Chapter Five More Sectrets Revealed (Wednesday 20th August 2014 - Noon) (Shantelle's Apartment on Leff Street, San Luis, California)
SHANTELLE'S POV

My wonderful birthday just gets better and better. As I hear the fastener clicking shut on my new metal necklace meaning I'm wearing the 'LOVE' pendant choker that means so much. I can now feel both my thighs rubbing against both Sarah's thighs, as I've swivelled myself around on her warm and soft lap. I've wanted to kiss her on the lips for so long, it's always been something I enjoy when I greet my mom or my gran, and I know I love Sarah just as much. She's taller than me and up to now I keep reaching her chin with my mouth when we meet but she keeps her head up higher, one of her little manerisms maybe ? Now, I find myself opposite her face so I can lean in and find her soft lips for sure. What happens next seems incredible, as my lips meet her face, but instead of soft flesh, they encounter something very different, something hard and totally unexpected...Wow.

As my mouth bangs into something metallic tasting, where I imagine Sarah's lips should be, I jerk my head back, and allow a grunt to escape me, just as I hear Sarah's gasping voice, ''Oh my goodnessh, Shantelle my shweety, I'm shorry, did you hurt your mouth, I had no idea you were about to kissh me like that, sho shorry. Shantelle, I've told you already about shome of the thingsh in my life that you didn't know about. Well, I've not finished yet with opening up to you about everything. But I want to, and I want you to know I've not kept theshe thingsh shecret on purposhe to fool you or decsheive you. Partly it'sh cosh I jusht never got the opportunity, but more it's cosh I'm shy and very unshure of myshelf and I wash jusht plain shcared to shay. I'm sho shorry, shweety, I did come here today intending to shay all about me, with nothing left out, but shweet Shantelle, I've only managed to confessh the half of it sho far. My shummer has been pretty awful for more than jusht my accshident when I fell on the boat, and anywaysh there have been thingsh in my life for ever which you desherve to know about. I guessh I'm jusht not very brave like you are, and I shtill can't believe no one elshe hash mentioned any of thish. Shantelle I'm sho shorry, I feel sho embarasshed right now. Pleashe forgive me.''

Sarah sounds so quiet and I'm worried she's crying. So I immediately offer my support to her, stammering out, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, y-you-you s-su-sure a-are-are m-my-my b-be-bes-best f-fr-frie-frien-friend e-ev-ever, I-I-I l-lo-love y-you-you s-so-so m-mu-much. Y-You-You kn-know-know th-tha-that, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety. I-I-I t-tr-tru-trus-trust y-you-you a-all-all th-th-the w-way-way, b-be-bel-belie-believe m-me-me, d-do-do n-no-not w-wo-worr-worry.'' I reach out with both my hands, only lower this time towards where her shoulders must be, and I make contact safely and give her a little squeeze on her left shoulder, the one which should be okay.

I think I reassure Sarah cos next things she's speaking again, saying, ''Thankyou, shweet Shantelle, I love you too. Well, where to shtart ? If you would like to try feeling your fingersh around my mouth, maybe that'sh where we should begin. Tell me what you think your fingersh are touching, let them shearch around my facshe and cheeksh and I'll open my mouth ash well. If you are gentle hopefully neither of ush will shuffer any hurt. I love your finger tipsh, they're sho shoft and shenshitive, they make me feel sho closhe to you, sho thish might jusht be an okay thing. I'm nervoush shweety,but thankyou for being sho shweet about everything.''

So I move my fingers up from both Sarah's shoulders, till I'm touching the tip of her chin, and then I explore further with my right finger tips, upwards towards her lower lip, and then I again contact something strange. I want to let Sarah know what I'm thinking, so I try to describe what my fingers feel, stuttering nervously, ''S-Sw-Swee-Sweet-Sweety, I-I-I c-ca-can f-fee-feel l-li-like s-so-som-some s-so-sor-sort o-of-of t-th-thi-thick m-me-met-meta-metal w-wi-wir-wires t-th-tha-that m-mu-mus-must b-be-be r-ru-runn-runni-running a-ac-acr-acro-across y-you-your b-bo-bott-bottom l-li-lip. A-An-And a-ab-abov-above I-I-I c-ca-can f-fe-feel a-an-ano-anoth-another s-se-set o-of-of m-me-met-meta-metal w-wi-wir-wires r-ru-runn-runni-running a-ac-acr-acro-across y-you-your t-to-top l-li-lip t-too-too. I-I-I th-thi-thin-think th-the-the w-wi-wir-wires c-co-come ou-out-out o-of-of y-you-your m-mou-mouth.''

I can feel Sarah's lips part as she speaks back to me, saying, ''Yesh, shweet Shantelle, theshe are the wiresh on my facshebowsh, they are all part of my bracshesh on my teeth inshide my mouth. They give exshtra pull on my bracshesh becaushe of shtrapsh around my head and my neck. Can you run your fingersh out, along the lower wiresh, they connect to plashtic shtrapping that goesh behind my neck. Now feel the top facshebow wires, they go up toward my cheeksh and connect to shtrapsh for my head gear that goesh all around my head; there are three sheparate shtrapsh over the top and back of my head, they join together in the middle of each of my cheeksh where the facshebowsh hooksh onto the shtrapping, and they pull hard on the facshebowsh to make presshure
on my teeth bracshesh.''

I run my fingers across these thick wires just as Sarah wants me to, firstly along the lower facebow which runs from her lower lip, around the corners of her mouth and out across her lower cheeks where there are hooks at the ends of the facebows and they fasten through loops cut into the ends of a plastic strap about an inch broad which continues backwards towards her neck below where her ears must be. I feel beyond as the strap disappears around the back of her neck and my fingers from each hand meet up at the very back of her neck. I can tell something else is different, Sarah used to have her hair long, but not any more it seems, but then the back of my hand flicks against a pony tail standing out from the back of her head, so has she just changed her hair style.

