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Sonny Preyer - A Fairy Tale of a Different Kind Part Two

Posted on 2005.02.26 at 18:06

All text pertaining to this story is copyright protected. Copyright 2002 Bridgette Hayden

Chapter Two

Facing Secrets


Sonny ran until he hit the exit doors. Bursting into sunlight, he propelled himself down concrete steps, onto the lawn. Passing the flagpole, he ran to escape from shame. But he couldn't outrun it, and couldn't outrun reason. Not entirely. His escape found its end behind the Silver Springs Community Center. There, a new layer of painted asphalt glistened in the near empty parking lot. It gave way to a grassy retreat, where benches circled an artificial pond. He sat, catching his breath. The disaster of a few moments ago caught up with him.

I don't want this. I hate this!

How could he ever go back there? They all saw it. They all knew, didn't they? He folded his arms and rocked himself hard, ignoring the woman who turned to stare on her way to her car. Now the kids had another reason to talk about him, an even worse one. Seemed like not one term went by, without leaving them scandalized in one way or another. He recalled a string of disasters, his own historical mosaic, branding his reputation for as long as he could remember. The incident last fall with Tyler was only a small part of it. The pattern had been established long ago, he knew.

It was more than the way others perceived him at school, as the odd kid, the strange boy. It was more than the collection of events that had earned him their distance over the years. Only he could sense what lay behind it all, as if, at the core of his daily survival, something lay ticking that only he could hear, behind every person's stare. A reminder, coloring all of his actions and reactions until he was forced to admit that something was working against him in this world. His body wasn't the only evidence of that.

Although he had been in and out of hospitals since infancy, no doctor had ever found an explanation for the convulsions that began shortly after his birth; they tried to tie it to his other medical peculiarities, without success. The episodes were thought benign, until bilateral spikes on his EEG revealed permanent damage to his nervous system. This explained to them his loss of consciousness, his seizures changing from convulsions to blackouts as he grew older.

It also helped the Pediatric Neurologist and Child Psychologist assigned to him, to pinpoint his hypersensitivity to the world around him. When he was five, his parents were told, 'Sonny's brain is not dealing with stressful stimuli in a normal way. He will be slow to develop socially, though his I.Q. is above average. Still, emotionally, your child is not ready for public schooling at this time.'

So his mother quit her job and kept him at home. But Sonny often insisted on getting up early, to watch for the school bus that drove past his house, picking up the normal kids. His seizures stopped, and that following year his parents enrolled him in school again, hopeful.

Toting his yellow lunch box in one hand that day, he clutched his father's thick fingers with the other, determined not to let go. Introduced to a room full of strangers, he had burrowed into his father's legs, peeking out at a few smiles greeting him. He wanted to like the other children, wanted to make friends even. But the way they all stared back at him was like the shock of cold water sprayed against his back. It caused alarm and took his breath from him, so that no sound could come out of his mouth. By noon that day, he was hyperventilating, and had to go home. The same thing happened the next day.

On the third, he had been moved away from the other children, to a corner table and encouraged to paint. Bright colors were all laid out in old coffee cans with their labels peeled away, revealing shiny tin. He found some peace there, working to draw a picture of his house, while the other kids were a blur of noise and motion around him. He reached for the orange paint, needing it to finish the sun in his picture, but his fingers never grasped it. Instead, he fell forward into the array of colors. Tins clattered to the floor, ringing and splattering on the tiles. Sonny, unconscious, never heard them. This ended his brief attendance at Silver Springs Elementary. His parents did not force him to try school again until two years later. The results were the same.

So he was home-schooled until the age of twelve. But by then, the die was cast. He could not forget the distance that separated him from his would-be friends, and they could not forget him. The other kids watched him, it seemed to him, as if they could sense an aberration in their midst. In his neighborhood he became known as 'the boy who didn't go to school', 'the boy who never talked to anyone', or played stickball or ran in the streets with the other kids. 'The sick kid', became a handy reference, when Sonny was spotted out in the company of his parents. That name evolved into the crueler, 'Ghost Boy'.

In seventh grade, he managed to survive his first year of public school without any seizures. It just so happened that his music teacher, Mrs. Ozure, couldn't wait to get her hands on him.

She'd spent the last two years listening for his impromptu performances over her garden wall. From his basement, on an aging piano that his parents had bought at a yard sale, he didn't think anyone outside could hear him sing. There, he'd taught himself to play, and allowed his voice to lead wherever it might. There were no friends to come calling for him, to make him long to be outside with them. That was the year he made his debut in Ozure's Children's Ensemble, seizure-free, and became known as 'the boy who sings.'

