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Jade Box                by Genni Smith

Part 7

 

‘Did you tell him?’ Amy asked Katie on Friday morning.

‘Yeah but he wasn’t happy about it. Not that I care. The guy is a creep.’

‘Good. At least that problem is sorted.’

‘I wouldn’t be so sure. I think he blames you for a lot of it.’

Amy just shrugged. ‘Well I guess he’s right in a way.’

‘Yeah but you don’t know him like I do Stu. He can get pretty violent.’

‘I only have to get through today and then it’s off to Hong Kong and I get back to normal and all of this didn’t even happen.’

‘Okay. Just be careful. Will you meet me for lunch?’

Amy thought about it for a second or two. ‘I’d love to but I still have some Maths Homework to do before I face Mr. Bayment this afternoon. I figured I’d just find a deserted class room and get it all finished.’

‘Okay then.’ Katie smiled. ‘See you tonight before the big stage debut.’

-oOOo-

The sound of applause rang in Amy’s ears as the curtain came down for the final time that night. She smiled and turned to Danny. ‘What are you doing?’ She asked as he silently mouthed something to no one in particular.

‘Just counting backwards from ten.’ He said. ‘Five, four, three, two, one…’

‘Simpson, Denton.’ Mr. Fisher shouted from stage right. ‘I want to see you two. Now.’

‘Right on time.’ Danny said.

Amy had never seen her teacher look so angry and she had to stifle a laugh as a vein on his forehead seemed to be dancing the mambo as his face got redder and redder.

‘Is there a problem Sir?’ Danny asked as Fisher struggled to find both words and breath.

‘What on earth do you call that?’ Fisher finally managed to blurt.

‘What?’ Amy asked, the picture of innocence.

‘That… that… abomination you just performed.’

‘I believe it was Romeo and Juliet Sir.’ Danny shrugged.

‘Oh no. No it wasn’t. That was… I can’t even describe what that was. The audience laughed the whole way through.’

‘And the problem is?’

‘Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. That’s the problem with that.’

‘Well you’d think some one would tell us it’s a tragedy wouldn’t you Amy?’

‘It might have helped.’

The vein in Fishers forehead almost did somersaults and his face seemed to take on the colour of canned beetroot. ‘Both of them die at the end. I would have thought that would have been a big clue. Name me one comedy where the main characters die at the end?’

‘Thelma and Louise,’ Danny shot back. ‘I mean you’d think one of them would have seen the grand canyon in time to put the brakes on.’

‘Um… I don’t think that was the point,’ Amy interjected.

‘You mean they wanted to kill themselves?’

‘Yep.’

‘Well it was still funny.’

‘Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy.’ Fisher shouted. ‘What you did to that play tonight was nothing short of a travesty.’

Danny looked at Amy. ‘Is travesty and tragedy the same thing?’

‘I don’t think so Danny.’

‘But it’s close right?’

‘If William Shakespeare was alive today he’d be turning over in his grave.’

‘Ah… Sir. If Bill Shakespeare was alive today he wouldn’t be buried.’

‘Shut up Simpson. Now, Miss. Denton. Juliet was not a cheap hooker.’

‘I have to defend her honour on that point Sir.’

‘Thankyou Danny.’ Amy smiled.

‘Amy isn’t cheap.’

‘Nor a hooker,’ Amy added just to clear the point.

‘Well why in gods name did you wear a leather miniskirt, fish net stockings and a boob top?’ Fisher bellowed.

‘Are teachers allowed to say Boob?’ Danny asked.

‘And as for you Mr. Simpson. Romeo was a lot of things but he most assuredly was not a homeboy. In fact if baseball caps were invented back then I am pretty sure he wouldn’t wear it back to front.’

‘We were just modernising it a little.’ Amy said.

‘A little? The line is ; A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Not ; a rose is a rose is a rose dude. I ask for Olivier and Vivien Leigh and I get Abbot and Costello. Your behaviour tonight is inexcusable. You acted like a couple of kids.’

’I hate to state of the obvious Sir but we are kids.’

The vein throbbed so much it looked like it was doing the Macarena. ‘You act like children and expect to be treated as adults.’

‘You treat us like children and expect us to act like adults.’ Danny said.

‘Of course you realise we will have to cancel the rest of the performances?’

‘I am devastated.’ Danny smiled. ‘I was planning on playing Romeo as a drug addict tomorrow and Amy was looking and doing Juliet as an unwed teenaged mother.’

Fisher looked at both of them and then said. ‘You haven’t heard the last of this.’ Then he turned on his heels and marched off.

‘I guess that means our Invites to our academy awards won’t be in the mail.’ Amy grinned.

‘Damn. And I already have my Evening gown picked out.’ Danny grinned. He got serious for a second. ‘You were great.’

‘So were you. Of course, you know we are in deep shit with Fisher don’t you?’

‘Ah ha.’ He smiled. ‘It actually reminds me of a joke. Do you want to hear it?

‘Why not?’ Amy shrugged

‘Cool. Well this guy goes to hell and Satan tells him he has to look behind three doors and pick his punishment for eternity. So the guy looks behind door number one and sees a room full of people poking themselves with white hot pokers. He doesn’t like the look of that one so he walks over to door number two and opens it to see people being lowered into a swimming pool filled with lava over and over again. He shakes his head and opens door number three and there is a room full of people standing up to their waists in shit, all of them with a cigarette in their mouths.’ Danny demonstrated this part by pretending he was smoking and Amy rolled her pretty eyes.

