Thursday, June 30, 2016
Perhaps it seemed like I decided at the last minute just to walk away from it all and head back, but it wasn't that instant. My fate was officially sealed Sunday night when I booked an extra plane ticket and took a guest with me to the Inn. That was the point of no return, but in reality I decided this much sooner than I admitted it to myself.
I might have decided when I heard that Kari wasn't returning to her old life and unfairly leaving Ashley at the mercy of the Inn's twisted fate. Honestly, I don't really fault her for that. I'm still pissed, but I can understand her reasoning. She had a daughter at 14 and had her entire life hijacked. She had to drop out of high school, not go to college, have all of her friends pass her by, and work a series of low level jobs and do unspeakable things to keep a roof over her head. It's wrong to resent your child but I understand that underlying unhappiness that Ashley picked up from her true mother. Kari found herself in a great position in California with a chance at the type of life she never had a chance to get. It would be hard for anyone in her situation to turn that down if a magical hotel drops it in your lap. I don't forgive her, but I understand. But my decision came earlier than that.
I might have decided on Mother's Day, when Ashley went out of her way to make things special for me. This girl who was so unhappy and caustic to me when I first met her made a special effort to show me how important I was in her life and how much she appreciated that. The pride and accomplishment I felt that day was literally more than any other day in my life. I've graduated college, worked a high level job, made millions for others and six figure bonuses for myself but none of those gave me the feeling inside that I got from knowing that I made that much of a difference in one person's life. Ashley is going to go to college next year, and it's because I made her join a team, work on her grades, and study for the ACT. If the Trading Post Inn hadn't sent me to Detroit, she might be a waitress for the rest of her life or turn to drugs. But I had decided even before that.
I might have decided when I was dating Darius. When I realized that being a woman wasn't a curse in and of itself. That having to live Kari's life as she did was what was awful, not simply having her body. When I realized that my body wasn't something to be afraid of but something that could be embraced and enjoyed. When I learned that sex in a woman's body could be more than just something you do to keep your job, but a profound way to connect with another person. When I had feelings for Darius that I hadn't had for anyone in years, and how I knew he liked me for me and not have to worry about him being after my money like I did when I was Lane. How the breakup which was caused by my own lack of honesty rocked me to the core and caused me to be a hermit for weeks. But I had decided before that.
The moment I subconsciously sealed my fate came when I first got a good look at Ashley. Not just observing her but standing face to face with her. Eyes identical to the ones that I saw in the mirror every morning. Same color hair. The same smile. When I looked at her the familiarity triggered something deep inside me that I can't explain. Like some sort of primordial voice that says "This is the most important thing in the world. Don't let anything bad ever happen to it." I'm convinced it's some sort of genetic "mother's intuition" that I acquired with the rest of this body. I could also just be lying to myself when I think that, since Todd never described feeling anything similar in his writings about his time as Anne Marie. Although perhaps he felt that way but never put it to words. Either way, as time went on that voice grew stronger until there was no way I would be able to leave Ashley's future in the hands of someone I didn't know could be trusted. The simple way to describe it is that I love her. It's odd to write that I love a teenage girl but there isn't another word in the English language for how I feel about her. It's a different level of affection than with a girlfriend or a family member. It's profound and amazing that perhaps Kari having that feeling severed by the Inn is what led her to be able to walk away from Ashley. The only way to ensure her protection was to be her protector for good. It meant throwing away my old life and family but I haven't wavered once this week.
So why go to the Inn at all? Why bother going all the way out to Maine? To get rid of Latherman. If I'm going to be spending the rest of my life in this body, I won't spend another day being the mistress of such a disgusting pig of a man who uses fear of poverty and his position of power to extract sexual favors from me. I shouldn't have to look for a new job because he's the one who behaves unethically. I don't have the means or strength or even mindset to kill him, but I did have an untraceable magical inn.
I got in touch with some people. I don't know if they're "Pygmalion", or if they're "The Agency" or "Travellers" or some other cadre of criminals who abuse the power of the Inn. It's logical to assume that over the course of a century several similar groups would have come to be. My offer to them was my life. Lane's life. It turns out there's quite a demand for the life a young healthy white man with 7 figure earning potential and an apartment in New York City. In exchange I would have a guarantee that Latherman would change and I wouldnt be around for it. They were more than happy to oblige, saying that Latherman's life would be greatly valued by someone they knew. I didn't dig any deeper.
