Friday, December 30, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Merry Christmas, everyone

The week after our dinner with Samantha was "Adrian's" office Christmas party. I never would have thought of Kitty as an office drone but apparently he's taken to it, working in H.R., filling out forms and helping people adhere to policies. I didn't know that much about it beyond that. I've kind of kept it deliberately separate, and I wasn't much looking forward to mingling with his co-workers, since as I said earlier, I don't exactly love being in situations where I don't get to be myself.

But I had promised I would be the Good Wife that night, even if I was still struggling with how to respond to his declaration of love. He knew I needed time to process everything, although I could tell he was eager for me to come down on one side or the other.

I wanted to put in a good effort for that night, so I went out that day and got my nails and hair done (I can look presentable on my own but it takes more capable hands than mine to turn this frizzy mass into something more than "presentable" - to say nothing of the time and effort.) All that was left was the dress - a long dark red sleevless gown that dipped low in the front. I haven't worn anything that refined since my pageant misadventure as Lauren, and this was a whole different matter. I was a little hesitant to put it on and found myself just sitting at the vanity staring at my face in the mirror... trying to find my inner Judith, I guess.

I looked at the Crow's Feet around her eyes, the laugh lines... the one or two chin hairs I needed to pluck. I wondered what the original owner of this body thought about all that. Did she feel old before her time? Or was it nothing to her? She's only 36 for God's sake. But working and raising a kid will put years on you. I wondered about the little soft roll of flab that I inherited just at the hips, the dimples and freckles that I've noticed on my ass.

She's still got some good years left, I can tell... hopefully she wants them.

And what, exactly, does Adrian see when he looks at it? Either of them.

I eventually did put on the dress and attempted to get comfortable in it... not easy when you're crammed into spanx underneath. I also forgot who and where I was for a minute and dropped a bite or two of lasagna into my cleavage during dinner. Embarrassing. I tell you, they're not even that big but the amount of times these things get in the way...

Kitty was impressed. He jaw actually dropped. "You were already beautiful... I've never seen you look so stunning, though." Even though it's not really my body, I did my best to accept the compliment, and I have to admit it felt good to get that reaction.

I was a bit distracted all night, but I was impressed watching Kitty in action. I forgot that around other people he's very warm and personable, easy to make friends. He knew just about everything about all her co-workers and had a ton of inside jokes with them. He was like a different person around them. Charming - I can see "manhood" agreeing with him. Something about being in this position brings out the best in him, and he was laughing all night, which is rare. We even danced. Together. It just about killed my feet in those heels, but we danced quite a bit.

When we got home, I was feeling good so we cuddled up in bed. "Don't get the wrong idea," I told him. "I just really need someone to hold onto right now."

He laughed slightly, "I feel like that sums up our whole relationship." It made me feel warm to joke around with him that way. I wanted to tell him he was being a good sport about my indecision... and that was helping me come in for a landing on it.


We had a lot of talks about how exactly to approach "Christmas," specifically the gift-giving aspect. We don't exactly plan on bringing a lot with us when we leave these bodies. After all, my aim is to become a man again in the long run, so buying clothes for Judith's body, or make-up or jewelry, seemed like a pointless gesture.

"It's not pointless if it makes you happy even for a minute," he said to me. "That's what I really want for Christmas, to make you happy. To see your smile."

"I don't have a smile," I said flatly, aware that my lips were curling even as I said it. "This face only goes in one direction. It's a serious face."

"Not true!" He stepped closer to me - we were in the kitchen at this time. "I've seen you laugh. I've seen you giggle. I've seen you get lost in daydreams, fondly remembering old times..."

"I don't have a lot of fond old times... and I don't giggle."

"Every now and again. It's like.. hehe. I can even tell you get really embarrassed when you do it, too."

"That's not a giggle... it's a titter."

"Don't call it that... that has 'tit' in it and I don't like that word."

I chose to ignore the conversational pivot - was he trying to get me to discuss my anatomy? - and went back to gifts. "I'm not really a gift person anyway. Let's just... I dunno, go on vacation or something."

"I don't think I can get away from work. Besides, we're kind of saving up the vacation days, remember?"

"Pfft, how could I forget... okay, well, you can think of something. Just don't get me a vacuum cleaner or cookware."

"What kind of husband do you think I am? Need I remind you that I've been a wife before!"

"Yeah, you never shut up about it," I smirked - and tittered.

The real problem we were facing was with the Kid. Like Halloween, we wanted to make sure it was a real special year for him. We did splurge a bit on clothes and accessories... I figure if he's privately interested in dressing the part as Olivia, then it might be nice for him to have some clothes that never belonged to the real one.

He first asked for a puppy. I reckon it's something he has asked his parents for year after year and they've always said no. I don't wanna deny the kid anything but we ain't exactly set up for a dog here... in the short term we could take care of it, but are we gonna bring it with us to our next lives? It's too complicated.

His other wish was still a tall order but a bit more do-able. He wanted to see his parents.

You might recall, Dylan's parents, Neil and Susan, wound up as little boys much younger even than Olivia, the children of the O'Rileys, Christine and Martin, who live near Boston. We are in contact with them for regular life updates and asking how Dylan's parents are faring. Turns out they're quiet, well-behaved kids - I guess stuffing an adult lifespan into a 2-and 3-year-old body will do that. There are flashes of clarity to where it's obvious they remember their lives, but either they don't have access to their entire memory or they aren't willing to display it all the time. They're both too young for school and answer to their given names - leading to a few "Boy Named Sue" jokes.

They ask about Dylan often, but don't seem to recognize that the girl in the picture I sent is their boy.

It honestly seems a trifle weirder than what we have to deal with. And we worried that Dylan would be too spooked by seeing what became of his parents. We didn't wanna traumatize him none, but we didn't wanna deny his only other specific Christmas wish.

We had them up for Christmas Eve dinner. We brought Dylan face to face with his parents and... he just wrapped his arms around them. "You guys are okay! It's all gonna be okay! we're gonna get fixed soon, I promise!"

I'm not entirely sure they knew what was going on, but... they seemed happy.

Abbie and Kendra hadn't come alone. They brought with them the original O'Rileys, at least Christine and Martin, who had become a gay couple named Robert and Steven. Handsome guys. My first question was to ask about their kids. It was clearly not a fun story, but it could have been worse: "They became my parents," Martin explained, "An older retired couple. It could have been worse... they get live-in care and we see them every day, and obviously we are all looking forward to putting things right. They understand what's happened to a degree but it took them a long time to come to grips with being bigger and... older."

An uncomfortable, solemn silence followed until Christine noted, "Our oldest never stops asking when he's going to get his 'pee-pee' back." I grinned wryly and said me too.

Kendra explained that the O'Rileys were so invested in getting their lives back that the four had formed a makeshift family - which we were part of by extension. That was very nice to hear. I thought of the rest of my "family" and supposed it included Meg and Carrie and Lauren and Tasha... people I haven't heard from in too long and moss more than the rest of my "real" family.

I admit I observed our guests with interest trying to suss out the relationships, maybe out of curiosity and maybe because I wanted to find some clue for how I wanted to be with Kit. Abbie and Kendra didn't give off more than a platonic partnership that I could see, but by the end of the night Martin and Christine were pretty openly fawning over each other. Martin seemed to acknowledge my interest, saying "I never thought I would go this way, but what can I say? Love is love, and I love this person."

It was honestly very sweet and encouraged me to keep my mind open.


We got Dylan some video games, some Olivia-clothes and a whole bunch of junk food. I got Kitty a tablet, reasoning it was something he could bring from life to life, and some aftershave. He got me some make-up and a Spa Day, pointing out that it was all stuff I could use up before we go back to Maine... but also some clothes and matching set of earrings and necklace, "because I wanted to give them." Outwardly I was thankful, inside I was annoyed he had broken our unofficial pact. I wanted to be touched by the gesture and appreciative though.

Christmas day provided more in-character stress. We did had to see Judith's family again, which meant cooking while Judith's sister Kathy batches about her husband's lack of upward mobility at work. Dylan, who was my little helper at Thanksgiving, was off playing with his cousins. Judith's other sister Arlene showed up a few hours late with her new boyfriend - acquired since Thanksgiving - and I'm pretty sure at one point they went off to have sex in the master bedroom, on top of everyone's coats. Well at least someone got laid in that bed.

Kitty was circulating, supporting me for most of the day, but he disappeared after dinner for a while. When everyone had left I found him moping in the spare bedroom I chewed him out for abandoning me with the Medeiroses and reminded him the next day we were sue to see the WAlkers and he'd better behave.

He said he was sorry, he was just overwhelmed... he realized we were all starting to feel like a real family and it made him homesick, and made him sad about having to uproot again in spring. I said I understood, and he said how could I, I'm a born wanderer. I said that wasn't fair, and we got to fighting about.. well, everything. Our plans for the future, mostly, but also recent treatment of each other and fighting about fighting.

We ended up going to bed separately, which sucked for the following reason... I had one more gift to give Kitty.

I had bought myself some lingerie that week. All day I had been wearing a lace thong and corset under my clothes, waiting for us to be alone so I could show off and, well... seduce him. Basically embrace my feelings or at least take a chance on them.

But shit, that blow up really set us back, left me feeling unenthusiastic about it, like a fool wearing expensive, uncomfortable underwear.

We were cold to each other the next day at the Walkers family Christmas, but we both came around and said we were sorry by the end. Inch by inch I'm learning how to make this work and not just run away.

The lingerie would have to wait though.