‘Are we getting to the point of this story?’ She asked. ‘Or should I book us into a retirement village?’

‘I love it when your impatient. Anyway. The guy thinks that’s not as bad as the other punishments. I mean you’re bound to get used to the smell right?’

‘The smell of the shit or the cigarettes?’

‘The shit. Now stop interrupting. He wades right in and just lights his cigarette when a demon shouts…’

‘…Okay everyone,’ Amy jumped in. ‘The break is over. Back on your heads.’

‘You knew it? Why didn’t you stop me?’ Danny asked a little put out.

‘Because you’re cute when you’re trying to impress me.’ Amy smiled and gave him a peck on the cheek.

‘Well to celebrate the successful debut of Simpson and Denton in Romeo and Juliet, and to enjoy what might be our last day alive if Fisher has his way, I am throwing a party at my house for the whole cast and crew.’

‘Including Fisher?’ Amy asked.

‘Okay, everyone but Fisher. It’s tonight. Would you do me the great honour of being my date?’

Amy looked doubtful. ‘I will have to check with my social secretary but I believe I may just be available.’

‘Great.’ Danny said. ‘I’ll let you get changed and I’ll go tell everyone about it.’

-oOOo-

It was a typical teenaged party. No alcohol, loud music and a fair bit of tonsil hockey going on. Amy spent what she hoped would be one of her last nights as a girl dividing her attentions between Katie and Danny.

It was obvious that Danny was trying to get Amy on her own for and Amy was torn. On the one hand she wouldn’t have minded it at all but on the other hand she knew it would make it hard for her when she became Stuart again and had to deal with Danny as a guy.

‘A penny for your thoughts.’ Katie said as she came up and sat on the sofa next to Amy.

‘Bloody hell Katie. With the amount of stuff whizzing around my mind I am going to need more then a penny.’

‘Do you take Visa?’

‘It’s Danny.’

‘I could have guessed that myself Amy. I want my penny back.’

‘I am just so mixed up K.J.’ Amy sighed. ‘I head tells me to get the hell away from Danny but my heart is telling me there’s nothing wrong with us.’

‘I might be over simplifying it here Amy but you are a very pretty girl and Danny is a hot guy. Where’s the problem? Look at it this way, with any luck you are about to fly off to Hong Kong tomorrow and Amy will be gone for good. So what’s wrong with just enjoying things the way they are?’

‘I guess that’s the problem I’m thinking about how I am supposed to get my head around all this when I am Stuart.’

‘Is that all?’ Katie asked. ‘If I know Stuart at all he’ll be too busy with his band and his sports to even think about all this. Give it two months and this will all seems like a weird dream.’

Amy pondered the truth of that statement and in the end she agreed with it. She also agreed with Katie about going with the flow. After tonight she will never again be able to do what she could now.

‘Katie?’ She asked

‘Yes?’

‘When you… when you first did it… What I am trying to ask is, did it hurt when you…’

‘Amy!’ Katie shrieked. ‘Are you thinking about what I think you are thinking?’

‘Sort of.’ Amy said quietly, looking down at her lap.

‘Well it hurt like hell at first. If I could give you any advice it would be not to expect too much. Even if Danny has done it before it will probably be all over before you can count to three.’

‘I don’t know what you’re laughing about Katie. If my theory is correct your cherry will get un-popped when I get turned back to normal.’

‘What? That’s not fair.’

Amy just patted her friend’s hand and then took off to find Danny.

 

It was a little later that she spotted Steve Ellis. ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ She asked Danny.

‘I didn’t invite him. I think he’s here with Debbie Winfield.’ Debbie had been in charge of props.

‘Great.’ Amy groaned. ‘Do me a favour and keep an eye on him for me. Katie dumped him today and I don’t think he’ll let it rest.’

‘Will do boss.’ Danny said with a quick salute and then he grabbed Amy and pulled her to him and kissed her passionately.

Amy was slightly breathless when the pair broke away from each other. ‘There’s a line up for the bathroom down here .’ Amy told her boyfriend. ‘Do you mind if I use the one upstairs?’

‘For you? Anything.’

Amy headed up stairs and quickly did her business. She’d just unlocked the door and was about to head back downstairs when a figure appeared at the door.

Steve Ellis walked in and stood directly in front of her, looking down. ‘You really did it this time bitch.’

‘Huh?’ Was Amy’s lame response.

‘Oh come on. You’ve gone out of your way to split me and Katie up recently and I have to admit that I couldn’t work out why.’

‘That’s not surprising Steve.’ Amy shot back. ‘I mean let’s face it, you’ve only just mastered the alphabet and telling the time on an analogue clock.’

‘You were jealous. Pure and simple.’

‘Oh gee, you worked it out. I am so ashamed now I will have to hide my face.’

‘You see, you and I never fucked.’ Steve growled. ‘And that pissed you off.’

‘You’re such a romantic. A delusional romantic but romantic none the less.’

‘But now I know how much of a slut you are I think I can solve that.’