We switched rooms around so I wasn't staying in the same room that Jennifer had two weeks ago. Nobody went into "Lane's Room" so I assume that the 13th person who would have trigger the change was sleeping in there tonight. Latherman and I stayed in single bed room. I was tempted to look at the luggage that was left behind to see who he would turn into but I decided agaisnt it. If I found out he was getting a life upgrade I might try to back out of this. Whoever it was, he's probably him now.
I don't feel a single pang of guilt for what I've done to him. To make sure he stayed in the room and slept there I did every disgusting thing I could think of to keep his attention and wear him out. One last degrading act before my freedom from it all. I do feel bad for his wife and children. Their father who cheated on them will soon be replaced by someone , and they'll have no way of ever knowing. Mrs. Latherman will share a bed with a stranger just so I don't ever have to share one with her real husband.
The scariest thing about all this isn't that I'm going to be Kari for the rest of my life. I've done it for a year and I can handle it and in some ways it's given me great happiness. The scariest thing is that after tonight I have no excuses. I chose this. I am forever and always Karina Cruz and any consequences that come with that are a direct result of the choice I made this weekend. I chose to deal with her past, I chose to live her present, and I chose to shape her future.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Monday, June 27, 2016
Saturday, June 18, 2016
While we waited for it to arrive, I started to sort through the things I had gotten from storage. Joy appears to have been a bit of an organizational freak, so all of the containers were pretty well sorted by season, occasion and style... there was work clothes, beach clothes, casual clothes... date clothes... all labelled and neat. Except a whole winter in a funky storage unit had left them musty. My project for the week was to properly launder each of them. So much for my immediate boost in wardrobe options.
Treena watched, advising but noting that most of this stuff was over her head. I wouldn't say she's un-fashionable, just that her style and Joy's are clearly not the same. Treena has that whole punky indie girl thrift shop look. She works from home so most of the time she dresses down, in a crusty-looking hooded sweater and shorts, but by now I've also seen her done up to go out, and she really knows how to make herself into a pinup star. Hot. She makes her whole voluptuousness and attitude work for her.
Me, I still look exhausted 24/7, in my ratty tee shirt and pre-made cut-off jean shorts that come up to here on my waist but only go down to there on my thigh (imagine my hand gesturing next to my crotch.)
After I finished my first slice of pizza, I reached for a second and Treena made this... wincing noise. Like, "I wouldn't do that..." I asked what that was about, and she put it bluntly: "Joy isn't the type of person who would go for the second slice. Maybe in an hour or two."
I said, I don't really care what Joy was like, Simon enjoys pizza. She shook her head, "Hey, I'm not the boss here. You can live your life however you want. Believe me, I'm not lecturing anybody on how much pizza to eat." She gestured to her, um, figure. "But if you want those clothes you just spent an hour sorting through to mean anything, you'll think twice."
I looked over. The skinniest jeans, unforgiving tops that reveal belly buttons and other clothes don't handle bulges well. This couldn't be me, my life. I'm not a fat guy but I use all the energy that I take in. Surely Joy was the same way.
"For the record, I'm not into starving myself either," Treena said, "That's how I wound up with all this goodness. And I don't mind it, for myself. And if we ever get Joy back where she belongs, maybe she'll understand if you go up from a size zero to a two or a four. But as a practical concern... tread lightly, you know? Eat light. Chicken, salads... not so much grease and salt."
I scoffed and anger-bit into my pizza anyway. "Ugh. Okay, tomorrow. Tonight, pizza."
After that, she disappeared into her room to work - she's works with computers, I'm not going to pretend I understand exactly what that entails for her, but she mostly keeps to herself. Me, I finished my guilty second slice and drew up a warm bubble bath. I've taken a few quick showers to get the grime off, and this certainly wasn't something I indulged in as Simon, but it felt right for me at this point. Joy has a dainty little body and it deserves to be pampered.
Plus, with my old body, you couldn't even really get me to sit in the tub, so it's nice being small enough for that.
Not gonna lie, after all the running around and craziness of the first few weeks, it felt good to relax and get my mind off things (even as, naked and wet and alone, "things" were very much in front of me.) I made a mental checklist of things that need to be addressed before I can truly live life as Joy Kershaw... and then put it away. "For now, the soak," I thought. Very nice.
Friday, June 17, 2016
No, I didn't discuss it with Kitty... she's probably going to be irritated, but sometimes an opportunity comes your way that you can't pass up.
