Crystal's StorySite


My Cherie Amour

by Angela Rasch

(This story was posted for a short time on Storysite under the author name Jill M I.)


"The least deviation from truth is multiplied later a thousand fold." – Aristotle


The University of Minnesota initiated a study in 1986 of over eight thousand twin pairs. As part of the study, they compared the similarities in personalities of identical twins reared apart, and identical twins reared together. Their conclusion was that identical twins reared away from their co-twins seemed to have as a good chance of being similar in terms of personality, interests, and attitudes than one who is reared with his or her co-twin. This would seem to say that nature has a much greater hand in determining who we are than nurture.

However, by studying the characteristics of the spouses of identical twins, the researchers found that the choice of mate is a random affair, not strongly influenced by genes or upbringing. It would seem the person we end up with is determined by a kind of lottery, by whom we happen to be near when Cupid's arrow strikes.


Chapter One


"My, what beautiful needlepoint." The waitress, a lady Mom's age who I had never seen before, smiled at my twin sister as she felt her dress. Mom was alert; she had put down her menu when the lady reached toward Lee, ready to defend. A bright yellow tag pinned on the waitress' dark blue dress said, "Have A Waterman's Day." Eating ice cream at Waterman's was fun, but I couldn't imagine what you would do in a restaurant for an entire day?

Waterman's was in the only mall in Wayzata. People from Minneapolis drove the fifteen miles to our suburb to shop at the stores that lined Wayzata Bay, the biggest bay on Lake Minnetonka. The streets were filled with Lexus, BMWs, Porsches, Hummers, and the easily agitated people who drove them. We were surrounded by people eating Waterman's Saturday special: freshly baked cinnamon apple pie and ice cream.

"My name's Susan. I'll be your waitress. Do you know my Stephanie? She's in the second grade at Carlson Lake." Lee and I were in the fourth grade at a private school called Morgan. The only kids we knew from the public schools were the ones on our soccer team. Lee looked to Mom to answer, as I squirmed in my chair, trying to find a comfortable position.

Mom was the prettiest person in the shopping center. Her face was freckled from swimming with us every day for hours in our pool. Most of our friends at school spent their summers at their lake cabins. Mom preferred the comforts of our own home. She didn't want us to miss things or spend wasted hours in the car going back and forth. She also didn't want us to swim in pollution or at a public pool. She had built a pool at our lakeside home.

"They're in the fourth grade," Mom said. She never gave out too much information. "Where do you get your hair cut? I love the way it looks in back."

The lady blushed, touched her hand to her hair. She pressed close to me chatting with Mom about the advantages of shorter hair. Her perfume was the romantic kind I would wear, if I were a girl.

"What's the special occasion?" The waitress asked Lee. "Why are you wearing such a nice outfit on a Saturday afternoon?" Lee had begged Mom to allow her to wear her special dress. Our soccer match had been at eight. Lee had spent the rest of the morning bathing, painting her nails, and having Mom fuss over her hair. I had changed right out of my soccer uniform, and then into the same clothes I had worn to school on Friday. My knees, hidden by my pants, were still green from sliding in the grass. I could have played football as a ten-year old, but Lee and I rarely did things as individuals that we couldn't do together.

"We've been to the children's theatre at the Guthrie," Lee said. She wasn't shy about talking with strangers, if Mom was around. When Dad had been alive, he had taught us to keep our distance from strangers.

"Didn't you want to look nice today?" The waitress had turned her attention and comments toward me. I thought I looked nice, but I knew exactly where she was going. Other people had made the same error as the waitress. "Don't you like to wear dresses? Or, did you get tired of wearing the same clothes as your twin?"

Mom never came to my aid when people mistook me for a girl. Any other time that one of us was embarrassed or threatened, she would spring into action. However, when I had to explain why I wasn't wearing a dress, I was always on my own.

"Hi," I said, sticking out my hand for her to shake. "My name's Zack Blake." A person named Zack couldn't be a girl. I refused to be ashamed of what other people thought of me.

"Hmmmm, Zack," the waitress winked at my mother, who remained mum. "I would think you would call yourself Tom. That's okay, Sweetie. I was a tomboy, too. My Mom tried *everything* to get me in dresses and curls. We used to have some knock-down-drag-out fights. Now, I wouldn't think of leaving the house without my face painted and my nails polished. You wait and see, it'll happen to you, too. Now, what can I get you?"

I opened my mouth to set her straight about my gender, but decided it wasn't important. I slid the saltshaker from hand to hand, back and forth across the tabletop, as I answered her. "I'll have a chocolate banana surprise sundae with extra whipped cream." There wouldn't be any surprise for me in the sundae. We had been to Waterman's once a month for as long as I could remember. The chocolate ice cream had M&Ms buried in it. "Could I also have a cherry coke."

"Sure you can, Cutie. Hmm - ch erry Coke. Uhm ... Cherie ... now that's a name more suited to you. Wouldn't you rather be called Cherie than Zack? Zack's such a yucky name for a girl." I looked to Mom for help, but she was studying her menu, and didn't seem to hear. Lee came to my rescue.

"His name is Zack, and it's a perfectly nice name," Lee said. Lee did look nice in her dress. Mom said she should wear blue as much as possible to match her eyes. She had clip-on earrings, and a matching sapphire necklace. Even with her jaw set as it was, she was the best-looking girl in our school.

The waitress allowed the grin on her face to grow into a huge smile. It was the kind of smile people get before they let you know how ignorant you are compared to them.

"Identical twins are always the same sex," she said. "Fraternal twins can be different sexes, but identical twins have to be the same sex." She looked at my mother, who smiled at her, unperturbed by the lesson that stranger was teaching us. The waitress became more enthused, raising her voice to share her intelligence with more people in the restaurant. "Your father decided your sex. Then your mother's body split you into identical twins." That was sex education -- Waterman's style. "Do you want a chocolate banana surprise sundae with extra whipped cream, same as your sister?"

People always assumed we were identical twins. We had the same yellow hair, same blue eyes, same face, similar hands, and were both small for our age. Sometimes we could even fool our cousins by swapping clothes. Lee had a small mole on her right cheek that allowed people who knew us to tell us apart. Lee and I would use an eyebrow pencil to make me Lee-for-a-day. Mom always could tell, but never let on until after we had had our fun.

"I'd like a glass of one percent skim milk, and a strawberry yogurt triple-scoop cone," Lee said. "We're not identical twins. We're polar body twins. One of Mom's single unfertilized eggs split in two. Then the separate egg parts were fertilized by separate sperm. Polar body twins can be a boy and a girl, like us."

