Thursday, December 28, 2006

Arthur: Busy holidays

I haven't had much time to write lately, because it's been crazy around here. I understood, in a vague way, that Christmas was a hectic time for families, but I hadn't really encountered that first-hand in years. My mother has been sick, and before that we'd sort of been cut off from the rest of her family. I won't get into the reasons why; it's tied up with why we didn't talk with my father, even up to the end. It's private, it's got nothing to do with the Trading Post, and that's the last I'll be talking about it.

This year was something else again. Suddenly I've got to shop for a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a nephew, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and, oh yeah, a boyfriend, only one of whom I've spent any particular amount of time with. I've got to do this with more time spent at work, because the studios are just starting to roll out their prestige pictures, and we're sort of a prestige-picture theater.

The real Liz's letter was a big help. She's been window-shopping for her family up in Montreal, seeing things that she thinks Tara, Winston, or Billy would like and wishing she could buy them and send them down. I was happy to do what I could, of course, because I figure I'm just minding the store until she gets back. Advice like that helps me do so better, and makes me not appear to be a complete idiot when exchanging gifts on Christmas morning.

Now, that was strange - all last week, I had Liz's mother calling me and asking if I was going to stay over Christmas Eve. I told her I had to work, but she said that was okay, any time I could get there was fine. Apparently, even though Liz is a grown woman, since she's still single, she has to adhere to the kids' rules at Christmas and stay at the family house. Of course, since Ray was in the same position, we wound up driving out to the suburbs at eleven o'clock on the twenty-fourth, with him dropping me off at Casa del Lee. Sleep fast, because Mother Lee is going to be up at five to put a ham in the oven, even though Tara, Dae-su, and Billy won't be out until at least ten. It was very American, even if Liz's mother did say grace in Korean before dinner. Still, there was a lot of talk about getting married during that dinner, and there's really no subject that makes me more uncomfortable.

It was a huge relief to get to work afterwards, even if it was a shift and a half with Stewart. That relationship is just becoming weirder and weirder to me - the ability to feel honestly deceptive is nice, but he's started to flirt with me at work, although it becomes slightly more cryptic double entendres when Zoe is around. I get the feeling he's wanting to move the relationship public, and that really messes with my head: I know this is what Liz wants, but I don't feel up to making it happen myself. And since I'm so unused to this side of the male-female dynamic, I don't know whether I really trust my reading of hte signals.

Anyway, it was particularly annoying on Monday because I was looking forward to a full day at work where I can just put in my time, be the boss of the high school and college kids (along with a senior citizen or two) in a nice, organizationally-decreed dynamic, and think about practical matters like making sure that the concession stand has enough popcorn, regularly emptying the box office's drops, and communicating to the guy in the booth that cinema one is out of focus or that they're using a flat lens on a scope film. I don't need that time to be fraught with personal business, where I have to be Elizabeth Lee, human being, as opposed to Miss Lee, Assistant Manager.

Fortunately, it's been a busy week, and Zoe has been kind enough to catch the flu and require me to cover her shifts, so there's been little time with Raymond, who has an uncharacteristically light schedule this week and apparently got some talking to from his folks about being unmarried. It's starting to feel like I can't just keep the status quo going, which scares the heck out of me. I really don't want to mess Liz's life up for her.

Of course, Jake probably loved the holidays just because of all this togetherness and drama, but it just feels like trouble to me.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Arthur: Holiday commitments

I didn't get much Christmas shopping done when I met Jake last week; my current plan is to make an evening of it with Raymond tomorrow night. Quite frankly, he probably knows Elizabeth's family far better than I do, so he'll be able to say yes and no to what are almost completely random choices. Besides, it'll be payback for getting dragged to another boring law firm party tonight.

The only thing I wound up buying at the mall on Thursday was a new red dress, something a little Christmas-y with a snowflake print. It's fun, I look kind of cute in it, especially with the matching sparkly red stockings and Santa hat, but I'm kind of amazed that the weather is right for it. It was cold when I bought it, but there's been a patch of warm days lately. That's confusing, really - you hear all about the New England winter, but if this is it, then there are evenings when I'll take Boston's winter over San Francisco's summer. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be wearing a dress that's a halter up top and which stops above the knee tonight, if I was back home.

With the caveat that if I was back home, I'd probably be myself, of course.

