By Karen Singer
Chapter 65 Part 1 of 2
It felt good to be fishing with Stan again, although a knot remained in Candy’s stomach that refused to go away. He was sure his anxiety was due to his worry over Stan remaining his friend… and what kind of friends they would still be. So far, Stan had been unusually quiet all day, and since he didn’t want to push the issue, little had been said between them.
There was a distinct tug on his line and he pulled back quickly on the tip of his rod. “Got one!” he declared as he started working the fish in. Two minutes later, he had the fish in his hand and had removed the hook. He held the fish up for Stan to see. “See, no help required,” he joked.
“I’m not sure if I should feel proud of you or not,” Stan replied.
Just then, the fish gave an unexpected wiggle, and Candy lost his grip on it. The fish fell into the water and was gone in a flash.
Stan just shook his head. “Maybe I should have removed the hook for you after all. You can’t even hold onto the thing!”
Candy did his best to laugh, but it was clear that their relationship was still strained. Losing the fish as he just had didn’t really help his case any.
As the two continued to fish, Candy couldn’t help but remember Jessica’s “assignment” that she had given him in the restaurant the night before. He was supposed to picture himself having sex with a man… and enjoying it. Not likely! Well, at least not yet. He had no idea what the future would hold for him… especially after he got the operation. He only knew that right now he wasn’t interested in the idea. But would he be interested then? Only time would tell.
He supposed that he should feel a lot more sexually frustrated than he did. But the truth of the matter was that since he had started on the stronger dose of hormones last week, he was feeling less and less concerned over this issue. More like he didn’t really care about it at all. He knew the hormones were supposed to have some kind of effect on his libido, maybe this is what it was doing to him. As far as he was concerned, maybe it was all for the best. He just couldn’t picture himself in bed with another man… yet.
But that little thought brought up the other side of the coin. How about himself in bed with another woman? As Jennifer had suggested – woman on woman. He found that idea far more interesting than sex with a man. Although just then, that concept too didn’t arouse all that much interest in him.
“Got one!” Stan called as he started playing his fish in.
Candy watched as Stan expertly captured the fish and removed the hook.
“See,” Stan said as he held the fish with one hand and opened his creel with the other. “This is how it’s done!” With that, he dropped the fish inside.
“My hero!” Candy joked.
“You wish!” Stan replied.
Candy’s new look was a major splash when he went to church Sunday morning. While he was glad to see his friends there again, he was somewhat surprised to discover that he was feeling slightly out of place with his friends – mostly because next to them, he felt a lot less like a man in a dress than he ever had before. Maybe he wasn’t quite up to the point where Carlita was, but he was certainly heading in that direction. And he now knew why Carlita didn’t sit in church with them anymore. She really didn’t fit in with them. Looking as real… and as good as Carlita did, sitting with Bethany, Cass, and Tracy didn’t exactly make a statement toward being a real woman. Would he get to that point? He certainly wasn’t even close yet, but judging by the way he was starting to feel, he had no doubt that he was getting there.
By late Sunday afternoon, not only had the entire lawn been cut, but the framework for most of the new front porch was in place. Someone trained in looking at such construction work would easily be able to get a good idea of what it was going to look like. Someone not so used to it would have a lot more trouble! Since it was raining again, Candy had given up working outside and was laboring over putting brightly colored pieces of material together to form a quilt. He was finding that the more he did it, the more he seemed to be enjoying the activity.
Though it wasn’t dark, he couldn’t miss the headlights of Janice’s black SUV turning into the driveway through the rain. His eyes tracked the car until his ears picked up the progress as the garage door opened and closed again a few minutes later. Janice was home. Carol too. Evidently they didn’t get eaten by a bear. Pity!
A minute later, he heard the door opening between the garage and the kitchen. “Candy!” Janice’s voice called.
He tried to yell just a minute, but what came out was only a muffled unintelligible noise.
“Candy?” Janice called again as she went through the kitchen to the living room. She spotted him there looking up at her. She laughed as she saw him point toward his mouth… that was full of pins. “Can you take a break?” Janice asked. “We need your help for a few minutes.”
Candy pulled another pin from his mouth and stuck it through the material to hold the pieces together. He reached up and pulled the rest of the pins from his mouth as well. “Glad to,” he replied.
