Friday, November 10, 2017

Tyler/Valerie: Cursed.

Is this wedding cursed? Yes, but maybe more than we already knew.


No weddings go off without a hitch. A lot of complications and mishaps are to be expected. But mishaps like the Bride being replaced with a doppelganger who has to impersonate her, that's probably a curveball.


It almost feels a little quaint to have a mundane problem like, oh... not having a dress a week before the ceremony. You might recall that I was not completely happy with the dress I was to wear as Valerie the Bride. No disrespect to her vision, I would have worn it, but to the degree that I have any fashion sense or concept of style for myself (as Valerie), it didn't "work" for me. I know, that's a very "female" issue to have, but trust me guys, when you spend more time floating from body to body, you start to care more about what you dress it in.


I didn't "not have a dress" because I didn't like it though. I was willing to wear it. The dress was bought and paid for and fitted and I was just going to pack it away in my mind, like I do for so much about being Valerie (or anybody) and play my part. And then the seamstress had a flood and the dress was ruined.


After a suitable outburst, Val agreed, when she visited the city, to come help me track down a suitable replacement. Doing so on short notice, with a limited budget (we did get a partial refund from the seamstress but not for her labor) trying to find something that fits and looks good off the racks is... tough.


I mean, I only like clothes-shopping marginally more now than I did as a man, and spending two days with a woman intent on having her perfect wedding despite not actually walking down the aisle for it, is pretty nerve-wracking. Finally I found something that looked like it would fit my unique assets, wasn't eye-gougingly ugly to me, and we could afford.


"No."


"What's wrong with this?"


"It's all wrong, it looks disgusting, take it off."


"You know what, Valerie? I think it looks fine." It was corseted, with elegant off-the-shoulder shear sleeves, and an A-line cut as opposed to the big marshmallowy ballgown she wanted to wear that made my whole figure disappear. I felt strangely comfortable in it like... like this was "my" dress.


"It looks cheap and ugly, take it off, I'd be embarrassed to wear that."


"Valerie, you're not being reasonable."


"TAKE IT OFF!" she screamed and stomped her foot, "PUT IT BACK! LET'S MOVE ON!" Her tall, lean frame loomed over me as she attempted to use her newfound size to browbeat me.


"Shut the fuck up!" I screamed back. "I'm sorry your dress got ruined but there's nothing you can do but put up with it. We're out of options. The wedding is a two weeks away. I'll walk down the fucking aisle in a garbage bag if I feel like it at this point."


She sunk down and tears filled her eyes and I felt extremely guilty.


"It's not fair," she sobbed, "It's just not fair."


"I know," I said, uncertain whether I should move closer and comfort her considering we had just been at each other's throats a second earlier. I looked around to see whether people had taken notice of our shouting match. If so they must have been very confused.


"You deserve better than what you're getting," I said as comfortingly as I could. It didn't seem to help, she sniffled.


"Seeing him at the Bridal Shower was so hard," she sniffled, "I was looking forward to it but... but I was invisible to him, and he went straight to you, and... the way he, the way he looked at you... the way he kissed you... it's like he loves you."


"He doesn't love me," I said firmly. "He loves the person he thinks I am, which is you. I feel it all the time, how much love you're supposed to be getting from him."


"If he really loved me, wouldn't he knew I was... I was gone?"


"You know that's not how it works," I said, patting her back and trying to be as comforting as I could manage.


"I thought I could handle it," she whimpered.


"You're doing your best," I sighed. "We all are."


"Wear whatever you want... it's not really my wedding anymore..."


She was quiet the rest of the day, and then said she would see me at the wedding.


And I'd like to say that was the last problem we had, but sadly...


A few days later, the pictures of the shower got posted to social media, and of course I was tagged in all of them, which means Meg, who now has friended me, saw them, and as soon as she did, she sent me a text.


"Omg. That's the wrong bouquet."


"What?" I wrote back.


"Josh's bouquet. That's not the one I saw him buy. That had red roses, this has pink."


"Um... are you sure?"


"VERY."


Well, now we really do have a problem on our hands.


-Tyler

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Monday, November 06, 2017

Tyler/Valerie: Plans, schemes, suspicions and reunions

"I've got a plan," Valerie texts me one day out of the blue.


I brace myself - we've been working separately on how I'm going to address Valerie's "Children Immediately After Marriage" pact with Josh. I'm a little skeptical that she's actually got something usable but I tell her to hit me with it.


"Say you're already pregnant."


I'm glad I didn't get my hopes up.


"No, it will make perfect sense," she insists. "That way he won't bug you about getting pregnant, and it will make sense with your recent change in... behavior. And then that way, you won't have to have sex with him at all!"


"But how am I supposed to be pregnant? He hasn't had sex with-- uh, either of us in months."


"You could be three months in! Lots of women take time to show."


"But I'm not going to show."


"Hit the buffet! He won't know the difference."


I mean, I've been through this process so many times and I have to admit I haven't always coped well under pressure, but this seems especially moronic.


"That really won't work," I sigh, "He knows I've gotten my period."


"Damnit," she replied. "I didn't think he would be paying attention to that."


"Well, he is... he's very attentive."


"I know. God, I miss him. Tell him you love him as soon as you can, okay?"


"Okay. By the way, Val, I have something to tell you, I don't know if you are already aware of this..."


See, the other week, when I was laid up on the couch, I notice something hard and plastic under my ass. I dug under the cushion and found... an old flip-phone. What you might know from Breaking Bad as a "burner."


It had only one number in it and a long series of text messages cryptically saying dates and times, or the occasional "cancellation." The texts were are recent as October.


"I'm guessing it isn't yours," I told her. "And the dates frequently correspond to weekends when Josh was away."


It took her a while to respond, but when she did was, "It's probably just an old work phone. Don't worry about it."


