Monday, October 30, 2017

Annette: Stupid, stupid, stupid!

How did I revert all the way to teenage girl after three years of supposedly being more mature, better at knowing what I wanted, and even ready to commit to being married?  It's like my brain looked at the experiences of my life as Ravi and Benjamin and said, "oh, that's got nothing to do with Annette!"

Maybe I should have just listened to my sorority sisters who were saying it wasn't cool to bail on a fraternity party for something  that was "like, gonna be all Chinese guys anyway, and you know what they say about them" (they aren't all racist, but it just takes one to make you want to book the whole house for a couple weeks at the Inn to get them some perspective, especially if the racist one is also one of the ones looking to marry well, and you might want to land yourself a parachute student, chickie).  But, no disrespect to them, I've been out paying with them three times in the last couple weeks, and while it was the same sort of baseline fun that comes with beer, dancing, and the guys finding as much reason to dress sexy as the girls, it was kind of a drag, because while some girls would be saying things like "they're just guys" when someone was being a creep, I kind of know better.

But, anyway, I squeeze myself into my Sexy Nurse costume, throw a peacoat on, and avoid the Red Line by taking the 47 to Missy's neighborhood.  She's really done a pretty good job with the place for basically working by herself between a dozen other things, and she's bought way better beer than the fraternity probably did.  I'm a little amused watching her and Ernesto together, because while I don't think that they'd end up together even if such a thought wouldn't cause Chen-ai to completely blow a gasket, but they give each other shit like people who are together.  Minus Chen-ai, maybe we'd be joking about when they finally get together, or maybe not; maybe the one time they had sex was enough to let them figure out they're not really compatible that way.

Anyway, the apartment filed up quickly enough, and I kind of get pressed into helper duty with Ernesto.  Still, I spotted Max as soon as he arrived, and ran up to say hi to him in his doctor costume, only to be stopped a little short to see that Bingbing was with him, also dressed in a nurse outfit, but opting for solid white stockings and flats rather than the fishnets and heels I'd gone for.  No cleavage, either.  Kind of to be expected, since we're all pretty sure she used to be a guy, but even though the were folks all around the apartment less covered than me, I sure felt kind of tacky in that moment.  Then she does a "hi, Annette, right?" and it irritates me, because even though I know I technically haven't met this Bingbing, it feels a bit put-on.  That's when Missy comes over, looks a little surprised at our matching costumes, but laughs, saying is not like we've got the Wonder Women outnumbered.  I drop back toward a keg, get myself another cup of Sam Adams, and let a short theater major be really obvious about talking to my boobs for a bit.

Soon enough, Missy finds me, and comments on our costumes matching, saying that's a fun coincidence.  I say it's no coincidence, that Max had told me he was going to come as a doctor, so I ran out and got this slutty thing, thinking that maybe I could tempt him into trying it out this way once, and if he liked it, then maybe we could go from there.

She got real quiet all of a sudden.  "What do you mean 'this way'?"  She knew, though, and started heading toward the corner where Max and Bingbing were standing, away from the rest of the guests.  "You and Annette?"  She had her fist up like she was going to do something stupid, so a grabbed her from behind.

Max looked at me.  "You didn't tell hi--her?"

"You said you were going to, that you were her brother and she deserved to hear it from you, and if I'd been born a guy I'd understand."

"I... may have said that.  Uh, sorry Jordo, I should have told you."

"That you fucked my best friend?  I'm letting you stay at my place, trying to help you adjust, and you fuck my best friend behind my back?"

"It wasn't like that!"

"No?  What was it like?"

"It was like I fucked him."  I felt Missy go kind of limp in my arms as I hissed this into her ear, not really wanting to broadcast the next part.  "Aside from how I was the guy at the time, not that that matters, there's no way sleeping with a dude was going to be his idea.  I was the one that wanted one last hurrah, and convinced Max it wouldn't be as weird for him later if it was someone who had started out as a girl and would be one again by the time he got his dick back."

She got enough feeling back in her legs to turn around and step away from me.  "And it just had to be him, huh?  Well, sure, I guess that makes sense."  She straightened her costume, suddenly noticed something needing a refill, and went to the other side of the room.

Me, I avoided looking at the guy I'd been planning to seduce, thinking that someone else who knew what the whole Inn thing did to your head, and instead started banging on my temple with a balled up fist.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

"No, it's on me.  You don't sleep with the girl your brother's for a crush on, no matter how drink and curious you are, even if she's only gonna be a guy for a little while longer and he's committed to being a girl for the long haul.  You just don't do it."

Wait, what?  "You're being silly; Missy never had a crush on me!"

"Are you kidding?  I've read all your entries on the blog, and I was there for some of 'em.  She kissed you at that ballgame!"

"That's--"

"And you know how stubborn Jordan is.  No way 'Deirdre' puts on her first bra or dress if he's not trying to impress you."

"I was, like, gay!"

"Like that matters for a crush!  And then - oh, wow, you know what?  I bet he was okay with giving up his life and potentially becoming Benny because he knew you were attracted to the original as yourself!  That makes so much more sense than Jordan just giving his life up because of Benny and Kareena!"

"Dude, that's your brother you're talking shit about!  Be nice!  Besides, our bodies and orientations were in line after that, and one kiss she immediately walked back aside, she never made a move!"

He started counting things off on his fingers.  "Maybe she wasn't really confident enough as a girl yet, maybe she figured you wouldn't want to jump into something so fast after having your life stolen, maybe she figured it was up to you to make the first move.  Then, when all that's out of the way, you're dating Marybeth and she's seeing Jacky."

"There.  She was going out with Jacky.  No crush."

"C'mon, Annette, she totally would have left Jacky for Benjamin."

"Bullshit."  I down my nearly-full Solo cup, turn around, and clack away on my fuck-me heels.  I think I'm going into the bathroom, but wind up in Missy's bedroom instead, and flop down on her bed.  I can just reach the door with my toes and kick it closed.

Pretty soon, Missy's in there.  "Hey, can I apologize?"

"For what?  Acting like you've got any right to tell me and Max who to sleep with or not asking me out when we were single and not both women?"

"Someone's got a high opinion of herself."

"Hey, that would be having a high opinion of who I used to be.  But Max makes sense.  Why didn't you ever, you know...?"

"I dunno.  Probably afraid of fucking it up.  I mean, badass bitch I may be, but how do I get through life as a chick without you?  It doesn't happen."  She turned around and flopped down on her back next to me.  "Besides, I liked Marybeth, you seemed happy, and if it's anyone else but Max and you..."

I was about to say something but someone opened the door and was about to say they were low on vodka, only to pull back and try to look up our skirts, leading us to both plant a hand between our legs and yell "in a minute, asshole!" in unison.  He quickly backed away and shit the door, and we looked at each other and laughed.

I sat up, a little dizzy - I hadn't really drank like that since being a girl and half Benny's weight, and it always hits me worse when I move after sitting still, no matter what I look like.  "Whoa.  Well, that's that.  No Chang boys for me."

"Hey, if you want to go after Max, don't let me stand in your way.  You're seeing your sights low, but it's not like he can do better.  Just be aware, he probably fed you all that because he knows he's not half the man you were."  She reached a hand out and I pulled her up.  "Whoa, I think all that missing vodka is in my brain.  Okay if I give you some cash and you make the liquor run?"

"No problem."  We went back into the kitchen, did a quick inventory, and then she gave me a couple hundred from her purse.  Ernesto came along to help me carry it, and the night air cleared my head a bit.  Ernesto and I talked about his and Missy's projects, and he had a lot of nice things to say about my contributions.  He's really a sweet guy, but I think I'm going to need a bit time before I can really consider guys where I'd have to hide the whole Inn thing.  Maybe when I've been just Annette long enough for my time Ravi and Benjamin to be a weird thing I did when I was younger than such a big part of who I am.

I didn't immediately see Missy when I got in, so I started to go into her bedroom to return the change, but only had the door open a crack when I saw it wasn't Missy in there, but Max, with Bingbing on top of him, sucking out his tonsils while his hands caressed her butt under her dress.

I closed the door and bumped into Missy coming out of the bathroom.  "Hey, here's your money, and I'm just going to go home before the T stops running, okay?"

"Uh, sure.  We still on for the spooky scavenger hunt?"  Some guy Missy knew from some Asian students thing had roped her into some MIT thing for Halloween night, and then me so there'd be two guys and two girls.

"Wouldn't miss it.  Beats the heck out of whatever sorority stuff I'd be doing otherwise."

And with that, I left, taking a huge breath or five outside the door.  We're gonna have some stuff to tali about tomorrow!

-Annette

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Party Planner

As great as it is to see Max and Annette so concerned about me, I'm not an emotional wreck.  Sure, it was a kick in the teeth when Chen-ai stopped in to solve the whole problem of the Wong sisters on the one hand but try to clamp down on my life with the other, but on the other hand, maybe I needed it.  If I we're really twenty-one, would I be thinking of marrying the first guy I've gone out with more than two or three times?  Nah.  And back when I was a guy, I would dump a ton of bitches before they had the chance to end it with me. 

