An Unexpected Turn begins when a young cross-dresser is sighted by his mother’s best friend and, in panic, the mother explains “that is my niece.” In an ongoing effort to protect her reputation, a cascading series of events push the boy to extend the ruse a little longer. When fate is delivered from an unexpected turn, decisions have to be made.
When Ricky heard his mother’s key hit the lock to the front door he froze – just for a second. Everything then happened in a blur of panic; he dashed into the corner of the room and hid behind the club chair.
He was crouched on the floor, his back pressed up against the inner wall that separated him from the foyer where his /mother would soon be entering.
He tried to remain motionless, but couldn’t. His body shook and his heart raced. It pounded so loud in his chest that he missed the loose chatter of voices occurring just inside the doorway. He closed his eyes wishing it was a bad dream, knowing of course that it wasn’t.
Upon entering through the front door into the foyer, there were two rooms on either side. One, on the left — where Ricky was hiding — served as a den, the other on the right the living room. Both had a large double-door archway entrance.
Straight ahead from the foyer [from where one enters], beyond the entrances of the two rooms, was a hallway that narrowed. To the right was a staircase leading up to the floors above; to the left it continued between the staircase and the wall until it reached the kitchen ten feet beyond on the left. It then turned right, continuing around the back of the stairway, passed the basement entrance, leading into the dining room.
Coming full circle the dining room then opened back into the living room. It was the maze that Ricky now had to navigate, like prey fleeing unsuspecting hunters.
Still hidden in the den Ricky finally brought his mind into focus and heard the voices. He instantly realized that it was Wednesday — his mother’s weekly Ladies Lunch. He fumed: “How could I be so stupid to forget that?” He realized he was now in a jam; how could he get out of the room and up the stairs without being seen by his mother, and/or potentially worse, any of her friends?
“Think Ricky, think!” echoed throughout the empty corridors of his head. No answer came back, as though all of his reasoning had gone on holiday, vacated the premises and left him all alone.
Eventually he pulled it together, realizing that the big question was whether they intended to settle in the living room for tea and gossip, or the dining room for lunch. He listened for a clue. He heard no indications, so he stayed vigilant, his ears on high alert.
If they had lunch first, then he might have a chance to sneak past the living room door and up the stairway unnoticed while they were otherwise engaged in the dining room. But, if they decided to sit and gab and sip tea in the living room – and who knows how long that would last – he’d be a rat in a cage; able to hide, but unable to escape.
His mind raced with scenarios. Should he make a high-risk dash for it, wait them out, or enlist the help – and certain wrath – of his mother? It was hard to know. She was equal parts nurturer – protective and helping — as she was disciplinarian; if her temper got the best of her, which being embarrassed in front of her friends would surely ignite, she had been known to give him a good wallop from time to time.
Just last year ,when he was in sixth grade, he decided to attend a friend’s birthday party after school, before going home to notify his mother first. When he finally returned home, well after sundown, his mom was waiting on the front lawn. He never had the opportunity to finish the opening sentence that he’d been practicing during the walk home. As he approached and began to speak …CRACK! — Right across the face. She had never done that before, but he now knew she was capable of it, and didn’t relish reliving that experience again.
It was the fall of 1969. The skies were clear and the air outside was crisp; it breached the window seal and caressed Ricky’s bare legs. Whether it was the chilled air or fear he didn’t know. But either way, he suddenly felt a strong urge pressing against his bladder. He had to do something quick — before he peed right there on the floor.
When the women settled into the living room, his heart sank and he knew his fate was sealed. All that was left was to play out the only option he had. His mother would no doubt be getting refreshments from the kitchen. With that thought his plan was set. He assessed that he could step out into the center of the room, still hidden from the ladies in the living room, but in plain sight for his mom to see him as she entered the foyer en route to the kitchen.
He re-positioned himself like a leopard readying to pounce, waiting for the right moment to step out from behind the club chair. He couldn’t even begin to imagine — or worry about — what the repercussions might be. Besides, he knew for sure that it was the lesser of two bad situations. If her friends saw him … his mind couldn’t even consider that option. His mother was fiercely protective of her reputation, and that of her family. The humiliation of what he’d done would stain them for a long time. Reconfirming in his mind that this was the best course of action, he waited.
