We Can Work It Out: A MORFS Universe Story
By Terry Volkirch
Chapter 6: May 8, 2035
I'd been sleeping late ever since I got home from the hospital so getting up at dawn was difficult. I tried to hang on to some pleasant dream fragments as I got out of bed but I lost them. I had more pressing matters to focus on. It was time to start getting ready for school.
I didn't expect to have any trouble today but I had to admit I felt some apprehension. Something was bothering me - something in the back of my mind that I couldn't pin down. Maybe it was just my budding feminine intuition trying to tell me something. Who knows. One thing for sure was that I couldn't blame it on trying to decide what to wear. That was already decided for me. I had that awful school uniform.
Many public schools across the nation joined private schools and started a dress code to help mitigate the effects of MORFS. The uniforms were a constant in a world of changing appearances. It seemed to help. If nothing else, it gave the students a common enemy to rally against. Nearly everyone hated their school clothes, and if they didn't hate them, they wisely kept their mouths shut. The schools in Copely didn't need to worry so much about changing appearance since the extreme MORFS cases were forced out of town. They just latched on to the idea because most people were so conservative here.
My white blouse and pleated skirt were already laid out by my thoughtful mother who was downstairs, preparing my favorite breakfast. She was determined to send me off on a high note. The breakfast would easily make up for the uniform. She knew me too well.
I dressed quickly to get it over with and used the few extra minutes I saved to carefully apply mascara. The lip gloss would wait until after I ate so I didn't have to touch it up again. I wanted to look my best when I made my grand appearance at school.
Mom heard me before she saw me, I made so much noise scuffing my way downstairs. Did I say I wasn't a morning person? She called out to me to hurry up or I'd be late. I didn't have the energy to reply. I just followed the delicious smell of bacon to the kitchen and gave a weak smile before I flopped down at the table.
"Food please," I squeaked out to my mom's amusement. She never ceased to be amazed at how I could be so lethargic in the morning and so energetic in the afternoon. I tried before to tell her I was just naturally slow in the morning and didn't drink any caffeinated beverages to get me going. If I wanted to be difficult, I could point out that she was fairly dull herself before her first cup of coffee in the morning. I'd been up before her on more than one occasion. She was what I called an artificial morning person. True morning people didn't need coffee. They bounced out of bed immediately after waking up to instantly annoy their groggy family members.
As I slowly but steadily shoveled in my bacon and scrambled eggs, my mother made an important observation. I still didn't have a purse. How was I going to carry my lip gloss and all of my other little feminine goodies today? I silently chastised myself for forgetting to ask to stop at a store and get one yesterday. Then I entertained the idea of carrying everything in my old fanny pack. It would probably look silly if I wore it around my waist but perhaps I could sling it over my shoulder. Would that work? I didn't want anything to interfere with my grand entrance.
Mom disappeared upstairs while I was running through scenarios. She came back as I was contemplating hiding the fanny back under my skirt and saved me from hysterics with one of her own purses. Of course she had several for different occasions. She handed me a little black purse that was perfect.
With the purse crisis averted, I thanked her and sank back into my thoughts. The good food and my borderline hysterics added together to liven me up mentally. I thought about how much my mother and I had talked since I got home from the hospital - I mean really talked. She told me how she felt about things and opened up to me. It wasn't like her. When I was a boy, she rarely said anything to me other than to ask me questions. She was content to listen a lot more than she talked. I remember it bothering me that she didn't talk more to me but I never said anything. That seemed silly now so I had to ask her about it.
"I don't know," she answered. "I never thought about it before. I suppose I just didn't relate well to teenage boys. I didn't realize you were really a daughter in boys clothes or I might have talked to you more."
That got a laugh out of me. "After you got over the shock you mean."
She gave me a wry grin and got up to clean the dishes. I tried to help but she made me go upstairs to finish getting ready. I had my purse to fill, teeth to clean and lip gloss to put on. Getting ready for school never took so long.
When I finally finished, it was getting late. Normally I'd walk to the nearest train station and take the clockwise Ring to school. It was a bit far to walk the whole way. It would take too long and I'd get a bit sweaty so the train was my best option. Today my mother vetoed that notion. She'd drive me and make sure I got there okay. I assured her I wouldn't chicken out but she was adamant. There went my plan to make a good first impression.
I was going to saunter up the front stairs with my best feminine walk - the one I'd been practicing for the past few days - and just smile and wave at everyone. I wasn't going to say anything to give away who I'd been. I'd leave them all wondering who the new girl was. For some reason, that amused me so of course I couldn't resist.
There were few classmates who knew my mother so it wasn't likely anyone would identify me as a former boy, but there was no way I could impress any of them now. I'd get out of my mother's car with her telling me to have a good day and blowing kisses at me. Then I'd glow red with embarrassment. Oh the things we teens have to endure.