And, really, who has time to try and even deal with a long-distance relationship this year?  I've got to make a fucking movie to graduate, I've promised someone else is act in his, and there are all sorts of regular classes to attend even if I weren't trying to carve out a few hours a week to practice Mandarin on the phone with RenĂ© and Romain, because who knows if I'll be able to get a visa to stay in America next year, and even if I go "back" to Hong Kong after graduation, that film industry has basically imploded, with a ton of the talent working on stuff meant to sell in the Mainland.

Don't get me wrong, all of this stuff is kind of thrilling - as much as would sit myself in and just code shit in my original life, being behind the camera doesn't mean you've got to be any less "on" than acting.  I'm working with someone in the Film Production program who's got a minor in business, and he's really helping me stretch my budget for what's kind of an ambitious sort and handling a lot of the negotiations with locations and such.  The practical end of it is so crazy - like, I've got a scene in a bar, and we've found a place that will let us shot, but it's got to be between 6am and noon, and that restricts the angles we can use because we want it to be at night and not show blackout curtains, plus we've got to get a bunch of extras in there.  There was a gag in the script about the guy in the lady-boot body pushing someone over because he didn't know his own strength, but that would have meant stunt performers and insurance!  It's kind of nuts to try and figure out what I can make look like a secret lab, because just writing "INT: SECRET LAB" doesn't build anything.  Heck, Annette is kind of pissed that we had to scrap the hospital scene that she says we need to establish that his body is well and truly damaged beyond conventional surgical repair, but Chen-ai is not going to let me drain my trust fund so that I can hire people to build a hospital set!

Compared to that, throwing a big Halloween party this weekend is nothing!

Why add that to my plate?  Because it's fucking Halloween, and while they do like it in Hong Kong, the version of it that I love is an American thing through and through, and next year being Chinese rather than Chinese-American is something I can't push back anymore.  And while I don't talk about them much on this blog, I have made friends over the past couple years, and add to that the fact that I can actually invite my brother and my best girlfriend, and maybe it will be the only time I can.

It's not necessarily a hugely involved process, in some ways.  You buy a ton of booze and some snacks - I thought it would be fun to put little pumpkin trick-or-treat baskets full of candy in various corners.  Make a playlist, equal parts top 40 and Halloween novelties.  And decorate.  I did not fuck around with the decoration; once all the furniture was pushed into corners, I made my apartment into a haunted cavern with a whole bunch of papier-maiche rocks, cobwebs, bats with little red lights for eyes, blue LEDs in every lamp, silent horror on the big TV...  It doesn't sound like much, but it was a pretty big deal.

So right now, I'm sitting in a pretty freaky-looking apartment with a super-sexy cheerleader uniform laying on a chair.  It's kind of funny, looking at it - growing up, we always used Halloween as a way to be able to bring the Chinese portion of our lives to the forefront, and this weekend it's a way to hold onto being America.

-Jordan/Missy/Yuan-wei

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Friday, October 27, 2017

J.T./Elaine: Dialing It Back

It was kind of amusing - well, maybe not amusing, but ironic - to log in yesterday and see Harmon complaining about dressing sexy and only doing so because he was ambushed and pushed into it.  I suspect that most guys the Inn turns into women are like that, although maybe not so much as an older guy who grew up a generation or two before me and...  Well, maybe I grew up around a lot of older guys with hot younger girlfriends; not all were creeps, but even the ones who weren't kind of were settled into a certain dynamic and attitude that could be really hard to shake - and, since it's always meant being with pretty girls, why would you?  It's got to be really weird to find the show on the other foot.

Me, on the other hand, I've got no real trouble with a lot of the external stuff.  Acting hadn't been my main gig for a while, but you wear the clothes and make-up that the team says you need to wear in order to make the proper impression on the audience, and some of it can get kind of wild.  Like, I was on a cable-network kids' sitcom, and every one of those is eventually going to have a cross-dressing episode if it runs more than a year or two.  They won't make it something character does a lot, but they will get some slapstick out of you stumbling in heels for twenty minutes and then sighing like you'd always been worried about that skirt making your butt look fat in the last two.  I did Rocky Horror for a couple weeks, a minor role in a couple historical movies sheer my characters wrote tights and even one or two when the costumers gave us period-authentic men's boys with high heels.  And every performer who want a massive overnight success has worked in a small-enough production where he has to do his own make-up.  My skin tone is different enough from what it was that it took a little practice, and I still occasionally go to YouTube when I need to do something that is more decorative than just covering blemishes or evening things out.

So, sure, it's still pretty alarming to wake up an African-American woman, but once I get over that daily shock, I can handle a lot of the things that are expected of me, and I kind of find putting my clothes and my face on a useful ritual - it gets me set to be Elaine Preston when I go out the door.  Elaine #1 initially didn't like me treating her life like a part to be played, but I think she's coming around to it a little, even if she does have mixed emotions about me renewing acquaintance with the friends that Cary and Max let lapse.  Inside the apartment, I can think of myself as a guy who has splurged for the cable sports package and is very much enjoying the Dodgers playing in the World Series without being "might as well root for the guys who beat the Cubs", even if the shorts and t-shirt I change into when I get home fit differently; outside, I'm Elaine Preston, freelance Agile Project Manager.

The trouble with that, of course, is that there are a lot of ways in which I'm not prepared for that role, and in some ways the technical stuff is the least of it (which is not to say Elaine's job is easy, especially since I haven't started it, just that I can act like I understand the stuff I'm parroting).  Like, the casual racism and sexism is something I want to react to much more strongly than she would.  I'm still getting used to public transportation and having to be a different sort of vigilant there then when I'm driving.

But, mostly, there are a lot of real-world things that working in show business in one form or another can sort of skew your perspective of the real world.  That first interview I tale about last time?  I wanted to make a good impression, so I looked through Elaine's closet for a nice outfit, thinking about what I'd seen women wearing to auditions, costume designers talking about how much leg to show, and the way young professional women are often shown in movies, especially as a contrast to the casual male nerds they're managing.  I put it on, posed for myself in the mirror, practiced talking about sprints and stand-ups and development environments, and made sure I left early to give myself a little time in case the trains didn't work out.

As soon as I took off my coat and people started looking at me in the office, though, it was clear I'd messed up.  Nobody wears a top showing as much cleavage as I was, certainly not at a tech company in a city where winter temperatures are noticeably different from summer ones.  The same goes for the mini-skirt and the four-inch heels.  I felt like an idiot when I saw all the open cubicles and wires - if I tried to make my interview outfit my work attire, I'd have to have my legs crossed all the time, folks would be looking straight down my blouse, and I'd probably unplug my computer with my heels five times a day!  Plus, given that I heard a few comments about the way I'd dressed and what I'd presumably do for this job,I don't know if I'd get past that first impression.

So I didn't get that one, but thankfully Elaine had a pretty good laugh when she saw the selfie I'd posted in the morning once she got her phone back after school (lots of comments about "just what sort of job are you applying for?", as you might expect) and called me.  After Cary and Max, she hasn't even considered having to warn the third man to have her body to tone the sex appeal down, but that I had to wear that outfit for an evening out with her girlfriends.  Not till spring, I said.

(That said:  Elaine's got awesome friends.  I'm starting to get a serious crush on Dorrie, who does poetry slams and knows every music venue in the city, but she's got a boyfriend and Elaine says she will do terrible things if she ever sees the real me approach her after we've gotten things back to normal because it would be like letting her date a stalker.)

Is probably good not to nail your first audition, though.  It gave me a little more of a chance to get a little more familiar with the software I'll need to use and get input from Elaine on SC sepals interview attire, so that when I finally got an offer on the fourth, it seemed more or less earned.

Which means that on Monday, I finally get to see if working in an office is really the stifling, creativity-destroying experience everyone I know days it is!

-J.T./Elaine

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Remind Me to Take Alicia's Birthday Off!

There has still been no progress in getting Alicia to tell me where she has stored her recording of this football player and her having intercourse, and the fact that the man in the tape (whose identity Alicia sees no need to keep secret from me) is having a good season so far is only placing me in a worse position, as one of my co-workers who listens to sport-talk-radio still says that the callers on those programs are already asking why he has not been extended.  One or two may have looked at me and made comments that implied I would know something about his conditioning, and while Alicia claims to have kept this encounter secret from everybody at work, and that even her mother knew nothing until the changes wrought by the Inn forced her hand, I would not be the last bit surprised if she had the door of reputation that made allowed such rumors to arise spontaneously.

Despite that part of her reputation, it is clear that Alicia is no fool.  The player's early success has allowed her to increase her demands as the team's interest in re-signing him grows, and whether by her doing or by her mother's, the bakery they found themselves running has remained successful enough that they could, in theory, walk away from these lives without fear.  I do not believe that they wish to, but simply leaving the threat in the air gives them more leverage over Jeremy/Arthur and, by extension, the team.  It also further updates him, leading to a recent message pointing out that I am not simply a go-between, that he can make trouble for me in both this life and my true life.

