Comdex - 3 - Prelude to Memories

They say that everyone has a twin somewhere. What happens when your twin is dead, as well as being a lady. The following story is fiction, more or less. Enjoy.

This series began a couple of years ago, and like many I set it down unfinished, uncompleted. The original Title was Comdex, Clothing, and Confusion. The first few chapters are rewrites.
Comdex — Prelude to Change
Copyright 2003/8 Beth Williams

Comdex 3 Prelude to Memories
Beth Williams
Copyright 2003/8
I would like to thank ALL the comments on my first story, both here and via e-mail. 'Course I'd always like to have more! I will take the criticisms to heart. I may not agree, but I will keep them in mind.

For one reader in particular, I would like to add the following: Yes, I understand that few men are "passable." However, I typically spend 2 or 3 weeks a year "en femme."

Much of the story is autobiographical. I am indeed 375 pounds and 6' tall. I am a computer geek. I am and have been deeply involved in business. I am an ex cop.

To date, I have never been read; I have been shopping at Catherine's, the Avenue, Nordstrom's, Macy's and Lane Bryant — even trying on clothes. I have attended church as Beth. I have had a manicure and pedicure at "La Belle" day spa in San Jose without comment. One year in Phoenix I actually spent the day being pampered at a day spa. When, my esthetition, a pregnant twenty something named Shana (pronounced like “banana”) came in to do my waxing, I had not yet removed any clothes. I told her who (or what, LOL) I was, and she then spent the day talking to and responding to me as a woman. It was totally delightful, before the end of the day she was giving me tips on how to handle pick-ups. I told her there was NO way that would happen! Shana gave me a look like, “are you brainless,” and mentioned there were many men who liked larger women. It was surreal.

My wife (who is almost as supportive in real life as she is in the story) has accompanied me all over. Los Angeles, Disneyland, The Bay Area, and gambling in Lake Tahoe and Reno, all were destinations we've enjoyed.

And, for those skeptics, on Halloween, several years ago, I purchased Enfamil (baby formula) en femme, late one evening - after a day as Beth. The checker was a friend - who did NOT recognize me until prompted. Later she told me that as I left the supermarket, the manager on duty remarked how sad it was that a woman so "pretty" was so LARGE.

My friend told the manager, "that's no woman, that's a man!" The manager didn't believe her. Three days later, I entered the store, only to have her yell, across the concourse, "There She is, THAT's the one I told you about!" The manager turned beet red and would not look me in the eye.... Not even years later...

So... the moral of the story is this: Yes, transgendered men who have not yet started transitioning (especially tall, middle aged, fat men!) are rather lacking in their presentation, yet, there are some, like me, who for whatever reason transcend the ordinary, and achieve the sublime.... That has been my fortunate experience - and I will frankly admit, I don't fully understand how or why. I just give thanks for it.

Thanks for the comments. I truly appreciate the feedback.

Note: While this may be biographical, most names have been changed to protect the guilty….. 

Monday, November 26, 2001

Was it only two weeks? My life had been turned upside down, inside out (or outside in), and molded into something I no longer was sure I recognized. All I knew for sure was to shut up, sit down, and hang on to the ride of my life.


I asked Hal about the agenda for the day. “Well, I thought Annie might show you around and maybe help with leasing cars for the two of you. What do you fancy in a car?”

“I don’t know, maybe a Passat?” I replied.

Hal looked over his morning paper, “a Passat? Don’t you think you should get something, I don’t know, sportier? I was thinking maybe a BMW or a Jag.”

“Hon, you gotta remember, I have to fit in the damn thing. Volkswagen’s have more room than most cars.”

“Well, would you at least look at the BMW?” He asked.

Then I began to better understand something about Hal. He truly did not view money the way normal people do. It had become simply another way of counting points in the game of life. Money was less important than projecting the proper image; ultimately image was worth more “points.”

“Okay, okay, but does that include Annie too?”

“Of course. But try to do it early, I was hoping you might make it to the office around lunch time,” he wiggled his eyebrows at me and gave me his infuriating smile, “and maybe I can show you around our apartment.”

Great, fast cars, fine wine, and loose women (and probable sex) on my first day at work - I hoped I’d survive the process. I hadn’t told Hal, but while his attempted lovemaking technique was great, at first, it had caused pain where the surgeries had not yet healed — and it was not until this morning that I realized just how tender my wounds actually were.

Hal came around the table, gave me a quick kiss, and headed out the door. “Jeeves, will you drive Kate and Annie this morning?” He asked.

“But of course Mister Stevens,” was the inevitable reply.

I wandered about the house (HOUSE?) until it was time to go. It was a crisp, snowy late fall day. I enjoyed the scenery as Jeeves drove us to BMW of Peabody.

It was comical, really. When we arrived, Jeeves opened the doors for Annie and me. The sales manager smiled at Annie and me, then turned to Jeeves to begin his presentation. Annie and I were ignored as the presentation was directed at Jeeves. Jeeves interrupted and deferred to me. The sales manager changed tack. He began speaking about the interior and amenities. He stressed the fine Bavarian workmanship, and the careful detailing of the walnut burl accent pieces. I started asking performance questions. He continued talking about available colors and fabrics while, I was looking under the hood. He could not get out of the mindset that a woman could possibly examine or even be interested in the technical aspects of a new car — especially not a woman who could afford a BMW. After his patronizing presentation, I slipped into ditz mode and told him thanks, but no thanks. I turned to Annie and began talking about the New Beetle and how I really thought I’d prefer one of those cute cars — you know the kind with the flower vase. “Does your car have a flower vase?,” I asked with my most ditzy and vapid expression. “But I can’t make up my mind whether to get the green, or the blue,” I told Annie. I told the salesman that I thought I preferred the economy of the diesel, but liked the wider availability of the gas engine. Besides, the diesel was stinky.

It was priceless; he suddenly realized a sale was going to slip through his fingers and we began walking towards the door. He began to stutter, and stammer.

Then I switched to rich bitch mode, and asked "Did he know the specifications on his cars or was he going to continue to waste my time talking about the appearance!"

His mouth snapped shut. I really did want a new Beetle — I liked the one I’d purchased for Lisa, instead after he decided to answer my questions, I wound up purchasing a car that I knew would please Hal. An Oxford Green M5 with all the bells and whistles. The acceleration and power curve were incredible. It really was more car than I wanted, but I decided to make the “sacrifice” for Hal — some sacrifice….

Needless to say, Annie was more than happy to follow suit — in her case in topaz blue. Cendar had a corporate account, and the paperwork was easily taken care of. Jeeves left Annie and me to our new toys. We left the dealer and traveled to the office; and never once did we exceed the speed limit — NOT!

Cendar’s main office complex is in Burlington. The drive took about 25 minutes. We pulled into a parking lot in front of a modern looking glass and steel 5 story building. Annie mentioned we’d have reserved spaces, probably by tomorrow. Of all that had happened today, I think that was the most impressive. Annie and I entered the building. The first thing I noticed was the security desk manned by two armed and uniformed guards. Annie placed her hand on a scanner, and the guards verified her identity. “Good morning Mrs. Stevens,” one said as he electronically opened the door. We trooped through the entry way, and took an elevator to the fifth floor. Annie led the way to “my” office.

In the outer office Abbey was packing her personal effects. Her eyes were misty and I realized I had screwed up. I smiled, gave her a hug, and explained to her, “Thank you for be willing to relocate. Linda is REALLY going to need your help. You do know that this is a promotion, don’t you?”

“A promotion?” she asked.

I explained, You will be heading up the HR department for me in California. There would also be an accountant/comptroller from the office going with her. Do you have any suggestions?"

She asked, "Can George Minnelli could be spared.

I had not a clue. I turned to Annie, she gave me a minimal nod, "That might be possible."

So, in making things better for Abbey, I had inadvertently filled another spot on the California management team. Things were coming together; Linda would have Liz Rodriguez, Abbey, and George Minnelli. Additional staff could be hired out of the California office.

I went into my office, and closed the door. I just wanted to explore for a bit. There were three doors. The one from reception, one into Abbey’s — now Annie’s office, and one into what proved to be a private suite, a combination bedroom, lounge and bathroom. This room opened into Hal’s office. There was a closet, which contained several changes of clothes, and the inevitable hand scanner and PIN pad. Looking closer, I discovered that the entire room was reinforced, armored, and I presumed there was a “secret passage” out of there.

Returning to my office, I sat down at my desk; it was a magnificent oak desk with a return on the left side containing a large flat LCD screen. The left hand drawer contained a heavy leather bound journal. I opened it, and found Kate’s diary, written in a neat precise cursive script. The first date was March 1, 2001; the last date was September 10th 2001. I set the journal aside, and continued my explorations. It was hard to escape the sensation of a ghost hanging around. Everywhere I looked, I saw myself, and knew, it was actually Kate. It nearly unnerved me. At the estate, all the miscellaneous personal possessions, like makeup, or even a tooth brush had all been either mine, or brand new. Here, it was almost as if Hal had preserved it intact from when Kate was last here. Nothing seemed to have been touched. I opened the thin central drawer and found the usual debris found in all desk drawers; a tube of lipstick (honey rose), a bottle of hand lotion, half a pack of Trident gum, it was beginning to really depress me.

I turned to the credenza behind the desk. There were pictures of Hal and Kate, Kate and what I believed were her parents, and Kate with Hal and two twin little girls. The later was framed in black. In the cabinet of the credenza were picture albums. On the bookcases in the office were a series of awards, trophies, and pictures. Kate’s version of an “I love Me” wall. I was struck with a sense of her humility. The awards were, if anything understated. The emphasis seemed to be on her humanitarian activities.

I called Annie, and asked who the little girls were. She looked at me in total incomprehension, shock, and grief. “You know, it’s so easy to forget around you. I suppose, like Hal, I look at you and forget reality. Those little girls were Kate’s babies. They died 10 years ago, an accident while the nanny was taking them on an outing.” She began to sob, “they would have been 14 next February.” I reached out to pull her into a hug, but Annie backed away, “don’t you dare touch me!” She screeched.

“Annie, what can I do?”

“Nothing,” she spat at me. “Just leave me alone!.” She left and returned to her office, slamming the door behind her.

Confused and more than a little hurt I resumed my explorations, I opened the first file drawer; it seemed to contain mostly personal files. I found files like “birthdays,” “anniversary’s,” “stocks,” “properties,” and documents relating to Kate’s personal accounts .

The second file drawer contained what were clearly Kate’s “work” files. Meticulously organized, the files were labeled “immediate,” “30 days,” “60 days,” “90 days,” “six months,” “nine months,” “one year,” “two years,” and “undefined future projects.” There were also files relating to specific projects. Several stood out in my mind. These included; “employee education,” “children’s education,” “internal medical benefits,” “hiring goals,” “Yenta,” “health and retirement,” and “Gowns R Us.”

Intrigued, I pulled the “Yenta” file and began to read it. Inside Kate had detailed the romances arranged by her. There was a joy expressed in the writing, truly she found this to be an exciting hobby — one that benefited the company to be sure, but still a hobby.

I resolved to spend much time studying these files over the next few days. I called Abbey in and asked her for an organizational chart, and she returned half an hour later.

Annie entered with Abbey and with no hint of her earlier grief started to explain the organization of Cendar. “There are four major business units. The first was our core business in the early years. Cendar Software has specialized in developing database products for the last 20 years. Our forte has been developing products that integrate different hardware platforms. In the last 5 years or so we have been developing our professional services division; there is a tremendous market integrating various software packages and databases into a common unified whole..

The second division is Cendar Security. Security focuses on developing strategies and techniques to insure the integrity of computer systems. This covers everything from physical security to disaster recovery. Currently we have five of our seven field teams in New York working on systems recovery. They are projected to stay in New York for at least the next six months. The other two teams are in training while on standby. Each team has it's own equipment trailer that doubles as a server farm and clean room.

The third division is mine,” she smiled, “Cendar clothing is the division organized to exploit the heuristic programs we've developed to create individual patterns for women’s clothing — though I believe we will be expanding to men’s and children’s clothing soon. Projections of revenue are staggering.

Finally, the division you have done the most to create. Cendar Medical is basically a research and development organization at this time. There are two principal products under exploration. The first is a diagnostic software program. It is designed to take the medical test information that a general practitioner would look at and provide a diagnosis of the patient’s condition. The basic model is complete and is being tested in parallel with doctors throughout New England. We have letters of intent from the Defense Department and from the World Health Organization to purchase the package once it is certified by the FDA.

The military is interested in using it to upgrade the medical services a corpsman can provide, while the WHO is interested in using it in third world countries. The second product is a suite of remote telemetry devices that are designed to work with the software, but also to stand alone. The first level of instruments provides: blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, basal temperature, and basic blood workups. A second level of instrumentation is designed to work with a trained technician. At that level the instruments provide additional tests, such as blood gases, chest or limb x-ray, lung volume, and a complete blood chemistry analysis.

