How to Breathe
"Jason!" Hanna cried again. She tried to move around Xolani, but he used his long legs to stay between her and I.
The Kindest Cut
"Hanna, honey," my mother expressed with concern. "What happened to you?"
"What's going on?" Hanna asked through tears.
I was struggling to sit up, but with my groin and legs rendered numb, I wasn't going anywhere.
My mother ran to Hanna's side. And caught her by the shoulders. Hanna fell into my mother and sobbed. My mother held her and rocked her as the tears racked through my angel's little body.
I ran away," she managed to say.
"What happened to you?" my mother repeated more softly as she touched Hanna's swollen eye.
Hanna sniffed and controlled herself. "My dad hit me, and my mom was taking me away."
Doctor Freidmont knelt down beside my mother and Hanna. "Hello, Hanna. I'm your family's GP, Doctor Freidmont. I've seen you before. Do you remember me?"
"Will you let me take a look at your eye?"
Again Hanna nodded.
He gently prodded around the eye to make sure her cheek-bone wasn't broken. Hanna winced as he pried back the eyelid to get a better look at the eye itself. "We'll have to drain some fluid soon, or you won't be able to see out of that eye. It'll need ice too." he concluded.
"Can I please see Jason," she asked meekly.
"No," Xolani said, cutting everyone off. "She is dirty. She will give him infection. She must not be here."
I tried to protest. "I want Hanna here," but no-one was listening to me.
My mother helped Hanna to stand. "Come on sweetie. Jason is having an operation, and you're covered in dirt." She began to guide Hanna back out the door.
Hanna looked back helplessly as she was led from the room. Her eyes met mine. I whispered her name. She whispered mine.
Suddenly she broke away from my mother and ran. The adults didn't know what was happening. They spread out over the room to try and catch her. She was too quick for them.
This way and that she dodged, as the adults reached out and pleaded with her. She was thin and small and fast as lightening.
"Hanna, you can't," said my mother.
They cornered her by the whirlpool that was set into the floor. She looked like a sparrow with its wings caught in a net. Her eyes darted one side to another looking for escape, for a path to me.
Doctor Freidmont tried to reason with her. "Hanna, you could give Jason an infection. Infections are very serious and could hurt him very badly. He's in the middle of surgery. Until you're clean, we can't let you near him."
The words sank home for Hanna. I could see understanding come over her. I could also see her determination. As the adults inched around the pool to her, she closed her eyes and leaned forward.
Into the pool she plunged, and out of their reach. When she came up in the centre of the pool she was already wriggling out of her jacket.
"Hanna. Come out," my mother pleaded, reaching for her from the edge.
In answer to my mother, Hanna peeled off her shirt, revealing her bare unformed chest and started to scrub herself with the hot water. It was Doctor Freidmont who realized what she was doing.
He ran to his satchel and retrieved something small and rectangular. He tossed it to Hanna. "Here, honey. Use this."
Hanna caught up the bar of soap and scrubbed for her life. Orange foam flowed over her skin. When my mother clued in to what Hanna was doing she retreated to the cupboard by the wall, and returned with some dry towels.
Hanna scrubbed herself with the soap, and simultaneously removed her shoes and shorts, which floated to the surface around her. She seemed indifferent to her nudity amongst the adults. When she was finished scrubbing and rinsing every inch she stepped forth from the jacuzzi like a small god.
Her body dripping and glowing she stood proudly for all to see. Despite her black eye, and scratched arms and legs, the adults were momentarily frozen in her presence. Her naked body was powerful and delicate. Even the eunuch Xolani was transfixed.
My mother presented Hanna with the towels, and together they dried her. When they were finished, Hanna finally was allowed to come to my side. But for a towel around her shoulders, like the robe of an empress, she was as naked as I was.
She knelt beside my bench, and we clasped hands.
"I missed you," I whispered.
"I missed you too," she said.
We kissed, not caring who saw us.
A thousand years might have passed and we wouldn't have noticed. Promises unspoken and meaning beyond words passed between us. It was an oath and a covenant. This room we were in had seen all forms of human passion, but it had never seen this. It had never seen two souls touch, and come away brighter.
When her lips left mine, we breathed in unison. The room was silent. Since Hanna had stepped out of the pool, the adults had said nothing. When we kissed, they had held their breath with us.
Xolani's eyes were wide and full of tears. He stood a few steps away from me, giving Hanna and I a respectful distance. When he spoke, the power had gone out of his voice. It was thin and full of emotion.
"We must stop, or we must continue," he said. "What do you want for me to do?"
It seemed all the adults were looking to me and Hanna for what to do next.
I looked into Hanna's eyes. "I have to do this," I told her.
Her green eyes held mine and I felt as confident as I had ever been. "Why?" she asked, pleading.
I tried to explain with my new found words and confidence. "It's who I am. It's what I'm meant to be." My words were like new shoes, still a bit too big for me. They slipped awkwardly on my tongue, but they were true, even if they weren't comfortable yet.
There were tears of acceptance in her eyes. "I'll love you no matter what." she told me. "Forever and ever and always."
I was so grateful for Hanna. So grateful she chose me. She made me feel worthy of her. She made me feel strong.
I looked to Xolani, who stood over me, the small curved blade still in his hand. "Please, Xolani," I said, almost choking on my words. "Please, do it."
The paper mask Xolani wore, sucked in and out with the deep breaths he was taking. At last he pulled himself together and knelt back to his work.
He used a wad of cotton to dab away the blood that had pooled around my cut. The scalpel flashed once more as he made sure of his incision. He pressed a finger into my numb scrotum and the side of my groin. As he did, something small and pinkish white emerged from the wound.
Xolani cut the membranes that shrouded it, and quickly tugged it into the light. When it emerged he wasted no time in clamping the cord that it dangled from. He used a long thin device, that resembled scissors. They were blunt on the ends, and locked shut with a click as he closed them over the cord. He clamped the cord high up, and as far from the little ball as was possible. My little testicle rested free of my body next to my leg.
Xolani retrieved a pair of scissors and without ceremony, clipped the cord. He discarded the severed bit into a small bowl, that he had earlier placed between my legs. It looked lonely and pathetic resting there. A tiny pink egg in a stainless steel nest.
Hanna squeezed her eyes shut, and buried her face in my chest. I held her tenderly, thankful she was there for me.
Xolani made a matching incision on the other side of my groin, and repeated the process of poking the little testicle from its home, parting the membrane, and pulling it into the light. Another clamp emerged, and there was another click.
Xolani's eyes met mine. They were dark and full of compassion. There was a second snip, and a second lonely egg found itself coming to reside in that stainless steel nest.
I thought I might have felt different. I thought that I might have felt like a different person when the deed was done. I didn't. Though I was now a eunuch. I felt as I always did. I was just me. Just Jason.
Xolani worked quickly to finish his task. He held a small device that looked something like a barbecue lighter. As he held the trigger, the end glowed first red, then white. He expertly touched the glowing tip to the cut ends of the cords still held in place by the clamps.
There was a sound like frying bacon when he touched the ends. There was also the smell of something akin to burning hair.
Another quick stitch, and it was done. He released the cauterized ends of the cords from the clamps, and the cords disappeared within me.
When he was sure the ends were clear of what he needed to do, he produced another device that looked almost like a miniature bear trap. Through this curved device he pulled my empty scrotum. He tugged expertly, being sure to pull through only the thin outer skin of the bag until the incisions he had made were in line with the curve of its jaws. Then he closed the device.
The curve of the device closely followed the curve of my groin below my penis. When it closed, it pulled the flesh around it neatly together, and trapped the scrotum. The skin stuck out almost comically from my lap.
With a long sharp blade and in one fluid motion, Xolani sliced off the excess skin. It left a perfectly straight line of cut flesh, cleanly held together. Xolani wasted no time. With the skill of an expert tailor he sewed the trapped skin. His stitches were small and close together, perfectly spaced to leave not a spot of wounded flesh untended. Micro-sutures merged the underlying layers of skin, and made a tight seam.
When he released the device, there was only one perfect line of stitches. The two incisions he had made, had been drawn together. The scrotum between was gone. Only a single thin line of black threads, a scar about an inch or so long, remained to show I ever had a bag or testicles.
After he washed away the blood and residue of surgery, he produced a small mirror.
"Do you wish to see?" he asked me.
Hesitantly, I nodded.
The finished result was clean, and natural looking. In the mirror, my tiny penis was freed from the pouch that had been its neighbour. That black line of thread was the only evidence left behind.
I looked a bit like an unfinished sculpture. I liked it. It was who I was meant to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
When he knew I was satisfied, Xolani applied a thick translucent cream to my wound, and covered it with gauze and tape.
Hanna gave me a squeeze. "Oh my Jason. My poor, poor Jason."
I hugged her back, and assured her it was all right.
With his work done, Xolani stood, and said. "Please excuse me for ah moment." He strode purposely out of the room to where we could not see him.
From outside the room, I could just hear his voice, high, soft and shuddering. It came to me that the tall eunuch was crying. For what reason I didn't immediately understand. Doctor Freidmont looked compassionately after him.
With Hanna in my arms, I remembered the story of Kgosa, his sister. The girl he had sacrificed himself for. I wondered if Xolani was remembering her. Were they tears of joy, or sorrow?
With Xolani indisposed, Doctor Freidmont stepped forward. He gently moved Hanna aside, so he could listen to my heart, and take my blood pressure. He nodded and smiled when it seemed everything was as it should be.
With Doctor Freidmont's approval, my parents finally came to me.
"How do you feel?" asked my father. His voice sounded weak.
"I'm fine," I told him.
"I'm very proud of you," said my mother, who was fighting back tears. "You were so very brave."
I was feeling awkward with all the attention.
My parents wrapped me in one of the blankets I had come down in, and used another one of the blankets to cover Hanna. My father scooped me up into his arms, and Hanna walked beside me as we returned upstairs.
My father laid me out on the couch. He found more blankets to wrap me in, and pillows to prop around me.
While my father was settling me in, Doctor Freidmont stopped Hanna in the kitchen. He sat her on a chair, and produced the tube of sterilizing anaesthetic he'd used on me earlier. With a gloved hand he spread it on her swollen eye and waited a minute for it to go numb. With a swift movement, he pricked the skin to release the trapped fluid. He pressed around her eye with fingers and thumb and the excess blood flowed away. As soon as he had released the pressure, her eye fluttered open freely.
He used gauze to clean her face and a drop of surgical glue to close the small hole he'd made. As soon as the eye was properly tended to, he retrieved some ice from our freezer, wrapped it in a clean cloth and had her press it to the side of her face.
When Hanna joined me in the living room. She was already looking better. She snuggled in beside me and together we began the process of recovery.
My mother brought a couple pairs of my pyjamas down from my room and we were dressed. Hanna wore both top and bottom. Because of my surgery, it was decided I would only wear my pyjama top. My lower half would have to be covered by just blankets for now. It felt good to be dressed, warm and reunited with Hanna.
I'm not sure if I can express how contented I felt at that moment. Even though the feeling would be fleeting, for a short while, all was right with my world.
My mother was on the phone when the freezing started to come out.
It started as itching, and spread to something knotted up inside me. If I had to explain it, I'm not sure I can. It was an ache that pulsed somewhere in my abdomen. It wasn't at all centralized. It was like a toothache only more so.
As Xolani came into our living room, he saw me drawing short breaths as the pain came in little waves. He felt my forehead and asked. "Is the pain more dan you can bear?"
I shook my head, trying to be strong. I was sure that others had had it worse than me. Xolani surely had. In truth I was being stubborn and was trying to hide how much discomfort I was really in.
"Of course," he said as he brushed the side of my face. "You are strong and nothing can hurt you." There was a touch of sarcasm there.
"And you miss?" he addressed Hanna. "Ah suppose you are fine as well?"
Hanna smiled sheepishly at him. "I'm okay," she lied.
He looked back and forth between Hanna and myself. Hanna was nursing her black eye with some ice in a cloth. I was shivering in my blanket. We must have made a pathetic pair.
"Very well," he decreed as he stood. "Dere are only strong people here."
He walked away from us and into the kitchen. As my mother was still on the phone and my father was downstairs cleaning with Doctor Freidmont, Xolani made himself at home. He found our kettle and some cups and began to brew some tea.
Hanna and I cuddled together on the sofa, trying to be strong for one another.
When Xolani returned a few minutes later, he brought with him a pot of hot water and three cups on a tray. There was also the small bowl of biscuits he had found on the counter. He placed the tray on the coffee table and sat across from us.
"Now we will tell each othah truths," he said. "It is a game. When the truth is told, you will get a reward. Ah will go first."
Xolani sat back in his chair and hefted one of his large bare feet into view. He showed us the sole and pointed to a nasty mark on his instep. "Ah have had dis mark for many days now. It is very painful. Ah have nevah wore shoes. In all mah life, everywhere ah go, my bare feets have carried me. Lately, the skin of mah feets has grown tender. Ah hurt more easily. Ah have to walk wit a stick to balance me, or ah limp. It is time for me to wear shoes. Ah know dis. But ah do not like how mah feets sweat, and ah feel clumsy when ah wear dem. It is really mah vanity that ah don't wear shoes. Ah am afraid of what peoples will think. Dey might think ah am weak and ah do not want dat.
"Dis is the truth," he told us. "Ah am too proud to show mah pain." He reached into his tunic and withdrew a small foil pouch, about the size of a sugar packet. He tore it open, deposited the powder into one of the empty cups and poured the hot steaming tea over it. When he was done he lifted the cup to his lips.
"Dis is mah reward," he told us before he drank. "The powdah will take away the pain and mah foot will not hurt." He drank deeply and slowly. "It is not good to be in pain," he said when he put down his cup. "It is not weakness to admit pain. It is human." He turned to Hanna and motioned for her to speak.
Hanna watched him seriously. "Sir," she said shyly.
"Xolani," he told her, carefully pronouncing each syllable. Zoh-Lahn-ee.
"Xolani, sir," she continued. "I was really scared today." She knew what he wanted but the words caught in her throat. She adjusted the ice on her eye and winced. Finally she just admitted it. "My eye really does hurt," she said and she hung her head in shame.
"Dis is truth," said Xolani. Again from his tunic he produced another foil pouch and again he mixed it with a cup of hot tea. He handed the cup carefully to Hanna. "Drink," he said. "Your eye will feel bettah."
Hanna drank the tea and smiled at the tall eunuch. "Thank-you sir," she said gratefully.
Xolani turned to me. "Truth," he commanded.
I didn't have to be told twice. "It hurts, Xolani," I admitted. The twinge inside me was throbbing with a sharp edge. Tears were pooling in the bottom of my eyes despite telling myself it wasn't that bad.
"Dis is truth," said Xolani. "You are brave and strong. No one can question dat." He pored the contents of three packets into the last cup and filled it with water. As he handed it to me, he imparted his wisdom. "Even strong people must ask for help. Dis does not make you weak. Drink now."