‘There go those delusions again.’ Amy sighed.

‘Well if you’ll screw Simpson in a car I am sure the floor of a bathroom will do just fine.’

Before Amy could react Steve had grabbed her arms and wrestled her to the ground. ‘Now you get to see what you missed out on Amy.’ Steve grinned an evil smile.

Amy squirmed and wiggled with all of her might but Steve’s body weight held her arms to her stomach and he put one of his hands over her mouth to stop her from screaming. His other hand reached down and pulled up her skirt and he ripped her panties off. ‘You women,’ Steve spat. ‘Always playing silly little mind games. If this is what you wanted you only had to ask.’

Amy was really panicking now. She didn’t have the physical strength to fight him off and she couldn’t scream. She tried to bite the hand he held over her mouth but he just pressed harder.

A cool breeze told her she was pretty much naked from the waist down and Steve reached for his zipper, which did nothing to hide his erect penis.

Amy wanted to scream, to fight, and to run. She wanted to do anything to stop what was about to happen but she was utterly helpless.

She could tell his penis had been released from his trousers as it pressed into her thighs and she tried to ready herself for what was about to happen when she heard a voice come from the door.

‘Get the fuck off her Ellis.’ Danny said as he ran to Amy’s side.

‘Come on man,’ Steve grinned. ‘You had her so you should be happy to share her around.’

Danny punched Steve in the kidney and then dragged him off of Amy. Next he dragged him over to the toilet, stuck his head in it and hit him with the seat until he was close to being unconscious.

He turned his attention back to a badly shaken Amy who was breathing very fast. ‘Are you okay?’ He asked realising as he did what a stupid question it was.

‘I’ve been better.’ Amy replied shakily as she pulled down her skirt and tried to sit up. She sat quietly for a few minutes and stared off into space as she relived the moment over and over again. Danny sat by her side feeling impotent. Eventually the quiet turned to ragged breathing, which soon became sobs and not long after she was crying. She threw herself into Danny’s strong Arms. ‘Oh my god,’ She said between crying bouts. ‘I thought he was going to rape me.’

Danny hugged the girl and gently stroked her hair until the tears subsided. ‘We should tell some one.’ He said in almost a whisper.

‘No.’ Amy said as forcefully as she could.

‘But the police should be called.’

Amy knew Danny was right and under normal circumstances she’d agree with him but what was the point of going through all of that to have arrested when she was going to be changed back. None of it would have happened so Steve would be in school just like everyday. ‘I have my reasons.’ The girl sniffed. ‘I’ll be fine.’ Amy replied, knowing it was far from the truth.

-oOOo-

 

‘You all packed?’ Susan asked Amy the next morning. She didn’t know what had happened last night but she could tell by her daughter’s demeanour that something wasn’t right

‘Yep. The question is, do you have everything we need. Tickets?’

Susan checked through her handbag. ‘Check.’

‘Passports?’

‘Check.’

‘Traveller’s cheques?’

‘Check’

‘Credit card?’

‘Check.’

‘Okay then, looks like we are set to fly.’

Katie and Jade stood by and watched all this but as the taxi pulled up in front of the house Jade walked over and gave her sister a hug. ‘Good luck kiddo. I never thought I’d say this but I am missing the little jerk.’

Katie was next with a hug. ‘What she said.’ She smiled.

‘Thanks guys,’ Amy smiled. ‘Thanks for everything.’

The taxi driver impatiently beeped his horn and Mother and Daughter struggled out with their suitcases.

Amy looked back at Jade and Katie who stood on the footpath waving until the girls where just small dots. Now the time was here Amy was feeling quiet apprehensive.

-oOOo-

Amy put her bikini on for what she hoped would be her last time and headed for the hotel swimming pool. Things were not going well on the search for Mamma Chow. Mei Ling had quit her job at the Emperor Ming and Wang was away in China visiting his dying mother.

Susan and Amy had spent six of the seven days trying to find the corner Susan had been dropped off at almost three months before. Of course things weren’t made any easier by the fact that the only real details Susan could remember was a tailor shop. Amy had no idea, until now, exactly how many Tailors Hong Kong had and the name Chin didn’t exactly helped. Hence the old phrase about a fat person; more chins than a Chinese Phone book.

By process of elimination they worked out the Taxi had turned left upon leaving the hotel on the fateful day in January so that meant the Tailor shop was on the West Side of Hong Kong Island. One thing that didn’t make sense was that Amy’s mum remembered a sealed off road that had been turned into a street market but there simply wasn’t a Chin’s Tailor shop near a market.

The warm water of the pool helped slightly to ease Amy’s mind. They had been to over thirty shops in the past week and none of them had looked familiar to Susan. Amy was beginning to lose hope that she would ever be Stuart.

‘Hi’

Amy looked up from the pool to see a pretty blonde girl, around her age who she had seen around the hotel. ‘Hi,’ she responded.

‘Nice accent, are you English?’ The girl, who had an American accent herself, asked.

‘Nah, I am an Aussie.’

‘Cool, do you know Mel Gibson?’ The girl asked.

Amy looked at the girl to see if she was serious or trying to make a joke. Unfortunately she was serious. ‘Yeah, I met him once at a party Paul Hogan put on.’ She eventually replied with a straight face.

