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(a Part Five take-off based on "My Best Friend's Sister, Part 5" by The Insomniac)

  

My Best Friend's Sischick -- Me??

by Dee Eon

  

My door knocked. "Beth?"

For a weird moment something deep soft and vulnerable my cotton mauve nightshirt's bodice tweaked with a breathless pound then flitted away. It was strange yet somehow delicious at the same time and it's wake left me feeling that I was walking on the clouds or how it felt doing my last touchdown.

With a bounce to my fluffy rabbit slippers I swung open the door and suddenly a funny almost giddy shyness rushed me under Tim's gleaming smile. For a moment I felt a wild crazy impulse to actually jump up and hug him tight like a giant teddy bear...

"Just wanna see how you're doing, Beth," he said in that half-courteous way that brothers didn't address sisters with, and that warmed me double because it meant that he still saw someone behind my doe-large coffee- brown eyes other than a bratty kid sister.

"I'm feeling great, Tim! I mean, I'm coming along alright," I said, sheepishly muting my bubbly delight while feeling weirdly choked up with gratitude and newfound regard. "Thanks again for saving me from that jerk, Josh. You probably saved my life -- or at least from a brain concussion."

"Er, well, that's what big brothers are for, right?" he modestly said, somehow seeming shy doing it.

"You're more than just a brother to me, Tim! Way more!" I effused, again trying to keep down that queer giddy appreciation. He chuckled for a moment then his head jerked up a funny way.

"How do you mean?"

I reined in my anxious blurt; "We -- well, we're best buddies...or we used to be," I ruefully remarked. "We don't get to talk much together anymore, like how we used to kid around and stuff, you know?"

Tim gazed at me like I was a Martian then turned aside. "We're not the same anymore. You're not the same anymore. What we used to do and have is done and gone."

A surge of reasonless dismay rushed me; "But it doesn't have to be, Tim! Yes, I'm Beth now and I feel more settled into being a girl everyday, but my mind's still basically Jay's. I still think like I used to, pretty much -- I hope."

"Do you feel the same way?" Tim asked as though really wanting to know something subtle going on with me.

"Feel? Like about what?"

"About -- things. People. Anything."

"Well...I haven't really dwelled about it that much."

"Do you feel -- girly?"

"Well, isn't that what I am?" I quipped with a smile then mused. "No...not really, though I know I'm doing girly-things without knowing it, like sitting with my knees together and running with arms waving and stuff. Also, seems like I kinda like cute animals a little more and soft things feel nicer and better, like my bed and these cute nightgowns, and wearing pink isn't all that big a deal to me anymore either--" I caught his mild smirk and I blushed some. "Yeah, it's little changes like that happening to me that I almost miss, but I gotta think hard back to tell how I really felt about it before. It's kinda like I still have little leftovers of Bethanny's habits or something affecting me, but at least I'm still myself enough to tell how I feel 'bout things now isn't always like the real me once did."

"But the way you -- you feel about -- people. Has that changed any?"

"No, not really all that much," I admitted and somehow his seemed to fall remorseful. "Er, maybe that's not entirely true. Like, it seems like it's a little harder for me to get angry at people, and somehow martial art and shoot- em-up video games and movies and TV feel a little lame to me."

"Lame?"

"Maybe that's the wrong word. They're not as interesting to me anymore, maybe. Like, when I had to fight Jack, I really hated it. I mean, I know I had to do it to save myself, but...it wasn't like I was itching to trash him or anything like I remember how I liked to fight when I was my old self. I...don't really like fighting all that much. Even when I remember football, there's something about slamming into other guys and shoving and punching and pushing and mowing over them that doesn't feel...doesn't feel...nice. I know that sounds sissy..."

"You're getting soft," Tim stated in an odd, almost hopeful way.

"Well, what do you expect, having your mind steeped a girl's skull swimming in girl-mones and stuff!" I replied with gallows humor and a sigh. "I used to wonder whether I could ever cope with this little girl thing. Whether I still had enough of the old Jay in me to cling to with the wild hope that I might savage something from my former life if some miracle or spell ever ended this bad dream. Now it looks like I'll be changing into a girl without even knowing it. I mean last night I happened to flick to the Playboy channel on cable and seeing all those bunnies didn't stroke me hard worth a damn! I still remember how they used to, but now, they're just girls in skimpy outfits to me...if you understand what I mean. That should've scared the piss outta me, but it only felt -- troubling, that's all. Man, losing your balls sucks shit, believe it!"

Tim winced like what I said was too risque for any little girl to be uttering. "Do you still want to be a guy again?" he asked almost with a muted curiosity bordering urgency.

"Sure! I'm not that fairy far gone yet! Just because I'm getting a little used to being locked up inside a kid chick doesn't mean I like it. Sometimes I can feel the girl inside this body creeping up behind me like a sneaky shadow, just waiting to take over again. It's scary, yet in a funny way it's almost like a relief. Like how dying patients in pain hope to never wake up one night. If I'm not careful, I could wake up happy as a peach that I'm finally all girl top to toe and Jay was just a bad dream. So I have to keep reminding myself who I used to be -- who I really am all the time. In fact, if I concentrate being my real self enough I could even squash all of Bethanny's girly moves and habits. I figure that I could still hang on being me -- the real me for a while if I can just keep myself from going along with the program, you know? Getting prissy with my hair and face and wearing dresses and sitting around with Jessica's girl talk shit. I mean, if people thought I was a tomboy I could stay myself even like this for a couple of years till some kind of magic something turned up to make me normal again."

Tim looked like I was a heretic. "Mean, you're not even going to give it a chance? Being a girl?"

"Not if there's one for me to change back."

"Suppose there isn't? Suppose there ain't no way to turn back?"

"Don't say that! There's gotta be a way! Someone made that friggin' magic wristband doohickey that caused this whole mess, right? Who's to say that that was the only one? And since there really was such a thing, it means that all these tales and stories about witches and wizards and sorcerer and magicians are all true -- at least some of them! And one of them might know a way to change me back!"

"So what you gonna do? Put a 'witches wanted' ad in the paper?"

"Maybe. And maybe I'll look for them myself."

"You're just a kid. You wouldn't last a week out there."

"I'm seventeen where it counts."