Anyway, that's what I've got planned for the next couple evenings. Getting those days off means that I'm pulling a couple doubles later this week, along with working both Christmas Even and Christmas evening. Not that I mind; it keeps me out of the Lees' holiday celebrations. Jake may have really enjoyed his Thanksgiving with Ashlyn's family, but it goes to show how different our respective baggage is. He's been without his family for a while, so a big family dinner is like revisiting a childhood memory for him; it hasn't even been a year since I lost my mother, and I can't say I've got good memories of my father, so the big nuclear family gathering feels like a parody to me. It's not my life, I don't know how to act in that situation, and I'm taking what rightly belongs to Elizabeth.

She doesn't really seem to hold it against me. I received my first letter from her in over a month yesterday. On the good side, it did have a helpful list of Christmas shopping suggestions, along with some helpful "don'ts": Her father is allergic to chocolate, so if I had followed my usual strategy of buying candy for everyone who hadn't been checked off my shopping list two days before Christmas, that would have been... awkward.

She said she was sorry she hadn't written sooner, but it's apparently been a crazy couple months for her. Like me, she wound up inheriting a boyfriend, but hers is one André Trudeau, a notable figure in organized crime up there. Or, at least, a "suspected" one. According to Liz, he's always been paranoid, but last month there was a major organized crime crackdown in Quebec. For the most part, it focused on Italian families, which means it's been something of an opportunity for the Trudeaus - it created a power vacuum for them to move into. On the plus side, it meant that the nasty guy twice her age isn't coming by quite so often, but when he is, he's quite insistent and not happy that "Marie" now prefers speaking English to trying to get by in her high school French. The big downside is that André's paranoia has gone through the roof, and he's constantly worried about someone close betraying him - someone like his twenty-five year-old mistress.

So Liz is being watched. Some of the time, she's being watched by "Jean-Michel Therriot", that is to say, Ashlyn, and there's a little pressure off, but Ashlyn says that doesn't mean she's particularly trusted - Trudeau has software loaded on their computers to track web browsing and keypresses (which is why her letters are written by hand), and since Ashlyn is occasionally told to keep tabs some of her "colleagues", it stands to reason that she's being watched, too. Besides, Ashlyn doesn't keep tabs on Liz that much these days - Trudeau apparently got a little upset when "Marie" and "Jean-Michel" stayed in Old Orchard a few days longer than expected, and wants to nip anything going on between them in the bud.

Liz shudders to think what would have become of them if Ashlyn hadn't been able to blend in - the Providence area has a good-sized French-Canadian population, so Ashlyn was already somewhat familiar with the language and accent (that, and she had dated the occasional hockey player). Liz really wants out badly, though; she's already making plans for how to accomplish it.

It's sobering. As much as I'm not thrilled with living Liz's life, I can certainly see why she wants it back. I'm going to feel pretty bad enjoying her family dinner, knowing where she is.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--Christmas shopping

Last Thursday Art and I planned to get together and do a little Christmas shopping. We’ve been meaning to get together for a little while now, but our schedules have been conflicting. I’ve been taking every extra shift the restaurant would give me, and apparently the holidays are busy times at theaters, keeping “Liz” busy as well.

We decided to meet at the CambridgeSide Mall, specifically, the Starbucks.

Like so many things in my life, even what I drink at Starbucks has changed. I now drink a “grande non-fat chai”. I still do a little promotion work on the side, and one day after a gig a bunch of the other girls and I stepped into a Starbucks. Every one of them ordered the “grande non-fat chai”. I guess peer pressure got to me, so I got one as well—It was really good, so I have been drinking them every since.

Art was a few minutes late, so when I saw an empty table I grabbed it.

In my previous life as Jake, I had no trouble eating a meal alone, sitting at a bar alone, or drinking a coffee at Starbucks alone. I didn’t have a problem with it, and the people around me didn’t have a problem with it. As Ashlyn however, I can’t seem to get five minutes peace. No sooner than I sit down than some guy is in my personal space trying to make small talk. I realize I am partially to blame—I dress like I am looking for the attention.

Art walks in as I am getting rid of the second guy who was angling for my phone number. Art waves and gets in line for a coffee. Art was looking pretty good in a red sweater and black pants; I could also tell he had made an effort with his hair and makeup. Drink in hand; he took the seat across from me.

Art takes a long sip of his coffee and you could physically see him relax. “So, you said on the phone you had some big news; did you find out something about your secret admirer? “

I reached into my purse and pulled out a handwritten letter. I slide it across the table to him.

“Actually, no. This is something new. This letter came to me at work two days ago.”

