A Penny for Peter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers

Submitted: May 24, 2017

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Submitted: May 24, 2017

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A Penny for Peter

Peter Parker and Penelope Potter had one thing in common. They hated each other.

It all arose out of an incident in which Peter caught Penny and her friends having a quick smoke behind a shed on the school grounds. Peter warned the girls of the harm that could come from such reckless indulgence. The girls responded with unkind assessments of Peter’s IQ, gender and parentage. This so annoyed Peter that he went straight to a teacher and dobbed the girls in. Penny later took her revenge on Peter by beating the crap out of him. Thus was formed a bond of mutual hatred.

Peter ached from the bruising for several days. His reputation suffered too, but he did not lose his self respect. He had taken up kick boxing a few months earlier as a defence against bullies. He could have beaten Penny easily; but good guys simply do not fight girls. He took his beating from her like a gentleman … or like an idiot. It was hard to tell.

Peter and Penny were both 13 years old at the time; but Penny was the eldest by two months. That made her first to reach her 14th birthday. At that age, she could take on a job as babysitter and supervise a younger child. She never expected that her first younger child would be Peter, yet when his mum and dad went away for a day, that is what came to pass. The arrangement was made through a friend of a friend, who mistakenly assumed that Penny was to take care of a baby.

 

Penny was a little bit nervous as she approached the Parker’s front door. She had never looked after a baby before; but she was sure she could handle it. Help was always just a text away. She rang the doorbell. Mrs. Parker answered the door and greeted Penny with surprise.

‘Oh dear,’ she said. ‘You are a lot younger than I expected.’

‘Is that a problem, Mrs. Parker?’ asked Penny. ‘I haven’t looked after a baby before but I know quite a lot about it. How old is she … or is it a he?’

‘It’s a he, and he isn’t exactly a baby any more.’ She stepped aside. ‘Peter, come and meet your … um … your babysitter.’

Peter materialised from behind his mother. His jaw dropped.

‘You!’ said Penny and Peter in unison.

‘Oh my God!’ said Penny. ‘Is this the baby I’m to look after?’

‘I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding,’ said Mrs. Parker. ‘You see, Peter isn’t quite old enough to be left at home alone, so we needed someone older to sit with him. I thought this had been explained to you.’

‘No; I had no idea or I would have …’ She paused. ‘Is this a problem for you, Mrs. Parker? I could stay with Peter if you like, but you should know we don’t like each other much.’

‘Oh, Penny, that’s a shame; but I will be so grateful if you will stay with him. There isn’t time to arrange anyone else and Mr Parker and I have been looking forward to this trip. Maybe you could spend the time sorting out your differences and getting to like each other.’

‘Mum, no!’ Peter thought it was time for him to speak up. ‘You don’t know this bitch. She’s a real bad arse who hangs out with … ouch!’ Mrs. Parker cut his tirade short with a stinging cuff on the side of his head.

‘Watch your language young man.’ She looked at Penny. ‘Perhaps this isn’t such a good idea.’

‘Oh don’t you worry about us, Mrs. Parker. He’s just repeating bad things that he has heard about me. None of it is true. I’m really quite a nice girl. Didn’t your friend tell you that when she hired me for you?’

‘Yes, of course she did. Peter, you should apologise.’ Peter gazed at the floor. ‘Well, perhaps later then. Penny, if you’re sure you will be OK …’

‘Totally. By the end of today, Peter and I will be firm friends. Just you wait and see. Look, since there is no baby stuff to keep me here, is it OK if I take Peter to my place? My mum is there.’

‘That seems like a good idea,’ said Mrs. Parker. You and Peter can go wherever you like, just as long as you stay together.’

Peter glowered but continued to say nothing. He could see that he wouldn’t achieve anything by making a fuss. It would only be for one day. What could go wrong in one day?

 

Things started to go wrong for Peter almost straight away. As soon as they were out of sight of the Parker place, Penny gave him a numbing punch on the arm.

‘Hey! What was that for?’ cried Peter, rubbing his arm and blinking back the tears of pain that reflexively invaded his eyes.

