Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: Loose threads.

As much as I feel like I know a lot about the people who came before me on this blog, I haven't interacted with many of them directly. So I feel like it would be out of line asking Jessica, a former professional detective, to help me seek out the original Julia and Kalli. I figure from her road trip stories she'd probably be good at it, maybe even dig it, but she's probably real busy with school these days. What troubles me is that I got so focused on undoing all the mischief of the Inn - not just to me, but to everyone - that I can't seem to accept the fact that they probably aren't going to appear anytime soon. So this means Julia and Kalli will have a couple new tenants in their bodies, even if all goes as planned.

Anyway, it'd be a big help for my own curiosity at least, to find these people and be able to say what's happening one way or the other. The investigative skills I learned in journalism are probably neolithic compared to the ones she learned as a cop. But here's what I've got.

to the best of my knowledge, Julia and Kalli are currently in Washington state under the surname Johnson. Now for starters, I can't go searching through through the Washington phone directory looking for all the Johnsons, even if I knew what town they were in, which I don't. Being on the other side of the country probably suggests they won't be making it out to Maine anytime soon, which means they're probably going to fall into that "forced to stay put and accept" category I've been working so hard to stay out of.

Which is what brings me to my next loose thread. Donna Hayes, my evil little enabler down the block. She was so intent that I not go back to Maine, but by the time I returned from New York she couldn't wait to hear me out.

With a fair bit of reluctance I found myself back in her kitchen, drinking her tea.

I told her, "If you want to save some time, there's a blog where some of us write. Maybe you could even... pitch something in?"

She pursed her lips and cocked her eyebrows. "Is that one of those internet websites? I don't know much about that," she smiled dismissively. "I'm so behind the times. Why don't you just tell me your story yourself."

"Okay then," I began, searching my mind for the right opening line. "I don't know if it's occurred to you how random the inn's transformations can be. Sometimes people gain a few years, sometimes they lose them. Sometimes they change race. And sometimes - shockingly frequently - it changes their sex."

I let it sit there for a moment. She nodded insistently. "Go on."

I couldn't believe she seemed so interested in what I was saying. So I continued. "My name is Todd Casey. I'm a 24-year-old man from Toronto, Ontario. Canada."

"You don't say." She didn't seem all that shocked.

"I woke up last summer in the body of your friend Anne-Marie. Until then I'd been poor, a freeloader, a slacker. I was comfortable being lazy. And now that I live a life where everything is given to me, and I can afford to be lazy... I hate it. All this luxury, it comes with dependence on Anne-Marie's husband. As crazy as it sounds, this entire experience has made me want to change my life - as soon as I get back to it. Taught me not to coast, that I should make something of myself, because back in Canada, I don't have someone to bring home the bacon for me."

She seemed confused, "So why don't you stay?"

"This might be hard for you to understand, Donna, but I don't enjoy being a woman. I don't enjoy being a wife or a mother or a homemaker or a soccer mom or whatever Anne-Marie is. Whatever I look like, that's what I'm not. And I need to go back to being what I am."

"A 'slacker'?"

"A man. An independent man."

"Well, if that's the way you feel - Todd, was it? - I wish you luck. I know now that I can't change your mind. Maybe if you lived as long as I have you'd see it form my perspective, but you've made up your mind and I respect that."

"Lived as long as you have?" I stood up, "Lady, you won't even tell me your real name or where you're from. How am I supposed to take your word for it?"

"You really want to know?"

"Yeah."

"Come back when you've done your little change. Come back when you're you again and I'll tell you. I'll tell you on one condition."

"What's that? Are you extorting me? You're way richer than me--!"

"No, I don't want money." She sipped, "I want to meet you. The real you. This Todd person you claim to be."

"Why?"

She paused a while, her face fading up in blush as she smiled evilly. "I want you to make love to me."

I gagged a little. I don't know why - I've had worse - but the fact that she was suddenly using my curiosity about her background to cheat on her husband was utterly disgusting.

"Forget it," I grumbled, walking out.

"What's the problem, Todd? Am I too much woman for you now? Rather wrap yourself around Hal's big, thick--"

"That's enough!" I shrieked. "I have fucked for a lot of reasons. Love. Gratitude. Revenge. Even one time - just once - money. But this is just sick. Why? Why do you want this? What is your purpose lady? Are you just messing with my head? You're a fucking bitch." I really laid into her. "You're insane and I'm leaving."

As I was slipping on my shoes, I heard an unnerving sound. Sobbing. I whispered, "Oh brother," to myself and turned. "What's wrong?"

