Thursday, May 31, 2007

Arthur: Back home, sort of.

We finally did catch a cab last Friday. I gave the address Nell had written down; the cabbie took us to a place on the Bay. Drew helped me with my luggage while the cab waited; when we got to the door of Nell's condo he said he imagined the neighbors had seen this scene a few times. I said I imagined that was true, and they probably couldn't believe how different this time was.

"Well, good night. Meter's running."

He started walking away. "Hey," I said, "give me a call when you wake up tomorrow morning. I'll show you around the city."

"Sounds like a good idea." He waved goodbye and then pressed the button on the elevator. It opened immediately, leaving me alone in the doorway. I tried two or three different key combinations to open the lock and deadbolt, then dragged Nell's luggage in.

Her condo is a studio, and though it's not small, there's plenty of stuff in it: The plasma television is on a swivel mount so that it can be viewed from either the bed, treadmill, or a love seat. The kitchenette has a floating bar with a couple of stools that must be where she ate her meals, since I couldn't see a table. One door leads out to a small deck; there was a window in that one. Another led to a closet, and the next one I tried led to the bathroom.

After disposing of the bottled waters I drank on the plane, I took the new toothbrush that I'd bought two weeks earlier out of its container and brushed my teeth, studying my new face in the mirror. I'd had a couple days to get used to it, but I was still noticing new things. There's a spot under my jaw that evidently just doesn't tan, for instance. I also need a little practice in dealing with this hair; while I'd let my hair grow to about shoulder length as Liz, the hair I'd inherited from Nell was longer, and I wound up spitting toothpaste onto it when I leaned over the sink. Suddenly, all those girls in college who'd told me that a true friend was one who held her hair back when she had to puke made a lot more sense.

I got it out with a towel and then looked at my watch. Three AM? That couldn't be possible... Oh, right, Eastern time. Winding it back to almost midnight didn't make me less tired, though. I stumbled out of the bathroom and to the bed, dropping shoes, socks, and shorts along the way. I kept the t-shirt on, though - I'd gotten used to wearing a nightshirt to bed as Liz, and although Nell's luggage indicated she was more a "just panties" girl, that wasn't me. I crawled under the covers and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

There was no alarm, but I woke up before seven, local time, anyway. I stretched a little to get the kinks out of my back, and it felt pretty good. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Nell's treadmill and I figured, well, it's early and this would be a pretty good habit to get into. I spent a few minutes getting the TV turned on and around, smiling a little when I saw she had left it tuned to ESPN. I have to admit that the operation of the machine threw me a little; it was split down the middle, had poles on the side with which to work the arms, a strap to wrap around the wrist to measure heart rate, and controls to increase and decrease steepness, resistance, and all sorts of other settings. I just left it as is and started jogging in place.

I didn't stop for about forty-five minutes, by which point I'd only worked up a small sweat. I was kind of surprised; the odometer said I'd run five miles, and I never did that. I had a new admiration for the body I'd inherited as I took my shower; as much as the obvious physical differences between me and Lizhad been impossible to ignore, I'd never really noticed a difference in how I felt, not like I did at that moment. For the first time in months, my breasts weren't my primary focus as I observed my naked body - the overall combination of softness and strength was.

There was nothing edible in the refrigerator or cabinets - two planned weeks away and another two on top of that made sure of it - so I threw on some clothes to find some coffee and bagels. It was a little chilly - cooler than Maine, especially in the mornings and evenings. This wasn't my old neighborhood, but I'd been here before, and after so long in Boston, it was like rediscovering my home town all over again. I ate, and then jogged back to the condo to see what I could learn about Nell beyond what was in the letter.

It was almost one o'clock when Drew called me. I told him I'd be right over, and then headed right out. His new place was a little pricier than mine, with more rooms and a nice view of Telegraph Hill.

We basically spent the day zigzagging the town; I showed him how to get from his home to his office via public transportation, and then from there to the various places listed in his address book and day-planner for the next few weeks. He was hoping that's all that he'd need, and even took a call from New-Drew while we were doing this.

Dinner was at a little jazz bar I knew. He had a little too much to drink and I got him home.

"Why don't you stay? I've already checked - there's a drawer full of stuff for a tall girl in the dresser."

"And just one bed - not even a sofa, just a matching set of recliners."

"I'm sure we could find some way to share."

He smiled charmingly, and I kissed him on the top of the head. "Ah, Drew, Drew, Drew. If I were in your place, I'd want to try my new equipment out for something other than peeing, too, but you'll have to find someone else."

"Why? I am your boyfriend, after all."

"Ah, see, that's why not. Call it a 'New Body's Resolution' - no sleeping with anyone that the last person with this body did, just because she did. That got me in enough trouble already."

"Don't know what you're missing."

Maybe not. But after all the drama with Ray and Stewart, I think I can live with that.

-Art

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trip / Kat - Home... uncomfortable

I've never felt so vulnerable and on-display as I did on the drive home. It wasn't enough that the tight jeans and bra kept annoying me as I drove, but the having to stop and pee every few hours made me even more insecure than before. I could feel my heart start to race and my stomach start to turn at every stop. I could almost feel the men staring at me. I kept trying to ignore the feeling, and the thoughts of what they were thinking as they stared at my new form. I had to push-down thoughts of the more sinister things they might be thinking - reminding myself that those evil actions are not that common... that I wasn't like that; that my friends are not like that.

Jadyn kept assuring me that we'd be fine... as long as I listened to her advice of what places were safe and which ones were not. It only took the first rest-stop for me to decide that she was correct in her suggestion that we NOT drive straight-through back to Iowa. I decided that it would probably be more prudent to be someplace safe at night, rather than being at-risk on the road somewhere.

I was so glad when we finally got home Sunday night. I still didn't feel completely comfortable, but I felt safe.

Monday morning I faced a challenge that I hadn't really given much thought to - How to interact with Mom and Dad. I've known these two people all my life as their son, and now I'm their niece. I had to think quickly, try to remember how Kat addressed them. I must have done okay, they didn't seem to notice anything strange.

I suppose that last statement is nearly as confusing to everyone reading this, as it is to me. So, since I haven't mentioned this before, Kat's parents were killed by a drunk driver several years ago and she came to live with my parents.

Fortunately for me now, I also happened to be living with my Mom and Dad at the time, between jobs. So I remember some of those first few months that we were all living under the same roof. Since I don't... didn't live too far from home after finding my own place, I still visited pretty often. Perhaps I'm one of the luckiest people the inn has victimized - I've got some prior knowledge of the life and people in the life of the person I've become.

Still, the moment felt weird... everything still feels weird.

Talking about weird, yesterday's family gathering was surreal, really. I felt like I didn't really belong. I wanted to scream to the world what had happened, but I was afraid... afraid of what would happen if everyone believed me, and more afraid of what would happen if they didn't. I decided that perhaps if someone notices something out of place with 'Kat', that perhaps they would be open enough to believe the truth. So here I am surrounded by people who've known both Kat & I since birth... and nobody detects that anything is wrong or even different. Maybe they just attribute it the long drive back from Maine. My silence feels like a prison.

I found that the feelings of vulnerability must go hand-in-hand with a woman's life, they just don't seem to go away. Mom insisted that I wear a nice dress to the family gathering. I know how the rest of the family frowns on too casual of dress for these occasions once you've reached your teens. I really didn't have much choice but to comply, the last thing I need right now are more problems. This wasn't the first time I've worn a dress, but it is the first time I've worn one since I was a child... and the first time I've worn one in public. I thought that I was on-display and vulnerable when I was wearing tight jeans and a t-shirt... but the dress amplified those feelings so much more. I could feel the breeze blowing around under the dress, causing chills to go through me as I thought of how naked I felt wearing such a thin piece of material... and not much else.

I don't know how long it will take me to get used to being a girl. I can't tell you the number of times I had to remind myself to keep my legs closed. Even though we were at a family event at the church, and my dress was long enough to prevent anyone from getting a nice view of my underwear, keeping my legs closed was something that I would have to get used to.

Darren's right about one thing... I'm very glad that I have Jadyn to go to when I need help with this "being-a-girl" stuff. I've got more questions for her, such as the proper way to pee when wearing a dress. I think I did okay just gathering it up and in front of me, to rest on my legs... but it was a bit of a hassle keeping it there.

Well, I guess I'm going to log off now and get ready to help Jadyn unpack. That should prove interesting with this new body.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Arthur/Penelope: No time to get used to it.

People were looking for answers all day yesterday. I wish I'd had more to give them, but I wanted certain ones myself. It looks like I won't get those until I actually track Jeremy down and choke them out of him.

The last thirty-six hours or so were just crazy, though. I didn't sleep at all Wednesday night, waiting to see who I'd become and then reacting to it, and then it seemed as though everyone needed their hand held at some point during the day, and I was elected. I've been writing little bits of this for the past two days and haven't had a chance to post it until finding some Wi-Fi at the SF airport while waiting for a cab to take me "home".

I guess it was sort of logical that people would look to me; there were four of us who had been through this process before, and one slipped out early in the morning, probably returning to his life without much fanfare. That left Jeff, who despite having actually managed to get what he wanted out of the Inn this time, is a 19-year-old kid, and Drew was giving the new person who looked like him (henceforth "new-Drew") a lot of one-on-one time. That left me as the sole person available who wasn't panicking and looked like she might be somehow authoritative. It's weird; I don't look that much older than I did as Liz, but the extra bulk and height seem to make up for it and then some. I haven't had time to measure myself yet, but I've got to be pretty close to six feet tall. I suspect most people were operating on the instinct that the tall woman who stays calm is mommy, and mommy knows everything.

