Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lane/Kari: Having Reservations

It took a few weeks longer than I would have liked, thanks to a higher than anticipated heating bill, but I've got my reservations for the middle of June in room 7 at the Trading Post Inn! Even better, the reservations right before mine are in the name of "Lane Van Hoekstra", meaning that I'll get my real body back, Jennifer will get hers back with little more debt than she had wanted and Kari will stay after me to get back to her own life. I don't know much about the chain after that, just because I didn't have time to organize it completely.

I've read every post on this blog. I know about the best made plans of men-turned-women when the Inn is involved. I know nothing is guaranteed and I'm not taking anything for granted, but all I can think about these past few days is that I'm going to be me again soon and it's starting to affect how I live my life. Kari's life. I need to remember to think of it like that.

There is still five months until I go back, so I can't just sit on the couch until I'm me again, but I'm closer to my return date than I am to my initial visit so it feels kind of downhill. That's begun to weigh on my decisions that I make. I ask myself "Could I do this and not have to be around for the consequences?" as well as "Should I do this even though I'm going to be gone in a few months".

I am so tempted just to eat like a pig. Whatever fast food I want whenever I want. Not to mention the homecooked recipes that Pilar makes. Ashley and I head over there some Sundays for dinner and her homemade tortillas are amazing but they, like most of her food, is basically a fried carb. If I ate that every day I'd have to buy a whole new wardrobe for June. I don't particularly want to be fat though, even for a few weeks, and whatever I eat Ashley eats as well for the most part and I wouldn't want to make the childhood obesity epidemic any worse in this country.

The same thing goes for drugs. The other night we were at the bar and someone offered me and Rosita some Molly, and I kinda really just wanted to swallow a pill and ignore all my problems for awhile. Then I remembered that I'd have to deal with the hangover and dehydration as well looking like the world's biggest hypocrite after the speech I just gave Ashley a few weeks ago.

One thing I have started mailing in is work. It has become clear that I could be a bad receptionist or a good receptionist but it wouldn't matter as long as I kept screwing the boss, and yes I'm still doing that no I would not like to talk about it. It's a lot easier to be a bad receptionist than a good one, so I may take extended breaks and let phones ring longer than they should while I'm texting. It's not making me a lot of friends around the office, but the rumors are flying again and the ones that don't hate me for sleeping with Latherman are the ones who want me to screw them as well. Oh well, it's not like there's a lot of promotion possibilities at that company for a girl without her GED.

Speaking of academic achievement, one thing I've kept at was my promise to help Ashley in that regard. She takes the ACT in April and I've bought her test books and prep materials. I've even been helping her with the math portions she struggles with, leading her to wonder where I learned algebra when I couldn't be bothered to help her freshman year. I kept quiet and didn't mention that I knew calculus.

My impending departure is also making me overthink things with Darius. I've said before that I was setting things up with him so that Kari could date a guy like him when she got back. Some of you doubted that that was my long term goal, and the more I think about it the less I think it's doable. Darius never met the real Kari, only me in her body, so he doesn't know what she's like or even if they have anything in common. One of thing things I love about being around him is that I can be me, or at least as much of me as I can be in this body, because I don't a history to live up to. If we switch back and Kari is what, as far as I can tell, her standoffish and rude self, he's going to be in a for a big surprise. He might even get his feelings hurt.

We're going out for drinks this evening, maybe our first time doing something that doesn't revolve around sports, and I'm wondering if I should de-escalate with him. But if I did, I wouldn't have his friendship and that's something I'd really miss over the next few months.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Glenn (Peter Malinowski): My first date with my "wife"

Because our "family" is just a loosely organized group of unrelated transformed people, Leon, Cathy and I felt free to not stress out too badly over the holidays. We did make visits to both Peter's and Meredith's parents, but at the risk of being a bit rude, we didn't stay very long. Cathy spent Christmas Day with his "girlfriend" while Leon and I slept in.

Peter's job as an executive with a financial institution keeps me pretty busy and causes me to work long hours, so we had to put off our first "date" until the week of Christmas. Leon didn't seem to mind: even though we had agreed we were going to try to be some kind of "couple," whenever I brought up the subject he became very dodgy, like he was having second thoughts. I don't blame him, but in the time it took me to get used to the idea I started to become very intrigued.

Leon, for all his rough edges, is a nice person, and like me, deserves some love. I feel for him. If he could keep on the straight and narrow, he would make some woman very happy, I'm sure. Strangely, even though it drove him to drink, the transformation has really curbed his more self-destructive qualities. I guess seeming to be part of a family is better than no family at all.

So, that first date. Leon didn't want anything fancy, despite my ability to pay for it. We went into the city to a pub. He wore "mom" jeans and a flannel overshirt. I was just going to wear my suit from work but he insisted I get more casual, so I wore a polo shirt and jeans of my own.

"You look like such a dad," he snickered, with this weird smile. It was... cute, actually.

"Sorry, I don't know how to dress for this. I haven't been on a date in a while," I mumbled.

"Oh yeah and I'm a real pro at this lipstick and shit," he said, crossing his arms.

"You don't have to wear any makeup," I said.

"Thanks for your permission," he sighed, "Do I look like I'm wearing any?" He didn't. He had also cut his hair short like Jamie Lee Curtis. It's not how I usually like women, but nothing about this is "usual." From Leon's account, he doesn't like that look on (other) women either since he said he looked like a lesbian... actually using a "d"-word I would rather not repeat.

We got to the bar and were seated. I wasn't sure what to say so I started with small talk: "So... how's it going?"

Leon immediately shut me down, "Jesus, Glenn, we live together, you know how it's going."

"Sorry, I'm just trying to strike up a conversation!"

"Nah I'm sorry," he said, "Let's just have some drinks and we'll talk." It seemed like he might have started already, but I didn't say anything.

We were served a couple of Buds and I think just having a drink to hold loosened him up. I began to ask about less current things: "When was the last time you had a first date?"

"Depends what you mean by date," he laughed, "I've banged a lotta chicks, mostly I pick 'em up at bars like this."

"Okay, but when was the last time you met someone and wanted to impress them? Really spend time with them?"

"It'll take a few more drinks before I pour my heart out to you, Stevenson," he said, "Nice try, though."

"It's been three years for me," I volunteered, "I took her to the museum."

"Pfft," he said, "Bet you didn't get any afterward."

"Eventually," I insisted, "Just not that night. I wasn't planning on it. I was taking my time."

"Chicks like a guy who takes charge. You take your time, that's just more time for her to decide she don't like you. Get in and get out."

"Guessing you weren't looking to re-marry," I surmised.

"Fuck no," he said. "Maybe if I met the right girl. If she was young and hot."

"I'm more of a romantic, I guess," I said, "But I haven't been as interested lately. I stopped trying."

"Well, you don't have to try with me," he said, "We're going home together anyway, so relax. Worst case scenario... we have one bad screw and I never ask you again."

"So you really want to do this," I said.

"I said I did, didn't I? Stop asking," he snapped, "You gotta learn to take yes for an answer, Glennbo."

"Yeah, but I wouldn't think you would just... I mean, you basically just guaranteed it."

"Look at it this way," he said, "I'm doing you a favor no other woman ever would. No games. I fuckin' want it, all right? So don't doubt it, just relax and be yourself and we'll have a good time... and don't fuck this up for yourself by being a clownshoe about it."

They were pretty harsh words, and he must have noticed, because his attitude softened. "ugh, sorry about that, bro... I'm just feeling really gross. Bloated and gassy and shit. Got the red visitor yesterday, know what I mean?"

"You're on your period?" I asked, "Do you want to... postpone?"

"Fuck that..." he said, "What are you, some kinda pussy that never fucked a chick on the rag? Just man up and do it. No wonder you're divorced."

I was beginning to think this was a bad idea, but things went a little better. As "promised" Leon opened up a bit more the more drinks we had. We shot some pool, which I won and he blamed on his short arms. As we drank a bit more, we started brushing our hands against each other, trying eke towards some more intimate contact. Even with his assurances about the outcome, I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I knew things were going well when he whispered in my ear that he thought I smelled good. We took a cab home around 11.

We got to the front door and he stopped me. "Hey," he said. "Kiss me already."

I wanted to ask if he was sure, but of course he was. I put my arms around him and leaned in and pressed my lips to his.

They were... well, a bit chapped and rough and thin, but it was a kiss. A nice long one.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" he said when it was done.

"No, no," I said, a bit speechless. "Pretty good. I liked it."

"Then you're gonna like this," he said, slowly disrobing. Conventionally, Meredith doesn't have the kind of body you fantasize about, but here I was in the presence of a naked woman, bare breasts and all, pressing herself into me, letting me fondle and touch everything I wanted.

Maybe it was beer goggles, maybe because he was seriously laying on the flirtation and I was falling for it and having fun with a member of the opposite sex for the first time in years, but at that point in the night, I was very willing and ready to follow through with the idea.