"Val, it's still being used, and not for everyday purposes. This seems incredibly suspicious..." not clarifying that I would know suspicious behavior.


"Drop it, okay? It's none of our business."


I left the phone where it was, knowing that if Josh saw it was gone he would know I had it.


The way I see it, there are two possibilities. One is that Josh is involved in something illegal... insider trading? Drugs? I don't know.


The other possibility is that he's having an affair.


If either one is the case, I honestly don't know what to do. Do I let Val go through with the wedding, and then I'm ostensibly married to a criminal or a cheater? What if, God forbid, I get stuck here, in that situation, especially if we don't figure out a way to avoid me getting pregnant? I'm sorry, I can't leave this idly be.


I didn't want to believe it, because Josh seems a genuinely sweet, caring guy, what kind of stuff could he be involved in? But it's often people you don't expect, because they put in a lot of effort not to be suspected... and since I've been here, Josh's way of doting on me has often seemed... a bit over-the-top.


So I did something I never thought I would have to do. I called my ex-girlfriend to ask her to trail my future husband.


Pete/Brigette, who lives for "Freaky Inn Drama," by her own admission, was disappointed that I didn't call her in on this, but my reasons were obvious: Josh knows Brigette well and would know if he were being followed by her. There was a good chance that Meg would be able to just blend in and go unnoticed.


I'm lucky that Meg still cares enough about me to come all the way down from Vermont, and came up with some cover story to explain it to Justin.


So we waited for this past Friday, when the latest "Meeting" (we assume) was scheduled, for 6:30. Meg was stationed outside his work on Wall Street. When she spotted him leaving, she followed him through the subway, up to a restaurant on 49th Street. It was pricey ("Okay, I'll reimburse... but remember I pour coffee for a living!") and he was eating alone.


Then she followed him to a flower shop in China town. He went in for a while and came out with a bouquet.


Then he got in a cab and disappeared.


"You couldn't follow him?" I asked ruefully.


"Sorry Ty, the whole 'Follow That Cab' thing only works in movies," she sighed, "And in fact I don't even think it works there. I'm a Humanities Grad Student, not a spy."


Still, that was valuable info. A fucking bouquet? Before going away for the weekend? That's a giant red flag, right?


I started to get hot under the collar. I was being cheated on -- I mean, Val was being cheated on, but I felt some of it too, because it meant the affection he was giving to Val, through me, was all a lie, and... well, it is an incredibly messed up situation.


Once we lost track of Josh, Meg and Brigette and I all went out for drinks. Brig was worried about being a bit of a third wheel, but whenever you group a certain number of Inn-people together we all break the ice over our shared experiences so it's not like she was unwelcome. (Honestly, I've been so wrapped up in my own shit lately that I haven't been able to write about the friendship I've forged with her, but she's been very supportive of this "Male fiancĂ©, no sex" situation. Maybe someday she'll bring you up to speed on her drama...)


Meg, who loves New York but doesn't get to come down very often, really felt floored to be visiting me. Time has healed a lot of the wounds between us, and partly that might be because I have spent the last year and more outwardly female... meaning, I guess, that it's easier to think of me as a different person than the one who cruelly left Meghan in early 2016.


As we sat and drank, I kept catching Meghan's eye looking me over and giving a knowing smirk. At first I thought it was judgment for wearing a low-cut top (it's really hard to button these gals all the way up) or maybe... something she approved of.
"What?" I finally asked.


"You're so different now," she said oddly approvingly.


"I only look different," I sighed, "I'm the same crummy person inside."


"You're not. You were never crummy, but take it from someone who has known you as so many different people... this body suits you. It's doing something to your personality. It's like you're... free."


"I'm not," I smiled meekly, "I'm very much in girl-jail. Fiancee-jail. Soon to be marriage-jail."


"Pregnant-jail next!" Brig cheered, unhelpfully.


"Not happening," I scolded.


"Okay, you don't think you've changed. But as long as I've known you you've always seemed like the world was on your back, and now... even with all these stresses and conflicts, the weights isn't there anymore."


"No, the weight's all on my front," I said.


"I'll say, yowza!" she said, eyeballing my chest. "I thought I had it bad as Tasha... well, I did, but you're so short, it looks different on you."


"Any excuse to talk about your tits," Brigette teased. "You don't hear me bringing up my skin color every other second."


"Fair point," I said, "How's, um... how's that working out for you by the way?"


"It's... interesting..." she said, getting a faraway look in her eye, "Most people won't say anything about it, you know, if you're just out in the world. I mean, this isn't the fifties. But if I go to a bar or a busy restaurant or even a store, and I don't see any other black people I feel very aware of it."


We noted with some interest that there were now three "black women" visible on the blog, more than in the past, but why shouldn't there be? The Inn definitely does a random enough job screwing up peoples' lives. (Then Brigette made a crack that it was surprising, since "Brothas and Sistas don't fuck with Scary-Ass Hotels in Maine," putting on a exaggerated "soul sista" voice that caused Meg and I to both insist she never, ever do that again.)


We had a few more rounds and I really put Val's alcohol tolerance to the test, calling this "My real, unofficial Bachelorette Party" since two of the only people who truly care about Tyler Blake were there (My sister Carrie and Kitty, I think, being the other two.) We stumbled home and Meg crashed in my bed and... well, it was weird.


I was lying there in bed with this woman I had loved, this person I was sure I still had unresolved feelings for no matter how hard I tried to move on, and yet... it wasn't hard to resist doing more than that. It wasn't hard to put up a barrier between us. To draw the line and say... this is someone else's girlfriend, and you are someone else's wife-to-be, and... hell, you're both woman and you're just not aligned that way anymore.


I was filled with a kind of romantic longing for what we'd had once, and yet... completely (well, mostly,) without the physical impulses that went along with that.