Part of Thrio's service is that you can link up with a client and become their regular driver. You have to be available during a set regular time of the day, but the rates are a) fixed and b) much higher. It's a more premium service as compared to their regular carsharing system, and I honestly didn't think twice about it when I looked over the terms and conditions of my employment there. I figured I was just dabbling, no need to get in too deep.
So last Sunday night I was driving this guy around and we stop at this extremely shady little club in Downtown Milwaukee. He tells me he's just stopping in so I wait outside. When he comes out, he's got this other guy in a headlock. I raise my eyebrow but I don't get involved until the guy breaks free and knocks my client down. He's so busy kicking the crap out of him that he doesn't see me coming.
I... broke up the fight, suffice it to say. My client requested I hold the other guy back - Alan didn't have a lot of natural muscle but I can hold me own. He took a few cheap shots at the guy, to which I said stop, or I'll just let him go (I was getting paid the fare through his credit card anyway.) Turns out he owed my client some money, so we encouraged him to pay up.
My client, whom we'll call Donato, thanked me for having his back and slipped me a $100 bill, which I'm technically not supposed to accept. "You've got some moves, Beanpole." Uh huh.
Now, it turns out - I wouldn't have expected this before I lived here - Milwaukee, WI is one of the most dangerous cities in the country, home to a certain amount of small-scale organized crime... and while I can't speculate as to whether Donato is actually doing anything illegal, he definitely seems like someone involved in some questionable stuff.
So two days later, when he put in an official request to retain my services as a driver - from 6 PM until 3 AM six days a week at a rate of one thousand dollars per night I... was shocked, but I didn't exactly feel like I could say no.
Kitty wasn't thrilled, but I explained at least she would know what hours to expect me, and I would really just be on call for this guy, not necessarily driving him all that time. Could it be dangerous? Perhaps, but... the opportunity is too good to pass up. In the time between now and July, I would be making nearly a year's worth of salary at a conventional job.
I hope this doesn't affect her decision to come back to Maine with me, but... I think I can make it up to her.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
In a few days, I'll travel to Maine and hopefully change back into the person I was born to be. I told Ashley I was going on a work trip, but she didn't believe me and actually asked to come along. Her eyes got a little hurt when I gave her my gut reaction of a forceful "NO", so I tried to soften the blow.
"It's actually my boss that's going on a vacation" I lied "But if he brings me along to answer his phone he can somehow call it a business trip and write it off on his taxes. So I get to go to Maine again. Really, it was boring the first time. Nothing remarkable ever happens there."
That seemed to placate her, and she smiled and said "You deserve it anyway, you've worked your ass off all year."
I looked over my shoulder and down "Nope, still there. Maybe even a little bigger" I joked.
We both got a laugh about that. It's amazing that in a year I've gone from being terrified over having a woman's body to being able to crack jokes about my ass with another girl like it's locker room talk. I go back to my first posts in this blog about how weird it is to be so small and curvy and how bras are tricky and Rosita had to do my makeup. All of those things have now been second nature to me for months. It really isn't that surprising when you think about it. Half the population gets used to those things when they're emotional teenagers. There really isn't anything about being a woman that I can truly say I can't stand.
I wonder what that means about me. I always considered myself 100% male and never thought about crossdressing or even transitioning. Yet when I found myself in the body of the wrong gender, I felt discomfort but not crippling dysphoria. Someone from the Inn needs to become a psychologist to help process all of this.
The lie about this being a work vacation is something I toyed around with in my head. I didn't want Ashley to get the wrong idea about me and Latherman despite the fact that it would be true. I'm fairly certain she has no idea that her mother sleeps with her boss for the purpose of keeping a roof over their heads, but knowing Ashley she would feel wrongfully guilty about that so I've shielded her from that knowledge. Hopefully whoever becomes Kari has the good sense to continue that.
Speaking of my successor, I've actually started drafting my letter to them. It's full of details about memories and Ashley's friends. Part of it reads like high school gossip. I'm actually doing more to prepare that person for this life than I did to prepare Jennifer for my real life.
I've been thinking about that person. The impending Kari. Who they might be. It's possible that if I hang around Old Orchard after I change back, I might be able to watch people checking into the Inn...but I wouldn't be able to know anything about their personalities from that. Ideally the New Kari will be a responsible adult with experience in at least parenting, if not motherhood. She would be patient, understanding, and willing to put up with a boring job with unspeakable conditions attached to it for the sake of someone else.