Janice went over and looked at the quilt he was making. She ran her hand carefully over the material, careful not to let one of the pins stick her. “Very nice!” she exclaimed. “Although I would have thought you would be much further along with it by now.”
Uh-oh! Caught! “Actually,” Candy replied, “this is my third one. I gave my second one to Jessica as a gift… for helping me so much.”
Janice thought about that. “That’s very nice. Just don’t give too many away. We need those quilts. And don’t you dare try to give away any that Carol and I make! Am I clear?”
“Of course,” Candy replied. “What did you need?”
“Help with our bags,” Janice replied.
“Momma?” Carol called from the kitchen doorway. “Where did you want this?”
“In my bedroom dear,” Janice replied.
Candy watched as Carol struggled to half carry, half drag a very full, very heavy backpack towards her mother’s bedroom. What were they doing with that much gear? He got up from his seat and headed for the garage.
“Just bring all of it to my bedroom,” Janice called behind him. “I’ll sort the laundry from there.”
The back hatch was open on the black SUV so Candy headed there first. He was surprised to see two more very large, very full backpacks sitting there, just like the one that Carol had dragged into the house. What the heck? He grabbed one of the large packs and he was shocked at exactly how heavy the thing was. He had planned on carrying two of them, but he quickly realized that one would be all he could handle. Hefting one of the straps over his shoulder, he made his way into the kitchen and headed for Janice’s bedroom.
As he got to the hallway, he saw the bathroom door ahead of him closed. He figured that Carol was in there. There was no sign of Janice either but once in her room he noticed that her bathroom door was closed as well. Well, he couldn’t blame them. They were just getting back from a long trip. He dropped the heavy pack on the floor next to the one that Carol had dragged in and went back for the next one. By the time he returned, Janice was out of the bathroom and was looking in her closet. “What do you have in here?” he asked. “It feels like they’re loaded with rocks!”
Janice looked back at him and smiled a bit wickedly. “Money, Candy. All the bags are filled with money. But of course, you know perfectly well that you can’t tell anyone at all anything about that. Don’t you!”
Candy had no doubts at all about his ability to speak of the money to anyone… as much as he really would have liked to tell Agent Forsyth about it when he was here. And speaking of the nuisance agent. “Um… Janice,” Candy said.
“Yes?” Janice asked as she looked for something more comfortable in her closet to slip into.
“Um… I had a visitor while you were away.”
Janice turned slightly toward him. “A visitor?”
Candy nodded. “From the FBI.”
Janice’s face clouded as she gave her full attention to him. “I hope it wasn’t Agent Jacobs!” Janice declared. Even though she was really hoping it was someone coming to offer her money for the time she had spent in prison. She was simply afraid that somehow Jacobs had managed to get out of the little predicament the Wu’s had gone to so much trouble to get him into.
“Um… no,” Candy replied, remembering that Janice knew nothing at all about the times he had met with the FBI agents before. This was an Agent Forsyth.”
Janice nodded. “His partner,” she noted. “What did he want?”
“Well… that’s just the thing,” Candy said. “It was kind of surprising. Mostly, he wanted to know if I had ever seen any sign that you had a bunch of money.”
“And what did you tell him?”
Candy almost smiled. “Don’t worry, I rather vehemently denied knowing anything about it at all.”
“Good!” Janice exclaimed.
“Yeah, but in the process, there was some other stuff I learned.”
“It seems that his partner is in some kind of major trouble. Forsyth wasn’t all that forth coming with details, but the one thing he did let out was that his partner had admitted that he framed you for something… I’m guessing for whatever got you sent to prison.
Janice blinked in shock. “He actually mentioned that?”
“Yeah. It was the one thing he did say that stuck out the most. The rest was mostly rather irritating and I’m afraid I was probably a bit more rude with him than I should have been. All he was really interested in knowing about was the damn money.”
Janice’s mind was working quickly as she was still digesting everything Candy had just said. “As far as I’m concerned, Candy,” Janice told him, “the ruder you were to him the better. Agent Forsyth and especially his partner, Agent Jacobs, have been nothing but a thorn in my side for very long time now. They don’t deserve to be treated decently!”
Candy was about to leave to get more of the packs from the car, but he stopped to add, “For what it’ worth, I always knew you didn’t have anything at all to do with the drugs. For as long as you’ve been here… and as much as I’ve hated everything you’ve done to me… and still hate it… you’ve never once lied to me. That I know of anyway.”