"You're crazy! Why you trying to fight it? You're a girl now, so why don't you just accept it? Come-on, can't be all that bad! Half the people in the world are females and they seem to mind it too much!" he lamely chuckled which melted under my smirking stare. "Come-on, Beth--! "

"Is Mom -- your mother putting you up to this? She can't wait for me to forget myself and become her old Bethanny again!"

"No! I'm putting myself up to this! Jay, maybe there are some things we just can't win! If you keep holding out like this you're gonna drive yourself nuts!"

"Tim, sometimes you can be a real jerk," I curtly said, very disappointed then almost instantly sorry. "Look Tim, I'd rather be alone right now."

"So what you gonna do? Be a shut in for the rest of your life? Mope around to be what you're never gonna be again?"

"Trying's and flunking's way better than just packing it in and be a friggin' girl forever!"

"Better than being miserable all the time. Besides, there's nothing you can do about it."

"Well I'm gonna try! I might be a girl but I'm no wimp! I still remember what I was -- a fighter and a jock -- and I'm gonna fight like Jesus to get myself back!"

"Back to what? Your body's rotting away six feet under with my sister's bashed brains, remember? Jay, I really think you ought think about this."

I tartly snorted, feeling bitter and betrayed by the most unexpected source. Didn't he understand my feelings? "Why should you care? You hardly talk to me and mess around with me like we used to do. You don't know how important talking with someone like you my own age is instead of talking baby-talk with a tribe of little girls! Your mom's only happy seeing me watch kiddie shows and playing Barbie. She frowns if I talk my real age to her! I'm a grown jock like you, damnit! I'm into NHL and WWF, but now it's like you're pushing me into the Girl Scouts! We're still buddies, aren't we?"

Tim paused then rose. "Jay, I'm trying not to just be a big brother to you, but you're making it real hard. Why don't you think over what you're asking me to do now. You're my kid sister now. What would all the guys think -- heck, what would all the babes think if they saw me being best friends with my little sister, huh?"

For a moment I felt slighted, as though he was being disloyal and ungrateful of our former rapport, but his words started sinking in and humbling me. Soberly, I nodded, and feeling a dead weight sagging deep my chest I sank on the corner of my bed and, totally out of my control I felt myself tearing up like a lost waif.

"You -- You-- You're right, Tim. I...I'm sorry. I--I just didn't think....I--I feel so...so..."

I felt that flush of hopeless weakness wash over me; I hated that meek girly feeling but I was caught up in its turbid tide and all I could do was ride it out like a surfer or be tumbled totally senseless like by boiling breakers at a beach. I felt the bed sag and strong linebacker arms hooked around and braced my small slim shoulders.

"Hey, hey, it's okay, champ!" Tim perkily gibed, "I'm the asshole, not caring about what you're going through. Look, I'll try and spend more time with you on the sly, okay? We can do Gameboy and maybe slam dunk some in the backyard, okay? We can do video games together, like Helo -- er, like -- Mario, yea. That's not so violent right?"

My misty eyes cup canted up at him, and for some weird inappropriate reason I thought he'd the kindest most caring eyes in the world. The turbid wash inside me seemed to just evaporate like magic. "Really??"

"Sure, why not?" He said, grinning a grin that buoyed my heart. Suddenly it felt like we were buddy-buddy again, knocking shoulders just like old times and a smile mustered to my lips and twinkled my eyes, and suddenly his eyes seemed to widen back at me and they felt like caves of soft warm darkness for me to cuddle inside tiny and safe and cared for within my best friend's soul. It was a weird wild notion, devoid of reason or bias or sense, and I must've looked dreamy-eyed or something to him because his eyes seemed intensely curious and awed before abruptly blinking aback and sheepishly breaking off.

"What -- what's the matter?" I asked with a puzzled soft voice suddenly feeling kicked out from a warm cabin in a winter forest. Tim seemed to lamely chuckle, as though waving off a wild troubling thought with white lies, yet was still in a hidden way still uneasily fascinated by me.

"Er...nothing...I mean...er, you know, I-- we, I never thought of it hard before, but er -- er -- you look a lot like that little girl from 'Universal Soldier,' you know?"

I felt my face flush and shyly brushed silky tendrils from my cheek. "Naw, I don't look that!"

"No -- cuter!" Tim laughed like a jabbing tease and my mild smirk blushed again. "Well, you are -- and that's a compliment, Beth. Look, like, I'm sorry if I've been ignoring you, you know? I'll make it up to you, okay?"

"You're going to read me bedtime stories."

"Better. Come on over with me to my game at Johnson. You know, against Bayside."

A queer ruefulness washed over me as I shook my head. "I can't go back there, Tim. It'd be like -- like visiting my grave. My old stomping grounds, my make-out hang-outs when I used to be someone special -- a real dude."

"Then I'll play for the both of us -- old buddy!"

"I--I don't think so."

"Hey, maybe you can't come out the field with me anymore, but I can use a cute lil' cheerleader on the sidelines!"

"'Cute'??" I blurted in dismay at the sissy label.

"Well, you're a girl now, aren't you? A little chick, right?"

"I try not to think of myself like that."

"Well, there's nothing wrong with you rooting me on; I mean, I can use all the soul boosting I can against those Bayside baboons!"

"Uh..."

"You're not going to let me down, are you?" he chuckled and squeezed my shoulders again and it felt so -- so warm and fuzzy being mashed against his shoulder so. He was so strong!

"A cheerleader??" I swallowed my pride with honey. "Aw...aw..alright."

"Good girl!" he cried with final squeeze then jumped for the door. "See you in ten!"

"Er, better make that fifteen. I gotta figure out what to wear," I said, feel strangely shy and excited as he winked and left me eerily thrilled. I still felt the pressure of his arms hugging me making me feel so secure and safe. Just like how he rescued me from a skull concussion weeks ago. I owed Tim so much, I could never repay him. Most guys likely would've just thrown up their arms and left me stranded in kiddie land playing tea with Barbie by myself. I really appreciated that regard, that consideration. Tim's really sticking with me when he doesn't have to, and in turn I was seeing a more caring and tender side to him I never saw before. It was nice and gracious and protective, and I felt myself tinkle at the notion.

Yes. I need to show him just how much I care, how much I appreciate him...

So how do I go about looking "cute"?