I did as he commanded. The tea was tangy, but pleasing. As I drank it, I remembered how hungry and thirsty I was. The warmth in my belly was soothing. As I sipped the tea, I realized the pain was subsiding. "Thank-you, Xolani."
I noticed Doctor Freidmont with his bag in the kitchen, as I swallowed. He and Xolani were exchanging a meaningful look, that to me, said they respected each other.
Time slipped away from me as I sipped on my tea and nibbled biscuits. I knew the ache left me quickly. I was in a haze of contentment with Hanna beside me. I knew the adults buzzed around, but time itself meant little.
I came back to myself when I heard a car in the drive. It arrived not with the usual sound, but with a rev of the engine and the squeal of tires on the pavement. The screech of it stopping was jarring and broke me from my reverie.
From where I sat, I had a very fine view of the front door. Hanna's mom burst through looking haggard and on edge. My mother met her as she entered.
"Where is she?"
"She's here. She's just fine."
Hanna sat up from where she was dozing beside me. "Mommy?"
"Hanna," her mom exclaimed. She dashed to Hanna and pulled her to her feet. For a moment I didn't know if she would strangle my little love or kiss her. Hanna's mom was frantic and on edge. Instead she pulled her daughter into a powerful embrace and cried.
"Don't you EVER do that again," she told her, sobbing. "Never run away from me. You have no idea what I thought. I was so scared."
As Hanna was doused in her mom's tears, she began to cry herself. "I'm sorry Mom. I didn't mean to scare you."
I'm sure if they had been left to it, they might have said more. I'm sure Hanna would have been admonished, her mother would have let herself become mad and there would have been a traditional scene of anger, love and finally forgiveness. That's not the scene that played out however.
The second car in the drive interrupted what would have come next. The sound of a second set of screeching tires stole everyone's attention.
Mr. Underwood appeared at the door looking cool and truly angry. "I should have known," he said to announce himself. His voice sounded less than pleasant.
"David," said Hanna's mom, clearly surprised at his sudden presence.
It was my mother that interrupted. "Carol. I'm so sorry. When I didn't know where to get a hold of you
" My mother uncharacteristically fumbled for words. "I didn't know which phone you had. David answered."
Mr. Underwood was angrily approaching Hanna's mom. "You'd not gone twenty minutes and you lost her." There was something in his swagger I didn't like.
"Fucking typical," he said. "Hanna, you are coming back home with me right now."
Hanna meekly shook her head as her mother squeezed her tighter. "I want to stay with Jason." she said.
These were not the words he wanted to hear. "I don't give a shit what you want, you spoiled little witch. Now get in the car before I give you another black eye."
He seemed bigger than I remembered. Fear clenched my muscles. He moved suddenly, pushing Hanna's mom away. He grabbed Hanna's arm and began to tow her out of the house, away from her mom, away from me. She screamed and struggled.
It was Doctor Freidmont who intervened first. "Now hold on a minute there, Bub." He snatched Hanna back from her father's grip and inserted himself between them. "I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you place a finger on that little girl. She could have lost an eye, you brute."
Doctor Freidmont didn't see it coming. The first blow hit him in the stomach, knocking the air from his lungs. The second connected with his jaw and propelled him back and through the coffee table. Biscuits, hot tea and broken shards of both coffee table and teapot exploded over the floor of our living room. Doctor Freidmont lay blinking and in shock, gasping for breath.
My father was the second to intervene. Gone was the mild mannered man my father offered as face to the world. This was the titan, full of iron and wroth. He slammed into Mr. Underwood and the two of them went down. They destroyed a book case and the table by the door in seconds. Bodies of fury and muscle combating for dominance. The sound of it was unlike anything I had ever heard.
On their feet again, there was shoving and cursing. Somehow my father managed to propel the both of them out the door and onto our front lawn.
"Get the hell off my property." My father was speaking with a voice I had never heard before. If I had feared my father before, the voice he used then, was beyond even that. This was the titan unleashed. A terrible thing unknown to me.
Mr. Underwood walked back a few steps and recovered himself. "Oh. I forgot." He taunted, clearly not finished. "Today's the day you castrate your own son. How's it feel knowing your son was too worthless to even be allowed to breed?"
My father's voice dropped lower and there was something dangerous in his tone. "I'm warning you
"You think you're big and important. You flaunt your wealth like a badge of honour. But you're no different from the rest of us." He paced in front of my father on the lawn, as he thought up his next insult. "No scratch that. You're worse. You sell yourself around the world to the highest bidder like a common whore. You bow and scrape to any filth with a few coins to rub together. You're just a rich piece of shit. And as proof
" he paused to make damn sure my father heard him. " your son turns out to be a faggot and isn't fit to procreate."
My father didn't warn him a second time. He leapt at Mr. Underwood with fists flying. The two men were in a kind of combat I had never seen. Everyone flowed out of the house to witness the confrontation.
Groggy and hurting I somehow managed to follow. I pulled my blanket around myself and stumbled to the door, past the supine Doctor Freidmont and shattered furniture. Xolani's tea had eased my hurt and I suddenly cared only for my father and the others I loved. Perhaps it was adrenaline that pushed me to follow. Whatever it was, I was ignorant of any pain below the surface.
Mrs. Underwood and Hanna held each other tightly, but both were crying and shouting. My mother was shouting and the two men fighting on the lawn were shouting. There was no making sense out of any of it.
Blows landed and blood spattered. It was terrible and fascinating at the same time. What was clear, was that if allowed to continue, one of the men would kill the other.
Xolani was the third to intervene.
The thin eunuch deftly inserted himself into the fray. He countered the blows from the two men and drove them apart. He used his lanky body to insert himself into the space between them and used his long arms as weapons of war.
With one arm he slapped away the blows of my father, then with an open palm struck my father's chest, driving him backward a few steps. His other arm he used like a blade. He chopped the wrists of Hanna's dad and when the moment presented itself, Xolani extended his sword-like arm at Mr. Underwood's throat.
The long fingers of the eunuch pressed into the meat of Mr. Underwood's neck and stopped him in his tracks. His other arm prevented my father from moving forward. Mr. Underwood's eyes were wide and terrified. The look on Xolani's face would have shamed a demon. They were full of fire and ice.
The eunuch pulled himself up to his full height and loomed over Mr. Underwood impressively. Xolani then began to step purposely forward. With each step, Mr. Underwood stumbled backward, as though the blade of Xolani's fingers really would cut his throat. He only staggered back a few steps before he tripped and fell.
Xolani's shadow threatened to smother the man. "Ah tink it is time for you to leave," the eunuch spoke forebodingly.
"Carol," he pleaded weakly from the ground.
"Go," was all she said.
Beaten, Mr. Underwood collected his hurts and crawled out from under Xolani's shadow. He retreated to his car like a mouse to its hole. He used his shirt and bare hands to staunch the blood pouring from his mashed nose. He said nothing as he started his vehicle. His eyes remained fixed on his wife and child as he pulled the car door shut. Other than the sound of his car door slamming, the only other noise was that of the engine starting and the tires spinning on the pavement as he peeled away.
Xolani stood as sentinel, until the vehicle was out of sight. We all stared in shock and disbelief. When the car was truly gone and the only sounds were that of the Virginia countryside and our own breathing, Xolani turned back.
"It is ovah," he told us plainly.
My mother ran to my father, who had suffered the least damage from the conflict. He was bruised up to be sure, but the worst of it appeared to be his hands. There was blood and torn skin on his knuckles. One of his fingers looked slightly askew.
I found myself dropping to the ground in relief. My heart was pounding in my chest and I felt faint. Any hurts I had were forgotten.
Hanna and her mom clung to each other like they were afraid even the wind might separate them. The world around me erupted from silence as everyone seemed to be speaking at once.
Doctor Freidmont stood leaning in the door with one hand on his jaw and another on his back. He had witnessed the end of the battle and was now a part of the aftermath.
Xolani walked to him and assessed the small doctor. "Are you badly injured?" the eunuch asked him as he offered the smaller man an arm to help support him.
Doctor Freidmont tried to shake off the concern, but when he stepped beyond the support of the door frame, he wobbled and began to fall. Xolani caught him carefully. Doctor Freidmont looked small in the eunuch's arms.
I can't remember which one of them made the first move, or if they moved together, but they were suddenly pressed together in a deep and amorous kiss. It was as passionate as Hanna and I had dared. It was as meaningful as the ones my parents shared after a long separation.
Where it came from I don't know. I don't think either man knew themselves. When they separated they both looked surprised and uncertain.
Xolani sputtered, "Ah
ah am not
"No," Freidmont agreed. "Neither am I. I
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to
They left the words unfinished and moved away from each other. Both looked like little children who had been caught at something naughty. I giggled nervously on the ground and they noticed me. Their faces flush, they seemed to be trying to find something else to look at. Anything but each other.
Doctor Freidmont pulled himself together and managed to steady himself enough to see to my father's mangled hands. Xolani wordlessly picked me up and transported me back inside.
After a few moments everyone returned to the house and began to pick up the pieces of destruction that littered our floors. I felt useless on the couch in my pyjama top and wrapped in my blanket. I felt small and helpless.
When Hanna returned to me, I realized something monumental had occurred. What the fallout might be, I couldn't guess. I only knew that I had around me all the people I loved and that in that love, we would be all right.
I couldn't know what the future would bring.
Hanna and her mom moved into our guest house. Somehow my parents had talked Carol (she wouldn't let me call her Mrs. Underwood any-more.) out of moving out-of-State. Staying with us, Carol didn't have to look for another job, and Hanna got to stay in an environment she was used to. Of course, I wasn't party to the decision making process, but I'm sure how Hanna and I felt for each other may have been a deciding factor.
The New Normal
Carol insisted the situation was only temporary. At least until the divorce was finalized and more permanent arrangements could be made. She insisted on paying rent and refused to accept any of it as charity.
Truth be told, I felt like I was the one benefiting from charity. I got to stay near Hanna. Above anything else, that was worth the world to me.
My recovery from castration was blessedly brief. The very next day afterwards I was able to walk around and only felt pain when moving from sitting to standing. I was able to dress myself and use the bathroom by myself with no problems. My only complaint was that twice a day, either Xolani or Doctor Freidmont would arrive to change my dressings. I felt like a toddler having his diaper changed. It was humiliating.
It was a week before it was finally decided I could be allowed to go without the bandages and let the skin heal without further assistance. To my great relief, it was also the first time in a week I was allowed to take a real bath. Up until then, my only cleaning came from daily sponge baths in the sink. They were afraid if the water found its way into my wound, I'd get an infection. When they agreed there was no more risk of that, I was allowed to return to my routine. I was even allowed to bathe alone.
I had become so accustomed to the feel of the bandages that I hadn't had time to feel like the eunuch I truly was. Everywhere I went and everything I did, I felt the bulge of gauze at my groin. It had almost become a surrogate set of testicles for me. When I finally peeled the bandage off and settled into the bath, the reality of my castration finally hit home.
The first thing I noticed was how free I felt. The warm water lapping at my groin in the tub felt wonderful and more encompassing than normal. My little penis even felt more free. For all my life my little dingus could only fall in one of a few directions. My little balls had served as an impediment to where it could dangle. Now I could roll my tiny phallus around in a three hundred and sixty degree circle and only touch the skin of my legs or pelvis. The way was no longer blocked by a useless pouch of flesh.
My legs felt more nimble and flexible. It was as though they had been restrained my whole life and now were at last unchained. I splashed and flexed happily. I was tingling from all the new sensations on my flesh. If I had been capable, I'm sure I would have had an erection. The feelings were so new and exciting.
The water was getting cold by the time I tired of playing with my new freedom and experimenting with my new shape. Though stepping out of the bath, even the air seemed to enter places it had never touched before. It was wonderful and set goose-flesh alive over my whole self.
It seemed the mirror held an entirely new person. Here was a person with a different haircut than the one to which I was accustomed. Nor was my reflection entirely male any-more. Like Xolani, I had neither balls nor sack. My little penis looked more elegant and interesting all on its own. I looked forward to when the line of dark stitches could be removed and my appearance would at last be without flaw.
When I dressed, my clothes seemed to feel looser. For all my life, what I wore cupped and supported an extraneous bit of flesh at the front of my legs. Now it no longer needed to. There was more room and with it, more comfort. I could have stayed in my room, pulling my underwear on and off for hours, just exciting in the pure bliss of that feeling.
I was grateful that I was allowed to explore myself in private for this first time. I'm sure if anyone saw me they would probably have laughed themselves hoarse from my antics. My hands kept returning to the empty space between my legs, like my tongue exploring the space in my gums when I lost a baby tooth.
I controlled myself as best I could when I came downstairs. Even dressed, I felt as free as a naked toddler. I wanted to jump and leap and do cartwheels. I restrained myself for fear of pulling any stitches. Even so, every step I took, I felt like I could leap a metre high. I felt the way I imagined the men who walked on the moon did, unbound by gravity.
My parents, Hanna and Carol were all waiting for me downstairs. They were chatting amiably and only noticed me when Hanna got up to greet me. I nearly floated down the stairs to give her a kiss and a hug. Then swept away by my new sense of freedom, I also bounded over to hug my father and kiss my mother. I'm not sure if my feet even touched the ground.
"Someone's in a good mood today," my mom noted as she wiped her cheek of the unexpected affection.
"I feel good." I announced.
It wasn't just the feeling of my new body. It was the fact that for a solid week, I had had regular sleep, and few worries. I felt like all the bad things were behind me. I could finally imagine a happy life for myself. There was nothing dire or dread hanging over me.
"Well," my mother explained. "We were just planning what we'd do for your birthday next week."
In my bliss I had forgotten. I would be eleven years old. It seemed like a lifetime ago that Hanna and I had played together on that September afternoon, when we explored each other for the first time. In truth, it had been only a little over a month. So much had happened in that short period. I had learned and changed so much. My birthday was far from my mind. It seemed like someone else's concern. Had I not been reborn only a week ago?
"What would you like for your birthday, sweetie?" asked Carol.
I didn't know. I felt like I had everything I wanted. "Umm. Can we have cake?"
The adults laughed at me.
"Of course there will be cake. It's your birthday," my mother assured. "We were thinking more about presents, and party."
The idea of presents confused me. I chewed on my bottom lip as I thought about it. I had all the things I thought I wanted already. I thought back to previous birthdays when I'd asked for video games, or toys, or some other thing I'd seen advertised on TV. Lately those things didn't mean as much to me.
"I dunno." I racked my mind to think of anything I really wanted that I didn't already have. There was one thing I thought I'd like. "Can I have a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?" Since Xolani had mentioned it, I had been curious to read it.
Carol guffawed. "Marie, you have the least greedy child I have ever known."
