The Bell Curve

The Bell Curve
By Ricky

She had beautiful eyes. Warm, liquid brown eyes that that showed her eagerness while they bored into your soul. She was stretched languidly on the couch, her trim belly bare and her legs spread wide in invitation. I had been neglecting her terribly, long hours at work and no time for her, yet there she lay there begging me to come over and stroke her body. I felt like a cad as I stood there.

"OK girl, I'll take you for a walk." Tail wagging furiously my dog leaped off the couch and headed for the leash that hung by the front door. I could barely get the harness fastened, her body was wiggling so.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing. The trees were just turning that spring green that heralds the end of winter. The spring rain had ceased a few days ago and the ground was dry enough to break out the lawnmower and lop off the precocious blades that stuck up a few inches above the rest of their fellows.

The first warm weekend of spring! Screw the lawnmower, Millie wanted to take a walk and I wasn't going to disappoint her.

Well, to be truthful Millie wanted to take a run. When seventy pounds of eager Pitt Bull wants to run it can be hard on your arms. As we hit the sidewalk I broke into a nice, easy jog and had just gotten into rhythm when I was abruptly spun around. The leash was now attached to an immovable object that was adding a stream of liquid fertilizer to my neighbors lawn. Women! Human or canine, they're just plain fickle!

Her business completed we continued down the street at a brisk pace. I swear I could see the energy shedding in a slipstream behind her eager body as she somehow managed to sniff every interesting plant, bush and tree without breaking stride. I don't know how she does that; one of nature's miracles, I guess. By the time we hit the second block she had slowed down, for which I was grateful. If Millie hadn't been getting her accustomed walks over the winter then neither had I, I was breathing rather hard and knew I was going to have to do something about the incipient spare tire around my middle.

By the time we turned the corner my breathing had returned to normal and Millie gave me a couple of pauses to catch my breath while she fertilized another lawn or two. I stood there trying to read the sign at the end of the block in vain - must be time to visit the optometrist again, I couldn't quite make out the letters. As we approached the corner I was able to make it out: YARD SALE.

Ah hah! A surer sign of spring than the first robin, the first yard sale! It was easy to see where it was being held, three houses down the lawn was covered in tables and the tables were covered in clothes, dishes and a thousand things that had accumulated in the house that were no longer needed. There was no one around as I approached, but I browsed through the tables while Millie sniffed the table legs and various interesting spots on the lawn. Being a smart dog, she eventually wandered into the shadow of one of the tables and curled up while I looked around.

I had made a small pile objects on the porch steps. Some tools, a nice picture and a few dress shirts that should fit me, I really love finding a bargain. Suddenly the door of the house swung open and a couple of pounds of white fluff came shooting down the stairs, yapping furiously. Millie was up and running in a Millie-second (sorry - I couldn't resist) to play with the newcomer.

I need to pause here and talk about the reaction Millie elicits in strangers. Millie is the sweetest , most gentle dog I have ever known. She still thinks that she's a lap dog, even if she weighs seventy pounds. She had come into my life when her mother committed suicide by leaping over a porch railing with her leash still attached - sadly not even a Pit Bull's neck can withstand that kind of punishment - and I was unable to resist the little ball of fur that my friend brought over to the house. He begged me to take one of the pups and I couldn't refuse.

She fit into the palm of my hand comfortably back then. She was half the size of Carmel the cat, who bossed her around unmercifully. Pit Bulls have a bad rep, and there are certainly those who train them to be nasty or fighters, but they can be loving pets as well. I had been very careful to train her not to be aggressive and had succeeded. If the leader of the pack is the Alpha Dog then Millie is the Omega. A couple of years ago I had watched while a friend's border collie had leaped up and taken the food right out of Millie's mouth and all she did was look at me with those pleading eyes, then settle down for a nap. Millie was heartbroken when Carmel passed on a while back, she kept searching the house for days.

Be that as it may, I'll resume my tale with my Pitt Bull streaking toward a little piece of fluff that I assumed was a dog in disguise. Strangers tend to get rather upset when this sort of thing happens. I had relaxed my grip on the leash as I browsed and it was no great trick for Millie to leave me standing there. The two dogs met halfway, but Millie was moving too fast to stop and had to shift gears while the piece of fluff turned on a dime and they made a second approach. This time Millie was moving slow enough when they met and the two of them spun around in paroxysms of doggie joy, sniffing and barking with tails wagging.

If you are one of those people who insist on talking about 'dog years' then you might say the woman on the porch was no bigger than her pet in 'Human Inches'. If the top of her head was five feet off the ground it was only because her ample grey hair got her there. Think Granny Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies and you have the picture.

She was looking rather pale and I couldn't blame her, she had just gotten a tremendous shock. Dog owners in general love their pets, but I have found that older women with little dogs are particularly devoted to their canine companions. When it looks like Fifi (little dogs like that are ALWAYS called Fifi) is about to become lunch for some growling monster a woman is entitled to be upset.

"They seem to like each other." I offered mildly.

"So they do." She replied, still looking more than a bit tentative. The ball of fluff was eagerly investigating under Millie's tail. He had to stand on his hind feet to reach, but reach he did. Put me in mind of Eric Bogle's song "Little Gomez", wherein a Chihuahua valiantly tries to cover a St. Bernard.

"Would you believe me if I said she's a friendly dog and not a monster?"

"I suppose I have to." The ball of fluff was now licking Millie's belly as she lay spread-eagled on the ground. "That is a Pitt Bull, isn't it?"

"Yeah, she is. I know - bad rep, but Millie's a sweetie. She wouldn't hurt a fly."

"It's not the flies I'm worried about, but Max seems to like her even if she is a bit out of his weight class."

So I lied - but he still looked like a Fifi to me. No way to tell the sex under all that hair, anyway.

"I'm sorry if Millie scared you, I should have had a better hold on her leash."

"My heart restarted all by itself, young man. I try not to think in stereotypes, but I must admit when I saw Millie charging for Max I betrayed my principals. Now that I'm a bit calmer I can see she's a very pretty dog. Why don't you come up and sit down while the two of them play, it would be a shame to let them miss their fun, wouldn't it?"

"It would be a pleasure. My name is Gus and I live a couple of blocks over."

"You can call me Sarah, after all it's my name."

"Quite a collection you have here, Sarah."

"Not mine - my tenants ran out on me and left everything behind. You get all kinds when you're a landlord, heaven knows. They seemed like a nice couple when they moved in, but they were always fighting and screaming. I was just about to throw them out so I could get a little peace when they disappeared.

Would you believe counterfeiters? I figured that by the time the detectives stopped dropping by to find out if they'd come back I was pretty safe selling off their stuff. Doubt it will pay the back rent, though."

"Ah hah! Somehow I couldn't picture you wearing any of those bikinis on the table."

"The picture would be in black and white if it existed, Gus. About 40 years ago I would have been happy to wear any of them - if the prudes didn't try to lynch me, that is - but my Harold wouldn't have let me out of the house dressed like that. He'd have kept me in the bedroom and I wouldn't have been wearing it for too long, I can tell you. Don't look so shocked, I take my feisty pills every morning and try to say six outrageous things before lunch every day."

"Darn, I don't have my calculator with me. Can I keep track on the back of an envelope or something?"

"I'll happily tattoo it into your hide with a rusty knitting needle. There, I only have four left before I hit my quota."

"Now, knitting needles sound more like what I would expect from your obvious maturity. Tell you what - model one of those bikinis for me and you'll fill your quota for the week."

"You tempt me, Gus, if for no other reason than to teach you a lesson. However, Christine was considerably more Rubenesque than I, I'd have to wrap the halter around myself a couple of times and it would ruin the effect.."

"Truly a shame. Maybe you can find something that fits at someone else's garage sale."

"I got enough junk around here without finding more!"

Just then a car pulled up in front of the house.

"Millie! Cookie, Millie!"

Millie came up the stairs and stood expectantly. I didn't want to scare off her customers, so I fished out the bag of doggie treats from my pocket and tossed them to her one by one, retrieving the leash while she was chewing. I broke one in half and gave it to Max, who revealed two brown eyes and a pink mouth beneath the mass of hair.

One of the pleasures of city life is sitting on the front porch with neighbors. A custom of a bygone era for the most part, but I spent an hour or more chatting with Sarah while people came and browsed, then left with their spoils. Eventually I paid for my selections and continued my walk, but I had made a new friend in the neighborhood.

---

I had just started defrosting a steak for supper on Sunday night when Millie gave me the eye and sat patiently by the door. The glutton, I had given her a walk yesterday and now she wanted another. We went through the usual routine with the harness and I soon found myself passing Sarah's yard sale. The selection was considerably thinner than the day before, but there were still quite a few shirts and pants that might be worth having, especially since there was a HALF PRICE sign stuck on the end of the table.

"Well, if it ain't Millie and her Human." Sarah opened the door and called for Max. Soon the two were frolicking and I found myself sitting on the porch with an iced tea in my hand.

"People just aren't cooperating, Gus. Look at all the stuff I have left."

"Well, I'll take the clothes off your hands, Sarah. After all, who can resist half price?"

"Tell you what, ten bucks and the lot of them are yours."

"You've got a deal. That is if whoever that is that just pulled up doesn't want them. I wouldn't want to cheat you out of a profit if someone else is willing to pay."

"Relax. That's just Dawn, my son's ex. She came over to help me put away the tables."

"Hey - its afternoon, you don't have to be saying anything outrageous until tomorrow morning."

"I had my quota by ten this morning, sonny, so don't tease an old woman. She may have divorced my son but I wouldn't let her divorce me. Sam's off in some godforsaken hellhole trying to find oil and get rich, so he never visits his old mamma, but Dawn is the daughter I never had."