The tables around us became very quiet. My sister looked like a princess in her dress and white tights, with her hair tied in a pink ribbon that she said matched the pastel blues in her dress. It seemed like the adults around us would have preferred she hadn't used words like fertilized and sperm. Mom was always truthful with us when we asked about such things, even though she wouldn't allow us to take sex education at school.

"Polar bear twins?" The waitress expressed her skepticism and took some time to carefully choose her words. "Don't you two have active imaginations? You must have your hands full with twins. One girl thinks her name is Zack, and the other thinks she's a polar bear." The waitress's chuckle was joined by laughs from several others. If it had been a big deal to me, or Lee, I might have got indignant. Mom had taught us to care only about what mattered ... and then only about those things we had control over.

"I'll have a single-scoop of vanilla yogurt in a dish," Mom said, as she collected the menus from us, and handed them all to the waitress. I wanted Mom to tell the woman about all the work Lee and I did around the house. She seemed to think Lee and I were trouble. It bothered me that she was questioning our ability to help Mom.

I did all the heavy work, taking out the garbage and things like that. Lee helped Mom with the girly stuff, like cooking and cleaning. I had to help Lee sometimes, but mostly I kept busy doing my kind of stuff. I knew Mom wouldn't give a stranger all those details about our home life. Mom guarded our privacy. Lee and I couldn't even have friends stay overnight.

The waitress left - - taking with her all her talk about me being a girl. I got enough of that at school. When the teachers weren't around, Buster loved to sing-song, "Zacky, Zacky, Zacky - - girly/boy is wacky!"

Buster had a tough time in school. He didn't read as well as the rest of the kids, and that made him feel bad. He didn't have to take it out on me, but that was just how things worked out. I knew a time would come when Buster and I would be friends.

Some of the kids in school thought it was weird that I wasn't in physical education. A skin condition forced me to wash my body with a special soap, so I couldn't take showers at school. I could wash my hands with any old soap, but not my body. My skin condition also stopped me from staying overnight at other boys' homes.

Lee got to take an occasional overnight, because she didn't have a skin problem. However, because of Mom's privacy rules, Lee's friends never stayed over at our house.

It was chilly in the restaurant even though it was a perfect day outside. Lee had goosebumps on her arms. Girls' clothes aren't as good as my boys' clothes for making you comfortable.

"Isn't that Joshua from your soccer team?" Mom asked. Lee turned pink. She had a crush on Josh. He was the first boy she had shown any interest in. It was odd seeing her react like that, and not knowing what she was thinking. Most of the time we could finish each other's sentences, and we hardly ever argued about anything, as we thought so much alike.

"That's Josh," I said. I waved to Josh, and he waved back. He didn't ever pick on me, although he was a friend of Buster's. Josh was pretty cool. If I were a girl, I could probably like him the same way Lee does.

"I thought it was Josh," Mom said, "but I wasn't certain. There've been so many new families moving into the area. No one appears familiar any more.

"Mom, I'm going to rake our yard when we get home," I said. "If I rake our yard, Mrs. Ricard's, and the Gregoire's, can we have a bonfire?" Mrs. Ricard was getting too old to do a lot of tough work. I sometimes cut her lawn for her as a surprise; then she would make brownies and things for me. I also cut the Gregoire's lawn for the fun of it. I liked working outside. They tried to pay me, but that wouldn't have been right, I was only doing it for the fun. Mrs. Gregoire came to the plays Lee and I put on. She was our biggest fan.

Lee and I wrote, produced, and starred in our own plays. Most of our plays were about people in love. They required some hugging and fake kissing. We made our own costumes, and would get three or four of the kids in the neighborhood to be actors with us. At first, I thought sewing was girls' work, but after awhile it really became fun.

"If you pull the leaves into a pile by the fire pit, we can burn a few of them. We have to get a recreational burning permit from the city, but we can burn a few just to have that smell. We'll put the rest on our compost pile."

Mom went to use the ladies' room. A short while later, Lee turned around in her seat to look for Josh and carelessly placed the arm of her dress in her ice cream. When she noticed it, her eyes started to tear.

Mom was surprised to find Lee upset when she got back. I was afraid that Mom was mad at Lee, so I spoke up. "Mom, I'm sorry. I accidentally pushed Lee's arm into her ice cream. It wasn't her fault."

"Zack," Mom said. "I saw what happened as I was walking back. You're developing a bad habit of telling fibs. I love it when Lee and you are honest. It's one of the special things about you two."

As we left the mall we saw several new stores. Things were always changing around town. Nothing ever stayed the same very long.

That night after Lee took another bath and I took a shower the three of us were cuddled together on the couch. Mom talked to us about our sleeping arrangements. "From now on the two of you will stay in your own rooms at night. You're getting too old to sleep together."

Lee and I had bedrooms joined by a door that had never been closed. We had slept together for as long as I could remember. A few years before, I had started wearing Lee's nighties, so we could look alike in our sleep. Mom must have noticed. She always bought two of whatever nightclothes she purchased. Two pajama sets with cowboys and two nighties with Cinderella on them. Unless one of us was sick, we always slept in each other's arms. We had chosen our light blue nighties for the evening.

It would be tough to quit sleeping with Lee, but sometimes change is necessary. Lee looked to me with a nod, indicating she had accepted what Mom had said. So had I. However, I wanted to make sure I wasn't being punished.

"I'm sorry, Mom," I said, "about the lying in Waterman's." I didn't know why I had protected Lee. Mom never, ever punished us beyond a slight reprimand, and some positive suggestions for improving our behavior.

"Zack," Mom said, after she explained to us that her decision about us sleeping together had nothing to do with anything that had happened in the restaurant, "life is complicated enough without having to sort your way through a nasty web of lies." She smiled and kissed me, as I promised to myself that I would always cherish truth as much as she did ... at all times.


Chapter Two – Eight Years Later


"There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth, not going all the way and not starting." - Buddha


"Why today?" Lee asked, as she iced her ankle. It was about twice its normal size and taking on an angry color.

Our Saturday morning had started very promising with clear skies and spring temperatures. Lee had slipped getting out of her morning shower. She probably had been thinking about the 10K race scheduled for that afternoon. Lee normally finished at the top of her age group. It was our last race before our high school graduation.

Running was our thing. Lee had been attracted to it first. I got involved to spend more time with her, but quickly loved it as much as she did. Even though we were smaller than most of our classmates, we both had long legs, which helped a lot.

"This was going to be my last chance to beat Amber Logan on our home course," Lee said. Amber Logan had beaten Lee twice by over a minute on the Lake Minnetonka cross-country trail. When they ran against each other on other courses, Lee normally beat Amber by at least a minute, sometimes more. Neither Lee nor I could figure out how Amber did it. Other than the flatness of our home course, there was nothing special about it that would make Amber run so well.