Hey, on the one hand I would have loved a lesbian experience... or a sexual experience of any kind that I could enjoy... on the other hand, I knew it would be wrong, that our time was passed and this was not us anymore. I suddenly realized that "that" feeling was gone, replaced by, well, true friendship.


Which, considering what I was feeling about Josh at the time, was really comforting.


I invited Meg to stay for Val's Bridal Shower the next day, but she declined, along with my invitation to come to the wedding. "Honestly, I would love to be there to support you, but I'm really not in favor of spending a whole day in the company of strangers having to lie about why I'm there."


I sneered at her, "What do you think I'm going to be doing?"


"Fair enough," she slightly reprimanded herself, "But I really don't feel like I belong. It's one thing to become friends with your ex, but to watch him walk down the aisle... in white gown, no less..."


Through gritted teeth, "You know I'm not really getting married, right?"


"I just really don't think it's a good idea." Solid points she may have had but I was disappointed. Still, it's fixing to be a real busy day for me and I wouldn't be able to make much time for her, and I know she's real sensitive about being left out like that. I promised that I wouldn't let too much time go by before we see each other again.


At the Bridal Shower, I was probably very obviously disinterested... I had a lot on my mind, my emotional state starting to really catch up on me, not just with my suspicions against Josh, but my compunctions about taking Val's place at all. Being the center of attention as her felt wrong, and I knew it would only be worse when I walk down that aisle.


Making things even more complicated was that Val was there.


We invited "Anna" down to see/"meet" her friends, and see what Marie had done for her as Maid of Honor. She looked suitably pleased, and I've gotten the impression from josh that she can be a bit... controlling? Difficult? Impossible? I try to give her the benefit of the doubt but the way he seems afraid to cross her/me, the more I wonder what exactly is so messed up with their dynamic.


It was nice to put a face to the name, though. Phyiscally, Anna is as different from Val as I could imagine. Only a little bit younger, but tall and willowy (she describes her transformation as "A boob job in reverse, plus my legs turning my nightie into a top.") She's quick to call herself less attractive, but she looks very different, with a long, thin nose, eyes that seem a little close together, and a little bit of an overbite, but I think she looks perfectly nice.


She was careful not to seem too enthusiastic about it, and coached me on how I should be responding... which is good because I was in a daze and still debating whether to tell her about the bouquet.


What I didn't know is that there's a tradition with Bridal Showers... at the very end of it, who should appear but Josh, brandishing a beautiful bouquet.


For a little while, I really was Val, melting in appreciation. I hated to lay it on thick with her standing right there, but anything less than full sicky sweet couple mode would have seemed odd.


So that was that. I'm still a little twigged about the secret phone, but the bouquet makes me think we were overreacting to the whole thing. Maybe this guy really is as good as he seems... even if my gut is still telling me different.


-Ty

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Lindsey/Magda: Where's It Get Weird?

I'm used to people saying my love life is weird, what with Harmon being more than twice my age and all, at least until we went to the Inn and now I'm not just physically older, but he's biologically my daughter, which makes things weirder.  Or actually weird, if you consider that women have been pairing off with older men forever, whether you see it as guys with power and authority claiming the young and pretty ones for themselves or it being a biological or cultural imperative that comes from women of childbearing age pairing with proven survivors, so it's the current fad for matching ages that's weird (yeah, I've had some practice with this).  I've gotten pretty used to shrugging that sort of thing off.

Still, sometimes this situation gives me some idea of what other people may have thought when they liked at us.  Like, the other morning, I get a text from the real Magda.  "Hey," she types, "is it weird that I think there's a spark between me and Davy?"

In case you've forgotten, the real Alicia and Magda became Carly and Belinda, sisters who run a cupcake shop in Austin, TX, and they took to it pretty well; they maybe weren't quite the Gilmore Girls before the switch, but Magda was closer in age to Alicia than a lot of other moms, the divorce left them united against the husband & father who abandoned them rather than blaming each other, and...  Well, I don't know.  The point is, becoming sisters want a huge change in their dynamic.  The day-to-day of running a small business was a challenge for them, though, so the original sisters, now both guys, wound up coming down to help out.

"Nah," I replied, "it's only natural to feel a connection with the person who had your shape or vice versa."

"Sure, but Davy used to be Carly."

I literally recoiled from the phone at that, like, leaned back with a big "no!" on my face.  Fortunately, we weren't using video or anything, and I took a while to text back "depends if it's a vibe coming from you or 'him'..."   She dropped it, and hadn't mentioned it since.

I kind of can't blame her for looking, though; we're all only human.  Still,  I could probably handle my boyfriend being kind of both here and not here if it weren't for the fact that Magda's kind of popular, making it clear that I've got options.  Not quite "every head turns when she walks into a room" or multiple guys idly wondering what she's doing tonight popular, but if I hang out with people after work, I've got some attention, and I get asked for my number a lot.  Not like Harmon does, of course, but more than I expected at first, and more than I did in my real life, even though I was in my mid-twenties, blonde, and not in bad shape.  Of course, I was often kind of focused on studies or some other task, and Magda's job is about being open and helpful.  Combine that with the sheer number of middle-aged or older guys who go through an airport on a day, and even if the native silver-fox population is folks like pilots and air traffic controllers who expect the likes of Magda to show interest in them first, there's a lot of guys (including a really unnerving amount of married guys), and not a few women who might like a night out with her.

So she's used to that, and I'm getting hit with a lot of it, and folks are starting to notice me saying no or making excuses, including Magda, who at least doesn't seem upset that I'm not getting that far into character, though she reserves the right to give me hell for the rest of my life if she gets back and everyone starts treating her like being a nun is what everyone thinks she aspires to.  I don't deliberately play it coy, like I might have a secret boyfriend I'm not yet ready to tell people about, but people take it that way.  Magda goes through men, and if I'm not doing it obviously, then I must be doing it secretly.

