Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rosie/Ahmir: Goodbyes

Erin, er, "Chris" as he will continue to be known for the next year at least, sat on my bed next to my open suitcase while I was packing. I was struggling with the nitty gritty of it... all of this would still be here for the next Ahmir, (hopefully the original but we can't be sure) but I had to determine what he might need, whoever it is, when he wakes up in this beautiful black body one morning in a few weeks.

Being a white woman in a black man's body in a white man's world... I mean, you can probably tell by how little I wrote about it this year that it's a hard experience to wrap your head around. A lot of the time I just felt normal - aside from the fact that I was doing more physically demanding work - looking down at these thick, dark hands felt natural enough after a few months.

But I'm not going to lie and pretend I lived my life as Ahmir to the fullest. Even when I caught glimpses of "brothas" cutting loose and having a good time, my mind was never that far away from some recent tragedy. And how easily it could be me. I wondered how they could ever stand it. But being angry and afraid all the time is upsetting. Sometimes you want to just be.

Erin has been there for me. We're in a dangerous city and I go through phases where I'm scared to leave my apartment, and he is happy, usually, to come over and hang out. Then there are times when we go out and get a drink, and I'll feel strange because my only friend in the world is a white guy, and I feel other black men looking at me and think I'm not black enough. Well of course I'm not, but what business is it of theirs?

I wish I wrote more here, but every time I tried to, it felt like I was obsessed with the race thing. And if I tried to ignore it and talk about other stuff (it seemed like there were not many aspects of my life it didn't effect) I felt like I was being dishonest.

I wish it was more fun. I wish I could cut loose the way Erin does sometimes, throw myself into some lighthearted dating or something. I had Saraya, which was nice to have someone whose experience was so close to mine, but she decided I just wasn't enough of a man for her. (Maybe I'll see her again in Maine, maybe not.)

Still, I can joke about it, I jokingly say to Erin "Maybe next year you'll catch up to where I got." He blushes a bit. I know he wants to meet someone - female, it would seem - that he can share his time with. Especially now that his "buddy" is going away. He makes a great guy and now that he's got another year maybe he can stop worrying about it. "Nobody would want me," he used to say, self-pitying, "I'm a woman in a janitor's body." So not true. He's got great potential and I can feel this year is going to be great for him.

"You're lucky," I say. "The new-Erin seems like a great person - he'd have to be to agree to stay in your body for another year."

"Well, he got screwed over by the new-you," he answers, adding "no offense," as if he was talking about the real me.

"It's not my fault she's an asshole," I say, "You know, she invited someone else to the Inn to take his body?"

"Yeah, he put a stop to it," he said. "I can't believe he dated her."

"I'm not looking forward to seeing what she's done with my life," I said. But I suppose, deep down, doing anything is probably more use than I was getting out of it.

"Keep in touch, won't you?" he says as we go to the train station together.

"Of course," I say. I wrap him up in a big hug.

I board the train and take my seat, mind drifting off as my Broadway showtunes mix blares in my ears, when someone bumps my leg hard. I swear it wasn't sticking out that badly but I look up to see a very irritated looking white woman.

"Watch it," she sneers, as if it was my fault I've got long legs. I wonder if, mentally, she's adding "N****r."

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Simon/Joy: Costumes

It was crazy in SD last weekend, with that comic con thing going on. I actually didn't experience that much of it, but I needed Treena to give me a ride somewhere and we ended up driving past a whole herd of people in costumes.




I gawked a while. There were some very fine looking women in that bunch, dressed in skintight or skimpy outfits, often as characters I don't recognize. After we got home, I made some comment to Treena - honestly, an innocent one - about how they were probably just doing it for the attention, and it was clearly working on me.




Treena got very huffy about that and told me I didn't know what I was talking about, that these girls were probably really interested in the things they were dressed as and just wanted a "creative outlet" to express that.


I shrugged it off and said "Whatever, but you can't tell me the attention isn't a nice side-benefit. I know it when I see it."


"You would say that," she sneered.


"What is that supposed to mean?" I barked back. Normally I don't give her the incentive when I can sense she's mad at me, but that day was hot and I was frustrated with some girl stuff, so I wasn't in the mood for her passive-aggressive murmuring.


But then came the lecture. "You have such a limited view of what it means to be a woman," she said, "Scratch that - what it means to be a person. Not everyone is just in it to get attention and tease people. Lots of these women are probably just doing it because it makes them feel good. Because back home, they're nobody, but coming out here, dressing up as a character and yeah, getting some props for that... makes them feel like they're more than that. Sound like anyone you know?"


I shifted in my seat for a second and said, "Yeah, but they can take their costumes off."


"Sure," she said, "But inside, they're probably dealing with a lot of the same stuff you are. Even without the body changing shit."




The rest of the ride was silent but something about her tone irked me so much that I finally couldn't let it slide, so when we got home I let it out, "What exactly is your problem with me?"


"What do you mean?" she played innocent.


"I mean you hardly acknowledge my existence and whenever you do, it's like I'm some big burden you got saddled with. Sorry your friend went missing and you feel like you're stuck with me, but this isn't a walk in the park for me, you know? If I'm that bad, I'll... fuckin' leave."


She stopped and sighed again. "So we're doing this then? Okay, I'll let it out. First off, don't bitch to me about treating you like a burden. I've been so helpful to you and you hardly thank me for it, like it's my job or something to help you decide what to eat or what to wear or show you how to insert a tampon. You have a phone and all of her contacts and social media accounts because I took the time to hack into them for you, something I felt very gross about doing."


She took a breath. "It's hard for me, okay? It's hard for me to watch you walking around in my friend's skin, acting like some kind of cruel parody of her. You have her voice and her face but you say things she would never say, a way she would never say them. Obsessing over your looks and chasing after women, openly talking about using your looks to manipulate people to get ahead... thinking with your nonexistent cock and potentially ruining her reputation or her career, or anything about her life."


"I've been very careful," I interjected, but she brushed me off.


"It's not even what you're doing as Joy, it's... it's what you are. I read the blog, you should know. Every time you write about any woman, including me, you have to discuss their looks in a way that makes me feel dirty. Like that's the only value we have, or that you have now that you're one of us."


"That's not true," I said.


"Sure feels that way," she said. Boy, she had all this stuff worked out and I was just blindsided.


"Sorry if I hurt your feelings, I don't think I said anything that bad about you."


"Yeah," she said - she was on the verge of tears, I think - "I'm sure you think that, but how many times have you felt the need to mention my size? Fuck's sake, I'm not even that fat!"


"It's just for comparison..." I explained. She didn't care.


Silence fell between us. I guess she ran out of steam, and I was just cold trying to come to grips with what she was telling me. Finally I composed my response.


"Look, I'm dealing with this the best way I know how," I said, "Don't act like looks weren't important to Joy, because I've been living out of her wardrobe all summer and believe me, this is a girl who cares about fashion. She was probably nicer about it than I was. But she wasn't as nice as you think she was. You know what Shayla told me?


"She said she was surprised I was still living with you, because Joy told her she was worried you had a crush on her, and the way you treat me, I can totally see it.


"You don't get along with her friends, and I think you probably judge them because they're into all that superficial crap you hate - or claim to, miss dyes-her-hair-some-new-color-every-month. So get off your high horse. I'm doing the best I can to adapt, and I'm sorry I'm not a perfect person and I hold some views you don't like. I'm just trying to learn, okay?"


