A Proper Young Lady
Publication date: December 18th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance
A woman with the complete form of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome might never discover that she has testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus. Danièle knows, and she grieves that she can never have her own children. She has a partial form of AIS that left her with ambiguous genitals,
a steady stream of doctors and psychologists, and parents determined to see her happy as a girl.
After Danièle’s best friend and childhood crush agrees to have a baby for her, Danièle learns that the clinic can extract sperm from her own gonadal biopsies, and she becomes the father of Melanie’s baby herself.
Ethan adores the graceful young woman named Danièle, while Melanie imagines a life with the father of her child. Danièle? She’s happy with her intersex body—somewhere between princess and little boy. But in a black and white world, she must choose—once and for all—who she will be. And whom she will love.
Find Confessions by Lianne Simon here!
From the bay window, I watch the sun set. When blue sky turns red and purple, I punch in my sister’s number. If my mother’s sick, I don’t wanna know. But I gotta find out.
Beatrice picks up. “Melanie?”
“Yeah. Mom there?”
A minute passes as a couple of chipmunks gather some of the fallen acorns in the fading light. My imagination keeps wandering out into the garden, expecting to see the father of my child come walking up the path. Ethan—the dude had better be some kinda special.
“Are you settled in?” My mother’s voice sounds chipper, like maybe she’s okay after all.
“Hi, Mom. Yeah, I’m unpacked. You sure about this check?”
“Would I have given you your inheritance if I didn’t trust you?”
“No. Guess not.”
“Well then. Ask Danièle to help you invest the money. All right?”
“Yeah. Sure. You okay, Mom?”
“I’m fine, honey.” One of my sister’s kids squalls in the background. “I’d better go. I promised Beatrice I’d entertain the boys.”
“I love you, Mom.”
I toss the phone on the bed and lean back against the window frame. My life’s here now. With Dani. The image of us standing in front of my mother’s grave sends a creepy chill down my back. Yeah. Maybe forever. Might as well be married.
I brush a hand across my abdomen. Not much there yet. Did I really go through IVF and get myself pregnant for the girl?
Well, yeah. I promised to have a baby when we were old enough.
Not for Dani, though. Not her.
As a kid, I wanted my own little one so bad that my best forever friend pretended to be a boy so she could be the father. When the doctors told Dani she couldn’t bear children, I promised to have one.
For Daniel. His baby.
Well, it made sense at the time.
I shake my head and force my gaze back out the window. Moonlight has turned the garden into a wonderland of silver and midnight blue. A breeze sends ripples across the pond’s reflected stars. Jet black trees sway to some silent beat, waving their arms above it all.
Sometime later, a fat drop of water spatters against the window and down the pane. Others join in, till a steady chorus patters syncopation on the metal roof, till my eyelids succumb to the reassuring music.
Despair chases me through the manor. I flee to Mum’s garden—the one place no one will bother me. Not at night, anyway. The cold silence envelopes me while I wait for my eyes to adjust.
The wind picks up as I walk the stone pathway around the pond to the grove. In the west lies darkness. Far above, the first clouds of a storm front struggle against the bright glow of a full moon.
Beams of soft light dance along the garden pathways, a slow waltz of shifting grey and blue shadows. Only the great trees remain forever black, their silhouette arms swaying in time to the quiet beat of the cold wind.
On the far side of the garden, beneath the ancient walnut tree, my bench awaits. The bare branches of a weeping willow—once my childhood friend—urge me away, but I duck beneath their grasping arms and push on through dormant maiden grass to take a seat.
The moon—obscured now and then by storm-driven clouds—hangs above the garden and casts a dim reflection across the water. In the distance, Victoria Springs Manor sleeps in quiet contentment.
My heart yearns for Melanie. For her gentle touch. Her winsome smile.
The rain begins as an occasional splash in the pond and builds to a steady rustle in the treetops. The music it makes brings me a measure of peace.
Drops filter through the branches and plop on my skirt. Run down my leg. Patter against my cheek. I lean my head against the trunk and let my mind drift.
