Friday, May 24, 2019

Valerie: Coffee Chat

A while back I had a day to myself. I was out running errands - stopping off at the CVS for snack food etc - and found myself at the coffee place not far from work. I often go there for off-hours coffee since I don't like to go in to work on my day off, and I find it hard to relax in there.

I was getting my Americano when who should I spot but Kevin, aka Silvertop, who had stopped coming into our place not long after he "defended me" against some douche who told me to smile.

"So," I said, "Here's where you've been hiding."

He put down his book, something called The Secret Wisdom of Nature, and looked up at me. I could read the embarrassment on his face. "Oh... hi."

"So, what, did I scare you off?

"A little bit, yeah," he winced at the memory.

"Well, it's safe, if you ever want to come back. My co-workers all unanimously told me I blew it out of proportion. You meant well."

"Thanks," he smiled.

"I'm a little bit touchy," I went on - God only knows why. "About people knowing what's best for me. Men in particular, but anybody."

"You have a right to," he nodded and gave a forgiving smile. "I'm guessing a lot of people have presumed to know what's best for you."

"A lot of people presume a lot of things," I said, with a slight laugh, although any semblance of a joke was lost on him. I sat down even though he didn't offer me a seat - I pretty much always assume men want my company nowadays, but I rarely take them up on it.

"People see me as something that I'm not inside. Helpless. Vulnerable. In need of protection."

"I can see how that must be frustrating," he said. "I... should let you know I have my own issues. I have three daughters and seeing a woman get treated the way you do sometimes gets under my skin. I felt like I was going to explode if I saw one more guy talk to you that way."

I bit my lip. Sometimes I forget other people have issues too but this was not long after my conversation with Ariel.

I raised an eyebrow, "So if you had sons, you wouldn't notice how men treat women?"

He exhaled, again, embarrassed. "I... can't say. I can't imagine not having my girls. I'd like to think I'd be sensitive and mature if I had sons too, but the last time I didn't have a daughter, I was a dumbass in my 20's."

I looked at his finger almost as a reflex - no ring. I didn't ask.

"Life... is not easy." I started to say, clearly just rambling at this point, "And I would like to say I had a better coping mechanism than just being numb but apparently it leads to losing my temper on well meaning customers and scaring them off. Sorry again."

We talked a bit longer. He told me about his home business as a recruiter, which is why he can spend hours at coffee shops reading in the middle of the day. He said he had heard some gossip about me, that I'd been left at the altar or something, and that always made him pay attention to me, to see if I let it show, bit I never did.

"That..." I said, almost with a smile, "Was a little like it happened to someone else. Something I heard about but didn't live. But I definitely did, and it was even harder than I thought it would be."

"You really can't prepare for something like that," he said with the tone of someone who knows. He added, "The blaming yourself is the worst part. It takes years to realize that the problem isn't with you but with them. I made excuses for my ex for a long time, I don't even know why. I can't blame you for just... amputating it."

I smiled. I felt understood for the first time in a while. "Amputate. That's a good word for it. God, I can't believe I'm spilling my guts to you," I said, once I realized the conversation had lasted over an hour.

"I thought I was the one spilling," he said.

"We both spilled," I noted. He chuckled.

There was a pause. I thought he was going to say something  but he didn't.

I stood. "Well, if you want a decent cup sometime - no offense to this place - you're welcome back at my shop. First one's on me."

"I appreciate it," he said with a smile.

I left another pause in the air. Still nothing happened.

"They... we... miss you. Take care," I backed away and left.

Once outside, I glimpsed my reflection in a window. I looked like a total mess, since I hadn't taken any care with my appearance before leaving since I didn't plan on being out long. I straightened my hair, and adjusted a bra strap that had fallen during the course of the conversation, but I had been too self conscious to address during the conversation. After checking to make sure nobody was around, I dug into my cleavage to brush out some crumbs that had fallen in and itched me for the better part of the morning.

Then of course I realized he could probably see me through the window, although if he did he didn't let it show. I hurried on home after that.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Daryl/Magda: Settling In?

I spent a couple days in April apartment-hunting with "Junah", who waited until the last minute to find a place for the summer and next school year because he was so busy just trying to live his new life without a while lot of help from anyone other than me, and while I haven't lost touch with being black or a man, college just seems like another world already.  Has it changed so much in ten years, or do you just forget?

Not that she needed my experience as a black man so much as my current self.  I was basically standing in for Jonah's parents, who still haven't come to terms with him deciding to stay his daughter's mother, or with a former white woman living his life, so while they're okay co-signing a lease, they don't want to be involved, and a young black guy looking for a place near campus is not going to have the easiest time of it.  So I pull a pantsuit out of the closet, come along and let people assume I'm his mother and he's either mixed-race or adopted.

