Friday, August 29, 2014

Meg/Tasha: Director's Commentary

"All right," Tyler said, sitting in the makeup chair for his little display of pageantry. "Give me the works. Don't make me look like too much of a whore, but, like... obviously some whore. Medium whore."

"Lauren," I tell him sternly, barely censoring myself from uttering his real name because sensitive ears are around, "Don't refer to women as whores."

"Sorry. I want a real sophisticated escort look."

I roll my eyes.

In the very short time I've known Tyler, he's become one of the most important people in my life. I think he mainly writes on the blog when he's got a bit of misery about his situation, but when it's just the two of us, he can be funny, goofy, sarcastic... even a bit flirty (and don't think I haven't reprimanded him for stepping over a line here or there.) He has every right in the world to just hate everything about life, and all things being equal he indulges it, but he's quite capable of joking his way through it when he needs to. Crass, sure, but... it's better than moping.

Sometimes he turns it on me, tweaking me when I have to play up my "relationship" with Wade. He knows it irritates me to draw too much attention to it, but he does it anyway. Part of me thinks it's motivated by bitterness -- he and I seemed to be on the verge of becoming something when this happened to us, and now that we are where we are, well, it's definitely not in the cards.

Like I said, though, he's important to me. Being able to talk to him about stuff, about how I really feel, has been an outlet, because I'm a fairly private person who is reluctant to share the details of her life on a blog (I swear, I'm trying to get better.) So his wellbeing means a lot to me, and when he said he wanted to try this pageant, essentially the girliest thing I could think of, I definitely did a double-take.

I got the whole ordeal on camera, and it was mostly how he presented it... really he didn't do too bad, at least at first, basically indistinguishable from the rest of the girls, maybe just a tad less polished. It's not like he got up there, tromped around like a man, grunted his answer to the question, then spat on the floor. But you could tell he didn't eat, sleep and breathe this stuff like his competitors did after a while, and by the time we got to the talent show, it was obvious how out of his depth he was. There's this look he gets on his face right after his name is announced, and he's onstage waiting for his musical cue, where you can tell it's just... over, and that as much as he looks like Lauren, he is not that person. It's this sad, pitiable, trapped expression. Deer-in-the-headlights times. But of course he stuck it out, and delivered his croaky, unpracticed -- not entirely terrible but certainly not exceptional rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," about the most incongruous song I could imagine the real Tyler singing. Then again, there's no place like home, right?

After it was over, I brought him back to my place. We cracked open a few beers and he enthusiastically scrubbed the makeup off his face. I asked why went through with this so voluntarily. "Surely, you can't be that devoted to keeping up he act as Lauren."

He shrugged and said "Don't call me Shirley." Ba-dum-bum.

He reiterated his point about the money, and I argued that it was a lot to put oneself through for a few bucks.

He grimaced a little, but said he sincerely thought he could help, but after the embarrassment at coming up short, he might not be so enthusiastic in the future. "Plus," he said, "I had to know."

"Had to know what?"

He shrugged, "Had to know if it was for me. God, this sounds stupid, but you know. I've been walking around in Lauren's shoes for a little while now, and I'm starting to identify with her a bit. This was her big thing, and I had to find out if this was something she left with me... if baking my brain in her body's chemicals results in someone who's into all that."

I was going to say that was absurd, but how could I judge? What do I know about how extensive the changes are?

In the months since we got here, Tyler's baggy sweats became jeans, became crop tops, tanks and bralets, became skirts and the occasional dress. He isn't fighting a war against girliness, he's infiltrating. He's testing the waters because... I think... he's worried he's going to be this way longer than a year. I don't know what the situation is between him and the person who has wound up in his body, but the fact that he is not eager to discuss it is not promising. I think he's trying to figure out what kind of girl, or woman, he's going to be, if this is it.

I admire him. He's got the guts to throw himself into this shit and try things while he's here, whether it's permanent or not. He's weathering the storm well, and I still believe it will pass. I just hope this isn't a sign that he's already lost hope. We have so far to go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Tyler's Misery Has Been Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

So, I've kinda been reluctant to mention it, but here's what I got up to this weekend: a beauty pageant.

Obviously it wasn't my idea. In my opinion, entering teenage girls in these ogle-fests is just about the trashiest thing you can do. We should be teaching girls to handle attackers before we teach them to prance around onstage in ballgowns and swimwear. But unfortunately, like most things in life, it comes down to money. Namely, I'm currently part of a family that doesn't have much, and every little bit helps.

First prize in the Junior Miss Energy pageant, sponsored by some coal company or other, is a scholarship, which I'm sure would a be great help to the real Lauren, who has told me she intends to become a nurse. Runners-up are given smaller cash prizes, which I figured would also be nice. I have to admit it was inviting to think I might win some money I could call my own, instead of just getting by on a weekly allowance like a kid.

I waffled back and forth for weeks about whether this kind of thing would be in my wheelhouse, and I'd be lying if I said my little performance at Lake Erie had nothing to do with it... public adoration is a hell of a drug, and being a pretty girl singing drunken karaoke is a lot more endearing than a 30-year-old dude doing the same. On the outside, it seems like anyone with a pretty smile and half a brain ought to do well in a pageant, but don't kid yourself. The girls who do enter take them deadly seriously, and the amount of preparation that goes in quite honestly baffled me once I saw it up close. But I thought hey, this whole year is looking to be a giant loss for me, what's a Saturday of humiliation?

The whole day was a bit of a debacle, mostly consisting of standing around like a dumbass in a dress trying not to look bored. Even though the entry was open - all that was required was a headshot, filling out a questionnaire and proof of residence in Pennsylvania - a lot of these girls are seasoned vets with coaches and routines down pat, and they don't really take kindly to outsiders. I even knew a few of them, such as Lauren's friend Dana, who ended up in the top ten. The atmosphere was described to me as being a fair bit looser than normal for these things: this pageant was small stakes compared to a lot of the ones that run around here. A practice run for some of these girls.

Sitting there tucking my goodies into a strapless prom dress, I felt like I stood out more than ever. More than once I just let out a loud sigh: "Tyler, how the fuck did you let it come to this?" as Susan slathered my face with blush and mascara, over a heavy base to mask the slight breakout around my forehead and temples. I wanted to scream out for everyone to just get away from me, but it was one of those times I just had to draw on my reserves of strength, even going back to basic training... sure, my life has become a joke, and I've learned to roll with the punches, but even this felt like a bit of a leap.

As I sat still for this, I gritted my teeth. I felt every shred of supposed masculinity fleeing my girlish body... it's one thing to sit around the house as a girl, but to get dolled up like that? I didn't even get that much done for the Prom. But as one of you nice commenters said (ahem) I ought to "man up" and face this... hell, it takes a special kinda man to wear that much makeup, not to mention boob tape and thong underwear. And the shoes, by God almighty, the shoes. I'll have blisters for weeks, and it was only a few hours.

The whole thing took place over about four of the longest hours of my life, in a full auditorium of like 300 people. It was hosted by a witless, jabbering morning radio team, Dale and Wendy, the latter of whom approached me backstage to make faux-red carpet chitchat about "who I was wearing," and was disappointed when my answer was a flat "I dunno."

While the other girls were onstage, I looked out to the audience. I wasn't sure what I expected to see. Mostly family members of the various entrants, and a few pageant aficionados (middle-aged gay men.) I felt a fair bit better once I realized only a very small portion of the room was going to be actively slobbering over the girls... probably a smaller portion than most rooms I've been in since being this way. Hm.

The first half was the interview portion, conducted in the eveningwear. All fifty girls were given 45 seconds to respond to one of those ridiculous stock questions. A lot of them gave bland stock answers to q's about education, poverty, world peace, etc. I was actually asked something about what I would do if money were no object, and I managed to cobble together something about providing medical care to the less-fortunate. It wasn't the most polished delivery, but it must have won someone over, because I made it to the top 25.

The next round was the talent portion, which was... bad. For the last two months I've taken singing lessons in Lauren's place, and as much as her instructor was completely distraught at my sudden loss of talent, I feel like since then I've made progress from being completely incapable to merely bad. I gave a warbling, nasal, admittedly gutwrenchingly terrible delivery of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a song I had only learned a week earlier, even though Lauren had been singing it for years. I saw Wizard of Oz one time when I was at my grandma's trailer, give me a break.

So I didn't make it to the top ten.