On the way to school, I got up the nerve to ask my mom to drop me off without any mushy farewells. I told her I didn't want to draw any attention to myself right away. It was partly true anyway. I should've known better though and kept my mouth shut.
"What? Do I embarrass you?" she said with a coy grin. I knew she'd make trouble for sure now. I only hoped it would be minimal.
It was only about a 10 minute drive to my high school. We pulled into a parking stall in the front parking lot and I said good-bye before I opened the door. My mom only responded with that dreaded glint in her eye so I sighed and got out of the car. I didn't make it to the sidewalk before she rolled down the window, honked several times and called out to me as she was leaving.
"Good-bye sweetie! Have a good day! Love you!"
I swore I'd get her back somehow but giggled anyway. I did deserve it after all.
I gave up on my attention grabbing plan and walked normally up to the front door of the school. No one noticed me so it was just as well. I took a deep breath, opened the door and walked in. So far, so good.
English was my first class. I don't know why I scheduled it so early. It was hard enough for me to write when I was fully awake, let alone early in the morning. Words never used to come easy to me as a boy but maybe things would be different now. I was wordier than ever.
I was hoping to dig right in with some writing exercises but first there was a little ritual to perform - my introduction. I dreaded being introduced, especially since I knew the principal and all the teachers had been briefed on my change. Who knows what they'd say. All I could do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
"Attention, class," Mr. Wyman said. "We have a new student of sorts. Please welcome Bobbi."
My classmates all said hello while I looked around to smile and wave at everyone. It was difficult to be assertive but I did my best to make eye contact. I managed well enough to notice that no one gave me any funny looks, but that was probably because no one had yet realized who I'd been. I'm sure it helped that my teacher didn't say my last name. He wasn't finished though.
"Bobbi has been through MORFS recently. She isn't truly a new student so some of you can probably guess who she used to be."
That shouldn't have been difficult since I sat at the same desk I'd sat at as Rob. Still, it took Mr. Wyman's statement to get anyone to make the connection. There were a few stifled gasps but no laughter. I don't think I could handle laughter. The room quickly grew quiet again and my talkative teacher continued.
"I know it can be hard to be tolerant of those who are different, but I want you to take a good look at Bobbi. I don't know about the rest of you, but as far as I can tell, she's a normal teenage girl. I expect all of you to treat her accordingly. Do I make myself clear?"
Oddly enough, all eyes were on me and I didn't blush. I think I was too shocked to be embarrassed, and I had to admit I liked the attention. I flashed a shy smile and waited. There was still no laughter. I did notice a couple girls scowl at me but it seemed more like jealousy than anything else. I wondered if they were worried about losing their boyfriends to me. If that was true, I wished I could tell them they had nothing to worry about.
The first half of the day went pretty smoothly after that first introduction. All the rest of my teachers were too lazy to be creative. They just introduced me by my first name and left it at that. It suited me just fine. No one seemed to realize or care who I used to be so all I had to get used to was being checked out by a few would-be Romeos.
When the lunch bell rang, the usual race to the cafeteria began. There's nothing more impatient than a stampede of hungry teenagers. I know because I was one of them. Something odd happened when I got to the cafeteria though. I froze. I finally realized I hadn't brought anything to eat. I had money but no food. I usually bought a snack out of the vending machine to eat with something I brought from home. Now what?
I was paralyzed with indecision. I had no idea what to eat. My usual snack wouldn't be enough, that was plain enough, but what would be appropriate for a girl to eat. I wanted to fit in. I couldn't imagine eating a large, heavy meal. I couldn't imagine anything at all, and meanwhile, the vending machines were rapidly being emptied. This required some quick thinking. I was awake enough now. I could handle it. What would mom do?
I looked over at the long row of vending machines and tried to see what other girls were buying. I couldn't tell from where I was standing so I inched towards the machines. I had precious few minutes to spare. All the best items would soon be gone.
It seemed odd to buy food out of vending machines at school. Everywhere else, you'd buy something from people. I didn't think I'd ever get used to it but at least there was a good variety. There were mostly healthy entrees - hot and cold - along with various salads and far too few desserts. I'd have liked to get a dessert. They were quite tasty and filling so I wouldn't need to buy much. It's too bad I had no hope of getting one. They'd be sold out long before I got through the line.
As I got closer, I thought about all the stereotypes. Would I be reduced to rabbit food the rest of my life? Is that really what girls usually ate? It seemed a bit unrealistic with the large variety of food here but even so, I thought some salads were good. I'd had a grilled chicken salad once that was pretty tasty. I'd seen a fair number of other ones that looked okay too. Maybe stereotypes weren't always bad.
Most of the girls who were still in line were concentrated among three vending machines. I was too short to see over anyone but I managed to peek around to the side and look in through the little plastic windows to see what was being offered. All I could see were a few salads and the odd piece of fruit. I stood in line and told myself I should be happy to get anything as long as it tasted good.