It was weird.  I know some folks who, in my position, might get a kick out of puffing themselves up and acting like they're going to call the Better Business Bureau or something if they don't get what they want, or smile at new-Jonah finding out just how many different levels of racism there are, but it's pretty hollow.  I think we both kind of feel like we've exchanged one set of obstacles for new ones we aren't quite so sure how to navigate, and it gives us a bit of common ground with each other. 

The pronouns probably got confusing there, but that's Inn Person life to an extent.  Jonah sees himself as a guy living Krystle's life, and while he won't correct "she" all the time, it feels wrong to him.  Juliet, maybe because he's older and because he chose this life much more affirmatively than Jonah did.  He figures he's become a man, so he's a man.

And give him credit, he's been working hard to see what that means for him.  As much as he initially gravitated toward hanging out with his female classmates, he made an effort to do more "guy stuff", whether it's intramural sports, hitting up action movies, even going to a strip club one night.  That Jonah grew up in New Hampshire gives him pretty good cover when going to Harlem and otherwise trying out hip-hop and other black things.  It's sometimes kind of funny to watch, but he's out there trying, and you've got to respect that.  I'm not out there joining book clubs or stopping wine or otherwise trying to make a lot of middle-aged white lady friends.  And, who knows, when his brain finally gets over that "I'm old enough to there be her mother" reaction when a good-looking girl flirts with him.  That could totally drag him in a different direction.

Me, I'm still a solid "they" - woman in a lot of practical ways, but still thinking like a guy, and I think that J.T. likes me being kind of a guy at heart, that it cuts out a bunch of drama.  I kind of wonder if that will change should I spend more time around "other" folks like Magda.  Weird to think about.

Inevitable, though, considering some other recent visitors.  Elaine and not-Daryl made a quick trip here over the weekend and wanted to get dinner.  It kind of made me dizzy to see them sitting next to each other while I was next to J.T., because when you add it up, I've spent more time with "Elaine" as my girlfriend then I've spent as her and Magda combined, but I've been both of them, and though I know who's who, my brain keeps trying to see Elaine as J.T. and the other guy as me.  It's strange for him, too, although he's able to put on more of a facade of just meeting two folks he kind of knows.

And they're dating!  They didn't try to hide it, but they waited for me to comment on how they didn't need to hold hands so much, because there wasn't anybody they knew here.  Elaine said it started when she told J.T. not to say no to me, so there was definite attraction, so when she got back home and things were kind of in an unsettled place as between them as far as the world was concerned, and friends kept trying to get them back together, so when they wound up in the same place...

She trailed off with a shrug, so I turned to address my own face.  "Okay, I get her being attracted to me--"  We all laughed.  "--but I thought you had a girlfriend, and she was into it?"

"She was, and it got weird, dude.  Like, her new life was single and unemployed, so she could just move in with me, and it was fun - she became this really hot blonde - but after a while, she stopped using my name at all, even when we were home alone, saying it was just that she didn't want to slip when we were out, but, like, soon she was only listening to music from this other girl's playlists and...  Like, she's not planning to stay, but the way she was okay with assuming this whole other persona, not even looking for ways to be herself.  And, like, maybe she'd just switch back when we were ourselves again, but that she could kind of made me wonder about everything, y'know?"

"So when we meet at this business thing and we're able to get alone, and he could be himself and I had someone I could talk to about having been a white elementary school girl for a couple years, it was just this huge relief!  How are you supposed to not talk about that?  I mean, I can talk to Cary, but then it becomes about him and Krystle, which isn't his fault, but doesn't really help me deal with how this weird shit's gonna be in my head for a while!"

"Not gonna lie - it's kind of weird to find yourself attracted to a girl who sometimes talks about how something is like what happened at recess last year, but kind of special, too."

I look from one to the other.  "Is this an 'I want to stay like this' thing?"

He looked shocked.  "No!  The opposite - we didn't want you to hear it from someone else and get the wrong idea!  We weren't sure how well what you've got is working--"

Elaine elbowed him, but I said that was fair.  "I mean, there are challenges, but we're pretty happy."  I suddenly had a thought.  "I should text Pete."

My face looked surprised.  "You already promised him, uh, this?"

"I've brought it up, but he...  Well, he says a lot of things.  'Why would I want the body you abandoned?'  He'll joke about just getting used to being a girl, or say it's different when it's someone you know, but I kind of just think he's been bouncing around long enough that he finds it hard to commit."  My hand was next to J.T.'s, and he squeezed it, prompting me to lean over for a kiss.  "Anyway, he keeps in touch with a lot of people and has been asking around about something, well, a little more like you."  Elaine blushed as I looked at her.  "It may be destiny that I became someone J.T. could date, but maybe we could adjust it a bit.   People do talk about him and the older woman, and I haven't had a lot of luck looking for a better job."

