Page 1 of 40
By Ellie Dauber
"Okay, what's the next round?" the Fonz asked the strange man in what looked like a silver foil jump suit. Fonzie, Arthur Fonzarelli, was a tall, rugged eighteen year old dressed, as always, in jeans, a white T-shirt, and his precious leather jacket. His face, as always looked confident, a smile on his lips and every hair "Perfect!"
Mork from Ork smiled. It had been a long time since he had been so strongly challenged. Who would have thought that such a backward little world would be the home of such a powerful hollitacker opponent? He raised his finger. "We destroy this building and all the beings within."
"No!" Fonzie yelled.
They were all in Arnold's Drive-In, his favorite hangout and the local gathering spot for teens from Jefferson High. The place had been full when Richie and Mork had walked in looking for him. Some of the kids were still probably in here someplace, hiding maybe, scared or hurt or both. But even if there was no one else in the building now, he couldn't destroy it. He couldn't do that to Al Delvecchio. Al was a friend as well as the owner of Arnold's.
"I won't do it. You wi...wi...you wi..." He could hardly get the word out.
Richie Cunningham was standing next to the Fonz. The tall, slim redheaded seventeen-year old said something he had never expected to say to anyone who fought Fonzie. "You win."
"Do you mean this?" Mork was suspicious.
"What he said." The Fonz hung his head. Defeat was something that happened to other people, not to him.
"Then we are done?" Mork smiled now. The contest was in its final phase.
"Yeah, sure." There was no way out. Fonzie had agreed to the rules at the start. He would go back to Ork - wherever that was - with this Mork guy.
"Very well," Mork said. "I initiate the space warp." Richie jumped back just in time as blue glow from Mork's finger engulfed the other two.
"Nnnooowww, wwweee gggooo." Mork was moving in slow motion, his voice sounding like a 78 record played at 45.
Fonzie turned just as slowly and started after him, his thumb raised in a sort of victory salute. "Aaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!"
Then, suddenly, Fonzie stopped. He slowly closed his eyes for a moment; then he formed his hands into fists. At normal speed. "I ain't going."
"Fonzie," Richie said in amazement. "You broke free."
"No being has ever broken the time warp." Mork seemed equally amazed. "Your victory is even more complete."
"You mean he won."
"Indeed. A hollitacker tests the heart of the warrior as well as the physical skill. Your champion was willing to sacrifice himself to keep other beings from harm."
"Then why did you say he lost?"
"Yeah, and why were you taking me away?"
"It was part of the test. Would the champion change its mind at the prospect of exile from its own world for a full bleem? That's a thousand of your years, you will remember."
"I knew that."
"You were willing to go. Indeed, you raised your lorznap in victory salute as we left." Mork paused. "Then _you_ broke free. You are indeed a champion."
"Ay...I'm the Fonz!"
"Then you'll leave us - leave the Earth in peace," Richie still wasn't sure about this weird guy.
"Yes, but so powerful a champion cannot be allowed to exist outside of Ork." He suddenly raised his finger and fired what looked like a ball of red energy at Fonzie. The ball hit and surrounded the Fonz for a moment. Then it seemed to shrink down into his body. Fonzie staggered and fell to the ground.
"You killed him." Richie lunged towards Mork who teleported to a booth about ten feet away.
"No, I merely neutralized it. It will live." Mork pointed at Fonzie. "See, even now, it moves."
Richie looked. Fonzie was rolling over as if he wanted to stand up. He seemed very weak.
"I leave you Earth beings to each other." Mork glowed for an instant, then disappeared.
Richie ran over to the Fonz. "Fonzie, are you all right?"
"Is he gone?" Fonzie was on his hands and knees now.
"Yeah, Fonz, I think he is."
Fonzie grabbed onto a table and tried to stand. He didn't seem to have the energy to pull himself up. "Then get me out of here before anybody sees me like this."
Richie looked around. Al's was empty. The others who had been in the place when he and Mork arrived, Ralph, Chachi, Potzie, even Al himself, had fled. Richie helped the Fonz to his feet. He was still very unsteady. Richie had the Fonz put an arm over his shoulder and lean against him. He helped Fonzie into his car, the only one still in Al's lot, and drove home.
Fonzie's apartment was over the garage next to Richie's house. The street was dark, and the car hid them as he helped Fonzie out of the passenger seat. They took the steps one at a time, stopping several times so one or the other could rest. Richie was fairly strong, but Fonzie was almost dead weight. His body felt hot as well, as if he had a fever.
When they got to the door, Fonzie pulled his key out of his leather jacket pocket. Richie helped Fonzie off with his jacket once they were inside. Fonzie was pale, and his T-shirt was soaked with sweat. Richie opened up the sofa bed and laid Fonzie on it. He pulled off his friend's boots and set them on the floor near the bed.
"Are you going to be okay, Fonz? Do you want me to stay here a while, or call a doctor or anything?"
"I'm fine, Cunningham. You go to bed. I'll be all right in the morning."
"You sure you don't want a doctor?"
"A doctor? Yeah. I just tell him I won a hollitacker, and this little silver guy hit me with a fireball he shot from his finger. You want some doctor to think I'm nuts?"
"Go to bed, Cunningha...Richie. I'll be fine." He wasn't sure that he believed what he was saying, but he was the Fonz. It had to be true. Besides, the last thing he needed was for the word to get out that the Fonz was sick. There were people that would be only too happy to hear that he was too weak to defend himself.
Richie wasn't sure that what Fonzie said was true, but he knew better than to argue with him. "Okay, Fonz. I'll see you in the morning." He walked to the door, then turned back to look at his friend. "And, Fonzie...thanks."
"Will you go already and let me get some sleep?"
Marian Cunningham had a worried look on her face as she came back into the kitchen. She was holding a tray in her hands. "Richie, are sure that Arthur just has a bad cold?"
Richie looked up from his lunch. "Yeah, Mom, why?"
"I was just upstairs to take him some chicken soup. He said that he was feeling all right, but his voice was so weak. It looks like he's lost a lot of weight, too. He seemed so skinny."
Marian was a still attractive woman in her mid forties, her once fiery red hair tinged with a bit of gray. She still maintained the figure that she'd had at twenty-five to the delight and pride of her husband, Howard.
"Did he eat the soup?"
"I don't know. He asked me to leave it on the table, but he wouldn't get out of bed until I left."
"Maybe he wasn't dressed, and he didn't want you to see him in his underwear."
Marian smiled. She thought of Fonzie as another son, and she suspected that he felt the same about her. "Yes, that must be it. Arthur was embarrassed." She put the tray on the counter and nervously began to fix her own lunch.
Something deep inside her whispered that something was very, very wrong. Why did he look so thin, and his hair...usually every hair was in place - looking perfect. It had been a mass of tangles when she was upstairs, and it looked as if it had gotten much longer. Arthur must be very sick - or worse - to neglect his hair like that.
That night when Marian took Fonzie his supper, the door was locked.
"Arthur, are you there? I brought you some supper." She bent down and looked through the curtains that she had hung on the door a few months before. "Is there..." She thought that she saw a movement inside but the lights were out, and the shades on the windows drawn.
"Mrs. C?" the voice from inside was faint, hardly more than a whisper.
"Arthur, is that you? Are you all right?"
"I got a real bad headache. The, um, light hurts my eyes."
"You poor dear, can I get you anything?"
"No! Um, no, I - I'll be fine. Please, just leave the food. I'll get it in a minute."
"You're sure that you're all right?" She was beginning to worry. She had never heard of anyone being sick like this.
"I'm handling it. Thank you." Was that desperation in his voice? "Please, Mrs. C., just leave the food and go."
"Very well, but please, Arthur, call us if you need anything." Marian's maternal instinct told her that Fonzie was in serious trouble, but he had asked, pleaded almost, for privacy, and she decided to honor his request. Reluctantly, she set down the tray of food and walked down the steps.
Marian could see Fonzie's door from her kitchen window. As soon as she was inside the house, she sat on her kitchen counter and began watching.
A few minutes later, the door opened. A head covered in a blanket looked out. It looked left and right, as if trying to see whether anyone was watching. Satisfied that it was alone, the blanketed figure bent over and picked up the tray. It retreated back into the apartment and quickly closed the door behind.
"Spying on somebody, Mom?"
Marian jumped off the counter. It was her daughter. "Joanie, you scared me."
At fourteen, Joanie Cunningham was blossoming into early womanhood. She seemed to have inherited her mother's figure, including her height, but she had her father's dark hair. "So what were you doing on the counter anyway?"
"I just left a tray for Arthur, and I was watching to make sure that he got it."
"Somebody did, but the way he was covered with that blanket, I couldn't even tell if it was Arthur or not."
"Anybody seen the Fonz lately?" Ralph Malf called out as he walked into Arnold's later that same evening. Ralph was seventeen, a slightly stocky boy with red hair and a matching set of freckles. He wore his usual broad grin. "I got this great new joke to tell him."
"I think the alien got him," Potzie said, looking up from his burger. Potzie Weber was also seventeen, a quiet, good-looking boy with dark brown hair and a pleasant voice. His main problem was that he seldom thought before he used it.
Several of the kids turned in Potzie's direction. "What are you talking about, Potz?" Ralph asked.
"Don't you remember, Ralph? That weird guy Richie came in with the other night, the one you said was dressed like a TV-dinner."
A few kids came over to where Potzie was sitting, and they all began talking at once. "An alien," somebody said. "You mean like in that movie, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL?"
"That was the one with that robot that killed all those people."
"And somebody like that came in to Arnold's. Why would they do that?"
"In the movie, he was looking for our leaders, you know, the President, Congress, and like that."
"Fonzie! They came for Fonzie." Every female in Arnold's began to cry.
"Wait a minute," Ralph called out. He tried to put his arm around Sally McGruder's waist, but she pulled away. "Potzie and I were there that night. I know something happened. I just don't remember what."
"Sure you do, Ralph," Potzie said. "That alien made our clothes disappear."
"Potzie!" Ralph looked embarrassed. "You are such a Potzie. I don't remember that, but I know that something happened. We ran out, but Richie Cunningham stayed. We've got to talk to him." He grabbed for Potzie's arm and pulled him out of the booth.
The two boys left, but the other teens stayed and talked, the story getting worse with each re-telling. In a few hours, half of Milwaukee had heard about the army of disintegrator robots that had kidnapped the Fonz.
A few of the kids drove over from Arnold's to the Cunningham's. The lights were out in Fonzie's garage apartment, but more than one girl in the crowd could testify that no lights didn't necessarily mean no Fonzie.
One or two of the crowd stayed through the night watching for any sign of life. Many others came by in the early morning. When Marian Cunningham opened the kitchen door to get the milk, she found almost twenty teens sitting in her backyard staring up at Fonzie's apartment.
"What are all of you children doing here?"
Potzie looked up from where he was sitting with Amy Ross. "Waiting for Fonzie to come out, Mrs. C."
