This is the second of four interrelated recollections by a man in the late summer of life, recalling the events of some unusual summers, and the members of the female persuasion who made them so unusual and worth remembering.
My Summer In The Big City
The time was the late sixty's and my friends and I had managed to survive our first year at a small university on the east coast. We had lived in on campus dorm rooms, which were cramped, noisy, and usually lacking in conditions for gainful study. But as bad as it was, none of us had thought about off campus housing until several graduating seniors in a campus social group we had joined announced that they would no longer need the houses they were renting. The current third years already had off campus housing and didn't want to move. But there was a lot of interest among the soon to be second and third years, so it was decided that a lottery would be held. Ed, one of my friends, and I were lucky enough to be among those drawn. With the departing seniors vouching for our character, the landlord accepted our applications. There was one problem for both of us though, money. Housing near the campus was very expensive to rent. Our parents would help out but made it clear that we would have to get summer jobs and earmark most of what we made to the payment of the rent to which we agreed.
Jobs in a small college town were hard to come by and didn't pay all that well. Ed and I decided we would try a bigger city, New York City. Mark, one of the graduating seniors, had secured a loft there and invited us to join him for the summer as long as we contributed toward the expenses. The loft was located in an area populated mostly by artists and actors. It was perfect for Mark as his course of study throughout his college years was anything connected with theatrical production. He described the neighborhood as a bit seedy, but not nearly as bad as New York can get. At any rate, it was affordable, if we could find work. We would also have to sub-rent the house, and found some first years that wanted to remain in the college town over summer and needed a place to stay. With that problem solved, there was nothing left to hold us back. The three of us packed our bags and made for the bus depot. Little did I know that for the second time in my young life, I was about to embark on a very unusual adventure I would not forget.
The adventure began, innocently enough, with an eight to nine hour uneventful bus ride to New York City. We passed through some beautiful country and some not so beautiful cityscapes. Overall it was a pleasant trip, but we were much relieved when the bus finally pulled into the New York City terminal late in the afternoon. The terminal was located next to a subway station and from there, it was but a short train ride to a station within walking distance of Mark's loft.
The loft was located on the fifth floor of a converted and renovated old brick factory building. We hit the small lobby and discovered that it was walkup only, but being young and full of dreams of riches that would soon be ours, we practically flew up the stairs. Mark unlocked the door to the loft and proceeded Ed and I inside. It was roomy but sparse. That would change once Mark started to earn an income. Sleeping arrangements were just as sparse, Mark would sleep in the only bedroom on an old rickety bed, and Ed and I would sleep on the living room floor in sleeping bags on air mattresses that we had brought with us. Still, when compared to the dorms, we would be living well. With the day approaching night we decided to hunt up some eats and call it a day. Job-hunting would start in the morning.
Morning came warm and humid. Mark had the promise of some kind of work with different theatrical groups through contacts he had made while in college. There wasn't much hope of any of them paying much, but at least he had his foot in the door and it was one of the main reasons he was able to rent the loft. He headed off to meet up with the rest of the group at a prearranged place, leaving Ed and I to clean up after breakfast before going out to hunt for jobs.
We soon hit the streets of New York filled with confidence, but that would change quickly. The surrounding neighborhood didn't offer much, and what was offered didn't pay more than minimum wage for jobs that were filthy and very labor intensive. By the end of the day I was thoroughly dejected. Ed didn't fair any better. It was a pattern that would repeat seemingly without end. The climb up the stairs at the end of each day got harder and harder.
By the end of the week I had become desperate and took a late afternoon job at a midsize restaurant washing dishes. I wouldn't get off work until after midnight, but that was workable, as it was only a couple of subway stations away from the loft. I would be able to continue searching for a decent job and still have time for sleep. The only real bad point was the boss. He seemed all right at first, a bit crude and a little harsh, but I just chalked that up to having to survive amongst the big flashy restaurants. He didn't show his true nature until after I got the job. Half the time he was barely tolerable, the rest of the time he was a rectal orifice, a fitting description considering what usually came out of his mouth. Oh well, at least I was making money, but not much.
Things continued the same for the next couple of weeks. Ed did manage to land a decent, but low paying job, and while I wasn't finding other work, I was gaining knowledge of the layout of the City's financial and business districts. My young memory was forming a mental map for a good part of the city. I could read an address in the help wanted ads and usually find it without consulting a paper map. It was a skill that was about to pay off.
It was late morning on an already hot and muggy day in New York's financial district. I was crossing the street at a major intersection, when out of nowhere a guy on a bicycle wearing a baseball cap and a small backpack shot through the crowd in the crosswalk. He made a left turn and forced his way into the cross traffic amidst a chorus of horns from irate taxi drivers. I had managed to jump back in time and keep my balance. An old woman next to me wasn't so fortunate. She stumbled back and ended up sitting on the pavement. As I helped her up she started cursing at the long gone cyclist.
"Are you all right?"
"I'll live, no thanks to that messenger. THERE OUGHT TO BE LAWS, THE COPS SHOULD ARREST THE LOT OF YA! YA HEAR ME!"
"He didn't stop for anything, not for the red light, people, or even cars. Why? He could hurt someone or get himself killed, it doesn't make sense."
"It's all about money. The faster he makes a delivery the faster he can get another run, and the more runs he makes the more he earns."
"I would think his life is worth more than a few bucks."
"That's just it; they are paid well as they are the fastest and sometimes the only way that anything can get through the jammed streets. It's probably the best paying job around for a young man who doesn't mind taking risks."
"Here comes another one, where are they coming from?"
"There's a service a couple of blocks up the street here. Well, thank you for your kindness, young man."
And with those last words, the old lady moved on and was quickly absorbed into the crowd. Her words went to work on my mind, especially "paid well". I consider myself a top-notch bike rider having spent most of my youth on one, both on and off road, and with my newly acquired knowledge of the street layout, I figured to have an excellent chance of getting a job with a messenger service. It was certainly worth a try so I turned and headed up the street.
The service was easy to find. I spotted a bike rider coming down the street wearing the same cap as the other two. He suddenly made a hard turn to his right and disappeared into the front of a building. When I reach the spot of disappearance, I found an entrance to a parking garage with a bicycle rack inside next to an office door. Next to the entrance on the outside of the building, was a glass door with the messenger services name on it. The receptionist greeted me upon entry and asked how she might be of service. I told her that I would like to apply for a job as a messenger. She pulled some forms and a clipboard from her desk drawer and handed them to me. In short order, I had them filled in and gave them back to her. She took them to a nearby office, and then came back to her desk. A few minutes later a man emerged from the office, called my name and motioned me to come.
"Have a seat Tom. So, just what makes you think you can be a messenger?"
"I used to ride bicycles off road competitively back home. I also know the streets around here well enough to find just about any address you can throw at me. Try me."
He did. He gave an address on the extreme fringe of the financial district. I thought for a moment, then shot back with the nearest cross street and the route I would take to get there. He rattled off a couple more places covering a sizable area of the main part of the city. They didn't give me any trouble. He was impressed.
"Your in luck, one of my top riders was in an accident a couple of days ago. He's out for the rest of the summer and we're coming into one of the busiest times of the year. You're the only one I've interviewed so far who I feel can do the job. But there's one thing I have to caution you on. We work on a seniority system not a rotational one. The guy in the dispatch room with the most seniority gets first pick of any run that comes in. So, the only way you're going to be making a run is if you're the only guy in the room, or nobody else wants it. If you still want the job, it's yours."
"I do want it, and I can start now if you can use me."
"Done deal. Sign this form and fill out this one for the Gov. and then we'll fix you up with a company hat and get you over to dispatch."
Once outfitted, I was introduced around the dispatch room. The dispatcher was a stout man of Italian decent by the name of Antonio, business like but friendly. I took an instant liking to him. The guys seemed friendly enough, I guess it was because I wasn't any threat to their livelihood, being low man on the totem poll.
Most of the day was spent listening to the guys tell of their most hair-raising runs. I did make a couple of runs that day and it was on one hand a thrill I shall not forget, and on the other, the scariest thing I've ever done. Cars get real big when one tries to thread between them on a frail bicycle. It was to be the pattern for the next month and I soon slipped into the routine until one fateful day.