"Hey, maybe y'all just aren't casting your net wide enough!"  Elaine pointed at her boyfriend.  "C'mon, I know you fell for this once, and maybe having been to the Inn stretches who you can be after.  I mean, everything you did and felt as me is still part of you, right?"

J.T. took a drink.  "I'd never know if we were trying to make it work, though.  Like, I pretend for a living, and I know that this is real, y'know, the way being yourselves will keep you sure what you've got is real."

"I get that.  Just wondering, since it took me so long to get home."

We finished our meal and then they went to their show.  We saw a movie and then went home. 

It was great to see them, at least.  It was a pretty good reminder that this year's Inn season is coming up fast, and even if I don't wind up changing, there's a lot of people who will have their lives turned upside-down - or right-side-up, as the case may be.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Jenn/Zack: Barriers

I'm attracted to Pete as April.

I'm confused about it, but more than that I'm confused as to why I'm confused about it. I've already indulged my hetero-male interests with David, and I know I was/am attracted to Alexa. I can do it. I could be doing it. Why don't I want to be doing it? What's my problem?

She's really cute, and the person inside is so smart and worldly. I love talking to him. I like being around him. I've kissed those lips, caressed thst skin, and it's elicited a physical response from me... the kind thst says Go! Go for it! But we only have once.

It was a nice night. A magicsl night. Pete is rhe kind of person who knows how to show you a good time. I was intoxicated - not just by the wine but by his magnetic presence. When we got home, it was a certainty what was going to happen. Kick off our shoes, pull off each other's clothes... lock away any doubts about what you were doing.

We went through with it, but the memory is tainted by my not heeding all the doubts I had before and during.

And it's because I know it's not real. And this is not fair to Pete or to me, but I have to obey that feeling.

That person he is dressing in lacey underwear for my benefit, that person whose hand I'm holding? That is not Pete, it's April. There is a difference to me and I respect it. That is another woman's body and life I am toying with, we are toying with. I suppose it would be different if we knew April would never be herself again, like Valerie, but that's not the case.

Why was it okay for me to hook up with David as Lena? I'm not sure it was. Only that I knew the man inside (so I thought). When I looked at "her" I knew who I thought I was seeing. When I look at Pete, I see April. Nobody else seems to have this problem, but I do. That's not a judgment on them but of me. I wish I didn't. Pete is beautiful inside and I wish we could explore what we have, and yet, all I see are barriers. I feel physically ill with guilt when trying to make love to Pete as April. It feels shallow to feel like I need the person I am making love with to mentally and physically be the same, because for Pete that's not possible.

Pete is normally understanding but this has frustrated him, so whatever we had is done. He is honorable so every plan we had, with regards to Maine, is intact, but I can't say the same for David, who has cut me out of the loop, and as far as I know intends to stay as Lena. Shocking considering he hates being female, but he clearly enjoys her money and status, so...

You think you know somebody.

You think you know yourself.

I'm sorry Pete. But we are wanderers together. Maybe something will happen in our next lives that will help us through this, or take us apart for good. You deserve to be happy.

I've never been so scared or so lonely through this.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Valerie: Out With the Girls

Once the weather started getting a little bit nicer, I noticed a change in Charli's energy. "All right people," she said one night, clapping to get our attention like she was a schoolteacher. "Winter is over. time to start having fun!"

Maddie and I looked back and forth at each other nervously. I was reading on my phone, Maddie was knitting.

"Fun?" I asked, fearfully - the way she said it almost seemed like a threat.

"That's right ladies," she said, "We're done with hibernation. It's time to get out in the world and experience some hardcore fun."

Personally, I work all day, sometimes at two jobs - relaxing at the end of the day is fun for me these days. Maddie feels similarly.

"Come on!" Charli said urgently. "You're both young, hot women in New York City! Every night you're not out seeing the world is a waste of your life."

"I have a boyfriend," Maddie reminded us.

"...Who spends four nights a week playing video games with his boyfriends, while you're sitting here knitting! That's a waste! And Valerie here still hasn't lost her virginity!"

I winced - the joke hit a little close to home, but my "prudishness" has become fair play for comment. When Charli likes you she teases you. Maddie muttered, "I like knitting..."

"Girls night. Girls night!" Charli started chanting. "Girls, girls, girls!"

"Chuck," Maddie said, using her nickname for her twin, "We have very different ideas of what constitutes a fun girls night." Personally, I'm not sure how many "girls nights" I've even had.