I looked over Bethanny in my mirror and dolled her up with my imagination into what some moms and neighbors thought made a cute little girl then forced myself into her closet and eyed over garments that in another life earned my indifference if not scorn. What was funny was that I didn't feel like I was picking out garments for myself but for Tim -- or rather, something to please Tim. I cared that much, and somehow, as preferred by my ego as they were, jeans and sweatshirts didn't fit the bill. Somehow weren't -- weren't winsome enough for a cheerleader look. I might really be guy but neither did I want to be taken for a tomboy sis to my best friend. I want to be special and make him smile and make him forget old Bethanny.

Forget Bethanny.

Yes, it was weird and nebulous notion, but it felt like that was my main drive and target in this house now for reasons still vague but deliciously compelling. Besides, somehow, in ways impossible as a guy, I had to repay him for caring and saving me so. I just had to!

Most of the few dresses hopeful Mrs. Tyler bought Bethanny went unworn -- after all, denim and ultra-casual was the style of modern kids today, but after checking the closet and raiding a few dressers I laid out on the bed a cotton teal jumper with a full pleated skirt and a canary blouse and lemon socks with frilly cuffs and brown penny loafers. I winced even as I gave them a semi-critical stand-offish nod;

'Yea, sissy as hell but they just might pull it off', I thought, and after my struggling male ego held its collective nose as I clumsily donned the alien garment, I checked myself in the closet mirror and saw cute looking Bethanny mildly nod with a terse shrug.

Not bad.

I torqued my hips some and the skirt with its crisply stiff underslip gently swirled, its hem nearly floating out a foot or so beyond my knees. Not quite cheerleader but at least something full and swirly-like their uniforms. Besides Tim likes chicks who wear skirts instead of jeans because it shows off their legs. Well, I might only be a kid but mine weren't all that bad! In fact with a little nips and tucks, Beth could be a cute little looker if she wanted to.

I mean, if I wanted to.

For some crazy reason I giggled with a coy thrill.

Yea, I make a cute pint-sized cheerleader for my best buddy pal! He'll be so proud of me again!

I took a comb and whipped my light brown hair "Farrah" fluffy like how Tim liked his dates to look then I paused with a wild whim at all the junior vanity cosmetics decked Bethanny's dresser. A feathery wisp of crazy temptations wonders flitted my male ego which bridled it off.

No way! Can't go that route! I might be caged in a kid chick's bod, but I'm not ready to turn in my macho membership yet! Damn! This freaking bod's 'mones and girly juices' gonna turn me sissy yet!

When I skipped downstairs Mrs. Tyler's jaw dropped. "Hi," I said.

"Bethanny! Is that you??"

"It's for Tim," I nimbly half-lied, "I -- just want to make him look good at the game."

"Well, I'm sure he'll appreciate your support! The old Beth only prissed up like that when we be bribed her dress-up to when her grandparents came by!"

For a moment I wanted to correct her; remind her that I was really a guy inside, not her lost daughter, but I could see the sparkle of pleasure in her eyes at something she never saw before so I stilled my pride to let her bask in the joy of her illusion.

Tim came downstairs in full football regalia and helmet in arm and whistled and grinned. "Not bad, Beth! Not bad at all!"

I blushed. "I just want to make you look good, Tim."

"Good? You might end up making all the chicks jealous!"

Ohhhhhh!

That just flooded my chest with warm honey that buoyed me on a wave crest of giddiness! I had to fight down the thrill and happiness bubbling inside me as I skipped alongside my super very best buddy along a very familiar route.

Returning to my "old" high school brought back sobering pines and memories. Even more than back home I felt like I was in the land of the giants because I once roamed and cavorted in these hallways and passages at an eye level almost two feet over my present head. As we came out the gym exit to the school field I spotted old buddies and chicks I once spent chilly nights with behind bushes and in the rear seat of borrowed cars. Chicks I'll never ball again. Unbelievable! I used to score chicks and touchdowns here, but now I'm not just in kiddie school but the ultimate Queen! Heck, how could fate be so cruel??

"Yo, Tim!!" called a hulky dude while Tim found me a front bleacher seat and I felt an irresistible pang of camaraderie as he and Tim did high fives.

"Yo, Frankie!!" I cheerfully cried out, half-turning my back to him and sticking out my open palm, but when it wasn't slapped I turned to face my team captain's puzzled face. I felt a hot blush and sank into my seat.

Tim lamely chuckled. "Er, she's just joshing around. Beth's really excited about us winning."

"Yea? Since when?" Frankie wryly uttered since Bethanny's dim regard of football and all the time Tim spent playing it hadn't exactly been glowing.

"I--I'm really trying to--to like it, Frankie," I said with a contrite mousy voice, lifting my eyes up at him. "I--I'm trying to grow up. I--really am."

"Er, Jay was teaching her all about the game before he -- you know," Tim said with feigned reverence. "He -- uh, really impressed her, you know?"

A look of critical amusement passed Frankie's face. "Yea? Well, I guess your looks ain't the only things' that's changed!" he said, slapping Tim's shoulder as a signal as he bounced out the field. Tim sighed.

"Sorry," I meekly said and Tim mildly smiled.

"No, I think he appreciates you being here. Kinda like a homage to Jay -- er, you."

"Sounds like I'm ready dead and buried," I glumly said and Tim said nothing, but instead gently petted my arm and donned his helmet and went out to play.

To see the teams huddle then line then scramble for ball, blocking and tumbling then the whistle, gathering off the grass and doing it all over like a giant chess game teether-tottering between goal posts brought back all too fresh memories and I imaged I was sitting on the bench, waiting for my turn to dash out and crunch some nuts and shoulders to jump and snatch the pigskin in mid-trajectory and stomping over heads and bodies for the touchdown--

Oh, those were the days!

Huh? Wait! Tim caught the ball! Awesome! Run, Timmy run! Yea! Run! Run!! Run! Jump over that guy! Yea, now weave! Excellent Tim! Go-go- go!! Ten years to go! Go-go-go--Touchdown!!

Whoopee!!!

"Little girl, you tryin' to cause an earthquake??" called someone behind me and I blinked and turned to see my bleacher section all staring down and chuckling at me. I had been hopping down and rooting, my full skirt flouncing and bouncing like a little cheerleader and didn't even know it! I blushed and sheepishly sank into my seat.

Geese! Was I flashing my damn panties too? How'd I lose my head like that??

