Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Arthur/Penny: Good grief!

Don't tell anyone around here, but I am positively thrilled that the Patriots didn't make the playoffs. As a writer, I've always understood the sports columnists who said they rooted for the story, even though as a fan I think it sounds like a soul-deadening outlook. For the last couple months, though, I've just been rooting for a reduced workload. Carefully, of course - print is in all sorts of trouble and it would be no surprise if Boston Today were to fold or decide that maybe I could be replaced by someone who would work even cheaper and longer than the woman with no prior experience and a degree in broadcast engineering!

And yes, I have pondered the irony that even in a down economy, I could probably get a pretty good job in television with Nell's resume and looks. I've been there, though, and I just enjoy writing too much.

When Tom Brady went down, I sort of knew that the Pats reporting would be kind of intense. I knew that there wouldn't be much relief when the Red Sox' championship run ended, because the Celtics would just take their place. I didn't see the Bruins coming, though! The last time I was in Boston, when I was living as Liz, no-one talked about them, it was with a mix of indifference and disgust. I dutifully read the scores on CalSports as they made a little run at the Stanley Cup, but the hockey guys there implied that it was mostly about the NHL letting a lot of teams into the playoffs. And yet, this year, they seem almost as dominant as the Celtics, who are so good that there's got to be Celtics material every day even when there's three days between games and not much to say.

It's been crazy enough that I've had precious few chances to get off sports, although election night was all hands on deck. I did a spot about sports bars tuning to CNN that was cut to something like two sentences for the print edition but ran in full online. I guess that's the future.

At least Boston doesn't really care about college sports even when they've had teams doing well. If I had to pay rapt attention to a bunch of bowl games rather than head out to Ashlyn's party tonight, I'd probably be pretty annoyed!

- Art/"Penny"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Cocktails anyone?

It's been an extremely busy holiday season. I'm sure you're all dying to know how pleased I was that Hayley and Conner loved the CD's and video games Anne-Marie and I picked out for them, but, well, it's not all that interesting. Stressful, but not interesting. The worst part was having to feign interest in the variety of perfumes, pyjamas, linens and garments I had to unwrap. It was not a Merry Christmas for this guy.

As you might imagine, I don't care much for family gatherings in this body. I find that a lot of the in-laws on Hal's side, particularly Trudy, still judge her pretty harshly for whatever reason, so they've been taking it out on me. "Julia" wasn't there this time, but Bryan was. It was weird, even perversely amusing to see Bry get all thankful for Ellie's gifts, which were mostly clothes and accessories, and of course, cash. I mainly kept to myself and drank wine all day until it was time to go home.

The Sunday after Christmas, Hal had an office/client holiday party at our place, so I had to prepare hors d'ouerves and serve drinks most of the night. It was a pretty dull affair. Bry was there, but had to hang out with the kids in the basement eating party mix and drinking Pepsi (I did sneak her some booze every now and again, because it's the holidays and she's been good.) Since she's a receptionist, Julia was also there providing moral support to me, even as Hal repeatedly came up and politely reminded her she was a guest and didn't have to do anything. She just smiled her pretty little 23-year-old smile and said it was her pleasure.

I had some important matters to ask her about anyway, and as soon as we were alone, we started talking. And no, it wasn't "Are you sleeping with Hal?" because I'm still putting that one off. No, this was slightly more about me.

I told her I had had a cold a few weeks ago but got over it, but now I was starting to feel... groggy, I guess. Foggy-headed. I wasn't getting much sleep, getting up in the middle of the night and feeling tense. Certain biological parts were feeling... abnormal. And it wasn't a cycle thing either, at least not as far as I could tell. But something felt really off.

She got this wicked but modest smirk, her face blushed red, and her eyes darted around the room. "Jeez Todd... you'd think you would notice it sooner." I just stared and asked her what exactly was going on. She gave a quick laugh and looked me in the eyes saying, and this is a direct quote, "Well, the thing about that is... women have needs too."

It takes a moment to wash over me. I lean back against the kitchen counter, bracing myself. "You're joking with me, right?" She just shakes her head. "I'm 33 years old. My body... or your body... our... that body is at its peak. Hal and I have been married for a long time, and sure we're not at the same place we were when we were first married, but... we never went that long without being together. You mean you two haven't--"

"No!" I whisper-scream, "Are you kidding me? That's the last thing I want."

"I guess it's not surprising he hasn't even asked..." she smiled to herself, "I used to turn him down so often it got to where I'd always have to initiate it."

"Can't I just... take care of this myself?" I asked. Not that I haven't before, but this feeling has been driving me crazy.

Again she gives a quick laugh, "Honey, I'm a married woman. I haven't done that in years. And it's just not as much fun. But you're the one in the body, so you're free to give it a shot... I guess."

I began to feel really sick. I dropped the subject all together and got on with my night feeling just off. In the family room, there was Donna, trying to work the HD TV, but the picture was all stretched out. I snatched the remote away from her and quickly fixed it. Her husband was just trying to check the score on the Pats-Bills game.

I handed her the remote back and she just looked at me, "I had no idea you were so good with electronics, Anne-Marie."

I just sighed. "One of my many secrets."

I sleepwalked through the rest of the evening and went to bed early. When Hal came up, he asked if I was still awake. I rolled over and said yeah.

"I've been thinking. I know we haven't talked about it in a while, but if you still want me to... I think I'm ready to go through with it."

I wince. "Go through with what?"

"With the surgery. I'll do it."

I'm confused and tired, "What surgery? What are you talking about?"

"The... vasectomy."

I roll back over the other direction. "We'll talk about this later."

It had been a long, stressful day. Quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to discuss was Hal's penis. And needless to say, I did not sleep well... again.

I'd go take a cold shower, but being naked isn't a lot of fun right now.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: One at a time.

This is a really bad time of year to be someone's mom.

It's fallen to me to buy a whole bunch of Christmas gifts, for the kids and all the relatives I've barely met and to that extent don't really like. Getting over my recent cold, I was still so exasperated that I finally broke down and called up "Julia."

We went to Wal-Mart and she picked out all the clothes and stocking-stuffers she'd normally get the kids in addition to whatever toys and junk they put on their lists (damn these brats are spoiled!) Around me, she was notably less guarded than the previous times I'd seen her in person... which was only the two times I previously mentioned. The first, it was such a shock for her to see her own body in person. The second, she was avoiding direct contact with me, and we couldn't talk as ourselves. This time it was all out there.

I pulled up to her apartment in her SUV, which I still don't like driving but have gotten used to. I buzzed her, and she came down to the lobby with "Kalli," also known as her niece Ellie. I was surprised - I don't know why, but I'm used to seeing "Ellie" as a little blonde girl, and here's this very mature-looking young black woman standing next to Julia.

She smiles at me, "So you're... Todd?" I nod, red with embarrassment, and she just giggles. "Omigod, aren't you, like, dying?" Julia smacks her on the arm and shoots her a look that says "be polite." I just shrugged and sighed, "Yeah, some days."

So Julia and I go. I asked her what she wanted to be called and she said I might as well call her Julia, if I'm okay with being called Anne-Marie. I said if it was at all possible, I'd like her to call me Todd when we're alone. "Todd it is," she said.

On the drive over, we made what might be considered polite chit chat in other circumstances, "How are the kids, how is Hal?" but are really probing questions between the two of us. I told her that the kids are doing fine, and that they don't seem to notice anything's wrong. She seemed to grow depressed at hearing that, and I reminded her about the "Magic of the Inn" theory. Then I added, "Plus, you know kids... they never listen anyway." That got a laugh. She started to brighten up. It made me want to hold off on the really heavy stuff.

"I'm so sorry, Todd," she sighed, staring out the window, "It can't be easy for you."

"It could be worse," I said. It's something I tell myself every morning. "No, I wouldn't have chosen your body, or to have kids, but... well you're a healthy woman with a good family, and a good life. If it weren't for that one little problem, I might be really tempted to keep your life and just freeload forever." It was intended as a joke, but didn't land as one.

"Is that what you think?" she asked. "That I'm some kind of freeloader? That I just live off my husband and make babies?" I wanted to say "No," but she continued, "You've been running that house for almost half a year. You know how hard it is. And I wanted to work, too. I'm happy now, for the first time in years, because I have my own job and my own life, and I'm not just a good housewife, but I'm a good woman. And that's all I ever wanted to be. And you don't need a job to be that, but I... I had a habit of forgetting that."

She seemed really on the brink of some emotional moment, the kind that, as a psychological male, I'm still uncomfortable with. I kept my eyes on the road as her eyes started to water a bit. "I'm sorry, I just... I had some issues last year. Before the inn."

"...marital issues?" I asked, like slowly, painfully peeling a band-aid.

"You could say that..." she sighed and trailed off. I got the sense she still wasn't going to talk about them, and went quiet for a while. I pulled into the parking lot and did a bad, angular parking job.

We sat there for a while, but as she put her hand on the door handle, I took a deep breath and broke the tension. "When I said freeloader, I... I didn't mean you were one. I mean... that's what I am. I'm a university dropout. I worked a string of bad jobs, mooched off a rich girlfriend. I took her for granted, and after she and I broke up, I decided to run off to another country, where I could find new strangers with roofs to sleep under and food to eat. And you know what? If I hadn't been such a goddamn freeloader, I wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be having this problem. I'd be back in my own country living my own life."

She leaned over from the passenger's seat and wrapped her arms around me. She said softly, "It's... nice to be needed, isn't it?"