Well, most of me was.

A lot of guys in their 40s don't perform the way they used to. I don't remember having any trouble in my normal life, but it has been a while... the only time I "used" that function of my body was for my own benefit, so I haven't had to perform on command in a long while. I don't know if it's Peter's problem or mine.

We proceeded for a while, and even made a tentative start, but I couldn't go through with it. I felt really ashamed and embarrassed and it was clear Leon wasn't pleased, either, taking it personally despite my assurances that he looked very good.

I was ready to slink off to my own bed for the night, when Leon stopped me. "Just... fuckin' stay a while, ok? I don't wanna be alone right now and you're the only thing I got."

It wasn't the most romantic, but I agreed I would be just too sad to go to bed alone at that point so I stayed and lay down next to him.

We laid there quietly for a minute, spooning, my arms around him until my left arm fell asleep beneath him. I began to run my right hand over his hips and butt. He moaned, sleepily, "that feels good... keep doing it." I did, expanding my radius to include the breasts and shoulders.

Suddenly, I felt something. I moved my hand over to between his legs. Coyly, he asked, "Wha tare you up to, back there?"

I took a deep breath. I didn't want to jinx it. "Leon, I think I'm ready."

He rolled over and placed his hand on my groin to verify. He enclosed his hand around, and smirked in the darkness, "Is that for me?"

"Yeah... I think it is."

He rolled me over so that I was on top. Our parts teased each other. My heartbeat quickened.

He whispered in my ear, "When we do it... call me Meredith."

"Ok."

We finally started and I did my best to forget that this was a person who, several months ago, was wearing denim jackets with the sleeves cut off and rocking a dirty trucker mustache. I tried not to watch her face too judgmentally as she felt all these new sensations come over her and determine whether they were good or not. All I wanted was to perform my role as best I could.

It lasted only a couple of minutes... embarrassingly, even as I attempted to pace myself, the sensation overloaded me and just as Meredith's grunts of awkwardness seemed to morph into moans of pleasure, I was done.

We didn't talk for minutes on end afterward. Eventually after we had untangled ourselves, he said with a shrug, "That wasn't too bad I guess. I could see it being good. Think you can do better next time?"

"I really hope so."

"You better."

That sounded like a bit of a threat - like he would actually "cheat" on me, which would feel very unfair after having started this. But I'm happy to report that when we revisited the issue, most of my performance issues started to fade away. I feel like it could be better for "Meredith," but I know I've gotten better than that first time.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rosie/Ahmir: My life so far

So, since Erin is opening up about her - sorry, his - attempts at dating, I guess I will too: There haven't been any.

It was kind of disappointing when Saraya told me she was going to start dating other people, that whatever we were doing as just a bit of fun and that she wanted "a real man." She saw me more like a "gay friend" even if I'm not "officially" gay - being around me is apparently too much like being with a woman, which is fair enough since I am one. But she didn't have to lead me on so much. She didn't seem to think very much of it, and that sort of hurts. It's not like I was in love with her, and I definitely wasn't looking for a relationship, but I think I was having a lot of fun being alone together.

She helped get me out of my head and made me feel pretty normal. Erin tries to do that, too, but I think when we're around each other we spend too much time thinking about our situation. Saraya barely seems to think about it. Being in a new skin is like she just changed her wardrobe: she's still relatively attractive, and young, she just has a different color palette.

She also doesn't think about race stuff as much as I do, even though I feel like it's shoved in our faces a lot of the time.

I feel so uncomfortable around everyone. I feel uncomfortable around white people because they make me feel like I'm something else. I'm uncomfortable around black people because I feel like they can tell I'm not one of them. I wouldn't say my life as a white woman is (was?) cushy... they're both tough, and most days I would give anything to switch places with Erin and have the freedom to just worry about living my life and "having a good time." It took me three months to get a haircut because Ahmir uses a "black" barber shop and I was petrified to go in because I felt like I was violating their space. In the meantime my "afro" got very out of control.

In the short time I've been here I've been called the n-word a few times, both by meanspirited white people (while I was just standing around on the street minding my own business) and Ahmir's friends, using the friendly version with no R on the end... and in respond I just say "Man" or "Buddy" because I'm not comfortable using that kind of language no matter how I look.

Out of everyone else writing on this blog, I think only Jonah/Krystle gets what I'm going through and even he seems to have very different take on it than I do (maybe I've become a bit like he used to be in his original life?)

What's that show called? "Black-ish?" That's how I feel now... except my skin is very dark so to the rest of the world I'm just "black."

It's freaky. It's been 6 months and I still get surprised sometimes at seeing these massive dark hands in front of my face.

There's some advantages. I like being big... I was already pretty large (5'10 and weighing more than you need to know) and the world hated me, pitied me for it, because I wasn't a dainty gal. I didn't look good, didn't feel good... the men who were interested in me thought I should feel lucky to have their attention. Now I take up almost the same amount of space (less, actually, since my booty shrunk quite a bit) but it's like I'm supposed to. Men are "supposed" to be big and brawny. Take all the space they need. Finding clothes isn't a problem. I have muscles... although not as many as I did when I started since I don't go to the gym or anything. I like looking men in the eyes or shaking their hands and feeling like they see me as something of an equal.

In my normal life I was working as a school receptionist. They don't usually hire men for those jobs so I didn't bother applying. Ahmir was working construction, and even if I have the body for it I'm not really interested in that sort of thing, so I hooked up with a temp agency and have had a few contract jobs, nothing consistent or fulfilling but it mostly pays the bills. It's strange to keep having to meet new people and get their impression of me (soft-spoken large black man who is secretly a 30-year-old white woman?) and I haven't had the chance to get comfortable anywhere. That's what my life is... a constant cycle of learning the ropes and counting the days until I "get to" go back to normal.

I don't want to judge Erin for "having it easy." S/he's aware of the difference in our situations and tries not to rub it in my face. I'm really happy if she can find ways to enjoy this. Maybe I will too.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Erin/Chris: SEX. Now that I have your attention...

I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. I started an online dating profile.

The smart thing to do, if you're me, is to sit on your butt and let life pass you by. You are in an art gallery. Looking is permitted, but you can't actually touch the installations. You don't own them. Respect the velvet rope.

I've been struggling with that line of thinking since I got here. I couldn't avoid making an impact on Chris' life: he lost his job between the transformation, and the lack of finances coming in from my custodian job means I'm going to have to find a new place to live soon, probably. So I've already made a small mess, but no biggie. He can recover when he comes back.

It clicked for me one day last month. I was on the subway, watching this beautiful blonde girl take her seat, maybe 22 or so. Long legs, wearing yoga pants... I tried not to stare too long, but I did despite myself. I kept finding my eyes flickering in her direction, between looking at the ads and watching the stations speed by. I admired her subtle makeup job, the way her hair fell casually, her cute nose... even under the winter apparel I could somewhat admire her figure, too. I felt really crummy, like I was on the brink of becoming one of those sleazy guys who whips it out on the train, or follows the woman around.

The worst part was, I thought I noticed her glancing my way. Repeatedly, intentionally... not negatively.

As a man... which I am at least 60% at this point... you yearn for that. Attention, being noticed... someone noticing you noticing them and not hating it. I feel crappy doing it because I know how paranoid women have to be when strangers take an interest in them. I don't want to be that way, but this overwhelming urge pulls me, and I just have to keep a grip on myself. It could even have been just my imagination, but it stoked my fires a bit.

I tried not to look her way again until I got to my stop. I stood to go to the door, and she go up too. What a coincidence! I was aware of her behind me, and considered letting her pass me on the steps, but then I worried that I might end up following her accidentally, so I went on my way and lost track of her. That night, I posted a missed connection, alluding to the stops where I she got on and off and a description of myself, but nothing happened.

It was disappointing, but I knew it was a longshot. Still, I was left with an impression. I wasn't exactly in denial about being attracted to ladies: my fixation on Andrea proved that to me. But I felt like I had it under control and it was smarter to ignore it. But gradually, it dawned on me that I wanted it more than I wanted not to make trouble. I wanted to feel a full range of things while in this body. I've been a timid little house mouse my whole life. Time to get out there.

That ache of jealousy I felt when I read some of my Blog-compatriots posts about their romantic entanglements - positive or not - confirmed that.

So far, however, the results have been... ho hum. I haven't even been on a date. Mostly I just glance at photos of women and give myself reasons to write them off, whether based on their appearance (mostly style, I mean... I'm trying to keep an open mind when it comes to looks!) or their interests, or the way they answer the profile questions about sex and dating. Too much experience and I get intimidated, too little and I think she's a prude.

I hate myself. But if I'm going to mess up my life for the sake of a little fun, it had better meet my standards.