The dogs abandoned their play to investigate the newcomer. She was immediately down on her knees to greet the dogs and somehow managed to pet both of them at the same time even though they were orbiting around her. They both plainly found her irresistible. The orbit decayed until Millie was once again spread-eagled and waiting for scratching while Max sniffed her tail again. In seconds her leg was twitching as Dawn found that spot that drives dogs wild.

I found myself with an urge to do a bit of twitching myself. A pair of short shorts did nothing to hide her long and shapely legs as she knelt on the ground, and her T-shirt molded itself around her breasts quite nicely while leaving her exquisite navel exposed. She had short, dark hair and long, dangly earrings that sparkled and flashed in the afternoon sun as she scratched Millie. I wouldn't mind taking her home from the yard sale along with the clothes.

"I hope I don't offend you by saying your son must have his priorities a little out of whack."

"He's a greedy son of a bitch, and a Republican to boot, but we can't all be perfect. Never could figure where we went wrong with that one." She paused, then called to Dawn "You're going to spoil the poor dog rotten, girl. come up here and meet Gus.

"HI Gus. I like your puppy."

"If you think she's a puppy I'd hate to see what you consider a big dog."

St. Bernards are a good place to start. Matter of fact I wouldn't mind seeing one coming down the street with a keg around her neck. I'm parched."

"I can take a hint!" replied Sarah, and went inside for a glass.

"Seriously," Dawn continued, "She's a love. What's her name?"

"Millie. Sit down and you'll find out the still considers herself a lap dog."

She sat and we were soon joined by our canine companions. Try as she might, Millie couldn't find enough lap to accommodate her, so she curled up at Dawn's feet and we spent a companionable time on the front porch waiting for customers that never came. Eventually it was time to break down the tables and I stayed to help. I soon realized that I wouldn't be able to carry all my new clothes home, so Dawn offered to take them home for me. Being no fool I quickly accepted.

She even helped me bring in the boxes we had packed up, Millie cavorting around us and threatening to trip us at any second as we lugged boxes up the porch steps. .

"Nice place, Gus."

"You wouldn't say that if you saw the upstairs. There's a truly prodigious pile of clothes covered in dog hair waiting for the washer. Damn good thing Millie has short hair or I'd look like I was wearing a fur coat every time I sat on the couch."

"Millie, he's insulting you!" She sat on the couch and began to scratch my furry friend's head. "I love you even if your master's an old grouch." She looked at me. "Apologize, you old grouch. You've hurt her feelings!"

"Yeah, I can see she's all broken up." Millie was splayed out and kicking as she got her tummy rubbed. "You're going to spoil my dog if you keep that up. She's going to expect me to rub her all day long!"

"And she deserves it! Here, take over for a minute, my hand is getting tired."

"My point exactly." I sat on the couch beside her and took over before those liquid brown eyes could do their "Love Me" routine.

Wait a minute! How did it happen that a woman I have known for only a couple of hours just invited me to sit beside her on my own couch? Not that I was going to object, mind you, especially since the warmth of her body was seeping into mine as our hips touched. Nice.

One thing led to another and she stayed for dinner, lucky there was enough steak to stretch for two. Millie was doing her attentive bit, flipping her ears while we ate. That's her refined form of begging. Unfortunately for her I wasn't paying her any mind - I had my attention firmly centered on Dawn.

Amazing what you can pick up at a garage sale!

----

My work reprieve ended Monday morning. Someone in East Jehunga had screwed up their system so badly they couldn't unscrew it without help. Since I was on rotation I got stuck. I quickly went home and packed, then carted Millie off to Doggie Gaol (The actual name some overly educated medieval scholar hung on his kennel), trying my best to ignore her pleading as I walked away. Talk about guilt!

The problem turned out to be a bear, it was late Friday when I arrived home, far too late to go bail for Millie. Saturday morning I woke up late and went to fetch my lady home, but when I reached into the drawer for new socks and underwear the cupboard was bare - and so was I. Between the laundry pile and the unexpected trip out of town I was fresh out of underwear. No socks, no shorts, no handkerchiefs.

So I did what any red blooded man would do and dug into the dirty laundry basket. That was a very short lived idea, after a couple of weeks the contents were too ripe for even my relaxed standards. I was trying to decide if I could get away with wearing my swimming suit while I broke Millie out of Doggie Gaol when I remembered my new clothes, still in boxes in the living room. I padded down and started opening the things and was surprised to find the first one filled with skirts and blouses.

That crafty old lady! Sarah had said I could have all the clothes for ten bucks, and guess I got my money's worth. However, she stuck me with ALL of the clothes so it was now my problem to get rid of the ones I couldn't use! I kept opening boxes - nightgowns, stockings, shoes, bras, panties. Just great! How had I not noticed how many boxes there were? So OK, Dawn had distracted me, I didn't care how many boxes there were last weekend.

At last, shirts and pants, I was getting closer! Not close enough, though. That was the last box. That wily old lady had, pulled a fast one on me. One lousy box of men's clothes and (one… two… three…) nine boxes of women's things. I think I'm going to hire her to negotiate my next raise, she would make one hell of an agent!

So OK, we finally got to the point in this story you've been waiting for - the point were it occurred to me that nobody was going to notice that I was wearing panties under my shorts. Well, you knew it was going to happen, but back then I didn't. I went back upstairs in a grump and put on my swimming suit and a T-shirt. I rustled up breakfast and was headed out the door when I realized I didn't have my wallet.

No place to put it in my trunks. I was damned if I was going to carry it in my hand with a joyous pit bull dragging me on her leash, so I once again went upstairs. It was getting hot by then so I put on a pair of denim shorts - the only shorts I had clean - and once again headed downstairs. I went about three steps when I realized that the rough fabric and my tender flesh did not go well together. By the time I reached the front door I was seriously concerned for my manhood, and that, dear readers, is when inspiration struck.

Talk about irony - the only way I could reasonably protect my manhood was by putting on a woman's underwear. It wasn't quite that easily accomplished, mind you. I felt like one of those cartoon characters with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, fighting it out for the poor sucker's soul. To this day I can't tell you which one of them won the battle, but eventually I pulled out a pair of violet panties with little blue flowers on them. The woman must have liked lace, because every stinking pair had lace trim or some sort of peek-a-boo ornament on them.

I vaguely remember wishing that Sarah's tenant hadn't had such awful taste, but that's about the only thing I remember about my first few seconds in panties. No blinding revelation of suppressed femininity, no crushing wave of guilt, only a mild relief that I was no longer in intimate contact with a metal zipper. The panties were a little loose, she must have had bigger hips than I have, but they stayed in place. I can also remember being surprised at how easily my genitals settled into the panties, I would like to think I am rather well endowed, but there was plenty of room for them to settle comfortably inside the nylon. It was almost an afterthought when I tried on a pair of sandals. Were they hers or his? Who can tell, they were plain brown leather and a fit just right. I hate wearing shoes with no socks on, they always feel so clammy.

While I was enroute to the Doggy Gaol when I realized that every time I shifted in my seat the panties I was wearing clung to my bottom, it was a kind of neat feeling. Getting out of the car provoked a number of pleasant shiftings and slidings of the nylon under my shorts. Funny, I hadn't really expected to notice any difference just because the panties were made for a woman, after all they were basically the same piece of apparel no matter the sex of the wearer.

Millie quickly forgave me for throwing her in the lockup and within seconds I was dragged headlong out of the Kennel office to the car. My hastily donned sandals were no match for the traction she exerted. Have you ever tried to drive with 70 pounds of overjoyed dog trying to make up for a week of missed love? I made it back to the neighborhood in one piece (I think I didn't _really_ run that last red light, but with Millie licking my face it was hard to tell). As I passed Sarah's place, the lawn now a pristine green instead of a jumble of sale tables. I saw Dawn's car parked out front, so I pulled up behind it.

Millie was out the car door before I could snag her leash and bounded up the porch steps before I had hit the curb. I didn't even have time to ring the doorbell before Dawn's face appeared behind the screen.

"Don't you ever listen to your messages, Mister?" I've been calling all week and not a word! Come in Millie, you're welcome but I'm not so sure of this big lunk behind you."

"Hey, I've been out of town. I got home at 11:30 last night and wasn't about to check my messages."

"So why didn't you call this morning?"

"I had to spring Millie from the Doggie Gaol."

"You cad! You'd let this darling girl sleep on a cold, concrete floor behind a chain link fence and pine for her master all week. How could you?"

"Hey, it's a White Collar lockup. Literally! Nice rugs, playtime, popcorn and movies on a bed every Tuesday and Thursday. She never even noticed I was gone.

"Nonsense! I would have taken her and given her the love she needs, wouldn't I Millie? You should have called."

"I don't have your number, and I'd at least want to take you out to dinner before imposing on you."

"I love seafood!"

Do you always greet men you've known for less than a week with like this?

"Dawn!" interrupted Sarah. "Let the poor man sit down before you talk his head off! What would the neighbors think if it went rolling down the street and landed in the gutter?"

"We don't have gutters, mother. They'd just think some ferocious Pit Bull had chewed up the rest of the body and the head was all that was left. Everyone knows how vicious these dogs are."

Millie was curled up with her buddy Max in front of the fireplace. Yeah, some fighting dog.

"Anyway," Dawn continued, "We were just going out for seafood so there's no need for Gus to come in. Your car or mine, Gus?

"Wha…" Wait a minute. Things like this don't happen to me. "Ahhh… What about the dogs?"

"I'll watch them, Gus." Sarah offered.

"See, it's all set. Let's go, I can taste those crab legs now!"

That pretty much set the tone for the day. The crab legs were good and Dawn's company was even better. I just blew off my plans for the day and spent it with her.

I had never met anyone quite like Dawn - vivacious, smart, talkative, funny, sympathetic and totally outrageous. Some of the stories she told had me practically falling on the floor with laughter.