"Wine bar. Art show. Shitty bar band. Club. Billiards. Rave. Swap meet. AA meeting. Anything to get us out of this house because I'm sick of looking at these four walls!"

"You go out almost every night!" Maddie countered.

"Yeah, but not with you! Not with my girls!"

I had to admit, it felt good to be one of someone's "girls."

I looked around nervously. "Well, it's been a while since I've gone out to a bar..." Most of my outings lately have been unsuccessful dates, so I didn't get to enjoy myself. The idea of just going out to a bar to go to a bar seems terrifying to me as a woman, but with my "girls" by my side, maybe not so bad.

"Val! Thank you Val!" Charli took my hands in hers and squeezed. "I was worried I was going to have to take you guys to Court."

'Court' is a thing we do around the apartment to settle disputes - prosecution, defense, judge. It started as a gag but the rulings have been taken shockingly seriously - see the case of Maddie v. Thermostat, where she came prepared with energy-usage statistics and financial metrics to get us to keep the apartment two degrees cooler during the winter.

Maddie twisted in the wind about it. "I... okay. One night out once in a while isn't gonna kill me."

We settled on the neighborhood bar. Maddie stressed over what to wear but I didn't. I didn't want to put myself on display or anything, but I wanted to be comfortable and casual while not seeming closed off. I wore jeans and a sweater that emphasizes that yes, I have boobs, but doesn't feature much cleavage so it says "No, they're not for you." Maddie changed three times, eventually settling on a plain white v-neck tee, jean jacket and tights that make her butt look good. Charli just wore what she already had on - a crew neck tee and slacks.

Maddie did my hair and makeup - I welcome this, possibly for reasons that would scandalize her, because the touch of a woman is still a special thing even if it's not what I'm primarily into these days. It's a different form of intimacy from what I experienced as a man, or what I get from men, and part of me craves it.

Maddie asked me when was the last time I saw the hairstylist. That's something I haven't kept up on in a while. I did it to keep continuity when I first became Val - after being  ery self conscious about grays (and Kitty's opinion) as Judith. But since I locked into making VLal my permanent self, I got out of the habit. Maddie's comment made me think maybe I should... which is a shame since avoiding it is a good way to save money.

 I also changed into some cute underwear - a lacey thong - because it's important to be prepared. Oddly, feeling rushed and forgetting myself, I started to do this in front of Maddie, which caused her to bolt from the room. I was embarrassed that I hadn't thought twice. And then I wondered if she's a little sensitive because her twin is a lesbian and she feels the need to like, overcompensate.

In our own ways, we all looked hot.

"By the way," Charli said as we were almost there, "I invited my friend Ariel tonight. She's cool. We're sleeping together, but nobody knows it yet, so shhh."

Maddie rolled her eyes. "Come on! You wouldn't let me bring David but you're bringing your random hookup??"

"Hello! This is a Girls' Night, and she's a girl, so what's wrong with bringing her?" Plus, Charli added, they've been sleeping together for three weeks - for her, that's a commitment.

They bickered a while, and as usual I didn't chime in until called upon to make a ruling. "I decree that this is not in the spirit of Girls' Night, but it does conform to the letter of the law. Plus, I'd like to meet this chick." If it's getting serious, we might as well.

We went in. Ariel, this beautiful dark-haired, tan-skinned girl, waved us over to her table. She's almost as short as me, with a booty. She wears her hair out in a well-tamed mass of curls and has what I would call Librarian glasses. She and I were wearing very similar outfits. She gave Charli a chaste hug hello.

I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen next. We ordered drinks. We tried to talk, but it was a strain to be heard. There was indeed a crappy band playing old covers. I announced I wouldn't mind playing darts. Nobody seemed agreeable to that, but some guy offered to teach me.

I looked him up and down. There was nothing offensive about him, so I challenged him to a friendly game. I won, and he decided he didn't want to play so much anymore and went back to his friends. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me if he wasn't into me.

I found Ariel outside, vaping. I wanted to break away from the group a little bit. Partly because as different as they are, Charli and Maddie are still sisters  and occasionally whem hanging out with them I still feel likecan outsider. Or maybe it's because they've been women their whole lives and I'm... well, I can embrace it all I like but I'll never be what they are. It doesn't feel as bad when I'm hanging out one on one with a woman but in a group, ironically I start to realize I am not like them. I'm rougher, I don't have the same frame of reference for things. I get more worried about not "passing."

Besides, I was liking hanging out with Ariel. She's cool and funny and bookish, a bit like Meg. And I sensed that maybe she felt a little left out too.

"So," she said, "Charli and I are... kinda a thing, maybe? I don't know."

"Yeah," I said, trying to conceal the fact thst Char had prepared us, "I gleaned that a bit."

