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The Pinky Promise

Where There is Love Progress Can Be Made

By Rick Henry Christopher Published 3 years ago Updated 5 months ago 22 min read

"Hi, Suzy," Irene Carras said joyfully over her iPhone.

"Hi, Irene, how are you?" Suzy Meghrouni responded in a happy, sing-song manner. “I'm just sitting here trimming my cute little bonsai tree."

"Oh, yes,” Irene commented. "It's adorbs! Where did your mom find it? I want one."

"She bought it from a seller on Etsy," replied Suzy.

Irene spoke quickly and emphatically, "I am so excited! I received my invitation to our five-year high school reunion. Did you get yours yet?" Irene did not give Suzy a chance to answer. She just kept on talking. "Tommy Byers is going to be there. I hear he's still single. You always thought he was a hottie."

Suzy cut in abruptly. "I'm not going," she said forcefully.

"Oh, no, girl," Irene said. "You're going. There's no way that I'm going without my bestie."

"Really, Irene," Suzy said with an air of dismissal. "It's only been five years. How much can anybody change in five years?"

"Lots, Suzy," Irene said. "Lots. Anyhow, that's not the point. This will be the social event of the year. Anybody who is anybody will be there."

"I'm sorry, Irene," Suzy scoffed. "But I'm just too busy. I've got to, um, to wash my hair and darn a pair of old, worn-out socks."

“Well, ‘darn it,’ Suzy," Irene heatedly replied, "You can just stuff those socks. You are going to the reunion."

"No, I'm not!" That was Suzy's final word.

"Okay, Suzy," Irene said hurriedly. "This is an emergency. I am coming over. You and me need to talk."

Twenty-five minutes later, Irene showed up at Suzy's house. Like always, she made small talk with Suzy's mom: the weather, work, the price of gas, and the five-year high school reunion.

"High school reunion?” questioned Mrs. Meghrouni. "Suzy hasn't said anything to me about a reunion."

Irene frowned. "Something's going on with Suzy. That's it. I'm going to get to the bottom of this." Irene ran up the stairs, the click-clack sound of her heels could be heard throughout the house. She began knocking sternly on Suzy's bedroom door, shouting out, "Open up, Meghrouni! You and I need to talk."

"Hey, Irene, you got here pretty fast," said Suzy as she opened the door for Irene.

"Cut it with the small talk, Suzy. Sit down; we're going to talk," ordered Irene.

"What? Well, what's wrong with you?" Suzy questioned with a puzzled look on her face.

"It's not me, Suzy," Irene said in a calm and determined manner. "It's you." Suzy tried to interrupt, but Irene raised her palm at her and kept talking. "First, you tell me you're not going to the reunion with some silly excuse about darning some old worn-out socks. Then I find out that you haven't even told your mom about the reunion." Suzy starts to say something, but Irene raises her right hand and waves her index finger back and forth and continues talking. "What's going on, Suzy? What are you hiding?"

Irene oftentimes is tough on Suzy. The two of them have been best friends since they were five years old, they met in kindergarten. Irene has taken on the role of big sister even though she's two months younger than Suzy.

"I'm not hiding anything," Suzy snapped back.

"You can't fool me, Suzy," Irene emphatically said. "I'm your older sister."

Suzy responded, "No, you're not."

"I know I'm not your big sister. But I might as well be. Anyway, that's not the point." Irene continued, "I know you better than anybody else, and I sense something is wrong."

"Uhhh, Irene," Suzy sighed. "Why do you have to be so intuitive?" She nervously shuffled the blankets on her bed, where the two were sitting.

Suzy stood up and pushed her hair behind her ears, and calmly said, "This is why."

Irene had a puzzled look on her face and said, "What? What are you talking about?"

"My ears, Irene. Look at my ears," said Suzy.

Irene looked at Suzy’s ears and exclaimed, "You're wearing hearing aids! When did this happen? Why didn't you tell me?"

Suzy broke into tears. "I got them last week. I was afraid, I was ashamed. It's something I'm not ready to accept."

"Oh, Suzy, no, no, no! You're beautiful, no matter what," Irene said in a warm voice.

Irene stood up and gave Suzy a comforting hug. "You don't have to be afraid or ashamed with me. I'm your bestie. We've been friends for 18 years.”

"I know," Suzy responded. "I' m just having a hard time with this."

"How come I never noticed you had problems hearing?" Irene asked.

"Irene, you have a loud voice," Suzy explained. "Plus, I know your voice very well. Whatever I can't hear, I just play it off with a facial expression or silly comment. Nobody noticed, except my mom. She's the one who made me get these stupid hearing aids."

“Well, do they help?" Irene asked.