‘Really? Wow.’

Australia was a country of over nineteen million people with a landmass very close to the mainland of the United States but for some reason it was assumed every Australian was intimately linked to every other Aussie. ‘Yeah, Nicole Kidman introduced us. It was so cool. My name is Amy by the way.’

‘Hi, I am Kimmi.’

It figured, she looked like a Kimmi, so much for looks and brains. ‘So what are you doing in Hong Kong Kimmi?’

‘My dad’s here on business.’ Kimmi said as if that explained her presence. ‘He’s been to Australia too but didn’t bump into Mel Gibson. I like your Bikini Amy.’

‘Thanks, I like yours too.’ Amy continued doing slow laps of the pool.

‘Do you? I got it on Rodeo Drive.’

‘Yeah? I got mine from K Mart.’

‘Oh,’ Kimmi said as if Amy was deprived. ‘Well it still looks okay. So what are you doing here?’

‘Swimming.’

‘No, I mean here in Hong Kong.’

‘You wouldn’t believe it if I told you Kimmi.’

‘Try me.’ The American girl shrugged.

‘What the hell,’ Amy thought as she climbed out of the pool and sat next to Kimmi on the side. ‘This could be fun.’

‘Well,’ She started. ‘I am looking for an old woman named Mamma Chow.’

‘Why?’

‘Because she’s magic and she cast a spell on me so I need to find her to get it removed.’

‘What sort of spell?’ Kimmi said without missing a beat.

‘I’m really a guy but I’ve been stuck in this body for over two months.’

‘No way.’

‘Way. My real name is Stuart.’

‘Prove it.’

‘How can I do that?’

‘You can’t I guess,’ Kimmi shrugged. ‘So, if you’re telling the truth why did she turn you into a girl?’

‘Now that was a mistake.’ Amy told her. ‘My mum was in Hong Kong and was bitching about her sexist boss to some waitress who told her to go to Mamma Chow. Mum found the old girl; she lived up an alley near a tailor shop run by a guy named Chin and a street market. Mamma Chow gave her this Jade Box, smallish, like a snuffbox…’

‘What’s a snuff box?’ Kimmi asked.

Jesus. ‘Do you watch Sesame Street?’

‘Ah ha,’ Kimmi smiled.

‘It’s an old box that used to be owned by the elephant friend of Bid Birds;’

‘Oh I like him, that is so cool.’

‘Yeah… Well anyway, The Jade box was supposed to be given to mum’s boss and it was going to turn him into a woman.’

‘That Elephant is so smart,’ Kimmi giggled. ‘What happened?’

‘I opened it accidentally and viola, tit city.’ Amy said looking down at the two mounds on her chest.

‘Bummer. So you haven’t been able to find the old woman?’

‘Well I am still a girl so there’s your first clue. And there’s only one more day before we fly back home.’

Kimmi looked like she was deep in concentration, or pain, or probably both. ‘So you’ll be stuck like that?’

‘I guess so, unless there’s some sort of time limit on it that I don’t know about. I need to find that tailor shop or the market.’

‘I’d pick the market, the shopping is great here. Not as good as Rodeo Drive but it’s good.’

‘Well, thanks for your advice Kimmi but I need to find a specific market, one near a specific tailor shop but all of the tailor shops that could be right aren’t near a market.’

‘I was at this really cool market last week.’

‘That’s good.’ Amy sighed

‘It was Sunday.’

‘I am happy for you but that really doesn’t help me.’

‘It’s a pity you have to go home the day after tomorrow because the market is only open Sundays.’

Amy was stunned, the girl, as dumb as she was, may have just solved the problem. ‘Say that again Kimmi.’

‘This really cool market. It’s only open on Sundays.’

‘Where exactly was the market held Kimmi?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘Fuck.’ Amy said getting ready to strangle the girl.

‘But I did write it down in my diary. You can come up to my room if you like and I will tell you.’

‘Kimmi I could kiss you right now.’

‘Can you give me Mel Gibson’s cell phone number instead?’ Kimmi asked looking alarmed at the though of Amy kissing her.

‘I’ll give you his address in Hollywood and call him to tell him you’re coming over if you like.’

‘Daddy was right.’ Kimmi smiled. ‘You Aussies are really nice.’

-oOOo-

‘We have a winner.’ Amy told her mother as she looked over the phone book and street map of Hong Kong Island.

‘We do?’ Susan asked looking up from the television. ‘How do you know?’

Amy told her mother about Kimmi and had her laughing about some of the descriptions of the girl. ‘Well it looks like she’s saved my bacon though.’ Amy finished.

‘Okay honey we’ll head over first thing in the morning. I can’t believe you told that girl about your little accident.’

‘Well as I left her room she said, and I quote, "I hope you get your body back Amy." Talk about a strange girl.’

‘Erm Amy… When it comes to strange girls I hardly think you are one to point fingers at others.’ Susan grinned.

‘Point taken. I’m going to have a shower. I better shave my legs too. Here’s hoping it’s the last time.’

-oOOo-

‘This is definitely the place.’ Susan told her daughter as they stood on a busy street corner in one of the old parts of Hong Kong. ‘There’s Chin’s Tailor Shop there and that,’ she said pointing, ‘is the Alley where Mamma Chow was last time.’

