Chapter Five

The phone rang as Jami and her parents were finishing breakfast. Jami's mother answered, then handed the phone to Jami, who had pushed her chair back from the table, obviously hoping the call was for her.

"It's for you, Jami. Carys."

"I hope she's going to come over here today," said Jami. "Is that okay?"

"Of course, honey. I'd like to meet her." Her mother began clearing dishes from the table.

"Hi! Carys? Yes! As soon as possible, for as long as possible! Great!" Jami gave directions, hung up, and smiled.

Her father looked up from the paper. "You like this girl, I take it?"

"Yes. We've talked for hours and hours." Jami hesitated. "It's more than that, though. I like her a lot, an awful lot."

Her mother turned to look at Jami. "And she likes you? The same way?"

"Oh, yes. I'm sure of that." Jami closed her eyes, thinking about yesterday.

Jami's parents exchanged a glance and a smile. Her mother wiped her hands and walked over to stand by Jami. She reached out to stroke Jami's cheek. "Jami. Are you telling us you're falling in love?"

Jami opened her eyes and grabbed her mother's hand. "Yes! Yes, I am. I'm happy. I'm also scared."

"How much have you told Carys about yourself?"

"She knows I'm intersexed, but not the details. I don't think the details are important, yet."

"They shouldn't be, at this point, but people can react very strongly sometimes, when things don't turn out to be what they've assumed they are. Take it easy, dear. Try to see things from her point of view. If her parents want to talk with us, that's okay of course."

"Her parents?"

"Jami," said her father, "unless her parents are very liberal, there may be some issues with Carys having a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend."

Jami frowned. "Carys is in the GSA at her school. That's why I've already told her about me; she has some idea what intersexed means. Her parents have to know that she's not straight."

"Well, that's a good sign, but that Carys is involved with the GSA at school doesn't guarantee that her parents are okay with the idea of their daughter being a practicing lesbian, in an actual relationship. However, we'll hope for the best."

Her mother gently poked the tip of Jami's nose. "Are you planning on changing out of your nightshirt before Carys gets here?"

"Eeek! Yes!" Jami ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

* * *

The doorbell rang shortly after Jami had come back downstairs, dressed in her usual at-home casual style of loose jeans and sweat shirt. She rushed to open the door.

"Carys! You're here."

"Of course I'm here, Watson! It's where you are."

Jami leaned forward and gave Carys a quick kiss. "Would you like to come in, Holmes?"

"My blushes, Watson! Is the world ready for this?"

"I don't know about the world, but I'm getting cold standing here with the door open. Do come in."

"A very practical suggestion." Carys walked in and set her small pack on the floor. She was wearing a deerstalker cap and a cape over a heavy flannel shirt, overalls and black high-top Doc Martens. She also had a walking stick, which she leaned against the wall by her pack.

"Hermaphrodites with Attitude." Carys read Jami's shirt aloud and laughed.

"The term is somewhat déclassé," said Jami. "There are very few true hermaphrodites, and it gives a false image. But I like it. The attitude part, and the Greek mythology."

"Have I told you I think you're fantastic?"

"So are you. Come meet my parents." Jami took Carys by the hand and led her into the kitchen, where her parents were sitting at the table, still drinking coffee and reading the papers. They looked up when Jami and Carys entered, giving no sign they had heard what went on in the entrance hall.

"Mom, Dad. This is Carys."

Jami's mother immediately smiled, and her father said, "Have you perhaps read Dr. Watson's stories about Mr. Sherlock Holmes? The private consulting detective?"

Carys grinned. "Gee, how'd you guess?"

"Hello, Carys," said Jami's mother. "I've heard good things about you, and I love the hat and cape. Why don't you two go on upstairs, but help yourselves to drinks and snacks when you want."

"Okay, Mom. Come on, Car. My room is basically the whole upstairs. I'll show you around, then we can come back down and get something to drink."

They paused in the hallway for Carys to take off her boots, then went up the stairs, which opened out in the middle of a converted attic, with sloping sides and windows only at the ends. There were closets to the sides, midway, which divided the space into a bedroom at one end. The other end, surrounding the stairs, was set up as a study. Except for an office chair in front of Jami's big computer and a stool to the side, there were only pillows and beanbags, with plenty of rugs and blankets.

"This is so cool, Jami!" said Carys. "I'm dying of envy."

"Don't do that!" said Jami. "I thought about you all night. About yesterday, in the courtyard."

"I thought about you, too," said Carys. She let her pack drop to the floor and turned to Jami.

This one was not a brief, gentle kiss. Neither of them held back. They wanted to be as close as possible, for as long as possible. Eventually they broke apart, took deep breaths, and looked at each other.