She stormed out and I went to my room and we didn't talk almost for the rest of the night, but as I was getting ready for bed she knocked on my door.


"What now?"


"Well," she said, "There's one more reason I might have been upset and it has nothing to do with Joy. Who, by the way, I did not have a crush on."


"Whatever. I'm listening."


"That guy Joey, the one who was all over you at the party?"


"Yeah?"


"We hooked up a year ago. Never called me again. And... look, he wasn't that great or anything, but seeing him pawing at you without you having to do much, while I might as well have been invisible... it just reminds me that shit isn't fair sometimes, ok?"


I smiled. "Wow. I never would have guessed. I mean, not that I thought you were actually gay, but I didn't think you'd go for a guy like that."


"What can I say?" she smirked, "Sometimes you just need a piece of meat."


We laughed a bit and called a truce. She agreed to cut me some slack if I made an effort to be more sensitive - I don't think I'm quite the chauvinist she sees me as, but I guess that's just about changing hearts and minds. Still, getting that all out in the open was... kind of a relief.


I was still laughing afterward. She asked me what I found so funny, so I showed her...


It was a text conversation between me and Joey.


But more on that later...

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Tyler/Alan: A Life of Wandering...

Three trips to the Trading Post Inn. That has to be some kind of record, at least for those of us who write about it. I hear rumors about people who go back every year, but I wouldn't have chosen to be one of them. I guess this is my life now whether I want it or not, no matter what I look like.

If I could choose? I don't know. Being doomed to a life of wandering really just feels like an extension of what I was already doing with myself, just with more... complications. Would I even know how to settle down? To live one life for the rest of my life?

Kitty is along for the ride, as you know. I couldn't exactly escape her... I needed to bring her back to the Inn as Greta, and she's basically in the same boat as me. Someone out there preferred to be a privileged woman in her 50's instead of whatever they started as. I don't even know if her husband is going to show up - he wound up in the body of a 13-year-old boy in a seriously screwed up family - and it's questionable if they could all get back there. I'll be curious to find out.

She's not convinced we need to do this. As far as I'm concerned it's pretty shitty that she wouldn't feel much guilt about making off with Greta's body and life, if it weren't for the fact that I'm pushing her into it. She must still like me enough to go along with my plans. We're flying out to Portland tonight.

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic. Kitty has been running very hot and cold, sometimes trying to seduce me, sometimes screaming her head off at me, sometimes freezing me out altogether, depending on what I've done recently. It doesn't help that I got into a bit of trouble at work...

I was helping Mr. Donato with a business deal the other night, and things went a bit messy. We were at a pool hall and there was, um, a "disagreement," and a right hook caught me square in the face, producing a really nasty shiner. I'm hoping it fades by the time I transform. I'd hate for Alan to face that in the mirror, and I would hate to give the impression I wasn't doing my best to take care of his body (the money makes the risk worth it - I may not be Tyler anymore but I still feel like I can take a punch now and again!) But really it looks worse than it is, even if Kitty doesn't believe me. She was right pissed off that I got so banged up on the job and demanded I quit. I did, but not because she told me to. We were close to the end of my time as Alan and I made a good buck.

Maybe the Inn's magic will split Kitty and I up, but given we're sharing a room it seems more likely that we'll be stuck with each other for a while. At this point, I don't really have a plan, it's hard to tell. I want to be away from this person. But I want a lot of things I can't have...

I want to be myself. And looking in the mirror at Alan's face, he was about as close as I could hope to be. And I'm just giving it up, giving it back, because I'm not a shitty person. This face could look like anybody soon. And it could come with any number of problems. But there's no going back now.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Simon/Joy: Girl Talk

Dunno if anyone felt like I left a bit of a cliffhanger in my last post, but after that I had a few things to figure out for myself and I didn't want to check in again until I at least tried to deal with them. It also didn't help that a few days later I got a period so bad I didn't feel like doing anything at all. I cramped up so bad all I could do was lie in bed and moan about my cursed fate. Seriously, I really want to see the upsides of being magically transformed but that's a pretty massive bringdown, having a few days like that. I wonder, do women have pissing contests about who has the worst periods? They can't all be 100% supportive, right? you just know if men got em we'd constantly be one-upping each other. "Bro, I bled so much yesterday it was like frickin' Game of Thrones over here. Total Freddy Kreuger action here."

Also we wouldn't have to pay so much for tampons. Looking into one of those re-usable cups, but I dunno if I'm gonna be around long enough for it to matter...? Hmm. Seems like a practical solution, though.

Anyway, amidst the sexual confusion and the bloody mess that was my second-ever period, I decided the best way to find answers was to meet up one-on-one with Shayla. I felt like if I was ever going to find a test-case for whether I could still consider myself into girls, it would be this absolutely gorgeous creature.

I can't even over-emphasize her hotness. She is a few inches taller than me, with long dark hair, a whole Kardashian thing going on, honey-brown eyes and a golden complexion, and of course, that glorious rack and nice round ass. I Facebooked her the day after the party to see if she wanted to arrange an outing - like it was no big thing - and it took us over a week for her schedule to clear up enough.

Honestly, I've read enough of this blog to know that I was against the wall here. Guys become women and succumb all the time to their hetero lady desires for men. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if there's any part of Joy that could be into girls... I would like to find it. Even if most of her is into guys. I can deal with that later.

So she told me she'd like to meet at her favourite lunch spot. I told her I needed a reminder where that was, and she already seemed to think I had gone cuckoo, but complied. It wasn't that far of a walk, and it was a nice day, so I set out on foot...

Big mistake. In my eagerness to look like a bombshell for Shayla, I had worn strappy three-inch stilettos that looked real fancy, but chafed at all the straps, pinched my toes into blisters and hurt my ankles to walk in. I was exhausted by time we sat down, sweating my make-up off. My back was also achy from lugging too much stuff around in my perch, whose fell right between my breasts and bounced and rubbed against them. My hair was pulled back in a clip, messily. I felt like a mess already. Not an ideal impression. She arrived after me by car, looking gorgeous, in a tight black dress with her cleavage on display. And I immediately got excited: was this for me?

I'm not stupid enough to think that Shayla secretly harbors feelings for Joy. She has a boyfriend she's obviously very into - watching them at the BBQ really made me want to gag - but I thought at this point maybe I could get some privileges. Say we go to the gym and shower together, or try on outfits for one another. Just while I figure out exactly which side of the equation I want to fall on.

But I soon found out it really wasn't anything to get excited about, despite the view. We sat down to eat and she yammered on and on about all the stuff she had been up to in the past year: trips she and her guy had been on, her job, her catty co-workers, and people Joy is supposed to know. I found myself glancing over at her breasts hopping to feel that ping of excitement a man gets, but the experience was tainted - which I should have expected. If I was losing interest while I had her in a bikini, why would it hold my attention in everyday clothes (albeit ones that were sexy in their own way.) My impulses felt like they were traffic jammed. I felt so neutered and detached from that male feeling. I wanted to urge my body to have a reaction but I couldn't.