‘Well let’s go.’

‘Hang on Amy. We are so close, the last thing you need is to rush across the road and be run down by a car. Let’s slow it down a bit huh?’

Soon enough they were knocking on an old wooden door. Amy started feeling butterflies in her stomach. Now that it was this close she was having doubts. Not second thoughts exactly but doubts that Mamma Chow could, or would be able to help her.

‘What?’ The same boy asked Susan through a peephole.

‘Hi, I don’t know if you remember me but I was here about two and a half months ago.’

The boy shrugged ambiguously.

‘I… we need to see Mamma Chow please.’

The boy thought about the request for a second or two. ‘You wait.’ The peephole snapped closed

It took around five minutes for the door to open, it felt like five years to Amy.

‘Mamma Chow see you now.’ The boy said. Amy looked him up and down. He was probably ten years old and he way he was dressed he looked more suited to New York than Hong Kong. It seemed even China had homeboys. ‘You come.’

Amy and her mother followed the boy up the narrow staircase to a third floor room. If the stairs and halls were old fashioned, Mamma Chow’s room surprised Amy. It looked like any small flat in Australia with the one exception being a large area in the main room that looked like an altar or shrine, complete with large statue of Buddha.

Sitting in a kitchen chair was a little old lady who could have been aged anywhere from sixty to one hundred-and sixty. She said something in what Amy assumed was Mandarin.

The boy translated for her. ‘She say what took you so long.’

Susan started to explain but the old woman seemed to yell something at the boy and he offered both Amy and Susan a chair. ‘Sit.’

They sat. The old woman studied the girl closely, as Amy tugged at the hem of her dress, and crossed her legs. Mamma Chow said something in her language and the boy translated as well as he could. ‘You no like her box?’ Came the question.

‘I’m not sure now if the problem is with your box or mine.’ Amy said a little sullenly.

The old woman barked something else to the boy and he offered both women a drink, which Susan politely declined. Amy asked for a coke. When the boy returned from the kitchen Mamma Chow turned her attention back to Amy.

‘You no like being girl?’ The boy asked for her.

‘Me not thrilled with idea. No.’ Amy said imitating the boy’s speech patterns.

‘You want go back?’

The question bothered Amy and it bothered her that it bothered her. This one should be a no brainer. Getting turned back into Stuart was what had kept her going the past two months and here she was, in front of someone she assumed was the only person in the world to grant the request, and she was seriously thinking about it.

Being Amy had certainly opened her eyes to more than a few things. It helped her relationship with her sister and Katie. It had made her infinitely more patient with people and to top it all off there was Danny to consider.

‘Say yes,’ her brain kept shouting. ‘Say yes now. The longer you fart around with it the more it looks like you want to stay a girl. It’s not hard, engage mouth and say yes. Bloody hell girl; look at the shit you got in with Steve. If Danny wasn’t there to act as the knight on the white horse you’d be more deflowered than a Vietnam jungle after agent orange was dropped.’

Amy wanted to say yes at that point. The attack by Steve had affected her more than she wanted to let on to her mother. She had woken in a cold sweat after having nightmares about that night on more than a few occasions.

All her heart could manage was ‘Sure it’s a pain in the butt sometimes. Periods suck and sitting to piss can take a masters degree in logistics but look me in the eye and tell me you aren’t a better person for the experience of the last two months.’

‘Shut up heart,’ the brain told it. ‘For one thing you don’t even have eyes and for another I do the thinking. Just shut the hell up and pump some damn blood up here. I’m feeling dizzy.’

‘See?’ Amy’s heart shot back. ‘You’d be screwed with out me. Listen to me Amy. What about Danny huh? You can’t tell me you don’t have feelings for that guy.’

Susan, the boy and Mamma Chow were all looking at Amy when she finally managed to silence most of her bodily organs. Her stomach was still giving her hell over a spicy meal she’d had the night before but as yet it hadn’t offered an opinion on her gender.

‘For Christ’s sake say yes!’ Her brain managed to say at the last minute.

Amy looked up from her lap and quietly said. ‘I don’t know.’

Susan was a little surprised. She would have bet London to a brick that Amy would jump at the chance.

Mamma Chow smiled, just a little. Saying something which the boy translated as ‘you very brave. Thank you for truth.’

Silence hung in the air as Amy contemplated what she’d just said. Eventually she looked up at Mamma Chow and addressed her rather than the boy. ‘Right now, I don’t know what I want. If you had asked me an hour ago I would have said that I wanted to be Stuart again. If you ask me an hour from now I’d probably say I want to be Stuart but right now? I just don’t know.’

Mamma Chow nodded sagely. ‘You have learn lot from time as girl. Maybe you needed knowledge. Decision not needed today,’ the old woman shrugged. ‘You have one more lesson to learn but when you do the power is in you.’

‘So you can’t change her back even if she wanted to?’ Susan asked incredulously.

Mamma Chow waited for the translation and then slowly shook her head.

Amy was stunned. ‘That’s great.’ She said. ‘That’s just fucking great. I sweat my ass of for two months to get here and what do I find? An Asian fucking Yoda. "Good the gender change can be. Many lessons to be learned. Use the force with in." What the hell is the story with this damn box?’