I don't know everything, obviously, but I was able to at least impart what we had discovered: That the changes that the Inn had made to us could be reversed by its own mechanism, but you had to be careful - it seems to work by proximity to where the last person was, not assigned room, and you would have to co-ordinate with the person who would become you sometime in the next week - and as you can see, that's not always reliable.

I must have said that two dozen times yesterday, which is remarkable since there were only thirteen people changed. I won't get into details on everyone, just that it looks like this Paul Miller guy apparently wasn't full of shit like we initially expected; there are folks running around with IDs that say Paul Miller and Ivumi Saito. Also? Dealing with the airlines is a pain in the neck. Drew/R.J. and I got pretty darn hosed buying tickets to get out to SF; we paid through the nose and got charged for the tickets they hadn't used two weeks ago besides. At least we didn't have to deal with a rental car - R.J. had dropped that off at the Portland Jetport; some people here are dealing with two weeks of rental fees for a car that had just been sitting in the parking lot.

With yesterday mostly devoted to other people, that made today the first day of the rest of my life, I guess. It was a beautiful day, at least - the sun was shining when I woke up at ten o'clock and the weather report was saying it might hit ninety degrees, so I put a bikini on under my t-shirt and shorts just in case I wanted to do some beach stuff before leaving Old Orchard Beach. I spent the next hour writing a letter to Liz - fortunately, there's not much to tell in this situation; she knows everyone she's going to meet back in Boston. I also sent a couple text messages while I still had Liz's phone. Then Jeff, Drew, new-Drew and I went to the Oceanside Lodge to sign out.

I should have mentioned this last year, but either the people there know something but keep it under their hats or the thing which keeps people from believing us covers them, too. I suppose I could get away with signing "Elizabeth Lee", but Drew as he is now signing something "Daphne" is a stretch. But they look at it and react normally, and they acted just like everybody else when new-Drew tried to say who he really was: "Yeah, right" followed by them acting like he hadn't just said something strange.

Just as we were walking away from the counter, a stylish young woman entered and asked if she could pick up her keys for the Trading Post. The man at the counter said that check-in time was three o'clock; the woman said she'd wait and took a seat in the lobby. I looked at her over my shoulder, and after we were a few steps away I said that might be Liz.

None of them believed it, and I said they were probably right. She looked kind of like how Lyn described Liz/Marie, but what were the odds? Jeff said I might want to go in and talk to her, just in case.

"Are you kidding? What would seeing me like this do other than make her feel guilty. Might as well let her just get back to her life."

Jeff and new-Drew parted ways from us then; they wanted to get on the 1:05 train to Boston because they'd managed to find a 4:30 flight to Detroit. That left us with a couple hours to kill, so we went back to the beach.

By a stroke of luck, we found the same two guys we'd seen two days ago. They didn't recognize us, of course, but were still looking for a game. Their eyes widened when I doffed my clothes and they saw the AVP logo on my suit, joking that they were glad they hadn't decided to put money on the game.

Not that they would have done badly. I may have inherited Penelope Lincoln's physique, but not any sort of talent as a volleyball player. Barring Wednesday, I hadn't played in a while, and my reactions were all off from the new body anyway. I backed into Drew several times because I expected my strides to be a foot shorter and didn't know my own strength while serving.

Being able to jump up and spike the ball hard into the ground is awesome, though. Even if I missed half the time, I never got tired of it.

Eventually, Drew said we were going to cut the train close and we shook the hands of our new friends and congratulated them on a good game before getting on the train and heading back to Boston.

We got into Boston right on time at 5:30, thinking it might be tight making our flight. Still, I spent a couple minutes looking around the station before I saw who I was looking for. "Lyn! Over here!"

I guess she's not used to responding to that nickname, especially from a strange voice; she didn't look my way at all. I let my long legs carry me across the crowded area and tapped her on the shoulder. That made her look at me. "Do I know you?"

I was expecting that. "Yeah, you do. It's me. Arthur."

She had the look for a second - the look that says this is impossible - but she fought it off and gave me a hug. "I'm sorry," she said, "I've been reading the blog and should have recognized you. And I'm sorry that you're not yourself again, or at least R.J."

"Hey," I said, "don't worry about it. I'll live."

"Good. My god, you're so tall. I think you might be taller than my boyfriend."

"And would you believe she's got heels in her suitcase??"

Lyn laughed at that before asking if she could treat us to dinner. I told her I didn't have time, that our flight left at 6:40, but I just wanted her to know what I looked like now, and make sure she believed me. She thanked me for that and said she wouldn't keep me. I leaned over to give her another hug.

I hope I didn't make her cry again - saying goodbye twice is kind of mean, but it's important that she believe in me. You can't take anything for granted in our lives.

-Art

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Trip - Oh dear God, they weren't joking!

I'm not sure how to begin this post... it's just too... unreal.

I still feel sick in the stomach, things like this just don't happen. Or, well... I just don't know anymore.

Last night my friend, Jadyn, and I, fell asleep after a couple hard days of packing things into truck and trailer. We were hoping that the weather would be nice today so we could enjoy some of the local sights before my cousin Kat, and Jadyn's younger sister Jaci returned.

I was awakened this morning by an hysterical Jaci. The fact that Jaci was strangely hysterical (being hysterical is completely not a normal behavior for Jaci), wasn't as surprising as the fact that she was in the room - that would mean that Kat & Jaci returned from their little excursion sometime after I fell asleep. It was when I heard Jaci screaming for Kat to get up while I was being shaken awake, that I sprung into action - I thought that something must be wrong with Kat. As I bolted upright in bed, I realized something was wrong... VERY wrong! I was just starting to ask what happened to Kat when I noticed there was something wrong with my voice... and there was hair falling in my eyes... my hair! I don't have long hair, or at least, I shouldn't.

This couldn't be... My thoughts turned to this inn's curse that I was warned about. I slipped out of bed and headed straight for the mirror on the dresser in the room. I needed to confirm my suspicions. Even though I was pretty certain what I would see in the mirror, I was still woefully unprepared for the reflection staring back at me. I started to feel light-headed, and before I could brace myself, I fainted.

I've never fainted in my life before this. But then, I'm no longer my normal self.

When I came-to a few minutes later, Jaci was asking if I was okay. I wasn't sure how to answer. She kept me from getting back up right away, probably a smart thing. As I put things together in my mind and realized that what had happened was real, I responded with one simple question to the girl who looked like Jaci... "Jadyn?" A look of relief momentarily washed across Jaci... Jadyn's face and she nodded. I tried to explain the note that I found when I arrived, and what I remembered from this blog about the inn supposedly having a curse. She kept on screaming at me, calling me Kat, and demanding that I tell her what really happened, and for me to give her her body back. I kept trying to tell her that I really was telling the truth, as far as I knew it. I think she finally started to believe me, and calmed down.

I let Jadyn know that I would be okay and again stood to take a look at myself again. My reflection looked a bit different from I remember to be Kat's appearance - probably because I'm not used to seeing it in a mirror - but it was definitely Kat's reflection. The long chestnut hair with very loose curls, the deep green eyes, the olive - almost bronze colored skin. Even fresh out of bed, she still looked beautiful. It was amazing to watch Kat's reflection move as if it was my own. I flipped my head a bit to deal with some stray hair in my face and the action resembled so much, Kat's mannerisms that a smile appeared in my new reflection - the same smile that I loved to see her wear.

The smile disappeared, as the warm happiness that I was feeling just seconds ago was replaced by a cold shiver that went through me. I was angry and disgusted with myself that I had just moments ago felt pleased... almost joyous at seeing my own cousin's reflection in the mirror. I should explain - It's not that I saw Kat the way a man does when he desires a woman - I mean, she's fairly attractive and all - but she's my cousin. It's that I've always had this weight on my soul - I can't say that it was a desire or a need... maybe more of a curiosity... I've always wondered what it would be like to be a girl. And now... well... I'm torn. It's like a dream come true. But I have so many questions. And what about Kat - it isn't right for me to steal her life... or even to be so intimately close with her body - I mean, she's my cousin!

The guilt and conflict in me seemed to trigger a response that I wasn't prepared for. I cried.

It took a hug from and sharing some tears with Jadyn to settle both of us to a more productive state. The whole event was so overwhelming that I couldn't even begin to formulate questions at first, I don't think Jadyn could either. So we just looked at each other for a while.

My mind started to drift a bit and tried to think of Jadyn in a sexual manner - I needed to know just how changed I was. Jaci is or was... I guess it's Jadyn now who is a pretty girl, with fair skin, grey eyes, carmel-colored highlights in her dark-brown hair, her hair looks a bit more curled than... my own head of hair, and it's shorter too - ending just at the top of her shoulders. Jadyn's new body is quite curvy compared to my own new form. I look at her, but I'm not feeling any sexual attraction... at least not any more than I'd felt for Jaci when I was in my own skin. Jadyn must have sensed what I was thinking as a quizzical, yet playful, smirk painted her face. I giggled a little and I know I had to be blushing, Jadyn started to laugh too, but then recovered and asked, "So?" I told her what I'd been thinking, and the fact that I'm not sure what to make of things. She told me that she thought that I was indeed a girl now - as I was comparing my appearance to another woman. I'm not sure if she was joking or not, but I'm in no hurry to find out either.