That particular day had been a miserably slow one, and the heat wasn't helping matters. The end of the work day was fast approaching and the room was crowed. My chances of a run were virtually nil. A few of the guys came to the same conclusion and decided to call it a day. They decided to hit the local watering hole before heading home. The thought of a cold beer, as opposed to sitting in that hot room, was quite seductive and I made a motion to join them, but for reasons unknown, decided to stay. That left just three of us in the room. That's when things got interesting.
Two orders came in quick succession and suddenly I was the only one left in the room. Now if only the phone would ring. I thought "ring damn it". It worked. It rang.
Antonio picked up the receiver, gave a grunt, and started scribbling on the work order pad. That's when one of the guys who had been on a run dragged him self in. My hopes sank. He looked at the ticket but just shook his head. It would turn out to be a long, hard run and he was evidently too tired and hot to do it so close to the end of the day. The run was mine.
"You're up. Go to this address, it's about here on the map, go around to the back to the shipping dock. You'll see a desk with an old man wearing an even older beret. He's got two packages that need to be taken to this address in the garment district. Report to the rear entrance. They need it yesterday, capisci?"
I took the work order, gave the map a quick look see and headed for the bike rack in the parking garage. I mounted up and headed out the garage onto the street. Traffic was jammed. I had to squeeze in and out between cars and weave through pedestrians on the sidewalk. I wasn't going to be making any friends this trip.
I didn't have any trouble finding the pick up point, it just took a lot longer than I would have liked. After being shown the work order, the old man pointed to two long, flat boxes lying nearby on the loading dock. They were a bit wider than the bike's handlebars, which would make weaving through traffic more problematic then usual. I strapped them to my back and adjusted them until they rested on the rear wheel fender. I was off. All things considered, I made good time and most likely made the hit list of more than a few drivers and pedestrians.
The garment district was like nothing I had ever seen before. Delivery trucks would stop in traffic and disgorge packages and racks of clothing, all of which was maneuvered across traffic, and made to disappear into large doorways or down narrow side passageways. Any vehicle trying to pass had to run a slalom course from one side of the street to the other and back. Workmen, carrying clothing and packages of every description, crowed both sides of the street, spilling out into traffic. Motor scooters tried to thread their way through it all, adding to the bedlam.
I some how found the address I was looking for. Coming around to the back of the building, I was confronted by a steel double door with a security camera mounted above. In the middle of the left hand door was a sign that read "ALL DELIVERIES HERE". On the wall to the right of the doors was a white square with a button and the word "ring". I had no sooner pushed the button when one of the doors flew open. A large man in some kind of security uniform filled the opening. He looked down at me but on seeing the packages, stepped back and motioned me in. I leaned my bike against the wall next to the guard's desk while he picked up the phone and dialed a couple of numbers.
"Their here. Right. Okay, go straight ahead to the end of this rack of scenery props and go left. Go to the far wall and turn right 'til ya come to a large cuttin' table. Give the goods to Edna. Got it? Good, don't touch anything, and most importantly, don't get in the way."
Simple enough, but getting there wasn't. It was like trying to negotiate a minefield while playing dodge ball. People, theatrical material, boxes, crates, racks of clothing, and loose clothing of all kinds were everywhere and half of it was in motion, some without a body attached. I managed to survive the gauntlet and found Edna.
"At last! Took ya long enough."
"Sorry, all the lights were green and I didn't know what to do."
"Funny, just give me your ticket so I can sign it. Here, show it to the guard on your way out, he'll take care of the tip."
She turned away and started to rip open the boxes, barking out orders to those around her as she did so. I started to leave the way I had come when I noticed that the models dressing area was adjacent occupying the center area of the building. An aisle way ran along the edge of it leading back towards the other side of the building where I came in at. Curiosity got the better of me, and besides, it looked a lot safer than the way I had come, at least that's what I'd say to anyone objecting to my being there. Of course we all know the real reason for my taking that route.
Now, let me just say that I wasn't some hormone-crazed young male and I had seen a half naked girl or two. But this was different; they were everywhere and in plain view of everyone, male or female. The models seemed to be oblivious to all the people around them, not noticing if anyone was looking at them. Come to think of it, no one was looking, outside of those assisting the models in dressing and undressing. Everyone else just went about doing whatever job they had to do.
As I started out I noticed that the dressing area was divided by type of clothing, like evening, casual, etc. and not so much by male and female. I made it about half way across when a young woman fifteen feet to my left front stopped me cold in my tracks. She was cute as all get out. She had an upturned button nose and short blond hair in a pixy cut. Her skin was the smoothest, softest looking I had ever seen. As I starred, she reached behind her and unhooked her bra. I watched it slip down her silken arms reveling her perfectly proportioned breasts. Suddenly she stopped what she was doing, turned, and looked straight at me. She cooked her head, raised one eyebrow and shot me a reproaching gaze. I instantly felt the blood rush to my face. I must have been as red as a stop sign. I turned away, bowed my head, and resumed my journey, very much embarrassed. But I was not to get off so easily, for she let out a loud wolf whistle that caused everybody around us to stop and look… at me. Not good. She then said something that got some oohs from those around her. I didn't really hear her as I was too busy looking for a dark hole to crawl into.
As my little drama unfolded, an authoritative, high class, middle aged woman wearing an expensive, custom tailored, brown pinstripe skirt suit, approached from the opposite direction with a small entourage. She was very upset and was loudly letting everyone in the building know it. I became frozen with fear. Had she seen what had just happened? Man, if she had, then I was really going to catch it.
"Has that model shown up yet? Has anyone called the agency?"
"I called them, Miss T. They can't find her, don't know where she is. They said that her roommate thinks she skipped…"
"GREAT, that’s just flippin' great. Have they got a replacement?"
"No, Miss T, no one who comes even close to your specifications."
"What about the other agencies?"
"Sorry, Miss T, no one has anyone who could get here today."
"This just keeps getting better and better. Have we got anyone in the building I can draft into service."
"No, Miss T, I've checked every department."
"So just what am I supposed to…. YOU THERE! COME HERE!"
Miss T was starring and pointing at ME. I was so scared that I still don't know to this day how I managed to get my feet to move. They just did, mostly on their own.
"You I haven't seen around here before, what are you doing here?"
"I'm a messenger, Miss, um, T, just delivering a couple of packages. I'm on my way out."
"Messenger, huh, let's see…"
Miss T stared at me with her left arm bent across her body, resting her right elbow in her left hand and pinching her chin with her right thumb and fore finger. One of Miss T's assistants made a motion for me to stand straight with shoulders back. Miss T then indicated for me to turn my head to the right then back and to the left with the first two fingers of her right hand. At that point in time I still was fair of face. I was shaving, but I could skip a few days before it would be noticed. I also liked having my hair on the long side, although it was considerably longer than usual as I hadn't gotten a haircut since I came to New York, not really having the money to spend on such a luxury. I must have been quite a sight.
"Tell me, do you make good money?"
"Well, yeah, that is when I can get a run. I'm on the bottom of the seniority list, so…"
"Yes, yes, how would you like to make some serious money?"
"Sure, what do I have to do?"
"Spend a few hours modeling a new line of teen clothing. The model we spent weeks searching for is a no show. You are the only one in this entire building with the attributes required and close enough in size to model this new line. This way."
It was more of a command, than a request. I was engulfed by Miss T's entourage and swept deep into the models dressing area.
"Miss T, please tell me the model is here, we're running out of time."
"She's not coming Angela, but I may have found a replacement. Think the clothes will fit him?"
"Let's see, some might be tight in the waist but I don’t think that will be a problem, for the review anyway. Here hold this up against him."
Angela had taken a short purple paisley dress from a rack of clothes next to her and had given it to one of Miss T's assistants, who held it up against me. With her hands, Angela smoothed the dress around to my sides under my arms and checked both sides. She repeated the procedure all the way down past my hips. I was too shocked to immediately say anything.
"It's a pretty good fit, I'll take him."
"Hey wait a minute Miss T, I can't wear this. I'm not a girl."
"Susan will take care of that. Just think of yourself as an actor wearing a costume. Besides, no one will be looking at you specifically, their interested in the clothes and the overall look."
"Okay, so why not get a girl to do the modeling, after all, it's for girls, right?"
"Yes, and if I could find the right one I certainly would, but the look we need is a boyish, flat chested one. With your fair face and slender body shape you fit the bill as well as, if not better than, the model we had contracted for."
"But I don't know of any girl who wants to be flat chested and look like a boy, well, maybe one, but still."