"I don't know why I'm so embarrassed to admit thst. You're cool people. You know Charli, you don't judge. I just... this is all new to me. Before I met her I thought I was straight.  She's my first girl... hookup... person."

I wanted to tell her I related to her confusion,  but she didn't need me to steal thunder with my backstory. I let her vent

"I get it," I said, "It's nobody's business but yours."

"It's the worst feeling. I want her to pay attention to me but I don't want it to be obvious. So I feel ignored. If you weren't here I would have bailed already."

I took the compliment and said pretty much the same.

"I'm such a dork," she sighed cutely to herself, "I thought I was so open minded. I thought, I'm not gay, but if I were, I'd be proud. My parents are liberal, but I'm still sweating bringing her home."

I wanted to joke that I wasn't sure Charli was the kind of girl you take home.

"So," she said, changing the subject, "Who's texting?"

I turned red. I thought I had been very subtle. Charli and Maddie had been so gabby all night I was pretty able to check my phone and tap out a quick response, but Ari must have been more observant

"Some guy," I said. "On a dating app."

"You like him," she said, again making an observation, not asking a question.

"I'm... interested. More than I've been in a while."

"Can I see?"

I winced. "It's, uh, complicated with this one... I'm not sure how public I want to be yet either."

She smiled, "I get ya."

Maybe eventually she will.

We went back in. I talked to her some more. She's very into soccer so I let her bring me up to speed on that, until Charli forcibly changed the subject.

The night lased a bit long for my tastes. Darts Guy came back, a little drunker, to see if he could get my number. I respectfully passed. The moment was gone. I've got my mystery guy, and a perfectly healthy masturbation routine if that doesn't work out.

Having admitted to the nature of their relationship, Ariel came home with us and slept over. In the morning I made us all eggs and broight Girls Night to its official close.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Game Nights

I wasn't exactly a jock in high school, or otherwise really in a position to call other kids nerds or dorks - I was, after all, the kid going to extra church - but sometimes with Calvin and his friends, I feel like maybe I should have been?  Like, I know that I'm actually five years younger than all them, but sometimes I kind of wonder when they're going to grow up.  I guess it's a bit of everything, in that they're all white and never really had to worry about certain things, and how I jumped straight into adulthood from the middle of high school and then had a kid and I guess stopped having a lot of time for frivolity.

I mean, Game Night.  A bunch of folks in their mid-twenties getting together to play board games, and, like, not even "drink a shot when you get sent to jail in Monopoly" varieties.  One of Calvin's friends orders stuff from Germany that is apparently going to be the next big thing among tabletop enthusiasts here.  It's insane, but I feel like I'll be letting Cal down or looking like some sort of b---- if I say I don't want to go, I sound like a snob, and can the black single mother really afford to sound like she's too good for these folks?  Especially when I've got a while bunch of what Penny calls "Impostor syndrome" going on?

It's not that I don't have fun at these things, so much as how you get to doing them kind of bewilders me.  I feel like I just grew out of board games, or like they're something Little Moira is going to be growing into soon, and I haven't had time to get nostalgic and try to rediscover them.  I felt kind of silly asking Ashlyn not to schedule me to work every other Monday and even sillier asking Momma Kamen to babysit because this is my "grown-up time" with a boyfriend rather than a toddler.

On top of that, Calvin was hosting this week, and somehow that meant I was responsible for snacks - "we" were, but, well, you know.  And because it's important for some reason that I impress these people despite never having learned to do much more than heat food up, I got myself into a panic a week in advance.  I set off the smoke alarms in the apartment trying to make cookies, and maybe cried a little I told Moira and she said "ye work in a bleedin' restaurant and the owners like your fella".

So half an hour before everyone else started to arrive, Ashlyn showed up with two trays of dip, one with peach cobbler, and a bunch of tortilla chips  I thanked her with promises of overtime and handing out menus, but she said not to sweat it, that we all had different challenges in our new lives that we didn't see until they were right on top of us, but that I should remember I'm only dating Calvin and not his friends.

Easy for her to say; she didn't have any of them staring daggers at me because I'd only managed "vegetarian" rather than vegan with the second tray of dip and honestly couldn't tell the couple for who that was an issue whether there were egg whites or any other sorts of animal products in the cobbler.  I didn't have a great night as Calvin's partner, either; I swear someone got a bunch of "stuff Jonah doesn't know" Pictionary cards, and during Settlers of Catan I had no idea what expansions he had and therefore what we could do.

At the end of the night, I waited for him to sit down and then flopped onto the couch beside him, laying my head on his chest.  "Why is having fun so stressful?"

He laid a hand on my belly.  "Because you've got this silly idea that you need to prove you're awesome."