"Oh God, Jami. I've wanted so badly to do that."

Jami swayed a bit and blinked. "I never really believed that stuff about the Earth moving when you kiss someone. Now I do. I'm not sure my legs are going to keep holding me up."

"Maybe we should sit down before we do it again?"

"Yes." They sat on the rug next to the bed, trying not to let go of each other, being awkward.

"Carys."

"Jami." Carys touched the tip of Jami's nose with her nose, then they were kissing again, figuring out how to hold one another in this position.

When they finally stopped kissing and tried to talk, they found their throats were dry. "How about something to drink?" asked Jami.

"Sure. Anything."

"I'll be right back." Jami went down to the kitchen for cans of soda. Her mother was still sitting at the table reading the papers. She took one look at Jami and smiled. "I don't think I need to ask."

"Huh? What?"

"Your mouth is going to be sore tomorrow."

Jami blushed. "Is it that obvious?"

"To me, yes, dear. I'm happy for you Jami. Don't spend all day upstairs, please. I'd like a chance to begin to get to know Carys. I hope I'll be seeing a lot of her."

"Okay, Mom." Jami took two cans from the fridge and went back upstairs. She told Carys what her mother had said.

"Your mom knows?" Carys's eyes went wide.

"Sure. I told her after you called that we were in love."

"That's so cool, Jami. That you can talk to your mom like that."

"I can talk to my dad, too, when his head isn't in the clouds."

"Do you realize that most teenagers can't talk to their parents about anything important?" said Carys.

"I know that. I'm not sure I understand it. Can't you talk with your parents? What about your involvement in the GSA?"

"I've tried to talk about that." Carys paused, took a drink. "It hasn't gone very well. My dad seems to listen, but my mom just doesn't want to know. She doesn't want to believe that I'm growing up to be someone very different from Caitlin."

"Caitlin?"

"My sister. Cait is six years older, but seven years out of high school, because I started kindergarten a year late. Cait's out of college, has finished nursing school, is married, and has two adorable twin boys."

"Is she nice? Do you get along with her?"

"Oh, yes. She helped take care of me, played with me. Not the way someone closer to my age would have, but we like each other a lot. It's just, you know, when I was in first grade she was in middle school and getting interested in boys.

"For a while I thought that growing up would mean becoming like Caitlin, but it didn't turn out that way. We're very different. She had Barbie dolls, I had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. I played soccer, got into fights, built model rockets, then got involved with theater, first as a techie, then the clowning and acting. I think I surprised myself that I liked performing."

"Did you get interested in boys, in middle school?"

"No, and yes. Like I said, I started off following in Cait's footsteps, but I didn't really understand why she was walking in those footsteps. It was like I was trying to play a part, with Caitlin as the script, but I didn't know why."

"So what happened?"

"I figured out that I wasn't Caitlin, didn't have to be like Caitlin. Then I had to figure out who I was. I'm still working on that."

"Do you like boys at all?"

"I've had good friends, more boys than girls. I've kissed boys. Something happened on a sleep-over with one girl that is kind of fuzzy in my head, but it ended that friendship. I guess my problem is that I didn't quite see boys and girls as being all that different, and I just did not understand the rules for how to behave properly. By ninth grade I was pretty well marked out as someone to avoid."

"That was hard? Being in a school, and being different?"

"Well, yeh. But I was a good student, I did my theater stuff. I was busy. I saw all this boy/girl stuff going on around me and I just didn't see myself in that picture. I talked to Caitlin about it. She said not to worry, people developed at different rates, and it would all work out."

"Why did you get involved with the GSA?"

"It just turned out that a lot of the people I was involved with, theater kids, the artsy crowd, are queer. David, my clown friend, is gay. I didn't fit in anywhere else, so why not there?"

"Did people assume you were gay?"

"Outside the GSA, yes. People who actually bother to talk to me know it's more complicated. But I have a lot of fingers left over when I count those people."

"Do you feel transgendered?"

"I feel differently gendered. I question the whole binary sex/gender thing. But that's mostly what it's all about, L, B, G, T, and Q, whether they admit it or not."

"I, too."

"You, too?"

"Me, too, but I meant I, as in intersexed."

"But intersexed is a physical thing, isn't it? I mean, you can't point at some part of a person's body and say, that's what makes you gay."

"Can you point at some part of me right now and say that I'm intersexed?"

Carys tilted her head, thinking. "No, but it affects how you think about yourself and how you interact with other people. Wait." She held up a hand. "There's this thought flying around in my head, trying to land. Give me a minute."

Jami sat still, looking at Carys. Not a bad way to pass the time, she thought.