"You want to know why? Because I'm an outcast, Anne-Marie." I wished she wouldn't call me that. "How long I've spent trying to build up this life, and tricking myself into believing these people knew me, liked me for who I am inside, not how much I'm worth. My husband married me so my daddy - sorry, Donna's daddy - would make him vice president. Now he's gone all the time. I'd divorce him, but we had a pre-nup and I'd get nothing. I'd be ruined, Anne-Marie, so I have to stay in this loveless goddamn marriage with a man who fucks around all week long in New York City while I stay at home and watch Soaps. This sounds sick, I know, but you're the closest thing I've had to a real friend in years, and I only realized it because you reminded me that I don't belong here. So go. Leave. I know I can't."

I didn't know what to make of it. If it was an act, it was Oscar-worthy. I felt really ill in my stomach at her words.

I thought it over. Maybe I could use a little practice before returning to Alia. Maybe I could convince Bryan to go in my place. It wasn't even about learning the truth as it was... pity. I felt sorry for this sad woman whose life has clearly not been satisfying, no matter where she came from. Goddamnit she was persuasive.

All I said was a muttered, "We'll talk about it later." And I left.

So that's the way things stand.

The sooner I can leave the Inn behind the better. It's brought out the worst in a lot of people.

-Todd/Anne-Marie

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bryan/Ellie: Jam sesh

So a while back I met Emily's brother Dennis who is kind of a musician, in the way that a teenage boy with a guitar is a musician. I made the mistake of showing off a bit to him, even though in this body I'm kinda terrible, and for a while he would ask if I wanted to hang out with him and jam.

Nothing ever really came with that, and anytime I'm over at Emily's to have a sleepover or whatever, if I'd see him he'd get kinda awkward. It happens. When you're a teenager there's no shortage of stuff to make you awkward, whether you've been transformed or not.

So last Friday night I was at Emily's place when she gets a text from her boyfriend Mike. They've been really off and on. She's really into him and he kinda plays it cool... which honestly isn't unlike me, but seeing it from this perspective, it seems unfair to her (especially since she gets my panties all worked up whenever she comes around, so there's I guess a bit of jealousy from me.)

ANYWAY what happened was Mike texted her and asked if she wanted to come over and do stuff. For a while it was almost like she was gonna blow him off and hang out with me, but I could tell she really wanted to go. Since I'm pretty comfortable at her place - hell, more comfortable than at Ellie's - it was okay that I stayed and finished the movie (Wall-E.)

As I was going, I ran into Dennis, who'd been in the basement. I was putting on my jacket, and he sidles up to me. "Listen I'm not a creeper or anything. It's still early, I've got some people downstairs you might want to meet."

There are times when I forget that I'm small and basically defenseless (I'm not much of a fighter, but I could get crazy against a dude like him.) So I began to trust him, but I told him that if anything went wrong I would tell Emily. He just looked at me and asked what she'd been telling me about him. I said it was hard to explain.

But whatever. As I mentally prepared myself for the worst, he led me to the basement, where he had his guitar on a stand, a bass leaning up against an old couch, and a small drum kit. Behind the drums was a girl Dennis' age, with moppish short brown hair and emo-glasses. Sitting across from them was a more conventional looking blonde girl on a cushy chair. She looked, and must've felt, somewhat out of place. Good figure, low-cut top.

He gestured to the drummer chick and then to the other, "Ellie, this is Leanne and May." May stood up and wrapped her arms around him. Girlfriend. Duh.

"Leanne and I jam together sometimes, and I thought that maybe you'd wanna join, since your night kinda got ruined by my sister leaving." He looked over at Leanne, "Ellie's pretty good at guitar for her age." He looked back at me, "Ever played bass?"

I rolled my eyes. I didn't really wanna be the cliche chick bass player.... as much as I love the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, and to a lesser extent Sonic Youth. Sure, I can play, but only bothered to learn as much as any guitarist who is actually good at that instrument.

Whatever. I slung the bass over my shoulder. It felt like a monster in my little arms (for those unfamiliar, bass guitars have considerably longer necks than real guitars.) We tinkered around, I didn't attempt anything tricky. It wasn't the same thrill as when I had the guitar in my hands but it was nice anyway.

Eventually May, who was probably getting tired of the scenario, looked at her watch. She noted it was getting late to Dennis and he took the guitar strap off his shoulder. Without much explanation, they hurried upstairs. "Uh, if you wanna play the guitar you can," he said leaning over the railing, "but if you break any strings you're paying."

I was going for the guitar when Leanne said "Mind if we take a break?" I said sure, but was a little disappointed I couldn't rip into some non-talkbox Frampton.