We’re betting that with this information, a single physician/technician can review and treat 5 to 10 times the number of patients a physician can currently accommodate. The results will be lower medical costs, greater diagnostic accuracy, and broader access to health care in underdeveloped countries.”

As Annie finished her presentation Hal entered and asked if we were ready for lunch. He escorted Annie, Abbey and I to the 4th floor cafeteria. The food was not your typical “cafeteria” food. There were no prices, and a large selection of both grill and hot entrees. I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken continental cordon bleu.

“Hal, you know it’s going to take some time to get up to speed here don’t you?” I asked.

“Well, actually, I hadn’t thought too much of it,” he replied. “After your performance at Comdex, I assumed you would be able to hit the ground running.”

“I plan to do just that, it’s just there is so much to learn. And there’s so much I’ve already started. I expect to return to California this week, along with Annie and Abbey to work on the new offices. Then there’s the entire month of December and the holiday’s to prepare for.” With a smile I said, “God forbid that you as a man could help with that.”

Hal flinched at that comment. “Okay, I can see that, what are you suggesting?”

“I thought I’d spend the rest of today gathering files I’ll need to understand my role and function in Cendar. Then after work, I want to sit down with Vikki and discuss the holidays.”

Hal interrupted, “you should also probably get Hermione involved.”

“Oh? I suppose that would be okay, why?”

“Ahh… even I keep forgetting. Hermione is our interior decorator, and she has quite a private practice. She makes more in a year than Jeeves.”

“Fantastic, that would work out great, ‘cause I also want to get started on rooms for my kids and Linda. There’s all those empty bedroom suites on the second floor. And, do you suppose we should offer to take in the Mooney’s and their kids until they find a place?”

“Kate, are you sure you’re up to that many people?” Hal asked.

“Oh sure, I love the holidays! The more the merrier!”

“In that case, why don’t you invite your young lovebirds also?” He asked.

“Oh my, what a wicked idea,” I giggled at the thought. “On the other hand it just might be what two socially clumsy nerds need to get things started on the right foot.”

“Okay, planning tonight, calls tomorrow, and shopping tomorrow for the kids rooms. Then on Wednesday, I’ll fly out to California, we’ll finalize the organization, by the way, Abbey suggested George Minnelli for the finance slot, do you have any suggestions?”

“No, George is due for a promotion. He’s a bit young, but should be a good choice. Abbey suggested it?” He asked, leering at her, and he began humming “Matchmaker, Matchmaker….”

Abbey of course blushed from head to toe. I smacked Hal with a magazine. “Hey, you leave her alone! She works for me not you!” Everyone laughed as Hal is a creditable job of genuflecting toward me. “Please to be forgiving of your humble servant,” he said. The table laughed, and there was nothing I could do except to forgive him.

Annie changed the subject by talking about the new cars. Hal just had to go see them, so we all trekked down to the parking lot. Annie asked if Hal could pick which belonged to her, and which one was mine.

Without hesitation, Hal pointed to the blue one, “that has got to be Annie’s,” he said.

Annie clapped her hands, “right on the money Hal!” He walked over, crunching through the rapidly melting snow, and began looking at my green car, nodding approvingly at the “extras” I had selected. “So, you’ll be gone from Wednesday till when?”

“I thought I’d try to be back by the middle or end of next week, why?”

“Oh, not much, just some custom items I wanted to add to your car.”

“Hal what are you thinking,?” I asked suspiciously.

“Just let me surprise you this once,” he said.

I shuddered thinking about what he might be up to. “Okay, but try to keep it reasonable, puhleezeee, I wheedled. “I don't need a car that flies. This one will do just nice the way it is.”

Hal laughed, “just you wait my pretty!” He said in his best wicked witch voice.

We returned to the office, I gathered up the diary and project files and placed them in my briefcase. I also gathered up the initial briefing books Hal had provided. I asked Abbey to make the calls to the Mooney’s, Hiram, and Janey. Then requested she set up a meeting with George, herself, Abbey and me for early the next morning.

As I gathered up my homework, Annie told me there was a call for me. I had no idea who it was, she forwarded the call and I picked it up. “This is Kate Stevens, how can I help you.”

“Beth,? It's Sue Collins from Comdex. Is that really you?”

“Hello Sue, no THIS IS KATE, I hope you enjoyed the dinner reception. Please don't call me Beth. Beth has become part of Cendar, and It's KATE you're talking to.”

“Oh wow!” she said. “Girl you could fall in a sewer and come up with diamonds!”

“Well, I will admit it has been an interesting time since Comdex. Why don't you plan on coming over for lunch tomorrow?”

“Oh, I don't want to intrude, I just wanted to see how you are doing.”

“ I'm doing well. You won't be intruding, we'll eat lunch in the cafeteria. You won't believe the food they serve there! Please say you will? I thing Hal and I should talk with you face to face.”

“Well, I guess I can get away for lunch. Thanks!”

“It will be good to see you. Bye!”

Thanks, I'll see you tomorrow.”

I finished, then picking up my homework and called to see if Annie was ready to leave.

Annie was, and I asked her to lead the way, and we returned to the estate. I was still afraid I'd get lost, having Annie lead made me feel more comfortable.

Vikki and Hermione were glad to meet and plan the Holidays. We decided the estate should have a Curier and Ives look for the holidays — very traditional, very Victorian. We selected Friday the 21st as the date for the senior management Christmas party, and Saturday the 22nd for an employee open house. I asked for carolers and musicians a la Dickens, and they assured me it would be no problem.

I think I caught both of them by surprise when I asked that bedrooms be prepared. But they were TOTALLY flabbergasted when I gave them the list. There was: 1 for the Mooney’s, 1 for their daughters, and 1 for their son; 1 for Hiram, and 1 for Janie; 1 for Tim and 1 for Lisa, and 1 for Linda.

I told Hermione that Tim, Lisa and Linda would be visiting frequently. They were relatives from California that I had been staying with since September. I told her it was important to Hal and to me that they be treated special. I suggested they try for something appropriate to each, and mentioned Tim was into computers, science, and technology; and Lisa was into medieval life, in fact had joined S.C.A. the previous year. Hermione’s eyes lit up at the thought of a teenage girl’s renaissance bedroom, and I quickly let her take over.

After a brief dinner, I retired upstairs, and I crawled into my jammies and called Linda. Now here’s something funny. After many years of longing to be a woman, and wearing a nightgown whenever possible, I found my pajamas more desirable than the silk nightgowns folded in my drawers. Maybe it was the pain from the surgeries — and a desire to avoid any “romantic” activities, but I don’t know. I asked Linda about it, and predictably, she just laughed. “Now you understand why I varied what I wore to bed. Sometimes I wanted to be sexy, sometimes cuddly, and sometimes just to be comfortable. You’re learning something every woman knows. Clothes DO make a difference, and all but the densest of men understand those differences without thinking about it!” We spoke of other things; the kids finishing up for the winter holidays, spending Christmas in New England, my new car, and Annie’s strange reaction. After a few endearments, I told her goodnight, and then curled up with my Heinlein book, and meds, I mentally kicked myself, I still hadn't looked up the second scrip. Hal came to bed late, Soon I was asleep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

I woke early, showered, and tried to decide what to wear for the day. When you have a closet full of clothes and accessories — all of which fit superbly — it can be a daunting task; especially to one who has never had that many clothes before. I finally chose a nice black wool suit over a pale pink silk blouse. Black low heel pumps, diamond stud earrings and a black Hermes Birkin bag pulled together the look I wanted to project. I grabbed my coat and a black Hermes pashmina scarf and headed out the door.

I drove myself to the office, and met with Annie, Abbey, Hal and George. I suggested using Cal Fed as the bank for California operations, and reserved the plane for the following day. Abbey informed me the Mooney’s, Hiram, and Janie would all be glad to stay at the estate, and would all be arriving on or about the 15th. With that I concluded the meeting. Annie asked if she could talk to me. We went into my office, and shut the doors.

“Beth, I’m sorry about yesterday,” she explained, “what I didn’t say was my mother was the nanny. Kate and Hal became my surrogate parents — my father died when I was little. Kate comforted me while I comforted her. Hal and Kate took me in and raised me from the time I was 13. It is just so easy to mix you and her up. You are so like her it hurts. Yesterday, you were just Kate, and when you broke that image asking about the twins, I felt like I had lost her all over again.” Annie began to sob quietly.

“Annie, you know I never wanted this. I’ve come to respect Kate in ways I’ll never be able to explain. I’m also finding it difficult to live in the shadow of her ghost. I’ll never replace her in your heart, but maybe I’ll earn a place there on my own?”

I held my arms out slightly, and this time Annie came to me, and laid her head on my shoulder. She let out her grief with deep heaving sobs, while I softly whispered encouragements in her ear. I just held her, “She loved you so much, you know that don’t you?” I asked. Annie just nodded. I suppose we sat there for the best part of an hour. Annie had never come to grips with her loss.

Finally, she came up for air, “You truly are like her you know. You’ve such a motherly attitude. I can’t believe how tender you are. You’ve done it again. You know when to be quiet, and when to let me have some space. Are you sure you’re not really Kate?” She asked with a quizzical half grin.

“Honey, I’m sure, and I have the t-shirt to prove it.”

Annie looked at me strangely.

“Yep, my kids got it for me, “World’s Best Dad” is what it says; I can guarantee no one would have given the original Kate that shirt.” My poor attempt at humor seemed to work, Annie collapsed in a fit of giggles until I shooed her out of the office.

Midmorning I asked Hal to join me. I explained there might be a problem with Sue. I didn't know her well enough to know if she was trying to set me up for blackmailing, or if she considered herself a friend and just wanted to get together. Hal cleared his calendar until mid afternoon, and we discussed the various options.

Right at 12:00 I got a call from the visitor's desk informing me my lunch date was here. I asked that she be escorted to the cafeteria, Hal and I walked hand in hand to the cafeteria where Sue awaited us.

Sue could not help but notice our small display of affection, and I greeted her warmly. “Hi Sue, I'm glad you could make it. I know you were introduced to him before, but may I present my husband Hal?”

Sue would have had to be dense to miss the relationship between Hal and I. “I'm pleased to see you again Mr. Stevens,” Sue said. “I was just admiring the food when you folks walked in. Is this how you eat everyday?”

Hal laughed. “We try to take good care of our employees and friends. Perhaps Kate can give you a tour after lunch. Show you the game room, the library and other perks.”

“I'd love that.”

We went through the line, exchanging pleasantries while selecting our lunches. Hal selected the stroganoff, Sue tried the grilled Tri-Tip, and I had Ham and Cheese on toast. We sat down in a isolated corner, primarily to avoid being interrupted. Any time Hal or I ate in the cafeteria, we were open to anyone for lunch.

After finishing the main dish, Hal bluntly said to Sue. “I hope you've enjoyed your lunch, I can't help but wonder about your motives. You see, you are the only one we haven't accounted for that knows Beth and Kate are one and the same. We asked you here because no recorder will function here. This table is electronically screened, so feel free to speak honestly."

Sue sat back in her chair. “You're kidding me. You mean to say that of all the people who have known Beth that I'm the ONLY one who knows she has become Kate?"

I replied, “That's the way it is. So you see, you could cause enormous trouble for me and Cendar.”

“Hey guys, I'm not interested in doing that! I just wanted to see how 'Kate' was doing. We had a great time at the beginning of Comdex, and I just wanted to see how my friend was doing. I mean you've GOT to admit it's an incredible story. Kind of like the Prince and the Pauper.”

“I know,” I said. “The only trouble is if someone manages to link Beth to Kate it could result in trouble, BIG trouble for us.”

“But what about Beth's family and friends?” Sue asked.

“It's all been taken care of,” Hal replied. Legally, Beth and Kate are one and the same person. No one except myself could prove otherwise. We've covered our tracks legally, and everything has been done within the scope of the law. In fact, I'm willing to wager $1 you can't find any trace of Linda Beth Williams at all. Kate and I were thorough, and family was without exception excited for the opportunity this affords Kate her SO, and her kids. The question for me remains, what do we do about you?”

“Hal, relax hon, Sue wouldn't dream of doing anything harmful to me, would you?”

Sue's expression showed she had been frightened by Hal's words. I reached out and took her hands in mine. “Relax, he doesn't really bite, Hal is just being overprotective of me. How are you doing? Are classes back in session yet?"

Tension remained hovering over the table. I determined the tension must cease, and whisked Sue away from Hal's pointed interrogation.

