Monday, April 29, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Game Nights

I wasn't exactly a jock in high school, or otherwise really in a position to call other kids nerds or dorks - I was, after all, the kid going to extra church - but sometimes with Calvin and his friends, I feel like maybe I should have been?  Like, I know that I'm actually five years younger than all them, but sometimes I kind of wonder when they're going to grow up.  I guess it's a bit of everything, in that they're all white and never really had to worry about certain things, and how I jumped straight into adulthood from the middle of high school and then had a kid and I guess stopped having a lot of time for frivolity.

I mean, Game Night.  A bunch of folks in their mid-twenties getting together to play board games, and, like, not even "drink a shot when you get sent to jail in Monopoly" varieties.  One of Calvin's friends orders stuff from Germany that is apparently going to be the next big thing among tabletop enthusiasts here.  It's insane, but I feel like I'll be letting Cal down or looking like some sort of b---- if I say I don't want to go, I sound like a snob, and can the black single mother really afford to sound like she's too good for these folks?  Especially when I've got a while bunch of what Penny calls "Impostor syndrome" going on?

It's not that I don't have fun at these things, so much as how you get to doing them kind of bewilders me.  I feel like I just grew out of board games, or like they're something Little Moira is going to be growing into soon, and I haven't had time to get nostalgic and try to rediscover them.  I felt kind of silly asking Ashlyn not to schedule me to work every other Monday and even sillier asking Momma Kamen to babysit because this is my "grown-up time" with a boyfriend rather than a toddler.

On top of that, Calvin was hosting this week, and somehow that meant I was responsible for snacks - "we" were, but, well, you know.  And because it's important for some reason that I impress these people despite never having learned to do much more than heat food up, I got myself into a panic a week in advance.  I set off the smoke alarms in the apartment trying to make cookies, and maybe cried a little I told Moira and she said "ye work in a bleedin' restaurant and the owners like your fella".

So half an hour before everyone else started to arrive, Ashlyn showed up with two trays of dip, one with peach cobbler, and a bunch of tortilla chips  I thanked her with promises of overtime and handing out menus, but she said not to sweat it, that we all had different challenges in our new lives that we didn't see until they were right on top of us, but that I should remember I'm only dating Calvin and not his friends.

Easy for her to say; she didn't have any of them staring daggers at me because I'd only managed "vegetarian" rather than vegan with the second tray of dip and honestly couldn't tell the couple for who that was an issue whether there were egg whites or any other sorts of animal products in the cobbler.  I didn't have a great night as Calvin's partner, either; I swear someone got a bunch of "stuff Jonah doesn't know" Pictionary cards, and during Settlers of Catan I had no idea what expansions he had and therefore what we could do.

At the end of the night, I waited for him to sit down and then flopped onto the couch beside him, laying my head on his chest.  "Why is having fun so stressful?"

He laid a hand on my belly.  "Because you've got this silly idea that you need to prove you're awesome."

"It's not silly, and I don't have to prove I'm awesome, just that I'm not a screw-up.  I've disappointed so many people."

He leaned over and kissed my forehead, and then I leaned back a little more so he could do it again on my lips, and then his hand was on my back and I turned around so he could pull me in and there could be tongue.  One of his hands went to my butt and I let it, while I felt the muscles of his back.  The little part of me that says I shouldn't be making out with a guy was blowing its whistle but I ignored it, laying back on the couch and letting him stale me while one hand went to a breast.  I pulled him in a little, just close enough to feel that he was hard, which made me break the kiss and scoot back a bit.

"Sorry," he said, "it just happens."

"Believe me, I know.  It's just--"

Maybe there's a bit of disappointment on his face as he anticipates me saying that, but despite all the talk on that subject, I don't think I noticed any.  I actually found myself thinking "don't be stupid!" because I could feel myself turned on all over and thinking what am I going to do, run to the bathroom?  So I took a breath and said "it's just that I really can't have another baby right now.  You've got to be really careful."

A big grin spread over his face as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a condom with something about extra thickness on the wrapper, did my best not to look away as he put it on, although I may have taken a little longer than necessary in pulling my dress up over my head.  I suddenly felt really naked and vulnerable in just my bra and panties, though also kind of wishing I'd worn fancier ones.  Still, I was able to put myself in his place, pulling my panties down and letting him, well, you know.