I have contacted a few women, usually including a joke or reference to something they put in their profile. Occasionally I get a response but usually it peters out... I decide she isn't so exciting after all, or she ghosts me. One time I gave a girl my number and we texted for a solid day and that was very exciting, but then she turned around and said she had met someone else and it was getting serious (apparently they had met before I even contacted her.) Out of 22 women I've messaged, 10 have answered back, and three I would have met in person. A few women have messaged me (but I had to tinker with my profile endlessly to get to that point) and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they've all gone nowhere too. women aren't exactly falling over themselves to date young janitors.

Even if I met someone, I psych myself out by wondering what the long term plan is: hookups until we have to have an uncomfortable conversation about getting serious, where I somehow explain that I can't be in a relationship past June? Do I just shrug my shoulders and let someone get hurt? Chris has made it clear he doesn't mind if I have some fun... apparently, he figures he would just slide into my role when he gets back... I would rather break up with someone than do that. Which sucks, but one thing at a time, I guess.

And let's face it... I know what I really want. Andrea. I still think about her, text her... every so often she asks me out for drinks or some other activity, but I have to resist because that was the one request Chris made of me. No delving into the past.

Lastly, there's that huge snowstorm barrelling down on the East coast, so I hope everyone else on the blog (those of us located here) stays safe and warm. You're all so kind and helpful.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tyler/Alan: I don't live in the past, but sometimes I have to visit there.

I found myself in a Starbucks today. Generally, I only drink coffee at work and home, and if I had my pick I wouldn't set foot in a place that charges more than a buck for a cup, but there I was. Back when I was Lauren, I used to get dragged into those places fairly regularly. It was a favorite escape for Lauren's friends as a teenage girl, and it wasn't surprising that while inside I saw a table full of 15 or 16-year-old girls giggling together, passing their phones around looking at Vines and Instagrams and all the other apps I wish I didn't know about.

I remember being part of groups like that, mostly melting into the background and feeling very much like an outsider, but I also remember a lot of one-on-one times, like helping Karlee decode texts from Seann and try to boost her confidence. I remember helping Ginny phrase a breakup text to a boy she had only been out with once and wouldn't leave her alone ("Get tough, tell him you'll cut his balls off!") I remember study nights that featured almost no studying (for that we would have had to actually carry our textbooks around "Lol ew.") I remember being made fun of for being the only one to just get a regular plain coffee and not something ending on "-cino" or "-iato." Those were moments that helped, I dunno, normalize the whole experience in a way that commiserating with Meg didn't. Not constantly being looked at like pitiful Tyler stuck in Lauren's body was strangely relieving.

It was this weird feeling, like a flashback. Meghan has pointed out that a lot of the time I act like last year never happened, and maybe that's easier for me than facing it. To pretend like I went from being Tyler Blake to being Alan Schmidt with nothing in between, like the rest is just some movie I saw rather than something I lived through. But it's still there in the back of my head, and I had the weirdest feeling of nostalgia being in that place (do they all smell the same or what?) It's not like I treasured my time as Lauren, but it wasn't all bad. Given the crappy circumstances, I feel I made the best of it.

Generally, I prefer to focus on the present, where I'm going and what I'm doing next. Which has its own difficulties.

It's kind of the big sticking point between me and Meg. She wants to know what's next and I honestly don't have it all worked out. I have ideas, but I don't want to discuss them until I know what's going on. But that's not enough for her, I guess, and she hates how I change the subject every time she asks who, exactly, she can expect to be dating this summer. If I'm going to make any arrangements, I'd better work on them soon. That Inn probably fills up fast.

Complicating matters: last week I got a call from my sister, Carrie. Carrie was already the person in the family I was closest to, and her having been through the Inn experience with us has only increased that, but usually talk about "back home" is kept brief, since I did a lot of work to leave Mobile.

She gave me some pretty serious news, and said now might be a good time to come visit. Our father appears to be on his deathbed, and if I ever wanted to see him again I would hurry. I mulled it over. Meg seemed to support the idea: that it might give me some peace to be face to face with him, and I said it didn't matter because he wouldn't recognize me. Like I said, I don't dwell on the past too much. But I think Carrie could use the support, since she was a lot closer with him than I was, and she's going to take it pretty hard when he goes.

If I go, it's for her, and to satisfy Meg's need to be "let in" to my past, to see where I came from. I argued that it's easier for the two of us if we just pretend I have no background at all, but she wasn't having that.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Glenn (Peter Malinowski): Driving me crazy

Originally I was going to entitle this post "Women are crazy," but that seemed sexist given that just about everyone else writing here has been a woman at one point or another. I'm just trying to stay sane, surrounded by mixed-up people. And those people, to some degree or other, all seem to be women. I don't want to say one has to do with the other, but...

To refresh your memory, going back to the letter I had Tori post several months ago, my name is Glenn Stevenson. I visited the Inn this summer with my son, Mason, and a friend of mine named Leon. When I left, I was Peter Malinowski, Leon was Peter's wife Meredith, and a woman named Cathy became their son Trevor, while my own son became a girl named Brooke, who had been reported as missing after she snuck out to have a tryst with Trevor and never returned.

It has been hard to maintain contact with Mason since then, as Brooke's parents have kept a close watch on "her." It didn't help matters that she was native to Maine, and the Malinowskis were based out of Delaware. I was obligated to take my makeshift family, leave my own son behind, and go live Peter's life... for a while anyway.

Leon, understandably, handled the change less than gracefully, complaining about becoming "my bitch" (his words, not mine!!) because Meredith was a housewife and Peter made enough money to support them both. I told him things could be worse, and if he wouldn't mind just taking care of the house, he could have as much of Peter's money as he wanted. He decided to hire a maid while he slept until 11, hung around the house in a bathrobe, and drank constantly.

I was dismayed at the cost, but I didn't give him too much of a hard time about it. He's not exactly a Domestic, I've seen the place where he really lives. The arrangement was going fine, with us more or less just continuing as some kind of roommates until mid-November, when one night Leon called me into his room (the master bedroom - I'm sleeping in the guest room.) I came to see what the fuss was. And he was just lying there on top of the covers in some sexy underwear, propped up on his arm in a seductive posture. I was confused until I noticed the empty bottle of wine next to the bed.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said, "I just thought we could have some fun tonight. We've waited long enough."

"Waited for what?" I said.

"Come on..." he said, crossing the room to stand in front of me, "I've seen the way you look at me. How long's it been, Glenn? A year? Two? I know you want it. You know you think about it."

"You're drunk."

"So what?" he scoffed, "I'm about to let myself get violated, I needed to loosen up."

"I didn't ask for this," I calmly replied.

"You didn't have to!" he said. "I'm giving it to you! I've been an asshole to you and it's the least I can do."

"I don't know what to say..." I said.

"I'm not hearing a no..." Leon said, unbuckling my belt.

I took a step back. "Wait a minute, let me think." I was very flustered. "We've never talked about this."

"Come on Glenn," he said, "I don't have all night."

"What brought this on?" I asked.

"Don't ask," he said impatiently, "Don't ask any more questions, just fuck me, or get out."

I looked him up and down. It was a sad mess. He had even tried some makeup, and really botched it bad. I didn't feel like I could possibly perform in that condition. I told him good night, and he responded with a lengthy stream of epithets, mostly questioning my manhood and sexuality.

I couldn't sleep, so I went downstairs to have a snack. It as around midnight when I heard the car pull up - it was Cathy. When he passed by the kitchen, I asked where he'd been.

"Where've you been?" I asked.

"None of your business," he snapped back.

"Woah, woah," I said, following after, "Sorry, I didn't mean to sound judgmental or anything. Sometimes I forget you're not my real son and I get protective. Let's try this, one adult to another. How was your evening, what did you get up to?"

He lightened up a little. He explained he was on a "group meetup" with some of Trevor's friends.

"Can I ask you something?" I asked, "Do you feel like you're fitting in?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know," I groaned, "Do you like it? Being a kid again? Being a boy? Do you feel weird about it or does it seem natural?"

"It feels all right," he said, "I feel more confident in myself than the first time around, obviously. The kids seem to be accepting me. The more I act like I belong, the more I do. It's classic high school."

"Uh huh,"  I said, taking a bite of my baloney sandwich, "Do you have a girlfriend?"

He paused. I know he does have one, but he may have thought I didn't notice. I wanted to hear him say it.

"There's a girl," he finally admitted. "We... do stuff."

"Have you two... you know? Been together?"

"No, she's not ready."

"But you're ready?" I asked, "If she wanted to, would you?"

"Keep in mind, you're not really my dad," Cathy said, "But yeah. If she wanted to, I would. I like her."

"What do you mean you like her? You're a 42-year-old woman, for God's sakes."

"Nobody knows that but you and me and Drunky up there," he said. "I won't take advantage of her, but I wouldn't reject her either. She could do a lot worse than me."