"Okay. I see an enormous room full of naked bodies, all different, but not very different, locked in cells, each with a different label. Above them are minds or spirits or souls or whatever that are trying to get to one another, but can't quite reach because they are shackled to the bodies below. Yikes! I hope I don't have nightmares about that tonight."

Jami nodded. "The human condition. We can never really know each other, never truly reach each other, and what we can reach, we keep locked up and labeled."

"Two sets of labels, at least," said Carys. "The public and the private."

"For some of us, also the medical or psychiatric."

"Intersex is medical and gender identity is psychiatric."

"At the moment, though we know so little about how brains work. Maybe it's all physical. Where do you draw the line? What is a mind? Either way, do you feel like a sicko who needs to be fixed?"

"Hell, no. Do you?"

"Nope. I think I'll keep me the way I am."

There was a pause. "Uh, Jami. Eventually I guess I need to know just how you're different, right? It doesn't have to be now. So don't answer if you don't want to."

Jami took a breath. "I won't go into the microscopic details. It isn't simple. There are a lot of ways of being intersexed. Like I said, I can give you some great books, if you're interested, by Alice Dreger, Anne Fausto-Sterling, and Suzanne Kessler.

"In my case the important thing is that although my body seems pretty feminine, I don't have periods, I cannot become pregnant, and my genital topology is probably not what you think it is. I don't know what having sex with another person will be like."

"I could do without periods," grimaced Carys, "but I can see how, past a certain point, it would be hard to connect with the whole, 'I am woman,' thing, without them."

"Right. The books and magazines aimed at teen girls and at women clearly don't speak to me. Do you realize how much of what's in print and on TV and in the movies is about so-called normal bodies? What you're supposed to do with them? How you're supposed to look and feel?"

"I hear you," agreed Carys, "and most of it is pathetic. I just try to ignore it all. When I can. There have been a few times when I've gone into a women's restroom and been told I was in the wrong place. It was not fun."

"You have an escape route, though," said Jami. "You could, at least potentially, be what people expect you to be. I, as an intersexed person, don't even actually exist, so far as most people are concerned."

"You exist. I have evidence." Carys reached for Jami, but Jami didn't let Carys draw her into another kiss.

"Do you understand what I mean when I say I don't exist?"

"I think so. But Jami, you do exist for me. I do know about you. I'm not the rest of the world."

"Sorry. But this is what I tried to warn you about. What it would mean to be involved with me."

"I said we'd do lots of talking."

"We have to. But I don't want it to be all talking."

"What more do you want it to be?"

"More. But I'm scared. Really scared."

"I won't do anything you don't want me to do. I won't touch you, if that's too scary."

"Do you want to touch me?"

Carys ran a finger along Jami's cheek and down her neck. "Yes. Do you want to touch me?"

Jami ran her hand down the front of Carys's shirt, poking her fingers in between the buttons. "I didn't think you were wearing a bra."

Carys grabbed Jami's hand. "Okay, I can see we need to be careful with this. I'm barely in control of myself right now. I'd die if we went too far or too fast and it hurt you or our relationship. I want everything, but it can't be this fast."

"You're right. I'd probably do just about anything with you right now, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't wake up screaming."

Carys changed the subject. "Have you done anything with the photos you took yesterday?"

"Oh, yes! Come see." Jami stood up and went over to her computer, bringing up the photos. "There's a stool in the corner," she said, as Carys leaned over her shoulder to look.

Carys moved the stool by the desk and sat down to watch. They looked through all the photos Jami had taken during the Arts Camp. Several hundred, in all, and that was after Jami had deleted the ones she said were useless.

"How are you going to choose from all of these, to put together an exhibit?"

"Slowly. It's going to take time. I'll narrow it down, then start making prints, then choose which prints to use. I may decide to have larger prints made. I can only do 8 by 10 inch prints here. 16 by 20 inch prints might work better for an exhibit. Then I have to mount them. It's a lot of work."

"Can I help?"

"Once I narrow the selection down, I'd like to have your opinion. I can explain what I'm looking for. I could definitely use help mounting the prints, and thinking up titles. That would be great, Car."

"I want to be involved with what you do. I want to be part of your life."

"And I want to be part of your life. Which reminds me. Look at this." Jami opened another window, typed a few commands. "Do you like?"

Carys looked at the screen. "A business card. You designed a clown business card for me!"

"Is it correct? I can print you a sheet right now."

Carys looked closely, checking her phone number and email. "Yes, that's right."

Jami went to a closet, pulled out a box of business card forms, and loaded one in a printer. Then she typed a command and waited.

"How many printers do you have?"

