Crystal's StorySite


Round Trip
by Hebe Dotson
© 2001


Part 3


Life as a working girl may not have been terribly exciting, but it certainly was a lot of just plain hard work. Mondays and Wednesdays were my one-meal days. They weren’t too bad, but my two-meal days -- Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays -- were exhausting. Every now and then I’d lose my head altogether and work an extra shift for one of the other girls -- that was all right if I just added a second meal on a one-meal day, but overwhelming if I wound up doing all three meals. Fortunately, Mrs. Lord had to approve all shift swaps, and she didn’t let three-meal days happen very often -- for me or for anyone else.

I stuck to my plan to spend my weekly 48-hour breaks in Kennebunkport. If I went home, there would be too great a danger of running into Al and demolishing my cover story. Mom wrote to me every other day, and as often as not she’d tell me that Al had stopped by the house to say hello. He was always eager for news of Sarah and me and always sent greetings to us via Mom. I’m sure he was writing to Sarah in California, but writing to me would have been way out of character -- fortunately.

Now that I’d learned my job, I could relax a bit and get to know the other girls. I got to know most of the boys, too, but I turned down all their requests for dates -- not that I got all that many offers, but I certainly got a few. I let it be known that I had a large boyfriend in Auburn with a jealous streak and a nasty attitude, and that reduced the boys’ interest in me -- most of the boys, anyway. Two of the bellboys, Jerry and Fred, just wouldn’t believe I meant my refusals. They were buddies, and I think they must have had a bet on which one could break my resistance down first.

Since I wasn’t dating or going anywhere during my 48-hour breaks, I achieved popularity among the waitresses for my willingness to switch shifts at almost any time. If someone wanted to extend her 48-hour break a few hours or had an invitation she didn’t want to decline, all she had to do was ask good old Bobbi, who’d be happy to fill in for her (Mrs. Lord willing) if she hadn’t already made a commitment to someone else.

At the end of my first week, when I got my first pay envelope, I found it held $155 instead of the $125 I’d expected -- tips must have been above average that week. I appropriated forty dollars and bought myself a pretty but modest swimsuit, a wide-brimmed floppy beach hat, an inexpensive beach bag, and a pair of really cheap sandals at one of the shops in downtown K-port. The swimsuit was much like the one I’d worn in California, with a high bust line and a little skirt, but much prettier. Now I could go to the beach when I wasn’t on duty -- I didn’t do a lot of swimming, but I acquired an awesome tan.

* * *

Sarah and I were the only high-school kids on the hotel staff. All of the other waitresses and most of the chambermaids were college girls. The busboys, bellboys, and houseboys were all fraternity brothers from Tufts. Sarah got her job because she had a connection -- Jodie Wingate, one of her friends, had a sister at Wellesley who’d worked at the hotel the previous summer. Jodie’s sister was going to spend the summer studying in Europe, but Mrs. Lord liked her so much that she agreed to take Jodie in her place. Well (sorry this is so complicated), Jodie was worried about being on her own among the great big college girls, so she persuaded Mrs. Lord to interview Sarah. Once Mrs. Lord got an inkling of Sarah’s humongous work ethic, she signed her up. But…when the school year ended, Jodie just couldn’t bear to be separated from her boyfriend, so she cancelled out and Sarah came to K-port without her.

Being the youngest waitress by three or four years was no problem for Sarah. She pulled her own weight, and she acquired fourteen big sisters to help her keep out of trouble. When I substituted for her, I inherited the big sisters. It was great -- they were terrific girls, all of them, and I loved them. Even though I really didn’t want to know, they told me which boys were good guys and which were sleazebags (Jerry and Fred, if you must know). Since I was adamant about not dating, it really didn’t matter. I was happy to hang out with the girls -- I’d go to the beach or the downtown shops or a sandwich shop with three or four of them (it didn’t matter which three or four) and have a wonderful time. Or I’d join a bunch of them in the dormitory’s common room for a mutual eyestrain session, trying to figure out what we were watching on the ancient television set’s small and wavering screen.

As I said, I loved them all, but I loved Lisa Riordan the most. Like several of the other girls, she attended Wellesley, but unlike them, she was a scholarship student from South Boston. No one looked down on her -- she was probably the most popular girl in our gang of fifteen -- but she was working because she had to, not just so she could make a little spending money while enjoying a summer at the beach. She had problems, but she rose above them by being just a little friendlier, a little nicer, and a little more helpful than any of the other waitresses.

I found out about her problems when I caught her emerging from a phone booth near the hotel with her cheeks wet with tears. I gave her some tissues from my purse, led her to the sandwich shop across the street, bought Cokes for both of us, and talked to her soothingly until she told me what was troubling her. Her mother had been ill for some time but had refused to see a doctor. Now she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would soon be undergoing surgery and a series of chemotherapy treatments. Lisa wanted to quit her job and go home, but her mother was insisting that she work out her contract.