More in the new year

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Simon/Joy: Holiday Hangover

Treena was trying to convince me to go see Joy's parents for Christmas but I couldn't bring myself to do it. What do I want to hang around them for? They don't know their daughter is dead, so I'm not really "comforting" them. I don't plan on being here much longer so it feels pointless to get to know them. It would do nothing except make me miserable, cost me money and probably catch a cold from going from the balmy San Diego climate to the frosty Iowa one (the locals have all been complaining that this is cold for here... we should send them to Cleveland!) I mean seriously, if they want to see their daughter they should move out here. Sorry if that's rude. Maybe the next Joy will be kinder to them.

I was feeling lonely though. I mean, it's so strange, living with this secret - the "Joy is dead" one, not the "I'm secretly Simon" one. That, I'm used to. But being in a dead chick's body? That's starting to get freaky. Every minute of the day I'm trying to live my life and I just randomly remember: oh, a dead girl bought these clothes. A dead girl picked this body wash (I used up the bottle that was left for me but picked the same one again because I liked smelling that way and thought she'd appreciate it.) Everyone calls me by a dead girl's name. It sends a shiver up my spine. But I keep saying all this stuff, writing it out instead of holding it in, cause that way it feels more normal and I can maybe get over it. People die. It sucks but we're still here, right?

Gotta admit, it makes the next six months interesting? Like... I don't have to keep this life "safe" for someone else who is expecting it back later. The next person is probably gonna just clear the slate again anyway, so I can do what I want. Keep doing the job I want, save all the money I want... pick a different car... the big one is, move out, if I want to. I have to admit I've really come to like Treena and everything, but I'm a pretty independent guy and having a roommate is not something I feel like doing at this stage of my life. I've had some good success so I can afford a place of my own if I want to. But on the other hand having her around kinda keeps me in line. I figure if I was on my own, with nobody watching and judging me, I could really go crazy, and maybe not in a good way.

I didn't want to do nothing on Chirstmas, though, so I took my co-worker up on his offer to spend the holidays with his family. His name is Miguel, but we call him Stretch around the office because he's tall and gangly. All the guys have nicknames... mine is "Blondie." :(

His family lives out in Chula Vista, in a Mexican-American community. They're pretty assimilated, so there wasn't any really strange traditions... just good food. Mexican home cooking, mmm. And I also had to bring some "Church clothes" for Midnight Mass. That was a little awkward, because I guess I've got a bit of a strange relationship with God... like, I'm not sure I even believe in him, let alone know what to do with the fact that he gave me the body of a dead person. Still, I can pretend to be pious and virginal and all that stuff.

It was really nice to be around people. They made me feel very welcome and warm. I was worried that I would stick out like a sore thumb, but the family is half-white and many of Miguel's siblings and cousins have white spouses/partners/significant others.

We had a lot to drink, so Stretch and I crashed there, and ended up sitting up all night talking in his room, drunkenly. He said, "You know, around the office you have this reputation for being closed off."

"Oh, yeah?" I said, intrigued at what the others thought of me... aside from one middle-aged lady who works with us sometimes, I'm the only chick in the place.

"Yeah," he went on, "You know, you never come out with us, don't say much about your personal life... I know your family is far away because you happened to mention it, but that's about it."

I leaned back, "What would you like to know?"

"How long have you been in 'Daygo?"

"A few years..." I said, trying to recall what I know of Joy's past. "I moved here when I was... twenty-one, then I got a job out east for a year, and then I came back this summer."

"Why'd you get into real estate?"

"I like the money," I smirked.

"You don't strike me as a live-to-work kinda gal," he said. "I always thought you were just working to live."

"I'm a bit of a workaholic, sure," I said. "It gives me a lot of pleasure to have goals."

"And this is your goal?"

I thought about it for a second, and answered with a laugh, "More."

He smiled a bit. "How come you're single?"

"Who says I am?"

"Pretty girl like you, alone for the holidays? Come on."

"There was a guy, it didn't work out."

"Just one guy?"

"Just one recently."

"You a one-man woman?"

"Heh. Right now I'm a no-man woman."

"That's cool," he said, although I sensed he was hoping I would say something different.

"What about you?" I asked, turning the tables since I was starting to get uncomfortable, "No girlfriend?"

"Nah," he said. "I can't settle down."

I gave him a "pfft" on that one. The guy's so awkward and goofy that he should be happy with anyone who will take him, to be honest. But I was tipsy and he was charming me, so what do I know?

He seemed like he wanted to make a move, and honestly I don't know what I would have done. Let it happen for a sec, I figure, then pushed him away. It's nice to be kissed, but I really don't want anything. After Joey, and Joy's death, I just... don't have the energy for drama right now. But maybe that means I don't have the strength to say no, either. We'll never know because it didn't happen and I fell asleep alone.

And desperately wanting to touch myself, but I couldn't because any noises I made would probably disturb the guy, sleeping on the cot next to me.

Oh well. Had to save it up for when I got home. Hey, who says I need a man?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Lots to think about

I don't know if I've ever felt as uncomfortable during my time since first visiting the Inn as I did this past Saturday night, when we hosted Samantha and her little girl Meadow for dinner. Even when I was Lauren - beauty pageants, prom, awkward advances from older guys - don't quite compare.

On the one side, there's the kids, sitting and laughing and enjoying the meal - and getting up as quickly as possible to watch a movie on Netflix afterward. Something about Meadow brings out the girlier side of Dylan, the "Olivia" persona... he seems a bit more sweet, if mischievous as ever. The only really Dylan-like thing was when Meadow mentioned problems she was having with a boy at school who was bugging her. Dylan's advice was to "kick him in the dick," which caused Kitty face to glow bright red with embarrassment as he scolded her: "Such language!" I had to stifle a laugh, because it broke the tension in the room. And I was relieved to see Samantha also found it funny, rather than a marker of how "unruly" our kid is. (Meadow, for her part, was somewhat scandalized since she only has the vaguest idea of what that means but knows it's taboo.)

Kitty was in rare form all through the day, re-cleaning areas I'd already been through and bossing me around to make sure the place was presentable for her new BFF. I resented that - I may not be naturally domestic but I like to think I keep a pretty clean house (and I've been working at a party-planning agency for nearly 6 months!) Let me cook, and you can play the good host.

I just hate being in character around people with Kitty. I hate having to look at him like he's my adoring husband, and respond to his condescending "Juidth..."'s. I can be with people who don't know I'm me, but somehow it feels like such a lie when we're doing this together.

It doesn't help the fact that I have come to dislike Samantha for no discernible reason. Something about the way she has become a presence in Kitty's life feels like an intrusion. She's not a bad person and God help me we get along pretty well when I can put my irrational feelings aside. But it feels like her mere existence is a total disruption to our little setup.

Watching the two of them for an evening... the way they hang on each other's every word, snicker at their little jokes, and even get shockingly close, I felt my suspicions about Kitty's interest in Samantha confirmed.

After dinner, and a few games, Sam and Meadow went home. Dylan crashed hard, as he tends to do. We started to clean up, and I took a deep breath and started a speech I had tried to write in my head...

"You know..." I said, "If you want to, you can."

He stood up and looked at me in puzzlement. "If I want to what?"

"If you want to... with Samantha. Anything. Whatever you want. I'm... I'm cool with it. It makes sense."

He furrowed his brow. "We're just friends."

"Come on, Kit," I said, "I can see it's more than that. And I'd be a real asshole to stand in your way. She's fun, she's beautiful, she's young. We'll... I don't know, we'll say that you and I are splitting up. Separating. Amicably. You have my blessing."

"Jude-- Tyler, this is crazy talk," he said. "I don't have feelings for Samantha."

"Come on!" I huffed. "There's no point in--"

"I don't." he interrupted firmly. I could see he was getting hot behind the ears, and it was different from the usual irritation he expresses when we differ on what to have for dinner or decorate the living room. "Samantha is a wonderful woman, and I hope she finds happiness, but... she's not the one I want to be with."

I stood across the room, arms folded under my breasts. Suddenly I felt like the floor was going to drop out as soon as he continued saying what he was saying.

"I'm in love with you, Tyler."

"Kitty..." I started to say, but I honestly had no idea how to respond.

He went on. "I know, you don't think of me. I'm a no-fun old lady in a pudgy man's body."

"Not that" pudgy," I tried to re-assure, I guess a bit inappropriately.

"I know you thought that changing this way would be the end of us, and I wondered myself, but my feelings have only grown. I love seeing you parenting Dylan. I love coming home to you at night, going to bed with you. I know you're not really my spouse, but you're my partner. I love your cooking, I love the way you hum to yourself... I love your sense of humor even though I don't get half of it. I started to love you back in Wisconsin and I can't deny it. I'm sorry if that's inconvenient for you."

I felt a heavy weight in my chest.

I went over and wrapped my arms around him. I was shaking. Confused, exhausted, hot tears streaked my cheeks and I didn't know why.

"Can you just give me some time?" I asked. "Maybe we can do this for real... maybe. I just still don't feel ready."

"How long do you need?" he asked.

"I don't know. Honestly, I was hoping just not to think about this stuff again until our next lives. I'm just not ready right now. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he said warmly. "We can wait."

The situation between me and Kitty is still so complicated, and I've got my own issues to work through, so who knows what the future holds. I have a lot of reservations toward pursuing any kind of relationship with anyone, let alone her. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't moving to hear all that. It's flattering, heartening, wonderful just to be told that someone feels that way about you, even if you're honestly not sure, at the end of the day, if you feel the same way. If it's fair to pretend like you do. Or if maybe you just care enough about them to go along with it because it's kinder.

I dunno.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Samantha

In three years or so of being a Person Who Is Transformed, probably the worst thing to come out of this curse is having to be a parent. Don't get me wrong, I love Dylan and I want only the best for him, but I struggle with that. It's draining enough looking after your own needs, sometimes it's hard to remember to put the kid first. And doubly so around the holidays. We're only a week into December and I'm already just completely dead, knocking myself out to try to make sure that this kid's Christmas is one of the best of his life, to help make up for everything that's happened to him this year. Trooper that he is, I still see him getting a bit down when he realizes how small/weak/feminine he is now. And how homesick.

