Going through “the change” isn’t easy on any woman. Mood swings, hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, and itchy skin are par for the course. But for these four seemingly unrelated women, menopause brought changes none of them had ever anticipated–super-heroic changes.
Helen discovers a spark within that reignites her fire. Jessica finds that her mood is lighter, and so is her body. Patricia always had a tough hide, but now even bullets bounce off her. Linda doesn’t have trouble opening the pickle jar anymore…now that she’s a man.
When events throw the women together, they find out that they have more in common than they knew–one person has touched all their lives. The hunt for answers is on.
Targeted Age Group:: adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book started with a conversation with my husband about the relationship between hormones and superpowers in comic books. I said that if hormones caused superpowers, menopausal women would be the most powerful people on the planet. He said I should write that down. And a book was born.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Though the women grew and changed on me while I was writing, each just sort of sprang into my mind and revealed herself when I began writing.
CHAPTER ONE: Things Get Hairy for Linda
Linda Alvarez had just been to the beauty salon yesterday, but all those weird hairs were back, like they’d never been tweezed and waxed away. She had eyebrows like Frida Kahlo Por Díos, and practically a five o’clock shadow. Thank God David had already left for work. She’d have time to take care of it before he got home.
David had been her rock through all this menopause garbage. He’d fetched blankets and brought her ice as she changed temperature four and five times in an evening. He hadn’t complained about the extra money she was spending at the beauty shop or commented on the way her body seemed to be shifting around her, reshaping into something else entirely. Something much thicker around the middle than she had ever been before, Linda thought ruefully. She was lucky to have him, she knew.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t just the hair today. She looked really different. There was something different about her jawline, and her favorite pink T-shirt hung oddly on her, like it was too tight in the shoulders all of a sudden and didn’t quite reach her waist. Had it shrunk in the wash? She hadn’t changed anything about the way she’d been washing it.
She grabbed the new bar of soap she’d picked up at the farmer’s market last weekend. She’d bought it from the daughter of her old neighbor. Ms. Liu moved into the old house after her mother had died. Linda had been meaning to bring her a welcome package of some sort, but Cindy kept strange hours, and Linda had not yet caught her at home.
Despite living down the street from the older Mrs. Liu all these years, and spending a fair amount of time visiting the old lady, Linda had only rarely seen the daughter. She had been using Cindy’s teas and lotions for years, though. Cindy’s mother had kept a booth for her in the local market and would hawk her daughter’s products and fill the buyer’s ear with praise of her brilliant child.
Cindy worked the booth herself whenever she was in town. Linda wasn’t sure if she liked the younger Ms. Liu. She had a gruffness to her and didn’t seem to understand how to talk to customers. But she did like the things the woman made. Whether it was psychosomatic or not, those products worked. Her cramps went away, her blemishes cleared up, her mood lightened. Ms. Liu was a genius.
The new soap was called “Nu Yu.” It had a picture of a woman drawn in lines out of calligraphy on the wrapper. The woman’s legs were impossibly long, and her stride was the length of the wrapper. Ms. Liu had said it would let the inner person shine through. Linda assumed that was just a New Age spin to sell to the hippies who came to the market, a play on the idea of inner beauty, something like that.
Whatever. Even if it had a silly name, the soap was just as wonderful as all of Ms. Liu’s other products. It smelled marvelous and made Linda’s skin tingle. She wondered what was in it that made her feel so alive when she used it. She unwrapped the new bar and reached into the now-steaming shower to set it in the soap dish atop the little remnant of the previous bar.
Linda peeled off her clothes with some difficulty. They seemed to cling to her tightly. She dropped the poor maligned pink shirt on the floor and stepped into the shower. She’d start by getting good and clean and exfoliated, and then she’d figure out what to do about her crazy hormone hairs.
Her grandmother had suffered from the same problem, she knew. When she got too old to take care of it herself, Linda used to come by the assisted living place and wax her upper lip on Saturdays, so she would look her best for church on Sundays. Linda tried to remember how old her Abuelita had been when she started having the mustache problem, but she couldn’t remember. Probably Abuelita had suffered with it for a long time, and Linda only found out about it when she needed help to take care of it. Maybe she had only been forty-eight, too. Luckily, there were products for that.