"The other girls and I can help out, Lisa," I assured her. "We can rearrange our schedules so you can go home twice a week, if that will help."

"That would help a lot, Bobbi, but I hate to impose on you like that. You have your own lives…"

"I don’t," I interrupted. "I’m not going to have a social life until I get home, so I can fill in for you any time. I’m sure the others will want to help out, too."

I was right -- all the girls wanted to help Lisa and soon, with Mrs. Lord’s approval, she had the most flexible schedule anyone could want.

* * *

One good thing about working hard and keeping busy was the way time flew by. Before I knew it, it was the middle of August, three of my four weeks had passed, and Mom had arrived at the hotel to collect my contribution to Sarah’s return ticket. She was waiting for me at the dormitory when I came back from the beach at 4:30. I was wearing my big floppy beach hat, and she didn’t recognize me until I was standing right in front of her.

I had $350 to give her, but she took only three hundred. Sarah had already put in four hundred (which I would repay at the end of the summer) and Mom had scraped up the balance (which I would also repay in September). Actually, she had scraped up my three hundred, too -- she’d put the ticket on her credit card two weeks ago to make sure it reached Sarah in plenty of time. Now she needed my money so she could pay off the credit card balance before she incurred interest charges.

"Are you sure you don’t want to come home with me?" Mom asked. "We can keep you safely hidden away."

"I’d like to," I said, "but I can’t. I’m going to work brunch tomorrow, and I’m on standby to fill in for Lisa tomorrow night if she doesn’t get back in time."

"You’re not working tonight, are you?"

"No -- I’m done for today."

"It’s Saturday night -- do you have a date?" she asked.

"Mom! I told you I’m not dating!"

"I know you did, dear, but I thought you might have changed your mind."

"No way, Mom."

"Well, if you don’t have any plans for this evening, why don’t we have supper together before I go back to Auburn?"

"That would be nice," I said. "Can we afford it?"

"I think so," Mom said. "Do you know a good restaurant that’s not too expensive?"

"Do I ever!" I said. "I know a place where the locals go -- good food, a nice view of the harbor, and very reasonable. I’ve been there several times with the girls."

"Do we need reservations?"

"Not if we go early."

"Early is fine with me. I don’t want to be too late getting home."

"Okay," I said. "Give me a few minutes to get changed and then we can go. It’s not far from here."

* * *

My few minutes were more like half an hour. I decided to try to look pretty for Mom. I stopped on the second floor to borrow a dress from Sylvia, who was working dinner that evening -- I’d worn it once before, and it had looked really nice on me. Then I took a quick shower, got dressed, brushed my hair, spent an extra five minutes on my makeup, and sprayed on a bit of the perfume that Sarah had left with me.

"You look lovely, dear," Mom said when I joined her in the common room, where she was trying to decipher the evening news film clips on the TV screen.

"Thanks, Mom." I gave her a big, glowing smile.

"Have you done something with your hair?"

"Yes -- I decided I just couldn’t make my old perm last another week. The sun and salt water were too much for it, I guess, so I went back to the salon the day before yesterday. The hairdresser suggested this style and I thought it might be fun, so I told her to go ahead."

"She did a good job," Mom said. "You look prettier than ever."

"Thank you, O totally unbiased observer," I said. "Now, I think we’d better be on our way, before the restaurant starts to get crowded." Mom agreed, but we had to stop at the car so she could retrieve her camera and take half a dozen pictures of me. Then Sylvia came hurrying by on her way to work. I made her stop for a minute. "Mom, I want you to meet Sylvia, the rightful owner of this gorgeous dress I’m wearing," I said. "Syl, this is my mother."

"So nice to meet you, Mrs. Morris," Sylvia said. "We all love Bobbi -- in fact, we all love both of your daughters."

"Thank you so much," Mom said, "and thank you for letting Bobbi borrow your dress -- she looks stunning." She then persuaded Sylvia to pose for a picture with me and was delighted when Syl volunteered to take two mother-daughter photos before she dashed off to the hotel.

* * *

Harry’s Harborside Grill was beginning to fill up, but we were able to get seated immediately. We studied our menus and placed our orders, and Mom sat back and studied me. I smiled at her.

"I do hope this hasn’t been too bad an experience for you, dear. I know I pushed you into taking this job -- Sarah really liked it here, and I thought you might enjoy it, too, once you got here."

"It’s not bad at all, Mom -- it’s hard work, but that’s all right. The other girls here are wonderful -- I’ve had a lot of fun with them, and I’ve made some really good friends. So, I have to admit that I’m enjoying my five weeks at the beach."

"I know I’m not an unbiased observer, Bobbi, but you really are very pretty."

"I did my best to look nice for you, Mom."