We were members of the Tonka Bay Yacht and Runners' Club. Most of the members were more into sailing than running, but the two sports seem to co-exist well. You had to be fit to be a good sailor. Runners seemed to appreciate nature, like sailboat enthusiasts. The stinkpot crowd on the lake tended to be heavy drinkers, more interested in partying. Most of the members in the club were friends. There was warm competition, but nearly everyone felt running was about challenging yourself.

Men and woman of all ages ran together in road races, although champions were crowned in each age group for each sex. Lee and I normally ran the races shoulder to shoulder. The first few times we ran a 10K we tried to beat each other. Our times were always within five seconds - one way or the other. It was more satisfying to run together, and finish side by side. Our best finishing time of around 37:30 was excellent for Lee, and about average for a boy of eighteen. I had never finished higher than fifth in my age group.

Lee and I had just got back from the emergency room, and were sitting at our kitchen table. The X-rays hadn't shown any broken bones, but there was no way she could run. Mom was off doing some important errand, and wouldn't be home until late in the evening. I would probably skip the race altogether. It wasn't important to me, if Lee wasn't going to run.

Tears of disappointment trickled down her face as she tied the ice in place with an ace bandage. She rocked from her waist trying to console herself. There was nothing in the world I hated more than Lee's tears. The race would start in two hours. There was only one thing to do.

"The doctor said you should take a Vicodin tablet, elevate your leg, and sleep," I reminded her. I helped her to her room, waited ten minutes before I took off the ice pack, and closed the drapes. Sitting on the edge of her bed I held her hand until she started to nap. As I left her room, I took her running bag.

Even though it had been several years since the last time we had dressed as each other, I still knew how to make myself look like Lee.

I was still waiting for puberty to kick in fully. Mom told me the doctor had said I could start growing a beard at any time. My slightly pear-shaped body was a lot like Lee's, except she had developed breasts. I crept back into her darkened room and took one of her bras from her drawer.

Her running gear fit me like a glove, once I strapped on her bra and stuffed tissues in each cup. For the past year or so, my body had been depositing fat on my chest. With tissues in each cup, I actually was a bit bigger than Lee.

Lee didn't wear much makeup. I dabbed on some of the brown foundation she used and stroked my eyelashes with her mascara. Using an eyebrow pencil, I added her mole to my cheek and smeared on some of her pink lipstick. I was amazed how much whiter my lips look with a little lipstick and how much friendlier my face became.

Lee always used nail polish, so I did my nails. She and I had played with nail polish many times as kids, so that was nothing new. I spritzed a little of her trademark Charlie perfume in the air and ran through it toward the door. I took Lee's purse in case I would get stopped for some traffic violation. Lee would have to take the rap.

Strangely, I was calmer than I normally was, as I took my place with the approximately four hundred other runners. A few of the other members from our club asked where Zack was. I told them he had sprained his ankle.

My plan was to run with Amber toward the front of the pack. When the gun started, I sprinted with the leaders for the first three hundred yards of the 6.2-mile race, before settling into my normal running pace. I could see everyone in front of me and didn't see Amber. I revised my strategy to run at my normal pace, and then waited for her to pass me. I was confident that if I then stayed on her shoulder, I could out-sprint her at the end. Lee would have her victory. It was fair and just, as Lee and I were such equal runners. Lee had worked hard for a win over Amber.

The day was cloudless, with temperatures in the low sixties. The only fault (other than Lee not being there) of an otherwise perfect day was the straps from Lee's bra cutting into my skin. I couldn't imagine wearing one of those things fulltime.

The thoughts in my head seemed to be amplified. About a mile into the race, guilt and fear came over me. I was going to be humiliated if anyone realized what I was doing.

The racing gods must have wanted to punish me for my dishonesty, as I had a stitch. A stitch is caused when the stomach rubs against the diaphragm. There are several ways to cure a side-ache. One is to quit running, which because of Lee's tears was out of the question. The second method is to hold your arms above your head, also out of the question given how much it would have slowed me down. The last, and the method I chose, was to breathe out through my mouth forcing the air against my lips. It was almost like whistling without producing a sound.

After a few minutes of that I was glad I was wearing lipstick, as I would have chafed my lips. The stitch went away leaving me with my guilt - - - and my pride at doing something for Lee.

I loved the part of the race when I could run on my toes - - the sprints at the beginning and the end. The rest of the race I had to be sure to strike the ground first with my heel and rock through to my toes. If I ran too far on my toes, my leg muscles would bunch and grow stiff. Tight muscles are the enemy of the long distance runner. Even for someone as puny as me.

During the middle part of the race I had to do everything I could to stay loose. I wiggled my fingers, and shook out my arms frequently, to keep my shoulders from tightening. Any tension would have gone all the way through my body to my legs.

Also during that long period from the first sprint to the closing dash, I had to be sure I was running as fast as I could without going into oxygen debt. It was okay to run my oxygen reserves down to nothing during the last several hundred yards, but in the middle part of the race that would have spelled disaster. It took tremendous concentration to run at exactly the right pace, stay loose, and keep proper form. When I ran with Lee, we would remind each other of what we had to do. Running without her and for her, I couldn't afford to let my mind wander.

I ran past all three water stations without taking water. Neither Lee nor I had ever mastered the art of drinking water, on the run, without choking.

Just past the two-mile mark, I got my second wind, and felt quite comfortable. I was running within sight of several runners that I knew would finish at close to the time I wanted to run.

The 3.1-mile marker was a cone. We had to slow down enough to do a one hundred and eighty degree turn. I hated out-and-back courses. The lactic acid in my legs always seemed to drop down when I went around those cones, making it harder to run.

I concentrated my efforts on heel-striking, as my natural tendency was to get up on my toes too much. Lee and I had taken modern dance for too many years for heel-striking to be natural for me.

About a half mile from the finish, I got a second, second wind. Runners say it has something to do with endorphins. I was pleased at that point that I had used Lee's perfume. Its aroma and the taste of Lee's lipstick reminded me what I needed to do. I put my head down and pulled with my arms toward the finish line.

I dug down to find the pureness of my love for Lee as inspiration. Beating Amber meant nothing to me personally. I didn't have a personal foe like Amber. There was no one I really, really wanted to beat. During the last four hundred yards I passed eight runners. I had set passing each of them as an intermediate goal to help me run my fastest. As I crossed the finish line, the digital clock read 37:12. I had clipped eighteen seconds off our personal best.