"Yes, they do," Suzy responded. "And it is a relief to be able to hear again. But I'm not ready to be labeled as handicapped. I'm too young for all this to be happening."

"Suzy," Irene boldly said, "we can give you a new hairstyle that covers your ears. Maybe add a few cute hats or head scarves. We can be cute and creative with this."

"I don't know, Irene."

"Well, Suzy, you can just own it and rock those hearing aids."

The two shared a small laugh over that.

"But, whatever you do with this, Suzy, you are going to the reunion."

"I don't know, Irene. I'm not ready yet."

"If not two weeks from now," Irene said in a pushy manner, "then when? A year from now? Two years?”

"I know, Irene, I know," said Suzy. "But I've got to do this in my own time and not at such a big and important event."

"But Suzy, you can't miss this reunion. Tommy Byers will be there, and I'm counting on you being my sidekick like always." Irene sings, "It's friendship, it's friendship, it's the perfect friendship."

"Oh, uh, Irene, you do not make this easy," Suzy pouted. "Okay, I'll go…on one condition. You promise not to breathe a word to anyone about these hearing aids."

Irene responded, "I promise!!! Cross my heart, pinky promise."

Then the two do their pinky promise handshake. They cross their wrists and clasp each other’s pinky fingers and shake. Afterwards, they begin giggling and fall into a big-sister hug.

Over the next few days Suzy and Irene went shopping for their reunion evening outfits. Suzy decided instead of wearing a dress she would go dressy casual. She bought herself a pair of Lilly Pulitzer high-rise skinny jeans in a dashing, coral color. She then chose a loose, flowing V-neck blouse that had a pink, blue and green floral design. She completed the look with a pair of cork-wedge, open-toed, slip-on sandals. Irene went with a smart casual, but elegant, sky-blue, tiered, maxi dress from Anthropologie.

Suzy insisted they do each other’s hair to avoid risking the chance that a hairdresser would see the hearing aids. Irene felt this was a bit too excessive but went along with it anyway.

Irene was added on as a last-minute coordinator for the reunion. It was her job to plan the activities for the evening. She planned a variety of fun events, including a photo booth with wacky props, and a 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s cover band formed by their classmate, Marco Fargas. There would also be speeches made by the yearbook's “Jock of the Year,” who was Tommy Byers, “Cutest Cheerleader,” who was Cynthia Anderson, and “Most Likely to Succeed,” who was Suzy Meghrouni.

The night of the reunion came quickly. Suzy was experiencing anxiety about people seeing her hearing aids. She was ready to back out, but she had made the all-important pinky promise with Irene, so she was committed. Suzy and Irene ended up being part of a foursome that included their other single friends, Hannah Kennedy and Maddy Fernandez.

The reunion was in one of the event rooms at the lavish Hilton Garden Inn Anaheim Resort near Disneyland. The foursome was seated near the stage area at a VIP table.

The entire event was quite an elegant affair. When Mimi Henderson arrived, all eyes were on her. She arrived in a beautiful, chauffeur-driven, Rolls Royce. She stepped out like she was ready to walk the red carpet. She was wearing an eccentric and colorful Del Core original. Last year Mimi went viral with one of her YouTube cooking videos. She now had well over two million subscribers with each video achieving between four to five million views. Mimi was considered one of today's top social-media influencers.

Back inside at the reunion, the party had become quite lively. Marco's band, “The Felkoners,” was really rockin' the place, playing mostly 1980s music: “Beat It,” “She Drives Me Crazy,” and “Love Shack.” Everyone was having a great time dancing and drinking.

Before getting out there to mix and mingle, Suzy and Irene took some time to gaze over the party and gossip.

"It's nice to see that Sandra and Randall are still together," Suzy mentioned.

"Yes," Irene responded. “They've been together 10 years now. They met at McPherson Magnet. They were biology partners."

"Now, didn't he cheat on her in our sophomore year at El Modena?" Suzy asked.

"Yeah, he did," Irene said. "What a slime."

"And she took him back," Suzy continued. "I haven't seen Tommy yet. I'm really looking forward to seeing him. He was always so kind and gentle, and he really understood how to treat a girl."

Irene commented back, "You really let a good one get away."

"Yes, he was a good catch," Suzy retorted. "But he always seemed to be so preoccupied. He never really let me in to get to know him better. Then there was his dad. His dad was always pushing sports on him: football, baseball, basketball. He really pushed Tommy hard."

"Yes," Irene cut in. "His dad was obsessed. He didn't let Tommy have even a minute of free time."

"That's probably why he moved to Seattle when he turned 18," Suzy commented. "He cut all ties and started over again." Suzy paused. "I have no idea what he's doing nowadays."