"It's the fashion look that’s become hot due to a skinny model that goes by the name of Twiggy, who has taken the London fashion scene by storm. The rest of the fashion world is scrambling to jump on board the band wagon before it runs out of gas."
"But I'm not a model; I don't know what to do."
"I can help him out there, Miss T. Hi, I'm Tia."
That voice had come from behind me. Turning to meet it I came face to face with the young woman I had stared at earlier. She had a grin on her face, a grin like one I had last seen nearly ten years prior. A Cheshire cats grin last worn by a special little girl by the name of Sam. It looked like I hadn't finished paying for my earlier indiscretion.
"All right, Tia, the job's yours. Now, as for you, let's get you down to Susan."
Things were starting to move too fast. Before I could comprehend and deal with one situation, I was being coerced into another. Just what had I gotten my self into? Just when did I actually agree to do this?
Miss T led me, surrounded by her entourage, down through the models dressing area to the makeup area. There was a long counter with an equally long mirror behind it. It was broken into individual stations by vertical columns of high intensity lights. Each station had a swivel top stool and makeup items of every imaginable kind. Almost every stool was occupied by a model, both male and female, working on their look. There were also a few workstations like one would find in a barbershop, each with a makeup artist and a hair stylist. A model in varying stages of preparedness occupied a couple of the chairs. We approached one of the empty ones.
"Susan, Diane, I need the two of you to make him up for the new teen girls line. Can you do it, and in time for the review?"
Susan reached out and took hold of my chin. She turned my head to the left then all the way back to the right, staring intently at me all the while. She glanced at Diane who gave a quick nod.
"No problem, and it won't take long, he's two thirds of the way there all ready. Should make a convincing girl. You want this one neutered as well?"
"No, not just yet. Besides I suspect that Tia has designs on him."
"Ooooh, she's cute, but she'll eat him alive, probably right after mating. You might want to start looking for a replacement if you intend to keep him on for the premier."
I don't know if it was fright or shock that prevented me from uttering a word of protest. All I could do was stand there with my mouth and eyes wide open. I started looking for an escape route. Then from behind me came a snicker, and that set everyone off. I found myself surrounded by laughter. It was a joke. Of course it was a joke. I knew that.
"Have a seat, uh… What's your name?"
"Well Tom, in a little bit you can say hello to Tommie with an 'ie'."
"Well, that's settled, you're hired. Susan, Diane, I'll leave him in your hands then. Raul, put him on the day's payroll and help him fill out and sign the proper forms, keep us square with the government. Come people we've got a lot more work to do. Now, has anyone thought of a name for this new teen line yet?"
"I have a thought, Miss T. What do you think …?"
Miss T and all had quickly moved off and given the noise level in that building, out of hearing range. Suddenly Miss T's authoritative voice came booming through the bedlam.
"I LIKE IT! JACK… I NEED A NEW PLACARD STAT!"
If I had thought things were moving fast before, it was nothing compared to what was about to happen. It's all a blur that has only gotten cloudier with time.
Raul had remained behind fumbling through one of the folders he was carrying. He pulled out a couple of forms and started asking me questions, writing down my answers as a circle of paper was placed around my neck, covering my shoulders. Susan started to smear some thick makeup on my face, while Diane rubbed some kind of cream or gel into my hair. For the second time in my life I was being turned into a girl and for reasons unknown I was accepting it. That is, until Diane picked up a pair of scissors. I pulled back away from her and was about to utter some words of protest when she cut me off.
"Relax, you needed a hair cut anyway, and I'm not going to do anything I can't fix later. I promise you won't leave here looking like a girl, unless you want to. You do seem to be at ease with spending the next few hours as a girl, perhaps this isn't new to you."
"WHAT, NO! I'm only doing this because I really need the money."
"Whatever you say, hun, now hold still and we'll get on with our work."
Scissors and comb danced through my hair, many different brushes, and what looked like pencils of different colors, flew across my face. Raul's Q&A didn't take very long and was wrapped up with me signing each form. The transformation, on the other hand, took some time. Diane finished with my hair and then went to work on my fingernails, giving each a coat of bright red paint. Just as she was applying polish to the last nail, Susan finished with my makeup and turned the chair toward the mirror. I starred into the mirror and a teenage girl who I didn't know, starred back. She had light smooth skin with a minimal makeup look, although a lot more work had been done than met the eye. Her hair was styled in the manor of the classic bob, but instead of bangs, it sweep across most of the forehead to the side. The sides hung straighter with only part of the curl characteristic of the bob and there was an overall touch of shagginess. It struck me as being perfect for that rebellious teen look. I knew it was me, but I was hard pressed to actually see me in that mirror.
"You make a cute girl. I think your own mother wouldn't know it's you, unless she was intently looking for you, and even then she would have to have a good reason to do so."
"That's really me? That can't be, I mean that's a, a…"
"Trust me, that's you, but you don't have time to work it out, you had better get back to wardrobe and change clothes."
I worked my way back to Angela, who greeted me with much delight.
"You’re here at last, where have you been? I'll have to find that boy and tell … him ... wait, nooo, you're HIM!"
"Yeah, it's me, Susan just finished…."
"She has out done herself. I wouldn't be surprised if Susan will want to put your picture up on her trophy wall. You're exactly what we need, just perfect. Well, hurry up and take your clothes off, here, I'll help you."
I went to work removing my shoes and socks with Angela helping to steady me. I unhooked my belt then unzipped my jeans and slid them down and off. Angela took hold of my shirt and carefully pulled it up over my head. "We'll have to do something with those legs. White stockings, yes, that should do it."
She quickly disappeared behind a rack of clothes and almost as quickly reappeared, ripping open a package of long white stockings. She rolled one up and held it for me to slip my foot into, then unrolled it up my leg to my thigh. She repeated the procedure with the other stocking, and then turned to the rack of clothing.
Angela disassembled a skirt, blouse, and jacket outfit that was hanging at the front of the rack. She picked up the short sleeve white blouse and held it behind me. I slipped my arms into the sleeves as she pulled it up onto my shoulders. I went to work on the buttons, fumbling a bit as they were opposite of my shirts. She then handed me the skirt. It was a flared mini skirt with bold black, white, and tan diagonal stripes that formed an inverted "v" pattern front and back, really accentuating the flare of the skirt. I stepped into it and pulled it up, tucking in the blouse. Angela zipped it up behind me and fiddled with the waistband.
Suddenly she moved off to a rack of shoes in a lot of different styles and sizes, returning with a pair of brightly colored platform shoes, which she placed on the floor before me. I slipped one foot into the corresponding shoe, and then tried to slip my other foot into its shoe while trying to balance on the other foot in the unfamiliar foot wear. It wasn't easy, but after no small amount of stumbling about, managed to get both shoes on.
Angela presented the ¾ length sleeve jacket that matched the skirt except the stripes formed a "V" pattern that slopped up and out instead of down and out. I put it on and took a look in a nearby mirror. It was a bold, but cute outfit, to short for my tastes, but then I was supposed to be a 60's teenage girl. She handed me a few bright, multicolored plastic bracelets. These I slipped over my hands onto my wrists as she clipped similar earrings to my earlobes.
"We're finished with this outfit, get on down to the staging area. Oh, and stop by makeup for any needed touchup."
"Tom, is that you? You look amazing; you make a cute girl. Watch out, you're going to be hit on by all the guys around here."
"Very funny Tia. And I seemed to have been christened Tommie, with an 'ie'."
"Okay Tommie with an 'ie', let's begin your training. This deserted area next to makeup will do fine. Now, this is just a review to fine-tune the designs and overall look, so you can get by with basic modeling techniques. If Miss T wants to keep you for the premiere, then you'll need some serious training and lots of practice. First, the walk is everything; it draws attention to you and then the outfit. Try walking as if you are on a narrow beam and place one foot directly in front of the other."
I did as instructed. It went pretty well, although the unfamiliar shoes made it more difficult than it probably was. After all, I never had to walk around on my toes before. Thank goodness the shoes had large heels that weren't too high. I never would have been able to walk in the high spike heels that most of the female models were wearing. It took a few passes, but I managed to get the hang of it. It was on to makeup.
Susan spotted me coming and motioned me to her. She stopped work on a model in her chair long enough to take a brush, rub it in a dish of face powder, and brush over a couple of spots on my face while Diane touched up my hair. Susan gave me a final look over, then gave Tia a touchup. As she did, I moved over to a standing full-length mirror. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It wasn't just that I had been transformed into a very convincing girl, but that I had allowed it to be done, and with so many strangers around. Granted, only a few knew I wasn't a girl, and everyone was too busy to even look at me. Still, it was a strange feeling to be wearing girl's clothes with so many people around. Tia had finished and came over to check herself out in the mirror.