Sadly, the closest thing I've got to men in my life right now, aside from Harmon, are the trainers at the gym.  That was a suggestion from Magda; as she points out, the only way someone her age has the figure I inherited is magic (ha ha) or hard work, and if I was feeling fatigued at times, it might be a matter of me getting her body when she was just coming off lolling around on the beach for vacation and then having me not pick things up.  She figured I probably want eating very well, either, not knowing the regimen that works for her body and probably grabbing a lot of junk food in the food court or corner store when I had a minute.  Guilty as charged. 

So I've been eating a little different and spending a fair chunk of time in the gym lately.  The first trip was the worst - I had the treadmill going way too fast, and what was probably a good workout for skinny 25-year-old me had curvy 45-year-old me really sore, really fast.  I dialed it back the next time, and raised a few eyebrows when I started switching things around - I like the rowing machines a lot more than the treadmills, both because I did a semester of crew in school and because it works the upper body a bit more than just running.  Magda never really tried it, kind of thinking of rowing as a sort of snobby thing, but I'm starting to feel better, much less worn-out when don't things like hauling laundry or running from one gate to another on some errand.

And, I must admit, I'm starting to feel a bit differently about the wardrobe she left me.  A month ago, I talked about shoving all the manhunter stuff aside, but feeling a little better about the shape of my body had me getting some out and trying it on while Harmon was away for work the other day.  It's not really me, but neither is the face in the mirror, and it's certainly fun to think about just going out to get what you want, rather than fretting over whether you're showing too much, worrying you can't pull something off, or just hoping the right guy would come to you.  So far, the only time someone has seen me wearing one of them was last night, when I figured that something clingy with a cape added would make for a good sorceress costume to wear while handing out candy (aside - I kind of can't wait to see pictures of Harmon working in a Halloween costume when one of his coworkers puts on social media).

I almost want to get all dressed up to go out and shoot down the guys who figure they're doing a woman in her forties a favor by hitting on her, just to kind of feel that sort of power and confidence.  It can be hard to recognize when you've had so much taken by something competent out of your control, but it can feel pretty fantastic.

-Lindsey/Magda

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Annette: Stupid, stupid, stupid!

How did I revert all the way to teenage girl after three years of supposedly being more mature, better at knowing what I wanted, and even ready to commit to being married?  It's like my brain looked at the experiences of my life as Ravi and Benjamin and said, "oh, that's got nothing to do with Annette!"

Maybe I should have just listened to my sorority sisters who were saying it wasn't cool to bail on a fraternity party for something  that was "like, gonna be all Chinese guys anyway, and you know what they say about them" (they aren't all racist, but it just takes one to make you want to book the whole house for a couple weeks at the Inn to get them some perspective, especially if the racist one is also one of the ones looking to marry well, and you might want to land yourself a parachute student, chickie).  But, no disrespect to them, I've been out paying with them three times in the last couple weeks, and while it was the same sort of baseline fun that comes with beer, dancing, and the guys finding as much reason to dress sexy as the girls, it was kind of a drag, because while some girls would be saying things like "they're just guys" when someone was being a creep, I kind of know better.

But, anyway, I squeeze myself into my Sexy Nurse costume, throw a peacoat on, and avoid the Red Line by taking the 47 to Missy's neighborhood.  She's really done a pretty good job with the place for basically working by herself between a dozen other things, and she's bought way better beer than the fraternity probably did.  I'm a little amused watching her and Ernesto together, because while I don't think that they'd end up together even if such a thought wouldn't cause Chen-ai to completely blow a gasket, but they give each other shit like people who are together.  Minus Chen-ai, maybe we'd be joking about when they finally get together, or maybe not; maybe the one time they had sex was enough to let them figure out they're not really compatible that way.

Anyway, the apartment filed up quickly enough, and I kind of get pressed into helper duty with Ernesto.  Still, I spotted Max as soon as he arrived, and ran up to say hi to him in his doctor costume, only to be stopped a little short to see that Bingbing was with him, also dressed in a nurse outfit, but opting for solid white stockings and flats rather than the fishnets and heels I'd gone for.  No cleavage, either.  Kind of to be expected, since we're all pretty sure she used to be a guy, but even though the were folks all around the apartment less covered than me, I sure felt kind of tacky in that moment.  Then she does a "hi, Annette, right?" and it irritates me, because even though I know I technically haven't met this Bingbing, it feels a bit put-on.  That's when Missy comes over, looks a little surprised at our matching costumes, but laughs, saying is not like we've got the Wonder Women outnumbered.  I drop back toward a keg, get myself another cup of Sam Adams, and let a short theater major be really obvious about talking to my boobs for a bit.

Soon enough, Missy finds me, and comments on our costumes matching, saying that's a fun coincidence.  I say it's no coincidence, that Max had told me he was going to come as a doctor, so I ran out and got this slutty thing, thinking that maybe I could tempt him into trying it out this way once, and if he liked it, then maybe we could go from there.

She got real quiet all of a sudden.  "What do you mean 'this way'?"  She knew, though, and started heading toward the corner where Max and Bingbing were standing, away from the rest of the guests.  "You and Annette?"  She had her fist up like she was going to do something stupid, so a grabbed her from behind.

Max looked at me.  "You didn't tell hi--her?"

"You said you were going to, that you were her brother and she deserved to hear it from you, and if I'd been born a guy I'd understand."

"I... may have said that.  Uh, sorry Jordo, I should have told you."

"That you fucked my best friend?  I'm letting you stay at my place, trying to help you adjust, and you fuck my best friend behind my back?"

"It wasn't like that!"

"No?  What was it like?"