She went over to the mini-fridge and looked through it. "You drink?" She grabbed two bottles of cheap American beer.

"Sure."

She opened one and handed it to me. "Are you sure? I don't want to corrupt any little children." She smirked.

I laughed. "Believe me, I'm plenty corrupted already."

She grinned, "Oh yeah? you don't look like you've done much."

I joked, "Only to myself."

She nodded and sipped, "Good to keep in practice. So tell me... why'd you keep looking over at May?"

"Was I?"

"Dennis didn't notice 'cause he was in front of you, but I could tell. I figure there's two reasons. One is that you can't figure out why she's with him... because you want him." I shook my head. She sipped again. "The other is you couldn't help noticing her awesome chest."

My eyes darted right back over to her. She looked back at me.

"Look," she blushed, "You're really young and probably really confused, but I remember when I was your age. Figuring out what you want, why you don't see boys the way all your girlfriends do. Maybe you're not ready, maybe I'm reading you wrong."

"You're not." I told her abruptly, blurting out "I don't ever wanna touch a penis." (One that doesn't belong to me.)

She inched closer, and I closed my eyes. Oh God, the softness of her lips, the way her fingers brushed my thigh. I let myself enjoy it for just a second before something struck me and I jolted back.

"Oh, wow," I exclaimed, "That was... I mean, it was really sudden." But my mind had darted back to Ellie, to the Inn and how I would leave. I've said on this blog how I had feelings for Emily but I didn't mean to do anything about them, or anything at all. Because I know things are going to be weird for Ellie once we change back. But at the same time, the desire to feel something like that... was just overwhelming.

"Is something wrong?" she seemed sincere.

"I'm just... I'm.... maybe you're right. Maybe I'm not ready."

"It's okay," she leaned back a bit, separating the two of us further, "I'm kinda just got out of a thing, and I don't want you to think you're just a rebound. It's not, like, fair to you."

And I'm thinking: Well, in a few months, I'm going to be a whole other person, and that's not really fair to you, so I guess we're even.

"It was nice though," I said to comfort her. "And maybe sometime we can again. Just... don't tell Dennis, okay? Because then he'll tell Em, and I don't wanna deal with that."

She nodded, it seemed fair.

And then we started kissing again.

Ellie, Todd said you read this, and I'm sorry, I guess, but I couldn't help myself. A cute teenage lesbian (bi?) was coming onto me and I couldn't say no. Maybe that's how you ended up letting Todd Jones feel you up on your Aunt's couch. Let's call it even.

I mean, it's not like Leanne's gonna become my girlfriend.

Probably.

-Bry/El

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: Mystery of the bra

After we got home from New York things kinda took a turn for the lazy around here. That's what happens, I guess, you just formulate routines and get through the day. For the most part I've been getting up early, exercising, cleaning, cooking, watching TV... just being a lazyass pampered housewife I suppose.

And then one day, Hal decides to go fishing in the cushions of the couch, and what does he find?

A bra.

At first, he thought it was pretty amusing. "Honey, you're such a slob, I love you," blah, blah, gag me.*

(*I love late 80's valley girl slang, I have no idea why.)

But as he hands it to me, something immediately catches my attention... the fact that it's obviously not mine. I would know if I lost a bra in the living room sofa, and I know this is not quite Anne-Marie's size. There were only a couple of possible suspects as to the owner of the bra - it was probably "Julia," whom we'd hired to watch the house while we were in New York.

So I drove over there on the weekend, went up to her place, made sure Todd-2 wasn't around, and threw the bra down on her kitchen table. "Look," I say, "I'm a pretty open-minded person and all, and whatever you do in Julia's body isn't any of my concern, but for God's sake please don't leave your underwear in my furniture."

Seemingly unnerved, she glares at the bra a moment, then looks up at me with those big, brown eyes. God, Julia's a hottie. I think about what I've just said, then immediately smack my own face and correct myself. "I mean... your furniture. Oh, God, I mean, I know it's yours, I don't really think of any of this as mine... this is just very stressful."

"No, it's not that..." she says quietly, clearing her throat. "That's not mine."

I tell her again, "It's not mine."

She just shakes her head. She means it's not Julia's, either. She explained: Saturday night, when she was supposed to be looking after the house (the Adkissons have a cat and some fish.) "Julia" had to run some errands, so she had "Kalli" watch over the house for just a few hours.