Dear “Ashlyn”,

Much to my surprise I ran across your blog on the internet and felt a need to contact you. I called many restaurants in Cambridge area, and through trial and error I was able to find a lounge that had a redhead waitress named Ashlyn. I hope you don’t mind me sending this to you at work.

My name is Jessica and we have something in common. Seven years ago I was a guest at the Trading Post Inn, and I too haven’t been the same person since.

The letter went into details about who she once was and who she was now. She said she sent me a letter because she wanted to talk to others who had the same experience as she did—but didn’t want to make her life too public in the blog. She did say I could share some of the basics—like before the transformation she was also a male, and was a 40 year old police officer. She was transformed into a ten year old girl. She was seventeen now, about to graduate from high school for the second time.

“Wow, that’s rough. Not only having to go through high school twice, but having to go through puberty twice.” Art commented.

The letter went on giving details about how she had grown up and adapted to her new life. There were a few items of interest. Apparently her parents had not accompanied the original Jessica when she went to the Inn. Jessica went with the family of her best friend at the time. When “Jessica” was returned to her parents, the magic kicked in and her new family never thought twice that their little girl was saying she was not as she appeared to be—and even though she had knowledge way above that of a normal 10 year old, no amount of persuasion was able to convince her new parents.

Her “best friend’s” family, also all transformed victims, moved away a few months later, and she had no one to talk about what happened to her. After a while she even began to doubt herself, maybe she just imagined her whole previous life.

Then one day, she got in an argument with her mother—for the umpteenth time she made the argument that she was not really her daughter. For the first time, the woman listened; she still wasn’t totally convinced, but whatever “power” that kept people from believing was gone—in its place was standard disbelief that the impossible was possible. After several more arguments, Jessica was finally able to convince her mother.

Jessica had a theory that people you spend a lot of time with start to build up immunity to the “magic” that kept people from believing the transformed. Total strangers would still never believe you, but given time, friends and family could—with the right convincing.

Unfortunately, to much time had gone by at this point, and Jessica and her mother were unable to find out what happened to the original Jessica. They are still hunting for her.

“Wow.” Art said after several moments of silence.

“Yeah. Made me wonder if we should create an email address for the blog, somewhere where victims of the Inn could email us, and tell us their experiences. Maybe we could help some people.” I say.

“We’d probably get a lot of kooks, and worse, our first instinct will be to not believe them because of the “magic”. But it still might be a good idea.” Art says thoughtfully.
“You know what else this means? If her story is real, then in theory we could tell people who we really are.” I say to him.

We mull on that for a while.

Art changed the subject. “Do you think it is strange that we haven’t heard from anyone else in our group from the Inn? I would have thought when I posted that we might have found a solution to getting our old lives back, we would’ve heard from everyone.”

I thought that was weird as well, and I told him so. “You would have thought we would have at least heard from Jeff. He kept up with the blog for a while.”

“I suppose,” Art says thoughtfully, “It’s possible the others just assimilated into their new lives and lost interest in the blog—or keeping in contact with us.”

I shook my head no. “That just doesn’t feel like what’s going on to me. I’ll admit I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in Ashlyn’s skin—but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t want my old life back. I think something weird is going on.”

Art gives me a look. “Speaking of weird, have you found out anything on that secret admirer of yours? Is there anything to be worried about?”

“Call it women’s intuition, but my gut says there is something going on there. I’m going to swing by Anthony’s strip club. I called him and he said he still had the envelope the gift certificate came in. There’s a return address.”

“He couldn’t just give you the address over the phone?”

“He wouldn’t give it to me over the phone—said he liked seeing me in person.” I shrugged.

“I hope you plan to keep all your clothes on.”

“That’s my current plan, yeah.”

It was my turn to change the subject.

“So…” I start cautiously, “How’s your sex life?”

Art groaned and rolled his eyes. “I knew this was coming.”

“Hell yeah, it’s coming. We’re all girls here right? Let’s have some girl talk.” I was giving him some good natured ribbing, but it was also a subject I wanted to talk about. Funny, as a guy you could have never gotten me to discuss this stuff, as a chick it seemed easier to discuss.

“What’s to talk about? You read the blog, you know what happened.” Art said.

“I want to know if sex is better as a woman.” I decided to be direct. “I’ve been avoiding it. But with you taking the plunge, and the fact I have been reading Ashlyn’s diaries, it’s got me wondering if it is something I might need to experience before we switch back to our old lives. It might be a once in a lifetime experience.”

“Ashlyn’s diaries talk about her sexual exploits?” Art asks.