Marian hesitated. Richie had told her that Fonzie didn't want anybody to know that he was sick. "I'm not sure that he's up there, dear."
"The robots got him," somebody said, and a few of the girls began to cry again.
"Robots? Good heavens, dear, what are you talking about?"
A girl began to sob. "Ro-robots...came to...Arnold's. They - they t-took him...away w-with them."
"Or dis - dis - dis...inte...grated him," another added.
Marian kneeled and took both girls into her arms. "There, there, dear. I'm sure nothing like that happened.
"We're going to check," Potzie said. "That's why we're here, Mrs. C., but we don't want to bother him too early, but if we don't see him by 9 o'clock, we're going up to check."
Marian glanced at her watch, then up at the apartment. It was 7:45. She didn't know what was going to happen, but it would happen in the next hour and a half. Not knowing what to do, she went back into the house.
Her husband, Howard, was waiting in the kitchen. Howard was a short, chunky man with dark hair that had started to go to gray. "Marian, why are all those kids in the back yard?"
"They're waiting to see if Arthur was carried off by robots. Do you want pancakes or eggs for breakfast, Howard?"
"Pancakes - robots? Marian, what is going on out there?"
"They haven't seen Arthur for several days, and, somehow, they got the idea that some sort of robot took him away."
"Why didn't you just tell them that he's sick?"
"Because Richie said that Arthur didn't want anyone to know."
"So you let them believe that story about the robot? How can anybody believe something that crazy?"
"Well, he is the Fonz, Howard."
"I suppose so." He looked out the window. "Are they going to stay there all day just looking up at his apartment?"
"No, dear. At nine, they're going to up and knock on the door."
"Good! He'll answer. They'll be satisfied, and they'll go away."
Marian leaned over and flipped the pancakes she was cooking. "I hope so, dear. I really hope so."
At that moment the doorbell rang. "I'll get it, Mom," Richie called from the living room. A couple minutes later, he walked into the kitchen and handed an envelope to his father. "It's a telegram."
"I can see that, Richard." Howard used a kitchen knife as a letter opener. "It's from Fonzie. He's in Chicago."
"Chicago?" Richie said. "What's he doing there?"
"He doesn't say, just some sort of personal business. He says that he'll be there for a while, though. He doesn't know how long."
"I do hope he was up to a trip like that," Marian said. "He seemed so sick yesterday." Somehow, she had a feeling that there was something wrong about that telegram.
"Can I borrow it for a minute, Dad," Richie said. "I want to read it to the kids in the yard."
"That's a good idea, Richard." His father handed the boy the telegram. "Then, maybe they'll go away and leave us in peace."
Richie walked out into the yard. A moment later, the sounds of cheers could be heard in the kitchen. By the time Richie came back in for his breakfast, the yard was empty.
"Mom, Mom!" Joanie Cunningham ran into the kitchen.
Marian looked up from the pot roast she was preparing. "My goodness, what is it, dear?"
"There's somebody in Fonzie's apartment. I looked up as I came around the corner. I saw somebody standing in the window."
"Was it Arthur?"
"I couldn't tell. He was in shadows, and he backed away from the window as soon as he saw me." She glanced towards the kitchen door. "Do you think we should we call the police?"
"I don't think so, dear. Your father will be home in a half hour. You sit by the door and see if anyone comes out. If they do - and it's not Arthur - try to get a good look at him."
"Okay. Do you want Richie to watch, too?"
"He's not here, dear. He's at Arnold's. I'll call him to come home, but I'd just as soon wait for your father."
Howard and Richie arrive home within a few minutes of each other. Marian had called her husband, and he decided to close the hardware store early. "Anything new happen?" Howard asked as he came in through the kitchen door.
"No, dear. Joanie and I have both been watching."
"Yeah, Dad," Joanie added, "and there hasn't been a sign of anybody up there."
"Are you absolutely certain you saw someone?"
"I'm positive." Joanie thought of Fonzie as a sort of big brother. Nobody was going to mess with his place while she was around.
Howard got the spare apartment key from a drawer in his desk. "I suppose it won't hurt to check. C'mon, Richard."
"We're coming, too," Marian said firmly.
Howard knew that look in her eyes - and in Joanie's. He _might_ be able to talk them out of it, but it would take a very long time. "All right, but stay back behind Richard and me."
They went out back and climbed the stairs to the apartment. "Hello," he knocked. When his family looked at him, he explained that it might have been Fonzie that Joanie had seen.
There was no answer, so he used his key.
The apartment was dark with all the shades down. There was no sign of life, but Fonzie's leather jacket was hanging on the coat rack by the door.
'He'd never leave _that_ behind,' Marian thought. Now she was really worried.
They carefully searched the apartment. No one seemed to be there. They were about to leave when they heard a noise from the kitchenette. Fonzie had installed some shelves under the sink. They opened the door slowly and saw a face staring back at them.
"Get out of there," Howard said.
A young woman in her late teens climbed out. She was small, no more that 5'4", with long, dark brown hair and classic Mediterranean features. She was wearing an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of jeans with the cuffs rolled up several times. She wore neither shoes nor socks.
Even in clothes that were far too big, Richie could see that she seemed to have a great figure. A piece of rope worked as a belt to hold the jeans up to her narrow waist, and a large pair of breasts pushed out the front of the sweatshirt. She reminded Richie of one of those Italian starlets, Sophia...what was her name, the one in the dolphin movie, where she'd worn a wet T-shirt. He wished he could see this girl in something like that.
"Who are you?" Howard said. He held her firmly by the wrist to keep her from running for the door.
"And what have you done with the Fonz?" Richie demanded, not quite realizing what he had said. Joanie did realize and giggled softly, then stopped hoping her parents hadn't noticed.
The girl looked at them with a strange mixture of surprise and fear. She stammered for a moment, then said nothing.
Marian's maternal instinct took over. "Can't you see that you're frightening this poor girl? Joanie, get her a glass of water. Howard, you let go of her." She walked over and took the girl's arm. "Now you sit down, dear, and tell us what's going on."
The girl sat down on the couch. Joanie came back with the water and handed it to her. The girl drank a bit then set the glass down on the nearby table. She took a deep breath, as if bracing for the question she knew was coming.
"All right, now, dear," Marian said. "Can you tell us who you are or where Arthur is?"
"Yeah," Richie said. "Where's the Fonz?"
"I'm right here, Cunningham," the girl said softly.
"Yeah, I know but where's the Fonz?"
"I _am_ the Fonz."
"This..." the girl held her hand in front of her at the neck and moved them down to her waist. It was a very "Fonz"-like gesture. "This is what that Mork character meant when he said he was gonna 'neutralize' me. He turned me into a chick."
"Gowon! How could he possibly do something like that?"
"How could he do half the stuff he did in that hollitacker thing?"
"Yeah, but you - I mean, the Fonz matched him move for move."
"Hey! That's why _I'm_ the Fonz."
"Okay," Richie said. "Prove that you're the Fonz. What were we doing two Saturday nights ago?"
"_I_ was up at Lookout Point with Paula Petrolunga. You were there, too, with a blonde, Linda Alder, from your school." She leaned over and whispered something to Richie, whose face grew very red. "That's what you were doing. I can say it louder, but Shortcake will have to leave first."
"Why do I always have to leave the room when it starts to get interesting?" Joanie whined.
"That's okay, Joanie," Richie said. "Fonzie isn't going - omigosh, you - you _are_ the Fonz!"
"That's what I've been telling you."
"You mean that story about the man from space was true," Howard said.
"Yeah, Dad. It was. I know it's crazy, but this is the Fonz."
"We believe you, dear," Marian said. "And we'll discuss what happened with you and Linda Alder later."
"Yes, we'll talk about that later, Richard," Howard said. "In the meantime, what are we going to do with Fonzie?"
"What do you mean, Mr. C?"
"How do we get hold of this Mork character to make him change you back?"
"Dad, we can't. Mork said he was going back into space, home to that planet Ork. He may not ever come back to this planet."
"But that would mean..." Joanie's eyes widened.
"Hey, _whatever_ happens, I'm still the Fonz."
Marian took a breath. "Howard, Richard, there's some things that I think I want to talk to Arthur about...alone. Would you please go downstairs?"
"What can you have to say to Fonzie that Richie and I can't hear?"
"Things, Howard. Please leave it go at that."
Howard recognized her tone. Whatever it was, this was important to her. "All right, Marian. C'mon, Richard, let's go see about supper."
"Let's go, Richard." He put his arm over Richie's shoulder and gently pushed his son towards the door.
"Thank you, dear," Marian said after the males had left. "Joanie, would you please go get my sewing kit? I think it's in the living room near the couch. Oh, and bring my purse, too, please."
"You mean, I get to stay and listen while you talk to Fonzie?"
"We'll see, dear. Please get my things from the house."
Joanie jumped up and ran to the door. They could hear her running down the steps two at a time.
"Actually, my sewing kit is up in my bedroom," Marian said. "She should take a few minutes to find it."
"What did you want to say to me, Mrs. C., that you needed to be alone?"
"I want to know how far you're prepared to go with hiding what's happened to you, and to talk about what I think you need to do and how I can help."
Fonzie grinned. "You're a smart lady, Mrs. C."
"Yes, but don't tell Howard or Richard."
"I think that they already know."
"I think so, too," she smiled at the thought, "but back to business. Are you going to tell people what happened to you?"
"I don't think so. You may not believe it, Mrs. C., but there are people out there who don't like the Fonz."
"I can believe it. A man like you - like you were - can make a lot of enemies."
"All in a good cause, believe me. The thing is, they're afraid of the Fonz, but they ain't gonna be afraid of this." She ran her hand down in front of her new body again.
"So we don't tell them. You just go into hiding."
"I can't do that either. First, the Fonz don't run away from his problems. Second, I got a business to run. People are counting on me to fix their cars."
"Could you do that - the way you are now, I mean?"
"Sure. There aren't a lot of girl mechanics, but there are some. Pinky Tuscadero did all the work on her own car, her bike, too. She had them motors purring for her."
"Then you could do it, too. We'd just have to explain who you were, give you some sort of a new identity."
"A secret identity, I like that. Me and Superman, whoa!"
"How about Audrey for a name. It sort of sounds like Arthur."
"To tell the truth, Mrs. C., you're about the only one who calls me 'Arthur'. Even Father Delvecchio calls me 'Fonzie'."
"All right then. Let's see. 'Fonzie'...'Fancy'...'Francie"! How does 'Francie' sound as a new name?"
"Francie. Francie Fonzarelli, I like it."
"We can say she - you came in from out of town - from Chicago to help out while you're there on some sort of family business. Isn't that where your telegram said you were?"
"Yeah. A buddy of mine in Chicago sent that for me."
"Oh, wait a minute. What about Chachi? He's your cousin. He'll know there's no Francie in your family."
"We tell him the truth then. He's a Fonzarelli. He won't tell."