Truly, though, there is relatively I can do to convince either of them, leaving me with little option but to deliver their messages and do Alicia's job with as little incident as possible, lest she decide that file is something for me to deal with while the Inn is shuttered.  It is boring and menial, and surrounds me with air travelers - who are either as dismayed by having to spend several hours on a plane as I am or annoyingly excited by the novelty of it - and the type of person who actually wants this job.  That sort of person is friendly enough, I suppose, but rather more gregarious than I am looking for.

It would have been better, perhaps, if Lindsey and I had slept on opposite sides of the bed and this had our fates reversed; not only would I complain far less than she about relatively minor ravages of age,  but she would probably be more willing to deal with these people.  Indeed, she already seems to be on fairly good terms with much of the airport staff and asks me who I'm working with on any given flight.  I don't give it much thought, although I have mostly been with the same four-person group during October after the utter randomness of September, although we are still being told to come into the airport on a few hours' notice (something else that might have made Alicia's life more suitable for Lindsey; as invigorating as young people can be, they do not appreciate the set schedule the way an older person does).

What all of this means is that, while I said something noncommittal after we had finished our work on a flight to New York when one of Alicia's co-workers mentioned that it was another's birthday, so we should maybe meet in the hotel lobby at 9 o'clock to take her out for drinks.  I have no intention of actually doing so - thus far, nobody has seemed to find it amiss if I say that I feel asleep as soon as I took a moment to sit on the bed - but when I reach my room and open my bag, I see that Lindsey has not included the usual casual wear for my off-hours, but a decidedly non-casual dress with the accompanying panties and footwear.  She has also included a note saying that avoiding to Alicia, Magda, and everyone else she talked to, it's customary to take your co-worker out drinking if they're away from home, so go out, hit the Big Apple, and take lots of pictures.

My first thought is that this is some sort of payback for her feeling I did not do enough on her "Date Night", though she seemed to have learned from that experience and kept subsequent evenings out more casual.  It turns out to be less pettiness than excessive initiative; she saw the photographs Alicia has posted on her social media accounts (both before and after her visit to the Trading Post Inn) and decided, given the seeming precarious nature of my situation with Alicia and Jeremy, that I should attempt to replicate them as best possible, and did this without consulting me because she knew I would have put my foot down, meaning there is probably some sort of message being sent about relying on "mother" for this sort of thing as well.

Unfortunately for me, she's probably right about how I should make a bit more effort to at least go through the motions of socializing with Alicia's co-workers in this way, so rather than just reading the book I have loaded onto the tablet, I cleaned myself up from what an air-sick infant did and got myself into the outfit Lindsey sent.

I'm certain some younger contributors to this weblog have already described the sensation of their first time in "thong" panties after a lifetime of far more modest shorts or the torture device known as an underwire bra - necessitated because, while the dress is certainly contoured to follow these damnable curves, it offers no support for them.  And while it initially seemed very modest below the waist, it actually tapers inward after swelling a bit to accommodate Alicia's behind, meaning that I could only walk because it was slit practically high enough to reveal those skimpy panties.  Not only did this mean shaving my legs because, as mentioned, my pantyhose was in serious need of laundering, but the dress actually dragged on the floor because the shoes Lindsey packed did not provide the necessary lift (she probably should have found a slightly shorter dress if she felt these were the tallest heels I could navigate).

It was peculiar to look myself in the mirror at that point.  I cannot be a stranger to my new face and body at this point, and I've come to grudgingly accept that certain bits of feminine maintenance are necessary to avoid making waves given that Alicia saddled me with a public-facing service-industry job, but getting ready for a day at work is something I tend to do in a detached manner, just as I do my best to take minimal liberties when washing.  I am to look somewhat anonymous most days, aiming to look as though I am not out of place rather than attractive, and as a result, what I saw in the mirror looked and felt unfamiliar:  Bare shoulders and round breasts peeking out the top of fabric that seemed dangerously low and cut to reveal more cleavage without making it look like I had something attached to my chest with adhesive.  It highlighted Alicia's long neck, how pale her skin is compared to her jet-black hair, which blended into the dress.  I could scarcely reconcile it as being me, especially once I put on the red lipstick that I found in the handbag Lindsey had included.

By the time I had done all of this, it was almost time to meet the others in the lobby, although I would first need to stare down a teenager who took the elevator with me and insisted on peering down my decollatage despite his being a good foot taller than Alicia.  I must admit, it was a trifle amusing when the elevator's bell rang and he whipped his head up and pivoted so as not to look like a little lech to his parents waiting in the lobby when the does opened.

I did not see my party immediately, though I was able to find them quick enough at the hotel bar.  I strode to them confidently, putting the sight I must have been with my leg left slipping in and out of the dress and my hips swiveling as the outfit and shoes made me put one foot directly in front of the other, halfway changing direction with every step.  Elgin, who seemed to have already found a man to keep him company at the bar, seemed to notice first, tapping the crew chief on the shoulder and shooting "hey, guys, it looks like 'All-In Alicia' is back!" just a little too loud.

The birthday girl, clad in a red dress as short as mine was long and featuring a plunging neckline, let out a whoop, while our crew chief silently raised her white wine.  I immediately had a pink, sugary drink - Alicia's usual, apparently - placed in my hand, and did my level best not to make a face as I took a sip of the horrid thing.  The younger girl leaned in and said that someday, I'd have to tell her just what "I" did with a passenger to get a month-and-a-half secret suspension that nobody at work could figure out.  I told her she would not believe me if I told her, and she laughed like it was a far more scandalous double-entendre than was the case.

I had thought that perhaps we might simply run up a tab at the hotel bar, but Elgin's new friend had some other friends who were in a band playing in a bar in Brooklyn, so we piled into a van and made our way there in a ride-share van to listen to some millennials play guitar in a way that was apparently amusing because it appropriated the "plots" of video games released before they were born.  It was a two-bourbon show, and only because the bar got crowded and the rest of the group raised an eyebrow at me staying there - Alicia, apparently, dances. 

I do not, but as with many things, a young woman with Alicia's figure doesn't need to do a whole lot to attract attention; just rock back and forth a bit and men will position themselves nearby to see if you will do more.  Thankfully, the young men at this venue would have died alone in earlier decades, unwilling to show any real initiative where a potential mate was concerned.  It was easy to walk away from them.

The guest of honor apparently felt the same way, because once the set was done, we were in a taxi headed to a spot in Manhattan, which is apparently very popular among professional travelers, whether they work for the airlines or simply use them regularly.  I cannot fault them; the place made an excellent martini and, if an expensive one.  Sadly, I only had the chance to enjoy one or two before we moved to the next place.

There, not only were tequila shots the order of the night, but they seemed to come in random succession, with someone just yelling "shots!" in the middle of whatever conversation we were having and then a new set being shoved at us to be downed immediately.  It is here that the crowd truly becomes beyond annoying - as much as I know that sort of outfit is certain to draw a man's more tactile attention, one does get a bit sore, both physically and emotionally, after one has lost count of how often one's bosom and posterior has been squeezed over the course of a single night.  Worse, at around one in the morning, I had the horrifying thought that, while most of the time my own wealth of experience and strength of character was easily able to prevent any changes in biology that the Inn had effected on my endocrine system and even my very brain, this sort of mind over matter might become diminished with enough alcohol.  It was as good an excuse as any to stop ordering drinks and start making my way back to the airlift hotel, although one man seemed quite indignant that I would not be open to him buying me a drink, and had a few friends to help him press his case.  Fortunately, I was able to extricate myself with the assistance of Alicia's supervisor, the others in our party having already left for their one-night-stands without so much as a goodbye, and we made our way back to the hotel in a cab.

I must at least admit that it was a bit of a surprise how resilient a youthful body can be - though I was lying atop my bed's covers with only my scant panties on, my dress, bra, and both shoes each in a different corner of the room where I can only surmise they were justifiably thrown after I liberated myself from them, I was almost unbelievably alert when the ringing of Alicia's mobile phone awakened me with a reminder from her co-worker that I had to be on a plane in forty-five minutes. 

The flight back west was far from the smoothest since I have been forced to do Alicia's job - we all had to make certain allowances for the one who could not properly pace herself on her birthday - and I was very glad to have the next day off.  Lindsey got a well-deserved earful about placing me in situations like that, even if it did give me a temporary respite from Alicia complaining that I was making her look "boring".

-Harmon Keller

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tyler/Valerie: The Big Day is Coming Up Fast and I've Got To Take it Slow

This post is coming to you from the couch, where I have spent the last two days.


I may have mentioned something about Valerie's body - despite its certain virtues - not necessarily being the most nimble, when Josh was chasing me around with a squirt gun, but I guess I felt the need to exert myself as if I was still a relatively athletic male. Hence why I regularly run full-sprint for the bus even if it means sending the big balloony jugs under my top flying every which way.