My flight leaves Sunday. Hopefully the change happens soon after that and I won't be twisting in the wind.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I guess I shouldn't be badmouthing my adopted gender... it turns out I'm going to be here for a while. And unlike some folks, in my case it's by choice... at least in a "this is the right thing to do" sort of way.
So the long story short is that although Chris, the real Chris, is ostensibly a smart guy who went through law school and everything, he isn't necessarily capable of following directions. So when I said to him "Rosie and I are visiting the Inn on July 28, please schedule accordingly," reminding him of our previously agreed-upon dates, he comes back with "Oh I already booked..." for the JUNE. Can you say "Doesn't Follow Directions?" How was he going to make it as a lawyer without having an eye for details??
What a stupid mistake. And he tried to blame me, but I swear I did everything I could. So he sold off his reservation but couldn't get one for the week after, so he reluctantly gave up and told me to live his life for another year.
Okay, fine. But for the last year I have been living Chris DiVito's life like I wasn't going to be here long. I avoided romantic entanglements even when my body and mind pushed me toward them. I kept a crappy job and was barely able to pay rent on Chris' apartment while having any semblance of quality of life. My only big change was getting my hair cut every month and shaving his beard because I didn't like the way it felt.
In 2016 and 2017, I will be living Chris' life for myself. I don't care if he doesn't like what he comes back to, I need to make changes. I want to stop emptying garbage and I would like an apartment I can actually afford (which may mean leaving the city... boo, I love it here!)
I discussed this with Rosie, who was obviously a bit annoyed. She was hoping we would see this through together, and obviously isn't staying as Ahmir. She's grown more and more reclusive as they months have gone on. She feels like an outsider around white people and black people alike. I told her we would still be friends - Portland is far but we're still on the same coast, unlike when I was in Indiana. She said there was more to it than that, but I wasn't sure exactly what that meant.
It was harder to place a call to Justin - the "new Erin" - specifically requesting that he keep my life for another year. It's a crummy position to be in, and I would understand if he didn't want to put up with the hassle of being female for another year. But I know that his girlfriend left him as soon as they became Rosie and Me. I don't know what kind of life the new-him has left, but... I mean, isn't it just easier to stay put, all things considered?
He said he was eager to put it all behind him - that being Erin Hanley represented a very difficult year of his life and he was hoping it would just disappear from his shoulders when he became himself again. But he's considering it. Honestly, if he didn't want to stay as me, I wouldn't blame him, and I would make do... but the fewer transitions I think we can involve, the better chance we have of putting things right next year.
Monday, June 13, 2016
I took the bulk of my savings. No, you can't just close down your bank account and withdraw all the money at a moment's notice without even having the face and ID of the account holder, but you can make strategic online transfers. Besides, it's not like I had that much in the bank. Much of what I made still went to paying off my student loans. But I had a rainy day fund, and I consider this a rainy day.
Joy is starting from scratch, her accounts drained, her income and savings zilch... I would like the new me to start from a step or two above "scratch." Luckily, I had enough clout with Aldine that I could arrange an impromptu month-long vacation starting the day I was supposed to come back from Maine. Uncharacteristic, perhaps, since I'm known to be a bit of a workaholic (see: chasing Abe Fowler down on the convention floor during my first day as a femme) but I had it coming to me and had no problem cashing it in. I would like my "guest" to be able to take over that job for me since I've worked hard to build up a rapport with my managers and clients, but if they're just going to make a mess of it, maybe they should just quit and flip burgers or something.
For those interested, Abe still hasn't signed, but that doesn't mean he won't. I just wish there was more I could do...
From Cleveland, I took a flight out to SD, really I really wanted to just lie back and relax on the flight, but I got seated next to this guy who... well, he obviously noticed he was sitting next to a very attractive girl, unaccompanied by a boyfriend.
I should have just minded my business, but I'm in sales. Staying quiet isn't really my instinct. He asked what I was going to San Diego for and I said I was going home... explaining that I had "just" moved there. He talked about how he was a frequent visitor, loved the zoo, the nightlife, etc. I let him do most of the talking and, as he educated me about my new adopted hometown, I watched his body language as he leaned forward and back, possibly trying to test me reactions. At first I felt a little on guard because obviously he was trying to put out a vibe, and while I patiently listened and engaged with him he never got to the part where he hit on me, asked for my number or made an offer to join the mile-high club... which is good, because I really wouldn't be sure how to diffuse that situation at this point!