I took her on a brief tour of the buildings, showing off the employee perks. We went through the medical suite and I told her about the on-site care, Next we roamed through the employee break room/game room with it's foosball, pinball, arcade and air hockey table. She went somewhat gah-gah over the in-house preschool/babysitting center. We wound up back in the cafeteria, and grabbed ice cream for desert (actually they were banana splits) and sat back down.

“So, what to you think of Cendar now,” I said.

“It's like a flipping Disneyland for the workers. I'm jealous. Let me know if you ever have an opening I could fill.”

“We try hard to make things enjoyable for the staff.” Listen, could you come to our open house on the 21st?” Sue agreed, and excused herself, she had to get back to work.

I spent the rest of the day shopping for the kids; I wanted everything in place for when I returned. Fortunately there is a large shopping mall in Burlington, featuring Filenes, Macy’s and Sears. I know for Tim, the important things were electronic; X-box, TV, computer, etc…. For Lisa, I knew her main concern would be a telephone that could be used to talk to friends in California. That, and of course, clothes.

I arrived at home a bit after 4:30 in the afternoon. Hal wasn’t home yet, so I slipped upstairs. The pain in my groin and boobs had faded to a dull ache. I thought I might do a light workout. It was my monthly, “I’m going to start losing weight!” promise to myself along with a commitment to exercise. I knew I probably wouldn’t carry through for more than a day or two, but at the time I felt virtuous about it. I changed into a one piece bathing suit, slipped on some sweats and flip-flops, pulled my hair back in a pony tail, grabbed a towel and some undies and headed for the pool.

In the hall, I ran into Annie, and she offered to join me. I waited as she quickly changed. We went downstairs and entered the gym/pool area. Annie cranked up some seventies oldies music, and I began to stretch. When I pulled off the sweats Annie turned to me, and her eyes bugged out.

“Oh my God,” she cried, pointing to my flat groin, “where did it go? And where did those come from?” She asked, pointing at my chest.

I struck a pose. The classic hand on the hip, one leg slightly in front of the other, and knee bent, “Eve in the Garden” pose. “You like?” I asked.

Annie just stood there. She blinked 2 or 3 times. I began to chuckle.

“How? When?” she finally stuttered.

“Before I left California,” I answered. “I knew there would be times like this when anything less than this would be a liability. Now, are we going to swim, or are you going to stare some more?”

“Don’t be angry, but can I see? I really can’t believe my eyes. You remember at Comdex? You showed me then. Please!”

“Maybe after some exercise,” I said, and jumped into the pool. Years before, I’d spent 3 weeks at a health resort called the Lifestyle Center of America in, believe it or not, Sulfur Oklahoma. I learned some intensive water aerobics — which I never used again. So, for the next 30 minutes, I worked against the water to the beat of the music.

Afterwards, we showered in the changing room, and I honored her request — telling her I’d show her mine if she showed me hers. Boy did I make a mistake. Annie was gorgeous in her birthday suit. I’m not sure which of us stared at the other harder. It was an amazingly strange experience. I was getting excited, yet there was no trace of my manhood — the valve wasn’t closed. It was kind of like an indefinable itch. I knew I needed and wanted to do something, but there was nothing I could do. Annie, for her part, insisted on showing me how to do a breast self exam — or at least that is what she claimed. In any case, she became intimately acquainted with my breasts. Déjá  vu… “They feel so natural!” she said. With the hot water streaming down she bent her head and gently kissed the right one (actually, I don’t think there could be a “wrong” one!).

My breathing was becoming irregular. “Uh, Annie, please!” I gasped. I reached out and pulled her into a hug. Her right hand slipped down and touched me, exploring the new places between my legs. She looked up and kissed me. I had one hand rubbing her back and the other caressing her breasts. My brain refused to function and I pulled her closer to me. Annie loved it and began rubbing her leg between mine.

One hand played with my breasts, and the other she wrapped around my neck, pulling my head closer to hers. I didn’t know what to do. ‘Think’ I told myself. ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ Her tongue explored my mouth. I knew there was something wrong, but the feelings coursing through my body were drowning out any rational thought. All I could hear was deep passionate moaning, and I couldn’t tell if it was Annie or me. Desperately I examined the memory registers of my brain looking for an answer. ‘Cold,’ I thought, and that one single thought brought action and saved me from myself. I reached out and turned the hot water off, leaving the two of us in a stream of cold water.

Immediately, my brain rebooted. I jumped back as if poked with a cattle prod. “Oh jeez, Annie I’m sorry!”

Annie looked back at me, “No, I’m the one who started it. Oh my gosh! I want you Beth.” At least it was Beth and NOT Kate she wanted. She reached out and turned the water off. I began to back away, Annie stalking after me with a feline grace and a determination I’d never seen before.

“Annie, please,” I continued to back away. “You’ve got me really excited,” she continued to advance. “I want you too, but I can’t.” I bumped into the wall. “I’m already “married” to two people, and I absolutely love my wife.” Annie pressed up against me. “I’ve never been unfaithful,” I moaned as she flowed against me, shutting off my protests by kissing me. I was lost. My brain went into overload, and the memory registers came up empty this time.

“Kate, I’m home!” Hal called from the gym as I heard the door close behind him. Annie jumped back.

My brain again rebooted. “Annie and I are changing,” I called back to Hal, profoundly grateful for his interruption.

“I’m not done with this,” she whispered in my ear then wrapped a towel about her body and flounced out. I quickly toweled off and slipped into my sweats.

“We were just finishing up after a swim,” I told Hal. “How was your day?”

“I spent the day finalizing the banking relationships for the west coast office. They will be expecting you sometime tomorrow,” he explained. “How come you’re so flushed?”

With that, I realized, I was blushing from the top of my towel to the top of my head. “Just the really hot shower,” I replied, watching Annie make suggestive motions behind Hal’s back.

Hal and I went upstairs, and I practically threw myself at him. I was horny, and I needed relief. He was incredibly tender and gentle, and had me pleading for him before he finally made love to me. It was wonderful, my incisions hurt SO good, it was not enough.

Afterwards, we discussed my impending trip, and had a quiet dinner sent up. I called Linda and told her when we would arrive, chatted with the kids, and gave them all my love.

I slipped into a black baby doll nightie with matching panty (and I didn’t even know they made them for fat chicks!), brushed my hair and teeth, spritzed a bit of perfume, and crawled into bed while Hal took a shower. I was reading my book when he came in. I pulled back the covers, and gave him my best “come hither” look. He needed no more encouragement, and I could see by his reaction he was ready to “perform” again. I was still really horny. He came to bed, and satisfied my needs. In the early hours of the morning I finally fell asleep, and passed the night in pleasant dreams.

Wednesday November 28, 2001

I woke up nestled against Hal. There was something strangely comforting in that. Part of it I’m sure came from my childhood. I’d wake up early on Saturday morning, and snuggle in with my parents. Hal’s smell reminded me of my dead father. It was a good feeling.

There were fewer hairs on the bed, and I showered and dressed casually. Annie was ready downstairs, and after a quick breakfast Jeeves took us to the airport. Abbey and George met us there and by 8:30 we were airborne. It was my first time in this aircraft; it was the Boeing business jet. Hal had really gone overboard with this one. There was a spacious lounge with reclining chairs that doubled as beds; a private bedroom — complete with a queen size bed and a bathroom with a shower; there was a crew rest area and galley. The “common” area bathroom was also equipped with a shower. Throughout the cabin the décor was hand rubbed maple and chocolate colored leather on a beige carpet.

After takeoff, I stole away to the bedroom, locked the door against Annie, and took a nap. We arrived about 10:30, and Linda was there to meet us. I left Annie, Abbey, and George with Liz; we agreed to meet about 2:00 at the Temecula branch of Cal Fed, and Linda and I went home.

“Well Miss Alice, how’s life on the other side of the looking glass?” Linda teased. I just groaned.

“I’ll tell you this, it’s anything but boring. Hal is crazy, Abbey is in love, Annie is completely confused, and I’m in love.”

“With who?” Linda asked.

“Why you of course,” I replied. “I really hope you like your present.”

“Present? What present?”

“Just get me home so I can show you,” was my enigmatic reply.

When we got home, I kicked off my pumps, and went up to our bedroom, dropping clothes along the way. “Are you horny already?” Linda smiled and started shucking clothes as fast as she could follow me.

“Babe, you’ve NO idea just how much I need you right now. Hal is gentle and tender, but it’s NOT what I’ve craved.” By the time I’d reached the bedroom I was down to bra, nylons, purse and panties. By the time Linda reached the bedroom, she was nude, and her nipples were already hard — a sure sign she wanted me as much as I wanted her. I reached in my purse and brought out a gold foil wrapped box. I handed her the box and removed the last of my clothes. Linda stared at me in fascination. “I remember it looking natural, but girl you could pose nude and no one would know!”

“Uh huh, open your gift you ditz!” I laughed. Linda opened the box and removed what looked like a remote lock fob for a car. There were two buttons; one was marked ‘open,’ and other marked ‘close.’ Linda joined me on the bed and we snuggled.

“Is this what I think it is?”

“Yep, I haven’t tried it yet; I wanted that pleasure to be all yours.” I replied while nipple nibbling.

Linda started giggling. She pushed me back, and spread my legs to get a better look. “I want you to give me a countdown,” she said.

“A countdown?” I asked. Do you remember I mentioned she has a strange sense of humor?

“Oh yes, I want a countdown before I launch your new toy.”

I sighed, she would get her way, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” Linda pushed the button and cried “we have ignition!”

Now I have to tell you, it was another strange sensation. Dr. Wells had informed me the elastic nature of genital tissue would keep everything tucked in, and unnoticed in the flaccid state. When Linda pushed the ‘close’ button, my poor abused manhood came bursting out on the scene as Linda cried, “We have liftoff!!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. I swear, with the valve installed, it seemed an inch or two longer, and was extremely rigid. Linda clapped her hands in delight, and we proceeded to make love. It was the most satisfying experience in my life; to be able to remain “at attention” until Linda was completely satiated and spent, moaning and begging me to stop — but only after 3 or 4 orgasms. Me? I was content with one, and overjoyed with the second 15 minutes later. Linda turned out to be correct. With my body changes, I truly was multi-orgasmic.

We kind of melted into a puddle on the bed. Linda opened the valve and we snuggled through the lunch hour. Neither of us was very hungry, both of us were satisfied, and I cried for joy in my love’s arms. We showered, tucked my penis back into its hiding place, dressed, and took off for the bank.

Liz and George had the paperwork in place, and all we really needed to do was fill in the signature cards. The whole group trouped over to the temporary offices Linda had organized. She wanted to move quickly on a permanent location. Since this really was Linda’s operation, I sat back and watched. Liz had prepared the contracts to purchase the Temecula property, and with the bank on board, we were able to complete the deal, insisting on a short escrow, and immediate occupancy. Linda then asked Annie to prepare a time-line for setting up the manufacturing facilities. Liz, Abbey, and George were tasked with taking the business plan from an outline to a detailed implementation schedule.

I arranged for a block of rooms in the Riverside Marriott. The Riverside Marriott has business suites that provide all the necessary amenities, including high speed internet access, and room service. One would be my pied-a-Terra as Kate while on the West Coast. I called and asked the plane steward to arrange for everyone’s luggage to be transported to the Hotel.

I called a cab, and ran an errand of my own — Hall wasn’t the only one who liked surprises! I arrived back at the office about 4:30. Everyone was getting ready to pack it in for the day (it was by some of our body clocks 7:30 pm). I distributed room assignments, and keys.

Annie recognized the key right away — she had one just like it in her purse. “While you all were busy getting organized, I thought I’d arrange transportation. Would you all follow me?”

I led lead them out to the parking lot. “I figured it would be easier if everyone was, to use Hal’s terms ‘adequately equipped’ so I arranged several leases this afternoon.”

There in the parking lot were 6 BMW M5s. There was; an Oxford green for me, a Topaz Blue for Annie, Silver for Liz, black for George, white for Abbey, and a deep luscious red for Linda. The looks on their faces were priceless. We drove in procession to the Marriott; I changed back to John, left the M5 in the parking lot, and rode home with Linda.

After going nuts over Linda’s new car Tim and I went into the backyard for a little male bonding. We tossed a football back and forth while Linda got dinner ready. Lisa zoomed in about the time we sat down, and threw her arms around my neck in a colossal hug. “I love my car daddy, thank you so much for doing all this!”

A Norman Rockwell dinner later (turkey leftovers, yum!) we were all sitting in the living room, watching TV. Linda snuggled close, kept making veiled references to the space shuttle launch this morning — or so she hoped the kids thought. “I just LOVED watching the launch today,” she said, ‘the final countdown gave me goose bumps, and when the announcer from mission control said ‘we have ignition’ it was all I could do to keep from squealing in delight, and when he announced ‘we have liftoff’ I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven!”