I bent over and grabbed my knees, sucking air back into my starved lungs, glad to be done, exhilarated by the accomplishment. My head rang with the familiar hollowness of post-race dehydration. I wanted to spit to clear my mouth of cotton, but I knew Lee would never do that. While I was searching the area for someone handing out the traditional Popsicles, I saw Amber chatting with Terry Comen. Terry was the best under-nineteen boy's runner. Amber looked too relaxed to have just finished. Something was wrong.

They posted the times as the runners crossed the line. I crowded into the bulletin board, and was shocked to discover that Amber had beaten me by forty-six seconds.

I thought about leaving before the awards ceremony, but I was bound by the knowledge that I was Lee for the afternoon. I would have to conduct myself as she would have. I found the Popsicles, and savored the comfort they offered. As Lee, I couldn't just find a quiet spot to rest, which Zack would have done. I had to mingle, and offer congratulations to everyone. As much as I found it distasteful, I had to hug half the world, and babble about nothing. That was Lee -- err, that was me.

I tongued the Popsicle as I had seen Lee do a hundred times, forcing myself not to bite at it, as I normally would do. When I finished my Popsicle, I dug in Lee's bag for her lipstick and freshened my lips. I had kidded Lee about how addicted she was to her lipstick, so I knew I had to do it.

An hour later, after all the runners had finished, and the times had been posted, it was time for handing out the trophies.

All the runners received t-shirts for participating. They started with the overall champions, and worked their way toward the under-nineteen group that I ran in.

Mrs. Certis, the oldest runner in our club, was the master of ceremonies. She ran six to ten miles a day, even in the worst weather. Rarely did she run faster than a ten-minute mile pace, but she was the most consistent of us all, and was loved and respected.

When Mrs. Certis announced Amber as the winner in our age group, and Lee as second place, a murmur went through the crowd. At first I thought that someone had seen through my disguise. Then a voice came from the back.

"I think Amber should disqualify herself." It was Peter Sohn. He was fifteen, but spoke with confidence.

"You're such an ass, Peter," Amber said. "I was the first girl in my age group across the line."

Mrs. Certis looked lost and baffled. Runners are normally extremely laid back people. Long hours of training, made us quiet and reflective.

"It's not when you got to the finish line, but how you got there, that I don't like." Peter wasn't backing down.

Amber looked angry. I would be too. Running is so hard. It wasn't nice for Peter to mock her.

"Peter's right. Amber should scratch herself from the race." That time Art Jensen spoke. Art was a banker, and one of the old guys, probably as old as thirty-five.

"Nonsense, Art. How dare you?" Mr. Logan, Amber's father, was always on hand for Amber's races. He was a proud father. Sometimes he was too proud.

"Mr. Logan," Peter said, "Amber took a shortcut. Art and I suspected she was doing something like that because of how much better she does on this course. I ran slightly behind Amber and wasn't all that surprised when she veered off the course just after the four mile marker."

"I saw her come out of the hedge at about five and a half miles," Art said. "By taking that shortcut, she knifed nearly four hundred meters off the distance."

"Is that true, Amber?" Mr. Logan asked.

"Ohhh, Daddy," Amber cried, as she threw herself into his arms.

Mr. Logan pried the trophy from Amber's hands, gave it to Mrs. Certis, and led his daughter away from the crowd toward their Hummer. Once they were out of earshot, Mrs. Certis turned to me.

"It appears this rightfully belongs to you, Lee." I smiled. The trophy did rightfully belong to Lee, as did a few others in Amber's trophy case -- trophies that probably would be tossed into the garbage later in the day by the Logans. It was too bad Art and Peter hadn't handled things in a more private manner. I felt bad for Amber.

"On a more positive note," Mrs. Certis continued. "The top three finishers in the under-nineteen girls' division all ran times that qualify them for the annual Falmouth Road Race. To build interest in road racing, the club has decided to pay your expenses, as the winner, to the Falmouth race. Included will be a week's vacation in Boston. Congratulations."

Lee would be so happy. Falmouth was the Mecca of road racing. All of the magical names from the past had raced there: Joan Benoit, Rod Dixon, Frank Shorter, and all the Kenyans. My eyes started to get moist, as I thought of how hard Lee had worked for this day.

Then it hit me. A week's vacation and all the travel expense had to come to a fairly large sum of money. Was it right for me to accept that prize, given the circumstances? I thought about telling them the truth. Given how vocal Art and Peter had proved themselves to be, what would they say about me? Maybe it was the probable humiliation, or maybe I really DID think I had run as Lee's true proxy. Maybe I could be Zack on the inside, and Lee on the outside. Maybe I could be two people at once. I kept my lipsticked mouth shut.

Lee was waiting for me when I got home. She took one look at me in her running suit and makeup, and knew instantly what I had done.

"I couldn't let you lose your last chance to beat Amber," I said.

"How'd I do?" She didn't look too upset. After she had woken up she had looked for her running bag to get another ace bandage for her ankle. She had guessed where I had gone.

"Amber beat you to the finish line, but you won the race."

I was clearing up what happened when Mom walked in the door.

"It appears I have two Lee's today."

"Lee sprained her ankle."

Mom took a while to fuss over Lee's ankle, which had gone down considerably, before turning to me for an explanation.

"I meant to do right ... I, ahh ... I couldn't let Lee down." I said.

My story sounded dumber and dumber, as I went through everything that had happened, including Amber cheating. What had seemed so noble, standing in for Lee, was exposed as utter nonsense by my mother, without her saying a word. Her eyes spoke volumes.

"Do you suppose that's why Amber cheated, because she couldn't let her father down?" Mom asked.

My mouth went dry.

"Zack," Mom said, "I know you were trying to do the right thing. You always try to do the right thing, and I love you for it. I can't really blame you, as I wasn't exactly the most honest person in the world today. I've spent the day trying to arrange summer employment for the two of you."

"Summer employment? I had hoped Lee and I would get to spend a lot of time together. With her going to college at Hollins in the fall, this summer will be our last chance to be together for a long time, maybe ever."

"I know you want to be together," Mom said. "That was the only reason I answered the ad in the paper. The ad called for two girls to be nannies for four children at a lake home this summer."

"Two girls?" Lee asked. "What would Zack do?"

"It had been my intent just to meet with the family," Mom said. "If they were acceptable, I was going to try to talk them into a boy and a girl." We nodded. "They were very nice. Wonderful people. Charming children - two girls, nine months and four - and two boys, eight and ten. They have a cabin up by the Boundary Waters. It's very remote, but they have their own tennis court, and access to a championship golf course."