Well, sometimes uneven pavement happens and you fall and twist your ankle. (This is entirely not the fault of my breasts, but if I have to live with them day in and day out you are going to hear about them as often as I see fit... I'm sure you don't mind.)


So for the rest of the week, I'm stationary... which sucks since we have a cake-tasting and the third and final dress-fitting and some other stuff.


When I was put on rest, I felt a huge pang of stress over all this, but it's actually kind of nice to surrender that responsibility. I delegated the non-dress-related stuff to Josh, since it's more his wedding than mine and there are limits to what Val can do from Boston as Anna. But I still feel crummy since I was really getting into a groove with this wedding-planning stuff, and now I'm just knocked flat on my ass. I took a pain killer yesterday and spent the entire day groggy and barely-conscious. I'm not going to repeat that.


On the plus side, feeling gross, grimy and groggy has helped tamp down my libido, which I noted last time was starting to flare up inconveniently. And having Josh, with his big teddy bear eyes waiting on me hand and foot (more than usual) is just more than I can stand right now.


Compared to this time last year, when I was Judith... man, it's night and day. I used to get migraines as her, which would leave me really out of it, and I remember Kit telling me that it was all in my head and not as bad as I was making it seem, and that if I was really concerned I should see a doctor or change my diet.


I didn't think changing my diet would have much of an effect (we didn't know the cause and I didn't feel the urge to start stabbing in the dark) and I didn't want to put Judith on a course of treatment if she felt comfortable just leaving well enough alone... but that didn't mean I didn't hurt and suffer and need a little comfort and compassion. Hell, you would think as a woman she would have some idea that other women have trouble expressing that kind of chronic pain to others and having it believed... but anyway. At this time, we weren't even attempting to make it work, we were just glorified roommates.


Obviously a busted ankle (which is obviously swollen and bruised) is different from the hard-to-express pain of a migraine, but having someone that supportive and caring is... different.


It's been hard to put myself in this vulnerable position, to rely on a man. Coupled with suppressing my own personality, it really makes me feel like I'm not "myself" anymore, or at least that all my transformations have evolved me into someone distinct from the original Tyler Blake I started out as. And it's weird and a bit painful to realize that perhaps my most functional relationship of my entire life - including, sadly, the one with Meghan (I loved her but Lordy we were dysfunctional) is the one where I am patently not "me."


But there is one thing about me that will never change. Josh just left me a cup of tea before going to bed, and I said "Thank you kindly."


He smirked, "I've been meaning to ask... you've been slipping into a weird southern accent a lot lately. Where'd that come from?"


"Flatbush," I said with a wink.


He leaned in and kissed me. "Well, it's cute."


"So're you," I said back with a sigh.


-Tyler/Valerie

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tyler/Valerie: Desire

Some nights I'll be lying there trying to get to sleep and I'll feel Josh's hand sweep across me. Usually it starts down by my knee, sweeps up my thigh, circles my butt, then traces a lazy path up my back. Then he might slide it around my shoulder and rest his palm on my breast. Sometimes, that's all. Sometimes he finds my nipple and starts to trace a circle around it with his to get, trying to coax it into standing up.

Or, he might go even further and start slipping it down my abdomen, past my waist, down to my crotch. It's by that point that I have to jerk my body away and admonish him, "Ah ah, remember our deal." He usually resumes our more innocent (but still pretty intimate) spooning after that. But of course I can feel his telltale erection pressed against my body.

"I can't help it," he might mutter sleepily, "You're so damn irresistible..."

I try not to goad him on too much but maybe there's a little of that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the attention at least a little bit. It can be a lonely life and even this warped version of attention - totally serious but meant for someone else - can feel good. Bad at the same time, but good too.

I wonder, for all my conviction, if I might have given in and had sex with him by now if it weren't for the promise I made Valerie. (I'm well aware that there's lots of precedent for that on this very blog... See Meg's posts!) At what point, I wonder, might my reasons go from "Val and I agree I shouldn't do it," to just plain "I told Val I wouldn't do it."

Facing facts, Val's hormones are really starting to kick in. My body has been female for two of the last three years, and I've had plenty of time to make my peace with the implications of that. And now, compared to Judith, I'm young and hot and feeling good (most days) about my body, and I have tons more energy that could use an outlet. I used to find it a lot easier not to think about sex or notice guys.

I think I must even be putting out vibes lately - forgetting myself, that I'm supposed to be nearly a married woman. I find myself being extra-sweet to people at the coffee shop, and that leads to guys lingering a bit too long at the counter before I snap out of it and shoo them away. (Then there's also the guys who were going to linger or ask me out anyway because they can't take a hint.) Rafe, the spindly man-bunned barista who hits on all the other girls has increased the pressure to join him for a drink after work more and more.

And that brings me to this...

A while back, on the last warm weekend of summer/fall, he surprised me by taking me to "my" favorite place, Coney Island. I haven't been to an amusement park or county fair in a long time so I enjoyed myself -- but I think my reaction was far from the extreme glee he was counting on.

At the end of the day, we were walking along the shore, eating Nathans hot dogs, and he took my hand in his and asked what was wrong.

I told him nothing was wrong and he chuckled and said obviously that wasn't true... I've been scatterbrained, distracted and a bit unpredictable the past few months.

I sighed "I'm planning a wedding, Josh... That's pretty stressful."

"Are you sure that's all it is? I could take over some of the work if you need me to..."

I waved him off. He works long days and spends almost every moment on my presence working to be Wonder Boyfriend. The last thing I need is to heap any more tasks on him, especially since the real Val is guiding me through it all with her very specific vision.

"I just worry there's something you're not telling me, and, you know, I want you to feel you can share everything with me and I won't judge."

My heart could have broken for him. He was being so honest and vulnerable about his feelings, something I've always had trouble doing.

"Here's why I'm worried, Val. I haven't heard you laugh in days. You used to laugh at the drop of a hat, often at this that truthfully aren't funny. Now when you do laugh, it's almost not even your laugh. It's still a nice, pretty laugh but itsw more, I don't know... Weary."

I felt hot under the collar. It hurt a bit to be contrasted with the real Valerie, but I tried to put that away. I twisted my mouth trying to read him. Was he suspecting the truth? He couldn't - nobody would ever imagine a magical impostor. And yet, if you're with someone for years it stands to reason that, if you're an overly attentive partner like Josh, you will notice things.

"I'm still me," I said, probably too emphatically.

"Obviously, but... It's like the life's being sucked out of you and I would hate to think I have anything to do with that."

I smiled weakly. "You don't... Even of it were true."

"Well it's still my job to make sure that doesn't happen."

And with that he produced a small water gun and squirted me right across the chest.

"Josh!" I gasped.

He produced a second one and said with a grin, "You're it." As soon as I took it, he ran.

"You're dead!" I cried out, chasing him around and trying to catch him with the spray - evidently squirt gun tag is a favorite hobby of Josh and Val's. He didn't reckon, I was a pretty good shooter in my day.

"We're not stopping until I hear that laugh!" He called out. And he seemed to mean it, because we went around for a long while, refilling from the ocean, until my lungs gave out and I collapsed in the sand.

He rushed up and started to squirt me. "Josh, no!" I said, unable to suppress a girlish giggle.

"There it is! There's my girl," he said, continuing to fire.

"And she's pissed!" I said back, springing to me feet and tackling him with perhaps unexpected force. Kneeling on him, he couldn't stop laughing as I emptied my gun on him (one consequence of being a cute female is that shows of aggression are sadly somehow laughable... Even if I WAS as angry as I was playing it still would have seemed harmless! Ugh.)


He did have one advantage: I was moving pretty gingerly to avoid letting the girls jiggle too much... I wasn't exactly dressed for an impromptu chase scene, and there's a very real possibility of hitting myself in the face with them. (Maybe that's just my imagination but it certainly seems possible based on some of the times I've had to run for the bus.)



Then when both our guns were empty, he swept a wet hair off my forehead, and I leaned in and kissed him... Maybe not the first time I had initiated it, but the most serious for sure. In fact, I let us get swept up in a hot and heavy public make out session before I knew it, with my legs wrapping themselves, as a reflex almost on their own, around his body.

"Mm, mm that's enough," I gasped as we parted lips after maybe ten whole minutes.

"Shall we continue this at hone?" He asked hopefully, hinting at sex.

I stammered, "I, uh... Maybe. But my promise remains intact. Sorry."

He mimed being angry for a second, then kissed me atop the head. He was a good sport, that was for sure.

I struggled to help him to his feet and we walked back up to the car

And he put his arm around my lower back

And I steadied myself on his shoulder, rested my head on his arm

And the sun was going down

And

Well, it was a nice moment. And we almost got carried away, but I saved it, and no harm was done.

I guess that's the thing, the temptation is always going to be there, but I've got years of double lives under my belt. I can deal. It's important to me that I can look Valerie's face in the mirror every morning and know that I did the right thing.