My mother tried to steer me back to the topic at hand. "How about a party?"
This was something I could actually envision for myself. I wasn't a terrifically social child. We usually kept any get togethers between just myself and a few other kids my age. For the most part I was satisfied with just Hanna for company. I was hardly the leader of the pack, and was used to being at the fringes of any big events. I was usually too afraid I'd draw attention to myself to like a large group of people. Today though, I was feeling confident and happy. I wanted to share that with as many as possible.
"Can we have all the other home school kids over for a barbecue?" The idea of being amongst a big group, eating hot-dogs and hamburgers, with music and games seemed like something I wanted.
"Which kids do you want to invite?" my mom asked me.
"All of them." I said.
My mother and father exchanged a couple of looks, that said they were having a silent conversation. I don't know what it is about parents, that they can have whole conversations without saying a word aloud. Some kind of telepathy that you get when you have kids, I guessed.
"All right," my father finally agreed. "Cake, hamburgers, hot-dogs, and friends. Anything else?"
I shook my head.
"All right then," my father commanded. "Off with you." He waved me away with his hand that was still wrapped in tape. One of his fingers stuck out, supported by a brace that kept his broken finger straight. "The adults need to plot and plan." He motioned to Hanna as well. "The two of you. Away with you. This is grown-up talk now."
Hanna and I took each other's hands and fled the room. It was a pleasure that didn't end being near her all the time. She floated by my side, and whatever we did, I was happy.
We'd been together almost every moment since the day of my castration. The only time we were apart was at night when we slept. Carol insisted that Hanna sleep in the guest house with her. It was probably for the best. My castration had left it difficult for me to fall asleep without painkillers. When I was out, I was oblivious to the world around me. I would have been poor company for Hanna through the night.
Our guest house was really a little two bedroom bungalow. Over the years a few people had stayed there, but seldom past a couple days. Hanna and her mom had made it into a real home. I'd already started thinking of it as their house. Though Carol insisted the stay was only temporary, it felt so natural, I couldn't imagine them living anywhere else.
Hanna and I went to lay on the lawn between our two houses.
I noticed as we went out that I liked the way Hanna was dressing now. It seemed that when she came over as a visitor before, she had been dressing in her very best clothes. Carol and David had had a sort of complex about our money, and when we kids were brought together, she was dressed in cute skirts and blouses, in what to her and her parents, were their Sunday-best.
Since they'd moved in, the pretence had finally been dropped. Hanna wore comfortable clothing like stretchy leggings and cotton T-shirts. If it was warm out she'd wear loose fitting shorts and tank-tops. She almost never wore socks, or styled her hair. If there was nothing too pressing, she might go shirtless around her house. She didn't try to cover her bare chest or seem to give it any more thought than I might, if I went shirtless.
As pretty as she was in her cute skirts, ribbons and pretty shoes, she seemed more herself in comfortable things. I liked seeing her hair messy, and honestly, seeing her without, I knew ribbons weren't really her thing.
It was a surprise to realize that the standard my parents set could be daunting for people who didn't have the kind of money we did. I hadn't realized that just living like we did could be intimidating to others.
The reverse seemed just as true. Hanna and Carol were surprised that my parents did all their own cleaning, and fretted about what people would think when they came over. My mother had been scared to leave a mess in the kitchen, or dirty clothes in front of the washing machine for fear of what people might think of her.
There had been a tense couple of days where everyone was on eggshells. Everyone was trying to be on their best behaviour for everyone else.
It had come to a head when my mother was feverishly cleaning up while everyone was enjoying coffee on the porch.
Carol threw up her hands when the coffee cup she had just drained, disappeared from within her reach almost the second it was set down. "Marie, if you clean one more dish, I swear I'll have a nervous breakdown."
My mother actually fretted apologetically as she held the purloined cup. "I'm just trying to keep things nice." she explained. "I was taught it was the polite thing to do."
"The polite thing to do, would be to sit down and enjoy yourself." Carol demanded. "For God's sake, the dishes can wait, can't they?"
My beautiful mother sheepishly returned the cup to it's place in front of Carol, and with a little embarrassment, sat down awkwardly, still clutching her dish-rag.
"Well," said Carol, drawing out a bit of humorous sarcasm. "Seems as you were up anyway, I suppose you could get me a refill."
My mother sat back more confidently into her chair, and threw the dish-rag at Carol. "Get it your damn self." she mocked. "You've got legs don't cha?"
And that was it. Pretence broken. They laughed, and things got considerably easier from that point on.
Clothing became more casual. There was less of a rush to clean up after supper, and we all started to live like we all belonged there. We stopped playing the roles of guests and hosts. It was making everybody tense. Everyone was happier when we gave that up.
Hanna and I flopped on the grass, without worrying about grass stains, or dirtying our fingernails. There were still rules, but they were much more lax. Not that Hanna or I were the types to purposely go breaking any rules.
We stared up at the sky, and imagined names, and stories for the cloud shapes that appeared in the autumn sky.
For what seemed like the thousandth time, we told each other our stories of when we were apart. Nothing in my life seemed real unless Hanna knew it. I think she felt the same.
She laughed at my ability to turn the tables on poor Doctor Lindsay. I marvelled at her bravery in crossing the city all alone.
She didn't mind the thought of me not growing any taller. She was always just a little shorter than I was, and as we were already two of the smallest kids our age, I think she looked forward to finally being taller than someone. For now the prospect was only a concept, and a far away one at that. I knew if I was only an inch tall, or ten feet tall, she'd always love me.
When we tired of talking, we played with each other. We didn't play rough, we just rolled on the grass, and experimented with different ways we could hold and touch each other. We tickled each other, and tried half-heartedly to escape each other's grasp. We didn't try very hard. Whoever "won" had to give the victor a kiss. We took turns being the winner.
I was still careful of her eye, which had gone from a deep black to a sickly kind of spotted yellow. The swelling had gone down enough that she could cover it with make-up, but she only did that if she had to go out into town with her mom.
Hanna was still careful of my groin, for obvious reasons. I knew she was curious, but I didn't want her to see until the stitches were taken out. Truth be told, my groin had gone through a similar transformation to her eye. Despite it feeling good, the skin was still bruised, and was looking a bit yellow/blue as it healed.
For the time we could wait, and it gave us a little thrill for there to be something to wait for.
Our play on the grass was interrupted when we saw Xolani and Doctor Freidmont coming up the drive.
The two men were holding hands. They made a very odd looking pair. Xolani was still dressed in his African robes, but had added a pair of Adidas to his wardrobe. He seemed to be lifting his feet a little higher than he needed to. He was clearly still getting used to the restriction of wearing shoes.
Doctor Freidmont puffed and huffed and struggled to keep up with Xolani's long strides. The stocky, middle aged man wasn't used to walking great distances, but had taken to challenging himself to keep up to Xolani.
Please don't ask me to define this strange relationship. I don't think the two men could have told you themselves. All I knew was they had found something in each other that made them happy. I guess that's all you can really ask.
When I saw them, I flopped back on the grass in exasperation. "Aww. What are they going to do to me now?"
It seemed every time these two showed up there was some new humiliation for me that accompanied them.
Hanna laughed at my reaction. The sound of her amused giggle spurred me to action. I stood up from our play and confronted the pair as they arrived.
"Oh, no." I said waving my hands as if to ward them away. "I've just got rid of the bandage. I don't need anything changed, stuck in me, or pulled out of me. I'm happy with all the bits I have left. Thanks anyhow."
The duo looked at each other before bursting into snorts and laughter.
"As much as I'm sure you'd like to think the world revolves around you, Jason," Doctor Freidmont admonished me lightly. "Not everything is about you."
"Little brothah," said Xolani, and he held out his arms. I went to him and we embraced. I gave Doctor Freidmont a hug too, just for good measure.
"We were invited for dinnah," explained Xolani.
"Oh," I said, quietly cowed.
Xolani and Doctor Freidmont greeted Hanna, and hugs were exchanged with her as well.
I had been right. Hanna loved the tall, thin eunuch as much as I did. Xolani had an air about him you couldn't help but love.
With Xolani's permission I had days earlier related his story to her. Hanna had cried as I had. Like me, she had been horrified to learn his sister Kgosa had married another. It seemed unfair that the girl he gave up so much for, should marry someone else. But, then Xolani had found Doctor Freidmont, and there seemed to be a balance to the world.
I guess there is no understanding happiness. I couldn't imagine Kgosa feeling anything but joy for Xolani and the love he found. I hoped I could one day meet her, and ask her in person what she really felt.
When the pair came into the house, there was further pleasant greetings with my parents and Hanna's mom, Carol. It was a relief that no one had to talk about my surgery, or recovery. No one spoke about Carol and David's violent break-up.
Instead, the dinner was remarkably normal. Or as normal as it can get for two men, two women, one little girl and two eunuchs.
We spoke of the weather, Hanna and my school-work, and Xolani's adjusting to American living. We spoke of my upcoming birthday, and Halloween a few weeks after.
Halloween was a concept Xolani needed explained several times before he could accept we weren't putting him on.
After supper Hanna and I sat at the piano. It wasn't like a recital, or practising like I normally did. This time it was just for fun. If it weren't, I didn't think I could do it. I usually froze up in front of crowds.
All the music we chose were the songs Hanna could sing along with. I played as well as I was able, but it was her singing that really made the music magical. The adults clapped and whistled, and always encouraged us to perform just one more song. They didn't have to press us very hard. I could have stayed on that piano bench next to Hanna for the rest of my life.
There was laughter and good company. It really seemed like my family had grown by four.
My family seemed then to be, my father the titan, my mother the blue fairy, an angel called Hanna, her mother the protector, the doctor uncle, and the brother I never knew I had.
Sitting at that piano amongst their chatter, sharing in good conversation, good food, and beautiful music, felt right. I felt I belonged. It all just felt normal.
It was a happiness I wish could have lasted.
I know now, looking back on the sweet music we made, the things that are truly worth remembering, the things that truly give us joy, are that way because they are fleeting.
I'd give most anything to bring back those happy days when I was ten, almost eleven.
Life, as they say, is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
My day started happy, and I thought nothing could go wrong on my birthday. Of course, nothing ever happens the way you think.
Sometimes I Forget
October in Virginia can go either way. Just as an important day for me in early September had been unusually cold. This day in mid October was as warm as any summer day. The sun was bright, and the air thick. It seemed like even the weather was celebrating my birthday with us.
To keep me occupied until the festivities could begin, I was put in charge of the electric gates that allowed cars and people to enter our property. Up until recently, my parents seldom closed the gates to our estate. Since the incident with Mr. Underwood and the fight on the lawn, it was decided it was best to keep them closed. Those who were trusted had a code to let themselves in, like Xolani and Dr. Freidmont. But for everyone else, someone had to sit by the gate controls and manually press the button that let them pass.
There was an intercom, and a little black and white video monitor in a small room off of our kitchen. I sat there on a stool, full of pride for the responsibility I was given.
One by one, my friends and their parents arrived. There was Sebastian and Cody in their parents' station-wagon. Sander was in the back of his parents' mini-van. There was Greg, and George, and Leah all crammed into their sub-compact with their harried mother driving them. A lot of the kids that were arriving I hadn't seen since the summer. Some I hadn't seen since the spring, when we were still attending different activities, organized by the home-school association.
Almost all the parents I recognized from my brief time in our basement room. I guessed that meant all the families were Kinseyans, like mine.
Each time a car arrived I'd speak to them through the intercom. Each time I was greeted by shouts of 'happy birthday', and a few comments from the parents about how I sounded very grown up. It was all going a bit to my head.
I was just letting Keegan, Alexis, and their mom and dad in when a dark sedan suddenly tail-gated their SUV through the opening gate. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn't recognize the car, nor on the tiny black and white screen, could I catch a good look of who was in it. My heart sank.
My father had made a very big deal about not letting in anyone who wasn't supposed to be there. He had told me it was a very important responsibility. Now someone who wasn't supposed to be there, had gotten through. I'd failed.
I imagined the conversation we would have. We'd had similar ones often enough.
It would go;
"Jason. Didn't I tell you to watch the gate?"
"I was watching."
"Didn't I tell you not to let in anyone who wasn't supposed to be there?"
"Yes, Father, but I
"I told you how important this was. I trusted you. You're eleven years old now. You should know better."
"I was trying."
"Well I guess trying wasn't good enough, was it?"
"I'm very disappointed in you Jason."
I doubted I would be physically punished. My father's disappointment was my greatest fear. The idea of disappointing either of my parents hurt me more than any spanking I'd ever received. I hadn't been spanked since I was very little. It wasn't necessary. Even without physical punishment, the thought of letting my parents down was absolutely devastating. Even thinking about it made my eyes burn.
Hoping to avert disaster, I jumped off of my stool, and ran out to the driveway, to see if I could intercept the errant car that had made it onto our property.
As our driveway wasn't very long, by the time I got out my front door, Keegan and Alexis were already climbing out of their parent's SUV. Their mom and dad were handing them their things, and some packages wrapped in brightly coloured paper, decorated with bows.
"Hiya, Jason." Keegan bounded over as soon as he saw me. "You'll never believe it. I got on the baseball team."
Keegan was a little over a year younger than me, though you'd never know it. The kid was nearly a head taller than I was. I should have been happy to see him and his sister, but I was a bit distracted.
"Oh, yeah? That's great
uh." I craned my neck around him to see the dark sedan that had followed them in.
Keegan didn't notice my distraction. He just ploughed on with his story. "Usually, you have to be in a regular school to be on the Mustangs."
I was peripherally aware he was wearing a baseball jersey over his jeans. With his platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, he made the perfect Little League poster boy.
"But, they made an es'ception and let me on the team 'cause there was this other boy, who got injured, or he moved, or died or sumthin'
"Happy birthday, Jason." Alexis interrupted her brother and handed me the brightly coloured package she was holding. She looked the way I imagined Charlie Brown's little red haired girl would look, if they ever showed her in the comic. She was all freckles, and blue eyes, under a mane the colour of wild strawberries
"Oh." I said dumbly. "I
Alexis shuffled her feet coyly, and seemed to be finding something to stare at on the ground. "I'm really glad you invited me. Well, us, I mean." She suddenly shot forward and planted a kiss on my cheek. She caught me off guard, and I almost dropped the package she had given me. I felt my face go hot. "Happy birthday." she said giggling.
Like a shot, she ran past me, and into the house.
Keegan hadn't missed a beat. "
'cause in the whole try-out, I was the only one to catch all the balls, and I ran faster than anybody, so Coach Greyson says I can be the relief second base-man, but I still need batting practice."
"That's uh, really swell, Keegan." I tried to sound interested. Even if I hadn't been distracted, sports weren't my thing. Luckily before I could embarrass myself, by trying to comment on a sport I knew nothing about, Keegan's dad saved me.
