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Lucky             by: Brandy Dewinter           © 2000, All rights reserved

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Chapter 11

Bud was my hero for the rest of the night, too. We had no sooner walked in the door, in my case more of a limp than a walk, when Katy and Lonna were pelting me with questions on how things had gone. They were stepping on each other’s words, let alone any response I might have made, when Bud rode to my rescue.

"Hold it!"

His voice had a tone of authority that would have seemed more easily learned on a parade ground than in a courtroom, but whatever the source, there was suddenly silence in the room.

"She did very well. Things didn’t work out quite the way we all might have thought, but I think she was able to resolve some important issues," he said.

At my nod, he continued, "but right now she is tired, her feet hurt, and she’s saturated. I think we should let her get some rest before interrogating her."

He concluded with a smile, but one that still allowed for no argument, "As her lawyer, I insist on it."

Katy started to say something, but stopped before any words came out. I don’t know if it was a stern look from Bud, or a pleading look from me, but she ended up just nodding her head and holding her peace.

The next comment was from Lonna, and it was indeed a question, but the tone made it soothing rather than intimidating. "Could you use some help getting undressed, Tami?"

"Yes, please," I answered, my first coherent words since, well, since the last time I had said much the same in accepting Bud’s offer to leave the ball.

"I’ll help, too," Katy offered, but Bud shook his head.

"Let’s go home, Katy. I’m tired, too. They’ll be fine."

"Call me in the morning?" Katy pleaded.

"Sure, or, well, it depends on when I get up," I answered, smiling to take any sting out of being careful with my promise.

A quick hug from Katy, and one not much different from Bud, and they were out the door. Even as they walked to the car I could see Katy starting in on Bud with the questions she hadn’t been allowed to ask me. Well, better him than me.

True to her offer, Lonna just helped me undress. The heels came off almost before Bud and Katy had left, and getting out of the dress took little longer. Then I had the blessed relief of getting my corset undone. It would have taken some fairly extreme and time-consuming measures to get my real hair unwoven from the wig, but somehow the subject never even came up. And if I was going to have long hair, then my breast forms and long nails seemed even less remarkable. With no apparent decision, nor need for one, I ended up in a nightgown with my face cleansed and moisturized, ready for bed much as Trish would have been.

We actually hadn’t said much, but I couldn’t just kick Lonna out the door with barely a word of thanks, so after I had, ‘slipped into something more comfortable’, I took the first deep breath in what seemed like a long while and asked, "Would you like some coffee?"

"Oh, no, thanks. It’s too late for me. I’ll sit with you while you have some if you want."

"Um, no, me neither," I said, then I had to snicker. "Actually, I was just looking for some way to say thanks. So, ‘Thanks’."

"No problem," she said. Then there was an awkward pause. After too long of a moment, she started to gather up her things.

"You don’t have to go," I said.

"I really ought to be on my way. Unless you want to talk, now?"

"I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d say if we did talk. I’m still trying to sort things out."

"I understand. Will you call me in the morning, too?"

"Um, sure. And really, thanks for everything. Even if I don’t know what it means, I really appreciate all you’ve done to help me with, well, everything."

"No problem," she repeated, and we ran down again.

We walked to the door, and she was turning to go when I just wrapped my arms around her and held on for a long moment. This time, the silence was not a bad thing; it was special in a way I didn’t understand any better than the rest of that crazy evening.

Like, for example, why both of us were in tears after that hug.

Lonna didn’t say anything as she turned away for real, and I couldn’t have gotten more than a croak out through the tightness in my throat, so any further good-byes were limited to a wave and a look we shared that was no clearer than anything else.

Chirping birds woke me in the morning. It was so cliché I almost didn’t recognize the sound, worrying instantly about bad bearings in the ceiling fan or something. Lordy, it was even songbirds and not a rusty-gate grackle or something. How can you not be cheerful when you wake up to that sort of sound?

