Maybe I'm not just Annette yet; how can I be, just a week away from having been a man and not really having re-immersed myself in how my life has unfolded without me for the past three years. Heck, it will probably take me as long to figure out what I want to keep and what I want to discard from Sandra as it will to use the ladies' room without thinking.
I was at the Inn a couple of days before the Chang guys-turned-girls showed up, and for all I was feeling guilty about getting something out of their being blackmailed, I was really glad to see them. I've talked about how being on my own, Inn-people-wise, had me feeling lonely the past few weeks, and Tyler and his group were looking to be all business. I guess I understand; they're either older or have kids to deal with, and I'm not going to second-guess folks trying to corral little kids (or people who find themselves mentally in-between). Plus, I figure I've got a different perspective on OOB than pretty much everyone else: Where everyone else basically seems to be thinking "let's not get within fifty miles of this place unless I plan to change, just to be sure", Benny grew up here, so I've had to get used to it as a place I'd have to make excuses not to visit, and I've hung out with "friends and family" enough that I know the town as more than where the Inn is. I didn't see the sense of being shut in until 1am or so.
Not that Max wanted to go near the threshold, though Missy has spent a bunch of time figuring out the rules of the place and building models on her computer, and she's totally not going to act like she doesn't trust them. But, she's also a good enough brother that she doesn't drag Max up there when there's no point.
(Yeah, I said "she's Max's brother"; it's weird, but she thinks of herself as a woman but also Max's brother, even though he's physically female right now, and you respect that even if it doesn't sound right.)
Cary and Elaine didn't hang out much; we got hot dogs one day but since they're just inches away from Cary being "Mackenzie's" temporary foster dad, they really don't want to do anything hard to explain, like drinking with three really mismatched folks until midnight.
Missy and Max make an odd pair like that right now. Missy knows the odds of being hot in the same way that she now really enjoys come fall are slim, so she's pushing her boobs up and wearing booty shorts, and would probably be wearing heels if that didn't suck on the beach. Max is weird, because he looks like Cary did in Chicago, but where Cary would use the times when he was hanging with me to dress down, Elaine had still trained him to be comfortable in women's clothes, so he'd do things like wear leggings as pants or put on a camisole on a warm day, while Max is taking the same body and wearing t-shirts that actually emphasize his breasts more because he's tucking them into pants that are kind of trying to be unisex but kind of can't with Elaine's curves.
He can drink a bit, at least. I laughed a bit at Missy accepting drinks people sent over for both of them, and getting up to dance a couple of times, though she resisted going home with anybody. Indeed, after a couple of hours, she was kind of morose about having to break up with Jackie, and then she passed out in the booth.
Then something hit me as I looked at the glasses piled in the center of our table. "Holy shit, I'm going to be that age, sex, and weight - I mean, last picture I saw of Sandra she looked like she was about the same size as Missy, but I haven't seen them side-by-side because my friend does me the service of hating that bitch - does that mean I'm going to be a complete lightweight as well?"
Max looked at his drink, suddenly wondering if maybe he was having too much. "Uh, maybe? But you'll get used to it, right?"
"Oh, sure, but I like beer, damn it! But, I suppose that I'm going to have to deal with Sandra making everyone think I'm some sort of early-onset-middle-age wine-drinker anyway. Ugh!" This doesn't make much sense, I realize, but I had been drinking and being Benjamin didn't make me completely impervious to alcohol.
By now, everyone at the bar had a few drinks in them, and it was making Max uncomfortable, so we decided to get Missy back to their hotel. Max did think it was pretty funny that I carried her all the way, insisting on getting pictures. He laughed while doing it and I asked him to let me get one of my own, because he smiled differently than Cary - less teeth, more dimples. "It's cute. Don't be afraid of it."
"You being a bro telling a girl to smile?"