"C'mon Keeg." He said, putting his hand on the little leaguer's shoulder. "Lets find a place to put Jason's presents, and see who else is here."
Keegan grabbed the package I was holding out of my arms. "That one's from my sister." he told me. "It's totally lame. Mine's better."
With that, Keegan and his parents disappeared into our house, leaving me alone with the strange dark sedan, idling in our drive.
The windows were tinted and I still couldn't see inside. I approached cautiously, and knocked on the passenger window. After a moment, the automatic window descended to reveal the two men within.
"Howdy pard'ner." said the man in the passenger seat, using a fake southern accent. He was muscular and intimidating. He rested a tattooed arm on the car door's open window. The man in the driver's seat didn't look any less intimidating, though he was slimmer and less tattooed.
"I don't think you're supposed to be here." I said, keeping a step back from the door.
"Y'know. I though we might have made a wrong turn somewhere's." the passenger answered. "We've been drivin' round an' round, an' I said we musta taken a wrong turn." He slapped the driver beside him. "Didn't I say we took a wrong turn?"
The driver merely nodded.
"You're gonna have to go." I tried again.
The passenger continued as though he didn't hear me, "I was sure we took a left when we shoulda took a right back there. We were looking for Brady Place, we gots some friends there. Do you know where that is?"
"Ah, that's a shame. How about the Tupelos? They live round these parts. You know where they live?"
"How about this street I'm on here? You do know what street you're on, Don' cha?"
"Seneschal Way. This is 1800 Seneschal Way."
"Hoo. We do have a right ripper here." The passenger slapped the side of the sedan with an open palm, before turning back to the silent driver. "See. Seneschal Way. Folks can be awful nice when you just stop an' ask directions."
The passenger extended his arm out of the window to me, "Thanks a bunch, stranger. I'm Tex."
I didn't make a move to take his hand. "I'm Jason."
There was a light that went on in the passenger's eyes. "Jason you say? Hmm. Say Jason old lad, you happen to know the way back down this here hill? I'm sure if'n we can just find our way back down the hill, we can find Brady Place, and all our old friends."
"Just turn left when you go out the gate," I tried to be helpful." The road goes all the way back down the hill."
"Y'know," the passenger continued, "I've got me a map here. You wanna show me on my map, how to do it. I get all turned around, see." He produced some folded papers from his other hand, and beckoned me to go over to the car.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" My father's voice boomed from the front step of our house.
The passenger who called himself "Tex" quickly pulled his hands back into the sedan and sat up straight when he saw my father.
My father walked over to place his hands on my shoulders. "You lost?" he asked the duo in the sedan.
"That we are gov'nor," Tex said with a sudden British sounding accent. "Your young master Jason was just telling us how to get back down thine mountain."
"Just out the gate and turn left," my father said simply.
"Say, gov'nor," the passenger continued, "You got a lot of cars round here. You running a restaurant or somethin'?"
"It's just a get together. It's a private affair. I'd appreciate it if you left now."
"Oh so serious?" mocked the passenger. "And what would be the event, pray tell?"
My father squeezed my shoulders. "It's my son's birthday."
"So it is? Well, many happy returns old chum. And how old would young master Jason be?"
"Eleven, you say?" The passenger clapped his hands. "Funny. I wouldn't have pegged you for eleven. Why, you're practically grown."
My father was getting impatient. "As I said, it is a private affair. I'd appreciate it if you left now."
"Say no more. Say no more." the passenger assured my father. "My associate and myself were just getting our bearings. Out the gate and to the left you say?"
"I'll show you out," said my father to the men, as he turned me back toward our house. "Go inside. Your guests are waiting," he told me.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to let them in."
"We'll talk about it later." His voice was firm. "Go inside now."
As I walked back to the house, I watched my father guide the sedan up the drive and out the gate. I saw my father check the gate manually once they were gone. I felt sick at my failure. I was sure my father was disappointed in me.
When he finally came back in the house, and the dark sedan was gone, I met him at the door.
"I'm really sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to let them in." I felt like I was shrinking in his presence.
My father was smiling when I looked up. "It's all right Jason. The Robertsons told me it tail-gated them in. You couldn't have stopped it. It's not your fault."
His smile faded a bit then. "What I am disappointed in, is that you didn't think to come get me right away when it happened."
My sudden relief deflated, and again I felt myself shrinking. "I'm sorry, Dad."
"Next time something like that happens, I want you to get either myself or your mother right away. Can I count on you to do that?"
"Good. Now go find your friends, and try to have some fun." His smile had returned, and I felt a little better from it. "You're off the hook for now kiddo. Go play."
I didn't need to be told twice. I tore away from my father as fast as I could. I couldn't stand letting him down. If it hadn't been my birthday, I'm sure it would have been worse. As it was, he was letting me off the hook, and I didn't want to risk him changing his mind.
I found my friends on the back porch, playing with the foam swords that were part of my party decorations. There were about a dozen kids ranging from nine years old to about twelve. The wooden planks of our porch had become de-facto decking of an imaginary pirate ship. Hanna was leading the girls against the boys. Though outnumbered, the girls seemed to have the boys on the run.
Hanna stood on one of the benches wearing a plastic pirate party hat, having just defeated Cody in a dual to the death. As usual, she was the first to notice my arrival.
"Yar," she cried. "If it isn't Captain Blunderbuss, come to face me." She swung her foam sword and leapt from her bench. "I'll defeat ye, as I defeated yer minions."
At the point of her sword, I raised my hands in surrender. "Uh
Hanna leaned up to my ear. "Dread Pirate Roberta," she whispered to coach me.
I got the idea pretty fast. "Oh, Dread Pirate Roberta, your villainy knows no bounds." I pleaded. "Would you strike down an unarmed man?"
The recently defeated Cody seemed to take that as his cue. "Here Captain, use my sword," and he tossed me his foam weapon from where he was laying at the foot of Hanna's bench.
Hanna shot him a withering stare, "You're supposed to be dead."
Cody shrugged, and lay back down where he was "killed".
Sebastian took off like a shot to the table with all the party favours, and retrieved a plastic captain's hat for me. He plopped it on my head as he ran back to his spot fending off the pirate invaders. I fumbled with my hat for a moment until I could get the elastic around my chin to hold it in place. When I was suitably attired and armed, Hanna and I crossed swords.
"Ha, ha." she taunted. "Taste my steel, Blunderbuss!"
"You treacherous dog," I mocked back. "I should have known I'd face you again. My once trusted first mate. I should have had you hung when I had the chance."
Hanna raised her sword and declared to the heavens, "Dread Pirate Roberta fears no gallows."
We exchanged sword blows, and danced back and forth. Our mortal battle led us from one side of the porch to the other, down the treated lumber steps, and back up. Knowing this was the throws of our final conflict, neither one of us could give any quarter. It was as epic a confrontation as our back porch had ever seen.
The other girls, Leah, Alexis, and Jenny took to chasing the boys, Cody, Sebastian, Greg, George, Keegan, Sander, and Marcel around the "ship". Even outnumbered more than two to one, they were winning. The girls had an advantage because they did something the boys did not. They worked together.
It was in this way that Captain Blunderbuss met his end. I suddenly found myself surrounded by all four girls, my loyal men cowering to one side, looking upon my fate in muted sorrow. Sander took off his plastic hat, and held it over his heart, in respect for a comrade about to meet his end.
"Surrender, and I'll just make ye walk the plank," offered Hanna. "Before you die, I'll allow ye to parley for the safety of your scurvy crew."
"Never, you villain. Captain Blunderbuss will never treat with pirates."
"So be it," Hanna said almost sadly, and she nodded to her pirate boarding party.
They descended on me from all sides. Slashing and stabbing with their foam swords, Captain Blunderbuss never had a chance. He died as quickly as he came to be, on that warm October afternoon.
Afterwards we drank soda, and tried to play at badminton, before we got bored with chasing around the birdie when it went wild, which it did too often.
Marcel, being the oldest, came up with the next thing to do. "Hey," the twelve year old suggested. "We should go swimming. How about it, Jason?"
"I dunno," I offered non-committally. "The pool is usually pretty cold."
"Nu, uh," Greg countered. "It's pretty warm. I had to fish a couple birdies out of the shallow end. It's plenty warm enough."
I shrugged, and agreed. "Okay," I said. "But I have to ask the parents first."
"Well hurry up then," Marcel goaded. "I'm getting bored over here."
I left my friends on the grass to run over to where the parents were sitting and chatting on lawn chairs, and where my father was fussing with the barbecue, trying to get it hot. Doctor Freidmont and Xolani were with him, offering suggestions. My mother and Carol were happily holding court with the other mothers, while the men tried to find things of common interest to talk about. Everyone had something to drink, and all the adults were looking relaxed.
My mother noticed me approach. "What is it honey?"
"Mom, can we all go swimming?"
My mother seemed to freeze in place when I asked. "Um, Jason, do you think that is a good idea?"
"I don't know. Everyone is hot and wants to cool off."
"Jason," she said again pointedly. "Do you really want that right now?"
I didn't have the foggiest idea what was bothering her. I really didn't.
"Sure." I said.
My mother looked around, as though looking for help. Finally, she relented. "All right, Jason. Have Hanna take the girls to the guest house to change out of their clothes, and you take the boys to the shed. You can leave your clothes in there. Make sure everyone has towels."
Happy with her answer, I immediately agreed. "I will, Mother. Thank-you." I ran back to tell the other kids.
Hanna took her entourage to the guest house, and I took the boys to the shed. It was a large shed, and it was where we kept extra towels and pool equipment. I made sure all the boys got a towel of their own, and I grabbed a stack to leave for the girls next to the pool.
When I returned, the boys were mostly undressed, and slapping each other's bare buttocks with the towels I had given them. Even dry, the terry cloth rectangles could be rolled up by spinning them from a corner, and wielded like a whip. They were laughing and having a good time. I too began to peel off my clothes. No-one would be worried about bathing suits for our swim. Nudity had never been a big thing.
When I was down to my underwear, I happened to look up. I was the only one not yet undressed and it seemed everyone was looking at me. I suddenly noticed the difference between myself and the boys that surrounded me.
Every boy around me was shamelessly displaying their naked selves. Not even one of the boys took any care to cover their undeveloped bodies For the first time I took stock of the equipment before me. I tried not to stare.
Some were long, some were short, and some were circumcised. Regardless of under or over developed, heavy or minuscule endowment, every boy had something I didn't. Either dangling low, or held up tightly to their groins by their hairless pouches, all of them still had their balls. I felt my heart cannonball into my stomach juices.
I did not belong there.
I had forgotten. Can you believe that? I had actually forgotten I had been castrated. How on earth could something like that slip my mind?
For the first time I felt small, and weak, and ashamed of my body. I felt the emptiness between my legs acutely. I wasn't ready for this. I couldn't handle them seeing me
Seeing I was no longer one of them.
"What's the hold-up, squirt?" asked Marcel, who was displaying his semi erection, and proudly showing off a small wisp of black hair that was coming in a few inches below his belly button. "C'mon. I wanna go swimming."
"Maybe, I won't go swimming after all," I declared, clutching the waistband of my cotton Y-fronts for dear life.
"What, are you afraid the girls will see your little pecker?"
George, the next closest in age, backed up Marcel, "C'mon no one cares about your tiny peener. Heck, Cody's is just about as small as yours."
"Is not," Cody piped in defensively, while surreptitiously examining his own meagre endowment. True, his package was almost as small as my own had been, but he clearly had substantially more remaining between his legs than I now did.
"Sorry guys." I tried to be both gracious, and escape the trap I had put myself in. "You can all still go swimming. I'll just stay dry for now, okay?"
The boys were starting to circle me. They knew I wasn't being straight with them.
"What are you hiding there?" Marcel taunted. "You got a stiffy or something?"
"I wonder what a stiffy would look like on such a tiny dick," He went on. "I'll bet it looks like a pink toothpick." He laughed, and the group of boys laughed with him as they moved closer around me.
I picked up one of the badminton rackets, holding it in front of myself for defence. I didn't feel safe all of a sudden. "C'mon guys." I pleaded. "Leave me alone."
Marcel swaggered forward, and knocked the racket out of my hands with a swipe of one of his larger hands. I was left defenceless. I hadn't even got a chance to swing it at anyone.
"Get him!" Marcel commanded.
All the boys descended on me. They were laughing as they grabbed my arms. To them it was funny. It was all just a joke. Being used to nudity, it was funnier that someone would try to hide something, rather than let it all hang out. They pried my hands off my underwear and pulled them down. I squirmed and tried to cross my legs so they wouldn't see.
Sander gasped when he saw what I had been trying to hide, "Jesus, he ain't got any balls."
The boys went silent, and they held me in place as each one had a good look at the pink scar. It slowly registered to each of them how I was different, and what I was missing.
"Holy Shit, he's been neutered," cried Sebastian.
"Where's your balls dude?" asked Greg.
"Gone." I managed to say. My eyes were filling, and I had never felt more naked in my entire life.
"Lemme see," demanded Keegan. He pushed forward through the boys pressed around me, and crouched down for a closer look at my groin. He lightly touched my inch long pink scar beneath my penis, and whispered under his breath, "Whoa. No Balls."
Marcel bravely led the boys to chant in a mocking sing song, "No balls. No balls. Jason has got no balls."
As I cried, I went limp. After all the boys had had a turn examining my empty space, they finally let me go, and I sank into a ball on the floor of the shed. There was a shadow at the door, and I heard one of the children, probably Marcel, say, "Shit! Let's get out of here."
They all ran out of the shed, leaving me alone with the shadow at the door. The shadow moved into the shed, and crouched over me.
"Why are you crying little brothah?" It was Xolani.
I sniffed and choked, "They made fun of me, because I'm a eunuch." I found myself filled with terrible emotions, and I lashed out. "Why did you do this to me? It's not fair. I hate you!"
He ignored my outburst. Xolani's long arms reached out to encircle me. I fought them for a moment, then sagged into them for support.
When I began to calm, Xolani spoke. "Dey did not make fun of you because you are a eunuch. Dey make fun because dey do not understand."
"They called me 'no-balls'."
"Dis is true. You do not have balls." He said simply. "Both you and ah know dis is not a bad ting. It is how we are. It is nothing to be ashamed of."
Doctor Freidmont came into the shed to see what was the matter. He found Xolani holding me on the floor. "What the hell happened here?" he demanded.
"All the boys were laughing at me," I told him.
I could see the doctor getting mad. "Those little shits," he said, looking out at the prepubescent children jumping into the pool like nothing was the matter. "Give me a few minutes with them, and I'll teach them the error of their ways." He was already rolling up his sleeves.
Xolani stopped him with a long arm, before he could leave the shed. "No," said the thin eunuch. "Ah have a bettah way."
Xolani stood up and looked down at me. I was still struggling to control my tears.