-Tyler

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Annette: Getting Stuff Right

I probably should be becoming a sort of hermit right now, doing little but catching up on everything I didn't bother to study over the past couple of years because I thought I'd never get my real life back, and while on the one hand is not hugely urgent - it's apparently common knowledge that while getting into a high-end school is difficult, once you're there, it is very difficult to actually fail a class if you make even a token effort - I still want to actually have the benefit of this education.  It's a lot of material, though the fact that the classes I'm in now build upon it helps; I feel behind a lot, but I also feel like I'm getting the basics reinforced or seeing actual application more than I would.

On the other hand, it wouldn't really be great to just hole up, either.  Sandra wasn't exactly a party girl when she was living my life, but she had fun.  Hell, she joined a sorority, which I had not planned to do, so instead of having a couple of roommates who might notice that I've gotten a whole lot more studious all of a sudden, there's a whole house full of girls doing what they can to pull me away from my books.  Which is kind of okay; I wouldn't want to miss the going out/having fun/making a bunch of friends from all over part of my college years, even if I did kind of do those things in a different way as Ravi and Benjamin.

And all that "having fun" pressure is before you take Missy into account.

I have to admit, I kind of didn't really appreciate what a big deal losing Jacky was for her.  I mean, it sucked, but in a lot of ways Chen-ai injecting herself into things at the last minute was a win - I get to be me, Max gets to be Max and he and Missy can reconnect, nobody's going to jail, and nobody is trapped in a lousy body; even Bingbing #3 seems to be settling in.  But for Missy, I don't know whether losing the first significant other that really stuck or it being a sort of order stung worse.  Whatever the reason, she's been really throwing herself into things to fill time this semester, whether it be nightlife, planning her big Halloween party and costume(s), or both her short film graduation project and Ernesto's.  She really, really, really does not want to slow down.

(She even had a brief thing of playing matchmaker, but although Ernesto and I got along on that date she set up, we're not going to be more than friends)

Heck, I was feeling a few steps behind her when I got her message Saturday, saying to wear a nice dress but not something super-sexy, because I was pretty sure that this particular Saturday night was going to be a working night in.  The script for Missy's short film (which badly needs a better name than "I, Fembot") already needed another draft, but all the sexual harassment and assault crap that has been coming to light in the movie industry has us wondering where to go.  On the one hand, a guy getting turned into a girl and forced to go through all the degrading garbage women deal with seems a lot more timely, but Missy never really saw the character as someone who deserved to be punished, and we kind of don't want to make a movie that's like "this sort of thing is okay so long as it happens to certain people" (and, man, the two of us certainly don't want to say it's okay if it happens to trans people, even if we figure we don't fit that category exactly).  Sure, there's been a lot of what we want to say coming out (guys don't realize just how much stupid and/or creepy things women take until they can't ignore it), but it kind of gets drowned out by the high-level predation.

So, like I was saying, that's what is thought we were doing, but I figured I might be mistaken, since my schedule was so nuts.  I really didn't want to do anything fancy, so I found a modest little black dress that Sandra had purchased, made the walk to the Missy's apartment, got buzzed up and froze when I opened the door and Kareena was there.

"That's--"  She looked to someone I couldn't see for confirmation and then grabbed me in a hug, pulling me in so that I stumbled.  She let go and took a step back.  "I can't believe it...  I feel like I should be so mad at you!...  Were you really Ravi when he dumped me?"

"I wouldn't say dumped, so much as came out and made it clear--"  I was talking at about half-speed as my brain tried to process everything.  "How do you know that, and how do you believe it?"

She lifted her hand up and showed me the ring on her finger, a small but attractive diamond.  She smiled even wider, and, God, it felt good to let out a huge girly squeal and not feel like I was out of place and embarrassing myself.  "Oh My God, he finally did it!  It's about time, because if I'd been attracted to girls as Ravi, I would have never let you go and never would have given Ravi his life back!"

She held her hands to her chest.  "That is the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me!  Jordan.. Benny... what do you call him?"

"I usually call him Benny."

"Well, Benny said that you were just the sweetest person no matter whose skin you were wearing, and I'm so glad I can really get to know all of you, even if it was because he ambushed me after he proposed, telling me that crazy story about the Inn and how he wasn't really Chinese and the original Jordan had been Deirdre but was now Missy!  I swear, I might have thrown the ring back if Max and Ravi hadn't said it was all true, but I guess it explained how Jordan could change enough to get us to this position in the first place, and how Ravi was so different for that year, and then...  Well, and then I realized that this man was willing to give up his entire life for me, and where would I ever find that again?"  Benny had moved in behind her, and she reached up to give him a kiss.  I melted.

"That's beautiful."  I paused.  "Awkward question - now that there's a new Ben out there--"

"I thought about it, because I really would like my folks to know Kareena, but, well, even though he doesn't plan to keep my old life, we've seen stuff go wrong.  And, who knows, maybe something wouldn't be quite right if I changed back.  Kareena says it wouldn't matter, but what if me not entirely fitting in with the Changs is part of what she likes about me, or there's some chemical spark missing?  I think I'd better stay like this."  He looked over at Missy.  "If you don't mind."

Missy made a face.  "Well, if you think the spark is something physical--"

"It would never work out."  We laughed at the way Kareena stuck that in there, but I got the impression Benny/Jordan had already talked with Missy about it, maybe even before he proposed.  There are some steps you want to make sure it's okay to take, even if you'd gotten a blanket blessing before.

Well, as you might imagine, we didn't get any writing done that night, but it turned out I was properly dressed for the nice restaurant we went to, drinking a lot of champagne as we toasted the happy couple.  It was enough for me to wind up just crashing in Missy's spare room and waking up with a heck of a hangover the next day, although it eased as we all hung out, giving Kareena more of a chance to get to know me and Missy like this.  She's really surprisingly cool with the guy who used to look like her fiance being happy as a young woman, which is nice.  She seems to like these versions of us enough to openly wonder how she'll explain us being bridesmaids to her family, which is just... wow.

(We're not sure when that will be, either next summer or next December - an Indian wedding takes no small amount of planning!)

So, it looks like we'll be doing that rewrite this weekend, and I've got to get a passport!  And, just on top of that, I kind of think maybe it's not all too much, maybe all these weird Inn experiences have just got me to where I'm supposed to be, not messed me up, and I should be a little more confident dealing with things as they are right now.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Jonah/Krystle: What things could be like

Nobody should really get excited about working the evening shift waiting tables at a roadside diner, but I can't help enjoying it.  Six to midnight, three or four days a week, I'm getting out of the house, doing something that gets me a paycheck at the end of the week, and feeling like I'm contributing.  Yeah, I'm practically asleep on my feet at the end of my shift, and there are plenty of customers that do what they can to make it difficult, but most of them are nice, and some of the ones that are jerks at least surprise you by tipping well, though whether they do that to apologize or whether they think they're purchasing my putting up with their act, I'm not sure.

I haven't really made any friends here the way I did at The Changeling, but that's understandable; I've got a big other responsibility at home, so even if there was another Moira here, I'd have a bit of a harder time making time to hang out after work.  It's not like the owner is also a fellow Inn guest like Ashlyn, either, so we don't have that special bond.

There is at least another woman with a baby there, though, and if we're not really buddies, she was cool enough to put me onto a nice yoga studio that has a play area for the little guys when I noticed her mat and said I wished I had time for that, what with there still being a few pregnancy pounds I wouldn't mind getting rid of.  She joked about how I didn't need any help taking all the tips (I should probably tell her that being black in an area this white cancels out a fair amount of what I get from how the t-shirt I was given would be tight even if I wasn't lactating), but told me about the new-mom classes anyway.

I've seen her a couple of times there - there's only a few of those sessions, after all - and we mostly just nod.  Still, one time we got just deep enough into conversation on the way out that we weren't quite paying attention to who else was on the sidewalk, and I actually bumped into my father on the sidewalk, on the way back to his office after lunch.  I was surprised enough to say "oh, hi, Dad" before backtracking to the cover story where he was a second cousin who took me in while I was pregnant, so he was kind of like my father.  I probably didn't need to - this co-worker lives a couple towns over and doesn't go to our church, so it's not like that bit of gossip was likely to get back - but you develop certain habits quickly.

Like, for instance, how my dad looked at me in yoga pants and the t-shirt I'd quickly thrown on over my sport bra rather than go into the women's locker room, and saw me as his daughter dressed immorality right away rather than having the moment where his brain is registering me as someone who'd be fair game if he weren't married (all of us are glad to be past that).  He still raised an eyebrow, though, and asked if this is how I spent the money I made at work.

"We'll, it's kind of an investment - keeping in good shape gets me more in tips than the class costs, especially since this sort of workout doesn't shrink the--"  Seeing his look of disapproval, I didn't finish that sentence.  "Sorry.  I don't know what I'm thinking sometimes.  Anyway, it's not a matter of wanting guys to look at me, but it just feels good to be in shape, like when I was playing sports in school, and I do want to return Krystle's body to her more or less the way she left it, and Little Moira kind of did a number on me."