I was not amused. Linda, to the best of my knowledge had NEVER been interested in the space program. The fact that STS-108 had launched that morning gave her the perfect opportunity. The kids however knew her twisted sense of humor, and figured there must be some kind of inside joke; little did THEY know. I only hoped she had left “mission control” in the bedroom.

We talked about the Christmas Holidays, Tim and Lisa were both excited about a “white Christmas” and seeing the estate. Linda and I left the kids to the TV and headed to bed. We enjoyed each other, Linda enjoyed “mission control,” we spent the evening loving, touching and teasing until we were both satisfied. Linda truly loved her gift, I truly loved Linda.

It was weird. I’d gone to Comdex to relax as Beth. Now, living as Kate, I had gone home to relax as John. My life had become more convoluted and twisted than I ever dreamed possible. The only rock I had left was my faith, and my love for Linda. With those intact, I knew I would survive whatever further adventures came my way.

Thursday November 29, 2001

I woke early. East coast time catching up with me, I suppose. I eased my way out of the bedroom, and started downstairs. The stairway contained many of our family pictures. A gallery in all but name, and I smiled when I compared it to the gallery at the estate. So many pictures, so many memories; Lisa and then Tim going off to kindergarten, the Halloween we all dressed like pirates, our wedding pictures. Me in full uniform, smiling in my Academy portrait; Linda and I on a camel in Jerusalem; each brought a smile, and some a tear. I hadn’t had a chance to really reflect on the changes in our lives. For the first time the cost of this adventure made itself painfully clear; it was time away from my family. I made it to my study, and just sat there for a while, tears streaming down my face.

I picked up my Bible, and opened it to Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 and what has always been my “life verse:”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

My life had certainly taken a path that I did not really understand, I could only hope and pray it would settle down enough that I could keep up with it. I’d always seen my gender issues as something apart from “real life.” Somehow I never believed I would have to confront the real issues and motivations of my gender dysphoria. After all, it was always something that I did apart from “reality.” I either did it away from my home and family — except for times with Linda, or as a “goof” whenever I could dress as Beth in a socially acceptable way. Halloween and costume parties provided that outlet. Now it was out in the open for my family, but hidden deep in a closet from the rest of the world. The reality was I had become what I had thought I wanted the most. In almost every way imaginable. No one would believe I was anyone other than Kate Stevens — a woman. Even Annie, who knew better, was losing sight of that reality. I suddenly realized that apart from my family John had nearly ceased to exist. Beth barely existed. The crushing weight of what I was going through fell on me that morning.

It was no longer a game. I spent some time, I suppose you could call it quiet time, just reading, reflecting, and praying about how things would turn out.

When I heard the kids start to stir, I moseyed into the kitchen, and started getting breakfast for them. The kids were surprised to find a complete breakfast waiting for them instead of cold cereal or a breakfast bar. With just over a week left of school before the holiday break they were understandably looking forward to some time off. Lisa was still ecstatic about her beetle. I collected hugs, and they were off and out the door before Linda came down, dressed and ready to face the day.

I suppose I looked a bit scruffy, sweats and sneakers, but I didn’t care. The look on her face this morning was radiant. “Have a good night?” I teased, serving her a ham and cheese omelet, after collecting a kiss.

“Oh you might say that,” she laughed. “That was incredible! Such staying power, you’ve certainly been eating your cheerioats. What’s with the clothes? I mean casual is one thing, but sweats?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you. I’ve an appointment to see Dr. Kline — a follow up from the boob job. Then tomorrow I’m flying out to Phoenix to see Dr. Wells — I’m sure he’ll be pleased with your reaction.”

Linda finished up breakfast and I picked up the kitchen while she finished getting ready.

A quick shower, light makeup, and I was off to the Doctor’s office. Dr. Kline told me he was satisfied with how my boobs turned out, and suggested estrogen to fill them out a little more naturally — and to increase the size of my nipples. I took the prescription, and said I would think it over. He turned me over to his nurse. She said two weeks was a bit soon for a follow up treatment, but I waved the money at her and was again lased from head to toe.

Dr. Kline stopped me on my way out. “Ms. Stevens, are you by any chance associated with Cendar? The head of the medical division is named Kate Stevens.”

“Yes, that’s me, why?”

“Well, I’ve read several articles regarding your current research, I was wondering, will you be expanding your beta program anytime soon? I know most of the software is geared towards the GP physician, but I would love to have a cross-check to my own diagnosis.”

"I’ll keep him in mind."

"I strongly suggested the estrogen, I can give it a head start with an intramuscular injection"
It was a big step, and another twist in the road I was traveling. It did however have the advantage of helping with being Kate. I reluctantly agreed, he prepared his syringe, and I wound up getting what my father had always claimed was a doctor’s standard treatment: a shot in the butt and a bottle of pills.

I filled the prescription, and went home. After changing persona's again I spent the rest of the day puttering around the house, cleaning, straightening, and just generally doing mundane things.

Another novel thought occurred to me. As Kate, I was never allowed to do so much as make a pbj. At home, I was truly enjoying the simple things. There was a lesson here; I only hoped I’d discover it.

The kids got home late in the afternoon, and I took them out for ice cream — the kid’s favorite comfort food, and then went home to prepare dinner. I’d always loved to cook, and the simple joy of doing something for my family filled me with a deep sense of satisfaction. I was just serving it when Linda arrived. Spaghetti with meat sauce — and yes — it too was comfort food.

The evening passed quickly; TV, homework, and cuddling. Again, it was terribly normal, terribly mundane, and immensely enjoyable. Needless to say, Linda put her new toy to good use as the capstone of a wonderful day.

Friday November 30, 2001

Up early again, I was off to the Marriott to change. From there, it was a short cab ride to the airport, and then a short hop to Phoenix. Dr. Wells poked and prodded, yelled at me for engaging in sex too soon, then pronounced me in “acceptable” shape. He was pleased with the cosmetic appearance, and was interested in Linda’s reaction, and smiled at her terminology.

I was back at Ontario by noon, and spent the afternoon in the office, mostly reviewing “my” diary, and “my” work files. I’d been avoiding Annie since Tuesday, and she knew it. Late in the afternoon, I found myself alone with her; everyone else was at the new site with the architect.

“I suppose I should be sorry,” she said, “but I’m not. I don’t know why, but since I saw you on Tuesday I’ve been incredibly aroused every time I’m near you. It’s strange, I never would have done anything like that with Kate, but you made it clear you were NOT Kate. The thought of a relationship with a woman I already love, who wasn’t really a woman is one I can’t get out of my mind. I never thought I’d have lesbian tendencies, but you are driving me crazy.”

‘Lord,’ I thought, ‘which way is gay? I’m a woman with Hal, a man with Linda, and now I’ve the potential for a lesbian relationship with Annie. Uh…., what happened to the straight paths you promised?’

I just sighed, “Annie, it won’t work. I’m trying to be as faithful to who I am and what I’ve promised as is possible. Linda is my love, my life. Yes, you did excite me. But it’s not me. I want to be close to you, I like you a lot. But I just can’t be your lover.”

“I don’t know if I can accept that. Please give me a chance. I love you.”

Another deep sigh. “I might be able to love you too, but as a daughter, not a lover. Besides, I’m old enough to be your father.”

With that her eyes glazed over, and I could see the word “father” had caused her brain to reboot. Annie blushed, turned and walked out of the room. I sadly went back to my reading. The thought of sex with Annie was tempting, deeply so, but I wasn’t sure how I would have accomplished it, and that disturbed me. I was trying to be faithful to my commitments, and to myself, and that also disturbed me, that I could be so close to giving in. Even more disturbing was the lack of a clear notion of who I was anymore.

I left for home, changed back to John, and invited my mom over for dinner. My mom, Linda, and I went out to Applebee’s. I told her all about what had been happening. Her only comment was I needed to tell my brother SOON. He had been worried that I wasn’t home, and had been bugging her for information.

Linda and I dropped her off, and then went to see a movie. It had been a LONG day, and I was glad to get home and go to bed.

Saturday December 1, 2001

I woke early, showered, dressed with a tight fitting sports bra, t-shirt, and denim shirt over that — my boobs were hardly noticeable. I took the hormones I’d been prescribed and then I wandered down to the office and fired up the computer. Hal had e-mailed a sweet note mainly detailing how much he loved and missed me. I replied, telling him I’d be home on Wednesday. Then I spent a quiet hour thinking about the changes around me.

About 8:00 I woke the kids and told them I was kidnapping them for the day, “so hurry and get dressed!” Linda had wanted to sleep in, so gathering up the offspring we left the house. They had no idea what was going on, but both wanted to ride in the BMW.

We stopped at Denney’s for breakfast, and then headed into Anaheim. I’d not been to Disney’s California Adventure, and figured the kids and I could explore the new park and let Linda join us later if she wanted. We spent the day just goofing around. The kids enjoyed the fact that I really didn’t care what they wanted, I wasn’t pinching pennies at a theme park — at least not as long as this adventure lasted. Linda never did join us, she was enjoying a down day with no work, no kids and no worries. I found out later she loafed around the house till noon and then went to a day spa for a little pampering — if you call manicure, pedicure, salt rub, and facial a “little” pampering. She deserved it.

The kids and I had dinner at Napa Rose in the park. Far superior to any Disney fare I’d ever eaten before. Lisa and I had the yellowtail tuna, with Tim pigged out on the pork rib roast.

We left about 9:00 and made it home in time for the kids to catch Saturday Night Live. Me? I headed to bed, and enjoyed snuggling with my favorite person.

Sunday December 2, 2001

I took my meds, showered, and dressed before fixing breakfast for everyone. After we ate, it was off to church. It was nice to be back in my home church. I missed the pastor and the worship. I shuddered to think what he would have to say about the complexities my life had taken. Like too many in the church, I feared his reaction would be derision and condemnation. But then again, maybe he could rise above the din and provide a bit of guidance.

We spent the rest of the day at the mall. Lisa insisted on shopping for suitable “snow” clothes. I just laughed, and went along with the flow. I told her to be careful, and we would be having Annie over after dinner. Lisa didn’t quite get it. I told her, “You know, the owner of Gowns R Us. She’s coming to take your measurements before we return to New England. I suspect you’ll find a closet full of clothes when you visit.”

Lisa’s eyes bugged out of her head, “you really mean it???” She asked. I assured her it would happen, and she threw her arms around my neck, “you are the best!” She gushed.

Knowing Annie, I suspect that Lisa had NO idea what was in store for her.

We arrived home to find Annie waiting. The atmosphere was strained, but cordial. Annie took Lisa to her room, and took what I counted to be 47 separate measurements while Linda and I watched. All were taken twice to insure accuracy. As she measured, Annie entered them into her laptop computer. She then held a colorimeter up to Lisa’s skin (back of the hand, inside the wrist, above her breasts, her chin, cheeks, and forehead), hair, and eyes recording the results as she went. She then pulled her hair away from her face, and slipped a wire frame like mask over her head. This was photographed from three different positions.

Annie explained, “What I’m doing is similar to how movies now create computer generated characters. I now know all the parameters I need to create a “virtual Lisa,” I’ll digitize the photos tonight, and by tomorrow the computer will have generated a model that can be used for creating any clothes I can imagine. The beauty is, we can see how the clothes will fit, drape, and move as the model moves.” She smiled at Lisa, “you’ll love it! Tomorrow night, we can get down to the serious business of shopping for your new wardrobe! Your dad tells me you’re interested in S.C.A. (Society for Creative Anachronism). Is that true?” Lisa nodded her head. “Great! One of the first costumes we designed with this software was for a 13th century court gown. Maybe we can try that one as a test, to see if it works for you.”

Lisa about went spastic, “Oh my gosh, what fabrics, what colors? Really accurate to the period?” Annie said yes, except for the fact that no one could sew as well as a machine, it would be authentic. No one will believe this.” Her mouth ran on at about 150 words a minute for I don’t know how long. Annie had made a friend. More than that, she had made my daughter happy.

I’ve often said if you want to reach me, do something for my kids. It’s the quickest way to my heart. Annie was redeeming herself, and probably didn’t even know it.

Annie packed up her equipment, and excused herself. Lisa ran off to the phone, Tim was playing Halo, and I saw the perfect opportunity for Linda and I to go to our room. It was time to talk serious.

“Babe, I need to know how you feel things are going. Even more I you need to know a few things about how my side of this is going. I’m feeling really twisted, hurting, and confused.”

“Now Miss Alice, aren’t you enjoying Wonderland?” She began to tease.

“Hon, for a minute, try to control what you use for a sense of humor, I’m really serious. I need your input. Remember, you’re partly to blame this time, it’s NOT all MY fault,” I pleaded. Perhaps it was the hormones, but I was feeling really emotional, I started to cry.