‘That’s for bad mouthing me to your mother,’ replied Penny. ‘I’m hiring myself out as a babysitter because I need the money. Your lies could lose me business.’

‘I wasn’t lying, and you know damned well … ’

‘Shut up!’ snarled Penny. ‘We are stuck with each other for the day; but we’ll be OK as long as you remember that I’m the boss.’

‘Bitch!’ said Peter.

Penny responded with another numbing punch on Peter’s arm. He wisely kept his mouth shut this time; but the pain was excruciating. Penny had unerringly hit a sensitive nerve in his arm both times.

‘You can help me with my homework when we get home,’ declared Penny as they walked on.

‘Like hell I will,’ muttered Peter.

Penny abruptly stopped. Peter cringed, expecting another punch; but Penny just reached into a pocket in her skirt and pulled out a pencil and notebook.

‘What are you doing?’ he asked.

‘You swore! I’m keeping notes of your behaviour so I can report to your parents when they get home.

‘But ‘hell’ isn’t a swear word!’

‘Yes it is, and you just said it again,’ replied Penny adding another note to her book. Peter ended the argument by saying nothing.

He followed Penny the rest of the way to her place by walking a few paces behind her and keeping out of range of her fist. Penny was happy with that. She didn’t want to be seen walking with Peter. People might think the little creep was her boyfriend or something.

They found Mrs. Potter pottering in the kitchen.

‘Hi Mum,’ said Penny breezily. ‘This is Peter. He’s going to help me with my homework.’

‘Not,’ said Peter under his breath.

‘I thought you were meant to be babysitting today,’ said Mrs. Potter.

‘That’s right, I am.’

‘Then where’s the baby?’

‘You’re looking at him.’

‘Peter?’ exclaimed Mrs. Potter. ‘Isn’t he a little bit too old to be a baby?’

‘I thought I was going to be minding a baby but I have to mind Peter instead. He isn’t quite old enough to be on his own so he has to stay with me.’

‘That’s nice, dear,’ said Mrs. Potter absently as she returned to her pottering. She liked Penny to bring her friends home. Peter seemed like a nice boy; or he would if he didn’t scowl so much.

Penny took Peter through to her room. Peter had never been in a girl’s bedroom before. He felt a little uncomfortable. The room was so … girly! Penny suddenly swung round on Peter and punched him in the stomach. Air exploded from Peter’s lungs, followed by expletives that could have filled a page in Penny’s notebook.

‘What was that for?’ gasped Peter when he ran out of expletives.

‘For saying ‘not’ when I told Mum you would be helping me with my homework, and just to remind you again which one of us is boss.’

‘Are you going to be hitting me all day?’ complained Peter.

‘Only when you need it,’ replied Penny smugly. ‘Now there’s my homework on the desk. You might as well get started.’ Penny flopped onto her bed and reached for her cell phone. Peter sat down at the desk and opened the homework book.

‘I can’t help you with this if you are going to sit over there,’ he said.

‘Yes you can. You can help me by doing my homework all by yourself,’ said Penny. She turned away from Peter and called her best friend, Marcia, on her phone.

Peter got angrily to his feet, and then sat down again. He couldn’t walk out on Penny now. Even if she didn’t hit him again, he would be in deep trouble with his parents if he didn’t stay with her. He reluctantly concluded that the best way for him to keep out of trouble was through appeasement. Having made that decision, he set to work on Penny’s homework. It wasn’t difficult; but he hoped that Penny wouldn’t check it before handing it in.

Meanwhile, Penny was deeply engaged in conversation with Marcia.

‘Where are you?’ asked Penny after a while.

‘At the Mall. Why don’t you come down and hang with us for a while. Caleb is here, and so is Jason. Jason thinks you are hot,’ replied Marcia.

‘That’s no good; I would have to bring Peter with me.’

‘Why? I thought you hated Peter.’

‘Oh, he’s OK if you know how to handle him. He’s doing my homework for me right now.’

‘What … OMG … are you and Peter …? Excuse me while I die!’ exclaimed Marcia.

‘No,’ protested Penny. ‘It’s not like that.’ She explained the situation.