‘Amy.’ Susan said in that tone only a mother can use as the girl got up and paced around the room. ‘Calm down right this minute.’

Meanwhile, Mamma Chow and the boy had been talking in their language. The boy turned to face Amy and said in English. ‘An explanation needed. Mamma Chow be making boxes for two centuries. She learned as young girl in China from Buddhist monk. Boxes used centuries ago to hide holy men who tell people about bad Emperors. Emperors in many times not like religion to tell truth to people about what happen in palace. Now Mamma Chow makes boxes to help people like Amy’s mother and Mei Ling,’

‘So what’s all this shit about learning a lesson?’ Amy asked.

‘Mamma Chow not know Amy’s mother’s boss. Why make him woman forever? Buddhist believe in Karma and reincarnation. If boss learn lesson he deserve chance to become man again. If not?’ The boy shrugged. ‘That is his karma.’

‘What lesson do I have to learn?’

‘There is old Chinese saying. If a blind man find own way out of forest he not get lost again. If blind man led from forest be ready to rescue him again. Find your own way out of forest.’

‘Or in my case, bush.’ Amy said dryly as she looked down at her lap.

‘Look to your heart.’ The boy said after translating Mamma Chow’s words with a laugh.

Mamma Chow seemed to admonish the boy for something as her voice raised just a little and the tempo got faster. Amy and Susan got the impression he had given too much away but neither of them was sure what it was exactly. The young boy simply bowed and said,’ you go now. Mamma Chow tired.’

After the two women had left Mamma Chow turned to the boy and said in Kimmi’s voice, ‘like that girl really needs to chill out already.’

Mother and daughter were out in the alley before Susan realised something. ‘How did she know you are called Amy? I never used that name in there.’

‘Now what?’ Amy asked looking as if she was about to cry.

‘Now honey, I guess we go back to Australia and try to work out what the lesson is.’ Susan replied hugging her daughter. ‘Cheer up, at least you aren’t stuck like that for good.’

-oOOo-

‘Amy,’ Jade said as her sister and mother walked into the house late the next afternoon. ‘You’re still… you.’

‘That’s a big A for observation Jade,’ Amy snapped. ‘Did you work that out all by yourself or did you need to phone a friend?’

‘Gee, I am glad your attitude isn’t as bad as it was.’ Jade shot back sarcastically.

‘Enough girls. I am tired, hungry and I need a cigarette.’

‘What happened?’

‘We found the old woman Jade. She said she couldn’t turn Amy back into Stuart until she learned some lesson.’

‘What lesson?’

‘Your guess is as good as mine.’ Amy shrugged.

‘Oh well. Danny rang for you.’

‘I’ll ring him later, I am going to get changed right now. Have you heard from Katie?’

‘She’s as anxious to find out what happened as I was but she had to go home’

‘Damn.’ Amy grumbled. ‘What is wrong with that girl?’

‘With the mood you’re in at the moment, if she’s staying away from you she can only be described as smart.’

-oOOo-

The next day, when Susan was at work and Jade was at school there was a knock at the door. Amy, who was given an extra day off to think through her situation, opened the door hoping it was Katie. ‘Oh, it’s you.’

‘That’s a lovely way to greet your father.’

‘Come in then.’ Amy shrugged. ‘I am the only one here though.’

‘Is it true you and your mother have just got back from overseas?’

‘Yes, we had a week in Hong Kong. What difference does it make?’

‘It matters to me Amy because I am supposed to give permission for you to leave the country. And why aren’t you at school?’

‘I am not at school because I have bad menstrual cramps .’ It was a lie but Amy knew he wouldn’t challenge it. ‘And if you are just here to give mum the shits you can piss off back to Perth right now.’

‘Watch the language young lady.’ Jim said sternly. ‘I am not here to give your mother a hard time. I was in town on business and thought I’d come over here and wait until you got home from school but I couldn’t find the key.’

‘Mum moved it from under the pot plant.’ Amy shrugged. ‘It’s too easy for… undesirables to find.’

Her father dismissed the dig she was having at him with a shrug. ‘I thought your mother might be working from home today.’

‘Nope. It’s just me.’

‘Well it was you I wanted to see anyway honey. I was wondering if you wanted to come stay with me in the school holidays. Francesca will be away at her parents so I thought I could fly you over and it will be just you and me for the week. I can show you Perth and we can spend some time together. Just like old times. What do you say?’

Amy was surprised by the offer. Stuart and his dad were never that close. She couldn’t remember the old times her dad was talking about and after the disappointment of Hong Kong she was in the mood to vent her anger a little. ‘Those that can, parent. Those that can’t shell out the cash.’ She shrugged. ‘Gee, I wonder what category you fit into?’ She glared at him and continued, ‘Anyway, I was going to hang around here with Katie and Danny for the school holidays.’

Once more Jim ignored the outburst and tried to change the subject, not knowing that he was heading for thin ice. ‘Are you still going out with that… boy?’

‘Don’t’ Amy said firmly. ‘Don’t come here and bitch about my friends.’

‘I am your father. Even if I am not living here with you, I have a right. No, an obligation to look out for you. I don’t think Danny is the type of boy I want my little girl… hanging around with.’

‘I am sure mum’s parents said the same about you Dad. The difference is, they were right.’