"What makes you want to do this?" I asked.

"Because I'm a guy now, and I'm loaded with testosterone, and it would feel good. Physically and emotionally." He paused, "Why are you asking about all this? If you're trying to talk me out of it..."

"No, no," I said, "This is about me, and, well... Leon, I guess."

Cathy smiled. "Oh, did he come onto you?"

"You knew he was going to do that?"

"I thought he might," he snickered, "He bent my ear all night last Thursday about the way you look at Lila, and how gross it was and how if you wanted some action he was right there and you never even asked. I think he's feeling really gross about his body, and honestly, I think if you were into him, that would really reassure him."

"I see..." I said. (Lila is the housekeeper, and while she is a rather attractive young woman I didn't see myself as "looking" at her any particular way.)

"Would you? Get with Leon?"

I thought for a minute. I honestly didn't know.

It never occurred to me. You read about the kind of rewiring the transformation does to people, but Leon was such a "guy" to me that I didn't think he would see me as a potential partner.

I went back up to the bedroom, unsure what I'd find. Leon was there, naked and sobbing. When he noticed me standing in the doorway, he yelled "Get away, creep!" Except instead of "creep" he used a homophobic slur.

"Leon," I said, "I had no idea what you were going through."

"Shut the fuck up, I'm not going through anything."

I considered wrapping my arms around him,  He didn't push me away. Eventually, through his sobs, he said, "I don't know what the fuck's wrong with me. This body sucks so much."

"Look, man," I said, "I never thought about... doing that with you. I'm... I guess I'm not against it, if it's something you want. I'm just not ready yet."

"You expect me to just sit here and wait?" he said bitterly.

"You can do whatever you want," I said, "You're your own person. We're not married. Not really. But I could be ready... sometime soon, if this is seriously what you want. It was just really surprising tonight, that's all."

"Whatever... I wasn't really feeling like it anyway," he said, leaning his head on my shoulder. "You smell good, though. That's so weird." I didn't know what to say, so I pecked him on top of the head and let him fall asleep.

And that's the strange story of how Leon and I became a sort of a real couple.

It's not like this was something I initiated from the start and actively worked toward. It took several weeks of consideration before I could properly revisit the issue in December, and even now we're still trying to figure out what this all means... we've both got a long history of failed relationships, and so I'm trying to be reasonable and manage expectations and maybe, I don't know, negotiate to get a "deal" that both of us will enjoy. And yes, that actually does involve some physical intimacy, but I'm a bit uncomfortable talking too much about that because I know my son is likely going to read this.

I guess, when you think about it... after all this, and despite our burgeoning relationship, I still call Leon a "him" but I also call Cathy, who has equally assimilated the role of a teenage boy, "him" as well. So maybe it's inaccurate to say women are the crazy ones. Maybe it's men. And hey, maybe it's me.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Lane/Kari: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I got three comments on my last post, all of along the lines of how I probably have a crush on Darius. Let me set the record straight: I do NOT have a crush on Darius. Crushes are something 11 years olds get on pop stars. They write their names in hearts all over their school notebooks and spend time thinking about what their initials will be and what they'll name their kids. I'm leaving this life in a few months and any sort of boyfriend thing is probably not my decision to make. I do not have a crush.

What I DO have is a brain that has spent the last 6 months soaking in estrogen and the body of a heterosexual woman with what I think might be a higher than average sex drive. So when an objectively attractive man like Darius shows me positive attention I can get a little giddy and woozy and it might just show through in my writing. I thought that maybe having sex regularly and handling things on my own would make that stop a little, but if anything that seems to be making it a little worse.

I'm not here to blog about sex (for the first time in awhile), I'm here because I had an incident with Ashley over the weekend. When I first got here she wasn't exactly hanging out with the most upstanding citizens, but getting her on cross country seemed to have her burn off any trouble making energy she might have had. But now it's winter and too cold to run, and we've almost done enough hours to qualify for her license she's got the carrot and I'm without a stick. This means she's back to hanging out with old friends. To her credit she is respecting curfew, I think it's because I'm home most nights to enforce it when her real mother typically wasn't. But she and her friends cut class the other day and there was a confrontation.

Latherman had let me off of work early on Tuesday (Don't ask what I did to earn that), and I was ready to come home and nap when I found the door unlocked. I froze for a moment with the door ajar, having learned by now that in this body a burglar isn't something to be battled, but to run from. I had my cell phone halfway ready to call the cops when I smelled a mildly familiar smell...marijuana.

I walked back to Ashley's room and opened that door to find her on the bed with a boy and a joint. She was slightly shocked to see me, and I must have had a look on my face because he was fucking terrified.

"OUT. NOW." I said in a voice firmer than I thought possible with this voice.

The kid jumped up, grabbed his coat, muttered "Sorry" and headed out the door. Ashley was less shocked and contrite and just kinda waved goodbye before turning to me and asking "Why are you home early?"

"Is that what you have to say? Why are YOU home early?" I asked back "And why are you doing drugs in your room"

"Really?" She raised her eyebrows "You're going to lecture me about smoking a little pot?"

"Uh, Yeah" I said "I didn't think I needed to tell you that was a bad idea"

"You and Aunt Rosita smoke it all the time"

Oh we do, do we?

Yeah, I figured Kari did it occasionally because I've been around Rosita when she does it and she offers, but I didn't know how frequent it was and I DEFINITELY didn't think she did it around Ashley.

I'm gonna pause a moment here and lay out my thoughts on drugs, since I might be sounding like a cheesy government PSA on after school. I know that a lot of writers on here before have lax attitudes towards pot, hell those guys Todd and Brian were like Cheech and Chong, and that's fine. I worked on Wall Street, remember, I've been around people who were able to live functioning lives on stuff WAY worse than pot. I think the war on drugs is a massive waste of time and resources that has way more negative effects than good. I personally never enjoyed the stuff but I don't think it's worth the effort to keep it illegal.

But it is illegal. And it's especially illegal for poor minorities like Ashley. If she got busted possessing or buying the stuff I don't have the resources to keep her record clean. I once knew a guy who got caught with a moderate amount of cocaine and had it disappear the next day buy calling a good lawyer who was in his frat. Kari doesn't have those kinds of connections so Ashley would be at the mercy of the law. It's a shitty reality in this country but it's reality nonetheless

"But we're adults" I begin carefully "You're and your friends could make a mistake that might mess up your whole future. I can't afford a good attorney, if you go to jail...even juvie you'd miss a lot of school. Plus a drug conviction means you won't get any federal financial aid for college.

"Since when do you care about me getting into college?" She asked, with that same disrespectful eye roll

"Ashley, you're going to need to go to college to have a shot at a decent job these days" I say, not because I fully believed it but you kinda have to say it to high schoolers, plus I don't see Ashley working an oil rig.

"You didn't go to college" she retorted "Hell, you didn't even graduate high school. You do fine"

If only she knew just how far from fine her mom's job situation was. How much of a struggle it is to raise a kid on a receptionist's salary which is probably higher than industry average because the unofficial job description includes sleeping with the boss.

"We survive" I tell her, trying to make sure I give this kid a positive message or at the very least don't screw things up too badly "But it's really difficult. It would be a lot easier if I had an education. I don't want you to have to go through the same struggles in life, I want you to avoid some of my mistakes"

Bad choice of words.

"Mistakes like getting pregnant at 14" She said icily

Kari's feet are size 6, which is way small enough to jam right in my mouth. Of course having a kid at 14 is a TERRIBLE life decision, but you really shouldn't say exactly that in front of the kid. Ashley isn't stupid, I think she knows that her mom's teen pregnancy made things difficult, and she might even have a little bit of unneeded guilt about that.

She looked like she was near crying so I sat next to her on the bed and wrapped my arm around her tightly. "You're the best thing in my life" And after living in this life for 6 months I can say that without having to lie "It's just...if you had come a few years later things would be better for both of us."

She sniffled a bit and gave me a hug. I think teenagers appreciate honesty, which makes my life difficult because every day I lie about being her mom.

"Do you really think I could go to college? She asked

"I get your report cards, I KNOW you can go to college" I replied encouragingly. I'm not wrong. The kid's no genius but B's and C's will get you into a low to mid level state school. "You just need to stay out of trouble. When is your ACT anyway?"

"March" she said breaking the hug "And I'm totally gonna bomb it. There's a lot of math."

"I could help you study" I said feeling extra helpful for some reason

"Thanks Mom but" She said with a pause after the but "Do you even know high school math"

"We use it all the time at work" I lied. There's a lot of math in finance, yes, but as the receptionist the most I really use it for is to calculate how much to tip the guy who delivers lunch. "I've picked up enough of it"

With that there were more hugs and a promise to avoid marijuana until she was able to do it in a less precarious situation. I thought about calling the real Kari and filling her in, but I'm not sure I'd like her response. She'd probably accuse me of judging her.