‘Oh, is that all?’ said Marcia, uncertain whether to be disappointed or relieved.

‘So Peter has to stay with you all day?’

‘Yes, and I don’t want to be seen with him if I can help it. People might think we’ve got a thing going, and that would spoil any chance that I might have with other guys – like Jason for instance. I think he’s hot too.’

 Marcia remained silent for a while.

‘Put him in a dress!’ she exclaimed suddenly.

‘Who, Jason?’

‘No, you idiot, Peter. He could be your cousin – um – Petra. Yes, that’s it. Disguising Peter would be the best way to keep him with you without being seen with him. Am I a genius or what?’

‘Marcia, you have the weirdest ideas; but I’m not sure that I could get Peter to …’. She glanced at Peter working obediently on her homework. He’s mine, she thought. I can make him do anything I want. ‘Look, Marcia, let me see what I can do.’

 

Later, Peter slammed the books closed on Penny’s desk.

‘I’ve finished your homework. What now?’

‘That was quick.’

‘It wasn’t hard.’

‘Good. We are going down to the Mall now to hang out with Marcia and some of the peeps there.’

‘I don’t want to hang out with that lot. You go. Your mother is here, so I won’t be left alone.’

‘I can’t do that. I’m being paid to be your sitter, so I have to keep you with me. We are going to the Mall, but you can’t go like that. You’ll have to get changed first.’

‘Why?

‘Because you are a boy, and I can’t be seen taking a boy to the Mall. I want you to wear this.’

Penny reached into her wardrobe and pulled out a dress, which she tossed onto the bed. The dress was pink, with short sleeves and a short skirt which flared out below a slightly darker pink belt.

‘I’m buggered if I’m going to wear that!’ declared Peter.

Penny reached for her notebook. ‘I’ve already filled in nearly two pages of this book. It isn’t going to look too good in my report.’

‘Stuff your report. If you think am going to the Mall in a dress, you must be insane.’ Peter’s reaction was contrary to his policy of appeasement; but this was too much.

‘But you must …’ Penny stopped what she was going to say because she realised that she was about to beg. So much for being the boss! Damn Marcia. That was such a stupid idea! What am I going to do now? If I back down, Peter will think he can get away with anything.

‘OK, forget what I said about the Mall. I was only kidding anyway; but now I am curious. I want to see how you look in this dress. Tell you what. You put this dress on for me and I will tear up the first couple of pages in my notebook. How’s that?’

‘Nah! I don’t think so,’ said Peter.

I’m losing him, thought Penny.

‘OK, how about you put this dress on for me and I won’t beat you up.’

‘Nah! You wouldn’t beat me up.’

‘Oh? What makes you think that?’

‘You only beat me up when you’re mad at me.’

‘Well, I am starting to get mad now! Listen, Peter, I don’t think you understand the position you are in. I could give you a lot of grief, but I like you and I want to be your friend. Lots of guys let their sisters dress them up. Oh come on. It’ll be fun. What else can we do to pass the time?’

Peter said nothing for a long time. He didn’t believe that she wanted to be his friend; but he certainly understood the position he was in.

‘OK. Yeah. I’m not sure about the fun part; but if it will stop you from hitting me for a while, I’ll do it,’ said Peter. ‘You weren’t serious about taking me to the Mall though, were you?’ he added with concern.

‘Of course I wasn’t serious. Did you really think I want to be seen in public with a boy in a dress?’ She laughed. Penny was quite good at faking laughter. She had learnt how at drama class.

Resignedly, Peter started to take off his shirt.

‘Here, let me help you,’ said Penny.

‘Hey, I’m not a baby, remember? I can take my own shirt off. I might need some help with this, though,’ he added, holding up the dress and trying to figure out which was the front and which was the back.

‘The zip goes at the back, dummy,’ said Penny as she took the dress from him. She was happy now that Peter was cooperating. She dropped the dress over his head and tried to help him as he struggled to get his arms through the arm holes.

‘It’s too small. Take it off,’ complained Peter.

‘Of course it isn’t,’ scolded Penny impatiently. ‘You’re trying to get your head through an armhole; that’s all.’