"No, and fuck you! I'm just saying, you go back in the blog and read up on me and Jordan-slash-Deirdre-slash-Missy, you'll see I enjoyed our first year more because I let myself. Doesn't mean I'm not really excited to be myself again, but it can be a good experience." I paused, remembering a few of the last few years' more exciting moments. "A really good experience, when you have an idea of what you're getting into and don't have worry about tomorrow."
I left him with something to think about and then returned to the Inn. No change that night, but when we met up the next day, Max was wearing a tank-top and Missy wanted to know what I'd said to him.
I fell asleep reading the night the actual change took place, and while there were obvious, tell-tale signs that the years as a guy had passed, it was hard not to have the feeling that it had all been a dream when I looked in the mirror - what I was seeing was disconnected from my most recent experiences, but so intensely familiar as to override that. Not entirely, though; there was a lot that demand exploration. Sandra had left me with the shortest haircut I've had a a girl since third grade, but I liked it; it looked cute and mature at the same time. I don't know whether eagerly unbottoning my pajama top was a leftover guy thing or just being excited to see my new-old shape, but I had to laugh when the first thing I noticed about my breasts was the tan lines. I guess Sandra was more into walking around the beach in a bikini or going to pool parties, at least in the time leading up to her visit to the Inn, than I was as a bookish teenager. She'd had her belly-button pierced, too, although she didn't leave me anything to put in there. I wondered if it was something she had as Sandra or if it was just a young-again experience she didn't feel like sharing.
Getting dressed was like riding a bike - I hadn't had to fiddle with my own bra for years, but my fingers knew the motions; same with getting clips in my hair. Sandra left me the belly for a crop-top, and any worries that I'd look weird in the mirror were gone quickly, even after I put my glasses on (I must admit, I didn't miss needing those, but I still kind of like the look).
I called the Changs once I was all set and we agreed to meet up at Cary's truck. Missy recognized me instantly and have me a big hug, telling me I was super-cute and saying we had to be best girlfriends for the next month. Max seemed to have a hard time believing I had been Benjamin just the day before, but I told him to keep his chin up, because it really does all come back.
We had a fun time hanging out that day, going to the amusement park and then having beers on the beach. I got carded for the first time in months while it dawned on Max that he didn't because he and his big brother had essentially swapped ages. I was tempted to stay another night but also really wanted to go home for the first time in two years.
I hugged my mom so hard the next morning. I would have done it the night before, but she was already in bed when I got to her house and cried a little to find my bedroom just like I left it; I guess Sandra never really settled in and made it hers even after that first year, preferring to spend most of the summer at her (now my) apartment in Cambridge. Mom wanted to know what was with this sudden bout of homesickness, but didn't really press too hard, kind of just happy to have her daughter home unexpectedly. I pulled together a story about breaking up with a boy that had a little bit of me leaving Marybeth and a little bit of me not being Benjamin anymore in it, and it probably made no sense, but Mom said encouraging things about being true to yourself that I probably could have used a lot over the last three years.
Seeing my friends from high school was a bit rougher. Missy told me not to expect too much, because even folks who haven't been through what we have drift apart naturally when not seeing each other every day, and on top of that I guess Sandra didn't really connect with a lot of people she considered kids, so they look at me and think going to a big school ha given me a swelled head. It's sucked the most with Gretchen, because she was my very best friend since we were like ten, and the fact that Sandra was apparently right about her boyfriend two years ago does not make up for the way she shared her opinion.
We're reconnecting, though, and through Gretchen I'm getting a bit closer to everyone else while also re-reading every textbook and assignment Sandra did as me after we stopped splitting the work because she stole my life and was therefore on her own. It's kind of tough - she switched her focus from creative writing to journalism. It's not really my dream, but I have to remember that it's part of how Arthur Milligan became author Penny Lincoln, and I can follow that path.
It's a lot of work to be "just Annette" again, even without considering meeting my new-to-me roommate's and classmates, so I'm afraid I'm not going to have time to be Missy's gal pal. Maybe that will still be an option next month, though - we're both living proof that the Inn doesn't always (permanently) ruin your life!