The final portion was the swimwear contest. The top ten all paraded around in skimpy bikinis (we had all been instructed to bring a simple black bikini. Mine was more modest than most of course) and answered another interview question. I watched from the wing and thought about the oddness of it all. Here I am, a grown man in the body of a teenage girl, watching these undeniably sexy teenage girls who are made up to be pretty much indistinguishable from grown women. I couldn't tell what kind of slippery slope I was headed down, if it was healthier for me to watch or turn away.

"Better them than me," I thought, but I couldn't deny my bitterness at coming up short. I guess deep down I'm pretty competitive. Maybe I should have listed my talent as rifle assembly or egg-poaching, two things I can actually do.

Still, I assured Susan afterward that I was feeling alright about it, and she said we'd do better next time (pointedly, she said "we.") Paul offered the helpful observation that it looked like I was nervous. Thanks for showing up, Paul.

The worst part was that Meg was there to see the whole hot mess. Even worse, she got the dang thing on video. "Please, God," I begged her, "No YouTube."

She agreed, and said she hoped maybe someday we'd laugh about it. I said that day was a long time off... maybe when I've got hair on my knuckles and wear a size 13 shoe again, we can talk.

She invited me over to her place, where we proceeded to get hammered. Wade was there, so I was nominally in character, but I lost track of this as the night went on, and whatever Meg and I said to each other probably just baffled him and ultimately flew over his head. Came off as drunken nonsense.

I did, however, leave a pretty damning voicemail on Dana's phone, which was half congratulations and half jealous drunken rambling. I honestly can't remember what I said, but hopefully it was all... flattering.

Anyway, with that all behind me, I have to say it wasn't as terrible as I thought. Just putting on makeup and a dress isn't that terrible. We all dress up and play pretend every day. No, having to live up to a room of strangers' idea of "beauty and poise" is real the nightmare. And shit, isn't that just a handy symbol for the entire experience of being a woman?

I'm no angel, but I'm trying to do right by Lauren, and if competing in another one of these somewhere down the line will make her life, or my time living it any easier, I'll put it under consideration. But there's gotta be an easier way to make a buck.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Annette/Ravi: Crowded House

You'd think that I would be finding more time to blog about all this, but it's harder than I expected.

Part of it is just time - I'm not just doing Ravi's job, but learning it. I've spent a fair amount of his money on "____ for Dummies" books, which has gotten me through about 85% of the cases people bring into "Buy More" (check out me sort of hiding where I actually work and making a pop culture reference that marks you as cool for getting it!). By and large, people aren't asking you to set up a major network or something, they just want to connect to the internet, and I've done that for Mom and myself a time or two. And you can fix a lot of phones by taking off the back plate, removing the battery for a minute, and restarting it.

The other time factor is - I live in New York now! There are something like four thousand places with live music every night, and since I look about seven or eight years older than I am, none of them card me. I think I've tried a dozen different beers in the past couple weeks, and that can have me sleeping in the next morning, cutting into my time to study. That's on two fronts - the woman living my life and I send a lot of emails back and forth, and I'm kind of shadowing the assignments she's receiving at school and writing papers, some for her to turn in and some so that when I get my life back and go go to class, I won't be hopelessly behind in terms of what I've actually done. It's a lot, but I can't see how Jordan can just stay in the apartment all the time with all this right outside his door.

And, yeah, then there's Jordan.

I gather from texting with Ravi-slash-Gary that even before all of this, Jordan was sometimes kind of a difficult guy to live with. Paid his part of the rent every month, eventually held up his end of the bargain keeping the place tidy enough not to get kicked out, but spending a couple of weeks on vacation together was a major aberration. This is my first apartment, so I don't know if it's always like this, but it's not like there's really my room, Jordan's room, and the common area - he/she has sort of colonized the living room and kitchen area, with perrennial first dibs on the TV, always shoving my food to the back of the fridge, and setting up his home office on the kitchen table. So Benny and I are kind of crammed into the smaller bedroom, and as much as I like the guy, it's not comfortable, and the one time Benny tried to sleep on the couch, Jordan decided he needed to play Xbox at seven the next morning.

It's been building for the past couple of weeks, but even if I'd had time to blog in general since arriving here, I wasn't going to. I just got out of high school without quite having avoided that sort of petty bullshit sniping as much as I wanted to, and I did not want to start a thing where I come and write on the blog about something rather than talking to Jordan directly, and then he does the same rather than confront me or Benny, and so on. Fortunately, we kind of had this out a couple of days ago when one of Ravi's friends from work went to a show near this place with me, and while we were going to have some Chinese take-out beforehand, there was no place to sit and my co-worker couldn't understand why "Jordan's girlfriend" (the easiest explanation for who the new girl is) was bossing me around so much and leaving me no place to eat in my own place.

So now this fight isn't all immature and bratty, and he's at least acknowledging our presence a little, although I suspect that this sort of thing is going to be short-lived.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bianca: Dossier

My worries that I had gotten myself mixed up in something far too complicated weren't lifted when I was awakened by the sound of a knock on my door. Expecting James or maybe Jane, I answered it dressed iny the clothes I wore to bed, a crop top and underwear - since the transformation, the Inn has taken on a dormlike anything-goes atmosphere, there seemed like no need to be bashful.

I didn't recognize the man who answered, apparently in his late 20's or early 30's, even after speaking to everyone who had been transformed. With nothing to cover myself within arms reach, I moved my hands to cover my lower half. "Do I know you?" I said in a breathless squawk.

"No," he said, maintaining eye contact, "And it's probably better you don't. I'm just here to make a delivery."

He carried a manila envelope. He handed it to me and I felt it thick with papers. On it was a plain printed label, "DiStefano, Bianca."

"Bianca sent you?" I asked.

He shook his head. "My boss. Our bosses did."

"What happened to her?"

"Dunno. It's not important."

He produced a pad of paper from his back pocket. "You can sign here to confirm receipt... there's a sample of Bianca's signature inside, if you want to compare."

I opened the envelope and flipped through it. Unsure of myself, I did a very poor imitation of the swooping, messy "B.DiStef" autograph.

"Was she one of us, did she know this was going to happen?"

"They don't tell me these things," the delivery guy said, growing a bit aggravated with me, I could tell.

"You have to know something. What do they want me to do? They went to all this trouble, they have to have something for me."

He squared his stance and looked me in the eye. He gestured to the package. "It's all in there," he said. "But if you want it put simply? Just be Bianca. Park yourself in her life, keep out of trouble, and when the time comes, they'll ask for something and you'd better be ready to give it. Okay?"

My heart nearly stopped in my chest as I said, "Okay."

He excused himself, then poked his head back through the door and said, "Welcome to the Agency, Bianca. I doubt we'll be seeing each other again." Then he closed it behind him and I heard his footsteps echo down the hallway.

I went through the paperwork. It was as comprehensive as you could want... banking info, address, social, e-mail and other passwords, family and personal history, job description... personality profile. There was a memory stick with electronic versions of all this date and more. It was all written from a very distant, objective point of view, which chillingly gave the impression that all this was observed or investigated about her, not given voluntarily. I scanned the sheets for the word "fiance."

A moment later, Jane came to my door. She was dressed in a grey tank and a pair of plaid boxers. I tried to delicately guide my eyes away from the distinct bulge, though.

"Did I just hear someone in here?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said, "Someone Bianca knew... I think."

"That's weird," she said, leaning on the doorway, "Was he one of us?"

"Kind of, I think," I said. There was a pause where it must have looked like I had something I needed to say, because Jane leaned forward, as if to say out with it.

I thought about confessing that I was a veteran to this Inn, that I knew what was going to happen, that I specifically put myself in a situation to become this woman because I thought it might... I don't know, help me in some way. I thought about telling Jane about the blog, but... I chickened out. Which is stupid, because it's not like I wronged Jane in any way, we're still friends, I've helped her, I just... don't want to admit what I really am, I guess.

I should. It's indefensible that I haven't already, but I just don't know how to say it without seeming like a liar and a bad person. Maybe once we get to Chicago, and things are more stable, the time will feel right. I don't know.

We spent the day trying to somehow enjoy our last moments in Maine, and it was quite honestly the best day I've had since. Putting the ordeal we're about to plunge into out of my mind, and with the pressure of anticipation long gone, I feel like this is the one moment I was able to relax and get my guard down. It didn't hurt that James is back to being a total goofball, and Jane seems to be taking a cue from the two of us to take it in stride, although she's had a moment or two of "This can't really be happening, can it?"

