It was impossible to stem the gossip that flew after Charley’s surgery. The tittillating story excited the town’s small minds. Charles’s prominent position in the community only made it more fascinating……….this misfortune on top of a crazy wife? “Maybe that was what drove her crazy.” “Weird stuff like that runs in families. “Dr. Evans acted interested in me for a while after his wife died. I am so glad now I didn’t get involved with him.” “My daughter always said Charley didn’t look at her right!”
A few good friends reached out to Charles. Their sympathy was almost worse. No friends came to see Charley. Charles was glad Charley had requested no company, so Charley didn’t know no one called or asked to visit. Geneva, Cora, and Charles took turns staying with till Charley went home from the hospital and worked hard to start thinking and referring to Charley as a boy, a difficult change to make.
Charley was thoughtful, but denied depression. He lounged around with in Charles’s baggy pajamas for a week or so before approaching Charles. “Dad, I need new clothes. I’ll never wear my old stuff again. Can we go to Dallas and get me some things? I don’t want to be stared at here at in a men’s store here in town.”
“We can go Wednesday afternoon if I can get someone to cover my hospital load. I’ll get the office nurse to cancel my patients Thursday so we can stay overnight.. You can help yourself to the things your brothers left here in the meantime. I could use a few things, too. It should be fun shopping together.” Charles actually looked forward to the trip with the new Charley.
Marzell dropped by after school, bringing Charley’s books and assignments. Cora was so glad to see her. She showed her in without asking Charley. “I didn’t want to see anybody. I’m not the person you thought I was. Didn’t you hear about me?”
“I heard. That’s why I came to see you. I didn’t call because I didn’t want to give you the chance to say no. You are still my friend. Nothing changes that. Your were the first person who was nice when I moved here. I loved you like a sister then. Nothing has changed for me.” Marzell said.
“Everything has changed,” Charley said. “I am a boy now. I always thought I was but now I know it’s true. Boys and girls can’t be best friends. You can’t spend the night anymore. I always wanted to touch you in the wrong way. Now, I know why. I have a man’s feelings. You need to leave me alone. I am a mess! I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.”
“I don’t know what’s good to happen to you either, but I will still be your friend. You aren’t the only person who has a hard time. If I couldn’t come over here, I’d have to put up with Old Melvin learing at me twenty-four hours a day. I’ll be by tomorrow to pick up your work and bring assignments.” She left without saying goodbye.
“You don’t need to bring my assignments. I am not going back to school . Everybody at school knows I am a freak.” Charley said.
“They already thought that. Big deal! You only have two more weeks of eleventh grade. I’ll take your work in. You can worry about going back next fall. See you tomorrow.”