So when I got off the plane, I felt like I was walking a little taller. It was a genuinely nice experience, and I felt quite warm from it. People never just strike up conversations with me regularly, whether they have intentions or not. I'm usually the one doing the striking. Yes, there was part of me that was unnerved and suspicious at first, but I ignored it and got a lovely chat out of it.
I'll say this, too... I did notice the gentleman's looks. Not necessarily in an "I'm attracted to men" kind of way, but in a sort of "This guy obviously has a lot of confidence derived from his looks and probably is quite discerning about women, and he decided he wanted to talk to me" way. Obviously I just happened to be in the seat next to him, but I felt like if I looked different he might have ignored me. So I was flattered.
I must have really been glowing when Treena picked me up in the Rent-A-Van as she gave me this raised eyebrow "You look like you had a good flight?" look. I decided to keep my little conversational encounter under my hat and chalked it up to flying being a more pleasurable experience when you fit into the seats better... which caused the somewhat zaftig Treena to roll her eyes. Oops, guess I just offended my new "roomie."
Our first stop was to the storage depot where Joy had left all of her unneeded stuff before setting off to live as "Brian" for a year. She and Treena had packed up their place together last fall and sublet their bungalow. She had already emptied her locker and now it was my turn.
Now, I found later that much of the furniture had stayed for the sub-letters to use - which means someone else had been sleeping on Joy's mattress for a year, using her desk and shelves... but the bulk of her possessions, mostly clothes and accessories, were in storage. I was bowled over by the sheer amount of it, packed away in Rubbermaid bins, clothes for every conceivable occasion... from business suits to pretty dresses to yoga gear and sweats for just lounging around the house... along with a veritable cornucopia of underwear styles, not to mention a fairly robust selection of make-up and beauty equipment. Not that I'm personally interested in fashion but you have to appreciate someone's sheer dedication and investment in her image. Not to mentioned, I was relieved to go from having only two distinct outfits to switch between to seemingly endless possibilities. I was clearly trying Treena's patience as I took a bit of time to dig through it just to see what I was dealing with. She tapped her foot, expecting me to just grab the bins and work it all out later, which would probably be best done in the privacy of our own home.
As the sun set over the (surprisingly chilly) San Diego beach, we drove back to "our place," I contemplated my bounty. Joy didn't leave me a lot to show for herself... I still hadn't found, for instance, her Birth Certificate, Driver's License or Social... things I'll have to replace.
Of the two jobs, my position with Threo has the most potential for making money. If I devoted more time to it, I could probably be very well off. But it has its ups and downs. The kitchen job, which is very low paying (and seriously beneath me) is more consistent. Between the two of them, I'm out of the house anywhere from 12 to 15 hours per day (my initial plan was to only drive on days when I wasn't washing dishes, but the money was too good to limit myself.)
Being out for 15 hours at a time, then coming home and going right to bed, is fine when you're on your own. But apparently I have a girlfriend. I didn't realize when I suggested Kitty and I start fooling around on a regular basis that I was also gonna have to perform the duties of a real honest-to-god boyfriend, but she's a bit old school like that.
Everything was going fine - I would come home late, chat with her a bit, and then if I was in the mood I'd initiate something. But slowly we crept more into relationship territory. She'd ask how late I was going to be out, text me while I was at work to check in, find reasons to get frustrated with me. And I would feel guilty too, so I'd apologize and try to find a way to make it up to her. She's very keen on living (a version of) Greta's social life, whereas I am very wary of interacting with these people since I don't plan on being here anymore come fall.
She would rather I just work lunch shifts at the kitchen, so I was more free to keep her company at night. But that's the least amount of money I can make, and since she basically refuses to work - she's not qualified for anything that isn't "beneath her" - we need the cash. I would rather give up the restaurant and drive full time, but she would feel personally slighted if I was out working the late hours (when there's more $$ to be made.)
Why do I desperately need to keep her on my good side? I don't know. I need good karma. I need to get Alan and Greta back where they belong, and move on in my life. Kitty is pretty worried that means leaving her behind, going our separate ways once we get new lives and... I'm not going to lie, that seems possible to me. I'd say I wouldn't ditch her outright, but... isn't that what I did to Meg? Shit, I am scum.
