trenton Letreque wanted, Trenton Letreque got—merely for the asking. Or, as he was quickly discovering, in some cases for the demanding, depending on how extreme his wishes were. And by the sixth grade his wishes were getting pretty extreme.

Like the time when he was 12, two years after his experience with his cousin Angela. There was a bully at the YMCA whom he greatly disliked. In the locker room at the close of a swim session after everyone had showered-off, through fierce concentration Trenton compelled the young bully to forget about his clothes. Striding through the lobby, the boy was out the door and on the street before he realized the shocked stares, grins and laughter were due to the fact that he was walking down the sidewalk in downtown Lakefield in the nude.

All of this and more, plus the TV ad for the annual MGM classic which had sparked the brilliant blaze of memory when he was three and had actually, physically become the creature he dreamed himself to be convinced Trenton. He had extraordinary powers, the full extent of which he was only just beginning to realize. And the truth was becoming startlingly apparent. He had only to believe and if he concentrated hard enough he could become anything he could imagine himself to be. Anything. He could transform. He was sure of it.

For a long time he stared at the cute, dark-haired green-eyed girl in the Wal*Mart ad. All week long with a mixture of fear and excitement he’d been contemplating what he intended to do. Now, at long last it was Friday. And it was time to act.

With heart pounding in excited anticipation he carefully unstuck the magazine ad from the gray metal locker, tucked it inside his gym bag with the frilly blue dress and other girl things, flipped the locker door closed with a bang and went looking for a place to hide. Trenton Letreque had to concentrate. And he needed somewhere to change.

STRANGE  CHANGE

2

THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS

Trenton Letreque had to hurry. He’d slipped out of study hall on the flimsy pretense that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to see the school nurse. But what he really wanted to see was Amy Singleton taking a shower. And Betty “Bazooka Bets” Brighton’s tits, of course. She had the biggest knockers in the whole school. And both girls, the love of his life (although she didn’t know it) and the one with the big bazookas, were in the same phys-ed class. A class in session while he was in study hall.

And now he had to hurry because he only had about 30 minutes left before the girls’ gym class would be stampeding into the locker room for the obligatory shower before changing. And he intended to be there. What a lucky guy.

He had been carefully planning this for a week, and each day during the entire preceding week he had made it a point on his way to and from study hall to stop in at the school’s physical plant and the small locker room that was the domain of the school’s custodial staff. And every day the custodial locker room, with its full-length cracked mirror, single shower stall, single row of lockers with a little table in the middle scattered with playing cards and a dirty ashtray, was utterly deserted.

Now, cautiously ducking into the physical plant, he crept stealthily past mammoth boilers, 55 gallon drums of cleaning solvent, floor wax, and dust mops hanging on the wall, to the dirty little room at the rear. He found the hovel to be exactly as anticipated—relieveably deserted.

Setting the gym bag on the small table, he turned, stood before the mirror, gazed at his reflection and wondered if he wasn’t just a bit crazy. Could he really change from a 14-year-old boy with bright auburn hair, wide blue eyes, short nose with flared nostrils, even white teeth highlighted by sun-browned rosy cheeks, into the pale, alabaster-complected green-eyed girl with wavy chestnut-brown hair? Momentarily chuckling with the thought, he turned back to the gym bag, unzipped it and withdrew the Wal*Mart ad.

With hands trembling their excitement (fear??) he carefully unfolded the paper and stared unblinking at the image of the pale girl with the long brown hair and green eyes. Stared until the image was clearly etched in his mind. Concentrated with all his might. Concentrated until he became oblivious to time and place. Until his arms hurt from holding forth the single page torn from the magazine. Concentrated until he was convinced the image of the girl was an image of himself. Until the image was so vividly fixed within his mind that he would see the image of the girl staring back at him from the mirror when he lowered the piece of paper.

With the light, cool absence of the bulge in his jockey shorts, and the feeling of burgeoning breasts pushing tightly against his T-shirt, Trenton knew he was changing. He could feel it. Everywhere.

For one confused moment he stood there blinking, not even realizing he had lowered the slick, creased paper—until he noticed the cute, pale, green-eyed girl was not dressed in a frilly blue dress, but in a black and gold Rock The World T-shirt and blue jeans.