"Four. They do different things. A laser printer for text and monochrome proofs. An inkjet for things like your business cards, and color proofs, and two dye transfer printers for serious color photo prints."

"Isn't all that expensive?"

"Yes, and no. Of course the equipment costs money, and the supplies for the color printers are expensive. But compared to the cost of buying film, having it processed, and paying for traditional prints, I save money in the long run. With digital I print only what I actually use. I don't end up with prints or slides from an entire roll of film, most of which I would toss in the trash. Here are your cards."

Jami took the printed sheet from the printer and handed it to Carys.

"Wow. Thanks. Can I pay you for this?"

"No, but can we cuddle for a while?"

"Cuddle?"

"I just want to be close to you. I won't even kiss you if you don't want to."

"I think kissing is okay, but not much more."

"Let's sit on the rug, and lean against the bed. I'll get a blanket." Jami hopped up and pulled a blanket from a pile in the corner.

They sat by the bed and covered up with the blanket. Jami put her head on Carys's shoulder and her arms tangled with Carys's arms. "Just hold me. I need to get used to this being for real, instead of something I'm dreaming."

"I know what you mean. Do you want to talk?"

"Not about anything upsetting. Just tell me about yourself, your family, your life."

They talked and laughed and talked some more. Occasionally they kissed, playfully. They luxuriated in simply being together, in knowing they could be together, in trusting one another, in learning about and exploring each other's lives.

"I have something very unromantic to say, Jami."

"Let me guess. You need to pee, too."

"Either that or explode."

"Let's go downstairs. That's the one drawback to this room. No running water."

They stood up and straightened their clothing. Carrying their soda cans in one hand, they held hands going slowly down the stairs. Putting their cans on the kitchen counter, they used the bathroom off the kitchen, then went into the living room, where Jami's mother was sitting in a chair, reading and making notes for one of the classes she taught at the community college. She looked up as they entered, saw them holding hands, and smiled.

"Hi, Jami, Carys. I take it you two are having a good time?"

Carys blushed, looked at the floor, started to take her hand away from Jami's. Jami tightened her grip, led Carys to the sofa and pulled her down beside her. "Am I still grinning like a maniac, Mom?"

"Yes, that would be an apt description. But you look a little bit ill at ease, Carys."

"Mrs. Barton, I feel kind of awkward."

"It's Anne, please, Carys. I'm happy to have you here, and happy that you and Jami like each other so much."

"It just seems weird, that you're okay about me and Jami."

"I've had a long time to learn about, and think about, all the ways in which people are different. This is not a complete surprise for me. I've tried hard not to have preconceptions about Jami, and I've probably noticed things that most parents wouldn't notice because they wouldn't want to see them."

"Yeh." Carys sighed. "My parents are trying hard to not notice some things about me. Oh, well. Their time period for denial has just expired."

"Are they going to have problems with you having a girlfriend? I and Jami's father would be happy to talk with them."

"Let's not scare them to death about this being that serious a relationship. Not immediately, okay? Let me say something, and bring Jami over there, and see how it goes?"

"Whatever you wish."

"Speaking of going," said Carys. "Jami, I need to work for a few hours this afternoon. But I'm free this evening?"

Jami's mother asked, "Where do you work, Carys?"

"I do bookkeeping for a half-dozen small businesses. I know it sounds dull, but it's really flexible and it pays well. I do a lot of theater, some clown gigs, circus once a year. There's just no way to fit that, and school, around a normal job with a schedule."

"That sounds like a perfect job for someone who's so busy."

"My mom is part owner of a gift shop. Their records were a mess, and I helped put them on the computer. One thing led to another, and word got around. I managed to take an accounting class at Community last summer, so I'd know what I was doing."

Jami's mother nodded in approval. "Then you go take care of business, Carys. You're welcome to come back this evening, or any time. Feel free to use the TV this evening if you two want to watch a video."

"Jami? I have all the Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone on DVD. I could bring some of those. I find they're good therapy for bruised brains."

"That sounds fantastic! We could order pizza and make popcorn, or rather make popcorn and order pizza. When will you be back?"

"By six at the latest, if that's okay?" She looked at Jami's mother.

"That's fine. If you tell me later when you want to eat, and what kind of pizza you like, I'll take care of that part and order enough for all of us. But Ted and I will leave you alone. Nice meeting you, Carys." She stood up and headed to the back of the house, obviously leaving them alone for a goodbye kiss.

"Your mom is absolutely fantastically awesome, Jami! So are you, of course."

"I've used up all my superlatives, just looking at you while you and my mom talked. I love you." There was nothing left to do after that but kiss.

Jami returned to the sofa for a while after Carys left, just being happy with the world. Then she headed back upstairs to her computer, to continue working with the photos.