"You ready Tommie? Let's work on your walk on the way down to the staging area. You have nice hip action but I want you to exaggerate it. As you take a step, force your hips to swing more than they want to go naturally, and turn your body into the step. Like this. See what I'm trying to say? Try it."
It wasn't easy and it took a lot of hands on help, literally, from Tia. I eventually did manage to add enough swing and sass to my walk to adequately present the line of clothing I was to model. It was clear that there needed to be a lot more training if I was to be in the premiere show, assuming I wanted to be.
We finished up just as the staging director started to arrange the models in groups. I was in the middle of the second group to go on stage; Tia was in the first group. The director gave us our instructions on how to proceed. It seemed simple enough. Only half of the stage would be used and the runway not at all. We were to enter stage left and walk toward the center of the stage stopping on our mark indicated by tape on the stage floor, turn to face the audience, and strike our pose. We would be prompted to walk to the front of the stage, stop and hold our pose for a three count, then turn 180, hold for a three count, then take a half step, turn back to the audience and wait for further instructions. Unless otherwise directed, we were to return to our mark and turn to face the audience. We were to remain until dismissed, then turn and exit the way we had come. As we returned back stage we were to bear to the outside and come in behind the next group waiting to go on stage.
The director then arranged the first group into a line up and then walked up the line to the head end, inspecting each model and altering his or her pose as needed to get the look he wanted. He completed his inspection and sent the first group out on stage. He then turned his attention to my group. He did the same procedure as he had done with the first group, and then began his inspection, working up the line, coming to stand before me. He looked me over from head to toe and back with a critical eye. Not knowing how to pose, I had copied the model next to me. The director didn't like it.
"No, no, that’s not what I want; show me something less formal with a touch of tomboy."
Yeah, right. I had no clue as what to do. This charade was about to come to an end and there was a chance that I would be unmasked in front of a lot of young men and women. I had to think and fast.
It was Sam who came to the rescue. I suddenly remembered how she looked and acted when her mom had forced her to wear a dress about a decade prior. I altered the pose to less from the front and more from the side; put both hands on my hips and added a bit of a slouch. I then put a devilish look on my face. I don't why, I just did. It worked.
"That's it; just move this hand down to your thigh. Perfect, you must have some tomboy in you, miss."
I can't begin to relate just how happy I was that there was no one around who knew my real identity as they wouldn't have been able to hold their laughter. The director moved on, finishing his inspection just as the first group was returning. He motioned us to the ready line, and then as the last of the first group left the stage, the cue was given for us to enter.
That was the defining moment, and I remember it all too well. I was nervous as all get out and with good reason. I was about to appear in front of an unknown audience in disguise, under a humongous bright spotlight, and be scrutinized to the nth degree. Of course, it wouldn't be that bad, but my mind wouldn't accept anything less. I was quickly convincing myself that I couldn't do it, when Tia passed behind me.
"Break a leg Tommie."
She gave me a look of total confidence and moved on. But why did she have to call me Tommie in front of everyone? Even with a written 'ie' it was still a boy's name. I was becoming embarrassed and wishing I had been given or had taking a more feminine stage name. But there wasn't time to fret over it as I was about to take my first step on stage under the big lights.
Exiting the dark side chamber onto the brightly lit stage took everything I could muster. I was becoming so overwhelmed that I nearly forgot I had a task to perform. The models in front of me started to stop and turn to the stage front. That refocused my mind; there was a mark to find. I nearly overshot it, but saved myself by making a much sharper turn than the other models, causing the addition of some attitude to the tomboy pose I quickly assumed. The audience was very small and all were visible, and they were starring at me. With the state I was in, my only thought was that something had gone wrong and I had been exposed as a boy, but all eyes quickly moved on, all except Miss T's. She was smiling and beaming with a look of satisfaction. She gave me an almost imperceptible nod, then moved on resuming her authoritative look.
I held my pose until I was called forward. I remembered my instructions and carried them out to the letter. Someone called out:
"Thank you, next."
I returned to my spot and assumed my pose until we were dismissed. Once backstage, I slipped into a daze; I couldn't believe what had just taken place. It didn't seem real, nothing seemed real, and I had to be dreaming. I was jolted awake by a hand on my shoulder. It was one of the female models.
"Nice job, Tommie is it? You really sold that outfit, way to go girl."
Before I could utter some kind of reply, she had hurried off in the direction of wardrobe; in fact, all the models were doing the same. I got the idea that I should follow suit. As the other models came to their respective dressing area, they started to strip out of the clothes and toss them wherever it was out of the way. I took my cue from them and was stepping out of the skirt as I came up to Angela. I removed the jacket as Angela unbuttoned the blouse with astonishing speed. In short order I was standing before her in only the stockings and my shorts, boy shorts that is. That's when it struck me that it would be a strange sight for anyone who happened to glance my way. Of course, exchanging my shorts for something more fitting, exposing my "identity" (for no matter how short a period of time) was out of the question. I was just going to have to muck through it and hope for the best.
Angela retrieved from the rack a sleeveless, black and white checkerboard, plastic looking mini dress and held it in front of me by the hem. I knew the routine from my experiences ten years prior and extended my arms out in front of me. She slid the dress up my arms, over my head, and into place as I raised my arms up.
"I see you've done this before. Good, that will make things easier and faster."
What? NO! I haven't, I'm just copying what the others around us are doing. That's all."
"If that be the case, then I must say that you're a fast learner and most observant."
She shot me a bit of a smile, and then presented me with a wide, white vinyl belt with an oversized black buckle. She hooked it around me, way down on my hips. Black canvas shoes, black and white plastic earrings and bracelets, and a black and white checkered beret, placed on an angle on my head, completed the look. A quick stop at Susan's and it was off to the staging area once more.
For the next couple of hours, this scenario repeated it's self over and over. Events were moving so fast, that I quickly lost track of how many outfits I modeled. It is difficult to remember individual outfits, as one just merges into the other. Except for the last one. It was destined for me to remember that one forever.
It was innocent enough, just a plain yellow velvet sheath with a cowl neckline. The hem was two inches above the knees, short, but not a mini. A gold chain encircled me low down on my hips with gold hoop earrings clipped to my ears. Long white vinyl boots with side zippers completed the outfit. I really liked that outfit (and still do).
When I came off stage, I didn't want to return to wardrobe. I just wanted to spend some time in my outfit. I don't know why, I just did. Just then, the director pulled me from the group.
"They want you over in photography. It's on the other side of staging."
He put his hand in the small of my back and gave me a little push in the right direction. It looked like I was going to get to wear the dress a little longer after all.
The photographer was busy with another model, so I stood off to the side and watched. The model was moving without much direction. She would strike a pose and would then change the placement of her hands, feet, and head. The photographer was snapping off shots almost non-stop.
"Okay, that should do it." He then looked at me, "Your up. Now, show me what ya got."
I noticed a mark on the seamless background that came down from behind and onto the floor. I moved to the indicated spot and struck my pose. The photographer was on his knees pointing his camera up at me.
"Excellent, now stare down at the camera. I like it, now run with it."
Run? Run where? I had no idea what to do. In desperation I started to imitate the other model. It guessed it was what was wanted as the camera was going off like a machine-gun. The shoot lasted but a minute.
"That should do it, that 'll be all miss."
As I moved out of the bright lights I spotted Tia in an otherwise deserted staging area looking at me, wearing her street clothes and a big grin. I figured that I was in for some ribbing. Hoping to lessen the attack, I rushed past her and headed for the dressing area. She followed right behind me.
"'That 'll be all, MISS!' Oooh, you still got the walk, shake it girl."
I resisted responding, so she altered her attack.
"You know, you did really well, and you do make a cute girl, you just might consider a career as a female impersonator."
That did it. I turned on Tia and was about to unload on her when I realized that we were then in an area populated by people who didn't know who I was, or what I wasn't. With a big sigh, I relaxed and put my hand up in front of me.
"Oh no you don't, nice try, but you're not going to prod me into an embarrassing situation."
"Spoil sport. Besides, I think red is a good color for you, especially your face."