"It was like I fucked him."  I felt Missy go kind of limp in my arms as I hissed this into her ear, not really wanting to broadcast the next part.  "Aside from how I was the guy at the time, not that that matters, there's no way sleeping with a dude was going to be his idea.  I was the one that wanted one last hurrah, and convinced Max it wouldn't be as weird for him later if it was someone who had started out as a girl and would be one again by the time he got his dick back."

She got enough feeling back in her legs to turn around and step away from me.  "And it just had to be him, huh?  Well, sure, I guess that makes sense."  She straightened her costume, suddenly noticed something needing a refill, and went to the other side of the room.

Me, I avoided looking at the guy I'd been planning to seduce, thinking that someone else who knew what the whole Inn thing did to your head, and instead started banging on my temple with a balled up fist.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

"No, it's on me.  You don't sleep with the girl your brother's for a crush on, no matter how drink and curious you are, even if she's only gonna be a guy for a little while longer and he's committed to being a girl for the long haul.  You just don't do it."

Wait, what?  "You're being silly; Missy never had a crush on me!"

"Are you kidding?  I've read all your entries on the blog, and I was there for some of 'em.  She kissed you at that ballgame!"

"That's--"

"And you know how stubborn Jordan is.  No way 'Deirdre' puts on her first bra or dress if he's not trying to impress you."

"I was, like, gay!"

"Like that matters for a crush!  And then - oh, wow, you know what?  I bet he was okay with giving up his life and potentially becoming Benny because he knew you were attracted to the original as yourself!  That makes so much more sense than Jordan just giving his life up because of Benny and Kareena!"

"Dude, that's your brother you're talking shit about!  Be nice!  Besides, our bodies and orientations were in line after that, and one kiss she immediately walked back aside, she never made a move!"

He started counting things off on his fingers.  "Maybe she wasn't really confident enough as a girl yet, maybe she figured you wouldn't want to jump into something so fast after having your life stolen, maybe she figured it was up to you to make the first move.  Then, when all that's out of the way, you're dating Marybeth and she's seeing Jacky."

"There.  She was going out with Jacky.  No crush."

"C'mon, Annette, she totally would have left Jacky for Benjamin."

"Bullshit."  I down my nearly-full Solo cup, turn around, and clack away on my fuck-me heels.  I think I'm going into the bathroom, but wind up in Missy's bedroom instead, and flop down on her bed.  I can just reach the door with my toes and kick it closed.

Pretty soon, Missy's in there.  "Hey, can I apologize?"

"For what?  Acting like you've got any right to tell me and Max who to sleep with or not asking me out when we were single and not both women?"

"Someone's got a high opinion of herself."

"Hey, that would be having a high opinion of who I used to be.  But Max makes sense.  Why didn't you ever, you know...?"

"I dunno.  Probably afraid of fucking it up.  I mean, badass bitch I may be, but how do I get through life as a chick without you?  It doesn't happen."  She turned around and flopped down on her back next to me.  "Besides, I liked Marybeth, you seemed happy, and if it's anyone else but Max and you..."

I was about to say something but someone opened the door and was about to say they were low on vodka, only to pull back and try to look up our skirts, leading us to both plant a hand between our legs and yell "in a minute, asshole!" in unison.  He quickly backed away and shit the door, and we looked at each other and laughed.

I sat up, a little dizzy - I hadn't really drank like that since being a girl and half Benny's weight, and it always hits me worse when I move after sitting still, no matter what I look like.  "Whoa.  Well, that's that.  No Chang boys for me."

"Hey, if you want to go after Max, don't let me stand in your way.  You're seeing your sights low, but it's not like he can do better.  Just be aware, he probably fed you all that because he knows he's not half the man you were."  She reached a hand out and I pulled her up.  "Whoa, I think all that missing vodka is in my brain.  Okay if I give you some cash and you make the liquor run?"

"No problem."  We went back into the kitchen, did a quick inventory, and then she gave me a couple hundred from her purse.  Ernesto came along to help me carry it, and the night air cleared my head a bit.  Ernesto and I talked about his and Missy's projects, and he had a lot of nice things to say about my contributions.  He's really a sweet guy, but I think I'm going to need a bit time before I can really consider guys where I'd have to hide the whole Inn thing.  Maybe when I've been just Annette long enough for my time Ravi and Benjamin to be a weird thing I did when I was younger than such a big part of who I am.

I didn't immediately see Missy when I got in, so I started to go into her bedroom to return the change, but only had the door open a crack when I saw it wasn't Missy in there, but Max, with Bingbing on top of him, sucking out his tonsils while his hands caressed her butt under her dress.

I closed the door and bumped into Missy coming out of the bathroom.  "Hey, here's your money, and I'm just going to go home before the T stops running, okay?"

"Uh, sure.  We still on for the spooky scavenger hunt?"  Some guy Missy knew from some Asian students thing had roped her into some MIT thing for Halloween night, and then me so there'd be two guys and two girls.

"Wouldn't miss it.  Beats the heck out of whatever sorority stuff I'd be doing otherwise."

And with that, I left, taking a huge breath or five outside the door.  We're gonna have some stuff to tali about tomorrow!

-Annette

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Party Planner

As great as it is to see Max and Annette so concerned about me, I'm not an emotional wreck.  Sure, it was a kick in the teeth when Chen-ai stopped in to solve the whole problem of the Wong sisters on the one hand but try to clamp down on my life with the other, but on the other hand, maybe I needed it.  If I we're really twenty-one, would I be thinking of marrying the first guy I've gone out with more than two or three times?  Nah.  And back when I was a guy, I would dump a ton of bitches before they had the chance to end it with me. 