After the game on the way home I couldn't help chatter and compliment Tim on his great moves. To me he'd done everything perfectly! I always knew Tim was a top athlete, but it felt like I was taking a whole fresh appreciation of him. All of him in little ways that were at once surprising and subtle.

"Geese, Beth, you're like a eager reporter at a Super Bowl game!" he clucked in a flattered way then he stopped and looked at me funny.

"What?" I asked and he seemed to smile as though fascinated by something.

"You're skipping like a kid in Disney World!"

"Skipping??" Geese, but I was! Like a real fairy fag...only I didn't feel so, Just -- so elated. I stopped and forced my stride into a macho march next my pal. "Er, I was just -- just trying to do a -- a victory dance, that's all."

"But we lost!"

"Yea, but -- not because of you. You were just -- just -- wonderful!" I said, feeling weird thrill doing it as though I never realized just how macho he was, especially since lost any manhood to compete with him by, and it seemed as though I saw Tim carrying on my torch for the both of us. He was my last true link to my former existence and I owed him so very much for keeping that memory alive. He was my closest buddy and yes, even a kind of hero now. I didn't really know what I'd do without him relating to me, caring about me, being a brother and buddy to me now in strange bubbly ways that were confusing and alien yet delightfully enrapturing. I wonder, after knowing him for long, how I could've ever missed it.

***

"Bethanny, stop gawking at your brother," Mrs. Tyler admonished while we were all watching TV and I blinked from my blank stare. Tim cast me a funny frown that made me blush and concentrate on my cheese macaroni, yet despite myself my pounding blouse keep shifting my awe to the corners of ears to bask in the glow of the husky hulk of my ultimate buddy.

***

The same thing happened at breakfast and Mrs. Tyler's voice was much chastising. "Sorry," I sheepishly murmured into my corn flakes.

"What's wrong with you, Beth?" Tim asked, as bemused as he was irritated. "You're making me feel like I got a pig up my nose!"

"No, it's nothing like that, Tim! It's -- It's ---!!" some sensible corner of my mind bit my rattling tongue and I sank back into my chair and stared my cereal bowl, nonplussed by my weird warm enthuse for my best friend and also feeling something faceless but unspeakably damning about it.

***

On Saturday I trailed Tim out as he joined his team in Jake's car for a cruise. He saw his friends chuckle and he turned around to see me with surprise. "What's up, Beth?"

"Can't I just tag along??" I asked. Blushing, Tim stooped to eye-level.

"Beth, I'm going out with the guys!"

"I'll be quiet. You won't even know I'm there!" I almost whined and the team snickered

"Beth, we'll talk about this later, okay?"

"But--" I started to speak but he'd already hopped into the car and as they drove off I faintly heard someone say 'babysitter.' Something deep my chest crumpled as I watched the car turn a corner and disappear and as I turned it felt like ten miles to our doorstep.

How could he just up and leave me like that? We were best buddies! Real best best buddies!

I fought back a wild sniffle and trudged back inside.

***

"Bethanny -- get your knees off the sofa and stop gawking out the window like that!" Mrs. Tyler chided behind me and startled, I blinked from my aimless daze out the vacant street.

"I'm just -- peeking out the window for -- something."

"You've been 'peeking' for over an hour, young lady."

"A hour? No way! I just got here!" I sincerely said to her funny mild frown.

"Is something the matter, Bethanny?"

I shrugged and got up. "No. What's wrong? Nothing's wrong."

"You feeling alright, huh?"

"Already told you, I'm okay, alright?"

"Don't use that tone of voice with me, young lady!"

"Sorry. It's just...just...just that I'm a little...pissed at something, that's all."

"Care to tell me?" she asked and I shook my head and sulked to my room and grabbed Teddy and perched him on my lap.

"You're a real jerk, Timmy, know that?" I chided the bear.

Geese! I was really annoyed at being brushed off by Tim like that! I mean it really hurt like a crimp deep my ribs. Didn't he know how much I deeply respected him? How much I admitted to admiring him? How much I -- I needed him? I mean, we were best buddies! We ought be hanging around together more, especially now that I needed a kindred to help me through all these changes. Tim was my anchor and even my -- yes, my hero! I'd go anywhere with him, do anything with him! I basked in the memory of his tight comfy hug yesterday. I never knew admiration could have such breathlessly giddy bounds.

It was late when Tim returned and I beat him to opening the door, and for some reason I was all out of breath with bubbly anticipation. In fact, I felt so exuberant that I did a crazy impulsive thing. I jumped up to wrap my arms and legs around him.

"Tim! You're back!!"

"Er, yea, back," Tim almost stammered, hands instinctively propping my bottom as I hugged him for a few months then almost hastily the same hands reached for my tiny waist to draw me down. "Hey, what's up, Beth?"

"Can we mess around tonight?"

"What??"

"You know, some Gameboy and knock back a couple of Mountain Dews and chips or something?"

"Er, I'm kinda tired, Beth--"

"Please? Just for a little while?"

"Beth--"

"Pleeeeeasssee??" I half-whined, my eyes pouring my plea into his and he paused, looked uncertain and sighed.

"Alright, for a few minutes, but I gotta rest, okay?"

"Okay! Thanks bro'!" I happily called as he slogged upstairs and Mrs. Tyler stepped out as though she'd been there all along, arms crossed.

"You learn quick," she said in an oddly surprised yet admiring way.

"Learned what?"

"Getting your way with a man."

"Tim's no man! He's my -- pal!" I asserted but she look peculiarly doubtful yet pleased.

"Not even Bethanny -- my other Bethanny ever bothered tapping her feminine wiles like that. Just too tomboyish like most girls today."

I smirked. "I don't got any feminine wiles -- or feminine anything!"

"Don't be too sure, Bethanny. You're not Tim's kid pest anymore."

***

"Beth, will you look at the screen instead of my mug??"

"Huh, oh, sorry," I said, but too late because my X-Box race car crashed.

Tim groaned and got off the sofa. "Game over. I'm hitting the sack."

"Just another round, how 'bout it."

"We did six and you blew each big time by the second lap. You never did anything like that before when you were Jay."

I opened my mouth to tell him I still was Jay but somehow my tongue couldn't turn the words, so instead I just shyly giggled.

"I'm just having a bad day, that's all."

