Friday, December 29, 2017
Thursday, December 21, 2017
The guys at the office haven't quite been the same for the last couple of weeks, since just a few moments of not being the fun girl who plays along with your jokes about boob size and doesn't act like making less money for the same work is no big deal is enough to shift the way people treat her. It also got out that I knew about the whole bet about who could get me in bed first, and given how the climate for that has changed just in the last few months, everybody is treating me like a live hand grenade. It's kind of sucks, both because I'm not that kind of woman (and even if I were inclined to be, I wouldn't want that reputation following me to another job) and because it's getting me shut out, not just in terms of being sociable with my co-workers but in that they seem to go out of their way to not help me in the office, even in places where there's no competition. It's dumb to sideline me, because I'm a damn good salesman no matter how I'm shaped, but guys will do dumb things where women are concerned.
One of the things that makes me pretty good at this stuff is that I have a pretty good memory for names, faces, and other details, and whatever changes the Inn made to my brain to make me interested in having sex with guys, it didn't affect that. So, when I arrived home tonight and saw a guy at the building's from door, seeming to take a step toward the intercom and back off about a dozen times, I didn't do the comedy bit where I didn't recognize someone from the original Joy's life, ignored him, and then had to improvise an excuse later. I'd seen this guy on Joy's phone, her social media, etc., and knew he must have come looking for her. So I just went for it, walking up and asking him what he was doing here.
He turned around, flustered but recovering quick. "Lookin' for ye, obviously! My God, ye look incredible!"
I could do with some of that. I walked up with my arms outstretched for a hug, but he instead took my hands in his and gently seeing them down between us so that we were looking each other in the face. It was excited than it sounded, and gave me a moment to examine this Iain Mackinnon - Joy's boyfriend when she checked into the Inn - up close and personal.
He's cute - not super-tall (I was almost eye-level with him, although I admittedly had four-inch heels on) or super-cut, but solid. There's a hint of auburn to his brown hair, which also takes the form of a beard that's very well-maintained, a precise 3/4" at every spot. Nice hazel eyes, sexy Scottish accent, dressed in the tech-guy outfit of flannel-patterned shirt and khakis, except obviously very nice ones. He smells kind of nice, too, a subtly sporty cologne. Maybe a little more millennial-hipster than what I would have called a really impressive man in another life, but I'm starting to think that maybe a guy being a little less obviously alpha isn't so bad.
I take all that in and ask if he wants to come in. He says yes, and I kind of make sure I swing my butt a little as he's a few steps behind me. It's been a few weeks for me and both Joy's diaries and what Shayla has said about how she's talked about guys in the past seems to indicate he was a heck of a lover. I unlock the door, and we're chatting about my messed-up car as he enters and Treena just freezes while emptying the dishwasher. I smile kind of big - it's almost a reflex when Treena and I have to out on a show for a third party - and say "look what I found downstairs!"
"Wow, this is a surprise! It's good to see you, Iain!"
(I mentally file away that it's pronounced "ee-un".)
"And ye as well, Treens! Still puttin' up with this one?"
"I am, and she does not make it easy sometimes. In fact, if I could just steal her a moment..."
She doesn't wait for a response, dragging me into her bedroom. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Nothing! I saw him downstairs, recognized him from about a million pictures on Facebook, and figured it would be better to say hi than act like we'd never met."
She stared hard at me at me, deciding I wasn't trying to spin it. "I suppose that makes as much sense as anything. It's just-- He really loved Joy, okay? They should have been married by now, and if you try to take advantage of that and hurt him..."
"Jeez, threat understood! Calm down!"
I turn around and walk back out into the kitchenette, asking if he'd like something to drink. He points at the espresso machine, saying he's still jet-lagged, so I start that up.
"So... Just here for a visit, then."
"Aye. Google's talking about buying out a company the family's invested in, so I came out to talk terms because my Dad's all not doing that well and the tech stuff isnae really his forte. So I'm in San Francisco, and I figure, it's only a short hop down here, might as well see what Joy's up te." He did an exaggerated little pause. "So, what are ye up te?"