We just sat there quietly a moment, realizing exactly what had been going on. About twenty minutes went by, neither of us hardly saying anything, just trying to figure out exactly how to deal with this, when "Kalli" and Todd-2 walked in the door, laughing. J and I were on the couch. "Julia" spoke up - "Hi Todd, could you, um, let us talk a while?"

"Uh, sure thing Jules," he left, uncertain exactly what was going on. He gestured at me, "Who's this? I'm Todd."

I gave him a firm, nonplussed handshake. "Anne-Marie."

"Are you two related?"

'Julia' - "It's complicated. Do you mind?"

"No, sure thing ladies," he said. "See you tomorrow Kal?" She nodded. He kissed her on the cheek as he left.

As soon as he was gone, I tossed the bra at her. "What's up, Kal? Thought you might want this."

She rolled her eyes and groaned. "Here we go."

"What do you think you're doing?" Anne-Marie/Julia started in, suddenly sounding very motherly, "He is way too old for you."

"Not that it's any of your business, Julia but we just went to the movies."

"What are you doing leaving your underwear at my house?" she continues. "You shouldn't be..." she let the ellipses complete her thought.

Ellie folded her arms across her chest. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm old enough to take care of myself," indicating Kalli's body.

I watched on as they proceeded to play out a typical-sounding mother-daughter argument, in the bodies and voices of these equally-aged girls. Apparently what happened in South Carolina is that they ran into Todd-2, who was looking to get back with Julia. Anne-Marie, however, was determined to stay faithful to her husband, and didn't want to complicate matters by taking on Julia's ex-boyfriend, so somehow, the affection gets shifted over to Kalli, and somehow nobody thinks at first what a horrible idea for a girl with the mind of a 14-year-old but a body a decade older to have a sexually experienced boyfriend, who would probably have some expectations.

Ellie/Kalli pleads innocent - they haven't had sex and she doesn't plan on it. I attest that all I found was a bra, which is hardly exonerating evidence and nobody's too thrilled about the idea of her letting him get to second base. She admits, yeah, it's been getting kind of heavy, but she never intended to go all the way, and was up front with him about it.

Then she did awful that thing ever teenage girl I've ever known does in an argument - takes it someplace else beyond reason.

"And so what if I did it, anyway?"

Now that's a Pandora's Box to open. As soon as Anne can say anything in response, Kalli is firing the salvo. "We've been living like this for months. I'm not the same person I was when I was Ellie, and you can't treat me like some dumb kid. Kalli definitely wasn't a virgin, so what point would there be in denying it, if I wanted it?"

Anne, suddenly overwhelmed, sat on the couch with her elbows on her knees. She collected her thoughts a moment before starting in, "You should be taking care of yourself... no matter whose life you've got. You've only known Todd [Jones] for a few weeks. If he's your first experience... and don't forget Kalli's experiences are not yours... it might affect you when we go back. These are just decisions too big for us to handle with lives that won't be ours forever."

I nodded along. Anne was seeming surprisingly wise.

Then Kalli pointed at me and asked, "Why is it okay for her to have sex with Uncle Hal?" I must've looked surprised for a moment, but she added, "Dude, I totally read the blog."

Anne sighs and says, "Because... It just is." Not really a good answer, but she continued. "Todd had experience enough to make the right decision, and because I know my husband, and trust him. We agreed."

"Weren't you worried she'd, like, fall in love with him because of the sex?"

I laugh quietly, self-deprecatingly. "Ellie, sex isn't love." It's the kind of thing a man is more likely to say than a woman.

Ellie got a little somber, sitting on the arm of the chair near me. "It's just not fair. I'm so free right now, and in a few months I have to give it all up and go back to the way things were."

I sit next to her and pat her shoulder. "I know it isn't fair, but you have a whole life of your own to go back to. You have awkward teen years to live out, and a terrible, terrible first time with a boy who is equally clueless as you to look forward to."

She smiled. "Todd, you're a goof." I've been called worse. "But I'm just worried that things aren't going to work out once we leave these lives. That's the big question."

I shrug and say that's a problem for Julia and Kalli to deal with. Ellie shoots me a look. "Didn't... Aunt Anne tell you?" I shake my head and look over at "Julia," who seems guilty of something.

Her voice turned grave. "Um, I guess I never mentioned it. Todd, I haven't been able to contact the original Kalli and Julia. We have no idea where they are, and we may not be able to get them their lives back."

Oh.

-Todd/AM

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: The city so nice they named it twice.

I've been piecing this entry together over the past few days, so if it seems disjointed, I apologize... but that laundry isn't going to fold itself.

Once Hal insisted the New York trip not be a girls-only trip, he got very excited about it and started making a ton of calls. It turns out there are a number of ways to entertain yourself in New York that kids are able to participate in.