The femininity thing is weird, because you'd think that's something within his control, but he'll catch himself imitating female speech patterns or gestures and then looking at himself in half-disgust, a mystified "What have I become?" It's my role as a parent to try to reassure him that no matter how he behaves he's still himself inside and nobody can take that truth from him. But I ain't a psychologist so I don't always have the language to put that sensitively. Me sitting down with the kid and laying it out straight for him is as likely to have a calming effect as it is to compound the "oh shit" factor of our lives.

What helps is having friends. That's where Samantha and Meadow come in.

Meadow is a little girl who is in Dylan's group for Trailblazer girls. She is the same age as Olivia,, smart and a good reader, and even a little funny. When the time came to put Dylan into school, we all thought "We can't keep him in Olivia's grade, because he wouldn't get along with kids that age." It would make him feel like such a baby. But I guess it's also good for his self-esteem to feel older, like he's ahead rather than behind, his peers. Among 10-year-olds he seems to have a worldliness and a confidence that he doesn't quite have at school.

Meadow and Dylan struck up a friendship pretty quickly. Not long after we enrolled him, it was "Meadow and I had a race and I won," "Meadow told me she liked how my hair looked today," "Meadow brought extra snacks to share with me." Awesome. The kid is hardly as happy about anything as he is when he talks about Meadow. And Kitty, who takes the lead on all Trailblazer stuff, took it upon himself to strike up a friendship with Meadow's mom, Samantha.

Samantha is... young. I haven't asked, but she can't be more than 26 or 27. And being that she's the mother of a 10-year-old girl, you can figure her story out for yourself, I'm sure. She didn't go to college, but she takes night courses and is self-educated in a lot of fields. She's smart, and she can hold a conversation, and she's pretty. With golden brown hair and a sweet smile and bright eyes, and a body that she really takes care of. Honestly, her looks are striking to me, and I don't even go for much of anything nowadays.

So... I can only imagine what Kitty is thinking when he looks at her. She's beautiful, funny, surprisingly "together" under the circumstances... and available.

I don't know. It's not crazy to think there's a spark there between them. Maybe she isn't so evil as to step between a real married couple, but if he were to make a move... could I bring myself to stop him? We haven't functioned much like a couple in the whole time we've been here. We can still co-habitate and parent Dylan even if he's experimenting with outside relationships. For all practical purposes, we're just... two people... right?

But saying that, it feels wrong. The twinge of jealousy I get when her name comes up tells me as much. But I haven't made any moves in the "relationship" direction with Kitty and I have never been sure that that is what I would want. It could just be that the risk of losing the option of that is making me think more seriously about it... making me think I want it more than I do.

Or revealing my true feelings.

I don't know. I'm really not prepared for this.

Oh, and we're having Samantha and Meadow over for dinner on Saturday. Yippee.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Simon/Joy: Black Friday

After my little moment with Joey at Halloween we went back to our old texting routine. It was actually a little annoying, since I would be at work showing some couple a house and I would feel my phone buzz in my purse and I would have to resist the urge to answer it. It alternates between annoying and kind of sweet, depending on how I was feeling. Part of me really likes how much this guy is into me. I've had my share of success with women, but I've never been pursued as much as this... usually I'm on Joey's side of things, desperately trying to get a chick's attention. This is so much easier... except when it's not.

So I've had to put him off and reschedule all month because hey, there's not really a slow time in this biz if you know how to hustle. And I feel like it kind of hurt his feelings. But I had some spare time over the Thanksgiving weekend... I opted not to go to Iowa and stay with Joy's parents. (They were understanding, but also clearly disappointed since it's now been about two years since they've seen their daughter in the flesh.) So I made a dinner date with Joey for Black Friday.

All week long my stomach was in knots. I couldn't believe how wrapped up in this I was getting. I was more stressed than ever about my hair, my makeup, my style... I am used to making myself look "pretty" for work, but that's more of a "presentable." thing. For this night I wanted to look hot. Like, totally fuckable. Not that that was where I necessarily saw the night going, but I wanted to get his hopes up and see how he reacted. I had just the right Little Black Dress in Joy's closet that I had been saving, I guess secretly knowing that this kind of occasion would come up eventually for me. I tried it on and... vavavoom. I'm used to seeing myself in buttoned-down pantsuits and blouses - cute and professional but not model-quality. With this, and a strapless pushup bra, I looked like I had some real killer curves. Then I went to Sephora to get my makeup and hair done.

When I got home from that, about an hour before the date, Treena was waiting for me. It looked like she had been crying. This was new. Treena isn't exactly a robot or anything but I've never seen her break down in tears. She was really trying hard to keep it together. So I went cautiously forward asking what was wrong and if there was anything I could do.

"Hey Simon... uh, can you sit down for a sec?"

"Sure, no problem."

I had this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach that this somehow concerned me.

"I have some bad news. Like, really bad news. And I don't know how you're going to react but I'm... this isn't good, Simon. So just pardon me if I can't... quite get the words out." She sniffled.

"Okay, you're scaring me." I hadn't felt this severe since the day I woke up as Joy... and even then I had enough composure to go to the conference and woo Abe Fowler.

Treena looked at me like she'd seen a ghost. "She's... gone, Simon."

"Who's gone?" I asked, barely in a whisper... kind of already knowing but afraid to be sure.

"Joy's gone. She's... I'm pretty sure she's dead."

My face went cold. Treena showed me the screen of her laptop and it showed some local paper out in Nowheresville, New England, an obituary for "Brian Meeks," born September 10 1948, died April 12, 2016. Just over a month before she was due to return to the Inn. No wonder my cheapass company got that room at the Trading Post on such short notice.

It said "he" died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack, discovered in the morning by his wife of 35 years. What a horrifying thought. It dawned on me later that she had gone through all this grieving and her husband is actually still out there somewhere. But at the time my head was just swimming.

She's dead. Treena is 110% sure of that fact: Joy was Brian Meeks. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it.

I tried to put it out of my mind. She's gone, but I'm still here. I never met her, and I've been living this life as I please the entire time. It shouldn't affect me. But if I catch a glimpse of my reflection, it feels like the words "DEAD GIRL" are tattooed across my face.

It was hard to enjoy dinner with this sitting on my shoulders (I couldn't very well bring myself to cancel again.) I was lost in thought, not very good company for Joey. I was still in my LBD but I felt totally ridiculous with my tits pushed up and my neckline plunging all the way down. And I just couldn't bring myself to care about anything he had to say... except when we talked about his work as a lifeguard, and I asked how close he's been to death (he made a few claims about saving lives that seemed exaggerated, and then I had to downplay my sudden interest in the subject.) When the date ended I had to politely decline an invite back to his place. I was anything but "in the mood." He seemed absolutely pissed off about that, and confirmed this the next day with a long series of texts about how two-faced I was and how I was just leading him on and how girls like me never give guys like him a chance and all that bullshit. I couldn't even come up with a response.

It has been a weird week. I'm trying to think what happens next, but all I can do is just live my life day by day and not let this affect me. I'm still here.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Thanks, I'm sure

Thanksgiving was fixing to be such a madhouse that the real Judith - normally too busy with her temporary life up in Montreal to contact me unless there's an emergency - dropped me a line apologizing for the chaos I had inherited. Traditionally, Thanksgiving dinner is a collaboration between her and her sister Kathy, which essentially boils down to Judith doing all the work and Kathy standing around drinking wine and giving unhelpful directions. I was not all that impressed.

I haven't talked to Kathy all that much. Life is honestly busy enough when you're pretending to be someone else that keeping tabs on all the relations you've inherited is just a bit too much to ask. Judith is the oldest child, before Kathy (married for about 10 years with 4 kids) and Arlene (29 and not yet married.) We were also hosting Adrian's brother Kip, his wife Nancy and their two kids. Fitting all these people and three grandparents into the Walkers' modest home for Thanksgiving proved to be... difficult. And all the while, Judith's ma was saying in a thick Portuguese accent "If your father were will alive..." which cut me extra deep since if my father were here, he would probably call me a pansy for making all the food, and probably also the wearing women's clothing and sleeping next to a man at night.

Probably the best part of the holiday was Dylan, who decided he wasn't all that interested in getting to know Olivia's cousins and stuck by my side in the Kitchen learning to cook a little bit. Arguably, the kid was more helpful than Kathy. Kitty was also in his element, hosting and making sure everyone was comfortable, rather than ditching me and joining the "party." It's always nice to feel like a united front...

The worst part was Kip getting drunk and making an ass of himself. Toward the end of the night I found him in the bushes outside alternating relieving himself and vomiting. I sat with him a while - because honestly it was preferable to the crowd inside - and he unburdened himself to me a little bit... basically saying he wasn't happy in his marriage and wishes he could leave her for someone else. I muttered some stuff about commitment and sticking it out, although honestly it was probably all a bit rich coming from me. But here I am, sticking it out.

Eventually, the night ended. The relatives all headed home and all that was left was a huge mess. It was getting near 11 and I was exhausted.

Kitty started to pick up the plates and I told him to leave it for the morning and come upstairs with me.

We started to prepare for bed, mostly in silence as usual, as he pulled off his socks and I let my clothes drop to a heap on the floor. I always catch him eyeing me, as if he's still trying to decide what he thinks of the sight. I put on the comfiest PJ's Judith owns and crawled under the covers with him. And usually we're pretty distant... sharing this comfy queen-sized bed with a lot of room between us and separate blankets, but on that night I just... I dunno, needed the closeness of another human being. I got in close and cuddled up warmly to him in a way we haven't really done since we got here. And he didn't ask me what was going on because I kind of felt like he understood.