We decided that we should probably try to learn more about this curse that has changed us. I brought up the blog and we read the entries together at first, and then Jadyn left me to finish while she went to freshen-up... something I was both dreading and looking forward to. I'll have to remember about the curse preventing others from believing that we are anyone other than whom we appear to be, something that I saw in Jadyn when I first tried to explain what happened. I wondered why I had very little question that Jadyn was now Jaci... or that I was now my own cousin. I'll have to see if anyone has an idea about that. I then became concerned nobody would believe me when I told them who I really was, and that they wouldn't trust me enough to help me... and if everyone here changed... how was I supposed to know who any of them were now? Would I even believe them if they told me? How can I trust that anyone is who they say they are? I guess I'll just have to have some faith that they'll believe me since they went through the cursed change too.

After some initial apprehension, Jadyn and I pulled out the girls' luggage to look for a note from them, anything to reveal just how much they knew about this place, and what has happened to us.

There were two letters from Kat... one was addressed specifically to me.
"Trip, I hope that you are the one to find these two letters. If not, you will never believe what I am about to write, so I'll keep it short..."
Kat went on to describe her confusion, the letter she found, and who she & Jaci were now... and that the other letter she left would have any additional information that I would need in order to be her.

My heart stopped when I read the next part. It seems that Kat choose me to be the new her (a very risky decision from what I see from Arthur's post). I won't go into detail, suffice to say that she seems to know me much better than I'd ever have given her credit for, and that the hurt I felt initially upon reading of her decision was replaced with a feeling of being truly loved and cared-for. This crying thing is going to get old fast, I hope it doesn't take too long to get some control over my emotions.

Kat also gave me her... his new number and that the being out of contact was merely a story to hide the unbelievable truth without raising undue worry. So I called Kat, who is now some guy named Pete, and we talked for a short while.

I'd have never in my life thought that Kat would trust anyone, much less me, to be in a position to be so intimately close to her body, and yet I'm the only one she felt safe entrusting it to. To be given such trust, and on such an intimate level, will be a very difficult challenge to live up to.

After Jadyn got off the phone with her sister we discussed our plan of attack. There really wasn't much we could do... the soonest that 'Trip' could return to this inn would be this fall, and neither Jadyn or I were in a financial position - even in our new identities - to book a return stay right now. So we're pretty-much stuck as the new Kat & Jaci for the time being.

I guess I'll take a cue from the others and make sure that the new Trip knows how to contact me - and then work out a plan later, after I have enough money to book a room here again.

Right now, Jadyn... I guess I should call her Jaci now, and I need to figure out how we are going to get back to Iowa, and what to do with two cars and a truck & trailer full of Jadyn's possessions.

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Arthur: The New New Me

We didn't see anybody check in yesterday, but the veterans all gave each other a knowing look last night, when Trip's friend went into his room and didn't come out when he did. There were a couple other guests with us at the back entrance at the time, and they probably just thought it was a "good job Trip" thing - Jadyn is kind of cute, after all, now that I've had a chance to see the girl he talked about in his entries, if only in passing. I'd make a play for her, given a chance.

Which I won't have.

Jeff, Drew and I had a good last day as Brianna, Daphne, and Liz. It was a fairly sunny day, so we hit the beach. It wasn't quite nice enough to just wear the bikinis, but that seemed more a matter of etiquette than anything - the gauzy matching skirts we were wearing with our blue (me), green (Drew), and red (Jeff) swimwear didn't do a whole lot more than keep the breeze off our butts, but that's something. Drew's also covered Daphne's scar.

Jeff wasn't too sure of it at first; he came out of the Inn wearing a t-shirt. Drew wasn't having much of that - if we were letting it hang out, so was Jeff. He reluctantly removed it and tucked it underneath the strap of his bikini bottom. "I feel so exposed."

Drew smirked. "I bet you've been to the beach without a top before. Trust me on this - ever square inch that swimsuit doesn't cover sends a stronger message that you're not afraid and have nothing to worry about. Guys will want you, but they don't want to blow their chances by ticking you off."

"And where'd you gain that wisdom?" I was a bit skeptical, myself.

"St. Croix."

"On an office assistant's salary?"

"Hey, Daphne had some vacation time I couldn't roll over - we're going to talk about that policy when I'm myself again - and I wasn't anxious to spend the holidays with her family. Fortunately, the 'new Drew' felt the same way, so we booked a vacation at a big, non-cursed resort."

"Good deal."

"I enjoyed it. Now, let's see what's going on."

The answer: Not a whole lot. It was Wednesday, after all, before Memorial Day, but we did find a couple college guys setting up a volleyball net. They waved, Drew waved back, and we started talking. They were both juniors at the University of Maine, up in Orono (which I gather is somewhere near Bangor). They asked if we wanted to play, and we were up for it.

Sure, we said, but the teams were uneven. Drew said to just hold on a second, and started jogging back to the Inn. I could practically hear the guys thinking that they hate it when girls leave but enjoying the view as they walk away. I asked if they were thinking that, and one of them confessed. "Why, are you guys...?"

"Nah," Jeff said, "we just know how guys think."

In a few minutes, Drew came back with Darren. They'd gotten along pretty well the other night, and he seemed happy to let Drew lead him by the hand. Then we just had to choose up sides; it was clear Darren wanted to be with "Daphne", so I played with the guys; Jeff didn't look like he'd be comfortable. And, hey, if I were them, that's the way I'd want it; Drew and Jeff have more to jiggle than I do.

We weren't keeping score, but I think my team probably won most of the time.

We went back to the pier and got some ice cream after that, then spent the rest of the afternoon doing our individual things before meeting up for dinner: I was reading, finishing up a book I didn't figure to take back to California with me. Then, as I said, we saw Jadyn and Trip drive back in with a full truck and retire to his room.

I decided to stay up this time, in part just to gather information, and in part because I was worried about clothes digging into me as I was sleeping. Like Jeff said last year, we did start to feel a little something at around ten o'clock, not really like an itch or a rash, more like electricity in the air. Jeremy (or whoever was calling on his behalf) had been telling the truth about one thing; it was just a bit short of half past two when things really started to happen.

One of the things I'd always wondered about with this place is how it seems to disobey the laws of thermodynamics: After all, matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This place flouts that law, and it's the strangest thing I've ever felt. When you eat, you feel the new weight collecting in your stomach, but this was like a thousand tiny IVs were attached to my body, some penetrating deep, pumping more material into my body that was instantly assimilated, like it was naturally part of me.

You can imagine how excited I was - I was getting bigger! I felt my panties getting tighter, so I quickly threw off my nightshirt and pulled down my underwear. That was a little dizzying, as it was like the floor was pulling away. I could see the muscles in my legs expanding, along with those in my abdomen, and what part of my arms I could see.

And along with my breasts.

At first I thought I was just getting well-defined pecs, or at least hoping as much, but I wasn't feeling anything much happening between my legs. Besides, my nipples were getting even perkier, almost pointing upward. I could feel more weight on my head, too - apparently my hair had grown. I also noted that my skin had gotten a little darker.

Sighing, I opened the door to the bathroom so I could take a look in the mirror. What I saw was nice - this girl was tall and healthy-looking, with a perfect tan, light brown hair, wide brown eyes and perfect teeth. She looked like she spent a lot of time in the gym, but it didn't leave her looking mannish, just strong. She could kick those guys' asses at volleyball, and look good doing it.

Some pounding at my bedroom door interrupted my reverie. I ran back into the bedroom and picked the nightshirt off the floor. Where before it was like a tent that went down past my knees, I felt it clinging to my body and barely hugging my bottom. I grabbed the front and opened the door, quickly transferring that hand to my shirt to make sure that both front and back were covered.

I only had to look up at the man standing there because grabbing the shirt had me hunched forward a little, which was very nice. He was a good-looking guy, aside from the panic in his blue eyes - jet-black hair, a broad hairless chest, a firm jaw, nice lips. He had a nice voice, too, as he said my name like it was a question.

"Yes..." It's tough to tell what your own voice sounds like, but this one didn't sound bad. "Who are you?"

"Drew! I didn't change back, even though it's all my stuff in the room! What the hell's going on?"

"I don't know! Look, just turn around so I can put something on and we'll go see what's up with Jeff."

He complied, and I grabbed the bag marked "Nell Lincoln" and put it on the bed. As expected, it was full of women's clothing that would fit this tall frame. I quickly found a sports bra and matching panties, a t-shirt, and a pair of jean shorts and got into them. I found an envelope with a letter and a wallet, too; I put the letter aside but quickly opened the wallet for a glimpse of the driver's license. That was my new face, all right. I quickly noted that Nell was short for "Penelope" before slipping it in my pocket. "All right," I said, grabbing my key, "let's go."

I tried not to look at the bulge Drew's new equipment was making in Daphne's pajama bottoms as we walked down the hallway to Jeff's room. We seemed to be the only ones still awake, judging from the lack of shocked noises coming from the other rooms. I knocked on Jeff's door and was pleased to see a nineteen-year-old boy open it. His eyes darted between us. "Art?"

I gave a quick wave. "Could be worse," I said.

"Yeah, you could be me. Hi, I'm Drew."

Jeff's eyes bugged. "How...?"

"I don't know! I talked to the guy who was me, and he said everything went well. He even sent video! It was this place's lobby!"

Jeff is a smart kid and made the leap quicker than I did. "He wasn't in the room. You're room's close to the lobby, but what if it's closer to--"

"--mine." Drew looked away from Jeff to me, and then the three of us broke for my room. We dumped the other bag out over my bed. Drew snatched at the wallet that fell out and opened it.

"That's me," he said, "Richard John Hobart of San Francisco, California."

I gave him a pat on the back. "I'm so sorry. But look, that means someone else in this building has turned into you. We just have to talk to him, get things in place."

Drew took a deep breath and let it out. "Right. But in the meantime..." He reached for the letter that had fallen out of the bag. I reached for mine.

