Carrying On The Walchek Name

Tina dropped her books onto her bed then plopped down next to them, kicking her shoes off and leaning back, letting out a deep, angst ridden sigh. Her roommate, Amber Ginney, peeked over top of the biology book that she had been reading, eyeing Tina with mild interest. She knew Tina well enough after two years together to tell when there was something that she wanted to talk about, but wasn't too sure how to bring up.

Half the time, Amber wished that she hadn't brought it up, Tina's problem usually something trivial—by Amber's standards—and time wasting. Tina might be one of those "gifted" individuals to whom learning came easy and naturally, but Amber wasn't. While Tina seemed to breeze through all of her classes, appearing to hardly ever touch a text book, Amber had to work hard at getting her academic marks, and she detested the times that Tina side tracked her from her studies.

On the other hand, there was the fact that Tina was her best friend, and had been ever since they started collage three years ago. The two had hit it off so well that in their second year they had arranged to be roommates, and had continued that trait on to this year. Tina often helped Amber with her more difficult assignments and had, even though Amber wasn't that socially conscious, managed to arrange the occasional date for her.

Amber really didn't have much of a choice.

"What's wrong, Tina?" Amber finally asked, lowering her book.

"That," replied Tina, pointing to the small package that was setting next to the computer that they shared. Amber had noticed the package when she had gotten back to their room, but, like the polite roommate and trusted friend that she was, she had left it setting untouched and unexamined. "It's from my Nana and Papa."

"Okay," said Amber, drawing the word out and forcing an exaggerated look of confusion. "What's so wrong with that?"

"You don't understand," said Tina, rising from her bed and trudging over to the computer desk. "They hate me. They always have."

"Your grandparents hate you?" asked Amber in disbelief.

"Well, mostly Papa, but I could tell that Nana was forcing herself to be nice to me. And it got worse after my parents died, when I had to go live with them. God, but was I glad to turn eighteen and head off to collage."

Amber was listening intently now, anxious to learn more of her friend's past, a past that Tina had always been reluctant to talk about. Oh, she had told Amber that her parents had died about ten years ago, in a car wreck, but she had never talked about who she had lived with after that, always changing the subject or ignoring Amber's questions completely.

Come to think of it, Amber realized that she had never known Tina to receive any 'personal' mail, and never any thing from these mysterious grandparents. Maybe Tina's claim that her grandparents hated her wasn't as far fetched as it sounded—though Amber couldn't really conceive of the notion that any grandparent could hate their grandchild.

"Papa and Nana came from the 'Old Country'," continued Tina, "where ever that was. I remember being a little girl and hearing Papa rant and yell at my parents about how they needed to have another child, a little boy to carry on the Walchek name."

"Your grandparents hated you because you were a girl?"

"Not at first. They loved me, but they wanted a grandson, and I could tell that I wasn't quite good enough for them. It was after mom and dad died that they really changed. Papa was the worse, always yelling at me and chewing me out for not being a boy, for letting the family name die."

"That's just crazy," commented Amber, soaking up Tina's story. "I suppose that they opposed the idea of you maybe having a baby and keeping your name, too."

"You are so wrong," said Tina, picking up the package and slowly turning it over in her hands. It was small, about the size of watch box, wrapped in plain, brown paper. "Papa practically begged me to go out and get pregnant."

Amber's eyes went wide at that statement.

"He kept showing me news paper articles about the increasing teen pregnancy rate, and about unwed mothers, and how it was all spiraling out of control. He wanted to know why I wasn't like any of the girls in the stories. Why I wouldn't give them a great-grand son, one that could carry on our family name."

"Talk about a tradition contradiction."

"Yeah," said Tina, slowly unwrapping the package. "Try to say that five times fast."

The brown wrapper gave way to white notebook paper, an apparent note, and Tina unraveled it from the small, felt box that it was wrapped around.

"What's it say? What's it say?" demanded Amber, growing anxious to find out why Tina's grandparents had contacted her for the first time in the three years that she had known her.

"It's from Nana," stated Tina, skimming over the note. "It says 'Dear Tina, I am so sorry for the way that I let your Papa treat you. Ancestry, and lineage are so very important to us and our people, and he could not let the old ways go so easily. Please find it in your heart to forgive us, your only living relatives, and accept this small gift of our love for you, in recognition of your twenty-first birthday. I know that you are studying to become a doctor, so I hope that you enjoy this. Love, Nana.'"