Which I kinda do

-Lane

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Jonah/Krystle: Holidays and After

Lane talked about the difficulty of finding a good dress to wear to church for Christmas services, and I can sympathize - Krystle seemed to also mainly buy dresses of the tight and low-cut variety, and truth be told even the ones that don't really seem designed that way sure seem to wind up like that thanks to her proportions. The others tell me that I'm over-thinking this, and that it's just me thinking my chest should be flat. I guess that could be the case, but I feel guilty all the time, like just standing there is an invitation.

I did find something fairly modest to wear to Christmas Mass, although there were moments when I wondered if I really was overly worried, because a lot of the women there were wearing kind of showy dresses. I kind of always thought that was just something that happened on TV and in the movies, although my grandfather once mentioned that it was kind of a thing at the church in his hometown - that because it was the community's main gathering place, men and women were always trying to get each other's attention there without exactly undermining the fact that it was a place of worship.

I was reminded of that when Pastor William came up to me after the service and said it had been too long since they'd seen "me" there, and asked if I would be attending services regularly. I must admit, I was ashamed of how easily that seemed to fall by the wayside after visiting the Inn. I don't know whether it was because I always went to church with my family and just got lazy being on my own (or with Krystle's family, who are not regular church-goers) or if I felt forsaken afterwards. I know this man was asking about Krystle, who had been stripping and living with some man who was not her husband and maybe doing drugs, but it was a reminder of how nobody is beyond saving, no matter what circumstances bring you to a low place.

I said I probably would, and it felt good. I have been going beat every Sunday and enjoying it, especially since this was the first time I really remember going to a church whose congregation was primarily African-American on a regular basis - I've been to my other grandfather's church every once in a while when we visit, and when I was a really little kid, but it has been something different from the mostly-white places where I've lived most of my life. It's a little strange to have spent all your life as "the black kid" in school and have to kind of get used to not being the only black person around.

My going to Mass had the family a little surprised. Karla's kids had questions about it, and she injected a lot of suspicion into her answers. I guess I can't really blame her - I probably don't act much like the Krystle she knows - but it's frustrating. Who needs to explain going to church on Christmas?

It had the kids impatient about opening presents, but they knew that they were going to have to wait for Momma Kamen anyway. Krystle's mother works for the MBTA, and she takes a lot of weekend and holiday shifts so that her schedule doesn't duplicate Karla's and so that she can get overtime pay. It helped make Christmas a little less meager for the kids, as did my being able to get an employee discount at the toy store. There was no "big present" like I got used to, and I felt bad about that. I may have wound up having too much the same relationship with Karla as her real sister, but her kids are great and deserve more than they have.

Speaking of Christmas, I had the hardest time figuring out what to get Karla and her mother.  Well, Karla; I got Momma Kamen a nice set of gloves that you can use a phone while wearing, since she's outside a lot and texts back and forth with Karla, me, and a lot of other people, so it seemed pretty practical. It didn't seem entirely like a surprise that Krystle would get her something like that, so I guess I did okay.

I had a little more trouble with Karla, and not just because everything seemed like it would be taken as a challenge, and it seemed like every person I might ask wouldn't really know - my friends are all men who used to be women, women who used to be men, folks too young to have perspective on what a single mother values, or just more well-off than us, not really getting how much is out of reach. I wound up kind of giving up and getting her a gift card from Sears.

She got me something lacy from Victoria's Secret, and I still haven't even tried it on to see if it fits in case the real Krystle still wants to wear stuff like this when she gets her body back. I feel guilty just feeling the fabric on my fingertips.

Of course, Christmas coming and going meant that the temporary toy store where I was working closed down, and while the manager gave me a good reference, I probably should have been looking ahead to the next job even while this one was winding down.

I didn't quite go unemployed for the past couple of weeks - Yuan-wei/Missy/Jordan gave me way too much to come by her place every few days while she was in Hong Kong for Christmas break and make sure that the mail got brought in and that her plants were watered (no, she doesn't really strike me as someone who would have plants either, but I didn't ask what the story was). I've tidied up a bit and shivered at the thought of taking a job as a maid before thinking that the only people who would hire someone with Krystle's history for that would probably just want to see her in (and out of) a uniform.

I don't really get Yuan-wei. I've only met her a few times and she's been a real jerk about my believing in God, she's totally shameless about being with men, even though you can tell from just being around her that she's still one at heart. She will talk about how much she misses her family after just a couple of drinks - either she or Benjamin really shouldn't be drinking when he brings a six-pack over, right? - but she basically gave that family away.

And she also remembered my real birthday, December 28th, making sure that when I arrived at her place that day, there was a package waiting for me, with a pair of Nike Air LeBron XIII basketball shoes, with a promise for another pair when I "outgrew" them this summer. I put them on right away and they're fantastic; I wanted to go out and find a game despite it being really cold and not wanting to imagine what sort of attention I'd get without an industrial-strength sports bra (just running for the bus without one is no fun at all).

Still, they're great and I'm so grateful, even if Karla's reaction on seeing them was to wonder who I'd slept with for them and to ask since when I cared about basketball. That just makes me appreciate them more, though - they reflect me, not her, and they mean that someone understands I'm a now-17-year-old guy rather than a 23-year-old woman, and I really can't wait until I am again.

-Jonah

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-Wei: Play-acting Part I: Here

I wasn't really inclined to write much about the play I was in because it was kind of anticlimactic at the end.  You spend weeks getting together with a bunch of people, reading, rehearsing building shit, working on costumes, and for what?  For three nights, you go out on stage, say your line, run backstage and get into another costume, stand around in the background, maybe say another line, and so on, and then you're just done and the whole thing is gone.  Maybe someone has mounted a camera in the back of the audience area, but it's one hell of a lot of work to just vanish into the ether.

So I was just going to skip ahead, but Benjamin told me I had to blog about it.  If you're going to live Missy's life and be a movie star, she says, you're going to have to learn how stories work, and you can't keep mentioning something like this play and then not have it pay off.

So, fine.  I was in a play, even if it was a tiny part.  And, okay, that didn't make it any less stressful.  In fact, the first time I went our on stage, I nearly pissed myself, because for all that the rehearsal and shit is supposed to make everything second nature, standing in the wings and seeing that there's a fucking audience out there made me suddenly realize that while the original Yuan-wei had probably been doing this all her life, I hadn't done anything like it since, I don't know, junior high?

I mean, shit, was this the reason she decided to give up all of this and stay with Ronan?  Wanting something all your life and realizing that not only does it mean standing in front of a whole bunch of strangers and trying not to screw up, but knowing that even if you completely kick ass, you'll still be judged in large part based upon what a while bunch of other people do?  I didn't quite freeze like I thought I was going to, but even though there was a lot to do backstage, I did have just enough time to wonder if I was going to make it through.

I did, three times, and I probably got better as I went.  The thing that kind of sucks about acting is that you almost always feel the same way no matter how you actually do.  Even as I was nervous, I was still kind of like, yeah, I fucking did that, whereas some of the other folks were sure they sucked even when those of us in the wings could see that the audience was just goddamned living it.  It's not like working with computers, where you can tell whether the routine you built was giving the right output or whether the change you made ran faster or used fewer resources.  Your feedback is mostly subjective and sometimes kind of indirect.

Not always.  What my adviser said at the end of term was pretty direct - that most of my instructors said I was performing a bit below the standards the original Yuan-wei had established the previous academic year, and what she saw from me during the play kind of confirmed it. Heck, she said, the very fact that I had such a small role was disappointing; someone with my talent and ambition should really be winning leads or at least strong supporting roles in auditions. This is a very competitive program, she pointed out, and a lot of my follow students who had to rely on financial aid might be looking at moving to a new school or major after two semesters like the one I just had.

Of course, this wasn't entirely news to me; I'd heard a lot of the same shit whispered at the wrap party. Sure, it was mostly dancing, drinking, laughing about how disaster had nearly been averted or stuff like that. But every once in a while, I'd be walking by a group and they'd stop talking. For most of the night I tried to put it out of my head, all too aware of how a pretty girl who thinks everybody is talking about her behind the back they're planning to stab is a cliche and even when it wasn't, I'd always hated those bitches.  But eventually there comes a point where it gets just quiet enough to overhear conversations, and I heard one about how for someone who wants to be a Pan-Pacific movie star, I had better start showing something, then another joked that even that wouldn't help, because they blur your boobs out in China.  Then Amelia, the one who helped me with my Halloween costumes, called me a helpless princess who didn't know how to do anything, and it was a kick in the gut, especially since I didn't think it was like I started ignoring her once I'd gotten what I needed, but clearly she felt that way or was just trying to make nice with one or another of the others, figuring that other Americans are going to be able to do more for her in the future than a woman in China (we'll see about that), but it soured the evening pretty well, and I headed to the bedroom to retrieve my coat. I was rooting through the pile on the bed when Ernesto found me and said he'd been trying to get me alone.