Janice was pleased by what he had just said. “I appreciate that sentiment, Candy. I’m a woman, and as such I want my word to mean something!” But her mind was still working overtime on the fact that Forsyth had been there and had spilled the beans about Agent Jacobs. She shook her head. “Too bad it’s Sunday,” she said. “I’ll have to wait till the morning to phone my lawyer in Atlanta. I think she and the FBI are going to have a lot to talk about. And I intend on making sure of it!”
Monday morning, it was all Janice could do to wait until a more “appropriate” hour to phone her lawyer. But the minute she felt her lawyer would be most likely in her office, she was on the phone and speaking with her lawyer’s secretary. The secretary naturally wanted to make an appointment for Janice to come in next week sometime, but Janice refused. “Please tell Mrs. Branson that the FBI were here at my house a few days ago – admitting that they had set me up and falsely sent me to prison! I’m sure she’ll want to see me a lot sooner than next week!”
As she expected, her phone rang less than five minutes later. “Janice?” the lawyer asked. “What did they tell you?”
Janice relayed that she hadn’t been home, but that Agent Forsyth had talked with her employer instead and had mentioned that his partner was in hot water and had admitted setting her up to go to prison.
“He actually said that?” Branson asked.
“According to my employer, that’s what Forsyth told him.”
“Okay,” Branson replied. “Let me do some checking and confirm this. We can’t do anything until we get some kind of confirmation. And Janice…”
“If they show up and ask you to sign anything - don’t do it!”
“I know better!” Janice replied.
It was nearly lunchtime by the time Janice’s lawyer called back. “Janice, are you sure you got that story right? I just talked with the legal people in the FBI office here in Atlanta and they don’t know anything at all about this.”
Janice was very surprised. “I’m only relaying what my employer told me. And I have no reason at all to doubt him. He said it was Agent Forsyth who was here.”
“Okay,” the lawyer replied. “Just hold tight. I’ll try checking again, but I’m pretty sure the people I talked with didn’t know anything at all about it.”
Janice quickly grew worried. She grew even more worried as time went on and her lawyer didn’t call back for the rest of the day. She didn’t call back on Tuesday either. By Wednesday morning, Janice was getting ready to call her lawyer again to try to get an update. But that’s when she heard a knock at the front door. When she opened it she was surprised to see two very official looking men standing there. She immediately grew a bit apprehensive since two of those backpacks of money were still sitting in her bedroom closet. There hadn’t been nearly enough room for all the money in her little hiding place.
She nervously invited the men inside and watched as they seemed to look all around them. “Wow,” one of them said, I guess because of all the construction going on outside I hadn’t expected it to look so nice in here.”
“My employer is rebuilding the outside of his house,” she explained. I’m afraid he’s out at the lumber yard right now getting more materials.”
“Is there some place we can sit down, Mrs. Stokley?” the Agent asked.
Janice nervously led the way into the kitchen. She took her usual seat and the two agents sat across from her. “Mrs. Stokley,” the agent who seemed to do all the talking said, “on behalf of the FBI, I’d like to offer our profound apology for the time you spent in prison and what you went through.”
Janice was inwardly celebrating, but she did her best to not show it. “You’re talking about the fact that I was set up,” she replied with an edge in her voice.
“Yes,” the agent admitted. “And the agent who did it admitted the fact and I can assure you that he will be severely punished. He opened a leather case he had been carrying and pulled out a file folder. “Your record of course will be completely expunged,” he said as he opened the file folder. He selected a piece of paper, glanced at it briefly, turned it around, and pushed it toward Janice. “I’m sure that you will find that this amount will more than make up for the inconvenience and time you spent in prison.”
Janice looked at the paper… and in particular at the amount of money specified – six hundred thousand dollars. She looked up wide-eyed at the agent. “You’re joking?” she asked.
The agent smiled and pulled out a pen. “If you’ll just sign at the bottom there, that check will be yours right now.”
Janice shook her head. “Not on your life!” she exclaimed. “Inconvenience? This wouldn’t come close to covering my inconvenience for anything at all? And how about what it did to my daughter… the foster homes, the trouble she had in school because of it. Not to mention the sheer embarrassment and trauma of having her mother dragged through the courts over something like this and then sent to prison. And how about the fact that I was a very successful investment banker. I can’t ever work in a bank again! Even with my record expunged, no bank in the world would ever hire me. I’m working as a housekeeper of all things just to survive! Inconvenience? You’re not even close… and I’m just getting warmed up!”