Just then, Mrs. Potter popped her head in the door. She wasn’t sure that it was proper for Penny to be entertaining a boy in her bedroom and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

‘Oh my goodness,’ she exclaimed. ‘So that’s what you are up to.’ She laughed. ‘Your aunty and I used to dress your uncle up sometimes when we were kids. He didn’t mind, but he didn’t like us calling him ‘Barbie’.’

Peter minded, but he thought it best not to say so. He felt totally stupid. Mrs. Potter came across and helped Penny get Peter’s extremities through the correct openings. Penny was right. The dress was a perfect fit; but a bit too skimpy for Peter’s liking.

‘The skirt isn’t long enough to hide those shorts,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘You’ll have to take them off.’

‘No, no,’ said Peter. ‘I’ll just roll the legs up a bit.’

‘That’s no good,’ said Penny.

‘I think so too,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘Your shorts are too long and bulky. I’m sorry, Peter, but if we are going to do this right, you’ll have to take them off.’

Peter hesitated. It was a long time since he had last removed his shorts in female company, and then it was only his mother.

‘Peter, if you would rather not do this …’ began Mrs. Potter.

‘Yes he wants to,’ interrupted Penny before Peter could answer. ‘He’s just a bit shy is all.’ Penny leaned forward as if to yank his shorts down herself.

‘No Penny, that wouldn’t be proper,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘I’ll help him.’

‘No,’ said Peter. ‘I don’t need help. I was just … um … never mind.’ Seeing that he had no choice, he suddenly dropped his shorts and nonchalantly kicked them off – or tried to; but they caught on his shoes. He sat on the floor to release them, flashing his underpants in the process.

‘Oh, that spoils the illusion,’ said Mrs. Potter, laughing and pretending to avert her eyes. Peter turned a delightful shade of pink, which almost matched the colour of the dress. He yanked the skirt down to hide his offending underwear. Mrs. Potter rummaged in a draw and withdrew a pair of cotton knickers.

‘Here, you had better put these on to cover your underpants in case you flash them again; but take those shoes off first.’ Peter obeyed. The extra pants seemed an unnecessary precaution since nobody else would see him, but he chose not to argue. Penny was in a good mood and he wanted to keep her that way.

‘Now then, let’s see how you look.’ Mrs. Potter was enjoying herself. She had taken control of the ‘game’ but Penny didn’t mind.

‘How about a little makeup?’ suggested Mrs. Potter.

‘Petra’s only thirteen, Mum. She shouldn’t need much.’

Petra?? Did Penny just call me Petra? What is going on here?

‘Perhaps just a touch on the lips and around the eyes. He’s looking really good, don’t you think?’

‘Yes, but his hair is wrong. Do you suppose he could borrow your wig, Mum? You haven’t worn it for ages.’

‘Why yes, what a good idea Penny,’ replied Mrs. Potter, jumping up. ‘The style is a bit old for him but I think I can do something with it.’

Later, after replacing Peter’s shoes with a pair of Penny’s sandals, Mrs. Potter stood back and admired her handiwork. Penny was delighted. Thanks to her Mum, Peter’s disguise was perfect. He didn’t look at all like a boy in a dress. Mrs. Potter added a little more mascara to enhance his eyelashes.

‘Mum,’ said Penny, ‘Peter’s disguise is too good to waste. I want to take him with me down to the Mall and fool everybody.’

Peter’s jaw dropped. ‘You promised!’ he cried.

Penny put her mouth close to Peter’s ear and whispered, ‘I lied.’

‘What promise? What are you whispering about?’ enquired Mrs. Potter.

‘Oh nothing,’ replied Penny. ‘It’s just that Peter’s a bit shy about going out dressed like that; but he will do it for me – won’t you Petra.’ Mrs. Potter didn’t notice the menace in Penny’s voice, but Peter did.

‘That sounds like fun,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘Don’t worry Petra. Even your own mother wouldn’t recognise you now. I’ll come with you. I have to pick something up at the pharmacy anyway.’

‘Please don’t call me Petra!’ said Peter.