"It's not silly, and I don't have to prove I'm awesome, just that I'm not a screw-up.  I've disappointed so many people."

He leaned over and kissed my forehead, and then I leaned back a little more so he could do it again on my lips, and then his hand was on my back and I turned around so he could pull me in and there could be tongue.  One of his hands went to my butt and I let it, while I felt the muscles of his back.  The little part of me that says I shouldn't be making out with a guy was blowing its whistle but I ignored it, laying back on the couch and letting him stale me while one hand went to a breast.  I pulled him in a little, just close enough to feel that he was hard, which made me break the kiss and scoot back a bit.

"Sorry," he said, "it just happens."

"Believe me, I know.  It's just--"

Maybe there's a bit of disappointment on his face as he anticipates me saying that, but despite all the talk on that subject, I don't think I noticed any.  I actually found myself thinking "don't be stupid!" because I could feel myself turned on all over and thinking what am I going to do, run to the bathroom?  So I took a breath and said "it's just that I really can't have another baby right now.  You've got to be really careful."

A big grin spread over his face as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a condom with something about extra thickness on the wrapper, did my best not to look away as he put it on, although I may have taken a little longer than necessary in pulling my dress up over my head.  I suddenly felt really naked and vulnerable in just my bra and panties, though also kind of wishing I'd worn fancier ones.  Still, I was able to put myself in his place, pulling my panties down and letting him, well, you know.

I kind of don't know what to think of it.  It felt good, because he knew what he was doing a lot better than I did.  I mean, I didn't just lay there like I did when I got knocked up, but I didn't really know what I should do!  I felt stupid for not having done anything when I was a guy, or all the things I knew I shouldn't do but which would have left me feeling less ridiculous in that moment.  He said it was okay, I was just out of practice, and I just thought about how it was a good thing that if never let on just how much practice I figure Krystle had before I took over her life.

I talked to Ashlyn about it a couple days later and she started to laugh before apologizing, saying she figured it must be even weirder than usual for me.  Then the next day she brought in a couple of DVDs, saying that unlike most porn, most of what was on them would be fun for both of us and most of it wasn't "too advanced".  I was mortified and kept looking at my purse like it was going to catch fire the rest of the night.  I've seen R-rated movies and all, but never anything like that!  I was almost relieved that there was never a good time to get them out of the back of the drawer I speed them in over the past week.

But now Momma Kamen is out for the night and I've got another date with Calvin tomorrow, and Little Moira just feel asleep.  I really don't want to study how to please a man like this - I can't help but think of the time my dad found the magazine a classmate had stuck in my backpack and what the thought of his son learning how to make a man come would be like for him - but I kind of have to, if not for Calvin, than for the man I eventually marry.

Still...  Why is having fun so stressful?


Friday, April 19, 2019

Simon/Joy: Highland Girl

I actually did it.  Everything that the original Joy ever owned is gone.  A lot of it went to thrift stores, some of it went to Treena, and the rest is in her parents' basement, but by the time I left San Diego, there was nothing in my bags that I had inherited from her.  This may seem like a silly thing to do, but once it was done, I wondered why more people who wound up in a new life long-term without the original person planning to return because of the Inn don't do it. 

Admittedly, it's not exactly financially great; purges don't bring back enough cash to replace what was gone; it maybe only really works when you're going to be traveling light and moving in with your rich boyfriend.  Still, there's a bunch of really silly stuff that goes with wearing someone else's clothes and sleeping in her bed and maybe having pictures of the girl with type current face doing things you never did on the fridge.  Like, what am I supposed to do when Treena smirks and says I'm wearing Joy's lucky panties?  And the time I've spent fiddling with her devices because she had some screwy preference that returned every time her phone rebooted.  It just feels good to have all that be mine now.

But wait, you may say, weren't you focusing on traveling light so that you can move in with Joy's ex-boyfriend?  And, yeah, I see where that come off as hypocritical.  But it's not like he ever mentions stuff he and she did very often, and I feel like the fact that he's been visiting me for the past year, so that it's mostly me choosing where we go and what we do, I feel like I've been making him my boyfriend rather than hers.

I don't mean I've been deliberately trying to change him or anything, just kind of bringing out the parts of his personality that are more in line with mine.  Some of it's guy-inside stuff, like being a little more reluctant to give head, or maybe spending an afternoon at a game rather than a nature walk or whatever, and some is just me not being girl-next-door-y in the same way.  Like, I'm not going to resist when he wants to take me to a nice restaurant or spend a couple hundred bucks on a bottle of wine, or anything like that.  I'm not gold-digging or dropping hints or anything, just not saying no or being embarrassed when life offers me nice things, and maybe she would have felt the same if she'd returned to this life after spending the better part of a year as someone else.  That she didn't is all the reminder I need that life isn't always generous and you should take what it gives you.