"I like your earrings. I didn’t give you those, did I? Did you buy them yourself?"

"They are nice, aren’t they? Lisa gave them to me -- they’re a thank-you present for filling in for her last Sunday." I wasn’t prepared to admit that I actually had bought myself some earrings -- I had almost worn them this evening, but Lisa’s gift went better with Sylvia’s dress.

"You look a little older, too -- more sophisticated," Mom said. "Perhaps it’s the eye shadow. Are you using mascara?"

"Yes, but you’re not supposed to notice these things, Mom -- they’re simply minor enhancements to my natural beauty. Just kidding!" I added hurriedly.

"I see you’ve done your nails."

"Yes," I said. "Jackie and I did each other at the beach this afternoon." Kim had insisted that I let my fingernails grow out so my hands would look more feminine. We hadn’t done anything with them in Los Angeles, but when I saw Jackie begin to work on hers this afternoon, I asked her to show me what to do with mine. I’d been keeping them trimmed about an eighth of an inch longer than usual, and she showed me how to shape them and how to apply polish. They were a nice rose color, much like my lipstick, and I was quite proud of them. "We did my toenails, too. Do you want to see them?"

"Not right now, thanks." Mom sipped her wine and resumed her perusal. "You’ve done something with your eyebrows, too."

"Lisa insisted on shaping them for me a few nights ago. I couldn’t talk her out of it. She plucked just a few hairs. Do they look awful?"

"They look very nice," Mom assured me.

"Thanks, but what I mean is, will I have trouble when…?"

"When you go back to school? I don’t think anyone will notice, but if you’re worried about them, we can fill them out with an eyebrow pencil."

"Oh, okay -- that’s good," I said.

"I can see that you’ve learned something about putting on lipstick," Mom said. "You didn’t learn all these little tricks from Kim, did you?"

"No -- she taught me a lot, but really just the basics. I’ve learned most of what I know about clothes and makeup from the other girls here -- they’ve been so helpful."

Our beverages arrived, and I took a sip of my Coke. I wondered if Mom had finished reviewing all my above-the-neck features and would now turn her attention to my below-the-neck anatomy. She sipped her wine and smiled at me. I smiled back and braced myself for her next question. At that point, the waitress returned with our clam chowder and conversation ended as we began to eat.

"That was delicious," Mom said a few minutes later. "You picked a good restaurant, Bobbi."

"I thought you’d like it," I said.

Mom sat back and drank another sip of wine. "Do you feel pretty, Bobbi?" she asked.

Why was she asking me that? "Well, uh -- yes, I guess so -- most of the time, anyway."

"Do you feel pretty now?" She smiled at me. She looked happy, and that made me feel happy, too.

"Yes, I do."

"You should. You’re beautiful, dear -- there’s a real sparkle in your eyes. Do you enjoy feeling pretty?"

I thought for a moment. "Yes," I said.

"Good. That’s why you’re happy with yourself."

"I am?"

"Aren’t you?" she said.

I thought again and smiled at her. "Yes, I am. I really am."

The waitress returned, cleared our chowder bowls away, and set our entrées before us. We looked at them appreciatively and set to work. When our plates were clean, we exchanged contented glances.

"There’s something I’m wondering about, Bobbi."

"What’s that, Mom?"

"Three weeks ago, you nearly bit my head off for referring to you and ‘the other girls,’" she said.

"Not really -- did I?"


"I’m sorry," I said.

"You don’t need to apologize. I should apologize -- I was being stupid. But since we’ve been here in the restaurant, you’ve referred to ‘the other girls’ yourself, several times."

"Have I really?"

"Yes, you have."

Our waitress cleared our places and asked us if we’d like dessert or coffee. Mom opted for coffee, and I chose blueberry shortcake from the dessert list.

Mom sipped her coffee and I dug into my shortcake. "Tell me, dear," Mom said. "Do you think of yourself as one of the girls now?"

"Sometimes. It’s funny, Mom -- there are times when I just go on doing girl things for hours at a time without ever thinking about being a boy. It simply doesn’t cross my mind. Does anything like that ever happen to you? Do you ever have to remind yourself that you’re a woman?"

"Only rarely," Mom said. "It’s not something I think about very often -- it’s just something that is."

"That’s sort of the way it is with me, too. I’ll be serving my tables or sunbathing or talking with my friends, and then when I get back to my room it will suddenly occur to me that I’m not what I seem to be."

Mom studied my face carefully. She started to speak and stopped, taking another sip of coffee instead. She looked at me again, opened her mouth, and closed it.

"Is there something else you want to ask me, Mom? Go ahead -- it’s okay."

She blushed and then spoke, so softly I could barely hear her. "I probably shouldn’t ask you this, but I’m concerned about what I may have done to you. Would you rather be a girl, Bobbi?"