I don't know what this means or where it leads, but... it's something.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Meg: The Visit.

It was a rainy fall day in Burlington. I was early for the meeting, as I tend to be, but then I was coming from a lot closer. It was at my favorite café, with a vanilla latte by my side and my nose in a new book. Every now and then, every time I heard the creak of the door opening and the gust of noise from outside, I had to look up to see who it was. Eventually I had to stop, it was too distracting.

So of course, after I let my guard down, I paid no attention to the the tak-tak-tak of heavy footprints in heels on the tile floor coming directly toward me and stopping right at my table. I heard a voice clearing her throat. "Ahem."

I look up to see this woman. In her leather boots, she's probably a head taller than me, but I was sitting down so it was hard to gauge. Her arms were folded under her breasts and her face in a cartoonish smirk of mock-disapproval. She had her dark brown hair clipped back in a rather tight bun and her eyes covered by large sunglasses. She wore a long purple sweater with a chunky belt around her waist, framing her hips into a bit of an hourglass shape, and black tights. It was very much a "mom's day out" look. If you set the two of us side by side she would probably get the vote for "More Feminine." More of a "woman," somehow.

"This seat taken?" she said knowingly, cocking one of her full eyebrows. It couldn't help but remind me of the first conversation we struck up, which feels so long ago...

I was too busy taking stock of her: her figure, her posture, her pursed lips, her tan skin that seemed to glow. I must have gawked a little too long, because I could tell she was getting a bit uncomfortable and just took her seat, plopping a huge mom-sized purse next to her. All I could think to say was, "You look so different." My stupid mouth.

Instead of calling me an idiot for stating the obvious, all she said was a friendly, "You don't." Maybe not as much, but my hair is different, and while I was a bit disappointed she didn't notice, I guess she's been through enough lately that "different hair" doesn't qualify for "different" in this context.

I struggled a bit with saying "You look nice!" and not having it sound like I was a) attracted to her in any way, or b) trying to somehow suppress the man he really is inside, because I know he struggles with exactly how much of a "woman" to be. I wasn't sure he wanted to look "nice." But he did. I guess I was somehow expecting him to be wearing a dirty plaid overshirt with unkempt hair, but as he explained, he's got an image to keep up.

The whole thing flustered me. I knew, intellectually, that I was going to be interacting with Tyler, in his new body, and yet... I guess I just didn't know who to expect, even though I've seen pictures of him this way online and of course I've read his blog posts where he has been fair-to-overly-critical of Judith's appearance, in my mind he still looks like Alan, because that was how he left me. I found it very, surprisingly hard not to treat him like the person he appeared to be. I didn't have this problem when he was Lauren, but that's because I was "in it" with him then. This is my first time meeting "Judith." And I thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. I almost bolted.

So, how did we get from there to here? It's been a long road and a lot of angry nights and to be honest I'm still not all the way to forgiveness. We had been in contact when I could stand to do so, and not long after he moved into Judith's life, he reached out to see if maybe we could mend fences a little bit since we were both in the same part of the country again. I told him it would be a while before I was ready to do that. A few months passed, a few attempts were penciled in and rescheduled, until I ran out of excuses.

"I hate to seem so shocked," I said, collecting myself at last, "But it's so hard to believe it's really you in there. You look so... grown up." He took off his sunglasses to provide a visible eyeroll. "No, I mean it. Like, you look like someone I would trust with a kid."

"Okay, I'll try to take the compliment," she said, making a faint attempt at a smile. I have looked at old photos of the real Judith Walker online, as well as recent ones where Tyler is playing her part, and she never appears to smile. Tyler described it as "resting bitch face" (a phrase from his time as a teenage girl) and I have to admit, as Judith, he looks more stoic than he did as "Alan," and it puts me off. That could just be her face. Which is pretty amazing and weird.

We made some really, really awkward attempts at small talk - I asked what was new and he said it was mostly on the blog. He did go into a bit more detail on some of the ladies from Judith's workplace and book club. Talked a bit about "mom" stuff, trying to parent a 12-year-old boy as a 10-year-old girl. I told him how much I admired him for doing his best with that situation, and he pled off, "I get compliments on the blog sometimes and it's flattering and all, but you know, time will tell if I have actually screwed up this kid--"

I interrupted. "The world is screwing this kid up. You can't possibly stop that. Your job is to help him feel normal."

"I think he does. He copes pretty well. He had that Halloween drama about dressing as a girl, but honestly, it hasn't led to a big change in his style or personality. Still wears dingy jeans or the occasional tights to work... girl-ish but not girly, you know?"

"And does he feel bad about being treated like a girl by the world? Does he notice the difference?"

"If he does, he doesn't say. He does get moody. Throws tantrums, cries, fights with us about totally unrelated stuff. But I can't totally believe it's actually unrelated. Still, I think I've convinced him he's lucky to get to try being a girl, and I think he trusts me that we'll get him back."

"So he doesn't sit around crying about it all the time?"

"No, he's actually pretty intrigued. I think he just wishes he was older. You know, we were at the supermarket the other day and he started asking my about my breasts. What do they feel like, are they heavy, do they hurt, are they fun..."

I smirked. Boys will always be such boys about stuff like this.

He continued, "He knows a bit about sex, but I'm honestly afraid to talk about it. But you know how sexual tastes tend to follow the body more than the mind..."

"Uh huh," I said, noting his coyness.

"Well, I think he's got a little girl's attitudes, to where it's not something on his mind too much. Not seriously. So I'm thankful for that. I mean, he's just a kid, and he looks like a much younger kid. So that's the last thing I need."

"Can we get off this subject, actually?" I asked.

"Of course," he said, face brightening more. I think he liked that I was getting uncomfortable.

So I decided to turn it around on him. "So, you and Kitty..."

"Oh, boy," he grumbled, sucking in his teeth. This is clearly not something he wanted to be discussing, with me least of all.

"You never really go into detail about what the deal is between you two," I say.

"You really want to know?"

"It's not that, but... shit, when you two started hooking up, you put it on the blog pretty quickly. I'm just curious where you stand now."

"Well, you have a pretty good idea how things used to be between us," he started.

"Casual," I said, with some saltiness in my voice.

"Uh huh..." he said, his already flutey voice jumping up a nervous octave. "Well, now it's almost the opposite. He knows I was trying to wind 'us' down when we got hit with this thing, and to a degree he respects it. Every so often we kind of drift together, but it hasn't gone past the threshold where we need to talk about it."

"Nothing physical?"

"Well, a little. Hugs, kisses... the occasional cuddle on the couch. With me trying to put out of my mind how weird it feels to be in a man's arms like that. When we're feeling good about the arrangement. That's what I never talk about on the blog. I talk about fights and disagreements and moments where I tear my hair out in frustration, but a lot of the time it's just... quiet, going about our business trying to make the best of a bad situation. Occasionally kidding around and treating each other like humans."

I smirked. "And yet..."

He sighed. "Basically, yeah. And maybe there's this unspoken agreement... or idea... or whatever that someday, we might get back around to what we were doing before. Maybe, if the circumstances were right. But I couldn't even think of it right now. We're just too old and tired, I guess."

"Has she seen you naked?"


I could read the discomfort on his face, so I stopped my line of questioning. I couldn't tell if I was happy or sad for him. I know he complains about her a lot online but there's a weird amount of actual affection in his voice when he talked about her. And I kind of think she's been good for him? Maybe he needs someone to keep him on a short leash in away I never could.

We finished our beverages and went to the shopping center nearby. When Ty was Lauren he had a bit of a yen for trying on clothes he couldn't actually buy, and which were too feminine for the style he cultivated as her - not unlike Dylan, come to think of it. He didn't buy anything this time, though.

"How about you?" he asked.



He was eager to change the subject, but I could tell he might reqret asking.

"Maybe there's a guy," I said coyly.

"Is that who's been texting you all afternoon?"

"You could hear that?" My phone was stuffed in my bag.

"One of the perks of Judith's body... constant headaches, but ears like a bat. I call it my mom sense. Please tell me it's not Gene."

"Ugh, no! His name's Justin," I said reluctantly. "We met in a... creative writing class."

"You're taking a creative writing class?"

"Yeah. I dunno, it's just... something I thought I'd try... you know, after what you did to me, I kind of gave up on the blog as an outlet."

"What do you write about?"

"Men turning into women and then having lots of sex," I said with a laugh, then added to let him know I was kidding, "More grounded, real-life stuff."

"Ha! This is real life," he said, gesturing down at himself.

"Not for most people," I said. "And for me, it's starting to seem more and more distant..."

"Ever miss it?"

"God, no. For me it was all drama, unwanted sex and impractically large boobs. You, though... I'm starting to think you prefer it."

"What, being a woman?"

"Being... changeable. Switching faces. Never going back."

"Nothing to go back to," he said grimly, examining some clothes on a rack. "Like it or not, this is my life. I wish I hadn't fucked things up so badly. I lie awake sometimes at night thinking you could still be part of it."

"That's not the world we live in," I said.

"Would you have stuck with me? If I had to go back to the Inn, year after year, never knowing who I was gonna be?"

"I don't know. I wouldhave thought, at the time, what we had was that strong, but you kind of proved that it wasn't."

There was a long pause.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"You've said that before."

"It's still true. What I did to you was wrong. I was just angry."

"Don't even bring it up, because you'll make me mad again. If you try to explain it or justify it. We both know what happened and it was a fucked up thing. If you had stayed back then we could have worked through it. That's what I believe. But you proved to me, what you always told me about yourself but I never believed... that when the going gets tough, Tyler Blake runs."