"Oh, you know, getting my real estate license, connecting folks with little pieces of California heaven."
"Not really, kind of..." I'm going to say playing the field but Treena shoots me a look, and I try to think of something close to the truth. Joy may not have kept in touch with Treena before she died with everyone thinking she was Brian Meeks, but she did try to keep things going with Iain as long as she could via text and email. But while letter-writing used to be visited pretty romantic, it's not nearly enough to sustain something long-distance the days, and she broke it off not long before the end. "Kind of harder to start again than I thought."
"You managed to find someone, though, right?" Treena interjected.
"Thought so, but... Well, she ditched me just before this trip. Just like ye, she felt I was spending too much time on the business, not enough time with her. Can't say I blame her."
"That's... I'm sorry to hear that." I meant it; he seemed like a nice enough guy, and while I can't say I've ever been so rich that a girl who noticed me because of that success started to get annoyed at the work it took to maintain it, I could relate on a smaller scale.
"Well, it's gotten me thinking about what to do different in the New Year, but in the meantime, it kind of leaves me going to this Christmas party on Saturday stag, and I was wondering..." He eyed me expectantly.
"Oh, I don't know... I mean, sure, I'm always up for a good party, but--" I couldn't think of a real reason aside from Treena murdering me, but that seemed like enough.
"Don't worry, it's mostly a work thing. Just, y'know, figured I'd be nice to spend time with you rather than spend time talking about who's not there."
"Well, sure, if that's all it is..."
"Great! I'll email you all the details." An alarm on his Android watch went off, and he made his apologies. "I really was just flying down here between meetings, I'm afraid. But don't worry, when you get to London on Saturday, you'll have my complete attention!" And then he was out the door.
That last bit, as you might imagine, had me and Treena in a bit of stunned silence before Treena told me I couldn't do this. But, c'mon, this guy's obviously kind of down (despite his cheery demeanor) and looking for a boost from his ex Joy, and right now, I'm the only Joy there is. And let's not forget that I've had kind of a rough go of it lately - getting away from it all with what everyone assures me is a pretty good guy isn't bad for me, either.
Now, to make sure Joy's passport hadn't expired...
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Well, I guess I can thank "Brigette" for giving you all her perspective on the wedding, since I ended up not being able to write about it until now. I guess it's time to explain some of what she was observing but not fully understanding.
As we got closer and closer to the wedding I became stronger in my conviction that Josh wasn't being completely truthful. As someone who is prone to keeping secrets and telling lies and half-truths - sometimes even when I don't have to, I'm sad to say - I recognized too many signs to let it go. Even when I pressed him directly ,and he denied it, I kept strategizing how I would find him out. He may have had Valerie's trust but he hadn't earned mine. Not with that mystery cell phone and those phony flowers.
So on the day of the wedding, my stomach was in knots. my every instinct was yelling at me not to go through with this farce of a ceremony, but I wasn't very well going to stomp off in dramatic fashion on a hunch. There was too much at stake and I was still considering Val's feelings.
Luckily, Josh finally - at the very last minute - did the right thing.
That would be the moment he came to see me in the Bridal Suite and we had our private talk. Now enough time had passed that I don't feel wrong telling you what was said.
He came in with this shoulders-slumped hang dog expression, looking very apologetic and guilt-ridden. I tried not to buy into it, sure it was an act. But even if I was not in a place to trust this guy, we still had some kind of connection based on my time as Valerie, and part of me desperately wanted to believe that he was genuine.
After hemming and hawing for a minute, he started by saying he wanted to apologize in advance... for lying, keeping secrets, all that stuff. That he knew he had done something wrong but that he wa still the same man (Val) had fallen in love with and that if I could forgive him we could probably move forward and adapt, but... but maybe that wasn't possible. and it would be a change.
I told him to cut the rambling already and get to the point.
"I can't marry you, Valerie." he sighed.
I stared coldly at him. "Why not?"
He couldn't even look at me when he said it: "Because I'm already married."