‘I don’t like him. I am only speaking my mind.’

Amy rolled her eyes, looking every inch the petulant teenaged girl she was. ‘You met him at the wedding and spent what? Ten minutes tops talking to him.’ She stated. ‘People in glass houses dad.’

‘Have I done something to upset you?’ Jim asked genuinely puzzled by Amy’s attitude towards him. She’d been that way on her birthday and at his sister’s wedding and he really didn’t know why she had changed from a girl he used to be able to talk about anything with to this moody monster in front of him now. He put it down to puberty but deep down he was sure he’d done something else because Jade was never as bad at the same age.

‘You mean apart from divorcing mum and marrying what’s her name?’ Amy replied not looking him in the eye.

‘Her name is Francesca Amy,’ Jim sighed. ‘But you know that already.’

‘Whatever. Look Dad, you bugger off to Perth and remarry and you forgot about me and Jade.’

‘I never forgot Amy. I moved to Perth for work, plain and simple. I wanted us all to go but your mother just got the job with the I.S.P. I thought it best to give you all some room when the marriage broke up.’

‘Moving to Perth gave me plenty of room.’ She spat. ‘Just don’t come and act like you’re a great father.’

‘I know I’ve let you down.’ He said softly. ‘I did what I thought was right but here’s a news flash, parents make mistakes too.’

‘Gee, I am glad you told me that, I would have never guessed.’

‘Sweetie, I am about to say something I don’t say lightly. Ask your mother, it took me three years to say it to her. I always loved you. I will always love you. Like it not I will always be your father and if you need me all you need to do is call and I’ll be here for you.’

‘Really? Gee, lets go over a few things. My first period? Nope, that was mum. My last ten or so Ballet recitals? Mum again. The first time my heart was broken? No, I believe it was mum who was there with the shoulder to cry on.’

‘If you don’t tell me about your boyfriends it’s very hard to know when your heart is broken.’

‘It wasn’t a boyfriend dad.’

‘Who was it then?’ Jim asked

‘You.’ She replied softly. ‘I am going back to bed. Do me a favour and close the door when you leave.’

‘I take it that’s a no for Perth in the holidays.’ Jim said redundantly.

-oOOo-

‘How is my darling little sister this evening?’ Jade asked as Amy sat painting her fingernails later that day. ‘Are we in a better mood now?’

‘Fuck off Jade.’ Amy said, barely looking up from the task at hand.

‘Now now, that’s not very lady like.’

Amy finally put the lid back on the polish and looked up at her sister. ‘Did you want something?’

‘Well I’d like you to cheer up a little. Ever since you got home from Hong Kong you’ve been a first class bitch. More of a bitch than normal and that’s saying something. Build a bridge and get over it.’

‘Why don’t you build a bridge and jump off it?’ Amy shot back.

‘Well I was here to help you, I’ve got an idea that might get back to being Stuart but you obviously can manage on your own. Funny though, since you still have tits I would think you’re not doing that good a job of it.’

Amy rolled her eyes. ‘Yeah, all right. Sorry. What’s your idea?’

‘Gee, I don’t know. You don’t sound too sorry.’ Jade teased. ‘Maybe I won’t worry about it.’

‘Come on Jade. The U.N. has banned torture.’

‘Okay. I’ve been thinking about what Mamma Chow said to you about looking to your heart.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Well what is it you used to do a lot of but you haven’t done since you got changed? And I am not talking about pulling your dick?’

‘Beating the crap out of you?’

‘No,’ Jade said pulling a piece of paper from her pocket. ‘Music. Playing with your friends in that dopey band.’

Amy quickly perused the leaflet. ‘Battle of the bands?’

‘Yep. It’s in three weeks.’

‘So?’

‘God you’re thick Amy. Personally I think that if brains were dynamite your friends wouldn’t have enough to blow their nose. But you went from spending every waking moment with them to saying absolutely nothing. Maybe that’s what Mamma Chow was talking about.’

‘It’s a bit of a long shot.’

‘Better than no shot at all.’ Jade shrugged.

‘But as far as I can tell they don’t even have a band anymore.’

Now it was Jade’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘Well derr.’ She said. ‘Stuart got them together so when he disappeared so did their reason to be in a band. You know what instruments they play right?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And you’ve got a pretty good voice.’

‘I don’t know Jade.’ Amy said shaking her head. ‘I don’t think we can get too far in three weeks.’

‘You don’t have to win. If I am right, all you need to do is spend a little time with the jerks doing what you used to do. Besides, as Zeke Franklin always said, Show biz is 90% show man ship and 15% talent. We just get you in a mini skirt, some thigh high boots and a tube top then get you up on stage shaking your little booty. You’d probably come close to winning.’

‘Who the hell is Zeke Franklin?’

‘I’m buggered if I know.’ Jade smiled. ‘The guy couldn’t even work out maths, do you really think he could get into showbiz?’

Amy thought about Jade’s idea a little. ‘We can’t play the same kind of music. I don’t want what happened with Katie to happen again.’

‘So change it,’ Jade shrugged. ‘That heavy metal dirge you call music wouldn’t suit your voice anyway.’

‘What if they don’t want to play another style? They’re all into hard rock.’