"The problem is dey do not understand. Dey have no experience." He looked to Doctor Freidmont resolutely. "We will show dem it is not so uncommon."
Xolani made a show of removing his Adidas runners, and undoing his tunic. When he dropped it to the floor, he was as I remembered. He was a flawless ebony god. Testicles would have seemed out-of-place on this perfect angular being. He turned to Doctor Freidmont. "Are you coming?" he asked.
"God dammit. Why do you always have to be so damn reasonable?" He hesitated for a moment before he too began to undress. "Just so you know. I hate people seeing my rolls in the daylight."
The stocky doctor undressed as well. His chubby paunch overlapped his gut, and without his penis being erect, the fatty tissue of his pelvis made his penis look like nothing more than a button of flesh. The doctor tossed me a towel.
"Dry your eyes, and catch your breath." he told me. "You're not letting me go out there alone."
I did my best to control myself. I blotted my eyes, then blew my nose into the towel. Once I had expelled the worst of it, I threw the soiled cloth onto Marcel's things. He could deal with my snot, I decided. I took a bunch of slow breaths, then stood to join the two doctors. I was still wiping my eyes and nose. Seemed like the liquid wouldn't stop.
Doctor Freidmont gave me a pat on the back when I stood. "Good Lad," he declared approvingly. "Come on now," he warned me. "Going out there won't be easy. It's best we don't put it off. Best just to get it over with."
Xolani seemed to agree, and offered his arm to guide the way.
The three of us stepped out of the shed and into the light. If the two of them weren't there helping me, I don't think I would have had the courage to go out.
As we came out, all the kids were already in the water, splashing around. I noticed for the first time all the camcorders and video phones the adults had trained on us. I was overcome again with a sense of shame, and awareness of my own exposure. Xolani and Doctor Freidmont pushed me forward. There was a silence as we emerged. Some of the cameras dropped, Some trained in on us with even more scrutiny. All the children were watching us.
Doctor Freidmont walked ahead of us, and up to the side of the pool allowing all to see his pudgy glory. He raised his arms so that everyone got a good long look at his button penis, barely visible through his flab, then belly-flopped into the water to screams and laughs from the children. Water sloshed up and over the edge.
When Xolani stepped away from me, he made a point to stroll completely around the pool, so that there was no one who couldn't see he was a eunuch. If one of the children whispered about his appearance, he gave them a long stare, until the whispering stopped. Finally he stopped his circling of the pool, and made a graceful knife like dive into the deep end. He hardly made a splash as he entered the water.
He seemed to be under the water for a terribly long time. He was down long enough for me, and everyone else to start wondering if he ever would come up again. When people started to become concerned and began to look over the water for his body, he slowly and stealthily emerged from the water behind Marcel. Marcel didn't notice him, until it was too late.
Xolani playfully dunked Marcel's head in the water, and laughing, splashed the other children.
Between Doctor Freidmont and Xolani, hardly anyone noticed me entering the water. By the time I climbed in, everyone seemed to have forgotten my castration, and I could hope it was all behind me.
Sander swam up beside me as I joined the fray of playing children, and poked my ribs. "Sorry, dude," he said. He made an awkward but honest apology to me, and then he swam away.
Some of the other boys met my eyes, and I could see that they felt sorry too. I tried to shrug it all off, but I was still a bit hurt.
Hanna swum over to me from amongst the other girls. She and they were as naked as the rest of us. No one seemed to mind, or remark on the differences between male and female. At least with the difference between the two sexes, no one really cared or judged. I hoped that understanding would now extend to eunuchs too.
I had noticed the girls watching me, even as Doctor Freidmont and Xolani made their entrances. I hoped the girls at least didn't care what was, or wasn't between my legs.
As Hanna dog paddled in front of me, I was aware that the other girls were watching her and I.
When she was paddling beside me, she saw my eyes and asked, "What's the matter?"
I dunked my head under the water to hide my burning eyes. When I came back up I took a big draw of air into my lungs. I shook the water out of my hair, and smiled as best I could. "Nothing. It's okay." I told her. There was no point in reliving it. It was over. I didn't want to remember.
Soon all the kids were laughing and having a good time. We made teams for water volleyball. All the kids vied to have Xolani on their side, figuring his long arms and athletic body would be an advantage. Xolani of course hadn't the foggiest idea how to play, and he turned out to be the biggest liability. He was a mess. We all found something to laugh about, and we eventually forgot to keep score.
By the time my father called us out of the pool for hot-dogs and hamburgers, my lack of testicles had ceased to be such an oddity. A few more kids apologized to me, and when Keegan came up to me, he asked, "Did it hurt?"
"Not really," I told him. "I was sore afterwards, but they gave me pain killers so it wasn't so bad."
Keegan thought about it for a bit. He looked at my lap, considering how different I was from him now. Then, bobbing his blonde head, announced, "Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I think it's cool." Then he took his hot-dog and left me to my thoughts.
Xolani and Doctor Freidmont took their meals, and still naked, stretched out on the lawn to sun themselves. I watched them feed each other, and hold each other's hands on the grass.
The adults didn't seem bothered by the eunuch among them, and the kids seemed to accept me, once they got over the shock of the idea. It wasn't easy, but I kept breathing, and the world kept turning.
If anything, it was Hanna that got the short end of the stick that day. Alexis, Jenny, and Leah seemed mad at her for some reason, like she had won a prize they all had wanted. Hanna didn't seem bothered. She just cuddled in next to me as we ate our hot-dogs. After we finished eating, we lay on our towels together beside Xolani and Doctor Freidmont.
We sunned our naked bodies dry, until it was time for cake.
After the party I stood with my parents thanking our guests as they left.
My Parents' Shame
My head was swimming by this point. My head was churning with soda, sugar, and the enticement of the new books, toys and games I'd received. I'm pretty sure I didn't know which way was up, my senses were so overloaded.
It was so that I only vaguely began to notice when I said good-bye to my friends, that my mother and father were saying, "See you tonight," to their parents.
When everyone was gone, I had to ask, "What's going on tonight?"
My father looked a bit uncomfortable, "We're having a get together in the basement."
This was news to me. No one had said anything to me about there being another basement party.
"Who's coming?" I asked, suddenly bursting with excitement all over again.
"Uh, well," my father considered his answer while rubbing his hand on the back of his neck. "Your mother and I didn't think you'd want to be involved. We thought you and Hanna might want a private sleepover. You know, just the two of you."
He and my mother both looked uncomfortable.
"I'm not coming?" I asked.
"We just thought you wouldn't want to. With your castration and all. We didn't think you'd be interested." As he said the words I could tell there was something more.
"I wanna come too," I whined. I was aware of how childish I suddenly sounded. My squeaky voice sounded penetrating, even to me. "I mean, can't I come too?" I tried to recover with less edge.
"Jason, sweetie," my mother tried to soothe me. "You've had a lot of big changes lately, and with your party today and all the excitement, your father and I thought it was best you had some time to yourself. Figure yourself out."
" I tried for words that wouldn't make me sound like the sugar fueled eleven year old child I was. "But, I'm okay," I pleaded. "I'll be good. You know I will."
I had been feeling more and more mature lately, and it seemed like I was suddenly being forced to take a big step backwards. I knew crying and stomping my feet in a tantrum would give me no advantage with my parents. I needed another approach.
"Honey, we know how grown up you are. We were just thinking you'd do well with some time to recover."
"But, mom. I'm all healed already. There's hardly a scar at all."
My mother looked at me disapprovingly. "You know that's not what I meant, Jason."
With my mother and father looking down on me, I thought I suddenly understood, and I felt the overwhelming weight of their thoughts.
"Are you ashamed of me?" All my excitement from the day drained out of me like water flowing out of an unstoppered tub. I could see it in their eyes. They didn't want me to come because I was flawed. My castration was an embarrassment. I was an embarrassment. Just like they had taught me, that how I acted around company was a reflection on my parents. Now my castration would be something everyone could see, and would be a symbol of how wrong I was.
It was why my mother hadn't wanted me to swim with my friends. It wasn't my embarrassment she was worried about. It was theirs.
When they didn't answer, I knew. "You are ashamed of me." I declared. The truth of that statement hit me like a hammer. I was something to be ashamed of. My voice caught in my throat as I choked out, "I can't help how I am." My words came out thin and tiny. The world blurred, and I felt something acid at the back of my throat.
Without waiting for them to answer, I was running away from them. Into the house, and up the stairs, I threw myself face down on my bed. How quickly the day had morphed from happiness to anguish.
Why hadn't they warned me? Why did I have to be the one who was so wrong? I found myself in tears for the second time that day. First my friends had made fun of me, and now my parents were ashamed of what I had become.
I had sacrificed my boyhood to become a eunuch. I had made a terrible mistake. Worse still, I was the mistake. I hated myself powerfully, and for the first time in my life, but not the last, I found myself wishing I could die. Just fade away and disappear.
I felt a hand stroke my back comfortingly. "Oh, my little man," my mother cooed.
I pulled away from her touch, lost in my misery.
"Jason sweetie, we could never be ashamed of you," she tried again. "We are very, very proud of who you are."
"That's not true." I said, face buried in my blankets.
"Listen to me," she went on rubbing my back. "You are smart, and handsome and incredibly loving. Your father and I couldn't be prouder of you."
"You're ashamed of me."
"No. Jason. Honestly, we are very proud of you." I could feel her pausing to think of her next words. "Your father and I just think maybe you shouldn't try to become all grown up all at once. You are a very grown up eleven year old, but eleven isn't grown up yet. You've got so much time to be a kid, and we want you to enjoy it."
I saw the flaw in her words at once. Again I pulled away from her comforting hand, and finally turned over to face her. I let the tears fall as I confronted her. "But I'll never grow-up, will I?" I demanded. "I'll always be like this, won't I?"
"Being grown up isn't about how big you are, sweetie."
"Then what?" I demanded. "What do I have to do to be grown up?"
"You are already doing it. Every day I see how mature and thoughtful you are. Listen to me please, Jason."
I pulled myself away from my mother and sat against my pillows, just out of her reach. She didn't move to stop me. She simply sat on the opposite end, and regarded me plainly.
"Your father and I make mistakes all the time. Half of being grown up, is making mistakes. We try to do what is right, but we don't always do it. We can't always know if what we are doing is going to work out. Your dad and I try really hard, but mistakes are part of being an adult. We make mistakes with our business, with our friends, we make mistakes all the time."
"No you don't."
"Oh, yes we do." she confirmed. "There's nothing in this world you can learn to stop making mistakes. When you're an adult though, you get better at hiding them, and dealing with them. Some mistakes turn out to be the best things in our lives. The very most important." She looked at me strangely and her words caught momentarily in her throat.
I could see tears welling in her eyes. "But we still make mistakes," she repeated. "What scares your dad and I, is that we might be making mistakes with you."
She stopped talking and produced a tissue from her sleeve. She blew her nose, and continued. "We try so hard to do what's right for you. It scares me so bad."
She smiled at some internal thought before she went on. "When you were little, it was so simple to know what to do. Your father and I didn't have to worry. You were such an easy child. Do you know how they say, children don't come with an instruction manual?"
"Well, that's not really true. When you were little I could read you like a book. Everything I needed to know was right there on your pages. I always knew what you were thinking, and I always knew what to do to make everything okay. As you got older there were more pages, and it got a little more complicated, but I could always read you.
"Lately I can't even turn the pages. It's like you've closed the cover, and I can't see what's inside any-more. I don't know if what I am doing is right or wrong. I used to know every page of your book by heart, but now I can't even read page one."
She stopped and moved a little closer on my bed. I let her. As she came within reach she took my hands.
"You're writing your own book now. Your father and I can't read it any-more. We may never know what's inside you until you're an adult. But then it will be your book, and you'll only share those pages you want us to read. We don't know if we are doing what's right for you. We're trying really hard. We're scared of hurting you, and giving you too much too soon. We just want you to slow down and be who you are. Don't be in such a hurry to fill all your pages all at once."
"Is that why you and dad don't want me to come tonight?"
"It's part of it," she admitted. "Your father and I are worried you're taking on too much too soon. Honestly we didn't think it would matter to you now."
"Why?" I asked. "It's because I'm a eunuch, isn't it? Because I don't have any balls. Why does that matter?"
"I don't know. It just does
or doesn't," she struggled to tell me what was wrong. "We don't know Jason. If you want to come, then you should. We're just trying to do what's right. Moms and Dads don't always know. You'll have to be more patient with us. It's all very new to us too."
"So I can come?"
"Yes Jason. If you really feel that strongly about it, then yes. You can come."
I stood off my bed and came over to her. "Thanks Mom." I hugged her tightly, and she sniffed a few times to control herself.
"I won't let you down," I said as we hugged.
"You never do," she told me.
When she released me, she wiped her face and mine with another tissue. She cleared her throat, and tried to smile. I tried to smile back.
"Now Jason. If you want to come tonight, you have to make a grown up decision. I won't make it for you, okay?"
"Hanna still hasn't asked to come. If she doesn't ask, we won't force her to do something she's not ready for."
I nodded in understanding.
"If Hanna doesn't want to come, then she's going to be all alone tonight. She'll be the only one not coming."
" my mind spun with the dilemma, and I couldn't finish my sentence.
"I know you love Hanna very much. You have to decide if you want to spend the night with her, or with us."
My mind was suddenly working very hard. "But if she asks to come, then we can both go?"
"That would be up to Carol, but yes. I think so."
I hugged my mother again. She had freed me from thoughts of how flawed I was, at least for a little bit, and I was grateful. "She'll come Mom. You'll see."
"Just remember, you can't force her to do anything she doesn't want. It has to be her decision. Do you understand?"
"Good." She stood to go. She paused as though she was forgetting something, looking about my room for that something she was missing, then finally deciding she had everything, she began to leave.
"Mom," I called out to her as she reached my door.
She paused, "Yes, sweetie?"
"I don't think you and Dad have made any mistakes." I offered.
"That's nice of you to say, Jason." She smiled and fussed with her tissue. "Just remember we love you, honey."
"I love you too, Mom."
She left me then, and I found my way to my wash-room. After a good cry like that, I felt like I needed to splash water on my eyes, and have a glass to drink.
As I looked up from my sink, I stared at my face in the mirror.
Even with water droplets dripping off my flesh, I looked like any other kid. That is at least, with my clothes on I looked like any other kid. I knew better though. Beneath the surface I was weak and flawed.
I had heard the adults talking, as they so often did, like I wasn't there, but I had heard them nonetheless. Even my friends had now added their stinging barbs to the maelstrom of words in my mind. Those words with their sharp edges danced in my head, cutting as they spun.
"Such a sensitive little boy."
"Puberty would destroy him."
"Won't be good for much else after he's been castrated."
"Little faggot, not worthy to breed."
"Holy Shit, he's been neutered."
