Blooming Under the Rose

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A snake of a road and a sudden fog cause his car to veer into a farm pond
and his life to veer into a new road entirely.

 

Blooming Under the Rose
By Ricky

 

Thanks to Holly for editing this version and correcting some of the problems referred to in the comments.

12/2/16 I was looking back on this one and found that most of the story had somehow disappeared. I have now restored the full text.

 

There was a time not that long ago when the phrase "I work for Arthur Anderson" was something to be proud of. At least in Tracy's office, located in a large city that will go nameless, it still was. Tracy's boss was one of the most scrupulously honest people you will ever met, and he demanded a level of integrity from his employees that was second to none. But all that didn't matter when everything fell apart, the office was locked up and Tracy was out of a job.

You would think there would be plenty of work available, after all companies still needed accountants, but after a few months he had found nothing. He was getting frustrated and, he hated to admit, bored. He simply wasn't cut out to sit home and collect unemployment. In fact it was about to run out when the letter came to renew the lease; so Tracy decided it was time to make a change.

He enjoyed his work, but for some time now he had felt that something was missing in his life. He couldn't really put his finger on the problem, it was just a vague feeling that there was something wasn't quite right. Unemployment hit him easier than most, at least financially. He was single, frugal and (until recently) well paid. His credit cards were paid off every month, there was a healthy balance in his savings account and the stock portfolio was still respectable, if a little thinner than previously. He expected that it would rebound if he waited long enough, so he left it alone.

Just what would an accountant to do in the situation? The stereotype would suggest patient waiting and attention to the details of a job hunt, but Tracy wasn't into stereotypes. He had a crazy side to him that had been carefully suppressed, at least during business hours, and that side now had 24 hours each day to be beat its way out of his brain. He told the landlord he was leaving, put most of his stuff in storage and set off to see the country. He had plenty of time, sufficient money and an urge to travel. It was time to see the world.

So Tracy loaded up the old 1988 Corolla (198,000 miles on it) with camping gear and what worldly possessions he would need for the next few months and started off. Now don't laugh, I told you he was frugal. In his nameless city a car was a luxury. If he hadn't found a sweetheart of a deal on garaging it the poor old buggy would have been history, public transportation was a much better option than driving. If he was trying to impress a date he used a taxi or limo; he might actually drive the car a couple of times a month, mostly on camping expeditions.

So, the plan was to point the car south and see what was to be seen on the road. His idea was to keep going until the car gave out, then see if there was anything more interesting and rewarding to do with life. He calculated he had a couple of years before he had to worry about money, so why not take a chance? Besides, our hero was sick of being the quiet accountant, measuring the alternatives and checking everything meticulously. He was determined to start over again and find out what life had to offer.

Deliberately ignoring the Interstate system, he kept to the secondary roads; he wanted to SEE the country, not glance at it as he sped by. He stopped in dozens of little towns, spent Memorial Day in Virginia watching a simple parade of wagons and tractors and the high school marching band. The 4th of July found him in Georgia. While there are still those who don't like celebrating that particular holiday in Georgia, there are plenty who do; most especially one Georgia "Peach" who had absolutely no fuzz on her skin!

He visited untold little monuments and historical markers, camped a day or a week wherever there was something interesting to catch his interest and met wondrous and amazing people wherever he went. People in campgrounds were still willing to welcome a stranger and make him a friend, which is why Tracy enjoyed camping so much. He loved every minute of it but that vague yearning for he knew not what still followed him no matter where he traveled.

Labor Day Friday found him on Route 6 in Pennsylvania, a winding snake of a road running through farmland and forest, simply beautiful country. Pennsylvania is unique in that it has dozens of little camping areas scattered around it. Just pull over, put your money in the honor box and set up camp. The map told him there was one in about 20 miles so he pushed on in the dusk. If you've ever driven in the area, you will know that cool fall evenings produce sudden patches of thick fog, making driving a challenge. The only warning he had was a sudden growling of the tires on the side of the road but by then it was too late. The road had curved but he hadn't and the old Corolla was headed downhill to meet its fate.

That fate was mercifully hidden in the fog, but it included a large farm pond. A sudden, insistent quacking revealed a flock of ducks by the pond as the car hit with a surprisingly small splash and kept going, floating away from the fog shrouded shore. He had plenty of time to unsnap the seat belt and ready himself. Tracy grabbed his laptop (who says women and children first – save the DATA!), opened the door and bailed out, wading the 20 feet to shore blindly as the Corolla gurgled and sank behind him. He slithered out of the pond and stood, sodden and mud covered, among the highly excited and noisy flock in the gloom.

This was not exactly in his plans; he had rather pictured a burly driver congratulating him on the longevity of his buggy as it was hoisted it on a tow truck to be taken to its final rest while he stood, suitcase in hand, ready to find his way into a new life. Romantic, right?

Standing alone in a fog might sound romantic to some, but it wasn't so romantic in reality. Suddenly there was a glow off to his right. A woman's voice called an indistinct question and he answered. They called forlornly back and forth until her flashlight approached and she emerged from the mist.

"Are you OK?" she asked as she spotted him, scattering the birds and raising a fresh wave of honking and quacking. What could he do but introduce himself?

"Hi, I'm Tracy. I seem to have inadvertently given the fish in your pond a an artificial reef to play in. I hope you don't mind too much."

He started to shiver in the chill air while she just stared incredulously. She finally put her hand on his dripping arm, maybe to assure herself he was real.

"You're freezing! You'd better come into the house and tell me what happened."

Tracy squelched his way across the yard to her house where, still dripping the abundantly scented water from the green skinned farm pond, he removed his mud covered sneakers at the front door. He was acutely aware of his mud covered body as he stepped into the entrance hall and very glad of the throw rug that prevented him from damaging the beautiful wooden floor. He knew from a visit to one of those small museums that the woodwork was polished chestnut, laid by German craftsmen long ago. The staircase glowed softly, festooned with intricate stick and ball adornments. An Eastward facing stained glass window in the shape of a keyhole promised a spectacular show come sunrise.

"Is there someone I should call, Tracy? Do you need a doctor?"

"No doctor, thanks. I'm in the pink of health! I just had a refreshing dip in your pond to wake me up and I'm feeling fine now, if a trifle soggy. I suppose you could call the nearest hotel.

"You're crazy! What about your car?"

"May it's rusty soul rest in peace. It can wait until tomorrow. I don't suppose there's a taxi service hereabout that will accept the monster from the slime lagoon as a passenger?" He plucked a bit of dangling seaweed from his body and looked for somewhere to put it.

"Your humor is a rank as your aroma, young man."

Young man? Him? He paused to take a better look at his unwitting hostess. She was a tall brunette, in her early 30s and certainly not old enough to call him a "young man". Perhaps his current soggy state emphasized his youthful good looks a bit too much. She had a fine figure, nice legs under a denim skirt and a checked man's shirt that did nothing to hide a truly impressive pair of breasts. Her hair was tied in a bun, giving her a somewhat Western appearance. Even with her nose wrinkled her face was very easy to look at.

"My apologies, sweet lady. Perhaps I should step outside and make use of your garden hose until I can find a way into town."

"Mister, there is nothing resembling a taxi for twenty miles of more around here. This isn't the city you know. Oh, hell, come on upstairs and use the shower. It's been five minutes and you haven't tried to rape me yet so I'll trust you far enough to get you presentable."

What could he do. She was right and he was getting chillier by the minute. He followed her up those gorgeous stairs, commenting on the architecture to her obvious delight, and she showed him the bathroom.

"When I hear the shower running I'll come in and take your clothes down to the wash. Don't worry, since you were kind enough not to be a homicidal maniac I'll return the favor."

Tracy emerged from the shower feeling far more human and smelling like a rose, mainly because the only shampoo he found was rose scented. The disgusting clothes were gone in their place was a large, fluffy, rose patterned towel and a red robe. Placed neatly beside them were a hairbrush and a toothbrush, which he gladly used. The robe was a different story. It was obviously feminine, a shiny, silk-like material embossed with roses. Did He detect a trend here? It had lace around the hem and the cuffs and the material flowed between his fingers with a sensuality that nagged at his mind. It was a little tight when he put it on but it fit well enough. Opening the bathroom door he called tentatively.

"Hello?"

His hostess appeared from a door down the hallway.

"My, you do clean up nicely, Tracy. I'm afraid I don't have any other clothes to offer you while yours are being washed."

"Please, I have no complaints. I seem to have come out of this smelling like a rose, which is not what I was expecting when I crawled out of your pond. Thank you, I truly appreciate your kindness."

"My pleasure, Tracy. It's not every day that adventure comes knocking at my front door.

"Pleased to be of service, Madam. Not to be overbold, but since I am standing here in your bathrobe could I ask you to tell me your name? Would I be right in thinking it may be Rose?"

"Good grief, I must be flummoxed! Yes, I'm Rose, Rose Kominos.

"Ah… I have always savored the Greek experience."

"Not with me, buster, unless I get to know you a whole lot better!" Her eyes sparkled and the half smile took the sting from her words. "Come on down to the kitchen with me and we can try to figure out what to do with you."

So there was a trend. Tracy followed her down the stairs. Passing through the dining room he saw the wallpaper was done in roses and pheasants. The kitchen was bright and homey with a little breakfast nook near the back door. She motioned to him to sit down.

"Tea? Coffee? Are you hungry?"

He was. It had been a long time since lunch.

"I couldn't trouble you like that, Rose. I really need to find some way to get to a motel for the night, it's getting late."

"Can I come with you and watch? I'd like to see you walk into a motel lobby in that robe, it would be something to remember in my old age!. Seriously, Tracy, you're out in the country here, the nearest motel is a good hour's drive away. You're going to think I'm crazy but you're welcome to use the spare room for the night. You didn't show up on the sex offender registry and I didn't find any outstanding warrants.

"You what?"

"I called my cousin the sheriff and asked him to check. By the way, your wallet is on the counter – you might want to spread it out before it becomes a block of paper maché. Nice picture on the license."

"Sure. If that doesn't make me look like a homicidal maniac I don't know what would."

"You should see mine, but I won't let you. There are some things I wouldn't inflict even on a stranger. How about some eggs? I make a mean Greek omelet. And forget it, I heard every single Greek joke before I was ten years old so don't bother."

"I shall keep my mouth firmly shut until you place something delectable in it."

Knowing when to keep her own mouth shut, Rose busied herself with cooking while Tracy spread the forlorn contents of his wallet on the counter. This was a occupation made difficult by the distraction Rose provided. She moved with a restrained grace and unconscious sensuality which was not lost on our hapless hero. Between the banter, the truly impressive sight of her breasts bouncing as she used a hand whisk on the eggs and the unaccustomed silky material of his robe, Tracy was starting to think he had better sit down or he would embarrass himself.

As the omelet simmered she put the tea kettle on and arranged some muffins on a plate, handing them to Tracy.

"Care to warm my buns?" A perfectly timed pause. "The toaster oven is over there."

"Certainly. Would you have any Rose Hip tea… in the cupboard?"