We made arrangements for a flight tomorrow. I went home and got studying up on my part. As bland and unassuming as she seemed from the outset, I thought maybe being Bianca wouldn't be such a terrible thing, at least for now.

Then, buried way on page 3 of the document, under "relationship status," I saw it:

"Bianca currently resides at [address] with her longtime partner Kathleen Mayfield, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago" followed by some biographical details.

Oh. Um. Interesting. Maybe I would have put that nearer to the top if I was compiling a list of pertinent details about a person's life.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Bianca" formerly "Sophie": Inventory

As the days have gone on, my new frizzy brown hair has flared up in this heat, made worse by stress and sweat.

Jane started taking the initiative explaining what we agreed were likely the facts about our situations. As much as I should have done so, I kind of backed myself into a corner by playing like this was my first go-around, a panicked movie I feel guilty about.

I have to admit, in his tall, strong, blond, blue-eyed male body, the information came across very reassuringly, although it didn't do a great deal of comfort to the Germans, who were hoping to return to their home country soon. Instead, they will be heading to Quebec as a trio of sisters. I suppose telling them that I enjoyed my time in Canada would be little comfort.

Many of the rest of us, actually, were bound for Chicago. This company, some kind of investment firm, had arranged to send a good portion of its staff to the East Coast for a month... despite the fact that the Inn books out in two week blocks only. Of course, I knew this situation was being set up somehow, but I didn't get a view of how much attention these people were paying to the details.

"I guess you're happy," I said with a hint of contempt to Don Lazar, who was sitting wearing a shit-eating grin through the whole proceedings.

"Why, because I get to pass my c**t of a wife off to some other shmuck, ditch the company I helped build from the ground up and was ready to watch crash and burn, and start all over on someone else's dime?"

"Did you know this was going to happen?"

"I wish," he laughed, "I'm just a lucky fuck who made out good on the deal. Two months ago, some chick walks into my office. Great tits, walking with ap urpose, 'You wanna make some real money?' she says, Sure, who wouldn't. I was nickel and diming it in Westchester. I asked how much, and she said enough to buy a new life. That got my attention. All she said was to come to Maine, meet with some people and maybe look at making a few transactions. Even paid for my stay here. The meeting was shit, not nearly the kinda money I thought we were gonna be talking about, and I thought this must be a con, but hey, a paid vacation with all the hot young things around... that's why I didn't leave sooner. Someone pushed me into this, not that I mind."

And why should he? Don Lazar may not have lost too many years off his age, but his body is a major improvement, getting a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, a face like Paul Newman, and a loss of that beer gut. The guy looks like a million bucks, which eats away at me inside more than a bit.

He patted me condescendingly on the shoulder, then headed off. My guess is that he's getting an early start on the new job, which is probably smart.

The details of Bianca's life were left sketchy in her one-page note giving a token summary of what this woman thought the curse had done, no number at which she could be reached, and a note at he bottom indicating "Instructions to follow."

I looked at her phone. There was no password on it, but it seemed to have just been activated. If I was supposed to contact someone, I didn't know who. If they were to contact me, they haven't yet.

James found me later sifting through my things, cataloging all the clothes, personal items, assets.

"How are you doing?" he asked. His dark brown skin caught the light, making him look mysterious.

"Not ecstatic," I sighed, "I don't know what I was hoping for, but now that it's all happening... it's a lot to process. More than I remember."

"Wishing you ran off with Sophie's body?" he said.

"Only a little," I said, "This is the way it has to be. I know that. It's just an adjustment."

"Well, I'm here for ya. If you need it."

He gave me a one-armed hug, and I felt very small in his arms. For half a second, I wondered if he meant something by that, or if he was just being a friend. It's very clearly not the time to be thinking about things like that, but knowing James I wouldn't put it past him to at least make some kind of waves in that direction. I'm sure that getting his manhood back has provided him with a certain rush of... you know.

I looked at the stuff spread out before me. Bianca had a very fine, upscale fashion taste, which is nice if not totally in line with my personality, befitting her position, age, and I'm guessing income. Some jewelry.

Including an engagement ring, if I'm not mistaken.

Guess I'm not off the hook thinking about "that stuff" after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Sophie": Here we go...

I was sitting up in bed last night, as usual growing impatient with the length of time it's taken for this routine to kick in, when I started to feel... something. This discomforting scratchy feeling under my skin, like I was being rubbed by the rough side of velcro. I went to the mirror... I still looked like myself, but maybe my facial structure had changed, where it looked like a bit of a warped picture of myself, er rather the face I had been wearing for a year. I had thought about trying to stay awake for the process - in fact I thought it would be impossible to fall asleep knowing it was happening - but I guess all those days of marching around the beach in direct sunlight had caught up to me and as soon as I went to lie back down on the bed, I was out like a light.

Not that I got a lot of sleep. It was probably 4 AM when I woke up to the screaming, and judging from the voices, it was the German tourists who found out about the situation first. Without thinking, I slid out of bed and rushed to the door to find three statuesque women screaming bloody murder in the halls, in German. Two of them were going back and forth in a panic, and the third stood by the door quietly sniffling. I surmised this was the son, who had been a boy of maybe twelve or thirteen.

I stared slack-jawed for a second as it dawned on me, of course... I knew all the people I had seen would be transforming into new personages, but the disparity between the little kid and the grown woman I was seeing with her blankets wrapped around her, unable to conceive of what had happened in the night, struck me as how awful this place is to people sometimes. For me, it was practically a joyride, but this was heavy.

Finally the father - who was the only one to my knowledge who spoke English - noticed me and asked what was happening. I stammered for a second. At this point I had no idea what I even looked like. Only that I had lost a lot of mass in the night - I had to grip my bottoms to keep them from slipping down to my ankles. But I had grown taller... I was eyes-to-chin with a woman who was nearly as tall as the doorway, whereas as Sophie I was about 5'4 standing up straight.

Her voice had a creak of anger and fear. I couldn't honestly tell her I didn't know. Finally I blurted "suitcase." Her eyebrow flinched. I gathered my wits and elaborated: "There was a suitcase in my room, I think we've become the people who owned them. Our bodies have been changed. Was there one in yours?"

Her face went bug-eyed for a second. She grunted something in German, then frustratedly tried to express herself in English, stumbling over her words. "P-police, department of, erm, lost objects. Lost property. We took, thinking they would be searched for there."

I exhaled deeply. Not that this was an unreasonable thing to have done, from Dieter's perspective, but here we are.

I told him to explain the situation to his wife and son as best as he could, and that I would go with him to the police, because being a native English speaker probably helps in this situation. "Danke," he said.

I drove, with Dieter pointing out the way to the police station. He glanced at his face in the side-view mirror for a second, seemingly amazed by the transformation's completeness, and then turned away and adjusted the seatbelt across his breasts with a grumble of annoyance and probably a German curseword.

I was trying to focus too strongly on Dieter's problems to examine my own reflection in the rearview - I saw a woman with long brown frizzy hair, but when I buckled my own belt I felt no such struggle in the strap to find its place - it sat neatly across my chest, flatly.

We must have looked like quite the sight - a 6' woman in men's clothes and skinny woman clutching clothes that were falling right off her. I went to the desk and asked if someone had dropped off some luggage at the department of lost property. As we waited, getting the runaround for roughly an hour, I examined my reflection in a glass window.

It didn't help that Dieter didn't immediately remember any of the names he saw on the luggage tags, but he provided a detailed-enough description of the bags that they searched through them until they found one that contained a Quebec Drivers License ID belonging to one Francine Laroux. They made us go back for the other two, however. They also weren't pleased by the fact that even though "Francine" could remember the colors and sizes of the bags, but not which one was "hers."

By the time we returned, it was utter chaos, with aggravated people interrogating each other behind closed doors or openly in the halls to no avail. I kept my head down and returned to my room and flopped back down on my bed for a moment before disrobing from my sweaty, billowy Sophie clothes.

Looking down, I saw a tall-ish, thin woman. Bony, even. In Sophie's body, I had large DD-cup breasts blocking the view of my soft belly. Now I possess only the smallest hint of breasts, and I can see my ribs. I feel light, like a little slip of nothing, a flimsy paper doll who might blow away in the breeze.