"No balls! No balls!"
I knew I was flawed. I was broken. No matter what my mother said, I had seen the shame in my parent's eyes. I didn't blame them though. The mistakes weren't theirs. I was full of failures, like my failure that morning with the dark sedan. I didn't want to be so useless, but I kept proving all my faults anyhow.
I knew they were doing their best, and I loved them for it. They were doing all they could with their defective son.
I knew it, and I accepted it. Their love felt even more special and precious, that they could have the power to love something as inadequate as me. Small, frail and broken though I was, they loved me anyhow.
I dried my eyes, and downed a glass of water. Before I left my room I took deep gulps of air. In and out. I breathed heavily until I was seeing spots before my eyes.
When at last my reflection no longer had red rimmed eyes, I tried a smile. It looked convincing. I took another few deep breaths, and finally left my room to find Hanna.
Hanna wasn't as hard to convince as I had worried.
She was in the TV room of our guest house watching cartoons. I knocked and she waved me in. She was relaxing in her trademark way with both her bare legs up over the arm of the couch, half sitting, half laying down.
I dropped into the space beside her, and she adjusted herself to lay with her head in my lap. She spread her un-combed blonde curls out over my legs, and she looked like a messy angel. I never tired of how perfect she could be.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," I said, looking down into her beautiful face.
"Happy Birthday," she smiled up at me.
"You already said that earlier," I reminded her.
"I know," she told me. "I just like saying it."
We watched cartoons for a bit as I worked up my courage. Finally I blurted it out.
"There's going to be another basement party tonight," I informed her. "Do you wanna come?"
She didn't sit up right away, but rolled onto her back so she was looking directly up at me from my lap. "I dunno," she answered unsure of what I was asking. "What are we supposed to do there?"
I had described to her my nights in the basement room in detail, but it was clear she still didn't know what to expect. I again tried to describe it. "Well, you just go with whoever you want, and you do whatever you want. There's music and drinks, and everybody has fun."
"Will I have to
you know. Is anyone gonna stick their thing in me?"
So that was what she was worried about. She knew what happened to me both times I had entered the basement room. It was something she wasn't ready for. I did my best to explain. "You don't have to do anything you don't wanna do. That's the rule. If you wanna do it, you do it. If you don't, then you don't have to."
"I don't want anybody sticking their thing up my butt."
I nearly laughed out loud, but managed to stop myself. She looked so cute laying there in my lap, that I just wanted to kiss her. I did anyway, and she giggled at me when I did, making a show of wiping her lips immediately after. "Somebody might ask you to do something like that," I told her, "but you can always say no. Just do what you wanna do."
She looked serious for a moment. "Are you gonna go?"
I thought about it for a moment, and I found staring into her angelic eyes, I knew the answer. "No," I admitted, "not if you don't go."
Hanna sat up, and faced me properly. She tucked her knees under herself, and examined my face. Slowly she smiled. "You know," she taunted. "I still haven't had a good look at you since your operation."
"You just saw me today," I squeaked in protest.
"That doesn't count," she countered. "Everyone was there, and I never got a good look." Playfully she tugged on the waistband of my shorts.
"Hanna." I squirmed away from her to the other end of the couch.
"C'mon." she teased me. Her grip on the front of my shorts got tighter, and she pulled it toward herself. "You want something and I want something. Fair trade?"
"Well," I looked around carefully, wondering where her mother was. Somehow I didn't want to do this out in the open. "Okay, but not here."
She released my waistband. "Okay, where?"
Hanna immediately grabbed my hand and led me to her little room on the second floor of the guest house. She shut the door, and locked it. As it clicked shut, she spun around with her back to the door. I felt oddly locked in.
"Okay," she demanded. "Let's see."
I was suddenly feeling a little shy. I'm not sure why I suddenly felt so bashful, I had been naked in front of dozens of people only a few hours earlier, Hanna included. Somehow this was different.
I started to lower my shorts.
"No," she demanded. "On the bed."
Obeying her commands, I moved back to her bed, and continued undressing.
"Wait." she again stopped me. "I wanna do it."
I lay there as she climbed over me. She straddled me, and took my hands, forcing them down onto the bed. "Keep your hands there." she said.
She began to unbutton my shirt, but before she got two buttons undone, she stopped again.
"What's the matter?"
Hanna jumped up off of me, and began to open the drawers of her dresser. It took her a few moments of rummaging before she found what she was looking for. She returned with a couple of scarves.
"What are those for?" I asked.
She retuned to her position straddling me, and began to tie one of my hands with one end of one of the scarves. She tied the other end to the bedpost. She repeated the process with my other hand, before she sat back to survey her handiwork.
I tugged at my makeshift restraints. "Hanna," I complained, "I can't move."
She smiled mischievously. "That's the point, silly."
Hanna, from her position on top of me, slowly unbuttoned my shirt. She rubbed her hands into my chest and stomach. She had a big smile on her face, and I found her touch a little ticklish.
"Come on, Hanna." I complained.
She didn't listen. Instead, she slid her position further down my legs, and again began to work her fingers under my waistband, and slowly lower my shorts. Inch by inch she worked them lower. She stopped just before exposing my little dink. My chest, my belly and my pelvis were all exposed, and she admired the expanse of smooth flesh.
"If I stop right there," she explained. "I could pretend you're a girl. It looks exactly the same, as me."
"Well, I'm not a girl," I protested, while I struggled with my bonds.
She pulled my shorts down a little further, and my soft little penis popped into the open air.
"Nope," she admitted with a grin. "I guess you're not a girl after-all."
She worked my shorts down over my hips, and at last pulled them off me entirely. She sat between my legs, and admired the view.
"Aww," she cooed in pity as she saw the thin pink scar beneath my dink. She touched it lightly running her fingers slowly along the line it made. "Your poor little balls. They were so cute." She smiled a crooked grin, as she teased, "Poor little things. They never hurt anybody. Now they're gone."
I was finding her touch ticklish again. No one had ever touched this new spot in quite this way. When the boys had touched me, it was a quick thing meant to assure themselves my balls weren't somehow hidden, but really gone. Other than that, the only attention this spot had had was when either Xolani or Freidmont changed my dressings. What Hanna was doing was exploration for exploration's sake. I was finding the attention very pleasant, if a little new.
"It looks like
" She had a look on her face of mischief. Yet again, she bounded off of me to rummage through her dresser drawers, leaving me naked and tied to her bed. She returned in a few seconds with a small box, and the glass of water from next to her bed. She opened the box and began to arrange the coloured contents around my legs.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Paints," she answered sweetly.
"What are you doing?"
She took up one of the colours she had selected, and a brush from the box. She dipped the brush first in the water, then the paint, and began to swirl it around. She stopped herself with the brush poised artistically. "Try not to move around too much. I'm going to paint you."
"C'mon, Hanna," I protested and again struggled with my silken restraints. "I'm ticklish."
"I know," she informed me. "That's why its fun."
She screwed up her face in concentration, as she began. Her tongue poked slightly out the side of her mouth as she painted the first line around my groin and little dink. I tried not to squirm too much.
As I lay there, I realized that even though the sensation of the brush lightly touching and flowing over my most sensitive place was ticklish, I could endure it. The way it felt soon became an encompassing pleasure.
Because it was Hanna, I endured it. Because it was Hanna, with her delicate touch, and her innocence it became a sensation of delight. With each brush stroke I felt pleasant tingles wash through my body.
I watched her face as she worked. Such cute concentration. Such acceptance of who and what I was. There was never any judgement in her eyes. She found joy and pleasure in the simplest things, even me, flawed though I was.
At last, after what seemed like a long time of careful deliberate brush-strokes, she was done. She blew soft breath over my freshly painted flesh to dry the paints, before she sat back to admire what she had created. The sensation of her blowing on my sensitive groin sent shudders through me. Delicious quivering that stole the air from my lungs, and pulsed deeply into my core.
When it abated, I finally tried to sit up. "Are you done?" I asked.
She was admiring her handy-work with a look of self satisfaction. "A masterpiece," she announced as she kissed her fingers and flared them dramatically, as would a stereotypical artist of old.
I tugged again on the scarves that held me in place. "Hanna
"Oh." She apologized, "I forgot." She quickly untied my hands, and let me up.
I immediately looked down, but couldn't make out what she had painted. "I can't tell what it is," I complained.
"Come on," she again grabbed my hand, and pulled me along. She unlocked her door, and led me naked to the bathroom, which had a full length mirror. I tip-toed self consciously across the hallway. Being nude while swimming or bathing is one thing. Running naked around someone else's house is another. Somehow I made it without blushing to death.
When I saw her creation, I burst out laughing. She had painted a comical ant-eater over my pelvis, with my lonely little penis as its flexible snout. She'd even painted an ant hill where my balls had once been, with dozens of little ants spilling out of the mound, ready for the ant-eater to gobble up.
Hanna came around behind me, and reached around to take my 'ant-eater snout' between her fingers. She bent it down to the little ants. "Om, nom, nom," she made the sounds to accompany the actions.
Between the sensation of her touching me, and the pure love and acceptance I found in her laugh, I couldn't resist. I spun round and kissed her for all I was worth. She kissed me back with equal passion.
"What the hell is going on here?" It was Carol, Hanna's mom. She had been walking past the open bathroom door and discovered us in our unguarded moment.
Hanna and I pushed away from each other in a moment of embarrassment. As I did, Carol got a good look at Hanna's Artwork. She guffawed at the scene. I felt my face go red and my cheeks burned.
As usual, Hanna didn't let anything phase her. She simply stepped in front of me, and confronted her mother.
"I want to come to the party tonight." she announced. "Can I Mom?"
Carol controlled her laughter at my naked and painted expense, to survey the two of us for a moment. "Yes," she concluded. "I believe it is about time you joined us." She looked between the two of us seriously, and nodded to herself. "Past time, most likely."
"Thanks Mom," Hanna suddenly embraced her mother, and Carol held her and patted her back. This left me standing naked by myself in their bathroom, trying to hide my 'ant-eater'.
Carol looked at me, and shook her head. "Oh, for God's sake, Jason. Cover yourself up."
She threw a towel at me, and I quickly wrapped it around myself modestly.
Carol released her daughter, and held her at arm's length. "We'll need to discuss a few things before we go," she informed her. "There are a few things we don't let little girls do until they are older, and we'll have to decide what you'll wear. But I think it will be nice to have you there."
She cast her gaze again between the two kids in her bathroom. "You two, get cleaned up. We have a big night tonight. Try not to wear yourselves out before then."
With that, she left us. I heard her again burst into fits of laughter as she disappeared down the hallway.
There had been no need for me to take anything to get to sleep before the big night. My day had been full and exhausting. A late nap in the afternoon was refreshing and surprisingly easy. I didn't oversleep either. I woke in time for supper. I ate hungrily, and even had some of the leftover cake from earlier in the day for dessert.
The Life of the Party
Bathed and dressed, I found myself outside with my parents, welcoming the guests as they arrived. I was surprised at how differently they all acted. When they weren't being the parents and acting as chaperones to their children, all the parents seemed more casual, and natural. Where I was more or less ignored the last time I stood by my parents welcoming them into our home, this time the adults paid me more attention. They seemed genuinely pleased to see me there.
When what I thought was the last of our guests had arrived, I began to make my way inside, but my parents didn't follow. When I walked back to them I noticed what they had been waiting for. The familiar caravan of black vehicles slowly entered through the gates, and dominated our driveway.
This time the scary men from the SUVs didn't surprise me. I waved to a few of them politely, but they paid me no heed. I guessed they had more important things on their minds than a little boy to worry about.
Prince Shahriar was just as impressive as I remembered. Tall, dark, and powerful in his appearance, but with a friendliness that made all of that irrelevant. I couldn't contain myself, and before he could fully emerge from the Limo, I excitedly ran up to him.
One of his guards pushed me back with a hard shove before I got to him, and the man glowered down at me. His hand was inside his jacket ready to draw whatever was there should he need it to subdue me.
As I rubbed my chest where I had been struck I heard that booming voice erupt from the Prince. "Now, there will be none of that. These are my friends, and you shall let him pass," he admonished his bodyguard. "He is but a boy, and very dear to me."
He spoke something to the man in Arabic. I noticed particular emphasis put on the word "Ushindi", and I wondered what that meant. Whatever it was, the man backed down, and allowed me to approach.
As the prince embraced me, he said, "I am sorry about that, Sahib. Sometimes they do not know their place." He released me so he could reach back into the SUV and retrieve a beautifully wrapped package. "This is for you," and he handed it to me.
It was rectangular, and quite heavy. I touched the beautiful wrapping tentatively. Gold and velvet trimmed, I was awed by just the packaging. "What is it?"
"You'll have to open it to find out." He explained. "Many happy returns, my friend."
I looked to my parents. "Should I open it now?"
Always the pragmatic one, my mother suggested, "Why don't you wait until we're inside?"
After exchanging hugs, and welcome from my parents, we joined the rest in the basement room. I cradled the prince's gift against my chest as we entered. My father delayed us only a moment as he went to the controls for the gate, and made sure it was shut.
As before, there were polite applause when we finally joined the others. As well as the parents and other members of the Kinseyans I expected, Xolani had joined Doctor Freidmont in participating.
"Good evening folks," my father announced. "As before, I ask you to welcome Prince Shahriar, who again graces us with his presence."
Shahriar politely thanked everyone as he joined the crowd.
"Also," my father went on, "We have another first timer to welcome."
This time it was Carol that gave Hanna a shove forward. My little Hanna was as shocked as I was when it happened to me.
"Go ahead," Carol insisted, "Say something."
Hanna was much more comfortable in front of a crowd than I was, she was only unsteady for a moment. "Thank-you all for having me," Her clear voice carried over the audience with sincerity and confidence. "I'm very happy to be here. Please, be patient with me," she asked those in attendance. "This is my first time, and I don't know where everything goes yet."
There was laughter and applause. Hanna was smiling, and actually curtsied at the attention, which provoked even more laughter and applause. She was loving it. As she blushed from the attention, she caught my eye, gave me a wink, and a little wave. I snuck a little wave to her in return. She was a lot better at this than I was.
Prince Shahriar stepped forward before my father could again speak, "Let it not go unrecognised, that there is also another newcomer amongst us." He turned to my tall friend next to Doctor Freidmont, "The eunuch Xolani, has graced us with his magnificent presence. He is a dear friend, and has long served as my conscience in many matters."
Xolani stepped forward, and gave a gracious bow, despite the murmurs that accompanied the Prince's announcement. "Ah am very pleased to be here," he said simply.
The Prince went on, "Nor let it be forgotten that there is even more to celebrate." He turned and motioned to where I was standing. "There is one who celebrates the day of his birth." He waited for me to give a nod over the package I was clutching, before he concluded. "Join me in wishing him many more to come. Congratulations to the eunuch Jason."