I blinked back some tears (what can I say, it was an emotional moment) and said, "Yeah. But I guess right now, we need to put some presents under the tree for your kids. So let's go."

If it weren't for the fact that I'm in her shoes (among other garments) Anne-Marie's issues with her husband would fall for me under the umbrella of "None of my business." But knowing some of the stuff she later told me - which I'm not ready to share, sorry - really puts my current situation in a new perspective.

Besides, we ended up having a lot of fun. From pictures and everything, I got the sense that Anne-Marie, only in her early/mid-thirties, was locked into that "Mom" phase, serious and responsible - but she showed herself to be a very fun, very intelligent woman. She really seems to be the woman she looks like.

But having said that... not much has happened to allay my fears that she doesn't really want to switch back. But I guess it's better just to deal with these problems one at a time.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Sick of it all...

I got up this morning around 10:30. The windows were frosted over, Hal's side of the bed was made as usual. I sat up, and immediately felt dizzy. I had a headache that felt like I'd been hit by a Buick. My joints were aching. My nose was stuffed up. In another place, in another life, I could've just laid back and said "screw the world." But here and now, I had to get up out of that warm, comfy bed, strip off my pyjamas, shower, put on a fresh set of bra and panties and some sweats, and go grocery shopping. Hurray life.

Maybe I'm just cocky from all those years of being a healthy Canadian male. Not that I never got sick in Canada, but I was able to withstand the cold better than this. I feel like death. And I had a lot of stuff on my DayQuil-addled mind, stumbling down the grocery aisle.

I haven't talked to "Julia" in days, since our little blow-up about her kids and our return plans. She was seeming just a little too reluctant to go along with the plan, whereas I will get out of this body no matter the cost. Who cares if she was being logical? If logic existed in this universe, none of this shit would've happened in the first place!

So yeah, I'm pushing the cart down the aisles, checking off items on the list... cereal, milk, ham, roast, taco fixins... whatever. I remember that first week when I had to look through the garbage to figure out what they needed. It felt humiliating. Now it's all become so damn routine. I look around at the other sad-looking midday shoppers - mostly moms like Anne-Marie - and I think, but for a little fate, I could've been any one of them, or they me. The teenage boy stocking the shelves, the girl at the checkout aisle chewing gum, looking like she'd rather be anyplace else. You and me both, sister.

I ran into this lady Anne-Marie knows, in the coffee aisle. Donna, or something. She tells me oh, we haven't seen each other in so long, we must catch up, and blah blah. I've been to her place once or twice, particularly back when I was new at being Anne-Marie, but I've been reclusive more and more the past month or so. Not much to catch up on. What would I say? "That person almost won big on the Price is Right the other day, the teacher says I'm an awful parent, and I miss my penis." Models smile soullessly at me from the magazine racks. I wheeze a cough, and think how unappealing I must seem. No wonder Hal cheats.

Is he really? No confirmation yet. Never asked Julia, was too mad already. I've just resigned myself that he probably is, and it's weighing on my mind pretty bad. I don't know if I care for my sake, or for the kids' sake, or for Anne-Marie's own sake, but I do care. Maybe I'd like life more if I was a desirable woman like Ashlyn. As much as any of us hates his situation, it wasn't hard for me, reading her old posts, to see how she became accustomed to it, to hear her tell. I keep telling myself, Hal's problem isn't with me it's with his wife but hell, that is me, for the time being. And infidelity hurts the children because if "Anne-Marie" finds out, can she... I... just deal with it? No. It means divorce. It means this comparatively idyllic house gets chopped in half and I'll probably have to get the kids, live on alimony, or get some BS job.

There I am, thinking long term in Anne-Marie's life. That's why I don't ask, because I don't want it to be my problem. In a very literal sense, Anne-Marie's doing it to herself... (if she's doing anything at all.) Seducing her own husband, where does she get off? (In the office I suppose. Sorry, even miserable I can't resist.) It's not hard to see why she would want to exploit this situation, win her man back and whatnot... I just wish she'd think of the consequences.

I'm sick of thinking about these problems, I'm sick of all the uncertainty about my future, and I'm just plain sick.

I hate to complain too much but I think given the circumstances you'll allow it.

It's just after ten and I'm exhausted. In another place, another life, I'd be ready to go out... now I'm ready for bed.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Todd/ Anne-Marie: The kids are alright

At least, they seem to be. But not according to what I've been hearing.

There was a parent-teach meeting a couple nights ago and Connor (Anne-Marie's 10-year-old son) teacher Mrs. Wilson basically reamed me out for 20 minutes because she thinks the kid has an unstable home environment. No shit he does! His parents hardly speak to each other and his mom doesn't seem too interested in helping to build up fundamentals while dad is off all day earning the money. Well sorry if I'm not around to explain to the Adkisson kids about the birds and bees or help with math homework. I just wanted to grab her by that stupid beaded necklace and choke her. "You think I like this??"

But no. There's nobody who understands. Even Bry, who has become kinda reclusive at school, sinking deeper and more weirdly into Ellie's life... isn't exactly in a place to understand the pressures of having to raise someone else's kids. I do my best, honestly, and I don't like the accusation that there's something I could be doing that I'm not.

I mean maybe there is... the kid isn't getting his homework done, and it's not like I really force him to do it. I would feel hypocritical to nag him about that because I was the same at his age. He's ten for crap's sakes, let him play. I turned out fine.

So I called up Julia... Anne-Marie... whoever she is, which I'm not supposed to do. And I told her what the teacher said. And you know what she does? She starts crying! Yeah, she starts crying because she misses her kids so much, and since Thanksgiving it's really been eating away at her and blah blah blah. I probably shouldn't have been so harsh with her, it's not her fault at all, but... I needed to lash out at someone and I couldn't get on the computer at the time. Plus it's probably a bad idea to write on this thing when you're mad.

So all her crying was giving me a headache, so I just sighed and told her that the time to book a room at the Inn was coming up, and we had to get such-and-such a room at such-and-such a time period... first the person in my body, then me, then her. And she tells me, ugh, she goes on this tangent about "Well I don't know, Julia's not really in good financial shape, and it might look really suspicious if I go on vacation the week after you do because I'm Hal's receptionist now and he knows us both..." and I'm just thinking... "Woman are you making excuses not to get your body back?" I didn't say it, but I had just about reached the end of my rope that day. But I did get a little more aggressive - hell, bitchy - when I told her that like it or not, I'm getting out of her body, and either she can take it back, or have another stranger living with her husband and next time, she might not be so lucky with who it is.

I hung up angrily, leaving her something to think about. Then I just sat there, face hot with rage. I looked around at all the stuff that wasn't mine and I just muttered, "I've gotta get out of here."


PS. Sometime later, Anne-Marie suggested that I should ask Hal to take the lead on the homework project. I'm somewhat dreading that conversation, because our last exchange on "how to raise the kids" came after he found out I basically wasn't enforcing bedtime anymore and letting the kids stay up as late as they wanted, and he was, um, not pleased.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bryan/Ellie: School days and suburban nights

So... hey. I guess I should introduce myself even though you guys kinda already know me through Todd. He's been good enough to share some of the details of my life with you guys cause he knows writing isnt really my thing, but obviously he can't tell you everything about my life since he's busy being Aunt Anne and really we don't get to see each other often enough. plus alot of the crazy stuff he has yet to actually mention here.

So yeah, as you may remember (I know I haven't forgotten) I've spent the last few months as a 14-year-old girl. It's....... interesting, in the way a really nasty youtube video is interesting. For every good thing there's plenty of bad. The good parts tend to focus on having rich parents, and not being so pretty that boys are paying a lot of attention to me (as far as I can tell.) The bad part involves the usual physical, uh, complaints, and constantly being surrounded by bitchy high school girls and awkward high school boys. Also my chest is rally sore and I've noticed since I've had this body it's starting to fill out a little bit. I really dont think this is something I should be around for.

So Ellie goes to this upscale private school that is a lot nicer than the public school I went to in Canada. The floors are clean and there's a lot of windows, but I have to wear the skirt for the uniform. Yeah, Todd told you about the Mercy Mamas, but it's not like wearing a skirt was something we liked doing for its own sake. It was a show and at the time it was fun. Anyway, Ellie's friends... I try to ignore them, and they've kinda ignored me, so it's hard to tell who started it, me or them.

The exception is Emily Sinclair, who was new to the school. Lucky enough, we met in the first week when she was all shy and stuff (sitting alone is kinda a giveaway) and I decided to be her friend. She's pretty cool for your average teen girl. I'm trying to mould her into someone I would actually want to hang out with, since she's at that impressionable age, so I'm introducing her to some good bands, showing her rock goes a little deeper than Nickelback and the Killers. But there's another reason I've stuck with her... she's friggin' gorgeous.

I dunno if she knows it... she seems nervous a lot of the time when boys pay attention to her. And me, I like her because it makes me feel like people aren't gawking at me. I look normal but I still don't... feel normal. But I like being around her because I know I can just be the, like, average-looking friend.

Anyway, we were supposed to go see that movie Twilight last weekend. It looks kinda dumb but all the other girls were loving it and I had this in-character moment where I agreed to go along. Until the parent-teacher conference.