Linda rolled her neck and let the water wash over her, grateful for the warmth and the white noise effect of the water beating against the tiled walls. It was easy to let her worries fade when she was in the shower. She stretched out her arms above her head and ran the new bar of soap over her arms and into the armpits—hairy, again, of course. Really hairy! Caracoles! She was sure she had shaved just yesterday.
She grabbed onto the top ledge of the tile wall for balance, surprised to find out she could reach it easily, and grabbed the pink Daisy razor out of the little hanging basket just outside the tub area. If she was going to keep growing hair this quickly, maybe she’d need to check into some electrolysis or something. The peluquería was good with waxes and such, but she was going to need a more permanent solution. When she stood again, after shaving her legs, she knocked her head into the shower spigot. Weird. Maybe David had left it set lower than usual?
A few quick strokes and her pits felt smooth again. Linda rinsed out the razor, grimacing at the amount of dark hair swirling around the drain. Even her feet looked strange to her today, more spread out. She thought that only happened in pregnancy. Or maybe it was time to see the eye doctor. She might have to upgrade from her simple readers to bifocals or something.
Turning her back against the warm stream of water, Linda ran the bar across her upper chest and shoulders. It felt so smooth and hard. So did her torso. Maybe her time on the treadmill was paying off. When she ran her hand up around her breasts, she gasped a little. She’d never been a busty woman, but her breasts seemed to have all but disappeared. Surely, this wasn’t more cambio de vida. She’d never heard of anyone losing her breasts because of menopause. Maybe she should call the doctor and see if she could be seen this afternoon.
More tense now, Linda continued her washing. At least the soap felt good and moisturizing. It made nice creamy suds in her hands. There wasn’t any jiggle across her belly when she ran her soapy hand across it. Her belly hadn’t felt tight like that in a good fifteen years, not since the last baby, the one that had come by emergency C-section.
Then Linda dipped her hands lower to clean between her legs. Her eyes flew open. Something was definitely not right. It felt—it was just like—Linda looked down and screamed. There, resting against her thigh was, unmistakably, a penis.
CHAPTER TWO: Patricia and the 58 Year Itch
Patricia O’Neill pulled out her cell phone to check the time. She turned it over on the table before it could suck her into the barrage of e-mail and looming meeting reminders. She ran her hand up the back of her short, red hair, wondering vaguely if the new shade was too vibrant for her skin. She had always loved her red hair and wouldn’t let a little thing like going gray keep her from it. But she also seemed to keep getting paler the older she got, like pigmentation was only for young people. Her stylist seemed to think she could pull it off. Patricia hoped she was right.
Cindy was late again. Cindy Liu could never seem to understand that not everyone had endless free time. Ever since she had retired, she had been wholly unreliable. Still, it was going to be nice to see her. Patricia wasn’t having an especially good day, and lunch with an old friend might be just the thing to turn the day around.
Patricia tucked her phone back into her Louis Vuitton bag and gestured to the waiter for additional coffee.
As he poured, the young man complimented her on her hair. “It’s good to see an older woman with some style!” he said.
Patricia looked the boy over. Facial piercings, sarcastic T-shirt, and a sleeve tattoo. She wasn’t sure it was a good thing that he liked her hair, but she decided to be gracious and thanked him, even though he’d just called her old.
“I think I’ll go ahead and order. My friend is obviously late.”
Setting the pot on the table, the waiter obediently pulled out a small notepad and stood, pencil poised. That was when Cindy finally arrived.
“Oh good, you got some coffee!” She slid into the other side of the booth, took Patricia’s coffee cup from the middle of the table, and began loading it up with sugar. “Can you bring some more cream, please?” She poured the remaining three plastic tubs from the bowl into the mug.
“And a fresh mug for me,” said Patricia.
Patricia crossed her arms and glared at her friend who was still busy doctoring the sugar level in her coffee. She noted that Cindy had started dying her hair as well. The streaks of gray she’d been letting grow were gone. “How can you even drink it with all that crap in it?”
Cindy laughed. “Well, I don’t actually like coffee. It’s just a vehicle for cream and sugar as far as I’m concerned.”
Patricia shook her head. “They have tea, you know.”
Cindy made a face. “They do serve something they call tea.” She shuddered, gripping Patricia’s hand in mock terror. “It comes in bags!”
Patricia had to laugh at the dramatic show. “It’s good to see you, Cindy. Even if you are late.”