‘I think we should,’ said Mrs. Potter. If we call you ‘Peter’ when we go out, that could give the game away.’

She took Peter by the hand and led him into the kitchen. Penny followed and waited there with him while Mrs. Potter fetched her handbag.

‘Listen Peter, I’m not doing this just to be mean to you; but it’s very important to me. I want to see some guys down at the Mall and I don’t want a boy tagging along with me. That’s why you have to be a girl for a while. Just keep your mouth shut and nobody will know. Trust me, you look great.’

Mrs. Potter returned before Peter could reply.

‘Come along girls,’ laughed Mrs. Potter. ‘This is going to be fun. You must try to walk more like a girl, Peter … er … Petra.’

Walk like a girl? I didn’t know girls walked any different to boys. Peter minced across the kitchen.

‘How’s that?’ he asked.

‘On second thoughts, just walk as you usually do,’ replied Mrs. Potter. ‘Now come along.’ Peter obediently came along. If he had just been with Penny, she would never have got him past the front door; but he was still young enough to accept a mother’s authority even though the mother was not his own. He was nevertheless terrified when they first ventured out onto the street. Penny and Mrs. Potter walked on either side of him, holding his hands to reassure him – or maybe to stop him from making a sudden dash back to the house.

To Peter’s relief, nobody paid him the slightest bit of attention. After a while, he began to relax. The less notice people took of him, the more confident he became in his role as Petra. He worried about the shortness of his skirt, though, and hoped that the breeze wouldn’t get any stronger. They reached the pharmacy without incident. It was right by the entrance to the Mall.

‘This is as far as I want to go,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘Are you coming in or will you wait out here for me?’

‘Actually,’ said Penny, ‘I want to go in to the Mall to meet some friends and maybe take in a movie.’

‘That’s OK,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘Peter can come into the pharmacy with me and then I’ll take him home.’

‘No, he can’t actually. I’m his sitter and he has to stay with me.’

‘Oh, I see. Are you sure you don’t mind going to the Mall and meeting Penny’s friends, Peter … dressed like that?’

 Penny slid her hand down toward Peter’s fingers and squeezed. Peter hesitated. She squeezed harder, crushing Peter’s fingers together painfully.

‘Yes!’ gasped Peter. ‘I mean no, I don’t mind at all.’ Penny relaxed her grip.

‘Alright then,’ said Mrs. Potter. ‘Perhaps I will see you again later Peter. You are such a good sport. Penny is lucky to have you for a friend.’

‘Totally,’ said Penny.

Peter said nothing.

 

‘Hi Penny,’ said Marcia. ‘I’m glad you could make it. This must be Petra.’ Peter flushed under her critical gaze. ‘Nice job!’ she added.’

Peter’s mind was in a whirl. She knows! What’s going on here? Do the others know?

Apparently the others didn’t know. Penny introduced Peter as her cousin visiting from out of town.

‘Marcia,’ said Jason, ‘you didn’t say Penny would be bringing another girl along. She’s going to be the odd one out at the movies. I’ll give Hugo a call. He can be Petra’s date.’

Peter’s eyes widened with alarm. He knew of Caleb and Jason’s bad reputation with girls. The guy Hugo was worse. He was only interested in one thing, and he wouldn’t care that the girl he dated was only thirteen. What would happen if he discovered that the girl was really a boy? Peter didn’t want to find out. He was about to make some excuse to leave the premises when Penny intervened.

‘No,’ said Penny quickly. ‘Petra isn’t what you think. She isn’t (a girl – no I can’t say that!) … she isn’t into boys.’

‘That’s OK,’ said Jason. ‘I understand. I’ll give my sister Natalie a call instead.’

Peter wanted to say something; but Penny warned him with her eyes to keep his mouth shut. He hoped Penny would put Jason off calling his sister. He was afraid of blowing his cover if he had to interact with anyone. Penny was about to do that; but then thought better of it. She wanted to be with Jason and she didn’t want to be distracted by Peter hovering around like a lost soul. Natalie would keep him occupied.

When she had the opportunity a little later, she took Peter aside and dropped a minor bombshell on him.