Hannah and Maddy returned to the table after having danced for a while.

"Hey, you two looked good out there," Irene chuckled.

Hannah laughed back. "That's what you get when you don't have a date, dancing with your bestie."

"Who is that?" Suzy spoke directly into Irene's ear as she noticed a striking beauty entering the building. "She is so tall and elegant."

"I love her hair,” Irene said.

"I can't see her name tag,” Suzy noted. "Her hair is covering it. She must be somebody’s girlfriend."

Both Suzy and Irene sat up and looked at each other when they realized that this tall beauty was walking toward them.

"Oh, I was hoping to see the two of you tonight," the mysterious beauty said in a rich, honey-toned voice.

Irene and Suzy smiled back and said “hi” in tandem; then whimsically looked at each other.

Irene asked, "Do we know you?"

"Look closely at my face," the enigmatic beauty said. “The cosmetics may be different, but the face is basically the same."

They both looked, but nothing clicked.

Again, Irene spoke up. "No, we must be missing something."

Suzy tugged on the side of Irene's dress and whispered something into Irene's ear. Suddenly, Irene's jaw dropped in shock. Right at that moment one of the ex-football jocks walked by and called out to the tall, dark beauty, "You're an abomination! You're going to burn in hell!" The mysterious guest just ignored the jock.

Then a knowing look was exchanged between Suzy and Irene.

"It looks like you figured it out, Suzy," the beauty said.

"Yeah," Suzy said in a baffled manner.

Irene spoke right up. "Well, I'm fine with it. Each person has the right to the pursuit of happiness. It's right there in our constitution."

"Thank you, Irene," the beauty said. "You were always a forward thinker."

"When?..." Suzy began to ask, but then stopped.

"No, no, Suzy," the beauty spoke. "It's alright to ask questions. It is confusing. It took two years of therapy for me to accept my feelings. I am good with it."

"Okay," Suzy said. "When did you transition? Do you still use the name Tommy?"

"Yes," she answered. “I still go by ‘Tommi,’ with an ‘i’ at the end. Do you mind if I sit down?"

"No, no, please join us," Suzy said, while Irene pulled up another chair.

"I transitioned three years ago," Tommi continued. “I moved to Seattle and was ready and determined to transition immediately. The doctor I was seeing wouldn't do the surgery right away. He told me there would be several medical tests to go through. But mostly he wanted me to join a support group. I was reluctant to join this group. I thought I knew it all, and that I didn't need anybody. It ended up the support group was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I was able to heal from some of the negative conditioning I experienced with my dad. After a year of this support group, I knew more than ever this was me and what I needed to do if I was ever going to be happy."

"And your dad?" Suzy asked. "Have you stayed in contact with him?"

Tommi continued speaking. “My dad disowned me when I finally told him last year. I had been keeping in touch with him only by text and the occasional phone call. I would use my man-voice for the phone calls. Then, finally, I felt it was time to end this charade. But my dad did not take this revelation well at all."

"That's a shame," Irene said.

Tommi responded, "It is, and it isn't. I never had a dad who loved me for the person I am inside. He picked up on some of my feminine mannerisms as early as age 12, and I think that scared the living daylights out of him. I remember he told me, ‘No more of this!' The very next morning he took me to the barber and had me get a buzz cut. Then he enrolled me in little league and got me into boy scouts -- all this in less than two weeks. I remember one time I was drinking a cup of hot cocoa, and I had my pinky finger extended. He took that cup out of my hand so quickly, showing me how a ‘man’ holds a mug. He said, 'Only women extend their pinky finger; you're a man!’ He had me believing there was something wrong with me. I developed this very masculine exterior to hide my feminine feelings. I had everyone fooled, including myself."

"Well, Tommi," Suzy said, "I'm glad you found yourself and that you are now living a happy and healthy lifestyle."

"Thank you, Suzy,” Tommi replied. “I knew you and Irene would embrace the real me."

"Okay, kids," said Irene as she stood up from the table. "I would like to continue chatting, but I must run. It's time for the activities to start.”

"Go on, Irene," Suzy said. "The four of us will be just fine here."

Tommi also stood up. "Suzy, it really has been more than a pleasure seeing you. You're a beautiful person, inside and out. I'm going to go talk with our English Lit teacher, Mr. Duckworth. He was always encouraging individualism. He always told me to embrace the inner me."

After Tommi left, Hannah and Maddy sat closer to Suzy. "I can't believe that was Tommy Byers," Hannah said. "I mean, I do believe in ‘to each his own.' I don't hold anything against him. But I still have a problem calling him a ‘her’ or ‘she.’ He was born a man, and God doesn't make mistakes."