I know I shouldn't bother complaining, but it's hard not to feel disappointed, especially when I spent a year overcoming a lot of my own preconceptions about what women are supposed to look like. I feel exasperated at being swung so hard in the other direction.

Before I was done dressing (in sweats and a tank top) I got a knock at the door. I opened it to find a t-shirt-and-jeans-clad African American man looking down at me expectantly. He did a double take when he saw me.

"Oh, uh!" he said, "Sorry, I don't know what I was expecting, Soph..."

"James?" I said.

"Jim Cantrell. Can you believe it? I got my old name back. How awesome is that?"

"That'll make things... easy, I suppose," I sighed. "Sorry, I'm still unpacking." Literally and metaphorically. "How is everyone else?"

"They'll figure it out," he shrugged, "We did, right?"

"I guess... but we had someone to explain it to us. Remember? Mike and Lila?"

"Dude," he groaned, "I don't wanna..."

"We have to," I said, but admitted I had already kind of lied a little to Dieter and pretended I was just piecing it together. James liked that, and insisted I take the lead.

Of course, when I got out there and prepared to gather everyone around, someone was already doing it. I overheard a guy saying "That's my theory, anyway. Someone left these bags for us."

"Who, what?" I said, then asked "What, what's going on? What do you think happened?"

He looked at me - a handsome, muscular, square-jawed young man dressed in a towel and a tattered purple cami, "Oh my God, Sophie, right? I saw you coming out of her room... can you believe this?"

I took a moment to process. "Jane?"

"Yeah," he said. "Fucked up, right?"

"It's like a magic curse or something," I blurted. "There was a handwritten note in my luggage saying so. Apparently nobody will believe we aren't who we look like."

"That's insane," he/she said, "What if I went right up to my mom and told her something only I would know? In Mandarin?"

"I don't know," I said, "You can try, but... Jane, I think these lives were left for us. Somebody's gotta... somebody's gotta live them."

He looked deflated before groaning, "I knew there was something fucked up about this place."

Obviously the day got more hectic after that, becoming a blur of checking in on this and that person. When I finally had a moment to myself, I checked my bags for ID and found a passport with an unflattering, frizzy-haired portrait: Bianca DiStefano, 36, native of Chicago, IL.

I looked in the mirror and saw a few creases and lines under my eyes and around my lips. I aged more a decade overnight, after aging 5 years last year. Sure, 36 isn't old, but it's older than, well, than I know how to be.

At this rate, who knows where I'll end up if I come back again next year?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Sophie": It won't be long... right?

Yesterday morning, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a teenager talking to his or her mom. As these two were communicating in English, I realized it was not the German family that's staying down the hall. I decided to poke my head out and investigate.

I saw a mother and daughter enter one of the rooms next to James'. Before I could say anything - ask if they were return guests or maybe tell them about the blog - I got cornered by Don Lazar. He asked if I wanted to check out the boardwalk - persistent bugger he is - and I said no, I had plans, and quickly ducked into James' room.

He was still asleep, naked above the covers. I let out an involuntary "Oh god!" that shook him awake. To his credit, he didn't panic or even rush to cover himself as I averted my eyes, he just yawned and stretched "Oh, we're still chicks? Whatever. Let's get breakfast."

He made fun of me for staring at the floor, saying it wasn't like I'd never seen "a naked girl" before. I said no, but I respect other peoples' privacy. He sifted through his luggage for a set of underwear. "I didn't bring a lot, figured it might be helpful to travel light."

"Maybe we should see if there's a laundromat in town," I said, "I'd hate to think you plan on leaving Keisha your funky panties."

He responded by tossing a pair at me, narrowly missing my head. I tried to suppress a laugh and let him know how grossed out I truly was.

We found an all-day Breakfast and settled in. We got to talking, albeit he mostly stuffed his face with bacon. I was trying to get him to reflect on his experience as Keisha. One thing that this blog didn't really convey was that James and Trish - as Keisha and Robbie Haddad - were Canadians of Middle Eastern descent, which I'd think is pretty different from being a White American. For instance, I asked if maybe he shouldn't be eating bacon, and he noted that the Haddads were Christian, not Muslim, so why shouldn't he eat pork. Still, he talked a bit about what it was like being a person of color... in terms that I'm not sure I should repeat here, but he overall downplayed it, saying it was weirder just to be a chick, and that from day to day it seemed the same as being white. "Except black dudes asked me for my number a lot, but that could just be because I've got a huge ass."

See what I mean about not repeating him here?

Then I noticed someone coming through the door - Jane Li. She saw us and I gave a little nod of recognition, which brought her over. James raised an eyebrow, I guess becuase he didn't want to slip "into character," but these things happen.

She took a seat and said how weird it was that we kept running into each other, although maybe not since it's a pretty sleepy town despite the tourist season.

"Plus, that Inn is so weird," Jane said, "It's like it's off in its own little world within the town."

"So true," James said, "You could go crazy trying to find something to do around there."

"Kinda feels haunted, right?" Jane said.

James and I glanced at each other. I took a moment before saying "Did... you hear something?"

"No," Jane said, clearly confused, "It's just a weird old building."

"Right," we said, trying to shake the idea that anyone else might know something about the Inn.

We actually spent the rest of the day with Jane, although it was an odd dynamic, with us having to play the roles of Keisha and Sophie, regular people. I could swear James had a bit of a crush on her, asking about her trip to Europe, prying whether she had a boyfriend, what music she liked.

I brought it up later in private, and his defense was "Look, I'm just trying to be nice, she's about to become one of us, right?" I mean, sure. Innocent enough on the surface, but to the degree that I know James...

Jane wanted to hang out some more at night, but we still had our 11 PM curfew. I stammered out some explanation about getting too much sun. James said he'd be along soon, but didn't end up coming back to the Inn until 3 AM.

Perfectly innocent indeed.

The change wasn't triggered that night, but who knows what could have happened.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Sophie": Headcount

Knowing what's about to happen, I've been unable to help myself from keeping an eye on the other visitors to the Inn. I can't help but wonder what will become of them, who they'll be, how they'll react. If I'm not mistaken, the Inn houses 13 people, and so far I've seen about 9, mostly by hanging around the common area pretending to play on my phone.

The first person I encountered was an Asian-American girl named Jane Li, who had spent the summer backpacking across Europe and was taking a breather in Maine before heading home to New Jersey. She's in my (current) age bracket, and a bit taller than me, but I'm about 5'3 right now, so that doesn't tell you much. I wanted to press her for more information at that time, but she seemed pretty worn out from the flight.

Next to arrive was a German-speaking couple, seemingly in their 40's, with a preteen son. This troubled me somewhat. It's one thing for the fully-grown people to get caught up in this web, but those who haven't reached adulthood? I don't even want to think about it. As the father approached to ask some directions, I asked if he had ever been here before, and he responded "nein." He appeared to be the only one of the group who spoke English, although the kid didn't speak at all.

In fact, nobody else I've spoken to around here seems to have ever visited the Inn before, which makes me wonder what brought them here. Dumb luck? Sheer need for random bodies? Or is someone actively recruiting?

I wonder what I've gotten myself into by not simply taking Sophie's body and running for the hills. But I respect her so much, and appreciate the experiences I've had as her too much to treat her so cruelly. So if this is what it takes to do right by her, well, I'm in.

Other tenants so far include a newlywed couple who seem to have selected the Inn as their honeymoon spot (sigh) and a middle aged guy named Donald Lazar. He's an investor from Westchester, a sweaty, bloated guy with a voice like Moe from the Simpsons and a noticeable tanline on his ring finger. I noticed this when he sidled up to me and James at the bar last night. When I pointed it out, he chuckled.

"Well, the marriage has basically been over for years, y'know... the wife, she's an invalid, basically, never leaves the house, and I make a lotta business trips, so whatever I get up to when I'm out of the house, she doesn't ask, and I assure her she could do the same if she wants. But you know, who wants the hassle of the divorce?"

I hope something particularly cruel and unusual happens to him during his stay here.

I used my curfew of 11 PM as a way to get out of the situation, dragging James along, despite his protests. I asked if he seriously intended to spend another moment talking to that sleazy guy, and he said no, but he hated to be cooped up all the same. "Nobody else is around this Inn, what difference does it make?"