I thought I was a Liberal (proudly spelled with a capital "L") but Dawn's radical views made me think I had been spelling it with a "W". I thought I had led an eventful life, I've been around the world a couple of times and seen and done some amazing things but Dawn was able to match me story for story. In fact, I'm rather glad I met her after her "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll" period.

We spent the afternoon at the Little Theater watching movies I would never in a million years seen without her insistence. Art films. With subtitles. Who would have thunk it? When we got back Sarah had the table set for three - was she clairvoyant or was it that obvious we were besotted with each other? We spent a long and delicious time over the meal, Sarah was a wonderful cook, then a lazy few hours on the front porch just talking. Exquisite!

As the sky was turning a beautiful red I realized that Millie was doing her "I want to go for a walk and piddle on the every tree and lamp post on the street" dance, so I tried to excuse myself. Dawn was having none of it, she returned with both leashes and we set out for the park with the dogs.

If any of the neighbors were peeking out of their windows they must have had a good laugh, especially since I had all two and a half pounds of Max at the end of the string he used for a leash while Dawn held the heavy duty webbed tether needed to keep Millie somewhere close by when she wanted to be elsewhere.

One of the things that sold the house I lived in was its proximity to Genesee park and trails that follow the river and the Erie Canal. Millie and I had tramped all of them and knew all the best places for a dog who wanted to have fun in the Rochester. We passed the baseball diamond, where it must have been a close game because they were still playing as the light faded, and struck out over the blacktop path along the river. We reached the bridge over the canal and paused to study the water as we leaned against the rail.

When I reached out and put my arm around her she just snuggled in closer and we watched the sun set over the Erie Canal where it crossed the river, then continued hand in hand along the path. We sat on a bench and let the dogs run free since we were in a rather deserted area of the park.

If you're from some big city I guess the idea of sitting and snuggling in a deserted park would seem to be an invitation to a mugging, but Rochester is not the Big City. Besides, what mugger in his right mind would take on someone walking a Pit Bull?

The dogs were soon in the water, frolicking and chasing the few ducks that were hanging around. The scene was lit by the far off light of the expressway bridge as it crossed the river, providing a surreal and romantic effect. Other than the distant sound of the car tires as they hit the joints of the bridge it was as peaceful a night as you could ever wish for.

"Are you a gentleman?" murmured Dawn.

"I try to be. Why do you ask?"

"Because if you're a gentleman I'm going to go skinny dipping with the dogs."

With that she stood up and tossed her sandals off her feet, skinned out of her T-shirt and dropped her shorts to the ground. She turned her back to me.

"Would you unhook me?" she asked.

I was speechless. I fumbled with the snaps and her bra fell forward as the tension was released. She turned around and dropped it in my lap as she shucked her panties.

"Join me?"

What the hell? If she could do it then so could I. I repeated her performance, kicking free of the sandals, flinging off my shirt and dropping my shorts. Only when they hit the ground did I remember what I was wearing underneath them. By now the feel of nylon was perfectly comfortable and natural.

"My, my! I thought I was the one who was going to be offering the surprises tonight. You are a man of unexpected depths, Gus."

"Well, since you gave them to me I thought it would be polite to wear them for you."

"Me?"

"Yeah, all those boxes of clothes from the yard sale. I'm a very frugal guy, since I bought them I figured I ought to get some use out of them."

"You're wearing panties because you're a cheapskate?"

'We who know the value of money prefer to think of it as thrift, or perhaps prudence. Cheapskate is such a negative term, don't you think?

"Right. You going to take them off or walk home sopping wet?"

"I dropped my panties and we joined the dogs in the water.

---

It had been a long time since I woke up with someone else in bed besides Millie. I was probably going to be in the dog house with her because three is company no matter how good a friend she might be. Dawn was snuggled up close to me and my hand was cupping her delicious breast. Her deep breathing began to change and soon she was stirring in my embrace.

"Are you a gentleman?" came her sleepy voice.

"After last night you have to ask?"

"Mmmmm… A gentleman does wait when a lady is not prepared. You do have an imaginative way of making the waiting very pleasant. We'll have to do some shopping today so we don't have to wait any longer. But that was not what I was asking about."

"Pray elucidate, dear lady."

"Save the bull for when I'm awake, good sir. A gentleman is one who fixes his lady breakfast."

"That would mean I have to get out of bed, and that means I would have to let go of your body. I really don't want to do that just yet." My fingers had been stroking her nipples for the last few minutes. "See - your biscuits are rising even as we speak. We wouldn't want to let them fall."

"Mmmm… I can see that my biscuits aren't the only things rising. Too bad we don't have any cupcake wrappers so you could put them in the oven."

"All in good time. I'd rather have breakfast in bed before we eat."

---

An hour or so later found me, wrapped in my robe, stirring up pancakes in the kitchen while the shower ran above. I flipped the switch on the coffee maker as the water stopped singing in the pipes and plugged in the griddle. A few minutes later Dawn appeared. There's something very sexy and appealing about woman wearing your bathrobe, especially when she's nibbling at your neck. There's something to be said for tall woman.

"Marry me. This is the style of living I want to become accustomed to."

"Oh! This is so sudden!" I put on my best melodramatic voice, about an octave higher than usual. "What will we tell my dear, aged mother?"

"She can move in with my dear, aged, ex mother-in-law and the two of them can play mah-jongg while they slip off into their dotage. Then you can ply me with food and sex until I burst."

"Even when I'm halfway around the world fixing some recalcitrant machine so I can afford to buy flour for the pancakes?

"Can Millie cook?"

"We have a deal, I buy the food, she eats it. She refused to go when I sent her to cooking school. She thought it sounded too much like the obedience classes I made her go through."

"Darn, we'll have to work on it."

"Eat while you're scheming, the pancakes are ready."

Conversation lapsed for a few minutes while we did justice to the pancakes, but eventually Dawn licked the last of the syrup from her lips.

"I couldn't see the color last night, but you look cute in purple panties."

"And you look even cuter without your panties."

"Do you wear them all the time?"

"I've been known to change them when they get stiff."

"You are the most exasperating man! You know what I meant."

"Today will be my second day in panties. I wore them because I ran out of underwear with last week's unexpected trip."

"Well, you did warn me that the second floor was messy, now I believe you. It will take all day just to haul that pile of laundry baskets down to the washer."

"And whose fault is that? I was intending to do laundry yesterday but I was kidnapped, so I will again dip into my secret stash. Can I offer you a pair of panties, perhaps a bra? Or would you rather just run around naked and turn me on?"

"I've never had a lover offer to let me wear one of his bras before. You do have an interesting way of seducing women."

"Creativity. After those art films yesterday I knew you were a woman who appreciates the absurd."

"I certainly would look absurd if I wore one of those bras. Christine was several sizes larger than me, so you'll have to wear them yourself to get your money's worth."

She arose and went into the living room. Digging through the boxes she found a wraparound skirt and a pair of panties.

"Got a safety pin somewhere? I'll just have to make do until I get home."

"Sure, right here in the drawer."

She pinned the panties so they would stay on and donned the skirt.

"Not that I'm complaining, but if you go out without a shirt it might cause a traffic jam."

"Good thing Christine was partial to tube tops. Got another couple of safety pins?"

I dug them out of the junk drawer and she made some swift alterations. Pretty damn good for an improvised outfit.

"Here, these are for you."

She threw a pair of panties and a bra at me. You need help with the hooks?"

"I only unhook bras, it's in my contract."

"Then I'll have to do it for you. Turn around."

"Give me a break!"

"Arm or leg? Would you settle for the pinkie finger? You'd look cute in that outfit. I always wanted to have a housefrau of my own."

"Pushy broad. Do you always take over your lover's lives after one night in bed?"

"I don't know. I've only shared a bed once before and that didn't work out to well."

"You're kidding!"

"No, I'm not. I don't know what made me trust you so easily, I'm not really like that. Maybe it's the way you treat Millie and Max, anyone who can earn a dog's love has to have something special. And Sarah approves of you. You've shown me I was right to trust you, too. Thank you."

She said it very quietly and I took her in my arms and held her. I was beginning to appreciate just how special this woman would be in my life.

---

Monday was a downer. Work seemed completely uninteresting, I couldn't keep my mind on it. That's mostly because I kept thinking of Dawn. The other distraction was my underwear. Having washed my clothes I was wearing my normal underpants and they felt wrong. I missed the clingy feel of nylon. Two lousy days in panties and now regular underwear just didn't feel right. When I got home Millie watched me as I took out a pair of blue panties and put them on. She didn't say a thing, just watched with her ears twitching.

What the heck? I carted the box upstairs and put all the panties in my drawer and consigned my old underwear to the box. I liked wearing panties and who would ever know?

Having made a start in cleaning up the pile of boxes, I figured I ought to at least get them out of the living room, so I took them all up to the spare bedroom and sorted through them to see what would be worth keeping. Turned out that the shoes that fit were hers. The men's shoes were too big for me so they went into the discard pile along with the men's underwear.

There were many pairs of blue jeans, all of them too wide in the hips and too short in the legs. The T-shirts fit well enough so I kept them, at least the ones that didn't have those adorable big eyed kids plastered across the front of them. Then I got to the skirts. I pulled the one out of the box and my first thought was to toss it into the discard pile, but as I turned I saw myself in the mirror. There I stood, wearing only a pair of blue lace panties and holding a skirt.

You have to realize that, until a couple of days before, I had never even entertained the notion of wearing women's clothes. Really, It had never even entered my mind, even during my abortive live-in relationship a few years ago. Sure I had seen people on talk shows and such, and you can't help but run across the odd comic in drag if you watch TV, but I just didn't care. Hell, I didn't even know that TVs made jokes about the TV at that point. I was a complete innocent.