"That's your opinion, Hannah," Suzy said.

Hannah cut Suzy off. "Maddy, you agree with me, right? God doesn't make mistakes."

Maddy just shrugged her shoulders and said she wasn't getting involved in this one.

Meanwhile, backstage, Irene and Mrs. Cunningham, the reunion organizer, were discussing the lineup of the speakers: "We'll have Cynthia Anderson go first, she was voted cutest cheerleader. She is scheduled to talk about her role from the Class of '16's cheer squad. Next will be Suzy Meghrouni, the class of '16's most likely to succeed. She will speak of how she landed her dream job designing living room furniture with the largest furniture manufacturer in the US, before she graduated from college. Now, we need to rethink Tommy Byers."

"Why?" Irene asked.

Mrs. Cunningham answered quickly, "We can't have a man wearing a dress talking about being the class jock!"

"First of all, Mrs. Cunningham," Irene said in her scolding voice, "Tommi, with an ‘i’ at the end, is a woman."

Mrs. Cunningham interrupted Irene and said, "All the more reason. We can't have a man pretending to be a woman."

Irene cut in right away, "She is not pretending to be a woman. She has always been a woman. I'll tell you, Mrs. Cunningham," Irene growled, "If you pull Tommi, I will have no problem convincing Suzy to skip her speech, and I know Cynthia pretty well, also. She will side with me. So, what is it going to be, Mrs. Cunningham? Are you going to ruin this event?"

Mrs. Cunningham was livid and frantically spoke. "You children are so misguided. Go ahead, have your freakshow! I'm leaving." Mrs. Cunningham grabbed her purse and left the reunion.

Irene gathered the three guest speakers behind stage to go over the last-minute details.

It was time for the speeches to commence. Irene took the stage to introduce Cynthia Anderson.

"Greetings class of '16!" Irene said with gusto, while waving her fist above her head. "Let's make some noise!!! Go! go! El Modena!!!" The audience cheered along and burst into applause as The Felkoners added some sound effects to the excitement.

"Okay, class of '16," Irene continued. “Tonight, we have three of our classmates scheduled to talk with us. The first presenter was voted the Class of 16's ‘Cutest Cheerleader.’ Can we have a big round of applause for Cynthia Anderson!!!" The audience stormed into applause and cheering as Cynthia took center stage.

"Hello, friends," Cynthia began. "It is so nice to be here tonight, and to see so many wonderful friends. I am having a great time tonight. I was one of the first, plus-size cheerleaders at El Modena High School. I had problems with my flexibility and technique, so I knew I was going to have to work harder than the other cheerleaders."

While Cynthia continued speaking, Irene was backstage helping to prep Suzy for her speech.

"Irene," Suzy said, "I need you to help me with my hair and hearing aids."

"Come over here, Suzy,” Irene waved. "There's better light. Here, let’s cover up those hearing aids."

"No, Irene," said to Suzy as she shuffled her hair behind her ears. "Like this. I want people to see my hearing aids. Tommi Byers has inspired me to be proud of who I am."

Irene combed Suzy's hair back behind her ears and gave her a little kiss on her left cheek. Irene returned on stage as Cynthia ended her speech and the audience applauded.

"Thank you, Cynthia," Irene said in her enthusiastic voice. "Next, let’s give a warm welcome for the Class of '16's ‘Most Likely to Succeed,’ student, Suzy Meghrouni." The audience jumped up and hooted and howled for Suzy.

Suzy walked out on stage somewhat humbled. "Oh, gee, thank you everybody." Someone yelled from the audience, "We love you, Suzy." She just stood there and smiled. "Thank you. Thank you, very much,” she said humbly.

Suzy started to speak. “I had originally planned on standing here tonight to give a speech about how at the age of 21, I had landed my dream job, even before graduating from college. But I decided to talk about something else. It comes from my heart and was inspired by our next speaker, Tommi Byers.

“I almost did not come to this reunion. I used all kinds of frivolous excuses, such as I had to wash my hair, and that I was darning some worn-out pair of socks. I came up with any excuse just so I wouldn't have to face my reality. I was ashamed of myself. I was ashamed because of these two little devices in my ears."

Suzy pushed her hair back a little further behind her left ear. "I'm wearing hearing aids. Yes, at the age of 23 my hearing is slowly going away. I always thought that people wearing hearing aids were handicapped. Well, here I am with hearing aids, and maybe I do have a handicap, but that handicap is not the end of my life. It doesn't mean I have to be ashamed, or that I have to hide my ears with my hair. What it means is that I have one more thing about myself to embrace and of which to be proud.