Next I run my fingers back to her mouth, feeling for the upper facebow wire which seems to sit under her top lip like it's more between her lips and the ends run off past the upper side of the corners of her mouth and up across each cheek till indeed I find hooks at both ends whick are fastened through loops in twin plastic straps. I follow these and soon they seem to split, into three on each side and they're now feeling more like fabric to my finger tips, and they go up, one in front of where her ears must be, another more straight up and the third even very vertically heading just past her eyes towards the outsides of her forehead. There's like a mesh of these straps across her hair, and all three straps are joined together by a single little cloth strap running from front to back along the center line of her hair, over the top of her head and down to the lower of the three straps back way behind her hair. As my fingers brush past her face near her eyebrows I do flick against the wings for her glasses, which she's not really told me about but which I'am aware she sometimes puts on at school during our schoolwork sessions. I lower my hands back to her shoulders and give out quite a sigh. Poor Sarah, what on earth is she having to wear, and why ?

Then, when I finish, I now take a deep breath and stutter, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, c-ca-can y-you-you t-te-tell m-m-me a-ab-abou-about th-the-these w-wi-wir-wires a-an-and th-the-the s-st-str-stra-strap-straps p-pl-plea-please ? Wh-Wha-What i-is-is i-it-it d-do-do th-they-they d-do-do f-fo-for y-yo-you a-an-and wh-whe-when d-di-did y-you-you g-ge-get th-the-them ? S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, m-my-my s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, d-do-do th-they-they h-hu-hur-hurt ? Th-The-They f-fee-feel t-t-to b-be-be p-pr-pre-prett-pretty t-ti-tight. Aw-Aww-Awww.'' I cannot help it, I just have to give her left shoulder another squeeze, I feel for her so much. Poor Sarah.

She sounds a bit more composed now, saying, ''I've worn bracshesh for many yearsh, all becaushe when I wash born I had a deformed mouth. My top lip wash shplit into three sheparate partsh, called a cleft lip, and the middle part wash like jusht a flap of shkin, my baby picturesh look awful. They did shurgery on it to shew it together but there are shcars shtill on my top lip and it'sh very short, the middle part ish really shtretched, and mosht important it hash no feeling cosh the nervesh were damaged before I wash born, sho I shometimesh have trouble with dribbling when I eat and drink and I alsho had difficultiesh shpeaking when I wash younger. Inshide my mouth thingsh were even worshe cosh I wash born without a roof to my mouth, called a shevere double cleft palate, and sho my baby milk ushed to go shtraight up into behind my noshe and come back down my noshtril, which musht have looked grossh. I heard about that from my 'dad'. They did a shurgery to grow shome shkin acrossh the roof of my mouth to closhe off the gap, but no bone will grow sho it'sh very weird, the shkin is delicate and I need to wear a plate againsht my palate to protect it and help with making my voicshe project out through my mouth inshtead of up inshides my head.'' She sighs and stops for a moment, but I've no idea what to say to such an amazing and shocking story.

Sarah continues, with, ''I hardly had any baby teeth and it wash a nicshe shurprishe when I actually grew a full shet of adult teeth. But they were hopelesshly overcrowded and I wash shent to a shpecshialisht orthodontisht who dealsh jusht with shevere cashesh. I think I firsht met her when I wash jusht sheven. She ish really nicshe, Doctor Shomerville ish her name and her practicshe ish in Shanta Barbara, sho it'sh like nearly two hoursh drive to get there. She fitted me with my firsht retainer on my top teeth when I wash sheven and itsh main job hash alwaysh been to act like a plate to help protect my palate. I'll alwaysh have to wear one, all through my life, but it'sh okay. I shtarted having to vishit her every three weeksh and I've been doing that now for nine yearsh altogether now, shweety.'' She falls quiet but only for a deep breath.

Then she continues with, '' When I wash nine the orthodontic treatment properly shtarted and I wash put in metal bracesh with bandsh and bracketsh, in the lasht few weeksh of third grade. During my fourth grade I got exshpandersh put in top and bottom to make my narrow jawsh move out sho there'sh more room for my teeth, and they're covered over by retainer platesh both top and bottom, which are pretty thick and make me lishp a lot when I shpeak. I alsho shtarted having to wear elashtic bandsh down the shidesh of my teeth from top to bottom, jusht a couple then more, now it'sh up to nine eachsh shide. I'll show you in a minute if you like, shweety. By the Chrishtmash of my fourth grade when I wash ten I wash alsho fitted with my firsht headgear, jusht on my top teeth and for only fourteen hoursh a day, but at the shtart of fifth grade I got my lower headgear too and had to wear both twenty-four/sheven.'' Another quick pause for a deep sigh and then more.

Sarah continues, saying, ''That'sh how it wash till a year ago, sho I wash like fully bracshed in full time double headgear all my lasht year in elementary shchool, all three yearsh at middle shchool and my freshman year at high shchool. I looked a freak, I felt a freak and I wash treated like a freak by everybody, an outcasht. I had no shchool friendsh and shtill have not, my family treated me okay I guessh but even my shtep mom ish embarasshed to be sheen with me and shame for my shtep shishtersh, they shometimesh shay horrid thingsh though they shay shorry afterwardsh. The worsht bitsh are my masshive lishp cosh of the thick retainer platesh, and the double headgearsh which actually don't hurt and feel like they're a part of me now, sho I'm okay with it, jusht everyone elshe shtaresh or commentsh or teashesh. My shishtersh call my headgearsh my ''bridle'' ash if I'm a horshe, and they make horshe jokesh and shoundsh when I'm about, ash well ash call me
''bracshefacshe'' ash if it'sh really my name. I cannot entirely blame them cosh I feel like a freak sho maybe they are right ?''