"Sounds great," Lee said. "It's exactly what I need to get practical credit hours for my major." Lee was placing weight on her ankle, testing it as she spoke.

"Before I could say much, the woman went on and on about how wonderful it was I had twin daughters. She kept emphasizing how her boys and girls needed the feminine touch this summer. It sounded so wonderful I got carried away in the moment. I've accepted the job on your behalf. I didn't ever get around to telling her that I have a son and a daughter. It looks like Zack has a phone call to make to Mrs. Certis about withdrawing Lee from the race, and giving up the win. And, I've got a call to make tomorrow to Mrs. Thompson."

"Why wait until tomorrow, Mom?" I asked. I had accepted my fate. What had to be, had to be. I would call Mrs. Certis.

"Mrs. Thompson will be traveling by car to their cabin tonight to open it for the summer," Mom said. "Most of where she will be driving won't have service for her cell phone. I won't be able to talk to her until tomorrow morning. Say, are you hungry? I could really go for something?"

We all went out to the kitchen where Mom had Lee sit with her ankle elevated. Lee was walking almost naturally, but Mom wanted to be safe. We made a salad, and heated some pre-cooked, seasoned chicken breasts to chop into it. We ate a lot of salads. I was proud of my slim waist, even though it did seem a little high. I was still in Lee's tracksuit, bra, and make-up. No one seemed to notice or care. We went about the evening as we always had.

As we ate our dinner, Mom told us more about the Thompsons, their children, and the job they wanted done. It did sound great. Perhaps Mom could convince them I could do just as good a job as a girl.

At seven, Lee and I went into the library to call Mrs. Certis, while Mom finished in the kitchen. Mom had relented. She said that as long as Lee didn't accept the prize, and allowed the runner who had finished behind me to go to Falmouth, we didn't have to reveal the real reason Lee was withdrawing. Lee told Mrs. Certis that she wouldn't be able to run at Falmouth, as the race was in the first week of August, and our jobs would last into September. The incident was behind us.

After Lee got off the phone, she turned to me, "Are you sure no one knew who you were today?"

"Absolutely not," I said. "They all thought I was you."

"They're some of our closest friends." Lee had that look in her eye that kept me from reading her thoughts. "Let's have some fun with Mom. Let's really work on making you into my sister and see if she can still tell us apart."

"She'll know immediately," I said, "when she sees your limp."

"We'll sit on my bed with the covers over our ankles. Come on. We haven't played our switching game for years. It'll be fun."

It would have been hard for me to turn her down, already dressed in her clothes.

While Mom read in the study, we went about my transformation. In truth, there wasn't a great deal to do. I had so little body hair that a little Nair before I took my shower washed it away. The hair on our heads was about the same length, so it was a matter of some adjustment to hers and a little snipping here and there to mine. Lee plucked a few of my eyebrows to match what she had done to hers.

I had a little fuzz on my face, but hadn't started to shave. Lee used a depilatory to clean off what little facial hair I had.

The biggest problem was Lee's pierced ears. She solved that by having both of us wear clip-ons. Her earrings covered her holes.

I was amazed at what Lee could do with makeup to make our faces absolutely identical. Looking in the mirror, even I couldn't tell who was who.

Lee pulled out two nighties, and their matching robes. She found an old bra of hers that had some padding and added tissues so that our chests were identical. The nighties covered enough so that my Kleenex wasn't exposed.

The last thing she did was to redo my nails. "You did a decent enough job for road racing, but they would never stand up to Mom's scrutiny."

Once we were fully prepared, Lee called for Mom to come up to her bedroom. The two of us agreed we wouldn't say a word until she decided which of us was really Lee.

When Mom walked into the room she broke into a grin. "So I really do have two daughters after all. It looks like I won't have to call Mrs. Thompson." Mom came close, and walked around the bed. As planned, our ankles were under the comforter. She starred into our eyes, looked at our hands, and peered at us like a Major inspecting her troops -- looking for a reason to give us both demerits.

"I'm supposed to say which one is Lee, and which one is Cherie?" She asked. Since we were about ten, the name I used in most of the plays we wrote when I had to be a girl was Cherie. It was a name a waitress had called me. "One of these days, you two will realize Lee has sky blue eyes, and Cherie has blue sky eyes. Mon Cherie," she said as she kissed me lightly on the cheek. "Lee, you look sweet, too." She kissed Lee as affectionately.

"Did you really have a hard time telling?" Lee asked.

Mom nodded. "You look more alike now than you ever have."

We both smiled. She couldn't have paid us a bigger or better compliment.

"Cherie," Lee said, "you're great with kids." Lee and I had worked as aides for an after school latchkey program. We worked with kids ages six through eleven. "Why don't we take the job this summer? You can work with the boys, and I'll take care of the babies." She was leaning into me, as we sat next to each other on her bed. When Lee wanted me to do something, she made as much physical contact as possible. If we had been Siamese twins, she would have gotten her way all the time.

"As sisters?" I asked. I couldn't believe she was suggesting it. Lee was always so conservative. She wasn't a risk-taker.

"Sure, that way we'll get to spend the entire summer together. It wouldn't kill you to run around in shorts and tees. You've already shown us you look good in a bra." She poked me in my faux breasts to make her point.

Lee needed to be brought back to earth. I turned toward Mom. "What do you think?" I asked.

"I think that's a great idea."

"What?" My mouth sagged in utter amazement.

"Lee," Mom said. "It's not lady-like to hold your mouth open like that."

I think she was putting me on. She had been able to tell us apart only a minute before. However ... ?

"You two get some rest," Mom said, "and we'll talk over all the details in the morning."

Much to my surprise, it was almost midnight. Time had flown while Lee and I were having our fun. The three of us went into Lee's bathroom, and used cold cream to take off Lee's and my makeup. Lee insisted I use overnight cream to restore the moisture to my face. I felt like she was putting makeup back on me as she smoothed the night crème on my face.

Mom fluffed the pillows on Lee's bed indicating that we should sleep together for the night. It had been eight years since I had last slept with my twin. I didn't need to be asked twice. We had missed each other. Mom kissed us lightly on the forehead, as she tucked us in. It had also been about eight years since I had slept in a nightie. I had almost forgotten how relaxing they were. The tricot gown slipped deliciously between me and the sheets.

As we went to sleep, Lee talked about how much fun the summer would be. My dreams that night were of running together with Lee as six year-olds. We were in a large field. The two of us were holding hands and giggling.

I was calm, as I was sure Mom and Lee would regain their good sense in the morning.


Chapter Three


"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them." - Galileo


"Wake up, Cherie." Lee's voice eased me out of the deepest sleep I had enjoyed for a long time. Lee handed me white fuzzy slippers, and a robe for my yellow gown. Last night had not been a dream. "Brush your teeth, and run a brush through your hair, Mom and I have your breakfast on the table."