I dunno how smart Ellie is, but she must be decent because her grades have been slipping a bit since I took the wheel. What can I say? How can I possibly care? I learned most of this stuff, then forgot it when I found out it was all unimportant... why should I bother to study again? I'm not gonna be in this body in six months (fingers crossed) so I don't want to, like... put all this effort into it that I don't need to. But try explaining that to the McClays. "Mom and dad" were really pissed... I dunno if I'm grounded or what, but I used it as an excuse to not see that vampire movie. I was also glad to get out of it because, well, it was supposed to be a double-date. Emily was a lot more upset than I was, because she got so nervous she called the thing off at the last minute, and now there's a big high school-type mess between her and the boy and the guy who was supposed to be my date. Whatever.

I dunno. I guess this didn't really have much of a point, except to get some stuff off my slowly-developing chest. I have a lot of time to go stir crazy in this room and if I wasn't able to write this stuff, maybe I'd forget who I really am. Unlike Todd, I've got a lot of people calling me Ellie all day long. And that really messes with your head.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Turkey Day Blues...

Someday I might look back on this and laugh. I really hope so anyway, because if so, yesterday things just got really effin' funny.

Sometimes, being Anne-Marie is actually bearable. She has it made - an affluent husband who barely wants anything to do with her sexually (maybe not such a plus for an actual woman), financial security in uncertain times, two comparatively well-behaved kids (insofar as none of them are out getting arrested) freedom to live life as she pleases. Again, maybe this doesn't do much for Anne herself, but to me it's a major win... nobody seems intent on bothering me or expecting me to do things I don't want to just because of the woman I look like.

At least... until the holidays started rolling around.

I don't even like dealing with my own family, but at the Adkisson household a big family thanksgiving is a big deal. Anne's monther-in-law is coming in from Rhode Island, and Trudy and I had to collaborate with Hal's other brother's wife Jen, to create this big turkey dinner. I've gotten a little better at cooking over the last few months, to the point where I'm confident nothing I make will kill these people, but I haven't gotten so much better at dealing with Trudy.

It seems I stepped into some drama between Trudy and Anne-Marie, stemming partly from Anne-Marie's preoccupation with being Ellie's "cool aunt." Jen's actually pretty cool - close in age to Bry and I - but is too shy to fill that role. So she nervously stayed in the corner while Trudy passive-aggressively bossed me around, and I just took it, festering secretly over what a bitchy control freak she is.

At the end of the day, I just wanted to scream "THIS ISN'T MY FUCKING FAMILY" but that might not exactly play well.

It doesn't help my case that, as often as possible, I take Bry out on Saturday afternoons for coffee and guy talk. She probably sees these as being primarily about her, and sometimes they are, but mostly they're just excuses to talk about how weird it still is to use Kotex.

Then there was the other visitor complicating things, and I'm not talking about Aunt Flo (who thankfully missed the party.) I'm talking about Ms. Julia DiFrancesco, a girl I first met back in late September. I wanted to bring her up before but I guess I never got around to it.

One rainy afternoon in September I heard a knock at the door. This girl stood there, terrified and soaked. Young - maybe 21 or 22 - and quite stunning, with a good tan, slender body, and long curly brown hair (which was sopping wet and therefore very frizzy.) I figured maybe she was some other Adkisson family member I hadn't heard about yet.

"A-a-anne-M-m-marie?" she said through chattering teeth. I nodded. She asked if she could come in. I've always been wary about strangers in the house - part and parcel of being a city kid - but I'd been in such strange circumstances already I figured what did I have to lose?

"It's m-me," she said, waving off the cab in the driveway as she stepped in, clutching her arms to warm up. I looked at her uncomprehendingly, "You... who?"

"I'm... you. I'm Anne-Marie."

I just stared at her, stunned. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her and I didn't know where to begin. The most pressing thought in my mind is, " Ellie okay?" I don't even know why I asked, but having seen Bry's little face all that time I thought of that poor little girl trapped in a world she may have no idea about.

"She's fine..." she walked further into the house. "May I take a shower first, then we'll talk?"

I almost said "Be my guest," but stopped myself, realizing I was more her guest than anything. So I just said "Sure" and waited to hear the water running after she went upstairs. Then I just sat and thought, somewhat rocked to the core... this girl was the woman whose body I was in. Is she going to want this body back? I looked down at my cleavage - aged, a little saggy compared to her tight, nubile body. If she didn't, could I in good conscience give it to some stranger? I started to feel guilty, and responsible for some very heavy moral issues.

She came down the stairs, barefoot and wearing my - her - bathrobe. We sat down in the kitchen. With her wet hair hanging down behind her tanned, gorgeous face, I began to get a little... well let's just say I've seen Joseph W. Sarno movies begin this way. But anyway.

"What's your name?" I asked her. "I mean the name of... who you... became?" It's awkward trying to come up with vocabulary for our predicament.

"Julia..." she told me. "I'm Julia DiFrancesco and Ellie is Kalli Jackson. We - they - were students are the University of South Carolina, on vacation. After everything, we didn't think either of us could handle the life of a student, especially not Ellie, so we did the only thing we could think of... come back here."

I was wary, "What do you... uh... plan to do?"

Her plan, as it turned out, was to work for her husband as a receptionist. Ellie isn't qualified to do much (in real terms) but has been working as a weekday nanny for another rich family in the neighbourhood. Julia actually had an impressive clerical resume that Anne was going to find it hard to live up to, but she could at least do the job well enough to get by, once she got hired.

All she wanted was to make me aware she was in town, and that she would help me any way she could. After all that business, she finally asked me who I was. I gave her a G-rated version - that I was a young man from Canada - and let that just sink in.

She gave me this sad - beautiful yet very sympathetic - look and wrapped her arms around me. And she whispered, "I'm so sorry" and just... held me. I tentatively hugged her back, wondering how weird it must be to hug yourself. Then again, that was probably before I read the bits about Jean-Michel.

Before she left, I asked her, somewhat more kittenishly than I would like to, "Do you... plan to change back?" And she, standing by the door, holding the umbrella I lent her - hers, by right - gave me that sad-eyed look again, and sighed. "I don't know."

Then she was gone.

Except she wasn't, of course, and got the job. And I called her for advice whenever I needed to understand something about Trudy or the kids or Hal or my vagina or whatever, which was often enough... but I guess we never really became friends, more like a professional relationship. And not only that, but from Hal's perspective, we didn't know each other well at all, and Julia certainly wasn't his wife. So one day a few weeks ago, over dinner he says to me, "You know my receptionist Julia?"

I nearly did a spit-take, trying to figure out how to respond. "Um... sure?"

"Well I've been thinking," he says, "She's been here a few months from South Carolina, doesn't know anyone, no family here, no boyfriend or anything. What would you say if I invited her over for Thanksgiving?"

And I just gaze at him, wide-eyed, trying to figure out an in-character response. I've been pretty good at keeping the Anne-Marie character consistent off the cuff, but when something like this comes up, it really throws my game. All I can think of is how awkward, or confusing, or bizarre it might be, rather than the natural Anne-Marie response of "Sure, if she wants to." finally, I did say that, and we all got on with our lives.

So in this house yesterday, we've got all the Adkisson/McClays, including the real Julia introducing herself to family she's already known for years, including her own daughter and son. And there's me and Bryan trying not to act like buddies, or discuss our entire lives with Julia, or anything. What's that old saying? Three people can keep a secret - if two of them are dead. Or if there's a magically-imposed silence on them anyway.

And then, after dinner, while we're doing the dishes, Trudy nudges me and says, "I hope you don't think anything's going on between Hal and that girl. My brother would never do such a thing."

And the funny thing is... that thought hadn't even crossed my mind. And I just laughed and said, "Of course not," secretly kinda hoping maybe there was and wondering why I would care. It would be oddly appropriate, I think, and sweet in a really sick way. Except for the part about potentially breaking up a family.

When I realized that, I suddenly got very nervous.

Most people just have to worry about leftover turkey... not leftover lives.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: My First Bra...

There's something about a chilly November afternoon that makes me want to crank the heater and lounge around in my underwear. Don't judge me, it's not like there's anyone else around. And maybe Anne-Marie's body has some, er, wear-and-tear from the kids, but she's still young and in half-decent shape.

Maybe I'm just weird but a lot of the time I'm more comfortable like this than when wearing Anne-Marie's clothes. Maybe because I'm alone and don't have to pretend or feel like I'm being judged on the authenticity of my Anne-Marieness. Maybe because after a while I get tired of the blouses and khakis or mom-jeans or skirts. I do wear the skirts, not often, but sometimes. But I guess I ought to take this opportunity to discuss something that might gain further insight into my perspective on female apparel.

See, that day at the Inn, when I woke up in Anne-Marie's body... it was shocking, it was horrifying, it was impossible to believe even as I felt my own tits. But as I moved through the day and eventually had to dress myself, well... it wasn't the first time I'd ever worn women's clothes. not the first time for a skirt or a camisole or a pair of panties or a bra. No sir. Not Bryan's either.

Back in the day - mostly in high school - one of the bands Bry and I played for was called the Mercy Mamas. I played bass, Bry played lead guitar, Tom Davidson played drums and sometimes we had a guy on keyboards whose name I forget. Bry and I shared vocals. Anyway, we had done a few open mic nights and were going to close the school's talent show when Bry had the idea of dressing in drag. For some reason - probably because I was high - I went along with it, and Bry went out and got all this gear - dresses, skirts, nylons, even bras and panties. He's always been a pretty extreme guy when he gets to something. Looking back I think he maybe just wanted an excuse to play dress-up even though there was nothing unusual about his behaviour while in drag. He didn't affect a character, it wasn't a Rocky Horror or To Wong Foo thing... he was just Bryan in drag, only slightly more outrageous than usual.