The atmosphere in the country kitchen was warming perceptibly. Despite the accidental nature of their meeting, there was something developing between these two disparate people. After a suitable pause in conversation to appreciate the food, Tracy regaled her with tales from his wanderings, those tales having been suitably polished around innumerable campfires over the summer. Truth to tell, Tracy was a fine storyteller. He had a way of lapsing into other characters and voices to illustrate his stories, working his audience adroitly. With an intimate audience of one and burgeoning hopes in his head, he was as vivacious and charming as he knew how to be.

Rose, for her part, was falling for his charm. She couldn't help watching as the silky material of her robe slowly part to reveal his chest. "Nice pecs" she thought. "It's been a long time…." The thought trailed off as she laughed at his joke.

"So, my car is done for and it's time to decide what to do. I've been assuming that it would be some sort of sign from Heaven when my car died, that that place would be where I'm fated to start my new life. Seems silly, but that's what has been in my head for quite a while. Is it just me in this thin robe or is it getting cold in here?" Tracy asked.

"I heat with wood, Tracy. It's getting cold in here because I banked the fire for the night. It is getting late for that so why don't you come to bed. With me."

There, it hung in the air. The decision that she had been wrestling with all night was made.

"I snore, but I think I have other aspects that make up for it. Are you sure, Rose?

"Tracy, when I make a decision I stand on it, or in this case lay down on it. Besides, you're terribly sexy in my robe and I have been wanting to take it off you all evening."

"I am yours to command, my fair Rose!"

They adjourned to the bedroom where, since this is only R rated, you will have to fill in the details for yourself. Here's a hint: use a lot of loud cries, repetitious chants of "Oh god!" or "Yes" and long, heartfelt cries of "Ahhhhh…" and you will be pretty close. The details don't really matter.

Rose found Tracy did indeed have certain aspects to his personality that would mitigate a lot of snoring. Weeks worth, if the last couple of hours were indicative of his abilities. For his part, Tracy swore that Rose Hips were a lot more fun when they were not in a teacup.

Afterwards, Tracy graciously allowed Rose the use the bathroom first. By the time she had returned he was noticing a chill in the air that had eluded him previously.

"You look cute in goosebumps, lover!" Your turn in the bathroom and I'll dig out something snuggly for you. Besides me, that is."

When he returned she was under the covers, a flannel nightgown (red roses, of course) showing where the coverlet stopped. On his side of the bed was another nightgown, this one with pink roses, and a pair of cotton panties. Tracy picked up the panties and looked at the strange and wonderful woman who had taken him into her bed.

"Plain white, no roses? I'm disappointed!"

"You 're looking at the back, silly man. Turn them around."

He did. There was a small, appliqued rosebud on the crotch. As he slipped them on he could no longer ignore the childhood memories they brought back. He took refuge in humor, as he had so many times before.

"Do you invite all your men to get into your panties like this?"

"Only those who have none of their own to use. I would think you'd be pleased to know I don't have an assortment of former lover's clothes around the place for you to choose from. If you don't want to wear them then freeze!"

Tracy sat down and put them on, then lifted the nightgown above his head.

"The other way around, silly. The tie goes in the front!"

Awkwardly he wiggled the garment around and stood up, shaking the nightgown to it's full length.

"Well, it is warm. Thanks, Rose."

An understatement, if there ever was one. It was a good thing they had just made love or his sudden erection would have been hard to explain. He climbed into the bed, automatically falling into the comfortably entwined position men and woman have used since the dawn of time. Shortly, snores filled the bedroom but Rose was fast asleep before they could bother her.

---

Dawn came, then went wherever Dawn goes when she is utterly ignored. Eventually there came a point when Rose was conscious of a loud buzzing in her ear. This also made her conscious of the warm hand curled around her breast and the body aligned with hers. Pleasant feelings, almost forgotten; it had been a long time. Add the little illicit thrill of her impulsive invitation to a stranger and it was a lovely way to wake up. She gently disengaged herself and rose from the bed.

The air was still chilly, it looked like this Labor Day was going to involve some labor – splitting the wood she had been ignoring. She quickly skinned out of the nightgown and, after a brief search of her drawers, wrapped a bra around her body. As she reached behind to fasten the snaps she became aware of Tracy's admiring glance.

"Get a good look, lover. I'm putting on something warm so you won't have long!"

Suiting her actions to her words she shook out a soft, brown sweater and covered herself. Tracy sighed theatrically but watched avidly as she stepped into her jeans.

"I don't suppose I could convince you to bring my clothes up from the laundry?

"Oh shit!"

"I'm sorry I asked! I'll just roll over and go back to sleep then."

"No, that's not it. You beguiled your way into bed so easily last night that I never put your clothes in the dryer. They may be clean, but they are as sodden as they were when you took them off!"

"My dear, if you had told me there could be any downside to making love to you I would never have believed it… until now."

"Well, from my point of view having a naked man around the house is not exactly a problem, you know"

"Not if he's freezing his naked ass off, it isn't! Why don't you heat with oil or gas or something that turns itself on when it gets cold?"

"Just to make you miserable, that's why." She paused. "I suppose if you can wear my nightgown you might fit into my other clothes."

Such a simple statement, but it brought back some very complicated memories. Ah Jack, so sweet and so confused. She had thought of him in years, but can we ever really inter our first love so they will never come back to haunt us?

He, like she, was still trying to understand what sexuality meant, where they belonged in this strange, unlimited world of almost adulthood. Both college students, he a senior and she a freshman, they met during a production of "Oklahoma" in the college theater. He was a theater major, she fulfilling a "breadth" requirement for her business degree, but there was a common bond that defied logic. One night, when the drink flowed as it often does at campus parties she went home with him, knowing full well she would share his bed. It was awkward and inelegant but sweet all the same.

In the euphoric rush that followed their lovemaking he confessed his confusion with what would now be called gender identity, but which back then she had no name for. In an impulsive act of trust he had shown her his pitiful wardrobe of dresses and lingerie. Her confusion was genuine, but her sense of self was such that she did not feel threatened, rather she was honored to be trusted so.

The bond between them grew and blossomed as she took the part of native guide to his gradually strengthening sense of femininity. Their sexual relationship became a fond memory as their friendship grew and he began to accept his true sexuality. He graduated all too soon, and the last she had heard was in New York with a partner of many years and steady work in the theater he loved so.

This had all come rushing back last night watching this stranger in her bathrobe. He didn't look much like Jack, but the memories flowed into her mind as they sat and talked. She had a strong picture of this man in Jackie's favorite casual ensemble; a burgundy embroidered blouse with matching skirt, full and flowing, swaying as he danced in livingroom the evening they parted.

Unlike that distant friendship, she felt a strong sexual attraction that was quite unusual for her. She was mildly surprised at herself at how easy it was to invite him into her bed, and afterward could not resist offering him her nightgown just to see what would happen. With his easy acceptance of it, as well as her panties, she conveniently forgot to load the drier as she sleepily wondered how much Tracy would accept. Call it a desire to relive the past while tinkering with the end of the story, or call it what you will, she turned to her drawers and tossed him a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans, knowing full well that her jeans would never fit the taller man.

"See if these fit, lover."

The sweatshirt was no problem, but the jeans ended at mid calf and her much larger hips made them very loose about the waist. The stretch pants didn't stretch enough either.

"You wouldn't happen to be a Sensitive New Age Guy, would you?"

"You need to ask after last night? I'm crushed!"

"So, are you sensitive enough to wear a skirt until your clothes are dry or are you going to go all macho on me?"

"I like the idea of laying in bed and letting you bring me breakfast better."

"I vote that I sit at the table and drink coffee while you cook for me. Since I learned to count votes in Florida it appears I have won the election. Get your cute but lazy carcass out of bed!" She went to the closet and removed a denim jumper. "If you're still cold you can try this."

He got. Then he stood there and shivered even with her fuzzy slippers jammed on his oversize feet. It never occurred to Tracy to wonder why a man who loved camping and would gladly sit around a campfire freezing his buns off in a miserable drizzle should be so annoyed by the slight chill of an unheated house, but bothered he was. Rose, for her part, thought it was hilarious.

"How do I get myself into situations like this?"

"Picky, picky, picky! I thought you were going to throw away your old life and start over. You have to admit it would be different. I'm going downstairs and eat, lover."

She left, and shortly he put on the jumper. Well, why not? The flashes from his childhood were one reason, but it was only until his own clothes dried, after all. That brought to mind the rest of his clothes, reposing in the trunk of his car in the pond. Just what was he going to wear until they could be retrieved? One night with Rose was an unexpected pleasure, but he really wasn't the type to assume it would last. Right now he needed a committed relationship with a mechanic who owned a Laundromat.

That could wait until after breakfast. He did make breakfast for Rose, albeit with a lot of questions as to where things were to be found. The oven quickly took the chill off the kitchen as he worked. Relaxing over coffee she asked "So Tracy, may I offer a way for us to celebrate the holiday? Once we finish chopping some wood so my poor chilly lover will be willing to get out of bed tomorrow morning. At least after I'm finished with him, that is.

Was she serious?

"I rather thought I'd call the nearest garage and have them get bring a tow truck."

"You are a city slicker! I happen to know that my cousin Sam, who operates the only tow truck in town, is away for the long weekend. Unless you want to pay overtime and holiday pay to somebody from the city to drive down here and fish out your car you'll have to wait until Tuesday."

While she was telling a version of the truth, she didn't want him to have his own clothes to wear for just a little while longer.

"You said it was going to the junkyard anyway so what's the hurry?"

"Rose, as wonderful as you are I wouldn't want to presume on your hospitality. Besides, all my clothes are in the car."

"My mother always complained that I was forever taking in strays – people that is, not pets. You are just the latest in a long line of them. Besides, I like waking up with your hand on my breast. I have plenty of skirts to share, just pretend you're my sister for the weekend and we'll get along nicely."

"I think I'd rather be one of your ubiquitous cousins, a sister shouldn't think about your breasts like I'm thinking about your breasts. Preferably a cousin removed enough times to remove your clothes and make mad, passionate love to you without fear of inbreeding."

"Perhaps you're right, but those cousins that aren't congenital drooling idiots might notice you're new to the family. By the way, thank you for using the condom last night, I do worry about uncontrolled breeding. For a lady you're quite a gentleman.

"Thank you for having them handy. My supply is at the bottom of your pond at the moment."

"Ah… A gentleman prepared for any adventure, or were you a Boy Scout? I suppose I could say you are an old college chum here for the holiday."

"You make it sound like you're going to introduce me to the entire town. You're pretty isolated out here, there's not much chance of anyone seeing me in your clothes, is there?"

"Not out here, but what I didn't say before you interrupted was that the Kominos family reunion is happening just outside the kitchen window on Monday. You wouldn't want to miss the chance to meet all your almost cousins, would you? Since I don't have a man, half the town is convinced I'm gay anyway. Wouldn't it be delicious to have my lesbian lover with me at the picnic? You look pretty cute in my clothes, you know. I bet we could fool them all if we tried. How's that for starting a new life in style?"

There! She had issued the challenge. Would he take it?

"You are completely nuts! Did I cross into the Twilight Zone last night in the fog? You don't suppose when I look out the door I'm going to see crop circles and flashing blue lights, do you? You're going to need some alien technology to make me look like a woman, you know."