Friday afternoon, we picked the kids up from school and drove straight to New York, depositing our stuff at the hotel in New Jersey. I had a little moment of Inn-magic when the kids got in the car, and my iPod was still plugged into the sound system, so very suddenly and very uncharacteristically, the family was treated to "Wrong 'Em Boyo" by the Clash. Hayley asked what it was, and when I said it was a punk band from the 70's, she just shrugged and said "Oh, I knew it was something old." Kids today.

At the hotel, we were all to change into our finest duds, as our first stop was a nice restaurant whose name was something Italian I cannot remember. I don't typically dress like a slob, but as I was picking out a set of earrings to bring on the trip I wondered if maybe I was overdoing it. How deeply entrenched in Anne-Marie's place I sometimes feel. But as I slipped on the very tasteful dress I'd brought along, I put on my brave face, and turned to see Hal fiddling with his tie. Envy. I straightened it for him, although I never much liked ties, only had one job where I had to wear one, and haven't been to that many weddings/funerals.

Sidenote: this was the first hotel I'd stayed at since Maine, and part of me expected to wake up one morning totally changed again. I used to have nightmares about it.

Saturday was the busy day, because I had gone behind Hal's back and made plans that didn't involve the family. Under the pretense that I was going to shop for something sexy and intimate to wear, I palmed the kids off on Hal, who took them to the Museum of Modern Art for a few hours. Turns out Hal's into art. Who knew?

(*To cover my tracks I did pick up a little something. It's uncomfortable as hell but it's not like I have to walk around in it... I feel like it's time to try spicing up my sex life a bit, as I'm starting to get bored with the routine.)

The real plan was to head to a little out-of-the-way coffee place in Tribeca, to meet some fellow Inn visitors. I had no idea what to expect or what I hoped to get out of the experience. I have thus far only met the ones directly involved in my life, most of whom are keen to get back to their old arrangements asap (the enigmatic Donna being the exception.) Here we have people whose last trip to the inn was years ago, some of whom don't ever intend on going back.

As I was fumbling through my purse for the proper currency to pay for my latte (have I ever mentioned how much I hate American money? It's all green!) I heard a voice behind me. "Anne-Marie?" A shock ran through my system, the way it does whenever I am unexpectedly called by that name, although being called "Todd" has had the same effect lately. I turned to see a gorgeous Latina woman in a beige turtleneck, scarf, jeans that rose just above her hips, and a light coat. I looked into her eyes and asked, tentatively, "...Ginessa?"

She smiled and nodded. "That's me." After ordering her drink, she pointed to some seats in the corner. She turned and smiled,

"Sorry, Darren likes sitting where no one can see her."

"No problem. I guess I expected as much from the blog. Have you been following it lately?"

"Not really," she replied a little nonchalantly, "only what Darren tells me. To be honest it’s really Darren’s thing. She thinks it’s a good way to cope with being a girl; where as that ceased to be an 'issue' for me a while ago."

"Really, so you don’t know much about me?"

"I know you’re married too, right? How do you like it?" she smiled.

I didn't really know how to answer, so I just tried to be honest. "It's... tough. I've been really good friends with Anne-Marie, and kind of doing her a favor by keeping things good with her husband. The trouble is that usually I compromise in his favor because I don't want to rock the boat. I don't think this is anything like a real marriage, not that that's a subject I know anything about." I looked at her expectantly.

She said nothing for a while, before asking, "Should I call you Todd? This is always awkward and I don't want anyone to feel more uncomfortable than they already are."

"Todd is good, please."

"Todd, it sounds like you’re doing a very noble thing. I often feel the same way about my marriage. Women have to put up with a lot of crap from men. Just remember there’s such a thing as girl power," she smiled at me at wryly. I smiled too, which kind of broke the awkward tension. It made it easier to open up.

From there the conversation really took off. She asked me if I found it hard to just pick up in the middle of a relationship. I told her it was like wearing someone else's old shoes - they don't fit right, but they're not rigid, either. The Adkissons had reached a comfortable zone, although before I came into it, there had been some marital difficulties, suspicions, arguments that in some ways haven't been resolved. I underlined it was probably very different for her, thinking about her newlywed situation.

"The fucked up thing is, like, wanting to get your way, but also wanting what's best for the family. I don't come first in my own life most of the time, and that's... frustrating."

She asked me what I knew about her, I said not much apart from what was written. She was originally a guy called Mark, and as Ginessa, certain green card issues forced her to marry a guy. That raised her eye brows.