There must have been something about my expression, or my pleading, as she quieted down, and gently hugged me against her on the bed. “I’m sorry, why don’t you tell me all about it?”

It all came out: the feeling like I was living with a ghost. I told of the pain of the surgeries; of Hal’s apparent desire to believe I was Kate; the episode with Annie (OK, on THAT one she could NOT keep from laughing AT me!); my enjoyment of the sex, both with her and as Kate. I told of my desperate attempt to keep myself serially monogamous; my pain of being caught in circumstances way beyond my control, and how tempting Annie was. I told of my doubts about this life I found myself in, and how I felt I was giving up too much that was precious to me. I told her about my inner confusion, and a loss of understanding what was right and wrong. And I told her of my love for her, and how that was the only thing holding me together. I blurted out I didn’t know if I could continue to live if I couldn’t resolve the pain. I shuddered to a halt, as the tears really began to flow.

Linda rocked me back and forth, cradling me in her arms. She whispered sweet nothings to me, and let me cry myself out. She handed me tissue after tissue. And she assured me, over and over of her love.

“What am I going to do? Do you hate me? What am I going to do about Annie? Am I gay? And if I am, when am I gay? I thought I understood about gender, and sexual orientation, but I’m lost in a sea of conflicting feelings and thoughts.”

Linda looked at me and said gently, “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry.” Then it was her turn to cry. It was my turn to hold her. “I had no idea this would turn in this direction. I only thought of the money — and in hindsight that was a mistake. I’ve really screwed up. I thought you would love being able to be Beth for more than an occasional weekend. And I’m sorry I set you up in Las Vegas. I guess I never really thought things through.” She turned to me and through her tears asked, “Can you forgive me?”

I didn’t trust myself to speak, I nodded my head. It was true; she had maneuvered me into a corner. She had coerced me into something I knew in my heart I did not want to do. I thought of a line from a country song. It was about a father’s love: Father’s don’t just love there children every now and then. It’s a love without end, amen.

It was even truer about my love for Linda. I could not, when everything was said and done, withhold my forgiveness. My love was, and is, unconditional. I’ve been mad at her, and will be again, but ultimately my love is unconditional, and without end.

We gradually pulled ourselves back from the slough of despair. There were practical considerations. We could pull the plug on this entire deal in another 9 weeks. That’s all I’d actually promised. We could see it through to the end. Linda specifically made it clear she would not hold it against me if things with Annie got out of hand, which she clearly expected. And she made it crystal clear that if I decided I had to bail on this deal she would support my decision, now and always.

One thing about Linda, she has never broken her word. I don’t think she has even resorted to ‘little white lies.’ I knew I could trust her.

And finally, we both agreed that counseling was preeminently imperative for the gender issues; both from a psychological and from a religious perspective.

We got ready for bed. There was an urgent and healing nature about out lovemaking that night. It sounds contradictory, but it was also soft and giving. Unhurried, I think we both wanted to make the pain of the other go away, each willing to put aside our own pleasure in consideration of the other.

It was late when we finally fell asleep, still lying in each other’s arms

Monday December 3, 2001

Monday passed in a blur. I rose early, spent my quiet time in my office, and then prepared breakfast for the kids. Afterwards, I dressed casually in a denim skirt and shirt over a white silk shell. I took my meds and started on my tasks for the day.

Hal wanted a home on the West Coast, near the new operation. We spoke about it before I left the house. Eventually he would build, but in the meantime, I was tasked to find a “temporary” home. He mentioned that we would be having a “working” dinner Wednesday night fund raising for Governor Swift. I found I was looking forward to being with her, in a short time she had become a friend.

Century 21 has a separate listing service for “fine estates,” and I approached the “estate and fine homes” office with specific requirements in mind.

Hal insisted that the estate include at least 6 bedrooms, be on 5 or more acres, and be within easy driving distance of the office — and since it was California he wanted a pool. Myra Duncan prepared a list of 5 possible homes, and we spent the day touring them.

In the Temecula area, there are basically two choices. You can either live to the east of Interstate 15 in a tract home, or you can live in the hills of De Luz to the west of the 15. I knew Hal would have a fit — regardless of the price — if I even looked at the tract homes. So, it was off into the hills.

The first was not what I wanted; it was new construction, in a Spanish ranch style. It had plenty of room, but was kind of stark and sterile. The second was in the De Luz valley, 15 acres, about 4000 sq. foot, but with an 11 car garage, I really didn’t warm to it.

The third I fell in love with. It was in a park like setting on 10 acres. I was greeted by a charming gatehouse. Then there was a pond that covered 1.5 acres with a small island in the middle. The house itself was an English Tudor style, 8 bedrooms and an absolutely gorgeous kitchen. The floors were marble, and the counter tops were dark blue granite. The kitchen had lots of room and was totally modern. The rest of the house was delightfully “English Men’s Club” wood paneled. I loved the library, with it’s thousands of leather bound books. The master bedroom had a wonderful attached bath, complete with hot tub. It was a west coast version of Stevens Hall, and I knew Hal would love it as much as I did. The feature that put it totally over the top was the formal English garden. Myra and I walked across a footbridge to the island and sat down in the gazebo, where the owner joined us. A couple of minutes later, we were served tea and scones. A corny touch, but I loved it.

The owner, an older woman named Sarah, was asking $5.2 million. I mentioned I might be interested, but wanted an outside appraisal. Myra recommended 3 different appraisers, and I contacted all three. Two were available that afternoon, and I promised a bonus for a quick turnaround on the report. Sarah, smelling a possible sell, gave me a more detailed tour of the house. We talked about the furnishings; Sarah would prefer not to move them. I feigned reluctance to keep them — actually, I loved them, and was willing to pay for them. We talked about how soon I could take possession, and Sarah mentioned it was not being lived in, and could be made available immediately. Sarah did have a caveat; she wanted whoever bought the property to keep the groundskeeper and his wife, who was also the housekeeper and cook. They lived in a separate cottage, one of 3 scattered around the grounds. I told her I’d consider it.

We walked back through the garden, and I was entranced by the precision of the landscaping. I wandered through the hedgerow maze down to the pond. There were ducks swimming, and as I watched as a fish of some kind broke the surface of the pond. It was incredibly peaceful and bucolic.

Myra and I visited the remaining listings. But nothing compared to Sarah’s house. Myra and I returned to Sarah’s and I spent the rest of the day there poking my way into every nook and cranny of the house and gardens. There was even a well furnished basement — something unheard of in Southern California.

Shortly before 4:30 I met individually with the appraisers. The first gave me an initial verbal appraisal of $5.3 million, the second $5.2 million. I thanked them and Myra, Sarah, and I sat down to talk about the house.

I told Sarah I wanted the house, and was willing to pay the initial asking price. She asked if I wanted to have my husband look at it before finalizing. I smiled and mentioned Hal trusted my judgment. Sarah asked about the furnishings. I asked what her intentions were. She suggested at the price I was paying, I ought to take care of removing what she did not take. I agreed, and told her I be would keeping her staff.

We agreed to have Liz and George meet with Myra, and Sarah’s attorney the following day to finalize the arrangements. In the meantime, I gave her a certified check for $1 million as earnest money against the purchase. She agreed to immediate occupancy.

Myra smiled, mentally counting her commission. We left, and I placed a call to meet with Linda, Liz, George, and Annie for that evening. We met at the temporary offices, and I was unsurprised to see someone had ordered Chinese takeout. We compared notes; Linda had the new complex well under way. I brought George and Liz up to speed on what I wanted with the new estate, and what improvements would need to be made.

Annie surprised me by suggesting an additional party for December. When I asked what kind of party, she smiled. “Lisa’s into S.C.A., right?” she asked. I agreed.

“How about we throw an S.C.A. type party the weekend of the 27th, She could invite some friends with a chaperone, and I can provide the costumes. And, you wouldn’t know, but I used to be Chatelaine for the Canton of the Two Towers - the S.C.A. chapter on the North Shore of Massachusetts. I’m sure I’ve some friends who’d love a Midwinter’s eve party. Lisa would LOVE it.”

I told Annie I’d think about it. I asked if she could arrange for a hairdresser and someone to do my nails on the flight Wednesday. Hal and I had a fund raising dinner to attend, and I wouldn’t be able to go a salon between the time we arrived and when I had to join Hal. Annie said she’d arrange it. I began to think Annie could “arrange” anything.

Linda and I went home where I called Hal with the news. He sounded delighted, promised to send one of the household security staff to look into what would be needed. We turned in, and I treasured the closeness of Linda next to me.

Tuesday December 4, 2001

My last day in California for a month or more began like Monday. I had forgotten how centering it was to start my day with a quiet, devotional time. This morning was especially bittersweet, and I treasured my memories.

The kids had become spoiled; taking my cooking breakfast for granted. I did not mind at all. Tim and Lisa took off for school, Linda to the office, and I slipped into jeans, bound my boobs, and donned a polo shirt before tackling my most difficult task — talking to my brother.

T.J., short for Thomas John, worked north of Los Angeles. T.J. was a risk taker, and an excellent sales manager for a large food wholesaler. He regularly spent weekends in Vegas, and was one of those people who were the bane of the casinos. Though he seldom actually gambled, he always seemed to win. I drove up the coast to Santa Barbara. I knew he would be working, so I called on his cell, and he agreed to meet for lunch.

T.J. is an elder in his church, and was a late convert to Christianity. It was my sharing of my faith, and my example that brought him to faith. Like me, his faith was evangelical. Unlike me, he tended to be more liberal in his faith, and more conservative in his politics. I wasn't sure if he knew of my gender issues. He'd seen me as a woman on Halloween, but I didn't think he had connected the dots. I dreaded meeting with him. I dreaded coming out. I feared his reaction.
TJ and I met at Arby’s. It was a personal favorite for both of us. T.J. looked at me, and his brow kind of wrinkled up. “Hey bro, how are you doing?” He asked, as we hugged. “How come you haven’t been home?” If he had felt my binding or my boobs he didn't say anything about it.

“I’ve a new job,” I told him. “I’ll be spending a bit more than half my time in Massachusetts for at least the next 3 months. I’m doing about half Unix, and half HR, and they are paying me like you wouldn’t believe, it's well into six figures.”

“So why haven’t you called me?” he asked.

“TJ, things aren’t quite as simple as I’ve described.”

“What do you mean?”

I handed over my Massachusetts Driver’s License.

“What in the hell is this!” he demanded.

“That’s me according to the company I work for, and virtually everyone who knows me in Massachusetts.”

“Bro, that’s a woman.”

“Duh. It’s a long story. Mom already knows it, and I need to let you in on it too.” With that, I told him the whole story. He sat back, with a look of disgust and anger on his face. Gradually, his features softened, and when I told him about swimming with Annie, he, like Linda, burst out laughing.

“Only you Bro, only you! OK, I’ll grant it, you’re deep in it this time, but I’ll also grant the payoff justifies the risk. But jeez; what a cost!”

“T.J., that’s not the point, I’m really confused, and it seems the cost is rising all the time. But I had to talk to you.”

“So,” he asked, “can I come and visit some time?” And then he chuckled, which developed into a hearty laugh.

“If you want, I’ll even send the jet for you.” I trumped his teasing.

Abruptly his laugh died. “Jet?” he gulped.

“Oh yeah, as in Lear jet, or Boeing, your choice.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope, not at all,” I replied. Why don’t you and Jean plan on coming out for our party on the 21st?”

T.J. said he’d think about it, we finished our lunch, and I headed back home, changed to Kate mode, and went to our temporary offices.

When I got there, Liz and George reported progress on the new estate. The property would be paid for within 30 days, on a short escrow. Jeeves would be sending out a security adviser, who would coordinate with Abbey to setup security for the estate and the offices. Linda and Liz would oversee everything, from upgrades to hiring.

Abbey asked for input and direction. She had been looking at properties on the border and had run into a legal issue. Apparently many of the maquiladoras hired both legal and illegal immigrants to the United States. “How close to the actual immigration laws do you want me to operate?” she asked.

“Well,” I started, the realized that Linda should answer the question.

Linda handled it superbly. “That is nearly a politically incorrect statement. However, Cendar will NOT break the law. This endeavor will operate within the law.”

Abbey looked uncomfortable. “Who will police this?” she asked.

“Abbey, we will. It is our company. It is our vision for the future. We owe it to ourselves, our employees, our investors, and our customers. We will comply with the laws.” Linda replied.

Shortly after, Linda and I left for home. Both of the kids were there, and we shared a simple beans and wieners dinner. Annie dropped by after dinner with her laptop. She started her modeling program, and Lisa went into overdrive. There on the screen was a perfect image of Lisa, modeling a 15th century Spanish court gown, green bodice over a white satin kirtle, with gold brocade and piping accenting the bodice and overskirt.