He looked a bit more skeptical than he probably would have if I'd started with that, but I think he could tell it was the truth.  That didn't make it totally okay, of course.  "Does it have to be this?  Maybe there's something you could do at home, or the path in the woods..."

"It doesn't HAVE to, I guess, but I actually kind of like yoga, at least while I'm like this.  My friend Missy got me into it - SHE really likes looking sexy but she was overweight in her original body, and she still really hates workouts that have to do with running or stairs - anyway, she pointed out that there was a whole section of preggos, and even though I was skeptical, it really worked for me.

"Besides, I tried running some of my old routes, but not only can you not do the one in the woods with a stroller, but I need at least two sport bras on even just running down the street for it not to be completely terrible.  I know you don't like thinking about me having a chest, but there's practical considerations there."

He quickly changed the conversation to the Celtics and Kylie Irving.

Mom mentioned it later at home, although it was to ask whether the place was good. I guess one of her co-workers goes there as well and had been recommending it.  She also pointed out that in the future, I really should bring a pair of pants or even just a skirt to slip into afterward, that just because I was trying to avoid looking at women practically naked didn't mean I should be letting other men do it to me or even Krystle.

That little dig out me in half a mind to tell her that, no, I didn't have a spare tampon when she knocked on the bedroom door the next morning, but I didn't, figuring it must have taken her a lot to ask.

Indeed, last night, I realized while we were watching TV, that this was probably something like what my life would be like if I had actually been born a girl and gotten knocked up.  Without Krystle actually in the house, we can actually feel like a regular family and not one where a curse and a fake me are part of the equation.  It's not easy - I can tell that for all they love Little Moira, my folks are still really disappointed in me, and, trust me, I think that certain things would be so much easier if I were still a guy about twenty times a day - and it never feels normal, but it does kind of like something that could be normal had things been different.

-Jonah/Krystle

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Max: Keeping Up Appearances

A lot of the process of reinserting myself into my life and rebuilding it has been a lot easier than it feels like it should.  Sure, on the one level it should be easier than being turned into someone else - I've spent twenty-two years building to this, I know my friends and family, and there's magic going on that keeps people from actually believing something happened, so I bet that any memories of being "out of character" get smoothed away.  On top of that, I've got a clean slate - after graduating college in May, I had no job lined up, and Carlotta Wong didn't bother finding one when she was living my life (I know this in part because Mom and Dad have asked me how things are going on that front, kind of concerned about how little effort seemed to be made over the summer).  The only other person in my apartment right now is Bingbing III, and she gets it.

Indeed, she gets it well.

We spent a few hours solid scanning social media to see how close Carlotta and Giorgia had been over the summer, both not to be surprised by what people mentioned when talking with us and morbid curiosity - you never want to know what someone else has done with your body (even if it's really there's and just looked like yours or if the shape you've got now is a surprise or, will, whatever this is), but this situation, with them not biologically sisters anymore and not thinking they would be again, is weird.  We wouldn't be trained if they did anything, but we'd probably be uncomfortable.  No signs of creepiness aside from there just being one bed in the apartment, at least - no kisses on Facebook or Weibo or anything, nobody saying we're now like we were before the summer or pulling back on the PDAs lately.  But who keeps track of that stuff unless you're really pushing the line, one way or another.  Apparently the Wongs weren't.

As for us, it's been kind of strange.  Bingbing has kind of been looking for a new place, but she's also been busy with school and whatever else she does - Jordan and I half-joke about her spying on us for Chen-ai, but she does go off on her own a lot, though not really for long enough to go to Boston and watch Jordo do anything.  We do wonder about other sorts of spies - we gained another roommate at the start of October, because Giorgia wouldn't have been able to pay for this apartment herself with "Max" in limbo, and apparently she wasn't counting on Carlotta covering it as Yuan-wei.  The new girl doesn't seem like any sort of secret friend of the Wong sisters - she just seems like any other white college senior - but who knows?  Probably not worth worrying about unless she starts making threats.

It made me sleeping on the couch weird, though, so I bought a sleeping bag and moved back into the bedroom, although after a few days Bingbing said it would be okay to share the bed, at least with a pillow wall and sleeping head-to-foot.  Decidedly not sexy, but we're not as cramped as Benny and Annette likely were.

I think she assented to it because we kind of hang out a lot anyway.  We like a lot of the same stuff, it's easier for her to be around the people Giorgia-Bingbing knew with me around to back her up, and while her English had certainly been improving steadily, it's probably easier to have a native speaker around for certain situations, and although she's gone through a lot of the first-time-as-a-woman stuff by now, it's pretty nice to have another person who's been through the change around for support.

That said, it was still kind of surprising when, after we both got invitations to Jordan's Halloween party and I told her that Halloween was kind of a big deal in our family, she asked if we should do some sort of matching costume.  I pointed out that this would be not just like hanging out with people who think they know both of us or going to a movie together, but like a date, with drinking and dancing and working together to get ready.  I wouldn't expect anything from her, but there would probably be a lot of guys hitting on her if we weren't kind of glued together. 

She said she knew, but it would feel a bit safer if she were with me, although she acknowledged that it was a lot to ask for me to keep pretending, that I'd probably like to start looking for a real girlfriend, but, I kind of don't know.  I think it's going to be kind of hard to trust someone new for a while, and even if I don't know that much about Bingbing III, she does sometimes make me feel a little less like I've been betrayed when I look at her.

-Max

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

J.T./Elaine: Role of a Lifetime

The Inn has closed for the season, so I gather that my true form is somewhere in limbo.  Does the Inn have some sort of magical hard drive where it stores this information, or does it slip through some sort of crack in time between one changing night and the next?  I apse it doesn't matter, but, like everyone who gets changed by the Inn, I want to know where my face is right now.

Not a while lot of people will miss it; I've told my manager that I will be unavailable until May, and I don't have many people that I'm close enough to that my absence will cause great consternation.  I was emancipated just before my seventeenth birthday and things have therefore been uncomfortable with my parents ever since, and is been hard to form close friendships or long-laying relationships since then.  If my own parents considered me a means of income to exploit, how could I expect more from anybody else?  Even my band-mates, while not exactly hired hands, answered an ad.

Still, I've been checking to see when someone would notice me missing.  I don't expect I'll ever give my full name on this site - like Penny Lincoln, I hardly want it to be on even the first five pages when people Google me - but I'm sure that a sufficiently motivated reader can eventually root out which sitcom on a kids' cable channel was my home at the turn off the century.  Then they'll see the rest of my professional life - cast in what should have been a successful series of movies adapted from a popular sites of young-adult books, only for distribution never coming, and the first one going direct to video; trouble transitioning to adult roles; a few parts on the stage that didn't get great notices.  The critics did say I had a surprisingly good singing voice, though, which served as a major push to make music the next phase of my career.  I met some folks, formed a band, and that's how we wound up at the Trading Post Inn:  Four gigs in southern Maine at the end of an New England swing and a good bargain for being in a beach town as the off-season was starting.

Then, if you've been reading the blog for a while, you know what happens - thirteen guests, a curse, and awakening as someone else.  In my case, there was really no easing into it - I sleep naked and Missy have thrown the covers off overnight, so when my eyes open, there is the darker skin, there are the breasts.  I probably scream for a second or two before I realize that the phone ringing woke me up, and I pick it up cautiously.  I say "hello" as much to myself as to whoever is on the other end, wondering what I sound like.

The person on the other end is a kid, but doesn't talk like one - in fact, she's got the same tone as I and other child actors did back in the day, understanding the grown-up world she's in better than adult outsiders.  "Hey, I know this is a lot to spring on you, but here's the deal:  The building you're in is cursed, it turns you into other people, and you're Elaine Preston as far as the world is concerned.  You've got my real face, so come out here and have a talk before I have to get to school."

I say okay, half-convinced I'm in a dream and in dreams you just go along with things, throwing some now-pretty-loose clothing on and making my way to the door.  There's a ten-year-old girl standing by a bicycle there, red hair sticking out from under a helmet and a duffle bag at her feet.  She reaches out her hand and introduces herself.  "Elaine Preston, though I'm stuck living as Mackenzie Mahoney until we can get things lined up right.  There's a starter kit in the bag - undies, clothing, ID, the kind of shampoo your hair needs - so you can get yourself presentable.  Obviously, this frame wasn't hauling all the stuff Max left behind over,  but you can stop by Cary's place - he's technically my guardian - around four or so and we can sort the rest of it out, and he'll probably give you a ride to the airport so you can get to Chicago, which is where I lived before getting sucked into this craziness."

I introduce myself, a little disappointed that she doesn't recognize my name, but I guess she's a couple years older than I am and most who remember me are a couple years younger.  It's just chilly enough this early at the end of September that my nipples are getting stiff, and is weird with her looking at me, so I cross my arms.  She looks at her watch.

"Okay, not a lot of time before I have to get to elementary school, so you might as well ask the questions."