I found a few thoughts flickering in my head. One: I felt way less attractive than I normally do. I felt invisible to the waiter, even though I, too, was done up as best I could be. I felt I had a lot yet to learn about style and fashion, if I wanted to become a superwoman of Shayla's stripe. I felt like, as a mere Pharma Rep, she was underselling herself, that with a body like that, if she applied herself, she cold make any man do anything. Suddenly I felt it unfair that I hadn't ended up as Shayla - with wicked curves and big bouncy tits. I'm just slender, petite, pretty-in-her-on-way Joy. What I could do with that bod.

To top it all off, I felt annoyed at every mention of her boyfriend. I felt like I - as Simon - was as good a man or better, but never landed a chick as hot as her. Sure my looks were not in her league, but I had plenty in the bank, and great prospects. I would'a treated her right, and now I didn't even feel that interested.

Everything felt gray and cold. Like, I've defined my life for so long by the pursuit of success in business and with women, and now I was basically disqualified from the latter and feeling like I was going to have to work harder - not less - at the former.

Then something weird happened. Shayla noticed I was seeming a bit down and asked "Honey, what's wrong?" I whipped up some story about feeling insecure about the future, not mentioning my looks or hers, and she leaned over the table and gave me a big hug and said she was sure I was gonna be fine, and suggested we treat ourselves to mani-pedis. I almost didn't, thinking That's too girly, but I wondered if I could call anything "too girly" these days. It would be a new experience.

While we sat and had Korean ladies painting our fingers and toes, Shayla admitted she noticed something seemed off about me - I didn't seem to have the zest I usually did, based on my behavior and how I was not putting as much effort into my look, and told me if I ever wanted to open up about what happened, she would be there for me. I felt both warmed, and actually a little judged... I was dong my best, and somehow it's not enough? If only Shayla knew I was new to all this!

I got home later than planned and found Treena on the couch watching Netflix. She asked how it had been and I told her it was mixed reviews. I didn't get the results I wanted... in fact, I'm very soured on dating girls overall. Does this mean I'm "into" guys? No. Not actively, I'll tell you that. I think it will take a lot of convincing to give up that particular aspect of my man card.

Besides, I'm real busy these days. I'm going to start applying for jobs soon, and I've still got to spend my days in contemplation of lacy thong underwear, A-line skirts and 3" heels, determining exactly what kind of Joy I am.

Treena muttered something under her breath and left the room. I swear it's like she looks for reasons not to like me, and is trying to make me not like her either.

-S/J

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Tyler/Alan: Countdown

Kitty and I have had a few dinners with Alan's family since I've been here. It's a strange feeling, because we hardly know these people yet they treat us like family. When I was Lauren, it was a little easier to get used to because I was around her family all the point to where I started thinking of them as "my" family. The Schmidts are very nice people but I've only met them a few times. And this last one really didn't go so well.

We were at a small backyard get-together over the weekend. Over the course of the night, she had a few drinks. Alcohol seems to have a pretty random effect on Kitty... sometimes it makes her very friendly and even frisky, sometimes it makes her moody or sad. I have actually tried to limit her drinking but I couldn't really find a basis to do so since she's a grown woman and it's not always this bad. On this particular night it made her just nasty. Made her want to spill her guts to anyone who would listen about how inattentive I was, how I had shortcomings as a provider, how there was no future with me... the implication being that I just didn't live up to her ex, Chet. This all stemming from the fact that I tried to convince her to take a temp job to lighten the financial load, and because I also work nights when she feels we could be spending time together. But nobody in the audience really got that context.

For me, it was embarrassing, and I had to basically drag her home early. For everyone around, it was confusing. We were supposedly this perfect match that had been together for years and had a really solid foundation, but the reality is we just started sleeping together a few months ago out of convenience. A need for comfort. A rebound.

I don't think Kitty gets the whole "rebound" thing and I feel bad that I have ended up hurting her. She wanted to leap into something more serious, committed and constant, because that was what she was used to. I just needed to blow off some steam and I really thought we were on the same page. I saw too late that we aren't. She expects a lot of my attention and I need a bit more freedom to find myself before I can be with someone the way I was with Meghan.I think the issue is that she sees me "in-character" as Alan, her "loving boyfriend," and wonders why I can't be like that all the time. And I can't explain it, I just... can't be.

When we got home, we sat down and tried to have a long talk. She was in tears, talking about how I had embarrassed her by taking her away from the party and treated her more like a problem than a person.

I told her I respect her feelings too much to continue this arrangement. I felt like if it just wasn't working out, we should go our separate ways. As I said that, I felt the familiar sting of what a mistake it was the last time I did (honestly, if I wasn't so bull-headed, with such easily-wounded pride, I'm sure I could have worked it out with Meg.) This time, I didn't think I would have the regrets.

But she turned it around and begged me to reconsider. Please, she said, she's happier with someone than without, even in this situation. And she feels like we do get along (a lot of the time we do!) and that makes it worth working for. She also took the opportunity to take a few jabs at me for being a quitter. Ouch. Fair, though.

I said I really didn't know where I was at right now with the whole relationship thing. And in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "Better keep things stable. We're almost at the finish line, going back to the Inn, and if I break up with her now she might decide just to steal Greta's body." It sucks that I would suspect her of doing such a thing but I really don't know what she's capable of. It would be easy.

So, despite myself, I said yes. We're continuing to try. Maybe I'm a fool, but I want something in my life to work. At least for a little while. I don't know if either of us is the good guy here. Or even the bad guy. We're just two mixed-up people trying to find some happiness, you know?

And I realize the more I write in here, the more I'm not a perfect person and I have my own demons to face down. Commitment issues, communication issues, just personal problems that have plagued every good and bad relationship I have ever had. Maybe in my next life I will finally start to get the hang of it.

In some ways it was easier being Lauren. If I can forget all the pain of yearning for Meghan and the angst of being forced into the life of a teenage girl, at least I didn't have as much leeway to really screw things up for myself. How's that for self-loathing? Sometimes I would rather just give up control of my life again, because it couldn't get any worse. Anyway, sorry for the pity party. Needed to vent. Thanks for listening.

-Ty

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Simon/Joy: Fireworks

So, as I alluded in my last post, I was invited (or should I say, Joy was invited) to a Fourth of July BBQ with a bunch of her old friends. I had a few weeks' notice about this and my initial response was "of course not!" I couldn't ready to be out in the world, to be seen like this, to wear this woman's face around people she's known for years!

But in the time between, a few things happened. I was taking walks around the neighborhood just about every day, mostly for coffee (coffee places are a ripoff, of course, but it's a good excuse to get out of the house.) At first I was just throwing on whatever fit - yoga pants or leggings, a loose tank or tee. I would walk the three blocks, keep to myself, get my tall coffee and walk back a different route. Then after a few weeks I got bored of that, started putting together my OOTD (outfit of the day, of course) and walking to the coffee place six blocks away, walking a little taller, taking note of the eyes that looked up at me as I passed. You know, it's not just about looking good, it's about confidence. And I can't sell anything if my natural posture is slouched down, looking at my own feet, shuffling down the street. Nobody is going to see me or listen to anything I have to say. I need to walk tall, keep my head up and smile that knowing smirk at anyone who crosses my path. I have to work it, own it, be about it.

And how am I supposed to do any of that if I don't know who I really am?

So those people on the street were my test audience. And the baristas too, with every visit I would talk a bit more with them, as they would get used to seeing me, clearly excited to see me, feel they were building a connection. It means nothing on my end but if you can fake someone else into feeling it you know you've done it right.