"You want me to come to breakfast dressed like I am?"

"Of course. What's wrong with that?"

"I'm Zack." I wasn't at all sure I wanted to carry last night's game into the light of day. I had the lawn to mow. As soon as possible, I had to get the nail polish off, and remove all the other remnants of my evening as Cherie.

"Cherie," Lee said, laughing at me, "don't be silly. We have got a long list of things to do. Get a move on Pokey-girl. Daylight is burning."

Dad had always said, "Daylight is burning", when he wanted us to move faster. Lee seemed happy, so I decided to go along with her suggestion until after breakfast.

Mom and Lee had prepared fresh fruit and oatmeal. Mom was going through the Sunday paper's ads - making notes on a yellow pad. The pad was nearly covered. I saw words like slippers, powder, and mascara.

"Cherie," Mom said, as if I had been Cherie from the day I was born, "as soon as we're done with breakfast I want you and Lee to get ready for a full day of shopping. There's so much to do. Wear your normal school clothes. A nice top and jeans will do. Don't bother with a skirt or dress today. Both of you will be trying on so many things."

Dress? Skirt? Cherie!

"Mom, what are you talking about? You and Lee are acting like you're nuts!"

Lee and Mom looked at me with utter surprise. Mom set down her pen, and continued her gaze to the point of discomfort. Lee's perfume had stayed with me, and was a pleasant reminder of yesterday. My bra had dug into my shoulder during the night and left my skin a little raw. I looked away, and collected my thoughts.

The teakettle was about to whistle when Mom finally said, "I'm sorry Zack. Maybe we did get carried away? We thought you wanted to spend the summer with Lee."

"I do."

"We thought you liked the idea of working with those kids at a cabin up north?"

"It does sound wonderful."

"Okay then," Mom said, "eat up, and get dressed so we can buy you a summer wardrobe."

"You said something about dresses - - and called me Cherie?"

"You probably should have a dress or two. You'll be in shorts most of the time," Mom said, "but the Thompsons might want to take their family out to eat. You'll need a dress for that."

"That wouldn't be so bad would it, Cherie?" Lee asked.

They both were still thinking I would pretend to be a girl for an entire summer. Lee's eyes told me that she really wanted me to be her identical twin.

"What happened to talking the Thompsons into a boy and a girl?" I asked.

"I thought it over, and I'm sure she wouldn't agree to it," Mom said.

"You're sure their cabin's in the middle of nowhere?" I had sat on a stool by the island in our kitchen, and was toying with the breakfast they had prepared for me. Lee stood next to me with her arm around my shoulders.

"Miles from civilization," Mom said.

"What exactly would I have to do?" Lee was squeezing me, a sign that she liked the way the conversation was going.

"Mrs. Thompson gave me this list of the duties," Mom said, taking a piece of paper from her purse. "She said you would have to work eight hours a day, six days a week. You can do whatever you want on your off-hours and days. You'll be paid four hundred and fifty dollars a week each plus room and board."

Our duties included cooking (minor as Mrs. Thompson would cook most meals), serving the meals, cleaning (three to four hours a day), caring for the boys (including at least an hour a day of tennis lessons), yard work, boat maintenance, and caring for the girls.

"I could teach the boys how to play tennis," I said. Lee and I had played tennis since we were six, and had been the club doubles champions one year. Tennis seemed to be the perfect sport for my long arms and legs. "And, I've taken care of our boats, and done most of the yard work for years."

"It wouldn't be so bad," Lee said. "Do it for me Zack, please."

Lee's shorts weren't so different from mine. I could stand wearing a bra under a t-shirt, way out in the woods where no one could see me.

"No dresses?" I asked. Mom and Lee exchanged a glance.

"If you don't have any dresses with you, you won't be able to go out to dinner," Mom said.

"You'll have to wear a tennis skirt to teach tennis." Lee said. "People who have their own court are serious about the game, and will want you properly attired."

I knew what she meant. There were plenty of people like that at the La France Yacht Club where we played. All white clothing was mandatory.

"There's no reason I would have to go out to dinner. If Lee wants to go out, fine, but I'm won't agree to that."

They nodded.

"Okay," I said, "I'll do it."

"Not so fast, Cherie," Mom said. "If you take this on, you have to promise you'll stay for the entire summer. If you quit, the Thompsons would have a horrible time finding a replacement -- once everyone else has their summer jobs."

"Why would I quit? Spending time with Lee before she goes to college sounds ideal. The only thing is, we'll really miss seeing you."

"Mrs. Thompson has invited me to stay with you for two weeks in July," Mom said. "I told her I couldn't go for the whole summer without seeing you two, and she agreed."

"Mom and I have been up for hours, Cherie," Lee said. "We've made a list of everything you'll need. For the next two weeks, every minute you're not in school, you'll be my sister. You'll have to work at being a girl in order to be ready."

"What's the big deal?" I asked. "I fooled everyone yesterday."

"Adults don't really look at each other," Mom said. "They see what they think they see. Children don't have as many pre-conceived notions. If you're going to take care of young children, you need to be a lot more girlish."

"Okay, but the kids aren't going to see a whole lot of me with all the yard work and boat stuff," I said. "I suppose during meals, and on the tennis court I'll need to be my Cherie best."

"We'll split up today so we can buy everything," Lee said, ignoring my brilliant wit. "My ankle's good enough to walk on, if I wrap it. I'll get you a complete set of your own cosmetics, and hair care items. If you don't mind, I'll pick out perfumes, and personal items you'll need."


"Perfume, Cherie," Lee said. "Just like yesterday when you wore my perfume to the race."

"I thought it would lend a note of authenticity," I said.

"It did," Lee said, "and it was a huge improvement on your Old Spice. Smelling nice is important to a girl and you, Cherie, are a girl. I'll also go to The Supreme Court, and get you several tennis outfits."

"You and I will go to a prosthetics store for breasts forms to glue to your chest," Mom said.

"What?" It had been my mother's mouth moving, but the words I had heard couldn't have come from her.

"You didn't think you could spend the summer with tissues stuffed in your bra?" Mom asked.

"That was my general plan." I said. Mom and Lee looked at me like I was the village idiot. They didn't even bother to explain to me how foolish my suggestion had been.

"With the right glue, you'll be able to swim with them on," Mom said. "You'll just have to be careful to take them off every once in a while to allow your skin to breathe."

"Okay, Mom. You're the boss." Breasts forms were strangely appealing. The more I could be like Lee, the more I liked the idea.