“The girl was a walking, breathing sexual amusement park. Don’t change the subject. So is sex better as a woman?”

He hesitates. “Some things yes, some things no. Plus, I’ve yet to have an orgasm.”

“Now that’s something I can tell you about.” I think I blushed slightly. “If you aren’t having an orgasm then you are really missing out. I think I mentioned in the blog I found Ash’s sex toys—I’ve gotten fairly proficient at using some of them, and I can’t stress this enough, if you are not having an orgasm during sex, you are really missing out.”

“Are you thinking about sleeping with Josh?” Art asked bluntly.

“I don’t know. I haven’t even decided if it is something I want to do. Josh is a nice guy and I trust him…”

“And he is in love with Ashlyn.” Art gives me a serious look. “Do you remember Kim Swanson?”

Kim Swanson was someone I was in love with a lifetime ago. She was sexy and smart. I had it really bad for her and she knew it. I was blinded by my feelings and did many dumb things—including “loaning” her large sums of money. She used me.

“What? Are you accusing me of using Josh? I haven’t asked him for anything!” I was angry.

“You don't have to ask him for anything, JAKE, believe me - he sits around thinking about what he can do for ASHLYN without you even asking. Who got you the job at the lounge?”

SHIT. Art was right. I was no better than Kim Swanson.

We sit in silence for a minute until Art breaks it. “Come on, we’ve Christmas shopping to do. I’m really struggling with what to get everybody.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Well, take Ray for example. I want to get him something Liz would give him. I can’t seem to come up with anything.”

I shook my head, “Dude, I think you are trying wwwaaaaaayyyyyy to hard. Just get him something any guy would want for Christmas—You have an advantage over all the other women in the world in knowing what guys like.”

“Okay, maybe. But I still have all these Korean relatives to worry about.” Art persisted.

“I think you are over thinking things.”

We get up and head out into the extremely crowded mall.

“I forgot to ask you what sex positions are best as a woman.” I nearly have to yell over the Christmas music and noise of the crowd.

“Too late.” Art says, “Girl talk is over for today. Now it’s time to move onto the shopping portion of our afternoon. ” He points over to Cambridge Sound Works. “Let’s go in there.”

Becoming a woman hadn’t improved my ability to shop. For the next 3 hours we fought the crowds until we were exhausted.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Arthur: There is something exciting about an illicit affair

... even if it's not YOUR illicit affair.

I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time defending my position of having the occasional rendez-vous with Liz's boss while thinking Jake should be really careful about leading Josh on. It's about having a goal - when I have sex with Stewart, it's all about being able to leave Elizabeth Lee a note saying "your life is just how you left it" five months from now. When Jake brings someone Ashlyn had broken up with home to meet her parents, well, what are you trying to accomplish there?

That said - I am having sex with Stewart, once or twice a week. And I have to admit, I do enjoy it most of the time, at the time. Aside from the fact that we're physiologically wired to enjoy the process of procreation, I'm learning stuff - Stewart is an enthusiastic, talented lover. There's plenty of stuff that's not knowing the book, because when I'm myself again, I want it to be a part of my arsenal, rather than shared with anybody willing to part with twenty-four ninety-five. He's good enough that I think I really should have had an orgasm by now, but he's cool about that. I don't know whether he's viewing it as a challenge or he considers it nothing to worry about based on his own pleasure and my lack of expressed disappointment. But I think that what I like most of all isn't the actual sex or feeling like I'm helping Liz.

It's the secrecy.

Consider the irony, for a second - I spend pretty much all of every day, except the occasions when I'm writing this or meeting up with Jake, implicitly deceiving everybody around me. I feel bad about lying to everyone around me, but there's nothing I can do about it, and the tension from knowing I'm lying just makes me more tense. But, of course, showing that I'm tense would be terrible, because Elizabeth Lee has no reason to be tense and any attempt to explain it will just be shrugged off.

But when I'm with Stewart - I'm doing something I'm not supposed to be doing! I'm "cheating on my boyfriend", so I've got as much license to feel nervous and guilty and out of place as I want. Well, as nervous/guilty/out-of-place as I do at any rate.

So, of course, because it's okay to be nervous, I'm probably not as uncomfortable as I should be. I mean, sure, there's the whole "I can't believe I'm going to let him put that in there issue, but around that, when we're eating or "just happening" to show up for the same movie at the same time, I feel like I can actually let my guard down a little because any crack that appears in my armor has a routine explanation.

