It was a looooong drive from BK to Westchester, but worth it. We arrived at 8:00 Thursday Night to find a big empty house, with the Hutchinses already gone, having texted their final instructions to Maddie. We were exhausted from the drive so when we unlocked the door, we were very taken off-guard to be tackled by three very large, friendly dogs - two American Bulldogs (Piper and Sandy) and a Chocolate Lab (Pharaoh.) Piper jumped up and pushed me down by the tits and started licking my face immediately, which I was too delirious to be nervous about, so I just laughed.
"I guess this one likes me already!" I said, trying to manage the attention I was getting, as Maddie squealed in the corner, where she had been backed by the other two. I composed myself and managed to start getting them to behave... I'm no dog whisperer but my dad always had hounds of his own and I do like them and I know a bit about how to get on their good side.
Once the chaos died down, and Maddie settled her nerves, we gave ourselves a tour of the house. It was incredible. I've never seen a place like this, with an indoor and outdoor pool (technically the same pool but partly enclosed within the house) a screening room, a huge wine cellar, and more bedrooms, bathrooms, rec rooms and sitting rooms than I could count. And the kitchen! Hot damn. It looked like the set of one of those cooking shows, one of the good ones where they never make anything real people would eat.
Best of all, we've got free run of the entire place all weekend, meaning everything in the house is at our disposal, assuming we didn't break or lose anything - and even then, supposedly, they seemed not to worry.
On the first night, we were so wiped we just ordered a late night pizza and spent the whole night talking. I pried Maddie's whole story out of her, not that there's much to tell - simple girl from Long Island, moved away for school, felt too stressed and dropped out, no serious boyfriends. On the flip side, she started asking me, and I felt a little cagey, because I don't have a lot of practice talking about "my life" as Valerie, and I don't really like appropriating other peoples' lives and pretending I lived them anyway... so I gave a very, very loose version of my truth, and Valerie's, and tried to leave it at that.
What I told her, when it came time to talk about being left at the altar, was actually pretty close to the truth. That I was still reeling from a some heartbreak, and I kind of fell into Josh and I felt ready to be married for the first time in my life, and that he was the most charming man I had ever met - all true - but he turned out to be a total snake. That he ruined more lives than he could have expected, and that I wasn't sure if I would ever really get over it.
the part about never really getting over it... that's my attempt at expressing Valerie's feelings, but it might reflect my own views on subjects not relating to Josh.
Eventually we killed a bottle of wine and Maddie said she wanted to go off and try something stupid. I told her to be careful, nervous as to what she was getting up to.
When she re-appeared, she had changed into a beautiful red evening gown with a plunging neckline. She was also wearing a diamond necklace, and I think some makeup. My jaw dropped.
"Maddie!" I gasped. "What are you--"
"What?" she giggled, "The Hutchinses told us, over and over, anything we want to use or play with, we should feel free. Have you seen that woman's closet? That's my playground."
I was beet red with embarrassment (and drunkenness.) "Maddie, you can't... that's too much!" I know, I'm the last person who should be talking about going into someone else's house, wearing their clothes and pretending to be them. But at least I never did it on purpose.
She did look beautiful though.
"Come on, come on," she said, swishing the dress around, "Try something! You'll like it."
Where have I heard that before...
I eyed the dress, skeptically. "I... don't think she'll have anything in my size."
Maddie looked down at my body. "Oh, yeah... maybe not. Well hey, maybe you're her same shoe size? I saw some Louboutins with your name on them."
"Not really my style..." I sighed.
"Come on, let's have some fun, girl!"
"Okay, hold on. Stay here. Don't look."
I went over to the bedroom, and began to look and look.I returned a moment later and told Maddie to turn around.
When she saw me her eyes lit up. Her jaw dropped. "That is a look," she said.
I was standing before her in Mr. Hutchins' dark slacks, a white collared shirt that comfortably concealed my bosom (the first button-down I've worn in a year to do that!), suspenders, and some kind of grey fedora that looked like something out of Mad Men. The legs of the pants were way too long, and as were the sleeves of the shirt which made me look like a pirate, but it amused Maddie, and myself.
I stuck my hands in my pockets and said in a mock-masculine tone, "Hey there... pretty lady,"
"Hey yourself," she giggled.
"What's for dinner, Mrs. Hutchins?" I sauntered over to her in a parody of a man's swagger.
"I don't know," she said in a posh upstate voice, "Why don't I have the maid whip something up?"
I smiled and came face to face with her. She tipped the hat off my head and laughed, "Can you imagine?? Okay, we should probably change back... I'll have to wash her underwear in the morning."
My eyes bugged out. "You wore her underwear??"
"Well, yeah! I wasn't going to wear this dress with my ratty old Joe Fresh undies! Besides, this lady's got lingerie that costs more than my rent. Tell me you're not curious."
"To wear a stranger's underwear? Uh..." Again, not for fun...
We each took a bed for the night - Mr. & Mrs. Hutchins have separate, adjoining rooms. It was the best sleep of my life. In the morning we had to feed the dogs and I made us a great breakfast, which Maddie moaned in pleasure as she ate, like she'd never had an omelette before.
"Unff, seriously," she said between bites, "Whatever guy let you go was crazy. Crazy!!"
"Well, I didn't cook for him much," I sighed. "And I'd rather not talk about it, if it's okay."
"Oh of course." She asked what we should do today, and I said I wasn't sure, we had a lot of options but I really just wanted to get away from all the testosterone in my life. "Oh, I know," she agreed, "Guys are disgusting. I had three older brothers."