Sarah has another pause, which also includes a huge swallow I can hear her making, then more words, with, ''I had to wear the facshebowsh and headgear like twenty-four/sheven for shix yearsh until lasht shummer when I wash finally allowed to wear the headgearsh for only fourteen hoursh a day sho I wash able to go to shchool thish lasht year without having to wear them, and that'sh how you never came acrossh me in them. I did have the exshpandersh removed ash well sho the retainer platesh were much thinner and my lishp wash hardly noticshable I think. I wash shtill in my bracshesh with bandsh and bracketsh and with the nine elashticsh each shide too, but I didn't need to shlip my headgearsh back on till after I had finished doing our shchoolwork together, ushually I
popped my facshebowsh and shtrapsh back on when I got in my car to drive home and kept them all on till driving to shchool the next morning. It wash short of weird cosh I misshed the pull of the headgearsh but I loved the way nobody made awful commentsh any more. I guessh I never got round to telling you about my bracshesh cosh it jusht never came up, though I half thought your mom might have noticshed at report shesshionsh and alsho at that concshert I met her at jusht before we shtarted shummer holsh ?''

Sarah continues, after gulping, with, ''Then at the shtart of the shummer holidaysh I got the bad newsh from my orthodontisht - my wishdom teeth were pushing through and my teeth were moving the wrong way sho the facshebowsh and headgearsh had to come back twenty-four/sheven oncshe again. Sho, I'm back looking like a freak, whenever I go out now, shorry Shantelle. The exshpandersh had to be refitted and sho I got another shet of the much thicker retainer platesh to short of cover the whole roof and floor of my mouth, and my lishp hash come back, only worshe than ever. I feel like a freak again, and nexsht week at shchool I'll probably have a real hard time, I mean I'm a junior now but I look like an elementary shchool girl''

Sarah stops talking and I hear her give out sigh, so this time I really want to reassure her, by saying, ''Y-You-You a-ar-are n-no-not a-a-a f-fr-frea-freak, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, p-pl-plea-please d-do-do n-no-not c-ca-call y-you-your-yoursel-yourself a-a-a f-fr-frea-freak. Y-You-You a-ar-are r-re-real-really n-ni-nice a-an-and s-so-so k-ki-kin-kind a-an-and v-ve-ver-very s-sp-spe-spec-speci-specia-special, m-m-my v-ve-ver-very b-be-bes-best f-fr-frie-frien-friend. I-I-I l-lo-love y-you-you s-so-so m-mu-much a-an-and y-yo-you j-ju-jus-just m-ma-made m-m-my t-tee-teen b-bi-bir-birth-birthday i-in-into th-th-the b-be-bes-best d-da-day o-of-of m-my-my l-li-life. I-Ig-Ign-Ignore th-the-the s-sa-sad b-bu-bull-bullies m-my-my s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, o-oh-oh a-an-and y-yo-you a-ar-are i-in-inc-incr-incred-incredibly b-br-bra-brave t-too-too.''

I am slowly moving my hands up from her shoulders again, towards her sweet face, and this time I know what to expect, so I carefully rest my fingers against the thick wires of her double facebows that are just like a great barrier stopping me getting to her lips, and then I press myself forwards so my own mouth comes up against my hands and I can place a great big sloppy wet kiss onto the wires of her facebows and some of my lips actually touching against the flesh of her lips. This is my first ever kiss onto even a bit of Sarah's actual lips and I let it linger. I can feel her pull her good left hand round my back as she squeezes me tightly and her tongue comes out of her lips and meets mine. I'm wrapping my arms around her neck, holding my hands together over the slippery plastic neckstrap that is part of her lower headgear, and so we are having the longest most tender embrace.

Next thing I know and Sarah is speaking again, ''Shweety, if I open my mouth ash wide ash my elashticsh will allow, you could pop your tongue or your finger tipsh, whichever you fancshy, inshide my mouth to touchsh and feel the bracshesh on my teeth and all the other shtuff, the plashtic retainer platesh, the little elashtic bandsh and all thoshe sharp wiresh and bracketsh, sho be careful shweety, don't push hard in cashe you get a cut.'' Her voice has settled down again from the stressed sounds of the past few miniutes. Now she sounds like the Sarah who I've been having so much fun with almost all of this morning. Awwww.

I take notice of her words, and press my tongue towards her opening mouth and as I feel my tongue tip going inside, it bumps against something hard and sharp, that must be her braces brackets and wires, so I try to go in further between her open teeth and I feel the hard smoothe plate on the roof of her mouth that must be the upper retainer, so by lowering beneath her tongue I feel another smoothe plastic device that must be her lower retainer. No wonder Sarah is lisping, these plates almost fill up her entire mouth ! Finally, I explore back around the outer surfaces of her teeth with their wires and sharp brackets and as I try to go to one side I feel the tension from what must be one of these elastic bands she told me about, as I push it bends and as I move my tongue it sort of pings.

So, I pull my tongue out and make another very exaggerated wet, sloppy kiss on her facebow wires and what little bits of actual lips I can reach. We hold our hugs for some time. The embrace is so lovely, and I'd like to hold it for the longest time, but a nagging thought crosses my mind. I wonder what time it is, as I really mustn't be late to meet up with gran on the way to my dentist appointment. I promised gran I'd be there at her apartment to collect her no later than half past one, so I'm going to need to be gone from here just after one o'clock to make the fairly short walk on time. I pull back and ask Sarah, ''S-Sw-Swee-Sweet-Sweety, c-ca-can y-you-you s-see-see m-my-my w-wa-wat-watch o-on-on th-the-the n-ni-night-nightst-nightstand, wh-wha-what t-ti-time d-do-does i-it-it s-sa-say ?''

I feel Sarah stirring, probably stretching to check the time, and her sweet voice comes back with, ''Well, shweet Shantelle, your watchsh appearsh to shay it'sh now ten minutesh pasht noon. You have a dentisht appointment thish afternoon, remind me when, shweety ?''

So, I find myself rapidly trying to stutter out my plans for the afternoon, ''M-My-My d-de-den-dentist a-app-appoin-appoint-appointment i-is-is a-at-at t-two-two b-bu-but f-fi-fir-first I-I-I n-nee-need t-to-to me-mee-meet m-my-my g-gr-gra-gran a-at-at h-her-her p-pl-pla-place s-so-so sh-she-she c-can-can c-co-come w-wi-with m-me-me f-fo-for s-su-supp-suppor-support. Sh-She-She's w-wi-will b-be-be e-ex-expe-expect-expecting m-me-me b-by-by on-one-one th-thir-thirt-thirty, s-so-so I-I-I n-nee-need t-to-to b-be-be l-lea-leav-leaving h-he-here n-no-no l-la-lat-later th-tha-than on-one-one o-o'cl-o'clock, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety.''