The really funny thing is, it's spreading into the rest of my assumed life - last night, Zoe thought I was being a bit weird. She was right; I'd gotten an email from Jeremy saying that "we" were off the ghost-writing gig, because pages were coming in late and short of the expected quality. That stung, at first, because I have been doing a fair amount of editing and re-writing of what Jeremy sends me, but I obviously can't put the same effort into that I could if I didn't have Liz's full-time job, Liz's "real life", and my own research project all vying for my time. It stings - I've got a pretty good reputation for professionalism, and I hate the idea of having a black mark on my record when I take my life back. Plus, some of the complaints are because I've only really been able to get a sense of what the client wants based upon the notes Jeremy takes in the interviews, and they suck. Plus, I don't have as much time as I'd like because apparently everyone involved has ceded the actual research on the Inn to me, and it's not a small task. I'd really like to hear from Drew, for instance - lawyers are good at research, and he's probably still got some Lexis access, which would make searching for information a whole hell of a lot easier.

As I said, with all that going on, the double-life stress is probably showing on my face more than usual. Zoe notices it, comments on it, and just as I'm thinking "how do I explain it?", Stewart shows up for his shift. Then the inspiration hits me - I don't have to cover for all that, or try to make it appear normal - I just have to cover for "secretly screwing my boss behind my boyfriend's back". I can do that; I admit without pride that I have cheated on a girlfriend in the past, so I know how to handle this situation for a while.

Only for a while, though. Still, I figure that under normal circumstances, Zoe or someone will realize what's up before May, and I'm not sure how to deal with that inevitability. It's something to write Liz about, because I really don't want to deviate too far from her wishes.

But in the meantime, it's nice to have a "regular" secret; it's great cover for the strange one.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--Finally, Thanksgiving Part 2

So, back to Thanksgiving.

My mom turned out to be psychic. She said I would show up with a guy and she was right. No one was more surprised than me.

The day after my “mom” called me and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, I had the condo to myself. All of my roommates had left to visit their various families for the holiday. Normally I might take the opportunity to put on some music, slip into some lingerie and do a little dancing in front of the large mirror in my bedroom. I managed to resist the urge and gave into a different one—I decided to clean the condo.

My roommates are slobs. I’ve always been a neat freak. I like clean surfaces and can’t stand to see dirty dishes lying around. If anything, turning into Ashlyn has made my need for cleanliness even worse. Suddenly I can’t stand certain smells. My ability to handle anything gross is way down since turning into Ashlyn: A week ago I walk through the kitchen and for the millionth time noticed the apple sitting on the counter. It had been there for a month and looked like it. I had told myself that my roommates were not going to change their behavior if I kept cleaning up their messes. I couldn’t take it anymore. I angrily grabbed the apple to throw it into the trash—only when I grabbed it, the rotten apple squished in my hand.

The feeling was disgusting. I screamed.

To my embarrassment, Logan came running in wanting to know what was wrong.

I meekly showed him my hand covered with apple guts.

He sighed and grabbed a towel then handed it to me. “Shit Ash, you can be such a girly girl sometimes.”

I don’t think he could have said anything else that could make me feel worse.

So back to cleaning.

I did dishes, I dusted, I vacuumed. I put up the video games and put them in alphabetical order--I know, I’m crazy.

I start to try to rearrange the furniture in the living room. It turned into too much of a job to do by myself. Three months as Ashlyn and I still forget I am not as strong as I was as Jake. Annoyed, I give up and decide it was time to clean myself up.

I undress and walk around the condo nude, it feels sexy. I was on my way to the bathroom to run a bath when my cell phone rings. According to caller ID, it was Josh, the ex-boyfriend. I decided to talk to him later, and continued to the bath.

As Jake, I was a shower man. As Ashlyn, I’ve started to take more baths than showers. I fill the tub with water so hot I can barely get into it, and relax. It feels amazing.

Almost an hour later I get out and discovered I had a problem. I don’t know why I bothered to close the door—I was the only one home.

The door was stuck. I tried everything and every ounce of my strength. The door wouldn’t budge.

Worse, our condo is on the upper floor—so if I could manage to squeeze through the little window in the bathroom I had nowhere to go. Not to mention nothing to wear.
I couldn’t imagine myself shimming down the side of the house in nothing but a towel. I was so screwed.

Fortunately, the one thing that did go right was the fact I had my phone. I had brought it in with me when Josh had called.

I give the ex-boyfriend a call. He was wwwaaaaaayyyyyy to happy to hear from me.

I explain my problem, and after a good laugh, he said he would be right over. He still had a key to the condo.