Because of the reaction we got - which was an incredible uproar from all the students - the principals banned us from ever doing the talent show again (this was our second-last year) but we continued to rehearse as the Mercy Mamas and eventually started playing gigs in little clubs near the University I went to. We were gaining some popularity when I decided I was tired of dressing like a woman - and playing bass, which I was never very good at anyway - so I left. Bryan, who basically just saw the band as a reason to hang out anyway, called it quits too, leaving us with an inexplicable collection of ladies' underthings sitting unused in our closets.

So if you were to ask me how I know how to put on a bra - or apply makeup, for that matter - there's your answer. It's not that I ever wanted to be a woman, I just always remembered the reaction I got at that high school talent show, and had been chasing it ever since. Now, there's nothing about femininity that looks shocking on me. It's depressing. And now I actually have to use the bra.

Ugh. Now I'm bummed. I think I'm gonna go put on some pants. A chill just ran up my spine and made my leg-stubble stand up.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Brandon/Laura: The first month part 4

When i got ahold of Laura and explained the work problem, she understood. Fortuneatly she is a good idea machine, and we sat there for a few hours going over certain papers and how to take care of them. I didnt have a degreee in business like Laura did, but my college degree helped me understand the terms enough to figure out what was going on. She also told me that if i had any questions while i was at work, that I should use Instant Messenger to get ahold of her, and she would either be online or it would go straight to her phone.

After we got done talking, I decided to get on Laura's AIM right then, as well as look at her facebook and myspace. Just to get a feel for her.

Immedieatly after signing on, about 8 different windows popped up, most of them saying "OMG Where have u been" or the like. I guess disappearing for 4 weeks causes your friends to worry like hell about you.

Most of them I could handle, just by saying i stayed an extra few weeks and had no cell phone service. One of them, however, was not satisfied and said she was calling me immediately.

A minute later the pink cell phone lit up, with Nadine displayed on the caller ID. I gulped and answered.

"Why the hell didnt you bother to call, or at least email us! We all thought youd been kidnapped"

I tried to calm her down, and succeed only to have her say "Well we HAVE to catch up, meet me at the starbucks near your building in half an hour." Before i could come up with a protest, she had hung up.

I wasnt going to deal with getting ready again, so i decided workplace attire would have to do. I googled the nearest starbucks, which was right across the street. (I wonder how people mysteriously transplanted into other people's bodies managed without the internet.)

Half an hour later I walked near the starbucks, not sure who i was looking for. I almost went back to the apartment when i heard "Laura". I turned to see a cute brunette about Laura's age waving to me. I sat down next to her and ordered a coffee, black like i usually took it. This invoked a weird look from Nadine but she shook it off.

"Im so glad youre ok, we had all thought youd gone off the deep end after Jack" she said. (Jack, as i found out, was Laura's ex. They had broken up a week before her vacation)

"Well, he had something to do with it, I dunno i just needed some time to myself." I bluffed.

The next hour was a Q & A session, with me answering and bluffing to the best of my abilities. Mostly one word answers, which puzzled Nadine. I explained that work had gotten stressful with the housing crisis and I had a lot of catching up to do. She accepted this and after 2 hours of mindless girltalk I went back home.

The last month has basically been a repeat of the first week. Get up, go to work, avoid co-workers, get help from Laura (ive only screwed up a couple of times). Go home, duck Laura's friends, watch TV, etc.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brandon/Laura: The first month- Part 3.

When the alarm clock went off wednesday morning i was already awake, lying in bed. I didnt get much sleep that night. I got out of bed and sighed. I didnt sleep in my clothes that night, but i didnt use Laura's sleepwear either. I had just found an tshirt and wore it with my underwear.

I had set the alarm for 6am, even tho i didnt have to be in until 9. That gave me a good margin of error in case i coulnt figure things out. The shower was more in depth than the one I took the day before, because i had to wash and condition my new hair. For good measure i also decided to use the other bottles in there, the bodywash and moisteurizer. I figured if they were in there, they were necessary.

When I got out of the shower i toweled myself off and tried to do that towel turban thing with my wet hair. Didnt work out so well, but i got it all in there. I briefly thought about makeup but decided not to mess with a good thing. Her body may be "plus sized" but Laura has a pretty face. Good skin too, no blemishes anywhere.

As I waited for my hair to dry i went into the bedroom wearing only my towel turban and looked into the massive closet for business attire. I was NOT going to wear a skirt so i picked out one of her pantsuits. Got that on without much trouble. Its pretty much a man's suit, except tighter with the buttons on the wrong side. I looked at myself in the full length mirror and was impressed, until i turned around and saw that the tight pants produced serious pantylines. Which i enjoyed on girls as a guy, but i also knew that they were a major faux pas. I sighed and resigned myself that it was thong time. Laura had a LOT of them, in different styles and colors. I just picked a white one, closed my eyes and slipped it on. It wasnt too awful, kinda comfy actually. And it got rid of the pantylines. By this time my hair was dry and needed to be done. Im not a hair stylist so i just brushed it and made a simple ponytail.

When I was ready, it was 8:00. This gave me time to have cornflakes and leave for the office with time to spare. I got into the Jetta with my Mapquest directions, even tho i didnt need them. The office was right down Olive street from the apartment. I arrived there 5 min later. It was NOT a long drive at all. It was only 8:20 when i walked into Smith Brothers Mortgage.

The receptionist's face lit up when she saw me. She was a woman in her 30s who from her nameplate i discovered was named Whitney.

"Oh my God Laura, weve missed you SO much! How was Maine? You sure are in early." She said in a hyper excited voice.

"Yeah, I figured Id get in early to catch up on what i missed" i said

"Good idea, Mr. Smith is already in his office, ill send you in".

With that I went down the hallway to the office of my new boss, Clarence Smith. He was a bald man in his 50s. He smiled when he saw me. "Laura, great to have you back. I hope you enjoyed your much needed vacation."

We chatted briefly about Maine, and then he got into a huge, informative lecture about what i missed. New negotiation strategies for fixed rates, what lenders were suffering from the housing crises, refinancing strategies. I just smiled and nodded. When he finished it was 9 and he said "Well, it looks like its time to get going, ill have Whitney send in your files"

I walked down the corridor until i found the office marked with Laura's name and saw Whitney heaping a big pile of papers on the desk. "Good luck with this" she said.

I closed the door behind me, sat down, looked at the pile of papers, and realized that i knew absolutely NOTHING about brokering mortgages.

If anyone's ever seen that episode of Seinfeld where George gets a job and has no idea how to do it, so he just sits in his office and reorganizes the Penske file, that was me. I put all the papers into accordion folders. I did this for 8 hours. I looked very busy.

At 5 i rushed home and called Laura.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brandon/Laura: The first month: part 2

When I woke up the next morning, things were very uncomfortable. The shock of being Laura had worn off a little bit, but it was still a bit unnerving. The discomfort came from the fact that I had slept in my clothes. Not very comfortable for guys, even less comfortable for girls, because I was wearing a bra, and a things got out of place during the night creating crushing and pinching that made me sore all over.

The first thing I did was undress; mostly. I took off my tshirt, jeans and bra to be less restricted. The second thing i did was pull out my awful pink cell phone and the letter from Laura and called her in New York. It went to voicemail. That made sense as it was 9am here it would be 10 am in New York and "Marissa" was probably at work.

This left me sitting in my underwear looking around a strangers apartment. It really wasnt that out of the ordinary. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, livingroom. Spacious too. I gave myself a brief tour, trying not to mess anything up. When i got to the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror, i shuddered again and then realized i probably needed to shower and get dressed.

When i got out, i put on the the bathrobe and headed for the closet. I put on my underwear and bra and was about to pick out some jeans and a tshirt when i heard the cell phone ringing. The caller ID was Marissa's number.

I answered slowly "Hello"

"Wow, its weird hearing yourself" the voice on the other end respoded.

We talke for an hour, since she was on her lunch break, about everything. Apparently she had taken a month for vacation, her two weeks plus a couple years worth of sick days. So the two weeks that her body was in Limbo at the inn were covered since she wasnt due back at work until Tuesday. Which was tommorow. I spent the rest of the day in doors. Watching tv. Laying low before i had to impersonate Laura in public the next day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Brandon/Laura: The first month-Part 1

Sorry I havent posted anything since my change, when adapting to another person's life, blogging isnt a high priority.

When you last saw me, i was at the Inn for my last night, with a flight to St. Louis in the morning. How I got there took some maneuvering. First, since Laura hadnt planned on having her body in Limbo for 2 weeks, he return plane ticket had expired, leaving me to have to buy a new one. That cost me $281. Heres the kicker, I didnt have that much cash, and none of my credit cards would work in this instance. Why? Because a credit card from a man in Arizona purchasing a plane ticket to be used by a woman in Maine to fly to Missouri raises a red flag. (A BIG one considering what happened to my body) My only choice was to use one of Laura's credit cards, which i rationalized by saying id pay it off while i was in her body. I used the same card to pay for the train ticket to Portland.

After a nervous trek through airport security and a flight home, i found myself at Lambert St. Louis airport, where Laura's car had been parked. I didnt know where tho, just that it was a Blue Volkswagen Jetta (chick car). I wound up walking up and down the parking lot, pushing the panic button on the keychain until the alarm went off. It took me 10 min but i finally found it.