She stood up. “I’m sorry gentlemen. But I’m afraid you can talk to my lawyer… who I have no doubt you’re trying your best to go around. And rest assured, the moment you leave here, I’ll be on the phone with her. Good day gentlemen!”
The two agents got up from their seats. Janice could see that their faces looked more than a bit troubled. Well, they should be! She said nothing to them and only watched as they collected their papers and walked out. The moment their car was out of the driveway, she was on the phone to her lawyer.
Now it was going to be a waiting game.
The weeks passed and the summer grew hotter and more humid. There was still more rainfall than any time in the past, but it was slowing down now… not so frequent. Of course, the summer rain storms were also more ferocious. Candy got a few more calls to fix things for different customers, but even those jobs were not nearly as many as he had hoped for.
Janice was becoming more and more irritable as the negotiations continued between her, her lawyer, and the FBI. She and Carol had now shipped out another truckload of quilts and she needed to make a trip to Nassau to deal with them. But the damn FBI was dragging their feet and keeping her from her business!
Since there was so much money to be hid, and she was anticipating a very large settlement from the FBI, she was more anxious than ever to get the money into the quilts and out of the country. It wouldn’t look right for someone with the kind of money she hoped to get from the FBI to be still working as a housekeeper. Consequently, she was no longer even trying to hide from Candy the way she and Carol were putting the money into the quilts. She and Carol made quilts every day with money in them, while Candy made more quilts without any money… whenever he had time. Janice needed those quilts without the money to pack in the boxes on top of the quilts that had the money… in case anyone got stupid enough to try to cut one of the quilts open. He was working his handywoman jobs, but they weren’t as frequent or as lucrative as she had hoped. But at least the new front porch was nearly done now and Candy was getting rather good at making the quilts.
At the end of June, Candy walked into the courthouse… and walked out again – a different person. Literally. He had legally gone into the courthouse as Roger Allan Brinkley… and walked out legally as Candy Elaine Brinkley. Roger Brinkley no longer existed – officially!
Janice and Carol had both gone in with him. And Janice was nothing but ecstatic as they walked out. Surprisingly, Candy realized that there was a small part of him that was somewhat happy about it too. His name now officially matched the way he looked – and he could now get new ID’s made so he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by that problem anymore. But it was only a small part of him that was happy.
He had gone into the courthouse expecting to walk out feeling angry and depressed that he had been forced to change his very name… not to mention his very gender. But he was surprised to realize that other than that one tiny thing that he was happy about, what he really felt was… uncaring, as if it was just a little piece of business concerning something else. He wasn’t really shocked. He had known all this was coming. And now that it was here, he simply felt… nothing. It wasn’t even a sense that he felt resigned. He simply didn’t care like he had expected to.
As a celebration, Janice took them all out to lunch. It was while they were eating that Candy finally figured it out. He had been living as Candy for so long now – knowing for so long now that his life as Roger was over, that he had now gone past the “resigned to his fate” point. He had already… moved on. Since he had no choice now but to live his life as a woman, he was going to have to be recognized and accepted as a woman, and part of that meant that he needed a new name. He didn’t want the stigma of everyone calling him Candy… only to bring out some kind of ID and suddenly show them that he was… or used to be a man. It didn’t make him feel any better, but at least he understood how he felt. He had moved on… and was continuing to move on. He had no choice in the matter. Just as he had no choice but to fully turn himself into a woman.
But in retrospect, he now knew that life was full of things that nobody would ever have a choice about. Everyone is constantly faced with doing things they would rather not have to do. The things that he faced were simply far different than anything anyone else would ever have to face. He was doing his best to deal with it all… and as Jessica continually told him, she was very impressed with the way he was managing it all… despite all his little problems that she was now trying to help him with.
From the celebration lunch, Janice drove them all out to the Motor Vehicle Agency where Candy could apply for a new driver’s license. By the time he walked out, he felt even more official. And his sense of ever being Roger felt far more in the past and lost. Now all he had to do was change his bank account, his social security card, his credit cards… everything in his whole life! Simple! Hardly.