Sometime during the night I had come to terms with my situation. I suppose that had more than a little to do with my good humor. But I didn’t care whether it was birds singing or psychoneurosis banishing. I knew I felt glad to be alive for the first time in a very long time. I whistled back at the birds and danced my way through the bathroom while I got dressed. Coffee was just the icing on a delicious cake of a morning, though I couldn’t remember it ever tasting so good.

Who to call first? I felt like I wanted to tell everyone that I was alive again. The choice was taken from me, which was actually another nice thing about that morning - a conflict that resolved itself - when the phone rang.

"Good morning!" I chirped brightly.

"Oh, um, well, good morning to you, too, Tami." It was Katy.

"I told you I’d call," I reminded her, putting a little pout into my voice. Then I dispelled her half-formed apology with a laugh and an, "and I was just about to."

"Oh, good. Well, I just thought I’d check in on you. Um, how are you doing? You sound pretty good."

"Fine, just fine. Well, it may be a month before I can walk again.

My feet still hurt, but other than that I’m doing just fine."

"Geez, girl, did you take some energy pills or something? You’re practically bubbling, even over the phone."

"I just feel good today. I’m not really sure why. But I do."

"Well, good. How about going out for some coffee or something?"

I laughed and told her she wasn’t being nearly subtle enough, if subtle was what she was after. "So we can talk?"

"Well, yeah, if you want to."

"And of course, you’re not curious at all, just willing to be there if I feel like expounding, huh?"

"Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that," she said, laughter in her own voice.

"Coffee would be fine," I said, "I’ll treat." The remaining logistical questions were handled quickly and in not much more time I was sliding into the seat of her Beamer.

We chattered about inconsequentials until we were seated at a little coffee shop that had the most heavenly bagels. At one point, while I was using a lot of words to say nothing, Katy caught me grinning at her.

"Okay, smartass, I know what you’re doing."

"Jus’ talkin’, ma’am, like y’all said I should do."

Never tease someone who drinks soda instead of coffee to get her morning caffeine. An ice cube landed with NBA-quality accuracy down my partially unbuttoned blouse. I was jumped up and shouting before Katy even had time to start laughing. At least it wasn’t a large ice cube, though I could still feel it for what seemed like several minutes, melting its way to places that had once been nice and warm.

"I’ll get you for that," I said, but I sort of spoiled the threat with my laughter.

Katy didn’t say anything. At least, not with words. But she did fish another ice cube out of her drink and aim it menacingly at me.

"Enough! I give up. I’ll talk!"

And then I didn’t have anything to say.

So that’s what I said, "I don’t know what to say."

"Well, you could start by telling me what happened last night."

I started out slowly, trying to decide what to say and what was not worth mentioning. Before long her gentle prodding had urged me into almost a moment-by-moment recitation of every little detail. Her eyes shot sparks that did full justice to her red hair when I described the biddy whose name I had already forgotten, then her laughter filled the little coffee shop when I told of how I had danced with the woman’s husband. She smiled knowingly when I admitted I had enjoyed dancing with Jason, and grimaced in total sympathy when I told of how my feet had hurt. All through that recitation it was as though I were reliving it, and Katy was there with me.

"And then we got home," I concluded, "and Bud kept you from pestering me . . . until now."

Katy looked at me expectantly, like she expected more. She must have learned the look from her lawyer husband, because I found myself answering a question that hadn’t been asked. "Lonna left not too long after you did, after she helped me out of the corset-thingy."

"That’s fine, dear, but that’s not what you’re leaving out."


"What does it all mean, Tami? What did you learn? What are you going to do now?"


She waited while I tried to decide what to say about that. Those certainly were the right questions. Questions that certainly needed to be asked. I wish I were as certain about the answers.

Once again, I started out tentatively. This time, bless her, Katy was patient as could be, letting me mumble and stumble and find my own answers. "I, um, I’m not sure. I know I woke up happy this morning, for the first time since Trish died."

And I paused, because I realized I didn’t have to pause, that for the first time since the accident I could say that without choking into silence.

"And, um, I know I enjoyed being Tami last night. I didn’t enjoy the shoes," I said with a chuckle, "but I enjoyed the evening out, feeling, well, feeling pretty, and glamorous, and elegant. And I enjoyed the dancing. I think part of that was because I didn’t have to decide what we did. I just sort of hung on and let the music and the man take me where they wanted to go."