Then came the Father's Day convo with Joy's parents, and while that was not the most comfortable I've ever felt, I e-mailed afterwards to feel out whether they sensed anything "off" about me, as subtly as I could. No issues on their end. I felt this strange relief. If I could fool this girl's parents into thinking I was her, I was in. Whatever I'm doing is working.

Then I did a bit of recon on who had replied yes to this party. I was particularly on the lookout for Joy's exes: Lucas, Steve, Marco and Ramon. No matter where they are in life there was always a possibility that seeing her might stir up some feelings and that was not something I wanted to deal with. Not that I'm opposed to checking in with any of them to let them know I'm/Joy is doing okay, but it has to be on my terms.

None of them would be coming. Then I scrolled through everyone who RSVP'd on Facebook. Many of those were in relationships, which is good because I was looking to meet people, not hook up. I also took notice several of the girls, Joy's closest friends: Shayla with the big boobs, Milena the black girl with the fuck-me eyes, Courtnee with the sexy smile. All sexy bitches. I know I'm a female right now so the odds of me sexually conquering any of these women is decreased, but I felt this strange stirring of emotions when I looked at each of their photos. Attraction? Appreciation for their looks? Wishing I still had my dick? It was like this happy-sad, bittersweet-excited-yearning feeling I couldn't put my finger on. As hot as these women were, and as much as I felt I wanted to meet them, there was something inside me tainting it.

The last piece of the puzzle, actually, was Treena. Treena and I have a frosty relationship, but I would say a positive one. I stay out of her way, and she stays out of mine, and while I've tried to make a few olive branch moves, she doesn't seem to have taken them well. But I had to ask: "Treena, would you come to this thing with me?"

She gave me that "You can't be serious" eyebrow and sighed, "I have a lot of work to do."

"Come on," I pleaded, pouring as much honey in my voice as possible, "I know it's probably not your scene, but I could really use the support. This is me facing my biggest challenge yet as Joy. And it's for them, you know... like you said, letting them know I'm alive and well."

She rolled her eyes. "I was just talking about posting some Instagrams, pfft. This is... Simon, this is serious. This other is people's lives you're about to enter. Impose yourself on. Feelings could get hurt."

"You think I'll hurt them? You're trying to protect them?"

"Them, you... everyone. It's probably for the best that you just live your own life and... don't worry about Joy's too much."

"I can't do that," I said, "I'll go crazy." I couldn't reveal just how badly I wanted to get a close-up look at Shayla's rack, too.

"You'll go with or without me, won't you?"

"Most likely."

"So have fun," she said, and turned back to her computer.

"Treena, I..." I sighed, "I consider you a friend. My only real friend right now. Please."

She rubbed her temples like she had a headache. Like I was a headache. "We're not friends, we're just stuck in a situation together. I'm helping you not to screw up Joy's life, until we find her and get her back where she belongs."

That actually hurt to hear a little bit, but I didn't let it show. "Don't you want to make friends with the person you're stuck with? It's better than being enemies." I reasoned, "If I go alone, I'll probably just screw her life up more, right? And I'm going to go. You coming would be the smart thing, and the nice thing."

She pursed her lips - it was actually quite cute. "Fine. I'll drive."

"Yes!" I pumped my fist. "Don't forget to bring a swimsuit and towel." Never underestimate the power of a hard sell.

She muttered something under her breath, probably sarcastic, and left.

I spent two hours getting ready - I tried doing my make-up in a serious way for the first time, and, well, it didn't come out right. Twice. So I went with a less-is-more look, figuring I would be in the pool so much that the effort wouldn't be worth it. I'm hoping to get my prep time down to under 20 minutes so that I don't become one of those cliché girls who spends hours in front of he vanity. For my outfit, it was a choice between a light yellow sundress and a lacy crop top with low-rise jean shorts that are smaller than the boxers I wore s a man. I went with the shorts - less flashy but easier to get in and out of - with strappy flat sandals on my feet. Underneath I wore a tiny light blue bikini whose bottom clung tightly to my buttcheeks and a tube top that squished my teeny boobs pretty tight but wouldn't come off easy or let my nips slip. The benefits of a petite chest. It has a little window in the middle to reveal a hint of cleavage that I hoped would be a little mesmerizing, considering my assets aren't exactly bountiful.

We arrived around 8. It was nice and hot out, the sun was still shining but setting over the ocean. Lots of beautiful people were splashing in the pool while a small group of guys congregated by the grill. Treena said to me, in her quiet anti-social grumble, "Don't abandon me, okay?" I told her I'd try, but even so I decided to dive in and mingle. I saw Shayla and Courtnee sitting poolside with their legs dangling in the water. I decided to just yell out a friendly "What's up!!" to the general group and see who reacted. As I thought, they rushed over to hug me. "Joy girl!" Shayla cried as she pressed her body into mine (full frontal contact, nice!) "It's you!! Baby girl, we need to talk! Omigad, you look so gorgeous, stunning really, you haven't changed a bit!"

"Thanks!" I blushed. I am still not used to having people remark on my looks (most people I meet probably are thinking it but don't see fit to come right out and say so!) and even though they're not mine from birth exactly, I take a certain amount of pride in how I keep it up. "You look super sexy, like always!"

She smiled, "Oh, stop. You know how I feel about compliments." I don't, and still don't get what that remark meant, but she moved on. "Where have you been all winter? SD has been a bore without you!"

"Oh, here and there. Top secret missions..." - my cute way of saying "Can't tell you but I wish I could." I bristled at that remark about the city not being the same without me, it felt like a lot of pressure to be fun and outgoing, even if she was just being flattering. "What about you? How's the boyfriend?"

"Pfft," she scoffed, "The boys all went to the park to play some football and ignore us ladies. And the men are ignoring us by cooking our food. But that suits us fine! It's girl time and we need to talk."

"You remember my roommate Treena, right?" I remembered my promise not to abandon her. Not right off the bat anyway.

"Oh yes, vaguely," Courtnee said as she sized her up. Treena, stretched out in a cabana chair, gave a courtesy wave that basically said "I don't care about you." Courtnee concluded, "I didn't think she would be interested in hanging out with us..."

They continued to ply me for information but I continued to play coy and say that what I had been up to was really not that interesting. My claim was that I was doing property management for this firm that has a big government contract and that I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Never mind that that sort of work isn't really under the purview of Joy's actual job as a realtor, it makes me sound really interesting.

They probed for the really juicy stuff: How long have I been back in town, am I seeing anyone, have I talked to you-know-who? I do know who they meant (Lucas, who Joy was dating when she "disappeared") but I told them I hadn't had time to hit him up. In reality I am not interested in deliberately stirring up any drama with Joy's exes. I assume it might come up by and by but it's definitely not my goal.

"He was so crushed by the way you ended things..." Shayla said, "But we stuck up for you, babe."

"Aw, thanks!" I said and took the chance to hug her again. The thanks wasn't really for me, but I'm sure Joy would appreciate the gesture. I also have a feeling it hurt her very much to have to end a seemingly healthy relationship abruptly.

I left my bag by Treena and slipped out of my outerwear. Shayla, Courtnee and I frolicked in the pool with the other five or six girls, and I was sure to keep splashing near Shayla... I know she wasn't going to read anything into it but friendly horseplay, but it was how I felt like acting around her: goofy, charming, flirty. I just felt drawn to her. Maybe it was some residual friendship baked into Joy's DNA or a sisterhood bond that all women feel. Or maybe, like I said, she had huge tits and I wanted to be near them.