I had thought she might have been leading up to something like that. I reached out and took her hands in mine. "Sometimes I think I would -- I’ve been having so much fun. But…the real answer is ‘No.’" I smiled at her. "And you really didn’t force me into anything, Mom. I could have used Sarah’s ticket without putting on a dress -- a ponytail and a little lipstick would have been enough to get me home. I didn’t have to agree to be her replacement at the hotel -- you might have been angry with me if I hadn’t, but we could have worked something out."

The waitress brought our check and Mom paid her, refusing my offer to pay my share. The restaurant was full now, and people were waiting to be seated. We strolled back to the car, enjoying the evening. Mom unlocked the car and hugged me.

"I’ll pick you up after lunch next Saturday," Mom said. "Then you can go back to being Bob. Sarah will be coming into Portland on the same flight that you took. We’ll meet her Sunday morning and I’ll bring her here Monday afternoon. You can come, too, if you want to, but I imagine you’ll prefer not to."

"I think I’d better stay home," I said. I hugged her again, and she got into the car and drove away.

After she turned the corner, I walked slowly back to the dormitory. It would be difficult to go back to being a boy. I’d become rather girlish, I knew, and I’d have to be careful with my speech and mannerisms when I got back home. I’d had a wonderful summer, and there were many things I’d miss about being a girl. But I was a boy and that was even more fun -- especially now that I knew so much more about girls!

* * *

The next day I had Sunday brunch duty, substituting for Jackie. We closed the dining room at 2:00 and were out of there by 2:45. Before leaving, I reminded Mrs. Lord that I was on standby for Lisa for the evening meal and told her that I was going to spend the afternoon on the beach. She said she expected Lisa to be back in time for the dinner service since she hadn’t heard anything to the contrary, but she’d send one of the busboys to get me if Lisa called to say she was staying in Boston.

Several of us were going to the beach. We hurried back to the dormitory to change. I jumped into my swimsuit, covered it with a tee shirt and shorts, stepped into my sandals, threw on my beach hat, grabbed my beach bag (sunscreen, hand lotion, tissues, lipstick, change purse, book, and towel), and hurried downstairs to join the other girls.

It was a beautiful afternoon and the beach was fairly crowded near the hotel. We walked on past the crowd and found a nice space big enough to spread five towels (with enough room for a couple of guests if any of the boys decided they wanted to share our territory). I plopped down on my towel, covered myself with sunscreen, unhooked the back strap of my swimsuit’s bra top, slid my shoulder straps off my shoulders, and opened my book. I was trying, with considerable success, to avoid strap lines in my tan. My back, shoulders, and tummy were fine, but the pallid bra-shaped area on my chest meant that I was in serious danger of being the belle of the boys’ gym class come September. Fortunately, Mom had promised to write a note to keep me out of gym class until I was able to tan my chest sufficiently in the privacy of our back yard.

About 4:15, the other girls decided to go back to the dorm. Two of them were working that night and had to get cleaned up and into their uniforms by five, while the other two had to get themselves ready for dates. I was well into my book, about eighty pages from the end, so I decided to finish the story before I went back. (I have to confess that I’d become addicted to romance novels, and every two or three days I borrowed another from the pile in the common room.) As a precaution, I refastened the back strap of my swimsuit. Certain boys who frequented the beach (yes; Jerry and Fred) had a bad habit of dumping cups of cold sea water on sunbathing girls’ bare backs to see if they’d leave their tops behind when they jumped up in shock. I was safe enough when there were other girls around to provide an early warning system, but vulnerable by myself.

About an hour later, with the last hindrance to the lovers’ eternal bliss about to be overcome, I heard a distant male voice shouting, "Bobbi! Bobbi Morris!" Lisa must have called in after all -- I’d really have to hurry to get ready for work, and I wouldn’t have time to eat. I pushed my swimsuit shoulder straps back in place and made my by now automatic quick check to ensure that my breast forms were where they were supposed to be. They were. I sat up and waved to the busboy to acknowledge that I’d heard him. By now, he was only about twenty feet away.

Except that he wasn’t a busboy. He was Al Pelletier.

* * *

The look on Al’s face was absolutely priceless. My face probably looked as utterly dumbfounded as his did. "Sarah?" he croaked. "I thought you were in California!"

I had a possible out, but I knew my sister would kill me if I took it. Besides, it would only be a temporary out -- Al would get the whole story when Sarah returned. I decided to tell the truth. "I am," I said. "I mean, she is. It’s me -- Bobbi."

"Hi, Bobby." Al was cool -- very cool.

"What are you doing here, Al? How did you know where to find me? Mom swore she wouldn’t tell anyone where I was."