"Well, looked more to me like you were just doing the moves instead of doing the game, like you're losing it!"

"That's horseshit! I'm not losing anything! Here, I'll show you! Boot up again!"

"Good try, Beth, but I'm bushed okay?" he said and a mindless anxious spurt in me made me bounce before him.

"Please, Tim, another game? Like old times, please?"

"I don't think so, Beth," he muttered, the exasperation in his face triggering in me at first the dread that he'd get up and walk away the, as though subliminally reacting to that, something anxious and sly suddenly welled up in me. It was something that my guy mode would've ever conjured up, but like a wild whim of desperation it possessed me.

I dolefully sighed and hung my game controller between my knees. "I--I guess you're right, Tim," I said with a near rueful sigh. "I--I guess I'm losing it. I can't seem to aim this thing the way I used to. It feels like I'm holding a shoe instead of a joystick. Remember how I used to lash out at the screen with it whenever I aimed and zipped a bogey? Now, I'm afraid it'll slip out of my hand and break the screen!"

"Come-on, Beth! Thousands of kids use them without any problem!"

"But it's hard to break old holding habits. Can I show you?" I asked like a silent pleading pout. Don't ask how or why I thought that was the way to act.

"Sure," he sighed, and my teeth biting down my lower lip from a sly smile, I innocent moved before him and turned backed up between his gaping denim thighs as innocently as you please. I felt him stiffen a little as though from awkward surprise and I gathered that Tim and Bethanny didn't have much sibling contact. The sensation of Tim's sturdy knees bracketing my little cotton skirt rushed a weird excited thrill I could barely contain. Sure, after touchdowns we used to hug a lot like any victorious team, but this was different. Almost deliciously different. Boldly different. I felt like a soft tiny chick under the wings of a mother hawk. I could've berthed there all day and night feeling safe and cuddly --

As though spooked by my move, Tim shifted and jolted me from my momentary muse, and anxiously riding my wild whimsey to stop him from wholly backing away, my tiny left hand perched his right hand atop mine which was still grasping my controller.

"See, watch!" I said with total convincing innocuousness, my hand leading his docile one like a pony leading its idle rider as I brandished my controller and trigger button at the game screen, and behind me I felt Tim relax and even lean up, his face lower over my right shoulder.

"No wonder you're freaking! You're holding the grip too far back from the trigger!"

"I always held it this back."

"Sure, but your hand's smaller now so your finger's barely able to touch the trigger, see? Here, just relax your grip some. I'll show you how to adjust for that," he said, his huge warm hand shifting mine under it and with an eerie thrill I felt my hair brush his cheek as he crouched at my eye-level to the screen to guide me hand, all the while the near surrounding pressure of him beginning to elicit an almost suffocating sense of excitement and safety within me. I felt like tiny princess on the throne of my protector, his knees my armrests, his crotch my seat, and quite innocently I snuggled back further against him to bask his firm strong harbor. The sensation of peace and contentment overtook my senses and I closed my eyes and sighed to slyly indulge this awesome rapport. Then a funny thing happened. I vaguely heard a loud purr close by before I remembered the Tylers had no cat, then I sensed that it was vibrating from deep inside me, then I felt Tim shift behind me and I realized that my head must've been for a moment lolling on his shoulder as though I had dropped asleep or something.

Tim's hand almost flung mine aside and he firmly though gently shoved me away from him and he bounced up, giving me a funny brief glare as though searching for some impish look in me and finding none, shook his head.

"Tim--"

"You just -- practice by yourself, Beth, okay?" he near-stammered.

"But -- you were doing good showing me!"

"Yea, well I don't need to be that good," he half-snickered and bounded for the stairs.

"Tim, what's wrong? Tim??"

"Bethanny--" Mrs. Tyler appeared, frowning. "Just leave him alone for now."

"But I just want him to know that I -- I like his -- his company."

"Oh, I think he's gotten the idea."

"Why do you say it funny that way?" I asked but she only mulled me and sighed.

"Go to bed, Bethanny. No argument. Go."

Too perplexed to, I obeyed, and as I passed Tim's door I stopped and wondered what he was doing inside. Was he thinking of me? I felt that was important to know. I was about to knock before I heard his muffled laugh inside, like he was on the phone.

Crestfallen, I went to my room and grabbed Teddy and admonished and praised Tim in effigy.

***

"Where's Tim?" I asked coming down for breakfast. Mrs. Tyler turned from the dishes.

"He left early. Football practice."

"Without telling me? Where'd they go?"

"You're here to help me with the basement today, young lady."

My heart sank. How could've Tim just let me hang like that?

I haunted my bedroom window and the living room one all day until my heart leaped at the sound of a car horn outside.

Tim!!!

I breathlessly tore downstairs and almost tore the front door off its hedges to greet my best most caring forever soulmate buddies when a sight totally took me aback.

With Tim in the back seat -- on his lap for Pete's sake! -- was a fluffy blonde bimbo!

At the same moment a stone sank deep my chest I felt the roots of my tresses bristling like cat fur. They were laughing and she looked so giggly and cheap!

How could Tim lower himself so??

I was truly appalled and dismayed and just stood in the doorway watching them uncouple and Tim waved his booby friends good-bye as they drove off.

Tim was almost whistling coming up the walk, not even seeing me!

"Who's the bimbo??" I sourly asked and he blinked as though some happy daze of his missed the crisp tone of my little voice.

"Huh, oh, that's Karyn!" he cheerfully perked. "Ain't she nice?"

"For a stairwell quickie maybe," I quipped and he frowned.

"A little kid like you shouldn't be talking like that, Beth."

"Freak! I scored as many chicks as you, dude, so I know bimbos -- and that's a bimbo!"

"What's wrong; jealous of her boobs?" Tim cruelly quipped of my boyish chest. "Go back and play with Barbie, kiddo," he said, moving on past my dismay.

"But what about our game?"

"I don't do tea parties."

"I mean our Gameboy tournament!"

"Later!" he said with uncommitted finality slamming the door.

Tim was leaving me! Dumping me! For a -- a bimbo!!

It was just -- just devastating!

Rushed by a senselessly vehement sense of rejection and I threw myself on my bed and soaked the pillows with tears till there was no water left to douse the fiery ire welling deep inside me.

***

"You wanna do what?" Robyn asked and I innocently shrugged.