"Nonsense, plain old Earthling technology is up to the task. You haven't shaved this morning and I can hardly see your beard. With a little trimming and shaping I can give you a fantastic butch hairstyle. Too bad you don't fit into my pants, you'd make a great bull dyke! I bet I could get cousin Eftehia to give you a bunch of piercings so you have that fierce, defiant look and I'm sure cousin Katrina kept her mother's mastectomy forms even though she's been gone for years. You'd need to have boobs, you know."

This woman was pushing just about every button he had in his psyche, most of them buttons that had rusted and jammed years ago - proper accountants don't do things that would make clients nervous. Did she know what she was doing?

"Whoa! Do you set about remaking every stranger that lands in your pond like this? Don't I get a choice here?" One last feeble try at defense. "I'm sure my clothes will be dry by Monday and I could go as myself, that is if you still want me there."

"Of course I do, but don't you have the slightest sense of romance and adventure? Think of how much fun it will be to become someone you aren't! Besides, we dress up for these parties; jeans and a T-shirt would be out of place, my love. I have this darling white silk suit that would be perfect on you. Real silk, sensuously soft and supple. Don't you want to feel it sliding over your skin, lover?"

"I think I would prefer your skin sliding over mine, since you ask."

"Not at a family reunion. Now afterwards, if you conduct yourself properly, there might be a reward for good behavior!"

"You tempt me. Do you think we could really pull it off?"

"Of course we can! Go ahead and get the chopping done while I run out and canvas my cousins and pick up a few things. I'll be back in a couple of hours, when you've finished the sweaty work, and we can shave your legs. What shoe size do you wear?"

"Seven, but I haven't the faintest idea what that is in a woman's shoe. Hey – I thought bull dykes didn't shave their legs as a form of social protest!"

"You're wearing a skirt, remember? You aren't going to a bull dyke, they don't wear skirts. You will be just fashionably mannish enough to raise a few eyebrows among my more conservative relatives but feminine enough to keep the rumors under control. I just hope I can find a bra for you. There's not much selection at the little clothing shop in town and I really don't want to have to drive to the city. Too bad mine would look grotesque on you, my boobs are too big."

"Not for me they aren't! I'm touched, I never even had a training bra. Say – if you can buy me a bra then why not just by me a nice shirt and pants and have done with it?"

"And ruin all the fun? C'mon Tracy, admit it. You liked wearing my nightgown and you were pretty quick to put on the jumper."

"I was cold! You do know that you are a complete and utter wacko? I just wish I had a convenient cousin I could call to see what institution you escaped from. And no holes in my body! I'll try to look tough without any additional hardware, thank you very much."

"Aw damn, I was hoping for a nose ring so I could lead you around. Really, something in gold with a red silk tether…."

She had to stop at that point because her lips were otherwise engaged. Tracy, in the manor of wise men through the ages, had covered her lips with his, effectively ending the conversation.

---

Rose climbed into her little Geo and was soon on her way, leaving our hero to ponder the vagaries of this fascinating woman. He also pondered the use of an axe and maul, two items he was fortunately familiar with from camping. He set about splitting wood, slowly at first, then as his muscles warmed up he developed a steady rhythm. Billets of wood falling with a satisfying chunk as each swing of the heavy sledge drove the maul into the log before him.

The day warmed, as those crisp fall days often do, until he was glistening with sweat. He paused occasionally to catch his breath, reflecting on the oddness of heavy labor in a woman's jumper. Actually, it wasn't half bad, he appreciated the coolness of the air that the open garment allowed and the feeling of the hem swishing around his legs was really rather pleasant. By the time Rose pulled in with a merry toot of the horn there was an appreciable stack of wood. Tracy carried enough to the house to last the night while Rose brought in several bags from her car.

"Wanna get naked?" she leered, stripping off her sweater. "I'll let you practice on my bra before you try yours!"

Shortly they were in the bathroom, the sweat of exertion having gone down the drain in a lather of rose scented lather. Rose sat him down on the toilet.

"Nice legs, Trace. You're going to look swell in stockings!" She started to roll a gelatinous pink goop on his legs.

"Aaaagggghhh! That's cold!"

"My God, just wait until it snows around here if you think that's cold! I'll warm it up for my poor little girlfriend."

She filled the sink with warm water and floated the bottle in it.

"For someone born and raised in the Northeast you sure do have a problem with the cold! Am I going to have to bundle you up like Charlie Brown this winter and get you a guide dog so you can see where you're going under all those layers?"

I'll have you know I was born and raised in Buffalo, snow capitol of the news networks! I was not, however, born in a barn. I was raised in a centrally heated, thermostatically controlled home. When I am not out camping and freezing myself for pleasure I revert to 100 percent pure wimp, expecting to be coddled in civilized warmth."

"Poor baby! I think I'll have to institute a regimen of cold baths, frozen drinks and ice cream in order to get you ready for winter. You're good at splitting wood so there's hope for you; that can keep you warm during the day and I'll keep you warm at night."

"You talk like I'm going to settle in for the winter. Do you invite every lousy driver you fish out of your pond to hibernate in your den?"

"If you behave yourself there's a distinct possibility that my old college girlfriend could stay as long as she wants. Stick out your legs, girlfriend, this should be warm now."

Stroke by stroke she covered Tracy's legs with the hair remover. Sitting naked in the warm bathroom, Tracy found he had slipped into a state of simple passivity. There are times in life, in doctor's offices or long checkout lines for example, when there is nothing to do but wait. Some people fuss and fume, but Tracy found that when he had absolutely no personal control of events he could abandon his normally take charge personality and let his mind float free. There is an almost spiritual quality to this state, where the pressures and demands of life recede and there is nothing to contemplate but the joy of the present.

Although the past few months of traveling had been an enriching and pleasurable experience, Tracy was just starting to contemplate how profound his need for stability and direction were becoming. Then came the shock of the accident and the realization he had absolutely no connection to his previous existence left, not even the clothes on his back. Is it any wonder that, after the overwhelming passion of last night combined with the memories of his childhood experiments in his mother's clothes, that he felt a sense of intense relief in letting Rose take the weight of decision off him. The idea of being a man pretending to be a woman who looked like a man had a delightfully perverse attraction to it. In his present state of nirvana he completely trusted Rose and was perfectly willing to accept her direction without complaint. Nay, he found he was truly enjoying the experience!

"Hey lover! You in there? Time to wash off unless you want to take off your skin, too!"

Right. Once again he stepped into the steaming stream of water, this time to watch the depilatory swirl down the drain, luxuriating in the warmth.

"Wet your hair again, Tracy. It will be easier to style when it's wet."

Obediently let the deliciously warm water flow over his head again, then reluctantly stepped from the tub. Rose happily covered him in another of her huge towels and dried him off. She handed him a tube of deodorant.

"Secret. Well, that's certainly appropriate, isn't it?"

"Of course. I bought you a razor, too, so we can keep the secret.

Freshly shaved, she led him to the bedroom and handed him another pair of panties, which he put on.

"Have you ever worn a bra before, lover?"

"Not since I outgrew my mother's when I was a horny 12 year old."

There, it was out! Fear of discovery and a sudden growth spurt had made it a short lived practice. But the memory was still there when he wanted to admit it to himself.

"And I thought you said this was your first training bra!. Anyway, you're an honest man, too bad Diogenes isn't around to appreciate it. Hold out your arms…. There, let me snap this…. You will be glad to know I put the breast forms under the electric blanket so you will not have to scream at me again. See, they settle in like this…. now you try this one." Rose fussed with his bra a bit, until she was satisfied. "This just might work! Can you remember how to put on pantyhose?"

He could. As he leaned over to put his toes in the pantyhose he felt the weight of his breast forms shift, the straps of the bra over his shoulders tensed, sending a warmly feminine feeling through his body. In his youthful experiments, putting on a bra had been a powerful sexual stimulant. In his present euphoric state it was not erotic but, in a way that needed no explanation, simply proper. He worked the hose over his legs, standing to settle them around his waist.

Rose stood nearby, contemplating the stranger before her. Like Tracy, she was in a state of euphoria, but she was far from passive. Now Tracy stood before her in bra and panties, looking completely relaxed and happy. Flashes of last night's pleasure suddenly overcame her. There was an almost feminine aspect to their lovemaking at the beginning, a gentleness that she had seldom experienced. Not that Tracy wasn't satisfyingly masculine where it counted, but there was a rapport she had seldom shared with anyone present last night. She knew full well that a good time in bed wasn't anything to base a relationship on, but still she had found herself daydreaming of sharing the long winter with Tracy. Seeing him in a woman's clothes brought back cherished memories of her own and the added intimacy of sharing her clothes with her lover appealed to her.

Soon Tracy was dressed in a nubbly, rust colored sweater and skirt, the new black flats fit perfectly. Rose sat him in front of the mirror and began to brush his hair. He felt a small and passing pang as she began to snip but by then he was ready to do just about anything she asked. Even watching in the mirror he found the transformation hard to believe. His hair was noticeably shorter but distinctly feminine. When the styling gel set the person in the mirror was certainly not the Tracy his parents would have recognized. If it weren't for the clear swell of breasts under the sweater a casual observer would have been weighing various visual clues wondering "is it a he or a she". Funny how total strangers need to know that or they go crazy with curiosity.

"It doesn't go with the image but you will certainly need makeup, love. Just enough to allow you to appear before your adoring public. With the butch look the shadow on you upper lip will be politely ignored if anyone notices. With any luck the entire family will be so busy wondering if I'm sleeping with you that they won't analyze too much. Small town gossip is a primal force, you know. Everyone in the county is going to know about you by Tuesday morning at the latest."

"Maybe you better use a little more makeup so they think I'm a circus clown. You make it sound like I'm going to be an attraction in the side show!" He slipped into the voice of a carnival barker.

"And here, ladies and gentlemen, for your edification and horror we have the one, the only, man-woman. Is he or isn't she? Only twenty five cents! A quarter of a dollar to view this poor, unfortunate being. Does he need a halter or does she need a jock strap! You decide, ladies and gentlemen, step this way, if you please!"

"Just for that I'm calling cousin Eftehia. You really need earrings, you just don't look right without them."

"You're right, Can I get a tattoo, too? Maybe a rose with great big thorns running all the way down my arm?"

"No, you may not, I don't like lovers with comics on them. Come on downstairs and I'll teach you how to bake bread"

"How domestic! Lead on, dear old college chum. I'm yours to command."

---

The rest of the day passed pleasantly. Attired in a rose patterned apron Tracy learned how to bake bread, finding that kneading bread while wearing a bra was an intensely pleasurable experience, as was just about everything else he did that memorable day. Perhaps that should be 'memorizing' rather than 'memorable', because Coach Rose kept pointing out the little, unconscious mannerisms a lady would never use, not even one with a mannish demeanor. The night was an intensely pleasurable experience as well, wearing a nightgown is so much more convenient than pajama pants.

