I really wish that yesterday was the first time (outside of church) that I'd put on a dress, heels, make-up, and the like. It would have made the whole day (and after!) so much easier, believe it or not.
I didn't want to, but Moira can be a real pest. I was telling Ashlyn while we closed up on Monday that "Lamont" would be getting out of jail in a couple of days, in a sort of relieved tone - the Inn is just opening for the season, and though we were pretty confident that Joseph serving Lamont's term wouldn't interfere with him becoming himself again, all of the Inn people I know here are testimony to the fact that things happen. Ashlyn genuinely feels it's for the better in her case, but she's been genuinely happy as I've told her that everything is lining up for my church group to get back to normal.
Moira, of course, has never been to the Inn and if she's heard Ashlyn, Penny, me, and anyone else talk about it, she thinks it's a sort of running joke. So it's natural for her to hear us talking and assume that I'm excited that my boyfriend is going to be back, although she also makes a comment about how I'm obviously not going to dress the way I usually do. Your man's been locked up for the better part of a year, she says, he needs to see what he's been waiting for.
I argue half-heartedly, especially once I see that Ashlyn isn't going to rescue me. Sometimes she does keep Moira from pulling me into some girl thing, but not that night. Moira is going to be allowed to help me shop for a sexy dress the next day.
I don't fight too hard. I like hanging out with Moira, and I have a reservation coming up. Sure, I could introduce myself to her afterward, but is she going to see a seventeen-year-old guy about to start his senior year of high school as a friend or boyfriend? Not likely.
So, the next afternoon, we go shopping. Nothing fancy, but I try on a lot of dresses before a yellow one that she says makes me look like sunshine appears. I don't really like how much the neckline shows, especially once she's pushed Krystle's breasts up to show what the right bra will do, but when I mention that I've got a pair of high heels the same color in a closet, that apparently seals the decision.
That's not the end of it, of course - there's a trip to the cosmetics counter, and she's actually really fascinated by what is being recommended for me. She's Irish and really pale, so says what she's usually looking for is something that will cover up her freckles (which I think are pretty cute) without making her look like a mime, while picking out the right shade for an African-American woman is pretty tricky, relatively speaking. I'm okay looking dark, but some women want to look lighter-skinned, apparently. Something to ask Mom about when I'm myself again.
Then, ugh, the hairdresser. Neither Krystle or I have what they call "good hair", and while I always just had it cut fairly short as a guy, I've sort of been doing a mini-Afro for the past few months. I'm not sure who exactly talked me into a perm to get it straightened, but it's a long, smelly process that I don't recommend. I've got to give Moira credit, though - she got her own permanent in solidarity, although that did lead to a lot of "black girl trying to set her hair straight while the white chick wants curls" talk among the ladies doing the weird stuff to our heads.
We both came out looking really good, which disturbed me on a couple levels. Not Moira looking good, but me thinking I look good. Not only am I making myself look nice for a guy when I'm thinking that I really should be resisting it (especially since he would find me looking girly weird), but that I think the straight hair's a sort of improvement. Dad would probably look at those lines about me finding a redhead pretty and shake his head - I think he really worried about me dating white girls at school because there weren't many options - and there'd be a whole white-standards-of-beauty talk if he could wrap his head around his son turning into a woman in the first place.
Thankfully, Karla wasn't around when I got home, although Momma Kamen was looking after the kids. She gave me a raised eyebrow when I walked through the door with the straight hair and the shopping bags, but waited until the kids were asleep to turn off the TV and ask what my plans were for the next day. I told her not to worry because we weren't getting back together, and this was all a friend's idea. She seemed justifiably skeptical - I gather that the real Krystle has a history of going back to men who are not good for her, and she's not dumb; she could add up "Lamont'' not having a place to stay and my house-sitting for Missy while she visits Hong Kong.