To the new Nell:

Arthur says that the MPs will be here soon, so I'll have to write this quickly. If I'd known what he was capable of, I would have just slept with the bastard.

Your new name is Penelope Lincoln, but everyone calls you Nell or Nelly. I played volleyball and lacrosse in college and volleyball as a pro for a little while, at least until I messed up my ankle. You can find all that on the internet. I'm working as an on-air personality for CalSports right now, doing play-by-play and postgame interviews during San Francisco Dragons lacrosse games. If I understand correctly, you should get this before the opener on June 2nd; I don't know how long George (that's my boss, George Wilder) will believe I'm too sick to travel otherwise, especially without some sort of insurance claim filed. I also do some speaking engagements.

Anyway, I was at this place because I didn't sleep with a drunk member of the Raiders public relations department a few months ago. He apologized by giving this reservation he wouldn't be able to use to my agent R.J. (as you might guess from the bags being in the same room, he was more than that). It was at a good time, between the NLL and MLL seasons, so we took it. From what I got out of him on the phone, Arthur thought you might be more agreeable.

I probably shouldn't refer to him as Arthur; he says he was originally this Jeremy Boyd person I've become, until someone reminded him that he'd be considered AWOL for six months as soon as Jeremy reappeared. Hopefully I'll be able to work something out that doesn't involve ten months in the stockade. That doesn't look too likely, though.

Enjoy my life. I think it's a pretty good one, and I hope you and the new R.J. make as good a team as we did. Maybe when I get out of the stockade, we can compare notes.

- The Old Nell


Drew said his letter told a similar story - R.J. has actually become Stephen, the guy who wound up with Jake/Ashlyn's life, after being pulled in by "Arthur Milligan". I must say that it's just fantastic to see what that bastard is doing with my good name.

We've spent that last four hours doing internet research on our new lives. I don't think we know nearly enough to drop into Nell and R.J.'s lives seamlessly, but it'll do.

Now someone's screaming. Time to go act like we know what's going on.

-Art

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip - Helpless, but trying.

Finally, all packed and ready to head home.

Jadyn and I spent most of the weekend driving around trying to do some sight-seeing. I don't know if it was the most brilliant of ideas with the price of gas these days, but it sure was relaxing - Kept my mind off of the parts delays and whatnot. I just wish that the weather had been a bit more cooperative - overcast and/or raining doesn't exactly make for compelling views.

I could see even with the fun we were trying to have this weekend, the sadness and pain reflecting in her face. I wish I understood what she was going through right now... it's been so long since I've dated, much less had my heart broken (okay ripped-out and trampled upon, in her case). I feel for the girl, I really do - even if I don't completely understand what she's going through. I feel a bit helpless - I usually have some sage piece of wisdom to assist my friends out any quagmire they stumble (or jump head-first) into... but with Jadyn, right now, I just don't know what to say... how to help - I'm at a loss... and that pains me.

When I got back to the inn late Sunday night, the thought hit me that I just spent all weekend... in a car... with Jadyn, something that I'll be doing again in a few days. Hopefully neither of us will hate each other when we get back to Iowa - after having spent so much time together in such a small space. I mean, it's not like we don't get along - just, well... since she's nearly ten years younger than I, and since I am clueless to understand her suffering right now... we're just not on the same page in every aspect of life - but we're still neighbors... and friends.

Anyhow, while we were busy packing yesterday, I mentioned to Jadyn that since Kat & Jaci should be back in a few days that perhaps we should stay and wait for the girls to return - that way if either one or both of them were unsuccessful in finding a job, we could travel back together. I'm not sure she liked that idea at first - almost as if she wanted to just get away from anything to do with her ex-boyfriend, including memories, as fast as possible. In all honesty, I think I was hoping that we'd get some company (and that I'd get off the hook of trying to help cheer Jadyn up) for the trip back to Iowa.

Today, Jadyn seemed in better spirits. She told me that she thought that it would probably be smart to stay and make sure that the girls returned, were okay, and had a plan, before we left... The way the conversation went after that, I got the distinct impression that she was considering leaving some of her furniture and other things with Jaci - which would be perfectly fine with me (less weight to haul, equals less fuel needed to get home).

Tonight, I started to second-guess our decision to stay and wait for the girls. I saw Liz when I stepped out to grab a drink from the pop machine... and I got this eerie feeling that she and all her friends were up to something, with the smiles that they all had on their faces. Maybe it's just me being paranoid, which has been known to happen... or maybe it's just because I'm exhausted after the last couple days of packing.

Not much to do right now since Jadyn passed-out in the other bed, and I'm really too beat to be social right now. I guess I'll just log-off and relax for a while before I hit the sack. Good night.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Arthur: Girls' Day Out

I know we're not at the Trading Post on vacation, per se, but we're still at an Inn on the beach with nothing productive to do. In some ways, it's maddening for the four of us who know what's coming; we just want to go home, and it keeps us from appreciating the fact that, again, we're in a nice spot on the beach with no demands on our time.

Of course, this would be a little easier to appreciate if the sun would come out. Both times we've been up here, it's been overcast even when it isn't actually raining. Since we're just missing the official kick-off to the tourist season - we'll be out of here just before Memorial Day weekend - there's a lot of sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves going on.

And that's not good. Drew, Jeff and I were sitting in Drew's room, watching the morning edition of SportsCenter, when I decided enough was enoug. "Come on," I said, "let's catch the train up to Portland and do something. Do some shopping, see a movie, look around a little. I hear it's a cool little city."

"I'd like to," Drew said, "but I've got a date. Or, rather, 'Daphne' does." I must have been giving him the same look that Jeff was, because he got a little defensive. "Hey, it's not like that. I was at the Beerfest yesterday, while you two were calling... Uh, anyway, I was over on the pier when this good-looking guy about Daphne's age called out her name. I didn't recognize him, but apparently they met and hit it off last summer, only to have her disappear when... You know. So I vamped my way through the afternoon, called Daph in Vermont, got treated to the strange sound of a James Earl Jones-sounding guy doing the 'like, oh my god, he remembered me? He's so cute!' thing... So I'm setting things up for her."

I was impressed. "That's nice of you."

"Well, I don't know if it'll go anywhere, but she deserves it, right? I know first-hand that her time to meet people was limited, all the hours we had her working. But you guys have a good time."

Jeff had nothing else to do, so at quarter to twelve we got on the train for the fifteen minute ride up to Portland, then take the city bus downtown. It stops right outside a public market, a few steps away from a pretty cool downtown village.

"Village" to me, "big city" to Jeff. Not that it looked like New York or Tokyo to him, but his life has been in a small town and his time as Brianna was spent in the suburbs. I wonder what his reaction would have been had he landed in Boston or someplace bigger. He realized he was gaping, though, and closed his mouth. "So, what are we going to do first?"

"Some shopping, I think. It's going to get nicer this week, and we're going to want some swimsuits when it does."

"What? Are you kidding me? After everything I told you..."

"Yeah. Here's the thing." I found a bench and sat him down. "We've kind of got to find some way to get some good memories out of this."

"Why? We're better off just putting it behind us."

"Well, I don't have that option."

Jeff blushed. "I'm sorry; I know that. But why shouldn't I?"

"Do you think you'll really be able to? I mean, is this the kind of thing you forget?

"See, here's the thing, Jeff. I don't want to think, every time I look at a pretty girl, that underneath it her life actually sucks. That she's stuck in some situation she can't get out of, or that when she has sex it's just a matter of obligation. Do you want to look at every girl you meet and imagine their lives being just like Brianna's?"

"Hell, no."

"Exactly. So let's try to have fun until we change. Now, let's see what's in this "Old Port" the tourist guides are talking about..."

We poked around a little, checking out some little shops. The teenager working in the kite store was kind of into "Brianna", and Jeff awkwardly flirted with him for a few minutes. I don't know how much it helped, but he said it did feel kind of good, just in terms of being a reminder that sometimes guys just like talking to pretty girls without wanting something from them. We did buy swimsuits, too, although by then it was raining pretty good.

We finished our afternoon out with seafood that had probably just been hauled out of the ocean that day. Jeff actually giggled as he watched me eat mine. "I'll bet Ray would be jealous if he saw how muh you were enjoying that."

"Heh. I'm just thinking... We don't get a lot of swordfish out on the west coast, or it's really expensive. I'll miss that, at least."

"So you are going to change? I know you mentioned maybe sitting it out if it looked like there would be 14 people in the Inn one night."

"Yeah... I mean, as shitty a thing as this is for Jeremy to do to me - and he's almost certainly involved somehow; it's just too much of coincidence that both those bags have San Francisco addresses - that doesn't give me the right to act shitty toward Liz. She wants and deserves her family and life back, and I've got a pretty weak claim on it."

"Well, at least you'll be going home. Should make it easier to hunt him down and get some sort of answer."

"Yeah. There is that. Not to mention following the A's is a pain in the ass when their games don't start until 10 o'clock at night."

"Glad to see you've got things in perspective. So... have you read your letter yet?"

"No... I mean, there's two names, and the stuff in those letters is pretty personal. I wouldn't want to read one not intended for me."

"I guess." He looked at the clock. "Almost six o'clock. We should probably be getting back to the station; it would suck to miss the last train and be stuck here overnight if this is the night..."

So we did, and caught back up with Drew. He filled us in on his afternoon, saying it was a real bummer for him.... He's sure that the office is going to lose Daphne for sure; this guy adores her and seems like a good guy. Then he demanded we show him the swimwear. Only, we insisted, if he did the same. He agreed so fast that we probably should have asked for more.