"Very well, I'll call him...no, I'll have Joanie call him tomorrow."
"Why not tonight?"
"Because we have too much work to do, and I don't want any men around."
"I hate to remind you, _Francie_, but right now, you're not exactly the man you used to be. In fact, as soon as Joanie gets back, I want to see just how much of a woman you are."
"What are you talking about, Mrs. C?"
"Relax, dear. I'm hardly going to give you a physical examination, but I do want to get your new measurements. We'll need them for clothes."
"Clothes. The Fonz does not wear chick's clothes."
"No, but his cousin, Francie, does. Tell the truth, dear. Don't you find those boy's clothes just a little uncomfortable?"
Fonzie - Francie - lowered her head. "Maybe...just a little."
"I thought so. Too tight in some places, and too loose in others." She saw Francie nodding in agreement, her face a bit red with embarrassment. "I'm not going to put you in dresses, dear, but you will need some jeans and blouses that fit you. Those won't be too different from what you're wearing now." She paused, almost dreading what she had to say next. "Underneath, though."
"What about underneath?"
"Well, you can hardly wear boxer shorts, now, and you do need some, umm, support up there on top." She cast a critical eye. Arthur - 'No, get used to calling _her_ Francie now,' Marian, she thought - looked to have a very nice figure so far as she could see, and Marian actually felt herself get a little jealous at the size of the new girl's breasts.
"You mean I gotta wear a bra?"
"Yes, dear. That was the other reason that I sent Joanie for my sewing kit. I want to take your measurements. I'll need them to figure out your, um, sizes."
"This is crazy. The Fonz in a bra."
"You need one now, _Francie_. A girl needs the support. Gravity gets us all eventually. Besides, tell me the truth, doesn't that shirt you're wearing feel kind of, well, odd against your new breasts."
Francie mumbled something Marian couldn't quite hear.
"What did you say, dear? Please speak up."
"Yes! I said, 'yes'. It feels real strange, kind of half way between a scratch and a tickle. The weird part is, I think I'm getting used to it."
Just then, Joanie came back. "Sorry, it took so long, Mom. Here's your purse and the sewing kit. The kit wasn't in the living room. It was upstairs." She was a little out of breath from running. "What are you going to do, Mom, and can I stay and watch?"
"I'm afraid not, dear. I'm going to be a while, I think. So I'll need you to finish supper and serve it to your father and Richard."
"Ah, Mom. I want to stay and help."
"You'll be helping me a lot more by making sure that the men get fed." She looked at her wristwatch. "Dinner should be just about done by now. Richard can set the table - I was going to have you do that when you came in with the news about seeing someone up here - and you serve. If it will make you any happier, tell them that I said they have to do the dishes. Oh, and bring up two plates for - for us after you've eaten."
"Then can I stay and help?"
"We'll see. Besides, didn't you say that you had homework?"
"Ah, I never get to stay for the good stuff." Joanie turned and walked out of the apartment.
Marian waited a minute, then listened by the door. When she was certain that Joanie had gone into the house, she locked the door. "All right, Francie, get out of those clothes."
"Mrs. C! I can't strip in front of you."
"Why not? You're a girl, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I guess, but I feel weird."
"I know, dear. This must be a lot - even for you, but I need to get your measurements, so I can see what size clothes to buy you. I can't do that while you're dressed."
"Okay - but nothing funny now."
"Why, Francie, whatever do you mean?"
Fonzie - Francie blushed. "To tell the truth, Mrs. C, I'm a little ticklish."
Joanie came back about a half hour later with a picnic hamper. "It was the only way to carry everything," she said. Inside the hamper were containers with slices of pot roast, Marian's prize winning peas and pearl onions, two baked potatoes, and a fruit compote.
Joanie put the hamper on the counter by the sink and began to set the table. Marian walked over and knocked on the bathroom door. "Francie, dear. Joanie's here with supper."
Joanie looked up from what she was doing. "Francie? Who's Francie?"
"I am." Fonzie came out of the bathroom. He - she was dressed in the same clothes as before, but now her hair was combed and tied in a ponytail with a blue ribbon. Even without make-up, it made her face look much more feminine. She looked at the puzzled look on Joanie's face and smiled. "I don't like it either, Shortcake, but I can't exactly answer to 'Arthur' or 'the Fonz' right now, can I?"
"I - I guess not," Joanie stammered.
Francie walked over and took Joanie's hand in her own. "Hey, Shortcake, just remember, whatever I look like, I...am..._still_...the Fonz! You got me? 'Francie' is just, well, like a secret identity."
"I guess so." She finished with the table and set out the food from the hamper. "I - I guess I'd better go down and get my homework done, okay?"
Marian looked closely at her daughter's unease. It was probably better if she left. "All right, dear. You go and do that. I'll be down to talk to you later - about a lot of things, okay?"
Joanie nodded quickly, turned, and all but ran from the apartment.
The next morning, Marian drove downtown to Hinkley's Department store. She went straight to the teen fashion department and told the salesgirl that she was shopping for a niece who would be coming to visit. After an hour's shopping, she loaded the packages into her car and drove home. Since it was almost lunchtime, she fixed some sandwiches and headed up to Francie's.
"Are you awake, dear," Marian called through the locked door.
Francie opened it a moment later, and Marian hurried in. Francie was wearing an old t-shirt and a pair of men's gym shorts. "It was about all I could find to sleep in," she admitted.
Marian stared at the girl Arthur had become. She hadn't changed from the day before, so the clothes should fit. Marian felt a little jealous of Arthur's figure, the firm breasts pushing out the front of the t-shirt, the wide hips stretching tight the fabric of the short, and her legs... They'd look absolutely wonderful in a pair of heels, though it would be a long time before she could convince Arthur - no, remember to call her Francie - before she could ever convince Francie to wear such things.
Well, her own figure was still pretty good for a mother of two who admitted to being "almost" forty. She could still wear some of the clothes she'd worn twenty years before, and Howard was certainly happy about how well she kept herself, how good she looked. When you got right down to it, Marian decided, having a figure that still made her husband want to get "frisky" was more than enough for her.
I went shopping for you this morning, Francie," Marian said.
Francie winced. "Do I have to use that name? There's nobody here but us."
"You'll have to get used to it, dear, if you're going to go outside and be with people. You might as well start with me."
"I guess, so, Mrs. C. Where's the stuff? Do you need help bringing it up?"
"It's down in the car. I brought lunch so we could eat first, but I'll go down and get it myself, thank you. I don't want you leaving here until you're properly dressed."
"You didn't buy me no dress, did you?"
"No, dear, I told you yesterday that I wouldn't. I got you a few blouses and some jeans." She hesitated a moment, not wanting to upset Francie. "Umm, and a few other things that you're going to need."
"I can't wait. Well, maybe I can. To tell the truth, I am kind of hungry. What did you make for lunch?"
"All right, Francie, are the dishes done?" Marian came through the door into the apartment carrying several large bags from Hinkley's
"Done and put on the drying rack." Francie was drying her hands on a dishtowel. "So what did you get me?"
"Well, these are the blouses I told you about; feminine, but not too feminine."
"Is there a work shirt or two in there, Mrs. C.? I can't wear one of those cute blouses when I'm working on somebody's car."
"Oh, I thought you had a mechanic's uniform for that, dear?" She pretended not to notice that Francie had called the blouses "cute".
"Yeah, but I don't always wear it. Sometimes I wear a pair of coveralls and a t-shirt instead."
"Couldn't you do that with one of your old t-shirts?"
"I guess. I'm a lot smaller than I used to be, though."
'Not with those breasts you're not,' Marian thought, but she didn't want to say anything. She picked up another bag. "This one has the jeans that I mentioned. Remember, girl's jeans are sized for both the waist and the hips."
"Those ain't jeans!" Francie almost jumped back and pointed at one of the pairs of pants that Marian had taken from the shopping bag."
"No, dear, they're not. They're Capri pants."
"I ain't wearing them. Mrs. C., we had a deal."
"Francie, you don't have to wear them on the street. I bought this pair for you to try on here in the apartment, at least for a start. Unless you change back, you will need some more feminine clothing. These should be a lot easier for you than a skirt."
"I - I'll think about it, but I ain't promising anything. You keep the receipt for them."
"I will, dear. Now there is one more thing before you go and get dressed."
Marian hesitated, then took four items from another bag, two bras with matching panties. It was the moment of truth.
"You have got to be kidding, Mrs. C."
"Francie, put your hands on your chest and tell me what you feel."
"Stupid. Stupid is what I feel."
"And what else?"
"Okay, okay." She lowered her head in embarrassment. "I got...these things."
"They're called breast, dear. Yours are quite lovely, but a girl needs support. Besides, they're rather too obvious under that t-shirt, especially now that it got wet from your doing the dishes."
Francie looked down. Her shirt was damp. It was plastered against her breasts, and her nipples, erect from the coolness of the shirt, were clearly visible. She grinned. A very male grin. "Yeah, I guess you _can_ pretty much see everything I got."
"And a lady - which is what you're _pretending_ to be - doesn't show 'everything she's got.' Does she?"
"No...no, she don't. And I guess I don't either." Francie picked up a pair of lime colored panties and a matching bra. She looked through the jeans on the table and selected a medium green colored pair. "But I don't think I'm quite ready to change clothes in front of you." Francie turned and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
"Do you need help, dear. You've never, well, worn a brassiere before."
Francie opened the door and stuck her head out. She had the same male grin as before. "No, but I do have some experience with them. Whooa!" The door shut.
Marian walked over and sat on the couch to wait. About five minutes later, the door opened, and Francie walked out.
'She still walks like a man,' Marian thought, 'but she certainly doesn't look like one.'
Francie's hair hung in long black waves down her back. Her breasts were properly settled within the lime brassiere, though a good bit of firm, creamy flesh overflowed the cups, making them look even bigger. The jeans fit snuggly at her waist and were just tight enough to show the curve of her butt and her long, well-curved legs. She had a half-bemused look on her face as if she were trying to understand the feelings that the clothes created in her new body.
"I...um...forgot a blouse," Francie grinned, now looking rather embarrassed at the oversight. "Not having something on...um...on top wasn't a problem before."
"No, I guess it wasn't, but you'll get used to it. Try that white blouse with the scalloped collar."
Francie picked up the blouse and put it on. "What's with these buttons," she asked, struggling to close the blouse.
"Girl's blouses have their buttons on the other side, dear."
"Oh, yeah. I never noticed before," he blushed. "I was never in the blouse I was unbuttoning before."
Now it was Marian's turn to blush. Well, she knew Arthur's reputation, and, after the time they were in that dance contest together, she knew that it was well deserved. He had been a very attractive man, and he knew how to make a woman feel attractive in his arms. If she'd been twenty years younger and not married to Howard... She left the thought pass. In his own way, Howard could bring out those same feelings in her, make her feel like she was the most attractive woman in the world. That was more than a lot of wives had.