And yet, at that precise moment I could almost feel the devil and angel balancing on my shoulders. Well, why not - I liked the panties, why not try the skirt? I couldn't think of a single reason not to so I sat down on the bed and pulled it over my legs. I stood up and settled it in place and it fit tolerably well. Her hips may have been larger than mine but it seems we had a common waist size.

I can't say I admired myself in the mirror, that would be a little too strong, but I did examine myself rather closely. The skirt was short, ending just above my knees. Now I count myself as somewhat accomplished in scoping out women's legs, but I found it hard to muster the detachment to scrutinize my own. I tried to tune out my hairy legs and concentrate on the other aspects. Knees not too awfully knobby but a wise man might consider a longer skirt.

Man? That sounded just plain silly, even if the words remained exclusively in my own head. Anyway, would it be too much to think that without the hair my legs were rather shapely? Funny how it never occurred to me to ask that particular question before.

Well, they did look pretty good. Dare I try on a pair of her high heels? Yeah, I dared and nearly landed flat on my face as I tried to back away from the mirror to see better. It was about then that the whole thing seemed just a little too strange for me. Even Millie was looking at me with a tolerantly amused look, so I took off the skirt and put it back in the box. Enough for one evening. I picked up the phone and called Dawn instead.

---

Friday came at last. After four days of having to be satisfied by only her voice at the other end of the phone, Dawn invited me to her apartment, where she proved she was a fantastic cook, Perched on a stool by the kitchen island I watched as she methodically assembled several skewers of shish-ka-bob - chunks of lamb, green peppers, mushrooms, purple onion, small tomatoes and zucchini. The ingredients had been marinating all day and were dripping as she speared them and placed them on the grill on her dinky balcony.

We filled the wait with small talk, trying not to behave too much like adolescent fools. We both wanted to say screw it and just screw each other, but felt compelled to behave like the mature people we were supposed to be. The anticipation of sex is an ingredient I have never seen in any cookbook, but it surely improved the flavor of that meal as much as the marinade.

"I made cupcakes for dessert." She informed me with a giggle.

"Such a shame, I was hoping to help you put them in the oven." I replied.

"I think that could be arranged. I'll take off your panties if you'll take off mine."

"Deal!"

She lead me to her bedroom and laughed as she took my panties off me, but she had other things on her mind besides commenting on my choice of underwear. Much later, laying in her bed in the afterglow, I felt her playing with my toes. It wasn't until my nostrils filled with the acrid smell of nail polish that I realized what she was doing.

"Are you crazy!" I had meant to be more adamant, but it felt so good to be laying there while she worked on my toes.

"Yup. If you're going to wear panties then you need pretty toes."

"I have a hard time analyzing the logic of that statement."

"Logic is forbidden for the rest of the weekend. Just keep me happy and I'll make it worth your while, fella."

When she used that voice I wasn't going to argue so I closed my eyes and complied.

"That stuff stinks."

"You're an old grump. Give me your hand, old grump."

I gave up and proffered my hand, but instead of the coolness of the polish I felt the rasp of a file as Dawn shaped my nails.

"Nice hands for a man. You keep your nails very clean."

"Washed 'em in a vat of industrial solvent and slathered 'em with cutting oil to keep them soft. Don't see why I should spend a fortune on beauty products when I can get them in bulk."

"You should open a beauty salon. Gus' instant oil change and manicure. Did you know you're soaking in commercial grade floor cleaner, madam?"

"I'm, about to release a line of epoxy makeup - guaranteed to last for three weeks or you money back - and the research lab is working on a way to recycle old tires into mascara. If it works it will clean up acres of land in old tire dumps since you women seem to use so much of the stuff."

"'You women'? Do I detect a hint of supercilious disdain in your voice?

"I don't think even the legendary Mel Blank could do 'supercilious disdain', even on his best day. I but made an observation in the spirit of our conversation."

The sounds of her bare feet retreating across the floor were my only answer. Had I just blown it? Apparently not, because she returned in mere moments.

"Close your eyes."

Not a hard command to follow since they were already closed. I was very relaxed. I felt a feather touch on my eyelid, moving back and forth, which was repeated on the other side. What had I gotten into?

"Open wide."

I complied, or so I thought.

"Not your mouth, your eyes! Wider!"

I blinked as a cool, liquid something spread across my eyelid. My first thought was some slimy earthworm had settled on my lower lid.

"I said keep them open. You need to listen our you'll look like a raccoon."

"You're crazy!"

"Serves you right for making fun of women. You're going to see just what it takes to live with mascara and eye shadow. 'You women', indeed!"

Do you know how much trust it takes to let someone wave bristly brushes and drip black goop so close to your eyeballs you can't focus? Maybe not in the same class as what it took her to share my bed after being hurt, but it's up there.

"You can open your eyes now, darling."

"I got into this relationship with my eyes wide open, thank you."

"Well, now you have something to show for it. Take a look."

She held up a mirror.

"Is this the right shade to go with an eight o'clock shadow?

Actually, if I just looked at my eyes they looked pretty sexy. They're blue. A true blue and not the washed out gray that some people try to pass off as blue. I tried to blink sexily but the world disappeared. Oh well!"

"You are truly an artist, even with a defective canvas. I hereby renounce ambitions to cosmetic manufacture and will leave that to those who have talent, such as yourself."

"You do have sexy eyes. Now, let's put it to the test."

We kissed. We did a great deal more than kiss, if you want to know the truth, but the makeup job survived almost intact.

"See," I proclaimed, "'You women' have nothing to worry about."

But I did. She missed, however, and other parts of my anatomy remained intact.

---

Your mind does strange things when you wake up in a strange bed. I was on the road enough that strange beds aren't all that unusual, but finding someone else in that strange bed with me is rare enough I can give you an exact count. (Two, if you have to know.) I woke up disoriented, wondering what happened to Millie (My neighbor Stephanie had volunteered to let her out a couple of times while I was gone) and trying to figure out where I was.

The whole thing came back to me with a rush, and I lay there amazed at how natural it seemed to be sharing a bed with Dawn, at least once my mind started working again. It had been a few years since I had been in a serious relationship. The last one had more or less faded out while we watched, neither of us knowing what to do about it. When she was offered a job on the West Coast we knew it was time. We exchange Christmas cards and that's about all that's left of what started out as the World's Greatest Love Affair.

And yet here I was, smitten by a woman I had known less than two weeks. Perky, flamboyant, impulsive alternating with serious, competent and knowledgeable. A volatile mix, but one that I was growing to love.

Love? Was I using the 'L-word' this quickly? I should be scared, but it just felt right. About this time I realized I needed to empty my bladder, so I got up quietly and used the bathroom. As I washed my hands I came face to face with myself in the mirror - the eye makeup was smeared and smudged and I did indeed look like a raccoon. I hesitantly touched my face, seeing the bright blue of my fingernails.

The really odd thing was that it didn't seem so odd to me. I had been utterly unprepared for how good nylon panties felt, and yet in just a couple of weeks they were now the norm; I would never go back to men's underwear again. Kind of like Dawn, I found it hard to imagine life without her any more.

Then nail polish, makeup, skirts - things that should have sent a real man into anguish and distress. For me they were, well, alluring; all the more so because it was so unexpected. And OK, having them be part of sex play didn't hurt. Looking at my face in the mirror I began to wonder what it would be like to have earrings. Somehow I doubted they would compliment my stubble, so I got out my travel kit and took care of the matter.

"You about done in there?"

My reverie was broken, so I opened the door to the bathroom. Dawn looked even better in nothing than she did in my bathrobe. She took one look at me and started singing "Rocky Raccoon".

"Hey! You're the one who put this stuff on, so show me how to take it off."

"In a minute, I have more urgent things to attend to. Scat!"

She pushed me out the door and I heard unladylike noises that I politely ignored. I stretched out on her bed and waited, content to just muse on life until she returned. Eventually I heard the door open and she called "Hey Rocky, want to learn how to do your own makeup?"

"I'll settle for learning how to remove your makeup."

"Title was transferred when it stuck to your ugly puss. Get in here or figure it out for yourself."

"Pushy broad!"

So I got my first lesson in makeup. It didn't hurt a bit, in fact it was fascinating. Removing the stuff was a pain, but I was amazed at how soft my skin felt after I was done with the moisturizing lotion. Applying the makeup was intriguing as well, it was like an watching an artist at work as she swiftly painted her face.

"You do this every day?"

"Not a chance, buster! Only for special occasions. The world can take me as I am, I'm not wasting time in the morning to look like some fashion model."

"So I take it this is a special occasion."

"Quit fishing for compliments. Let's get dressed."

I don't know quite how we did it, but somehow we made an unspoken, mutual decision that we had had enough sex and one more round would be unnecessary this morning. No feeling of loss or regret for a missed opportunity, just the gentle assurance that when we were both ready again we would make love.

I got my clothes out of my suitcase while she stood at her closet and selected a skirt and blouse.

"What's it like to wear a skirt? I asked.

"I never thought about it, really." She replied. "It's just clothes. Unless I'm doing something special like square dancing or seducing someone I just don't think about it. Of course wearing a skirt in winter keeps you aware of it while you're freezing your legs off."

"I suppose it's the same for wearing a bra?"

"You're full of questions so early in the morning. I don't notice my bra unless I'm not wearing it. These babies are too heavy to carry around without help."

"Oh. I never thought about it that way."

"You seem to have more interest in me when I'm not wearing a bra…"

"That's biology. I was trying to be more intellectual. I'm trying to understand why wearing panties feels so much better than my old underwear."

"Who cares? You are a very sensual man and I like that. You can wear whatever you want to and enjoy it as you wish. You tried on any of Christine's other stuff yet?"

"Uh…" Damn, she was direct!"

"Close your mouth, darling. Those pretty toes of yours would look just great in her blue sandals."

"I tried the red ones. Damn near fell on my face."