The next morning Tracy found himself awake early while Rose was still blissfully asleep. He showered and tried his best to duplicate Rose's hair styling on his own. He took far longer than she, but in the end he restored yesterday's look by himself. He paused frequently to admire the small green jewels that now adorned each earlobe. Cousin Eftehia had been surprised a woman of his age had never had her ears pierced, but Tracy was sure she did not realize he was not a woman. The makeup was much harder than it looked. The first attempt was so bad he removed it all and started over. This time it was better, but Rose was going to have to help him for a while, it appeared.

Somehow it felt right to slip into his bra and slide the forms into place. Rose was still sleeping peacefully as he selected a skirt and blouse from the closet. Somehow the flats had disappeared during the night, so he found a pair of white socks and donned his own sneakers, then went downstairs to stoke the fire. With the kitchen warming nicely he started the coffee and whipped up a batch of pancakes. The griddle was just about ready when a steady, ringing, clang – clang – clang broke the tranquility of the morning. Looking out the window he saw a huge, brightly colored tent spread on the ground and several men swinging large hammers, driving immense spikes into the ground.

How the devil did they spread that monster out without him noticing? Oh, the growling that he had assumed was a tractor in the nearby fields must have been the big white truck that now stood in the driveway.

Tracy instinctively went out to see what was going on, not realizing until he felt the cool air on his legs that he was wearing a skirt. He stopped abruptly but it was already too late, the workmen had noticed him. Well, he knew it had to happen sometime, why not now?

"Good morning" Tracy called, shifting his voice into a more feminine register.

"Morning, ma'am. You must be Tracy. I'm Rose's uncle Daniel and these are my boys Ezekial and Sampson. Thought we'd get an early start on the tent for the reunion.

"Pleased to meet you. If you give me a minute I'll go get your sleepy niece out of bed. I just started a batch of pancakes, would you gentlemen be interested in joining us?"

"That would be right nice, ma'am. Knowing little Rosie you won't get her out of bed before we get the tent up, so it should work out nicely. Just pour the well into the coffeepot and we'll take care of emptying it for you."

"My pleasure! Don't let me keep you, I'll go fill the coffeepot."

Tracy returned to the house, inordinately pleased at how well his first appearance had gone.

"Hey sleepyhead! Wake up, Uncle Daniel is here!"

Rose really was cute when she woke up, hair askew and those gorgeous eyes blinking rapidly.

"Can he really drink as much coffee as he says he can?"

"Are the boys with him?" Rose muttered.

"Yup, I now know Cousin Ezekial and Cousin Sampson. What happened to the Greek names?"

"Jesus happened. Uncle Daniel is from the Baptist side of the family. All his kids have names from the Bible, which isn't too bad for Zeke and Sam, but poor Cousin Hephzibah uses her middle name when her parents aren't around. And yes, between them they can drink enough coffee to drown a small elephant. Wait a minute – you didn't…" she trailed off.

"I did, but it wasn't until I stepped off the porch that I remembered I was wearing a skirt. Who would have thought I could do that after only a day? I have made the first appearance of my new life and it went well. Anyway, they'll be in for pancakes as soon as the tent is up. If you make yourself presentable I'll even feed you, too."

"Damn! I had other ideas of how to wake up. What are you doing dressed already?"

"Some of us like to greet the morning before the sun sets."

"Begone, cruel hag! Hey, you did your own makeup, not bad for an amateur!"

"You should have seen the first try. I'm glad you talked me into the earrings. Now quit stalling and get out of bed, 'Little Rosie'."

"Watch it, sister," she growled. "Only Uncle Daniel gets away with calling me that, I hate being called Rosie but some things you can't change."

---

To Tracy it felt kind of like a scene from The Waltons, with he and Rose serving the menfolk platter after platter of pancakes and cup after cup of coffee. There was a truly pleasurable feel in hefting a heaping platter of pancakes, feeling his skirt caress his legs as he delivered it to the table. With only a small hint from Rose he even remembered to smooth the skirt as he sat down, legs properly together. His first inclination was to stab a stack of pancakes from the platter, he was getting very hungry after smelling the golden cakes while he served, but he remembered in time to take a more ladylike portion. In fact, he took several ladylike portions and disposed of them all.

At last there was nothing left to eat and the coffee was consigned to memory, so Tracy and Rose were left with only the heap of dishes as a reminder of breakfast. Uncle Daniel surprised Tracy with a quick peck on the cheek as he left, favoring him with the same parting ritual as he gave Rose. "If only he knew!" was the dominant thought in Tracy's head.

Rose remained in her chair, a grin on her face, as the door closed. "Tracy, I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. You were so believable for a moment I was fooled myself. You realize that Uncle Daniel is going to spend all of tomorrow trying to convert you after you gave him that 'liberated feminist' riff? Did you really have to tell him you practiced Zen Buddhism?"

"Well, I once did you know. I didn't keep up with it but it has influenced me quite a bit. 'Just do what you are doing' is a fine philosophy, you know. Just now I'm being a woman with all my concentration, thanks to you."

"I think I'm starting to understand Mary Shelley better. Well, at least I didn't have to rob a graveyard for my creation."

"Thank heavens, I would hate to have to learn how to use green makeup. Really Rose, I'm enjoying this more than I can say. I've never met anyone like you and I am feeling content and peaceful for the first time in many years. For now I intend to live in the present and enjoy what it brings, just as the Zen Master taught me all those years ago. I'll worry about the future when the time comes to worry about the future."

"Well, the time has come to worry about the future, right now. I need to make a trip into town to lay in supplies for tomorrow's festivities. I can live in the present without much effort, but I do it by procrastinating. Grab your purse and let's go!"

"Rose, I don't have a purse," Tracy deadpanned. "Remember?"

"Of course you don't, what was I thinking? You can use one of mine."

---

Tracy was to learn that going shopping was a major expedition when you live in the country. During the hour long ride into the "Big City" (The word "Big" being a very relative term to one who grew up as one among several million people), was accomplished with alternating bouts of animated conversation and companionable silence; somehow their developing relationship did not include the need to spoil the silence with unnecessary conversation.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, dear reader, but you would be completely uninterested in details of the shopping trip. Tracy and Rose never came near a dress shop, or even looked in the women's section of the K-Mart. Tracy was still new to life as a woman, whatever hormonal or genetic cue it is that causes women to shop for new clothes when they have a house full of perfectly serviceable apparel was still inactive within him.

This was a practical shopping expedition; they bought paper plates, plastic knives and forks, tablecloths and other totally mundane and uninteresting items. They rented a high powered cooker for the corn pot, wrestling it into the car together as would any two normal women in that situation. They bought decorations and kid's toys, just about anything you would need for a large family reunion.

Not that Tracy was disappointed, mind you. After his initial nervousness at exiting the car at the first stop, Tracy was completely at home in his new persona. Wandering the aisles, list in hand, was a new adventure. Even though he had done it many times before, this was the first time she had gone shopping. In fact, it was somewhere on one of the many stops that the subtle mental shift from 'he' to 'she' occurred in Tracy's mind.

Being called "Miss" or Ma'am" certainly helped, as did the subtle but constant reminder of bra and panties and skirt. These sensations, and the overwhelming feeling of rightness, combined to tip the gender balance in Tracy's mind over to the "F" side of the scale.

Tracy attracted occasional attention, but she didn't mind; with her mixed presentation that was only to be expected. She found herself being annoyed when the guy at the rental place continued to hit on Rose despite her clear negative signals. Men could be such jerks! Then the guy at the bulk food place tried to hit on her; at least she thought he was; she was still pretty new at this. The guy carried their order out to the car, so it wasn't really too bad at that. The only bad patch was when she was standing in line at the beverage store with the keg of beer and suddenly hoped they wouldn't ask her for an ID. They didn't, thank heaven for her mature demeanor!

They ate dinner out at a lovely restaurant, the server actually pulling out her chair and seating her. Neither of them wanted the day to end, so they took in a movie (necking a little in the dark, of course) and made a complete day of it. They were so exhausted by the time they made it home there is no need for me to be discrete about what they did in bed because they simply slept.

It was a good thing the party didn't start until noon, because ten o'clock found them both still in the bed, trying to think of a good reason to leave it. Despite the fickle nature of the weather at that time of year, this Labor Day was going to be warm and sunny. They showered together, extending that precious time of closeness just a bit longer, then Tracy put on her bra and panties as if she had been doing so all her life. Rose brought out the promised silk suit and laid it beside Tracy. It was pure white, with that distinctive crinkled silk texture. Roses grew along the edges of the jacket as if climbing a trellis, and the hem of the skirt was adorned with a garden of rosebuds. There is a wonderful feeling about silk that Tracy had never experienced, but came to truly appreciate. She couldn't help but spin around before the mirror and watch her skirt flare with the motion. Beautiful!

Her hair was beginning to get used to the new style and was quickly brushed into place. Rose did her makeup this morning, she wanted to look her best for the family. They ate a simple breakfast, then proceeded to hang the decorations they had purchased the day before. The place was looking quite festive by the time the first car pulled up.

Tracy soon lost track of all the aunts and uncles and cousins and more obscure relatives, before long there were over a hundred people milling about. Tracy had been hugged by just about all of them. Rose's family, at least those that weren't part of "The Baptist Side", were just as uninhibited as she was. It didn't take her long to find out there were even a couple of Mormons present; it seemed Cousin Ellen had married into a third religion. Such details were not hard to learn, in fact it would have been harder not to learn them because everyone seemed intent on reciting the genealogy of every other person in her line of sight.

Tracy was spared the promised conversion attempt, Uncle Daniel was far too busy trying to politely convince a Mormon nephew he would go to Hell as a blasphemer. She watched in awe as the two earnest gentlemen marshaled their arguments, quoted obscure bible verses and flung parables at each other, both truly and sincerely trying to save the other from their heretical beliefs before it was TOO LATE. The capital letters were clearly audible! The things she had missed being an only child from a small family!

When she mentioned what she did for a living, Uncle Burt was dragged over to have a professional conversation. Actually, it was kind of fun, Uncle Burt had to be about 80 years old. He had a deplorable sense of humor, one that must have required every single one of those years to ferment to it's present, highly aromatic, state. That had to be why everyone held their noses when he started to tell a joke. When he realized he had a new victim he was in heaven. The few relatives who were willing to listen to the 999th rendition of Burt's jokes soon stopped listening when the talk turned to trial balances and other jargon in the accounting biz.

The information flow slowed a bit while they ate. This family could cook! Replete after sampling dozens of dishes whose exotic names made no more impression than the names of this vast family, Tracy settled comfortably next to Rose and allowed the family to politely pump her for her life story, romantic status and future plans. Her storytelling abilities came to the fore as she and Rose together created an impromptu life history. It was fashioned out of real incidents with the names changed to protect the guilty, stories she had heard on her travels and her perverse desire to see just how much these people would believe.

"We met at the college library, Rose and I. She was paging through a book, I think it had something to do with increasing your bustline in only 30 days. She turned out to be a very precocious reader, didn't she?"

"Now Tracy, I couldn't help but noticing you were checking out a book on feminine deportment." Rose turned to her audience with a broad smile. "There had been a panty raid in the girl's dorm the night before and her panties weren't touched. Being such a good reader I naturally tried to help her, but her feminine qualities took forever to develop. I encouraged her to try out for the swim team, but she was afraid of how she would look in a two piece suit. In fact, it seems like it was only yesterday she mastered the art of wearing a skirt gracefully!"