Gasping in disbelief, he staggered back, almost fainting, caught his balance and whipped off his shirt to gaze upon two perfectly formed breasts with pink, rose-petal nipples turned up towards the North Star. Absently dropping the T-shirt, the dumbfound boy reached up to test the weight of his new breasts and run his fingers over the nipples, which immediately sent bursts of electric pleasure right down to his…

When Trenton instinctively stuck his hand down the front of his jeans and reached for himself he couldn’t believe it. His genitals were gone! As the wispy soft pubic hair of a developing adolescent girl slid through his fingers, the smooth, slotted mound grew larger and harder and wet.

Slipping an exploratory finger inside, he gasped for breath at the sensation, his heart pounding wildly at the realization that he was the girl he was fingering! Wow. And boy, girls could feel stuff and get hard too. They weren’t missing out on a thing!

And he might have stood there for quite some time exploring this strange new body, too, if he hadn’t suddenly noticed the clock. Holy cow! It had taken him over 20 minutes to make this strange change. Wondering why it had taken so long, it crossed his mind that perhaps with practice he could get faster at it, but these thoughts were quickly relegated to the back burner of his brain as he realized he had less than five minutes to get to the locker room.

Getting there and in the shower before the class came in was essential to his plan because then he’d be in the shower and out of sight of Miss Robbins, the instructor, should she come into the locker room with the girls. By then, of course, he’d be lost in the steam and gaggle of girls that would shortly fill the showers. Even so, there was still the possibility that he might somehow be confronted with Miss Robbins, but he had a contingency plan for that too, should it occur.

Kicking out of his sneakers, he quickly pulled off his jeans, shorts and socks, snatched the girl stuff out of the bag, jumped into the panties, pulled the dress on over his head and got into the black patent leather shoes.

Ah, Perfect fit! he thought as he straightened the dress before the mirror. Quickly throwing his jeans and other stuff into the gym bag, he hurried from the physical plant and down the hall to the girls’ locker room.

He got there just in time. No sooner had he located a vacant locker, tossed the gym bag in, quickly got out of his girl clothes and into the shower room, than the first bell rang, reverberating through the empty locker room like a swarm of angry hornets. Then, just like in his most fervent dreams of the last week, the locker room filled with laughing girls, shrieking girls, girls engaged in horseplay, naked girls snapping towels and banging lockers.

Betty with the Bazookas strutted by in all her naked glory. And little Amy Singleton. Her tits, in fact her whole body, was perfect, with its little thatch of blonde pubic hair. A sure testimonial that the beautiful blonde curls adorning her lovely head were not from a bottle.

More girls, fat girls, thin girls, titless girls, girls with huge triangular bushes and girls without any bushes at all quickly filled the shower room with steam and jets of hissing water from 16 shower heads. And he was right in the middle of it all. Right in the middle of 32 naked adolescent girls!

And then Betty with the Bazookas yelled above the din, “Hey, who’s the new girl!?”



STRANGE  CHANGE
3

SHOWER POWER

Trenton Letreque hesitated. He was afraid to speak. He had forgotten about that part. What would he sound like? But of course he had no choice. He had to answer. With ears pricked to the sound of his own voice and glowing with self-consciousness, he decided to use the name of the girl in the ad and replied, “Mary Adams.”

Amazing! He sounded just like a girl! But Trenton had also just made his first major error. In a bid at achieving realism and “girl next door” feeling for the ad, the copywriters had used the model’s real name. And adopting the name for his own purposes would soon find Trenton Letreque in double deep trouble.

“So what’re you doing in the shower right now if you’re not in our class?” Bazooka Bets asked, stepping out from under the warm stream of water pounding her back and strutting across the slick tile to “Mary,” her firm, up-thrust tits quivering just so. Trenton felt himself growing erect—a major no-no for a boy in an athletic locker room. Startled, he looked down in alarm. Amazing!! He didn’t have one! What a lucky guy.

“Well?” One of Bazooka Bets’ tits brushed one of his own as she stopped before him, hands on hips.