Using mapquest directions i was able to make it from the airport (in the suburbs) to her apartment (downtown) without getting too lost. Upon opening it up i saw just the opposite of my place. This apartment was CLEAN. Everything was spotless and in its place, even her DVDs were alphabetized. I threw my luggage down on the couch, and being dog tired, made it to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed.

Ive got some free time lately, so withing the next few days ill post more.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Things I miss...

There was a moment over the weekend when I realized the power of the inn. You would think I would think about it constantly from the moment I get up in the morning, put on a bra and use the toilet, but that's not what I mean. We bought a ton of Halloween candy and failed to unload all of it. So temptation being what it was I found myself snacking on fun-sized Kit-Kats and Aeros.

Well it turns out, Anne-Marie has never liked chocolate. It apparently had been a long-running joke about how much she disliked the stuff. And strangely enough I found it tasting somewhat bland compared to how I used to feel when eating chocolate. But habits die hard. So when someone saw me uncharacteristically unwrapping a Tootsie roll and asking what was up, I just shrugged it off and said "...things change." And what could anybody say? As vehemently anti-chocolate as Anne-Marie was, here I am, looking like her and eating chocolate and nobody would think it's because Anne-Marie isn't who she seems.

So it got me thinking about the little ways in which my life had changed, and what I miss. I keep a written list in my nightstand drawer to remind myself why I am trying to leave this apparent life of luxury. Here's what I've got.

My penis. That's a given, right? I might as well not even list it because of how obvious it seems, but I never appreciated it until I had to leaf through a book designed for 13-year-old girls to understand my equipment.

Freedom from fashion. Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to Men's wear. A pair of boxer shorts, an undershirt, a hoodie, some jeans, a pair of sneakers... mix and match at leisure. You should see Anne-Marie's wardrobe. It's immense. Simply choosing a pair of panties is a gargantuan task. I never appreciated a girl who mixed-and-matched her underwear until I tried to find the bra that went with the teal Calvins I put on this morning.

Being Canadian. That is to say, being surrounded by Canadians. As similar as our worlds are, there's still something of a culture shock when I am here. It's almost as significant as the shock of crossing the gender line. Almost. Then again, being American at this point in history has its advantages, given I am suddenly allowed to vote in the American election. I won't bore (or possibly alienate) any readers out there with my personal politics, but hey, I'm from Toronto. (Sidenote: Hal and I went to a Halloween party on the weekend. Somehow he convinced me to go as Sarah Palin... I guess I kinda-sorta look like her. That was an unnerving revelation since I don't see why so many people find her attractive.)

Toronto... or any city. In particular, the plethora of choices for food and entertainment, the sense of community. Not having to drive anywhere is also a bonus.

Alia. I haven't spoken to her since I left for Maine. I want to tell her how much this experience has made me appreciate having her in my life.

Youth. I'll admit it. I was a lazy, immature jerk a lot of the time. But I had potential. I still had the means to be anything I wanted. It doesn't feel like Anne-Marie can be much more than the wife of a dentist and the mother of two kids. And that's fine for some people, but me, I need that horizon. I lost ten very important years.

That said, I'm not saying there aren't benefits. Like I said, I get treated with a fair amount of freedom, I get to feel useful by doing the housework, I don't worry about money even amidst this economic crisis... and anytime I want I can touch a pair of boobs.

Every cloud has its silver lining... but every one of them has a touch of grey, to quote Garcia.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Man of the house?

Now that it's been a few months, there are fewer and fewer times when I allow myself the luxury of totally freaking out. I know I made myself sound kinda confident in my earlier posts but it's very hard to pin down exactly how mortally terrified you are when you start walking around in someone else's body, let alone one with new equipment. But I found what you might call... coping mechanisms.

One obvious one is that I took an example from Bryan. Unnerving as her attitude toward the whole thing is - how easily she accepted the whole thing (and still waiting to see if she'll show up on this blog) - I was at least able to take a cue and think "Okay, better not be the weak one." Bry's attitude that "This is what's happening and we should just go along" is annoying until it becomes comforting, once you settle down and think "I can do this."

The bigger one, though, is my prevalent belief that this is not permanent. That I will not see Anne Marie to the end of her days. That I will not be cheated out of a decade of living as Todd Casey. That I will not see Hayley and Connor raise Anne Marie's grandkids. That there is a way back. And all I have to do is kill time and accept my lot until I can get there.

One of the bigger hurdles to feeling comfort was meeting Hal. He came home a few days after I did, without fanfare and with only a cursory "How was your trip?" He was hardly as panicked as Mrs. McClay.

I thought maybe he was hiding his concern. Then I thought maybe he legitimately didn't care about his wife's wellbeing. Then I realized, he was just being himself. That's just who he is. And after 12 years of marriage that's maybe what happens.

I didn't see much of marriage as a kid. I was born out of wedlock and while they tried to make it work, it just... didn't. I tried never to be bitter but you can imagine what a warped sense of relationships I must have, particularly married ones. One by one I watched my friends' parents get divorced and usually re-married while they struggled to cope with the breakdown of their parents' lives. I guess in that sense I was lucky. Never had any delusions.

Does that mean I think Hal and Anne Marie are heading for divorce? Not in the near future - not prior to the Inn and not on my watch either. I don't intend to shake up Anne's life any more than the bare minimum given the circumstances. I just think it's a cold marriage. A comfortable one. And thankfully for me - a sexless one. I dressed and undressed myself very privately for months until I realized that after a decade plus of raising kids, these people just plain aren't doing it.

And that's fine because as curious as I might be to find out what it's all about down there (don't judge me, you're all thinking the same deep down) I'm definitely not interested in this guy. He's a nice enough man, but... he's still a man.

I say he's a "nice enough man." He's kinda quiet, taciturn. He comes home after a day of drilling teeth and just wants to have dinner, drink a beer, and watch the World Series. (PS - was glad the Phillies schooled the Rays, given their triumph over his Red Sox. New England. I'm just waiting to see what Cito Gaston does for my Jays next year. But anyway.)

So... we struck up this kind of domestic balance. I cook the food (getting better thanks for the internet) do the dishes, the laundry... he provides the house and the car and the lifestyle, and nobody bothers the other.

I figure eventually it's gotta come up. One of us will reach a breaking point and I just won't be able to put it off... but until then, it's back to back in the queen-sized bed.

Once Hal came back, I fell into this quaint little routine. I'd get up in the morning around 9 or 10, well after he'd gone to the office. I'd explore the neighbourhood a little bit to get to know my surroundings... go for a drive or a jog, get a coffee, whatever. Then by the time I'd come home, Bry would be waiting for me there. Mostly we'd play Rock Band or Guitar Hero or any of the various games the kids have. Or we'd go for a swim in the backyard... I always used to envy the kids who had a pool.

Bry, by the way, who used to be over 6 feet tall, still looks ridiculous in a 14-year-old girl's swim suit. Maybe it's just the way she carries herself. She's all boyish angles with a figure that appears to be gradually morphing into 3-dimensions... if you catch my drift.

Meanwhile I've got the opposite deal. Anne Marie's no tubbo, but her body's been around a while. Put me in a bikini and suddenly - for the first time - I'm self-conscious about love handles and cellulite, and that little belly pouch that hangs over just a bit. Hmph.

After lunch, she'd usually just lounge around while I did chores, or tried to figure dinner out, or what have you. While all this is going on, I'm maintaining my (Todd's) online presence, making all the usual arguments about movies and comics on the various boards I'm on.

Anyway, back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post... how this isn't permanent. Well after a few weeks of feeling nervous of what became of my body, I got... the call. I was very adamant I wanted to hear from the "new Todd" and when I did, I felt happier than I had since this whole ordeal began. I remember looking at the caller display on Anne's cell and seeing my own name. I nearly dropped it in the pool.

I took a deep breath and answered. "Hello...?"

"Is this... is this Todd?" asked the somewhat confused and fearful sounding voice on the other end.

I hesitated. "Yeah... it is."

A pause.

"I'm sorry, your voice..."

"Yeah, I know," I grumbled, "Who is this? Who are you really?"

Timidly he explained himself - I'll leave the details for later, suffice to say our situations are not dissimilar and we're all very eager to get back where we belong. And once that piece fell into place, I began to breathe easy. Taking stock of my life, that is, my life as Anne-Marie, I decided it's not such a bad place to visit... I just wouldn't want to live here.

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: Walking around like I own the place...

I could risk running myself ragged these days. When I'm not pretending as Anne-Marie, doing chores, running personal errands, conversing with Bryan, asleep or simply trying not to go insane, I'm poring over the archives of this blog and writing bits and pieces of my own entries. I want to tell as much of my story as I can manage, both because I'm a storyteller by nature, and because, mortifying as it has been, it's the kind of life experience that can't go unexpressed. I have this theory: the first thing our minds forget are routines. I know the saying goes "old habits die hard" - two and a half months later I still unzip my jeans standing in front of the toilet but routines are different. Every time I had a new schedule in school, I would find it hard, after a few months, to remember what it was like only the semester before. We evolve, and we adjust.

That, of course, won't stop me from working toward my ultimate goal of getting MY life back. I would like to adjust OUT of this life as easily as I evolved INTO it. and when that happens, all this will be like some long ago ghost story. SO I want it all on record.