Then before long, the boys came back and started wrecking things. They mobbed the pool, diving and cannonballing in en mass and throwing anybody who wasn't already in, in. Milena was with them, which made her the only girl in the crew of sweaty, active guys. That made me feel... strange to see. They must have been fawning over her during the whole game. The way they acted around her, even though she wasn't  the very hottest girl at the party, showed a real connection. The single ones were all vying for her attention. Shayla had her boyfriend, and Courtnee seemed to bounce between a few different guys.

It was then that I started to feel  strange pang of jealousy. Jealous of the guys for having the chance to get with these girls. Bitter at the girls for not seeing me among them. Annoyed with the whole situation because I didn't feel like I stood out anymore, that even though the energy was more sexual than I would have known what to do with, they didn't have to do anything to get attention and I was stuck feeling like a wallflower. I told myself it was good just to observe but I wanted to be in the mix. I really thought Joy's return would make her/me a bigger deal than I was.

I could see Treena getting disenfranchised, too. The group was obviously more superficial than she would prefer, and probably lacking for stimulating conversation. I don't want you to get the idea that I don't think Treena is attractive but she was the only girl at the party that looked, well, like her. And me, I was something of an outcast beside her. we had a few drinks and I tried to use the time to bond with her, but she and I haven't really found any common ground yet... and I think she was still irritated that I had dragged her out.

I decided that if I wanted to make the most of this story, I would have to play a part. After all, here I was attracted by sexy young people - while looking like a sexy young person. I waited until I saw a guy - any guy - sitting unattached and I sat next to him. "So, what's your story?"

"Oh, I'm Joey," he said. He had some chin fuzz, a necklace, and I guess it's okay for me to say a decent build. No reason to be as embarrassed to have his shirt off as I used to be

"That's funny," I said, "My name's Joy. Joy, Joey, it's almost the same." Did I mention that I had had a few glasses of Sangria? And also that I have a theory that anything sounds charming and insightful coming out of a pretty girl. "Are you also in real estate?"

"No, I'm a lifeguard," he said, "I think we've met before at a party last year."

"Oh really?" I forced a giggle, "I feel bad for forgetting. Maybe this time I won't." I congratulated myself for acting like a total tease.

I got him wrapped nice and tightly around my finger. I didn't plan on doing anything with it, but I could feel myself being pushed in a certain direction by my body. It was different from my desire to be close to Shayla or my jealousy at seeing the boys treating the other girls well. I want to deny it but I can kind of see myself appreciating the look of a handsome guy at this point. And as much as my body might have a mind of its own, wanting me to do something about it, I also felt nauseous and nervous the longer it went.

Feeling awkward about how far it had gone, I ditched him and decided to injecting myself into other conversations. I still didn't feel included, mostly because I didn't have great context for anything or anybody being discussed, but I played along as best I could.

I guess my flirty act must have been successful because Joey ended up following me around throughout the night. He tried to get close to me, put his arms around me, beckon me away from the group, steal a kiss a few times. I let him have a few just to keep him interested, once I realized that turning away as soon as he got his lips near me was probably turning him off. If you let yourself go, it's pretty much the same as kissing a girl. But I think even in my drunk, confused state, I knew just where to draw the line. But the poor kid couldn't sense my disinterest so I just went along with it. Harmless, I think.

It's not really something I'm interested in pursuing at this point in time. But it's useful to know what it feels like so I can watch out for it in the future. But it's nice to be desired, fawned over, pursued.

Once the night chill set in, we moved to the hot tub, others got dried off and went inside. I was personally pretty satisfied with my experience and told Treena we could go if she wanted to. She was all too happy to, but something had put her in a huff. I felt bad if I was responsible, if she felt I had neglected her, but she knew I was there to mingle. So I didn't ask what her problem was and decided to enjoy my nice little buzz the whole ride home, as fireworks burst behind us over water.

I flopped into my cushy, cozy, Queen sized bed (does that mean I can think of myself as a Queen?) and drifted to sleep. But the story doesn't end there. I feel into a deep dream state but my mind was still active. I remember dreams that reflected what I had just been through, but like a funhouse mirror... twisted, with more hands, more touching, warming my whole body. I felt this sudden, deep, irresistible sensation growing inside me before I bolted awake.

I was in shock. I knew, before knowing exactly, just what had happened, but I didn't quite believe it. I felt down to my lower area and confirmed the gushing dampness. I thought maybe I had already gotten my period again, but no that wasn't it.

It was an orgasm. My first female orgasm. And it happened while I was asleep, totally vulnerable, unable to even control or guard myself. I had to Google "Female wet dream" to make sure it was even possible! (It is but rarely that intense apparently!) I felt a little robbed that it didn't even occur while I was fully conscious so I could experience the full scope of it. Just... wham, right? I wasn't even entirely sure what brought it on except my humming hormones being worked up into a frenzy by everyone at the pool. I couldn't even get back to sleep for hours. I felt equal parts embarrassed and excited, and even days later I'm still trying to get over the feeling. I kept wondering if I should pursue another one or leave well enough alone... by the time I decided to try again the moment seemed to have passed and I just exhausted myself getting nowhere.

Curious. But this is clearly just the beginning.

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Monday, July 04, 2016

Simon/Joy: Being beautiful is hard work... (but it does count as work!)

I've got to admit, I'm going a bit stir crazy here. I am the type of guy who just needs to be busy with something all the time. It's that kind of drive that has given me success at just about every job I've ever had. I don't do "sitting around" very well, but it feels like that's all I've been doing.

There's more to it than that. I'm still not ready to go get a job in Joy's field, even though I've been studying my ass off. I contemplated going for my CalBRE certification so that I, Simon Woodford, would feel like a genuine Realtor, but Joy already has hers, and if I'm confident in my ability to study policies and law on my own, why should I waste the time and money? Theoretically I could apply tomorrow but I really, really want to make sure I know my shit. I don't half-ass things like this.

So I do work on that, it's just there's so little to show for it at the end of the day I feel like I'm getting nowhere. And speaking of entirely hypothetical successes, there's my work at actually adopting Joy's identity.

Now, when I tell you all this, I want you to remember that this blog is supposed to be a judgment-free zone. I know you've heard all kinds of stuff before but this is new to me, so bear with me when I say it's hard to admit this: I kind of love being sexy.

Who doesn't, or who wouldn't? If you got to ride around inside a Barbie doll all day, would you keep it dressed in a stained hoodie and sweat pants? Nuh uh. As self-conscious as I've always felt slipping into Joy's wardrobe, having it at my disposal and seeing how well I fit it out is a delightful consolation for what I have had taken away from me. I get a little tingle of pride when I get to the front of the line at the 'Bucks and the male barista gets slightly more upbeat and friendly, or I open the door and the pizza delivery guy is so mesmerized he doesn't realize I've stiffed him on the tip (hey, I'm low on cash right now!)

On the flip side, women seem to be a lot less predisposed to want to talk to me. Which is fine, I don't need their jealousy right now. Bitches be crazy, after all.