"I don't know!" I shot back, "It could mean the difference between getting the body meant for you, the one you've already peeked at, and getting the one in the next room over, somehow. This thing can't be an exact science, so whatever guidelines we can cram it into, shouldn't we? Should we make it harder for ourselves than it needs to be just to have a good time?"

He sighed "I know you're trying to do a good thing here, but me... I'm not getting the body I want anyway. I'm on vacation. I wanna have a little fun, stay out late, do some drinking."

"Hasn't this last year been enough of a vacation for you?" I said, exasperated.

"To be honest, it's been a lotta work," he said, as we headed back to the Inn, "I did Keisha's job as good as I could until I got fired. And living with Derek was not as much fun as it looks."

"You don't say," I said, "I thought I heard you say one time that you two... got up to some stuff."

"A little bit," he said, blowing a strand of Keisha's long dark hair out of his face, "Then things got weird, and we both kinda wound up with some bad feelings."

"You don't say," I said. I didn't pry for further details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Sophie": No stopping us now

James and I arrived in Portland, Maine, around dinnertime last night. Knowing the food situation in Old Orchard wasn't always the most convenient, we grabbed some fast food and took a cab to the Inn. One of the oddest parts of living in Canada was that their McDonalds tastes different ever so slightly... I guess because they source their beef from Alberta, and they have different regulations about hormones and such. At first I thought it was just the new body, but the longer I was there, the more I learned about our neighbors to the north. (Not enough to take up their crazy spelling of words with extra u's in them, though!)

I think it had an effect on me... I've always been a meek, apologetic person who just wanted to blend into the wall, probably due to the way I was raised. It's ironic that I'd go to a place known for politeness and similar behavior to come out of my shell, even their punk shows are polite. See, that was Sophie's "scene," she was plugged into the music scene in Vancouver, and all her friends were dragging me out to hardcore shows at skeevy little dives, where I alway sfelt intimidated just sitting there. One time, early on when I was just starting to get into the spirit of being Sophie, I decided to forget myself a little and get into the mosh pit. Problem if I'm very small and don't take up a lot of space. I ended up stumbling and falling on my ass, and instead of being trampled, a bunch of guys picked me up and brushed me off and asked if I was okay. It was then that I felt safe and secure and fell in love with that entire scene, and realized that being Sophie could be better than being Grant.

James was a chatterbox at the beginning to of the day, but as the flight wore on, he grew uncharacteristically silent. I think this whole experience has rattled him, and I don't blame him. I felt the truth about the Inn buried deep down in my subconscious for years before I even went there, and I still got thrown, and even today I can barely process what we've been to.

We're different people. He was the cool, confident joker, and I was, well, nobody. I simply had no identity in high school. I was impressed that he didn't let getting his body changed alter his personality too much, as he's usually ready with a quip. But he lets a bit of his insecurity out when he asks me for a third time if I know what we're getting ourselves into and I have to remind him that I don't, really. I made a deal... I'm not sure how much of it I can or should disclose, but I think I can tell you I asked some people with the authority to do so if there was anything I could do for them to get these bodies back to their proper owners. After some discussion, it turned out this was possible, but most of my follow-up questions have been met with silence, or a "Your status is yet to be determined." Hm.

I did get some instructions. I'm to be in my room firmly at 11 PM each night in case the transformation is triggered, including a 10:30 PM warning text from a mysterious number. I don't know how long they've been doing this, or how many people they rig up with new lives at the Inn per year, but it appears they've got the routine down.

We were the first ones to sign in for the week. We had two non-adjoining rooms. As is tradition, a full complement of luggage has been left in our closets. Both are for residents of the Chicago area, which is heartening to me... I was hoping we would be able to continue this experience together, because we've made a strong friendship (at least, that's what I think) and you can always use someone who knows your secret.

We received no instruction as to who was to take what room, so James suggested we take a sneak peek at the luggage and see if either of us had a preference. Unsurprisingly, when one of the rooms featured a Coach purse and dresses, and the other featured a briefcase and suits, we didn't spend much time debating. I've made no secret that I've been more comfortable in female skin than in my previous, and I'm sure James is eager to regain his male status. I won't divulge further details, however, until the deed is done, in case something goes askew.

I heard a few more people check in late last night. So far, I've been a bit intimidated to go meet them. I don't know if I can face them, knowing what's about to happen to us, but my conscience is insisting I walk them through this.

Well who knows? Perhaps we've got some fellow veterans.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Weekend Pt 2

I slept in as late as I could on Saturday, but by 11 I was ready to face the world. I went and found Meg and asked if she wanted to take a hike or something. Wade invited himself along, and Meg just kind of rolled her eyes and let it happen.

Since the three of us don't have a ton of things to talk about otherwise, I decided to make conversation with Wade. "So, you're a tattoo artist, right? How'd you get into that?"

He talked about loving art, but not wanting to limit himself to a conventional canvas... he said that tattoo art was the most personal form of art, the connection between the artist, the work and the recipient was more personal than if someone just bought a piece of art you drew, and that a lot of people liked his original designs. It was actually kind of a deep conversation, all things considered... which made me even more annoyed because I want to hate this guy, but there were moments where he and I got along better than he did with Meg. But if I had to live with him, I'd hate him more.

He told the story of how he and "Tasha" met, with her coming in for a simple tattoo design, but adding bits to it just as an excuse to see him. By the way, the tattoo in question is a lower back "tramp stamp," a fact that Meg is pretty dang self-conscious about. ("Well," I told her, "Good thing you don't have to see it ever." That didn't help.)

We got back to the beach, and Meg expressed her desire to do some swimming after lunch, confiding to me that she hadn't done that much of it since her accident years ago and was excited to get in the water. I told her to have fun, and she said I should join them at the beach. My only other real option was to join the younger kids' watergun fight, which considering my training as a marksman might've been unfair. (Okay, I just didn't want to mingle with the kiddies.)

"Oh, I dunno, I didn't bring a swimsuit."

"I threw one in your bag when you weren't looking," she said.

That rassum frassum...

Real-talk, though, it was fine. It was a peach-colored two piece that was actually pretty modest, with a boyshort cut on the lower half and a tankini on the upper half with a high neckline, covering pretty much all my jiggly parts. I was actually thankful that she didn't pick a one-piece, because even though it's a bit more modest, I'm not as accustomed to wearing that kinda bodysuit as I am a two-piece underclothe now.

I wore a couple of layers over it at first, going down to the beach to find tons of people splashing around. I decided just to lie out on a towel for a bit. A girl came by and told me I should probably strip down a bit if I didn't want tanlines. I was already getting a lot of uneven color, so despite my natural urge to tell her I didn't care, I know that the way I dress as Lauren sometimes highlights these things, so off came the overshirt and shorts.

"Wow," she said, "If I had a body like you I wouldn't cover it up."

I raised an eyebrow. She was pretty, but appeared to be a 15-year-old slip of a girl. I didn't know how to respond. It wasn't the first remark I've ever heard about my body from someone who doesn't know who I really am, but it struck me more than the girls saying they liked my prom dress or my hair. It was just an earnest remark about my body, from a girl who may very well develop one of her own someday soon.

"Yeah well," I said bitterly, "You should see my stepsister."

Speaking of whom, Meg came to sit with us not long after that. She looked really at peace with her body in a revealing bikini. I tried not to stare too long, but it was very attention-getting, considering what Tasha's body is equipped with.

My feelings about it are... strange. My reaction wasn't that far off from how I might have stared and let my eyes drift downward as a guy. My brain was still telling me "Hey, look, boobs!" even though I'm well-accustomed to my own pair by now, not to mention Meg being a friend and a human being, not an object.

I'm not even talking about sexual attraction here, I just think everyone likes to see someone attractive. That's why women buy Cosmos with Kate Upton on the cover, right? In that moment, I suddenly understood what the girl was getting at when she complimented me. Women can talk about how they look to each other without seeming lewd about it.

"Hey you guys," Meg said, "Need any sunscreen?"

"Uh, sure," I stammered, then turned to my new friend, "Uh, this is Tasha, my aforementioned stepsister, and I'm, uh, Lauren."

"Oh, wow, my name's Lauren too" she said, giggling at either the coincidence or my inability to remember my own name, "I'm here with Aaron."

She gestured over to one of the cousins, who looked perfectly age-appropriate and non-threatening.

Meg offered to apply the sunscreen to my back, and I accepted. As she did, she muttered in my ear "Don't worry, there's nothing sexual about this, we're just two friends applying skincare products. You can do me next if you want."