"I'm not running now."

I huffed, "Then maybe you're not Tyler Blake anymore."

He took a pause, then said, "Maybe not... but I don't think I'm Judith Walker either."

"I beg to differ, Mrs. Walker," I said, gesturing to the stack of clothes he had picked up, "But I believe you're using her credit card to pay for that, aren't you?"

"I earned it, I get to spend it."

We fell back into old patterns shockingly fast, resurrecting old jokes and conversations. I felt some inkling of what I used to feel for him, even through his different face. But I knew the moment had passed. I've been with Justin for months, we have a nice little relationship budding. I'm in a good place.

My anger at Tyler has really faded over the months, and seeing him in person this way really punctuated that. He seems a bit humbled by this experience, changed. But it came too late for us, that's for sure.

I told him I hope that he opens up to somebody soon, if not Kitty then someone out there. It seems like it might be a lonely life otherwise.

We went back to my place - the apartment we used to share - until Justin got off work. Tyler hung around just long enough to meet him, and when they were face to face, I felt this hot stab of guilt, knowing my current flame was meeting my ex without realizing it. We just said that Judith was an old friend and left it at that. And Justin, poor guy, just looked at her and saw a woman. Some lady he'll never meet again.

"Be good to her," Ty said as he gathered his jacket and headed for the door. "She's the only Meg we've got."

"I'll do my best," Justin said with a mock salute.

Judith returned one as she left: "At ease, Private."

This fucking guy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Simon/Joy: My "Secret"

It was kinda crummy of Treena to call me out like that on the blog... I mean, I know she reads it but I never thought she would write anything here. I think she's blowing it out of proportion, I just needed a little privacy for a minute. I didn't realize that would be such a big issue with her. I guess because, yeah, as she said, normally I'm pretty open about everything, including electronically diddling myself once or twice a day.

If you must know, here's the big secret. I almost hooked up with Joey. Stressing almost. We were drunk at the club, and we needed to go out for some air, so we walked around the corner and found a nice quiet spot. Then he kind of pushed me toward the wall and started kissing me.

It was... weird. So weird. But I'd be lying if I said it was that much different from kissing a chick. It's the same parts, you know, just a little rougher and a little fuzzier. And I didn't know where to put my hands. So the fact that I didn't immediately push him away probably tells you that I'm a lot more open to this kinda thing now than I was a few months ago when we first met. Does that mean I want to sleep with him? Maybe, maybe not, I haven't decided yet. I'm going to be a chick for at least another... six months maybe? If I had to go a whole year without any sex at all, I would be really pissed about it. But whatever sex I get is going to be the "I'm a chick" kind, so I'm adjusting to that.

So we were kissing, and then I notice him loosening his belt. And before you know it, his cock is out. And it's all hard, and... pointing directly at me. And again, having a good time and being drunk and being a lot looser about what I will or won't do really comes in to play here. But I didn't know what to do next.

So he says, kinda rudely, "Suck me..." Like, half a command and half a request. Like, "Suck me...?"

I was just like, "Um..." I can't tell him I never have done anything like this, it would be hard to believe. But I didn't wanna just do as I was told because that's not what I was into. Plus I was in a short skirt and didn't want to kneel on the dirty ground.

So I grabbed his dick and started playing with it. It was weird, because in a way it feels like my own, but totally different, and the angle was reversed and whatnot. I've always found it cute when a chick doesn't know what to do with one. But I knew if I finished him off quick he would be satisfied and leave me alone.

So I worked and worked and worked, trying to be subtle in case some random person is walking by, and he was moaning like this was the best HJ ever... which I have to say it probably was for him. And before you know it, he spurts all over my hand and my jacket, and even a little bit in my hair, not even caring where it goes, and leans back against the brick wall moaning "Oh baby... that was so good."

"I'm glad you liked it..." I said kinda numbly.

We split a cab home but I was a bit shellshocked to say anything, which is why I was weird when Treena saw me. And then I spent a few days just contemplating it, being like "That happened, I did that. I didn't love doing it but I don't hate it. The world didn't end."

Things are really never gonna be the same for me. I feel like I'm capable of pretty much anything now, which is both exciting and terrifying.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tyler/Judith: When Mom is sick, the house goes to hell

I'm not really a neat freak or anything, but the Inn kind of forced me and Kitty into accepting these very old fashioned gender roles... she's out at Adrian's job 45 hours per week, and while I do have a job, it leaves me with enough time to clean the house, do the dishes, the laundry, make sure everything is basically livable. It's nice to live in a clean house. I'm getting a knack for it, even if Kitty is constantly finding places I neglected ("Did you dust behind the TV? Vacuum the steps?" Jeezes, Kit, thought I'd leave something for you.)

Anyway. Last week I caught a nasty flu that put me out of commission for five days, basically just resting in bed achey, sore, stuffed up, hard to breathe, vomiting and other unpleasantness, on top of my usual headaches and PMS symptoms. I felt like death, so I decided to "indulge" in a little recuperation time. And of course Kitty, even though she's so fussy, didn't put much effort into cleaning up, because he felt so overworked. When I finally made my way downstairs after the two most intense days, there were takeout boxes and wrappers left out, grimy dishes left, three loads of laundry not yet done... I honestly couldn't make sense of the contradiction between Kitty's words and her actions.

When I confronted her about it, she got back in my face, saying she was working hard to keep this house paid for, and how she had been my nurse all week and how it's just a little bit of mess that would take no time to clean up. I asked if she expected me to take care of all of it, and she said no, we could do it together, and I asked when we ever did cleaning together, it's always left to me. And I said I didn't remember signing on to be a full time housekeeper, and she said that was what I was getting into when I agreed to come to NH and I knew it. So I said it wasn't like I had a choice, and she said "Don't give me that crap you knew it was the right thing to do" and blah blah blah... petty blame game bullshit. It's a fight we have often, but this one was so intense that I screamed my still-raw vocal chords hoarse and Dylan, who was sitting in the TV room, went upstairs and shut himself up in his room.

It just made me think, you know... the thing that keeps families together is just that: they're family. They didn't choose each other, and maybe they don't always understand each other, but there's a level of forgiveness and bonding that isn't there when you're plucked from your regular life into someone else's. God knows I was able to forgive and overlook a lot of shit my dad and brothers did to me, and they did the same. Now I'm getting angry over some crusty plates? That's not me, and I don't want it to be. A lot about me has been fundamentally changed by this experience - in ways I still don't fully understand - but I don't want to be that.

Kitty went out and when he returned he had a bouquet. I gave him a look that said, "What am I supposed to do with this?" And he said modestly, "I know it's not a very 'you' gift, but I couldn't think of the male equivalent. I'm sorry, Tyler. You do a lot for us and the least I could do is show that appreciation by picking up the slack when you're not feeling well."

"Damn right," I muttered, accepting the flowers. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. You're a good person, Kit, and you do a lot for this so-called family."

We hugged, and he gave me a little peck on the cheek and ran his hands down my hair and back.

"Chocolates," I said. "I'm that kind of woman."

"Good to know," he said.

By the way, midway through this post, I started referring to Kitty as a "he." More and more my mental image of him is being replaced, from the 50-year-old-woman or beautiful young Greta, to the husky balding gentleman I live with. But I still think of myself as a man, too. I just feel like I will be someday again, so I don't embrace the "she" word for myself yet.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Treena: A little concerned

Hey guys. Just popping in here because as you can tell Simon seems to have really skimmed over some details in his last post... Not that he isn't entitled to his privacy but you saw how much detail he gave after he started using my little "gift." The man doesn't usually filter himself, and isn't self-conscious about his behavior no matter how un-masculine it may be. That's actually a quality I sometimes admire in him, when it doesn't lead to him being obnoxious. But now I'm a little spooked. He came home from the club on Halloween looking a little bedraggled, with this faraway look in his eyes and didn't want to talk at all about it. Just went right to bed. And now the version below makes it seem like it was all fun?

I'm just concerned, and while I'm not usually interested in contributing to this blog, I felt it was relevant to raise that concern, in case he is covering up for something really bad and in case he decides he has to do so again in the future. He knows this is a safe space with no judgment so hopefully when he's ready he'll clue us in.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Simon/Joy: Little Devil

As you know, when I first got here I decided to throw myself into Joy's social life a bit. Her friends, all hot young men and women in their early 20's, are all fun people to hang around with and I really related to them. I figured they'd miss me if I ignored them and for all they knew I was who I appeared to be, so what's the harm?

I backed off from that after I started working though. Even though I love being out and active, I love working and making money more - and I find my job surprisingly exciting and fulfilling. I do get razzed around the office for supposedly being a "dumb blonde" because I'm not as good at paperwork as the other guys there, but I can take it. I'll show them. It's my first quarter and I'm neck and neck for the most commissions, so the other guys can suck the metaphorical it.

I also get teased for being a "workaholic." The guys can tell I don't have a social life because I'm always available to my clients any time of day or night. If they only knew it was because my only options were to pick up where the chick whose body I wear left off...

Halloween was kind of the first really "social" occasion I had since summer, where I would be seeing the ladies. After going to Treena's Halloween show, where they did the most bizarrely sexy rendition of the Monster Mash I ever heard or saw, I hit was scheduled to hit up a house party and a club. I was dressed in a skimpy red dress that shows off my legs (and did a little something for my minimal cleavage) with devil horns and a little prop pitchfork I could keep in my clutch. It's pretty amazing being on the coast where chicks like Joy can wear their sexiest little things for Halloween and not freeze their tits off.