As the group sang a few refrains of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow', I felt stunned. Had he just called me, 'The eunuch Jason'? I had only been a eunuch for a few weeks, and no-one had called me that. It was shocking to realize that is what I was. Not just a boy without balls, but a eunuch. The eunuch Jason.
As those assembled finished the last verse of their song, thoughts of my new position were put aside when Hanna came to me and placed a big kiss on my lips, just as they sung the final line, "
which nobody can deny."
Her kiss washed away any self doubt I might have had over my status, and had me grinning ear to ear. I barely even noticed the applause they gave me, before returning to the evening's celebrations.
As people dispersed and paired off, Hanna looked at the beautiful package in my arms. "What's that?"
"It's from the Prince." I told her.
As though summoned by his mention, Shahriar appeared at my side with my parents, Doctor Freidmont and Xolani. "Open it," he commanded.
Hanna bounced on the balls of her feet, as I sat on one of the lounge chairs, and began the delicate process of opening the gift without destroying the artwork of the packaging.
After I managed to slide off the gold brocaded ribbon, and unfasten the adhesive that closed the ends, I was finally able to slide the gift from its wrapping. I was confused but entranced by what fell into my hands.
The book was clearly old, and very valuable. The leather bound cover was inlaid with gold and intricate filigree. There was a hand painted image of a sultan on a throne, with a beautiful woman at his feet. Her hand was raised to the heavens, yet her eyes remained fixed on his. Whatever she was saying, the sultan was enraptured. Above the pair depicted on the cover, were raised letters, in flowing exotic words I could not read. The words seemed to glide and dance, as if carried by a river running smooth as glass.
My fingers lightly touched the raised lettering, as though I could glean their meaning with my contact.
The Prince told me, "It says, The Tales of Scheherazade, and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights."
I opened the cover, but was disappointed to find all the words within were the same as the cover. Beautiful, and alive, but sadly meaningless to me. "I can't read it," I lamented.
"That will not do." The Prince decided. "We must find you an instructor." He turned to Xolani. "My friend," he asked. "Is it true you desire to remain here in America?"
Xolani smiled at Doctor Freidmont, and the Doctor smiled back. "Ah will remain," Xolani answered.
"Allow me to ask a favour of you," the prince implored. "Teach young Jason how to read these words. As skilled as you are with a knife, you are equally skilled with language, and the ways of the world. I would have you share that knowledge with the next generation."
Xolani stared at me with the book. He seemed as though he was judging my worth. "Ah had intended to take up medicine here in America. It might interfere with mah other work."
The Prince was not easily put off. "Think of it as making sure there is at least one person who can follow in your footsteps," he coaxed. "Your education has been the making of you. There is hardly a man on Earth who can match your fine mind. Should young Jason be denied the benefits you yourself have enjoyed?"
Xolani's eyes went back and forth between myself and the Prince. "To honour the kindness you have shown me," he finally answered the Prince. "Ah will teach the boy. Ah will set aside a day a week to teach him."
Shahriar clapped my back. "You should feel very lucky that Xolani has agreed. He is a man of many tongues. Be grateful of what he will teach you. Be a worthy student. With each new language, a new world can open up to you." He turned back to Xolani, "Thank-you my friend. I will repay the honour you do me."
Xolani shook his head, "Jason is mah brothah. It is only right dat ah should share mah knowledge. Ah should thank you for reminding me of dat."
Shahriar pushed Doctor Freidmont away, and embraced the thin eunuch. Xolani hesitantly hugged him back.
My mother interrupted the hugging duo, "We can't accept this. The book, the offer to teach Jason, It is too much. The book itself must be worth a fortune."
Shahriar, shook his head. "The book is my gift to Jason, and the offer to teach, is the offer of Xolani. You must not refuse what is freely given. Besides, what is offered, is not offered to you, but to your son. It is not yours to refuse."
My mother looked at me sternly. I clutched the illuminated text to my chest. "Please, mom."
Her look softened, and at last she relented. "Your new language studies are not to interfere with your other school work." she commanded. "If you are to be Xolani's student, then I expect you to be a good student. If you don't take it seriously, there will be consequences. Do we have an agreement?"
I nodded enthusiastically. The mysteries of the text in my arms was too much to ignore.
My mother finally looked back to Shahriar. "Thank-you," she said. "I'll make sure he treats it seriously." She nodded to Xolani her simple appreciation, and he returned her recognition with a humble nod of his own.
Finally Doctor Freidmont interrupted our scene, as he took Xolani's hand and began to lead him away. "This is all wonderful," he said over his shoulder, "but if you'll excuse us."
Xolani, and the doctor left hand in hand, where they were met by a group excited to introduce themselves to, and explore the exotic eunuch amongst them. Xolani was gracious and seemed to be comfortable with the attention.
All around us, people were pairing off, or clustering into small groups. I found a safe place for my book before I took Hanna's hand and led her to one of the free lounge chairs. She giggled, and her eyes danced about the room, delighted, or shocked by the uninhibited actions of the adults around us.
Music began to pump through the hidden sound system, and as we sat, I allowed Hanna to take in the sights of the adults as they coupled. Hanna was giggling and looking to me as though she couldn't believe it. I smiled back knowing how odd it all seemed. I was no less taken aback by what the adults could do.
"Close your eyes." I instructed.
Hanna stilled her laughter and did what I said.
Remembering how being undressed by Shahriar had been such a revelation to me, I now did the same for Hanna. She wore a light dress, with silk ribbons in her hair. I untied each ribbon like a meditation, letting her curls spill over her shoulders. Each ribbon I drew over her cheek as I undid it, letting her skin feel the smoothness.
I lowered the straps of her dress from her shoulders, and caressed her arms as I slid them down. There was goose-flesh on her skin. As I undressed her, I kept my touches light, but purposeful. I planted kisses where bare skin became exposed.
Once she was undressed, I let myself explore her body, as the Prince had explored mine. As much as I had enjoyed being touched in such a way, I enjoyed the other side of it too. Hanna's skin was delicate, and addictive. Knowing each little wrinkle of flesh was a new joy. Every line or fold a renewed delight. I ran my hands from the line of her neck to the spaces between her toes. She was shivering and radiant from my attention.
At last, she opened her eyes and kissed me. In moments my own clothing joined hers on the ground. She was laughing the whole while. Effortless and ethereal joy that spread through the whole room. Her laughter was as the tinkling of small bells.
I was unaware there was any attention paid to us as we played this game, but before we could go further, Hanna and I were scooped up by some of the adults and transported to the large bed at the back of the room.
Laid upon the bed, we were surrounded by hands, and bodies, so that one couldn't tell which hand or which touch came from which person. Hanna's laughter rang out in encouragement.
From time to time, I would feel a hand side over the space where my testicles had once lived. It would linger for a moment, contemplating that empty space. Moans of satisfaction would inter-space the breathing as a dozen bodies slid and touched and groped.
After a long, but enjoyable while, the writhing pile of bodies seemed to subside, and Hanna and I extricated ourselves. She was red faced and breathlessly excited. My first introduction was a much lonelier affair. I had struggled to find a place among the adults. I was glad Hanna was enjoying herself, and pleased I was no longer excluded.
As Hanna and I danced through the crowd, hands and other limbs reached for us, entreating us to join.
Another group had formed around Xolani and Doctor Freidmont. The thin dark eunuch was desired, and bodies pressed to his, as he expressed his love with the Doctor.
Hanna and I fell into the jacuzzi, and we dove up and down like minnows. When at last we surfaced, we found ourselves in the company of Prince Shahriar. He lifted us both out of the water as though we were as inconsequential and as light as air.
He transported us to his lounger where he hugged and kissed us both as we dried. Before he could speak, Hanna pushed him down and straddled his chest.
"Are you really a prince?" she asked.
"The seventh son of a seventh son," he explained. "I will never be a King, but I do hold the title of Amir. It means a prince, in your language."
"Jason likes you," Hanna said.
"And I, him," said the Prince.
"Then I like you too," she decided, and slid off to the side.
The Prince pulled her face down suddenly, and gave her a kiss on the lips. Hanna pulled back blushing, but giggling in her bell like way. The Prince stroked our backs, as we cuddled up against him.
As our bodies touched, I noticed the Prince's erection grow. I took it in my hand, and slid the skin up and down, as my father had shown me, that first time in the whirlpool. His body immediately reacted. It was as if he had been craving that very touch.
Hanna watched with scientific interest, her fascination intensifying. After a few moments, she reached out to touch him too.
With two hands upon him, the prince began to make small sounds at the back of his throat. As Hanna ran her hands over his body, she let his curly hair run through her fingers.
Seeing him enjoying himself, I felt emboldened. I lowered my mouth over his purple headed organ, and began to suck. As I did, Hanna again straddled him, working her hands over his torso, and feeling his oiled and curly haired body. The Prince was moaning ever deeper. His breathing becoming ever more laboured.
All at once he sat upright, pushing both Hanna and I to the sides. "Please stop," he said urgently. "I cannot endure it."
His entire body was vibrating, and his penis was rigid, standing straight out from his body, still wet from my saliva.
I caught Hanna's eye, and managed to communicate without words my intentions. Simultaneously, both Hanna and I blew warm air over his wet phallus. As we did, I noticed the Prince suddenly stop breathing. His face became rigid, and his eyes rolled up into his head before they closed.
His body bucked uncontrollably, yet still he refused to draw breath. Our simple act of blowing on his wet member, sent him into convulsions. At last, he thrust his hips, and his white seed sprayed out upon his belly, and the leather of the seat beneath him. Only when his body finally quieted did he again start to breathe.
Hanna and I laughed at the absurdity of what the Prince had just experienced, and we jumped back to avoid the sticky spray. When he came back to himself, the Prince looked embarrassed, and weak.
"Excuse me, please." He bowed to us, and retreated to where he could get a towel to clean himself up.
As he left us, I heard my father's laugh. He appeared beside us with a cloth, and wiped away the deposit the Prince had left on the leather. "I think you two surprised him," he said as he tossed the rag away. His words sounded suspiciously like a compliment. I'm always dubious of praise from an adult, when I don't know the reason.
He kissed the top of my head, then as an afterthought, pulled Hanna close to kiss her head too.
"I've been telling people how well you two play together," he continued. "How well your piano playing has come along, and how lovely is your singing. Would you do an old man a favour, and show us your talents?"
I immediately felt the familiar fear of crowds rush through my veins. The largest group I had been able to play for without feeling like I was going to vomit, consisted of Doctor Freidmont, Xolani, my parents, and Carol. Even then, the only reason I could get through it was because Hanna was beside me. Any public recitals I had attempted had been dismal failures.
I was shaking my head, but Hanna was already agreeing.
"Great," my father pronounced. "I'll turn off the music so people can hear you play."
Hanna dragged me over to where our clothes were laying, and handed me my pants.
"Hanna, I don't do well playing for people."
"C'mon ya big scaredy cat," she poked. "Put on your clothes. I'm not doing this naked."
I don't know why, but putting my clothes on to perform seemed to make sense. I don't know why I should have thought so? Everyone had seen me naked, and most of them had had their hands all over me just a short while before. Still, as Hanna dressed, so did I. That seemed to be taken by her as my agreement to play.
Hanna needed to pull me by the arm over to the piano. My feet didn't want to make the trip on their own. I stood there as she rifled through the songbooks from the space under the bench.
"Play the monkey song," my father instructed, as he found the controls for the sound system, and turned it off. "I like that one."
Hanna found the blue covered book, and showed it to my father. The Nat King Cole Beginner Play-book, it said.
"That's the one," he agreed. "I'm pretty sure it's in there."
Hanna set the music up on the ledge above the piano keys, and flipped to the right page. Then she had to drag me into position, and force me to sit down. I was locking up.
"See," she said as she sat me at the keys. "You don't even have to look at anybody. Just the music. You won't even know anybody is there."
"Yes I will," I disagreed. I could already feel their eyes starting to press into my back.
"You can do it," she informed me. "All you gotta do is smile and pretend its just you and me."
"I dunno," I said, but somehow my hands found their place on the ivory.
"Smile." she said, giving me a knock in the ribs.
I tried a weak one.
"Just smile," she said again, but this time when she did, she gave me a funny face with crossed eyes, and I actually did smile. Darn her anyway.
"Listen up everybody," my father announced to the group. "May I present to you, Hanna and Jason."
Hanna started snapping her fingers in a quick beat. She shook her hips comically as she did. Despite the unwanted attention, I was still smiling. After eight beats I started to play. I couldn't help but be brave for Hanna's sake.
Hanna didn't even look at the lyrics. We had practised this one often enough, she knew it by heart. After the four bars of my introduction, she started to sing, still snapping her fingers and moving her hips.
"A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air
The monkey thought that everything was on the square
The buzzard tried to throw the monkey off of his back
But the monkey grabbed his neck and said: Now listen, Jack"
Before she was even to the second rhyme, people had stopped what they were doing, and began to clap in time to the beat.
"Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don't you blow your top."
Hanna was playing it sassy. She wasn't just enjoying the attention, she was feeding off of it. She was the focus of all eyes, and I began to feel better in my playing, that they weren't focused on me.
"Ain't no use in divin'
What's the use of jivin'
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don't you blow your top."
As she sang, and moved her hips, and snapped her fingers, she'd glance back at me, beaming like she was on top of the world. I felt a thrill go through me, and all at once my stage fright vanished. If Hanna was happy, so was I. I didn't care if I missed a note, or hit the wrong one. Hanna and I were making music.
"The buzzard told the monkey 'You are chokin' me
Release your hold and I will set you free.'
The monkey looked the buzzard right dead in the eye and said,
'Your story's so touching but it sounds just like a lie."
Suddenly I was singing along with Hanna. My confidence was soaring. With Hanna it didn't matter if I was a terrible piano player. It wasn't whether I was good or bad, a eunuch or a disappointment to my parents. There was only the joy in whatever we shared.
"Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don't you blow your top."
During my instrumental solo, Hanna danced, and our audience continued to clap along. The clapping helped conceal anywhere I messed up. As Hanna danced she let one of her hands stroke my back, and I felt we were still in this together. Everybody else dropped away, and it was just Hanna and I.
It was a moment of pure joy. I sang out for all I was worth, joining Hanna in the last verse.
"Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down, papa, don't you blow your top."
I played the last bars with gusto, revelling in my connection with Hanna. She swayed her hips, with her back pressed to mine, dancing to the music but unable to separate herself from my touch. She snapped her fingers in time with my music, and on the last note, I spun away from the piano to share the last lyric.
We were in each other's embrace as the applause hit us.
We'd done it. We'd survived it. Better than that, we had actually done well. The adults pressed around us, congratulating us on our talents.
One of the ladies commented to Hanna, "You seemed to be enjoying yourself so much. However did you do it? I get the terrible jitters whenever I have to do something in front of a group."