I asked why, and he said it was because everything had finally clicked into place for the short film, which would be shooting in late January if I was still interested. I'd have to work on makeup and effects as well as play the lead...

It was just what I wanted to hear without knowing it, and I hugged him. Shocked the hell out of me; I know is done something similar at that ballgame with Benjamin, and wondered if like it was some hormonal thing with Yuan-wei's body or if I might have been like that if I ever got drunk enough as a guy.  All that bulk maybe made me not react so demonstratively to alcohol, or something.

Especially since I didn't feel that drunk, although I did start acting a bit again, letting myself go weak in the knees. "Ooh," I said, "I think it might be a good idea if you walked me home."

I kind of want the order of events clear: I got the part, and then I led Ernesto to my place and asked him if he wanted to come up.  I suppose he may have been hoping for this response, but apparently I'm not exactly noted for my gratitude. Anyway, he got nervous when he saw just how nice my place was, initially not following me into the bedroom until I said I needed help getting my boots off.

That wasn't entirely a lie; I fumble with tiny zippers under seams even though I now have fingers more suited to them.  It gave me a chance shuffle forward on the bed and let my dress ride way up and then, when he had gotten the second one off but hadn't yet stood, I could fall forward so that I was straddling him on my knees while he fell back.

He knew what to do with that situation, unzipping my dress and helping me pull it over my head and off, then doing the same with my bra.  He then did some of the bra's work, spring my breasts and then going after my nipple with thumb and forefinger, which felt pretty great.  I decided to do my part, not-quite-sitting and sort of trading him with my ass, making contact right around his waist, just above the groin.  It seemed kind of silly, but he apparently liked it, because I could feel him getting hard.  I slid down his body, pulled down his pants, and then kind of stopped four a moment because his dick was right there.

It would have been stupid to chicken out at this point - I was wet and knew what I was in for - but with David and Sam, it had all been happening "down there"; I wasn't ever positioned so as to have the fact of some guy's unit right in my face, as it were, and though it's been over a year since I've had one, the "dude, what do you want with another man's cock?" reaction is still there.  That's when he tossed me the condom.

What am I supposed to do there, kill the mood by telling him to do it, or back off?  So I put it on, as fast as possible, and then moved up so he could put it in my pussy and I could just think of it as kind of an abstract good feeling, although it was kind of harder, since Ernesto is a much hairier guy than the others and I could feel his beard as he was kissing me.  It was kind of unnerving, really, and when he asked me to see if I could get him up for another, I decided to be the hot girl who sets the terms and tell him I was ready to knock off for the night.

And he was cool about that, but I couldn't fucking sleep at all that night, and was on edge for the next couple of weeks all through finals, since he's in a few of my classes, and while he hasn't acted like it was more than some really physical fun,  It certainly made spending the holidays on another continent more appealing, although it's going to be kind of weird when we start shooting his short film in a couple of weeks.

-Jordan/Yuan-wei

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Lane/Kari: Feliz Navidad

HA! Now that song is stuck in your head. I've been trying to avoid Mexican stereotypes these past six months to prevent accidentally defaming a culture I don't really belong to, but I'll be damned if Kari's dad doesn't LOVE that song. I must have heard it two dozen times while I was over there for Christmas.

That's what I've been doing these past few weeks, celebrating the holidays with my temporary family and trying to make the best of it. I know the timing of the absence is a bit troubling, since my last post was all about dealing with the fallout of my rendezvous with Kari's boss, but I assure you all I didn't fall into a black hole of regret and shame and give up on posting in this blog.

Work has been different since I started sleeping with Latherman. I won't say "better" but "easier" would be a good term for it. Not the work itself, answering phones has always been easy, but I'm definitely getting preferential treatment and a lot of slack around the office, much to the chagrin of my co-workers. I feel kinda bad about that, especially since the whispering and gossiping have started back up again. But at the point where I'll be gone in a few months I'm ready just to ignore all that and just coast my way back to Maine.

Speaking of which, reservations for the trading post start back up in a few days and I've got some cash for a deposit, thanks in part to my Christmas bonus. It was 750 dollars, which I'm not sure is high or low for a receptionist. It doesn't even compare to what I got as a bonus from my real job, but I won't go into too much detail about that because I know Wall Street bonuses can be a bit of sore subject.

I was the one who passed out the checks to all the employees at the Christmas party, Latherman had me do it while wearing a ridiculous Santa cap but people were drunk enough that it was far from the most embarrassing thing that happened that evening, although Latherman got pretty sloshed and almost kissed me on the neck in front of everyone else, which I prevented from happening. I think he and Kari's affair is a bit of an "open secret" but to have undeniable confirmation of it would make things at the office complicated. He did have his hand up my skirt for 5 minutes by the copier later, but nobody else saw that.


Christmas

Ashley and I headed over to Kari's parents' house Christmas Eve, the plan being to spend the night there after going to church on Christmas Eve. That left me with the odd task of picking out a "church dress". I knew how to look like a business woman, and I knew how to look like a party girl, but I had to do some searching for something that wouldn't be too scandalous in a place of worship. I finally found a nice green dress that went down past the knees and didn't have too deep of a neckline, although it did have a plunging backline. A nice pair of black nylons and flats and I was able to look like a nice, respectable girl.

Church in and of itself was a bit weird, not in the least because it was at midnight. I'm much of a churchgoer, nobody in my family is. Kari isn't except for Christmas and Easter when she goes with her parents and they ARE churchgoers. I won't go into too much detail because I know religion can be a touch subject, but my take on God the supernatural has changed a bit since being magically changed by a cursed hotel and it was a bit surreal being in a church again.

We got home at about 130 Christmas morning and Ashley and I curled up on the futon near the Christmas tree while I put "Bad Santa" on Netflix. She had never seen it and wondered why her mom had suggested such a raunchy movie, but she laughed anyway. (As well she should, I watch it every year and it's hilarious).

I have nieces and nephews and cousins that are younger than me that live around my parents house, so my entire life Christmas morning has started as soon as those kids wake up. With Ashley being the youngest Cruz in the house and being the age when teenagers sleep forever, Christmas morning didn't start until about 11 when she walked in to the kitchen all groggy to Pilar and I having hot chocolate.

Experiencing someone else's Christmas is an exercise in acting. Imagine the feeling when you get a gift you don't like from someone you do like, and you have to feign happiness to show appreciation, and now imagine having to do that for every gift. I've been a 30 year old woman for half a year now, but I still can't really be excited about clothes, gift cards to stores I don't shop at, perfume, make up, and other beauty products, although I did express gratitude and gave tons of hugs. Ashley got me a gift certificate for 5 free mani/pedis for two people.

"I saw that you haven't gotten your nails done in awhile, so I figured you could take this and go with Aunt Rosita or something."

"Or we could go together" I offered. She smiled. I personally have no interest in sitting and getting my nails done, but part of the reason I don't get them done is because I don't see it as worth the money. Ashely noticed her mother's sacrifice and made a heartfelt gesture, so I figured some bonding time was in order. I'll probably leave them until after the switch back so the real Kari can enjoy time with her daughter.

That thoughtful gift and moment happened before I gave Ashely her main gift though. Me and Pilar had gotten her a bunch of clothes and girly stuff that Kari had been consulted on, but shortly after getting that bonus check I got something else. The bonus wasn't enough to cover my entire trip to Maine but it was more than enough to make a deposit on the rooms to reserve them. There was still a couple hundred dollars left over so I headed to a small electronics shop and picked up a laptop. It's not top of the line or anything but it will work as a Facebook and Instagram machine, which is what she uses it for as well as any school research. She squealed with joy and as she hugged me I was happy too, because this was also a gift for me. I'm typing here on the old laptop that I no longer have to share, and thus not have to worry about a 16 year old stumbling upon something she doesn't need to see or some bizarre search history. Or even worse, letters from Latherman.


New Year's Eve


But the reason I decided to blog today, rather than just give you all the Cruz Family Christmas Letter, was because something...interesting happened on New Year's Eve. Rosita and I got all dolled up and went to one of the bars in in Trenton, which was packed because not only was it one of the biggest bar nights but it was also the day of the college football playoff, and one of the teams had a large local following.

I was wearing a pair of tight black leggings because it was cold with a matching black blouse that combined with my hair and makeup made me look a bit evil...but in a sexy way. I was getting a lot of compliments and free drinks, since MSU wasn't doing to well people started to drink more.

I was about three margarita's in and doing my thing on the dance floor when I heard a familiar voice call out "Kari". I turned around and saw Darius, smiling and nursing a beer. Darius, if you don't remember is the brother of one of Ashley's track teammates and he asked me out for coffee. A while back one of the commenters asked how that went and I never really went into too much detail because ultimately it was just that, coffee. But we've hung out a few times and we text regularly and we've become friends. He doesn't get a lot of air time on this blog because I write here to cope with having to deal with Kari's life and Kari's friends, and Darius is exclusively my friend since he's never actually met the real Kari.