Sarah then comes back with some sensible planning herself, saying, ''Well, shweet Shantelle, you need to get dresshed, and in fact sho do I. I would love to help you with the dresshing and maybe you could help me too cosh thish wrisht injury and plashter casht makesh it difficult for me with only one good hand, and the body bracshe ish pretty reshtrictive too. Ahm, whatever, you need a different shkirt from the one you had on when I got here, cosh that'sh now wet and in the washing bashket.''

Yes, Sarah has just reminded me of my sickness attack earlier, but I won't let it upset me, rather let's be positive, so I respond with, ''Y-Ye-Yes, S-Sa-Sar-Sarah s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, m-my-my m-mo-mom d-di-did g-ge-get m-me-me a-an-ano-anoth-another b-bi-bir-birth-birthday s-sk-skir-skirt s-sa-same s-st-sty-style b-bu-but a-a-a d-di-diff-differ-different c-co-col-color. C-Ca-Can y-you-you
m-ma-may-maybe s-sp-spo-spot i-i-it o-on-on th-the-the p-pi-pile o-of-of c-clo-clothe-clothes o-on-on th-the-the ch-chai-chairs o-op-oppos-opposite u-us-us wh-whe-where m-mo-mom s-st-stash-stashed m-my-my p-pr-pre-prez-prezzies ea-earl-earli-earlier ? I-I-I th-thi-thin-think i-it-it c-cou-could b-be-be p-pa-pale g-gr-gree-green c-co-col-color ? M-My-My n-ne-new p-pi-pin-pink t-to-top sh-shou-should b-be-be b-be-beh-behin-behind y-yo-you o-on-on th-th-the b-be-bed n-nex-next t-to-to a-a-a n-ne-new p-pa-padd-padded b-br-bra c-co-col-color u-un-unkn-unknown t-to-to m-me-me, s-so-sorr-sorry ?''

I come over with that upsetting helpless feeling I get when I know my blindness has stopped me knowing something, but I cheer as Sarah just gets right on with sorting out my clothes, saying, ''Sweety, don't worry about the purple padded bra nexsht to your pink top here on the bed. It'sh lovely but how would you like to wear one of the mashtectomy brash with breasht formsh inshtead ? I'd like you to try them on pleashe, and yesh, I can shee your pale green shkirt over on the chair. Why don't you let me dressh you, shweety ? Would you like a mashtectomy bra and what shizshe of breasht form ?''

My nodding head has probably already told Sarah that I sure do fancy wearing one of the lovely special mastectomy bras with breast prostheses, just like she had on when she got here. I tell her,
''Y-Ye-Yes, p-pl-plea-please, S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, I-I-I'd l-lo-love t-to-to w-wea-wear a-an-any on-one-one o-of-of th-the-the b-br-bra-bras y-yo-you g-go-got m-me-me, f-fo-for s-su-sure I-I-I d-do-do. C-Ca-Can y-yo-you f-fi-fix i-it-it w-wi-with th-the-the b-bi-big-biggest p-pr-pro-pros-prosth-prosthes-prostheses p-pl-plea-please ?''

I can hear Sarah giggle with happiness as I smile broadly and we are both just a couple of teen girls getting dressed up in new clothes, it feels so perfect to have her here helping me, and I'll help her in return in just a moment. I stand and wait silently as I want so much to concentrate on the feel of Sarah's sweet soft hand pulling my clothes on my body. I feel her touch my feet and step into where the skirt must be and sure enough she manages to raise it with just her left hand and soon it's snuggly around my hips. Then she breaks the silence by telling me, ''Shweety, jusht a minute, I'll need to clip off the label that ish shticking up at the back of your shkirt, any idea where there might be shome shcisshorsh, shweety ?'' I'm just about to suggest looking on my desk top, when she adds, ''Okay, shweety, I got it, the shcisshorsh were shticking up in like a shtorage jar at the back of your deshk. Hold shtill, there, the label'sh off, thish shkirt ish sho nicshe on your shlim body, Shantelle, sho nicshe.''

Next, I hear a sort of rustling noise and guess Sarah's managing to push the breast forms into the cup pockets on one of the mastectomy bras, and then I feel her fingers as first she touches my right arm and the bra strap is raised to my shoulder, then the same on the left and I feel the weight of the false breast forms dangling against my chest. Next her fingers are pushing the back of the bra strap together and she seems to struggle with the fastener, so I push my own right hand up my back to hold the right side of the strapping so it stays still, and wow, sure enough Sarah is able to click the metal fastener and I feel the whole new mastectomy bra and breast forms on me for the first time.

The whole feel is amazing, the bra must be a perfect fit and the cups are soft against my chest, but the prostheses must be huge cos of the weight I notice on the shoulder straps and my own fingers brush the massive pointed mounds sticking off my normally pancake flat chest. Wow, I am just so delighted. Next, the pink strappy vest is being dropped over my head and I feel her arranging the straps as it falls over my chest and the huge bra there, definitely it's not touching my tummy cos the protruding breast forms have it well pushed out in front of me. I'm now dressed as I intend to be for the rest of my specisl teen birthday. I bet I look so grown up and so different. Awww. I give a little twirl and I know the feeling as the short flared skirt swishes up, no doubt giving a clear view of my thighs with the not-so-secret leg bag strapped on. I don't care ! I'm just so happy. I joyfully give off a squeal, and I'm smiling from ear to ear as I say a little nervously, ''S-Sw-Swee-Sweet S-Sa-Sar-Sarah d-dee-dear-dearest, th-than-thank-thankyou s-so-so m-mu-much f-fo-for e-ev-ever-every-everything, y-yo-you j-ju-just m-ma-made m-my-my d-da-day p-per-perf-perfect. H-Ho-How d-do-do I-I-I l-lo-look, m-my-my s-su-sup-super b-be-best f-fr-frie-friend ?''