Now, shaking the memory off, he gave a dejected laugh. His driver's license was certainly going to be taken away once his father found out what was happening. Seizure-free for almost nine years, why were they starting to happen again?

He roused himself from the past, coming to grips with what he had to do. He had to get home. Sixth period was the last class of the day, and school would be letting out soon. The streets would be crawling with kids.

He stood. Wiping his face and looking around him, he remembered he'd left his books and things in his locker. Like it matters, he thought. It was time to go.

He didn't let his eyes linger on anything or anyone as he walked home.

One hour and a shower later, he had dinner for his parents ready and waiting on the table. Amber and Dom stopped in the doorway, hit by the sweet aroma of beef and stew spices. They would've known something was wrong, the minute they walked into the dinning room, even if they hadn't been contacted by the school nurse. When Sonny cooked, it was usually an attempt to stay busy, as if purposeful movement could solve whatever was troubling him.

Setting her satchel down, and pulling off her jacket, Amber marveled, as Sonny had never met his grandmother, yet acted out this trait of her mother's as if he'd been around the woman all his life. She counted Dom and herself lucky, to have a kid who was a better cook than either of them. It helped, she supposed, that she had carried him along to the small cooking classes she'd taken to fill her time when she couldn't work, when Sonny was much younger. Those classes had consisted of only four other ladies and a bachelor, and Sonny had seemed to do well in the quiet environment. He must've been listening and learning, Amber concluded, when she thought he was only watching over the tops of his books.

It paid off. She couldn't always make it home to cook. As the assistant curator of Silver Springs' Art Museum, her hours were sometimes long. Dom, a manager at a pump factory, practically lived there during the week. If he came home before eight, that was an unexpected treat for them both. That left Sonny alone, who didn't always cook, but they were sure glad when he did.

Ignoring their hunger, the Preyers gauged Sonny's feelings by how elaborately the table had been set. Their usual plastic, beige table cloth was replaced by red linen, and matching napkins. Sparkling water goblets stood where ordinary glasses would normally have been used, and their full set of monogrammed dinnerware lay arranged around a three-tiered centerpiece of votive candles. Their son was obviously in great distress.

Amber turned to her husband. "Do you want to handle this?"

"No, you go first. He went to all this trouble, after all." Dom was already rolling up his sleeves and pulling out a chair.

Uh, huh. She expected as much. "You're coming." She grabbed his arm and pulled him behind her.

Sonny was just drifting over the edge of awareness when he heard his mother's knock at the door. Cooking hadn't made him feel any better, it hadn't prevented the total loss of control from coming. In the privacy of his dark room, he'd given in to it. He was too old for tears, he knew, but that didn't stop them from coming. He ignored the knock, and Amber's voice.

"Son, are you okay? Can we talk to you?"

"You alright in there, Son?" His father's deep bass echoed.

He didn't want to answer them. He wanted them to leave him alone.

"We know what happened today. It's all right. Can I come in?" Amber persisted.

Why did she always want to talk? Talking didn't solve everything. It wouldn't erase what happened.

He heard the click. He cringed, hating himself for not locking the door. His mother entered the room alone. "Son?" In the dim, she made out the lump on the bed. Walking over, she sat down. "I know you're awake. When you're really sleeping, you snore."

"I do not," he defended himself.


He bit his lip. Why didn't she understand, some things had to be dealt with alone.

Amber put her hand on the lump she thought was his shoulder. "It's just not as bad as it seems. Nothing ever is, Sonny."

"It doesn't matter. I'm never going back there. Now they have a reason to call me strange."

"No, they don't. Mrs. Bay said they have no idea. They think it's an injury. They think that's why you passed out."

"You didn't see their faces. They know there's something wrong with me."

"A, No they don't. And B, what have we always told you? Just because you're different doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. Doctor. Sanders says that in many ways, you're more perfect than the rest of us."

That's crap, Mom.

"I don't care, I'm not going back."

She squeezed the comforter. "I know this is hard, but you've made it this far. In two more months you'll be off to Vander, and you'll never have to look at all those people again if you don't want to. We're so proud of you. Not just anybody can get a full scholarship the way you have. Not one of those so-called normal kids did that. You're gonna leave them behind, Sonny. Don't quit now."