“So, what do you think? Should I have the dress made as a test for you Lisa?” Lisa gaped at the dress like a fish. If Annie were into fishing, she would have just set the hook.

“It’s gorgeous!” Lisa cried, “but where could I ever wear it?”

“Well, I’d talked to your dad about an S.C.A. themed Christmas party; didn’t he mention it to you?”

“Daddy? Really? Where?”

I turned so Lisa couldn’t see and glared at Annie - I was going to get her for this one. I then turned and smiled at Lisa, “Nothings been set or arranged, but Annie thought she could get some friends of hers in S.C.A. to help plan and throw the party at Stevens Hall. Would you like to bring some friends out for that kind of party the weekend after Christmas?”

“Would I LIKE TOO???? I’d LOVE too” was Lisa’s reply.

“I guess you and Annie can plan it. But let me see the guest list before you send the invitations. Remember, I’ll be ‘Aunt Kate’ once we’re in Massachusetts. I’d hate to have someone recognize me.”

Lisa was off to her room and the telephone. Annie left shortly afterwards, Linda and I discussed our plans, she and the kids would be coming east on Saturday. I packed a few private treasures I planned to take with me, and we headed for bed.

Yes, Linda did make use of her new toy, and that’s all I’m going to say about it — except to note we slept extremely well afterwards.

Wednesday December 5, 2001

The laser treatments must be working, I found my bed full of ejected hairs again. I rose, showered, did my makeup, and dressed in a wool jumper over a lightweight blouse. Weather reports were for upper 30’s in Boston. I put my bags in the car, fixed breakfast, gave the kids a hug, and headed for the airport.

Annie was already there, and we went aboard the aircraft. It was strange; a luxury aircraft, pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess; all for just Annie, an aesthetician — Pamela, and me. I don’t know where Annie found her, but Pamela started right to work. I explained I wanted a softer look for my hair, and would like to lighten my rather plain dark brown (almost black actually) hair color, and add some highlights. She asked my preferences in nail color, and I mentioned darker burgundy and plum shades. She said she would need some supplies, and left the airplane saying she would be back in half an hour. I found out later, there’s a Sally Beauty Supply store a couple of miles away from the Ontario Airport, and Pamela did a speed run for needed supplies.

While we waited, I continued working on Kate’s files. Annie was busy with her SCA party, and the stewardess was engrossed in planning lunch. Pamela returned, and we were airborne by 9:30 am, which would put us into Logan airport (closer to Boston than Beverly) about 6:00 pm if everything went well.

Pamela and I went into the bath attached to the master bedroom on the plane. We talked about face shapes, and what would give me a softer, more feminine look. Actually, she talked; I listened, and tried to appear at least somewhat intelligent. Together we settled on a layered cut that would frame and soften my face. Soft bangs would conceal the height of my forehead. We settled on a dark auburn color with several complementary highlights, and she went to work.

Pam chattered constantly. Her topics included clothes, current movie stars - Meg Ryan had been treated badly by Dennis Quaid — The tragedy in New York; who was hot and who was not, what TV shows she enjoyed — Friends and Sex in the City. It was all rather brainless, and I enjoyed it; I didn’t have to think and could drift along with an occasional comment. It was nice to be able to turn off my brain and not think. I’d been doing entirely too much of that lately.

2  ½ hours later, she had finished, my nails were perfect, and both Annie and I thought the new hairdo brought out my best features. Pam went out into the main cabin to work on the stewardess.

I decided to nap a bit, and changed into a nightgown. We still had 3 hours, and I found I was more tired than I wanted to admit. It was the only way to travel. Snuggled into bed, the lights turned down, I quickly fell asleep.

Sometime later, I woke to the tender hands of Annie rubbing my back. “Wake up sleepy head,” she whispered. “I need to talk to you.” I turned over, fluffed my pillows and asked what was on her mind. “Linda said I needed to whisper something in your ear while we were still airborne.” She leaned close, “Miss Alice, be nice to the Mad Hatter, she loves you too.”

Annie leaned back, “Do you know what it means?”

Somewhat shocked, I answered, “Yes, yes I do, but do you know what it means?”

Annie looked at me. “Not really, but I think it has to do with me.”

“Right in one guess; when this all started I told Linda I’d fallen through the looking glass and felt like Alice in Wonderland. I told her I had met the white rabbit and the Mad Hatter. You can guess who the Mad Hatter is.”

“Me?” she asked, I just nodded. Annie sighed, “She’s right you know. I do love you, both as Kate, my surrogate mother, and Beth, the woman who kept Hal from killing himself. He was close you know.” I nodded. “Beth, I’m sorry I came on so strong, but you do excite me, and I want you in a way I’ve never wanted a woman before — and yes, that’s probably because you weren’t born one. I’m confused about this too, but I do want you, and am willing to do anything to make you love me too.”

There really is no good way to go when you’re in this kind of situation. I was back down the rabbit hole. A beautiful woman was sitting on my bed, looking adoringly at a fat chick — me. My wife had told me to “be nice” and knowing how earthy Linda is, and how twisted her sense of humor is, I had no doubt, what she meant.

“Annie, this is so hard for me. I’m struggling with all of the gender and orientation issues dominating my life right now. I really need someone to be there for me, I don’t know if I can be your lover. I’m willing to be your friend, and love you. If you really love me, you will have to go slow and accept that,” Annie nodded. She lay down beside me and we hugged. I turned my face to her, closed my eyes, and licked my lips. Annie kissed me. Annie caressed me, and this time I did not run away screaming. We cuddled for a while, and then she suggested I shower, and get ready for my evening.
I got out of bed, and Annie slipped my nightgown over my head. “I never did get to look closely,” She said. I sat back on the bed; she knelt before me and gently spread the lips of my neo-vagina. “You really do look natural, except for no vaginal entrance.” She stood up. “Thank you, I know that was hard.” She turned on the water, and pushed me into the shower. “Hurry, I’ll help you dress.” Annie said as she turned and went into the main cabin, closing the door behind her.

I had barely turned off the water before Annie was back. “We’ll be landing in about an hour,” She said as she held out a thick terry cloth robe. As soon as I’d tied it closed, Annie opened the door and called Pam in to do my hair. She dried and styled it, and I enjoyed the luxury of her pampering. “Do you want me to do your makeup too?” she asked finishing my hair.

I could get used to this. “Yes please, for evening, but not too dramatic. I’m having dinner with the governor and don’t want to outshine her.” I said.

Pam’s eyes went wide, “the governor?” I just nodded. It was pleasant to see her surprise. I had been on the receiving side of way too many surprises lately. She asked to see my dress for the evening. Annie pulled a black long sleeved heavily beaded dress from the closet; Pam nodded, and got to work. Like Tracy from the Excalibur, (was it really only three weeks ago??) she made me look far better than I ever achieved on my own. Pam left the cabin, and I quickly dressed in black lingerie, the only difference in my attire this evening was stockings and a garter belt — I had plans for Hal later in the evening. Annie suggested pearls, and I agreed. We landed 15 minutes early and after putting on a pair of scrunchy booties Annie held out a glorious full-length mink coat for me. I’d never worn a fur coat before — much less mink. It was incredibly soft and velvety against my skin. I left the cabin and walked off the plane directly to the limo.

Hal was pleased to see me, even more pleased in how I looked, he complimented me on my new hairstyle, and we drove into Boston. Dinner was at the Copley Place, one of the nicer hotels of Boston. Jane greeted Hal and I and escorted us to the head table. Altogether, there were probably 250 people at this fund raising dinner. The food was adequate — I’d been spoiled lately; beef, chicken or fish, accompanied by veggies.

The political discussion centered on the incompetence of the Big Dig, and how to get Massachusetts’ only non-elected governor in modern times elected. Frankly, it was dreadfully boring — even for a life long Republican. I spent most of the time chatting with Jane about the girl scouts.

Jane told me of the many programs, from the sleepovers at the Museum of Science to the story of Zink the Zebra, a collaborative program between the Girl Scouts and T.J. Maxx. Zink the Zebra is a touching story about a Zebra born with spots instead of stripes, a story of being different and tolerance. I nearly cried as Jane told me the story. There is one line I think I will always remember. Zink’s mother told her “what you are is what you are.” Sometimes, being transgendered, hiding your differences all the time sucks.

A little girl dying of bone cancer wrote the story of Zink. As her progressing physical differences made her an outcast, she wrote the story. The story with its message of tolerance caused me to tear up. Since I was already (supposedly) working with her in the Girl Scouts she asked if I would be willing to volunteer for some of the programs. I agreed - there was nothing else I could do. “Oh Goody,” she said, “I can’t wait to see you in uniform.” Then she laughed. I smiled, and asked about her babies.

After dinner, I headed to the ladies room before leaving for the estate. After taking care of business, I carefully wiped myself clean with a wet wipe, and placed my panties in my purse. I felt deliciously wicked as I walked out to claim my coat.

Hal held out my coat, and I again marveled at how soft and cuddly it felt. Hal walked me out to the limo, and we climbed in the back. “Could you put the privacy screen up?” I asked, “I’d like to snuggle a bit.” Hal liked the sound of that and closed the privacy screen. Now no one could see in, or hear us. After consuming a little too much wine, I was happy to lean against Hal. Our driver started the car and we began our hour drive back to the estate. We chatted while Hal began to caress my legs gently. When he reached the tops of my stockings, his eyebrows rose in surprise. When he caressed higher, it was something more substantial that rose when he realized I was not wearing any panties. I smiled at him as he sputtered.

“Can you think of a better way to spend the time?” I asked coyly. He responded magnificently, and I enjoyed his lovemaking while I remained completely clothed (well almost), laying back against my open mink coat. As a teenager, I had often hoped to make love to my date in the backseat, but it never happened. Reality far surpassed my teenage imagination, for both Hal and me. When we were finished, I slipped my panties back on with a panty liner, rearranged my clothes and snuggled next to Hal.

We drove up to Stevens Hall arriving a little after 11:30. The lights created a cheery welcome. I was grateful to get home — and more than a little chagrined to realize I thought of it as home. Jeeves met us downstairs. “Everything has been unpacked Madame,” he informed me. Hal and I went upstairs.

I stepped out of my booties, and sat down on the bed. “I think my feet have swollen two full sizes,” I moaned. Hal sat down beside me, and pulled a foot up into his lap. He began gently massaging first one foot, then the other. I sighed, lay back on the bed and enjoyed his ministrations. Soon he began to move his hands up my legs, massaging his way up my thighs. “Haven’t you had enough?” I asked laughing. I suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to hang up my dress before he completely ruined it. Hal grinned and agreed. I stood up, and he unzipped it for me, leaned down, and kissed my shoulders as he slipped the dress off.

“You remember the first time I did this?” he asked, leering at me with that infuriating grin. I remembered that night at the Venetian. Was it really only three weeks ago?

I pressed back against him, turned and wrapped my arms around his neck. “Hmmm… yes, I also recall what you wanted then. Is that what you want now?”

Hal wriggled his eyebrows leeringly, unfastened my bra, and began kissing me. On the mouth; along my jaw line to my ear; then down my neck and throat to my breasts; he made it very clear what he wanted. I unbuttoned his shirt, and unfastened his tuxedo trousers. I was glad my body was on California time. Twice in one night! Hal was nearly insatiable. He made me feel his need until I needed him nearly as much. A long time later, Hal was sated and I was happy and satisfied. We fell asleep after turning off the alarm clock.

Thursday December 6, 2001

I woke to find more myself alone in bed. I brushed off the fine hairs and sighed as I realized the laser treatments would need to continue for at least another 2 months.

I grabbed my book — I still was reading Heinlein, and headed to the bath. I settled into the scented bubble bath and soaked for half an hour. I grabbed a loofa, and scrubbed my body, and in the process many more hairs began floating in the bath water. I showered off, and dressed comfortably casually; an over sized red sweatshirt with an embroidered snowman over blue sweatpants; sneakers and blue snowflake socks. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, enjoying the new color; did my makeup lightly, and went down to breakfast.

Vikki, bless her, had breakfast ready when I arrived. I did not know how she always seemed to know when I would be there, but she did. Vikki served my usual oatmeal, fruit, 7-grain toast and bacon in the breakfast nook of the atrium. The fragrance of the blooming flowers and the watery early winter sunlight combined to form a tranquil setting that spoke peace directly to my soul. After breakfast, I wandered the atrium. Vikki had her section, filled with aromatic herbs, another seemed to be nearly tropical, colorful orchids bloomed, helped by full spectrum lights. Everywhere the rich earthy fragrance of a living growing garden filled my senses with life, with growing things. I finally found myself in my downstairs office.