She objected by saying "forced" was a strong word. She told me it was a choice she made, and not a very easy one. I said I understood perfectly - that she wanted to stay in her home country, rather than get deported to a place she knew nothing about. She pointed out that there were other options if she wanted them, but realized there was something appealing about the stability her husband Gavin was offering - that after the tumult of her life after the transformation, she needed something to hold on to, and she was tired of feeling like she was doing something wrong.

I told her again I understood - that it's not easy inheriting someone else's crap. I'd never so much as babysat before suddenly finding myself playing house. Ginessa agreed but then said something to illustrate the difference in our situation.

"But you can stand all that, because you tell yourself, 'Its okay, I'm going back.' But I'm not going back, I've been this way for a few years now and I like it! Jaime..." she coughed and did some finger-quotes "Darren... sometimes just doesn't get it. If she wants to keep trying to go back, that's fine for her, but sometimes I feel like she resents me because I never tried. She's been a woman for nearly 2 years and I think she still believes it's less than being male. You don't agree do you?"

I didn't know what to say. She was getting very emotional - not teary-eyed, just kinda caught up in her little speech. And I really don't know what I think, and I'm not in the same place to judge. So I said to her, trying to be sensitive, "I don't really... but I do think of being Anne-Marie as less than Todd, not because being a mom is for losers or anything but because I'm not me and I can't be me like this. I don't look down on you because you never went back, it kinda looks like you're rocking this. I hope you don't think bad of me because I am."

She nodded; "No you’re right, sorry. I think that’s a respectable point of view. I didn't want to sound too self-righteous or anything. It’s just that Darren can be so frustrating."

There was then a lull in the conversation and she asked a very difficult question. "If you had gone to the Inn and woken up more like Jaime, or like me... a woman, but without any baggage or responsibilities... what do you think you'd do? I mean, do you think you could've gotten used to it, if you couldn't go back?"

I didn't know what to tell her. It was a scary thought: made me realize that physically I have gotten as comfortable being a woman as I could ever imagine. Perhaps the only reason I'm not staying is because I want to give Anne-Marie her life back, not so much because I want to get back to my own. And if that was not possible... and if nobody was counting on me... would I be okay to stay? What if I could just coast and never worry about Todd's problems again?

After thinking on all this a while, all I told her was, "Thankfully, I don't really have to think about that. There's someone out there that belongs in this life a lot more than I do."

I thought a moment and added, "Plus sometimes I just get the urge to be a guy... watch hockey, do some boxing, feel a woman's breasts that aren't my own. Like say, Blondie by the counter. I bet she's good for a go." I snickered, eyeing a gorgeous chick getting her coffee. Ginessa turned and got a somewhat embarrassed look on her face.

"Todd - that's Jaime."

My face flushed red, and we both burst out into laughter. Jaime came up to us. "Hey Ginessa, and you must be Todd. What's so funny?" We both quieted the urge to keep laughing. Ginessa just smiled at Jaime and said, "I'll tell you later."

Jaime sat down and shook my hand, very politely. I gave her a once-over trying to re-orient my perception of her, but I couldn't. I know that from the blog Darren was a tough military type guy, but here's this very smartly-dressed young lady, with her hair done back and the top couple buttons on her blouse undone, teetering in a pair of knee high two inch heel boots that didn’t scream "combat." She just looked like... a woman. Maybe she was thinking the same of me, but I have an image to keep up. If I could walk around all day in band t-shirts and cargo shorts I probably would. But no, Jaime is a head-turner, and mine wasn't the only head affected in the place, I can tell you that.

Darren sipped her coffee and asked me what I thought of New York. I told her that I loved it every time I came, and it was way better than the suburbs. I missed that rhythmic, pulsing vibe you get from a busy city. It's not Montreal, which is pretty much my favorite city, or Toronto, which will always be home, but it's a great place to be. We briefly made chit-chat about Darren's life, before Darren asked what we'd been talking about before she came in, and I looked kind of embarrassed saying vaguely that it was mostly about married life.

She rolled her eyes and said we probably had a lot in common. Ginessa looked embarrassed. And then something kinda bad happened. My obnoxiousness instinct kicked in. It doesn't come up a lot when I'm being Anne-Marie but I can't resist the urge to make other people feel uncomfortable just to test them and amuse myself. I know it's rude and not very nice, but it's so easy to do in a situation like this. So I started riffing.

"Well sure we do," I started in, "But we disagree on a lot of key points. Ginessa here likes the reverse cowgirl position, whereas I've always been a fan of straight-up missionary. She's a very take-charge kind of gal, and I'm just lazy."