‘Natalie is a lesbian. I think you should know,’ she whispered.

‘What?’ Peter shouted.

‘Shush!’ said Penny. ‘Don’t worry. She’s not going to ravish you or anything. She might just want to hold your hand for a bit, that’s all. In the theatre … where it’s dark. Nobody will see.’

‘Oh Jeez,’ said Peter, wishing even more that the skirt of the dress wasn’t quite so short. Mrs. Potter said that he had such nice legs for a boy. Would Natalie think so too? Oh Jeez!

Natalie arrived about fifteen minutes later. She looked about sixteen years old. Peter expected her to look butch, but she was actually quite pretty. He glowered at her. No point in encouraging her. Natalie smiled back at him.

‘Nice to meet you, Petra. Tell me about yourself.’

Peter took a sudden interest in the patterns on the floor and said nothing.

‘I’m sorry, Natalie,’ said Penny. ‘Petra doesn’t mean to be rude. She’s very shy and she doesn’t say much; but she’s really nice when you get to know her.’

Peter showed how nice he could be by glowering at them both.

‘That’s OK,’ said Natalie. ‘I like the silent ones.’

 

Peter sat staring at the screen in the darkened movie theatre without actually seeing anything. The seats were like small sofas for two people, ideal for smooching. Marcia and Caleb were making the most of this arrangement, as were Penny and Jason. Peter felt a twinge of jealousy when he saw Jason doing his best to eat Penny’s face off. Penny was a bitch, but he had come to think of her as his bitch.

He sat demurely with his hands in his lap; but he could feel the warmth of Natalie’s body close to his. He prayed that the movie would come to pass without incident. Maybe Natalie was just as nervous of him as he was of her. He tried to concentrate on the movie.

A cool hand slipped into his, and pulled it gently across onto her lap. Peter froze. Her skirt was even shorter than his. His hand was resting on bare leg. So much for Natalie being nervous. He should have pulled his hand away; but he didn’t want to offend Natalie. Besides, her leg felt kind of nice. He had never felt a girl’s leg before.

Then Natalie started to explore Peter’s leg. Peter immediately became aroused. He had no control over that and, under the circumstances; it scared the hell out of him. Natalie was dangerously close to making a discovery that would ruin the day for both of them. He pushed Natalie’s hand down toward his knee as he leant over and whispered in her ear.

‘Natalie, please don’t. I’m only thirteen.’

‘Oh, I thought you must be at least fifteen; but don’t worry, we won’t be doing anything illegal.’ With that, she withdrew her hand from his knee, placed her arm around his shoulders and snuggled in to him.

That’s better, thought Peter. Natalie felt nice and she smelt nice. He worried that she would sense that he wasn’t really a girl; but there wasn’t any sign of that so far. The perfume that Mrs. Potter playfully sprayed on him must have hidden any boy smell about him. As far as Natalie was concerned, Peter looked like a girl, he had smooth skin like a girl and he smelt like a girl. He even sounded like a girl because his voice hadn’t started breaking yet. It never occurred to Natalie that he might not actually be a girl.

Peter would have been happy for them to remain like that for the duration of the movie; but Natalie wasn’t satisfied with just a cuddle. She suddenly pulled Peter’s head around and kissed him full on the lips. Peter had never been kissed by anyone except his mother. He tingled all over. Then he was astonished to feel Natalie’s tongue lancing into his mouth. His mother had never done that! He tried to pull away, but couldn’t. Next thing, his tongue was in Natalie’s mouth. It was disgusting but somehow it was right. Thank God it wasn’t Hugo he was with! The pair spent the rest of the movie attempting to devour each other’s faces. Peter was in paradise; but he kept one hand free to guard his guilty secret.

The movie ended at last without Natalie discovering anything amiss. She and Peter emerged from the theatre with lipstick smeared and Natalie’s hair awry, but with Peter’s wig still in the right place.

‘Come on Petra,’ said Natalie. ‘Let’s go to the little girl’s room and freshen up.’

‘NO! – I mean no thanks, Natalie. I’m OK. Where is Penny? Did you see where she went?’