"I'm sure my sainted Mother, may her soul rest in peace, would be very surprised at the feminine demeanor my dear friend Rose has given me. Back in college I would never even have considered wearing a skirt in public, let alone a bikini. I came from a very conservative family who disapproved strongly of any overt display of femininity on my part. In fact, it wasn't until I arrived here yesterday that Rose convinced me to have my ears pierced! Thank you Eftehia, you don't know how wonderful these earrings make me feel!"

"Did your mother want you to go into accounting, then?" asked someone who Tracy had yet to attach a name to.

"I haven't really figured that out."

"I assure you sum of us are add-icted to accounting." Uncle Burt added.

"My feelings on the subject were divided, but there were a rational number of reasons to pursue a career in accounting, on the whole. You might say that accounting brought a balance to my life."

"Then there was the fact that Tracy never had a boyfriend in college." Rose went on. "She mostly hung out with the guys but never dated one that I know of."

"Well, we had more in common than I did with most of your friends, Rose. I just didn't think I would fit in at one of your pajama parties."

"You look pretty good in my pajamas, Tracy. With your lost luggage I don't know what would have happened if they didn't fit you. I'll bet there isn't a decent dress left in your suitcase and I'm sure your mother wouldn't want you to leave the house without clean underwear. Just put yourself in my capable hands and I'll make a new woman out of you."

"I think I'm satisfied with being the woman I am at the moment, but you know I always treasure your advice, Rose"

The needle on Tracy's internal gender balance once again began drifting to the female side as she and Rose created Tracy's life history as a woman. Sitting in the sun with the mild breeze ruffling her silk skirt at odd intervals it was easy to believe she had never known any life but what she had at present. A Zen like peace crept over her, 'Just do what you are doing' was her whole being, she was doing "woman" right now and that was all she was.

The peace was shattered when a gaggle of youngsters in swimming trunks excitedly entered the tent. The one with the goggles and snorkel acted as spokesman.

"Auntie Rose! Auntie Rose! Did you know there's a car in your pond! I saw it!"

Naturally this attracted the interest of everyone. So deeply was Tracy into her new personality that even this sudden reminder of who she had been until just days ago did not shake her confidence.

"It's OK. Christian, isn't it?" The boy confirmed her identification, "Well Chris, when I arrived in the fog I missed the driveway and landed in the pond. That's, why I'm wearing your Aunt Rose's clothes, you know. Mine are in the trunk of the car until we can get a tow truck tomorrow to fish it out. The car is so old it doesn't matter and I didn't want to ruin anyone's weekend." Besides, those clothes were of very little interest to her at the moment.

It was as if a princess had dropped a white, silken handkerchief and watched it flutter to the ground before her competing suitors. Chivalry was far from dead, at least in the Kominos family. Uncle Daniel detailed the boys to get the tractor from the barn, Cousin Damian produced a tow rope, as did Cousins Peter and Phillip, which were quickly strung together and handed to young Chris in his diving gear. The entire family was soon collected around the pond, much to the vocal disgust of the ducks. A cheer arose as the old Corolla slowly emerged from the depths and finally stood on the bank, leaking water from every seam and crevice. Someone opened the door and a gush of water, liberally laden with old soda cans and empty bags of chips, and threw it wide as the interior drained.

With a roar and cloud of smoke from the stack the tractor pulled the vehicle into the driveway. Would be mechanics discussed the possibility of reviving the old hulk, screaming children bailed out the trunk and passenger compartment, sending water flying in all directions. Tracy's suitcases were removed and her camping gear hosed off and spread to dry. Not to be left out of the festivities a gaggle of aunts volunteered to launder the soggy clothing, but Tracy eventually convinced them it would be a shame to ruin their holiday washing clothes.

Whew!

When things calmed down Tracy was encouraged to repeat her harrowing adventures in detail to the hushed crowd. Somewhere around the fifth or sixth telling, when the killer sharks were circling and the alligators were nipping at her heels while cannibals shook spears and shouted from the bank they were finally satisfied.

Discussion then turned to what Tracy would do for a new car, the consensus having been reached that the old Corolla was unrepairable. Naturally there was a cousin who ran a used car lot and offered his services, not to mention a family discount.

"I don't suppose you'll have too much trouble getting a loan since you're staying with the bank manager, will you Tracy?"

The bank manager? Tracy suddenly realized that events had been happening at such a pace she had not thought to ask Rose what she did for a living. She had a vague recollection of Rose calling herself a businesswoman just before she invited him to bed with her, but that was easily forgotten in the passion that followed.

"I don't think she would approve me until I find a new job, friend or not. I'm not going to worry about it right now, it's a holiday! Job hunting can wait until tomorrow, this area is beautiful and I mean to enjoy it to the fullest.

---

That night, as they lay close to each other in bed, they talked about the day as lovers have done from the start of time.

"What a day! Rose, I've never had a big family, I had no idea how much fun a reunion could be! You come by your insanity honestly, I can see."

"What, does that mean you got yours at gunpoint? You fit right in and everyone loved you. You were perfect, I guarantee not a one of them had any idea you were anything but my college girlfriend. How do you manage the voice? It almost seems strange to have you talk in your normal voice again."

"I d-d-d-don't k-k-k-know!" replied Porky Pig.

"It's simply natural, Doc" added Bugs Bunny.

"But I say! I mean, I say it's taken a lot of hard work!" boasted Foghorn Leghorn.

"I could do them all by the time I was ten." He reverted to his natural voice. "The other kids loved it and I always got invited to parties. Mel Blank was my hero, not to mention Rich Little and Robin Williams. When I started telling stories the voices always helped, it really does come naturally to me. In fact, I have to be careful sometimes around clients, would you trust an accountant that talked like Daffy Duck?"

"You're spitting, Daffy."

"Thowry, thweetheart."

"So, when you were a horny teenager wearing your mother's clothes, who did you sound like?"

"Why don't you come up and see me sometime, big boy." Invited Mae West. "I'll show you my mother's bra if you'll show me yours!"

"My mother would never show you her bra. Hell, I've never even seen her undressed, we Greeks can be rather conservative."

"If passing me off as a woman to your entire family is conservative, I'm very glad you aren't a liberal."

"I've been very liberal with some things and you haven't complained about it yet. Do you want me to call Pat Buchannan and ask him if he thinks you look good in my silk suit?"

"I've never once paid attention to the man, why would I listen to his advice on fashion?"

"I knew you had good taste. So, tell me about your misspent youth."

"Honest accountants never misspend anything, be it youth or money. I was an only child, we lived in the suburbs and unless I could cadge a ride from a friend I couldn't go anywhere so I was at home a lot. My old man was too liberal, or maybe too satisfied with my mother, to read skin magazines and the internet wasn't invented yet so what was I to do? I didn't have a girl so the next best thing was a girl's clothes. I'd squeeze into my mother's bra and panties until I couldn't stand it any longer and then whack off."

"That lasted a couple of years until I just plain got too big to put her stuff on. By then I was old enough to date and I could whack off thinking about Mary or Kris or Sue or .. Ouch!"

"I get the idea, buster. So, that's why you didn't fight too hard when I dressed you up Saturday morning."

"Yeah, that's part of it. I always wondered what it would be like to dress up all the way, but not enough to really make an effort to find out. The other part is that I've never met anyone like you before and I'd do just about anything to you happy. I don't know why dressing me up like a woman makes you happy, but if that's what it takes then I'll do it."

"Tracy you're the sweetest man I've ever met. Let me tell you about Jack…."

For the first time in her life she told another person about her friend Jack. Tracy soon surrounded her with loving arms as she confided in him, murmuring encouragement as she tried to find the words to tell her story. When she finished he, and the gender balance had definitely swung over to the "Male Protector" side of the scale, simply held her in compassionate silence for a while.

"Rose, you're the sweetest woman I have ever met. I hope I can be worthy of Jackie's respect. I don't know where this is going, but you have given the most beautiful holiday I have ever spent."

"Just stick around, darlin'. You ain't seen nothing yet!"

"Can we be serious for a moment?"

"Yes?"

"That isn't the first time you've said something like that. We've only known each other for a few days but I think there might be something special between us. How serious are you about staying? I don't want to misread you on something this important. I hide behind my humor sometimes and you think an awful lot like me so I want to say this clearly. I'm half in love with you, and I've never felt that way before. And I'm not talking about the sex, my most excellent bedmate, I'm talking about you as a person. Are you sure we should try to go beyond a holiday fling?

Rose was silent for a little while. The silence held no rejection or apprehension, rather it was simply an ordering of her thoughts in response to the serious turn of the conversation.

"Tracy, I'm serious. This is more than a weekend fling, how much more I can't say. I know it's crazy but I feel like you truly are an old friend come home. I want to have you with me and to get to know you as deeply as I can. If you are willing I think I could love you very much. Can we try?."

"Yes. Yes. Yes! I never believed in love at first sight, but now I have to." He paused, gathering his courage. "Can I bring up another serious subject?

"Certainly."

"If this is going to be serious then I think we need to use something more reliable than rubbers. I'm not ready to be a father quite yet and I will not leave a pregnant woman behind me if it doesn't work out. I also think I should have an AIDS test, you deserve to be sure about me."

"Both of us are going to be tested, darling. I don't want any secrets between us. If we are going to live together we can't be hiding the important stuff from each other. Little secrets can ease over the minor bumps, but big secrets can ruin a relationship. No hiding the important stuff, OK?"

"No secrets between us, I promise.

"Rose? What do we do about my little secret from the rest of the world? I mean, the entire family thinks I'm your girlfriend, we can't very well tell them we got Labor Day mixed up with Halloween and I came in costume by mistake, you know."

"Do we have to do anything? You seem very comfortable being Tracy the woman. All kidding aside, I want you to be with me and I don't care which side of you the world sees, darling. Today I actually forgot you weren't a woman for most of the day. It seems to me you enjoyed it as well."

"You know I did. There is a certain freedom in inventing myself over again that is perfectly marvelous. I want to be practical for a minute, though. It was one thing to be Tracy the woman for a day and move on tomorrow, but will every other day be as easy?"

"Tracy, I'll be comfortable no matter what you choose, but I like the idea of living with Tracy the woman. I've tried twice before but somehow what I thought was love didn't last. Tracy, I don't want to compare you to past lovers, but both times I hesitated and agonized before saying yes – I really wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing.

"It's different with you. I don't have any doubts, I want to be with you and get to know you. I told you about Jacki, I think I was in love with him after all we shared, but in helping him to become comfortable with his sexuality we realized it could never work. My other partners were big, macho guys; maybe I was trying to avoid what happened with Jacki, I don't know. It's as if fate brought you here with precisely the qualities I have been longing for but couldn't find."

"It is strange, isn't it? When I put on your robe it started me thinking about things I had long forgotten. Since I'm not going to keep my feelings secret any longer, when you gave me the jumper to wear next morning I couldn't believe it. I haven't consciously thought about those times wearing my mother's clothes for many years, I still think of them in terms of getting me excited enough to masturbate. Wearing your clothes all day felt right in a way I really can't explain. Talking to you made me start to realize there is a part of myself I have been ignoring.