Although even I must admit, the castle is a bit much.

Iain's family doesn't live in an actual castle - it's not made of stone with turrets to shoot arrows at invaders or anything - but it's a pretty sizable mansion, with an enclosed courtyard, a dining hall that can accommodate a lot of people, a ballroom, and stables that I'll get to layer.  I showed some nice places to guys that had money to spend in California, but even the really nice, old ones, I'd be giving some sort of spiel about what the servants' quarters had been converted into, whereas this one still had servants living there!

Maybe more staff than family, at times.  Iain has an older half-sister, who herself is married with three kids of her own, but they live in Ireland and mainly visit around the holidays, and a younger brother who is attending school in Boston, and a few cousins who have rooms in the house to call their own - a few of them are around at any given time - but most of the time it's him and his father, plus the butler, cook, stable-master, and now a nurse.

One of the benefits of not really being Joy is that I don't remember Sir Robert Mackinnon as he was before the stroke, and as such I apparently didn't come off patronizing or pitying the way that a lot of old acquaintances do when they see the wheelchair or hear him slur his speech a little.  He's still sharp, especially when you get him talking about his horses or something else where he can get excited.  I think we've even started to bond a bit, since I'm around the major a little bit more than I'd originally expected. 

As much as being the live-in girlfriend of a rich young man sounds, it gets kind of boring at times, but getting a job in a foreign country is a kind of chicken-and-egg thing.  You can't get a job without the proper visa, and they won't issue you the visa without a job lined up.  It may go a little smoother because Joy's parents are English, but that doesn't make me a citizen.

So I kind of hang around, the staff kind of resents me because they're not running a hotel, and I try and figure out what to do next.  I would occasionally wander by the stables, and one day last week Sir Robert was there, arguing with a trainer.  The horses, you see, are the foundation of the McKinnon family fortune; they've been breeding them for decades if not centuries, but it's not something Iain and his siblings have particular interest in, and Sir Robert is apparently a canny enough businessman to recognize that diversifying the family's holdings is a smart idea.  It makes him a bit sad, though, so he seemed to be heartened by my interest, asking if I'd ever ridden.  I don't know what Joy would have said, but it's not exactly something I could fake.

He was a bit disappointed by that, but got a little happier when I started to show interest in the business.  In certain crude ways, it's a lot like what I was doing before the Inn, if you consider breeding akin to a custom manufacturing process and horses a short of durable good that certain clients might need, whether they be in the racing business, farmers, or even a couple of police departments.  Sales and contracts are...  Well, it's interesting, though he doesn't necessarily seem to think a young American girl like Joy would be interested in anything but the pretty horsies.

He seems keen to foster that interest, if only because maybe me being interested would get him interested, but didn't think much of it until I got back from doing a little shopping and had the butler, Weathers, intercept me and say there was a parcel for me from "the Master", which means Sir Robert (Weathers trends to call Iain "Mister McKinnon").  Curious, I went upstairs to find a garment bag with a riding outfit in it - boots, jacket, little cap, the whole deal.

Of course I tried it on, posing a little in the mirror.  As much as I've grown used to being Joy by now, sometimes I surprise myself, and seeing Equestrian Barbie made me giggle a little, both in delight and kind of ironically.  It wasn't hard to imagine where this could go, me as lady of the house, riding on the weekend, going to events with Iain, looking modest when he says that I'm not just a pretty face but actually run the family business.  Ridiculous, I guess, but what did I come here for if I wasn't looking at that as a possibility?

Gotta learn how to ride first, though.  First lesson with Iain tomorrow, weather permitting.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jenn/Zack: What's next

If it's been quiet around here, it's not because we haven't been busy. We have to be, since even in Jersey, rent isn't cheap. I have been busting my ass to get referrals for my mediocre photography, which has gotten off the ground thanks to Alexa -- having an absolutely gorgeous woman linking you in her Insta posts really does a lot for your profile.

In celebration, Alexa and Ryan invited me and "April" out to dinner at a restaurant Ryan knew - a real up and coming hipster place. Pete didn't want to go, knowing how crappy Ryan had been and that he still hadn't been caught, but I was insistent. I didn't want to feel like a third wheel, and I still have trouble relating to guys as guys - in mixed company they're not so bad but if I have to have a one-on-one conversation with Ryan it's likely he'll say something that turns my stomach.

Plus, there were certain thoughts that I wanted to avoid having when Alexa is around.