“Five years ago, you voted me the person most likely to succeed. Well, there's more to success than getting that dream job, or making $90,000 a year. It's about who you are inside, and how you feel about yourself and those around you. It's about the love you have to give. That is the greatest success you can ever achieve -- loving yourself and reflecting that love back to others. Once you achieve that, everything else falls into place.”

After Suzy finished her speech, the entire house cheered and rose to their feet, giving her a rousing standing ovation. Suzy was moved by the love and support she felt from her classmates. Irene gave Suzy a warm smile as she left the stage, and then proceeded to introduce the last speaker, Tommi Byers.

Irene began, "I want to give a little background on our final speaker tonight, Tommi Byers." Just as Irene mentioned her name, a few people in the audience began heckling and booing. The ushers controlled the hecklers and escorted one of them out of the room.

Irene continued with her speech. "Before the interruption, I was starting to say that Tommi Byers is a fine example of courage and bravery. Five years ago, Tommi was voted ‘Jock of the Class of 2016.’ Tommi displayed exceptional talent in all sports: football, baseball, and basketball. However, it wasn't only sports in which Tommi excelled; but was also brilliant in academics. Tommi was one of two valedictorians of our class. It's easy to say Tommi was a leader and trailblazer of the class of 2016. Now, without further ado, please join me in welcoming, Tommi Byers.”

The crowd watched and waited for Tommi to take the stage but there was no Tommi. Irene quickly ran backstage, locating Tommi, asking her, "What's going on?"

Tommi replied, "I thought I could do this, but then I froze when I heard the booing while you were introducing me."

"No, Tommi," Irene spoke frankly. " You have come too far to let a few people intimidate you. Look at Suzy. She was so embarrassed and ashamed of her hearing aids. But because of you, she got out there and faced her demon. Now, get out there, Tommi. I know you can do this."

When Tommi walked out on stage, less than half the room applauded. You could hear several people gasp with surprise. Tommi stood on the stage looking at the audience. She could not begin her speech. She just stood there, feeling very vulnerable.

Finally, after about a minute Tommi spoke in a humbled, toned-down, voice. "Just a few minutes ago, my friend, Suzy Meghrouni, was up here speaking. She wasn't going to be here tonight. She was ashamed because she has to wear hearing aids. But she came here tonight because," Tommi lightly chuckled, "she made a pinky promise with her best friend, Irene Carras. How many of you remember their ‘pinky promises’? That's something Irene came up with as a sort of confidence booster for Suzy. Tonight, Irene boosted my confidence. She always knows the right words to say. Some people, like Irene, are naturally born with confidence. But not me. Oh, yes, you might think, Tommy Byers, that 6-foot-2 muscular, valedictorian, football quarterback, who passed 58 touchdowns in one year alone, would be brimming with confidence. I had quite the magnificent run at El Modena High School. But much of that was forced. It was part fear of being found out and part being pushed by a father who refused to face the truth.

“I was afraid that people would find out that when I went home at night I would go into my bedroom, lock the door, take off that football uniform, then put on a dress I had hidden in a box inside the box spring of my bed. I felt dirty wearing that football uniform. But when I put on the dress, I felt clean and refreshed. I felt like I was finally at home. However, every night ended the same. I was a little, lost girl whose life was teetering on the brink of mania and deep depression. I was not feeling well when I was a high school football star. Everything I accomplished in school was driven by fear and the feeling of inadequacy.

“I became a class valedictorian mainly because my father placed a deep-seated fear in me. He was conditioning me to be a man, and, in his mind, being a man meant winning on all fronts, academically as well as in sports. So, the only way I could be a man was to succeed, but not just normal success. I had to be the absolute top performer. I wanted to make daddy proud. In reality, I was a true, ‘daddy's girl,’ but he never knew that, or maybe he did -- he just didn't want to see that.

“So, here I am today. I am still Tommi. I just spell my name differently now, T-O-M-M-I. I made the complete transition three years ago. My dad disowned me when I finally told him. However, I have a new family now, and, most importantly, for the first time in my life, I feel secure and safe. I finally feel like I am at home in my body. My message tonight is like that of Suzy's. Before anything else can come together for you in your life, you must be true to your inner self – whomever, or whatever, that inner self is. You've got to love who you are first.”

After Tommi finished her speech, half the audience in the room rose to their feet and gave her a standing ovation, while the other half sat there vapidly clapping. Both Irene and Suzy joined Tommi onstage for a group hug. The three of them then joined their pinky fingers and promised that love would come first before anything else.


About the Creator

Rick Henry Christopher

Writing is a distraction to fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and soothing the bruises of the day.

The shattered pieces of life will not discourage me.

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