I'll admit, I do miss the days when dressing myself was as simple as "this shirt, those pants." Now I've got a lot of stuff to consider: my "color," how flattering a cut is, how I'm trying to represent myself (low cut? crop top? Bare arms, legs?) There's a lot to consider with layers... women's clothes tend to be made of thinner fabric, which is great for those hot San Diego days, but means I have to consider bringing along a sweater if I'm planning on staying out after dark. Then I have to account for whether my bra (or bralette, or bandeau, as is often the case with my little set) is visibly a color that clashes with my top, especially if it's shear... fortunately the visible-bra look is in, and my most common out-and-about look involves a loose-cut tank top where you can get a hint of the goods, but everything scandalous remains hidden... matched with black tights, which I'll admit would feel like an unforgiving second skin if I were as bulky as I used to be. But I've really got the legs for it.

In fact, I've got the legs for lots. They look great in denim shorts (high or low cut) spandex, or skirts. The shorts I like, despite being a bit stiff, because they feel freeing, despite often riding so shockingly high that the bottom curve of my butt is revealed by several of them. The skirts are my fear though, because I do worry constantly about a stiff breeze causing me to pull a "Marilyn..." especially if it's one of the flouncy A-line skirts Joy favors. In general, it feels weird to have nothing separating your legs, and I know I seriously have nothing popping out there, but I still feel like something personal is going to just tumble right out if I sit the wrong way. I'm sure I'll get over it. I'm sure I'll get "over" lots of things... hmm.

Next will be accessories and make-up... a whole new adventure.

Of course, to look truly great I have to make sure not a wisp of body hair is visible on my person. I've already shaved my legs twice since I've been here, and am contemplating whether I have the heart to just wax it all off (I mean all of it) for bikini season. I'm also doing my best to keep my blonde locks looking vibrant and stylish. I hate when it hangs limp. All in all I had to take a day to figure out what every bottle and jar of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, lotion, cream, shea butter, body and hair spray I inherited from Joy's beauty kit is supposed to do. Moisturize your elbows, ladies... you'll thank yourself in twenty years, apparently.

Let nobody tell you being beautiful is easy. But it's a skill, a set of knowledge that can be learned even by a schmo like me, in a relatively brief span of time. Not that I have it mastered, but I'm learning. The way I see it, putting away my pride and learning all this is an investment in myself. I am going to have to look very good to make the most of my Joy Kershaw experience.

Which is all just in time for the big Fourth of July BBQ I have been invited to tonight. I have been back and forth on whether I wanted to go... I am going stir-crazy and while I can foresee awkward moments when I "reunite" with Joy's friends, am I supposed to just forge my own social circle out of nothing? I think not. As Treena has said, there are a ton of people who miss "me," and want to know what I am "up to." (Although when I told her I was considering going out tonight, I got the raised eyebrow of "Are you serious?" How inconsistent...)

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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Hong Kong girl

It's been a while since I wrote here, to a certain extent because I worry about the Great Firewall of China, but seeing other people mention me makes me feel like I should check in.  Part of it is that I really want to do something in fucking English - as much as my Cantonese now kicks ass and my Mandarin is just disappointing (it's a damn difficult language to pick up, but a girl with Yuan-wei's background is expected to be fluent), a couple of months in Hong Kong had me sometimes losing touch with the American half of my Chinese-American upbringing.  There are plenty of Hollywood movies to see, but I'm always seeing them with friends, and any salve they may be top my homesickness ends add soon as the credits roll and we're talking about them as outsiders.  Not completely, as even young HK folks feel a connection with the West as well as China, but whenever I start talking about New York or Boston as places I'm familiar with, I get a few odd looks.

I should probably start off by mentioning that the spring semester was kind of bumpy, academically, but productively so. I was in another play, not quite so tiny a part, but small enough with what my advisor told me was an "undistinguished" performance. It was no fun, not nearly as much as the short we made earlier, and it really crystallized for me that, while my first school-year as Yuan-Wei has shown me that I do enjoy creating stuff, I hate and fucking suck at pretending to be someone I'm not.

It's not exactly a ground-shaking discovery, but it does sort of run counter to my feelings at the start of all this, that since us folks who've been to the Inn are pretending to be someone else all the time, acting should be a snap. But that initial assumption was way the fuck off. We're all at our best when we just be ourselves, and the trick is knowing that what we define as "ourselves" has changed. We're not just minds riding in our bodies; the meat matters, and it affects how the "mind" makes its decisions. I was miserable as Deirdre in part because I had a hard time accepting that I was a petite heterosexual white girl with this sort of metabolism and that kind of physical endurance. Knowing that Yuan-wei's form isn't something I'm in but what I am hasn't made periods suck less, but does give me the right outlook toward them.

Being onstage is just doubling up on that. I'm not this character, and I'm not the person who wanted to play characters so much that she decided to make a life out of it.  I'm glad she did, because it gave me a chance to discover that making movies is fun and rewarding even if it is a lot of hard work. It stimulates both sides of my brain in ways just writing code didn't. So, while I'm still going to be studying film and television, it's going to be in the area of direction, production, and visual effects rather than being in front of the camera.

Or on stage. Fuck the stage.

My advisor probably hasn't heard somebody planning to stay in this program say ''fuck the stage" very often, but given that my core grades are pretty good and I'm doing well in the classes that will transfer to my new major (and I'm not on any sort of scholarship), the fact that he spent most of his pre-academic career there couldn't exert enough influence to kick my perfect ass out, especially when I pointed out that the short I made with Ernesto and his friends got into a big damn film festival.

The news that I was changing focus got some interesting reactions when I got back "home" to Hong Kong. I'd kind of worried about breaking it to "Grandmother" Yu-ling, since she had been the inspiration for the original Yuan-wei to pursue a career in acting, but it turned out not to be a big deal. She had, after all, retired without a lot of regrets when she married, and though she admitted that she had been looking forward to following my career, she could still do that, though she worried that she couldn't name a lot of female A-list directors, whether in Hong Kong, China, or Hollywood.

Chen-ai, my inherited mother, was a little bit more pointed about that. Acting, she pointed out, may not be the most respectable career, but they needed to hire women for roughly half the jobs, and maybe I didn't quite realize that this wasn't the case most of the time. That did sting a bit; as much as I had noticed it was kind of a sausage party, I've got what I figure is an understandable tendency to think of myself as one of the guys in that sort of group.  Once most of the guys who are going to hit on me get shot down and we start doing what we got together to accomplish, I tend not to think about being the only girl there, though I should probably start.

Bingbing was probably the most surprised, saying it's a pretty long-haul decision to drop something you've been talking about since childhood.  I actually had a little trouble figuring out the right way to put it; I may not be that much older than the real Yuan-wei in reality, but I kind of wondered if a twenty-year-old kid would have the wisdom to recognize that things can stop being fun when you have to be really good at them, so maybe you should pivot to something similar which you find satisfying. I tried saying that while really saying "I'm a rich kid who has never had to push through something I didn't enjoy so I quit", but who knows what sort of performance I gave to the person who maybe knew the original Yuan-wei best. Acting. Ugh.

I tried not to be too curious about her and Max, especially when we went out partying and she had zero problem flirting with guys who aren't really my brother. She said they had a lot of fun, but New York was a long ways away and as much as he wanted to be a real Chinese boy, he didn't subscribe to any of the local social networks so what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.  Besides, she says, it's not like he's going to be her forever guy; she doesn't see herself staying in America after school and while Max would probably love being an expat in Hong Kong, who knows if that will be an option? And even if he does, she figures on trying her luck in Beijing, and Max probably wouldn't be down with that.