I again resisted taking the bait and resumed my trek toward Angela. It had been a tiring but interesting, and a little disturbing, day. I had done things that I never would have believed I was capable of doing and kind of liked it. It had been an adventure that still remains mostly a blur, but unforgettable none the less. But, I had had enough and it was time for Tommie to fade into retirement.
Coming into Angela's, Tia unzipped me and I peeled off the dress. I was back in my street clothes in short order. Then it was off to see Susan.
Susan saw me coming and pulled a Polaroid camera out of a drawer. Angela had been right; I was going to be added to Susan's trophy wall. Oh well, she deserved it. Thanks to her skills, I had passed as a teenage girl. Just for the fun of it, I gave her my Tommie look and she snapped off a head shot. After the picture finished developing she pined it to an open spot at dead center of the trophy wall. I felt honored, and still do.
I took a seat and Susan went to work removing the makeup and nail polish. Diane shampooed the gunk out of my hair, followed by an attack with a blow dryer. She restyled my hair to look close to a shorter version what I had come in with, but still had a slight feminine undertone. That didn't exactly please me, and I was trying to think of a tactful way of complaining when Miss T paid us a visit.
"Tom, well done! You exceeded my expectations in both looks and performance."
"Thank you Miss T, but all the credit belongs to these three and the director."
"Well done all, but Tom, I think you are giving away too much of the credit. Your actions and overall impression were more like a girl's than you could have picked up in a few minutes. Either you have a natural talent or you've had prior training. No matter, you're in for the premiere showing in two weeks. Now, you're going to need more training before the first rehearsal, check with my secretary, she can pull a few strings and get you into some private lessons at one of the modeling schools on the quick."
"Thank you, Miss T, but I don't think I want to…"
"Nonsense, you said you could use the money. You think you've made good money today, just wait until you get paid for the show. Diane, I see you haven't completely restyled his hair yet, excellent, that cut you came up with was perfect for this line."
"I anticipated your need. I trimmed just enough to remove most of the feminine look. There's a little left, but I think Tom can put up with it for a couple weeks. Shouldn't have any trouble recreating the look on show day."
"Excellent, and Tom, I expect you to call me in the next day or two to confirm your being in the show."
And with that, Miss T was off, headed for parts unknown. Looking around, the building, that just a couple of hours ago, was pure bedlam was now nearly silent. Only a handful of people were left, finishing up their assigned tasks. Tia and I headed off for the back entrance and found Raul waiting for us near the guard's desk. He handed each of us an envelope and wished us a goodnight. I folded the envelope in half and slipped it into my back pocket. As we came to the guard he gave me an inquisitive look.
"There you are, took you long enough to make one simple delivery. Don't tell me you got lost, or maybe you decided to hang around and ogle the girls."
"Neither, I got shanghaied."
"A likely story. Let's see your ticket. Okay, here ya go."
I fetched my bike and exited the building as Tia held the door open. The scene outside had calmed down considerably. Tired and ready to head home, I was about to bid Tia a goodnight when she spoke first.
"Neither? Sure you weren't 'ogling' me?"
"Look, I'm really sorry about that, it's just that you're, uh, so…"
"Relax, it's Okay, I didn't mind. So, did you see anything you liked?"
I tried to reply, but all I could do was stammer and turn bright red.
"You know, I can train you for the show, and I'll be a lot more affordable, should save you some embarrassment too."
"Since it doesn't look like Miss T is going to take no for an answer, I just may have to take you up on that."
"Great, we can get started tonight, we'll just go back to my…"
"TONIGHT? Wait, what time is it? Oh great! Sorry, I can't, I work nights at a restaurant, and I'm going to be way late as it is."
"Tom, think for a moment, you're going to make more money in one day than in several months at that restaurant. You can afford to quit."
"I'm not sure about the show; besides, I would still have to give notice. I'll get with you in a day or two and we'll go from there. Thanks for everything you've done for me, I owe you. I gota run."
"Wait, here's my card, it has a number on it that you can reach me at."
With a hasty goodnight, I stuffed the card in my back pocket, mounted the bike and was off as Tia headed off to the main street to flag down a taxi. The traffic was heavy but wasn't a problem. A street vendor provided me with a well-stuffed sandwich to eat on the run. New York City has some of the best places to eat in the world, and many of them don't have walls. I came to the back of the restaurant and entered through the delivery door. I leaned the bike against the wall and went to punch in. I was more than just a little late.
The boss intercepted me at the time clock. He laid into me using language I wouldn't repeat in a room full of drunken reprobates. He finally exhausted himself out and stormed off, questioning my spices of origin. Everyone around turned away from me, avoiding eye contact. It was going to be a lonely night.
I stood in front of the time clock thinking to myself, "if only I had a ticket out of here". Then Tia's words came back to me. Maybe I did have a ticket. Pulling the envelope from my back pocket, I opened it up, and pulled out a check. It had numbers on it that caused me to stagger. To say the pay was better than anything I could make washing dishes would be the understatement of the year. And that was for just a few hours, and I wasn't even an amateur, let alone a professional model.
Without hesitation, I hunted up the boss and gave notice. He fired me on the spot, after some more colorful language. I smiled at him and said "thank you", and told him to mail me my last check. I headed for the back door, retrieving the bike on the way, and exited the building into the warm, humid, evening air. Thoughts of hooking up with Tia and celebrating my newfound freedom lost out to being just plain overwhelmed by the unbelievable events of the day. It was off to Mark's loft.
Mark and Ed were surprised to see me, as they knew I usually went from the messenger service straight to the restaurant. I, of course, had to explain that I had been fired, but had secured a far better job in the garment district. I evaded their attempts to gain details about the new job by diverting their attention to Tia and added that I would be seeing her in the evenings. They first congratulated me, then became jealous and wanted me to fix them up with models. I promised to try, but cautioned them to not to get their hopes up as I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. All perfectly true, I just didn't get into details, especially about why I would be seeing Tia.
The next morning arrived warm and humid with the promise of it going to be much hotter. Ed and Mark went off to their respective jobs while I stayed behind to call Miss T. She wasn't surprised at all that I had decided to accept the job, although I think I detected a slight note of relief in her voice. She was about to transfer me back to her secretary to get set up with training, when I told her that that had been taken care of. She just cautioned me to be ready for the rehearsal, said something I took to mean goodbye and hung up. I was off to work at my day job.
Upon arrival, I checked in with Antonio and turned in the ticket from the day before, then took a seat with the guys. During the course of the day, I did get to make a couple of routine runs, nothing to write home about. They didn't add up to much of a paycheck, but it was still better then nothing. Toward the end of the day I called Tia and accepted her offer to train me for the premiere showing. She seemed to be overly delighted and I kind of got the impression that she was up to something. Flashbacks involving a girl named Sam kept filling my head for the rest of the shift.
When my shift ended I made my way over to Tia's apartment. Surprisingly, it was located not too far from Mark's loft. It was in a nicer neighborhood but still on the fringe of the artist district. For me, it was perfect, as I could stop at the loft and get cleaned up before seeing her.
I entered the building into a small lobby and took the elevator up to the third floor. Signs pointed me in the right direction and I found Tia's apartment, just a couple of doors down the hall. She greeted me at her door with a big grin and all but physically pulled me inside. She was eager to get started.
The apartment was very contemporary with bright colors everywhere. There was a minimalist approach to furnishings with abstract art adorning the walls. It was an interesting place to visit, but I don't think I could live there for long.
We quickly got to work. The basics went all right; it was when we progressed toward the more extreme aspects of modeling that things started to fall apart. I wasn't even doing as well as I had at the review. Something was amiss, and neither of us could figure it out. Finally, after Tia had tried every teaching technique she knew, she said:
"Maybe we need a change in attitude, come with me."
She led me into her bedroom and told me to take off my clothes while she opened up her closet. She pulled out a white, mini flip skirt with side zipper and a bright red sleeveless silk blouse. Without so much as a single word of protest, I stripped to my shorts, then took the blouse and slipped it on. I started on the top buttons while Tia tied the lower half in a knot. She then held the skirt for me to step into. She hooked and zipped me in. White shoes with wide, two-inch high heels that were one size to small completed the outfit. Tia then went to work on my hair with a brush. When she finished, I moved to her full-length mirror. The transformation wasn't as complete as before without makeup, but was still startling. It was me, but I could pass as my sister, if I had one. I stood there not believing what I was seeing when something inside of me kicked in, and I suddenly struck my modeling pose. Tia indicated her approval with a round of applause.