My response was a perhaps overly flirty "I'd be happy to."

Her response was a sigh of "Don't start."

We stayed around the water until dinner. Some of the guys, were using their strength to toss the girls around in the water. The girls seemed to like this, including Little Lauren, who was getting awfully chummy with a taller, broad-shouldered older guy, which made me raise my eyebrow, because that was definitely not the guy she came with. I excused myself, which may have been a mistake in the long run.

I went to go get changed - incidentally, into the dress that Meg had packed me, because it seemed like a good garment to dry off in - and sat down for dinner, and who should sit beside me but Broad-Shoulders.

"Hey," he said in a deep, bro-ish voice, "I'm Phil."

Phil hadn't bothered to put a shirt on, and was still dripping with water. I tried not to acknowledge him directly, I just nodded and said "I'm Lauren. Sue's daughter."

"I think I remember you," he said, "You've really grown up since the last time I saw you."

"Okay," I said. "I guess so."

I could see his eyes flickering between my chest and my face.

"Why'd you leave the beach?"

"I was getting bored," I said, "And I didn't want to get thrown around. Looked dangerous."

"Nah, we're just havin' fun," he said, "Everyone else liked it."

"Yeah? Good for them."

He seemed to think I was just playing hard to get, but I was really squirming. Meg was nowhere to be seen to offer me an escape line.

I think two months is too soon to say I am "used" to guys looking at me like a piece of meat. A lot of the guys I've dealt with know Lauren from school and have a certain comfort around her, but know that she's not dating material. They maybe cross the line by a toe, and I don't respond so they back off, but in this case, there was just no picking up the vibe, as he kept talking, while I kept my responses short.

"I saw you there and I wanted to talk to you. You looked really hot."

Gee thanks, I thought, my favorite subject, how "hot" I look. I twisted in my seat so that he couldn't see down the front of my dress, but he had a pretty high viewpoint.

I decided to level with him. "Listen, man... I saw you getting really handsy with that other Lauren, maybe you should talk to her."

"She's over there with Aaron," he said bitterly. "For some reason."

"Did you know they were dating when you, uh, you know...?"


I guess Other-Lauren didn't cross any lines, a little bit of innocent flirtiness, but still... dance with the one you brought, right?

"She seems kinda young for you anyway, dude," I said, "What are you, twenty? Twenty-one?"

"I'm only 18," he said. That didn't seem so bad, but the hitting on every girl in sight wasn't endearing either.

I decided to get him talking about himself, asking about his favorite sports teams and crap like that. I tuned out, finished my meal quietly and excused myself.

I went to my room and laid down. A while later I heard a knock. A muffled voice said "Lauren, it's Tasha."

I sat up and called out, "Uh... 'Tasha?'"

"You never know who's listening, just... can I come in?"


I was lying down on the bed and she sat next to me.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah," I said without hesitation, "Why?"

"I guess I just always feel the instinct to ask how you are," she shrugged, "You have this, like, blank expression on your face and I don't know how to read it."

I told her about the conversation I had just had with Phil. "I just had this moment of, like... this is my life. This is all really happening. So I decided I needed to get away from it."

"That's understandable," she said, "In fact it's perfectly normal. But I worry, you know that."

"I'll survive," I said, probably not convincingly.

She probably wanted to ask me more, but I think she knows that sometimes these longs gab sessions wear on me. I didn't want to talk about myself, or Phillip or Other-Lauren and Aaron or her and Wade... so we just sat there for a while, and then before I knew it we were just lying side by side. And we stayed there, quietly, for about twenty minutes or so, just relaxing. It was pretty much the best I've felt in months, kind of forgetting myself, drifting away form my body, but not feeling alone. And that just kind of saved the weekend for me.

Afterwards, we found the rest of the family engaged in a karaoke sing-off. I was kind of aghast, but with everyone knowing what kind of aspiring performer Lauren is - again, the singing lessons, which have raised my ability from nonexistent to merely dreadful. I declined as much as I could, but Meg goaded me (and provided a few drinks for courage.) I ended up belting out a version of Steve Miller's "The Joker," which requires zero singing talent anyway. It was a hit with the older audience, who didn't think I'd know it. As the night went on, I got more and more high from the cheers and did more songs from my own youth, including Pearl Jam, Guns n' Roses and even Smashmouth, as opposed to recent tunes from Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. I'm not usually one who enjoys being the center of attention, but, well, it suits Lauren-Me better than the real me, I guess.

When I'm asking for it.

We kept going until people started to fade around 3 AM. I slept until noon or so, and then it was a scramble to get home on Sunday. All in all the weekend had its ups and downs, and now the house is back to its normal cramped mode. I'm seeing more of the ups and downs of being Lauren. People give you a lot of crap, but they also give you a lot of credit when you do something they like. There may be hope yet.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Weekend Part 1

Friday night, I got Meg to drive me up to Lake Erie with her and Wade. I had put off packing until that afternoon, because I'm so... fussy when it comes to Lauren's clothes. In fact, I was still working on it when they showed up to pick me up. I ended up, in almost cliche girl style, packing way more than was needed for a weekend, but I genuinely didn't know what I would feel like wearing when we got there. There's jeans, shorts, tights, light tops, heavy tops... three pairs of shoes, depending on whether I wanted to wear sneakers (foofy purple ones at that) moccasins or sandals. I let Meg talk me into bringing a sundress as a break glass in case of emergency, if it got oppressively hot, those things do have a way of deflecting the heat at the cost of making me feel like a total knob. The dress in question was a thin-fabric light blue number that hangs off my shoulders by spaghetti straps. I'm learning to cope with such garments, and it comes down just to my knees so it actually covers more than the short-shorts that dominate Lauren's wardrobe, but I can't shake the feeling that 1) I'm wearing an overturned sack and 2) at any second a nice breeze is gonna lift the whole thing up and expose my goods.

It was unpleasant sitting in the backseat, trying to distract myself by reading on a while Meg played the girlfriend in the passenger seat. I haven't spent that much time around Wade, and seeing Meg interact with him disturbs me to a degree. When she's around me, she's lively and spirited, but when she's around Wade she gets very quiet, afraid to say the wrong thing or raise trouble. I guess I'm the same way when I have to be Lauren. Seeing it in someone else, especially when you know the truth, is really upsetting.

I guess Wade actually did notice, because he couldn't help but mention at one point how moody she's been lately. Wade seems like the kind of guy who blurts out his every thought without thinking of the consequences. On one level, you can respect that, on another it makes him come off like a self-absorbed prick. Whereas Meg and I are in a position where we have to watch literally every syllable that comes out of our mouths - not because we don't want to blow our cover (I'm confident now that we couldn't if we wanted to, this inn magic is for real) but because we really don't want to stir up trouble between ourselves and our "hosts."

If that's the case, though, it's going to be harder than it seems for Meg. At one point we were driving through the rural backroads and Wade said "Yo, it's a nice day, I bet they've got some sick markets and shit around here." And Meg's response was kind of an indifferent "I guess we can stop off, if you really want to."

I guess something about the tone of Meg's reply hit Wade the wrong way, because he got very touchy, saying "You're always like this. If you don't wanna stop just say so."

"I don't really care," Meg said with a sigh, and then things got quiet again.

And no offense to the both of them, but that is a weird damn thing to be fighting about. I understand the subtext - people in couples sometimes fight about fighting as much as they fight about actual material things... and maybe the only way to avoid that altogether is to be a totally submissive doormat, which I know Meg isn't.

When Wade got out to fill up the tank, I asked Meg what was going on, and she said she figured he was annoyed that she hadn't had sex with him in a week. "I've just been feeling crummy and not up for it... and since Tasha is usually pretty easygoing about things, he can sort of tell things are going on."

"Oh, that's... too bad." I said flatly.

"He thinks it's because of him," she said, "You know how guys are." I didn't really know how to take that.

She changed the subject quickly, "I read about your little party... did you get everything cleaned before we left?"

"Sure, I think so, I had a few days. Nobody puked anywhere. There was one broken glass but I got it cleaned up, I think."

"And everyone behaved themselves?"

"More or less," I shrugged.

She raised an eyebrow. "I just think you need to be careful about entering situations like that. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly."

"I can handle it," I said insistently. "I'm just not going to be throwing wild parties every week. That was a onetime thing."

"I just want to make sure about safety..."