"Maybe you're right about it being fate that made us meet. It scares a little that I can be so involved after only three days. It scares me how much I want to try living as a woman for a while. Today was wonderful, I just let myself go and I never thought about being a man except when we made up my life history.

"But the party's over and now I have to try to think clearly. Can I really live this way so convincingly that no one else will know. How can I get a job or transfer my license or buy a car? Now I know you're the bank manager I have to think of what will happen to you if people start laughing at me. You could get fired, all because of me! Just because I want to do this doesn't mean I should do it!"

"We can work it out when we need to. If you need a car loan nobody's going to notice if you check the M or the F box on the application if I process it. The same goes for all the rest of it, it's a small town and there's a way to fudge just about anything unless you land in jail, even my cousin the Sheriff couldn't help you there."

"You tempt me my dear, truly you do."

"Before you get too excited, remember being in a small town means there are an awful lot of people who are going to think a woman can't do a man's job. I can tell you all about that, I had to work three times as hard as any of the men at the bank and when I finally made manager I still had to contend with stubborn old farmers who demand to talk to the man in charge, not some fool woman."

"Suddenly you're too practical for my taste, lover. Let me sleep on it, I don't have to decide right away, do I? But it's still very tempting,"

"There are other temptations in store, lover. Turn out the light and I'll show you."

"I tawt I taw a puddy twat!" Tracy lifted the covers. "Ooo… I did! I did!"

He turned the light out.

---

Alarm clocks. Aren't they banned by the Geneva Conventions? Surely they are classified as instruments of torture. Especially after a long weekend. Realizing the screaming demon was on her side of the bed, Tracy removed her hand from its warmth of Rose's breast and blindly groped and poked until she found the right button.

"You shower first, I'll start the fire." Tracy offered. "After all you have to go to work while I can be domestic today."

"Mumble."

"And good morning to you too, my love!"

"Mumble, Grumph."

It seemed that Rose's thorns poked through on the mornings she didn't get to sleep in. Tracy put on her robe (the gender needle again having swung overnight) and went downstairs to stoke the fire. Having unaccountably given the world a warm day for the holiday, the weather was turning more seasonable and again there was a chill in the air. The coffee was dripping, the bread was sliced and the scrambled eggs were ready for the pan when she heard the water shut off in the shower.

Her turn under the warm water removed the last kinks of sleep. Tracy no longer noticed any stinging in her ears, they must be healing nicely, but it had been replaced by a dull ache in her back and ribs. She joined Rose in the bedroom, where she found her clothes laid out on the covers of the neatly made bed. It was still a thrill to snap the bra around her torso and shrug into the straps. She settled the forms in place, wincing at their coolness but unwilling to wait to warm them up. No stockings today, white socks and her own sneakers were more appropriate for the chores. She scooped the plain, cotton housedress over her head and settled it in place. Rose had finished her makeup so Tracy sat down and brushed her hair into place. She didn't really need makeup today but she did need the practice, so she carefully went through the steps until she was satisfied with the result. This was getting easier each time!

The coffee and eggs were ready when she got to the kitchen, having a partner to share the cooking was really wonderful. How has she lived alone for all those years? Kissing Rose goodbye she lugged in the first suitcase and started the task of washing her highly aromatic clothes. While the washer churned she methodically removed anything she might want from the car. When that was finished she noticed the wood pile was getting low so grabbed the axe and started in.

How in the devil did pioneer woman manage? At first swinging the axe was pleasant, especially the way it made her breast forms bounce in her bra. Definitely a pleasant feeling. That changed as she worked up a sweat; the forms started to feel sticky and she could feel the perspiration building up on the silicone surface and soaking the band of her bra. She knew her makeup wasn't doing all that well either. She doubted pioneer woman had much experience with artificial breasts but she needed a solution. With a little experimentation she found a pair of washcloths behind the forms helped considerably.

By the time noon arrived there was a nice pile of wood waiting and most of her old clothes were clean. The problem was almost all the whites, including all her old underwear, had a green tinge. Algae in the pond? Something in the water? Who knows, but she wouldn't need that underwear again, would she?

That was when Tracy realized she had made her decision. Tracy the woman would try her damnedest to be part of Rose's world. The challenge was formidable and completely unexpected, but the decision felt right. She would be Tracy the woman as long as she had Rose's blessing. Strange how fate had thrown them together to fulfill their old longings! The ringing of the phone interrupted her musing.

"Kominos residence."

"My, you have a lovely phone voice." It was Rose. "Maybe you can get a job as a receptionist, then work you way up to be a telemarketer in 20 years."

"Thank you, Ma'am. How may I direct you call?"

"I can't tell you, it would be improper for a bank manage to use such language in the office. Get yourself prettied up, I called Planned Parenthood and they can fit us in this afternoon if we can get there on time. I'm pulling rank and leaving early, I'll pick you up at two. There's a blue dress in the closet with white piping that you could try on. It ought to look very nice on you."

"You don't waste any time, do you. I'll have to get used to the decisive businesswoman that inhabits your body during the work week. I hope you can think of a plausible reason for two women asking about birth control before we get there."

"Simple, we tell the truth. Why do you think I called them instead of my GYN? If I saw him and got the pills at the local drugstore the entire town would know about it in about an hour and a half. Some things are worth the drive to the city."

"Not only beautiful, but smart too. I'll be ready by two.

She headed for the shower.

---

As nice as living in a small town can be, the long drives to the city can get old fast. This was only her second time, but it did seem to take forever. Rose noticed her subdued manner.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

"Oh, nothing. Just that this seems to be the week for bringing up old memories. I know its foolish but I always get nervous about going to the doctor." She paused.

"So are you going to tell me why?"

Well, when I was a kid I got real sick, mumps and meningitis at the same time, it took the doctors quite a while to figure it out and I almost died. The only thing I really remember is all the shots. By the time I was recovering I screamed and fought every time the nurse brought in one of those damned little manila envelopes with the red dot on them. I knew they were going to jab a needle in me again and I hated them. The last time I set the hospital record, took six of them to hold me still for the shot!"

"You sound entirely too proud, my love!"

"Hey, it wasn't your ass they were stabbing. I was seven years old and I didn't care if they were making me better, it hurt! I made my mom promise she would never let them poke me again before I left the place. She lied, though. I understand it all now, but as a seven year old all I knew was she betrayed me.

About a month later they had to do a blood test to make sure it was really OK and they flat out lied when I asked it they were going to give me a shot. When the doctor pulled out that damned manila envelope I was through the door and out of the office before they could stop me. It was a couple of hours later when the cops found me hiding in a park and brought me back. They still gave me the damned shot, too!"

"Poor baby."

"That's why I love you, you're so understanding and compassionate. I got over it, hell I even give blood every couple of months, but I have to push myself a little to visit the doctor even now and I know they're going to take a blood sample when we get there

"Thank you, Tracy. I'm very flattered that you would you think I'm worth the effort."

"That's why I'm willing to do it, for you. At least worrying about something that happened to me as a kid takes my mind off seeing a doctor dressed like this."

"Is that just nerves or are you having second thoughts?"

"Nerves. You know I need to try this and the only way to know is to do it, so I'm going do my best."

"We'll do it together, Tracy."

Planned parenthood was an anticlimax. The new 20 minute AIDS test only required a finger prick, by the time they had consulted with the nurse about the best method of birth control they both knew they were not infected. Not that either one of them had much doubt, but knowing is better than wondering.

The nurse lifted an eyebrow when Tracy identified himself as the male partner but was so matter of fact that Tracy felt completely comfortable in no time. Ironically it was Rose, opting for an implant, who faced the doctor. They left with their arms full of literature, including the names of a transgender support group and an electrolysis practitioner, and were in time for the early bird special at the restaurant. Not quite an omen of the future, but they were both very pleased.

Tracy was surprised when Rose pulled up in front of the local K-mart after leaving the clinic.

"What's up?"

"You think you can make do with only two cheap bras for the next few months?"

"With all the wash we create?"

"That was the party, lover. Besides, I have enough panties for me, you need to get you own. My hips are a lot bigger than yours and don't say it, buster, I know the line. Do you prefer full cut, high cut or bikini?"

"What am I wearing now?"

"Bikinis. I like bikinis. A woman likes to have sexy underwear under her power suit."

"Well this proto-woman could use a little more room in the crotch."

"Full cut, then, otherwise known as 'granny panties'."

"How romantic. 'When I get older, loosing my hair..."

"You do Daffy Duck better than the Beatles. Let's go inside."

---

"Stick to cotton for everyday, they're more comfortable, but you need some frilly nylon ones when you want to feel sexy. Go ahead and pick you poison – you wear a size 7. .You want a two week supply of underwear so we can go away for a weekend and not run out of clothes if we miss a washday."

Rose was a woman after her own heart. She had figured that out a long time ago but didn't mention it. Tracy put three packages of flowered panties in the cart.

"You'll need a few more plain, everyday bras like these. The Playtex 18 hour really is comfortable, especially when you have knockers like mine to support." She tossed several white and black boxes in the cart.

"Won't I need more bras to last for two weeks?"

"I generally wear mine for two days as long as they still smell nice but on weekends I like to let go and get sexy. Come over here and we'll get some pretty ones for you."

Tracy was a little intimidated by the rows of bras hanging before her, their empty cups looking rather pathetic.

"You're a 38C. There won't be as many of them as you could want, but at least you'll find something here. I have to go to the specialty shops, nobody carries cup sizes above 'D'. We're both a little too big to be fashionable. Go ahead and look, but stay away from the underwire types, your forms will fall out of them too easily. What do you think of this little number?" She held up a red, lacy bra for her inspection."

"If I wear that for you will you take it off of me?" Rose's response went astray because Tracy ducked very quickly.

"Now look who's attracting attention!"

They continued their search until Tracy held blue gingham checks, tiger stripes, and various bright colors in 38C.

"Go on – try them on. You can pretty well trust the sizes in the packaged bras from the big makers but with the fancy ones you need to try them on to be sure before you buy them. Go ask the saleslady for the key to the dressing room."

It was a lot easier to duck from her physical sparring. This mental thrust landed square in the psyche."

"You're kidding!"

"No, I'm not. You're going to have to try on everything tonight so get used to it. You're a proper lady, you can make it through this. Quick! Catch her before she gets away!"

"Excuse me… Miss…"

The cart was full by the time they left. Pantyhose, stockings, kneehighs, Peds, socks – all that just for the legs. Tracy found a few pairs of flats that fit her nicely. Shoes were easier to try on, at least she didn't have to hide in a dressing room with an open top and bottom, praying no one got curious. Into the cart they went, along with a couple of flannel nightgowns, some cute pajamas printed with dancing snowman and a fuzzy white robe. Then there was styling gel, brushes and such from the cosmetics aisle and a watch more suited to her new personality. She was thinking of getting some new earrings but the jewelry was downright ugly.

The total shocked her frugal soul, but this was an investment in the new life she had freely chosen.

---

As they undressed for bed, Rose noticed Tracy wince as she reached back to unsnap her bra. "Hurt yourself, sweetheart?"