Being glad to see him, I walk/danced my way over to him and gave him a hug. I've learned that girls greet people they like with hugs, and I've started doing it as well because it does feel kinda nice. Although I was tipsy and I may have lingered a bit longer and pressed my boobs a bit. Darius was there with some friends to watch the game and then ring in the new year. I introduced him to Rosita, who remarked out loud out cute he was. He introduced me to his friends, who were a bit amused at Rosita practically throwing herself at them. I'm not saying she's a gold digger, but when Rosita sees a guy in expensive clothing she kind of...nah she's a bit of a gold digger.

As fun as it would have been to join the guys at the bar and talk sports and just hang out, I split my time between their table and the dance floor. What can I say, dancing is fun! I was awkward and weird about it when I was a guy but now I kind of like just going out there and letting loose and the attention can be fun too, as long as you're careful about it. I've gotten better at watching my liquor intake, but it was a special night and when people hand you champagne and you're in the energy it seems like a great idea to take it.

Somewhere around glass 11 or 12 the countdown to midnight started and I was at the bar near Darius when I joined in in the loud shouting of numbers. When 2016 struck people all around were kissing and I was so caught up in the moment I reached up, grabbed his collar, pulled him down and kissed him on the lips. I remember him being shocked, but continuing it. That's about all I remembered before the booze caught up with me.

*******

I woke up the morning of the 1st in a strange bed. A nice, big bed in a well furnished bedroom. I looked down and saw that I was wearing a large sweatshirt that said Wayne State University and a pair of panties, nothing else. I brushed my hair out of my eyes and behind my ears realizing I was really hung over. Heading out of the bedroom I saw I was in Darius' apartment and he was eating cereal on the couch.

I remember thinking "At least it wasn't a stranger" but wasn't exactly relieved. I didn't want to face the consequences of getting drunk and falling into bed with one of my better friends. "Listen, last night---I was drunk and"

Darius was staring at me with a bit of a smirk. "Yeah, you were drunk. That's why I slept on the couch"

My sigh of relief was audible. "So you mean we didn't...you know"

"Kari, you were falling down drunk. You were white girl wasted. I wasn't about to take advantage of that, I'm an enlightened man. Affirmative, enthusiastic consent. That's what it's gotta be. It's 2015."

I nodded in respect at him before correcting him. "2016"

We both laughed at that before I motioned down to my lower body. "So...where are my clothes"

"Folded in the bedroom" He replied "You undressed yourself, but you insisted it was fine if I was in the room. Something about you not having anything I haven't seen before."

Eesh. Drunk me must have forgotten that we weren't both men, and yet she still kissed him. The Inn creates a mindfuck sometimes. "So you saw everything"

"I saw enough" he said in a cool manner that made it seem like he was impressed.

I went back into the bedroom and found my purse and clothes. I got back into my leggings and shirt and fished a rubber band out to make a ponytail. When I returned dressed I addressed the smaller elephant in the room. "I do remember, last night I kissed you."

"I remember that too" he said playfully

"Right, and while I won't say it was only the booze talking I do have to reiterate what I said before-"

"About taking it slow?" He offered. He has a way of finishing my sentences, I think that's why we get along so well

"Right, it's just I've got to get some things in order in mine and Ashley's life before I over complicate things"

"I understand completely. Whatever speed is fine for you."

"Thank you" I say, truly grateful that he was so understanding.

I took an Uber home, he actually doesn't live to far from us...in the next city over. As I watched the scenery go by I mulled over what an upstanding guy he was. A lot of guys I know would have slept with a girl as drunk as I was and acted like it was totally fine. Honestly, if I play this right and the real Kari winds up with him I'm doing her a serious favor.

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Annette/Benjamin: Me Being a Total Fangirl

A new Star Wars movie came out a couple weeks ago; perhaps you heard about it?  I sure did, living in an apartment full of guys in their mid-twenties. And, hey, I wasn't immune; I dig Star Wars even if I was still able to recognize that Amidala just dying of a broken heart in Revenge of the Sith was some bullshit (yes, old people, I was a little girl when the prequels came out and loved Padme the way you loved Han Solo; deal with it).  I hit that over the weekend with Missy and we had a blast.

Still, the really big media release for me that week was Penny Lincoln-Kim's new novel, Pygmalion's Proposal. If you've been reading the blog since I got here, you might remember that being a fan of her first two books in the series, as well as her Lynn Ashford mysteries, is what got me to book a room at the Trading Past Inn, leading to me becoming Ravi, Sandra becoming me, and everything else that got me to this moment. They're pretty great books, set in a future where mind-exchanges are possible but top-secret, with the super-rich stealing the bodies of teenagers. Usually it's done right before death, but one survived, and although he or she can't switch again, this mystery person is doing the same, matching the minds of kids with certain aptitudes with suitable bodies, the "Pygmalion" of the title. It's great stuff if you're a teen, about how the previous generation is wrecking the world for us, imposing their pop culture with an endless series of remakes, sequels, and reboots, as well as the sensation of having to set used to your changing body.  Once you learn about the Inn first-hand, what Arthur-Liz-Penny and her friends went through, etc., it's got new levels.

It's also written with teenage girls as the target audience, which was cool when I was one, but I kind of stick out like a sore thumb at Penny's signings now.  Sandra would blend, but it didn't look like she read my copies and became a fan. I guess I should be grateful for that; even with the event moved from the store to a local theater to accumulate the crowd, running into her would have been awkward enough to put a damper on things.

Moving the signing away from the store unfortunately meant I wouldn't get to see Marybeth until later; she had pulled an evening shift and would be there until the shop closed at 11pm (the bookstore being open later than most restaurants is just the most Harvard Square thing imaginable).  That was okay, in a way, because it meant I didn't have to explain Jonah/Krystle to my girlfriend. She's met Missy, but a girl with the figure Jonah inherited who has an actual stripper name even when she's not stripping... Well, I know I wouldn't have liked it!

Jonah and I had texted and chatted online since he showed up at my place looking for help at the start of November, although I've held off mentioning him until he said it was okay and started contributing to the blog himself. It's a little tougher to say "himself" now - he still favors shapeless sweatshirts when not at work to minimize his curvy figure, but he's responded to the pressure to wear make-up when there, as well as pulling shoes with an inch or two of heel out of Krystle's stock so that he is not quite so towered-over (he's actually a bit taller than Missy, but he'd just hit a growth spurt before going to the Inn, so he's sensitive about height). The big change is the hair; Krystle had grown it long and had it "relaxed" as a rule, but it naturally grew in curly, so sometime in the last month he had all the straight stuff cut off and now has a couple inches of afro. I think the idea was to look a little less feminine, and maybe it does in his head, but it also shows off his slender neck, and any earrings he might be wearing. I like it, at least.

We grabbed seats next to each other and chatted a bit before the reading. He had brought one of the mystery novels, not being much of a sci-fi/fantasy fan. He was clearly uncomfortable in the crowd, especially when someone moving to an inside seat made sure that squeezing through meant he brushed against Jonah's breast (kind of don't miss that), and always brought his voice down real low when discussing anything Inn-related. I kind of get the impression that he hadn't spent much time unsupervised before the Inn made him an adult, and even after four months, he still feels like there's someone watching who will scold him if he screws up, even beyond however much being religious has you thinking that way.

The actual reading started just a few minutes late, and I got really excited as the guest of honor came out on stage. The book was supposed to come out a few months ago, but got delayed a number of times for reasons I'd learn later. The first chapter she read sounded good, though, making me glad I'd be able to start it that night. Even Jonah seemed to like it.

There was a Q&A afterward, and I liked it both for the "regular" fan reasons and for how I could parse out Penny mostly avoiding actual lies.  When someone asked how she went from athlete to author, it was "I always wrote, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I thought I had ideas for novels people would want to read." Or taking about marrying into Korean-American family making her want to portray a more multi-cultural society than a lot of young adult series do without mentioning that she actually was Korean-American for a while. Or how she's not always sure about what motivates the "Pygmalion" in her books, because there were a couple of inspirations, some more benign than others.

After the Q&A, the kind of scary part began. Scary for me, at least; while I'm sure that a lot of the other folks in line were nervous about the few sentences they were going to exchange with the author, they probably had that neutralized by the frustration of waiting in line. I, on the other hand, was sweating enough to make a lot of the parents there with their teenage daughters look askance, and dropped my money when paying for my copy of the novel. I had to swallow a couple of times when I finally did get to the front of the line. She wasn't really intimidating in person, beyond being tall, attractive, and super-healthy-looking, but, still...