By the time I'd gotten to the front of the line, I had very little choice. I ended up with an apple and a very plain green salad. Now all I had to do was find somewhere to pick at it. That was the easy part.
I found a seat at my usual 'geek' table and sat alone to eat. Few students liked to be known as a geek so few sat at the table. That was fine by me. I wasn't sure I'd like any company at the moment, though I could see a few guys across the lunch room who looked like they might eventually try to join me. I caught a glimpse of Greg too, and I thought my stern speech might have done some good. He wasn't lusting at me or any other girl. Perhaps there was hope for him yet, but I was still glad I didn't have to worry about him sitting at the same table. Greg was a year ahead of me so he sat at the older geek table. Yeah, sadly enough, even geeks discriminate in Copely.
It wasn't long before Adrian moved closer and sat next to me. That was actually good. I liked him, and as long as I wasn't alone, there was a chance at keeping the Romeos at bay. Adrian normally sat a few seats away from me at the same table but we talked occasionally so I guess that made him a casual friend. I think he stayed away to make room for John. John and I almost always sat together and didn't leave much room for anyone else in our conversations. Unfortunately, now I was painfully aware of John's absence.
It was a good thing I had Adrian to deal with or I might have slid down into a pit of despair. Adrian didn't talk much to anyone really, and I never saw him talk to a girl before, but that didn't stop him from talking to me today.
"Hello. MORFS really scrambled your DNA, didn't it." he remarked.
My stammering caused him to smile a little. It was a pleasant smile so I knew I didn't have anything to worry about. It was rather obvious that he knew who I was. He just caught me by surprise.
I shouldn't have been surprised though, given his intellect. Adrian had gone through MORFS last summer and some teachers insisted it made him smarter. It was hard for me to tell because he was a straight A student before. I've always got A's and B's but I've never been close to being in his league.
"Hi Adrian," I finally said with a sad little smile. "Yeah, I think I got you beat."
Before Adrian had gone through MORFS, he was already small, but afterwards he got smaller and even girlish. He barely topped 5 feet tall now. Some people wondered whether he was still a boy and I had to admit, it was hard to tell. He had no powers that anyone knew of. He was just a very smart and petite teenage boy.
"So what name do you go by now?" he asked.
"Bobbi. Please call me Bobbi."
"Of course. I should've known."
We ended up talking the rest of the lunch hour, most of it about MORFS. We probably didn't talk much before because we really didn't have much in common. We were both boys and both geeks but we were geeks in different ways. Adrian was more a computer geek and I loved math and science. Now we had something else in common. We were both MORFS survivors.
As I walked to my next class, I wondered if Adrian figured out why John wasn't at the table. I'm sure he did. He never once mentioned John so I liked to think he was being polite about it. In a way, it didn't help much. Not talking about my best friend made me think of him all the more, and now I was alone with my thoughts. At least I didn't get depressed. Adrian couldn't replace John but he was becoming a good friend. I was on the right track.
Just before class, I was startled to hear my cell phone ring. No one ever called me except my parents in an emergency. That made me nervous. I didn't know if I could handle any trouble at the moment. I fumbled in my purse for the phone and managed to get it out without dropping it. Then I had a quick look at the display to see who was calling. It was my mother.
"Mom! Is something wrong?!"
"Calm down sweetie," she said. "I'm just calling about lunch. I was making my own lunch and realized that I forgot all about yours this morning. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I forgot too."
"Well?," my mother probed.
"I had a salad and an apple. I'm fine, thanks."
"My my... already watching your figure," my mother teased. "Good girl. Shall I get you some diet soda while I'm grocery shopping later?"
"Mother!" I said with mock anger. There was a slight pause and both of us burst into laughter.
"I have to go to class now," I told her. "Bye!"
That was an interesting conversation, besides the fact that it was on my emergency cell phone. Mom rarely teased me before and now she already got me twice in one day. She really must be getting used to having a daughter. That made me smile as I entered my science class.
* * *
The rest of my classes were pretty much the same except for PE, which was quite boring. I still had to go, even though I couldn't participate in the mixed softball game. My PE teacher had me keep score and help carry equipment instead. It was easy but not very much fun. I would rather have played, even with boys on the teams. If only I wouldn't have had to use the girl's locker room.
Since I didn't use up enough energy in PE, I felt wound up by the time school ended. I really needed some exercise. Before my change, I ran a couple miles several days a week, and I wondered if I was still in good enough shape to keep it up. I wouldn't try running without a sport bra but I could get some walking in as a warm-up. I'd change clothes when I got home and give running a try.