"You mean because I look like a 17-year-old girl surrounded by guys, or because I'm really a 30-year-old man surrounded by young girls? Because either way I'm not doing anything dangerous."

"Okay, I trust you, just remember, if you get in trouble, I'm here."

I have to admit, I felt like I was being talked down to a bit, but on the other hand there was a moment or two where I did feel overwhelmed, so keeping that in mind would probably be healthy.

An hour later, we were at Lake Erie. It was a nice enough beach, not exactly the Gulf Coast, or even Maine, but it had a good wholesome quality to it. It was early evening when we arrived. There was a little clutch of cottages, most of which were rented out by members of Paul's extended family, many of whom were gathered around picnic tables drinking. It made my throat feel mighty dry, if you get my drift. Paul and Susan were actually delighted I had come along. I guess people expect 17-year-olds to always be into their own things if given the chance, and I wouldn't normally be an exception, but as I said before I was starting to get bored and restless at "home." So I think I won some brownie points for togetherness.

I was shown around. Even though Lauren has been nominally part of the Blanchard family, I get the sense that as a stepdaughter she's mostly a figment to these folks. "Oh, you remember Susan's daughter, don't ya? Kylie and Kevin's sister... well, half-sister." People Lauren isn't really close enough, even after more than a decade, to call uncle and aunt and cousin. It was actually kind of sad to be her in that moment, but a relief to be me... I didn't have to fake closeness. Meg didn't get so lucky. She was swarmed, and had to look to Wade for support - and of course he had no idea what her problem was and happily chatted up the bros as they stood around a Trans Am drinking Bud Lites. I kid you not, an honest to god muscle car.

I was never exactly a gearhead, but I did feel the desire to get over there and see what was under the hood... but from my viewpoint, the guys that would have been my people a few months ago now saw me as, well... a girl.

I had these visions of condescending glares mixed with implied sexual advances and I figured "Not worth the hassle."

There was a cookout we hadn't totally missed, so I grabbed some ribs and then wandered around and just tried to blend in and fade into the background. I made chitchat with some of the distant relatives, but between having enough of people Lauren's age and adults not really knowing how to talk to teenagers (I still don't, really) I found myself already getting bored and worn out, so I slunk quietly to bed.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Drunk girls and horny boys

The "Parents" have gone to the lake for the week, and I didn't think it would be possible, but I have actually been more bored without them than with. It's weird to think how things that frustrate me: the clashes of the 11-year-old twins, Susan and Paul's comings and goings, the general background thrum of activity in a full house, has completely disappeared, and I feel oddly... lonely. Privacy and aloneness is all I've wanted since I got here, and yet when I have it, I go even more nuts.

When they're around, I have an objective: pretend to be their daughter. I find it frustrating and stressful and exhausting and taxing. Take that away, though, and I feel like nobody. As weird as it is to sit around a dinner table with them and listen to the stories of how their day was, it's even weirder to be alone, eating a dinner I made myself, plate balanced on my lap in front of the TV. It feels normal for about half a minute, and then... something feels off and I remember where I am.

I hung out with Megan for three days in a row, to the point where I started to feel guilty even texting her. She said she'd be there for me anytime I needed it, and I've really taken her up on that, but I'm starting to feel like maybe I should back off a bit. Besides, having a female best friend is just something I'm not used to, and after a while it makes me feel, well... feminized, in a way I'm not totally comfortable with. Sure, it's not like she's trying to take me shoe shopping or something (I have plenty to choose from as it is) but I get the sense at times that she maybe forgets who is behind these eyes. Maybe I'm just being paranoid.

I wasn't doing anything scandalous with my freedom, until last night. I had spent the whole day alone, occasionally texting some of Lauren's friends to keep tabs, when I let slip that I had the house to myself this week, at which point it immediately became "OMG party at Lauren's!!!"

And I went along with this because... fuck, you need to spice up your life now and again, don't you?

By 9:00, I had Ginnifer, Jenna, Karlee and Dana over to my place, sharing the remains of a case of beer I had had Megan leave me for the week, as well as whatever liquor they could snag. It turns out teenage girls still really like vodka, and still don't really like beer that much.

I don't want to attempt to sum up their whole personalities in a brief sketch, especially since I've only known them a couple of months, but... Ginnifer's the gossip girl, Jenna is sporty, Dana is a wannabe popstar (she's actually in Lauren's/my singing class, and has real talent) and Karlee is... well, she's Karlee. She's very nondescript, doesn't appear to have ever had a boyfriend, short but cute, and has a personality that almost fades in and out. She's the one I've gravitated toward a bit more, because she seems a bit less like a frivolous teen girl than the others - I hesitate to say "old soul," just maybe a better head on her shoulders.

I felt a little odd hanging around with the group of them, because they had an ease and shorthand with each other than I lack. I feel very cut out, despite their attempts to include me. I felt like a total fake, and to boot, a complete sleaze for sitting and drinking with these underage teenagers of varying degrees of attractiveness. I must have seemed like a total flake, because at some point my opinion was asked about some guy or other, and I couldn't remember which one was being discussed, so I just said "Huh, him? Nothing special." But accidentally, this amused the hell out of them, so I guess they didn't notice. The curse works its magic.

It wasn't exactly your typical cliche'd Ouija-board/pillow fight teen girl slumber party, and there were times it was just like hanging out with the guys, except I was alienated by my lack of life experience and background with these girls. It was almost nice. Then one of them invited some guys over and things started spiraling out of control. I tried to curb it, but what would I have done when I was a teenager, and one of my friends tried to stop us from starting a party? Wouldn't have listened. Best to go along and try to keep a lid on things.

Not that the place became an orgy or anything, but at one point there was like 6 guys there for the five girls, and it felt very crowded - the most teens I've had to deal with outside of a school setting since I got here, and they were all in my house, drunkenly roaming around. I began to feel some real anxiety, like the situation was really getting away from me, futilely trying to be the grownup. Any time one of the guys tried to make conversation with me, I kept my distance, paying them the minimal amount of time. Not that I suspected them all of trying to put the moves on me, but... better to keep a buffer at this point.

Before they arrived, Dana turned to me and said "Uh oh Laur... Seann wants to know if he can come too."

"Um, sure," I said, nervously, "I think we're cool now." And honestly, I couldn't say for sure... for all I knew he was coming over to see if I wanted to get back with him and I began to mentally prepare for how to deal with him. But the truth was, he spent more time talking to Karlee, which both relieved and scared me. Something about the sight of Lauren's 6', broad-shouldered ex-boyfriend Seann looming over little 5'1 Karlee rang some alarm bells in my head, but I distracted myself by cleaning up the kitchen, which was being used for all manner of late night snack preparations.

I don't know. They're teens, and probably harmless, God knows kids get into all sorts of shit, but I'm a little protective of Karlee for whatever reason. I guess we bonded after prom when I spent the night at her house. They disappeared for a little while, and when they came back it was so obvious something had happened, you could just read it on their faces.

Thankfully, the night came to an end around 3 AM. The rowdier guys left, including Seann, and I reluctantly let a couple of them crash on the couch and floor while the girls and I all took the beds. I hardly slept a wink, though... the kids might think this was just a harmless night, but as an adult, I should have had more control over the situation, should have kept the guys away, should have limited the access to booze... I just wanted to have a nice relaxing night in, and I ended up nearly hosting the scene of a Very Special Dawson's Creek.

I started to remember what things were like when you were a kid and you had a bit more energy to raise hell. Sometimes things were disasters, but mostly, 17-year-olds know how to not totally destroy a place (merely do some superficial damage.) They saw themselves out early and left me to do the cleanup. How sweet.

I think I need to get out of here for a while. On the weekend, Meg and Wade are going visit Sue and Paul at the lake house. Maybe I'll join them. It couldn't be worse than my last vacation, could it...?

Jordan/"Deirdre " - New Roommates

I had some warning that Benny and Annette were on their way, although I mostly ignored it. The first time was because my phone said "Ravi" and I'd had enough of him calling and saying I should come to Baltimore and share a bed with him, and since it was late i didn't even think about how those calls usually come in on Deirdre's phone and always as "Gary". The next time, I realized who it was, and deliberately ignored it, because who wants to get into all this shit? But then Annette sent a text saying they'd be in at around nine, and there was no ignoring it. I suppose I could have gone to see a movie or something, but then they could just come in and make themselves at home.