In reading some of the early posts on this site - back when Art and Jake became Liz and Ashlyn - I've been noting some of the distinctions between their situations and mine. They were, like, older than me, but became younger. I went the opposite direction. They were kinda lucky and frankly I don't blame them for taking the hands they were dealt. The idea of restaging a transformation seems like it leaves a lot of room for error and even thinking about going back there gives me the willies. Look at what happened to Art. I'm a little lucky I guess because I've met the new Todd - not in person but we've spoken - and unless I'm being lied to, the new Todd and Bryan as eager to leave our lives as we are to reclaim them. That doesn't mean it's foolproof though, and we have a lot of time to just hurry up and wait. I'm stuck in the life of Anne-Marie Adkisson for however many months. Could be worse, but could be better...

The house was empty when we got home. It was a relief and kind of a nightmare since I knew I'd have to meet Hal and the kids sooner or later and I didn't want to just sit alone in this big empty place. So I invited Bryan in. We rang up Ellie's parents - the McClays - and told them we were home and that "Ellie" would be spending the night here. They wanted to know why and I just kinda fumbled my way around a vague excuse involving travel weariness. They accepted it - it was nearly midnight - and told me to have her home as soon as I could. Your daughter disappearing for two weeks is probably going to put you on edge, so I didn't hold their curt tone against them.

We went around turning on light switches, opening doors, trying to get a feel for the place. The basement is partitioned into a living room/TV area, a game room with a pool hall, dart board and beer fridge, a computer room and laundry room. Upstairs there is a very dainty living room with lots of, like, fine china in glass cases, a fully stocked practically gourmet kitchen, another TV room, and the big foyer. There are five rooms upstairs, one each for the kids, the master bedroom, guest room and Hal's office. I did a few laps around the house so that when people started coming home, I didn't look like this was the first time I'd seen the place.

After surveying the whole place, Bry and I settled in the basement. She started channel-surfing. "We got anything to drink?"

I shrugged, "There's probably some Coke or Sprite around here."

She glares at me, "Yeah, but, like... how about an MGD?"

I flopped down on the couch and rubbed my temples. "I don't know about that, dude. You're like, 14." She rolled her eyes, "You know that's not really true." I told her how irresponsible it was for me to just grab a beer and hand it to a little girl and she kinda flipped out on me. "What are you, my mom? You were all too happy to smoke up with me in Maine, now you won't even let me have one beer?" Well, the effect of that one joint I mentioned was way more drastic than I'd ever seen. I wasn't eager to repeat it. 14-year-old girls do not have strong constitutions.

"Look," she stood up, "I just want to relax. I'm not going to drink a whole case, I'm not even going to make this a regular thing. Tomorrow I have to start acting like a little girl. Just let me have this one thing."

She walked over to the fridge and grabbed a bottle. She held the twist-top in her hand. I said nothing. Fsst. She opened it.

"Wait," I sighed.


"...grab me one while you're over there."

This is why I should not be allowed to be a parent. I remember when I was 14, out at parties with the older kids, getting lit for the first time on Captain Morgan. And I don't even have any regrets about the shit I got up to. So how can I tell this comparatively mature, reasonable person she can't have one beer? In good conscience, I mean.

It didn't really matter, because she took one sip and got this sour look on her face. "Oh, man. I forgot how bad beer tastes when you first start drinking." I laughed. There was nothing wrong with Annie's tongue. Bry sipped along anyway.

"This is gonna be a long trip," she groaned.

We fell asleep on the couch in the basement. I woke up a few hours later and draped a blanket over her. It was kind of adorable, since, while asleep, you'd never guess that just a few hours earlier she'd been reminiscing about the time in high school when she nailed Cindy Cortez behind a Petro Canada.

I staggered up to the bedroom. It's a big bedroom, it's got a big bed. And a nice bathroom. I took off my top and shorts and tossed them in the hamper. I changed into one of Anne-Marie's nightgowns. Putting on an item of someone else's clothing for the first time is a weird feeling, especially when you've never worn such a garment. So I changed out of it and into some cotton PJ's - it was hot, so I used a light shirt and short shorts. Then I got under the covers, and...


Some of you probably get it when I say how hard it is to fall asleep when you're TRYING to. I couldn't get comfortable, I couldn't stop thinking, after three days, about my anatomy, and when I wasn't thinking about that, I was thinking about Anne-Marie's life and how messed up my situation was. I started to sweat and shake and feel the pressure and get paranoid. Every moment brought me further from sleep. So I got up and found the answer in the medicine cabinet. There was half a thing of Ambien in there. I don't like pills - that's a long story - but I just needed to zonk out.

And zonk I did. After a while, I fell into the deepest sleep I'd had since that last night before the change, after the concert. I woke up the next morning feeling so mellow, which meant miraculously I had outslept the effects of the drug... which meant it was about 11:00. And something was burning.

I sprang out of bed and flew down the stairs and found Bry - hair stringy and wet, dressed in a bathrobe, working on what appeared to be a pan of scrambled eggs.

"Mornin' Auntie Anne," she chirped. "Breakfast?"

I grumbled, "Don't call me that.... and I could eat, yeah."

She passed me a plate. "Good timing. Nice PJ's."

I looked down to see my nipples standing up straight under my top. "Christ, these things. You're lucky you don't have to deal with 'em. I could hardly sleep."

"Yeah, I'd like to get home before I start having to think about that... they're all ready kind of... never mind." She took a seat across from me. "So what's the deal? Why's the house empty?"

I explained that Anne-Marie's letter had told me the kids were at soccer camp all summer. That was why she had taken Elyssa to Maine for her birthday, because she didn't have her own kids to worry about at the time. I found out later Hal was on a camping (or fishing or something) trip with old frat buddies. Whatever. At the time his absence unnerved me, but it came to nothing.

We ate in silence a while, forks ringing on plates in the quiet house. Finally, she said, "So this is it, huh?"

I nodded sternly, "Guess so." I finished up. "I guess I'll have a shower and then figure out how to get you home. Get dressed."

I walked back upstairs. She called after me, "Have fun in there!" I wanted to smack her. It was her stupid little running joke about how we should be taking advantage of these bodies. I found it particularly unnerving given how young she is, (although when I was 14...)

Once we were all ready to go, we piled into Anne-Marie's SUV. I felt pretty overwhelmed there. I hadn't driven in a while, and at the time, it was a little Toyota, not a big thing like this. Still, we plugged Ellie's address into the GPS (and thank God for that!) and I drove cautiously through the curves of this little suburban nowhere place.

Bry and I went up to the door. She gave me a pat on the shoulder to say goodbye, and got into character for the first time, bounding up to Ellie's room heedlessly.

Standing in the doorway, I was ambushed by Mrs. McClay, Hal's sister. "So are you going to tell me what happened?"

I felt like a deer in the headlights, man. Trying to remember the cover story, I stammered, "We, uh, got our luggage, uh, lost. There was a mix-up. The inn let us stay until, um, they found it."

"You couldn't call?" She sneered. "We were worried sick."

I averted my eyes. "My, uh, cell charger was in the, uh, in the luggage." I felt like I was in the principal's office. Mrs. McClay - Trudy - was quite a few years older than Anne-Marie and seemed gravely displeased with what had happened. I can't say I blamed her, either.

She just stared at me for a while until finally she said, "Well, it sounds like you had a very rough few weeks. Still, you should be more responsible than that, Anne."

I couldn't feel the guilt she was trying to make me feel, since it wasn't my fault at all. Attempting to level with her would be utterly fruitless, and in the best case scenario, if she DID believe me, I am then dealing with a mother whose child is missing. So I just swallowed all her ill will, nodded and said, "Yep. Well, I gotta go..." I've never wanted to leave someplace quicker in my life.

She just kept glaring at me. I got the feeling this was not the beginning of tensions between Anne and Trudy. I had no desire to make it worse - or even try to fix it. I just wanted to leave. She didn't stop me, but I had to fight some kind of invisible force field to do so, because of how unfinished that confrontation was. I felt sick.

I walked, shell-shocked, to the car. I got in and followed the GPS back to the Adkisson place. Then, once I was in the garage, I turned the key, unbuckled the seat-belt, and... cried.

I'm tempted - believe me - to blame it on PMS or some other female chicanery, but the fact is it's just what I wanted to do. Not that I was a cryer as a man, but in a situation like this... nobody's watching, nobody sees you as a man, your entire life has gone to hell in very short order... shit man, you've just gotta let the tears come.

I straightened myself back up and went back inside. I had no idea when Hal would be back. It was time to start playing my part.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Todd/Anne-Marie: She said she said

It's cooled down a bit, reminding me of home. This past weekend, in Canada, was Thanksgiving, one of the few dates where I make the effort to see my mom and other family members (birthdays, Easter, Christmas, usually.) I feel bad about it because I have this reputation for being kind of aloof and tending to avoid my family. It's not deliberate, I'm just usually doing something else. Man, if they only knew how bad I feel about missing them this weekend... instead, someone else was there, being awkward and pretending to know their faces and avoid conversation (believe me, nobody will notice.) And here I was, not celebrating the non-holiday of Columbus Day.

So Bryan and I, that first day, were sitting there reading letters, getting high, and coming to terms with being "transformed." I'm here now, at the keyboard, having a pronoun problem. I keep thinking of Bry (and myself) in the abstract as "he," but when I picture the day, of course, I get this image of this puckish little girl. I've grown very accustomed to hearing her voice speaking Bryan's words. I don't want to type "She and I were sitting trying to figure things out," but, well, that's exactly what was going on. She and I were trying to figure things out.