"Welcome back Tommie. Come, we have work to do."
It wasn't a miracle cure, but it did make a difference. I progressed steadily for the rest of the session. Tia called a halt around 8:00pm. I retreated back into her bedroom and changed back into my clothes. Tia was disappointed.
"I was hoping you'd stay dressed so we could have a girl's night out. I've got training in makeup art and can do well enough that no one would suspect you're not a girl."
"No thanks. I'm going to have a hard enough time just doing the show, there's no way I can bring myself to go out in the general public as a girl."
"Then don't you think you should change your hair style? It looks rather feminine that way."
It was back to the bedroom with Tia following. While I combed my hair, She changed into the outfit I had been wearing, then made some adjustments to her makeup. She turned to me and posed with a big grin on her face. She looked way too hot and fast for me. A thought occurred to me: Susan may not have been teasing; Tia could indeed eat me alive. We exited the apartment to the elevator, lobby, and then out the building into the warm, humid, summer evening that was descending into twilight.
She led me to a café in the artiest district that had an old beatnik atmosphere about it. About a third of the clientele were musicians and most of them had their instruments with them. Music would spring up from anywhere at any time. The food was basic, nothing special. Still, over all, it was a fascinating joint that would be worth occasionally visiting. It was one of Tia's favorite places.
After we had dinner, she suggested another of her favorite places. It was a rock club that was a block and a half away, a very loud, noisy, and crowded club. Tia seemed to know everyone there and wasted no time getting into the swing of things. It quickly became apparent that she was a party girl.
As she dragged me around the club, she or one of her friends would regale me with tales of her wild escapades. I was disappointed that Tia was so extroverted, but there was something else going on that had me far more concerned, for each time she introduced me to someone, they greeted me with an odd look. I was trying to figure out why when it a likely reason dawned on me. I wanted to confront Tia about it, but couldn't do it there, just the same, all I wanted to do was leave.
"Tia, I think I'm going to call it a night, I have to get up in the morning. I'll call you tomorrow after work."
"Wait, I'll join you. We need to talk privately anyway. Say, at my place?"
"Well, Okay, but I can't stay long."
"It won't take long; we just need to talk about compensation for services rendered."
We left the club and headed back to her place. We walked back to her apartment for the most part in silence as my thoughts had consumed me. I again wanted to confront her, but decided to wait until we got back to the privacy of her place. A short time later she was unlocking her door and ushering me in. I didn't waste any more time.
"Tia, your friends were giving me some odd looks tonight. You haven't been talking about what happened at the fashion house, have you?"
"No, of course not! I wouldn't do that to you, although it wouldn't matter much. They're a liberal bunch and would be fascinated rather than shocked. You'd probably become a celebrity of sorts and get invited to all the big A-list parties."
"Okay, let's try to stay somewhat close to reality here. Anyway, it's not something I would want to become known beyond those few that already know. I do have a life to return to at the end of summer, and if family and friends were to learn of how I really earned money during summer, it would be, well, awkward."
"Your secret life is safe. And as for my friends odd looks, it was only because you are totally opposite of the men I usually date."
"But we're not exactly dating; you're teaching me how to perform for the upcoming fashion show."
"And that brings up the little matter of paying your teacher. But first, I can use your help with something. Can you come with me for a minute?"
She led me back to her bedroom and once inside, closed the door behind me with a bit of authority. That surprised me and I turned to face her. Tia had her back against the door with her arms slightly spread out and pressed against the door. She was grinning from ear to ear.
"Take off your clothes."
So that was it, payment was to be made in sex. While I wasn't a virgin, I also wasn't very experienced, and let her know it. The effect was one of great delight in Tia. She quickly came at me, grabbed me by the front of my shirt and pulled me to her. As she kissed me hard, she leaned into me and I willingly fell back onto the bed with her coming down on top of me. Something told me I was about to gain a different kind of education, the details of which I shall skip over. Let's just say, Tia proved to be as wild in bed as the life she led, and leave it at that.
The remaining days prior to the start of rehearsal for the show went pretty much the same way, with the differences being in what I had to learn. There's a lot more to modeling than how to walk. I got lessons in poise, attitude, and how to move and pose for the purpose of showing off the features and design innovations of the outfit being modeled. It didn't matter what I thought of the clothes, I had to act like I loved to be wearing them to the point of flaunting that fact. It was as if I were saying, "look what I’M wearing and you're NOT!" All of it was for the purpose of getting the target consumer to want to buy the clothes, to want to wear the clothes, to want to act like the model in the clothes, and unwittingly entice others to want to buy the clothes as well. It means really big bucks for the fashion house and is why the models that are really good at it are paid so much and are kept constantly in the public's face.
It was a lot of work and quickly took on the feel of being much more than I really needed. Tia's excuse was she didn't know what would be required of me, so I should be prepared for anything. Valid, but I think she just liked to dress me in her clothes, and have me model them for her. It was okay with me as I was kind of enjoying that part of it, even if her things were more risqué than I would have liked.
One thing did happen during that time that became an instant mystery. It was a letter from the fashion house that was addressed to me and sent to Mark's loft. It contained a sizable check with a notation about some kind of royalty payment. I couldn't think of any reason for it, but being in needed of the money, I didn't question it.
The first day of the rehearsal was scheduled to begin in the late morning. It wouldn't be worth putting in a couple of hours at the messenger service, so I called in sick. Besides, Tia wanted me to be at her place well in advance of when we would have to leave to arrive at the show site on time. I didn't think much about it; she probably wanted to run through a couple of things. Tia greeted me at the door of her apartment and ushered me off to her bedroom.
"Take your clothes off."
"Uh, we don't have time for that, do we?"
"It's not for that, lover boy. You need to hit the shower for some hair removal. You don't have much body hair and it can't be readily seen, but it has to go all the same."
"Why? It didn't have to when I was drafted into service for the review."
"Miss T gave me the word last night. You are officially in the show and registered as Tommie, with an "ie", a young woman, not a young man portraying a teenage girl. In addition, this is a combined show, several fashion houses will be there. The fashion world is cutthroat, and each house will have their own spies present, and their jobs are to uncover something that can be used with advantage against the other houses. If it were to be discovered that Tommie is not a girl, then the consequences would be high, not just for you, but for a lot of people starting with Miss T. So, if you want to keep things a secret and Miss T happy, then you will have to arrive in the most convincing manner as Tommie and maintain that attitude until we get back here sometime tonight. That means no body hair, a complete makeup job, and having to wear my clothes with these panties and shoes I bought for you."
"You mean I have to move through public, in broad daylight, as a girl? And on top of that, I have to keep from being discovered at the auditorium. No, I can't do this; I'm just not going to be able to. This is far more than I bargained for, I'm out. I don't care how much they're paying, I quit."
"You have to do it, you made a commitment, remember? And if you don't follow through, Miss T will make your life a living hell. She may even pursue you all the way back home, and I don't think you want that."
"But, the crowed streets, the subway…"
"We'll take a cab. That will eliminate almost all-public exposure. Don't worry, you can do it, and believe me, you will not be found out. Tell you what, wait until I'm finished with you, and then tell me somebody can tell you're not a girl."
Even if I didn't like the end result it wouldn't matter, I was stuck. She was right, I had made a commitment. Even in those days, there was still an honor code that meant something. I had to see this through, anxiety attack or not.
We got to work. Tia instructed me in the use of the hair removal lotion. Simple enough, nothing I couldn't handle, I just didn't want to. I some how forced myself to do it, and the end result was a bit startling. As I dried off, the towel easily slipped across my skin which felt very smooth, and the air felt a lot cooler than it had before. I stepped out of the shower and found a stack of clothing Tia had left for me.
I picked up the panties and slipped them on. They were heavy weight and very elastic, the combination of which helped to smooth out the bulge of my "true identity". There wasn't a bra, so I didn't have to figure out how to put that on. I guess being flat chested has its advantages, or could that be disadvantages? A stiff white shirt was next, followed by red Capri pants that fit tightly to my legs. The shoes Tia had bought on my behalf, a pair of white hi-heeled pumps in my size, was also there along with an odd pair of stockings that only covered the toes, heal, and bottom part of the foot. I donned these items and exited the bathroom.