"Jessica's having a dress-up party where you gotta come dressed like you're all grown up, like a costume party!" I nonchalantly lied.

"I never heard of such."

"Well, you're way older and not into kiddie stuff! I just wanna look a teenager, you know? Mom -- my real mom -- used to drag me along to my cousin's pageants to help root for her in the audience, and it was unreal seeing all those eight and nine year-old girls looking like mini babes from a high school prom."

"Sure, with tons of makeup and fancy hairdos and expensive dresses most any kid could look like JonBenet, but are you sure?"

"That's what I want -- er, need. I wanna look just like a regular teenage chick -- like sixteen? Er, oh yea, you gotta act all grown-up too. I figured you can -- er, teach me that kind of stuff since you're -- er, way older than me," I beguiled and complimented and she looked thoughtful and shrugged then brightened to a challenge like I was an overgrown Barbie doll ready for the races.

***

I nervously left Robyn clucking at my make-over and waited in my room, every five minutes peeking out my window and chewing my new fake nails, my pounding padded chest jumping at every car passing the house before it settled down for me to continue to go over my moves and words for when I saw Tim.

Saw Tim looking at me like this. My best of all buddies seeing me looking the ultimate...ultimate...

Wait--!

Geese, why am I doing all this??

To get my friend -- my very best pal back, of course, idiot!

It was past twilight when I spotted Hank's convertible packed with dudes and their dudettes stop across the street, and from what I could see they'd already dropped Karyn off, thank God.

With stealth haste, I rustled hurrying downstairs, nearly tripping three times before I made the back door and paused at the head of the driveway. Tim was still gabbing with his friends! Nervous, I paced in the dark outside the garage door until finally Tim waved and the others sped off.

Oh God! Please make this work! I never schemed on a guy in my whole life, but everything hung on my flooring Tim dead and impressing him to making him see me as a peer instead of a little kid. Even if it shocks him at first! I mean, I was fresh seventeen years old! And if the only way Tim was gonna feel more at ease and level with me as a real friend was passing myself off as an older chick in his eyes, well my insanity deserved it! It's not like I feel hot and sissy to marry the guy for God's sake! He gives me warm bubbly feelings holding me and turns me delicious shy and breathless just looking at me, holding me, well so what! He's a great guy, sure, but to say that I feel about him in that same weak and soapy way girls do over rock stars is off the wall! Just dopey!

I bit my waxy coral-glossed lower lip and tentatively my heels clicked out the driveway s from the shadows but Tim spotted me all the way from the street.

"Who's that? Cindy??" he called, unsure, and in the storm of my mind I recalled one Cindy Miller who Tim used to go out with. She was a tiny petite bimbette with a pricey fashion sense. She left Tim for a dude who could better afford treating her things but he still had the hots for her.

Did I look like Cindy in our dim driveway?

"Cindy, that you?" Tim said with a hint of suave and hope in his voice and limbered step and as he approached me my padded bodice pounded. "Gee, Cindy I hadn't see you for a while! Nice looking! So how's things--huh??"

He stopped in his tracks about twenty feet away, bewilderment in his voice. "You're not Cindy! Who are you??" he asked, puzzled yet no less pleased by good fortune. I started to open my mouth but he moved up then froze.

"What the--?? Jesus H. Christ!" he blurted in appall and amazement, and suddenly I felt super foolish and sissy as his gawking eyes took in my full effect from my pompadour hairdo and earrings and string of pearls hanging in the breezy scalloped neckline of a tulle lavender flower girl dress nipped and tucked into a prom dress with its fake sock-stuffed bosom and sheer beige tights planted in two inch party pumps one size too loose.

Tim stepped up closer, gawking at me like a Martian. "Holy shit..." he near whispered in shock and awe. I tried to open my mouth to utter my lines but like a overstretched rubber band snapping I lost my nerve.

With a cry of dismay and humiliation I whirled and ran into the house and into the room, losing a pump all the way. I shut the door and sat on the bed, numb and foolish as hell. Maybe my stress and anxiety burned off the fem 'horms that had been soaking my brain because suddenly I felt more like old dude self than I had since the change, and that was just peachy! Of all the times to feel like a total dude again! All dolled-up into some pint-sized prom queen!

I heard the door knock and my heart jumped with dismay and shame.

"Beth, can I come in? Beth?"

"Go away!" I cried, my high voice almost cracking. I just couldn't let him see me like this! I'd die!!

"Beth, I'm not going to laugh, I just want to talk. Jay? Look, don't let me get a screw driver and open the door myself, Jay," he said like a last ditch hook to get me to move and numbly I got up and opened the door and almost shut my eyes returning to perch the side of the bed, feeling totally stupid, absolutely humiliated.

I could hear Tim pace slightly as though taking in my appearance in from every angle, utterly captivated. "Knockout!"

I soberly sighed. "Yea, pile on the fag."

"No, I mean it!. You're really really 'nice'! I mean, er -- er -- awesome! You look almost totally fifteen all dolled up like that, Beth! Hardly even look yourself at all!" he exclaimed as though somehow fascinated and relieved the same time.

"Like a JonBenet freak," I bitterly muttered. "Like I already am!"

"You're no freak, Beth. Not to me. You make an awesome chick -- er, when you're really grown up! You know, I'm kinda glad."

I lifted my head. "You are?" I asked and in some funny subtle way his expression seemed to stumble then recouped behind a propped grin.

"Er, yea, at least you're starting to accept yourself now. Sure, you kinda overdid it a little, but it's -- nice that you're getting over it."

I blinked, my abashment lifting to bewilderment, "Getting over it?"

"Sure! Being a girl, but not a kid. I can relate to that."

"You can?"

"Sure! Simple psychology! You're trying to act your age as a girl instead of just a little kid! That's okay with me if it works for you. Just make sure mom doesn't catch you running around outside all decked out like that. She'll chain you to your bed!" he said with a funny admiring grin looking over me that suddenly went sheepish and he rose in an odd awkward way keeping his front from me as he moved for the door. "Er, I better go."

"No, stay --please? Like the good old days?"

"That's just it, Beth. It's not old times anymore. You're my kid sister, not a jock anymore. I just can't relate to a -- kid sister the same way."

"But I'm more than any kid sister, Tim! We're pals! You're my friend! Closest friend! We're soulmates! We're knit together like these fingers! Pleeasse??"