It was a couple of days before we actually hit the road. Some of that was spent trying to confirm as a matter of fact that this was really happening and not just our imaginations. Some very uncomfortable conversations with fellow victims (which I won't retype just now) did the trick. Some of them were better off than us, some were worse. We then had to make arrangements to get to Connecticut, and write our entire lives and our understanding of the curse into easily-digested letters.

The upside, which was actually a downside, is that our lives didn't have much to them. I hated my job and was always a hair away from quitting before I went on the road. Bry is a classic moocher. Neither of us talks much to our families or has any real relationships going. The main thing was Alia, so I stressed in my letter to at least be good to her, because I intended to come back for her. I also crafted the letter so that the new Todd would feel pretty much compelled to contact me. In the meantime, I kept my online accounts afloat - establishing an e-alibi on Facebook and MSN - and developed new ones under Anne-Marie's name.

I left my luggage, laptop, and all my writings at the inn, because I felt they would be of vital importance if someone were to get into character as me. I did keep a few things. One was my iPod, because i spent a lot of time cultivating my playlists - walking away from them would basically mean walking away from Todd Casey altogether. The other was a vintage Clash t-shirt Alia got me for my birthday many years ago. She would probably notice that "I" don't have it anymore, so that when I get my body back, I can come full circle and start wearing it again. Plus, it smells like me - all the sweat and dirt and weed and Speed Stick really registers strongly in my nose. Scent, I heard in a commercial once, is the sense strongest-linked to memory.

Bry was very reluctant to leave his $1200 Digital SLR, but I convinced him it was vital to Bryan's identity and too bizarre for Ellie to just have picked up on her own.

There were other adventures in the meantime, but finally at the end of it all, and with more reluctance than I have ever known, we had to bring Ellie and Anne home.

It was a long train ride and we had a lot of time to think. I asked Bry if we were doing the right thing and she said, well, we had no choice. Anne-Marie and Ellie were basically missing persons. For all we knew there was a manhunt and we'd get found no matter what, plus we had no other place readily available. Could we take the pains to stay out, stay off the grid, and lay low? Maybe - we're resourceful enough to have done that sorta thing all summer - but a 33-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl get a bit more attention than a couple of 23-year-old dudes. Our backs were against the wall.

I wondered if we were up to the task, and she laughed. There was no way to fail since we couldn't tell anyone the truth if we wanted to. It might be embarrassing, even gross - you know what I'm getting at there - but this is life and we're stuck. Stuck. Billions of women live their lives every day, same as men... no reason things couldn't just fall into place, she shrugged. I groaned - I didn't want things to fall into place. I wanted the same sense of control over my destiny as I always had, the open road.

I told her she was being far too calm. She said she had it all figured out, "If it can happen once, I'll bet it can be undone. It doesn't make sense that if they can change your body, they'd only do it once. Right?" It's worth noting that Bryan has always referred to "they" whenever she has a bone to pick with someone... although in this case she may be right. And I asked, what if it can't be undone? She just shrugs and says "Then we go on with these lives."

She began to get all philosophical. "Everything we've done in life... Alia, your job, the road trip... it brought us to that inn. This is the consequence of that."

I pondered it for a moment and then realized - "Did you just quote Anton Chigurh?" If you're looking for comfort, the words of the serial murderer from No Country for Old Men isn't going to really put you at ease.

But that's Bryan for you. A real deep thinker and a great guy, but kind of an asshole. I noticed she had her little knees tightly clamped together, and they were twitching. I'm no body language expert, but that girl was as nervous as me. She just didn't want to show it. I kept quiet.

Long passages of the trip were spent in silence as I stared at my reflection in the window and tried to get accustomed to the woman staring back at me. Every so often I'd forget about the tits and crotch business and just smile to see what it would look like (very forced, as it turned out.) Every moment brought us closer to our final destination, Somewhere in Connecticut.

Anne-Marie Adkisson is 33 years old and married to a Dentist named Hal. They have two kids together: Hayley, 12, and Conner, 10. I was barely even responsible for myself, and now all I could think of was how I'd have to take care of two young ones, not to mention the burden of a marriage.

By contrast, Bry is a lucky gal. He - ah, fucked up the abstract again - she is so young all her decisions are made for her. Ellie probably still has a bed time, doesn't date, gets all her meals cooked for her... the freedom of youth and the experience to enjoy it. Then again, the freedom from responsibility is basically oppression, and maybe, I thought, he'd end up feeling worse than I did. Time would tell.

We pulled up to the house late that night. All my fears and anxiety were replaced when I saw it with sheer awe. It looked like a courthouse, or the house from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. These people were well off - if there's been an economic crisis, you wouldn't know it from here. They're definitely keeping the Roman Column manufacturers busy. And their front lawn is big enough to play baseball.

For a while, I was just stunned.

And then I walked inside, flip-flops flapping against the ceramic tiles of the foyer (never ever been in a house with a foyer) echoing all around me. "Hello?" no answer. I smiled, breathtaken.

"I've arrived."

And that was the first time since the transformation I'd felt any good at all.

What happened to that feeling I'll leave for later. Laundry calls.

-Todd, alias Anne-Marie

Monday, October 06, 2008

Todd/A.M.: How I Spent My Summer Vacation...

I got in this morning and decided I had time to write. In fact, I don't seem to have anything but time right now, so I might as well write while I have something to say. I guess you could say I'm back by popular demand.

So I explained already how Bryan and I were traveling up the East coast of the States all summer, basically just looking for shows and ho's. I was writing pretty constantly the entire time on my laptop (which I obviously no longer have) and if nothing had happened in July, I still would've had a massive cache of awesome stories. And now as it is, none of them seem so important. So yeah, one time we survived a seemingly Skynyrd-style trip in a Cessna that was the scariest thing I had ever done, but after the inn, even that seemed minor.

It wasn't our idea to stay at the inn. It was Alia's. We were in New York City in June trying to figure out how to get to Maine in time for this concert a couple weeks later, a blues-rock combo called Slowhead was playing with a Montreal fusion band we'd heard a lot about called Les Mondes opening for them. Obviously we had no idea how to get to Maine, or where we would stay once we got there.

Alia was a girlfriend of mine back in Toronto. Things had always been complicated and before the trip she and I had kinda sorta had a major fight, and maybe possibly broke up. But I was feeling guiltier and guiltier about all the chicks I was meeting along the road, because I kept thinking of her, and by the time we hit New Jersey (because we couldn't stay in New York, we were in Secaucus) I needed to call her. We had a long conversation where we just laid it out, there was a lot of "I forgive you, I love you, I don't know if I can trust you." We were reconciling when I mentioned the last stop on the trip, Maine, and the question mark of our arrangements.

"That's crazy," she laughed, "My parents were going to have their second honeymoon in Maine, but dad twisted his ankle." They had reservations at this inn that they couldn't, or wouldn't, or didn't want to give up (I never asked) and hey, what an amazing coincidence, right?

I'm laughing about it now, out of amusement, bitterness and amazement. I mean, I keep wondering what would've happened if Alia's parents stayed the Inn, and we didn't? They'd be here, and I'd be... I'd be home with their daughter.

Hm. Sorry, I... got off track there.

So flash forward. It's July and Bry and I manage to get to this fruity looking Inn, reminds me of a bed and breakfast or something. Kinda Victorian or Edwardian, but I'm not up on my architecture so what do I know? It just looks like the kind of place a couple or maybe a family would stay. Not two guys in AC/DC and Sex Pistols shirts. But whatever. We haul our luggage up to our room trying to avoid making eye contact with the other tenants. We didn't want any of them to be able to identify us if something were to go awry (little did we know.)

As we were putting our stuff away, we found some bags in the closet. They were mostly packed. I was going to suggest we take them to the lost and found or something but Bryan, always the clever one, suggested we go pawn all the contents for weed and travel money. I told him that wasn't fair, there may be people coming back for this stuff. Since we weren't running low on funds he agreed (reluctantly) but said that if nobody came by to claim it by the time we checked out, it was ours to pawn. "Whatever," I said. In retrospect, a close call. I thought I noticed him going through the bags at one point but he wouldn't say what he'd seen.

We busied ourselves for a couple days before the Slowhead show by going out to local drinking established and getting faced. Out of courtesy, the one who stood the best chance of getting laid (Bryan, given my new-found sense of remorse) got the room, while the other was to find other accommodations if possible (or, you know, hold a pillow over his ears.) Again, I wonder, what if this had all gone down while one of us (me) was out of the inn? But again I'm reminded by my surroundings... it happened the way it happened, and that's the way it happened. (Still, I'll share some of those stories later because one of them might be important.)

The last night before, whatever it was, was the night of the show. the bands were both great but the action was not, so we both just came home and crashed. While Bry snoozed, I did a little bit of writing about the show and Maine before finally just passing out. It was late and I was feeling ill (I thought it was allergies at the time.)

I was groggy when I woke up. People were making noise outside and I was not happy. I was probably hung over, although for all I know it was the residual effect (look at me, gettin all scientific) and the transformation may have cleansed my system. And if that's the case, I feel bad for the person who inherited that. I felt pretty damn hung over anyway.

The first thing I sensed, before I even opened my eyes and while I was feeling zombified, was the smoke. Bry loves the ganj... okay we both do... but wake and bake wasn't really our style. Without unburying my face from the pillow, I muttered, "Dude go sleep."