On the desk was a comprehensive summary of the previous two weeks. Cendar Medical was completing the initial FDA tests. Final testing would begin soon. This time with EMT’s under the supervision of MD’s. I made the decision to expand the research beyond General Practice physicians. If the software worked as predicted, then the market share would be far greater than Cendar had originally imagined. I would invite Dr. Kline into the expanded testing program.

My Comdex hires had all accepted positions, and Janie, Hiram, and the Mooney’s would all arrive Saturday. I wasn’t sure about Simon. His attitude spoke volumes both about his relations with the end users, and his professional competence. I believed he would be a valuable addition, but I was not comfortable with his ability to relate to Cendar’s employees. Janie, Hiram, and the Mooney’s had all accepted invitations for the holidays, Simon was an unknown.

I called in Vikki, and Hermione to discuss the housing arrangements for the holidays. Hermione gave me a devilish grin, and wanted to bet that Lisa and Tim’s rooms would exceed their wildest dreams. Knowing Lisa, I privately doubted, but agreed to a tour.

I did not know about the kids, but what she had accomplished exceeded my expectations. We entered Tim’s room and I gasped. The colors and décor all proclaimed that this was an “in with it” bedroom. From the stark bed, to the elaborate computer and entertainment center, everything was cutting edge. The colors were “Batman Gothic,” with blacks, grays, and intense whites defining the living space. The desk and the headboard of the bed were slate grey, with chrome accents. Glass doors opened onto a complete entertainment system. Hermione explained the speakers were hidden. Some were in the bed, others strategically placed around the room. The speakers provided complete surround sound for anyone lying in the bed or seated at the desk. The desk looked like something out of Star Trek, the next generation. The monitor of the computer was a 42” monster plasma display. The desk contained a powerful Dell computer with all the bells and whistles. Hermione explained the shelf above the desk contained the latest releases of software, and should (she said) satisfy anyone. The stark image was softened/warmed by an aquarium that separated the bedroom from the bathroom. It was almost as though Dali had met Jacque Cousteau to form a synthesis that was at both times connected to the current teen landscape and the world of the sea. The bathroom was a blue, green, and chrome masterpiece. The final touch to the bedroom was the ceiling. When the lights were turned off, hidden projectors came on and projected the current starscape on the ceiling. Hermione explained the scene shifted through the night to reflect what could be seen outside on a clear night. Tim was going to freak at this room.

If I had thought Tim’s room was special, Lisa’s was unbelievable. Hermione opened the door, and I swear I could hear it creak. Instead of the stark sharp lines of modernism, her bedroom was something out of a Cecile B DeMille mediaeval period piece, only with softened edges. Inside, the walls were faced in grey granite. The floor had the rich look of polished walnut. It looked very medieval. There were tapestries hanging from the walls. One was a fanciful forest scene with an incredible depiction of a unicorn. The bed of course was a four-poster, floor to ceiling with attached curtains. The bed Hermione informed me, was a twisted rope platform bed with a goose down mattress shaped by modern fabrics. It was as close to 16th century as was possible while still preserving the comforts a teenager would expect. At the foot was a massive chest; sort of an oversized, medieval hope chest. The lighting was indirect. Above the desk, was what looked like the mirror from Disney’s Snow White.

Hermione grinned, “watch this,” she said, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.” With those words, the “mirror” transformed itself into the screen for a computer monitor, a voice called out, “what is your wish my princess.” “The mirror has an electrostatic charge that was either totally transparent, or totally reflective. I thought it a cute touch, and the voice recognition software was just too incredible — it makes it all seem like magic.” She then showed me how the computer was built into the desk. It was truly ingenious. The desk also contained the room’s entertainment system. Where Tim’s was “in your face”, Lisa’s was restrained, hidden, and unobtrusive. The furniture fit into the medieval motif. Massive chests and delicate chairs predominated. The closets continued the medieval look, with a massive chest of drawers, plenty of hanging space (I was unsurprised that many garments were already there), and many shelves. I later found out that Hermione had considered massive air conditioning changes to simulate the drafts in the period castles — but saner heads prevailed.

In the bathroom, Hermione had replaced the rather normal and sterile bath/shower with an enclosure that blended into the perception of a bath for a royal princess. Marble, granite, and wood combined to create the best of today’s bathrooms with the image of yesterday. Lisa would go nuts. I was particularly pleased with the waterfall at the far end of the Bath, It could fill the tub as well as just look gorgeous.

I turned to Hermione, “you did this in just one week?” I asked.

“Oh yes, and I must say, it has been the most enjoyable project I’ve had in years. Hal said to do whatever I wanted, and with what you told me, I let my imagination run away with me.”

“Thank you,” I said, giving her a hug, “the kids will love it! I’m glad I didn’t take you up on that bet.”

Hermione continued her tour with the other rooms. All were beautifully decorated, spacious, and comfortable. None approached Tim and Lisa’s rooms, but then again, none of them were my children.

I drifted down to the first floor office, and found Hal going over the floor plans of the new California estate. We discussed the new estate, the offices, and Linda’s plans for Cendar West. . I had my files, and decided to work on organizing the directions I wanted to take the medical division after the first of the year.

The day passed quickly. I excused myself, and told Hal it was exercise time. I changed, and went down to the pool. 45 minutes of water aerobics, and I was exhausted.

I showered, changed into a sweater and skirt for dinner, and went looking for Annie. I found her in the library, with books and sketches laid out on a table. “Oh Kate, you’ve no idea how much excitement you’ve caused in the Canton with this party for Lisa! I talked to Hal, and he said it would be okay if the local SCA group helped. They’re really looking forward to it.

“The Chatelaine is delighted to have a kitchen and staff to prepare the feast — not to mention picking up the tab. Hermione is a whiz with decorating, and I’ll bet she creates a banquet hall right out of a Hollywood movie — it will be difficult keeping her within historical reality. Look at the drawings!” Annie pointed to some sketches which changed the dining room with it’s formality into a throne room crossed with a medieval banquet hall. Thankfully, the fireplace was large enough. After seeing the kid’s rooms, I would not put it past Hermione to enlarge it to satisfy her creative urges. At one end was a dais, with honest to goodness thrones, and trestle tables down the length of the room.

“Vikki is going nuts with the menu. It seems she has had dreams of doing a feast like this for years; all with authentic period recipes!” Annie gushed. She grabbed a page from the table and began reading. Most of it was in French and old English and she assured me, authentic to the 14th century. I understood maybe every third or fourth word. Annie’s eyes glinted with a flame I had seen only once before — in the shower! Apparently SCA was a passion with her. Wisely, I nodded my head, and crept slowly from the room as she began to babble about a suckling pig ridden by a helmeted cock as the centerpiece of the pre-revel luncheon. I truly did NOT want to know what a helmeted cock was. Annie however felt it her duty to explain it to me before I could escape.

“The Coqz Heaumez, or Helmeted Cock is a combination of pig and rooster, with the final presentation the rooster riding the back of the suckling pig. And of COURSE the turkey is dressed in the livery of the royal family, holding a miniature lance and wearing a helmet!”
I ran for the door, and made it to the office before she started speaking in tongues again. All I knew for sure was the weirdness was back!

Hal and I enjoyed a quiet dinner upstairs. Afterwards, I called and confirmed that Linda and the kids would arrive tomorrow evening. I teased Lisa about her weird SCA friends, and dropped hints about the party and her room. Tim was pestering me about the shooting range if he had his way it would be straight from the plane to the range. I said my goodnights, and turned on the TV. After getting ready for bed, I vegged out watching Friends, then Will and Grace. After reading for a while, I turned over and went to sleep.

Friday December 7, 2001

I woke up excited. Linda and the kids would be here tonight! I quickly bathed, shaved my legs and other places, dressed and did my makeup. After a quick breakfast, I went out to my car, and noticed changes as soon as I closed the door. The BMW had a solid “chunk” sound when you closed the door before. This time, the door closed with the authority of a bank vault. I looked closer, and the windshield seemed to be thicker. ‘Hal,’ I thought to myself, ‘promised some improvements when I left, must have meant armor.’ There were also additional controls on the dash. I resolved to find out what they were before I touched them. I would not have put it past Hal to include every James Bond device he could find. I enjoyed the quiet power of the engine, and realized the car seemed to drive even smoother. The added weight must have improved it’s already incredible stability.

Annie had arrived earlier at the office, and had my day mapped out. The morning was mostly meetings with senior staff. The afternoon was to be dedicated to the medical division. The day passed in a blur of activity. Pending FDA approval, the final round of testing would begin in February. It was late in the afternoon when I received a frantic call to come to the front desk. The security officer said he “had a situation” that required my presence.

The situation turned out to be Simon. He had apparently accepted Cendar’s offer. I recognized him immediately even through his scruffy clothing and two day growth of beard. He looked like a homeless reject with a battered suitcase in one hand, huge duffel at his feet, and a leather laptop bag over his shoulder. He was loudly proclaiming, in his British accented English, to the security officer that he did indeed have business with Cendar. “Hey boss!” he called as he spotted me exiting the elevator, “tell these cretins who I am, will you?”

The security staff looked at me with wide-eyed dismay. The senior officer asked “you mean he’s telling the truth?”

“Yes gentlemen,” I replied. “Simon, where are you staying?” I asked.

“Err, I hadn’t quite figured that out yet, I assumed I’d find a hotel after checking in with you.”

“Well, grab your gear; we’ll put you up at Stevens Hall through the holidays. And, we’ll wait to process you in with security until you’ve had a chance to clean up a bit. You are really quite scandalous you know!” He just chuckled.

“Sounds super, are you sure I won’t be an imposition?”

“I think we’ll be able to accommodate you.” I knew from his background check that one of the reasons Simon was so interested in Cendar centered on his recent divorce — and a deep desire to get as far as possible away from his ex-wife.

I could not help laughing at the bug-eyed look from the security officers. “Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Simon Gordon, the new Chief Systems Administrator, his actual title is Vice President — Mainframe Operations for Cendar. Yes, he’s strange, but he’s all ours!”

The look on Simon’s face repaid the security officers — with interest. I left Simon, a look of shock on his face, in the lobby while I went back upstairs to grab Annie, my purse and my coat. We went together to the lobby, escorted Simon to the parking lot, and loaded his luggage into Annie’s car.

Simon climbed into the passenger’s seat and winced as the door closed authoritatively and decisively. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”

“I beg your pardon,” I said.

“WHAT, the, bloody, HELL, are you talking about?”

“Umm, I really don’t know what you are talking about Simon, what are you confused about?” I asked, pulling out of the parking lot. Reaching route 128, I pressed the gas pedal to the floor, throwing Simon back into his seat.

“What the F’ing Bloody Hell do you mean ‘Vice President for Mainframe Operations?” he practically screamed.

“Simon?” I asked.

“What,” he snarled.

“Did you read the job description?”

“Bloody straight I read the F’ing description.”

“Watch your language, uh, what was the job title?”

“Supervising Systems Administrator,” he said.

“Simon, what does ‘Supervising’ mean?” I asked.

“Well, I thought it meant I would be in charge of the IT shop in a major US corporation.”

“Uh, Simon, is Cendar a major corporation?”

“Damn straight it is,” he said.

“When you are in charge of all systems administration, and in charge of those working for you, how would you define your job?”

“Err, Senior computer geek?”

I could see he knew he was losing. I began to giggle. “Actually, I’d first wanted to make it a Senior Vice-President position, more meetings, suits, ties, and other assorted indignities.”

Simon looked at me with an expression of stark terror written across his face. “Uh, you do want the job don’t you? Or would you like to move back to Orlando near your ex-wife?”

If I’d thought he looked frightened before, he now had the deer caught in the headlights look about him, you know, the moment when the deer realizes it’s made a bad mistake. I thought of twisting the knife just a little more. However, never having been a true sadist I decided to let him off the hook.

“Simon, relax. The job will be what you make it. I wouldn’t have offered the salary if I didn’t think you could handle it. But you have to admit, since we first met, you’ve done everything in your power to show just how big a royal pain in the ass you can be. From the ‘Practical UNIX Terrorism’ Tee — shirt to the homeless look, you’ve made it clear you are a non-conformist. Fine, it’s your life. But, Cendar is MY company, we have rules, and we have expectations. Let me make this perfectly clear, I want you at Cendar, but I fear your attitude and mine will collide if you persist. I do not intend to butt heads with you day after day. You will be free to run your department the way you want, as long as you remember who is in charge. Now, do you still want the job? Or should I take you to Logan Airport?”

“Bloody hell, do you always fight this dirty?” Simon snarled.

“Simon, I’m a very pleasant person to deal with; but when I have to reign someone in what you’ve seen is just the tip of the iceberg. You really do not want me at my creative bitchy best. Let’s simply leave it that there are worse things than working a help desk; like working a help desk side by side with your ex.”