I am still beaming as I hear Sarah's happy reply, with, ''Sweet Shantelle, you look amazshing, sho grown up and yet sho definitely you. You look sho lovely. You are the prettisht thirteen yearsh old girl in the world right now. You shtill have your girlishh grin and very preteen facshe and body, excshept the moundsh on your chest now make you look sho much older and more developed. Oh, shweety, you look shenshational. It'sh shuch a shame you cannot shee yourshelf, jusht thish oncshe. But I bet you can feel it, can you tell how lovely you really are right now ?''

Anyway, that is enough of me, so I tell Sarah, ''R-Ri-Right, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, n-no-now i-it-it's y-you-your t-tu-turn, l-le-let-let's g-ge-get y-yo-you d-dr-dre-dress-dressed a-ag-agai-again.
C-Ca-Can y-yo-you h-he-hel-help m-me-me b-b-by g-ga-gath-gather-gathering y-you-your c-cl-clo-cloth-clothes t-to-tog-togeth-together s-s-so I-I-I c-ca-can f-fe-feel w-wha-what I-I-I'm g-go-goi-going t-to-to b-be-be d-dr-dre-dress-dressing y-you-you i-in-in, p-pl-plea-please, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety ?'' I'm so full of smiles right now, I think I'll burst with happiness.

I can hear more rustling of clothes sounds, and I imagine Sarah is gathering together her outfit on the bed beside me, so I can start to dress her. I feel a pile form and then she pokes into my hands the mastectomy bra complete with its breast forms already inserted, so I pick it up and note how heavy it feels as I feel for her shoulders, then her injured right arm which is being held stretched out from her body. I thread the bra strap over her arm and up onto her shoulder, then I carefully take hold of the left strap of her bra and pull it behind the metal pole sticking up on the front of her body brace so it's snuggly in place across her actual chest area. Then I reach for her left arm and push the other strap on and up so it fits on both shoulders. I reach around the back of the hard plastic bracing, and then with two good hands of my own I can fasten the hooks at the back without any need to use eyes I haven't got anyways, and I touch across Sarah's chest to feel that her mastectomy bra is fitting as snuggly as my own. I smile at the thought that we are both such flat chested girls and today we both have such amazingly shapely chests.

Then I feel on the clothes pile for her top, which is just a strappy vest similar almost to my own. I wonder what color it must be, but I drop it over her head and down to her shoulders, and fiddle with the straps until it all falls down her body, front and back. I feel especially closely at the front to ensure I'm happy that her top has covered over the mastectomy bra cups properly, and rather like mine, her vest is not exactly hugging close to her tummy rather hanging off from the big mounds above. I feel on the bed and my fingers locate her little denim mini-skirt, which is soon being stepped into by Sarah's lovely long legs and I can raise it up to her thin waist. I flatten it out around her and imagine she too is feeling all happiness, just the same as me. My hands are now searching on the bed for her pink tango panties which I helped take off when we were in the bathroom so long ago. But feeling nothing there, I turn to Sarah with I hope a questioning look on my face, just in time to hear her say, ''Shweety, I decshided that for the resht of today at leasht I want to be dresshed ash closhely shimilar to you ash I can. Sho I will not wear any under pantiesh and they can shlip into my purshe here sho I can get them home okay. Thankyou for your help. Your fingersh are magical. All shoftnessh and sho active. I get gooshebumpsh when you touch me and it feelsh jusht wonderful, shweety. Awww. Thankyou, lovely Shantelle.''

I come straight back with, ''A-Aw-Aww s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, y-yo-you d-do-do s-sa-say th-th-the m-mo-mos-most w-wo-won-wond-wonder-wonderf-wonderful th-thi-thing-things. Th-Tha-Than-Thanx s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety. C-Ca-Can I-I-I a-as-ask w-wha-what c-co-col-color i-is-is y-you-you t-to-top m-m-my d-dea-dear S-Sa-Sar-Sarah ? Y-Yo-You n-ne-need t-to-to b-b-be v-ver-very c-ca-care-careful w-wi-with a-a-a sh-sho-shor-short s-sk-skir-skirt a-an-and n-no-no kn-kni-knick-knickers, y-you-you d-do-do, m-my-my s-sw-swee-sweet. I-I-I th-thi-thin-think y-you-you a-are-are v-ver-very b-br-bra-brave.''

I hear a giggle from my new best friend ever and she comes back with, ''HeHe my shweet Shantelle, I think I'm getting my courage from you, my very brave blind besht friend. My top ish shtripesh, and they are my fave colorsh, the colorsh on the Jamaica flag, green, yellow and black. My 'dad' Shylveshter'sh family are from Jamaica originally and it'sh like a tradition with him to like theshe colorsh, sho he buysh me tonsh of different clothesh in them, shometimesh jusht green or jusht yellow or jusht black or combo of two colorsh, or like thish in all three. Thanxsh for ashking, I've alwaysh been a bit careful about shaying colorsh to you shweety, ever shince you told me you have no idea what any color actually looksh like. I think it'sh brill that you shtill want to know. You are sho amazshing, Shantelle Shuarez, my besht friend ever.''

At this point I reach onto my nightstand for my watch and strap it to my wrist. I feel the surface and get the time check as just twenty past twelve noon, so I figure I've got to be ready to get out the door in forty minutes. I turn in the direction of where I think Sarah is standing and tell her the time, then adding, ''S-So-So s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, I-I-I'll n-ne-need t-to-to s-so-sor-sort ou-ou-out m-my-my p-pu-pur-purse a-an-and w-wha-what t-to-to w-wea-wear o-on-on m-my-my f-fee-feet, a-an-and I-I-I'll n-ne-need t-t-to f-fi-fix m-m-my e-eye-eyes a-as-as w-we-well a-as-as e-em-emp-empt-empty m-m-my l-le-leg-legb-legbag a-ag-agai-again, a-an-and d-do-do y-yo-you f-fa-fan-fanc-fancy a-an-any-anything f-fo-for l-lu-lun-lunch ?''