"Not really, just a little sore in the back and ribs. Must have been all that firewood I chopped this morning."

"Firewood? How ambitious. I suppose you didn't change out of your dress?"

"Of course not!"

"Come over here." She came. "Now put your hands under my tits and lift up."

Confused but perfectly willing, Tracy complied.

"Notice anything?"

"Just look at my crotch if you want an answer."

"Smartass. That's not what I want you to notice. Bounce me up and down a few times, will you?"

"My pleasure. You have very warm, bouncy and inviting tits that wiggle very attractively"

"You are as dense as the wood in the woodpile! Just hold them up high for a minute and tell me what they feel like."

She waited patiently.

"They're getting heavy."

"The woman passes the first round! Now, for the bonus round and the giant kielbasa, what happens when you put several pounds of unaccustomed weight in a bra and hang it around chest while doing heavy exercise?"

"Oh… There needs to be warning labels on these things!" She peered into the cup of her bra with a disgusted look.

"Come to bed, my darling idiot, and let me rub your back."

---

Life settled into a routine as the weeks passed. Tracy found out the hard way that jobs in a small town are not easy to find, and when they are found a woman's pay purely stinks. After three weeks of increasing boredom she took the job many women take out of desperation – waitress. If nothing else, being on public display all day would polish her new image until it shined, if it didn't kill her first."

Rose was mightily amused when Tracy asked to go into town with her to apply for the job. "Is this a macho attack, darling? You know we have enough money to live on, you don't have to take the first job you can find in order to survive."

"Not macho, mostly boredom. I wasn't cut out to sit at home all day. Sure, the pay's lousy but I'm thinking more about getting to know people in town and just learning how to be a woman. At least the Dairy Palace is casual and I won't have to wear some stupid uniform. I still think wearing a skirt with sneakers and socks is pretty stupid, but that seems to be the fashion around here. Since you have enough clothes for three women I shouldn't have too much trouble finding something appropriate to wear."

"Just stick to the bulky and loose fitting stuff and you'll be fine. Can I get a discount if I come in for lunch?"

"Ask the boss, and don't forget to leave a generous tip for you server!"

---

Starting a new job is never easy, especially when the job could be considered a major step down from the last one. Tracy had waited tables while in college, but it had been a long time since college. Tracy tried her best to consider this the cost of tuition at the University of Femininity. She had confidence in herself after the reunion and her few weeks of practice at home, but she recognized the need for a real life test. If being on display to everyone in the town for her entire working day didn't provide that test then she didn't know what would.

The still skeptical Rose dropped Tracy off Monday morning, wishing her luck but refraining from a kiss goodbye in public. Tracy showed Barb, the owner, her Social Security card, filled out the W4 and that was that. From an accountant's perspective a deplorable lack of paperwork but from Tracy's ambiguous female perspective a major advantage of living in a small town.

The other waitress that day was Lil, an older woman with a passel of grandkids and an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire town. Customers were few after the breakfast rush and Tracy got the lowdown on every customer after each had left. In between customers Tracy learned the latest in gossip, who was doing what and with who. There were details of the new carpet the Fraziers just got, the pierced nose the youngest Wilson girl showed up with yesterday and questions about what the devil the school board thought they were doing at the middle school. Tracy had to wonder just what would be said after she left, that would be interesting to overhear.

The old skills came back quickly, she handled the lunch rush pretty well, all things considered, then back to wiping up and gossiping when the place was empty. Tracy was wiping off her last table as she watched a burly man head for the door of the shop. When the bell on the front door jingled she looked around and found that she was alone, Barb and Lil had disappeared.

"Gimmesomegoddamncoffee. WherethehellisLil?" grumbled the man as he dumped his coat on the seat in the booth.

"Cream and sugar?" Try to be polite, Tracy.

"Jezussugarannogoddamncream."

"Coming right up!" Try real hard to be polite, Tracy. Real hard!

She went behind the counter to pour the coffee and saw Barb and Lil hiding out of sight, grinning like maniacs. Initiation time, sure as hell. She grabbed a menu and delivered the coffee.

"Don'neednogoddamnmenu. Cheesburgnfriesandon'forgethteketchup."

"Enjoy your coffee, I'll be right back with your meal." You old bugger.

"Cheeseburg and fries, Barb!" she shouted, as if Barb wasn't right there to hear. She polished the counter while she waited.

"Gimmesomemorecoffeewillya?"

The caffeine must be kicking in, at least there was no goddamn this time. She grabbed the pot and poured.

"There you go. Is it hot enough, sir?"

"Sure. Thanks." That was progress, of a sort.

She delivered his plate and remembered the ketchup, even opening the bottle for him, then topped off the coffee. Get enough caffeine in him and he might even leave a tip!

"Can I offer you some pie for dessert? The apple is fresh made and just out of the oven."

"Don't mind if I do. Hey, what's your name, anyway?"

"Tracy, I just started here today. Pleased to meet you, sir."

"Call me Sam. Go and tell Lil she can stop hiding, will ya? I'm feeling human again and won't bite her head off."

"I'm sure she'll be glad to hear that. I'll let her know when I see her."

He finished the pie and left a nice tip. Just goes to show you, doesn't it? Tracy went behind the counter again.

"OK you two, you can come out now. Cowards!"

"You don't think I would stick around for Old Sammy when he's been boozing the night before, do you girl?"

"Since I just had the pleasure of meeting Old Sammy for the first time I didn't think. Did I pass the test?"

"Sister, when he didn't stomp you into a bloody pulp before his second cup of coffee you got an A+. Why do you think we had to hire you, little Clarise is still in therapy and won't be able to work for months yet."

"And I thought the biker bar I used to work was tough! Any more interesting customers I need to know about?"

She didn't have to work for the rest of her shift as Barb and Lil regaled her with tales of their eccentric customers.

---

By the time another month had gone by Tracy had completely adapted to her new gender. Her deliberately mannish manor caused a lot of odd looks at first, but that was only to be expected. As customers got to get to know her she became part of the ambiance of the town, as far as anyone could whose great grandparents didn't grow up there. The insular attitude of a small town was far more a barrier to acceptance than her looks. People were superficially friendly, but there was an aloofness that went deeper than her chosen gender presentation.

She was getting discouraged, though. There were simply no jobs available anywhere close to her training and expertise. The waitress bit was getting old fast, but what else could she do? Rose just laughed and said "Welcome to the world of women, Tracy. Do you think I started as the manager of the bank? Even with my degree in finance and marketing the best job I could land around her was as a teller. I really didn't want to move away from my friends and family, so I took it and worked six times harder than the men until someone noticed and I got out from behind the counter. Then I worked ten times harder and had to wait until all the men had died or moved away before I made manager. Now you know what it really means to be a woman, cutie pie!"

As time went on she developed a string of regulars, who knew which tables were hers and always sat at them. First and foremost was the irascible Uncle Burt. They happily traded barbs whenever he was in and he always left a 15% tip. To the penny. After lunch one day he looked at her and asked "So, do you like being a waitress?"

"Hell, Burt, it's something to do until a real job turns up. I'm not going to just sit around and sponge off of Rose for the rest of my life."

"I thought so. Maybe I can do something about that. Come over to the office on tomorrow. I have a couple of projects I have been putting off because I don't have the time, maybe you can take them on for me. You know where my office is, only a block from the bank. Hell – everything's a block from the bank in this town."

"Why, thank you Uncle Burt. That's the nicest proposition I've had all week long!"

Just don't tell Sylvia, she gets jealous when she can't keep up with me." Since Sylvia was sitting next to him, that earned him a swat.

"Tracy honey, the old bugger may still have the interest but his principal was used up by the time he hit sixty. You can be sure he will behave himself properly when in the presence of a lady such as yourself or I'll personally cancel his check when he gets home. Isn't that so, darling?"

"Everyone has to put up with the auditors, don't they?" Burt replied with a rueful grin.

"That reminds me, have you been counting the calories today, Burt? That's got to be your third slice of pie, you old buzzard."

"Fourth, but who's counting. I'll work it off in bed tonight. Wanna exercise with me? You can count how many pushups I do.

"Bertram Stavros Kominos!"

"I know I'm in trouble when I count three names. I'll see you tomorrow, Tracy."

---

When Rose picked her up Tracy filled her in on the good news.

"If uncle Burt is serious about having work for you then you don't have to worry about filling out any forms with those pesky boxes labeled 'M' and 'F'. When he didn't retire at 65 he decided employees were too much trouble and paperwork. Besides, he's too damn cheap to pay the social security taxes, the old bugger! If he refers work to you you're an independent subcontractor and takes a cut out of the fee.

"Will we have time do some shopping tonight? I'll need a new wardrobe if I'm going to work for Uncle Burt. I'd really appreciate your advice as to the proper attire for a businesswoman."

"Tracy, I have a whole closet full of power suits."

"Sure, closely tailored for a woman of epic proportions while I have a short story filling my brassiere."

"Brassiere? My aren't we formal?"

"Exactly! I need to be formal and look it. A waitress at the Dairy Palace can wear anything that she wants, an accountant has to look sharp for her clients, even in a small town."

"Just put your charge card in the freezer lover; it will take longer to melt it from overuse. You do realize this will be expensive?"

"Spoken like a true banker. Maybe I can get a loan, I know someone in the business. Seriously, I have the resources and I want to do this right. We need to talk about how we want to work our finances sometime soon, too."

"I know. We can work it out together, love."

---

The time had come for Tracy's formal initiation into womanhood, the shopping trip. Tracy, in her inexperience, had assumed they would head for the mall, but Rose had other ideas.

"Tracy honey, we could find what we want at the mall but it costs too much and it all looks the same. A wise woman starts at the bargain racks and goes on from there. Since you are want to look thoroughly professional, for a woman that means well tailored business suits. We'll stick to the darker colors, as befits a sober accountant, but add a splash of color with accessories. The jacket will compensate for your lack of a figure until summer comes. Did you notice how the dress you're wearing is made?"

"Well, it looks kind of severe."

"That's because it has rather straight lines and doesn't emphasize the waist you don't have. The yoke is high and square and the piping gives it a vaguely military look that goes with the butch image you are trying to project. See how it all fits together?"

"I'm starting to think that it was a lot easier just to decide which color suit to put on in the morning. This is getting complicated."

"That's why you need a fashion consultant. Isn't it lucky you fond me? We'll start with the Basement Boutique and then hit the chain stores like Marshals and Champion. Like I said, always start with the closeouts."

The Basement Boutique turned out to be a crowded little establishment specializing in closeouts from large chains. Rose assured Tracy the prices were quite reasonable. Tracy supposed that in comparison to a good men's suit it wasn't all that much, but it all added up pretty quickly. After all, a woman was expected to wear something different every day or she would be considered a frump. Tracy's longer arms made it a bit difficult to find business attire that complimented her properly, but they found two ensembles. Several blouses in different colors would help to lend the needed variety. At first Tracy balked at wearing slacks, skirts were still new to her and she equated them with femininity."

"Tracy honey, when it's 20 below with three feet of snow on the ground you do not want to be wearing a skirt. Trust me on this. Besides, there are times a woman wants to wow the customer with her femininity and other times she needs to tone it down to be taken seriously. You'll need to tailor your wardrobe to the situation much more than you used to, so keep your options open."