I heard a little unfamilar voice respond, "Todd, you up man?"

My first thought was to look up at the source, and the only thing going through my head was "Oh my God, look at her. Tell me Bryan didn't bring her here after I fell asleep, and then give her weed."

"Where's Bryan?" I said. Voice felt hoarse. I cleared my throat to try to correct it, but again it came out in the same weird tone, "Who are you?"

She sat next to me on the bed. She was young, like 14, with long golden locks and a ridiculously slender frame. She was wearing glasses and the large Slowhead tee Bry had bought the night before, and it looked like nothing else. Her little knees angled inward. My eyes bulged when she looked at me like a delighted psycho and said "Dude, it's me. It's us. You're really gonna wanna see this." The joint was still smoking in the ashtray, by the window. She repeated, "I'm Bryan."

I know, okay, it sounds like a point of departure from all the stories on here, but let me explain. Bryan has always been really into psychics and aliens and Sasquatch and stuff. There were people freaking out, howling in panic right outside our door, and he was just sitting there, toking up and laughing. To him, this was vindication, and somehow, I guess mentally, this shielded him from absolute confusion and terror. Or maybe it was the weed.

Whatever it was, the cogs already appeared to have been turning in that little head of his for some time, and he was confident I'd be as thrilled as he was. I was not so much.

So this girl - who says she's Bryan - grabs me by the shoulders and tries to get a good look at me, and I guess I'm just staring back like "What the hell are you looking at?" and she repeats, "Todd, get a look at yourself man, we've been... transformed!"

And this moment of absolute belief washes over me as I look in her little blue eyes, that my 6'1 lanky bearded friend and stepcousin (my aunt married his dad) had been shrunk and de-aged and, and, and... girlified! Absurd as it sounded to my ears, I was willing to listen.

"Transformed..." I whispered. "Into... what?"

And she smirked impishly at me and moves her hands from my shoulders to my chest and starts squeezing. A shock of - not pain, not pleasure, but new sensation - rushed through me. I felt my throat close up. I jumped back.

"No--" I gasped.

"Yeah," she grinned.

I sat up straight and they hung, unfettered. I put my trembling right hand over my left breast. It felt like every breast I've ever felt, but now it was my own and that made it feel different and wrong and yet absolutely real.

I curled up into a ball, sitting upright, arms around legs, knees up to chest, lip trembling. "I'm... I'm not..."

"You are," she nodded, matter-of-factly.

I just kept shaking my head, muttering "No, no, I don't believe it."

She looked at me and twisted her mouth into this little sneer - the same facial gesture Bryan would use when trying to convince me of something.

"Whatever dude," she shrugged, "Don't believe it, but you'll figure it out eventually." Then she slipped the large black tee over her head. I averted my eyes but could see from even a moment's glance she was utterly nude. All the thoughts and suspicions were starting to converge on me, and confronted with this skinny, pale, hairless naked 14-year-old strutting about the room I felt... ill.

I clenched my eyes shut and dashed toward the bathroom. I opened them only long enough to find the toilet.

Blaughh. I hadn't vomitted in over a year and a half. I wiped my mouth and grabbed the counter. Slowly, slowly I peeked over it, into the mirror. My eyes began to well up.

It was a long moment before I finally spoke. "Bryan..." I said, gazing at the foreign reflection, "What... the fuck... is going on?"

She appeared in the doorway, now dressed in a white undershirt and panties. She hard her arms folded across her torso, lips pursed, nodding.

"I've got some of it worked out, but let's just take a moment and get your bearings, okay?"

My face felt warm with fear and embarrassment. I looked at her. She looked confident. I looked back at my reflection - that person did not.

I swept some hair across my forehead and perched it behind my ear. It was brown, although there was some kind of dying because it went darker and more reddish in places, so I guessed highlights. It was about the length of a bob. I looked in the eyes - my eyes. All the basic facial features seemed in place, ears, mouth, nose, chin... features I'd been looking at my whole life, just now altered. I can't even put my finger on it. It's not really a matter of "my nose is smaller now, my lips are bigger" (although they are) because they're just... features. I opened my mouth and looked inside - for what reason I have no idea. The girl snickered.

"Are you stoned?" She giggled, "I mean... 'cause I am."

"Do you really think that's a good idea?" I snapped.

She shrugged, "Can you think of a better reason in the entire world?"

I pouted a bit, then turned back to the mirror. I lifted my chin. The neck was smooth. My eyes drifted lower on the reflection. The Dark Knight tee I'd worn to bed was being stretched in one very unusual location, but hung way loose over my torso.

I closed my eyes again and sighed. "I'm... a girl."

"Actually," she said with that annoyingly resolved pixie tone, "Give a closer look. I'm a girl. You are a woman."

I re-opened my eyes. She was right. There weren't many obvious clues at first, but my skin wasn't as youthful as hers, there were a few signs of aging. I ran my fingers through my hair again and took a deep breath. "Will you just tell me what's going on?"

She called me over to the bed, where the joint was resting. I crossed the room, suddenly aware of this weird, penisless feeling. I sat next to her.

I looked squarely at her. "Swear to me you are seriously Bryan."

"Only if you promise you're definitely Todd."

I sighed. I still felt like Todd, that was for sure. She passed me the roach. I hesitated before taking a nice big toke.

We heard a muffled scream outside the door, "OH GOD NO!'

She ignored it and said, "Let me tell you what I know."

And so she explained what she had already figured out about the Inn. Everyone staying there was cursed to take the bodies of the previous tenants and so on, so forth. The letters, which Bryan had actually found a few days earlier but been unable to make sense of - like some weird, frantically-written fairytale/biography - but as soon as the transformation happened it all became clear. Or at least, as clear as these people were able to make it.

The woman - me - was Anne Marie Adkisson. The girl was not her daughter, but niece by marriage, Elyssa McClay. They had been on a fourth of July trip and, well, now they were somewhere else (I won't say where just now.)

"So what then?" I asked, "We go to Toronto and try to convince people?"

"No, see, when I tried to read the letters before, it just flew over my head. There's no way to explain it to someone until it happens. We can't go home, dude. We have to go to Connecticut."

I've never been the type of guy who liked "having" to do anything. But now, I guess I'm not any type of guy anymore so how could I possibly argue? I took another hit.

"All I wanted was to see Slowhead," I muttered.

Maybe I'm leaving some stuff out. Maybe it took longer for me to believe, or we went back and forth longer, but it's been a while and my memory has settled on this as the official version. What's important, of course, is there.

More later.
-Todd, aka Anne Marie

Brandon/Laura: The start of a story

I contacted Arthur/Penny a few days ago, when i first found this blog. After it happened to me. This seems like the only place online where people freely admit to what happens at the Inn. The only place where people will believe I am who I am and not who Ive become.

My real name is Brandon Chase. I'm recently a graduate of the University of Arizona. I was a swimmer in college and an alternate on the men's team to Beijing. Obviously i was not needed, otherwise id have been touring the country with my medals rather than taken a fateful vacation to Maine.

I didn't really talk to anybody while i was there. I read in my room and outside mostly. If only i had stayed out for the night when IT happened.

I'm a deep sleeper, so i wasn't awake for the transformation. My first notice came when i was awoken by the screaming surrounding me that morning as everyone else saw what had happened to them.The first thing I noticed was a searing pain in my waist. I looked down and saw the waistband of my boxers digging into me. What else i saw made me behave like everyone else, and scream at the top of my lungs. Only, these weren't my lungs.

Pushing blond hair out of the way, i saw attached to my chest two massive, floppy mounds of flesh. Below those were rolls of fat on my stomach, and further down were two thick legs with pink toenail polish.

I stood up rapidly and fell over. My balance was off. I stood back up and carefully walked over to the mirror, and staring back at me was a topless blond girl who could be described in no other terms but fat.

I stood there staring blankly for a few minutes. When i came to my senses my first thought was to get rid of the pain in my side, so i peeled off my boxers. Standing there naked i confirmed that i was indeed a girl although i had to look in the mirror seeing as i couldn't see past my rolls.

I needed to leave the room and see what was going on, so i went through my luggage and put on a thsirt and sweatpants, which didn't fit well since was apparently shorter as well as wider.

I don't know if words can accurately describe the chaos that is the Trading Post Inn the day after a change. There was a grown woman,screaming like a baby in the middle of the floor. A man who unlike me didn't see the need to put on clothes before venturing into the hallway. Utter chaos and shouting.

This went on for half an hour before someone came out of their room saying they found a note with some luggage in their closet, explaining all. This sent everyone to their rooms to look for similar notes.I found pink luggage, with a note.

"Dear Stranger,

Well, I guess you and I are now part of an elaborate curse. My name is Laura Green, and I was the last person to stay in this room before you. I'm now in the body of the girl who stayed here before me. And the person who stays there next will be in your body. The way it looks is that for now Ive got to live this life and you've got to live mine. On my laptop Ive left a detailed description of my life, job and important people. Good luck, and take care of my body, ill be wanting it back


She enclosed the contact info for someone named Marissa in New York.Since I wanted to get away on this vacation, i didn't bring my cellphone. I looked through Laura's luggage and found her pink one, but she didn't have service up here. Fucking Sprint.

This happened on wednesday. Im leaving tommorow because my stay is up and the Inn is closing for the year. Ill post more after I talk to Laura when I get back to St. Louis tommorow.