In my free time, which is a lot less abundant than I'd like it to be, I read the archives of this blog. There are a ridiculous amount of posts spanning almost 10 years. Most of them are day to day diaries and of little useful information to me, but it's still the most concise volume of data on people who have been magically transformed into someone else that exists (Although apparently Arthur/Liz/Penny has capitalized on the idea and turned it into a semi-recognizable book series). I'm somewhere in the middle of 2010 but there seems to be a constant among every author who had their gender changed: a Halloween entry.
It makes sense really, Holidays are notable times and slightly different in everyone's lives. Some people didn't turn into Christmas celebrating people and there are a disproportionate amount of Canadians to make the Thanksgivings not match up. Either way, those Holidays are or can be mostly the same if you're a man and a woman. Halloween, for grownups at least these days, isn't. There are half a dozen posts here about men who used to ogle women's sexy costumes now finding themselves squeeze into sexy costumes and blogging about the experience.
I'm not going to get too much into it, since in a way I kind of already did. I'm actually glad Kari made me dress up and go out drinking with her friends. For some women putting on ultra revealing clothing and being objectified is a once a year holiday, for Kari it's Saturday.
I resigned to the fact that whatever plan's Rosita had made for us, she wasn't going to let me out of the house without anything below my mid thigh. So I let her pick out my costume. She showed up around 6 right after Ashley left for her party dressed like Little Red Riding hood wearing a knee length skirt (You can argue whether or not revealing costumes are demeaning on empowering all you want, she's 16 so I wasn't going to let her out in a pair of short shorts like she had planned). Rosita had decided that for Halloween that I would be a Cheetah and she would be a leopard. This costume consisted of a pair of skin tight cheetah print leggings that were surprisingly warm but I had to keep pulling out of my asscrack before I realized that was how they were supposed to fit, a cheetah print cami that required a strapless bra and constant vigilance to keep my boobs popping out the top and my stomach popping out the bottom. Add in a store bought pair of cat ears and some whisker makeup and RAWR, I was a cheetah.
I let Rosita do the driving because we didn't head into the city, just another part of Trenton. Apparently we were going to a house party hosted by some of their friends from high school. I was less than enthusiastic about this, and not only because it meant I'd be surrounded by people who had known Kari for a long time.
You never realize how lame high school parties were until you go to college. Then usually around Thanksgiving of your freshman year you comeback home and realize that partying with friends from high school who didn't go to college is still pretty lame. I grew up in central New Jersey and left to go to college up at Syracuse. When I came back some of my high school friends had a get together and...it just seemed as if I had passed them by. I know that sounds snobby and stuck up of me, especially considering the fact that our college parties weren't very sophisticated, it was just that I'd grown apart from them. That's true today, I talk to maybe 3 people from high school and most of my friends I know from college or work. So regardless of the fact that I was living the life of a dropout, this was the kind of party I avoided when I went back to visit my real parents. Except instead everyone is in their late 20s at least.
Aaron and Monica were the couple hosting the party, apparently they were one of those rare high school couples that stuck together. When we pulled up and walked to the door I was greeted with a "Oh My God, Kari! I didn't know you were coming I haven't seen you in so long" followed by a girl greeting hug that I'm starting to get used to. As we were handed cups for the keg Monica pulled me aside and said "Really, I am glad you're here but we didn't know you we're coming and Darrin is here, I thought I should give you fair warning." So right off the bat I was confronted by someone or some event from Kari's past that I had no clue about it so I just "There won't be any problem" calmly "I don't have any issues with him." Which was true. I didn't.
So we had a few beers, caught up with old friends. I BSed my way through things mostly because none of these people had seen Kari in months so conversations were of the catch-up variety. I told them about work, about Ashely, about the fun things me and Rosita did on weekends, it seemed to work on an inebriated crowd. I made a point to tell every woman I spoke to that she looked great, even though in a lot of cases it wasn't true. I've got a fat ass but this body looks pretty nice for one that's had a kid, age and a partying lifestyle haven't been kind to some of Kari's classmates. There were a lot of reminiscing stories about school, loud singing to songs on the sound system (People in this town sure do love Kid Rock), and a few guys tried to flirt with me. One guy kept telling me about he got a job working for GM, which is actually a pretty good paying job with benefits, but it also wasn't going to work on a girl who was very male on the inside.
Slightly after midnight after the crowd had dwindled down I headed into the kitchen where the keg was to get a refill when I surprised the other person who was there. He was dressed like a Michigan football player with a slightly receding hairline and a beer gut pushing out his number 20 jersey. He was dead silent when he saw me so I gave him a quick "Hey".
"Hey" he said back with a nervous tone "I wasn't told you were going to be here" he said almost apologetically that made me realize that this was Darrin.
Feeling nice and buzzed and nowhere near up to feigning whatever drama might exist between him and Kari I made the small talk but let him do most of the talking, letting him tell me about how he moved out of his parents house and was working at a convenient store. After a few minutes I said "Cool" and headed out with my beer.
When the night was over both me and Rosita were plastered but I was able to talk her out of driving and we hitched a ride home with their very nice and very cool friend Ali who didn't drink at all and had a van. I made it to the bedroom this time, but didn't bother changing out of my costume witch resulted in another Sunday morning wakeup from Ashley holding a hangover cure and a slightly justified pointing out of how it was a bit hypocritical for me to criticize her costume considering mine.
I was at work Monday morning when I got a phone call. Technically as the receptionist I get all the phone calls but this one was a very stern sounding man asking for Ms. Karina Cruz. Full name meant it wasn't a friend so I switched from "Friendly receptionist voice" to "Serious business voice" and said "This is she" still having to remember to use the correct pronoun.