Sarah is so helpful, cos without another word I feel her handing me the purse which she must have spotted from across my bedroom hanging on a hook behind my open door. I check carefully with my fingers that each pocket has the essentials that should be there, with the front slot pockets holding my coins, folded notes so I can tell their denomination, store cards, student and braille institute blindness IDs, plus my local transit pass in case I should want to take a bus ride. In the big main pocket I can feel the tissues and pills and tablets in their little brailled packets, a flattish unopened plastic package with a spare catheter in case of emergency, and the travelling case that I can store my different types of eye prostheses and cleaner, and my lightly tinted sun shades in their little leather case. Also in here I can feel my little headband, not something I wear unless I've got one of my wigs on and I feel it needs extra support to stop it blowing off. There's also a little folded up cloth sleep mask which I can use to completely hide my whole eye area if I should want. Most obviously, right down in the bottom, my fingers touch my spare folding cane, that is identical to the one I use around home, and again is for emergencies in case something separates me from my long white cane that I use when I go outside. I do try to keep my purse tidy, just in case, so it all feels okay and ready for my trip out.

Next, I need footwear, and at that moment I also find myself wondering, out loud, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah m-my-my s-sw-swee-sweet, w-wha-what a-ar-are y-you-you w-wea-wear-wearing o-on-on y-you-your f-fee-feet, I-I-I've f-fai-fail-failed t-t-to n-no-not-noti-notice ? A-An-And a-ar-are y-yo-you a-at-at a-all-all h-hu-hung-hungar-hungary, m-my-my d-dea-dear ?'' As I say this I'm bending down in the space behind my open bedroom door near the coat hooks, cos I keep my footwear on the floor there. My fingers reach out and touch my numerous pairs of 'hello kitty' canvas sneakers, each with a little braille label fixed inside the heal area. As ever, I want my pink ones with the white laces, so I search for the braille bumps of the first two letters, 'P' (four dots, all the three top mid lower on left, and top right) {dots 1,2,3,4} then 'I' (two dots, mid left, top right) {dots 2,4}, and also as usual they are the first ones I find cos I was probably wearing them last. Oh, well, creature of habit at just thirteen !

I'm suddenly overcome by a feeling of unease. For the past few minutes I've been happily beavering away sorting my stuff out so I'm ready to go out. Then it strikes me, not only has it all gone quiet in here but I can faintly hear breathing which sounds heavy and gasping, then I hear a faint sobbing. Oh dear, what can be wrong ? I cry out to Sarah, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, m-my-my s-sw-swe-sweet-sweety, wh-wha-what i-is-is wr-wro-wrong m-my-my l-lo-love-lovely, i-is-is th-tha-that s-so-sobb-sobbing ? P-Pl-Plea-Please d-do-don-don't c-cr-cry, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, p-pl-plea-please ?'' I head across my room straight back to the bed, where I know from her sad noises, Sarah must be sitting.

As I reach out my hands in front of me, I touch her plaster cast which must be sticking out. I recoil quickly, thinking I hurt her. But then she says, softly, ''Shantelle, I'm shorry, I am okay, it'sh jusht I feel shad right now, cosh I've shtill not managed to tell you all I wanted to shay about myshelf, even now after about two and a half hoursh here, I'm
shtill a failure cosh I jusht don't have the courage like you to shpeak up properly. Now, we'll be leaving here shoon and I've failed again, I feel sho ushelessh and hopelessh, no wonder I cannot make friendsh. Oh, Shantelle, whatever am I going to do ?'' She sounded to be crying and sobbing and sniffling down her nose, and her words were sort of heartbreaking, yet totally confusing. I'd make a 'blind' joke about being completely in the dark, but it's not funny when my best friend is so upset and I honestly don't know why ?

So, I sit on the bed next to Sarah and turn towards her speaking, as best I can, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, I-I-I d-do-don-don't kn-kno-know wh-wha-what c-ca-can b-be-be wr-wro-wrong, b-bu-but I-I-I-m n-no-not g-go-goi-going a-an-any-anywhe-anywhere t-ti-til y-yo-you t-te-tell m-me-me wh-wha-what i-it-it i-is-is th-tha-that i-is-is u-up-upset-upsetting y-you-you s-so-so m-mu-much. I-I-I'm l-li-list-listen-listening, m-my-my s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, p-pl-plea-please t-te-tell m-me-me, S-Sa-Sar-Sarah ?'' I stop and listen, hoping she will respond. I reach out my hands to touch her good left arm and squeeze it, hoping she'll be encouraged. Then I decide to get even closer, like we were earlier, so I climb my legs completely onto Sarah's legs, so my thighs are astride her thighs, with me on her lap facing her head on, just like we'd done earlier when we were naked, except now we are dressed. I extend my arms so they find the metalic upper part of her body brace, I know exactly where she is, so I can touch her good left shoulder with my fingers and I give a gentle squeeze.

After what seems like an age, but maybe was just a minute, I can hear Sarah calm down a litle and her sobs seem to stop. Then I hear her very quiet voice start talking to me, ''Shantelle, when I wash born there were more problemsh than jusht my damaged mouth, with it'sh shplit lip and faulty palate. You shee, my eyesh were not right either, not blind or anything, but like crosshed in a shquint, my baby picturesh show me ash all cross-eyed and I've had isshuesh ever shincshe. I think you know about my glasshesh, don't you shweety ?'' As she takes a pause, I nod in agreement, I did know she put on what I figured must be like reading glasses sometimes, when we were doing classroom work with her helping me, like reading off what the teacher had written on the whiteboard. I sit at the front in all my classes, not cos I can see anything better there, but so whoever is helping is close to the teacher's desk for swapping materials for my support.