"The questions, like how--"

"No-one knows.  Missy's got a computer model that does a pretty good job of predicting who becomes whom based on where two groups are when the change hits, but we haven't heard of anyone who has picked up anything on Geiger counters or any sort of ghost-hunter gear. I want awake when it happened to me, but those who are say they just change."

"Then why--"

"Don't know that, either.  I've been spending the last month hanging around the local library and the one in Portland, looking at old newspapers, but all I've found back to the 1960s is police-blotter stuff off guests at the Trading Post causing trouble because they're acting nuts.  Haven't found anything about it opening or some angry witch putting a hex on it or anything.  Maybe Missy will find something out now that she's got a share of stock in the place."

"Am I really--"

"You're a girl all the way down to your DNA - if you look on the blog, a couple of former guys even got pregnant!"  She gave me a hard, grown-up stare.  "Do not get pregnant."

"That's--"

"Oh, you say it's unlikely and gross now, but all your biology is changed, even the stuff that determines orientation.  It just takes your mind a while to accept that different stuff causes sparks.  Or, in my case, doesn't - and thank God it doesn't!  I really need to get back to looking like that--"  She pointed at me.  "--before going through puberty and all those questions!"  Another stare.  "Do not mess that up for me!"

I must have looked really nervous, because she smiled reassuringly.  "Don't worry, though - you're going to read a lot of weird stories on the blog, but most folks get their old life back in about a year, when they can reschedule a trip back in reverse order.  For you, it should be really easy, because you'll get the first slot, with nothing in between to screw it up.  And in the meantime, you get to be me, only with whatever skills you've got, because the change doesn't mess up your knowledge and stuff, and, trust me, I'm gonna give you a letter that's easy better than the one most folks in there will find in some leftover luggage!"

About then, someone ran out the door, and Elaine-slash-Mackenzie stepped back.  "So, I'm going to let you explain all this, because I got class and not everybody takes hearing this from a kid as well as you just did.  See you later!" Then she hopped on her bike and rode off.

Kind of rude, but I could see where she was coming from.  It was a tough situation, not helped by the fact that my having at least met someone outside the building and received this information made me suspicious.  Still, this is kind of a situation where there's no not accepting it, because no amount of denial is going to make your face appear in the mirror.

So, what to do?  My band-mates and I actually considered playing the last gig, although if anybody was coming based on me being "that guy from that show", they might be less amused than just canceling, which is what we did via email, also telling or manager that we'd had a blow-out fight and broken up, which is a plausible enough outcome with relatively new bands.  We did talk about "getting back together" when this was reversed in May, because we would certainly have some killer inspirations for songs; even if they hadn't changed sex or ethnicity like I did, living the life of a couple that had been at the Inn for their honeymoon would certainly give them new perspectives!

As for me, I eventually got back to my room and opened the bag the real Elaine had given me.  Pretty much what she'd said.  I don't know if it was just wearing my clothes from the day before, a more sensitive nose, or if maybe the change made you sweat the excess mass out or something, but I smelled kind of funky, so a shower was in order.  Very weird experience, from slapping up my new breasts to the tickle as water made its way down my body and between my legs, a warning that material can get in there.

I dried off, stepped into the panties is been given, and held up the bra.  "No big deal.  Remember the episode where they needed to spy on the girls at the concert?  You've done this before!"  That was when I was fourteen, and while it's not quite the same to actually get your breasts into the cups as you put a bra on as it is to stuff one with socks after it's on, I suspect I did better than other guys-turned-gals.  I suspected Max put a little weight on this rear end toward the end of his time as Elaine, because it took a bit of effort to get into the pants I was given, but a couple weeks later I think that's just ladies' jeans.

One tank-top and sweater later, I was looking in the mirror, trying to find my character.  "Elaine Preston...  Smart, dry sense of humor.  Maybe a personal assistant, used to looking after others, has a secret crush on her boss, but hasn't figured out how to act on it without being unprofessional.  Always calls or texts back, whether at work or on her own time.  Likes looking nice, but doesn't necessarily flaunt it."  I did a couple half-twists, looking at myself from different angles.  I tried looking surprised, with a wide grin.   "'Miranda, hey!  It's been forever since I saw you, girl!'"  I mimed kissing cheeks.

I did a bit more of that, before venturing out for some breakfast and then coming back to look at this blog, specifically anything tagged "Elaine".  Okay, pretty wrong on some stuff, although after reading some of what Cary wrote, I got back in front of the mirror and started trying to do "take-charge". 

That kept up until around four, when I took an Uber to Cary's place, where Elaine was looking disgustedly at homework, telling me that it probably takes her as long to get it done as actual kids because she got bored and annoyed.  I asked if that was something she felt a lot even before visiting the Inn, and she said "only for stupid shit".  I nodded and made a note in one of those little 4-inch-square notebooks that I bought at CVS earlier, and she gave me a weird look.  "Dude, you've got enough to remember just in terms of facts and skills and stuff, you don't need to worry about 'this would annoy her' too.  This guy--"  She pointed at Cary, an older, kind of hippie-looking guy.   "--had Christmas Dinner with my parents and nobody said boo."

"Maybe; I was just always taught that it's the way you say something that convinces people more than the actual thing.  Anyway, you mentioned your parents - would you say you've got a good relationship with them?"

"Well, I don't know, since the guy between Cary and you kind of had me drop out of sight as far as they're concerned!"  She took a breath.  "Sorry.  You're new, you don't get how hard this can be.  Yeah, we do.  They want me to be nicer to my sister, but that's because they really have no idea what sort of a fuck-up she is and never will.  But they always encouraged me, didn't fuss when I moved to Chicago, show interest in my boyfriends but don't make me feel pressured to get married.  I appreciate them."

I kept writing stuff down, and she kept bristling over it, saying she didn't like being reduced to notes, that she put Cary through training so that he could play her, but so that he could answer questions and do things without having to ask, especially since she didn't think it would be this long.  I told her I want Cary, and I want going to have her on-hand, so the process would have to be a little different.

By the end of the evening, Elaine had printed off a lot of what she'd written up for Cary about managing software developers and used a flash-card app to give me a means to study and quiz myself on the people she knows back home.  I stayed the night at the Inn - we could have gotten lucky with another swap, but there weren't enough people - and then met them in the morning, with just enough time to say goodbye before Elaine was dropped off at school, telling me she didn't want to come home to a mess next year.

I though it might be a quiet drive to the airport, but Cary actually had a lot to say about what was surprisingly easy or hard.  He asked if I'd taken a birth-control pill those mornings, and said it was okay to pick up where Max Chang had left off, since they'd figured out between them (and others) that the change didn't mess up a woman's cycle, just paused it while the form was in limbo.  I squirmed a bit hearing that, but he didn't seem to enjoy it particularly.  He did make sure that I was in for a lot more in the way of headaches for being female and black than I thought.  Elaine didn't really warn me because it was all shed ever known, but I was going to face a lot of people treating me as suspicious or dishonest the first time we met, and it could be tough not to either get angry all the time or over-compensate.

So far, I must admit, I haven't really tested that out; I've been clearing the cobwebs out of an apartment not used for the months, studying what Elaine gave me, and practicing "lady stuff", as Cary put it.  Fortunately, I've got my first job interview on Tuesday, and while Elaine punched Cary when he told me to break a leg during one of our regular Skype calls, I must admit that I appreciated it.

-J.T./Elaine

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Friday, October 06, 2017

Tyler/Valerie: Say Yes to the Dress, or else.

So, you might ask... what about that wedding?

Well, after giving myself some time to acclimate myself to Valerie's life, I started in on that. Especially after a few weeks of Josh checking in on my planning and me having to brush it aside with a "Don't worry, I'm on it." There's a certain point where you can't just stall anymore. This wedding, Valerie is determined, is happening.

There are enough mental hoops to jump through in this life... cuts and bruises you take on your way to swallowing your pride and living someone else's life, that by the time I wind up trying to plan a wedding I can almost say fine, bring it on. Even at my most romantic, I'm not sure I ever saw myself getting married. (Well, maybe once but I blew it.) Generally I think weddings are kinda pointless, but they're important to a lot of people, and right now I'm expected to represent that, so what's one more challenge on my plate?

And it happens that, thanks to my experience as Judith, I know a thing or two about event-planning, so this whole affair is in decently capable hands.

Valerie, from a distance, is still trying to plan her dream wedding. Obviously, we agreed, "Anna" would be getting an invite, but I had my doubts as to how she would handle that. I mean... it must be a surreal, possibly even painful experience, to watch yourself walk down the aisle from a distance.

She sighed. Of course that would be tough, knowing I was in her place, wearing her dress, kissing her man. But she says, it's a well-known fact, Brides hardly even get to enjoy the wedding - they have to see everyone and partake in an array of traditions and demands and put up with being hostess and center of attention all at once. That just feeds my point, how one's "special" day somehow doesn't belong to them the way it should, makes you wonder what it's all for. She almost got dreamy when she really considered being able to actually relax and truly take it all in on her own wedding day.

