As we were heading out to the wedding, Cliff and I took a long moment to look at each other.
Suited up, he was a handsome, clean-cut, dashing figure, with a cutely angular face, casually messy short-cropped hair, and pretty, piercing eyes. The fact that that body was once mine made me feel very uneasy about it. Way, way back when I was newly Torified, I had been sufficiently charmed by Willy that I almost let him take me to a place I probably wasn't ready to go. Now, I have experience, restraint, perspective... I know what to do when I find a guy attractive.
In this case, anyway. I admired his looks, but I can only forget "that was me" for so long before it hits me like a cold splash of water, and then suddenly it becomes gross. I didn't bring him here for that, and I kind of smiled to myself as I realized that he was going to be able to go home with any woman he wanted.
I can only speculate whether the same thought was going through his mind as he let his eyes linger on my body. I can't blame him: I made it my business to look stunning. I don't get many chances to go all-out anymore, and I wanted to send a strong message to every single guy at the wedding. I was wearing a black strapless party dress, which made me look fearless (which you have to be to go dancing in a strapless dress and heels!) as it clung to my body at every curve of my hips, butt and boobs... the girls were looking particularly perfect, shaped into perky teardrops by a lacy bra which one lucky guy might be able to unwrap for himself at the end of the night, along with the matching thong. Add to that a just a subtle amount of mascara to give me an available but mysterious look, and I was playing for keeps.
(This blog has been so beset by fearful new-girls for so long, it's nice to be the one who still really loves it!)
The wedding wasn't too long, but the church wasn't air conditioned and I could see Cliff sweating. I looked down at my attire (I wasn't exactly perspiration-free but I was feeling fine) and thought that's one true benefit of ladies' formal wear.
The night was long. When they tossed the bouquet, I stood in the back and pretended to lunge for it, but didn't because I didn't a) want to make a fool of myself and b) want my dress to wind up on the floor. In order to get the happy couple to kiss, we had to tell stories from their childhoods. Cliff actually told me something about Jenn that I should have known as Tori, about getting her ready for her first "date" in high school, and how we had to figure out how to do her makeup on AskJeeves (remember that?) Raine, who was in the bridal party and hadn't spoken to me yet, came over to me laughing her ass off.
Cliff and I danced for a bit. I scoped out guys around the room, and he assured me that being seen dancing with him - only for him to leave me alone - would stoke interest in me. It worked, and I danced with a few other guys, to varying degrees of closeness.
"What about you, Hotshot?" I asked between dances, "Got your eye on any particular girl tonight?"
"That's really not what I came here for," he said, "I'm just happy I get to see one of my best friends get married... especially since I missed my own wedding."
He started getting glum, and he drank a bit, and then I lost track of him. It was 1 AM when I was leaving the place with a handsome hipster guy with a side-shaved haircut, and I texted him to see if he'd be all right taking a cab back to my place alone. He answered that he already was.
I stared at my phone. It was fairly early for him to have come home. I hoped he wasn't feeling bad after that comment, and considered coming after him, but... well, I texted, "Are you OK?" He answered that he was, and... I swear, I'm normally a more caring friend than this, but there was no reason to let it ruin both of our nights.
Cute Hipster was good, and I'll admit I will never get tired of that moment where a man lays eyes on my naked body (and seeing its effect in real time, if the gentleman is already naked, as was the case here... mmm!) but my mind was distracted and I let him rush through the proceedings just to get it over with. I left, promising half-genuinely to text him later.
I gathered my clothes and called a cab, which deposited me at home around 3:15 AM.
And when I opened the door to my apartment, what did I see but Raine bent over my couch, with Cliff standing firmly behind her.
I let out an instinctive: "OH GOD! WHAT THE...?!" before covering my eyes.
"Tori!" they both cried out simultaneously as the scrambled apart. Raine covered herself with a throw blanket, and Cliff found his boxers in a hurry.
All three of us looked embarrassed. I was working my way to "What the hell is happening here?" but I decided it was pretty much self-explanatory. I shook off my shaken nerves and decided to just go right to bed and leave them to pick up where they were interrupted.
In the morning - after a very rocky night of attempted sleep - Raine had left, and Cliff was lying on the couch asleep. She had texted me to say she was sorry for hooking up with my guest, and I told her she had nothing to apologize for. I decided to be a good hostess and make some bacon and eggs. I waited until we were ready to eat before I asked him: "What the hell were you thinking?"
He looked halfway ashamed but defensive. "She... I... I don't know. We hit it off, I guess."
We laughed: "Of course you hit it off," I punched him in the arm, "You've known her since she was 12! Damn, Sara, hasn't she been through enough?"
Cliff recoiled a bit at the sound of his real name. "I swear this wasn't my plan. I mean, the part about maybe meeting someone... sure. I had some hopes. I just really didn't expect it to be her. But you know how weddings are."
Thinking of Cute Hipster, I sighed, "Yeah, I know. But I feel like there's a line. Danny... or whatever his name was... jerked her around for years, in different bodies, and it really messed with her."
"Well, I'm not leaving this body," he huffed. "I am as close as I can possibly be to what she thinks I am, just a regular guy, and if she likes me, she likes me. Let her make her own decisions."
"How can it be her decision if she can't know the full truth about you?" I ran my fingers through my hair, "I can't believe we're having this conversation. Some things should just be off-limits."
We sat quietly for a bit, then he asked standoffishly, "Why are you so against this? Are you jealous?"
I scoffed. "Of her? Being with you? Please."
"What about that whole thing you said about people like us having to stay with our own kind?"
"Don't twist that around. I don't want that to be true. Trust me, that's not a door I'd want to open at this point in my life. I don't want you thinking I asked you here for that."
"Good," he said coldly.
"I just don't want my friend to get hurt."
"Well," Cliff replied, "She's my friend too."
"Sure," I said, "But she doesn't know that."
"I'm not going to hurt her," he insisted. "Look, it's been a strange few years for me. I've changed so much. The love of my life left me because he didn't like being a woman. I got over it. I can move on. I just wanted a connection, with someone I knew I would like, and to see if she would like me too. I'm sorry I have needs, Tori. Sorry I'm human."
"Don't you feel bad for lying to her?"
She answered: "If it was some other girl, would that make it better?"
"That's the question, isn't it?" I said into my eggs. "I've lied to every guy I've been with and I never thought twice about it. And it still went badly. Fine, you have my blessing, but I'm not thrilled, so don't fuck it up."
"I didn't need your blessing, but thanks," he smirked. "Besides, I really didn't mean for it to be her. But that's how it worked out."
"Sure, keep telling yourself that," I teased. "Okay, so... now I'm dying to know. How was it?"
He smiled and tried to play things down. "It was good. A little naughtier than usual given my little secret but... now I just feel like an ass for saying that, after what you said."
"I'll let you have that," I snickered. "Did you know that's the second time I've walked in on you having sex?"
He laughed thoughtfully, "Huh, I forgot about that. Wow, Tor, you're such a creeper."
I got up and hugged him, gave him a little kiss on the cheek and told him it was good to have him as a friend. He agreed, and then we spent the rest of his visit taking walks around the old neighborhood, each of us wondering what our next steps should be.
In my case, it was to text Cute Hipster boy (Mike.) You can't keep a good woman down.