‘Honestly Amy, for a girl you are such a boy. If a girl that looked like you do walked up to Stuart and asked him to join her band Stuart would have played Polka music if she asked.’

‘Good point.’ Amy conceded. ‘I’m still worried they might find out who I really am.’

‘Nah, trust me. They’ll be too busy looking at your boobs.’

-oOOo-

Amy went to school the next morning, against her wishes, but Susan made it quite clear that girl or not, she couldn’t just laze around at home all day. Schoolwork was waiting and grades were depending on it.

As she and Katie walked to School Amy told her about the band idea.

‘Do you think it will work?’

‘I really don’t know.’ Amy said truthfully. ‘I think when Mamma Chow told me to look to my heart she was talking about Danny.’

Katie stopped walking and looked at Amy. ‘Or me.’ She said quietly.

It was something Amy had thought about but she never thought Katie would be the one to raise the subject. She looked her friend in the eye. ‘It’s the wrong time to talk about the K.J. and this is certainly the wrong body.’ Amy ran her hands over her boobs and down to her hips.

Katie looked down and nodded slowly. ‘I guess so. It’s just kind of…’

‘…There will be time.’ Amy said taking her friends face in her dainty hands. ‘Believe me, there will be time.’

Both girls started walking again but silence seemed to form a barrier between them.

-oOOo

Amy decided to ring in sick to work. Now she had been to Hong Kong there seemed little point in keeping the job but she still couldn’t bring herself to quit. Not knowing how much longer she’d be stuck as a girl and knowing the high price of just about every thing associated with the distaff side of life she knew the extra cash might come in handy.

She simply couldn’t bring herself to face Sammy that night. Her day had been stressful enough. Katie had started things off on a strange angle and things just got worse. First of all she had deliberately tried to stay away from Danny without looking rude. She was worried about how she was going to deal with him when she got turned back into Stuart and, if she was being truthful with herself she was probably more worried that if she got any closer to the hunky boy she wouldn’t want to be Stuart.

It used to be that life was too complicated when all she had to choose between was Pizza or Burgers, a comedy or an action film. Now, since she touched that damn box she really knew complicated. Danny or Katie, a skirt or jeans and more importantly male or female. Her old life seemed so much easier. A little like looking back at Pre-school when you were in your senior year at High school.

‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you.’ Susan said, hands on hips, as soon as Amy walked through the door.

‘I hope it’s a T-bone. I am starving.’

‘You didn’t tell me your father was here yesterday.’ Susan said in a tone that let Amy know that her mother knew what had been said between her and her dad.

‘Oh shit.’

‘Do you have any idea how upset he is?’ Susan continued.

‘I got a feeling you’re going to tell me.’

‘Very. I don’t get it Amy. You get a little bit of bad news so the only way you can feel better about yourself is to make everyone else miserable? Is that it? Or do you just want to spread your fowl mood around?’

‘I wasn’t that bad.’ Amy said none too convincingly.

‘That’s not what I’ve heard. Honesty Amy, your dad doesn’t know about the switch. He and Amy didn’t have the same issues that he had with Stuart. He can’t understand all this attitude and quite frankly neither can I.’

‘Trust Dad to come crying to you about it.’ The girl sniffed.

‘He didn’t. He wouldn’t have said a word but your grandmother dragged it out of him. She’s not too happy with you at the moment either.’

Amy sat on the sofa. ‘Great.’ She grumbled. ‘So he’s staying with Gran?’

‘Yep.’ Susan said looking down at her daughter. ‘It makes it easier. You can apologise to both of them at the same time.’

‘What? Now?’

‘If not sooner.’ Susan nodded.

‘You really know how to hurt a girl.’ Amy said. ‘Gran will give me an lecture that will last for hours.’

‘If not days.’ Susan smiled. ‘See you when you get back. If you’re not home in a week I’ll send out a search party.’

-oOOo-

Amy was still in her school uniform as she walked to her grandmothers’ house about twenty minutes away.

She stiffened up as she heard a car slow down behind her, knowing what was to come next.

‘Hey Baby.’ A young male voice shouted to be heard over the boom boom boom of a radio turned up as far as it could go, from within the car. ‘Do you want to sit on my face?’

Amy turned to see pretty much what she expected. A beat up old car with four sixteen-year-old guys who thought they were all gods gift to women. She waited for the car to pull a little closer and then said. ‘Only if I can be in a steam roller.’

‘What’s the matter babe? Don’t you like men?’

‘I don’t know, you show me a man and I’ll tell you.’ With that she turned and walked off, ignoring the disgusting names coming from the car as it took off past her.

She had managed to avoid too many more catcalls and wolf whistles as she turned into her grandmothers’ street. But even they seemed pleasant to the sight that greeted her in the front yard of the house she knew so well.

She quickly ducked behind a tree and tried to blend into the foliage, something that’s not easy in a blue plaid skirt and dark blue sweater. At first she thought she was imagining things but as she continued to look it became clear that it was all true. Her dad had his arm around Francesca’s waist as she stood there watering the garden. Nothing strange there. Except that Francesca was pregnant. Very Pregnant.

Amy made sure she hadn’t been seen and then she headed home feeling more angry and hurt than before.

-oOOo-

 



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2001 by Genni Smith. 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.