"Then you really would have to learn how to do your own makeup, but bruises are hard to cover."

"Will you kiss my boo-boo if I fall?"

"I suppose it's only fair after the way you kiss my boobs."

"Take off your bra, I'm getting inspired.

"Not until after breakfast, buster. I'm hungry."

"I hunger as well, my darling, and only you can sate me."

"I said after breakfast! Behave!"

---

We spent the day doing nothing in particular. Millie did her little dance of joy when we arrived at my place and made a beeline for the back seat when we took her with us. We packed a picnic basket and meandered our way to a Mendon Ponds park with a number of (surprise!) small ponds, stopping at every yard sale we passed that looked interesting. It's fortunate I drive a small car and we had the picnic basket in the trunk or we would have come home with enough bargains to fill a truck. As it is I got a few more tools, a lamp that would go very nicely in the study and some dog toys for Millie. Dawn's eyes were on the clothes, but she was very selective.

"What do you think of this, Gus?" she queried as she held up a long, sand colored skirt with lace on the hem."

"Uh..."

"Maybe I should ask Millie, she might be more forthcoming."

"I'm not too much of an expert in fashion, you know."

"You'd better be if you want to wear a skirt. This one would look good on you."

"Might look better on Millie."

"Hey - you were the one with the questions this morning, I'm just trying to answer them."

"I hadn't intended to get my answers on someone's front lawn!"

"You're impossible. Come over here and let me see."

I came over and she measured the skirt across my waist.

"See, 1X. I thought it was your size. With your shoulders I think you'll need a ladies 2X blouse"

"It's too long, see how it scrapes the ground."

"Not with high heels on, I'll hold your hand while you learn to walk."

"I don't see you wearing high heels."

"Not for a picnic, silly. You wouldn't wear this skirt for a picnic, you'd wear a nice sun dress."

"So why are you wearing a short skirt?"

"You have to ask? You drool worse than poor Millie."

"I can howl like her too. Wanna scratch my belly?"

"Shut up and pay the kid over there for the skirt."

"Me?"

"What's the matter, afraid to buy your own clothes? Maybe you better call your mommy."

"I think she might not understand why I need a skirt."

"Then just buy it, already."

So I bought, feeling like a complete fool, knowing the kid was going to ask why I wanted a skirt. I was suddenly conscious of my blue fingers and toes; It had seemed like a lark to go out with nail polish on my hands when we left the house, but now it seemed more like evidence of a crime. "See officer, its HIM - the one with the blue fingers!"

He disappointed me. He just took my money and made change, then stuffed the skirt into an old plastic grocery bag. Even I knew you should fold clothes, not stuff them!.

We went on to the next sale, which fortunately was run by someone who was smaller than me. This time I bought Dawn a skirt, hoping it was something she would like. I knew her size because I had snooped when she was out of the bedroom. 36D bra (I like big boobs - so sue me!), size 10 dress and 28 inch waist. I think I surprised her by getting something that fit, and she did like the skirt. Whew!

So the rest of the day we ate, we swam (I was nervous about my panties in the changing room, but I changed in the toilet and stuffed them in a pocket under my wallet), we walked the dog, we went home to my place and made love.

And we talked. Talked about just about every subject in the universe; ourselves, our families, jobs, friends, hopes and dreams. I have never felt so close to another person in my life, and it was obvious that Dawn shared that feeling. For the first time in my life I simply bared my soul, there was no need to hide, to try and put on a pretty front.

It was exhilarating and liberating to abandon fear and let yourself be just the unadorned you, to listen as she confided her deepest feelings in me. In a way it was better than sex because it didn't stop when the act was done, but kept on going somewhere in the background. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, we trusted each other in a way I had never experienced before.

---

When I woke the next morning I didn't want it to be Sunday, because come Monday I had to be at the airport to fly to Tampa for a few days. Usually I enjoy traveling, but I felt cheated because I would be away from Dawn. Good grief! I was mooning like a teenager with raging hormones. Ridiculous! I could talk to her on the phone from Tampa just as easily as I could from home; we had agreed that we both needed to attend to the rest of our lives during the week, not spend time in the 45 minute drive between us. Pretty soon she woke and our hormones started raging so I stopped worrying.

I was standing by the dresser in my panties when Dawn returned from her shower. I was holding the skirt I had bought yesterday and trying to decide if I should wear it. Part of me, a part I was still coming to terms with, wanted to put it on, if only to see what it was like. Another part, the part that had just made love to a sexy woman, couldn't understand why I would even consider it.

"Well, are you going to try it on?"

"I don't know. What do you think?"

"I'm just your lover, not your conscience. I think it would look cute but it's up to you."

I made my decision and, with relief of an odd sort, stepped into the skirt. I was right, it was long enough to need high heels, so I hiked up the hem and headed for the spare room. I laid out the pairs of shoes on the top of the dresser, then struggled with the blue high heel sandals that matched my toenails. I stretched out my leg until the sandal emerged from the hem of my skirt. Well, did that look sexy or what?

The correct answer was "Or what". A look in the mirror proved that, I did a little spin anyway and, when she had helped me up off the floor, I asked "So, what do you think?"

"I think you need to practice walking before you take dancing lessons."

"Can I hold you hand while I practice?"

"I suppose ours is a supportive relationship. Why not?"

"Well you could become a fallen woman if I stumble."

"I think I've already fallen for you, Gus."

"Yeah, me too. Is it too soon to say 'I love you'?"

"Not if you mean it. I do, you know."

Forget further dialog, we had better things to do just then. When I had my breath back I asked "So, just how far do I go with this dressing thing. I mean I look pretty funny with my chest bare."

"Then pick out a blouse. Are you man enough to try on a bra?"

"Somehow I never thought I would have to answer that question."

"Life is full of surprises. You have me curious as to what you would look like, but it's up to you."

"OK, boobs it is. Got any idea how to fake them. I suppose you never had to worry about padding your bust line."

"Not since I was about eleven years old. I don' think wadded up Kleenex will work for you, 'cause it didn't work for me. My sister laughed so hard I never lived it down, at least not until my cups started to overfloweth, then she got jealous."

"So I guess we need something soft and squishy. Water balloons?"

"Not unless you want the experience of having your water break without being pregnant. Why not try stuffing the cups with your old underwear?"

"You do carry recycling to the extremes, don't you. Anyway, I donated them to charity with the stuff I didn't want."

"Then we use some other lingerie. So, which box has the bras in it?"

"They're in the top drawer."

"You don't say. Do they fit?"

"I still haven't gotten the nerve."

"You are a very strange man."

"Yeah, just look in the mirror."

So I took out the first bra on the pile and fumbled my way into it. You wouldn't believe how silly it felt to try and reach around and hook the thing behind my back while Dawn was watching. I mean, a man wants to be cool and masterful when his lover's watching, right? Even if he's putting on a bra. Somehow the stupid little hooks just wouldn't line up, and I stood there flapping my arms like a chicken as I tried.

"Can I make a suggestion?"

"Feel free."

I felt her hands warm my chest through the flimsy fabric of the bra.

"That wasn't what I had in mind."

"Too bad, you invited. Try turning it around and hooking it across your belly. And let out the shoulder straps, you have wider shoulders than Christine did."

That worked pretty well. She adjusted the straps and we stuffed the cups. I picked out a blouse I thought would match the skirt and tried it on. The nylon of the blouse felt as good as the nylon of my panties.

"You have lumpy boobs"

"Hey, have I ever said anything about your pretty tits?"

"Generally it comes out Mmmmm and ends in a slurp. You need to get your ears pierced, I think something long and dangly would go well with that outfit."

"You tempt me, woman."

"I hope so. Let's have breakfast and we can decide what to do with your face and hair."

"This is getting complicated."

"All part of the mystery of being a woman, my dear. You didn't expect it to be easy, did you?"

"I didn't expect it, period. I was perfectly happy before you and Sarah stuck me with all Christine's clothes."

"Then you'll be perfectly happy from now on. Think of it as a character building experience."

"That's what my mother says when she has a job for me that I don't want to do."

"Then isn't it good that you're going to enjoy learning about women - from a new perspective?"

---

I learned quite a few things that day. I learned that walking down stairs in high heels is frightening, I clung to the stair rail like a sailor clinging to the ship's rail in a hurricane. I learned that the elastic straps on my bra were designed to offset the weight of my nonexistent tits. Before breakfast was half over my bra was halfway to my chin. Perky, upthrust breasts sound great in a sexy story, but this was ridiculous! So we experimented, finally settling on a baggie full of sugar wrapped in lingerie. That kept my bra in place once I got the straps adjusted, but I still had lumpy boobs.

I learned that blonde hair or no, I have a stubborn beard. I learned that my skin tones are enough different from Dawn's that her limited supply of makeup did no good at all in hiding it. I learned that my medium length hair could be curled and styled into something that looked quite feminine, even if I did not. I learned that curling irons are HOT, that you suddenly develop an insane urge to scratch your face once you have makeup on, and that I was pretty darn good at putting on my own nail polish.

I also learned that cuddling up with Dawn was just as much fun when I was wearing a skirt as before. No, it was a lot more fun. Very domestic, her in my arms and Millie curled up at our feet. I really liked the feeling of wearing a bra and skirt, it added a whole new dimension to daily life. I learned that bras make me horny, on myself or off Dawn. We learned that lovemaking is a lot more convenient when you're both wearing skirts, there's less to get out of the way when you're really in a hurry. We learned that if you're involved enough, having Millie watch us while making love is only a minor distraction.

By the time we made supper I had learned to walk in high heels without thinking about it and managed to keep my boobs from hitting door frames and such, at least most of the time. After dinner I learned that my boobs caught all too much of the food that didn't make from fork to mouth properly. I learned that dabbing at my boobs with a napkin made Dawn giggle uncontrollably.