Hanna smiled as she held my hand. "My mom always says you'll do better if you picture the audience naked. Since everybody already was naked, it was easy."
The woman howled with laughter, and shared the joke to those around her. They found it equally amusing, congratulating Hanna on her quick wit.
Hanna and I were guided away from the piano bench, and one of the adults took our place, playing music that was well beyond our skill range, but still upbeat and celebratory.
The adults seemed to shift their desires from the physical, to that of drinking, singing, and dancing. There were still pockets of passion, but people suddenly were more interested in traditional entertainment, rather than sexual experimentation. I realized that I had a lot to learn about how these parties worked. It wasn't always the same. Maybe that was one of those unwritten rules. Every time is different.
Hanna and I tried to find a space to ourselves, but a few of the younger members came up to us
to me really. The were curious about my castration, and wanted to see. I lowered my pants to show the teenagers my scar and got a few compliments on how it was healing.
Even Cassie, my one time babysitter came to get a good look. It seemed to have an odd effect on her, and shortly after, I saw her tackle one of the boys, and do things to him I wasn't sure were entirely kind. He didn't seem to mind though.
Hanna was overwhelmed. She sagged into me, and together we found a corner bench, where we could have some alone time.
"Well?" I asked her. Wondering how she was taking it all in.
She hugged me close and answered, "It was fun." But her eyes were sagging, having reached her limit. I stifled a yawn myself.
Before I could doze off, the door to our basement room burst open, and two of the Prince's men entered, looking stern, and all business. They found Shahriar quickly, and whispered into his ear, before exiting as quickly as they appeared.
Shahriar, dressed himself, and found my father. "I have to go." he explained, "My men are disturbed by some suspicious vehicle they think they have seen. It is probably nothing, but if I do not go with them now they will insist on intruding into the party. They are good men, but I assure you, no fun in social events like these."
"I'm sorry you have to leave," my father said. He seemed concerned, and uneasy at the prince's announcement.
"As am I. Please give everyone my regrets, I had a most excellent time."
Shahriar came and gave Hanna and I hugs before he left. "Study hard, Sahib," he told me. "If, in a few years you can master what Xolani will teach you, perhaps I will invite you to my country. We will share an adventure."
"I'd like that," I said.
Then he was gone.
As Hanna watched the door shut behind him, she turned to me. "When do we go to bed?" She had exerted herself beyond her limits, and I had too. Despite my nap earlier in the day, I was exhausted. Our parents noticed.
"Go on," Carol told us. "Sleep well you two. You did very well tonight."
My mother shared her sentiments, "We're proud of you. Now, go to bed, before you fall down."
We didn't have to be told twice.
Hanna and I left the party behind us, and we both went up to my room. We had barely showered and brushed our teeth, before we were falling into my bed.
As we drifted off, Hanna glanced around at my four walls. "This isn't my room," she said sleepily.
I pulled her close and whispered, "Yes, it is."
That night my dreams were full of song, and laughter, and the little blonde girl with green eyes, who was the best person I had ever known.
It was a night like this, not many years earlier, our planet's population had passed seven billion souls. Sooner than expected it was already pushing eight.
Halloween — The Darkest Night
Such heady things as the population bursting at the seams, the demand on our economy, and the very different future we might come to know, were far from my mind. Instead, my eleven year old self was possessed of thoughts of candy, trick-or-treating, ghouls and goblins.
Hanna and I had plotted and planned together to have matching costumes. We had argued, cajoled, and manipulated each other to get our way, each of us wanting something slightly different. It was a good natured disagreement, and in the end we had compromised. It was a decision that wasn't quite what either of us wanted, but it was the best idea we had, that we both didn't hate.
In her skin-tight body suit and with her blonde hair curling out perkily from under her cowl, Hanna made the perfect miniature version of Bat-Girl. Though I had fought to be Batman, I was instead saddled with Robin.
I had argued that I would be Batman, and Hanna should be Robin, but Hanna outright refused, declaring, "Robin is a boy. You should be Robin."
Even a castrated little boy doesn't want to get saddled with the lesser of the Dynamic Duo. "It won't make any sense if I'm Robin, and you're Batman. Batman's a boy too."
Hanna couldn't be swayed. We had gone days arguing back and forth. "Not if I go as Bat-Girl."
It was about the twentieth argument we had had over costumes. We had gone through Raggedy Anne and Andy, Cher and Sonny Bonno (My Dad's Idea), Two ends of a horse, with neither one of us wanting to be the back end, Luke and Leia, Cowboys and Indians, Prince Charming and Cinderella, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, Angry Bird and Angry Pig. We had come close on Indiana and Shortround, but like our argument with the horse, neither of us wanted to be Shortround.
Bat-Girl and Robin wasn't perfect, but it was what we had to accept when we ran out of time.
All things considered, we were able to pull together pretty good looking costumes. Hanna's mom was able to make us some basic capes and masks. Everything else we managed to scrounge or buy with our allowance money. We were pretty happy with the result.
I had to borrow a pair of green tights from Hanna, but with a pair of shorts over top, the red vest, and the trademark gold and black cape, I was pretty proud of my outfit. As good as I thought I looked, Hanna was simply perfect.
With her skin-tight blue body suit, boots and a yellow utility belt fastened stylishly around her tiny waist. She was perfect. I easily could imagine her jumping from rooftop to rooftop with the caped crusader. She looked so cute and convincing. I envied her greatly.
Though I hadn't wanted to be Robin, I had to admit, I looked the part. Once I donned the mask and gloves, and standing next to Hanna, I was finally satisfied.
With treat bags in hand, having endured a few dozen pictures snapped by our parents, and seeing spots from the flashes, Hanna and I were finally ready to go.
For the first time it wouldn't be our moms and dads taking us around. We still weren't old enough to go on our own, but this night we would have different chaperones.
Partly because it was his first Halloween in the USA, and partly to free up my parents for a night alone, Xolani was tapped to walk with us on our search for candy. Accompanying him as usual was Doctor Freidmont.
Hanna and I nearly split our sides when we saw the costumes they had chosen for themselves.
Xolani was dressed as an old west cowboy. In the ten gallon hat, chaps, and boots, he looked especially comical. He really didn't look comfortable in those boots. There was nothing about the usually barefoot Xolani that would have made you say, "Cowboy". That's probably why it was so hilarious.
If Xolani was comical, Doctor Freidmont was a riot. Why a pudgy middle aged man with grey hair thought he could pull off the sexy nurse look, I'll never know. He had padded the chest to give himself an ample bosom, and was even wearing the high heels to match. The lipstick and rouge didn't help.
My father gave the Doctor an, "Ooh la, la," when he saw him, and added insult to injury with a pinch on the bottom. Doctor Freidmont gave him a withering stare, and adjusted his fake cleavage with a harumph.
He stopped my mother, as she approached with her camera, "You even think about snapping a picture of me in this get-up, and I'll see to it your HMO downgrades your insurance to just slightly above what they give refugees, and emergency first responders."
My mother backed off, though I'm sure I saw her snap a few pics on the sly, with the flash turned off.
Once the humour died down, we climbed into the doctor's car, and were off in search of our candy.
We drove down to Hanna's old neighbourhood, because she was familiar with the area, and promised she knew all the best houses for full size chocolate-bars, bags of chips, and other rare goodies.
Hanna and I dashed from house to house, enlarging our precious haul. I had been a little worried that at eleven years old, I was getting too old for trick-or-treating, but I was relieved to see even older kids than Hanna and myself out going door to door.
Hanna's neighbourhood was in a celebratory mood. It seemed every house was decorated with pumpkins, and fake cobwebs. Orange lights and plastic skeletons invited us to knock at every door. We were getting such a good collection in our treat bags, we even willingly obeyed those unguarded candy bowls with notes that said, "Please take just one."
Bat-Girl and Robin owned the night, flying from doorstep to doorstep, in our quest for sugary justice.
Xolani and Doctor Freidmont were good sports about it. They dutifully walked with their charges. They never complained about how many blocks we walked, or how many houses Hanna and I wanted to visit. Sharing in our loot probably helped soothe them over.
Hanna stopped at one house, and I could see her shiver. The sign on the gate said, "Haunted House. Enter if you dare."
"Wanna go in?" I asked.
Hanna scratched under her cowl, and I knew if I could see her eyebrows they'd be bunched together in thought. "I dunno. I've never had the guts before."
I figured if I could be brave for Hanna, by performing in front of everybody when we sang her song, then maybe she could be brave for me too.
"C'mon," I said. "It'll be fun."
Hanna paced back and forth. Her purple cape fluttered uncertainly in the breeze. "Uhh
As she came within reach, I grabbed her hand, and pulled her up the walkway.
"Don't let go of my hand," she told me. She was scared, but where I went, so would she.
Xolani, and Doctor Freidmont hung back at the pavement. "You kids go on ahead," the doctor called after us. "I think I'm going to rest here for a bit."
Xolani and the doctor sat down on a bench at the edge of the yard, and it was obvious they were more tired than Hanna or I. We were wearing them out.
The entrance to the house was dark, and our eyes strained to adjust to the lack of light. Without warning, a skeleton sprang out at us from the darkness with a wild cackle of laughter. Both of us jumped and screamed.
Once our wits were sufficiently softened up, the black curtains opened to reveal the owner of the house, dressed as a scary witch. "Come children," she beckoned. "Welcome to my house of, Eeevuul." She waggled her fingers as she overemphasized the final word.
I noticed her glance out to Xolani and Doctor Freidmont, and give them a slight nod, as she let us in.
She led us from room to room, where different scenes were set up to scare us or to amuse.
There was a room where an alien autopsy appeared to be going on, and we were chased out by the Men in Black.
Another room was full of mirrors, and optical illusions that had your head spinning so that you didn't know where the exit was.
There was a room with spiders where you had to avoid all the cotton cobwebs blocking the path. We bobbed and weaved and made it out relatively unscathed.
There was a room with nothing but a large chained up chest in the middle of the floor. As we approached, the chest suddenly shook and bounced, and the chains strained to contain whatever horror lay within.
Another room held the laboratory of a mad scientist, where he invited us to place our hands into velvet covered vessels that contained (so he said) the various body parts of his most heinous creation. Eyeballs, guts, and brains. Disgusting things that made the hairs on the backs of our necks stand on end. We left when his various machines crackled to life, and the thing beneath the sheet began to rise with an ominous moan.
At last, the witch led us to the back yard where a maze was set up. If we could beat the maze and escape, she promised she wouldn't eat us, despite how appetizing our fleshy limbs might appear.
Hanna and I tiptoed through the winding path, holding on to each other's hands for dear life. Creepy sounds seemed to emanate from all around. We could hear the witch cackling in her perverse pleasure somewhere behind us.
Just as Hanna and I found the exit to the street, there was a horrible sound that cut through the night. The sound of it exploded like the roar of an animal, and caused we two frightened children to throw ourselves each into the other's arms. We screamed and ran full tilt for the exit when the source of the terrible noise burst forth from the maze.
As we ran back out to the street, I dared a look behind us, where the man in the mask stopped his chainsaw, and politely waved to us, before returning to his place of ambush in the yard.
Hanna and I were laughing, but our hearts were pounding, and we were panting from the exertion.
We found Xolani and Doctor Freidmont waiting for us, where they had left us. The doctor had removed his high heels and was rubbing his swelling feet. "Ugh, I can't go on," he told us when he looked up. "Why did I think high heels were a good idea?"
Xolani looked amused, but I noticed he had removed the tight fitting cowboy boots and had returned to his natural shoeless state. The boots were under his arm. "Stay here wit the doctor," he told us. "Ah will go back to the car, and fetch some proper footwear."
"Oh, would you?" the doctor moaned with gratitude. "You are a godsend."
Xolani looked at the doctor with a wry smile. "Ah know," he said.
We sat with the doctor as Xolani strolled down the road. I couldn't remember how far away we had parked the car. With it getting dark, I wasn't even sure where we were any-more.
The doctor put his arms around the two of us, and let out a deep sigh. He wasn't used to keeping up with kids. As we sat with him, Doctor Freidmont looked wistful. "You two make a nice pair," he said. "Remind me to tell your parents something important when I get you two home. I've been meaning to tell them something, but it keeps slipping my mind." He didn't explain what it was. Instead he changed the topic by sneaking a look in my treat bag. "Got any gum in there?" he asked.
"I think so," I said, and began to dig through my treasures for a pack I thought I remembered from earlier. Before I could find it, the doctor was tapping my shoulder.
"Hey Jason have a look at this
I looked up to see two people dressed as gorillas walking down the side-walk. They didn't seem like trick-or-treaters. There were clearly adults beneath those masks. Maybe they were going to a party? They had just stepped out of a dark sedan, and strolled towards us. As they came closer, I could see these weren't ordinary gorillas. Both of them held guns.
When they were right beside us, Doctor Freidmont, noticed the weapons too. "Let me guess," the doctor offered to the pair. "Planet of the Apes, right?" He stood up and pounded his chest with both hands in a quick staccato beat. "Get your paws off me, you damn dirty apes!" he cried.
One of the gorillas held out his gun for the doctor to inspect. The doctor looked down.
The concussive sound knocked the air from my lungs. Something wet and warm splattered my face and hands. The doctor slumped to the side-walk, like a puppet with cut strings. Part of his face slid away from the rest of his head.
I couldn't hear anything. The sound of the blast had temporarily deafened me. I was staring at where the doctor fell. The way he had collapsed, one of his legs was folded underneath of him, and the other remained crooked in such a way to expose his underpants from under his slutty nurse costume. They were ordinary Y-fronts with black trim. Wasn't that odd, I thought. How out-of-place were men's underpants on a sexy nurse's outfit?
One of the gorillas was reaching for me. It pulled me to my feet, and tore my bag from out of my hands. It was rude to do, because I hadn't finished finding the gum for Doctor Freidmont yet.
I looked over to where Hanna was. The other gorilla had grabbed her. She was kicking and screaming like she was throwing a tantrum. In the tussle, she had knocked the mask from her gorilla, and I recognized who it was.
Tex held Hanna in a choking embrace. He was the one who had tried to crash my party less than a week ago. He had reached for me from the passenger seat of that same black sedan "Fucking hell," He shouted, "She's seen my face."
"Bring her too," said the one who was binding my hands. Sounds had apparently returned to the world.
I realized I should be doing something, but it was as though I was somewhere else. It was happening to someone else.
There was a cloth in my gorilla's hand. It was pressing it to my face.
As my vision went out of focus, I remember being lifted, and placed in the trunk of that car. My sagging eyes remained glued to Doctor Freidmont on the pavement.
Someone should cover his underwear, I thought. If people see him like that, they'll laugh. He doesn't like it when people laugh at him.
Finally, my mind went to a place of nothingness. Darkness was all I knew.