Another hot city summer in a female body. A good-looking one where men notice when you start showing skin - or wear anything that gives a hint of your figure. And sue me, that's the least of my worries. Let them look if they need to, let me turn heads on the street, I'm not afraid, as long as they don't get out of line. At least, with the thinner layers and less fabric that women's clothes provide, the less overheated I get going about my business. Guys don't get the benefits of low necklines and high-cropped shorts - I've got to take the wins where I can in this body, you know. IF you had told me five years ago that I'd be kind of excited to be wearing short skirts, I'd have punched you where you stood, but here we are.
Of course with every positive there's an equal or greater negative... flat, humidity-wrecked hair, sunburned cleavage, and of course, underboob sweat. And guys, I've got a lot of underboob to sweat through.
Ripping the Band-Aid Off
I've had a fair amount on my mind since the last time I posted. I was trying really hard to find the "right" time and way to break it off with Rafe. I figured I would be more likely to do it the first time he and I had a blowup about something but somehow he's managed to be a perfect gentleman since I got back from Westchester. Freezing him out for a few days must have really gotten to him. Damn, that meant I had to find a way to level with him, and find some convincing grounds to end it even though, if you asked us both, we'd probably agree we're still having fun.
It's not the best relationship I've ever had (if you can call it that) but it's not the worst, and at it's best it's weirdly very non-dysfunctional, which feels strange.
The other night we were lying in bed and he asked me how I was feeling. He's never done that before. I literally had to sit up, wide-eyed and startled and ask "Who are you?" And that's a loaded question coming from me of course - it occurred to me for a moment that he might not actually be himself. But he looked at me like I was crazy for even asking, and he just shook it off, like "I'm just trying to be nicer, man."
I told him I was just lost in thought about the future. He asked if I meant "our" future. I said just the future in general, you know I don't really want to pour coffee for the rest of my life. Then I asked, "Is there an 'our' future?"
He shrugged, "Why not? We're having fun, aren't we?"
I winced. "I do want more, eventually."
I thought he might react pretty badly, but he just sighed, "You gettin' tired of me, chickpea?"
"No, I just... think a break might be good."
Shit, I thought to myself as soon as I said it, I can't waffle on this and leave the door open.
I could see him getting upset, but in an understated way: "If you call it off, I'm not gonna wait around for you to change your mind."
"I wouldn't expect it."
He sat and thought for a minute and said something kind of unexpected: "You know if you give me some time... just a little while... maybe... I could... I mean, we could..." he stammered, and I stopped him before he could putter to the end of his sentence.
"I can't explain it, but... we don't have that kind of time."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"It means I've got to go."
"Fine, go then."
And I had to admit, I was a bit hurt that he didn't fight more, but he did make a bit of a play for... something. And I don't doubt his sincerity, but, well... I had to do what I had to do. I threw my clothes on, trying not to linger too long, stuffed my underwear in my bag, and called for a cab home.
A Good Bad Dream
I tossed and turned all night because I had an important meeting in the morning. And when I finally did get to sleep, I had this really vivid dream that I was back at the Trading Post, and I got transformed into Ryan - I was tall and muscular and I had a dick and everything, and I went to bed with his girlfriend Alexa and... I woke up feeling very guilty about all that, very shaken. I also woke up to find I had started my period, as if to rub it in.
So imagine how I felt when I went out to the Kitchen to pour myself a bowl of Cheerios and she was there already eating.
Things are a little icy between us but I think she could sense I had had a rough night so she asked about it, and I said I had ended things with Rafe. She draped her arm around me and said "Girl, I know it hurts, but I know you can do better!" I barely know this girl, and I was semi-attracted to her boyfriend, and he was/is definitely attracted to me, and she was giving me sisterly love. I felt rotten.
Ryan appeared a little after that, and we all talked, although I was not in a very social mood. Ryan made a big show of cozying up to Alexa, as well he should, and it all served to make me feel like the loneliest guy in the world.
It was around 11 I ended up meeting with "Cynthia Hutchins." I hadn't actually wanted to pursue this but Pete convinced me, saying she had gone to the trouble of seeking me out - I said that didn't necessarily bode well, and she agreed sure, but if she meant ill she could have probably approached it some other way. Then we went back and forth over what someone who meant ill for me would actually do and eventually Pete wore me down (as she has a way of doing) so I agreed to meet. I was definitely more curious than I wanted to be.
After I had been to her place, I realized I had seen her in the coffee shop several times. She always looked very put-together - a well-dressed, beautiful and fashionable 30-something with a slim body, pretty blue eyes and silky golden blonde hair. I noticed her, envied her, resented her - as I do a lot of my female customers. Male ones, too. But she was always nice, and now I realize it's because she knew who I was... despite not mentioning the name of the coffee shop, I had at least given enough of a description of Valerie's body that she must have known the moment she found me.
Her husband is probably average height for a man, so that they're about even when she's in her heels, with a young-looking face for his mid-40's but gray hair. Their kids are 13, 12, and 7 -- Cynthia is the stepmother.