I kind of don't know what to think of it.  It felt good, because he knew what he was doing a lot better than I did.  I mean, I didn't just lay there like I did when I got knocked up, but I didn't really know what I should do!  I felt stupid for not having done anything when I was a guy, or all the things I knew I shouldn't do but which would have left me feeling less ridiculous in that moment.  He said it was okay, I was just out of practice, and I just thought about how it was a good thing that if never let on just how much practice I figure Krystle had before I took over her life.

I talked to Ashlyn about it a couple days later and she started to laugh before apologizing, saying she figured it must be even weirder than usual for me.  Then the next day she brought in a couple of DVDs, saying that unlike most porn, most of what was on them would be fun for both of us and most of it wasn't "too advanced".  I was mortified and kept looking at my purse like it was going to catch fire the rest of the night.  I've seen R-rated movies and all, but never anything like that!  I was almost relieved that there was never a good time to get them out of the back of the drawer I speed them in over the past week.

But now Momma Kamen is out for the night and I've got another date with Calvin tomorrow, and Little Moira just feel asleep.  I really don't want to study how to please a man like this - I can't help but think of the time my dad found the magazine a classmate had stuck in my backpack and what the thought of his son learning how to make a man come would be like for him - but I kind of have to, if not for Calvin, than for the man I eventually marry.

Still...  Why is having fun so stressful?


Friday, April 19, 2019

Simon/Joy: Highland Girl

I actually did it.  Everything that the original Joy ever owned is gone.  A lot of it went to thrift stores, some of it went to Treena, and the rest is in her parents' basement, but by the time I left San Diego, there was nothing in my bags that I had inherited from her.  This may seem like a silly thing to do, but once it was done, I wondered why more people who wound up in a new life long-term without the original person planning to return because of the Inn don't do it. 

Admittedly, it's not exactly financially great; purges don't bring back enough cash to replace what was gone; it maybe only really works when you're going to be traveling light and moving in with your rich boyfriend.  Still, there's a bunch of really silly stuff that goes with wearing someone else's clothes and sleeping in her bed and maybe having pictures of the girl with type current face doing things you never did on the fridge.  Like, what am I supposed to do when Treena smirks and says I'm wearing Joy's lucky panties?  And the time I've spent fiddling with her devices because she had some screwy preference that returned every time her phone rebooted.  It just feels good to have all that be mine now.

But wait, you may say, weren't you focusing on traveling light so that you can move in with Joy's ex-boyfriend?  And, yeah, I see where that come off as hypocritical.  But it's not like he ever mentions stuff he and she did very often, and I feel like the fact that he's been visiting me for the past year, so that it's mostly me choosing where we go and what we do, I feel like I've been making him my boyfriend rather than hers.

I don't mean I've been deliberately trying to change him or anything, just kind of bringing out the parts of his personality that are more in line with mine.  Some of it's guy-inside stuff, like being a little more reluctant to give head, or maybe spending an afternoon at a game rather than a nature walk or whatever, and some is just me not being girl-next-door-y in the same way.  Like, I'm not going to resist when he wants to take me to a nice restaurant or spend a couple hundred bucks on a bottle of wine, or anything like that.  I'm not gold-digging or dropping hints or anything, just not saying no or being embarrassed when life offers me nice things, and maybe she would have felt the same if she'd returned to this life after spending the better part of a year as someone else.  That she didn't is all the reminder I need that life isn't always generous and you should take what it gives you.

Although even I must admit, the castle is a bit much.

Iain's family doesn't live in an actual castle - it's not made of stone with turrets to shoot arrows at invaders or anything - but it's a pretty sizable mansion, with an enclosed courtyard, a dining hall that can accommodate a lot of people, a ballroom, and stables that I'll get to layer.  I showed some nice places to guys that had money to spend in California, but even the really nice, old ones, I'd be giving some sort of spiel about what the servants' quarters had been converted into, whereas this one still had servants living there!

Maybe more staff than family, at times.  Iain has an older half-sister, who herself is married with three kids of her own, but they live in Ireland and mainly visit around the holidays, and a younger brother who is attending school in Boston, and a few cousins who have rooms in the house to call their own - a few of them are around at any given time - but most of the time it's him and his father, plus the butler, cook, stable-master, and now a nurse.