Twenty minutes later, I hear a knock at the door. “Hello Ash, are you going to be in there much longer? I need to borrow the bathroom.” It was Josh.

“Ha. Ha. So can you get me out of here or what?” I gave myself a look in the mirror. I had used the last twenty minutes to blow dry my hair and apply a little makeup. I had also wrapped a towel around myself.

It took 3 tries of smashing his shoulder into the door, but eventually Josh came busting in.

He sees me in the towel and gives me an appreciative smile.

“My hero.” I tell him.

I leave him in the living room and slip on some clothes. When I get back I offer him a beer and we sit around and talk for a while.

He looks around the place. “You’ve gone on one of your cleaning sprees. The place looks great.”

“Yeah, maybe, I wanted to move the couch, but it was too much for me.” I say.

He jumps up. “Where do you want it?”

I shake my head in disbelief. This guy has it bad for me.

A half hour later we are relaxing in the newly rearranged living room. It looks so much better. We make small talk and he asks what I am doing for Thanksgiving.

“I’m going to Providence and doing the family thing.” Being without family for so long, it felt kind of good to say that. “What about you?”

He shrugged. “I really don’t have much of a plan.”

“You’re not going to see family?” I asked.

He gives me a funny look. “What? Go visit my foster parents? We were not that close. You know that Ash.” He sounded hurt.

I felt terrible. I totally understood his situation. Until I was turned into Ashlyn, it was my situation as well. Holidays were the worst. Nothing like a holiday to remind you how alone you were.

“I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry. Why don’t you come to Providence with me?”

He resisted at first, but after some gentle prodding from me, he gave in.

“Besides,” I tell him. “Now I can ride with you in your new car.”

Thanksgiving Day.

I decided to dress casual—and to my amusement I put on jeans and a grey Henley top—it was the outfit I first wore when I decided to wear Ashlyn’s clothes for the first time. With my hair and makeup done, I looked very different than that first day.

Providence was only an hour and a half away, so we decided to leave around 10am.
Fortunately, Josh’s car has a high dollar navigation system, so we entered my “parents” address and it gave directions. I told Josh it was fun to use the system—the truth was I had no idea how to get there.

My parents live in a large two story. With the price of housing in New England, it was a pretty good indicator that my new folks were reasonably well off.

We ring the bell, and the door opened to a woman I recognized from some of Ashlyn’s pictures—this was my Mom. I would’ve been able to guess who she was without that knowledge; we had the same red hair color.

“Sweetheart!” She gives me a big hug. Moments later my father appears and he too gives me a hug.

“Welcome home pumpkin.” He tells me.

I introduce Josh to them, and my folks warmly welcome him in. I immediately like my new parents, they were warm, nice people.

We had a houseful—and since my folks had a large house, that was a lot of people. Cousins, Aunts and Uncles and well as friends of my mom and dad were there. It was slightly overwhelming, because of course, I didn’t recognize anyone.

I didn’t cook anything—I don’t think the real Ashlyn cooks anyway—but I did bring some things from the Lounge I work at: mac and cheese, green beans and a peanut butter pie.

All the men had gravitated toward the game room. There was a pool table, a card table, and a big screen tv. I wanted to stay in there with Josh, but I knew I a least needed to make an appearance in the kitchen. I figured it was expected since most of the women were in the kitchen and dining room.

I walk in and ask where I needed to place the things I brought. A cheerful, rotund woman takes my items and hands me a glass of wine. “Happy Thanksgiving Ash!”

I’m a little nervous, so I down it quickly. Someone refills my glass. They might not have a pool table, but these women were having a good time in their own way.

Lunch happened not to long after Josh and I arrived. People sat everywhere, with most of the food set up on a buffet table in the dining room. The food was amazing. I ate so much I new I was going to have to put some extra time on the treadmill after the holiday.

After lunch the women cleaned up as the men shot pool and watched football. It pissed me off. I thought about saying something, but deep down I knew if it wasn’t for being turned into a woman I might have never thought twice about it.

There was a park nearby, and a bunch of the guys started to get a flag football game together. I tell Josh I wanted to play.

“Really?” He asked surprised. “I thought you hated football.”

“I was a cheerleader. How could I cheer for the team if I didn’t like the sport?”

I was the only girl to play. Everyone put their names in a hat and two team captains drew for teams. Josh and I ended up on opposite teams.

I had a great time. Being the only girl the guys greatly underestimated me. Early in the game I was left completely uncovered and easily caught the ball for a touchdown. I spiked the ball and did a little dance.