Just as his mother entered the foyer — and he was ready to show himself — Joan called to her from the other room. “Do you need any help Stephanie?” She turned to respond over her right shoulder, never seeing Ricky standing in the center of the den to her left. So he returned to his hiding spot behind the club chair. He waited.
Shortly thereafter, upon her return with a tray of cold drinks in hand, he once again had an opportunity. He nervously displayed himself in the middle of the room. She caught the image of him from the corner of her eye, stumbling briefly.
Ricky thought for sure that she was going to drop the tray [with pitcher and glasses] from the shock, but she quickly regained her composure and resumed her stride into the living room.
“Stephanie, dear, are you alright? Do you need help?”
“Oh, no, stay where you are, I’m fine.” She entered and placed the tray on the coffee table. I’ll go and get some cookies and pastries.
Dorothy, Joan and Betty sat on the sofa against the wall, while Jo Anne sat in one of the two club chairs adjacent the sofa on the other side of the coffee table.The living room was a typical middle class house in a middle class neighborhood. The color theme was a soft green with highlights of muted blues and neutral colors.
Stephanie seemed confused, disoriented. Her mind was spinning, but instinctively her first thought was how do I get him out of there before anyone sees him.
“I saw the cutest little animals playing outside through the den window. I think they were chipmunks or something like that. They’ve probably moved outside this window now,” pointing to the window where they sat. “Do you see them?”
The four women turned to look eagerly. At the same time Stephanie back-stepped to ease herself into the foyer and, with a hand behind her back, she then frantically motioned for her son to run.
“Do you see them? They’re so cute!”
“I don’t see anything Stephanie, are you sure of what you saw?” Dorothy inquired. “Sure … well … no, not really; I don’t know what I saw” she said as she glared at her son. “But I saw something that was both cute and odd.”
Ricky caught the sarcasm but didn’t hesitate. He shot out of the room and bounded up the staircase like a jack rabbit.
Stephanie re-entered the living room. Returning from the kitchen with a plate of cookies and pastries Stephanie said “Well. They seem to be out of sight. No matter. Let’s have our tea, shall we“, and began pouring. She initiated small talk to divert everyone’s attention. “Did you hear that poor Michelle…”
Mid-sentence Dorothy cut in: “Who was that?” Stephanie was a deer in headlights: “What? Who was who?”
“I could swear I saw a little girl just run up the stairs; she was too short to be your daughter Robin. So who was it?” Stephanie shuddered as her brain tried to come up with some quick explanation. “Oh, the girl … yes, that’s … mmy … Maria, my niece.”
“Your sister’s youngest, From Chicago?”
“Yes,” Stephanie said, getting into the stride of her lie. “She is here visiting. She … was supposed to be with my daughter today, but the airline lost her luggage and Robin’s clothes were a tad too large. She didn’t feel comfortable wearing them out.”
“Oh the poor little darling” Dorothy sighed. Stephanie breathed in relief as Joan all but busted to tell of the recent gossip about Marge’s marriage scandal. To Stephanie the crisis was seemingly averted, until Dorothy pressed on: “Well don’t leave her upstairs on her own.”
With a stumble, Stephanie could only retort a weak “Pardon?”
“Invite her down, she can visit with us, right ladies? “The others were so focused on the scent of the marital scandal, like hyenas of a freshly wounded animal, that they were somewhat unaware of the parallel conversation taking place:
Stephanie continued “What? Oh, no, she is fine. She had said that she wanted to go upstairs to read.”
“Nonsense, Stephanie, have the little darling come down so we can at least meet her!”
The others now redirected, and more focused on the verbal joust taking shape before them fueled the conversation — and Stephanie’s worst nightmare: “Yes, Stephanie, please ask her come down, we’d all like to meet her.”
Stephanie felt sick as she wandered up the stairs in a fog. What to do? She couldn’t quite process what was happening. She found Ricky in his room playing with his action figures as though nothing had happened.
“What did you do with your sister’s clothes?” With reddened cheeks Rickey exclaimed “I put them back. I’m sorry, I was just fooling around.”
“Yes, well that’s all great, but Dorothy saw you. Now they all want to meet my niece.”