One of the benefits of not really being Joy is that I don't remember Sir Robert Mackinnon as he was before the stroke, and as such I apparently didn't come off patronizing or pitying the way that a lot of old acquaintances do when they see the wheelchair or hear him slur his speech a little.  He's still sharp, especially when you get him talking about his horses or something else where he can get excited.  I think we've even started to bond a bit, since I'm around the major a little bit more than I'd originally expected. 

As much as being the live-in girlfriend of a rich young man sounds, it gets kind of boring at times, but getting a job in a foreign country is a kind of chicken-and-egg thing.  You can't get a job without the proper visa, and they won't issue you the visa without a job lined up.  It may go a little smoother because Joy's parents are English, but that doesn't make me a citizen.

So I kind of hang around, the staff kind of resents me because they're not running a hotel, and I try and figure out what to do next.  I would occasionally wander by the stables, and one day last week Sir Robert was there, arguing with a trainer.  The horses, you see, are the foundation of the McKinnon family fortune; they've been breeding them for decades if not centuries, but it's not something Iain and his siblings have particular interest in, and Sir Robert is apparently a canny enough businessman to recognize that diversifying the family's holdings is a smart idea.  It makes him a bit sad, though, so he seemed to be heartened by my interest, asking if I'd ever ridden.  I don't know what Joy would have said, but it's not exactly something I could fake.

He was a bit disappointed by that, but got a little happier when I started to show interest in the business.  In certain crude ways, it's a lot like what I was doing before the Inn, if you consider breeding akin to a custom manufacturing process and horses a short of durable good that certain clients might need, whether they be in the racing business, farmers, or even a couple of police departments.  Sales and contracts are...  Well, it's interesting, though he doesn't necessarily seem to think a young American girl like Joy would be interested in anything but the pretty horsies.

He seems keen to foster that interest, if only because maybe me being interested would get him interested, but didn't think much of it until I got back from doing a little shopping and had the butler, Weathers, intercept me and say there was a parcel for me from "the Master", which means Sir Robert (Weathers trends to call Iain "Mister McKinnon").  Curious, I went upstairs to find a garment bag with a riding outfit in it - boots, jacket, little cap, the whole deal.

Of course I tried it on, posing a little in the mirror.  As much as I've grown used to being Joy by now, sometimes I surprise myself, and seeing Equestrian Barbie made me giggle a little, both in delight and kind of ironically.  It wasn't hard to imagine where this could go, me as lady of the house, riding on the weekend, going to events with Iain, looking modest when he says that I'm not just a pretty face but actually run the family business.  Ridiculous, I guess, but what did I come here for if I wasn't looking at that as a possibility?

Gotta learn how to ride first, though.  First lesson with Iain tomorrow, weather permitting.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Jenn/Zack: What's next

If it's been quiet around here, it's not because we haven't been busy. We have to be, since even in Jersey, rent isn't cheap. I have been busting my ass to get referrals for my mediocre photography, which has gotten off the ground thanks to Alexa -- having an absolutely gorgeous woman linking you in her Insta posts really does a lot for your profile.

In celebration, Alexa and Ryan invited me and "April" out to dinner at a restaurant Ryan knew - a real up and coming hipster place. Pete didn't want to go, knowing how crappy Ryan had been and that he still hadn't been caught, but I was insistent. I didn't want to feel like a third wheel, and I still have trouble relating to guys as guys - in mixed company they're not so bad but if I have to have a one-on-one conversation with Ryan it's likely he'll say something that turns my stomach.

Plus, there were certain thoughts that I wanted to avoid having when Alexa is around.

Honestly, it's been hard to process, because when I'm around her, my hormones go off like a neon sign saying "YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THIS!" But I get a churning feeling in my gut because I'm not a guy and if I'm lucky I won't be much longer so there would be no point in pursuing someone like her. Or anyone. Plus, she's with Ryan, even though he doesn't deserve her. And when I see them together it just pains me.

I had hoped that being "in character" with April would distract me enough, but really, compounding a secret with a lie just turns out to quadruple the negative feelings. I was constantly wondering what my body language was saying, if I was staring too long at Alexa, not looking over at April enough., if I was "passing" as male with Ryan, while simultaneously feeling the urge to fight him.