It took all the will power he could muster not to reach out and touch one of her breasts, and he was dripping wet in places the shower couldn’t reach. But he had to concentrate. He had prepared for this. Carefully. Only now he couldn’t remember what he was suppose to say or project because all his concentrated efforts were on controlling himself.

Bazooka Bets reached down and itched in her great triangular bush of black pubic hair, spread her stance a little more as the hand returned to her hip, and chided, “What’s wrong, cat got your tongue?”

Trenton smiled weakly and shrugged. “No, it’s just that, just that, uh…”

Bazooka Bets grinned and nodded in recognition, saying, “Yeah, I know. A woman thing, right?”

Wow, that was it! She had delivered him his own line! Trenton just smiled shyly and nodded.

Throwing her arm around Trenton in a buddy-buddy hug that was driving the girl-boy absolutely wild at the nude full-body contact, Bazooka Bets laughed. “C’mon, girl! Nothin’ to be ashamed of. We all have accidents some times. You’re just growing.” Drawing Trenton along, she added out of the side of her mouth to her new buddy, “C’mon, let’s get dressed.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind warning bells were going off. Trenton Letreque was in trouble. In the darkest recesses of his mind it was coming down the tunnel like a runaway train.

“Where’s your locker?” Bazooka Bets asked as they left the shower room.

“Over there,” Trenton pointed, hope springing anew. It was immediately dashed.

“Great!” Bets announced, “You’re right next to me!”

Think, Trenton, think! You gotta get yourself out of this! the boy silently screamed to himself as he slipped on the panties and pulled the frilly blue dress on over his head. Trouble was, confused and scared as he’d ever been in his life, this condition did not lend itself to creative thinking. It only led to further panic.

“No bra?” Bazooka Bets looked at him in surprise. “You’re going bra-less in a party dress?”

Again Trenton smiled weakly and shrugged, “I…uh… forgot.”

“Forgot?” Bazooka Bets looked at him strangely.

He pretended not to notice as he turned to getting into the black patent leather shoes.

And the next thing Trenton Letreque knew the two of them were pushing through the door and out into the hall where Bazooka Bets gaily looped an arm through his and announced, “We’re going to be great friends! What’s your next class?”

Then Trenton made a major, MAJOR mistake. He told the truth. His mind awhirl with at least a thousand odd thoughts, he hesitated while a 747 climbing from O’Hare roared overhead with window-rattling thunder, then answered absently, “Math with Mr. Chung.”

“EEeeeew!” Bazooka Bets girlishly squealed her delight. “That’s my next class too!”

Trenton rolled his eyes at his own stupid mistake, his heart sinking as she excitedly dragged him along down the halls crowded with hundreds of students hurrying to class, most of the faces familiar, many of them his friends. And then he spotted his best friend, Joey Hasseldorf, sauntering along, books slung under one arm, coming straight at them. Catching Trenton’s eye, a big grin of approval split his face as he winked and commented, “Hey, gorgeous, meet me after school?”

Trenton again employed the shy smile, shook his long, chestnut-brown locks and continued walking with Bazooka, who had at last let go of his arm thank God!!

Just as they walked into Mr. Chung’s math class the bell rang. Heads turned and whispers rose as everyone checked out the new girl with “Bazooka Bets” Brighton. Guiding Mary to a seat in back near the windows, the whispering was quelled as the girls took their seats and Mr. Chung, a tiny Oriental man, asked in a voice that was much too large and full for such a little body, “All right, now. First, does anyone know where Trenton Letreque is?”

Again whispers arose, but Mark Davies, Trenton’s second best friend, a black kid with close-cropped jet-black hair, spoke loudly over them, “Durin’ study hall he went an’ seen the nurse. Maybe she sent him home.”

“Hmmm, okay,” Mr. Chung absently replied while studying his roster of students. When he looked up his eye fell on the new girl in class. “And what is your name, Miss?”

“Mary Adams,” Trenton immediately blurted, his pale face having turned bright-red against startling green eyes.

“Hmmm,” Mr. Chung said again as he returned to studying the student roster. He looked up. “You don’t seem to be on my attendance sheet. Are you sure you’re in the right class, Mary?”