I told her there's another coffee shop around the corner where I prefer to talk about these things, away from my friends, customers and co-workers, and she agreed to meet me there. She was looking very prim and proper, and knowing I was going to meet with her made me want to dress up like I was going for a job interview - pleated black skirt, white blouse with scalloped shoulders, hair tied back.
"You look very nice," she said, seemingly sincere. I said she did too, complimenting her earrings in particular, a pair of dangly gold baubles. She stood up to bid me to sit down and I was immediately put off by how she towered over me in her three-inch heels.
"I guess you're wondering... about everything."
I sighed, "I find in these situations it's best to let someone just say whatever they feel they have to, and then if I have any questions, I'll hold them."
"Very well," she said, offering a narrow smile. "I'll be brief."
"No need, I've got all afternoon."
Her smile broadened.
"Five years ago, I did something very uncharacteristic and spontaneous. I took a vacation with a man I hardly knew, to Maine. I was having one of those moments where I wanted to... sorry, you're going to laugh when I say this but it's true... I wanted to quit being myself for a while. Not literally of course, I never would have asked to... well, yes. I just wanted to get away for a while and throw caution to the wind. I met a man online and he suggested we go to Maine. He told me unfortunately, the only place he could get a reservation was thing dingy old Inn, but we'd make the most of it. I had just quit my job, there was no limit how long we could stay.
"After nearly a week of running around like we were teenagers, we woke up in the bodies of the Hutchinses. The original James Hutchins was a widower and was dating a much younger woman, and he ended up choosing to stay with her rather than returning to his children. A disgusting choice, but I benefitted from it so... I can't say I looked unkindly on him for making it."
She cleared her throat. "I'm sure you can relate to trying to make an ad-hoc family work with a person you only barely know." I nodded.
"It was a very appealing life, very much unlike the one I had left. I had chosen career over family... or, it had worked out that way, since I never had a chance at family before. Now I had my youth again, I had beauty, I had money, I had three children who resented me at first, but soon understood that I cared a lot more about them than their ersatz father, even if they didn't quite understand why. For James' part, he... did his best. It was years before the family started to collapse. Or rather, he started to. The pressures of work got to him, and... well, there was an added element because he could only succeed at work with my help, and I started to feel taken-advantage-of, since he worked a job he had no business doing, but that I could, quite easily I think."
"And what's that?"
"James is the Vice President of Research and Development for a Pharmaceutical Company. I was a biochemical engineer, back in Tuscaloosa. It was extremely convenient for him."
"He wants out. He's tired of faking it. And I'm tired of him neglecting the children we inherited, and of the loveless sham of a marriage we were rushed into. But he's not tired of the money. So we've struck a deal. I will become him, and transfer a certain portion of James' salary to the person he becomes as a way of getting him out of my life."
"Uh huh..." I said, skeptical about all this,
"And my hope was... is... that I could find a person who knows the truth about the Inn, who needs a place to live the rest of her, or his, life. Someone with a proven track record of taking care of others. Tyler... this is a match made in heaven, don't you think?"
My face got hot. I didn't know what to say. "You want me... to just... become you -- Her? Cynthia?"
"I believe that would be best, yes."
I couldn't speak.
She went on. "Before you answer, let me assure you, I don't demand much. My hope is that for at least the immediate present, you would put up the charade of being a loving, caring mother to these kids. Our relationship would be strictly business. You would be free to pursue whatever you wanted. And I mean that in the fullest sense... if you wanted to lounge around and collect an allowance from me, I would let you. If you wanted a divorce, I could easily arrange that, and give you favorable terms. If you wanted to leave and go back to the Inn after a year, I would permit it, even though you would be giving up a lot...
"You would have freedom... Opportunity... Resources to do anything you wanted. Say, for instance... start your own business with my money."
It was scary how good this pitch was. There had to be a catch. Well, of course I already knew what it was: I would have to be Cynthia Hutchins. And if I were, I would probably be her forever.
It's no secret I would really rather live out my life in the sex I was born with, even as much as I've adjusted to the female role. I can't help thinking it's still only temporary. But the amount of things that would have to fall into place to get the body and life I actually want, and to be able to keep it... to accept this offer would be to admit defeat, and give up my slim hope of ever finding that perfect life.
Really, though, to stop fooling myself.
"I'm... flattered," I said. "I'm supposed to go back to the Inn in a few weeks, to give Valerie her life back. When are you..."
"End of August," she said, "You would return to the Inn at the beginning of September."
"What if I... become someone who can't come back? What if I become a kid or a... well, anything could happen. It could be out of my control."
"As long as you're willing, we'll find a way. This is my offer to you, no strings attached. I can virtually guarantee that a person in your situation can't hope for anything better."
I suddenly felt cold in the air-conditioned coffee shop, and grasped my upper arms.
"I don't know, Cynthia. There's a lot to think about. Just answer me one thing."
"Are you really from Tuscaloosa?"
She smiled. "Roll tide."
I've got some thinking to do.
-Tyler/Valerie/Possible Future Cynthia