So now I'm a little reluctantly in a couple. We make plans like a couple, we fight like a couple... we also joke around like a couple and screw like a couple. We've gotten very comfortable in this situation, and I don't mind putting in some work to keep it going. Maybe I shouldn't be so outspoken about this but I'm still a person with needs and desires, and she's... there, and doesn't seem as critical of my every move as Meg sometimes could be. She's quite attractive and sweet to me, and making her happy makes me feel good, warm and comforted. It feels like we're in this together, in a way that Meg and I weren't, since she got her body back.
We still have some time left - the rest of June and all of July - so it's in my best interest, if I'm bringing Kitty with me ("They're probably perfectly happy wherever they are, why ruin a good thing?") to keep her happy. And to try to get as much happiness out of it as I can myself.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
The problem is what that represents: Joy Kershaw has been a missing person all winter. She basically fell off the face of the Earth in as literal of a way as possible. You would think this trend of people going to Maine and then wandering out months and months later (with no accounting for where they were or perhaps even who they really are!) would get noticed at a certain point, but hey, after a hundred years or whatever of Magical Inn Curses, I guess there's just some kind of spell preventing people from making a big deal about it.
But make no mistake, this is a big deal. Joy didn't think to leave any kind of literature explaining who exactly she is or would like me to seem to be while I'm here. She didn't leave me a trove of clothes or personal effects. She apparently assumed she was going to come back in May and get her life back deal with the repercussions herself, which was short-sighted and dumb on her part. So Joy, if you're out there, you've made a bad first impression on me. Cute body, though.
All my knowledge of Joy comes from Treena, who has her own issues to sort out, so it's not like, even if she had a full and complete autobiography of Joy Kershaw, she has had much time to share it with me. Besides, these days, every 24-year-old woman has an autobiography: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever... even her online dating profile. Thanks to Treena, I have been able to trace Joy's digital footprint and get a good sense of her personality.
She's a very positive person, into motivational images and corny memes. She likes recipes but apparently isn't much of a cook. She likes the beach (she's from San Diego, for crying out loud,) but prefers to sit in the sun with a Sophie Kinsella book over say, volleyball. I would have guessed she was very active, but Treena told me - a bit bitterly - that mainly she just eats good and has good genes, and that between the two of them Treena spent more time at the gym. (I don't want to insult her but you'd never know it.)
Honestly, if I had met Joy, I think we would get along... except she's the sunshine-and-kittens do-gooder type and I'm really more of a... well, if you didn't like me, you'd say shark, but I'd just say driven. We would make an interesting couple, but now I guess we're one person.
Facebook also has granted me a timeline of her last few boyfriends: one guy she was dating at the time she disappeared, as well as two in fairly close succession before that. Looks like she's not the type of girl who was single often, and may have had multiple guys on the go at times. I definitely don't think I'll be re-creating that dynamic.
But I have been putting off checking in with those people who think they've lost her. She kept up her profiles for a bit after becoming Brian, but it drops off suddenly around the holidays, and then there's just a lot of posts saying essentially "We miss you, hope things are ok..." basically alluding to the worst but never outright saying it. Yikes.
Treena convinced me to come to San Diego with her, but I put that off. I wanted to swing by my Cleveland place first, take stock of anything I might personally need more than someone pretending to be me, including a few valuables that might be useful for leverage if they wanted to try to pull something on me. Walking down the streets of my rather rough neighborhood dressed in a yellow sundress I borrowed from a fellow Inn victim who used to be a teenage girl and turning heads I realized... attractive people really don't belong in Cleveland. San Diego it is.
As to what I'll be doing there, well... I will be rooming with Treena on a temporary basis, since their sub-letters finished up at the beginning of June. I will be getting all of Joy's belongings out of storage, which means I will finally have something to wear besides this one dress, a plain white t-shirt, a pair of jean shorts and the unflattering Hanes Her Way panties I bought myself, and one cheap pair of sneakers. There was another outfit, a pair of jeans, but literally the third day I was Joy, my body got its period just randomly in the middle of the day and wrecked them.
...Okay, when I said being female wasn't "a problem," I don't mean it didn't have problems. Life's not going to be perfect this year or anything, but it's not like I'm on death row or something. I'm a hot girl. Sometimes life gives you lemons.
Last thing - because who knows when I'll have time to sit down and write about it again - Joy's occupation was as a Realtor. She was fairly new to the game, and obviously disappearing for most of a year has screwed up her employment prospects, but to be honest... I think it's a job I could do. Yeah, it's a good deal more complicated than my past assignments, but high commissions and a product people really want (California Real Estate!!) probably make it worthwhile to learn the ropes. If I get a job, I can probably fake it while I study the ins and outs.