I learned that spending a day dressed as a woman was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my life. When the inevitable happened and it was time for Dawn to go home, she asked "Well, was it worth it? I know you enjoyed dressing up, that much is obvious, but how do you feel about it."

"I feel charged up and relaxed at the same time. I never realized that just wearing different clothes could be so sensuous, so exciting. I suppose that will change as I get used to them, but today was something I never expected."

"You have a gift for understatement, Gus. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could get turned on by a lover in a dress."

"Funny I never had that problem." I paused. "Dawn?"

"Yes, darling?"

"Are you OK with this? Do you really want to go any further with this? Should we call this a one day fling and forget it, go back to being whatever we were before I put on this skirt?"

"Could you?"

"I don't know. For you maybe I could."

"Gus, you're sweet. That's what made me love you, you think about me and what I need as much as you think about yourself. That's a very feminine trait, you know. When you get down to it, the feminine side of you is what drew me to you. I think I could enjoy helping bring that out in the open - that is if you want it. Can we agree on one thing though?

"We had better, don't you think?"

"I'm serious. If we're going to do this we need to do it all the way. I'm not going to spend my weekends indoors no matter how good you are in bed. I want to be able to go out with you no matter how you choose to dress. You're a great guy, I want you to be a great girl, too. One who doesn't hide in the house.

"I won't worry about that. I may be crazy but I'm doing this willingly. Joyfully. I want to be sure that you feel the same joy I'm finding."

"That's an odd way to put it. Joy? I haven't really understood what that meant since the divorce. We seem to be building something that neither one of us could have expected. Joy to the world, make a joyful noise, love and joy. I love you, but I really have to go."

"I know. We'll have to talk about that sometime soon."

"You're right, but we have all the time in the world."

She left, taking Millie with her because I was going to be gone for the week. Damn! The house was lonely and deserted. I learned one final lesson that night. I learned that with enough scrubbing you can get makeup off your face, but when I got out of the shower I learned that I didn't have any nail polish remover in the house. That lead to me learning where the nearest all night drug store was and getting dressed (in pants!) to go get some. I got my own cold cream and moisturizer, too.

Some lessons are easier than others.

---

Monday in Tampa. I was developing a new sympathy for the addicts of this world. I was becoming a crossdressing addict. That first hit of spending the day dressed up with Dawn had unleashed a powerful craving. When I packed my bag for traveling I included a couple of skirts and blouses, along with the appropriate lingerie. It wasn't until I hit the inspection line at the airport that I had second thoughts, but what the heck, those guys weren't going to worry that I was going to hijack a plane by brandishing my bra.

Oh crap! How was I going to explain the two bags of white powder in my suitcase? Sure it was only sugar, but the phrase "bag of white powder" had a connotation that wouldn't be helpful. "It's OK officer, I just use them to stuff my bra" hardly sounded convincing!

Fortunately I flew enough that the inspector knew me. He even remembered my name and while he checked my suitcase he didn't dig through it, nor did he say a word about the bras and panties plainly visible in it. He did give me a smile a good deal wider than I remembered in the past, but my bag soon disappeared into the bowels of the airport and I made it to Tampa without incident.

The day's work was a day's work. I enjoy doing it but you probably wouldn't care to hear the details. When I got back to the motel after dinner I eagerly changed into my new clothes, that's when the first signs of addiction hit me. You know how an addict always needs more of his drug? Well when I looked in the mirror at the hairy legs beneath my skirt I just had to have another hit - that hair had to go!

Simple answer, right? Just shave it off. The problem was that I use an electric razor, not much good against leg hair. OK, off with the clothes and out the door to the motel lobby, where I fed quarters into the machine and bought a throwaway razor. Then back to the room and off with the clothes before I realized I didn't have any shaving cream.

On with the clothes, out to the lobby, more quarters and I was the proud owner of a foil packet of shaving gel. Back to the room, off with the clothes and into the tub. I applied the gel, plied the razor and cleared about half an inch of skin before the razor clogged. Another half inch and it happened again. This was going to take all night!

Talk about frustration! Well, since I was playing female, maybe the sensible thing was to think like one. I got out the cell phone.

"Hi Dawn!"

""Hello there, lover. What'cha doin'?"

"Shaving my legs."

I was rewarded with a giggle.

"Well, at least I'm trying. How the devil do you get the hair off without clogging the razor?"

"You poor baby. Didn't your mommy show you how to do it when you were growing up? It's a rite of passage, you know."

"My mommy may have showed my sisters, but she didn't show me. And I'm not ready to show my mommy anything new, if you don't mind."

"Poor baby." Cell phone sound is pretty good these days. The sarcasm dripping from her words came through clear as a bell. "You need to start with some hair remover, shaving only works when you don't resemble a gorilla."

"Hair remover?"

"In the drug store. Usually near the lady's razors. They package it in pretty bottles with cute names and add aloe and vitamins and stuff, but it's just lye paste that eats the hair off you legs. Very feminine, don't you think?"

"Sounds delightful. Lye?"

"Beauty is never easy, darling."

Half an hour later I put on my normal clothes and found a drugstore. (You didn't think I was going to hang up on her after I asked my question, did you). I dithered for a while and finally selected a bottle of hair remover that promised it was "gentle to the skin", then picked up a pink razor that claimed to be the world's best for shaving legs and some shaving cream. And eye makeup, nail polish and the proper removers. I was going to practice.

Back to the room and off with the clothes. Somehow when I started to play dressup this wasn't what I had in mind. I sat on the pot, read the directions and then used the "convenient roller top" to spread goop over my legs while I stared at my watch. Time crawled, my mind wandered and my legs itched. 1 - 2 - 3- 4, the minutes crawled by but eventually I was properly done and I washed the stuff off. Then I washed the tub off, because there was a lot of hair in there, and I didn't want to gross out the maid.

At last, several hours after I started I put on the skirt once again. WOW! When the hem brushed my naked legs it was like nothing I had ever experienced! Walking across the room became a sensual carnival of feelings, lying in bed with the hem of my skirt across my legs distracted me every few paragraphs. I wanted to run through fields of daisies and feel my skirt caress me, but I was stuck in this hotel room. What a bummer!

---

A few weeks later in Houston the cravings started before I got back to the motel. I needed a nightgown, those pajamas were going to go the way of my old underwear, never to be seen again. I stopped at a discount store, racing from the air conditioned car to the air conditioned store, but jeez - talk about ugly. I may have only been doing this for a little while, but I wasn't going to wear anything with big silver flowers on it, let alone some oversized T-shirt with Tweety.

So I tried the other big box store down the road and had the same results. Same for that place with the bull's-eye that thinks pronouncing their name in French will make it more classy. Well, if I couldn't find a nightgown I could at least get a pair of pantyhose. The ones I bought last week were full of runs. Those guys have some racket, selling a product you can wear three times and then have to replace. The three-packs were cheaper per each, so that's what I got. Color? I just guessed and hoped I was right. What he hell color is taupe or sandstone anyway?

I could hardly believe I was doing this, let alone balking because the nightgowns were ugly! Out came the cell phone.

"Hello, this is Gus Aikers calling. May I speak to my resident fashion consultant?"

"I'm sorry sir, she's not available at the moment. If you'll leave your name and number at the tone she will return your call. Beep!"

Smartass woman.

"Tell my fashion consultant that unless she wants to sleep with a man who wears silver flowers on a black background she better get her ass off the pot and answer the phone." Yes, I checked to be sure no one was close enough to overhear when I said that.

"Sounds dreadful, darling. What are you doing this time?"

"Trying to buy a nightgown."

"Where have you been shopping?"

I told her and she was amused.

"You do need a fashion consultant. Bet you couldn't even find a skirt in any of those places."

"I wasn't looking for a skirt, I've got one."

"You're still thinking like a man. One is never enough"

"I don't want psychoanalysis, I want advice. Where do I look for a nightgown that isn't ugly."

"Check the phone book for a Dots if they have them down there."

"Dot sounds like a good idea."

"One more like that and my connection is going to suddenly and mysteriously cut off."

"And if I can't find a Dots?"

"Then do what any seasoned shopper would do - head for the nearest mall."

"I hate malls."

"Just don't dress like one, darling. I don't own a Zoot Suit to compliment you."

"Hey - I thought you didn't like puns!"

"Only when you make them."

"Double standards, I'm shocked."

"Just wait until you try to be a woman in public - you'll understand double standards pretty quickly."

"I suppose I will. So do I wander about aimlessly or will you name names? I'm new at this."

"Try Lane Bryant, Sixteen Plus or Dress Barn. There should be two or three places that carry clothes for you larger size women."

"OK, then wish me luck. I'm off to the mall."

"Too bad I can't be there with you, this should be interesting to watch. You know your sizes?

"I can read labels. 1X marks the spot."

"You'd look lousy in polka dots. If you find something sexy get one for me, it would be fun to match."

"For that you deserve a spanking, not a reward."

"That could be fun, too. Wanna get kinky?"

"I think what I'm doing is kinky enough, thank you."

"Just you wait, darling. You have a lot to learn. You still coming home Friday?"

"Yeah, the work is going smoothly, for once."

"Then come here and bring your suitcase. I miss you."

"I miss you too. Bye."

"Bye."

Ever tried to find a phone book in a world devoted to cell phones? I finally went back to my room, looked longingly at my bra and skirt, but found that Houston was loaded with Dots. A little work with the map (yes, I do ask for directions when I'm lost, but there was no one to ask) and I found the place. Naturally it was between the first two big boxes I had visited earlier that evening.

I wasn't prepared for the experience. Sure, I have gone shopping. I buy my own clothes, really I do, but it's pretty cut and dried when you need a dress shirt or a pair of jeans. Not too many decisions, pick it out and pay for it. If I had any doubt I was addicted, I lost it as I walked in the door.

