Maybe today would have gone different if I hadn't been so distracted by what's going on elsewhere. Treena says that doesn't matter, and I shouldn't blame myself, and that I did what I had to in both cases, even if my male mind is going to second-guess part of it, saying I'm letting hormones make me overreact. Which is nice of her to say, even if it's not practical.
It started a couple of days ago, when I got a phone call from Brian. Things had taken a bad turn, he said. The chemotherapy and radiation which had seemed to be working had suddenly become ineffective, and as a result, the cancer had completely consumed one of his/my testicles, and it would have to be removed. On top of that, there were indications that it may have metastasized, so even after the operation, we might not be out of the woods.
Hearing that about someone you know is never easy, and hearing it from the person who assumed your life because of a cursed hotel is a punch in the gut outsiders really can't imagine. But try, and then imagine that you picked up the phone while in your bra and panties, doing your makeup for a night out with a couple of your best girlfriends.
Your immediate first reaction is that it's your fault, and not because something in your diet or lifestyle or something you'd exposed your body to before the Trading Post Inn took a snapshot of its exact state to apply to the next guy had created the cancer and it just hasn't become noticeable until after the changes. No, the fact that I've kind of enjoyed being a pretty young girl, taken advantage of what it gave me, to the point where a moment ago I had been wondering if the high heels I was pairing with my dress were sparkly enough, that set something adrift in the universe that attacked my true form's masculinity in response. It makes a stupid amount of sense, especially if you've got a roommate who talks a lot about karma and energy and connectedness. Like, you know there's magic in the world (or, as one guy I know suggests, aliens conducting a long-running social experiment), and maybe that's the sort of thing that actually affects it. Sure, it hasn't really worked that way for anyone else, but who knows?
I text the girls that I can't make it and spend a couple hours talking to Brian. It's not a great conversation, but, hey, he needs it and I suddenly feel like getting into some sweatpants and watching sports anyway. I have my first night where is really hard to sleep afterward, but I get through a day of work feeling kind of grateful that I can do this whole Brian goes through the hard stuff.
Today is basically going the same way until I had out to the suburbs for a showing. It's one of the best listings I've got, and the guy I'm showing the house to is some sort of tech millionaire. I'm feeling really good about it, thinking about what I can get with the commission, pointing out the large walk-in closet in one of the bedrooms, asking if there's a Mrs. Tech Millionaire who might appreciate it. Maybe I'm being kind of flirty - I sort of turn it on by instinct if I think someone might be partial to petite blonde girls by now - but even if I am, it seems like he's mostly showing interest in the property. Or at least, it seems that way until I realize I've wound up in the corner of this windowless space with a decent-sized guy between me and the door, with one hand on the wall next to my head.
I don't think there's a lot of intent to it; I've done stuff like that in my real life and tend to think of it as saying "hey, stick around" if it's saying anything, and girls who see an "or else" are just reading too much into it 99% of the time. So I'm not really thinking of "escape" as I slide along the wall in the other direction, just that I've got a fair amount more house to show him. He moves the same direction, puts his other hand on the other side of my head, and asks if I could fill this space. I say I'm not the one shopping around today and duck underneath his arm, getting out of that closet and into a more open area. I'm starting down a couple of steps toward a recessed hot tub when I'm bumped from behind and I have to do that thing where you make really quick, small steps to get down the steps in your heels without really falling. I turned around at the bottom and asked if he was okay, because that's what you do. He smiled, said he was sorry, and then indicated the basin with his eyes and asked if I brought a bathing suit (there was a trap over it, but you could faintly smell chlorine indicating it was filled).
Even if you're a guy inside and out, that's going to set off alarm bells (and not necessarily just omg gay! ones), so I back off, still trying to be friendly but also like, whoa, not the time or place. But somehow I'm up against another wall, and he's real close. His hand reaches out and for a moment I think it's going to wind up around my neck, but instead he sort of nestles my chin between his thumb and forefinger, then tips my head back before starting to lean in for a kiss.
I knee him in the groin.
The ladies-who-have-always-been-ladies probably don't understand how freaked out I have to be for that; even when a man finds someone taking it in the junk funny, he winces, and we just wouldn't consider doing it to one another, even inn a nasty fight. We know how much that hurts. I'm actually kind of horrified when I see him let me go and then stagger backward. But I'm also really angry, wondering how much letting little things slide had led to this, so I do it again, this time really connecting because I'm not back against the wall and can aim that skinny kneecap. If I'm not going to have a full complement of testes, no need for this asshole to have one.
I've got my fist clenched, the image of a uppercut sending him flopping into the hot tub very clear in my head, but he holds his hand up and backs off, all the way to the driveway. Once I've heard him drive off, I sink down into the nearest couch, and just shake for a while. Then I go to the nearest bathroom and look in the mirror, kind of surprised at what I see. It was over so fast that my hair wasn't mussed and my makeup didn't really need any touching up - there was a bit of a smudge on one cheek, but I hadn't cried, so nothing was running. It was almost like it didn't happen.
I almost convince myself it didn't on the road back to the office, but the looks on every face there tell a different story. I'm called into the same office as before Christmas, only this time, instead of staring at me coolly from behind the desk, he's pacing behind the chair where I sit as he asks what the fuck is wrong with me.
"I-- I'm sorry. I didn't feel safe, so I just reacted."
"Oh, you didn't feel safe!" He leaned in, mauve trying to see if I'd covered some injury with concealer or something. "You certainly don't look like you've been through any sort of wringer."
"Yeah, because I acted before it could get that far! Son of a bitch had his hands on my face; should I have waited until they were on my tits or in my panties?"
"There's no call for that sort of language, missy!"
"Are you shitting me? Folks use that language in this office all the time, about those same tits and panties. I don't mind like some chicks do - I can take it as the compliment it's intended to be - but that asshole crossed a line I told myself I wouldn't let anyone cross. And if you're going to blame me for that..."
I got up, walked out, and started cleaning out my desk. Loudly. You might think that in sunny liberal #MeToo California, someone might have interceded on my behalf, but nope. They just let me walk out to my car. I think I overheard a comment about how I was just being emotional, but I'd be back Monday.
And maybe I will. I've got to admit, this doesn't really feel like me, and maybe when I've got a little less adrenaline and female hormones running through my body later, I'll be able to sit back, think about how this is just what a woman has to do if she wants to play in men's worlds. Tonight, though, I'll be going with booze.
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