"Todd!" she interjected, now both a little embarrassed but somewhat pleasantly surprised (I get the impression Ginessa would like to talk about sex but doesn’t around Jaime). She gave me a playful slap on the arm. Darren was practically squirming at what Ginessa and I thought was a harmless joke.

"No need to get uptight, Ginny.... we're three mature people here. We've all had sex in one body or another." Darren averted her eyes. "And I'm sure that when you guys were guys, you had no problem with locker room talk."

"It's not funny," Darren said.

"Give it time," I sipped my coffee. "Comedy is tragedy plus time. I make these jokes because I'm not serious about it. Ginessa maybe is, but I'm not really into it. So I kid, okay? Look, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

Darren gave me a death-glare and muttered, "You didn't 'hurt my feelings.' You just sounded really..."

"Really what?"

"Really girly! You’re not at all what I expected." she says, disapprovingly.

"Oh, sorry Rambo," I groaned, "But what color are your panties? You only think I sound girly because of what I look like. Look at me, man." I had trouble calling her that because even if intellectually I know she's Darren, she just looks like chick. "“Maybe I look like Anne-Marie Adkisson, but my name is Todd Casey. No matter what I look like I'm still a 24-year-old guy who can't help but stare when he's sitting next to hot chick such as yourself."

I cringed inside the way you realize you’ve said something you shouldn’t. I love to go on and on and seldom know when to stop. Worse, I had admitted something she'd probably already noticed - her looks really had my attention.

Before the flustered Darren/Jaime could start in, I instantly tried to apologize for being a dick. I explained that laughing about it was one of the ways I get through my days. There's so much stress that goes along with being wife-mother-woman that if I didn't let my Todd-side out every so often I'd go insane. I’m not sure if Darren bought it. She did bring up her thing with routine, how it's helped her get through some tough times. It seemed we were starting to find some common ground. Still, I regret what I said and how I said it.

It wasn’t long before we all finished our coffees. Still sensing a bit of tension I decided to leave and catch a cab back to the hotel.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We went to see the Lion King that night, and on Sunday after brunch I took Hayley to a spa. My God I never knew a massage could be so good. I may have seemed a little out-of-sorts that night as we drove home.

I began to think about the two women I'd just met. I've gotten used to thinking of myself as being a woman "for now," but I still wonder what would happen if "for now" became "forever." Knock on wood. I wondered where I fit between the two of them. Ginessa has grown a healthy attachment to her body and life. She seems to love her man, and doesn't have any hang-ups about anything about herself. I wasn't even that confident when I was in my original body. She makes a great girl and yet there's something scary about that if I try to see myself in her shoes. Still, if I had to keep going like this, I'd want her in my corner.

Darren, I related to. No, we didn't get along all that well, but that probably has more to do with our actual personalities. Even as a woman, she seemed a little like the jocky alpha-male type I always hated in high school (and who always hated me back because I had an easy time getting chicks without showering with guys. Guess the joke's on me these days, huh?) But I completely understand her - she made an attempt to get back to her original life, and it didn't work out, and now her future is uncertain. That's not a comfortable situation to be in.

I guess I'm somewhere in between. Like I told Ginessa, it isn't being a woman that bothers me anymore, it's being Anne-Marie Adkisson. And every time I have that thought, I wonder if the real Anne-Marie would also rather be anyone else. And the idea that I might have to pass this body along to a third owner, frankly, bothers the hell out of me.

And the idea that something might go wrong, and I'd have to get my third set of shoes for walking... and the idea that those might be the last...... I don't want to go there either.

-Todd/AM

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: Why I was not in New York this weekend

Sometimes, I utterly forget that I'm married.

I wear the ring, I share my bed, I cook and clean for the guy, and yet it's remarkably easy for me to just push him out of my head when I need to. Like say, when I spontaneously promise Hayley a trip to New York on a few days' notice, along with a spa trip and whatever other tourist goodies might come her way.

It wasn't long before it dawned on me that it wasn't really my call. When Hayley went to ask her dad about it, he asked me to see him in the bedroom. I felt like I was called into the principal's office. I sat on the bed. He stood by the dresser.

"What's this I'm hearing about a New York trip? Hayley said you were taking her there this weekend."

Somewhat ashamed, I just looked down at my feet and said, "Maybe."

"That's... you can't just do that, Anne-Marie. We need to talk about this."

"Okay, so let's talk."

"You can't just go off on a trip whenever you feel like it!" he says. "Last summer you disappeared for nearly a month with my sister's daughter. Anything could've happened to you. We were so worried. And you've been making plans to go back there this summer."