Sarah must have noticed my nod, cos she continues with, ''I had a shurgery paid for by my shtep mom Shelley'sh new hushband Shaul, on both my eyesh to fixsh the mushclesh sho they would look more shtraight, when I wash four yearsh old, and it'sh one of my earliesht memoriesh cosh I had to wear eye patchesh. The left eye shurgery worked, the right eye failed and went back to shquinting, and I had a shecond, alsho unshuccesshful shurgery on my right eye aged shix, but by then I wash ushing my left eye bashically nearly all the time to do my sheeing and my right eye wash pretty ushelessh to me. Sho I grew up with pretty weird eyesh and vishion, though it sheemsh my shquinty right eye wash more obvioush to me than to mosht other people. I alwaysh had glasshesh, and like annual check upsh, but until I wash in my lasht year at middle shchool there didn't sheem any need to actually wear my glasshesh all the time, jusht at home for watchshing tv and my pcsh and closhe up shtuff like shchoolwork, and I only needed them on in classh cosh really all the teachersh were told to make shure I wore them. Outside lesshonsh and in normal activitiesh I could manage without.'' At this moment, Sarah takes a deep breath and so there's a little pause.

Soon after she carries on with, ''Then I sheemed to get more headachesh and eye shtrain when I wash like thirteen and sho I wash having to wear my glasshesh like all the time, through my eighth and nineth gradesh. My good left eye is back to shquinting when it getsh tired sho at timesh I appear crossheyed again, like when I wash little. My shtepshishtersh keep making nashty commentsh on how my crosshy-eyesh look shtrange. Sho lasht year at the shtart of my shophomore year I wash given two different pairs of glasshesh, one for driving and another for closhe reading in lesshonsh and tv etc, and I think you noticshed when I arrived to help you and I changed my glasshesh. It'sh becaushe my good left eye short of deteriorated with all the exshtra closhe reading I wash having to do, sho I needed exshtra shtrong correction for shchoolwork shtuff, but for driving, where I'm looking further ahead, the correction wash very different, sho my dishtancshe vishion passhed all the medicalsh with my driving permit and provishional licshenshe regulationsh. My bad right eye ish jusht about ushelessh to me, as it'sh totally blurry on anything at all closhe or on wordsh or tv shcreensh, and a little better for dishtancshe but shtill not sharp. I may be okay with what are called bifocal glasshesh, where the two lenshesh are like mixed in the shame glasshesh, sho you look down and can read and you look up and can shee the road ahead, but at the moment my shight ish shtill getting worshe and sho until it shettlesh I'll keep needing two different pairsh of glasshesh.'' Sarah lets out a huge sigh.

I squeeze her left shoulder, and try to get reassurance, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, w-wi-will y-you-you s-st-sti-still b-be-be a-ab-able t-to-to s-se-see ? Y-You-You w-won-won't g-go-go b-bl-bli-blin-blind w-wi-will y-you-you ? I-I-I d-do-don-don't w-wa-wan-want y-you-you t-to-to b-be-be b-bl-bli-blin-blind l-li-like m-me-me, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety.'' I'm all panicky now.

Sarah comes back with calming words, ''Sweet Shantelle, no it'sh unlikely I'll loshe my vishion, and in fact they think it should be shtable by the time I turn eighteen for shome reashon, maybe they think the school workloadsh may get lessh, or I'll be more ushed to driving, but it could jusht be age and my body shettling down, to be honesht shweety, I'm not shure, but ash far ash I know, it'll jusht alwaysh be a nuishancshe not a masshive dishability like for you. Oopsh, shweety, I didn't mean to shay it like that. You're amazshing, though, cosh your total blindnessh jusht sheemsh like shomething you can cope with, and here ish me moaning about having shight, jusht not perfect vishion. Sorry, shweety, I shound sho shtupid, again, shorry.''

Just at this moment the bedroom resounds to a very loud ringing noise. If my throbbing headache wasn't enough, this shrill sound seems to go right through me. The sudden noise actually makes me jump on Sarah's lap, fortunately I'm squeezing my thighs pretty tightly against the outsides of her legs so I don't go far, and my hands are holding onto both her shoulders too. It must be a phone, but that's not my ring at all. Sarah stirs herself, and I feel her twisting and reaching out her good left hand behind herself on the bed. She starts to speak, ''Shantelle, shweety, hold onto me tight, pleashe, I'm jusht reaching into my purshe behind ush on the bed here, sho I can get out my phone. I wonder who would be calling me now ?''

Next I can hear the ringing stop and Sarah'e voice speaking loudly, ''Hello, ish that you, Shabrina, yesh I'm shtill at Shantelle'sh apartment, where you dropped me off in Leff Shtreet earlier. No, I'll be
ready to leave shoon, she hash to be away for a dentisht'sh appointment thish afternoon, I think she hash to leave around one o'clock, sho maybe you can pick me up then ?'' She sighs deeply.

There follows a quiet period in which I'm sure Sarah is listening to the other person on the phone telling her something, then another sigh, and Sarah replies, ''Hold on Shabrina, I'll ashk her.''

Then Sarah speaks up straight into my face, saying, ''Shantelle, shweety, how would you like if my shtep-shishter Shabrina comesh and collectsh ush both and we can pick up your gran too, and she'll drop ush all off at your dentisht. That way not sho much walking and I can come with you to give shupport at the dentishtsh, would that be okay ? Shabrina has passhed her full licshenshe now sho although she'sh only sheventeen and a half she'sh allowed to carry all of ush ash passhengersh in her car. She'sh been short of inshtructed by her mom to act ash my driver until I get back to being able to drive myshelf. She can't get here for one o'clock, more like half pasht one, how doesh that shound, shweety ?'' She stops speaking and I can tell she's nervous from the way her voice almost trails off.