“I’d say my timing was pretty good. You already had a table, coffee, and a menu. Besides, you’re the boss, aren’t you? Who’s going to complain if you are late returning from lunch? One of the privileges of old age, I guess.”
“Old schmold. Speak for yourself old-timer.”
Just then, the waiter stepped up, serving Patricia her fresh cup of coffee and setting a new bowl of creamers between them. The women quickly made their selections, and he scuttled off.
“Do you remember the good old days, when we used to go to Jerry’s late at night and share hot fudge cake?” Cindy asked, reaching for another creamer.
“Good old days?” Patricia snorted. “You mean when we dug through all the couch cushions in the lounges to find the two dollars we needed to buy one? You can keep those kind of good old days. I’ll take these days, thank you.” She paused, looking thoughtful. “Unless, of course, I can have my old metabolism back, too. I swear I have to buy new suits every time I miss a workout.”
Patricia and Cindy had been friends for decades. They met when they drew each other in the freshman lottery for dormitories. They were an unlikely match. Patricia was a field hockey player from Illinois, known as The Amazon, for her height, strength, and attitude toward men. Cindy was a five foot tall Chinese-American girl from Springfield, working on her second bachelor’s degree. They may have looked odd standing side by side, but Patricia and Cindy understood one another.
Patricia hadn’t known many people in her life who understood her. She was thrilled that, after all these years, her best friend would be living in the same city she did. Until recently, they’d seen one another only a few times a year, whenever Cindy came to visit her mother or Patricia could travel to wherever Cindy was. When Cindy inherited her mother’s house, she announced that she would build her own laboratory in the basement and move to Springfield. Now that the renovations were finished and the lab was ready, they’d be able to see each other regularly.
“Tell me about your new lab,” Patricia said before picking up her sandwich and taking a big bite.
Cindy grinned around the bite of her salad, ignoring the bit of chicken that fell back onto the plate. She rhapsodized for ten minutes about the various sorts of machines she had purchased. She was especially pleased about an isolation chamber she had purchased from a company in Germany. It gave her complete environmental control, she said, down to the percentages of different gasses in the air.
Patricia didn’t really understand what such a device might be used for, but she understood loving the tools of your trade, and was pleased for her friend, who was finally getting to build a dream lab. She wished Cindy could have had it when she was younger and would have more time to use it. It didn’t seem fair to finally grasp your dreams as you were becoming too old to hold them for any length of time.
As Cindy continued describing her lab equipment in loving detail, Patricia had the thought her friend sounded like she was in love. She never spoke of other people with the same love and admiration that she spoke of her equipment. Not since Michael. Had it really been thirty years since Michael died? Odd that Cindy had never loved anyone else.
Not that she was one to talk. Patricia had never married, either. Then again, she’d never even been tempted. She thought men were pleasant enough company, in limited situations. She didn’t mind having one take her places from time to time, or even share her bed for a night or a weekend, but she certainly wasn’t interested in letting one into her life. The trade offs were not worth it.
The women ate in silence for a few bites, each pondering her own concerns. Patricia squirmed in her seat a little, rubbing her shoulder blades against the cushions of the booth. It didn’t really help with the itching but made her feel like she was doing something. Her skin had been a problem for a few months now.
She’d been to see her doctor, who said it was a form of eczema and gave her a useless cream to apply. Like she hadn’t been down the “sensitive skin” primrose path before. It came with the hair, apparently. That, and her temper problem. When she asked about a hormonal component, he had brushed her off, saying her skin condition had nothing to do with menopause. Her estrogen levels were still acceptable, and he didn’t feel they needed to start her on hormone therapy. Was she still taking her calcium supplements?
She was looking for another doctor now.
Patricia didn’t take it well when people tried to brush her off. Unfortunately, it was happening more now that she was nearly sixty. Everyone seemed to think she should retire. She’d overheard a conversation at work the other day about whether the old battle-axe was ever going to retire or if she’d just die at her desk. Her boss had recently suggested she take some more vacation time. He’d said she should enjoy life at her age. At her age, indeed. Like he was any younger, the pig.
“What’s wrong, Patricia? You’re as wiggly as a six-year-old girl.”
“It’s my back. I’ve got this skin thing going on.” She waved her hand dismissively.
“You should come visit me at my lab. I’m working on a cream that might help you.”
Patricia accepted the offer immediately. She was dying to see the new setup, anyway. “I can come tonight. How’s seven-thirty?”