Fair enough, I guess, although I kind of hate the idea that this girl I really enjoy hanging out with is basically waiting for the right time to break my kids brother's heart, even if he always was a pain in the ass.  And, since I do figure to find some way to stay in America after my student visa express, I wonder what that means for me and Jacky.

Yeah, I somehow managed to pick up a boyfriend, or at least something with the potential to be more than "guy I've fucked more than once".  His name is Jacky Lau, and, yes, I've told him that is a stupid Engorged name because no English-speaking man has gone by "Jackie" in at least fifty years, but, whatever.  Gotta folks were big Jackie Chan fans and I can't exactly talk, since I'm ten years, max, from being too old to go by "Missy".

We actually met in Tokyo, because I can afford weekend trips to Tokyo, which is amazing.  I've never traveled that much except for family trips, but I was having a day of being pissed off at people saying that there were things a pretty young woman shouldn't do alone, and having a gold card makes me all the more likely to go "oh yeah? fucking watch me!"

And, okay, going to a really crowded city where I don't speak the language but can read the signage well enough unless it breaks out the kana isn't the world's greatest idea, especially some of the places I wanted to visit.  But I had fun, and ended Friday night in a huge arcade, where I felt more like myself than I had in weeks or months - standing at a fighting game, mashing buttons, trash-talking, I felt like Jordan Chang, doing things that just don't fit into Lee Yuan-wei's life very often. For good reason, at times, because when she soundly defeats someone and yells "suck it, bitch!", she's not six feet tall and bulky enough that she doesn't get messed with.

Apparently, "bitch" was all the a English the guys around me knew, and they knew even less Cantonese, so the screaming would have probably gone to a physical place I couldn't handle if Jacky hadn't rub in and broke it up and coaxed apologies out of each of us.  We called it a night, he bought me an ice cream, and then we hung out together the next day.  He'd never seen baseball, and is never seen baseball like they do it in Japan, so we did that after shopping in Akihabara and checking out a few other tourist things (the game's the same, but the festivities are amazing!).  I didn't realize I was asking for it when I mentioned that at least the stadium didn't do the "kiss cam" thing they do in Shea, but apparently I was.

We were on the same plane back on Sunday, and he was kind of surprised to see me boarding with the first class passengers, since I hadn't fit his "I'll take one of everything" stereotype of trust-fund girls when shopping.  I was kind of surprised when he met a gorgeous girl at the gate (I got through Customs a lot faster than he did, probably because I didn't buy a bunch of manga with sexy teenage heroines), because he is kind of nerdy and I thought he should be pretty psyched about getting my attention, quite honestly.  So I walked off and was surprised when he texted me the next day about not being able to find me and introduce me to his sister.

It's been three weeks since then, and while we haven't been inseparable since then - he does have to work for a living between semesters, the poor bastard - we have hung out a lot.   It's been a lot of weird feeling each other out at times, because I'm kind of a weird girl as a result of the two paths that got me here.  He doesn't see how I fit in with girls like Bingbing other than hotness and social class, and while he's not bad-looking at all, their boyfriends intimidate him a bit.

Still, we have fun, and I'm going to miss him when I had back to Boston via a somewhat scenic route.  But I do wonder about the long-term thing.  Even though this summer has given me the chance to get to know the original Yuan-wei's friends for more than the novelty of seeing pictures on screens in the flesh, and I've been able develop routines and even a bit of a rapport with Chen-ai (I get the impression she was closer to her dad than her mother), I do still feel more Chinese-American than Chinese, still, and while I certainly don't need anyone to tell me how much can change in two years, I feel a little dishonest forming new attachments here, no matter how good they feel.

-Jordan/Yuan-wei

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Annette/Benjamin: Graduation Parties

I've been to a couple of them in the past few weeks, and I can't say it's not kind of tough.  Sure, when I look at what Jonah is staring down, the fact that I'm skipping college seems like small potatoes - by the time he gives birth and goes back to the Inn next summer, he'll have missed his last couple years of high school, and who knows how that particular experience will change him - but I worked so hard to get there, and now I'm the townie boyfriend in the audience whom everybody thinks that Marybeth is going to eventually outgrow and leave behind.

It's a pretty tough pill to swallow, at times.  I mean, I'm proud as heck of her - her Master's is no small accomplishment, and I've got no idea whether I would have had the patience for it.  She lit up as she accepted her diploma and then, afterwards, jumped into my arms when she and all her friends finished giving each other high-fives.  We kissed for a long time, and it was a really blissful kiss - I slowly eased her to the ground, and it felt like a portion of her satisfaction and success flowed into me.  I never had that with boyfriends in high school or the ones I had as Ravi in New York, and I wonder if that's what being in love, really in love, as a grown-up feels like.

We had to come up for air eventually, and that's when she dragged me over to meet her parents.  They seem like nice folks, although I'm not sure exactly what she had told them about me and what they've assumed.  They're in their mid-fifties and Marybeth is their only child, so they were looking askance at me to begin with, and I don't know if I quite made the best first impression.

I've at least learned to navigate the whole "firm handshake" thing; the line between showing that you are a dependable person of some substance and turning it into a test-of-strength battle for dominance is a lot thinner than you may expect!  Her dad was strong but kind of recreationally strong, like he goes out and does physical things but wears custom gloves when he does it to protect his hands. He sized me up too and asked what I was studying.

I could hear Marybeth going "uh..." beside me, but I just smiled and said "same things as your daughter, just without so much institutional support and formal direction." He gave me a look that said he had it half figured out but wasn't quite there, but wanted me to say the thing that made me look bad. "I bus tables, sir, but I read and write a lot, and I hope to make a career of it someday."

He wasn't sure how to react to that, although Marybeth's mom looked at her daughter mock-seriously and asked why she hadn't said that was an option - they could have had a house on the lake! Everyone laughed at that, and her quizzing me on what sort of experiences I'd be able to bring to my writing outside of ivory-tower twenties was kind of fun. I obviously couldn't say ''well, I was a gay Indian man for a year", but I could string together just enough of my real life, Benny's, and the year that Ronan lived this life to make it sound interesting,

It was an exhausting but enlightening afternoon, and the party that night with Marybeth's classmates was a good way to blow off steam. I didn't drink quite as much as I might have last year - I'm no longer a kid excited that I can get a beer just by asking for it, and I've gotten pretty decent about just drinking enough to take the edge off in awkward social situations rather than obliterating it. Which was good; as much as I felt kind of needled that day, seeing her parents was kind of stressful for Marybeth as well, and we engaged in some terrific tension relief when we got back to her place that night. It would have sucked to be too out of it for that.

Then, the next morning, we woke up in each other's arms. I kissed her and asked what it was like for her to be both that much more overqualified for her job and that much too good for the likes of me, and she laughed before saying that it was pretty awesome, although if I keep it up with the uncanny instincts about what a girl likes, the second part will stay debatable. And as to the first, well, that's just a matter of stepping up her résumé-writing/sending game, because her student loans have officially become a ticking time bomb.