I've got to say... We all look pretty good. I don't know if it'll be quite nice enough to spend today laying on the beach, but tomorrow looks like it could be... If we're still girls, that is.

-Art

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Trip - I was right... bad luck

Sometimes, I just can't win.

Looks like I'm going to be stuck here bored out of my mind all weekend.

Got my delivery this afternoon. Turns out I got someone else's order, not the parts I needed. Of course, I had to have Jadyn run me out to the office at Oceanside Lodge to pick it up, so I didn't know that until after the store was closed. I'll have to talk to them first-thing tomorrow about it. I shot 'em an email, but still...

Jadyn and I decided to just box what we could today to save some time. I tell you, this girl is a pack-rat... probably worse than me. I'm beginning to question whether my trailer is big enough to haul all her belongings.

I can't blame her for wanting to be a bit vindictive with her ex-b/f though. Apparently he not only cheated on her, but he lied about it too... even after she showed him the video she took of him making out with the blond.

I don't think we were all that productive today - I had to keep her moving to keep her mind off of him. It was painful watching her go from somewhat happy to the verge of tears and then to spiteful rage and back again.

Then... After my little parts fiasco, I decided that we needed to take a real break and put our troubles aside for a little while. I begged and prodded her to go see a movie with me... I really didn't care what we watched, as long as it was a comedy. The last thing she needed was more drama, or some romantic chick-flick... and she's not really into any Anime or Sci-Fi or Martial-Arts stuff like I am. We settled on Wild Hogs, which seemed to do the trick.

I think tomorrow, I'm going to see if I can't get Jadyn away from home for the day... go see some landmarks or something. I think that it would be a good idea for her to take some time away from home and clear her head. Besides, it's not like we can't take an extra day or two now, even if we had the choice. I don't have to be back for a couple of weeks, and as far as I know, she's really got nothing planned for when she gets back to Iowa.

I've noted a few places of interest to try and check out tomorrow... but if anyone out there has any ideas on places to go or things to see around here, let me know.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Trip - Maybe this place is cursed

Just great. I think that I can finally get Jadyn packing stuff up again, and my truck up and quits on me.

I thought maybe I'd get off lucky, and it's just the lift-pump. I wasted the entire morning trying to find a pump, and my lunch-hour replacing it... turns out I wasn't as lucky as I'd hoped. I've got to replace the injector pump. I'm not too happy about it either, that sucker is going to run me over $400... plus a $300 core-fee... and I've got to have it shipped in. Nobody in town, or nearby has one in-stock - and they want nearly $600, plus core. I went online and ordered the dang thing - man. As much as I hate dial-up, it sure beats paying a few hundred extra bucks.

I sure hope it's not going to rain tomorrow - changing the injector pump in the rain is NOT something that I look forward to.

I guess it could be worse though... I could have one of those newer diesels with all that electronic crap. Sure they're quiet, have more power, and don't smoke as much... but they're also a heck of a lot more expensive to fix than this old beast. Besides, she's got enough power for me, gets decent fuel-mileage, is cheap & easy to fix and maintain... and most of the time, is rock-solid reliable.

So, for now Jadyn's move is on-hold... my actual vacation-time gets shorter, and I'm stuck... in Maine... with cold, rainy weather, and a broken truck.

I wish I could get ahold of Kat, I see that her car is out in the parking lot... I sure would love to be able to borrow it until that pump gets in. Then I could go sight-seeing or something.

Maybe after Jadyn takes care of her errands, I can talk her into a going for a drive through the country... get her mind off the ex-boyfriend.

I've been to the Pacific Ocean a few times... but this is my first time on the East Coast. It'd probably be better if I wasn't out here during the rainy season or whatever... and if I wasn't here on a mission. Maybe this break-down is just what I needed - a forced break in my activities so I can relax and enjoy... or try to enjoy some of my vacation.

Oh well... I guess I'm going to log-off of this thing... maybe see if I can find another guest here and try to be sociable or something.

Oh... and another thing... four nights... I've slept here for FOUR NIGHTS, and woke up every morning after, unchanged... well, other than a bit less tired than the night before. If this place is "cursed", it's with bad luck, not some sci-fi soul-swapping rubbish.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Arthur: Well, I guess we learned something today.

The day started amusingly enough, with Drew trying to talk Jeff into wearing a bikini.

"Are you kidding me?" The three of us were at a local spot, happily doing the "calories be damned" thing, and Jeff almost ruined it by nearly spitting his grapefruit juice all over my omelet.

"No. Why? Those baggy clothes don't do that great a job of hiding what a great bod you inherited from Brianna. You should get some use out of it. Let some guy come up and treat you to something. Observe how tongue-tied they get around you, see what feels good. Know what the girl is thinking when you're back looking at them from the outside."

"That's sick."

"What's so sick about it? It's still your body, just rearranged, right? You were the one who was awake when we changed last year and told us it wasn't like your soul was pulled out and deposited somewhere else. You're a woman for the time being--"

"I'm a girl. Not a woman, a girl. Brianna just had her sixteenth birthday last June. She's younger than my sister. Are you certain you want to keep going on about how hot a high-school sophomore looks?"

Drew paused, and extended it by taking a sip of his coffee. "Maybe I shouldn't. But you're only, what, two or three years older than her? If you saw her lying on the beach in a bikini, would you think it was sick?"

"If I knew what I know, yeah."

"What's that?"

"That these tits you think are so awesome? They're fake. They were a birthday present from Brianna's parents." I stopped eating, but Jeff kept going. "That's why Brianna was spending the summer away from home - so that her friends wouldn't realize this wasn't anything but a growth spurt."

The table got very quiet. It took a while before I decided to break the silence. "That," I said, "is fucked up." Drew agreed. "I thought having to work for a complete simpleton who everyone thought was me was bad, but, that..."

"Yeah, it sucked. I mean, I put up more of a fight than Brianna did - there's a guy paying for a bunch of expensive dental work who can attest to that - but... Well, remember how I said I'm not letting anyone go back there? That's why."

"Damn." Drew used his fork to push some scrambled eggs around his plate, but didn't pick any of it up. "Look, Jeff - you live in Michigan, right? And so does Brianna?"

"Uh-huh."

Drew put his purse on the table and started rooting through it. "Here's my card. After we're all changed back, I want you to to make sure whoever winds up as Brianna gets it. I don't practice family law, but I have an old law-school buddy who does. If the new Brianna was an adult before the change, we'll make sure she's legally emancipated. If not, we'll find a way to have your father appointed her legal guardian."

Jeff took the card "Thanks. I... I don't know what to say."

"Don't worry about it. It's a fair price for a little perspective."

It got quiet again, so I decided to lighten the mood a little. "So, you kept your old business cards?"

"Ha! No, not quite... I was working as my own assistant, and when 'Mr. Dawson' wanted more, I tacked an extra box onto the order. It's amazing how much security you can get out of a simple piece of paper with your real name on it."

"I wish I'd had some of those. When even my own sister was calling me Bree... Well, you know I freaked out. When I finally shook it off, I was just going to book a room here and hope for the best."

"Ah, I didn't have that problem. Me and 'Mr. Dawson' were able to come to an arrangement pretty quick." He put down some money to cover the bill and stood. "And with that, I am out of here. I am going to enjoy the beach even if you two aren't."

Jeff and I ate for a bit longer, but soon started heading back to the Inn. I was still a little surprised by some of what Jeff had said.

"You really would have just thrown the dice?"

"Yeah. It was pretty bad. Although there are some things that might be worse."

"I can't imagine."

"Well..." He looked around, making sure we could talk uninterrupted. "The person who became me? She was a seventy-year old grandmother. You'd think turning young would be great, even if you changed sex, right? But her mind was starting to go, and even if her brain turned younger just like the rest of her, I guess once the decay starts..."

"My god." The idea of living another fifty years like that, and subjecting Jeff's family to it...

"Yeah. At first, she was okay, but it got worse. It wasn't until almost the last minute that she decided that was no way to live, and that forcing her life onto someone potentially much younger than herself was even worse."

"How'd you find out all this?"

"It was in the letter."

"You've read your letter?"

We were just outside the Inn at this point. He stopped to get his key. "You haven't? Why not?"

"I don't know. I just haven't. It's... you know, it's not what we do."

"Well, why wouldn't you?"

I had no good answer for that, so we went to my room and opened the closet. I looked at the suitcases and got a sinking feeling in my gut. I hadn't thought they looked familiar, but I hadn't given it much thought. But as I knelt down to look at them, I got a sinking feeling, which threatened to become nausea as I looked at the tag on the first one. "R.J. Hobart"

Jeff scootched down next to me. "Who the hell is R.J. Hobart?"

"I don't know... But I'm going to find out!"

I pulled out my cell phone out of my purse and dialed Jeremy. It was only about seven or eight in California, so it went to voice mail, so he got a bunch of screaming voice mail about wanting to know who the fuck R.J. Hobart was and what the fuck he was doing in our fucking room. I was just hanging up when Jeff told me to ask about Nell Lincoln.

Jeremy got more profanity.

I hung up, and dropped to the bed. Jeff sat next to me and gave me a pat on the back. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know." I took a deep breath and tried to think logically. "Maybe he stayed in a different room. He said room 9 specifically..."

We knocked on doors. We only covered ten rooms, but none of them had "Arthur Milligan's" luggage. A couple people aren't here yet, and one guy just told us to buzz off.

Jeremy has yet to call back, despite repeated calls. There's only ten people in the hotel tonight, so it doesn't look like I'm going to change tonight. Which is good.

I'm not sure if I can handle another new life.

-Arthur

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Trip - Bored enough to play along

I hope I can figure this thing out... This blogging thing is a bit new to me - Which is pretty sad for a guy who makes his living working with computers all day. Guess I just really never had the need for a blog.