"So how do I look?" Francie posed for a moment; then did a slow turn. "Will I pass as a girl?"
"I think so, dear. You need just one more thing."
"Well, two actually. You could use some jewelry. I've got a bracelet that would look perfect with that outfit, and," Marian paused. How could she say this? "You really need a bit of make-up." She looked over to her purse.
"Make-up! No way, Mrs. C."
"Francie, every girl wears make-up. You'd look suspicious if you didn't."
"I don't need make-up to work on a car."
"Perhaps not, but let me ask you a question. When Pinky Tuscadero worked on a car, did she wear make-up?"
Francie hesitated, knowing she'd been caught. "I...ah...I never looked."
"Please, dear, if you can't be honest with me, I can't help you. Now, did Pinky wear make-up?"
"Yeah...yeah...yeah, she wore make-up: lipstick and a little something on her eyes, I think. I ain't sure what else."
Marian sat on the couch and upended her purse on the coffee table next to it. Good, she not only had a fair assortment of her own make-up, but also a lip gloss and some blusher of Joanie's. "Sit down over here by the couch, and we'll try a few things."
Francie walked over slowly and sat down. What was she getting herself into?
Howard Cunningham came in through the kitchen door. Marian was standing by the oven checking something. He gave her a peck on the cheek. "How did everything go today, Marian?"
"Fine, I think, Howard. How was your day at the store."
"Not bad. I think I'm going to get that contract to supply parts for the addition to the Waltham Building."
"That's wonderful, Howard. How soon will you know?"
"I'm expecting a call tonight." He looked around. Joanie was setting the table, but there was no sign of Richie. Howard looked at his watch. "Where's Richie, Marian?"
"Probably on the way home from Arnold's. You know how he likes to hang out there with Ralph and Potzie after school."
"I suppose. Say, where's Fonzie? How did it go with him today?"
"Fonzie's in Chicago on some sort of family business, Howard. You know that."
"Marian, you know what I mean."
"Yes, dear." She kissed him on the cheek. "Please go wash your hands. Supper will be ready in a few minutes."
Howard washed his hands then went into the living room to read the paper. He did notice that Joanie was setting five places at the table. He'd find out about Fonzie soon enough.
A few minutes later, Marian came in with a serving dish full of fried chicken. Joanie followed carrying a bowl of green salad. "Supper, everyone," Marian called.
"Where's Richie," Howard said.
"Here I am, Dad." Richie came out of the kitchen holding a bowl of mashed potatoes in one hand and the small gravy bowl in the other. "I came in through the kitchen to see if there was any sign of Fonzie up in...um...his apartment."
"Fonzie's in Chicago, dear, just like I told your father."
"Mom, we all know that's not true."
"Oh, but it is," Marian said with a smile. "He'll be there for some time, so he's asked his cousin to come and work at his auto repair business for him."
"Chachi? Chachi doesn't know enough about cars to do that."
"No, dear, another cousin." Marian looked at her watch. "In fact, this cousin should be here any time now to join us for supper." As if on cue, there was a knock at the back door. "Come in, dear," Marian called.
The door opened, and Francie came in. She was wearing the same clothes that she'd put on that afternoon, but Marian had added lipstick, eye shadow, and mascara. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and tied with a green ribbon from Marian's sewing kit.
Howard and Richie stood instinctively, their eyes wide and their jaws open in amazement. Joanie continued to sit, but she was just as astounded.
"Howard, children, I'd like to introduce Arthur's cousin from Chicago, Miss Francine Fonzarelli, but everyone just calls her 'Francie'." Marian felt like the announcer at a Miss America Pageant. Now it was all up to Arthur - oops, stop doing that, Marian - all up to Francie.
Smiling to herself, Francie walked slowly around to the empty seat at the table. Marian watched with approval. 'It took over an hour of practicing with her,' she thought, 'but Francie's walking more like a girl, now.'
Francie pulled out the chair and started to sit. Richie ran over. "Let me help you," he said taking the back of the chair."
"No, I got it."
"Francie," Marian said. "Be a lady, and let Richie help you."
"Do I gotta? I can manage it."
"Yes, you 'gotta'."
"Okay, Red," Francie said. "Go for it." She sat lightly in the chair and let Richie push her in. For some reason, the thought of his wanting to help pleased her. "Thank you, Cunningham." She smiled as Richie went back to sit in his own place at the table.
Marian passed the chicken to Howard, who was on her left, and the mashed potatoes to Richie on her right. Both of them sat staring at Francie. "Howard, please," she said. "The chicken is getting heavy. And Richard, you take some potatoes." Food made its way around the table slowly, since Howard, Joanie, and Richie were too busy staring at Francie to keep track.
Francie picked up the chicken in her fingers. It was a little distracting, seeing her breasts whenever she looked down at anything, but she was beginning to get used to it. She was about to take a bite when Marian stopped her. "No, no, Francie. Set that down and use silverware like a lady, not your fingers."
"Mrs. C., I always used my fingers before. Why should I change now?"
"Well...because you weren't - because you could get grease on that pretty blouse, not to mention smearing your make-up."
"Yeah," Joanie said. "That blouse is much too nice to get messed up with chicken grease."
"Thanks, Shortcake, do you really -" Francie caught herself. She was thinking like a chick. That would _not_ do. Besides, it wasn't the point. "Wait a minute, Mrs. C. I'm the Fonz. Why should I worry about stuff like getting grease on a blouse?"
"Because you don't want people to know that you are the Fonz," Marian said. "Or have you changed your mind about that?"
"If you have," Howard said quickly following his wife's lead, "you can head down to Arnold's right after supper and announce who you really are. Richard can go along to back up your story."
"No! You know I don't want anybody finding that out." Francie put down the chicken and began cutting at it with her knife. "This is harder than I thought it was going to be."
They finished the meal without incident. Francie even offered to help cleaning up, but Marian refused, saying that Francie was a guest. "Besides," she said, "you have someone coming to see you."
"To see me? The _Fonz_ me or the _Francie_ me? What's going on here, Mrs. C.?"
Marian looked at her watch. "Relax, dear. He'll be here in a few minutes unless - Joanie, you did remember to call him, didn't you."
Joanie was filling the sink with water. "I called him, Mom. Chachi said he'd be here at 7."
"Chachi? I ain't ready to see him yet." Francie started to get up from her chair, but Marian stopped her.
"He's the one person that you _do_ have to see," she said. "He's your cousin, your only family here in Milwaukee, and he knows that there is no 'Francie' Fonzarelli. You have to get his cooperation."
"All right, I guess, but if he laughs." Francie made her hand into a fist. Then she looked at how small it seemed next to his memory of the Fonz's fist. Well, she'd just hope it didn't come to violence.
The bell rang a few minutes later. Joanie hurried to answer, bushing her hair with her hands. She'd grown up with Chachi and had always been annoyed by the way he came on to her. Now that they were teens, though, and especially since he'd lost some of his baby fat and gotten a bit taller than her, she was beginning to feel differently about him.
Chachi was now a tall, slender boy of fifteen with longish dark brown hair. He wore a sleeveless t-shirt that showed off his wiry arms. When he saw Joanie at the door, his Italian features lit up in a happy grin. "Hi, Joanie, Mr. C., Mrs. C." he said. "Joanie said that you wanted me to come over for something."
"Yes, Chachi," Marian said. "Please come in. There's somebody that I want you to meet." Chachi came into the room and stood near Howard's chair. "You can come in now, dear," Marian called towards the kitchen.
Chachi looked in that direction. A very pretty girl a few years older than he came through the door. She was wearing a white blouse and a pair of jeans that did little to hide what he quickly saw was an excellent figure. 'Pretty face, too,' he thought. She had a strange, sort of shy expression, and he was sure that he'd seen her before, though he had no idea where.
"Chachi Arcola," Joanie said, a bemused look on her face, "this is Francine Fonzarelli. Everybody calls her Francie."
"Fonzarelli? Excuse me, but I don't think I ever heard of any Francie Fonzarelli. Is this some kind of joke?"
"I wish it were Chach," Francie said. "Believe me, I wish it were."
"Do I know you?"
"You better, kid. I gave you a job in my garage."
"A job! I work for - no, it can't be - you - you're the - but you - you're a girl - Fonzie? What happened to you?"
"A hollitacker happened to me."
"Then that weird guy the other night at Arnold's - no, this is some kind of a joke. It's gotta be a joke."
"It ain't no joke, Chach. I'm the Fonz."
"Swear it. Swear it on Grandma Nussbaum's grave."
"Her grave? Grandma Nussbaum ain't dead."
"You're right, and only somebody in the family would - my gosh! You are the Fonz. There _was_ an alien at Arnold's."
"That's right," Richie said. "Fonzie won the hollitacker - the challenge, and that - Mork - turned him into a girl."
Chachi looked at the figure of the girl in front of him. "He does good work."
"Yeah, keep it up, and I'll call him back to do it to you."
"Hey, c'mon, Francie," Richie said. "Stop kidding around. We can't call him back, Chachi. For all we know, Fonzie - Francie - isn't going to be able to change back."
"You mean he'll - she'll - be like this... Wow, it's like Clyde Beatty got changed into a lion or something."
"Lioness," Marian said gently. "Francie may change back someday, but, right now, we need your help, dear."
"Me? What can I do?"
"In a day or so," Francie said, "I - that is, your cousin, Francie - is coming in to town to take over the garage while her - while _our_ - cousin, Arthur, the old me - is stuck in Chicago on family business. You got that?"
"Yeah, Fonz - Francie. I've been trying to keep the garage going, but I don't have your touch with cars."
"Hey, who does?"
"Francie does," Richie said. "Chachi, we need you to back up the story. If anybody asks, you tell them that Francie's your cousin, and she knows all about cars, maybe even as much as the Fonz does."
"If that's possible," Francie said.
"Tell them that her father owns a garage out in Chicago," Howard said. "Francie, you lived out there for a couple of years, didn't you?"
"Yeah, right after my father left my ma and me. We stayed with my Uncle Vito for a while; then I decided that I could take care of myself and came here to Milwaukee."
"Weren't you a little young to be on your own, dear?" Marian said.
"Hey, I was eight. The Fonz could take care of himself."
"If you say so, Francie," Howard said. "We'll say that your Uncle Vito is the one who first taught Fonzie about cars, and that he taught his daughter, Francie, too."
"You know, Mr. C., that may just work."
"Yes, but only if Chachi goes along with the story." Everyone in the room looked at Chachi, who squirmed nervously.
Chachi walked over and shook Francie's hand. "Hi, I'm your cousin, Chachi." Then, not letting go of her hand, he led her over to the Cunninghams. "Mr. C, Mrs. C, Richie, and, especially Joanie, I'd like you all to meet my cousin, Francie. She's going to fill in for the Fonz while he's out in Chicago."