Honestly, it's been hard to process, because when I'm around her, my hormones go off like a neon sign saying "YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THIS!" But I get a churning feeling in my gut because I'm not a guy and if I'm lucky I won't be much longer so there would be no point in pursuing someone like her. Or anyone. Plus, she's with Ryan, even though he doesn't deserve her. And when I see them together it just pains me.

I had hoped that being "in character" with April would distract me enough, but really, compounding a secret with a lie just turns out to quadruple the negative feelings. I was constantly wondering what my body language was saying, if I was staring too long at Alexa, not looking over at April enough., if I was "passing" as male with Ryan, while simultaneously feeling the urge to fight him.

Ryan asked n innocent question about our relationship, April and Me - asking about how the last time he heard about me, I was dating that older woman. I tried to wave it off as jut a fling (and not let on that it involved a serious heartbreak) and that April, who in cover story I was with for years, was my true love. But it was hard to say those things and mean it.

Pete looked lovely, taking the opportunity to make himself very pretty and sophisticated, wearing beautiful earrings and a silvery, low-cut dress that he said was the nicest thing April owned and that he didn't think he'd get a chance to wear... any guy would be lucky to have a woman like that on his arm. I wished I could have appreciated it but I was far too distracted.

Pete deserved to be congratulated too. He had found a new job in short order, unsurprising based on April's resume and his own capabilities. It's a short-term contract too, which always sounds like such a ripoff but works out perfectly since it ends just as we are supposed to be going to the Inn this summer.

After we parted ways it was a long ride out of the city. Now it was Pete's turn to seem distant and distracted. I asked what was wrong.

"Well, I'm a little let down," he sighed. "I shouldn't be surprised, and I'm not taking it personally or anything, but... I kind  of thought this would work."

"What would?"

"This," he said, gesturing to his body, his dress, his hair and makeup. "Its... a lot, don't you think? Put a lot of work in here. I know I can't compete with Alexa - hell, if I was still on the guy side of the equation I'd be eyeing her all night the way you were. But I thought maybe I could draw some of that attention for myself."

He sighed. "It's stupid. I feel like an idiot for... thinking... anything, I guess. It's been a long time since I liked anyone as much as I like you, Jenn. I'm a romantic at heart, but just like you, I care too much to trick anyone into being with me while I look like someone else. The only shot at happiness either of us has is with someone like us."

I was shocked. We've been getting along well as "housemates" and really enjoying each other's company... I guess I just thought that was where it ended. But I appreciated that he was being open and honest with me.

I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind. We're two people of compatible sexes sharing a space. I've seen "April" in all but the fullest state of undress, gotten familiar with his habits and quirks, shared jokes. It has been a little bit like a relationship - the settled, later parts. It's just that, after years with David, maybe I was hoping to be swept off my feet again. Or sweep someone off their feet.

I took my time in crafting my response as a long silence fell between us. "I just think..." I said, treading lightly to be sure if this really was what I thought, "If we're only... you know... together... because that's the easiest, or only option... is that healthy? Don't we deserve better?"

He smiled - oh, wow, how that smile lights up a room, if I'm being honest - "This has been a hreat month for me, Jenn. What could possibly be better than this?"

He touched my hand. Those soft little fingers on my rough ones.

I felt warmth inside me.

My heart started beating faster.

I wanted to kiss her right there and then.

Why... why not?

I leaned over and pressed my lips to hers. I hadn't kissed anyone in a little while, and I haven't kissed anyone new in a long while - I mean, technically, when I kissed David as Lena for the first time that was someone new, but this was something else.

I can't deny it was better. Whether because, on a shallow level, I'm more attracted to April than I was to Lena (who had beauty, but you know, the age thing and being my first "woman",) or because I was just so excited for someone to be thinking of me that way again... it was long, and hungry and passionate before we knew it.

We made out all night, and when we weren't making out we were talking like old friends, unburdening ourselves in ways we hadn't yet in all the weeks we'd been living together. I didn't know if it would just end up being one night of passion, or something more, but my eyes felt opened for the first time.

"So, does this mean," I asked around 3 AM, "I can start sleeping in the bed?"

She flashed pink-red: "Let's just take it one step at a time, okay? We have months."

Fair enough, I said...

We did fall asleep in each other's arms, though, sitting upright in a position that felt comfortable at first but left me sore in the morning.

I had left my phone in the other room. When I checked it in the morning, there was a long text from Alexa.

There was a bit of preamble, but essentially it was saying how she's never had a guyfriend like me before, and there she's starting to wonder if there's something there - a better connection than she has with Ryan. She says, she hates herself for thinking it but maybe I feel the same way and that's why I seem so indifferent about April.

She said she was sorry for putting it out there if I didn't feel the same way, but she couldn't get it out of her head.

My heart sank at that... talk about terrible timing.

-Confused Jenn