By the time I open my eyes again, the clouds have dispersed, leaving behind a sprinkling of diamonds across the heavens. God promised Abraham his descendants would outnumber the stars. Two children would have been sufficient for me, but even they have fallen from the sky.
“Danièle?” My mother’s voice drifts across the darkness.
A deep sigh shudders out before I answer. “I’m out here, Mum.”
When we first moved to Virginia, the limbs of the old walnut were my place of refuge from an often cruel world. Proper young ladies don’t climb trees, though, so I sit on the bench below. Only my mother would think to look out here for me now.
“I’d like a word with you before you retire.”
“All right, Mum. I’ll join you in a moment.” One more glance at the stars, and I head back to the house.
We often gather in the kitchen for snacks and informal conversation. Only silence greets me there.
More serious mother-daughter chats concerning etiquette, fashion, and romance we hold in Mum’s inner sanctum—her sitting room. With patience and a pleasant smile, Mum taught Miss Danièle Aileana Welles poise and manners there. Acid bubbles in my stomach when I find it dark and lonely.
After a wistful glance at the place associated with so many fond memories, I head downstairs again.
Before I convinced Mum I wanted to be a refined young woman, we met in the den. The massive stone fireplace, the animal trophies, the antique sporting equipment—the room at one time fascinated me. Finding Mum waiting there strikes like a willow branch across my back side.
She glances up at me and looks away. “You know your condition was inherited.”
“Yes, Mum.” I sit in the high-back chair across from her and pull my legs up under me.
A distant pain flows from her eyes. “I had an older sister once—Veronica.”
I never considered the familial aspect of my condition. Mum’s an only child—or so I thought. My heart throbs in my throat as I wait for her to continue.
“The doctors performed surgery on her when she was an infant. Making her genitals more feminine was supposed to fix everything. She was never to know, and they said that if her family never doubted her gender, she wouldn’t either.”
Surgery, secrecy, and shame—the pillars of intersex treatment since the early 1950s—and a miserable failure. You can’t hide that sort of thing from a child.
Mum’s eyes bore deep into my soul. “She never quite fit in as a girl. Veronica was your age when she took her life.” Something I’ve never seen in Mum’s eyes appears then—fear.
You’re terrified I’ll do the same. “That’s why you wouldn’t let them operate on me.”
“And why we never pressure you about your gender.”
True—they always said the choice between blue and pink belonged to me. But their joy grew at my success as a young lady and withered the few times I mentioned being a boy. Only Melanie ever liked the idea of my being Daniel.
“Veronica fell in love toward the end—a rather scandalous affair, at least in the eyes of our parents.”
“So you moved back to England.”
“Yes.” Mum studies my face for a moment before continuing. “You know how proud we are of you, Danièle, but if you ever decide to be our son instead of our daughter, your father and I will support you. Even now.”
What if I just want to be me? “Thanks, Mum. I’m well content with my gender.” I rise and kiss her on the cheek. “I’d better pack for school.” And call Melanie.
“Don’t worry about Miss Fairbairn, sweetheart. Randolph will see to her expenses until someone adopts the babies.”
“They’re my children, Mum, and I don’t intend to abandon them. Or her.” I leave before she can object and rush outside into the moonlight. To my safe haven under the ancient oak.
I hope for some word from Melanie—a text or an email. I click on her number, but my call goes directly to voice-mail.
I wait. And dial again. Until the battery fades, and I’m left alone in darkness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lianne Simon’s father was a dairy farmer and an engineer, her mother a nurse. She grew up in a home filled with love and good books.
Tiny and frail, Lianne struggled physically, but excelled at her studies. In 1970, she was awarded a scholarship to the University of Miami, from which she graduated in 1973. Fond memories of her time there remain with her.
Some years later, after living in several states, and spending time abroad, Lianne settled in to the suburbs north of Atlanta, where she now lives with her husband and their cat.
While seeking answers to her own genetic anomalies, Lianne met a family whose daughter was born with one testis and one ovary. As a result of that encounter, she spent more than a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of such children.
Lianne hopes that writing this book will, in some small way, contribute to the welfare of children born between the sexes.