Leaving his peers behind wasn't real now. Right now, all that was real was that bright red spot. He'd thrown his shorts into the garbage.

"We didn't raise you to be ashamed," Amber pressed on. "We never made excuses, never lied to you. I told you many versions of the same thing. When you were four, I told you that God made you special because you are special. When you were eight, I told you that only certain people with a great purpose are ever born different from the others. It'll be important for you to accept your body, I said. Then you were twelve, we had to face the possibility that raising you to appear as a boy might've been a mistake. We only did it because the doctors told us it would be easier for you to interact with the world that way, since your body appears obviously male."

He didn't want to hear anymore, but there was no stopping her. Of all her lectures, she was most proud of this one. "You were terrified of what could happen, of developing like a girl, when everyone thought you were a boy. I said, 'Accept and love what you are, no matter what. No one has any right to pretend to be better than you. That's where all of a person's happiness comes from.' Well, I stand by all of those variations."

Sonny remembered being twelve and afraid. Afraid of people staring at his chest. Thank God it never happened.

His mother's sigh ghosted over her memories. "We knew we had to be careful when we brought you home from the hospital. We found out as much as we could about babies like you. Well, we didn't find any babies like you, not really. We found unfortunate children of parents who thought it best to choose their gender, since God hadn't made it quite clear. We didn't find a lot, but we met with some of those people. Some came forward, thanks to Doctor Sanders. And all of them said, unanimously, that they would put up with the ignorance of the world, if they could just have back the bodies they were born with, rather than the corrective surgeries that appease everyone else, but had left them with a very hollow place in their lives.

"We made a decision. Not necessarily to raise you as a boy, but to let others think that you were, since that was the more obvious detail at the time, until you were ready to tell them, not us. That was our strategy to protect you, to keep you whole, and hopefully not to be ashamed. Your father and I confided in our parents, God rest their souls. I told my best friend. We went from there."

He had heard it all before. He knew she was just trying to comfort him. He wished that he could tell her how he was glad they spared him the surgery, glad they allowed him to be what he was. That must've taken a lot of courage. He wanted to say these things, but it would've been a lie. She didn't know what it was like to be the freak in the glass jar. He'd learned to survive well enough, but disasters like today were emotionally catastrophic. And last year, because of one jerk, the world almost ended. But he survived it. Still, as long as there was a secret, there was always the chance that someone could find out.

"It's not just that..." He mumbled in the darkness of the covers.

"Hmm? What did you say?"

He threw back the sheet. "It's not just that, that problem. Everyone at school can look at me and tell. That's why they hate me. They say I look odd. Why do you think they call me alien, ghost, freak?"

"Because you're beautiful, and they don't understand it."

"Wrong! Because I'm weird to them. I'm creepy. They just can't put their finger on it. Well, they can now."

"Sonny you're stronger than this. You're better than this. This is a small, insignificant incident compared to the rest of your life. You don't have to fall apart."

Her words compounded the shame he already felt. That she should have to tell him this, when he was just months away from legal adulthood, was bad in itself.

"By the way, I'm mad at you."

There was a slight snap in her voice. "Why didn't you tell us that you passed out last week?"

" 'Cause I didn't want you to worry. I felt fine."

"I've made an appointment to see Doctor Sanders tomorrow."

"What? God, no."

"People don't just pass out the way they sneeze, Sonny. I'm being patient with you because of what happened today, but I'm really ticked off. And the bleeding. If Doctor Sanders hadn't warned us that this could happen, I'd have you in the emergency room right now. Are you still bleeding?"

He wanted to scream. He hated talking about this. He was a guy, he'd decided that years ago. "I'm fine."

"Okay then. You have to face it, Sonny." She rose from the bed. "Will I see you at dinner?"


He didn't come down for dinner, and he didn't answer when his father knocked at his door later that night.

"Son? You 'sleep, buddy?" Dom, a stocky man whose six-three frame had been imposing in his younger days, was now at peace with his extra weight and graying hair. Fatherhood, to his surprise, was as comfortable to him as a favorite pair of old pajamas, and suited his lack-luster attitude towards life's challenges. Straightforward, functional, and cozy, he was content in the pump business. He didn't ask for much in life, but he did have a soft spot for his son. Sonny was one of two of his weaknesses. The other was banana splits.