Everyone smiled, and Joanie impulsively kissed Chachi on the cheek. He grinned. Then Francie put her arm around him. Chachi froze. Was the Fonz going to kiss him, too? That would be just a little too much.
"Hey, Chach," Francie said, giving him as big a hug as she could manage. "I knew I could count on you. _Familia_." Fonzie rarely spoke Italian, though he knew the language well. The word had a lot more meaning to him than the Cunninghams could know.
"_Familia_," Chachi said and hugged his cousin back.
Fonzie spent the next two days getting used to being a girl and wearing feminine clothing. Howard pointed out that a girl like Francie who fixed cars would probably be something of a tomboy. She would know how to act like a lady, but she wouldn't always act that way. That made it a lot easier.
Chachi worked as best as he could at the garage. He could do a lot of repairs, but Fonzie was the real expert. Richie helped with paperwork and other things as well, sweeping up and running errands. Joanie even tried to help out a bit, which only helped Chachi's morale. When people asked, Chachi told them that he'd spoken to the Fonz in Chicago, and some sort of help was on the way. He was deliberately vague on what sort of help, saying that Fonzie hadn't told him any of the details.
Ralph Malf strolled into Fonzie's garage. "Hey, Chachi, how's my dad's car..." Ralph froze. A figure in coveralls was bent over the side of an old Dodge. She certainly filled out the coveralls a lot better than Chachi did. Ralph watched for a while, enjoying the view of her butt moving as she worked.
The figure stood up suddenly and turned towards Ralph. "What are you looking at, Ma-mister?"
Ralph was startled. She looked even better from the front, especially the way she filled out the top of those overalls. "You. I mean - I was just wondering who that was working on the car?"
"So now you know. What about it?"
"Who are you? Where's Chachi?"
Francie smiled. Ralph startled so easily. Now he'd be the first to hear the story, and she'd see how believable it was. "I'm Francie, Francie Fonzarelli." She wiped off her hands on a rag in her pocket and offered it to Ralph.
"Fonzarelli? Are you the Fonz's cousin or something?"
"That's right. He's out in Chicago on some family business, and he asked me to come back and watch his garage for him."
"You? But you're a girl."
"Nice of you to notice. So, what's your name, kid?"
"Ralph, Ralph Malf. I'm a real good friend of Fonzie's."
"Funny, I don't think he mentioned you." Still smiling, she walked over to Ralph, putting an extra bit of feminine wiggle in the walk as Joanie had shown her the afternoon before. (She had done so while Marian wasn't watching; Joanie would be grounded if her parents knew that she had learned how to walk like that.) As soon as she was next to Ralph, Francie stopped smiling and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him towards her. "You got something against a girl working on a car?"
"No, No, I don't."
"You better not. Fonzie and me both learned about cars from my dad. He wouldn't trust me if he didn't think I could do the job. You think I can do the job, Malf?"
"If Fonzie thinks you can, then who am I to argue?"
"That's right. Nobody argues with the Fonz." She let go of Ralph's shirt. "Or with his cousin, Francie. You got that?"
"No, I mean, yes. Nobody argues with either of you."
"Right. Now, what did you come in here for?"
"My - my dad's Studebaker. Is it ready yet?"
"Oh, yeah, the Studebaker. Look, Fonzie had to get to Chicago in a hurry, and I just got here, myself. It'll be ready tomorrow afternoon." She looked sharply at him. "That okay with you?"
"Fine. It - it's fine."
"You got anything else on your mind?"
"Umm, no. Welcome to Milwaukee. Bye." Ralph turned and all but ran out of the garage."
Francie giggled - no, chicks giggled, Francie _laughed_ and stuck her fist, thumb raised, in the air. "Ay! The Fonz is back!"
Ralph was halfway to Arnold's before he calmed down. How could he be intimidated by a pretty girl like that? Because she was Fonzie's cousin, and she sounded as tough as he was. Still, the Fonz was Ralph's buddy. He liked Ralph's sense of humor. Everybody did. Ralph decided that they'd just gotten off on the wrong foot. That Francie was pretty enough to be worth flirting with again. A little of the Malf charm, and she was all his. By the time Ralph got to Arnold's, he was whistling a tune and planning his moves for when he went back the next day to get the Studebaker.
Francie looked at her wristwatch, a slender female-style watch that Joanie had loaned her. It was 5:30. She locked the shop and washed the top two layers of grease off her hands and face. Fonzie had left his motorcycle in the back of the garage the night of the hollitacker. Francie had been looking forward all day to riding it home.
"Hello, darlin'," Francie said to it, looking around to make sure no one was nearby. "I may not look the same, but, believe me, I _am_ the Fonz."
She pushed the cycle out the back door of the garage, locking the door behind her. The cycle seemed heavier than it had been; she was weaker than Fonzie, though still fairly strong. She climbed on and tried to kick start it. It took three tries before the engine finally caught. She gunned the engine and headed back towards the Cunninghams'.
Francie had gone about two blocks when she noticed that her body was feeling funny. She was tingling all over, especially her nipples and in her groin. The feeling got stronger as she rode, a sort of warmth down below her belly that was sending all sorts of incredibly pleasant sensations through her body.
She noticed that, when she leaned forward, the sensations grew stronger. "What is happening to me," she said aloud. "It's like my body's going crazy." She was concerned, but it was far from unpleasant, so she just kept going. A few blocks later, Francie noticed that her hips were twitching back and forth, and she was pressing her crotch harder against the seat. "Aw, no," Francie moaned as she realized what was going on. "I ain't _that_ much of a girl, am I?"
Francie forced herself to ride the rest of the way home sitting upright on the seat. She managed to get up the stairs to her apartment, even though her legs were suddenly a bit wobbly.
Marian Cunningham knocked on the apartment door about fifteen minutes later. "Can I come in, dear?"
"Y-yeah," came a voice from inside. The door unlocked.
Marian walked in. Francie was wearing a white terrycloth robe that had belonged to Fonzie. It almost touched the floor, and Francie had needed tie it shut and to roll the sleeves back considerably. Her hair was dripping wet. "J-just took a sh-shower. N-need an-nother t-towel for my hair." She was shivering.
"Are you all right, Francie?"
"I took a sh-shower, a cold shower, that's all."
"A cold shower? Oh, dear, is the heater broken again?"
"No, Mrs. C. I - I _needed_ to take a cold shower." She looked ready to cry.
"Needed to? But, why?" Marian's hands went to her face. "Oh, my!" There was only one reason why a young girl like Francie would _need_ to take a cold shower. No wonder she was shivering. "You just sit down, dear. I'll help you with your hair. I came up to invite you to dinner. We're all curious about how your first day went, but I think that you need to talk to me about this first, and in private."
Francie sank down into a chair. "My bike! My own bike did it to me."
"Your bike? Oh, on the ride home, I guess the, umm, the vibrations of the motor got to you, didn't they?" She got a towel out of a drawer and began to wrap it around Francie's hair like a turban.
"Mrs. C., how do you know about that sort of thing?"
"Remember the time you had to give me a ride on your bike because Howard had the car, and I absolutely had to get to a meeting? When we got there, I told you over and over how much I had enjoyed the ride, how exhilarating it was. Well, Francie, it, umm, wasn't just your company."
"Why, Mrs. C., you little dickens." Francie was grinning now, one of Arthur's very male grins.
"Yes, dear, and I rode behind you where the vibrations weren't as intense. I probably wouldn't have noticed at all, except that I sat down wrong, and my dress wasn't underneath me on the seat."
"Yeah, but how can I ride my bike if it's gonna happen to me? It's like somebody's slapping me in the face and forcing me to admit I am a girl."
"First of all, dear, at the moment, you are a girl. I sympathize, but that's about all I can do. You could stop riding the bike."
"Then you'll have to learn how to ride so it doesn't...affect you."
"Can I do that?"
"I always heard that the Fonz could do anything."
"Yeah, but I ain't then Fonz anymore."
"Says the engine on my bike. The Fonz - the old Fonz - never got, well, bothered by it."
"So you're not quite the Fonz that you used to be, but, even if you're just Francie now, isn't she a Fonzarelli, too?"
"I guess so."
"Then she's got at least some of the Fonz in her, and she can figure a solution to this problem."
"You're right, Mrs. C. Pinky Tuscadero and her girls rode their bikes everywhere, and they didn't seem to have any problem. Pinky sat a little different on her bike than I did, and she had the engine tuned - that's it! That's the answer. I can take care of it after dinner." She impulsively leaned over and kissed Marian on the cheek.
Marian pretended not to notice how feminine a gesture it was. "Well, dinner will be in about twenty minutes, so you'll have time to put on something a bit more suitable than that robe."
"I will, and thanks again, Mrs. C."
"You're welcome, dear, and we'll just keep quiet about both our experiences on your bike, won't we?"
Francie grinned, though it seemed different than before - and blushed slightly, another feminine response. "You got it, Mrs. C. It'll be our secret."
'Just between us girls,' Marian caught herself thinking, as she went down to finish making dinner.
The next afternoon, like any other, Arnold's was full of kids, talking, eating, flirting, and dancing.
Richie Cunningham and Chachi Arcola sat in a corner booth well away from most of the kids in the place. It wasn't their usual table, but it gave them a chance to talk without being overheard.
"How's Francie working out at the garage," Richie asked.
"Great. She's as good a mechanic as ever." He caught himself and looked around quickly. Nobody was close enough to have heard him. "That is, as good as Fonzie ever was. Man, this is so weird."
"I know what you mean. Francie came down for dinner last night, and it was like she and my mom had some kind of private joke. Then right after dinner, she goes out and works on her bike for about two hours."
"What was she doing?"
"I don't know, something with the engine, I think. When she was done, she rode around the block for about ten minutes. Then she comes back and yells for my mom. Mom gets on, and they ride once around the block and come back laughing like crazy."
"Did they explain what they were doing?"
"I asked, but they just said it was something I wouldn't understand. I kept asking, and finally mom just said, 'Sit on it, Richard!' They both started laughing again, and I gave up and went into the house."
"Weird. You think...hey, there's Francie." Chachi stood up and waved his arm twice. Francie was standing by the door, wearing a pair of almost clean overalls and an old t-shirt of Fonzie's. She waved back and began walking towards the boys' table. Francie still had the Fonz's animal stride, but in her new body, it was transformed to a sensual and very female walk that stopped conversations as heads turned to follow this new girl across the floor.
Suddenly she became aware of someone blocking her way. Francie looked up to see Bill "The Wall" Wallenska. "Wall" was a senior, defensive lineman for the Jefferson High Cougars, and he had something of a reputation as a ladies' man, not all of it deserved. "Hello, Good Looking," he said, grinning at what he expected to be his next romantic conquest. "I'm "Wall" Wallenska. You've probably heard of me."