Ashlyn let me borrow her car to pick Joseph up, since we'd also be getting some of Lamont's things out of storage and doing a little shopping for essentials. That was a new and surprising bit of nervousness - even though she knows about me, it didn't really occur to her that I hadn't actually passed my driver's test yet - it was scheduled for the week after the youth group's trip to the Inn. I show Krystle's license often enough just getting into places or buying cough syrup that it feels like mine, but I hadn't been behind the wheel of a car in like eight months, and never by myself! And while I've gotten used to shoes with with a bit of a slope to them (I hate feeling so short!), the pair that I thought might go with the dress had three-inch heels that I wobbled on. It felt super-weird to put my foot on the gas with them, so I wound up just driving barefoot. Or in my stockings, whatever you call that.
The drive took my mind off the outfit and how I looked in it, though. Once I got to the facility and stopped the car, then looked in the rear-view mirror, I got really nervous again. It really seemed like a bad idea. Still, there was no going back, so I got out, stood by the car, and waited.
Joseph didn't recognize me when I saw him leave the building, or even when I called his name. Yelling "Lamont" got him to look. If I were really his girlfriend, I don't think I'd've liked the way he seemed to drag himself over and looked away.
"Why are you dressed like that?" he hissed. I told him Moira thought he deserved a treat, so shut up and let me take this selfie with you so that she and all Krystle's friends on Instagram I never talk to in real life can get excited.
We drove out to the storage unit where all of Lamont's clothes and staff wound up after the eviction without talking much. He'd occasionally glance over at me and then turn away while I looked the other direction. I guess that there's not a whole lot else to do in jail but work out, because Joseph was bigger and more muscular than when I put those things away. I felt ashamed to notice, even if it didn't quite feel like the Temptation it might have a month earlier.
We drove up to Missy's apartment next. She was there, although she didn't need to be; I had a key from the last time I house-sat. She actually invited me to stop by and stay a night when I needed a breather from Krystle's family, although the one time I tried was a lesson, as there were really loud sounds coming from her room and I just backed right back out, telling myself that wasn't the sort of place I wanted to be. But while Missy may be a gleeful sinner at times, like all people can be, she's been pretty generous to me and didn't even wait for me to mention Joseph had no place to stay before offering her spare room.
She was packing her bags to fly to her supposed hometown when we got there, but reached out a hand as soon as we walked in. She didn't seem much embarrassed to give Joseph a once-over before showing him to his room. It wasn't decorated or anything, but I imagine it was nicer than the cell had been. She didn't say that exactly, but something along those lines, and then added that it was unfair how randomly the Inn put people in different situations.
She meant the broken probation, but Joseph said it was just a few months out of circulation and nothing like what the curse did to me and her. She got a look on her face that usually means lots of swearing is coming, but then half smiled and said she'd let that slide because she felt that way for a long time. "But, pro tip? In the future, remember that telling a girl that being one is worse than being in jail will not get you much p---- at all."
Joseph didn't really have a response to that; he'd gotten used to being bombarded with worse language in jail, but it's still a little surprising from Missy - she looks younger than we do, and always dresses so nice. Joseph stared after her as she left, maybe giving her bottom a little extra wiggle, waiting until Missy was gone to say we were getting out just in time, before there was no going back.
He'd barely finished saying that when Missy called me, saying she'd reserved us a table at a nice restaurant, and it was on her. I was dressed for it, she said, but Joseph had better have a suit in the boxes we got out of storage.
He did, although he held off changing into it until just before we left. We didn't exactly need more reminders of just how different our lives have been for the last months, but it was kind of amusing to see him confused as I navigated the MBTA for us; I found myself telling him that we were lucky because Boston is apparently pretty simple compared to New York or Hong Kong according to Missy and Benjamin. Seemed like only yesterday that they were saying that to me.
We got there without incident, were seated, and ordered. I thought things were pretty good for a while; we even shared a nervous laugh after accepting the waiter's recommendation for the wine pairing, seeing as we are both well under the drinking age in Massachusetts.
After a while, though, I noticed that he wasn't enjoying his really good steak nearly as much as I was, and asked him what was up with that - surely it wasn't a step down from what he had been eating! He said that he just didn't feel right being pleased with anything in this situation, especially since being imprisoned in these bodies and lives way clearly meant to teach us humility.