‘She’s totally fine. She went somewhere with Jason. You wait here. I’ll be right back.’

But Peter didn’t wait there. He felt lost without Penny. She took her babysitting seriously. She wouldn’t have left him without supervision … at least not of her own free will. He saw Marcia and ran to her.

‘Marcia, did you see where Penny went?’

‘Yeah, she went off with Caleb. The bastard dumped me and latched onto Penny as soon as the movie finished.’

‘What about Jason? She was with Jason.’

‘She went off with both of them.’

‘Where? Which way?’

‘I don’t know. Out in the car park somewhere. Hey, you don’t think …’.

Peter didn’t wait to find out what he didn’t think. It’s what he did think that worried him. He ran outside, thankful that Mrs. Potter had put him in sandals and not heels. It was broad daylight outside. Peter could see a lot of people, but no sign of Penny or the guys she went off with. Then he saw them. They were on the far side of the car park, heading for a belt of bush. The two guys held a struggling Penny between them as they dragged her along. She was yelling angrily at them. Nobody took any notice of the trio. Just kids horsing around.

Peter shouted. That drew a few startled stares, but was otherwise ineffective, so he ran. He ran faster than he had ever run before, but it was still not fast enough. By the time he reached the far side of the car park, the three of them had disappeared into the bush.

He plunged into the bush, following the sound of Penny’s voice. He could hear her clearly now. Her language would have filled a dozen pages of her notebook. Peter wondered where she picked up that kind of language. Suddenly, her voice became muffled, as if someone had clamped a hand over her mouth. This was followed by a howl of pain; but it didn’t come from Penny. Peter guessed correctly that Penny had bitten down hard on the hand that had been clamped over her face.

Peter burst into the clearing where the scumbags had taken Penny. Jason held her from behind while Caleb tried to grab her flailing feet. Blazing with anger, and with a roar that Peter imagined sounded like Tarzan; but which actually sounded more like the squeal of an enraged mouse, Peter charged. It was time to put his kickboxing training to practical use.

He barrelled into Caleb, knocking him off his feet. Quickly recovering from his surprise at this sudden turn of events, Jason dropped Penny and advanced on Peter. With all the grace of a ballet dancer, Peter stood on one foot and spun his other foot in an arc, his skirt completing the ballet illusion by spinning out like a tutu. His foot came to an abrupt halt on Jason’s jaw. Jason had a sudden close encounter with the ground.

Caleb lumbered to his feet making a noise like a bear who had just found Goldilocks eating his porridge; but Peter was no Goldilocks. He introduced his foot to Caleb’s nose, and Caleb went down again.

‘For Christ’s sake Caleb, it’s just that Petra girl. Get her!’ cried Jason as he made a dive for Peter’s legs; but Peter’s legs weren’t there any more. His foot landed another blow to Jason’s head, but Jason had a very thick skull. He immediately lumbered to his feet again and swung a vicious blow at Peter’s head. It might have done serious damage if it had landed; but Peter was quick on his feet.

His speed was all that was saving him so far. He landed many skilful blows on the scumbags but they wouldn’t stay down. Nor would they run. He was beginning to tire. He needed to knock them out quickly; but he just didn’t have enough power in his blows to do it. In the end, he didn’t have to. They did it all by themselves.

Caleb and Jason had at last figured out that Peter … or Petra as they thought of him … would have less chance of dodging them if they both went for her at once. Penny had run off; but they weren’t interested in her any more. Petra had joined the game now and she had hurt them both. For that, she would have to pay. Caleb and Jason were not gentlemen, but they were idiots.

The pair grinned with anticipation as they lined up opposite Peter and lowered their heads. They looked like a two-headed bull preparing to charge. And charge they did – right into the trunk of a stout tree. A moment earlier, Peter had been standing in front of that tree; but he had stepped nimbly aside at the last moment, just like a bullfighter. Caleb and Jason had at last run into something harder than their skulls. They were out for the count.

Peter fought to get his breath back. It had been a close call. He was startled by a sudden burst of cheering and applause. Penny had run off to fetch help and had returned with a crowd of teenagers. They were too late to help Peter, but were just in time to see two thugs soundly beaten by what they saw as a slip of a girl. It was a sight that none would forget in a hurry.