Fonzie - well, Fonzie would never have had this problem, and Francie was still uncertain about how much of her old fighting skills she still had in her new form. "Excuse me, I'm trying to get by." She shifted to the side, but "The Wall" quickly moved to block her again. Since "Wall" was 6 foot 3 and as solidly built as his name suggested, this wasn't very hard for him to do.
"Tell me your name, Honey, and we'll see what the toll is to pass."
"Francie, Francie Fonzarelli." Damn, why had she done that?
"A pretty name for a - Fonzarelli?" "Wall" knew the name, and he was suddenly a bit less sure of his situation.
Richie had come over and stood beside "Wall". "Yeah, Francie is Fonzie's cousin from Chicago."
"That's right." "Wall" was relieved at the memory. "The Fonz _is_ in Chicago, isn't he?" This could still work out okay. He smiled again and ran his fingers through his close-cropped sandy brown hair.
Francie knew what "Wall" had in mind, and she decided to end it before it went any further. She grabbed his collar and yanked. "Wall" was so taken by surprise that he let himself be pulled down. "But I'm right here, little man. Now why don't you just go bother somebody else?"
"Wall" stood up, pulling himself free of Francie's grasp. "Little? Who are you calling little?" By now, everybody in Arnold's was looking at them.
Francie sneered. "I wasn't talking about your _height_." A roar of laughter filled Arnold's. A couple of girls that "Wall" had dated giggled.
"Wall" looked around. He was stuck. What could he do, hit a girl half his size? He thought about taking it out on Cunningham, but now there were two, no three others standing with him. "Later," he spat through his teeth and stalked out of the place.
"Never," Francie said. She snapped her fingers at "Wall" once as he left. Then she turned and walked with Richie, Chachi, and now Ralph and Potzie Weber over to the table Richie and Chachi had been sitting at. They had all risen when "Wall" stopped Francie, and all four had been ready to come over to her defense.
Francie sat down first, then Richie and Chachi. "Francie," Richie said as he sat down next to her, "I don't think you've met my friends here."
"I met, umm, Ralph yesterday at the garage," Francie said with a smile. Ralph had a rotten sense of humor, even though he thought that he was the next Milton Berle, but he had been there to help Richie with "Wall". Francie admired loyalty. "Your father's car is ready by the way."
"Thanks, Francie," Ralph said, pleased that she remembered him. "I'll be by to pick it up tomorrow." Potzie sputtered a couple of times. He wanted to be introduced to this pretty new girl. "My friend here, the one imitating a teapot, is Warren Weber. Everybody calls him 'Potzie'. Potzie, this is Fonzie's cousin, Francine Fonzarelli."
"Hi, Francine. I'm pleased to meet you." He gave her his best boyish smile.
"Hi, We...Warren; nice to meet you, too." Francie hadn't noticed before how cute Weber was. The thought bothered her.
""Just call me 'Potzie'," Potzie said, pleased that she'd used his real name. "Everybody does."
"How did you learn so much about cars, Francie," Ralph asked.
"Why? Don't you think I know what I'm doing?" Francie was still upset at what happened with "Wall". Scaring Ralph would let off a little steam.
"No! I mean, of course not. If the Fonz trusts you, then you must be good. I just mean, how did such a pretty girl like you get to know so much about something like that?"
Now it was Francie's turn to be startled. Malf was actually flirting with her. "My, umm, dad taught me. He has a garage out in Chicago. In fact, he's the one who first taught, umm, cousin Arthur about cars back when he lived with us."
"Well, I'm sure that you're very good at it." Ralph smiled. "I like a girl who's good with her hands."
"Umm, uhh, thanks, I guess." Francie was at a total loss. Nothing in her experience as a male had prepared her to be hit on as a girl. Worst of all, a tiny part of her seemed to be enjoying the attention. Francie decided that she'd talk to Mrs. C. or, maybe, Shortcake about that later.
"How do you like Milwaukee?" Potzie decided that he was going to try for Francie's attentions as well.
"It's nice, I guess. It's no, umm, Chicago, of course, but it's a - it seems like a nice place."
"I'd love to show you around, if you'd like. Maybe on Saturday after you close the garage."
"Hey, I was going to ask her that," Ralph said.
"Yeah," Chachi said, trying not to laugh at his cousin's obvious discomfort, "but Potzie asked her first. "Hey, maybe you could both take her out."
"Thanks for the idea," Francie said gritting her teeth. Chachi would pay for this; boy, would he pay.
"Yeah, I guess we could do that," Ralph said. Half a date was better than none, and, maybe, they could lose Potzie and spend some time alone - say at Inspiration Point.
"I'm sure Francie would like that," Richie said, not wanting Chachi to have all the fun of teasing Francie.
"I'd have to think about it," Francie said. "Can I let you boys know tomorrow?"
"Sure," Ralph and Potzie said, almost together. Then Ralph added, "Of course, if you'd just like to go with one of us, that would be okay, too."
"Yeah," Potzie said. "Ralph won't mind.
This was getting out of hand. Richie looked at his watch. "C'mon, Francie. We've got to go."
"You've got to go - like go together?" Ralph was clearly annoyed that Richie seemed to have already something going with Fonzie's cousin.
"No, Ralph, like go home for supper. Francie's staying in Fonzie's apartment, and she's having supper with my folks and I. You know how my mom feels about having people come late for supper."
"How does she feel about extra guests," Potzie asked. "My folks won't mind if I eat at your place. My dad likes it when I don't come home early. He says it helps his digestion."
"Umm, maybe another night, guys, okay? Mom...umm...wanted a quiet supper so she could talk to Francie about something...umm...about how the Fonz is doing and when he might be back, I think."
"We don't mind. We'll just eat and leave." Ralph was getting insistent.
"Look, guys," Chachi said. "It's kind of a family thing. I...umm...only got invited at the last minute myself. Right, Rich?"
"Yeah, oh, yeah, Chach." Richie said. "And mom's already stretching supper to include you, so there really won't be any room for anybody else." He looked at his two friends and their sad faces. "I'll ask mom if you guys can come over another night, okay?"
"I guess so," Potzie said. "I'll just have dinner with Ralph and his folks."
"What! You are such a Potzie."
While Ralph and Potzie began the next round of an argument that went back to kindergarten, Francie, Richie, and Chachi quietly snuck away.
Francie grabbed Richie and Chachi's arms almost as soon as they were out in Arnold's parking lot. "Are you crazy, Cunningham? You, too, Chachi? You two were acting like you were trying to fix me up with Malf or Weber."
"What were we supposed to say?" Richie asked, looking around. They were alone in a far corner of the lot. "Don't hit on Francie, guys, 'cause she's really the Fonz."
"Yeah," Chachi added. "I was just having a little fun. I didn't mean for it to get out of hand."
"Well, don't do it again, okay?"
"Okay, Fonz...umm, Francie," Richie said. "But we're going to need some sort of reason for you to not be available for dating."
"Yeah, Francie. I hate to say it, cousin, but you're a really pretty girl."
"Thanks, I guess. You two just come up with something that we can tell Weber or Malf or anybody else who tries anything."
"How about," Richie was thinking out loud. "How about if we say that Francie's got a steady guy in Chicago?"
"That might work," Francie said. "No, wait a minute. If I got a guy in Chicago, then why didn't I say anything when Weber asked me out?"
"Yeah," Chachi said. "Besides, there's guys who would consider her having a boyfriend in Chicago as her not having boyfriend at all."
"It's got to be somebody local," Richie said. "Somebody we can trust."
"Somebody whose father owns the apartment I'm staying in," Francie added.
"Wait a minute! That would be me!" Richie had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"It's perfect," Francie said. "You already know the truth about me."
"Yeah, and besides, you aren't dating anybody steady right now, are you, Rich?" Chachi said.
"Not after my mom found out about me and Linda Alder, thank you, Francie."
"So I owe you one," Francie said. "You were the one who brought it up in the first place. I had to tell you about her so you'd believe who I was." She paused for a moment; then she smiled and batted her eyelashes. "How about I make up for it by letting you take me out?"
"That's not funny, Francie." Richie said. Chachi just stared in surprise at his cousin.
"No, but why should you two have all the fun? I'm just not sure if I'm _that_ desperate?"
"I hate to admit it, but it does seem like a good solution." Richie hesitated. The sinking feeling was getting worse. "I just want to think about it for a little bit before I agree. Okay?"
"Fine by me," Francie said. She had parked her bike next to Richie's car. She jumped on, kick started it, and was out of the lot before Richie and Chachi were both settled into Richie's car.
Richie drove the entire way home with his teeth clenched. Every so often, he looked over at Chachi and sort of growled.
Francie wasn't any happier as she rode along on her bike.
She had to admit that she'd enjoyed the attention when Malf and Weber had begun flirting with her, but then she'd become uncomfortable. Only, it wasn't because she knew that she was really a guy, and she didn't want other guys flirting with her. No, the feelings that they gave him - her - were different. She felt like they were treating her like so much meat, like a trophy to be won, not as a person. She didn't like it.
Chachi's idea made a certain amount of sense. She had to admit that to herself, but Cunningham? That was the worst part of it. A little piece of her, the same part that enjoyed picking out a nice blouse to wear or kidding around with Shortcake _or_ having a couple of guys flirt with her, that part of her liked the idea of pretending that she was dating Rich - Cunningham. In fact, it was a part of her that didn't want their dating to be a pretense. It really wanted to be dating him.
This was not a good thing.
Francie helped Marian and Joanie clear the dinner dishes. "Can I talk to you, Mrs. C? After, you finish with dinner, I mean."
"Can I come, too?" This sounded grown-up, and Joanie didn't want to be left out.
"Later, maybe, Shortcake, but I want to talk to your mother first."
"I always get left out of the good stuff."
"Well, I'll see about giving you somebody to talk to," Marian said. "Richard."
"Yeah, mom," came a voice from the living room. A moment later, Richie came into the kitchen. "What did you want, mom?"
"I have to go upstairs with Francie about something. Would you please help Joanie with the dishes...oh, and put the leftovers in the fridge?"
Richie started to protest, but he saw the concern in his mother's face. He looked at Francie and said, "Is this..." Before he could finish, Francie nodded. Richie nodded back, recognizing that Francie wanted to talk to his mother about Chachi's stupid idea.
Richie wondered who he could talk to. Francie was really Fonzie, his friend, his male friend, his - well, they were almost like brothers in some weird way. Still, a part of his mind, when he looked at Francie, had trouble thinking of her as anything but a female, a very desirable female. So far, there hadn't been a problem, but if they started pretending to be dating... He let the thought fade out. That same part of his mind didn't want it to be pretend.
Richie mentally scheduled himself for a cold shower that evening. He walked over to the kitchen sink and began to rinse the dinner dishes.
Marian smoothed her skirt and sat down on Francie's couch. "Now, dear, what did you want to talk about?"
Francie started to sit down, but stood up again. She was too tense to sit and began to pace. "It - it's about what happened at Arnold's this afternoon. Malf and Weber began to - um - they began to flirt with me. With me."