“Bloody hell, tell me I’m dreaming.”

“Well Simon, what’s it going to be? Wealth, power, and happiness or a thin sided trailer parked next to your ex?”

At that, Simon visibly shuddered. “All right, all right already, I surrender!” He slouched down in his seat, muttering deep unintelligible deprecations as he sullenly stared out the window.

I sensed a grudging respect, by all accounts Simon had walked all over his previous 3 or 4 employers. I think he recognized his antics had lost their effectiveness, and it was time to bow to the inevitable it he wanted this job.

Annie was just behind me as we pulled into the estate. I’m prejudiced I know, but at the front door was the most beautiful sight in the world. Linda, Lisa and Tim had apparently just arrived and were standing at the front door. I jumped out of the car, leaving Simon to his own devices and rushed to give my darlings a hug.

Linda was grinning, “Gee Miss Alice what a nice little house you have!” Tim and Lisa looked at her like she was crazy.

“Well, let’s go inside, it’s too cold to stand out here. Annie, could you get together with Jeeves, get the luggage upstairs and help Simon find his room?”

Annie nodded, and I put Simon out of my mind. As we entered the Great Hall Tim and Lisa just stared. It was so funny I couldn’t help laughing. “Welcome to my world kids, now you know why your mother and I agreed to this. Just wait, you won’t believe your rooms.” We took the elevator to the second floor. “I’m sure you’d like to get settled before dinner, so why don’t I show you to your rooms, then you can look around for a bit. Dinner should be ready about 6:30, so you’ll have a bit more than an hour to explore, though I’m betting you don’t even leave your rooms.” I think the kids took that as a challenge; little did they know.

Tim’s room was first, he took one look and his eyes about bugged out. He tossed his backpack on the bed and began to explore. Lisa looked at the Goth nature of the room and backed out. “I hope my room isn’t like THAT,” she stuttered.

“No my dear, yours is more fit for a princess, allow me,” I said as I opened the door to her room.

Lisa gasped when she saw the tapestries. She entered the room almost in slow motion. Once inside, she slowly pirouetted; taking in the vision that was her bedroom. I closed the door, leaving her to explore her enchanted realm.

That left Linda and I alone. “Well Miss Alice, where’s our room?” she asked. I lead her down the hall to the room Hermione had prepared for her. As we entered, she remarked “This doesn’t seem to be the master bedroom.”

“No, that’s down at the end of the hall.”

“Well my dear, we need to clear things up then. I’m sort of willing to share you, but the master bedroom is where you, and that means me, will be spending the night.”

I looked at her in shock. “But where will Hal sleep?” I asked.

“Good point, let’s see the room.”

I lead her to our bedroom, and Linda started to unpack her clothes. “I’m glad to see there’s plenty of closet space,” she said hanging up clothes next to mine, and generally making herself at home. “We will be having a chat with Annie and Hal right after dinner, and yes, they both know about it. After you left, I thought over what you said, and decided to help resolve the tension. So relax, I have it all worked out. Are you going to dinner dressed like that or are you going to change?” Linda asked as if nothing was going on. I changed out of my business suit, into a comfortable sweater and jumper combination. Linda took advantage of my partially dressed state to steal a hug. She could feel me tremble, and looked up into my eyes. “Hon, trust me. I think I can make everything okay.” I took a deep breath, nodded, and finished dressing.

We gathered the kids and went down to the dining room. I was pleasantly surprised to find everyone there, and the meal was simple, beans and franks, followed by apple pie and ice cream. Comfort food indeed. I needed it. The conversation at the table centered on the kid’s descriptions of their rooms. Neither could believe what they had found. Simon had cleaned up fairly well, and seemed genuinely interested in the computer setup Tim described. Annie just giggled at Lisa’s reaction, and told her, “just wait till the party, then you will see truly marvelous things!” to which Lisa replied, “nothing could be more awesome than my room. I may never leave!”

Hal gazed expansively over the gathering. We were up to 9 residents in the Hall, and I don’t believe there had ever been this much activity. Hal was clearly enjoying the domestic hustle and bustle. He immediately endeared himself to Tim by promising a tour of the range, and some “serious shooting” in the morning. The kids were careful to call me “Aunt Kate” and Hal “Uncle Hal” and no one seemed the wiser.

After dinner, the kids went off to examine the house, while Annie, Hal, Linda and I went upstairs to my bedroom. Hal poured drinks for everyone as we settled around the table in the parlor. Linda and Annie each had a glass of chardonnay, Hal poured scotch for himself, and a bloody Mary for me.

Linda began, “we have a problem, several of them actually, and I believe if they are not settled quickly then one of us will probably not be here very much longer.”

“What do you mean,” Hal asked, worriedly.

“That one,” she said pointing at me, “is in a great deal of pain. Sunday night, I realized just how much pain. Consider, Hal you love her — but it's not her you love, it's her identical twin. In time you will come to love her separate from Kate, but that takes time. You Annie, see her as a mother, but also as a lover. And Mother! What a Lover! And I of course have loved John for almost thirty years. John, Beth, or Kate is in the center of a four-cornered love affair. I love him as my husband — and yes he performs wonderfully in bed!” I turned beet red. “Hal cannot separate John/Beth from Kate — and if I understand correctly is more than pleased with Beth/Kate as a wife.” I think I began to glow from embarrassment. “And finally, we have you Annie. You perhaps are the hardest of all for Beth/Kate to deal with."

"Please understand, John and I are both very conservative. She had carefully built a wall between herself and John. With the help of that wall she could be "straight" while loving both Hal and myself. She called it 'serial monogamy'. She is female in every way with Hal, and no one would ever believe otherwise. The same with me as John. Straight, conservative, can't even justify marijuana use for medical reasons. But suddenly John finds himself as Kate to be, the object of your love and passion. She's a lesbian! Or is she? That is the straw that broke the camel’s back. She could no longer pretend to be straight as Kate, and straight as John when she wanted you as much as you wanted her. The question that is tearing her apart is "is she gay? and if so when? ”

At that point, I began to sob gently. Linda had ripped away the facade I’d built to protect myself. I hadn't sorted it out as well as she did, but she was absolutely right. Had I become gay? Ha I always BEEN gay? Linda asked the question in front of the ones I needed protection from the most. Hal looked at Linda and Annie. By some unseen agreement, the three of them enfolded me in a hug, and let me cry myself out.

After some indefinable amount of time, I stopped crying. Linda pulled back, looked at me, and began to laugh softly. “You my very dear are a mess. You have absolutely ruined your makeup. Then she kissed me on the forehead. “Why don’t you go crawl into the Jacuzzi, and we’ll join you in a few minutes.”

“What do you mean ‘we’” I asked.

“Never you mind, just go and I’ll explain in a few minutes.”

Again, my life was outside of my control. This time Linda was in charge; I was just along for the ride. In some ways, things continued to spiral down into the abyss. Linda seemed so sure, so confident, and I knew she only wanted the best for me. Yet, the question remained unanswered, was I gay? And, could I live with it?

I went into the bathroom, and undressed. I could hear the voices from the parlor, without really being able to make out the words. I turned on the Jacuzzi, washed my face, and climbed into the steamy warmth. I had just begun to relax when Linda entered, naked, and handed me my drink. Then she climbed in next to me. She grabbed a washcloth and began gently washing my back.

The door opened, and Hal walked in, naked. He looked at Linda appreciatively, and I was glad she had the grace to blush. He joined us, and took over washing my back while Linda started on my front.

The door opened, and this time Annie walked in. She was, if anything, more gloriously sexy than I remembered. She stepped into the Jacuzzi, and picked up a pitcher and began to shampoo my hair.

“Do you know what the most fantastic thing about this situation is?” Annie asked.

“No,” replied Linda and Hal in unison.

“The three of us are seriously twisted. Kate is the only sane one here. The three of us are all excited by a naked fat chick. She at least has more or less normal tastes.”

I knew she was correct. Linda and Annie had both made their desire clear. And Hal, from the way he was poking me was seriously excited by someone — and the evidence pointed to me as that someone.

Annie rinsed my hair, and I closed my eyes and leaned back against the side of the Jacuzzi while the jets of water massaged my body. Linda climbed into my lap, and assured me of her love. Then she moved away, and let Annie take her place. Annie embraced me, rubbing her breasts against mine while kissing me tenderly. “I love you. Can I be married to you also?”

I just sat there and stared at the three people who wanted to share my life, my love. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what to do. Annie moved over to Hal’s lap.

“Can I share her too?” she asked him squirming seductively against him.

Hal seemed to be in distress. I reached over, and found him painfully erect, larger than I could recall him being. Annie stroked down my arm to where I was touching Hal. “Hmmm," she murmured, "something needs to be done about that."

I suggested a cold shower, for all of us. That got me splashed. We did, however, quickly finish bathing, and rinsed off. Annie, Linda and I pulled on nightgowns, Hal pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms. Unfortunately, Hal continued to tent his bottoms with his enormous erection.

Sprawling on the bed, Linda spoke for the three of them. “Hon, you and I and Hal will share a bed while I’m here. Annie may join us. We three have agreed that we all love you. And, through no fault of your own, you are the object of our affections. We believe that by being open, caring, and honest with you and we have the best chance of helping you. Our love is absolute and non-negotiable . You can reject us, but we will never reject you.”

“Now, to practical matters, what should we do about Hal’s distension?”

Annie giggled, and I blushed. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well someone has to do something for the poor dear. He’s liable to explode. After all, he doesn’t have your magical, mystical, wonderful little button!”

“Button?” Hal asked, raising his eyebrows in a way guaranteed to irritate me.

“You mean she hasn’t told you?” Linda asked incredulously.

“Told me what?” Hal asked.

“Oh, this is too rich. Annie, can you reach my purse?” Linda said.

Annie handed Linda her purse. Linda pulled out the control unit, and I groaned. “I thought this was an absolutely wonderful modification to the male anatomy,” she giggled to Annie. “Watch this!” With that, she lifted the hem of my nightgown, exposing my pseudo-vagina and grinned as she pushed the button.

For me, it was entirely involuntary. My concealed penis leapt out from it’s concealment and became instantly rigid. Annie’s eyes grew wide, and she clapped her hands over her mouth. “And the best thing, it will not go soft until I decide!”

Linda got up, took Hal by the hand, and Left the bedroom, leaving Annie and I alone. Annie reached out and touched me. “You are even more beautiful than I’d imagined,” she whispered. I reached out, and turned off the light.

Much later, Linda traded places with Annie, and we enjoyed each other. Linda opened the valve, I went into the bathroom, and cleansed myself, tucking things back where they belonged. I was unsurprised to find Hal and Annie with Linda when I returned to bed. We shared a goodnight hug, and finally went to sleep. It had been a strange evening, and I hoped things would be easier after Linda's revelation. Somehow, I did not think this was going to happen. My self-doubt and loathing had become such a part of my being, and when I thought things through I became sick to my stomach. Linda had tried and I feared she had failed.

Saturday, December 8, 2001

I woke to find Hal staring at me. Annie and Linda were nowhere to be seen. “You are beautiful, you know,” Hal smiled beatifically at me and said, “I hope to wake to this vision every day for the rest of my life.” I felt an ice-cold breeze suddenly ran down my spine. The kind of feeling you read about in ghost stories; only I was the ghost.

There was a sudden, lurching to my stomach. After the rather pointed discussion of the night before, Hal was even less able to maintain the reality of who I was. I panicked, the fear and doubts I’d been hiding for the last month rose within me inexorably, and I knew I was going to be sick. I rushed for the bathroom, Hal tried to follow and I slammed the door against him before barely making it to the toilet. I began throwing up everything I had eaten the night before. I slumped against the toilet, drained and shaking uncontrollably. Then the tears and terrors began in earnest. Hal kept knocking at the door. Through my sobbing, I begged him to get Linda.

An eternity later, Linda tapped on the door and slipped the lock. She took one look at me, and dropped down to the floor and pulled me into a hug. “Oh my God,” she said, “I made the wrong decision didn’t I?”

I had no voice. I could not answer, I was uncertain I could even move. My continued existence was very much in doubt as I clung tightly to her, wracking sobs lancing through my body — only stopping when I reached the point of needing to retch again. Linda called out to Hal to get Annie, and hand a blanket into the bathroom. Hal called Annie, and summoned Jeeves. Annie arrived, followed closely by Jeeves with his medical crash cart. I tried to scream for everyone to "just leave!" a peep that wouldn’t frighten a mouse was the best I could do. By this time, I had moved well past sobbing and retching, all the way to hyperventilating. Jeeves began to try to sort out what was going on. He pulled out a stethoscope and began examining me. Mercifully, I passed out.

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