It was the beginning of a new school year and mistakes of this nature were not uncommon. Neither was Mr. Chung’s insistence that the school year get off to the right start with the right students in the right classes. For he was sure that the first sessions were the most important.

Again Trenton employed the shy smile, shrugged, and replied in a tiny voice, “I think so.”

Eyes rolling back for a thoughtful moment, Mr. Chung again consulted the attendance sheet, absently shook his head, scribbled something on a pink hall pass, tore it from the pad and held it out. “You’d better take this, go down to the office and make sure they’ve got you scheduled correctly, Mary. Don’t want to start off the new school year on the wrong foot,” he admonished in friendly tones.

Trenton sat frozen to the spot. What now?

“Mary?” Mr. Chung’s tone was one of pleasant inquiry.

“Yes?” Trenton replied, his voice rising nervously.

“Is there something wrong, dear?” Mr. Chung gently asked.

“No.” Mary’s voice was still way too high and frightened.

Perplexed, Mr. Chung frowned. She was a new girl in a new school, unsure of herself, proper procedure, and obviously frightened. The kindly, understanding man stood up and came around the front of his desk. With a disarming smile he gestured towards the front of the room and said, “Come on, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ll escort you to the office myself.” To the class at large he loudly announced, “I’ll be back in two minutes. Turn to page ten in your text books and see if you have any luck working out those problems.”

Rigid, seemingly immobilized, Trenton sat there blinking. He had to do something. Fast. But what?

“Mary?”

The teacher’s tone was becoming concerned and Trenton realized he simply didn’t have a move in this strange chess game of life. Sitting there in rigid silence certainly wasn’t going to get him anywhere except, perhaps, on a trip to the funny farm in a straightjacket.

Glumly getting to his feet, he took his gym bag and with his rather large, nevertheless dainty, patent leathers clapping against the tile floor, traipsed to the front of the room and out the door with Mr. Chung, but not before overhearing one girl whisper to another, “She walks like a boy.”

STRANGE  CHANGE

4
DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR TRENTON

“Oh, I’m sure there’s no problem, Mr. Chung,” Mrs. Bombacino said reassuringly, smiling warmly at the little Oriental math teacher. “She probably just got lost in the computer somewhere. These things happen, you know,” she added in a high voice as if Mr. Chung didn’t know.

Mr. Chung dipped his head once in acknowledgment. “Then I shall leave her in your most capable hands and return to my class.” With a smile he added, “I’m sure my students are anxious to get started.” Turning, he pushed through the double glass doors for the hall and was gone.

Tightly clutching his gym bag to his chest in two sweaty hands, heart pounding and face flushed, Trenton now stood alone at the tall reception counter.

Opposite him on the other side, Mrs. Bombacino said under her breath, “Now let me see,” and started flipping through a 37-page computer printout, repeatedly saying to herself, “Adams, Adams.” If it wasn’t at the top of the list it had to be due to a data entry clerk’s mis-keying the first letter of little Mary Adams’ last name. It could be in the D’s or the E’s or God only knew where. But if she found anything even close she could verify the girl’s existence in their records with her social security number and first name. This was going to be easy. Or so she thought.

Near panic now, Trenton watched Mrs. Bombacino closely as she became immersed in her search. When he was sure she was thoroughly lost in it, he edged back, back, and then slipped out the double doors.

Keeping a sharp eye out for the rent-a-cops who patrolled the halls for dope fiends and crazed gunmen, Trenton hurried down the long front hall and turned left for the exit. There, not 30 feet away, was the bank of four doors that promised certain freedom, the cafeteria tables used in the morning to herd students through the metal detector set to one side for the day. With heart pounding and dainty patent leathers clapping against the shiny green tiles, he raced for the doors, banged the push-bar down and was out.

For about two seconds. And then a huge hand had Trenton firmly by one arm. The big cop had been standing out of sight just to the side. “Well, well,” he began good naturedly, dropping his cigarette and stepping on it with one big black shoe, “is your hall pass excusing you from class handy?”

            *                                *                                *

With a downward gesture of his head, Mr. Houghton, principal of Lakefield High School, said simply, “Sit.”