It was pretty easy to see where the nightgowns were, and they looked great. I headed for them but got distracted by a rack of skirts on sale. Six bucks? You can't buy a lousy T-shirt for six bucks! I liked the long blue one with the nubbly texture and a ribbon around the hem, and the pink one that was longer on one side than the other. It had a bow, too. Christine had been partial to short skirts, but I liked the idea of a long skirt swirling around my calves.

By the time I reached the nightgowns I was loaded down. I saw the one I wanted right away, bright red with wide shoulder straps and a reasonably high neckline, high enough to hide my chest hair. I found one in my size and one for Dawn and added them to the pile.

Then there was the sleeveless, lime green, cotton dress that looked perfect for a Houston summer and the pastel tops with the lacy edging that would go with the skirts and the… Like I say, I had never done this before, I had not developed any resistance. It took two trips to get it all to the checkout. I was so eager to get back and try them on I actually went through the McDonald's drive in rather than taking the time to eat a good meal. Addicted, indeed!

It was a good thing that I was so new to all this that I didn't know a crossdresser was supposed to be all nervous and worried when shopping for clothes. I found out about it later, of course, when I started to cruise the 'net and make friends, but it never occurred to me to be guilty. I guess I can thank my parents for that, they are free spirit types who always question the status quo. Not that I was going to march over there and tell them all about what I had been doing lately, but really, why would some sales clerk get excited about what I was buying. She got her commission (if the bosses paid her a commission, that is) no matter what I bought.

Hell, she must have been able to go out and party pretty well after my Master Card got done with it's workout. So I spent that evening polishing my nails and painting my eyes while sitting in my skirt.. I was going to have to figure out how to do the rest of my face pretty soon, but that could wait. One thing at a time.

---

In Tulsa it was shoes. I bought a new pink outfit and hadn't brought any shoes that would match. In fact, I was coming to realize that I didn't like high heels anywhere as well as Christine apparently had, because there were only a couple of pairs of flats in what I had gotten from her. I'm 5'8", just about average for a man. With heels on I stand out as a woman, and no cracks about my pathetic attempts at makeup and unfortunately male hair, please. Besides, they hurt. I know most of the women you see wear them, but why?

OK, it attracts men. A woman's ass has a distinct extra wiggle when she wears heels, her stride is a bit different, enough to catch the eye. From the male perspective I'm all for high heels and short skirts, that hormone rush when a good looking woman passes by is hardwired into the brain. One of the perks of my job is watching the well dressed women in the office walk by as I wait for someone to tell me what's wrong.

Funny how a change of perspective can change your attitudes. I really liked wearing skirts, but short skirts didn't make me feel sexy, they made me feel silly. Dawn says it may be because short skirts are meant to please men, and since that's not my agenda short skirts would feel wrong. Same for the heels. Maybe a woman will put up with aching feet to snag a man, but I didn't have that incentive. Call me sexist, it won't bother me. I'm trying to be a liberated woman.

I can remember my mom complaining how her feet hurt when she came home from work. She worked in the women's department in an upscale, old fashioned department store - the kind that Wal-Mart killed off. The dress code required her to wear at least 2" heels and the boss encouraged them even higher. She had these huge calluses on the balls of her feet from years in heels, but yet she kept wearing them and kept complaining.

So anyway, I went to a Payless and found a pair of pink flats in my size. One more thing I didn't realize at the time was how fortunate I was to know my women's sizes just by reading the labels on Christine's things, that and the blessing of having small feet for a man. There is a good selection in my size, so I returned to my room with a rainbow of flats. I wondered what the airline inspectors would think this time through security.

---

In San Diago I threw all caution to the winds. After work I headed directly to the mall and it took only a couple of minutes to find one of those booths in the aisle where they pierce ears. For those of you who are waiting for the guilt trip to start so I seem like your normal crossdresser, (Is that an oxymoron?) well it almost happened. There was a line ahead of me.

In the seat was the cutest little girl, maybe six months old. Really, that young. There were only a few wisps of hair on her head, but the pink frilly dress was enough to tell me she was a little girl. Well, I suppose Mom could have been introducing her son to crossdressing at an early age, but only someone as crazy as me would have that thought. Mom was discussing which pair would be best.
shortly after the saleswoman held a gun to the chile'shead and with a click there was a sparkling diamond accentuating the polished ebony of her ear lobe. The kid didn't even fuss and within seconds the other ear was done. I guess it really didn't hurt all that much, which did relieve some of my nervousness.

After the baby were two teenage girls who already sported enough hardware to knock them up a weight class if they were wrestlers. I would have had to stare to count the number of earrings they boasted, but there was something poking out of each nose, eyebrow, tongue and belly button. Remember, this was the summer, sexy young things show their belly buttons with abandon down there. Quite frankly, I couldn't figure out just where they could fit anything else, the available real estate had already been developed.

The lawyers must make the clerk drone on about the risks of getting pierced, because the woman behind the counter went through whole paragraphs of fine print at breakneck speed to each of the girls. Anyone with eyes could see they didn't need to be reminded, but that's the way it works.

Really, the woman spent more time putting little dots on their ears than she did putting in the hardware. Snap! Snap! and the first one was done. Snap! Snap! Snap! The uneven number was a bit jarring, but I guess she must have been balancing out the previous work. Then it was my turn.

Actually, the wait had been worth it. I had picked out my starters, little green balls, and knew just what the procedure was. I listened to the warning, sat down and told her I wanted both ears done. Not a problem and in a few minutes the now familiar Snap! Snap! announced that it was too late to change my mind.

Not that I wanted to, but from now on the entire world could see those little green balls. I rather liked that.

It was a letdown when nobody paid any attention to them in the following weeks. A couple of passing comments from co-workers, a knowing smile from Dawn and a rueful shake of the head from my father the next time I saw him. Would you believe he said he had always wanted to have his ears pierced but couldn't work up the nerve?

---

In Columbus my cravings struck again as I passed the Lane Bryant shop. Bras - buy one get one free. Why not? I had Christine's bras, but I wanted bigger boobs than she had. Just like a man, huh? So I went in and, since I knew my size I browsed through the merchandise like I had done so all my life. Audacity will carry you through every time.

I decided that since the second one was free that Dawn and I would look cute in matching bras. What the hell, what better way to spend my per diem? I could eat at McDonalds and spend the money on something pretty. Of course I had to get the matching panties. I really did. Only problem was, by the time I got out of there I was going to have to eat at McDonald's for the next ten years. I might have to use the bras bribe Dawn to take me in before I landed in the poorhouse.

---

I was beginning to see a pattern. Every time I went out of town I felt the need to take another step along the road to crossdressing nirvana. Maybe it had something to do with killing time in a motel room; when I was home I was perfectly satisfied to wear my dress and do what I usually do at home.

For that matter, I was perfectly satisfied to keep my promise to Dawn that my needs wouldn't keep us in the house when we were together. When I was alone at home I put on a dress, when I was with her I was mostly my old self. The bloom was off the rose and we usually slept in nightgowns, and we spent some pleasant, rainy afternoons snuggling together in our skirts.

By the time I was in Chicago I had acquired a sizable wardrobe, but still felt the urge to shop. The fall line was just in at Dots and I couldn't resist the penguin pajamas - they were a soft an sensual fabric that would be like wearing panties over your entire body. I bought two pair, Dawn would love them. The fact that so far we had slept in the nude when we were together totally escaped me.

That's when I noticed I still had lumpy boobs when I tried on my latest purchase. If I was going to wear a bra (and I was!) then I didn't want to have lumpy boobs any more.

"Hi Dawn."

"Well, at least you didn't ask for your 'fashion advisor' this time."

"I have all the fashion I need. What I need is another suitcase to bring it all home."

"You don't say?"

"OK, I won't. You're going to like your presents. I hope you like penguins"

"I've only seen them at the zoo. Did you get a cage for them and enough food?"

"It was the room size refrigerator that was the hardest part. You better clear out the spare room."

"I don't have a spare room."

"Then move in with me and we'll turn the apartment into a wildlife sanctuary. We can go over there to walk Millie and she can chase the birds."

"Maybe you better stay down there a while longer, you might be able to find your mind if you look hard enough, I think you lost it."

"Who needs a mind, they're over rated. What I need is tits. I have lumpy tits and it spoils my new blouse."

"Did I wander into a Far Side cartoon when I wasn't looking? Maybe fall through a looking glass?"

"It's the looking glass that's the problem, my tits look lumpy in it. I want pretty tits like yours."

"Then come on home, you're welcome to play with them all you want."

"I wants tits on me, woman. Big ones, like yours."

"The Twilight Zone. I must be in the Twilight Zone. Rod what's-his-name will be along any minute. I know this conversation isn't real."

"Hey - you started it, Dr. Frankenstein. It's not my fault if I'm addicted to femininity. Who stuck me with those boxes of clothes?"

"That was Sarah, I only offered you a ride."

"Well, I do like riding you, especially now you're on the pill, but you threw the first bra at me, not Sarah.

"Maybe a British farce. This must be a farce and no one gave me the script."

"Well, crossdressing would certainly go well with a British farce. Back to the costuming, how do I find tits?"

"The cultured refer to them as breast forms, not tits. I haven't the faintest idea how you would find them. The Internet, I suppose."

"This Podunk motel doesn't have a decent connection."

"So let me look it up. I'll let you know what I find, if I'm not trucked off to the funny farm for participating in this conversation."

"If they try, Millie will fend them off. How is she?"

"Sleeping, what else? Do you have to take her home when you get back? I'll miss her."

"Only if you come with her. I miss sleeping with you."

"We'll talk. I want to but…"

"Yeah, but. When it's time we won't have to agonize. I love you."

"I love you, too."