"I'm not surprised. You're a very pretty girl."
"No! No, I ain't. I just, well, I just _look_ like a girl."
Marian looked at Francie. The girl looked like she was about to cry. "All right, dear. You just look like a girl." She paused for a moment. "How did you feel about the way they were acting."
"I - I hated it. It was worse than when the 'Wall' - "
"The 'Wall'. Who or what is that?"
"It - he's a guy on the Jefferson football team, a big, dumb defensive end. He tried to pick me up, too. He blocked my way and wouldn't let me pass, but I handled him."
"How did you do that, dear?"
Fonzie smiled. "I called him little man. Then I said that I wasn't talking about his height." The smile was decidedly male.
Marian blushed slightly, then giggled. "Serves him right. Did you do the same sort of thing to Ralph and Warren?"
"No, I - I couldn't. After I said what I did to 'Wall', he looked like he was going to hit me. I still could have taken him - at least, I think I could have, but Chachi and Rich and Malf and Weber all stood up like he'd have to fight them, too. After that, they were just - I didn't want - I wasn't sure how to...how to handle it - how to handle them."
"I think you did, dear, but you just didn't want to hurt them they way you did that 'Wall' person."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, first of all, they defended you. How did it feel to be defended, to not have to stand on your own."
"Weird, but I - I do have to admit that I was relieved not to have to try to fight 'Wall'."
"It - Mrs. C, it felt kind of, well, kind of nice to have all those guys be willing to defend me."
"And when two of those defenders starting flirting with you, how did you feel?"
"How did I - I felt...I felt good. I - I was flattered that they were interested in me. It felt nice - no, creepy. No, no, I got to admit. It felt nice. Mrs. C, what's happening to me?"
"Well, Francie, I'd say that now that you're a - now that you _look_ like a girl, the parts of you that do are starting to act...maybe just a little bit...like a girl."
"No! I - Mrs. C - I don't want to be a girl." Now she definitely looked like she was about to cry. Marian wanted to reach up and hug Francie to her, to comfort her as she might Joanie, but, somehow, she knew that doing so would be the wrong approach.
"You don't have to, dear. I mean, you're strong. And smart. I'm sure that you can find a way to deal with boys flirting with you, with them arousing such feelings in you."
"Oh, we already done that. Most guys won't flirt with a girl who's already going with someone. The guys that will, well, I don't think I'd be interested in them anyway."
"So you're going to make up an imaginary boyfriend?"
"No, I don't think that'd work. I...Richie and I...we're going to pretend that we're..." she stopped and took a breath before she continued, "dating."
"And you don't think that Richard will be a problem?"
"Him? Nah, I trust him. He knows that I'm really the Fonz, and he ain't going to flirt or anything."
"If you think so, dear," Marian said. She was smiling, but inside, she had the same sinking feeling that Richie had felt when he heard the idea.
Richie was coming out of the bathroom when he met his father, who had come upstairs to get a magazine he'd been reading the night before.
"A shower, Richard, and so early in the evening. How come?"
Richie shivered. He was dry and changed into his pajamas, but his hair was still a bit wet. "Dad, can we talk for a minute." He looked around. Joanie's bedroom was nearby, and she was in there doing homework. "In private."
"Certainly, son. Let's go to your bedroom." They walked to the room, and Howard closed the door behind him. "Now, what's the problem?"
"Francie. It's Francie."
"Francie? What about - Richard, does she have anything to do with your taking a shower just now?"
"Yeah, Dad, and, yes, it was a cold shower."
"Well, I suppose it's understandable. She's a very attractive girl."
"Yeah, but she's - she used to be...the Fonz."
"And she isn't any more?"
"Yeah, she is...but she's something else, too. She's that 'very attractive girl' like you said."
"And you're attracted, aren't you?" It was more a statement than a question.
"Yeah, dad, and I don't know what to do about it."
"Have you ever been attracted to a girl that you couldn't do anything about, say, to one of the Fonz's girlfriends?"
"Yeah, and I knew what to do. I ignored whatever feelings I had because the Fonz was my friend."
"So do that now."
"Dad, I...I can't. Ralph and Potzie were flirting with her this afternoon, trying to get a date with her."
"They don't know the truth then."
"No, and we - Francie - doesn't want anybody else to know, but that's not the problem."
"You weren't trying to date her; were you, Richard?"
"No, but I'm _going_ to be dating her. Chachi, Francie, and, well, and I decided that the best defense against Ralph or Potzie or anybody else flirting with Francie was to pretend that she already had a boyfriend."
"That should - oh, no, they didn't..."
"Yes, they did. Francie and Chachi decided that, since I already knew who Francie really was, I'd be the best choice to be - to pretend to date her."
"Well, then Richard, unless you can think of something else, I think you'd better get used to cold showers."
Richie was waiting in Arnold's parking lot the next afternoon when Francie pulled up on her bike. She pulled in to a spot near his car as he walked over.
"Hi, Francie, ready to start 'Operation Boyfriend'?" He watched as she took off her helmet and ran her hands through her hair. It was a very feminine gesture.
"Yeah, Cunningham. What do we do first?"
"First, I think that you'd better start calling me 'Richie'.
"Yeah, I guess so. Okay, _Richie_, then what?"
"Then we walk into Arnold's holding hands."
"Holding hands? Do we have to?"
"We do if we want people to think...to know that we're dating. I can't just walk in and make an announcement."
"No, I - I guess not, but let's wait till we're at the door, okay?"
"I guess." They walked towards the entrance to Arnold's. Just as they got to the door, Richie said, "Ready?" When Francie nodded, he took her hand in his. As he did so, they both felt a strange tingle run through their bodies, followed by a pleasant warmth.
Francie pulled her hand away. "Whoa! What the heck was that?"
"I - I don't know." Richie was confused for a moment, then he smiled. "It felt kind of good though."
"Yeah, I guess."
"You...umm...you want to try again? I don't think it'll be a problem."
"Okay." Francie took Richie's hand. Again, a warm pleasant tingle ran through their bodies. For some reason, it didn't seem to bother them as much this time. They smiled and headed through the door.
Potzie saw them first. "Hey, look, it's Richie and... and Francie."
"Yeah," Ralph said, "and they're holding hands. I thought he wasn't interested in her."
"I guess you lose out, Ralph," Potzie said with a grin, then he realized what had happened. "Hey, wait a minute. I lose out, too."
Richie and Francie came over to where Ralph and Potzie were sitting. They didn't realize it, but they were still holding hands. "Hi, guys," Richie said with a lame smile.
"What are you doing with my girl?" Ralph said.
"Your girl." Francie tensed, ready to fight. She instinctively left go of Richie's hand. "Who says I'm your girl, Malf?"
Richie looked at Francie nervously. She sounded exactly like Fonzie might. This was not good. "Calm down, Francie. You, too, Ralph. Francie is her own girl. We were - we got to talking last night, and we, umm, realized how much we had in common. I, umm, sort of asked her out."
"And I accepted. You got a problem with that?" Francie wanted to grab Ralph by his collar and haul him out of the booth, but she knew that it would not look good for her to do so.
"I guess not." Ralph said quickly. If Francie was this hot tempered, maybe it would be better not to date her.
"Me either," Potzie agreed. "Gee, Francie, you're sure a lot like your cousin."
"More than you'll ever know, Web - Warren," Francie said as she slid into the booth. Richie sat down next to her.
"I guess I should apologize to you guys, but it, umm, it happened so quickly. We just really hit it off."
"That's okay, Rich." Ralph still wasn't completely happy. Sure, Francie had a temper, but she was also very, very pretty.
"It must be love," Potzie said with a smile. Ralph mumbled under his breath at the suggestion.
"For now, let's just say that we like each other, okay." Richie didn't want to think about _that_ anymore than Ralph did. After all, this was the Fonz he was sitting next to. Still... He let the thought die.
Francie motioned for one of the waitresses, happy at the distraction. Francie noticed that she felt the same odd sensation when her leg touched Richie's. It was barely there, and Richie didn't even seem to notice, so she just ignored the feeling and waved again for the waitress.
The girl came over, and Richie ordered Cokes for the two of them. His leg brushed against Francie's, and he noticed the same vague tingle that he'd felt before. It was barely there, and he wondered if Francie even felt it.
"So, Ralph, heard any good jokes lately?" Richie said. "I have to admit, Francie, that Ralph's got the greatest sense of humor."
"Don't overdo the compliments, Rich," Ralph said. "Even if they are true. I've decided to forgive you two. Besides, I heard this great new one about a man who goes into a psychiatrist's office..."
Ralph droned on for several minutes, amusing himself if no one else. Desperate to escape, Francie stood up and walked over to the juke box. She looked around. Nobody was looking. She hit it at just the right spot, and it began to play a Paul Anka ballad. "Malf isn't the only one who's 'still got it'," she said under her breath as she walked back to the table. "Let's see him keep talking while the music's playing.
Ralph was gone by the time Francie got back to the booth. She saw him dancing with Barbie McCasky. Potzie was with somebody as well. She was about to slide back into the booth, when Richie stood up. "We'd, umm, we'd better dance, too."
Francie hadn't thought of that, but it was true. If they were interested in each other, how could they not dance together. She let Richie lead her onto the floor and felt him put his arms around her. The tingling started again, stronger this time because they were doing much more than just holding hands.
"Try and remember to let me lead," Richie whispered. His body was tingling, too, and he was trying not to be distracted by it. The problem was that he was dancing with a beautiful girl, feeling her in his arms, against his body, and that was even more distracting.
The music ended, but somebody had stuck in a quarter. The next song was slow, too. Richie and Francie kept dancing. Francie moved in a little closer and rested her head on Richie's shoulder. 'It's just for show,' she thought to herself. Only, why did it have to feel so good?
The next song was a fast one. They danced a little, then walked back to the booth. Richie looked at his watch. It was almost time to leave, if they were going to be back at his house for supper. "Francie, let's go. I - I'd like to talk to you for a minute before we have to head home."
She knew what he wanted to talk about. "Okay, Richie, lead the way."
They walked past Richie's car and Francie's bike to a far corner of Arnold's lot. There was a low concrete block fence between the drive-in and the next property. Francie sat down on the fence, while Richie stood and began to pace.
"Francie, I - I'm sorry about what happened in there."
"What do you mean, Richie?"
"The way I acted, the way I held you while were dancing, I was totally out of line doing that."
"I liked it."
"Francie - Fonzie - what are you saying? Do you want to be a girl?"
"No, but I've got to admit that it felt nice, real nice."
"That tingling when we - when we touched. You felt it, too?"
"Yeah, but I sure don't know what it was. You got any ideas, Red?"
"I don't know. I think it has something to do with whatever changed you. I think it's...it's working on your mind...on both our minds."
"Yeah, I agree, and nobody messes with the Fonz's mind."
"Maybe we should stop pretending to be dating. That seemed to have started whatever it is."