"She didn’t -- not directly, anyway. I stopped by your house this afternoon to see if she’d heard anything from you or Sarah. She said she’d had supper with you just last night at a restaurant called Harry’s Harborside Grill, near where you were working. Now, she didn’t say the restaurant was in Kennebunkport, but I’d come down here to see Sarah one afternoon while you were in California, and it just so happened that we ate supper at Harry’s. So I put things together and figured Sarah might have found a job for you at the Gorges Inn. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I decided to drive down and see if I could find you."

"Pretty slick detective work, Al."

"Yeah. Well, I went into the hotel and marched up to the front desk and asked if Bobby Morris worked there. The clerk looked at a piece of paper and told me to go through the dining room to the kitchen and see Mrs. Lord. So I found her and asked her if she knew where you were. She turned to a waitress who’d just walked in and asked, ‘Is Bobbi still at the beach?’ and the waitress said ‘Yes.’ I knew where the beach was because I’d gone there with Sarah, but I didn’t see you anywhere, so I decided to call your name and see if you popped up from behind a rock."

"Surprised you, didn’t I?" I said.

"You sure did," he said. "But why are you dressed like that?"

"Because I’m a waitress, and waitresses don’t go running around in swimming trunks. It’s a long story, Al -- pull up a sand dune, and I’ll tell you all about it."

* * *

As promised, I told Al about (almost) everything -- my carelessness with my plane ticket, my punishment, Sarah’s need to find a replacement, and my "voluntary" acceptance of my temporary waitressing job. I told him I’d had a lot of fun during my time as Bobbi (omitting any mention of Chad and Jason), but I was really looking forward to becoming Bob again in six more days.

Throughout our conversation, I remained in character, using the female gestures, speech patterns, and facial expressions I’d worked so hard to acquire. It would have been perfectly safe to revert to Bob, as the beach was now uncrowded and there was no one within fifty feet of us, but it never even occurred to me.

"That’s quite a story, Bobby," Al said when I was done. "I would never have guessed you weren’t Sarah. Come to think of it, how do I know you’re not Sarah, playing some stupid joke on me?"

"Because I’d kill her if she tried to make my friends believe I was pretending to be her, and she knows it!"

"Yeah, that’s for sure," Al said. "Say -- that wasn’t you pretending to be her three weeks ago, was it?"

Oh, boy! I hadn’t wanted to lie, but I was going to have to. "What are you talking about?" I said.

"I stopped by your house Sunday night, three weeks ago -- the day I got my car," Al said. "Sarah was there, and she was supposed to have gone to California that morning. That wasn’t you, was it?"

"No way," I lied. "I came here four weeks ago and haven’t been home since. Do you think I wanted you or Pete or anyone else to see me like this? No, Sarah had a problem with her reservations and she had to wait until Monday to fly out." I hoped he’d believe me -- I didn’t want him to ever think I’d actually kissed him. I didn’t want to think I’d kissed him.

"Okay -- that’s good," Al said. He looked at his watch. "Hey, I’d better be on my way home," he said.

"Do you want to get something to eat before you go? You can eat in the employees’ dining room as long as you’re with me."

"Sure, why not?"

I stood up, brushed the sand off my legs and swimsuit, put on my tee shirt and shorts, and put my stuff in my beach bag. "Just one thing," I said as we started to walk towards the hotel.

"What’s that?"

"There are a couple of bellboys who’ve been hitting on me ever since I got here. I spread the word around that I have a big boyfriend with a bad temper, so if we see them in the dining room, just give them a nasty look."

Sure enough, Jerry and Fred were in the dining room, hatching some kind of plot. I ostentatiously whispered, "That’s them," in Al’s ear, and he glared at them very convincingly. When we finished eating and left the dining room, he even put his arm around me in a highly possessive way and steered me past their table. As I said, Al’s pretty cool.

I walked Al back to his car and gave it a quick inspection while offering a few complimentary remarks. "I’ll be finishing up here Saturday afternoon," I said. "Mom’s going to pick me up and take me to a barber shop, so I won’t look like this next time you see me. Sarah’s due in just before noon Sunday -- she’ll be the one looking like this."

"That will be a relief," Al said. "See you next weekend." He drove away and I went back to my dormitory to get out of my swimsuit.

* * *

My last week went by quickly. Almost before I knew it, Friday lunch was over and I had only twenty-four more hours (and three more meals) to work. It was the last meal I’d work with Lisa Riordan -- she’d be going home for her 48-hour break that afternoon and I’d be back in Auburn when she returned.

When we’d finished setting the dining room up for dinner, Lisa and I walked back to the dorm together. "It’s been so nice working with you, Bobbi," she said. "I’m really going to miss you."

"I’m going to miss you, too," I said. "At least you’ll have Sarah -- when you look at her, you can think of me."

Lisa looked at me and smiled. "Aren’t those the earrings I gave you?"