Ryan asked n innocent question about our relationship, April and Me - asking about how the last time he heard about me, I was dating that older woman. I tried to wave it off as jut a fling (and not let on that it involved a serious heartbreak) and that April, who in cover story I was with for years, was my true love. But it was hard to say those things and mean it.

Pete looked lovely, taking the opportunity to make himself very pretty and sophisticated, wearing beautiful earrings and a silvery, low-cut dress that he said was the nicest thing April owned and that he didn't think he'd get a chance to wear... any guy would be lucky to have a woman like that on his arm. I wished I could have appreciated it but I was far too distracted.

Pete deserved to be congratulated too. He had found a new job in short order, unsurprising based on April's resume and his own capabilities. It's a short-term contract too, which always sounds like such a ripoff but works out perfectly since it ends just as we are supposed to be going to the Inn this summer.

After we parted ways it was a long ride out of the city. Now it was Pete's turn to seem distant and distracted. I asked what was wrong.

"Well, I'm a little let down," he sighed. "I shouldn't be surprised, and I'm not taking it personally or anything, but... I kind  of thought this would work."

"What would?"

"This," he said, gesturing to his body, his dress, his hair and makeup. "Its... a lot, don't you think? Put a lot of work in here. I know I can't compete with Alexa - hell, if I was still on the guy side of the equation I'd be eyeing her all night the way you were. But I thought maybe I could draw some of that attention for myself."

He sighed. "It's stupid. I feel like an idiot for... thinking... anything, I guess. It's been a long time since I liked anyone as much as I like you, Jenn. I'm a romantic at heart, but just like you, I care too much to trick anyone into being with me while I look like someone else. The only shot at happiness either of us has is with someone like us."

I was shocked. We've been getting along well as "housemates" and really enjoying each other's company... I guess I just thought that was where it ended. But I appreciated that he was being open and honest with me.

I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind. We're two people of compatible sexes sharing a space. I've seen "April" in all but the fullest state of undress, gotten familiar with his habits and quirks, shared jokes. It has been a little bit like a relationship - the settled, later parts. It's just that, after years with David, maybe I was hoping to be swept off my feet again. Or sweep someone off their feet.

I took my time in crafting my response as a long silence fell between us. "I just think..." I said, treading lightly to be sure if this really was what I thought, "If we're only... you know... together... because that's the easiest, or only option... is that healthy? Don't we deserve better?"

He smiled - oh, wow, how that smile lights up a room, if I'm being honest - "This has been a hreat month for me, Jenn. What could possibly be better than this?"

He touched my hand. Those soft little fingers on my rough ones.

I felt warmth inside me.

My heart started beating faster.

I wanted to kiss her right there and then.

Why... why not?

I leaned over and pressed my lips to hers. I hadn't kissed anyone in a little while, and I haven't kissed anyone new in a long while - I mean, technically, when I kissed David as Lena for the first time that was someone new, but this was something else.

I can't deny it was better. Whether because, on a shallow level, I'm more attracted to April than I was to Lena (who had beauty, but you know, the age thing and being my first "woman",) or because I was just so excited for someone to be thinking of me that way again... it was long, and hungry and passionate before we knew it.

We made out all night, and when we weren't making out we were talking like old friends, unburdening ourselves in ways we hadn't yet in all the weeks we'd been living together. I didn't know if it would just end up being one night of passion, or something more, but my eyes felt opened for the first time.

"So, does this mean," I asked around 3 AM, "I can start sleeping in the bed?"

She flashed pink-red: "Let's just take it one step at a time, okay? We have months."

Fair enough, I said...

We did fall asleep in each other's arms, though, sitting upright in a position that felt comfortable at first but left me sore in the morning.

I had left my phone in the other room. When I checked it in the morning, there was a long text from Alexa.

There was a bit of preamble, but essentially it was saying how she's never had a guyfriend like me before, and there she's starting to wonder if there's something there - a better connection than she has with Ryan. She says, she hates herself for thinking it but maybe I feel the same way and that's why I seem so indifferent about April.

She said she was sorry for putting it out there if I didn't feel the same way, but she couldn't get it out of her head.

My heart sank at that... talk about terrible timing.

-Confused Jenn