"And what do we tell Malf and Weber? And how do we know that it won't start again if I date one of them? At least with you, we can talk about it. With anybody else, I'd have to explain a lot of stuff that I'd rather not talk about. That make any sense?"
"No, but none of this does. I guess we can try dating without touching."
"And won't that be fun?"
They both shrugged and walked back to their vehicles. It was not getting any easier, not by a long shot.
Joanie and Chachi were sitting in the living room when Richie walked into the house. They looked like they were watching TV, but Chachi's shirt was mis-buttoned.
"How did it go at Arnold's," Chachi asked.
"Okay, I guess. Ralph and Potzie weren't too happy, but they got over it. Francie and I even danced a couple of -"
"You danced together?" Joanie said. "You and Francie."
"Yeah, somebody put some money into the juke box. Everybody else was dancing. What could we do?"
"So who led?" Chachi asked with a slight smirk.
"I did. That was the weird part."
"Weird," Chachi said. "Richie Cunningham dancing with the Fonz."
"That was what was weird. It - it wasn't like I was with the Fonz. It was like I was with a real girl."
"How did Francie act?" Joanie said quietly. "Did she act like a girl?"
"Yeah, and afterward she said that she liked it. I did, too."
"I think whatever changed her is doing something to her mind now."
"Is she all right?" Joanie asked.
"Is who all right." Francie came in from the kitchen.
"You, Fonz...Francie," Chachi said. "Are you okay? I thought you were coming home with Richie."
"I did, but it looked like rain. I pushed my bike under the steps and covered it with a tarp." She paused and looked at Chachi and Joanie. "Now ask what you really want to ask me, Chachi."
"Okay, Francie." Chachi took a deep breath. "Richie says you were acting like a girl today. What's going on?"
"I'm fine. The whole thing just got to me a little bit, but I'm fine, now."
"But, Francie," Richie said. "What about the..."
Francie gritted her teeth. "I said I'm fine, Cunningham. Now drop it." She had decided not to worry anyone about what happened. At least, not until she could figure it out herself.
"Okay," Richie said. "If that's the way you want it." He looked around and realized who was missing. "Hey, where are mom and dad?"
"Mom had to run an errand downtown for the Leopards' Lodge Ladies Auxiliary," Joanie said. "She said that she'd meet dad at the store, and that they were going to bring home pizza for supper.
As if on cue, a car drove up into the driveway. Ten minutes later, everyone was in the kitchen having pizza.
Marian Cunningham looked up from her half-eaten slice of pizza. "How did it go at Arnold's, dear?"
"Yes, Richard," Howard added. "Does everyone know that you and Francie are, as they say, an item?"
Richie cleared his mouth with a swallow of coke. "They know, dad. Everybody saw us together this afternoon."
"How about tonight," Marian said. "Are you two going back after dinner?"
"I - I don't think so, Mrs. C.," Francie said. "We don't want to overdo it."
"I suppose that's best."
"Richie has to help me in the store all day tomorrow," Howard said. "It's inventory time, and he promised that he'd help weeks ago."
"That's okay," Richie said. "We really didn't have anything planned." After what had happened that afternoon, he wasn't sure if he wanted to go out again with Francie, or if she wanted him to go out with her.
"Why don't you take Francie to a movie tomorrow night?" Marian was trying to be helpful. "I understand that there's a very nice movie at the Roxy."
"I guess that would be okay," Francie said.
"Would you like another slice of pizza, Francie," Joanie asked, noticing that Francie's dish was empty. Fonzie had always loved pizza, but Francie had only eaten one slice. She normally had an appetite almost as good as the Fonz.
Francie stretched. "No, thanks. To tell the truth, I'm kind of tired for some reason. I guess I put in a harder day than I thought at the garage." She stood up and headed for the kitchen door. "Good night, folks."
Richie stood. "Wait a second, Francie. I'll walk you. I want to talk about tomorrow night." He hurriedly followed her out into the back yard.
"Okay, Red," Francie said once they were outside. "What did you really want to talk about?"
"Are you crazy wanting to go out again after what happened at Arnold's?"
"No, but I don't want to get your folks worried. I'm even sorry, Shortcake and Chachi know."
"Yeah, but still..."
"Look, I think that we can keep things cool as long as we don't really touch or anything. Can I trust you to keep your hands to yourself?"
"I guess so - I mean, sure, sure you can."
"Then it's settled. What time will you be home?"
"We usually quit about 6:30 and get home before 7. Give me time for a quick shower and such, and I'll meet you in the living room at 7:30. That okay?"
"Perfectamundo. I'll see you at 7:30." They were at the steps leading up to her little apartment. Part of Francie was relieved, but a part of her wanted to invite him up - or at least, kiss him good night.
Richie was flustered. It was like walking a girl home from a date, and he almost felt like he should try to kiss her. "Umm, okay then, Francie. I'll see you." He began to stick out his hand, then froze, remembering the tingling.
"'Night, Richie," Francie said. She turned and slowly began the climb to her apartment. Richie watched her until she went inside, then headed back to the house for another cold shower.
Richie spent the next day counting items of hardware for his father's store. It was slow, dull work, but it kept his mind off Francie. About 6:20, Howard came into the storeroom where Richie was working. "You did a fine job here today, Richard. Thank you."
"You're welcome, dad."
"No, I mean it." He reached into his pocket. "Here's a little something to show just how much I mean it."
"Dad, this is thirty bucks. You usually don't pay me more than twenty for a day at the store."
"Usually, all I get out of you is twenty dollars worth of work. You worked extra hard today, and I figure that you deserve the extra pay for it."
"Thanks, dad," Richie said pocketing the money.
Richie can down from his room about 7:20. He'd showered and shaved and changed his dirty clothes for a clean shirt and slacks. He didn't want to dress up too much for the "date" and embarrass Francie.
She was waiting. She heard him come down the stairs and stood to look at him.
Richie froze in his tracks and almost fell over. Francie's hair was combed out and hung full on her neck and shoulders. She had on earrings and a lot more make-up than he'd ever seen her in.
She was also wearing a dark blue sleeveless dress that clung to her curves, hugging her narrow waist and wide hips. It stopped just above the knee and he could see that she had on stockings and - good grief - high heels.
She smiled and twirled once. "What do you think, Richie," she asked shyly.
Richie smiled. "I think that I have to go back upstairs for my jacket and tie." He turned and bounded up the steps.
"Francie, what's with this get-up you have on?" They were in Richie's car heading for the movie.
"It's your mother's idea, at least at first."
"Yeah. Mrs. C. suggested a dress. I was trying to talk her out of it, saying that I didn't want to go shopping. Then Shortcake comes in with this thing." She touched the fabric of her dress.
"Oh, yeah, now I recognize it. Joanie sent away for it a couple of months ago, but she got the size wrong."
"Wrong for her, maybe. It fits me fine."
"It sure does - I mean, so okay, it fits, but that still didn't mean that you had to wear it."
"I know, and I was still trying to talk your mom out of the idea. Only she starts talking about how pretty I'll look in it."
"You do, I guess, but is that why you wore it?"
"No, but then she says how much you'll like seeing me in something this nice. All of a sudden, it was like I couldn't argue with her any more. I let her do my hair and my nails. I got nail polish on, you know."
"Polish, too." Richie had no idea how to answer.
"Yeah, and I'm wearing, well, never mind what I'm wearing. This whole thing is just too weird."
"Do you want me to take you back. You don't have to go to the movie with me if you don't want to, you know."
"No, it's okay. I want to see this movie, so I might as well let you treat me to it." She held up a fist. "Just don't try anything."
"I won't, Francie. I promise."
Richie pulled into the theater parking lot. It was fairly full, and he had to circle a couple of lanes before he found an empty spot near the back of the lot. He parked and got out. Then he came around to Francie's side of the car. He opened the door and took her hand to help her out. The movie must have already started because there were no other people in the lot so far as they could see.
As Francie stepped out of the car, the tingling began. It was stronger than ever, washing through both their bodies. Richie and Francie found themselves holding hands and staring into each other's eyes. The tingling sensation grew even stronger. It seemed to focus in Francie's chest, where she felt her nipples growing stiff, and in her groin, where it seemed to become a wet sort of warmth. Richie felt it only in his groin, especially as his pants grew tight right there.
"Attention, Earthlings!" They heard the voice - Mork's voice - and turned to see where he was.
"Ha, ha, made you look," the voice continued. "I am implanting this telepathic message in your minds on the night of the hollitacker. As you hear this, I am in a galaxy, far, far away - hmm, good line, I'll have to save that one."
"Will you get on with it," Francie yelled in exasperation.
"You, the champion, the one called 'the Fonz'. Orkan law says that anyone who defeats one of us in a hollitacker must be rendered harmless, a non-warrior. On your world, the easiest way to do so was to make you a female of your species."
"Yes, but we are not the heartless superior beings that we may appear to be. The champion is to be given to one who will protect it after it is rendered harmless. I have given you to the one called 'Cunningham'."
"So that's what you meant when you said you leave us to each other," Richie said, suddenly remembering Mork's words.
"'Give' me," Francie said. "Who are you to give me to anybody?"
"I am a superior alien being from the planet Ork, and don't ask so many questions, human. Be glad that I didn't give you to that Malf being who ran screaming out of the structure where we conducted the hollitacker."
"How come you can answer our questions?" Richie said.
"No, that is not possible," Mork replied. "But I will tell you that it will rain most of your next week."
"Or maybe he can't," Francie said.
"I sensed a great deal of the emotion that you call affection between the champion and the Cunningham. You were - what is the word - friends. Now you can be more. I have shaped your minds to accept, even to wish this to happen."
"I guess," Richie said, still not sure of what was happening. "Do you have anything else to say to us?"
"Live long and prosper, Earthlings. Shozbot! Another great line, and I just threw it away on those two. The Vulcans would love that one. Maybe when I go there next..." The voice faded.
Richie looked at Francie. He realized that he was holding her in his arms. The sensations were growing even stronger. He gave in to them and leaned forward. Their lips met. Francie moaned and raised her arms up and around Richie's neck.
Arthur Fonzarelli had known a great deal about how to kiss and how to be kissed. Now, as Francine Fonzarelli, she gave Richie a master's class in the subject for a minute or two until they had to break for breath.
"Wow," Richie said. "Francie, you were fantastic."
Francie suddenly felt shy. She looked down at the ground. "Do you believe what that...what Mork said?"
"I don't know what I believe - except what I feel about you right now."
"I - I think I feel the same way, Richie. What are we going to do about it?"
"I don't know," Richie grinned, "but I don't think that going in to the movie will help. I hear that Inspiration Point is a great place to 'think' about stuff like that."
"Okay," she said, smiling up at him and running her tongue against her top lip. Then her eyes narrowed, "but, so help me, if you sing one word of 'Blueberry Hill', _Cunningham_," she said his name as much like Fonzie as she could, "I'm going home."