Basically... don't worry too much about old Simon. He's got everything under control.
Thursday, June 09, 2016
"Need some help" she said with a laugh as she got up to take some bags without even being asked
"THNK Q" I said with a mouth full of mail before pulling it out of my mouth and looking through it and seeing a bright brochure "Why are you getting mail from Eastern Michigan University"
Ashley shrugged "They do that if you're on their mailing list. They were one of the schools that got my ACT scores."
"You got your ACT scores?!" I repeated
"They make you pick four colleges to send them to" She said nonchalantly as she put the groceries away "It's not like I'm getting in anyway. I got a 23."
Sometimes I wanted to slap the guidance counselor at her school. "No, that's good!" I reassured her. I actually had no idea if it was good or not. New York takes the SATs instead. I looked it up later and it's actually above average, but I wasn't going to NOT tell her it was good at the time. More importantly, it was more than good enough to get into the mid to low tier public universities in Michigan.
I opened the pamphlet booklet and sure enough in the back was an application. "You need to fill this out?"
"Do you really think I'll get in. Or can we even afford for me to go?"
"You'll get financial aid!" Said handing her the application and looking for a pen. I was sure about that. Kari has little income and savings and is a single mom. The federal government would give Ashely more than enough cash to afford a place like EMU. (Who are nicknamed the Eagles, missing the golden opportunity to be called the "Emus")
So that afternoon she and I sat at the table filling out not only the EMU application, but applications to Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Wayne State. The whole time I had to keep from smiling from just how good and knowledgeable I've gotten about Kari's life as well as Ashley's. I was able to rattle off things like immunization history and allergies from forms I've filled out before.
I mailed those out earlier in this week, and they've given me a peace of mind. If all goes well Ashley will be college bound in a little over a year and set to make her own way in life. Now I'm a little less worried about the person who is going to take this life after me, knowing that she'll have a viable future.
Friday, June 03, 2016
(Also, hi Simon. I mentioned you twice before ever speaking to you. Welcome to womanhood, its a crazy ride but it doesn't have to be permanent.)
All that talk about reservations got me thinking about the inn and activated my over-attention to detail, so I decided to send Kari a message letting her know I'd be in Maine and to make sure her times and room were all lined up so everything went according to plan.
I got a response a few hours later:
"I'm not returning to Maine or my old life"
That sort of bombshell required an immediate call, which she didn't answer. I kept calling three times before she answered in a hushed whisper.
"I can't talk. I'm at work"
That didn't disuade me from bitching at her "YOU CAN'T JUST DO THAT! Abandon your life and take someone elses on purpose!"
"Erica doesn't want it back" she said defensively "Or at least she never made any effort to get it back. She never contacted me or anything. Her tone of voice made me think she was making things up.
I did a little digging later on the person Kari had becoem, Erica Jensen. She was about 23, fresh out of UC Santa Barbara, blonde, fit, and single. She worked at some company in LA that was tangentially related to the entertainment business. She was, at the time of the transformation, someone's personal assistant. These days the company website has her listed as "Social Media Director." It turns out spending all day on Facebook, the one thing Kari is actually good at, is a marketable skill in her new industry.
"I've gotten farther in a year in this life than I could ever go in that one"
"But this one is YOUR life. What about all of your responsibilities. What about Ashley?"
"What about her?" She muttered bitterly "She seems to be doing SO much better under YOUR brilliant guidance, according to your blog"
Her sarcasm made my jaw drop open. I didn't know just how much she kept up with the blog, but if I knew she read everything I would maybe have been less scathing and superior in my posts. Maybe. Sometimes I need to vent.
"She's your daughter" I chided "She's going to need her mom and you don't know who will wind up in that role if you don't take it."
"She's 17." Ashley said dismissively "She can take care of herself. I did."
I was about to tell her just how bad of an example that was when she hung up.
Tears welled up a little, and for a brief moment I blamed all this on myself, rubbing Ashley's accomplishments in her face as if somehow I was superior. That was only a brief moment though.
Kari is a flake and irresponsible. I know that because I'm constantly followed around by her reputation. This kind of thing is exactly in character for her and if my hunch is right she's screwing over not only Erica, but also Ashley.
I might have to take extra care to find out who is going to get this body instead.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
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.