The way he said this indicated that it was not something Val would have known (and honestly the way she'd been acting there was no way she even suspected.) I tried to keep cool outside but there was a fire building inside of me. I hissed: "What."
"It was a mistake, before you and I got together... we rushed in and it fell apart immediately. I always meant to finalize the papers, but... a few months ago, something happened."
Fire building. "What."
"We got to talking, and talk turned into... something else... and, well, it was a mistake."
I said nothing. I knew there had to be more, and there was.
"A little while later, I found out... there were consequences."
I grunted. "Go on."
"She's five months pregnant, Val. She says if I leave her, she'll take everything I have."
I don't know exactly how to describe the sound I made in response to this... a grunt of shock, disappointment, hurt, exasperation, and oddly, satisfaction at being proved right... whatever it was, it definitely wasn't ladylike.
It was hard to process - to filter through any Val perspective I may have had. All I could say was, "God, you fucked up. You fucked up so badly."
To me, it would have been one thing if he had just cheated. Maybe Val could forgive that. It's another to have been married (and facing a likely costly divorce, if he even really wanted to split up from her.) all this time he was engaged, basically defrauding Val about his finances. And then to bring a child into it - all while basically hounding me about knocking me up in the near future! I couldn't overlook it and I was damn sure Valerie would be hurt beyond belief.
I felt like an idiot, sitting there in my whole wedding getup, looking like some teenage girl's idea of a royal wedding, my face painted up and my hair done with hours of care. I felt shattered, almost as bad as finding out I wasn't ever going to be Tyler Blake again. I didn't think it would sting as badly, as personally, as it did, but in the past few months I have been very invested in Valerie's life, her problems, and this was a big problem.
I wanted to get bigger and angrier than I think I am capable of getting in this tiny "cute" body, and that frustrated me even further.
He went to do another round of apologies and begging forgiveness and I cut him off.
I should have called off the wedding. I should have been honest with everybody and told them to go home, but there was so much time and money in this, and I didn't want Val to hear it that way. I didn't want the embarrassment of being publicly humiliated like that, to have to field those questions.
Whether it was the right call or the wrong one, I said... let's go through with the wedding, and deal with all this later.
The license wouldn't be real - polygamy is illegal in New York State, so it would be annulled without delay, I reckoned. The whole thing would effectively be a lie but my whole life is a lie at this point so what's one more. I'm used to it.
Now, as much time as I've spent these past few years as other people, I'm probably not that great an actor so I think probably everyone could tell there was something wrong as I was walking down the aisle. What should have been a beautiful, sacred moment between two people who love each other was instead all just a show (which again, it would have been anyway, only now the whole meaning was changed.) There I was, silently fuming, my voice trembling as I struggled to say "I promise to love, honor and respect you" to a man I hoped I would never have to see again very soon. All I could do was mentally write out how I was even going to explain all this to Val. I felt sick.
After the I Do's, we were alone in the Limo. I could hardly look at him. He tried to start our conversation back up and I cut him off, basically dropping my character.
"You know something, man? I knew there was something wrong with you. You were so fucking lovey-dovey and attentive and all that, that should have been the tip-off. But I wanted to believe and I wanted to trust you. I don't believe you ever wanted to leave her. I think you wanted us both and you only confessed now because you realized you were cornered. Either that or you were too 'nice,' I mean too much of a coward, to come clean and say you didn't want to marry V--me. I fuckin' hate you right now."
Once the words were out of my mouth I realized that they probably hit a lot harder from Val's mouth than from Tyler Blake's, but I didn't care. He deserved to be hurt badly. Some people just do. Some people deserve hell and for once it's not me.
His defense was "I still love you and I still want to be with you, not her."
I sneered. "I don't believe that for a second, and even if you do, you can't. You blew it."
We put our fake smiles back on as best we could for the reception but after unloading like that obviously neither of us were really feeling like having our "first dance" or feeding cake to each other. We just kind of relied on the natural hustle and bustle of a wedding to keep us busy, while I made it clear to Anna that I needed to speak with her in private before the end of the night, but only after as much of the festivities as we could get through. I was relying on her to guide me through all the thanks and congratulations.