"No Beth--"

"Pleeasee??..." My face cocked like a begging waif's while my eyes poured desperation and infinite regards into his eyes which seemed to widen if in surprise then a nonplused look that almost tore aside from facing me. "Tim??..."

He almost muttered in admonishing me; "Beth, don't do that."

"Do what?"

He looked up me as though seeing someone else, seeing something at once fascinating and damning at the same time. "What you were just doing. Don't ever look like that again."

"I was just asking you to stay."

"I don't just mean that. I mean the way you were looking at me saying it. Just don't do that anymore -- to nobody, understand?"

"But I didn't do anything!" I protested but he looked doubtful and double- timed to the door. "Tim? Tim? What did I do? Tim??"

I leaped before him and he tried to shrug me off. "Tim -- wait! Please!"

"Let go, Bethanny."

"No! Not yet! There's something I have to tell you! Something I've never told anyone! I -- I tried to -- to kill myself."

"Aw stop it!"

"I mean it! A couple of times I went into the kitchen to take a knife and slit my wrist!"

"You what??" he blurted, looking appalled and dubiously at any little girl even conceiving such thoughts.

"It's true! I swear. It was so rough after the change. I was fighting to stay me while this -- this ghost Bethanny inside me tried to turn me around into a girl. Back then my boy side was way stronger than it's now, and I tried to fight back and push it out of my mind, but it kept coming back just as strong trying to change me! It was horrible, Tim! I felt that lost everything being me! It's like -- like if you were in car accident today and woke up in a hospital and found out that they cut your dick off, would you wanna live? Would any of you guys??"

Tim looked mullful then a tweak of empathy crept into his face and voice. "I...I was gonna say that...that it's different. I mean, girls don't have any dicks to lose. Least real ones don't."

He didn't understand!

My legs seemed to collapse under me and I did a pratfall on the carpet, a dam of tears cracking to break. "Then I -- I lost you, Tim! I -- I really lost you! You were -- were the last thing that -- that made me feel like a guy, who helped me remember, who kept my spirit up, but now I've nothing else to hold on to! Jay's going fade away and Bethanny's going to shine over my grave."

"Come-on, that's exaggerating--"

"No, it's not! Everything that made me me will be gone, twisted into things and feelings and memories I never really had or felt. Worst than scooping out a piece of my brain, and worst even more worst -- I won't know any different! Jay will just be a bad dream to me -- if that, and you'll be able to relax knowing that you don't have to play pal with your sister anymore! Because -- because my mind...my -- soul will be -- be warped dead! Like my real body is rotting down that hole! You'll look in Beth's eyes but it won't be Jay anymore looking back but a sister we never had. You'll have your Beth back, all girl and prissy and cute and -- and --!"

The dam broke and I uncontrollably cried at my looming psychic death sentence. Vaguely I felt strong arms scoop under me and effortlessly lift me off the floor and cradled me up against his chest while a hand smoothed down my head, and even my coughing sobs subsided under the touch I felt that familiar swell of safeness and caring envelope me. Vaguely I heard a voice softly cooing assurances in my ear that only exasperated the muddle of churning feelings inside me as something else overtook my angst and despair. Feelings like heavy pangs of forbidden wistfulness welling from the cockles of my chest and flowering out to every fingertip and toe. My best and only other was cradling me in the nest of his strong arms and all my former male hang-ups of being so helpless and weak wafted to the still glow around us as I felt warm contentment swimming inside me bubbling over, and was unashamed and bold and anxious to erupt the unadmitted feelings I buried like a volcano.

While Tim was still stroking my hair I lifted my head and gazed up his eyes and suddenly his seemed caught and trapped in them, and for long moments I didn't sense time or self or anything. Only Tim's eyes beholding me, wavering and quivering as though refocusing on me anew while buffeted by skittishness and wistfulness. I felt our mashed chest pounds syncing into mated thumps turning into musky throbs. I only knew Tim's sweet closeness and swaddling pressure and tender eyes; the greater universe didn't exist. Almost imperceptibly, I felt my cradle slowly rise to saw his perplexed yet somehow bold expression harden like his eyes were turning tables to tame mine and to my core I felt myself happily weaken and become clay in the mold of his arms. Some mindless instinct made my feathery eyelashes knit shut and slacked my jaw so that my lips partially went agape with pounding breathlessness as I felt my body rise further--

VROOOOMMMM!!!!!

I felt my ascent freeze just shy his chin and my cradle shudder under the boom of some jerk's hot rod booming past out the window. I wasn't the only one startled, and to my sinking dismay I felt myself almost being dropped to the floor.

"Fuck!!" Tim swore aloud, vehemently shaking his head and backing off from me like a big hot potato, nearly crashing through my door in wresting it open and vanishing, leaving me stunned and totally aswim in bewilderment and delicious wild wonder a few moments before my door opened again and my heart jumped as Mrs. Tyler came in.

"My--my! This is quite a sneak preview! Looks like I'd better start saving for bars on the doors and windows after you turn twelve!" she quipped to my humbled blush aside and she sat next to me while I stared at my instinctively properly huddled beige-filmed lower thighs and knees.

"It's--it's not what you think. Honest!" I stammered then failing to admit it though I sensed that her maternal instincts saw through me like glass, and shook my head. "I must be a fairy fag to be so crazy."

"No. You were trying to win your best friend's attention back, though I don't think most sisters would take the rival route to curry favor with their brothers."

I blushed. "It's -- not like that! I -- I just wanted to -- to make him pay more attention to me if he thought I was as old as he is again."

"Hon, you're dressed to kill, not negotiate!"

"Because I -- I know the kind of girl he has fantasies about. I just wanted to look so -- attractive to him that he'd over look that I'm a little girl."

"Or his sister."

"What do you mean?" I asked and she seemed to pause as thought tactfully measuring her words in a minefield.

"After watching the way you've been acting...there's only one reason why you did this against your grain."

"Why?" I asked, fascinated that she could know better than myself and she paused as though about to related a forbidden notion then faced me.

"A very young girl acts moony-eyed and awkward toward another boy for only one reason, God forbid...you've got a crush on your own brother."

I blinked aback. "A crush?? On Tim??"

"I think you know I'm telling the truth, Beth. Part of it's gratitude for saving you from Jack and another part's your long lingering affection for him."