Anyhow.

I found a note, which appears to have been slid under the door, pointing me to this blog. The thing is huge! I hope they don't expect me to read the whole thing - I may be bored right now, but I'm not that bored!

I don't think I've ever seen anyone pour so much time and effort into something like this for some crazy social-experiment or game or joke or whatever it is. I keep waiting for someone to tell me I'm on Candid Camera or something. I can't wait until I see my cousin again, I'm gonna have to kill her for getting me involved in some game-show or something - she knows how much I hate being in the spotlight.

I will give her credit though. Saying that she's going to be out to sea and unreachable for a few weeks - that's a nice touch. I tried calling her, and sure enough, it goes right to voice-mail. Seems that her friend may be in on the gag too as Jadyn tells me she got a similar message from her little sister.

Still, I can't believe Jaci would do that to her sister at a time like this. Wait... I don't want to get to personal - I have no idea who out there is reading this, or what they intend to do with the information. I don't want to drag other people's personal lives into this crazy thing.

Hmmm... I guess what I've got should be okay - it's not like anyone will be able to figure out who I'm talking about with just that much... and I'm too lazy to go back and start again.

So... what can I tell you without getting too personal?

Okay... My name is... well, everyone calls me "Trip", so I guess you can too... I'm on vacation for the next couple weeks... I work in IT (that's "computer stuff" for the non-geeks)... I'm in my 30's... I'm fairly paranoid (like you couldn't tell, could ya')... I was born and raised, and still live somewhere in the Midwest... of the USA (I guess this thing could be global, huh)... I'm out here to help a neighbor and friend of my cousin's.

Damn, I can't think of anything else to tell you... and I'm still bored... and awake. I've got to get some sleep, Jadyn has a ton of sh... stuff that has to be packed. I thought I was a pack-rat. Sheesh!

Let's see... well, okay...

I'm going to apply some logic to this crazy game.

Okay... so if all this changing-into-someone-else stuff is true then all I have to do is look for a letter in Kat's stuff... well... okay, that could be faked... besides, she's my cousin - I'm not going to go looking through her personal things, I have too much respect for her.

Speaking of respect, Kat has too much respect for her body than to let anyone else toy with it, especially a guy - there's no way she would want anyone else to have her body.

If this place can transform people into the last person who stayed there - then you should be able to transform back... I see that they've already figured this out. So then there's no worry, I'd just re-rent the room and change back. I wonder why it wouldn't just do that on the next night.

Now for the most important aspect... why is this place such a secret if it has such great magical / mystical power?

I mean, can you imagine the money the owners of this place could make... The ability to more-or-less become someone else. Governments would kill for such power. Think of the espionage industry you could create with such a thing.

Okay... well now that I've proven... to myself, anyhow - that this place holds no magical power and that this whole blog is just a prank - I think I'll try to get some sleep.

Too bad though... it would have been interesting to have gotten a chance to be a girl for day or two. Though becoming Kat would be really, really weird. Maybe I'll sleep in the other bed tonight, just-in-case.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ashlyn--Art for Art's sake

I stole that line from a clever commenter. ;)

I took the scan of the drawing I gave Art into photoshop and colored it.


Ashlyn

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Arthur: Welcome (back) to Maine

I kept from crying until I got on the train. I'm going to miss Lyn a lot, of course, and going back to interacting with her online is going to be strange after having her as friend, neighbor, and confidant these past few months. It's also impossible to miss how much this is getting to her, too - she didn't even ask about how and when Ray managed to finally bring me to orgasm Wednesday night. Under normal circumstances, she would be all over me for that kind of girl talk.

But, now that I'm safely putting it behind me, I can admit that I'm going to miss Elizabeth's friends and family, too. I know where some people's minds are going, putting that right after mentioning Ray did coax an 'O' out of me, but it's not that. Those folks are, by and large, genuinely nice people, and they love Liz. As uncomfortable and misdirected as it felt at the time, in memory it feels nice to be loved. That's where nostalgia comes from, of course, remembering things but not necessarily remembering their context.

It had been a beautiful week in Boston, but the sky was getting dark as Lyn and I took the taxi to North Station - I think that between the two of us, the T would have been okay, since I packed fairly light, but I've learned by now not to overestimate what I can carry. For a few days more, at least, I'm small. Anyway, the rain caught up with me while I was on the train north, and it was raining when I got off the train. I was able to handle my luggage fine, but there was a blonde girl on the other side of the platform who was having trouble wrangling what must have been half-again her own weight in backpack, gym bag, and suitcases. I was about to leave her, since I was just about at capacity myself, but then someone pushed past her, knocking the suitcase she'd set on a bench over so it fell on her foot. She turned around to yell at him as he walked away: "Hey! Asshole! Watch where the fuck you're going!"

A good look at her face and the sound of her voice got my attention. "Jeff? Jeff Miller, is that you?"

"She" looked up, shocked, and as soon as he saw me dropped everything and ran over to wrap his arms around me. "Art! My god, it's so good to see you! Were we on the same train?"

"Looks like." I gave the Red Wings cap he was wearing a poke so that I could see into his eyes - "Brianna" is quite petite. He smiled and then squeezed me again before letting go, a little embarrassed by the show of emotion. "Need a little help?"

"Oh, god, yes."

We walked back over to her stuff, and I slung the gym bag over my shoulder. Oof. "What's in here?"

"Brianna's shoes." I looked at him a bit askance. "No, I haven't become a complete girly-girl who packs everything for a week at the beach and has to have the right shoes for each outfit, but the next Bree might be."

"Couldn't that stuff just be waiting for her at home?"

"Uh-uh." He shook his head and set his jaw, not really looking at me before continuing. "I don't know who the next Bree is going to be, but she's not going back there. I've talked to my sister, and she and my pop have already said that if I - Bree - needs a safe place, there's one at our house." He hefted his bag and started walking. I didn't press the subject.

We walked to the Oceanside Lodge to pick up our keys - last August, this had seemed a strange arrangement, but now we could see the benefit of not having the staff on site. The woman at the desk (probably the same one who took my reservation in January) gave Jeff a long, disapproving look, but handed him a key anyway, once she produced ID saying that he was Brianna Adams.

The Trading Post is only a few doors down from the Lodge, with a restaurant in between, so we just dealt with the sprinkles as we walked. I opened the door for him, and he didn't complain. We both knew the way to our rooms, so I told him I'd bring him his shoes after I dropped my stuff off.

I dropped Jeff's bag on the bed and then opened the closet to stow my stuff to see it was already full. I chuckled at that; Jeremy seemed to have brought twice as much luggage as I did. I shrugged, put what I'd brought in a corner, and then delivered Jeff's.

He was laid out on the bed, looking like he was ready for a nap. "Thanks, man. Traveling takes a lot out of a 95-pound underage girl."

I flopped down next to him. "Tell me about it. And I didn't even have to do anything but take the train." I turned my head to see that he had drifted off already. I lifted his legs onto the bed and let him be.

Back in my room, I opened one of my bags and pulled out a folder. Inside were a few sheets of paper I'd printed out that morning, outlining what I knew about the Inn, pointing people to this blog, and supplying usernames and passwords in case anyone wanted to join in. I taped one up in the common area and made a circuit of the rest of the building, slipping one under each room's door.

I slipped the last one under the door of room #8, right next to mine, and was about to head back to my room when the door opened. "Hey! Are you trying to screw things up for us? Because you know that it won't work... nobody's going to believe it."

I smiled at the joking tone and turned around to face my accuser. "Hey, what if there's one or two people too many people here, Drew? Then you're going to want some of them scared away."

"True enough." Drew gave me a hug and kissed my cheek. "You're looking good."

"So are you." And I meant it. Drew Dawson didn't contribute to the blog beyond one post, but he made an impression on me. He's an affable guy, a partner in a small law firm before we all changed who bought more than one round of drinks for the group. Of all of us guys who got turned into girls, he may (may, Lyn, may!) have wound up the best-looking - Daphne was a couple inches taller than me, with light brown hair, a cute little nose, dimples, and a slender figure that was marred only by a surgical scar on her knee (and that wound up adding an element of cute tomboyishness to her). Drew had recognized her immediately - she actually had worked in his own office. At least, he said, he'd be able to go back to a somewhat familiar environment.

He'd opted for something rather more feminine than the t-shirts and jeans that both Jeff and I had opted for: One of those v-neck tops where one side overlaps the other, showing some nice cleavage and leaving his midriff bare, a pair of shorts that hugged his bottom, and wedge sandals. He also had a wrap around his waist that draped asymmetrically to cover the scar on his knee, earrings, and cosmetics, and his longer hair had seen some time with a curler.

After a few seconds we realized that we were checking each other out and laughed. "I guess we're still guys underneath after all this time."

I agreed. "So what's with the clothes?"

He shrugged delightfully. "Packed for the beach. Might as well get some guys to buy us drinks on our last days as girls."

I laughed. "You sound like Lyn-- uh, Jake."

"Ha! I'll bet folks buy Red a lot of drinks... with purpose." He got serious for a moment. "How is she--he--she?" I nodded. "I read about the guy wanting to keep his life. Very uncool."

"She's hit a rough patch lately, but she's surviving. Determined to make things work, and kind of enjoying the whole center of attention thing."

"I imagine. So she's not coming... Have you heard from anybody else?"

"No-one. I met Jeff at the train station, though. He's ready to change back."

"I don't doubt it - being younger is cool, being a kid is something else." His phone rang and I let him answer it. After a couple words he covered it and held up a finger to get me to pause. "Tell Jeff and anyone else you see that I'm buying dinner tonight - a little reunion thing."