He cracked the door and stuck his head inside. Unable to see much, he listened for Sonny's breathing. He didn't like the way his wife babied the boy so. Still, he agreed that Sonny was special, and he'd had his own way of indulging him all his life. Secretly, Dom's hopes for a daughter went undisclosed when Sonny was born. It was always important for him, a big man with a big heart, to be someone's hero, even if all he did at the end of the day was scratch his ass and raid the refrigerator. Sonny's arrival only made his mission that much more certain to him.

No sound stirred inside the room. Good, Dom thought, he's gonna make it through this one.

"Night, son." Satisfied with their talk, he closed the door and padded off to bed.

The next morning found Sonny waiting in Sanders' home office. No secretary, no sign of any other patients; the room where Sonny waited always smelled of cleaning solution. It was cast in various shades of anti-septic green. From its two-toned walls and even the pale trim around the door frames, the muted colors helped to numb Sonny's mind. Even the room's spars furnishings, something resembling a church pew against the wall and a plain coffee table, dampened the dilemma of his anxiety, and staunched the anger that followed him to this place.

Sanders had always attended Sonny privately in his downstairs office. This was meant to spare Sonny a certain amount of anxiety, incited by the fact that not even hospital staff, not even the RN's at the city hospital, were used to seeing someone like him.

When he was finally seated before Sanders, the doctor wanted to know, "What's going on? You can talk to me, you know."

He was a tall, poised man. With dark hair, graying along the temples in that distinctive way. Slender, with square, straight shoulders, his stiff manner would've seemed menacing, but for the warmth in his eyes which gave him away. One had to look closely, past his erudite composure.

Sonny didn't answer, something in him was unwilling. This was exactly what he didn't want.

"Are you being threatened again?"

He knew where Sanders was going, and he wasn't ready.

The doctor smiled, tapping his pen against his desk. "Let's try school. How's that going for you, been under a lot of stress?"

Still nothing. Sonny continued to stare at the papers on the desk. He didn't want Sanders to think he was being deliberately rude, but he couldn't say anything.

"I know you don't like being here. Next to a hospital, this is the worst place in the world for you. And you would never come here voluntarily unless it was something serious. Now Son, we haven't talked in a while, but I'm still dedicated to you. If I can help you in any way, I will. You know that."

Sonny finally erupted. "I don't like what's happening to me!"

"Yes," Sanders said thoughtfully, "I'm sure yesterday was quite a shock."

"Why is it happening now?"

"I wish I could tell you. Your particular situation is unpredictable. As you know, you are a true medical anomaly, and your case lies outside of all documentation of known Hermaphroditism. Or Intersexuality. Medical science has no precedents to help me reference your situation. Therefore, you and I must work together so that I can help you."

Sonny knew the story. When people were born with mixed up genders, their chromosomes still held the truth. And even when chromosomes couldn't be relied upon, as anomalies existed there too, the organs themselves usually functioned as either male or female, but not both. To the eye, Sonny was born with the appearance of a perfectly formed male. But careful examination revealed more.

Sanders had always made it a point to have him face the details, even once producing medical drawings that he had done himself, repeating, "It's all perfectly clever, really. Your body is a very intelligent design, impressive from a medical standpoint. The exploratory surgery performed when you were three revealed that you have meticulously arranged testes, ovaries, and a uterus, the works. All functional, as far as we can tell. There is no documented case like this in the world."

Even the task of expounding on sex had been left up to Sanders when Sonny was fourteen. "I know this is difficult for you," he began, launching into an anatomy lesson long ago. That lesson was still all too clear in Sonny's memory.

"You would be happier if you never had to deal with sex. However, you must come to terms with it, for it is a biological force of nature. And one, I must add, that is not safe for you to avoid."

Sonny had been only a few seconds from walking out, but Sanders got up, walked over to the door and locked it.

Disgruntled, he stopped twirling the pencil he'd been using to deflect his attention away from Sanders, and snapped it in half. Still convinced of his own obedience at that age, he wasn't ready to challenge authority. The doctor returned to his desk.

"In maintaining balance between male and female, your body works harder than anyone else's to keep hormonal equilibrium. In short, you are twice as sexed as your peers. You will struggle with twice the urges, though I'm impressed with how well you've managed to suppress them so far. Still, it's not good for you. Therefore, I must ask, do you masturbate? No, I don't expect you to answer, simply know that you should do so. The sexual impetus is a practical reality, especially for you, and one that must be faced. It will help your body's balance."

One half of the pencil had fallen to the floor. The other, Sonny pressed into the palm of his hand. He did his best to hold Sanders' stare while driving the jagged wood through his skin. The pencil hurt, but not nearly as much as what Sanders was telling him.