At the house party, I ran into a few familiar faces... specifically Joey. I was pretty miffed to see him because I thought we had a cool thing going, but it really faded out by the time I started working. And when he saw me he just gave me a nod like "oh, it's you." Like he didn't ever text me his dick. Like that just meant nothing to him. I was so pissed I ducked him for half the night.

I also had the "pleasure" of meeting one of Joy's exes. This was an awkward thing that I have been dreading, because I don't know what any of them really think of Joy. This one was Ramon, a latin lover type, who was kind of hard to understand between his accent and the noise of the party. But I got sucked into a very one-sided conversation about "old times" and I could tell he was looking to rekindle things. And, look... Ramon appears to be a very attractive man, and maybe the booze was sort of helping things along, but something about the way he looked at me and saw, you know, her made me feel super icky. I was desperately looking for a way out of that convo when suddenly...

In swoops Joey. Suddenly he says he wants to catch up, and escorts me away, much to my relief.

And that's when something really strange started to happen.

My heart started racing a little bit. Like I was on a hot streak at the casino, or I was warming up my little friend "Mariah." I was just flooded with this pleasure chemical swimming in my body. I was so flustered and flattered at being "fought" over, particularly by a guy who had brushed me off.

He explained he thought I had brushed him off because I was rejecting his advances, and I said no, I just wasn't ready for anything at that time because I was looking for work (and plus the whole secretly-a-dude thing made me uncomfortable with how flirty we were getting.) And now work is keeping me busy, but I kind of make my own hours and...

I don't know, I just couldn't think of a really good reason not to invite him along to the club that night. It was hot and noisy and loud and he clung to me all night, we danced our asses off... I could totally feel his rod poking me as we grinded. But what should have shocked me only amused me, like, it feels so great having this power over a man.

Anyway, the night was really very fun and it kind of got me to thinking maybe I should find a way to balance my/Joy's social life and my/her career. It was just such a rush.

Oh, and it goes without saying that when I got home I had a nice, long visit with Mariah... but that's normal for most nights anyway ;)

(PS don't even talk to me about the World Series. So disappointing!!)

Friday, November 04, 2016

Cary (and Elaine): Elaine Preston boot camp

So I left off last time with Elaine waking me up in the morning and telling me I had to learn about makeup, and as you might expect, that doesn't go very well.  I'd seen the array of little containers on top of her dresser, but sort of looked right past them.  I didn't think they applied to me, all evidence to the contrary.  Elaine pointed out that they very much do, and that while it was okay for a man to go out looking for work with just the face God have him, give our take some shaving, that wouldn't do for ladies.  So as soon as I get out of the shower, she pulls a chair up in front of the dresser and says to show her what I know.

Basically, we're talking lipstick here, by which I mean I know how that works, not that I can apply it quickly or evenly.  I get my lips dark black (she favors that over red), and then I just stare at all the bottles and powders, paralyzed.  She sighs, says this is going to take some work.

So she spends basically all day trying to teach me cosmetics.  It's frustrating for us both - I am not interested in learning this at all, and she's having trouble getting things across to me, because even though she's helped other girls with their makeup before, her brain starts to short-circuit with her own face in front of her.  Even though she knows what has happened to us, she would suddenly think she was looking in a mirror and start reaching for her own face.  Eventually, she gets a stool and starts standing behind me.

Despite my resistance, she's actually not a bad teacher.  She says half of her job is being patient with nerds who just don't want to deal with her at all, but I'm a special case.  But, she says, it only takes doing something ten thousand times to become an expert.  I'm not sure if she's joking.   She stays pretty focused for a nine-year-old, but she also gets hungry and fidgety a lot, so there are at least some breaks.  She tries to keep it up into the night, but drops at eight.  I put her in the bed and resign myself to the couch again.

The next morning I wake up to find an outfit, if you can call it that, laid out on the coffee table in front of me.  I lift it up - it takes two fingers - abs dangle it in front of Elaine, who is using what seems like a hilariously oversized laptop in a chair.  "What's this about?"

She doesn't even look up.  "Morning run, to the lake and back, every day.  It's about two miles, and you should be glad I don't bump it up for what a diet that's like fifty percent hot dogs has done to my ass over the last few weeks."  My hands almost involuntarily go to my bottom - it doesn't feel much different than that first day, but women get weird about that.

She shuts the laptop and jumps from the chair, already in shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers.  "C'mon, daylight's burning!"

I retreat to the bathroom and look apprehensive at the two pieces of lycra she's given me, stripping down to panties and trying not to pay much attention to the mounds on my chest even though the top is making that hard with its attempts to hold them immobile rather than just relieve the stress on my back.  I've never worn something as skin-tight as it and the shorts, though I've appreciated it on those who have, and I have to admit that, in something like this, my bottom does stick out a bit, although I haven't done much damage to her legs yet.

We get to the street and she says to follow her, jumping out ahead.  She doesn't stay ahead for long, even running with the steady pace of a grown woman who knows what she's trying to accomplish rather than the full-speed-ahead enthusiasm of a little kid; her legs are just too short.  I don't really mind jogging to keep pace with her, but by the time we're at the park on the lake, she's panting, really needing to rest up a bit before we had back.  I'm of two minds - maybe I have let her body go a bit if I'm wheezing a bit and already feeling kind of sore, even though I know I'd hurt more if I was still myself (though probably not so much in the chest), and I don't want to feel worse, but I'm acutely aware that some heads have turned as I ran by in my skin-tight outfit, and now that we're stopped, they're staring.

When one guy about Elaine's age walks up and somehow corners me against a park bench, asking if I have any nights off or if the white girl's patents keep the nanny on duty 24/7, I am ready to get back to the apartment, although I am not sure how to extricate myself with a big black guy standing close and over me.  Fortunately, "nanny" gets Elaine angry, and she pushes in between us, giving the guy's leg a two-handed shove, although I think he mainly moves back a bit to humor her.  She starts yelling at him in a way that would sound a lot better with the voice I've got now, saying he should know better than to assume that a black woman couldn't do any better than looking after a white woman's kids, grabbing my hand and starting to drag me off.  The guy says sorry, but you don't see sisters adopting white kids very often, and she doesn't even turn around while yelling that it is none of his God-damn business what our deal is.  I almost feel bad for him, but don't say anything to Elaine until we've made it a block or so away.

"So, are you going to teach me how to do that?"

She actually laughs.  "Buddy, a couple weeks of dealing with the world as a black woman, you'll be doing it yourself!  Not very 'Mackenzie Mahoney' of me, though, is it?"

I say I guess not.

She lets me have the shower first, and I have to admit, I linger.  I haven't been doing that much, but the run makes me aware of all of my body at once, and I'm ashamed to say I become a bit fascinated by the way the water is running down my breasts and skipping off my nipples.  I don't do anything perverted while I'm in there,  but it's kind of the moment when I realize that this is still my body made to look like Elaine's, and I'm not just a passenger, so I'm re-appraising it a bit.

I'm also kind of afraid of what sort of clothing she's going to have laid out for the day's lessons, but she goes pretty easy on me - t-shirt, jeans, socks, sneakers; if not for the sizes and underwear, not that far off from my usual.  Then I look at the wall and realize that I'm not totally off the hook.

Elaine's job is something called an "agile scrum master", and though I think I've got a bit of an understanding of it after a month of lessons, I don't really know if I can explain it; she basically monitors a team of people writing a computer program and makes sure everyone's busy or has what they need to work, and does this with a big chart on the wall with little sticky notes in various columns.  The idea is to start each "sprint" with a bunch of notes on the left-hand side and move them to the right as people finish their work, and that's what she's got for me.  I guess you go with what you know.

Anyway, while there's a some stuff like "apply eyeshadow" and "cross apartment in heels" on the left, it's mostly work stuff - "planning poker", "TFS", etc.  As much as it apparently pains her to see walking around without makeup on her face, she figures that, if worst comes to worst, she can paint my face before I leave, but I need to know the work stuff pretty cold.

That's a pretty hard thing to teach and learn in this environment, to be honest - how am I supposed to learn to manage a team of people when I've just got the person trying to teach me how to do it to practice on?  Is almost cute to watch her try and play multiple parts in our pretend morning meetings, or insist that I send a third hypothetical person an email which she ignores for a couple of hours to get me in the habit of remembering what's outstanding and to follow up on it. 

That probably doesn't sound very boot-camp-like, but it's a lot to take in for someone who is not really good at computers, and it's not a nine-to-five job.  Elaine may have figured that she can't really make the run every morning, but she's eager to connect the bracelet she has me wear to the computer and see that I actually did what she said.  She brings that sort of angle to a lot of things - when she decided it was time for me to get familiar with the train system, she would send me on an errand and then track my/her phone, calling me if I'm staying in one place too long or going off the expected track.  Sometimes she even has me try to have a tablet's camera sticking out of a purse or at least stream audio, and while I don't think she can remotely activate that, it's got me really paranoid at times.  Maybe people her age (either one) don't have the same sort of interest in privacy that my generation does, but it is genuinely unnerving to be monitored and judged on real time for how well I'm pretending to be her, especially since she's not exactly returning the favor to MacKenzie.

And when we are in the same room... oh boy.   After about a week, the clothes she started laying out got more and more feminine, and if I get caught with my legs open in a dress or skirt, they get slapped with a ruler.  The heels have gotten higher and thinner, and I've got to tread what seems like a very thin line with how I walk in them, lest she start yelling. 

And as dressing and grooming "stories" have grown more frequent on the boats, my privacy has basically disappeared.  The first time she had me shave my legs wasn't so bad, but she demanded I go higher the next time, and you don't really know fear until you've worried that someone else might walk into the bathroom while someone her apparent age critiques just how well you've "tidied things up" down there.  Compared to that, her shouting in exasperation not to be so skittish about touching my own breasts, especially when a dress or bra needs a little adjustment, is nothing.