"Will do."

I slipped a note under Jeff's door and then went back outside, where the sun was shining again. New England weather is, I think, stranger than San Francisco's. I knocked off a few chapters of a Stephen Coonts remainder before meeting Jeff and Drew for dinner.

Dinner was fun, although we were all kind of surprised by the turnout - just the three of us and one other (he never joined in on the blog the first time, so I'll leave him his privacy now). Four out of thirteen, and we're pretty sure it will just be two out of thirteen in the next group (Liz and Daphne). We talked about what we'd learned about the Inn, but it wasn't much. We shared our stories, or as much as we were willing to tell. Then, after Drew paid, Jeff retired back to the Inn, grumbling about looking to young for even a believable fake ID even with "these ridiculous things" on his chest.

After that, yeah, the rest of us drank a bit. And a bit more. I swear, knowing we're almost at the end changes everything - at Drew's suggestion, we were trying to top each other in extracting drinks from guys - giving each other points for telling outrageous stories (the truth, of course, being verboten), getting them to buy for the whole group, etc.

I'm kind of glad the change didn't happen last night - I crashed as soon as I got into the hotel, and I think the clothes I had on might have cut off some circulation had it happened while I was asleep.

-Art

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ashlyn--Here I go again on my own…

Yes, I just quoted the band Whitesnake in the blog. What can I say, I like 80’s music and I have it playing on my iPod as I write this.

Before my parents died and I was sent to live with my uncle Garry, I grew up in a suburb of Dallas. We lived in one of those cookie-cutter housing communities. It was great. There was an empty field nearby to play football, and a community pool to help survive the Texas summers. There were bike trails and parks connected to those trails. There was everything a boy needed growing up.

Including a best friend.

Billy Sanderson—I called him BS to the annoyance of my parents—lived next door. He was there from day one; as we moved into the house he just seemed to appear out of nowhere and started helping move things inside. There were no introductions—he acted like he had known me and my family forever and we became instant friends.

I thought Billy was the coolest guy on the planet. Billy was the instigator of bad behavior and I loved him for it. He had a motto he lived by “If you’re not doing something that might get you grounded, then you are probably not having a good enough time.” We spent large amounts of time debating who was cooler: Batman or Spiderman. We glued firecrackers to my ‘six-million dollar man’ action figure and lit them. “Oh No! Col. Austin’s bionics are going haywire!” We would yell as the doll would bounce around from the small explosions. We also spent countless hours trying to build bigger and higher ramps to jump with our bicycles. Billy’s parents would ask why we were so obsessed with jumping ramps and Billy would say “We’re training to be the next Evel Knievel! Duh”. Yeah, life was fun with Billy.

Being best friends with Billy had one significant downside. Billy lived with his mom and stepdad. Every summer Billy would go away for a month—sometimes two—and spend time with his dad. Those summer months when Billy went away were brutal for me. There I was, out of school for the summer and no best friend to do things with—every spring I would dread the approach of summer.

Worse, Billy would go on these amazing trips with his dad during those times away. Billy would come back and tell me tales of white water rafting, swimming with dolphins and traveling through jungles. Billy embellished all of his stories of course—I didn’t call him BS just because they were his initials—and his stories really captured my imagination. After a while, it wasn’t just being lonely in the summer that was the problem—I started feeling like Billy was going on these incredible adventures, and I was being left behind.

Which brings me to this morning.

I waited until I knew Ray had left for work before walking over to Liz’s place. I knocked on the door and Art opened the door.

“I thought we were meeting up at North Station.” He asked.

“I thought I would check and see if you needed help with anything—besides, it gives me the excuse to hang out with you a little longer. You packed?”

“Mostly. I packed a few thing last night for my—“ He made quote marks with his fingers. “—trip to New York. I waited until Ray left to pack more things for a longer stay at the Inn. I didn’t want him to see my bags and wonder why I packed so much for a short trip.”

“Smart, but if he asked you could have played the girl card.” I tell him.

“Girl card?”

“Yeah. You know: I need to pack all these clothes because I’m a girl.” I smirked.

“Well, not for much longer.”

We headed into the bedroom where there was an open half-filled suitcase lying on the bed. I found an empty spot of the bed a sat down.

“I can’t believe the day is finally here!” Art said while digging through a closet.
I didn’t reply right away. Art was practically bursting with excitement, but I had mixed feelings. I wasn’t as giddy as Art was about his return trip to the Inn. “So, you and Zoe have a good time last night?” I asked.

“Yeah, we did. Sorry about not inviting you along, but you know how Zoe is about you.” The original Ashlyn and Zoe didn’t get along, so I inherited the animosity. She doesn’t seem to care for the way I like to dress as well.

“Yeah I know. It’s okay. It gave me an excuse to go see Matt.”

Art turned away from the closet and gave me a curious look. “Oh? How’s that going?”

I shrugged. “We had a great time. Matt is fun, his friends are fun….”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming.”

“Not really. It’s just that sometimes I feel so old around him and his friends. Our tastes in music are different, movies, a lot of things. Sure, physical I’m in my early twenties, but mentally I’m closer to forty. As odd as it sounds, I think we have a generation gap.”

I pause for a moment. “He referred to me as his ‘girlfriend’ last night. I’m somebody’s girlfriend. Is that crazy or what?”

Art rolls his eyes. “Some of us have been dealing with that for months.”

“Yeah, true, but this is someone Ashlyn had never met before. This is a—God, a relationship—with someone who likes me for myself. It’s different.”

Art looked contemplative. “Yeah, I could see how that could be important.”

He tossed a few last items into the suitcase and zipped it up. “Done! And look, gender stereotypes be damned, I didn’t pack that much.”

Art carries his suitcase into the front room and called a cab. He then went to his purse, pulled out an envelope with ‘Ray’ written in big letters, and set it on the kitchen table.

Eventually the cab shows up and honks to let us know it was there. I grab the suitcase and Art gives the place one last look around.

“This was a nice life…it just wasn’t mine.”

We find an empty bench at North Station.

“Lyn, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you, and I’ve been putting it off.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry.”

I give him a blank look. “Sorry for what?”

“It was because of me this all happened to you. If I hadn’t invited you to the beer festival, you would still be Jake.”

“Dude. There was no way you could have known what going to happen. I don’t blame you at all—never did.”

“Still, I felt I should say something. I feel guilty about being able to go back to my life—“

“When I’m stuck here.” I finished for him.

“Well, yeah.”

“Art, I am so happy this is all going to work out for you. I really am. Sure, I’m going to miss you—“ It was at this moment I could feel my throat tighten and tears well up in my eyes.

I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry. I don’t want to be one of those girls who cry easily.

I just about had it under control when Art suddenly burst into tears. It put me over the edge. Soon we were holding each other, tears running our faces.

“I’m going to miss you ‘Lyn.”

“Same here.”

We eventually regain our composure and Art looks at his watch. “Time to go.”

I reach for my purse and pull out a drawing of Liz. “It’s just a pencil sketch. I’ve scanned it, but I haven’t colored it yet. I’ll finish it and post it on the blog. I thought you would like the original drawing.”

“Yes! Thank you.” He takes the drawing from me and puts it with his things.

We hug one more time. “Take care of yourself Art. Come visit me sometime.”

“You can count on it.”

He grabbed his things and headed off.

I stood there a while. My best friend had gone away leaving me behind—it was Billy Sanderson all over again.

The Inn is back to its old tricks…

The T is right there at North Station, but I decided to walk home because the weather is incredibly nice right now. I eventually make it home and sit down to write in this blog—but before I got that far I checked my email. I was in for a surprise.
----------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Art/Liz:

Please help me. I just checked out of the Trading Post Inn, but I am not the same person I checked in as. I am trying very hard not to lose control and become hysterical here, but it is like some really bad nightmare.

I still have the laptop computer I checked in with, and theAT&T Data Card which allows me to surf the web. I did a search forthe Trading Posting Inn, which led me to your blog. I read througheach one of the entries, only to realize that this has happened toother people too. So, I am desperately turning to you for helpbefore I lose it.

My real name is Paul Miller. I am an attorney from Philadelphia, Pa., and my specialty is intellectual property litigation. I am, or was, very good at my job. It allows me to stay very cool under very tense situations. Please refer to the blog I was doing before I changed for details. It can be found at http://pxmiller.blogspot.com/

For some reason, it is harder to stay in control in this body.

I am in a different body. At some point between Wednesday Night and Thursday Morning, by body somehow changed from a near 40 year-oldCaucasian man into an African-American women. She . . . I . . . look very young, so I can't tell you how old this body is. I am a lot shorter than I was before. And the body has half-healed bruises all over it.

I went and looked for a suitcase, or anything to tell me who this girl is. She left nothing behind, so the identity of this body is a mystery to me. I had to sneak down to the laundry room of the Trading Post Inn to find something to fit me. I only booked the room through the weekend (it was an impromptu get away to clear my head before a big trial), so I had to check out.

I left my suitcase, clothes, and all of my belongings, including identification in the room. I did take what cash I had, about $425.00 with me, and this laptop. I also took the rental car that I drove all the way up here from Boston.

I don't know what to do. I am turning to you for some advice. I am afraid that if the police find me with my laptop and the rental car, that they will suspect some type of foul play regarding my real identity Paul Miller. I know that the police will be more likely to believe I did something, considering I am nowblack, and I have all of these bruises. I cannot have the police investigate the Inn, or else nobody will be able to get their real body back. I am going to have to ditch the car and laptop somewhere along the road. I will have to wipe everything down with a cloth to take my fingerprints off of it. I just hope that I can get to you in time before you leave.

