Friday, December 30, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Merry Christmas, everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lingerie would have to wait though.

More in the new year
-Ty/Jude


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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Simon/Joy: Holiday Hangover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How long have you been in 'Daygo?"

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

"Why'd you get into real estate?"

"I like the money," I smirked.

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

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

"And this is your goal?"

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

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

"Who says I am?"

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

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

"Just one guy?"

"Just one recently."

"You a one-man woman?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Lots to think about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt a heavy weight in my chest.

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

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

"How long do you need?" he asked.

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

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

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

I dunno.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Samantha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or revealing my true feelings.

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

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

-Ty/Jude

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Simon/Joy: Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure, no problem."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
-Simon

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