The other party wasn't really for anybody I knew, but sometimes being an "Inn Person" doesn't just mean that life dealt you an unfair supernatural hand, but that you are part of a community of people who are so much more than they seem at first glance. That I wound up in Boston makes me especially lucky in that regard; being kind of near the Inn means that there are enough other people around who have been through the same thing that your support system is not just your roommate, with whom you now likely have an even more complicated relationship. There's The Changeling, and while Ashlyn, Penny, and everyone else may be a little reluctant to immediately welcome anyone who posts on the blog or says that they've been to the Trading Post with open arms - "Pygmalion" and a number of other incidents (like how Penny is Penny rather than Arthur) have reminded them that being in the same boat doesn't mean people want to steer it the same way - the connection is wonderful.

This second party was kind of a delayed affair, as Jessica Brooks was going to law school out in California, but she still wanted to celebrate with her Inn family who know that she used to be a middle-aged cop in Baltimore, and making it here was about finding her new self as much as anything else.

She wasn't the first to arrive, though - Jonah had just finished a day shift, and didn't protest too much when I hugged her, or when Penny arrived and told her that, even though being pregnant was obviously something that, having been born a man, he wasn't prepared for, it would be amazing, changing the way he saw the world for the better. I felt a bit of a twinge - I'd never really given much thought to having children beyond it being part of some vague future but something to take precautions against for right now, but now it was an entirely different potential thing.

Soon Penny was there, and despite what she's told me before, I was still kind of surprised to be introduced to Elizabeth Kim. She read that on my face and smiled at it, saying that she was obviously still one of the villains of Penny's story when she stopped writing, but, of course, nobody is the bad guy in her own, although it took her a while to really comprehend what sort of selfish choices she had made at times and how, sometimes, you need to change your whole way of thinking. It was an interesting conversation, although I don't know if I buy it as it relates to me and Sandra.

The next person I was introduced to was Louisa Torrence, and I did kind of fangirl out meeting her, which looks funny coming from a working-class guy. I told her that when I thought that the whole blog was a piece of fiction that Penny (and others) were writing, she was one of my favorite characters because she reminded me of my mom in a couple of ways and just seemed so empathetic and genuine, and to find out she was a real person... Well, you get it. She reacted to that sort of thing about as well as she could and caught me up on what she'd been up to, and, as she put it, a bunch of other "dangling plot threads". As she said, it's not dangerous for "Marie Desjardins"in Montreal any more; the gangster boyfriend was in jail and the original Ashlyn had enough influence to keep people off her back. She's back to being a librarian again, and kind of loving it - she makes sure that she sets to work in both French and English, and the classes in library science she took (because while someone her actual age would be able to list experience but "Marie" needs to be a specialist) help her keep her mind sharp. She says she probably doesn't need to worry about senior moments, but it seems to vary for everyone. She hopes and thinks that because she dropped thirty years before her brain started to deteriorate, she's probably got the mental acuity of someone her apparent age, but that the Inn won't necessarily fix what's already brown up there.

Which, she joked, could have applied just as much to the guest of honor as anyone else, as Jessica Brooks had been a veteran cop before the Inn made him a pre-teen girl who has, in the years since, made it to adulthood, graduated college, and then finished law school out in California, which had to put her near retirement age, old enough to be my father (and then some) if we had never visited the Inn, but physically maybe a couple of years older than I look right now.  She arrived with an entourage - the road trip she and Louisa took eight years ago had led her to Dana Costello, the guy who started life as Jessica, and his best-friend's-father-turned-mother Parker (mother of Dana, not the friend, because she was now Dana's adult husband because sometimes the Inn really fucks families up), and the whole group sort of arrived together - Jessica & Kathleen Brooks and Dana & Parker & Carson & Phuong Costello.

They weren't how I'd pictured them, obviously; though my binge-reading of the blog happened within the last couple of years, the posts which introduced me to them were from 2007, so it was a bit jarring to see Jessica, Dana, and Phuong as adults in their mid-twenties, Carson as a confident middle-aged man, and Parker and Kathleen as, I don't know, the veteran moms?  You know, folks who buckled down to be parents in tough situations while still trying to do their own things, probably don't get enough credit for either, and now look at each other and know they kicked ass even if guys are just counting ways they don't look like swimsuit models.

It got loud quickly, and though I've been welcomed into the Boston group of Inn people, I'm admittedly an outsider with this collection.  Still, when I reached out to shake Jessica's hand and noticed the ring my eyebrows went up a bit.  I asked who the lucky guy was, and she nodded toward Dana.

I squealed, which is probably kind of scary coming out of someone who looks like I do, but she laughed, saying that for a moment, she could totally see the teenage girl whose fanfic had just actually happened underneath the mid-twenties male exterior.  I blushed, but nobody noticed, as they were all too busy congratulating the happy couple.  As soon as that died down, Ashlyn handed Penny a twenty, and Dana looked genuinely shocked.  "Really?  You guys were betting on this?"

Ray said that of course they were betting on it, what with them being the most hot and cold couple they've ever seen, and that's before getting into the Inn stuff.  I guess it must be kind of crazy dating someone who sort of used to be you.  "You've got no idea!" Dana said.  "But compared to watching her date losers that I never would have gone near..."

"I have never dated a loser!  Do you have any idea how high the standards someone who's secretly thirty years older than the kids who look age-appropriate are?  You're the most immature person I've ever dated, by far, in two lifetimes!"

"Oh, not the 'two lifetimes' thing!  You promised that treating me like a kid was over, because you know what this life is like and how it doesn't work if you don't trust me--"

"AFTER we're married--"

"Hey!"  Kathleen just needed one word to quiet them down as she put her hands on my and Jonah's shoulders.  "You're scaring the kids!"  They apologized to us, and the whole crowd laughed.  Ashlyn was grinning the biggest.

"This is why Penny and I had money on the two of them winding up together.  Their fights are legendary, even if they were missing something before Dana applied to the police academy."

"Which is still the most god-damn foolish mmmmph!"

Dana had put his hand over Jessica's mouth, but I guess this was a thing with them, as she quickly pulled it down, kissed him, and had the whole thing sort of turn into him embracing him from behind.  "See what I'm signing up for?"

"You love it!"  He kissed her (it was kind of a good thing she was wearing heels, because he has about a foot on her), and squeezed.  "Yeah, we fight, because we both think we know what's best for each other and broadly have a better claim than most couples.  But, let me tell you, I can't imagine my life without those fights, and when I realized that she might actually move away after graduating, and I'd have to argue with her over the internet--"

"Seriously, we weren't together two months ago, but when this goofball got down on one knee, that seemed absurd."

There was a big round of "awwwww!!!", maybe with me the loudest despite knowing them for about ten minutes.

After that, it sort of became a regular party, and it was a lot of fun.  I really found myself liking Dana; I gather that when Louisa and Jessica met her, she was really a guy's guy, but maybe it's just knowing the truth or his having spent more time with other folks who have been through the change, since it certainly feels like we've got common ground as men who used to be girls.  For insurance, he really enjoyed choosing a ring for Jessica, even as his friends broke into cops sweats.  Got some Taylor Swift on his phone, too.

Later in the night, I asked Penny if she'd bet on Jessica and Dana getting together randomly,  and she said it was because she and Ray had worked out.  I mentioned that I worried about things with Marybeth sometimes, because there was something I was holding back.  She said not to worry, because she's seen a lot of cases where it had worked out with people who couldn't know.

"So are you and Ashlyn being on me now?"

She smiled and said that if they were, it would probably be about me and Missy, chuckling when I said there was no chance of that.

I think she's just messing with me.  She's better be.

-Annette/Benjamin

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