Trenton complied, gym bag in his lap held tightly in two hands like the “Church Lady.” Mr. Houghton had to stifle a chuckle because it reminded him of that, too. But this wasn’t Saturday Night Live, and this was no time for laughs.

The little pale-faced, green-eyed girl with the lovely, chestnut-brown hair was obviously deeply troubled and frightened about something. And, perhaps most importantly, she didn’t belong in his school.

“Mary Adams,” he began with quiet firmness. “Is that your name?”

“Yes,” Trenton replied in a high, nervous voice.

Mr. Houghton’s brows furrowed as he shifted comfortably in his large leather chair and cleared his throat. “None of my office staff seems able to locate you in our files,” he began. “Did you register during the late registration session three weeks ago?”

“Yes.” Again Trenton’s voice trembled on a high, nervous note.

With a heavy sigh Mr. Houghton said, “Well, I don’t know what to make of this, Mary Adams. Perhaps somehow you were accidentally blipped from the computer before a hard copy was made, but even so, the registration papers that should have been filled out in ink and initially turned in would be on file.” He paused before adding, “And they’re not.”

“Maybe they got lost,” Trenton offered in a tiny voice. “Can I go back to class now?”

Arching his brows, Mr. Houghton looked at her closely. “Honey, let me be frank with you. Right now I could have you arrested for trespassing and turned over to the juvenile authorities. Now, I don’t know why you’re here or how you got here or what your intentions are, but as you know, in these troubled times we can’t simply allow children, or anyone, for that matter, to simply wander the halls or attend classes in a school for which they are clearly not registered.”

He leaned back in his chair for a moment to catch his breath before continuing in calmer tones, “Now then, before I make my decision on whether to call your parents or the authorities, is there anything you want to tell me?” And with that his eye fell decidedly on the gym bag Trenton clutched so tightly in his lap as he sat there paralyzed, terrorized, his throat so tight he thought it was going to explode. After an interminable silence Mr. Houghton released another big sigh and said, “Very well then, put the gym bag on my desk, please.”

“What?” Trenton blinked. All at once he felt utterly ridiculous sitting there in patent leather shoes and a frilly blue dress. If only he could die of a heart attack right now, that would suit him just fine. It was sure beating hard enough.

“I said,” Mr. Houghton intoned, his impatience mounting, “put the gym bag on my desk.”

“I—I can’t,” Trenton stammered, feeling a dread sense sliding like muck down his throat where it plopped sickeningly into his stomach.

Leaning forward, Mr. Houghton pushed a button on the intercom on his desk and spoke sharply into the machine, “Mrs. Bombacino, would you have Allen Groper come to my office immediately?”

“Yes sir,” the voice came back tinny through the machine.

He let the button go and once again sat back in his chair, all the while closely watching the little girl for some reaction. Everyone knew who Allen Groper was—head of school security, among other things. But of course Mary Adams wouldn’t since she wasn’t, in fact, a student at Lakefield High School.

Under other circumstances Trenton probably would have reacted, but at the moment he had other problems. Big problems. Monumental problems. After a few moments Mr. Houghton asked, “What’s in the gym bag, Mary?”

Trenton lifted a shoulder and answered in a girlish voice that was oddly boyish in syntax, “Just stuff.”

“Ohhh,” Mr. Houghton’s lips formed a perfect “O” as he said this. “And what kind of ‘stuff’ are we talking about, Mary?”

“Oh, you know, just girl stuff.”

“Girl stuff.”

“Uh-huh,” Trenton nodded. “You know, just girl stuff.”

“Well, you do realize we have the right to look into any gym bags or book bags or whatever is brought into this school, don’t you?” he asked pleasantly, then continued, “so you might just as well hand it to me right now.”

“Uh-uh,” Trenton adamantly shook his head.

And then there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” Mr. Houghton said loudly to the door, which immediately opened. “Ah, do come in, Mr. Groper.”

“Yes sir,” the man replied, came into the room and closed the door behind him. “What can I do for you?”

“Would you please take the gym bag from Miss Adams?”

Stepping up to the chair where Trenton sat, he held his hand out expectantly.