First I had to figure out how I was getting home, and I decided it was my turn to surprise mom with a phone call. I asked her not to pick me up. I told her how stress free my day was and explained that I needed some exercise. I'd walk to the nearby train station, take the counterclockwise Ring to my neighborhood station and walk the rest of the way. Thankfully, she was too busy with her part-time technical writing job to pick me up anyway. She got to work from home most of the time but today she had to drop by her workplace to discuss some new documents. That meant I'd get to leave school with my dignity intact - or so I thought.
When I got to the train station, three girls from school were already waiting, and my feelings of impending doom from this morning were suddenly back. I thought I'd have to worry more about boys chasing me. I didn't think about how cruel girls could be to each other. I was thinking about it now though. The three girls ahead of me were notoriously bad, and they all wore their best sneers.
"Well well," said the tall, blue haired leader. I think she went by Sash - short for Sasha. She had quite a reputation. "If it isn't the 'new' girl." Her two much shorter lackeys snickered at that.
"Hello," I said, bravely looking Sasha in the eyes. I was determined to be assertive. I was determined to get through this. It was bound to happen and the sooner I got through it, the sooner I could move on.
The tall girl was a little taken aback at my response. I suppose she expected me to cower like most of her other victims. I didn't like the odds in a physical fight but I was confident it wouldn't come to that. There were too many people around to let that happen. It was going to be a verbal sparring match and I was ready. I pressed my brief advantage while Sasha gathered what little wits she had.
"I'm not afraid of you or your mouth, Sasha, but I'm sure that won't stop you from trying. Go ahead then. Give it your best shot."
I decided to make it personal, using her full first name. Her lackeys yelped in shock but Sasha just glared at me. I could tell then that I'd have to be careful to not push her too far. I wasn't sure she wouldn't try to hit me in spite of the other people in the station. She was a very troubled and angry teen.
"Just shut your mouth, freak," Sasha growled. "Or I'll shut it for you."
"You touch me," I said, glaring back, "and I'll have you charged with assault." That hit a nerve. I could see fear now.
"You would do that, wouldn't you," she sneered. "Coward."
I ignored her taunt. It was just a desperate distraction to get me on the defensive. I had her now.
"Do you already have a police record? Do you want one?" I said with a straight face. I knew better than to smile. I was sure that would push her over the edge. The other two girls knew their leader was close to snapping too.
"C'mon, Sash," one of them said to diffuse the tension. "She's not worth it. Let's go get some cigs. I'm dying for a smoke."
The leader huffed at that but I could see the immediate danger was over. Then she threw me a curve by smiling the most chilling smile I'd ever seen.
"Later, freak," was all she said. With that, she turned and led the other two girls to a little shop at the end of the platform - no doubt to try to intimidate the clerk into illegally selling her some cigarettes. She was under age but I'm sure that didn't matter to her.
The train arrived a little behind schedule some 15 minutes later, and I noted that the gang of three were smoking as I boarded. It was evident that Sasha was used to getting her own way. Maybe I should've let her verbally abuse me after all. I made a very important mental note to watch out for her in the future.
The other girls quickly stubbed out their cigarettes and got on a different section of the same train, leaving me alone for now. I remembered them from past rides so I knew they lived in the same direction. I'd be seeing a lot more of them the rest of the school year. That was a disturbing thought.
I was trembling by the time I got home. The encounter with Sasha shook me up more than I thought. I ran upstairs to my bedroom, buried my face in my pillow and cried my eyes out. Why was Sasha so mean to me? How did someone get so mean? What kind of life did she live to get like that? I just couldn't imagine such a horrible life but it must be very, very bad, and I guessed it must have something to do with her parents. The idea of anyone having rotten parents upset me greatly but it also helped me appreciate my own that much more, and thoughts of my family brought me back from the brink of despair.
When my mother got home from work, she knew I'd been crying. It didn't matter that I'd cleaned the makeup off my face and composed myself. She must have noticed that I was still trembling and was less talkative than usual. She suspected something because she went to check my pillow and saw mascara stains on it. I forgot all about my pillow. So I confessed that I was upset then, and after a brief hug, I recounted my trip home from school, being careful not to reveal Sasha's name. Parental involvement usually made bullying worse from what I could tell. It was up to me to resolve this myself. I had to continue to stand up for myself and I would, with some much needed moral support from my mom.
I felt better after talking things out but conversation at dinner was still subdued. My parents and I still had a lot to think about it. We still had a long way to go. One thing that helped me though was intuition. I think I was beginning to understand intuition now. It was really just a matter of staying in touch with your own feelings and paying attention to others. I was sure it would become extremely important in my life so I held onto it like a precious jewel, along with my parents, what few friends I had, and of course, Gwen.
It was with great relief that I trudged upstairs to get ready for bed that night. Nothing more could happen to me. I'd forgotten about exercise but there'd be time enough for that. I was emotionally exhausted and would have no trouble sleeping anyway. My first day of school as a girl was over. I survived.
To Be Continued...
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/