At least the sleeping arrangements have gotten better.  After a few days, she said me sleeping on the couch was stupid after I complained about a sore neck, and that it was no big deal if we slept in the same bed.  A couple days later, we decided that wasn't actually the case - not only did I feel weird getting into bed next to an apparently-underage girl, she said feeling a presence that much larger than her looming was a lot different than when she shared a bed with a tall guy, let alone the worries that we may somehow change in our sleep again and then feel compelled to do something, or just not recognize the person next to us.

So we order a twin bed, and, honestly, getting to spend a couple hours one afternoon assembling it was the best, just building something.

Still, you'd be hard-pressed to see a handyman in me tonight, wearing Elaine's little black dress, panty hose, four-inch heels, lipstick, straightened hair and painted nails, and getting all dolled up without any help.  Elaine didn't have to say a word as we took the train to a place she likes in another part of town, at least not to me as opposed to barking at guys still drunk from the Cubs' parade who always seemed to get a hand (or something else) touching me when they really didn't have to.  She got dressed up, too - she's not really growing fast enough for all the new clothes she orders online, but that's her excuse - and this is kind of a final exam and graduation party all in one:  We can start looking for work next week.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Halloween 2016

An astute commenter noted that Halloween is a pretty significant event for a 12-year-old boy, which my Kid mentally is (it would also be pretty significant for the 10-year-old girl he appears to be) and I noted that, as with every aspect of Dylan/Olivia's life, it was likely to bring about a clash between myself and Kitty. Our philosophies on parenting - which we are both new to - are pretty different. I trust the kid to know what he wants and how to behave, and Kitty insists on asserting our influence over him and guiding him. (It doesn't help that a lot of this guidance leans toward "act more feminine to fit in at school.")

As we shopped around for candy, decorations and costumes, Dylan talked a bit about some of his family's Halloween traditions. Apparently they do a lot of decorating, throw a costume party... it was a big deal. I can tell Dylan is getting fairly homesick so I was determined to let him do whatever he wanted.

Kitty and I discussed it for a while, and I made sure to note that whatever Dylan wanted to dress as would be okay. It didn't have to be a "girl's" costume or a "boy's" one. Kitty didn't want it to be anything violent, but we negotiated until it was just "no toy weapons." Kitty did say that he felt "Olivia" would be a very pretty princess or fairy but knew that wasn't the only way to go. Dylan doesn't exactly value being "pretty" but would surprise you how concerned he is with his appearance. We took the Kid around the store looking at everything, until it was narrowed down to a few choices: Ghostbuster or Rey from Star Wars (Rey lost out when Kitty decided the "no weapons" rule applied to lightsabers but not Ghostbuster equipment, thus the costume lost its appeal.)

Kitty didn't let it show to Dylan, but she didn't like that costume either - it reminded her of a garbage man or exterminator. I asked what would have been wrong with those, either.

"I just don't get it," Kitty sighed when we got home and I was telling about how Dylan was feeling homesick, "She opens up to you so easily. I ask how her day is going and she just shrugs her little shoulders..."

"What can I say? We have a bond. You always act so parental around him..."

"Why do I always feel like the bad guy? Like you two are a team and I'm the other side?"

"Maybe he responds more to my way of reaching out," I sighed, "I don't know. But you and I are a team, I promise."

"Well, as long as you use this bond of yours to get her to brush her teeth, do her homework and go to bed on time, I suppose it doesn't hurt..." She reclined on the bed and removed his shoes, airing out Adrian's smelly feet. "Jeezes Murphy I'm sick of this body."

I propped my own feet up on his lap. "Yeah? Trade ya. I've been wearing Judith's shoes so much it doesn't even feel right to put on a sneaker."

Almost instinctively, he started to rub my feet. I almost asked him to stop, but it really did relax me.


A week later, it was Halloween, and Dylan wore his costume to school, but when he came home he was dressed differently. He was wearing a blonde wig and a Supergirl outfit, complete with skirt.

He strolled into the kitchen like it was nothing.

I was pretty startled. "Um, excuse me, what's going on here?"

"Oh, uh," he said, looking a little embarrassed, "One of the other girls said she liked my costume a lot and asked if we could trade."

"I see... and you agreed?"

"Yeah. It was pretty hot sitting in class like that and it was fun to switch. You're not mad are you?"

"No, no of course not... I'm just surprised."

"Because I'm wearing a skirt?"

"Kind of."

"Well, you told me it was nothing to be embarrassed about, right? I could dress how I wanted."


"And it's just a costume. Not like I'm gonna start dressing like a total girl all the time."

"Hey, you know there's no problem if you did," I said. "You're allowed, they're your clothes. Heh, Kitty would be thrilled."

"Well... can I tell you a secret?"

"Of course."

He got real close to me and spoke softly in my ear. "Sometimes, when I get home from school and nobody's around, I change into Olivia's girly clothes and I wear them around the house. Just to see what they're like."

I had to suppress a laugh. "Dyl... there's nothing wrong with that. Can I tell you a not-so-secret? I'm wearing Judith's girly clothes right now." I was wearing a checked skirt, blouse and pantyhose. "So if you ever want to wear those clothes outside of the house, nobody is going to laugh or call you names. As long as you're comfortable."

Dylan blushed. "I guess not."

Kitty took him out trick-or-treating and I stayed home to give out candy dressed in an old "Vampire Queen" costume Judith had buried in her closet. It might have been sexy on a younger body but I cinched it up a bit and made sure to cover. And we've spent the rest of the time since pigging out on leftover candy.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Simon/Joy: Frisky [nsfw...]

God help me but sometimes I just love it here. I mean, I knew there had to be some consolation for the tampons and the grooming rituals and the uncomfortable heels and the leers from old men when I come flouncing down the sidewalk in my shorts. I've found it, pretty much exactly where I expected to.

I mean, what life isn't complete without it? I loved it as a man and though it took me a while to get around to it as a woman I find the thrill tenfold more satisfying. It just goes to show that sometimes you need to work hard to get what you want.

I'm obviously talking about my big fat commission checks. My God if I knew I could make this much this quickly I would have moved here years ago.

Haha but seriously, between all that, I've found time for another real delight. A serious pleasure. And it's uh, obviously not something I'm getting paid for.

So let's talk about me, and my new best friend Mariah. That's what I named the device I got from Treena a few weeks ago. Why shouldn't she have a woman's name? I've always loved her music...

For a little while I just let it sit in the box, ignored. I wanted to pretend I didn't need it. I know the basics of pleasing a woman and it should be doubly easy if that woman is me. But my efforts so far have just taken too much time to feel worthwhile. I just didn't happen to want to put in the effort yet, since there's been lots on my mind. But if I thought I would NEVER try it out, I must have been kidding myself. Curiosity is a powerful thing.

I went to see Treena's burlesque show at the beginning of the month. I thought I knew what to expect, since I've been to plenty of titty bars and seen lots of stuff - hell I give myself a bit of a show every night and morning I the mirror... But I wasn't prepared for this. Women who looked like Treena - or not like her but definitely not like any woman you see at the Club - performing skits and dance routines, and one even doing a topless karaoke to Wilson Phillips "Hold On" while fit athletic men backed them up. I wondered if they were all gay, or just standing by getting hard. But as the night wore on I found myself tittilated... Not by the sights exactly, but the atmosphere. Hot guys, fearless women... It was hot, steamy stuff both men and women could enjoy, if one is open minded enough.

I stuck around to congratulate Treens on a good performance and tell her how impressed I was with her acting and singing, and she offered to introduce me to the guys... But for one of the first times I was just too bashful. I don't get it! I was always great with women, why shouldn't I be even better with men? They're the ones who should be tripping over themselves to talk to me. But I just felt this embarrassed flush in my face. And all I could think of was Mariah back home in my drawer...

When I got home I said a quick goodnight to Treens and headed to my room. I threw my clothes on the floor and laid my naked body down on the bed, legs spread, with Mariah in my right hand. With my left hand I caressed up and down my soft, sensitive skin, feeling every curve that I have gotten to know these past 4 months until I arrived at my soft, petite breast with its pointy raised nipple. I licked my finger and stroked around the outside of it as I flicked Mariah on and heard her low soft him, like an electric razor.

With one final pause I slipped her in between my legs. She isn't shaped like a penis so I figured it's not really meant to be "inserted," which I wasn't really ready to do either way, but holding her against the outside where she could work my clitoris produced a sensational feeling on its own!

The thing caused my body to take off like a rocket. I could hear myself start to moan and my body twist almost uncontrollably. I needed to keep going. As my hips gyrated wildly in response to the pleasure I increased the intensity and pressed harder. My heart raced as my pleasure built and built until finally I felt myself just... explode! Powerful muscles inside of my flickered telling me I had reached bliss. It did not take long at all to complete, probably because my male brain was so overwhelmed by new sensations. And then, because I could, I kept going, because one orgasm simply was not enough.

Once I decided I was done, after an hour so of intense, almost unbearable delight, I just laid in the glow of it. I felt like a whole new person. More complete than I have in the entire time I have been here. More than when I was a man!

Things might never be the same for me. But feeling embarrassed about feeling pleasure is so stupid I can't even bear it. since then, I'm walking taller, smiling more, just generally being more pleasant to everyone around me, lol... and meanwhile every night I just can't wait to rush home and try something new. I've done it with my legs in the air, on my hands and knees, sitting on it... I'm honestly becoming the filthy ho I was clearly meant to be.

And as to what someone said about it being a "gateway"....... we'll see, honey. I honestly think I'm getting everything I need right now.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Awkward conversations that needed to happen

I was getting dinner ready yesterday when Kitty came home. She had mentioned she was going to pick up some groceries and "essentials" on the way which is cool with me... I mean, I try to do all the groceries in one shot when I have a day off, but sometimes stuff escapes my notice.