CHAPTER THREE: Linda Floors Her Husband
Linda was bundled in blankets, hiding on the couch in a cave made of fleece and wool and cotton when her husband came home. She had cried the afternoon away.
“Qué pasa, mi amor?” David asked, sitting beside her and resting one hand on her arm, probably trying to guess where her shoulder was. His voice was soft and gentle, his tone kind. He was so patient.
But there were limits, she knew. How could she even begin to tell him what was wrong?
Linda pulled away when he moved to tug the blankets away from her face. “No!” she said, grimacing at the way her voice sounded. It was like she had swallowed a ball of cotton.
“Are you sick?”
“No, no, it’s the cambio de vida, the menopause.”
David tugged on the blanket hood Linda had constructed and peered inside to find her face, but she kept it shadowed. His large brown eyes were full of worry, but he didn’t ask any more, just sat patting her arm and waiting. Linda appreciated his silence. She rocked herself back and forth, letting silent tears fall down her cheeks and into her coverings.
After a few minutes passed with only the sound of Linda’s occasional hitching sobs, David stood and went into the bathroom. Linda nearly called out to him not to go in. She had not cleaned up the mess she had made. The shower curtain was torn from its hooks and hanging off kilter. All the sink bottles were still on the floor from when she had shoved them aside to get better access to the mirror. The mirror she had then broken in a sudden fit of rage, punching it just over the image of her own face. She’d been shocked at her own violence and even more shocked when her knuckles began to bleed. The first aid supplies were probably still spread across the sink and counter as well.
She was going to lose him. Her David. Her vida. This wasn’t just aging, a little sag, or another skin problem. It had been hard enough to talk to him about ordinary woman stuff. He was so old-fashioned. He thought of periods and childbirth and hormones as mysterious things just this side of magic. Things men were not meant to comprehend.
Linda had tugged him gently into this century in the thirty years of their marriage. When the children were school age, she took a part-time job at the school “to be there for our niñas.” When their daughters were old enough to date, she made him a part of the conversations about what good girls do and do not do. She had recently heard him echoing her comments about husbands and wives as partners to one of his coworkers. He had come so far! But this…
Her heart was breaking at the thought of David leaving when he found out she had become… whatever it was she had become. Was there a word for that? Una mariquita? A girl-man? She couldn’t help it. She sobbed aloud.
David came out of the bathroom and knelt in front of her, wordlessly holding out a washcloth still hot from the sink. He knew she found a hot cloth soothing when she was upset. She reached out a hand and took it from him, pulling it into the cave she had constructed from blankets.
She was nearly naked beneath. She couldn’t find any clothing that would fit her; her body had grown so huge. She was clad in a beach cover up that now only came to her hips and a pair of boxer shorts one of the girls had given David as a joke one Father’s Day. They were red with huge white hearts all over them.
When she continued to weep, David sat back down beside her and simply pulled her to him. She wrapped her arms around him, turning her face away from his so he couldn’t see her whiskers. He rubbed her back with the palm of his hand in a slow circle, cooing soothing sounds and loving words into her ear.
Twirling around, Linda suddenly grabbed David, pulled him to her, and kissed him. She knew it might be the last time she would ever get to. David murmured surprise, but soon was kissing her back. For just a moment, she felt normal, a wife loving her husband in their home and getting loved back.
Then she felt it—not a tingling, not exactly. More of a tension, but warm. Not a hot flash, more like a rush of warmth. And it was down there.
She pulled back from the kiss and threw herself to the other end of the couch, where she curled her body into a ball.
David reached for her, obviously confused. “Linda? Corazón?
Linda fumbled in the blankets to find the source of the warmth. What was going on? It was like a spring inside her had tightened. She gasped when she dared to put her hand into her pants—she knew exactly what this was. It was the thing that grew on her. The pinga. The manhood. And it was stiff.
David jumped up and rushed to her side. “Linda? Please, cariño, tell me what’s wrong? Do I need to call an ambulance?”
“They can’t help me. No one can help me.” She sobbed without restraint.
David took an angrier tone. “Linda. Tell me what is wrong.”
Linda sat up on the couch and let the covering fall back. David’s eyes widened.
“Can you still love me, David? Can you still love me if,” Linda stood, revealing the extent of her change, “if I am a man?”
David hit the floor, passed out cold.
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