When all that was satisfied, I took her outside and did my best to break the news to her as gently as it would come, but how you tell somebody their would-be husband is a babydaddy without causing a scene, I don't know. Valerie started hyperventilating and stormed out, never to return. When I texted her, she said she needed to process all of this.
Keep in mind, she didn't want me sleeping with him in her body, so the idea that he would be pursuing an affair - even a non-physical one - was probably not going to be something she could take well, not that I blame her.
And that was the night. The night that was supposed to be so magical and perfect turned out to be exceptionally shitty. I told Josh that I needed him to go on the Honeymoon alone, and that when he came back, I would be out of the apartment and after a reasonable length of time we would tell "our friends" that it just didn't work out, although now that I think about it, I don't know why I should lie and feel embarrassed just because I/Valerie was wronged. He's the fuck-up, he should face it.
Anyway. What I did while Josh was away - where I'm living and how I spent my "Honeymoon," I'll explain another time because that's a whole other story. This was draining. And it wasn't even really my wedding in the first place, and on top of all that, I've been fighting a cold all week, and believe me, Valerie's body is one of the less-resilient ones I've had.
Friday, December 15, 2017
I'm not sure what switch flipped in Bingbing III at Jordo's Halloween party, aside from her having a few drinks, but I like it even if it is kind of weird, even by Trading Post Inn standards.
I mean, I should be feeling some sort of horror right now or something - like, even if the Bingbing I knew want who I thought, should I really be cool with her doppelganger being around? The further I get away from spending those weeks as Elaine, the more they seem kind of unreal, but if I get into that mindset, then it's like somebody scooped my girlfriend's brain out of her head and replaced itwith someone else's, and I'm okay with that because she's still cute. I don't actually have need to have spent time as a woman to know that's kind of messed up. Sure, Carlotta Wong was a monster who was just using me and doesn't deserve any sort of loyalty, but what does liking this new Bingbing day about me?
Maybe nothing. She is, after all, very different. She doesn't wear make-up, favors t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers, likes video games, and trends to be a lot more in sync with me when we're scrolling through Netflix or Amazon looking for movies to watch. A lot of times during the first month or so, I kind of wonder why I didn't see a lot of the same things looking at "Deirdre" when that was Jordan's identity. Bingbing was maybe not quite so angry and defiant as Jordan was, but there's still a lot of "I'm just not going to do this", right down to not putting a bra on until the day she got caught in a thunderstorm and wound up calling me from a stall in a ladies' room so I could bring her some dry clothes. Her first period was a pretty big freak-out, too.
Still, it built some trust. One thing I forgot to mention in some of the other times I wrote here is that while Jordan and I tend to think she's someone Chen-ai is using to keep an eye on us, she seems to think it's the other way around - that Yang Chen-ai turned her into a girl, and we're supposed to report back on her. There's a weird sort of logic to that, I suppose, if it's not something she's saying to throw us off the path.
That could also be what suddenly dragging me into Jordan's spare room and kissing me was about, but it's a pretty crazy play for a former guy. She kind of avoided me for about a week afterward, as much as she could when we're sharing a bed, but then the weekend came, some friends had Knocks tickets, and we kind of got invited as a couple. Bingbing thought it would be fun, so I said yes. We're riding the escalator up to out seats in the garden when she makes a little motion to switch places because she's a foot shorter than I am. I say sure, but she's the one who has to kind of squeeze past my buddy and his girlfriend, who are using the opportunity to lock lips.
"New couple?" Bingbing asks in Cantonese.
"Yep. Still really into that." I try and smile in a way that says "not really mocking", and then she smiles back before leaving forward and kissing me on the lips. "What's that for?"
"Well, aren't we a new couple too?"
"Are we? I thought you were just kind of drink at Yuan-wei's party and regretting it." I tend to use Jordan's new Chinese name with Bingbing; it flows better in Cantonese and is what she uses.
"I was, kind of, a little, but... I know it's not fair to tell you so little about the real me, but I'm kind of unexpectedly single right now, and you're kind of the only person I can be not-lonely with, and might understand why I'm not really looking for something long-term."