He goes on and on and I guess I'm supposed to feel guilty, but from my perspective nothing's wrong. I was starting to feel really bummed out for being talked to in that way, but at the same time... I zoned out because it didn't really apply.

So I told him, "Yes, but can we keep this about New York?"

"I'm not made out of trips, Annie. You should've consulted me first."

"I'm sorry," I said, "I just... I panicked, because I realized, in case you didn't notice, we kind of forgot our daughter's birthday. I thought it might offset that a little bit."

"I just don't think we can afford it. Between this and your little Maine vacation..." he keeps bringing Maine into it. I want to deal with that at another time.

I start to reason with him, "Look. I've been cutting back spending. I haven't bought clothes or shoes in months." It's true, I've indulged in a little shopping since transforming, usually with "Julia," but for the most part I live on the cheap like I did when I was poor. "We've saved plenty to make both this and Maine work."

"Okay look, we'll go online, we'll find a Holiday Inn in Secaucus or something, and we can drive into the city next weekend. I don't know about this spa thing, but we can at least see a show or something."

I just look at him. "We?"

He laughs, "You didn't think you were gonna go to New York City without me and Connor, did you?" I guess not. "And we'll talk about Maine too. Could be very romantic." He kisses me on the cheek. I want to tell him, "Um, no, we will not talk about Maine, you are not coming to Maine." but at this point he left the room.

I guess it was a little presumptuous to assume I could make these plans without involving Hal. I don't mind him coming along to NYC, because now there's a chance I can get away and see those other nearby Inn folks I've been talking with (through the magic of Facebook, MSN and E-Mail.) But I really do not like the idea that he'll follow his wife to Maine. That's just asking for trouble.

Meanwhile in South Carolina...

From what I hear, "Julia" and "Kalli" escaped just in time to miss a massive storm in that area, flying into Logan a few nights ago (maybe they should've stopped in on Art and Ashlyn!) and driving the few hours back to our neck of the woods. Kalli's mom's angina flared up so she was called back home, and, having nothing better to do, went, with "Julia" as a secret chaperon. They came back one heavy. This is where it gets weird.

I don't know what has been running through Anne-Marie's mind since she became Julia, but she was certainly very concerned that I do my best to keep up her relationship with her husband. I've done my best and tried to put a positive spin on it, but it's still kind of a chore to get down with the guy every now and again. But it was all for a good cause.

Anyway, when "Julia" got back in town, she was immediately contacted by an old flame of Julia's - very unfortunately named Todd Jones (T2, or Jonesy for the purposes of this blog.) And for whatever reason, she decided that somehow it would be appropriate for her to bring this guy back to Connecticut, where she is a married woman living in another person's body with her similarly transformed 14-year-old niece. Doesn't this all sound a little inappropriate?

I don't know what to think. Is she banging this guy? And if she is, should I be upset? After all, I wish the new me would keep up relations with Alia alive, but s/he hasn't, and I just have to live with it. And she can't sleep with her own husband, and, what, should she be a nun? I guess not. It just pisses me off that there's not another option. Hal cheating on me with her sounds really good right now.

And what kind of example does this set for "Kalli," who for all intents and purposes is the same age as Julia? I feel like I'm the only mature one around here and that is not a good role for me.

Ugh, it's so frustrating.

And as if that wasn't bad enough...

Friday mornings I go to the gym. Last week, after my session, I was drying off from the shower and changing back into my day clothes... self-consciously trying to eyeball the nubile young ladies and re-create some of Bry's observations for my own (no luck) when I get cornered by who else but Donna, wearing her workout gear.

Apparently, she didn't take kindly to the tone I took in my voicemail. She gives me this stern look before just sighing. "Anne-Marie, I can tell you have something you want to get off your chest." I froze - as luck would have it, my hands happened to be cupping my breasts at the time. She continued, "I want you to know that no matter what, I'm your friend and I'm here for you. We disagree on some things, and maybe someday you'll see my point of view, but for now, I'd still like us to be close."

Despite knowing I am not the Anne-Marie she knew, Donna still seems to be treating me like the person I look like. It makes me wonder if Donna truly understands what the Inn does to people. I just shook my head and continued to dress. "Whatever."

"If that means unburdening yourself and telling me all about who you used to be, I'm ready to hear it. If it means helping you get through this, I'll be glad to."

I scoffed. "Is this, like, a joke to you? Are you messing with me? Whatever. If you want to talk, we'll talk, but not today." I just wasn't in the mood for her crap.

More later - I've got to start dinner.
-Todd/AM

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