"Look at what nature has done." Sanders indicated the graphic drawings. "Frontal nudity reveals nothing, only that you are quite male. One would have to gain your consent to learn otherwise. This allows you the choice to live your life as a fully functional male, as you know. But here, where the skin is smooth behind the scrotum, vaginal counterparts lay beneath, hidden."

He tapped the drawing for emphasis. "The smooth, unbroken quality of the skin in this area is only an illusion. A bit of prying, and the flesh separates, revealing that it is in fact the two lips of the labia majora, concealing all the rest of your female parts. Very clever. Certainly, one could not tell it was there unless one looked for it."

Nauseous, Sonny focussed on working the pencil through the meat of his hand, ignoring the mess it made on his jeans. Afterwards, Sanders had treated and cleaned the wound in silence, as if he accepted that it was the only outburst available to an obedient child.

Today there were no signs of the scar, and no sharp instruments to help dull what he was hearing.

"What's happening now may not be that unusual if your estrogen levels have progressed the way they would in a female. Menstruation would be considered late, which is not unheard of. If that is what's taking place. You know I'm going to have to examine you, run some tests. I'll be taking some blood."

Sonny stiffened even more. "What else could it be?"

"Many things. Stress and anxiety. The fainting spells, along with the blood, point towards the likelihood of a chemical influx, but there's no way to tell based on that."

"So I'm not having seizures? I can keep my license?"

"Not necessarily. I'll have to schedule some tests at the hospital to be sure. How do you feel physically? Any tiredness, headaches?"

He shook his head. Should he tell Sanders about the sudden wave of heat that overtook him in the middle of the night? It only happened once, a month ago. But it was memorable. He had awakened in the darkness, realizing that his shirt was soaking with his own sweat. In his sleep he'd already thrown off his covers. When he sat up, such a tingling ran up his spine, bursting in his head. It wasn't painful, but it wasn't comfortable. After lying there a few minutes, his body recovered, and carefully, he made his way to a cold shower.

He decided not to mention it. It hadn't happened again, and he wasn't looking forward to a battery of medical tests. This was bad enough.

"What about the bleeding? Is it light, moderate?"

"It stopped."

Sanders had been slowly, soundlessly tapping his pen on his paperwork. He stopped. "Hmm. Are you sure?"

Sonny closed his eyes as if it physically hurt to answer. "Yes. I'm sure." And he was. After he had cleaned up yesterday, there had been no more blood.

"Well, that is unusual."

The inevitable could no longer be delayed. "Okay, Son. We can't put it off any longer."

With a massive effort, he pushed himself from the chair. Now he remembered why he hated coming here, and why that hatred spilled over towards Sanders himself. The doctor was the one person who seemed to have every right to take his security away from him, to expose what hurt the most. Sanders stood in front of the examining room door, holding it open for him. Past him, Sonny saw a paper gown waiting for him on the bed. Stirrups gleaned at the foot, the humiliation from them forthcoming.

"After you," Sanders smiled.

Go to Chapter Three
Return to Introduction


anoriell at 2006-06-10 01:45 (UTC) (Link/)
Well, someone's done some research. And has an astounding imagination!

I just can't get over the amount of details found in this fic; ultimately, no questions are left unanswered (except those that need to be for plot development purposes... and suspense!). You thought of everything... multi-layered. Brilliant stuff!

Great pace, interesting characters... impeccable intrigue.

Gotta keep reading...


ca_tharsis_ at 2006-06-12 00:09 (UTC) (Link/)
I hope the research isn't too much, and doesn't get in the way of the story.

elfscribe5 at 2006-06-18 03:56 (UTC) (Link/)
Wow, Sonny's an hermaphrodite. You've shown it very well and given the explanation without it seeming too instrusive. I'm currently reading the Wraeththu series, so this seems to fit right into my current head.
ca_tharsis_ at 2006-06-18 17:35 (UTC) (Link/)
I was worried about how to reveal this. Wanted Sonny to be seen as a person first and foremost, before being labelled. But knew I had to somehow warn the reader, to be fair.

I'm intrigued by the Wraeththu novels, but haven't read them yet. Someone else suggested them, but I think now I'll have to wait till I finish this story. Wouldn't want to be influenced unconsciously since the subjects are so similar (I'm told). But I'm looking forward to checking them out, out of curiosity.

Oops, I'm rambling.

Thank you, Elfscribe
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