"So you'll settle for me?"
"No! Or yes? I'm not settling, really, since you're a really good guy; you're good to me we even though it might be a lot easier to just put up with me, or even not do that. I appreciate that."
"And this?" I leaned in and kissed her.
We were at the top of the escalator a couple seconds later, so she puked back, but picked the conversation back up in the seats. "I won't lie, kissing you is kind of weird, and you touching my, uh, chest even weirder, and I'm not ready for more yet, but I guess maybe two months or so is when it starts to kick in that your body responds to different things and since you've gotten used to, like, peeing differently and putting different underwear on, maybe doing other things in a new way might not be so bad, at least once. That's how it was for you, right?"
I turned kind of red - if there's anyone I should be able to tall to about that night with Annette, it's Bingbing, but I kind of can't.
"Well, I've also got used to a bunch of girls at school saying hello by kissing cheeks, so there's that."
Right around then, the others want to know if we're talking about them in Chinese so they can't understand, so we switch to English. The game's about to start anyway.
That's kind of what is been like the last month - we're mostly just friends, maybe feeling less weird about holding hands to keep attached while walking around the city, but when we're with other couples we'll kind of join in the public displays of affection so it's not uncomfortable for anyone. There was a brief moment of cuddling while watching a movie a couple weeks ago, but she suddenly say up straight when she realized, which cooled off any forward motion on that.
Or did it? Bingbing's always very careful to change clothes in the bathroom, bringing a random pairing off t-shirt and jeans in there every morning and pajamas every night, but this morning she does it in the bedroom, walking out to where I'm eating breakfast. "You know more about how girls dress here than I do - is this all right for class?"
I look up, and for a second it's like seeing the old Bingbing ready for a night out, and it throws me. "I,uh, only did it for a couple months, and Jordan was pretty good about leaving me be most of the time--" She gave me a look that combined annoyance and playing to remind me that she wasn't really asking about me, so I tried to shake it off. "Okay, uh, the skirt's all right, but unless you can button the top up a little more--"
She took it off right there, walking back to the bedroom in her bra. "I thought so, but I figured maybe in New York." She opened a drawer and pulled a turtleneck out, holding it up to her chest. "Think this works?"
"Uh, sure, but if you don't mind me asking, what's with suddenly going for that stuff?"
"I've got a group presentation in class today, and Marilyn was all 'and wear a skirt and heels!' when reminding me too be on time." From the way she imitated her classmate in English, Marilyn sounded kind of like a bitch.
Bingbing noticed that my gaze had drifted down to her chest and made a little "ah!" nose before quickly pulling the shirt over her head. She quickly ram to the closet and grabbed a pair of shoes. "Give it to me straight - what am I in for with these?"
"Uh, that seems kind of... advanced." I pulled another pair out that wasn't quite so high and was a lot more solid. "This should be good for just speaking in class."
"Thank God." She threw the other pair back in the cost, not looking where landed. "Of course, I'm going to freeze my ass off between now and then. It's negative five, or, um..." She tried to do a Celsius-to-Fahrenheit conversion for me, but went with "it's really cold."
"I haven't tried them myself, but Yuan-wei says pantyhose keeps your legs surprisingly warm."
She looked skeptical, but pulled a pair from the dresser. She stuck a foot in and only for it halfway to a knee, and I could see her searching her memory for how a girlfriend or sister put them on. She finally managed it, slipped on the shoes and stood without wobbling much, and looked in the mirror. "Well, she's going to give me shit about my hair, but oh well." She looked around for her coat, found it, threw it on, and then stood on tiptoe to give me a kiss. "Thank you so much for helping me not get murdered by my classmate. You're the best."
She left, and I started getting ready for my day (still looking for work). She just called an hour ago to ask if I wanted to see Star Wars or the new Yuen Woo-ping movie tonight, her treat, and to meet her at the theater, so I guess the presentation went well.
I called Jordan, but it went right to voice mail, so I guess I should throw it open to everyone - am I nuts, or did some kind of line get crossed today?