So, I am going to have to get as close to Boston, as I can, and then find a ride the rest of the way. I have a flight from Logan Airport back to my place in Philly, but I don't think I'll be able to get on the plane without any I.D., especially without any I.D. that looks like my current self.

I had better describe myself, my current self, to you, justin case you find me before I can check in at the internet café. Iwould say my age is between 16 and 21. Very young looking. As Isaid, I am African-American now, and, from the reflection in themirror, extremely beautiful. I am only about 5'2" tall. My hair isstraight and black, and goes about ½ of the way down my back. Iam wearing a pair of jeans that are a little too tight (and the pantlegs are just slightly rolled up), and a white v-neck t-shirt. Ialso have on a pair of sandals (that are a little too big for me).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In the back of my mind I knew the Inn was open again, so that means more victims. I checked out Paul’s blog: http://pxmiller.blogspot.com/It brought back a lot of memories of my own experience. I emailed him back, so hopefully he’ll contact me again. I don’t have all the answers about his new situation, but I have a few, so maybe that will help.

Ashlyn

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arthur: Cutting things close

I admit, I was starting to get worried.

After all, everything seemed to make sense on paper. The last group to stay at the Inn in the fall goes back as the first group of the spring, its mojo kicks in, and they change back. That lets the second-to-last group - including me - change back after returning, then Liz's group, and so on however far down the line we can go. Of course, there was one little tiny flaw in that logic, which I admit we all kind of willfully ignored: We didn't all change back the night after we'd changed, even though there were still thirteen of us in the Inn.

I came up with ways that that might not be an issue: Maybe the Inn had batteries to recharge. Maybe it doesn't work on the exact same group of people twice in a row, so not having Stephen return to reclaim his life, meaning that the group will have at least one different person, would be enough of a difference. Maybe six months without changing people would make the place anxious, and it would bend whatever rules it had. At least, that's what we told ourselves. Because we really didn't want to think of the alternate explanations: That nobody could be changed a second time, or changed back to a form they'd had before, or twice in a row.

We didn't talk about those possibilities, because talking about them might make them true. As you might imagine, there's been a lot of finger-crossing to go with the preparation. Fortunately, it looks like I can uncross my fingers.

The phone rang at about seven this morning, just as Ray was finishing breakfast. I was just stumbling out of the shower when he answered it. "Liz... Some guy for you."

I saw the look on his face and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You don't think there's any reason to be suspicious after last night, do you?" His expression changed to slightly embarrassed and he handed me the headset. "Hello?"

"Arthur? It's me, Jeremy. 'Germy' Boyd." My heart jumped into my throat. It had been months since I'd heard a man's voice call me that, and even if I didn't recognize the voice, I realized that I had never heard Jeremy's voice before he had changed. "It worked. Took it long enough, but it finally worked last night. Two-twenty-seven by my watch, it all happened."

I felt a quite frankly amazing sense of relief. "That's great. You can't imagine... Well, I guess you can."

"Right. Anyway, I've got some things to do, so I just wanted to give you a heads up."

"Of course... Thanks." He hung up, so I did likewise.

Ray looked at me. "What was that about? I haven't seen you look that happy in... hours." A satisfied grin snuck onto his face.

"Just some news I'd been waiting a long time to hear. I... Uh... I might have a chance at a part, but I'd have to go to New York tomorrow...."

"That's great!" He picked me up and kissed me on the lips. "See? You get free of that job and that guy, and things are starting to fall into place!" He started to loosen his tie. "I think this calls for a little celebration..."

I pulled it back into place. "Hey, someone's got to earn some money around here. Besides, who knows if we can repeat last night? I swear, I've never seen a guy so excited over someone else's orgasm."

He turned bright red at the word, even turning away. "Well, you said it's been months, even with... him... I just think this is a really good sign for us."

"It is. And I want you to remember that, because one good sign doesn't mean..." I didn't know how to finish the sentence. "Look, it's still going to take a lot of effort to make this work. So no matter what happens, be patient with me, okay?"

"You know I will."

"Good. Now get off to work, since by the time I get home tonight, I'll have spent my entire last paycheck in a bar. Or five. Zoe was unclear."

He left, and I cleaned up from breakfast before typing this.

I can't believe it. Jeremy's himself again, which means the odds of my being myself again without a couple weeks are looking real good. And I somehow managed to do it without wrecking Liz's lif - maybe even making it a little better. There were times when I thought there'd be no way out, but seeing the light at the tunnel... Well, don't tell Ray, but this really is the best thing I can imagine feeling.

-Art

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Arthur: Giving notice

I did wind up giving Liz's two weeks notice last week; it just made sense and given how uncomfortable things had become there, I probably should have done it a month ago. In terms of timing, it actually works out well - since the theater operates on a Friday to Thursday work week, my last day is this Thursday, the tenth. Zoe says she's taking me out for drinks after work that day; Ray is happy that I/Liz won't be around Stewart any more; Liz's family on the one hand thinks it's irresponsible but on the other hand thinks that this job was holding her back. For all I know Liz will just apply for another job very much like it when she returns, but it won't be my problem.

I'm not giving notice here, though - I probably won't have a lot of "wow, breasts are weird" posts in the future, but I imagine that having a penis again will be a novel sensation after going so long without. Even beyond the physical, Jeremy can't help but have changed my life some in the six and a half months he's been living it, even beyond the new job. He hasn't mentioned anything about a girlfriend, so I don't think I'll be finding that particular surprise when I arrive in San Francisco, but he's probably made new friends that I've never met, and fallen out of touch with old ones. I'll probably have to either find a new agent or convince my old one to take me back.

And there's still a lot about the Inn itself I want to discover. I'm pretty sure that those of us who are returning have figured out a way to reclaim our old lives, but just because we've found a pattern there doesn't mean that we understand the place. How does the magic - for lack of a better term - work? How long has it been going on - is it "just" eighty years, or even longer? Why don't people believe us when we tell them about it? Who is Lyn's "secret admirer"/stalker? For all I know, he might actually own the place - I've had very little luck tracking down much information on who, precisely, the Inn belongs to.

With any luck, I'll be able to get some publisher to pay me to find out - there's got to be a book in this, although I may have to present it as fiction, since the curse keeps people from believing the truth about the place and those who have stayed there. But there's a lot of research to do before I get there.

As always, anybody with stories to share from their own stay at the Trading Post Inn to share is encouraged to write us at TradingPostStories@yahoo.com - I'll probably be trying to recruit new people at the Inn next week, too.

I'm going to miss 'Lyn a lot when I'm myself again. We've been spending a lot of the past week together, because we know that no matter what, things aren't going to be the same between us soon. Yesterday, we went to the Fenway movie theater to see Spider-Man 3. I remembered how enthused she was to see it, and I was looking forward to it, too. We met up in time for the noon showing, but I checked and saw that that was on one of the smaller screens, so I got tickets for the twelve-thirty showing instead. Then we went outside to grab something at Coldstone's and sit down.

"I see you're already breaking out Ashlyn's summer clothes." Her top had a scoop neck that actually showed a little bra at the corners and she was wearing a pleated skirt that made leg-crossing a necessity.

"From what I hear of New England, days in the seventies are to be savored. Besides, you aren't exactly hiding your legs." I was wearing shorts that did, admittedly, hug my bottom a little, though they went down to mid-thigh. "You can't tell me you're not going to miss seeing those in the mirror every morning just a little."

I slurped up the last of my shake, which was like sucking cake through a straw. Probably pretty fattening, too, but I wasn't going to have to lose those particular ounces. "I'm just looking to get back to my life." We tossed our containers in the trash and started walking back to the theater, which reminded me that as nice as these legs are, they're kind of short, especially when your friend's shoes are adding a couple inches to her height.

The movie was a bit disappointing - I couldn't help but notice places where it could have been cut - but not bad by any means. Of course, I'm used to seeing boutique-y movies and for free, so maybe I was being a little harsh. 'Lyn enjoyed it, and thanked me for coming. "I know it's a funny thing to say, dressed up like this, but it's nice to do something guy-ish every now and then. I am so going to miss having you around to do this with."

"Well, you know, you don't have to just do it with me. It is okay for girls to like sports and comic books and movies where things go boom, you know."

"Ashlyn's not exactly that kind of girl."

"So? You get why I've been calling you 'Lyn' for the past couple months, right?"

"Yeah, I know - everyone else who calls me 'Ashlyn' or 'Ash' is really thinking of Jean-Michel, I guess. I like it, actually - means I know you're talking about me."

"Right. So don't worry about being Ashlyn. Just be yourself."

"It's tough. Every time I do something that Ashlyn wouldn't do, I get this look, and I feel like I've screwed up."

"Maybe you just need a new start. Why don't you move out to California with me?"

She stopped walking and looked at me, then smirked a little. "You're just looking to have a hot girlfriend once you're a man again."

"Not just that. No, I'll just miss having you around, is all."

"I appreciate the offer, but... I mean, it'd just be too weird, and besides, I've got a lease, and I've kind of got a boyfriend... I want to make this work."

"Fair enough. Can I ask for one favor, though? Can I get you do draw a picture of me, like this? Just to keep as a reminder? I know you said you were having trouble with it before..."

"Oh, sure. That just takes time, which I've got plenty of right now." She only sounded a little bitter.

"Hey, it'll turn around, okay? You're too smart and too good at too many things for something not to come up."

And she is, even if she doesn't feel that way sometimes. That's another reason I'd like to see her come out. We haven't had to go through this alone, and there are moments when I wonder how she'll hold up.

-Art

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