From Trenton’s point of view, looking up at the man, he seemed like a giant. “But it’s mine,” he protested in his little-girl voice.

“Even so,” Mr. Groper replied, “you know the rules, uh.…”

“Mary,” Mr. Houghton provided the name.

“Mary.”

“Uh-uh,” Trenton once again shook his long, chestnut-brown curls most adamantly.

Leveling her with his sternest glare, Mr. Houghton ordered slowly, enunciating each word in a voice heavy with warning, “Give… Mr… Groper… the… gym bag… NOW!”

Petrified, Trenton just stared, eyes wide and unblinking, until he felt Mr. Groper’s hands prying his loose from the bag and taking it from him. Heaving a sigh of total resignation, Trenton slumped in the chair. He was done for.

Without a word Groper set the gym bag on the desk, unzipped it and peered inside for some moments before first removing the twice-folded full-page magazine ad. Unfolding it, Mr. Groper stared at the ad for some moments, then looked at the defeated little girl slumped in the chair, then back to the ad, then back to her.

Finally Mr. Houghton interrupted with just a hint of impatience, “Well what is it, Groper?”

Without a word he passed the creased, colorful paper to his superior and turned to removing the other items from the bag one-by-one and laying them on the principal’s desk. In the meantime Mr. Houghton was now doing his own series of double-takes from the ad to the girl and back again.

With the gym bag empty, Mr. Groper groped around for a bit and then looked up at the principal. “That’s it, Mr. Houghton, just these jeans, T-shirt, socks, sneakers, and that advertisement from the Sunday Supplemental Magazine.”

“Yes, I see that,” Mr. Houghton commented absently, lost in thought as he continued to stare at the advertisement with the pale little girl in the frilly blue dress shrieking a proclamation of back to school specials. Apparently the same little girl who now sat so dejectedly on the other side of his desk.

Laying the ad flat on his desk, Mr. Houghton took a moment to smooth it out, then leaned forward and pressed the intercom button. “Mrs. Bombacino, I’m sending little Mary Adams to wait in the outer office. Under no circumstances is she to leave the office or your sight. If she needs to use the bathroom go with her.”

“Yes sir,” came the reply.

He released the button and leaned way back in his chair, his eye on Mary as he said pleasantly, “Would you please wait for us in the outer office, Mary?”

Glumly nodding, Trenton started to his feet when Mr. Houghton, on afterthought, snatched up a pen and said, “Oh, one more thing. Could you give me your phone number, please?”

Mechanically, Trenton started to rattle off his phone number, stopped abruptly half out of his chair, and just stood there staring with alarm at the man.

“What is it, Mary?” Mr. Houghton gently asked.

Petrified, Trenton stammered, “I… uh… forgot it.” After all, what else could he say? He sure as hell couldn’t give the man his real phone number.

After a moment Mr. Houghton gave Trenton a perfunctory nod and dismissed the little girl with, “Very well, please wait outside.”

Feeling like his legs were made of lead, Trenton plodded for the door and left the room, both men watching him closely. After the little girl was gone they looked at one another with the same blank expression and said in perfect unison, “She walks like a boy.”

It was a spontaneous, funny moment, but neither laughed. It was obvious the poor little girl was suffering some sort of breakdown. Probably the result of a grueling schedule of professional modeling, schooling, and public appearances that left her exhausted. She didn’t even seem to know where she was.

“Where does she live?” Groper asked his boss.

Shrugging, Houghton shot him a dubious look that asked, How should I know? and swiveled his chair about, retrieved a telephone book from the wall-to-wall shelf that ran beneath the windows behind his desk, swiveled back and plopped the book on his desk. Turning to the first page of the residential section, he ran his finger down the listings, repeating half to himself, “Adams, Adams.” He stopped abruptly. “Ah, here we go. Well, if this is her number she doesn’t live far from here, because it’s an Elmhurst number.” Elmhurst was an upscale suburb south of Lakefield, some 15 minutes away by car.

He jotted the number on a pad, picked up the phone and dialed. After a moment he spoke into the receiver. “Mrs. Adams? Oh I’m so glad I caught you at home. It’s about your daughter. This is Errol Houghton, the principal at Lakefield High School here in Lakefield.