The crowd dispersed, leaving Penny and Peter alone.

‘Peter,’ said Penny, ‘I don’t know what to say …’.

‘Then don’t say it,’ interrupted Peter.

‘But I have been so awful to you, and you … and you …’

She didn’t finish. Instead, she gave Peter his second ever kiss from a girl (assuming Natalie’s face eating orgy only counted as one). Peter liked Penny’s kiss a lot more.

They walked back to Penny’s house, hand in hand. Peter liked that, too. He wished that he wasn’t still dressed as a girl, though; but despite his recent activity, he hadn’t blown his cover. His wig had stayed on the whole time, there wasn’t a hair out of place, and his dress wasn’t even rumpled.

‘You know that you’ve bought big trouble for yourself, don’t you?’ said Penny.

‘Why?’ asked Peter.

‘Those guys will be looking out for you now. They could have beaten you eventually if it hadn’t been for that tree. You might not be so lucky next time. You know that, don’t you?’

‘Yes, I know that, but I’m not worried. They will be looking out for a girl called Petra. They will never find her, because she doesn’t exist … or at least she won’t after today. Lots of people we saw at the Mall know me as Peter, but none of them recognised me dressed like this.’

‘That’s a pity,’ said Penny. ‘I rather like Petra.’

‘You like Petra? But you hated me as Peter. What made the difference?

‘Like Mum said, you were such a good sport about wearing the dress and coming to the Mall with me, and I won’t forget how you stopped those two scumbags from … from … you know.’

Penny suddenly laughed. ‘You flashed your knickers a lot while you were fighting them. Did you know that?’

Peter blushed. For the first time since his adventure began, he hadn’t given a thought to the length of his skirt.

 

Back at the Potter place, Mrs. Potter asked Penny if they had a nice time.

‘Yes, we had a really great time,’ Penny lied.

‘Was it fun being a girl for a while, Peter?’

‘It had its moments,’ replied Peter, thinking of Natalie, ‘but I wouldn’t want to do it again.’

Peter took his clothes into the bathroom to change and wash off the traces of makeup that remained on his face. He returned to find Penny with her homework book in her hand and thunder on her face.

‘You bastard!’ she said. ‘You miserable little sneak! I hate you!’

Oh crap. She’s found the note that I left for her teacher. Peter had so resented being coerced into doing Penny’s homework for her that he had left a note explaining that this was not really Penny’s work. He hadn’t expected Penny to look in her book and find the note. Now, it seemed that they were back to hating each other again.

‘Penny, I …’

‘Oh shut up! I have to finish writing up my report for your parents. You’ll be lucky not to be grounded for two months after this.’

‘What about me dressing as a girl just so you could go to the Mall. What about saving you from those two thugs?’

‘That wasn’t you,’ retorted Penny. ‘That was Petra, and like you said, she doesn’t exist. It’s just you now, and you are just as despicable as I always thought you were.’

This wasn’t fair. Perhaps he shouldn’t have dobbed Penny in for smoking; but he had already paid for that. As for his note to the teacher, things had changed between them since he wrote that. He wished now that he hadn’t done it; but she shouldn’t really have used him to cheat with her homework. Couldn’t she see that?

Penny said nothing as she escorted Peter back to the Parker’s place. She accepted her babysitting fee from Mr Parker and handed her notebook to Mrs. Parker.

‘This is my report on Peter’s behaviour,’ she said.

Later, when his mother hadn’t mentioned Penny’s report, Peter asked to see the notebook.

‘Help yourself,’ said Mrs. Parker. ‘I can’t make any sense out of it, but there is a message for you on the last page.’

Peter riffled through the pages. The first few pages had been torn out. The rest were all blank except the very last page. Penny had drawn a large love heart on this, encompassing two stick figures holding hands. Below these, Penny had written:

I am so sorry. I have been wrong about you all along. You were right. I shouldn’t have cheated on my homework. It took Petra to show me what a bitch I have been and what a great guy you are. I hope we can be friends.

END

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

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