"Open it," blurted Amber, rising from her own bed to practically bounce over to Tina. "I want to see what it is."

Tina popped open the felt box to reveal a small, golden pendant inside of it, patterned in the shape of a nude man standing spread eagle in the center of a circle.

"Wow," whispered Amber, taking in the sparkling beauty of the pendant. "That looks like real gold."

"I think it is," said Tina, feeling the weight of the pendant.

"They must really have come to their senses," admonished Amber, watching with admiration as Tina put the pendant on, wishing that her grandparents would give her a gift that spectacular.

"I can't believe Nana would do this," professed Tina, admiring the pendant in the mirror. "Or that Papa would let her. They've never given me anything that I didn't absolutely need."

"Are we going out tonight, to celebrate your birthday?" wondered Amber, looking forward to a little partying for a change. "You can show it off to everyone."

"Nah, not tonight," said Tina, shaking her head. "My birthday's not till tomorrow, and tomorrow night's when we'll celebrate it. Besides, I've got a couple of reports to finish up tonight."

"Are you at least going to call them and thank them?"

"Can't," said Tina, turning to gather up her books so she could start on her assignments. "When I said that they believed in the 'old ways', I ment it. They don't have a phone."

"Oh," was all Amber could think of to say in response.

The rest of the night was spent working on papers, both required and extra credit, and was only interrupted by a dinner break that consisted of pizza and soda. The two girls worked diligently on their studies, as they always did during the week, finally turning in around eleven.

Tina had not slept so deeply in a long time, at least not that she could remember since her parents had died, but it was not an easy sleep. Visions of her grandfather kept slipping into her dreams, his aged face looking at her with a contemptuous smile that reminded her of the old saying of 'the cat that ate the canary'.

The respect and admiration that he was showing her in her dreams was a false one, at least to her, because it was not one that she had earned. It was instead, one that he had forced onto her, on his terms. It was a vile, evil feeling, and when she woke the next day, though she felt rested, she also felt completely out of herself.

Slapping the alarm clock off, silencing its incessant droning, Tina struggled out of bed, trying very hard not to wake Amber. They switched off their days of who would get up and make use of the facilities first, and today it was Tina's turn, giving Amber and extra half hour to sleep.

Sleepy eyed and feeling strangely awkward, Tina trudged into the bathroom to begin her morning ritual of starting the day, examining herself in the mirror. Her eyes popped open wide at what she saw reflected in the mirror, and she let loose with a blood curdling scream that not only woke Amber, but nearly everyone else on the floor.

The Next Day…

"Father! Father, come here!" cried Nana Walchek, standing at the open front door of their small house.

Paul Walchek ambled into the small foyer that was their entrance way, halting as his gaze fell on the person standing on the front porch of their house. He knew the eyes, the hair, the face, and the very essence of the person, and he smiled broadly in recognition.

"Is it not wonderful, father?" asked Nana Walchek, beaming with pride. "I told you that I still had the magic."

"Yes, Mama, you did," said Papa, his voice nearly choked with joy.

"Well, I've got some bad news for the both of you," growled the young man standing on the porch. "You might have changed my body, but I'm still me. I'm still Tina!"

"Nonsense," said Nana, waving her hand as if it were a ridiculous thought. "I would say that now, you are a Tim!"

Nana and Papa Walchek both began chuckling at that statement, their dreams of finally having a grandson fulfilled.

"You can laugh all you want," admonished Tina, crossing his arms and looking at them smugly. "I'm still Tina, and I don't think you realize what that means."

"It means that you can get married to a nice girl, and give us plenty of great-grand children, and that our name can carry on for a long, long time to come," boasted Papa Walchek, raising a pointed finger into the air.

"Papa. Hello. Tina. I'm still a girl, no matter what you twisted fucks have done to me…"

"You don't talk that way to your Papa," chastised Nana.

"…and that still means only one thing."

Papa and Nana both fell nearly silent, softly chuckling, thinking that nothing could destroy their dreams now.

"And that is…" said Tina, drawing out the moment in anticipation as to the looks that would come across their faces. "…that I still like boys."

If Tina could think of one word to describe the expressions on her grandparent's faces, it would be…priceless.

"Now," snarled Tina, after enjoying their shocked expressions for a few moments, "do you want to fix this, or would you like to meet my boyfriend, Paul?"