Don't look at me, it wasn't my idea. I just went along with it.
It began about a month ago. Steven and I had been out a few times and I hadn't found any major flaws other than he just didn't inspire much passion in me. He was kind and thoughtful and caring and funny and I wanted to like him.
I decided to have sex with him after our third outing. As anyone who recalls my fling with Pete knows, sex is something of a big deal for me because I need it in my life and yet I have a lot of barriers. With David I had built trust with (which I had thought was strong.) With Pete I had someone I liked but due to knowing April's appearance was not his own I was hesitant and in the end it did not last.
I am obviously feeling very different since then - about myself "my" body, my world. I let Steven in as much because it was simple and convenient for me, because, feeling as negatively as I do about being in Shona's body (and again, more on that later) I didn't feel like I had much choice. It was him or permanent celibacy.
Another factor, which also makes me sick to think of but is definitely part of it, was feeling like he "deserved" it. I try not to do it as a "reward" for men's (or anyone's) behavior but out of true mutual desire. That desire wasn't really burning for me, but I wanted him to be happy because I felt for the guy, being left with no answers as to why, undeservedly. I was in a position to make this man happy in a way few others could. He deserves better than me as Shona, and honestly better than the real Shona has treated him, but I'm all he had.
It didn't stop me from crying though.
It wasn't very romantic. On our third or fourth date I basically sat there thinking to myself "If this guy doesn't do anything to screw it up I might as well have sex with him tonight." And I tried to be excited for that (because yay sex!) But also stay out of my head and not look for minute reasons why not.
As usual he was good, inoffensive company so at the end of the evening I invited myself up and of course he was willing.
It was good. I want to stress that. It felt good to be kissed, to be touched, to be paid attention to. I liked it. I just found it hard to stop thinking about my physical appearance negatively and to feel sexy. It felt very detached for me by the end, which I didn't like.
And of course, he was making love to another woman.
I cried. We did it a half dozen times in two weeks and I cried almost every time, mostly quietly to myself. I wasn't even sure what I was crying over specifically, I just knew I had plenty of reasons.
Eventually he noticed and asked - because, you know, he's sensitive and concerned. I started by trying to lie and say I had no idea but the part of me that wants to be truthful blurted out between sobs, "I'm not who you think I am!"
He tried to reassure me and say of course I was, that he knew me inside and out and he knew me enough to know he truly loves me. I told him he wasn't getting it and he never would.
He said to try.
So I did. I blurted out about how I appeared to him to be Shona Nash but really I was a different person and my real name is Jenn. That when Shona took her trip to Maine she was transformed into a different person - I don't know who - and left me to be transformed into her, and I was trying to cope with "all of this" as best I could, but it was "a big change" and I was still getting used to it, and I just wanted to feel normal (and sexy) again, but it wasn't working, and I feel so bad for being a fake and a liar. And I felt like he deserved better than a fake Shona.
He, um... I don't think he got it. He said whatever the problem really was we could work through it, but there was no need to push him away. I cried some more, having given it my best shot. I just told him to think about it, that someday soon I might say something the real Shona never would and to keep all of this in mind. He just kind of laughed it off but I hoped he would remember.
Then last week he came to me and said he wanted to talk.
He had just been let go from his job. He was working as a culinary scientist for a local ice cream company - I had to stifle a laugh at that, the Big Girl dating the Ice Cream man, but it wasn't funny. He felt he had helped build the company over five years and was frustrated that they had dropped him. He had spent a night just driving around town, wanting to call me... but something stopped him. And he thought back to what I had said about not being the real Shona, and he was giving it more and more thought.
"I don't know what to do," he said. "If you're really not Shona, and she left me, I want to know why. A hole has opened up in my heart that I need filled but I think I'm never going to understand fully, unless..."
My eyes widened. He couldn't possibly be saying it...
"Unless I do this. It's possible, right? If it's real, then I'll know for sure."
"Steven, you can't--" I said, "I can't let you do that to yourself! If you go to the Inn there is a *high probability* you never get to be yourself again. It's too risky and I would never deliberately put someone in that situation."
"Shona... Jenn... if I've lost you, and my job, I don't know what I have left. If everything you told me is true, I need to know, and the only way I can ever know is to do it myself. I can't stop thinking about it."
"It's too unpredictable," I said, "Too much can go wrong. Believe me, Murphy's Law lives at the Inn."
"I know where it is, I'm going with or without your blessing."
"Whatever you're looking for, it's not in Maine."
"It's not in Gainesville either," he huffed.
"Okay, okay, don't be hasty," I said, "Maybe there are some controls we can put on this."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the Inn closes down in September. After the last block of reservations, I think the people who stayed there last, their bodies get left in some kind of limbo. So if you stay there last, there's a chance you can come back in the spring and reclaim your true body."
Steven looked at me again like I was nuts - like the details only made it sound more fake.
"And maybe it would be for the best if you knew exactly who you were becoming. The Inn can be very random and I wouldn't want you to get too messed up."
"What are you suggesting?" He asked suspiciously.
"Well," I said, my face turning beet red as I broached the topic, "There really only is one option..."