And, really, who has time to try and even deal with a long-distance relationship this year?  I've got to make a fucking movie to graduate, I've promised someone else is act in his, and there are all sorts of regular classes to attend even if I weren't trying to carve out a few hours a week to practice Mandarin on the phone with RenĂ© and Romain, because who knows if I'll be able to get a visa to stay in America next year, and even if I go "back" to Hong Kong after graduation, that film industry has basically imploded, with a ton of the talent working on stuff meant to sell in the Mainland.

Don't get me wrong, all of this stuff is kind of thrilling - as much as would sit myself in and just code shit in my original life, being behind the camera doesn't mean you've got to be any less "on" than acting.  I'm working with someone in the Film Production program who's got a minor in business, and he's really helping me stretch my budget for what's kind of an ambitious sort and handling a lot of the negotiations with locations and such.  The practical end of it is so crazy - like, I've got a scene in a bar, and we've found a place that will let us shot, but it's got to be between 6am and noon, and that restricts the angles we can use because we want it to be at night and not show blackout curtains, plus we've got to get a bunch of extras in there.  There was a gag in the script about the guy in the lady-boot body pushing someone over because he didn't know his own strength, but that would have meant stunt performers and insurance!  It's kind of nuts to try and figure out what I can make look like a secret lab, because just writing "INT: SECRET LAB" doesn't build anything.  Heck, Annette is kind of pissed that we had to scrap the hospital scene that she says we need to establish that his body is well and truly damaged beyond conventional surgical repair, but Chen-ai is not going to let me drain my trust fund so that I can hire people to build a hospital set!

Compared to that, throwing a big Halloween party this weekend is nothing!

Why add that to my plate?  Because it's fucking Halloween, and while they do like it in Hong Kong, the version of it that I love is an American thing through and through, and next year being Chinese rather than Chinese-American is something I can't push back anymore.  And while I don't talk about them much on this blog, I have made friends over the past couple years, and add to that the fact that I can actually invite my brother and my best girlfriend, and maybe it will be the only time I can.

It's not necessarily a hugely involved process, in some ways.  You buy a ton of booze and some snacks - I thought it would be fun to put little pumpkin trick-or-treat baskets full of candy in various corners.  Make a playlist, equal parts top 40 and Halloween novelties.  And decorate.  I did not fuck around with the decoration; once all the furniture was pushed into corners, I made my apartment into a haunted cavern with a whole bunch of papier-maiche rocks, cobwebs, bats with little red lights for eyes, blue LEDs in every lamp, silent horror on the big TV...  It doesn't sound like much, but it was a pretty big deal.

So right now, I'm sitting in a pretty freaky-looking apartment with a super-sexy cheerleader uniform laying on a chair.  It's kind of funny, looking at it - growing up, we always used Halloween as a way to be able to bring the Chinese portion of our lives to the forefront, and this weekend it's a way to hold onto being America.

-Jordan/Missy/Yuan-wei

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Friday, October 27, 2017

J.T./Elaine: Dialing It Back

It was kind of amusing - well, maybe not amusing, but ironic - to log in yesterday and see Harmon complaining about dressing sexy and only doing so because he was ambushed and pushed into it.  I suspect that most guys the Inn turns into women are like that, although maybe not so much as an older guy who grew up a generation or two before me and...  Well, maybe I grew up around a lot of older guys with hot younger girlfriends; not all were creeps, but even the ones who weren't kind of were settled into a certain dynamic and attitude that could be really hard to shake - and, since it's always meant being with pretty girls, why would you?  It's got to be really weird to find the show on the other foot.

Me, on the other hand, I've got no real trouble with a lot of the external stuff.  Acting hadn't been my main gig for a while, but you wear the clothes and make-up that the team says you need to wear in order to make the proper impression on the audience, and some of it can get kind of wild.  Like, I was on a cable-network kids' sitcom, and every one of those is eventually going to have a cross-dressing episode if it runs more than a year or two.  They won't make it something character does a lot, but they will get some slapstick out of you stumbling in heels for twenty minutes and then sighing like you'd always been worried about that skirt making your butt look fat in the last two.  I did Rocky Horror for a couple weeks, a minor role in a couple historical movies sheer my characters wrote tights and even one or two when the costumers gave us period-authentic men's boys with high heels.  And every performer who want a massive overnight success has worked in a small-enough production where he has to do his own make-up.  My skin tone is different enough from what it was that it took a little practice, and I still occasionally go to YouTube when I need to do something that is more decorative than just covering blemishes or evening things out.

So, sure, it's still pretty alarming to wake up an African-American woman, but once I get over that daily shock, I can handle a lot of the things that are expected of me, and I kind of find putting my clothes and my face on a useful ritual - it gets me set to be Elaine Preston when I go out the door.  Elaine #1 initially didn't like me treating her life like a part to be played, but I think she's coming around to it a little, even if she does have mixed emotions about me renewing acquaintance with the friends that Cary and Max let lapse.  Inside the apartment, I can think of myself as a guy who has splurged for the cable sports package and is very much enjoying the Dodgers playing in the World Series without being "might as well root for the guys who beat the Cubs", even if the shorts and t-shirt I change into when I get home fit differently; outside, I'm Elaine Preston, freelance Agile Project Manager.

The trouble with that, of course, is that there are a lot of ways in which I'm not prepared for that role, and in some ways the technical stuff is the least of it (which is not to say Elaine's job is easy, especially since I haven't started it, just that I can act like I understand the stuff I'm parroting).  Like, the casual racism and sexism is something I want to react to much more strongly than she would.  I'm still getting used to public transportation and having to be a different sort of vigilant there then when I'm driving.

But, mostly, there are a lot of real-world things that working in show business in one form or another can sort of skew your perspective of the real world.  That first interview I tale about last time?  I wanted to make a good impression, so I looked through Elaine's closet for a nice outfit, thinking about what I'd seen women wearing to auditions, costume designers talking about how much leg to show, and the way young professional women are often shown in movies, especially as a contrast to the casual male nerds they're managing.  I put it on, posed for myself in the mirror, practiced talking about sprints and stand-ups and development environments, and made sure I left early to give myself a little time in case the trains didn't work out.