"Yes, they are. They’re a little dressy for waiting on tables, but I thought this would be a good time to wear them. I got several compliments on them, too."

"Good. Well, just think of me whenever you wear them."

"Oh, I will -- you can be sure of that!" I wouldn’t be wearing them often, if ever, but I’d think of Lisa anyway. "I hope your Mom is doing better."

"Thanks, Bobbi. I hope so, too. She finally had her surgery Wednesday and she’s due home from the hospital right about now, so we’ll just have to see how she does."

We parted on the dormitory’s second floor landing, with hugs and a few tears and promises to keep in touch. Then we went to our rooms to change -- Lisa to catch the Boston bus and me to enjoy my last afternoon on the beach.

* * *

Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast were behind me -- just one more meal to go. As I entered the employee lunch line, Mrs. Lord called me aside. She led me into the guest dining room, where she asked me to sit down at one of the tables. She sat down beside me.

"Lisa called me about half an hour ago," she said. "The poor girl is beside herself. Her mother had a very bad night last night. Lisa says she’s going to need a lot of attention and she’s going to have to go to the hospital twice a week for chemotherapy and radiation treatments."

"I’m so sorry," I said. "I can stay on and fill in for her Sunday night and Monday noon, if that will help. Sarah will be back Monday afternoon."

"That would help," Mrs. Lord said, "but Lisa’s not coming back. Her mother is just not well enough to be left alone, and there’s no one else to care for her, so Lisa’s going to stay with her, at least until school starts. She’s asked me to clean out her room and send her things home to her."

Poor Lisa! My eyes filled with tears.

"Bobbi, we’ve been very pleased with your work," Mrs. Lord said, "and I want to ask you to take Lisa’s place here for the rest of the season."

What should I say? I could refuse, of course. I really wanted some time for fun with my pals, and I was on the verge of saying no when a thought crossed my mind.

"I’ll do it, Mrs. Lord, under one condition."

"What’s that?"

"Lisa has worked nine weeks, so she’s earned nine hundred dollars in tips that the hotel has held back. I’ll take her place if the hotel will give her the nine hundred instead of putting it back in the tip pool. You did that for Sarah, so why not for Lisa, too?"

"Why not?" Mrs. Lord said. "It’s only fair. We’ll put a note in Lisa’s file that says she fulfilled her contract by getting you to replace her."

"It’s a deal," I said. "Now, can I use the phone to call my mother? I hope I can reach her before she leaves to come and get me."

I could and did use the phone and I caught Mom just as she was going out the door. I told her what I’d agreed to do, and she told me I’d done the right thing. Since I had to start working Lisa’s schedule Sunday evening, we decided that I should stay in K-port that weekend and she and Sarah would see me Monday afternoon.

At the pre-lunch waitresses’ meeting, before reviewing the specials, Mrs. Lord announced Lisa’s departure and my agreement to take her place. The other girls were sorry about Lisa, but they seemed genuinely happy that I’d be with them for the rest of the summer. I felt happy about it, too.

* * *

I was glad to see my sister when she and Mom arrived at the hotel Monday afternoon. I was already on my new schedule, so I’d worked that noon and she and I would both be serving dinner. Since she was obviously rusty after four weeks away, I volunteered to retrain her, but she chose to reject my magnanimous offer.

After dinner, Sarah and I changed into tee shirts and shorts and went for a walk, so we could catch up on each other’s doings in privacy. I complimented her on her glowing California suntan and politely asked if any beach dudes had helped her achieve it.

"Beach dudes? Are you talking about Jason and Chad?" she asked.

"I guess so -- unless there were others."

"There wasn’t any time for others," Sarah said. "Those two kept Kim and me pretty busy."

"They were sort of hyper, weren’t they?"

"I’ll say," Sarah said. "Well…I guess I really should be ashamed of myself."

I turned to look at her. She had a sly expression on her face. "Why? Did you…? Did he…?"

"Don’t sputter," she said. "I only meant I should be ashamed of myself for stealing the only boyfriend you ever had."

"Oh, that’s okay, Sis -- I’m sure there are plenty more where he came from."

"Of course, I’m not so sure I actually stole him. He called me ‘Bobbi’ half the time -- and he told me to give you his love."

"Sorry -- if he couldn’t be faithful to me, I’ll just have to cross him off my list," I said.

"Let’s see, Sis," Sarah said. "That brings your list down to just one, doesn’t it?"

"One? What are you babbling about?"

"Al, of course. I stole your boyfriend and you stole mine."

I looked at her again. She was trying to keep a straight face, but she couldn’t. We both dissolved in giggles.

"Your evening with Al must have been pretty funny," Sarah said. "I wish I could have seen it."

"Al knows about me now," I said. "He came here Saturday."

"I know. He dropped by the house last night and told us about his trip here. I think he wanted to be convinced that he’d been out with me, not with you, four weeks ago."