Tia was finishing up getting ready. She then turned her attentions toward me. As she had alluded to at the end of our first training session, she, being a professional model, had training in the art of makeup. She wasn't Susan, but she was good enough. The end result was nearly as convincing as it had been at the review. From that point on, I was a girl and would have to act as such at all times. As I got up from the chair in front of her vanity, Tia handed me a red pocketbook. I looked inside and found it contained the things one would expect a young woman to carry with her. The only addition I made was to transfer my money to the pocketbook. It was time to go.
It wasn't easy to step out of Tia's apartment, but somehow I managed. Tia motioned toward the stairs next to the elevator. Clever girl, there would be far less of a chance of meeting someone on the stairs than in the elevator. We descended a couple of flights to the small ground floor lobby. There was a man looking at the directory, but he was too preoccupied to take notice of us as we rushed past him. We exited the building and I found myself on the street in broad daylight. Luck was still with me as the few people who were out and about were either too far away or too busy to cause concern.
Tia motioned for a cab that was parked up the street. The driver pulled away from the curb and quickly came down to pick us up. Tia opened the door and as she climbed in, gave the driver our destination. He was already checking for traffic as I climbed in. We were off.
After an uneventful trip through the hustle and bustle of New York City, we arrived at the backdoor of the auditorium. I paid the driver and we exited the cab. The door was open and a guard with a clipboard was standing just inside. Tia mentioned the fashion house and then her name as the guard moved a finger down the clipboard. He came to a stop, made a check mark, and gave her a nod. I then gave him my name (with the "ie") in as close to a female voice as I could and he repeated the process. I once again took myself to task for not having taken a real girl's name. He gave me a nod without so much as a second glance.
We worked our way across a very crowded building to where Miss T, the director, and most of the other models were. Within a few minutes the rest of the models had arrived. Miss T gave a pep talk, then turned things over to the director. He went over the choreography for the show, pointing out where we would form up, where we would go, what we would do, and so on, with a big emphasis on timing. He put us through some of the things we would be doing as we waited for our turn to use the stage. It was during this time that each model would be called away to have his or her picture taken, a mystery at the time.
Our reserved block of stage time finally came, and the rehearsal really kicked into gear. Everyone, including myself, quickly got with the program. The training I had gotten from Tia was paying off; I actually knew what I was doing. That is, until my first turn on the runway. That's when I noticed just how big the auditorium was, and it hit me that this wasn't for some small group, oh no, the audience was going to be huge, with buyers, reporters, photographers, and fashion fans from all over the world, and I would be strutting out into the middle of them… alone. Anxiety reared it ugly head and I completely forgot what I was doing. The director was not happy. Some how I regained control and got through the rehearsal without further incident.
Subsequent rehearsals went well. The biggest problems were in trying to coordinate what we had to do backstage with the stage hands that were removing scenery and those who were setting up for the next group. As we progressed, the time needed for rehearsal grew shorter until we were left with just a couple of hours of stage time in the evenings. That suited me just fine as I could get in a full day at the messenger service before I had to be at the auditorium. Of course that also meant I was leading a double life: a messenger boy by day, and a teenage girl model by night.
After what had to be the most exhausting week of my life, the time for the big show finally came. It was an evening affair which gave me a fair amount of time to prepare at Tia's place after my day job as well as chow down on a large bowl of soup. That would suffice as dinner, hearty, but easily digested, something that was very important considering all the stress we would be subjected to at the show. A trick of the trade as Tia put it.
After our quick meal, it was off to Tia's bedroom to change and prepare for the show. Unbeknownst to me, Tia had spent the morning with Susan, learning how to apply the base makeup to my face to eliminate all traces of my being a young male. It was a wise precaution, as there was an even higher degree that any flaw in my looks or actions would lead to my being discovered. It was something she reinforced by first handing me an id. badge with Tommie's name and picture on it (mystery solved), then reminding me that I had to maintain my cover at all costs as we made ready to leave her apartment. We grabbed a taxi out front of the building and soon entered into the congested traffic of a typical New York City evening.
Upon arrival at the auditorium we found a much higher level of security then we had previously met with. Not only were our badges checked, but we had to be vouched for by Raul before security would allow us in. Once through security, we headed for a prearranged spot to check in with Miss T. Tia then went off to her assigned dressing spot and I headed for mine. Angela was waiting for me and I wasted no time stripping to my panties. She pulled the first outfit from the staging rack and took it off the hanger. It wasn't the outfit I had started with at the rehearsals, and in looking over the staging rack, I noticed other changes in the order in which the outfits were to be presented to the audience. That meant there would be other changes in the program that I would have to adapt to. Easy for a professional model, but for me, it meant an extra layer of worry.
The new first outfit to be modeled was a maroon mini dress with a cowl neckline and hidden back zipper. The bodice was form fitting and was decorated with a narrow stream of gold sequins, starting at the right shoulder and sweeping across the body, slightly opening and spreading out as it progressed to just above the left side of the waist. It progressed around back to just below the right side of the waist, wrapping around to the front. That’s when the stream exploded open, spreading out to cover two thirds of the skirt front.
The skirt portion of the dress was more than a full circle and without any petticoats, hung with drape like folds but with a considerable degree of flared shape. It was also had a weighted hem, and on a quick turn, would really flair out with light reflecting everywhere off the sequins. It was quite an attention grabber and I could understand why it was moved up to the front of the queue. Matching high heeled shoes, large gold hoop earrings, and at least eight gold bracelets of different widths and designs encircling my left wrist completed the outfit. It was time to check in with Susan and Diane.
My timing was nearly perfect as they were finishing up with another model and I had but a short wait. The model looked in the mirror in front of her and nodded her approval. She got up from the chair as Susan removed the paper circle from around her neck. She moved off to check herself in the full length mirror as I took her place in the chair.
Diane picked up a comb and a pair of scissors and began sculpting my hair into the classic bob. Susan got to work applying makeup to my face. For my part, I settled back into the chair, resigned to accepting being turned into even more of a teen girl than I already was. That is up until Diane came at me with a curling iron with a large roller on the end of it. I saw it as an attack on any last vestiges of my being a male. But even before I could form any protests, Tia's words to me before we left her apartment came rushing to the forefront crushing any protests. I was undercover as a girl and had to act as such at all times even if that meant letting Diane do what ever she wanted with my hair. That would add yet another layer of worry that was slowly building into an anxiety attack.
Susan and Diane finished with me rather quickly since Tia had done most of the prep work. I looked into the mirror and Tommie looked back at me. She still had a shaggy bob cut but with just a little more shape and volume to it, more along the lines of a classic bob but still falling short. Nodding my approval, I got up from the chair as Susan removed the paper circle from around my neck, and moved over to the full length mirror. I checked myself out like any other female model, then moved on down to staging and checked in with the director.
Everything progressed as it had at the final rehearsal and my anxiety was dissipating, that is until I spotted a couple of the models looking through some peepholes at the events taking place on stage. My old nemesis, curiosity, got the better of me and I just had to take a look. What I saw was not just the stage but also a small part of a very large audience. That’s when the reality of what I was about to do smacked me in the face. My anxiety was quickly returning.
Remembering the high stakes involved, I forced control upon my anxiety attack long enough to make my first turn on the runway. It was an experience that can't be adequately described. After waiting in the queue for what seemed like forever, I finally got the signal to enter from stage left. I slipped into a daze as I maneuvered out onto the stage and headed for the runway, passing within inches of models on the return.
Turning onto the runway, I was assaulted by bright lights attacking from every direction. A sea of staring eyes that stretched back into the darkest regions of the hall, watched me intently, looking for any vulnerability as a battle between the announcer and the loud rock background music raged. At the end of the runway, I momentarily struck my signature pose, defiantly giving the enemy my all, as a squad of photographers let loose volley after volley of brilliant flashes as they snapped off photo after photo. I was scared as all get out, but I was determined to not let the enemy know it, and so with a stuck-up kind of stare, I made a hard, forced turn away from them, causing the hem of the dress to fly outward, teasing the enemy, and then arrogantly strutted back to the safety of backstage using a mild version of the crossover step that reeked of feminine sex, amidst the clamor of whistles and applause. It was but the first campaign of many more leading up to the final outcome.
And so it went, with each turn becoming easier to the point where I found my inner self not wanting it to end. But end it had to, and after modeling the last outfit, and returning to my assigned dressing spot for the last time, I changed back into the clothes Tia had lent to me to wear. Looking over at where Tia was supposed to be, I failed to spot her and figured she was making her last turn. I went over to the stage entrance to see if I could intercept her despite the bedlam all around me. She spotted me as she entered backstage and rushed towards me. Tia greeted me with the kind of hug and peck on the cheek that girls in show biz would give each other, at least that was what I was thinking, and then proceeded me to her dressing area.