As soon as I took off my coat and people started looking at me in the office, though, it was clear I'd messed up.  Nobody wears a top showing as much cleavage as I was, certainly not at a tech company in a city where winter temperatures are noticeably different from summer ones.  The same goes for the mini-skirt and the four-inch heels.  I felt like an idiot when I saw all the open cubicles and wires - if I tried to make my interview outfit my work attire, I'd have to have my legs crossed all the time, folks would be looking straight down my blouse, and I'd probably unplug my computer with my heels five times a day!  Plus, given that I heard a few comments about the way I'd dressed and what I'd presumably do for this job,I don't know if I'd get past that first impression.

So I didn't get that one, but thankfully Elaine had a pretty good laugh when she saw the selfie I'd posted in the morning once she got her phone back after school (lots of comments about "just what sort of job are you applying for?", as you might expect) and called me.  After Cary and Max, she hasn't even considered having to warn the third man to have her body to tone the sex appeal down, but that I had to wear that outfit for an evening out with her girlfriends.  Not till spring, I said.

(That said:  Elaine's got awesome friends.  I'm starting to get a serious crush on Dorrie, who does poetry slams and knows every music venue in the city, but she's got a boyfriend and Elaine says she will do terrible things if she ever sees the real me approach her after we've gotten things back to normal because it would be like letting her date a stalker.)

Is probably good not to nail your first audition, though.  It gave me a little more of a chance to get a little more familiar with the software I'll need to use and get input from Elaine on SC sepals interview attire, so that when I finally got an offer on the fourth, it seemed more or less earned.

Which means that on Monday, I finally get to see if working in an office is really the stifling, creativity-destroying experience everyone I know days it is!

-J.T./Elaine

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Remind Me to Take Alicia's Birthday Off!

There has still been no progress in getting Alicia to tell me where she has stored her recording of this football player and her having intercourse, and the fact that the man in the tape (whose identity Alicia sees no need to keep secret from me) is having a good season so far is only placing me in a worse position, as one of my co-workers who listens to sport-talk-radio still says that the callers on those programs are already asking why he has not been extended.  One or two may have looked at me and made comments that implied I would know something about his conditioning, and while Alicia claims to have kept this encounter secret from everybody at work, and that even her mother knew nothing until the changes wrought by the Inn forced her hand, I would not be the last bit surprised if she had the door of reputation that made allowed such rumors to arise spontaneously.

Despite that part of her reputation, it is clear that Alicia is no fool.  The player's early success has allowed her to increase her demands as the team's interest in re-signing him grows, and whether by her doing or by her mother's, the bakery they found themselves running has remained successful enough that they could, in theory, walk away from these lives without fear.  I do not believe that they wish to, but simply leaving the threat in the air gives them more leverage over Jeremy/Arthur and, by extension, the team.  It also further updates him, leading to a recent message pointing out that I am not simply a go-between, that he can make trouble for me in both this life and my true life.

Truly, though, there is relatively I can do to convince either of them, leaving me with little option but to deliver their messages and do Alicia's job with as little incident as possible, lest she decide that file is something for me to deal with while the Inn is shuttered.  It is boring and menial, and surrounds me with air travelers - who are either as dismayed by having to spend several hours on a plane as I am or annoyingly excited by the novelty of it - and the type of person who actually wants this job.  That sort of person is friendly enough, I suppose, but rather more gregarious than I am looking for.

It would have been better, perhaps, if Lindsey and I had slept on opposite sides of the bed and this had our fates reversed; not only would I complain far less than she about relatively minor ravages of age,  but she would probably be more willing to deal with these people.  Indeed, she already seems to be on fairly good terms with much of the airport staff and asks me who I'm working with on any given flight.  I don't give it much thought, although I have mostly been with the same four-person group during October after the utter randomness of September, although we are still being told to come into the airport on a few hours' notice (something else that might have made Alicia's life more suitable for Lindsey; as invigorating as young people can be, they do not appreciate the set schedule the way an older person does).

What all of this means is that, while I said something noncommittal after we had finished our work on a flight to New York when one of Alicia's co-workers mentioned that it was another's birthday, so we should maybe meet in the hotel lobby at 9 o'clock to take her out for drinks.  I have no intention of actually doing so - thus far, nobody has seemed to find it amiss if I say that I feel asleep as soon as I took a moment to sit on the bed - but when I reach my room and open my bag, I see that Lindsey has not included the usual casual wear for my off-hours, but a decidedly non-casual dress with the accompanying panties and footwear.  She has also included a note saying that avoiding to Alicia, Magda, and everyone else she talked to, it's customary to take your co-worker out drinking if they're away from home, so go out, hit the Big Apple, and take lots of pictures.

My first thought is that this is some sort of payback for her feeling I did not do enough on her "Date Night", though she seemed to have learned from that experience and kept subsequent evenings out more casual.  It turns out to be less pettiness than excessive initiative; she saw the photographs Alicia has posted on her social media accounts (both before and after her visit to the Trading Post Inn) and decided, given the seeming precarious nature of my situation with Alicia and Jeremy, that I should attempt to replicate them as best possible, and did this without consulting me because she knew I would have put my foot down, meaning there is probably some sort of message being sent about relying on "mother" for this sort of thing as well.

Unfortunately for me, she's probably right about how I should make a bit more effort to at least go through the motions of socializing with Alicia's co-workers in this way, so rather than just reading the book I have loaded onto the tablet, I cleaned myself up from what an air-sick infant did and got myself into the outfit Lindsey sent.