"Uh, hmm?" Katy said; I guess to show me she was still awake.

Maybe it was that pause, but an insight started to percolate out a little. "I think . . . maybe that part of what made me happy this morning was knowing that I was not interested in men. I suppose that’s terribly narrow-minded or something, but I think I didn’t want that. I was afraid of it, afraid of what being Tami meant would inevitably happen to me. Only now I know it won’t happen to me."

"Does that mean you won’t be Tami any more?" Katy asked, looking at the way I had chosen to dress.

"Well, duh!" I said, laughing. "Part of what I decided is that I like being Tami. It’s just that now I’m not worried that it will get out of control somehow, and make me do something I won’t want to do."

Then another insight bubbled up, and I said softly, "And it still makes me feel a little closer to Trish. I know she’s gone, and I know I’m not Trish, but all the little things I do to be Tami are things Trish did, and when I do them, I just sort of naturally think of her. I’ll never forget her as long as Tami is around."

"Do you think you’d have forgotten her, otherwise?"

"No. I suppose not. But this way I will remember her so very vividly, in so many ways - the big ones and the small ones."

Katy nodded, leaning back in her seat as she let my words snuggle into her own thoughts. "So, what are you going to do next?"

"Finish my coffee, I guess," I said, then picked up my own glass of water as Katy started to reach for another ice cube. She grinned but backed off.

I smiled back, and said, "I don’t really know what I’ll do, except that I’ll be Tami for now. I suppose Bud can take care of any legal issues, though I can sign as T. Piper and still be totally honest."

Then I remembered something else, "Oh, and one thing I for sure have to do is figure out some way to pay Lonna back. She’s been so wonderful through this whole thing. I mean, you guys have, too, but we’ve been close friends forever and friends like we are don’t keep score. But Lonna, goodness, she must have laid out a ton of money, not to mention the time she’s lost with her clients."

"You’re right, though I think you might find that she’d trade it all for the chance to be one of those, don’t-keep-score friends."

"Oh, yeah, you may be right. But she’s, uh, well I’m not sure I’m ready to be really close friends with her. I mean, I like her and all, but I’m not sure . . . "

"You’re not sure you want to get that close to an unmarried woman, this soon after losing Trish?" Katy offered.

"Um, yeah, probably."

"So stay as Tami," she said, as though that solved everything. "Not just in the way you dress, but in the way you act toward her. Be girlfriends, which is not the same as lovers. I think she’ll understand, and you might be surprised at how good a job that does of curing loneliness in both of you."

I nodded silently, promising more to think about it than to do it, but the idea sounded nice. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hanging around Bud and Katy, and at least Lonna would be ‘safe’ as a friend.

"Call her," Katy said, offering her phone.

"No, not right now," I declined, but I knew that I would get around to it.

And so I did, not long after Katy dropped me off back at my place, in fact.

"Avatar Salon, Lonna speaking."

"Hi, Lonna. This is Tami."

"Oh! Hi, Tami! How are you doing?"

"Fine, actually. Pretty good for the first time in a long time."

"Oh, that’s so great! Last night you seemed, I don’t know, confused anyway."

"At least," I agreed, laughing. "But things are starting to fall into place."

"As Tami?"

"For now. Does that bother you?"

"Not at all," she said quickly. "As long as it works for you, then I’m happy for you."

"Good. Thanks."

I paused for a moment, not sure what to say next. After that moment, Lonna filled the silence. "Well, thanks for calling. I’m glad you’re doing okay."

That sounded so . . . final. As though it were the end of more than a quick conversation.

"Um, Lonna, before we hang up . . . could we, uh, meet for dinner or something?"

"Oh, sure," she agreed, sounding so relieved I felt like a real bum for letting things almost end.

"Tonight?" I asked.

"Um, sure. Uh, it’ll have to be after 7:00, and casual. I’m just wearing a pair of jeans and a top."