"At two, we'll meet Lee at Macy's in the Mall of America," Mom said. "Between Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Nordstrom's we'll find most of what you two will need for the entire summer. We'll buy everything you'll wear in the women's department."

"Shirts, shoes, sox, and shorts," I said.

"And panties, bras, swimsuits ... the works," Lee said.

"And jewelry," Mom said. "You'll have to get your ears pierced. Girls your age all have their ears pierced. We'll get that done when we're at the Mall of America."

Pierced ears were common in school for both sexes. I could go along with that.

A week from Thursday is our last day of school," Lee said. "Mrs. Thompson will be picking us up in their van that Saturday morning. I'll make an appointment for us at the salon for Friday morning next week."

Six hours later there was no turning back. My bedroom had been converted into Cherie's with all my new things.

I had even bought my own nighties. I wouldn't have to borrow anything from Lee, although Lee had made it clear we would be sharing almost everything. Lee was out for the evening with Josh, the one thing of hers that was solely her own. I was left to wonder what I was getting into.


Chapter Four


"Adversity is the first path to truth." - Lord Byron


Everything sounded easy and wonderful when Lee was with me. As I sat alone in my room, surrounded by the satin and lace I would be expected to wear all summer, my head began to swim. Buying the clothes hadn't been too embarrassing. I was able to talk them out of their plan for me to go shopping in makeup and Lee's clothes. Too many of the kids from our school would be at the Mall of America. I also talked them out of having my ears pierced until the last day before going north to the lake.

Lee tried on everything for me. If it would fit her, it would fit me. The time spent in the lingerie department was weird. Much of what we bought was a mystery. I must have looked confused, as Lee whispered in my ear that she would show me how everything worked. I had thought we would buy only panties and bras, but Mom and Lee had other ideas.

Some of the clothes they bought were a little too girlish. They said most of them were uni-sex, even though they came from the women's departments. Lee and Mom kept picking out things that had frills -- in girls' colors. It was hard not to go with the flow, so I kept my opinions to myself. I trusted them not to get too crazy. As long as I didn't have to wear any dresses or skirts, I could handle a little lace on a t-shirt.

The real embarrassing part was getting fitted with what the saleslady called "prosthetic" breasts. Mom told the people at the store that I needed some augmentation. She allowed them to think I was her under-developed daughter. I suppose in a way, I was.

The woman measured the fat on my chest and said I was almost an A-cup. Mom told her that I wanted to be slightly larger than a B-cup. I didn't know the difference, and trusted Mom to make sure things went okay.

They showed us how to glue them on after they measured for the correct size and shape, and selected the right skin tone. Mom bought three other shades, so I could keep changing them to match my summer tan. She also bought some sort of liquid she said would disguise the edges so you wouldn't see where they started, and my skin ended. I planned to keep them well covered, so I didn't understand why she spent so much money. The bill was over one thousand dollars.

Alone in my room with all the packages, I couldn't help but wonder --- what were we thinking of? I couldn't possibly fool two adults and four kids for three months. Sooner or later, one of the kids would walk in on me in the bathroom and it would be "Mrs. Doubtfire" all over again. Kids were naturally curious about everything.

Every time I looked down and saw my breasts, I became a bit more frightened. My breasts! Mom had helped me glue them on. She had said that she wanted to make sure they were right.

Then Lee demanded that I put on some of my new things. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was covered in my new girls' clothes and makeup. Lee even sprayed me with my new perfume. It was called Curve. Since I was throwing the world a curve, it was appropriate, and smelled nice.

For some reason the shorts and slacks seemed to fit better than my own boys' stuff. For the past few years, pants that fit around my waist had been tight around my butt.

The whole idea of spending the summer as a girl seemed crazy. What if we ran into someone we knew? Minnesota wasn't all that big. The Boundary Waters were pretty remote, but people from my hometown did go there. It would have been just my luck to run into a classmate who wanted to make trouble. If I were by myself, I could pretend to be Lee, like I did during the race. However, the whole reason for going up north was to spend time with Lee. We would be together, and whoever saw us would know immediately that one of us had to be Zack.

There were probably laws against what we were planning, especially when it involved children. The longer I thought, the more anxious I became.

Finally I decided to talk to my uncle. He had been like a father to me since Dad died. I got into the 1998 Camry Lee and I normally thought of as ours, to drive to Uncle Kevin's house. As I looked in the rearview mirror to back out of the garage, I saw my sister's face. A face made feminine by makeup.

I had forgotten about how I was dressed. My mind was in such turmoil I had nearly left the house dressed from head to toe like Lee. Heck, I had done it the day before for the race. I decided I might as well show him what I was up against.

Kevin was Mom's brother. He lived on Lake Minnetonka, as we did, on one of the lesser-traveled bays. He was an executive in the Smythe family grain business. We weren't exactly sure what all the family business did, but Mom once said its annual sales were larger than the gross national product of all but about fifteen countries.

I didn't call ahead, and wasn't at all surprised to find him in the boathouse working on one of his sailboats. He was a regular in the Sunday morning regattas on Lake Minnetonka. He loved maintaining his boats more than he did sailing them. He was always replacing something or tampering with his riggings.

Uncle Kevin was a large man. He easily weighed a hundred pounds more than me. Not that he was fat. His waist was as trim as his boats. He had an extensive weight room in his house that he used regularly. He wasn't built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, however he was extremely strong. We came from the same gene pool, which refuted Mendel's laws of genetics. But then, Mendel did cheat on his study by failing to include the data that didn't support his findings.

Kevin was an outdoorsman. He loved to hunt, fish, and camp. They should have had a wing devoted to him at Cabela's in Owatonna. Above all, he was a terrific guy. Kevin knew that I didn't want to do things if Lee wasn't interested in them. Lee was death on killing animals -- so hunting was out. She wasn't as strict about fish, but rarely would get excited about it, so we didn't fish much. Consequently, Kevin never pushed me to take part in his manly things.

He still found ways to spend plenty of time with us. He loved the theatre and concerts as much as we did. We had had tons of overnights at his house when we were a little younger, with late night movies and popcorn. Uncle Kevin's was the only place I was allowed to sleep over, because he stocked my special soap.

Kevin looked up from his boat and smiled, "Lee, I thought Sharon said you would be out with Josh tonight?"

"No, it's me, Uncle Kevin." I was surprised he didn't realize immediately who I was.

"Me? What do you mean me?"

"Me ... Zack."

He took a much closer look at me and grinned. "Do you want a beer, Zack?" He had been asking me that every time I had been to his house for the past ten years. I don't think he even had beer. I had never seen him drink anything made of alcohol, except maybe wine with dinner. It was his way of being a guy with me. His teasing felt especially comforting given my circumstances.