I also had an unfair advantage—people were very careful around me. I think everyone was afraid of hurting me.

We had previously decided that whatever team was ahead at 3:45pm would be the winners. At four o’clock was the Dallas, Tampa Bay football game and most of the guys wanted to watch it—that included me, as I am a huge Cowboys fan and they are having a great year.

So at 3:30 things didn’t look good for my team as we were 7 points down.
Fourth and goal and if Josh’s team made this there probably wasn’t enough time for my team to catch up.

They hand off the ball to Josh. He had been on of their better players—he was built like a football player, and he was fast. He ran right at me. I panic, and instead of going for the flag that was hanging out of his pocket, I jumped at him and tackled him.

He ended up flat on his back, and I ended up on top of him. Our faces were inches apart.

“This is flag football Ash. Tackling is against the rules.” He laughs at me.

“Sorry I got caught up in it.”

I awkwardly get off of him and reach down, offering my hand to help him up. I wasn’t much help, as he vastly outweighed me.

We lost the game. Because I tackled Josh, they got a first down and basically ran out the clock before scoring a final touchdown.

We walk back to the house. Josh reaches down and takes my hand—so we walked holding hands. I considered saying something or pulling my hand away—but the day had been so perfect, I didn’t want to ruin it. Besides, it was just holding hands.

When we get back my mom takes one look at me and shakes her head. “You’re a mess. If you want to take a shower, you still have plenty of old clothes in your old bedroom.”

It sounded like a good idea—besides, it gave me an excuse to look around Ashlyn’s old bedroom.

Ashlyn’s bedroom was a slight surprise. There were tons of photos—many of them were Ashlyn in a cheerleader’s outfit. There was a megaphone in the corner with “Ashlyn” written in script. The truly surprising thing was the plaques, certificates and trophies—sure a few of them were cheerleader awards, but most weren’t. Ashlyn was an honor student. She won some acting awards. A quick perusal of the room gave the impression of someone who was highly intelligent and highly ambitious. This wasn’t how I pictured Ashlyn. I assumed Ashlyn was the kind of girl that got by on her looks. This room told a different story. I know she hadn’t been doing much with her life when I took it over. I wonder what happened to her? I wonder what knocked this young woman off track?

I showered and found some things I could wear. My mom came into the room as I was getting dressed. It felt odd being nearly naked in front of a total stranger—I just reminded myself that this was my mother. I had nothing she hadn’t seen before.

“Josh seems nice.” She says to me.

“He is nice.” That was true.

She looks at me funny. “Are you acting again? Do you have a roll in something? A play?”

“No.” I say surprised. “Why do you ask?”

“Your accent. I can’t tell what it is supposed to be, but you don’t sound like you are from around here.”

“Some of the people I work with are from out of state—maybe I am picking it up from them.” I lie.

Before I realize it, we talk for nearly an hour. It felt nice to have someone so interested in my life—even if it wasn’t really my life.

We head back into the game room and I find Josh glued to the Cowboys game. The room was packed. Josh was sitting on a couch with several other people. I didn’t see a good place to sit, so I decided to take advantage of being a girl, and went over and sat in Josh’s lap. He didn’t seem to mind.

After the game there were plenty of leftovers—for the second time I ate more in one sitting than I ever had before as Ashlyn. I knew I was going to regret that later.

Eventually it was time go. I had tolerated the hugs when we had first shown up this morning, now I was giving the warm hugs. I liked these people.

“I love you sweetheart.” My Mom says to me.

“I love you too Mom.” I got choked up again when I realize it was about seventeen years since I said that last.

In the car Josh turns to me. “Thanks for inviting me Ash. Holidays are hard when you don’t have any family.”

“I can imagine.” I tell him.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Arthur: Just a bit... um...

I was bouncing randomly around the internet the other day and I saw a weird brouhaha over a comic book publisher naming their new line for teenage girls "Minx". Apparently, there's a little-used definition of the word that means "easy lay" or something like that, and thus folks were complaining that it's a poor choice for a line of books aimed at young girls. Personally, I've never seen that word used that way - I've always seen it as innocent, mischievous at worst - but apparently enough have to raise a minor stink.

I suppose that's why certain words are such trouble. Not just because they're derogatory while male equivalents aren't considered so bad - but because the definition can occasionally be in doubt. Take "bimbo" and "slut", for instance; I've known people who use them interchangeably, but I've never thought of them that way. A bimbo's just promiscuous; she likes getting laid and doesn't require much emotional attachment to make it happen. A slut, though, the way I think of it, does have an emotional component to it, and not a healthy one - there's low self-esteem there, the need to build her worth up somehow. It's sad, really, but the line between sad and contemptible can be tough to locate sometimes.