"I hope you and Mom convinced him."

"I think we did," Sarah said. "So now I have two boyfriends and you don’t have any. That doesn’t seem quite fair."

"It’s fine with me," I said. "You can have both of them."

"Al said he was looking forward to seeing us side by side."

"Then he’ll be awfully disappointed," I said. "He’s seen Sarah and Bob hundreds of times, and that’s exactly what he’s going to see next time he sees us."

* * *

A few of the hotel’s guests checked out Labor Day afternoon, while the rest departed right after breakfast Tuesday morning. The dining room closed for the season after breakfast was served. A handful of employees would stay for three or four more days to secure the hotel for the winter, but none of us waitresses were among them. We had all received our final pay envelopes -- nearly nine hundred dollars for Sarah and almost eight hundred for me, four hundred of which I owed Sarah for her ticket -- and we’d all be leaving as soon as we could get away.

We hurried to the dorm, changed from our uniforms to traveling clothes, packed the rest of our things in our suitcases, and brought everything downstairs. Uniforms went into the big laundry hamper on the back porch and our suitcases were dumped on the front porch while we all exchanged hugs, addresses, and promises to write to each other.

In a few minutes, the great waitress exodus had ended and Sarah and I were the only ones left. Several of the girls had their own cars, and those who didn’t had obtained rides from those who did. They were all going south, but we’d be going north when the Mom Taxi Service arrived.

We didn’t have to wait very long -- Mom had said she’d come for us at ten, and she was right on time. She pulled up in front of the dorm and Sarah and I tossed our suitcases in the trunk.

Just as we were about to get into the car, Mrs. Lord, Bonnie, and Joyce appeared. They were there to strip the beds and make sure that none of the girls had left anything behind. Sarah and I offered to help, but Mrs. Lord refused. "It will only take us a few minutes," she said. "You get on home and enjoy yourselves -- when does school start?"

Sarah and I looked at each other. We hadn’t a clue. "Next Monday," Mom said.

"Then don’t stay around here," Mrs. Lord said. "You need a few days to relax." She turned to Mom. "You have two delightful daughters," she said. "They’ve both worked hard, and our guests loved them." She turned to us. "I hope you’ll both come back next summer. There will always be jobs for you here if you want them."

We thanked her and hugged her and Bonnie and Joyce. Then I grabbed my beach bag and climbed into the back seat. Sarah got into the front passenger seat and we drove away.

* * *

When we pulled onto the Turnpike, Sarah said, "I thought you said you weren’t going home as a girl."

"I’m not!" I said. I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and sneakers, but I still had on my breast forms and bra, my earrings, and my lipstick. I was carrying my purse and my hair was long and still somewhat permed. "Mom, we’ve got to find a barber shop."

"I don’t think you’ll want to take that hairdo into a barber shop," Mom said. "Let’s look for a beauty salon instead."

"A beauty salon? All I want is a buzz cut."

"They’ll cut it any way you want it," Mom said. "I’ve seen young women get very short haircuts in the salon I use in Auburn."

"You could get a purple Mohawk," Sarah suggested helpfully.

"No, thanks," I said. "Mom, can we look for a beauty salon in Biddeford?"

"Of course we can," Mom said. We left the Turnpike at the Biddeford exit and drove toward the city until we came to a small shopping mall. "Let’s see if we can find something in here," Mom said. We turned in and immediately found a hair salon. They were having a quiet morning and were happy to take me right away. Mom and Sarah picked out a couple of magazines and sat down in the waiting area.

"Do you want the same style as you have now, miss?" the stylist asked.

"No; I want a buzz cut," I said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I want my hair cut really short," I said. "About half an inch would be fine."

"Are you sure? You have such nice hair -- I can make it look really pretty."

"I’m positive. Just cut it short, please."

"Just a moment, miss." She walked over to the waiting area and spoke to Mom. Mom said something and the stylist shrugged and came back. "All right," she said. "I’ll cut it just the way you want it."

And she did. I turned down her suggestions for color changes and vetoed the idea of giving me nail extensions. When she was done, my hair looked just as I’d envisioned it. The only problem was that I looked like a girl with a buzz cut.

I paid the stylist and we left, retracing our route back to the Turnpike. As soon as we were back on the highway, I took some tissues from my purse and wiped off my lipstick. I took off my earrings and put them safely in my purse. Next, I removed my wallet from my purse and put it in my jeans pocket and then put the purse in my beach bag. I reached under my tee shirt, extracted the breast forms from my bra, and put them in the beach bag too. With a few contortions, I unhooked my bra, removed it without taking my shirt off, and added it to the beach bag collection.

"There," I said. "That does it. How do I look now?"

Sarah turned to see me and Mom checked me out in the rear view mirror. "You look just like Bob," Mom said. She sounded a little sad.