It was closer to 9:30 when they actually arrived, although I was playing Xbox with headphones on and didn't hear them knocking on the door until Annette finally gave up and used the key, calling that they were coming in and to please not be naked, like I just sit around playing with my pussy all day. It was kind of weird, because she sounded just like Ravi but not - like he was impersonating someone. Then they came in, and...

Benny was me. It was the most messed-up thing I've ever felt, seeing myself standing there, seven or eight inches taller than me and kind of large. He reached out a hand and I folded my arms, not wanting to take it. "Yeah", he said, " this must be weird for you."

I didn't say anything. Annette/Ravi looked around the front room, said it was crowded, and then asked where Ravi's room was. I pointed and then she wheeled her suitcase over, opened the door, and then called back, saying it was a petty tight fit. Benny walked over agreed, looked at her, then back at me. I didn't say anything.

Annette shrugged, said it had been a long day and then found the bathroom herself. That left me with Benny, who looked at the TV, Xbox, and stereo. "Pretty nice setup."

I didn't like the way he said it. "Don't get any ideas."

"What do you mean? Oh! Hey, don't worry bout that, I was just, you know...". He looked around. "So, is there, like, a sleeping bag or something?"

"Do I look like I camp?"

"You never know; I dated this little spitfire once who-- Oh, you mean do I look like you camp? I guess not, but, again, you never know." The bathroom door opened and Annette came out, asking about towels and whether they were shared or if Ravi had his own. I said we each had our own, but it was no big deal.

"Cool! Mom's been on me about stuff like this all summer, saying to keep things separate...". She talked off and then came up with a very un-Ravi-like grin. "Huh, looks like I skipped right over dorms and this is my first apartment. Not exactly what I was expecting, or when!" She took out Ravi's phone, backed into the doorway, and took a picture. Then it was "c'mon, one of all of us together!"

I said I was not fuckin' dealing with that right then and went into my bedroom.

I rated in there until I heard the outside door close the next morning, then crawled out to the living area only to be confronted with the crazy sight of myself eating breakfast.

Just like with Annette, Benny didn't sound quite right to me. Part was just how hearing a recording of your voice is different than when you speak it, because of it arriving via the air rather than your jaw or some shit, but part was that he spoke too slow and sort of had a Maine accent, although he says a real one is way thicker. A different accent, although I don't know if anyone who didn't know about body-morphing hotels would pick up on it.


"Uh, hey." I wasn't sure what to say.

"So, Annette's weirdly excited, but she's a really good kid. Eighteen, but crazy smart and with her act together."

"And what about you?"

"Twenty-three, and I don't think I'm a screw-up. I won't get you in any sort of mess for when we change back."

"Speaking of..."

"Yeah, I'm probably going to need your driver's license. I mean, you can't really use it, and since this apartment really isn't big enough for two Jordan Changs, I might need it to find my own place, unless you want to keep me around."

"And why would I want that? You creep me the fuck out."

"Personal trainer, bro. Annette figures we can get our old lives back if we make reservations in backwards order next year, and wouldn't you like to come back to being a guy in better shape?"

"Are you calling me a fatass?"

"Dude, I'm the one carrying it around, so I think it's okay to say maybe you could afford to lose a few pounds. Besides, look at you now. Put the whole girl thing aside, and don't you just feel better?"

"No, I don't feel fucking better as a girl!"

"Hey, my bad. I just figured you're trim and seem to be moving around pretty well. Anyway, I also figured you might be ducking phone calls or something, and it might be handy to have me around when that happens. Unless they're in Chinese, in which case I can't help."

That made a certain amount of sense. I'd been able to keep work stuff on Lync, but I supposed that I had been kind of lucky there. "Fine. You can have my license, and I guess we can find a cot or sleeping bag or something." I found my wallet, extracted that card, and then swallowed deep as I also pulled out my debut card and told him the PIN. "I'm going to be checking the balance every day."

"Totally fair. Annette is getting a new set of keys, but if you've got a spare, I'd like to go for a run. Gotta get back into the habit."

He was back fifteen minutes later, asking about the shower, saying something about how he meant no disrespect but that this was going to be a challenge.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Tori: Rhythm

Maybe I'm just being a total girl about it, but I'm really happy about things with the Boy, to the point where I find myself dressing extra nice for dates where we just end up sitting around drinking beer and watching Netflix. It may have something to do with the fact that I've got a closet full of very alluring summer dresses and I just haven't had anyone to wear them for in a while, so having someone to peek down the front of my dress (yeah I see you!) feels great.

Yes, in very short order, we've gotten very close, going from tentative dates a week in advance to multiple visits per week, usually spent with his arm around my shoulder and his hand on my knee. And yet, I think we've been going just the right pace.

Last night, I arrived at his place, and he opened the door, dressed in a nice shirt and tie. This is big for me, because I've had this complex about how I like to get all done up sometimes, but guys usually just show up to dates wearing regular jeans and shirts. It makes me a little crazy, maybe unfairly, but dudes dressing nice, putting in effort to look grown up, is a big turn on for me, and I can't remember whether I had mentioned it or if he just sensed it, but seeing him like that, it was like... "take me now."

But of course, I had to play coy for at least a little while. We were flipping through the channels, he checked on the Phillies game, and we saw some player or other with a huge beard, and I commented "Ooh, that's a bit much." He looked homeless.

The Boy mentioned that a lot of girls like the rugged lumberjack look, and I said it doesn't do anything for me, I like my guys clean-cut. So then he said it was a good thing he wasn't planning on growing his beard out anytime soon, and I said yeah it was... and then there was this pause, which was just perfect.

I pounced, pulled him in close and we started sucking face pretty hard, letting our tongues play around each other. I laid back and let him hold a bit of his weight against me. He had one arm under my head and let his free hand roam up and down my leg and butt, which just got me hotter and hotter. He took his time, teasing my flesh with his fingertips, letting them linger around the hem of my skirt.

"Yeah, yeah!" I whispered, giving him as unambiguous of a green light to do what he wanted with my body.

I don't want to say things rushed from there, only that I could tell he was absolutely ready to go after weeks of dating. After a brief stop to get me out of my dress, and him out of his pants, then to move to the bedroom, it was on.

But first, I want to talk about the moment. My favourite moment. The moment my bra comes off.

I don't really care if a guy can unclasp my bra. I usually end up doing it for them now, because hell, I know it's not that easy. It was the first time he saw me topless, and I have to admit, it's another huge turn-on for me to see the goofy look on a guy's face when he gets a look at the girls for the first - or hell, even the hundredth time. Because I remember what it was like to fixate on breasts (hell, sometimes I still do! Even and especially my own.) And if I may say so, I've got a good pair. They look phenomenal in a bra, especially as I had made a point to pick one of my sexiest underwear sets (red and lacey: like I said, unambiguous green light) and uncovering them only takes away a bit of the fantasy element... yes, they're a bit uneven, and gravity is a bit of a thing, but I know guys don't care. Especially since at this point I've been heated up to the point where my nipples are sticking right out. They're round and soft and bouncy and... oomph, sorry, I'm getting carried away.

And then, the dumbstruck look on his face because he gets to be in their uncovered presence. It's like Christmas morning.

Like, it's dumb and superficial, but being attractive to prospective partners is a great feeling. Having a bit of insight into what's going on in their head is a huge confidence boost. Seeing his part harden and stand even straighter only sweetened the deal... even though I had to halt the proceedings one more time to remind him to wrap it.

Then we got down to business and... well... it was fine. Hey, nobody starts at a 10. It wasn't that bad. He could have taken his time and paid a bit more attention to me, but I was really starting to get there when he finished.

After a brief rest period where we just laid quietly in each other's arms, he was finally ready to go again. I always like going twice in a night because guys get a little more conscientious about who they're with, more eager to please... and yeah, it was still just your standard back-and-forth, but we seemed to start to find our rhythm.

Patience is key. I set myself up for disappointment because I was so into this guy, I was hoping the initial sparks would translate to fireworks in the bedroom immediately. Reality kind of set in, but if I had to choose between okay sex with someone I really like, and great sex with someone I don't (and I've had both) I'll choose the former. There's plenty of time to get better.

I think he sensed that it wasn't that great, though, because he was a bit withdrawn for the rest of the night and hurried out of there. I wanted to tell him "Hey, it was a good start," but that probably would have just made him feel worse.