Then there's all the other ones - "tramp" is like "bimbo" but implies betrayal, "skank" is sort of like slut plus disease... I'm sure we've all got our own personal definitions. I'm thinking of this because I'm trying to figure out just what category I'd put Liz in, and where I'd put myself.

Liz probably doesn't fit into any of those categories. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, say she genuinely cares for both Raymond and Stewart. She may have first wound up with Stewart because things weren't going well with Raymond, but things changed. She just wound up in a bad position, and I wasn't inclined to judge her until she asked me to perpetuate it, and even then, well, what are you going to do in this situation? Extraordinary situations breed extraordinary requests.

But what's my doing so make me? I've done it with Stewart a couple times now, and it's nice but not anything I want to initiate. I haven't screwed Raymond yet, but I think it will happen someday. You can only sleep in the same bed for so long, and there's a part of me that wants to keep this relationship going, because why should Liz be let off the hook by having someone else break up with her boyfriend for her? So here I am, acting as a relationship placeholder out of some perverse sense of obligation. But what else am I going to do? Even if I was inclined to stay in this life and make it my own, I couldn't stay with these guys - they started something with Liz, and it would be kind of despicable for me to usurp that. To be frank, it weirds me out whenever I do something with Ray or Stewart, but then I can at least think of myself as just a sub keeping things as they are until Liz comes back. When I see Jake out with Ashlyn's ex Josh - well, he's my best friend, I guess, but it seems really wrong to me. Those false pretenses seem bigger - Josh is trying to make something happen with Ashlyn, but Ashlyn has made her decision and Jake really shouldn't be leading him on. Even if he winds up somehow attracted to the guy (nasty), it just seems wrong - we may look like the girls these guys fell for, but we're not them. It goes beyond the whole boy-girl thing; even if I'd woken up a different, non-Arthur Milligan man, it would still be wrong.

Arrgh, this is so complicated. I'm really glad that the movie business is in full swing this past week; it kept me busy, even if I did have to spend a weird Thanksgiving day with Liz's and Ray's families. Think of it - Liz and Ray have been together so long that showing up at each others' Thanksgiving dinners was a given, and everyone had questions for about when we'd be taking some next step. We made lame excuses, though nothing as crazy as "sorry, my job's just to maintain the status quo until the real Liz Lee gets back and breaks up with your son."

That's the only time I felt like I've been cheating, sitting surrounded by Ray's parents and siblings. He's not my boyfriend, so why should I feel guilty about screwing someone else? Even if that's how you really feel, though, it's tough to really feel it strongly when you're accepting the privileges of being his girlfriend - even if those privileges are in the form of his mother's pumpkin pie.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Jake/Ashlyn--My girl gone wild moment

Before I continue my “recap” of Thanksgiving (at this rate it will be Christmas before I write it), I wanted to put a few words down about removing my top for Anthony and his associates… I think I had a “girl gone wild” moment. Walking around in Ashlyn’s skin is a big turn on. I glance down, I see boobs. I go down the stairs I feel them bounce with every step. When I sit down, I feel the difference in shape of my ass. When I cross my legs I feel the smoothness of those legs—as well as he void between then. I am aware of the taste of lipstick on my lips, the smell of perfume on my body and the odd feeling of wearing a thong.

My point is that I am continuously aware of my body. Even though I have been Ashlyn for 3 months it’s still a new and stimulating experience. I compare it to getting a new car. How long does it take before the new car excitement goes away, and it becomes just a car? It probably takes even longer if you are driving a sports car—and as bodies go, Ashlyn is definitely a sports car. Just like you can get caught up driving a sports car, I think I have gotten caught up in pretending to be Ashlyn. It’s very seductive.

So when Anthony offered me the money to remove my top, I figured why not? It will be wild and sexy, I’ll make some money, and no one will get hurt.

But a funny thing happened the next morning. I felt a little guilty.

This is going to sound dumb—but I can’t seem to find the words to better describe what I am feeling: I feel like I have disrespected my (current) gender.

Maybe it’s me being crazy. I have worn several outfits that left very little to the imagination and it didn’t bother me…why does it make a difference that I went the rest of the distance and let some guys see what little my clothes was hiding?

I just know there is a difference—I guess it is part of being a woman.

More Later,