She trundles into the kitchen with some BulkMart bags with huge quantities of paper towels, toilet paper, et cetera, and I think "Okay, maybe we don't need to stock up for the zombie apocalypse but this is good." She gets to work at putting it all away - where she deems it appropriate to go (I stopped putting up a fight but her system doesn't seem intuitive to me, the person who spends the most time in the kitchen) and then at last, when she's almost done, she hands me the final item and just says "By the way, I picked these up for you."

I turn around and see, sitting on the table, about ten or twelve packs of tampons, panty-liners, and overnight pads.

I was pretty mortified. Sure, I've made peace with the fact that this is part of my day-to-day (or month-to-month) life, once again. But I guess I'm still pretty modest, I like to keep my feminine paper stocked under the bathroom sink, discreetly away from prying eyes. I didn't even know where to keep a box this size.

"Are you shitting me?" I gasped.

"Shh, don't let the kid hear you yelling like a madwoman or she'll think it's okay to copy," Kitty hissed back.

"You think I need a crate of these?"

"It was a great deal, Jude! They had a multi-buy discount, and double the bonus points... It was win-win."

I bristled the way I always do when Kitty calls me "Judith," "Judy" or "Jude" - which is almost exclusively these days.

"This isn't even my brand," I muttered bitterly.

She went on, "I noticed you were out of them. I just didn't want there to be another incident where you forgot it was coming."

"I have the tracker app on my phone."

"Tell that to the khaki capris you ruined..."

I clenched my teeth. You make one mistake and suddenly you get a reputation. Yes, I stained some pants of Judith's - a very bland, boring pair of capris that Judith probably wouldn't have cared about, but after they had to get tossed it was "Oh, these were so lovely, they looked good on you!" Bleh.

So at that most convenient moment, Dylan walked in and noticed the package on the table.

"Woah, that's a lot of tampons," he snickered. "Are you bleeding right now, Tyler? Is it a total red river down there?"

"Don't talk to her like that!" Kitty snapped. I said nothing, but I was also pretty perturbed about that remark and glad to have Kitty reprimand the kid. She added "Besides, they may be for you, too."

All the color drained out of Dylan's face. "But I'm... Olivia's only ten..."

"Some girls get it that young," Kitty said, "And we don't know how long you're going to be like this..."

Almost immediately I saw a stream of tears from his eyes. "But... that's not fair..."

He darted off to his room and I let out a sigh. "Nice going, was that necessary?"

"She's got to learn," Kitty asserted. "This is because you insist on treating her like she's still a boy. We don't even know what she knows about this stuff."

"Enough, obviously..."

"Well, we might as well get it over with," she said, heading for the stairs.

"Hey," I said, hustling after, "Mind if I take the lead on this?"

She pursed her lips. "That's fine, but I'll jump in if you leave anything out."

So we went to check in on our daughter. I remember when I was a kid, how this kind of information gets around to the boys only in fragments, so we asked what he knew, or thought he knew, corrected some of his misconceptions and filled in the gaps. It was... honestly, a pretty refreshing, satisfying talk.

My gist was that it wasn't a big deal, and that it doesn't change who you are or what you can do with your life. And deep down he is going to continue to be the person he feels he is.

"Uh huh..." he said, eyes carefully avoiding mine. "But then I'll get boobs, right?" I couldn't tell if he asked out of fear or anticipation or just matter-of-fact curiosity.

"Well, the two aren't really related, so it could be one, then the other, and there's not really a, um, set timeline. If everything goes according to plan, you probably won't still be here when this stuff happens to Olivia's body. But we need to be prepared in case it happens early."

"Or if we're here longer than expected," Kitty chimed in. I shot her a look for that - it's not a possibility I'm giving much credence to.

Eventually, Dylan seemed satisfied by the information, or was just tired of talking about it, and asked if he could do something else until dinner was ready. In the hallway, Kitty took me aside and said "Hey, I think we did a good job in there."

I smiled a bit despite myself. I guessed that I was so used to being second-guessed by Kitty that getting a nod of approval - even if she felt she had to take a share in it - felt strangely good.

She went in for a hug and I let her, holding onto Adrian's husky frame a while. We haven't had a ton of physical contact since we became this way... there's this unspoken understanding that we have to figure some stuff out, and there's simply been no time or energy for any of it. But it was nice to feel like I had a partner in this, not an opponent.

And now that I've crunched the numbers, I can admit that buying tampons in bulk was a savvy move. It's the idea of going through that entire supply that has me squeamish.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Everyone needs a hobby

The Trailblazer Girls thing was a surprise hit with Dylan, I have to say. The uniform - a vest and khaki shorts - doesn't scream "Girly girl." The activities are not overly rugged - nature hikes, leaf-collecting, and that sort of thing. It feels like a good balance because I don't get the sense that Dylan was exactly the most outdoorsy kid, but it's clear there's still an impulse there to explore and get a little dirty. Which I'm in favor of.

Surprisingly, Kitty has taken to it, too. Trailblazers involves a little bit of parental participation, carpooling and organizing, and I'm surprised she didn't press me to handle it since she's working so much and I'm... not. She stands out as the lone "Trailblazer Dad" and gets kudos from the other Gals just for doing the exact same stuff as they do. Weird double standard there. But it seems to be scratching some of her itches, too, a need to be around "regular" women, get involved and plan things. I mean, almost every day one of us mentions how much it sucks that I ended up in the Party Planning business, and she's the one reporting for a 9-5 job Monday to Friday. I've never done one of those either but she seems to think it would help me cope. Sure, except for the part where none of it makes sense to me. (She'll never admit it, but I think HR is Kitty's secret talent - getting policies and procedures just right and getting up in peoples' business.)

I haven't spoken much about the job because, well... there just isn't much to tell. It's mostly taking calls and booking venues for fundraisers, with the other women doing all the heavy lifting. The office is all women, mostly the same age range as Judith - thirties and forties, all with kids, and that's pretty much all they talk about, and there is a lot of time to talk because business is slow.

I thought about getting a second job and even mentioned to Kitty that I could start driving with Thrio again. She was adamantly against that - "You're a woman now, you don't know what kind of sickos are out there." I like to think I could handle myself pretty well but it's likely not worth the trouble. And while back in the spring I would have taken the job just to spite her, nowadays I'm a bit more inclined to co-operate... if only for Dylan's sake. It's different when you have someone depending on you.

The ladies at work have a book club, which I kind of dropped out of on Judith's behalf when I became her. But maybe it's time to reconsider. It would get me out of the house every so often for an evening, keep my brain from getting stale from routine. I don't love hanging out with these women so much, but I'm not exactly in a position to be picky about my social circle right now.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Innbox: Mrs. Brooks

Hey all! Tori here again... hope you haven't forgotten about me... Looks like none of pur regulars have had much to say lately (unsurprising since the life of an Inn person can get very... complicated!) I thought Noe would be a good time to share a letter from a fellow visitor that landed in my inbox a while back. Hope I can find the time to update you on my life soon too!

Lots of love,

Dear Trading Post Inn,

It has been 20 years since I visited the Inn and all these years later, I can hardly believe my luck. Of course at the time I didn't necessarily see it that way, but even at the time I viewed it as a boon of sorts. Like many who have been through this ringer, I lost lots but somehow managed to gain much more. Going to the Inn basically saved my life.

At the time, in the year 1995, I was in my early 40's, still a strapping man if I do say so, but with no prospects. I had spent several years in prison for something that I wished every day I could take back, but would have to live with the knowledge for the rest of my life. In a moment of desperation I held up a gas station... and in my haste to get away, I had forgotten to gas up my car. Funny when you read about it in a "dumb crooks" article, not so much when you live through it.

As much as I tried not to let my time behind bars change me, it was beyond my control. When I got out, I was divorced, jobless, scrounging, unsure what I was going to do from one moment to the next. It was hard to find work, let alone purpose in life. I considered re-offending just to get thrown back behind bars where I was more comfortable. Then my wanderings brought me to Maine, to the Trading Post Inn. And Mrs. Brooks came into my life - or should I say, I came into hers.

It was a shock to wake up one morning and find that I had been transformed into this kindly-looking 55-year-old Kindergarten teacher, but as I learned about my "new life" I felt invigorated. At the time, we didn't know - certainly nobody told me and there was no internet to provide information - that there was a way back. The original Kathleen Brooks had written with resignation that she intended to go back to teaching and hoped that the "new her" would do right by her. I did.

It was not an easy adjustment - I had no formal training as a teacher, no experience with kids. And I can guarantee that the PTA would have had something to say about it if they knew this sweet lady was secretly a male ex-con. But I grew into the role and did my best.

Kathleen's husband was a fine man, gentlemanly... given they had been together for over 30 years when I stepped into the role, I was surprised when he didn't notice me acting suspiciously. Although being a wife, and mother of three grown children, was not the life I envisioned for myself, it also helped provide that purpose I had desperately needed. Mr. Brooks became a warm presence in my life and the love I felt for him by the time he passed in 2007 was very real.

I retired not long afterward. I was determined not to become one of those old widows who can't take care of themselves and since then I have been travelling as much as I can. I've been to 13 countries, tried my hand at learning French and Mandarin, and met amazing people. I have managed to avoid becoming the cliché Bridge-playing old lady, although I do a bit of knitting for the grandkids too!

All this just to say... as I know my time is growing short... the Inn took my old life, my body, and many years from me... but that can never compare to the opportunities and experiences it replaced them all with. And I'm far from done.

My hope is that the rest of you find the good in your situation. I know it's there.

Kathleen Brooks II