By the time they reached the last store, Tracy was able to confidently choose her final outfit without Rose's advice. Passing the jewelry counter, Tracy was attracted by a silver necklace with a blue teardrop pendant. The saleswoman was delighted by the time Tracy had finished looking, it was her best sale of the day. Every time she suggested something her customer bought it, including a jewelry box to keep them in.

I took them three trips to bring it all in the house. Tracy was high as a kite unwrapping her purchases. Let's hope Uncle Burt has a LOT of clients hanging around, she was going to need them!

"Where are we going to put all this, Rose? It looks like there's enough stuff here to fill two closets!"

"Don't worry, I'll move my summer clothes to the guest bedroom and we'll have plenty of space, at least until the next time I take you shopping!. I just hope this all works out."

"Of course it will, with you to guide me how can it fail? This is an investment in our future, and I'm not willing to go halfway. I love you, Rose. No qualifications, no doubts, not any more. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. There had to be a reason that you and I met, that your time with Jacki let you able to fill the need I didn't even know I had. The rest of the world would think we're crazy, but that doesn't matter. As long as you'll have me I want to live with you and love you, to be there for you when you need me. You've given me a gift I can never repay, but I intend to try."

I love you too, Tracy. I'm as happy and satisfied now as I was when I woke up that first morning with your hand on my breast. You, both sides of you, are what I was missing. This is what love is, the two of us together and sharing our lives."

It was quite a while before the new clothes were put away, but they didn't care.

---

Tracy had stage fright. There wasn't a stage in sight but Tracy had it anyway. Attired in her new skirted suit she paused at the door to Uncle Burt's office and took a deep breath. She opened the door and went in.

"Good morning, Tracy."

"Good morning, Burt."

"Sit down and I'll get you a cup of coffee. That ought to make a pleasant change, won't it?"

Burt busied himself with the coffee for a minute, then sat down.

"Well Tracy, I haven't forgotten our conversation at the reunion. My niece tells me you're a pretty good accountant, so why the hell are you slinging hash in a diner?"

"Money Burt, plain and simple money. I'm not too proud to work for a living, even the pay is lousy. Rose invited me to stay with her when I was down on my luck, but I'm not going to freeload. If I'm going to be underemployed I'd rather do it here than in the city. I've always gone camping when the city got too much for me, it kept me sane. When I hit the end of the line I decided to see if life in the country was what I really wanted, and I think it is. So, until something better turns up I'm doing what I have to do."

"That's pretty much what I figured. Hell, I washed dishes once upon a time and was elated when I made it up the line to waiter. Nothing wrong with that. So here's the deal. I have a couple of people who want my services and I'm just too busy right now. For the present it would be a one shot thing, but I have some possibilities in the next few months. If it works out there is the distinct possibility of quite a bit of work for you. Are you interested?"

"Certainly!

"Even if the customer is Old Sammy?"

"Why, that old fraud. You just pour coffee down him until he gets civil and he's a pussycat."

"You might consider renting a tanker from the Dairy Co-op, I think you'll need it. Sammy runs a small veal operation. He knows animals and farming but he hates paperwork, especially tax paperwork. It appears he has ignored the IRS for several years; unfortunately, they are not ignoring him. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to take these records," he hefted a large paper shopping bag from behind his desk" and try to make some sense of them. These, my dear, are Old Sammy's business records."

"You're as bad as Lill, Burt. The first day at the diner she bailed out when Sammy came in with a hangover and left me to his tender mercies. I should have known someone with your sense of humor couldn't resist repeating a bad joke. Well, I wanted a challenge, you delivered."

They discussed Old Sammy and how to make sense out of his affairs, then settled on terms for the job. Rose had been right about being an independent contractor. Tracy hefted the bag and left, but couldn't resist stopping at the diner for a cup of coffee. Frankly, she wanted to show off her new clothes.

"Well la-de-da, if it ain't the Queen of England dropped in for a cupa tea! I'm sorry, Queenie darling, but we're fresh out of crumpets today, unless that's what you got in the bag."

"Good morning to you too, Lill. No need to curtsy, but a low bow would be appreciated. The butler has the day off so I'm slumming. A cup of coffee and a Danish, if you please." The hoity-toity accent had Lill practically busting her gut. Queen, huh? If only she knew…..

"Certainly, you highness!" Lill raised her voice "HEY BARB, GRAB A DANISH AND COME OUT TO SEE THE QUEEN, WILLYA?"

Barb and Lill pulled up chairs with their own coffee.

"Wow, Tracy, you look great!" What's the deal?"

"I just landed a side job in accounting. Don't worry, Barb, I'm not going to quit; it's just I am an accountant, you know."

"Don't tell me that old tightwad Burt let go of a penny he could have kept! Couldn't be, we would have heard the screaming and felt the earth move."

"Is that any way to talk about my employer and my housemate's uncle? So cynical for one so young."

"Cynical hell, the old tightwad does my taxes too."

---

Returning home Tracy plunged into the bag of papers. Most accountants dreaded the "brown bag" jobs, and this was one of the worst she had seen. Just sorting the stuff consumed hours and she barely remembered to go pick up Rose from work. The dining room looked like a strangely neat recycling facility.

"Somehow I think your Uncle Burt is giving me a test, don't you think?"

"Such a suspicious nature, love.

"Why, I'm no more suspicious than your average IRS agent. You don't happen to have a relative in the veal business, do you. I'm afraid I have no experience in such things and knowing how a proper farm works would be a great help."

"How could you doubt me, darling? I'll give Aunt Rheia and Uncle Orthros a call right now.

The next morning Tracy took special care to dress in her light gray pantsuit with a simple white blouse, trying to project a thoroughly professional image. The image was perfect, but she found out it was highly inappropriate for visiting a working farm in the rain. Aunt Rheia and Uncle Orthros' farm was a major operation with several barns filled with calves, acres of land covered in corn stubble and a large farmhouse. It was a good thing they kept extra boots for visitors as farming and mud inevitably go together no matter how modern the operation.

Tracy found that veal is a side industry of dairy farming, in order to keep producing milk a dairy cow has to give birth once a year. The females eventually join mamma in milk production but what do you do with the males? As Uncle Orthos pointed out even modern science hasn't figured how to put teats on a bull, a point that made Tracy uncomfortably aware of the silicon forms in her bra. Thus the males became veal after four or five months.

There were obviously a lot of male calves in this world. She visited the barns and saw long lines of calves in individual shoulder high stalls. While small they were free to move and lie down. The barn was warm and comfortable despite the chill drizzle outside and the calves seemed content. Naturally she had heard the horror stories of how veal was raised and asked about them.

"I hate to say it but some of those stories are true." Rheia responded. "There's always some damned fool who thinks they can make a buck and doesn't care about ethics or humanity in how they do it. I understand you have personal experience in what happens when you run a business that way, Tracy. Things are slowly getting better but there's no excuse to mistreat animals that way. Besides, doing the right thing is more profitable in the long run. A sick calf can't be sold and a dead calf is pure loss; that's no way to run a business."

She spent the rest of the morning learning the economics and practicalities of veal farming; purchasing calves, auctions, buying, preparing and storing the feed, paying the employees, maintaining the buildings, handling the manure in an environmentally safe way, marketing and transporting the finished calves.

So much for her city bread view of a farmer as a hayseed with a tractor. These people were working executives of a multi million dollar corporation. This was a high tech operation with sophisticated air handling equipment in the barns, a facility to produce the liquid feed that would not have looked out of place in a hospital, and a maze of tanks and pipes to store the manure until it could be used to fertilize the fields surrounding the farm. The computer system in the office frankly made Tracy jealous.

After the Kominos farm Old Sammy's place seemed pretty small. A one man operation in a genteelly run down barn but the animals were treated well despite the lack of high technology. The hardest part of the whole job was getting Sam to accept that his waitress was really an accountant, once she had convinced him she knew what she was doing it was easier, but his records were still a mess.

After days of work and months of negotiation with the IRS (her first meeting with an IRS agent in her new personality was a memorable experience!) the matter was finally settled. Sammy wasn't exactly pleased with the final settlement, who would be after having to take a second mortgage to settle his taxes, but he sang the praises of his "Bulldog Accountant" to anyone who would listen.

Tracy gradually took on more of Burt's work and by the spring of the new year felt confident enough of her income to buy a used car, simplifying her growing transportation needs. She traded in her old license for one from Pennsylvania, it still had that pesky "M" on it but at least the picture was her new look. Memorial Day was her last day at the Dairy Palace, by the official start of summer she felt her income from her chosen profession was stable enough to live on.

Finding the name of the electrolysis practitioner from that seemingly long ago trip to Planned Parenthood Tracy put considerable mileage on her new car but by the end of the summer shaving was a thing of the past. A week before the family reunion Burt and Sylvia invited them over to their house for dinner, which was superb. Afterwards they settled in the den with some fine cognac and Burt began to expound.

"Tracy, you know I'm going to turn 85 in a few weeks and Sylvia and I have decided it's time to really retire."

"Uncle Burt" exclaimed Rose. "You can't be serious!"

"So I've been told, many times! But Sylvia and I are going to leave for a tour around the country on the first of October and don't know when we will be back. Tracy, you've shown me you have the capability to handle the business and have taken over a good portion of it in the last year. So here's my proposition: I'll sell you 51% of the business, and I'll expect you to do well enough that my 49% will keep me and Sylvia in the style to which we have become accustomed until we kick off. I promise to keep my fingers out of the pie and let you run it."

"Burt, I don't know what to say!"

"Try 'Yes', Tracy."

She looked at Rose, whose delight was obvious.

"Yes."

"See Sylvia, I told you my new partner was no dummy. There's just one more thing. I took over the business from my father and I would love to have it stay in the family. So it would please me greatly if you two would get married and humor an old man."

Silence. Lots of silence. At last Rose spoke "Burt, aren't you forgetting something?"

"Like maybe this dirty old man didn't notice you look like two women? Not likely, Rosie dear. You don't think I would have invited Tracy to work with me without checking up on her record, did you? I was a little confused when I tracked down your old boss at Anderson, Tracy, but he sang your praises to the sky, as did several of your former clients. Put that together with Katrina mentioning Rose had borrowed Mamma Kate's breast forms and the answer is obvious. You are very good, Tracy, but I'm better!"

"You've known all along?"

"Yup. Figured it was your business and not mine. As far as I can see the whole town bought your story, so who am I to screw up a great joke? So I repeat, when are you two going to get married?"

"Excuse me a second, Burt." Tracy turned to Rose. "Rose, would you do me the honor of becoming my spouse?"

"I do."

"No, that comes later, in front of the judge. Try 'yes' for now." advised Burt.

"Yes!"

"Burt, I don't know what you've gotten us into, but thank you from the bottom of my heart." Tracy impulsively rose and gave the old man a warm hug while Rose did the same to Sylvia.

"I'll tell you one thing, my dears, I intend to stay alive for a long, long time and see just how this all works out!"

Needless to say, they all lived happily after, including Burt who shows no signs of slowing down and has the speeding tickets to prove it.



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