We started dealing over Skype, but it's sadly not coming together as fast as I would like. She picks out a few different invitations, and tells me to get Josh's input - and of course being male, Josh wants to know which one I like, and sometimes what I like (not that anyone asked) isn't what Val likes -- of course there's a correct answer, but she still needs the validation. Around and around it goes for everything from photographers and DJ's to centerpieces and seat-covers.

I'm dealing with a very particular brand of wedding crazies here.

There's also a bit of disagreement over the Bridesmaids dresses, which display a considerable amount of cleavage, considering one of the five (!!)* bridesmaids is Val's 16-year-old cousin Celia. I'm inclined to agree with "Aunt Faye" that it's inappropriate, but Val and Celia agreed beforehand that she would be treated equal.

*The other four are Brigette (Pete, you recall), Val's 25-year-old sister Jennifer, her 20-year-old sister Kate, and Marie, the Maid of Honor.

Then there's the guest-list, because while Josh and Val know who they want to invite, there's also Josh's mom's friends and Valerie's dad's co-workers and all of this push-pull between the families that I'm not as equipped to handle as Val really is. I try to play peacemaker but you know, there are pressures from all over the place.

Like I said, all of this is really boring stuff to talk about, but it's a lot of what I've been dealing with for weeks, and again, even though it's not "my" wedding, at the end of the day I own a bit of it so it's on my mind at work, at home, when I try to fall asleep, no matter what.

The thing that concerns me most is the dress. As Marie has told (or "reminded") me, she had a hard time picking her "perfect" dress and isn't it great that - or only a few hundred more than she wanted to pay - she found her vision of a dream gown, after stressing out for months this year?

And I... hate it.

I went for Val's second fitting a few weeks ago and tried it on to prepare for alterations, and I took one look at it and almost gagged. Hey, I'm used to wearing ladies' clothes now. If I  have to, I can wear a dress. But even if I self-identified as 100% female, even if I had no ex-male hangups about fashion, I would not choose to wear this dress. I'm sure it's perfectly lovely for a woman who has spent her life imagining walking down the aisle, but for me... not really. It's a big ruffly ballgown dress, with a long-ass train that just feels like I'm going to end up stepping all over it, and considering my height it makes me feel like a fat little marshmallow or something. I know, I sound so vain, but allow me the chance to feel some embarrassment about my appearance sometimes. The top part is a really Victorian-looking long-sleeve high-collar thing, which I guess makes sense given it's going to be November, but looks very old-fashioned and formless to me.

Of course, three months out from the wedding date there's no time to go shopping for a new dress, so that's what I'm stuck with. "Don't worry," she says, "It will look better when we make the alterations."

Sigh...  whatever.

-Ty/Val

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Monday, October 02, 2017

Lindsey/Magda: Date Night

I wouldn't necessarily say that I've been having fun acting the part of Harmon's mother over the past couple months - in a lot of ways, it's been as much a thing I fall into trying to keep him occupied and active and doing something other than indulging in self-pity as it is a thing I think is amusing or a necessary part of keeping up appearances for the real Magda & Alicia as well as anybody else who has a vested interest - but I do it because even if these lives aren't really ours, they kind of are, and they've got to be lived.  If that makes any sense.  I mean, basically, you've got two or people who are biologically mother and daughter living under one roof, working jobs where people know us as that, and we sort of fall into situations where we've got to do what mothers and daughters do.

And it makes feel kind of exhausted at times.  Magda left her form (for lack of a better way to describe the physicality transferred from one body to another by the Inn) in pretty good shape, but I'm still getting used to what I can and cannot do as her, and the thing that keeps really frustrating me is laundry.  I am sweaty and achy by the time I've pulled what I took to the laundromat or dry-cleaner back up to the apartment, and it sometimes doesn't help when I see Harmon lounging in the living room in Alicia's sweats, watching CNN and also reading some magazine, apparently having got up at the crack of 6pm (to be fair, he had arrived back here after a red-eye the night before).  "Hey, lazybones, Mom's done the laundry!"

"No matter how many times you act like you're my mother, it is not amusing."

"C'mon, it's a little bit funny.  Besides, you could cut it down by occasionally doing some chores around here."

He sniffed and went back to his paper.

"Or..."  I took a breath, trying to think of a way for what I was about to say not to sound gross, "we could actually do something as a couple.  We haven't had a date night since the Inn."

He gave me a look.  "Are you serious?  Not only are we both women at the moment, but even if we were interested in being intimate, the roles we have been thrust into would make acting on such attraction... questionable, to say the least."

"I'm not asking for us to wind up in bed at the end of it!  I just think that, you know, taking a night and dressing up, getting dinner and drinks, seeing a play or a movie, maybe just walking around and exploring a little, I don't know, maybe we won't just feel like roommates with nothing in common but what the Inn did to us."

I think it can be hard for us to really see each other like this sometimes, but I did feel like Harmon did see me then.  "Of course, you're right.  We've each been so occupied by being 'her' or being 'them' that we could do with taking a night to be us.  I have to work tomorrow and won't be getting back until nine, but how is Thursday for you?"

I tell him Thursday's great - there's stuff going on but we won't be surrounded by couples or singles, making it really awkward.  It certainly gives me a little more to look forward to during the week, and I suspect folks at work notice, and if they're thinking "Magda" had a date with a guy, well, they're not entirely wrong.  There's music coming from Harmon's room when I arrive home, take a quick shower, put my hair in curlers, and pull open Magda's closet.

There's a lot of choices in there, but pushing the manhunter stuff to one side cuts the options down a bit.  I find a nice, loose floral-print skirt that goes down to my ankles, a cashmere sweater that shows I've got a figure without necessarily drawing everyone's eyes to my boobs, and some wedges that give me an extra inch or two but aren't super-fancy or gait-changing.  A little make-up, and I look pretty good for a gal in her mid-forties, but not on the prowl. 

I sit out in the living room for a bit, waiting, and then go knock on Harmon's door.  "Hey, Harmon, our reservation's in about a half hour."

"Oh, right.  One moment."  It's barely even that long before he opens the door and steps out, stopping midway as he sees me.  "You... look nice."

"Thanks!  And you, well, you look nice in anything."

I probably sounded more disappointed than I was, but I'm pretty sure I said "dress up" when describing the idea, and he's wearing loose slacks that still kind of cling to the tush and a camisole, with his hair in a ponytail.  I suppose I should be grateful that he's come around on camis in the last few days because he won't wear t-shirts on their own and doesn't like anything that feels like it pushes his boobs in or up, which is a lot of Alicia's blouses and tops.

He sighed, frustrated.  "Do I have to go change?"

I sighed too.  "No time; maybe just grab a cardigan or something."

He grabbed the most shapeless one in Alicia's closet and we headed downstairs.  Our table wasn't quite ready when we got to the restaurant, so we accepted the invitation to sit at the bar.  We got our usuals, which didn't look strange for me but it activated some sort of beacon in nearby guys.  After the second or third "so you're a bourbon girl" that he had trouble deflecting, he got increasingly angry about the need.  I probably could have stepped in better or faster, but I felt weirdly outside for a moment the first time because he only saw the apparently-young girl, and even after I started talking, I was winging it because my mom and I are not close and I really don't know what to say when a mother stands up for her daughter.  Eventually, I got to the point where I could just say, hey, mother-daughter night, but Harmon kind of bristled at that, too.

The dinner itself was good, and not as tricky as it might have been; Harmon's not really a big "give me a whole steak and extra carbs" sort of guy under normal circumstances.  He didn't really want to talk about work, which I kind of get, although given that he's had a few layovers that weren't just "sleep at the hotel and get on another plane", I figured he must have had some cool experiences.  It was even harder than usual to get him to talk about his academic work, saying that while the substitute Harmon was apparently capable of giving a lecture but relied on his grad students even more than he did and it was hard to do a lot of the research his new paper needed without access to certain academic libraries, and it was hard to get through the whole process with an intermediary.

He didn't seem too terribly interested in me talking about how substitute-me seemed to be having fun - she and substitute-Harmon are actually married in their real life, so they can take the side-eye we get and have fun with it, although I'm not sure what I'm going to do with everyone thinking I've got artistic hobbies now.  Maybe I should take up painting so that is not quite so strange a change next year, especially since it would give me a hobby for when he was out of town.

After dinner, we saw the movie about the English guys assigned the job of handling India's transition to full independence because he was NOT doing the Reese Witherspoon one.  It was okay, not really my thing, but it was kind of nice to reach out and have Harmon hold my hand in the dark.

It got uncomfortable again on the way home - the guys in the bar and a couple of folks at the theater had Harmon wanting a car rather than a crowded subway only to find out that there's little worse than skeevy Uber drivers - so I don't know if we'll get a chance to do it again soon.  When it comes to living these new lives, Harmon is much less gung-ho on the idea that practice makes perfect than I am.

-Lindsey/Magda

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