“Your daughter is sitting in my outer office right now under the care of one of my office staff. Your daughter’s where, Mrs. Adams? At a boarding school in New York? No, madam. No, I’m afraid not. She’s right here in my school. I just finished speaking with her a moment ago, and the ad she appeared in for the Sunday Supplemental is right here on my desk. She was carrying it around with her. It was in her gym bag.

“I have no idea how she got here from New York, madam, all I know is she seems to be suffering from some sort of nervous breakdown. She’s somewhat incoherent and seems highly agitated and I feel it would be in Mary’s best interest if you could drive over here and pick her up immediately. She needs psychiatric attention. You’re leaving now? Fine, Mrs. Adams. I’ll let your daughter know you’re coming to pick her up at once.”

He replaced the receiver, looked at Groper and sadly shook his head. “Poor little girl.”


STRANGE  CHANGE
5
THE GREAT ESCAPE

With long faces both men stood looking down at Trenton for a silent moment before Mr. Houghton handed him his gym bag and said in a voice oozing reassurance, “Your mother’s on her way, Mary. She’ll be here any minute, so you just sit here and relax and before you know it you’ll be home, okay?” He leaned forward from the hips like he was hard of hearing and waited for a response.

Trenton, eyes big and round as he looked up at the man, nodded, sniffled, wiped at his nose with the back of his hand and reached under his dress to scratch at his right breast. It felt so strange having tits.

Both men were rooted to the spot, staring at the strange little girl super model!?, Mr. Houghton still bent forward at the hips like his batteries had just run down and he was stuck that way. Behind them the entire office staff stood rigid as trees, staring in astonishment and damned glad they’d never gotten involved in the modeling business. Jeeze, if that’s what it did to you…

All at once self-conscious, Mr. Houghton abruptly straightened up, briefly took Groper’s elbow by way of urging him along, and both men left the office in whispered conversation. As if on cue the office personnel uprooted themselves as well and went back to work. All except for Mrs. Bombacino, sitting two chairs down from the weird little girl. She never moved a muscle and didn’t take her eyes off little Mary Adams for a second. At least not until Mrs. Adams arrived. And then she did.

Anxiously rushing into the office, Candice Adams looked this way and that, saw her daughter and squealed “Oh honey!” Sweeping the pale little girl into her arms, she kissed her repeatedly, then held her at arm’s length with a teary smile and nodded, saying, “Okay?”

“Yeah, Ma,” is all Trenton could think to say. He just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, and having some old lady slobbering all over him didn’t help matters, either.

But suddenly he noticed the woman looking at him oddly. Closely. “Yeah, Ma?” she sternly admonished. “That’s the way they teach you to speak at that exclusive New York boarding school?”

Oh the hell with this, Trenton thought. He did a little curtsy and primly said, “Yes, mother.” All he wanted was to make like a shepherd and get the flock out of there.

The woman examined him closely for several silent moments before at last taking his hand. “Very well,” she said, and led him from the school office, down the hall, and out to her Lincoln. Sliding into the luxurious sports coupe, Trenton was so relieved to be out of that situation that at last his mind was regaining its normal functions again. For the first time in at least an hour he was able to think clearly.

But thinking wasn’t what Trenton was doing as Candice Adams, 42-year-old mother of future super model little Mary Adams, guided the powerful coupe out of the parking lot. No, he was hearing… strange thoughts. Coming to him loud and clear… Chicago. Doctor Twilber?

All at once he knew whose mind he was hearing. Turning to the strange, bejewelled woman in the expensive black dress, her long white neck stacked with gold rings, he asked, “Where are we going, mother?” The car’s interior had an obnoxious odor of stale cigarette smoke and sickeningly sweet perfume mixed with leather that was giving Trenton a headache.

“Chicago,” Candice Adams answered without taking her eyes from the road. “There’s a very nice man there I want you to meet. A friend of mine. He’s a doctor.”

Trenton sniffled. Damn, he needed a Kleenex. It never occurred to the boy to ask for one. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, wiped his hand off on the front of his pretty blue party dress (he was going to dump it shortly, anyway), looked at her and said, “Oh? What’s his name?”