"Oh yeah? I had two-- uh, to... wonder what that would be like. I just have a sister." Smooth. You would think I wouldn't slip up so much but damn, I really don't spend a lot of time "playing" Valerie.
In fact, the whole thing started to feel like a re-up on what it's like just being around another woman - a real woman - for a lengthy span of time, since outside of work, it's all about the men in my life, or Pete.
We decided we couldn't go the whole weekend without swimming ("You remembered your suit, right?" Yes...) so after we waited the customary span after eating, we changed.
That was when I had this really weird moment.
I went to the bedroom to change, and I'm clasping the front of this bikini and... it's tight. Really tight. In fact, this suit, which I inherited from Val but haven't ever worn, feels just wrong.
I look at myself in the mirror and I notice... this is not really the body that I got from her.
The changes are subtle, but when you're standing there half-naked in a skin-tight two piece, you really take notice. Love handles. Chubby thighs. Butt flab. Belly fat. I've been an idiot. I eat whatever I feel like, I don't really exercise, I haven't stepped on a scale in forever... I've just been trusting my body to maintain its shape the way it did when I was a man. I must have gained twenty pounds.
And it's not like that would matter to me. If it were just me, I would shrug and live life the way I wanted to, I think. I look fine. Great, even. It's not like it's so much gain that I have to buy new clothes since most of what I wear as Valerie is stretchy and accommodating. But I have to answer to Valerie, who is fairly controlling and judgmental in nature (don't let her absence since the break-up fool you) and who is probably already battling some serious emotional issues. I felt like I had failed her, and myself.
My eyes watered. I haven't hated this body so much in a long time. This life. It's moments like this when exhaustion sets in and I just hate the way things have turned out.
Maddie walked in on me sobbing in a heap on the bed in my bikini and came to comfort me. She said she may not know what I'm going through right now (understatement!) but she was here for me. I thanked her, we hugged, I dried my eyes and composed myself and we went for our dip.
As we splashed around - I really am not in any shape to do laps, but we did toss a ball around and use the diving board - we talked about relationships. I said there was a guy I was kind of seeing, who was a bit of a jerk and very aloof and wanted to keep things "casual."
"Oh, Rafe?" she smirked.
"Is it that obvious?" I winced.
"Only if you have eyes," she winked. "I think most of us have figured it out, at least it's the gossip, but nobody is quite sure."
"Well, don't tell, okay? I want to keep my reputation intact."
"You're too good for him," she said warmly.
"Yeah, well... that's a first," I sighed.
I asked her, and she said she was doing the Tinder thing and there was a guy she had seen a few times but wasn't sure about.
I actually felt strange hearing that. I wasn't sure exactly what I was feeling about Maddie lately... harmless girl-crush? Friendship? Something more? I play at Valerie-style heterosexuality, and women don't do "it" for me the way they used to, but you spend enough time with someone, and you grow fond of them... certain ideas start to occur to you, and Valerie's body is very confused about how to interpret them.
She continued, "I feel like if we get serious I'm going to turn into the girl I always am in relationships... clingy, needy, drive him away. I hate it but I can't help myself. Plus, it's not like I'm in love with the guy... But I kind of want to stick it out and see where it goes. You know, it's better than being alone."
I told her that being alone was a little underrated, but I get it, since that's the whole reason I'm "with" Rafe. "Actually..." I said, giving in to my girlish need to gossip, "I'm only 'with' Rafe because I can't be with someone else right now."
Maddie smiled. "Juicy. Who's the guy?"
"One of my roommates, Ryan."
"Oh, the hottie with the stick-thin girlfriend? I hate her."
"She's all right, I think. A little bland."
"He doesn't know what he's missing."
Her next idea was to do makeovers. I told her she didn't want me doing her makeup, so she said okay it can just be one-sided. I was still reluctant, since it reminded me of when Kitty/Adrian would try to control how I styled myself, or Lauren's mother would. But as she did, we talked more, about the future, life after the coffee shop - again, I had to play coy, but she remains insistent we have to start a business. I don't know how to let her down easy.
We watched movies the rest of the day, and tended to the dogs. We had a hell of a time trying to walk them given our combined upper body strength is practically nil.
We turned in pretty late, after marathoning some of her favorite scary movies (I didn't know they made so many Purges!) I retired to Mr. Hutchins' room and climbed into bed. A little later there wasa knock at the door.
"Hey, so, um, this is awkward, but the dogs have decided to take my bed. I mean, Mrs. Hutchins'."
I sat up. "Is there... anywhere else?"
"Well, there's the kids rooms, but I don't think I could be comfortable in there."
"All right, climb in," I sighed.
"Thanks. I'll try not to snore. Does Rafe snore?"
"I don't know... we've never stayed over."
"Poor you... the sleeping is the best part."
"Poor you," I said back, "If you think the sleeping is the best part."
She scooched herself close, backing up to me.
"Don't be shy, girl... spoon me!"
"I haven't been the big spoon in... ever," I said, quickly correcting to Valerie's version of things. "My boobs are in the way."
"I like them," she said back, "They're real soft."
"Thanks," I said, "You can have them."
"Nah," she said, "I'll just use them tonight and leave them for the maid in the morning."
She fell asleep. And I felt all these pangs of a life I was not living - one in which she and I could be together, and I wouldn't feel weird and conflicted about it. Before drifting off to another of the best sleeps of my life.
I woke up early and decided to write all this.