"Ms. Cruz this is the Attendance Office at Gerald Ford High School, we're calling because Ashely isn't in class today"
Now, what I did was questionable parenting but I had my logic. "Oh, I'm sorry. She wasn't feeling well so she stayed home. I must have forgotten to call."
"That's alright Ms. Cruz, we'll mark her as excused absent and she can make up her work when she gets back. I hope she's feeling better soon."
Now, the reason I let her get away with it is because in the likely event that Ashely had decided to play hooky, an unexcused absence would have led to missed assignments and her grades are improving. I could deal with the hooky on my own. In the event that she WAS in trouble or missing I would have called the cops and had to deal with way bigger things than an attendance office.
That was a grim thought but it did cross my mind as I pulled out the cell phone and called Ashely. Thankfully she answered after the first ring.
"Where are you?" I asked sounding relieved
"I'm at Abuela's. She picked me up and we're cooking. What time are you coming over tonight after work?" Her tone was as if I should have expected her to be off school and then it hit me.
November 2nd. Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead to those of you that never took high school Spanish. A bit of a big deal in Mexico. I didn't realize it was coming up since I wasn't raised Mexican and when I was younger it wasn't a day that the Latino kids took off school anyway. My thinking is that Ashley doesn't like going to school so a day off spent with her grandmother learning about her cultural heritage was fine by me.
My issue was that meant I would have to bite the bullet and meet Kari's parents. I can manage my way through interacting with her co-workers and Rosita is usually not lucid long enough to notice a difference when we go out, but her family is another story. Ashley can tell that something is different, she's almost as said as much a couple of times, but she's a brooding teenager and feigns apathy even if she doesn't have it. Parents should be able to tell, my hope was that the Inn's voodoo would prevent them from thinking too much about it. Either way I did a little Facebook digging the rest of the day to figure out her parents' names and address.
I'm actually surprised it took me almost 5 months to meet or speak to the parents, since Eduardo and Pilar Cruz live in Trenton, albeit across town. I stopped by Kari's place on the way there, since the low cut top and short skirt I had worn to work didn't seem like they were a good way to honor Kari's dead ancestors. I walked up to the well kept house in a working class neighborhood and rang the doorbell. A short bald man with a thick gray mustache gave me a confused look and then a great big hug.
"Why did you ring the doorbell, Mija?" He asked "Did you lose your key?"
I had thought that Kari may or may not have had access to the house she grew up in, but it still feels weird walking into places that are unfamiliar, even if they aren't supposed to be.
"Left it at home" I say giving him a tight hug back and following him inside.
"Your mama and Ashley are in the kitchen" he said, and I just followed my nose to find Ashley and a short, slightly overweight woman in her earl 50s with a bit of gray in her hair sitting around the table drinking hot chocolate and talking. Once I was spotted another hug ensued. I don't know if being a girl means you get hugged more or if its just a feature of Kari's live, but my boobs are squeezing into another person at least twice a day.
It turns out Dia de Los Muertos isn't a solemn ritual in the Cruz casa but rather a cultural tradition and a reason to have a family dinner. Ashley and Pilar had made and painted sugar skulls, which contrary to my thinking you do not eat because 1. They're for the spirits of the dead and 2. They do not taste very good. They also had set up an ofrenda which is a little altar with photos of their dead relatives and candles in front of them. I went ahead and lit one for Kari's dead grandmother. I don't know if I was supposed to say a prayer or not, but thinking about religion these days is a bit weird for me.
Then we had dinner. And the food...wow. Pilar is an amazing cook. If I ate her cooking every day with this new body and metabolism I'd gain 50 lbs by the time I went back to Maine. It wasn't Mexican food like most people think of, that's really Tex-Mex. This was authentic stuff. Tamales, Tortilla Soup, Flautas which are like Taquitos but somehow even better, delicious cheesy beans and rice, and these amazing pork tips called carnitas.
Dinner was like most family dinners, but it seemed like there was less drama. I don't come from an unhappy home or anything but the Van Hoekstra's aren't the biggest huggers and there's always some underlying tension at Thanksgiving or Christmas. If I had had a kid when I was 14 years old, there would be judgement and snide remarks for the rest of my life. Nothing doing here. Pilar and Eduardo seemed overjoyed that their daughter and granddaughter were there for dinner. I was actually grateful Ashley was there too, because since she didn't speak Spanish that meant English around the dinner table and I didn't have to explain my sudden monolingual-ism .
So yeah, surprise holiday which turned out to be great. But my title says two surprises and the second one came on the way home.
Loaded up with leftover Ashley and I were making casual mother daughter small talk when she hits me with.
"Dad says you saw him at the party Saturday and didn't even yell at him."
Darrin Ellis, the balding convenience store clerk dressed like a football player? That's Ashley's dad. That explains the Anglo first name as well as the fact that despite being in the sun all day she's not as tan as I am. I knew she must have had a father, somewhere in the world, but I wasn't in a big hurry to track him down. He never called, visited, or you know, sent a child support check, but it turns out he's here in town. I was the teensiest bit relieved because I had this strange paranoia in the back of my mind that even though the date's and ages don't match up AT ALL that Latherman might actually be her father.
"Yeah, he was there" I say casually "I wasn't in the mood for a fight so we said a few words and left it like that"
"Does that mean he and I can do things more?" she asked with a hint of hope that made my heart almost melt.
But I knew this was shaky ground. I'm not the kind of person to keep a man from seeing his kids for no reason, but I don't know if there is a reason or not. I don't know if Kari keeps him away out of spite or if he has drinking or drug issues or is violent or is a criminal or what.
"We'll see" I say, repeating the line that as a teenager had driven me insane so many times. But I meant it. I'm going to have to find out more about this situation.