We were interrupted by a waiter refilling our water glasses, and I must have smiled at him for half a second, because I got hissed at about how I clearly hadn't learned that at all. I said I was just trying to be nice, because I've been waiting tables for the last few months and, trust me, there's a difference between showing you appreciate the work someone's doing and flirting. He asked how much of the latter I'd done. I said none, he said really, I said screw you, I've got to pee.
Thankfully, there was no line for the ladies' room, and I got into a stall and took a deep breath. I made a silent prayer for strength, because I knew Joseph had been through worse. Instead of going immediately back out, though, I saw what had floated to the top of my purse, figured I'd been putting it off long enough, and, besides, this would keep my from having to go back to the table for a few minutes,
It did, but I was some sort of reluctant when I got there. To make it worse, Joseph was apologetic, saying that despite being in jail, the last few months had been kind of easy for him; it was just a matter of keeping his faith and following the rules, so he should probably come out of it a stronger person in a month or so, as would I. Yeah, I said, about that... (huge breath) It doesn't look like I'll be able to go back to the Inn at the end of June, because, well, the other guys who have become women told me to keep careful track of my cycle, like in a weekly planner because we haven't had a chance to get used to it, and since I was really late I bought a pregnancy test and that's what I was doing in the bathroom, and though I'll double-check, I can't exactly go back to the Inn because either a first-trimester fetus will separate from me like some monster in a horror movie but not have anything in its brain or I'd become some sort of pregnant man or it would disappear and doing that deliberately would be like having an abortion and I couldn't even consider that--
That's when Joseph stopped my babbling, asking how the Inn could do that almost a year later - was Krystle pregnant and it just took my body time to catch up?
I shook my head and looked away. "No. You remember when the new versions of us visited, and the new you was pretty cool, but the new me was kind of a jerk? Well, he wrote me at the start of April, said he was a deal-maker in his real life, and he wasn't going to have a year of his life taken without getting something for it, that he may not like being a kid but he figured that being a young man just about to start his adult life might be valuable to someone, but it was only fair I get first crack. I told him I was broke, that I'd barely put a few hundred dollars in Krystle's checking account and that was to put down a deposit on her own place. He had me send him a picture of myself naked, and then said--" I was crying by this point, so I swallowed hard. "He said that he supposed that I was a nice enough piece of ass to make a good memory, especially since I'd be doing it with my own body."
Joseph was starting at me with wide-eyed horror, but I couldn't stop at that point; I'd kept it bottled up for about a month and I guess I needed to let it out. "He said he'd be coming down the Thursday of April vacation so he could do it without Mom & Dad getting a call about me skipping school or anything that might get me grounded during summer vacation, and because he was only seventeen I'd have to pay for a hotel room, and that I should dress sexy - it was worse than this - and then..." People at neighboring tables were starting to sort of look away. "It was horrible, but he said it was good enough. I prayed that this was it, but--"
I felt like I'd been slapped. "How can you say that?"
"Isn't the very definition of a whore somebody who sells her body and virtue? Maybe you didn't take money when you f---ed him - another man! - but it's the same thing!
"I had to! He's obviously a psychopath and he's living with my parents who have no idea what kind of monster is wearing my face!"
"I was able to spend eight months in jail because I trusted God to see me through, but you chose to whore yourself out like that instead! Faith would have found a way, but instead you just had to indulge your curiosity!"
I just sat there for a second, not really having a response, until I said that I thought he was my friend and that Krystle's mother said I shouldn't come, though she obviously didn't know why, and then I walked out. I took the T back to Missy's apartment, drove Ashlyn's car back to her place, and then walked a ways to the nearest T stop before taking it back "home".
It was Karla there - Momma Kamen was working a night shift - but for whatever reason, she didn't give me any trouble, and when I cried that it was over and everything was over she his me like I always thought sisters did and said that it wasn't that bad and, take it from her, no man is worth those tears.
I guess she's right, but I had kind of hoped that I would be, someday.