"That’ll be fine," I assured her, and then we worked out the rest of the details while I was trying to decide what I’d wear.

In the end, I wore the nice little denim skirt that I had liked so well on Trish, smiling as I put it on with the thought that I would always have her so close to me, at least in little ways like that. I picked Lonna up at the appointed time, and in a short while we were seated at a little family restaurant, part of a fairly wide chain.

I told her most of what I had told Katy, getting the same sort of nods, maybe with a bit more enthusiasm when I said again that I intended to stay as Tami for a while.

"Oh, that will be fun," she said, smirking. "I know some really ‘fun’ places to go to."

"I’m not letting you drag me into every seedy bar in town," I said with a snicker of my own.

She slapped my arm, but laughed again while she did it. "That’s not all that I do."

"No, lately you’ve been spending all your spare time, and probably more money than you had to spare on me."

"I didn’t mind."

"I know you didn’t, and it’s one of the things that makes you so special to me. But you have to let me show you how much I appreciate you, too."

"What did you have in mind?" she asked with a cheesy leer and some eyebrow exercise.

"I’m not that kind of girl!" I exclaimed theatrically.

"Good," she said. "Neither am I."

"So what do you do when you’re not cutting hair or feminizing innocent men?"

"Innocent? I have never feminized an innocent man. Hell, I’ve never even met an innocent man."

"Oops. Touche."

But I kept pushing, and started to find out a little about this woman who already knew so much about me. By the time the evening was over, we truly were ‘girlfriends’, comfortable in each other’s company and united by a surprising number of common interests.

"So, where are you going skiing this year?" I asked.

"I’m not sure I will," she said with an unexpected little hesitation.

"I didn’t make any plans."

"It’s a little close to ski season to still be making up your mind," I said, then the lightbulb went off. So I was a little slow, at least I got there in the end.

"Honest, now, Lonna, you spent your ski trip allowance on me, right?"

She started to deny it, but the truth outshouted her words, even before she said any.

"Then you will be my guest," I declared. "And if you argue about it, I’ll find some way to spend twice as much, even if I have to come in every three days for a new hair color or something."

"Oh, anything but that! It would ruin that beautiful hair."

"Then you’ll come? Actually, unless Bud cancelled them for some reason, we . . I should already have reservations. I imagine it will be a long time before little things like that quit cropping up," I said quietly. "You don’t mind going in Trish’s place, do you?"

"Not if you don’t," she said, and so it was settled.

With the money aspect of my debt to her out of the way, our friendship blossomed more naturally, and we ended up spending a lot of our free time together. The ‘our’ in that was mostly her limitation, since I wasn’t working anywhere. She introduced me to the seedy side of town, all right, which was actually pretty nice. There were a lot of places for two unattached women to go that weren’t strictly meat markets for lonely singles.

We even got all ‘duded’ up and went with Bud and Katy to their country-western club a couple of times. I learned to dance the two-step, with eager lessons from several partners, and how to keep an oversized hat on my head when every time I looked up the brim caught on the back of my neck. The trick is to wear it real low over your eyes, which looks sort of sultry and drives the guys wild.

One of the times we were there it drove a couple of overweight rednecks a little too wild. They started hanging all over us, ignoring what were supposed to be polite indications of our lack of interest.

Finally, Lonna decided it was past time to be polite. "Sorry, guys, but you’re not our type. Why don’t you ‘mosey’ along?"

"Honey, for you, I could be just about any type," one of the guys said, spoiling - or perhaps clarifying - the offer with a large belch.

"I don’t think so," Lonna said, then leaned over and wrapped me up in her arms, giving me a soul-deep, passionate kiss.

"Eeewww," Redneck number 2 said, sounding just like a little kid.

They did indeed ‘mosey’ on, quite quickly in fact, while Lonna and I laughed so hard we could barely stand. When we could breathe again, Lonna said, "Sorry about that, but it seemed like a good way to discourage them."

"It did do that," I agreed, but I realized I wasn’t really sorry.

Not at all.


(continued in part 12)


Lucky © 2000 by Brandy Dewinter. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.