"Sounds like you're in a pickle," he said, after I finished telling him everything. "A whole new wardrobe, huh."

"Everything from the skin out, including fake boobs."

Kevin was sipping a Diet Coke, we had moved from his boathouse to his rec room, where he had a fire going to chase away a late spring chill. He stood by the fire adding three logs on top the red-hot ambers. It was birch so the bark readily caught fire and filled the room with a distinctive odor that I loved. I still gave off the perfume that Lee had sprayed on me. Kevin hadn't mentioned it.

I suddenly realized I was sitting like a girl with my shoes off and my feet tucked under me. I was getting weird. I had become so comfortable as Cherie during the prior twenty-four hours that I was starting to assume the role. I switched to a more manly position. As manly as I could be in girlish white shorts, a light blue t-shirt, and a filled out bra.

"I take it from the way you're telling me this - - you're not real excited about being an identical twin to Lee." When Kevin said Lee's name his face brightened. It was no secret that there was a special bond between those two. He didn't mean it as a slight to me, they were kindred spirits, and there wasn't a great deal I could do to compete – had I wanted to. Lee and Kevin were in love with rules and regulations. They were the family ethicists. When I had told him about running in the race as Lee, his eyebrows shot up. I didn't envy Lee her relationship with Kevin, as I had much the same thing going with Mom. Mom and I were family-first people.

"I want to spend the time with Lee," I said, "but the rest of it's too weird to consider."

"You dressed as a girl to run in Lee's place."

"That was only for a few hours, and it was absolutely necessary."

"What if I told you this might be necessary?" He asked.

"How could that possibly be?"

"Your mom called me after she talked to the Thompsons about the job. She's worried about you. She's afraid of what you might do this summer without Lee around."

"Me? What would I do? Does she think I'll get into drugs or drinking? She knows better than that."

"Mothers never take anything for granted," he said. "What have you got going for the summer, if you don't take this job?"

"I was thinking about setting up a lawn service company," I said. I had given that about ten minutes worth of thinking last March, but hadn't gotten around to doing anything about it.

"People signed contracts with their lawn services months ago," he said.

"Uhmmm. I guess I'd pretty much thought Lee and I would just hang out this summer, before she went off to Hollins." It sounded lame. Our family was a bunch of doers. I wanted to attend college with Lee, but that was impossible. All of the women in Mom's family for four generations had gone to Virginia to Hollin's women's college.

"If Lee goes up north, and you don't, you'll have a lot of time on your hands. Does Lee really want this job?"

"She thinks it's perfect. She'll even earn college credit for practical experience in her child development major."

"I probably shouldn't tell you this, but your mom says Lee can't take the job unless you go. The Thompsons told her that they had another set of twins they had interviewed who would be their second choice."

"Mom didn't tell me that," I said. Mom wouldn't want to put too much pressure on me. "Would you do it? Would you work the entire summer as a girl, if it seemed to be the right thing to do, and you could be with your sister?"

"I'm not you. I really never would have had that option. I could never be as good an actor as you." Kevin had been a loyal audience to all of our plays. He had seen me play a girl at least a dozen times. It had never bothered me, just like it never bothered Lee to play the part of a boy. We wrote the best plays we could, and played whatever characters we had to. "If I didn't know you, judging by how you look right now, I'd never guess you aren't a girl. Your voice is a little boyish, but not so that it disturbs the image you project. In fact, when I call your house, I'm never really sure if I'm talking to you or Lee, until you tell me who you are."

"I guess I am sort of a wimp." That sounded as pathetic as I felt.

"Zack, do you know about body types?"

"You mean ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph."

"Uh huh. In high school, there were lots of guys who had powerful looking bodies. I was never small, but I didn't compare at all to them, so I stayed out of the weight room."

"You? You stayed out of the weight room?"

"I didn't touch a weight until after college," he said. "It was by accident that I found I was stronger than most of those heavily-muscled guys. Then I bought some weights and started lifting."

"Mom told us that Dad entered you in a charity athletic contest, and you won the weightlifting portion. She said that if you hadn't been exhausted by the time they got to the half-mile run you would have won the whole thing."

"I wasn't in shape, and it eventually caught up with me. I learned a lesson that day. Never again was I ashamed of my body. You have the body you were born with. It is what it is. Lee and you both have much greater endurance than I've ever been able to develop. So what if you're smaller than average? The days when the schoolyard bully can make your life miserable are long behind you."

"Do you remember Buster?" I asked.

"Buster dropped out of high school, didn't he?"

"He's working at Hurricane Car Wash."

"Hopefully, he'll get things back together, but if he doesn't, he'll be the stereo-typical grade school bully. Buster thought his big body pre-ordained him to be a bully. You have to let your head decide who you'll be, not your body."

Uncle Kevin wasn't talking about Buster. He was talking about me, Cherie.

"It sounds like you think I should spend the summer as Cherie." I said.


"That's Lee's name for me as a girl."

"I guess it's a nice name, if you need a girl's name. What would your middle name be?"

"My middle name's Kevin. Duh!"

"That wouldn't be too good an idea, if you want to keep your secret."

"We haven't talked about that."

"How about Ann?" He asked.

Ann had been Grandma Smythe's name -- Dad and Kevin's mom. I was surprised he would suggest it. By doing so he was giving what I was doing a great deal of legitimacy.

"Cherie ... or Zack ... whichever you decide - - - I think you're at an age when you need to make some decisions about your future. From what your mom has told me about your potential job at the lake, it might be just the place for you to make those decisions. It would be good for you to get away to a place where you can be yourself, have fun, and think."

I finished my Diet Coke, and my need to talk with Kevin. Even the lipstick smudges on my glass, didn't shake me up too much. I could handle things.

He and I shook hands at the door, and he wished me luck. Then he hugged me, and kissed me on the forehead. My perfume must have confused him for a moment. He told me he would be proud of me, no matter what decision I made. It was comforting to hear that. My family always had stood behind me.

When I got home, I discovered Mom had already packed away most of my Zack clothes. She had left out just enough for me to wear to school. She helped me put away the things we had bought.

"Tomorrow, when you're at school, I'll do some things with your room to help you get mentally prepared," she said. "I hope we aren't forcing you into anything? This has to be your decision, or I don't want you to do it."

"No, Mom. I've thought it through, and I really want to take this job. It'll be like one long theatrical production, with me as the ingénue." The ingénue in a play is the young, normally naïve, female lead. I was ready for my role. How bad could it get teaching tennis, and taking care of the lawn?




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