Candice Adams’ face, pale and deeply lined as if she were just coming down from three weeks of coffee and cocaine, shot her daughter a worried glance and unconsciously started driving faster. “Doctor Twilber,” she replied. “Ever hear of him?” She was scared. Her beautiful, successful daughter, standing on the very edge of media stardom, had, in the time it took to fly from New York to Chicago, rolled completely off her nut.

“Are you taking the expressway?” Trenton asked.

“Yeah, it’ll be faster,” she answered and started digging through her purse.

“Okay, but don’t get on till you’re east of Schiller Woods. Take that way down.”

She pulled out a cigarette and pushed the lighter in. “Why?”

“Traffic. You’ll be past the construction zone.”

“Oh. Okay,” she replied and rolled up to a red light on the corner of River Road and Schiller Avenue.

It was time to run for it. Calmly. He hit the unlock button, popped the door open, got out, shut the door, walked to the corner as if being dropped off, and waited for the light to change.

Alarmed, Candice Adams lowered the passenger window. “Honey, what on earth are you doing?” she called nervously. “It’s dangerous out there and we don’t have any bodyguards.”

Just as he could hear her thoughts, he could feel her fear. And it was real. He couldn’t just run off and leave this woman thinking her little girl had disappeared into the urban jungle. He went back to the car and stopped at the window, the woman leaning down low so she could see him.

“Listen, Ma, I want you to understand this, okay?” He held up his hands for emphasis, paused, and said, “There’s nothin’ for you to be afraid of. It’s a secret you won’t believe, Ma, but if you just drive on you can meet me back in New York tonight if you want, okay?”

For a long moment the woman stared at him in absolute silence. He could hear her thoughts as clear as a bell; Is this really Mary, or some Hollywood promotion where they hold a look-alike contest and the one that wins turns out to be some boy incredibly made-up to look like your daughter?

Trenton almost laughed, but the woman frowned at the squelched chuckle and asked sharply, “What? Is something funny around here? ’Cause if there is, Sister Sue, I missed it!”

Sister Sue? She always called her daughter “Sister Sue” when she got angry? Trenton had to stifle a second laugh, which caused the woman to squawk angrily, “What!? What!? Did I miss something?”

The light turned green and the driver of the car behind immediately leaned on his horn with an angry blast. “Look, Ma, just go across the street and pull over by the corner,” he pointed, “I’ll meet you there.”

“Just get in the goddamn car,” she snarled, curling her lips like a mad dog.

Trenton was about to reply when the guy behind laid on his horn again. In a voice smoldering with anger, Candice Adams ordered, “Get your ass over there now!” and tromped on the accelerator. The meaty tires on the little coupe shrieked a note of despair and with the turbos whining, the Lincoln blasted across the four lane boulevard and squealed to a stop beside the curb, on the lip of the concrete bridge going over the Des Plaines River. Trenton immediately ran across the busy boulevard and stopped at the passenger window.

“Well, Mary,” Candice Adams began, once again leaning down low to look up at him, “do you want to tell me what the hell is going on or what?”

Trenton opened his mouth to speak but stopped. His eyes rolled up for a thoughtful moment, then leveled on her and in a voice straining to sound like himself instead of the little girl he was, he said evenly, “I’m not your daughter. I’m just an actor made-up to look like her.”

Absolutely dumbfounded, Candice Adams stared at him slack-jawed, eyes unblinking, then her lashes fluttered as she exclaimed, “It’s an amazing make-up job!”

“Okay,” he reaffirmed, “so you understand?”

She nodded. “I wasn’t supposed to know about it, huh?”

Trenton shook his head. “No.”

“Huh,” she nodded absently, turning introspective for several moments before muttering, “must be a surprise for me.” She looked at him again. “They did a hell of a job. And so did you,” she hastily added. “It’s incredible. When you want to you sound just like her!”

“Thanks. And say, let’s just keep this little secret to ourselves, okay?” He winked at her. “Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.”

It was so weird having her daughter wink at her like that. But then, it wasn’t her daughter. Wow. The things they could do these days!

back