"Affection?" I snorted yet wondered.

"Well, in that so-called 'buddy bumping' way...but now that you're a girl, that the close friendship Jay had for Tim would only change into the type of feelings boys can't admit for another but girls could."

"Are you saying that I -- I have the hots for my very best pal??" I blurted like scoffing at late news, yet that response felt almost guiltily hollow.

"Not real love. Maybe puppy love, but the sentiment's as intense I suspect, and dangerous too."

"Dangerous?"

"Yes. As wild as it is in them, infatuation in very young girls is tempered by naivete and inexperience. You were once a seventeen-year-old young man, whose experiences and greater maturity now dwells the brain of a young girl with all its hormones and female wiring and inner instincts. An infatuated little girl wouldn't try to pass herself off as being older or the age of her crush, but you thought that you could get Tim to overlook your age by looking and acting older, didn't you?"

"I...I...I didn't really mean...I mean, I--I didn't know I felt that -- that heavy about him. I don't even know how I really feel about him or me or anything! Honest!"

"I believe you, hon. I think there's less romance than guile going on here; a desperate but innocent attempt to capture an admired friend's attention, but you have to start to handle your new instincts and impulses better now, Beth. It's bad enough you're underage looking like a tenth-grade glamour girl, but you're trying to vie for your own brother, and we simply can't have that."

"But he's not my brother! Not really!"

"But he is, Beth. In blood and law."

"I -- I was just -- just...trying to be -- be friends again, honest."

"You have to be a little sister, Beth. I mean really be a little sister know," she warned me with an ominous edge lowering her voice. "I saw Tim leaving your room, and saw the awed expression on his face. Saw his..." She paused, shifted. "I -- I trust Tim...but he's only still a child. A very mortal maturing child. And you just gave him a glimpse that not only does the Bethanny he grew up with no longer exists, but he's seen a very different young woman emerge from her person. An attractive girl-woman who hardly resembles his sister..." She paused, trying to be tactful. "Bethanny -- Jay, it's important that he only perceives you as a child, not a hidden nymph who can bloom into a bombshell with some clothes and cosmetics. Understand?"

Nonplused, I only politely nodded. "I...I'll try, ma'am."

"You have to better than try, Beth. A lot. Tim's not going to want to hang around a kid sister no matter how much you want his old friendship back, but if you don't look or act like one to him, both of you will have very slippery excuses to take this a very wrong way. Understand?"

"I think so. Yes, ma'am," I said and she eyed me then soberly nodded and patted my knee and stood up and moved to the door then stopped.

"I'll talk to Robyn to see that these precocious makeovers never happen again. In the meanwhile, Beth, I want you to start wearing pigtails and full dresses and jumpers and Maryjanes. Also, I want you to talk like Jessica and Bethanny's friends talk. I want you to emulate them to a 'T.' I want you looking like the child your calendar says. I want you to be all of nine because you're still closer to eight than ten. I want you to remind Tim of that. Of your truth. Understand?"

I didn't like it but there was grim concern in her voice. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good Bethanny. I'm trusting you now. A lot." she ominously voiced then left.

I looked in the mirror and like I had after Robyn was through with me I beheld someone else. Bethanny dolled-up and painted up into a high school freshman's dream to he point I hardly resembled Bethanny at all. Even I was awed by my reflection, and that was with my guy mind steeped inside the tenderizing juices of a girl's brain. I wonder how Tim must've felt to see me so, the truth of age and affinity suspended like a fantasy.

That funny way he left the room, keeping his back to me, almost a though he was hiding something shameful up front and--

It hit me like wonder and I burst out giggling.

No!

He was hiding a hard-on??

Over me??

But then, Mrs. Tyler said she noticed something odd besides his expression too when he left my room!

Wow!

I was giggling with flattery then faced the coy mini-chick in my mirror.

Yea, I can imagine how Tim felt -- and what's worrying Mrs. Tyler.

Imagine! I turned Tim stiff like his favorite babes did! What a concept!

Was I really that hot?

I tittered at the crazy vain notion of my new invisible powers over men.

Of course, provoking that reaction from Tim wasn't really my intent, but the realization I had was awesome! In the driveway Tim was coming on to me like his chicks, not like some kid sister...and a few minutes ago he totally forgot I was his sister...and I forgot who I was in a very dangerous yet wonderful span of mindless breathless moments which I felt both shame and excitement just reflecting over. Tim's closeness had turned me into a meek vulnerable bunny as he carried me in his strong gentle arms yet I was happily amnesic of being a buddy dude of his, like it didn't matter another anymore. Only snuggling up in his care and protection forever did...

A crush?

On my best friend??

A guy??

But it must be so. I've never felt so head over heels over a dude before, God help me! Doing sissy things and acting crazy off-the-wall ways to gain his attention again, and in the process kindling awesome sensations inside me which I never dreamt having. Feelings still deliciously confusing and tingly and aching and cuddly and damning with brash sicko-fag impulses scathing my tattered male ego.

But if that was the only way me and Tim were to start afresh with my weird situation, then let it be. There was nothing wrong with feeling for him so, and if I really was scheming like a jealous girl for him, well I'll just have to. Tim already showed I could override his brotherly scruples with a sister so I'll just have to do it again on the sly. I had the queer exciting smug feeling that Tim would do almost anything I asked once I was in "teen mode", so I'll help him get over any lingering hang-ups about knowing the new me. Mrs. Tyler's order that I step down and act like a kid from here on royally sucked. I'm not her daughter anymore -- or Tim's sister.

And in a strange new coy giddy way I couldn't pin down, Timmy wasn't merely just a best buddy anymore.

I peered the glamourous chickette in the mirror and she critically, almost cutely nodded;. They're right; she hardly looks Beth at all, being super dolled-up so! From "cute" to "nice", right? Yea, Tim's amnesic enchantment sure said it all! Karyn, hang it up girl!

The chickette giggled victory along with me, feeling so sassy and sly!

With feminine wiles?

We giggled like scheming twins.

Yea, a little makeup and junior threads could make Tim overlook a lot of things! Still, I gotta tone down her style some while pumping up a normal tiny teen look like lots of ultra-petite freshmen girls, and once I get the hang of strutting like one, my best and only other won't tell us any different.

Or care...

fin?

  

  

  

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