Two Friday nights ago was supposed to be a big night. Kevin was taking me to a ball - an actual damn ball, a fundraiser for a charity he is involved with. I definitely felt strange about accepting the invite. After all, he and I had been in every romantic situation you could imagine - spending quiet nights in cooking together, going on long walks, taking a weekend getaway upstate. We've practically been living in one of those Nicholas Sparks movies for months, but we never get to the big kiss. That's off the table. I'm aware of that. A big elegant ball seemed like it would only be the latest.
I was getting frustrated. My feelings weren't dissipating as fast as I'd hoped, and now they were mutating a little bit. Selfishly, the romantic feelings I had for him were starting to twist into negativity, even though it's not his fault he doesn't reciprocate. I had agreed to be his friend, and it started to feel like I was becoming something of a surrogate girlfriend - certain rights and responsibilities without all of the privileges. It leaves me feeling a little empty, like he's using me for this role without being able to give back what I would like for it. And then I feel bad because he's been nothing but honest with me.
I put so much effort in. I had Maddie do my make-up and help with my hair since I'm still amateur at the curling wand and any cosmetics beyond mascara and lip gloss. (Contouring? What is that?) Ariel helped me accessorize by lending earrings, necklace, and bracelets she thought would go with the dress. Neither could help me with shoes since I have the tiniest feet known to man, but we picked some out together. Kevin, flashing his money around, paid for a gown I had picked out, the one thing I didn't hate which would properly cover my proportions. Something sparkly and silky. Years ago I hated dressing this way because it put me on display in a way I really did not want to be. Now... it's still not me, but for the right night it could be. I'm in a body I feel is mine, and it does wonders for my self esteem to see people light up when they get a look at me. I never thought I would say this fondly but, I looked and felt like a princess.
The night was good. He was his usual charming self and I was my usual not-so-smooth self, a roughneck in heels. I probably drank too much and made an ass of myself, but I think that happens to be part of my appeal as I make inappropriately lowbrow jokes around his friends and colleagues. We dined, we mingled, we even danced, although he was a bit stiff, and I am honestly just a terrible dancer anyway. All the guys I talked to referred to me as "Kevin's girlfriend" and neither of us corrected hem. To me, that sexually charged energy was still there. My heart was beating faster at his touch, at his looks, and I was sick about it.
Flash forward to the next morning at my apartment. My gown is on the floor of the living room. The girls are having coffee. I come out in my robe to a thunderous applause and cheers of "Ow oww!" My face goes hot, blushing. I don't really like people knowing when I've had sex as a woman, which is so weird to me, because when I'm actually having it I'm the happiest I've ever been and I shouldn't be ashamed of that. I wave them off. "Really, it's nothing, nothing."
"Nothing??" Ariel coughs, "You've been after this guy for months, and he was like a brick wall. You finally broke through? Damn girl, I knew you knew how to use that body."
"That... I... it's really not..."
"Tell us all about it," Charli said. "We need tea, sis!"
"Maddie, talk some sense into your twin, please," I implored. "I could use just a little bit of privacy."
"If I could control her, I would have years ago..." Maddie shrugged.
"Whatever he was doing in there sounded like it was working," Charli said.
"I don't want to talk about it," I said, "I just want some coffee and to go back to bed."
I crossed over to the coffee maker. Maddie gave me this look. I turned away.
"Oh, no," she said.
"No--" I abruptly said.
"I know that look."
"It's not..." I stammered.
She rushed over to my bedroom door, over my protests of privacy.
She threw it wide open and saw him there, a blanket barely covering his junk.
"Morning Maddie," Rafe said with that stupid, goofy, smug grin he gets. "Where's the coffee?"
"Vaa-aa-aal!!" Maddie shrieked, while Charli and Ariel laughed their damn heads off and I shrunk with embarrassment like a turtle.
The truth is, it had been brewing for a while, and I was fully aware of it. After Rafe came back to the shop, we got into some of our old patterns of bantering and bickering, and basically flirting constantly under the guise of constantly being irritated with each other. And the truth is he is extremely irritating but in all that, he's the one guy I've met in my entire time as Valerie who treats me like a regular person, with faults and flaws as well as my own unique appeal.
I had basically decided I was probably going to screw him again weeks ago. At the end of summer a bunch of us from the shop went out to Coney Island. I hadn't been there since my time with Josh, so it still held some associations for me, so I was feeling a bit vulnerable and maybe a little susceptible. We ended up playing some beach games, including a weirdly physical game of capture the flag, and... well, I don't know. I'm there in my one-piece swimsuit with my tits bouncing around, he's there in his shorts and no shirt, and I'm just thinking "Damn, this is working for me." And in all these years I've learned damn well enough not to fight it when I catch myself drawn to anyone or anything.
So at the end of the ball, when Kevin gave me a very chaste, thanks for coming out, you're such a good friend, I really value what we have here, I just thought... that's it. That's as far as it goes. I will be his friend but I am going to have to stop playing make-believe. I texted Rafe to be at my front door, and told Kevin I was texting Maddie to let her know I'd be home soon. Kevin saw me home, and once his cab was out of sight, Rafe emerged from the darkness, vaping annoyingly (is that redundant or what?)
He had to gloat that he'd been expecting the text for some time, which nearly ruined it, but also made it frustratingly hotter.
Honestly, all this time I had myself convinced he was bad for me and I had to stay away, but for what? When we were first hooking up, I kept him at arm's length because I thought I was going to be a man again sometime soon, and the last thing I needed was to catch feelings. The fact that he was clearly not boyfriend material was a handy shield.
Now, I have a guy who is boyfriend material but doesn't want to touch me. And on the other hand I have a guy who I like being around and really like to have sex with, and any reason I might think he is bad for me is just my brain confusing things. Is he a jerk sometimes, undependable, and in need of some growing up?
Sounds a bit like Tyler Blake circa 2014, and look how he turned out.
The bottom line is, I didn't give in and let myself stay as Valerie to lock myself up in a tower like Rapunzel. It felt so good to be looked at, touched and kissed, after all the foreplay at the ball went nowhere. To be able to strip down to the nice, lacy underwear I was wearing and have the guy in the room gape at me, not awkwardly avoid looking. To have a pair of hands fondle my breasts, and year, to have a guy screw me.
I just... really, really hoped I would be able to keep it under wraps longer than a night so that I could figure out how to handle things. After all my crowing about how he was bad for me and if I ever find myself tempted to go back there you should just lock me up, there was no escaping judgment. Doubly because I think all the girls are rooting for me with Kevin. But as it always seems to be the case with me, the circumstances are too unique, too complicated, for a simple answer.
There's guilt too. If Kevin ain't my boyfriend, and Rafe isn't neither, do I owe either of them anything? They both seem to be getting what they want out of me, and between the two of them, add up to one halfway decent, if problematic, boyfriend type person.
This has been Val's loveline, thanks for reading.