She asked me to whom to address the autograph, and I said "Annette Grayson".  Then she did the most awesome damn thing ever.

She smiled, started scribbling on the title page, and said "Hi, Benjamin. I was hoping you'd come." I had this whole thing ready to go about how I went to the Inn because of her, all vague so that the other people in line wouldn't think I was nuts, and she already knew who I was! Then she reached into a pile of books that were already inscribed, gave me one, and made sure to point out the slip of paper stuck in there like a bookmark.

That was it, at least until Jonah and I got outside and I could pull the paper out and read it: "Special post-signing event for fellow guests of the Trading Post Inn. 8:30pm, The Changeling, Arlington." I showed it to Jonah, dumbfounded, before my brain started working again and I looked up transit directions.  Getting out to Arlington meant taking the bus, one which I may not have found except that Jonah goes through Alewife station daily to get to work.

I called Missy, but there was no response. Her loss. The neighborhood where we got off the bus was kind of modest, and "The Changeling" blended in, without even a neon sign advertising some beer or other. It was still obviously a bar, though, which made Jonah nervous. I told him to relax - we'd get carded, but our genuine IDs would check out.

We walked in, and it turned out to be a cozy-looking Irish pub, with a bar, tables for dining, a jukebox, the usual.  The bartender fit the general atmosphere; a redhead of about thirty who greeted us with an accent that didn't quite seem to be from any specific place but wasn't the generic middle-American thing, either.  My eyes were drawn to her tight sweater, and that's when it hit me, and I got nervous all over again.

"Are you...  Are you Ashlyn Shelley?"

She smiled.  "For eight years now, if you know what I mean."

"I do!"  I grabbed Jonah's hands and pulled him toward the bar.  "I'm--"  I stopped for a second as I realized what I was about to say, but then went through with it.  "I'm Annette Grayson, and this is my friend Jonah."

Jonah looked at me like I was crazy for a second, but Ashlyn reassured him.  "Don't worry, you're among friends.  Come on, there's a table set up for us back here, and drinks are on the house.  What would you like?"

I kept it simple and ordered a Guinness, and Jonah stuck with a Coke, seeming a little uncomfortable that I was having a beer despite not chronologically being of legal age. Ashlyn didn't make a big deal of it in either direction.

She kept tending bar until another red-headed girl came in, rattling off every lousy thing that had made her late and then loudly announcing to the whole pub that the authentic experience began right now, at least as far as the bar was concerned. Ashlyn semi-sarcastically saluted - Moira had apparently been a wiseass since the day she was hired - and then settled into a seat at our table. "If only she knew how inauthentic an Irish girl I really am!  This is just about all the barbecue on the menu."

"Right, because you were originally from Texas!"  Not knowing how far back Jonah had read, I introduced him.  "Jonah, this is Ashlyn Shelly, though she started out as Jake Matthews - she's one of the original writers of the blog!" Belatedly realizing I had no idea how much she knew about us, I repeated that I was Annette Grayson, how Benjamin Jones, with some time spent as Ravi Kapoor in between. I started to explain about Jonah before deciding it really wasn't my place, although he didn't leave much out. Then I felt myself doing a thing I hadn't thought much about before I started seeing girls my actual age from the outside - kind of letting a little air out as I realized this exciting thing I could hardly have hoped far was actually happening, probably getting a dopey grin that would look cute on my original face. "Sorry, this is just so cool! Although you don't quite look like I imagined you."

"Hey, you don't stay in your early twenties forever without going back to the Inn. You hit thirty, the metabolism that made you curvy slows down whether you stop eating barbecue or not, so you start running with your fitness-nut best friend, and as a side effect the boobs shrink from 'holy shit!' to 'still very nice!' Then you get a simpler haircut, start dressing a little more respectably because you remember that being respected was just as gratifying as guys trying to get in your panties..."  She laughed.  "Don't mind the girl whining about having to act only ten years less than her age; I've done pretty well in every category but guys, and I'm still pretty optimistic on that count."

She looked up as the door opened, then raised her hand to signal the folks who had just come in. I had my back to it, so I just heard some guy asking is this was it before Ashlyn said that seemed to be the case, what with everyone busy with the holidays. Then the chair next to me was pulled out and Penny Freaking Lincoln extended her hand, said we hadn't been properly introduced, and also indicated that the Korean-American man on her other side was her husband Ray.

I stammered like crazy, saying something dumb like not being sure whether this was more like meeting J.K. Rowling or Harry Potter, and felt mortified when the whole table, even Jonah, laughed. I started to apologize, but Penny stopped me, saying it was a good line and I should use it in something someday.

(I'm not sure at what point in the evening she said I could call her Penny, but she totally did!)

In fact, she said she should apologize to me for not deleting her entries or changing the names in them when her agent said not to put something like that on the web for free, because she never imagined it would lead to someone actually coming to the Inn and getting stuck in the same situation. I told her she shouldn't because reading all about her experiences was really helpful, and besides, she couldn't get rid of all the posts that referred to her, and believe me, I would have dug down far enough in the search results to find them. She said she was glad I felt that way, but she still seemed to feel a bit guilty.

Somehow, Jonah was able to interrupt me and say "hey, about the blog - I notice that not a lot of people who wrote on it seem to change back, and out of all the people at this table, only Mr. Kim seems to be himself again; just how doomed am I?"

That quieted things down a bit, but Ashlyn took his hand and said not to worry. "A lot of people who do change back tend to delete their posts, like they can just erase the whole experience.  Other folks, the ones who are really dedicated to just getting through this and getting back tend not to post at all. That's kind of you, right? And while I sometimes wonder if writing on the blog contributes to some of us getting 'stuck' because every time we find something interesting or enjoyable can be read as 'well, they wouldn't really mind staying like that' to people inclined to steal our lives, you can probably counteract that by staying in pretty close contact with the other people in your line."

Ray took his hand. "It can be done. I'm living proof."

That reassured Jonah a bit, I think.  The last bit did make me wonder about my own situation a bit - did my excitement over exploring Ravi's life help Sandra justify just walking away when she saw Missy at the Inn? I don't like victim-blaming (especially when I'm the victim in question!), but did I help create the situation?

Penny seemed to read my mind and gave me a punch on the shoulder. ''Hey, if you're going to tell me that I'm not responsible for you going to the Inn, then you can't blame yourself for that other chick turning away. Now, c'mon, you've got your favorite author in a bar. Ask me shit!"

I froze for a second, and then asked about the ending of the first book, with Marcus choosing Jan over Nancy, and if that was about how she and Ray ended up together. She said that was certainly part of it, but also sprung from Ashlyn shutting the real Pygmalion out of her life.

I asked half-jokingly why the third book was so late, and she said it was because women who used to be men are the craziest pregnant people and most obsessed new mothers, and the only reason she wasn't texting little Lizzie's sitter every ten minutes was that Ray had confiscated her phone.  The only way she got anything done at all over the past year was by making Lynn pregnant in the new mystery novel so that she had something to pour that into.

"Yeah, thanks for that." Ashlyn rolled her eyes. "Like the family hasn't been pestering me about settling down and supplying grandkids already!"

"Hey, you know the character is more me than you, but you're the one who wants them to be impressed!"

Something hit me. "You named your daughter after Liz?"

"Well, she is Ray's oldest friend."

"Yeah, but--"

"I know it's hard for you in particular to believe, but we get along. I mean, we share a life. I understand her in ways you can't even articulate, and once it was all over, and she and Ray were back 'home' and done switching for good, and we could all talk about it... You'll see someday, I hope. There's just too much to gain from being friends."

I wasn't sure. "Maybe after Sandra gives me my life back, we'll be buddies. AFTER that."

''Fair enough."

I thought for a second, then had another question. ''How come there's no gender-bending stuff in the Pygmalion books? I never questioned it before, but now..."

Ray groaned, but Penny laughed. "Oh, that's a thing. There was in the first draft of the first book, but both my agent and the publisher freaked, saying that was the sort of controversy that they didn't need. Fine, whatever, I get it. I write in that you can't do this. Then, this time, they actually want it, figuring that it's a good way to capitalize on all the hubbub about Caitlin Jenner, Tangerine, The Danish Girl, Lana Wachowski, all that. And I'm like, crap, why wasn't this okay three years ago?  It's not like I've forgotten what changing sex is like, but there have been so many other changes since then..."

We all laughed at that, even Jonah, especially once Ashlyn reassured him that every once few months she'll wake up in the middle of the night, stumble to the bathroom, and try to pee standing up.

That's about when my phone rang and Marybeth said she was almost finished with her shift, and was I up for a nightcap?  I felt terrible about feeling torn, but they all said to go ahead, you've got to live your life and she sounded like a good one.

And she really is, if only for putting up with me replaying a heavily redacted version of the evening before we feel asleep on the couch.

-Benjamin/Annette

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