It takes me like no seconds at all to start nodding my head furiously, and just the thought of Sarah wanting to come with me to the dentist is really putting another broad grinning smile across my face. With quite a little chuckle, I respond with, ''S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, y-yo-you c-ca-can t-te-tell h-he-her 'y-ye-yes, p-pl-plea-please', wh-wha-what a-a-a l-lo-love-lovely i-id-ide-idea, m-m-my s-sw-swee-sweet S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, a-an-and I-I-I'll c-ca-call g-gr-gra-gran s-so-so sh-she-she kn-kno-knows. W-We-We c-ca-can p-pi-pick h-he-her u-u-up a-at-at qu-qua-quar-quart-quarter t-to-to t-two-two. G-Gr-Grea-Great.'' I'm positively beaming, as I reach to my right where my phone should be next to my folded up cane on the nightstand top.

Meanwhile I hear Sarah talking back to her step-sister Sabrina, repeating the arrangements one more time, then a click tells me her call is done, so I press the button on the side of my phone to activete the narrator voice as I scroll to what I know will be the third number down after my mom's cell phone number and our apartment number, I hear the metallic voice say, 'gran' and I press the 'call now' switch and in a couple of rings I hear my lovely gran's voice again, saying, ''Hello, Sshhanthelle isshh thath you sshhweethy, how isshh yourw poorw shorwe mouth, isshh ith sshhthill botherwing you, sshhweethy ?'' Awww, my thoughtful and very toothless gran.

I repond to gran with my sweetest voice, stuttering, ''Y-Ye-Yes g-gr-gra-gran s-st-sti-still s-so-sore m-mou-mouth b-bu-but h-ha-hav-having g-gr-grea-great b-bi-bir-birth-birthday f-fu-fun. W-We-We're g-ge-get-getting a-a-a l-li-lif-lift t-to-to th-the-the d-de-den-dent-denti-dentist s-so-so I-I-I'm g-go-going t-to-to c-co-col-collec-collect y-yo-you a-at-at q-qua-quar-quart-quarter t-to-to t-t-two o-ok-okay ?'' I manage to spit out my message as quickly as my stammering will allow. Gran's great, though, she knows to be quiet and let me stutter out my news. Awwww.

I can hear her cheery voice coming back with, ''Sshhanthelle, sshhweethy, thath sshhoundsshh grweath, I'll be rweady tho leave at quarwtherw tho thwo, bye, sshhweethy.'' Then all goes quiet, she's
clicked off, bless her. I turn with a big smile towards where I know Sarah is still sitting, after all I'm still astride her thighs.

I stutter out, ''Th-Tha-Than-Thank-Thankyou S-Sa-Sar-Sarah, s-sw-swee-sweet-sweety, l-lo-lov-love y-yo-you t-to-to c-co-come w-wi-with m-me-me t-to-to th-the-the d-de-den-dent-dentist, th-tha-thanx. N-No-Now, w-w-we g-go-got p-pl-ple-plen-plent-plenty o-of-of t-ti-time f-fo-for y-yo-you t-to-to t-te-tell m-me-me a-all-all th-the-these m-my-mys-myst-myster-mysteri-mysterious s-se-sec-secret-secrets th-tha-that a-ar-are w-we-weigh-weighing o-on-on y-you-your m-mi-min-mind m-my-my l-lo-lov-lovely b-be-bes-best f-fr-frie-frien-friend ?''

Once more I feel Sarah beginning to get emotional, and she continues before I can offer her comforting words, ''Shantelle, shweety, I jusht had an idea. Pleashe, if you would like to ushe your wonderful shenshitive finger tipsh to feel my glasshesh, I'd like that, and when you finish, can you pleashe help me get all of thish off my chesht and out in the open at lasht ? Can you maybe touch my earsh and give them a good exshamination, ash only you with thoshe shoft fingersh can ? I'm hopelessh with wordsh, sho maybe you can make up for my deficiencshiesh by your marvelloush shenshe of touch. Oh, shweety, I'm shorry, really shorry, I'm sho hopelessh I know.''

Well, it all falls silent again, but this time I can hear only breathing, not any sobs or sighs, so maybe she might be cheering up. I'm not at all sure what Sarah is wanting out of all of this, but I know
myself that I just adore running my finger tips over any bits of her lovely body, searching out every little thing that I still don't know about my wonderful new best friend. So, whatever, I'm game. Here goes...

I reach out both my hands towards the sides of where Sarah's sweet face must be. Almost immediately my fingers contact her facebows on her braces headgear. I shudder for a moment as I touch the metallic wiring that seems to encircle her sweet face. I'm thinking how awful for my poor Sarah, yet she seems to be managing okay and so if she can, I'm not about to make things worse by showing any signs of pity. I'm fingering both upper facebows, as I feel how they curve upwards towards the middle of her cheeks, where the bows seem to end with hooks fastened through loops in short plastic strips which then divide into the three headstraps. I follow the middle straps, hoping they'll guide my fingers to the wings of her glasses, between her ears and her eyes. I'm not
wrong,and sure enough I'm touching the thin and flat, maybe metallic, side wings on her glasses. So, I run my finger tips in towards her nose and eyes area, where I soon encounter the rounded shapes of the actual lenses of her glasses, not round like some or oval shaped like my tinted sun glasses, rather sort of oblong shaped. My fingers meet at her nose, where I feel the bridge bit with the two little sloping rests which actually sit on her nose. So far, so good, nothing weird at all, so what next ?

My hesitation to move any further, leads to Sarah's next comment, coming in a very quiet, almost little girly squeak, as she says, ''Shantelle, my shweet, thankyou, I know you've felt it all, and really taken in my glasshesh and their shape. Theshe are my normal, closhe up shpecsh, that I wear at shchool with you and in fact all the time at the moment, cosh I'm not driving at preshent with my injured arm. My driving glasshesh are a quite different shape, by the way, like great big ovalsh, but they are at home. Now, pleashe, the nexsht bit hash been sho hard for me to get the wordsh out, sho pleashe help by feeling all the way back along the wingsh of my glasshesh, and around my earsh, pleashe shweety ?''

So, with a bit of a lump forming in my throat, I move my finger tips back along the lens areas then the side wings of her glasses, heading towards her ears and where I imagine the glasses will curve around behind her ear lobes. Oh, my goodness...