As we came to her assigned spot, I reach up and unzipped her dress. She pulled off the dress, tossing it aside, and stripped off everything else that wasn't hers. Just as she finished putting on her street clothes, a group of models approached us to ask if we would like to go out on the town and celebrate. Tia was, of course, up for it, and I was intrigued by the idea until reality set in. While I may have looked and acted the part, I didn't think I could talk the part. They would undoubtedly engage me in conversation and my voice would give me away and that would not be good. Acting weary, I whispered "too tired" and shook my head no. Tia tried to prod me into it, but quickly gave up. It would be an adventure that would have to wait for another day.
The models offer got me to thinking. Each time I had been dressed and made-up as a teenage girl, everyone that I came across thought I actually was a teenage girl. The first part of a conundrum that Sam and I had speculated over nearly ten years prior had just been answered: I could fool everyone into thinking I was a girl. In fact, I HAD fooled a whole auditorium of fashion world experts. That, I found exciting. But there was more to it, for there was something deep inside me that loved it all and wanted more. That, I found disturbing. At any rate, it was time for Tommie to fade back into retirement, this time for good. At least that's what I thought at the time.
Things were wrapping up for everyone else as well. All of the models from our small fashion house had finished their last turn on stage and were either changing back into their street clothes or gathering in a prearranged spot. Once the last of the models had joined the group, Miss T put in an appearance. She expressed her satisfaction with everyone's performance and gave her views on the success of the show. At any rate, our part in the show was done and we were free to leave or stay and watch the rest of the show. Miss T officially dismissed all with her thanks. As I started to move off with the others, I caught Miss T's eye. She gave me a slight smile and another of her almost imperceptible nods. A thrill shot through me, and for some reason, found my self wanting more as Tommie. And more there would be, because I couldn't change back into Tom until I was safely inside Tia's apartment.
We exited out the back of the stage into the twilight of a late summers evening that was descending into night. At high northern latitudes, at that time of the year, the sun stays up quite late. There was a crowd of men and women, mostly models and stage hands that were either jostling for position to grab one of the few cabs or walking to the end of the ally to points unknown. That wasn't good, as the longer we stood around, the greater the chance that someone would approach us and startup a conversation, something I didn't want. There was but one other option, and while I didn’t like it, something inside me did and I found myself leaning over to Tia to quietly suggest it to her.
"It's going to be awhile before we can get a cab. What do you say we walk to the nearest subway station and take the train back?"
"What, are you sure? The streets are full of people and the train will be also, you really want to do that?"
"Yeah, I can handle it, I sort of want to."
"Well, well, this IS a surprise, girl!"
Tia shot me a Cheshire cats grin, and then turned to escort me past the crowd and up the ally to a major street. The station wasn't to far off, but was far enough to give me the thrill that something inside me seemed to be craving. But I didn't really enjoy it, as the fear of being found out was forefront in my mind. The foot traffic was heavy and in a hurry to get somewhere, translating into everyone being too preoccupied to even take notice of me as we merged in and moved with the flow. It was both a relief and a disappointment.
We found the station entrance and descended the stairs down to a mildly crowded platform to wait for the next train to arrive. The train arrived in due course and we quickly got on board. It wasn't as crowded as I had expected it to be from the scene up top, but it was still standing room only. Something inside me seemed to want a man to offer me his seat, but none did, hey, it's New York City.
The trip was uneventful except for being bumped and jostled about a bit at each station as passengers got off and on and we did have to change trains once to put us on a route that would take us to the station nearest Tia's apartment, and Mark's loft. I handled it pretty well, and by the time we arrived at our destination, was feeling rather proud of myself. We exited the train onto a station platform that was deserted, lending a feeling of being exposed and vulnerable and we wasted no time in getting out of there. Our feelings didn't change any as we exited the stairwell into an evening that had turned to night. The streets were not that entirely well lit, and we wasted no time grabbing a cab back to Tia's apartment.
Back at the apartment, we went straight to the bedroom and bath. I started to change when Tia stopped me.
"I hope you're not too 'tired' for some fun in the sack."
"I'm up for it, just as soon as I get rid of this female persona."
"Don't, I want you as you are, and I want you now!"
I shall leave the details to the reader's imagination without any hints. The next morning I headed off to work after a quick stop at the loft. I'd already given notice and the boss was sorry to see me leave as he felt I had the makings of a top runner. He added that if I wanted to return next summer, a job would be waiting for me and I would keep my seniority. It was a most tempting offer.
Summer was rapidly coming to an end and there were a couple of things to do before returning to college. One of which was to get Tia a gift as a thank you for all she had done, and to remember me by. Another was that Ed and I wanted to get Mark something in appreciation for letting us stay at his loft. Tia suggested a glass sculpture and knew of a starving artist who was very affordable. We found the perfect piece on display at the communal workshop she shared with other glass artists. It was a large clear crescent with a thick diameter in the middle, tapering and curving to conical points at both ends. There were streaks of color running through it that changed color as the viewing angle changed. It was mounted upright on a simple black Plexiglas pedestal and illuminated from a hidden light under it that gave it a mesmerizing glow. Mark loved it and would later design the loft interior around it.
The day of my departure came before Ed's, as I wanted to visit family before heading back to college. I would fly back as my parents home was on the other side of the country, making it just too far to go by bus, and besides, I could afford it. Tia, Ed, and Mark accompanied me to the airport. It was there that I gave Tia the gift I had come up with. It was a pendent I rough designed and had made by an artist whose studio wasn't far from the loft. I shan't describe the design as it has a symbolism understandable to just Tia and myself, and I'd like it to remain that way. Tia was overwhelmed and suddenly threw her arms around me. She kissed me hard and long. Mark and Ed had to pry us apart so I wouldn't miss my plane. It was a shame that Tia and I were so different and had no basis for a long relationship, still, neither of us really wanted to say goodbye. It had been an incredible adventure and something in me didn't want it to end. Reluctantly I boarded the plane.
I returned home to an end of summer family reunion. Of course I was that year's celebrity having spent my summer in the Big City. Try as I might, I wasn't able to downplay how I spent my time there. I was seen as an adventurer and had to recite tales about my wild experiences as a messenger. Of course all the stories were true, it was just that most of them happened to someone else; I sort of left that part out. And then there was the money, and how I may have made enough to pay for my tuition and housing for the rest of my stay at the small university I was attending. Mom didn't seem to be buying it. She had her doubts that anyone could make so much as a "delivery boy" as she put it. I tried to explain the differences and the hazards involved, but she just replied with "If you say so dear." and let it drop.
Things didn't change any up to or during the big feast. It was afterwards that things took a left turn. I was helping Dad clean up the grill and took the meat tray and tools to the kitchen. Half of the women folk were washing and putting away the dishes and leftovers. The other half, the ones who had prepared the dinner, were in the living room and I decided to look in before going back outside. They were chatting and flipping through woman's magazines. My thirteen-year-old cousin was particularly excited over some fashion news magazine that was hot off the press. She was gazing over a multi page center spread of some recent fashion show. Suddenly a chill ran up my spine as I realized that it was the very show that I had been in. Was I in any of those photos? If so, could anybody recognize me? I didn't dare show any interest, I would have to wait until later when no one was around to see if there was any damming evidence.
My opportunity came toward sunset. The entire family had collected outside, with the children roasting marshmallows and the adults chatting. Mom had sent me into the house on an errand. Once inside, I went straight to the living room and found my cousin's magazine. I quickly flipped through to the multi page center spread and scrutinize each photo. There were two that I was in, but they were taken at distance and not even I could recognize me, it was the outfits that were recognizable. I was safe.
Then, for some reason I can't explain, I started to flip through the rest of the magazine. It was toward the back when I suddenly stopped and stirred in disbelief. It was a full-page ad for a new line of teenage girl's clothing. Stirring down at me was a boyish teenage girl with her hair in a classic bob with a bit of sass, wearing a yellow cowl neck sheath with a chain belt low on the hips and white vinyl boots. It was me. But it got worse, for arched under the upper left corner and undulating across the top in bold hippie styled lettering of the day, was the new lines name: "Tommie Girl".
"You make a cute girl, dear."
It was Mom, and the second part of that decade old conundrum had just been confirmed. I will leave the ensuing discussion to the reader's imagination.
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