"But you still sound just like Bobbi," Sarah said. "You’d better work on your voice all the way home."

* * *

It felt good to be home again and to be Bob again. I’d had quite a summer, and I’d learned a few things that I felt quite sure I’d never forget. I was glad I had almost a week to work Bobbi’s voice and mannerisms out of my system before school started. Al was a big help. If I forgot myself and began to talk or act like a girl, he’d punch my arm and say, "Take it easy, Bobby." My arm got a little sore, but the pain helped to remind me to avoid being girlish.

I had photos. Boy, did I ever have photos -- the ones Aunt Cathy had taken in Los Angeles, the ones Mom had taken of Sarah and me the weekend I came back from California, and the ones she’d taken of me in K-port. I put them all into an album, which I kept extremely well hidden in my bedroom.

Sarah was happy to be back with Al, and Al was happy to have Sarah back. However, he was disappointed not to have ever seen Sarah and Bobbi together. He mentioned it several times, as if he seriously expected me to bring Bobbi back just for him. Well, as it happened, Sylvia had taken a couple of pictures of Sarah and me together, in our swimsuits, on the beach in Kennebunkport. She sent us a note, enclosing two copies of each photo, in mid-September. We showed them to Al but wouldn’t let him keep them or make copies for himself.

Sarah and I received a letter from Chad -- one letter addressed to both of us. What a romantic guy! He said he was pining for us and hoped that one (or preferably two) of us would re-appear in California before his untimely death from a broken heart. Sure… We sent him a copy of one of Sylvia’s photos of us in swimsuits and told him he had to guess who was who.

I (that is, Bobbi) also got a letter from Lisa. Her mother was doing much better. With the nine hundred dollars in held-back tips that the Gorges Inn had sent her, she’d been able to hire a woman to stay with her mother for a few hours each day, and that had made it possible for her to go back to college. Things were still difficult but not impossible, and she was grateful to me for insisting that the hotel send the money to her (Mrs. Lord had spilled the beans).

Another major event, soon after my return home, was Disbursement Day. I paid Sarah the four hundred dollars she’d contributed toward her ticket home and Mom told me I owed her another two hundred for her contribution. That put a large hole in my final pay envelope, but with the money I’d saved from previous weeks, I still had about five hundred bucks. Sarah had about sixteen hundred dollars, but she’d worked a week more than I had and she hadn’t been dumb enough to lose an airline ticket.

With disbursements completed, Mom confessed that she’d bought a round-trip ticket for Sarah’s return -- she still couldn’t stand the thought of paying all that money for a one-way fare when she could get a round-trip ticket for just a little more. It was in Sarah’s name, of course, but it was good for a year and it was mine, since I’d really been the one who paid for it. She gave the ticket to me for safeguarding. If I didn’t want to use it, Sarah could have it -- and if neither of us wanted it, Mom thought she just might use it herself.

I wondered what Chad would think of that. He’d probably want to date Mom…

* * *

Sarah and I got another letter from Chad. He hadn’t had any difficulty figuring out who was who, since Sarah had worn her swimsuit several times in California.

Mom had taken a very nice close-up photo of me in Kennebunkport, right after I’d had my hair done. I gave a copy to Sarah, who signed it, "To Chad, with love -- Sarah." She gave me an equally nice photo of her, which I signed, "To Chad, with love -- Bobbi." We wrote separate letters to our western boyfriend, enclosed our fraudulent photos, and mailed them off in separate envelopes.

* * *

I’d taken two round trips that summer. The geographical journey, the one that all my friends knew about, had brought me back to my starting point. My one publicly displayed souvenir, a Disneyland tee shirt, got so much wear that some of my friends at school began to call me "Walt." (I’d worn it a lot on the beach in Kennebunkport, too, where it earned me the occasional nickname "Dizzy.")

Only five people other than me -- Mom, Sarah, Aunt Cathy, Kim, and Al -- knew anything at all about my other journey. As far as they could see, it too had brought me back to where it began. I was the only one who knew just how far I was now from the Bob who’d begun the summer. Sometimes the other Bob seemed near enough to touch; at other times, he seemed incredibly remote. He was still close enough for me to see him and understand him, but I knew he could never have imagined or comprehended me.

I had many souvenirs of my second journey -- Bobbi’s swimsuit and other beach things; her breast forms and bras; her panties, pantyhose, and anklets; her earrings and makeup; and her L. L. Bean top. I put all those remembrances in a box and stored it high on my closet shelf.

What else did I have from my journeys? Occasional confusion, especially when I found myself taking a Bobbi’s-eye view of a situation and how to handle it. Much more interesting memories than I’d anticipated. A firm job offer for next summer, half of a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles, and a newly acquired taste for travel…

The End



© 2001 by Hebe Dotson. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.