I'm certain some younger contributors to this weblog have already described the sensation of their first time in "thong" panties after a lifetime of far more modest shorts or the torture device known as an underwire bra - necessitated because, while the dress is certainly contoured to follow these damnable curves, it offers no support for them.  And while it initially seemed very modest below the waist, it actually tapers inward after swelling a bit to accommodate Alicia's behind, meaning that I could only walk because it was slit practically high enough to reveal those skimpy panties.  Not only did this mean shaving my legs because, as mentioned, my pantyhose was in serious need of laundering, but the dress actually dragged on the floor because the shoes Lindsey packed did not provide the necessary lift (she probably should have found a slightly shorter dress if she felt these were the tallest heels I could navigate).

It was peculiar to look myself in the mirror at that point.  I cannot be a stranger to my new face and body at this point, and I've come to grudgingly accept that certain bits of feminine maintenance are necessary to avoid making waves given that Alicia saddled me with a public-facing service-industry job, but getting ready for a day at work is something I tend to do in a detached manner, just as I do my best to take minimal liberties when washing.  I am to look somewhat anonymous most days, aiming to look as though I am not out of place rather than attractive, and as a result, what I saw in the mirror looked and felt unfamiliar:  Bare shoulders and round breasts peeking out the top of fabric that seemed dangerously low and cut to reveal more cleavage without making it look like I had something attached to my chest with adhesive.  It highlighted Alicia's long neck, how pale her skin is compared to her jet-black hair, which blended into the dress.  I could scarcely reconcile it as being me, especially once I put on the red lipstick that I found in the handbag Lindsey had included.

By the time I had done all of this, it was almost time to meet the others in the lobby, although I would first need to stare down a teenager who took the elevator with me and insisted on peering down my decollatage despite his being a good foot taller than Alicia.  I must admit, it was a trifle amusing when the elevator's bell rang and he whipped his head up and pivoted so as not to look like a little lech to his parents waiting in the lobby when the does opened.

I did not see my party immediately, though I was able to find them quick enough at the hotel bar.  I strode to them confidently, putting the sight I must have been with my leg left slipping in and out of the dress and my hips swiveling as the outfit and shoes made me put one foot directly in front of the other, halfway changing direction with every step.  Elgin, who seemed to have already found a man to keep him company at the bar, seemed to notice first, tapping the crew chief on the shoulder and shooting "hey, guys, it looks like 'All-In Alicia' is back!" just a little too loud.

The birthday girl, clad in a red dress as short as mine was long and featuring a plunging neckline, let out a whoop, while our crew chief silently raised her white wine.  I immediately had a pink, sugary drink - Alicia's usual, apparently - placed in my hand, and did my level best not to make a face as I took a sip of the horrid thing.  The younger girl leaned in and said that someday, I'd have to tell her just what "I" did with a passenger to get a month-and-a-half secret suspension that nobody at work could figure out.  I told her she would not believe me if I told her, and she laughed like it was a far more scandalous double-entendre than was the case.

I had thought that perhaps we might simply run up a tab at the hotel bar, but Elgin's new friend had some other friends who were in a band playing in a bar in Brooklyn, so we piled into a van and made our way there in a ride-share van to listen to some millennials play guitar in a way that was apparently amusing because it appropriated the "plots" of video games released before they were born.  It was a two-bourbon show, and only because the bar got crowded and the rest of the group raised an eyebrow at me staying there - Alicia, apparently, dances. 

I do not, but as with many things, a young woman with Alicia's figure doesn't need to do a whole lot to attract attention; just rock back and forth a bit and men will position themselves nearby to see if you will do more.  Thankfully, the young men at this venue would have died alone in earlier decades, unwilling to show any real initiative where a potential mate was concerned.  It was easy to walk away from them.

The guest of honor apparently felt the same way, because once the set was done, we were in a taxi headed to a spot in Manhattan, which is apparently very popular among professional travelers, whether they work for the airlines or simply use them regularly.  I cannot fault them; the place made an excellent martini and, if an expensive one.  Sadly, I only had the chance to enjoy one or two before we moved to the next place.

There, not only were tequila shots the order of the night, but they seemed to come in random succession, with someone just yelling "shots!" in the middle of whatever conversation we were having and then a new set being shoved at us to be downed immediately.  It is here that the crowd truly becomes beyond annoying - as much as I know that sort of outfit is certain to draw a man's more tactile attention, one does get a bit sore, both physically and emotionally, after one has lost count of how often one's bosom and posterior has been squeezed over the course of a single night.  Worse, at around one in the morning, I had the horrifying thought that, while most of the time my own wealth of experience and strength of character was easily able to prevent any changes in biology that the Inn had effected on my endocrine system and even my very brain, this sort of mind over matter might become diminished with enough alcohol.  It was as good an excuse as any to stop ordering drinks and start making my way back to the airlift hotel, although one man seemed quite indignant that I would not be open to him buying me a drink, and had a few friends to help him press his case.  Fortunately, I was able to extricate myself with the assistance of Alicia's supervisor, the others in our party having already left for their one-night-stands without so much as a goodbye, and we made our way back to the hotel in a cab.

I must at least admit that it was a bit of a surprise how resilient a youthful body can be - though I was lying atop my bed's covers with only my scant panties on, my dress, bra, and both shoes each in a different corner of the room where I can only surmise they were justifiably thrown after I liberated myself from them, I was almost unbelievably alert when the ringing of Alicia's mobile phone awakened me with a reminder from her co-worker that I had to be on a plane in forty-five minutes. 

The flight back west was far from the smoothest since I have been forced to do Alicia's job - we all had to make certain allowances for the one who could not properly pace herself on her birthday - and I was very glad to have the next day off.  Lindsey got a well-deserved earful about placing me in situations like that, even if it did give me a temporary respite from Alicia complaining that I was making her look "boring".

-Harmon Keller

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