---

The next morning I treated myself to a late sleep since my plane didn't leave until shortly before noon. I had prepared by picking up some bagels and cream cheese the night before, so I ate my breakfast in my nightgown while I feasted on the complimentary coffee the management provides. Well, you have to take the good with the bad, instant coffee sucks.

I did have to take back two suitcases, and no - the inspectors didn't even blink. Of course I had left my little bags of white powder behind, no sense in asking for trouble. The nice thing about flying into Rochester is that you never get stacked up and fly in circles for long enough to grow a beard. In fact, I got in seven minutes early, collected my baggage and was at Dawn's place before three o'clock. I let myself in (we had exchanged keys) and was bowled over by a very excited Millie.

When I finally managed to get up off the floor I found a note in the kitchen-

Steak in the fridge
Be home at 6:00
I like Blue Cheese on my salad

PS I want to see that new blouse!

PPS DON'T OPEN YOUR PRESENT BEFORE I GET HOME!

Present? What present. Why the one on the bed, all wrapped up with a big bow on top. It was medium big and rather heavy. It didn't rattle when I shook it. Not a clue, I was just going to have to wait. To keep my mind off it I took Millie for a walk, then took a shower and shaved. Face and legs, which were starting to feel a bit stubbly. It isn't as easy as you might think to reach all the places on your leg, especially when there's no bath tub, only a shower stall.

I put Dawn's new clothes on her side of the bed, then hid the penguin pajamas under each of our pillows. I dressed in a pink skirt and the new blouse, appropriating a couple more baggies of Dawn's sugar, did my nails in pink and painted my eyes. I added a little lipstick from Dawn's limited supply of makeup. Odd how it had once been enough to just have on a skirt and blouse. By now I wanted to complete the illusion with boobs that weren't lumpy and proper makeup and hair; I looked funny halfway between the sexes.

Time to start dinner. I trimmed the steak and treated Millie to the trimmings, then put it in the marinade. I chopped up the salad, and put the potatoes in the oven to bake and decided that frozen broccoli was good enough, I wasn't really in a condition to go shopping for fresh vegetables.

Just before six the door opened and Dawn called out "Honey! I'm home!"

When I got done kissing her she saw the earrings and started nibbling my ears. Whoa! I was ready to carry her to bed right then and there, to hell with my resolve to control myself until after dinner.

I noticed that I appeared overdressed; casual Friday at work - jeans and T-shirt, sneakers with white socks.

"I love the blouse, it's beautiful!"

"Thanks. Let me put the steak in and dinner will be ready."

"Not before you open your present. That comes first."

"Your wish is my command, fair lady."

"You're the one who looks like a princess. Nice nails, you're picking this up quickly."

"Notice anything else?" I blinked my eyes a few times.

"You have a caterpillar eating your eyelids? Don't go overboard on the mascara."

"I'm still learning." I was suddenly deflated.

"Hey - I apologize. You haven't even gotten to your teens in makeup yet - teenyboppers always use too much makeup. I know I did."

"Thank you. I think."

You're learning, and you do look cute. Sarah's coming over Sunday to help you learn makeup. She's spent years doing theater and if anyone can make you look good, she's the one."

"Sarah?" I was astounded.

"Yeah, Sarah. Didn't you know she's pretty well thought of as a costumer and makeup artist? Spent her whole life doing it. She's been dying to see you but I wasn't sure you were ready yet."

"She knows?"

"Of course! I don't hide things from her. Couldn't do it if I wanted to anyway. She's sharp, that one."

"I guess I did promise to not hide in the house. I just didn't figure it would happen so soon."

"You've been working up to this all summer. Haven't you noticed the leaves are turning orange out there? I think you're ready for the big time. Come on, I want to see you open your present!"

I took my time, just to frustrate her. She obviously wanted me to see what was inside, so I carefully peeled the wrapping paper away and folded it up. I took the lid off and inside was another box.

"Katrina dolls? You shouldn't have!"

"Open it!"

I did. Inside was a breast form, the real thing.

"I found them the night you were bitching about lumpy boobs. I had to pay extra for overnight delivery so you could have them tonight. Go on, see if they fit. It said they were right for a 44 D."

"I was flabbergasted, speechless. The form wiggled in my hand, pink and soft. Dawn pulled up my top and boldly removed my bags of sugar. I dropped the form into the cup and it settled in place, slightly cool but rapidly warming. I had a little trouble getting the second box out of the bigger box, my fingers were shaking. I succeeded and put the form in my empty cup, then pulled down my blouse.

My boobs were smooth, natural. They had nipples! I could plainly see nipples on the front of my boobs! I kissed Dawn awkwardly, the boobs got in the way. I didn't care - no I was thrilled. I could feel them pressing warmly to my chest as our tongues spun and danced.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. I never even suspected. They're amazing."

She took a step back and looked.

"You couldn't tell they were anything but the real thing. They even bounce."

She cupped my left breast and jiggled it. Heavenly!"

"Can we call Sarah tonight? I don't want to wait."

"You sound like a two year old. Immediate gratification. Me. Me. Me. Let's eat and I'll see what we can do about gratification. I warn you, I intend to stretch it out. Nothing immediate for you tonight, mylove."

She was telling the truth. When the time finally came I found that man's oldest pleasure is considerably enhanced when he's wearing a bra with realistic breast forms. Dawn seemed to be in agreement with that sentiment, although her agreement was short on words but otherwise loud and most enthusiastic.

I plain forgot to twist and clean my earrings that night.

---

Saturday morning I rolled over and put my hand on her breast, but was rewarded with a growl.

"That hurts!"

"Sorry."

"Not your fault. Oh shit!"

"And good morning to you too."

"My period. I started last night. I had other ideas for this morning, now all I want to do is bitch."

"Oh."

"Don't be so damn solicitous."

"Then fuck you, ma'am."

She laughed, a good sign. "You can't, remember? That's what started this whole thing."

"So get up and take a shower and I'll change the sheets."

"Quit being so damn nice, I want to bitch. You can get up and play lady but I have to put up with being the real thing."

"So I'll forget the dressup for the weekend."

"You can't. Sarah's coming over to teach you makeup tomorrow. Teach us makeup. I had to promise to learn too. She never really approved of me running around without makeup all the time. She's very old school about some things despite her liberal politics."

"I'll feel guilty while I dress up if that helps."

"Buddy, you're going to start bleeding at the crotch if you don't watch it."

"Hey - you said you wanted to have a reason to bitch, I'm only helping!"

"Screw you!"

"You can't!" We said it together and she headed off for the shower.

I stripped the bed and made it up, then picked out my outfit for the day. I really got a kick out of picking out what to wear, as a guy it's usually black pants and a shirt. Black is practical because it hides the stains I tend to acquire on the job. If I'm going into the office I wear a sports shirt, if I'm going to a customer it's white shirt and tie time; customers like a professional look. This can be hell on white shirts when I get into the bowels of a machine, but that's why I carry a pair of coveralls. The tie doesn't last long once I'm on the shop floor, either.

It was looking like a warm fall day. I slipped into my bra and snapped it behind my back like an old pro, I had been practicing. The breast forms once again felt delightful, I stared at myself in the mirror and admired the clean curve of my breasts. A shame I didn't have any cleavage. I wondered how it would feel to have real breasts? I firmly shoved that thought aside and removed the pink nail polish from my hands and feet, replacing it with a green that would compliment the dress I bought in Chicago.

Did I mention that I had more earrings than Dawn? Once I was free of the starter set I couldn't wait to wear something outrageous, at least when I wasn't working. They even sell them in the grocery stores in some places and I just can't resist. Damn - the ones I wanted must be in the bathroom.

"Can I come in and find my earrings?"

"Only if you kiss me."

I opened the door and paid the toll. She laughed and said "If anyone knew that I got a kick of seeing my lover in bra and panties they'd put me away in a nice, quiet place with very soft walls. You look cute." Then she squeezed my tits.

"I got a matching set for you."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope, how could I buy bras for myself without buying one for the most wonderful lady in the world?"

"You really bought your own bras?"

"Really and truly. Doesn't every man?"

"You didn't go in there in a…"

"I'm not that crazy. I wore a shirt and tie. The saleslady was very nice and even offered to gift wrap them. If she noticed I was getting two different sizes and that one fit me she was polite enough not to say anything."

"You are amazing!" She squeezed my boob again.

"You going to make a habit of that?"

"You keep doing it to me."

"So I do. Get dressed before I make a pass at you, you sexy naked woman with a little string hanging between your legs."

I moved fast enough to avoid a wound to the crotch, but I bounced my boobs off the door frame. Good thing they weren't real.

---

We spent the morning doing nothing in particular, by lunch time I was actually getting bored. I was torn between wanting to enjoy my new breasts and an urge to get out of the house. Maybe my addiction was starting to level off. Besides Millie was hanging around near the door and making it plain she wanted to go for a walk.

"Honey, what do you say I take you and Millie out for lunch?"

"You better call for takeout unless you want to change, darling."

"Women! We're not even engaged and you want to start changing me."

"Can I point out that someone with boobs shouldn't be disparaging women?"

"Would you be offended if I took them off?"

"Why is it that conversations with you always seem so surreal?"

"Why is it you always answer a question with a question?"

"I'm learning to be a woman, I need to practice. But right now I need to get out of the house and do something else."

"The let's grab a sub and have a picnic. We can see if anyone notices your shaved legs under the shorts."

So I changed my clothes and we went out. Since you probably aren't interested in the rest of the day because I wasn't wearing a bra, I'll simply tell you we had a great time. By the time we got back Millie was one pooped puppy. No one paid any attention to my shaved legs, either.

---

Sunday morning I awoke comfortably snuggled against Dawn. I carefully removed my hand from her still tender breast, trying not to wake her, then headed for the shower. Dropping my nightgown in the hamper I showered and shaved. I was still getting used to using a blade after many years of using an electric, but today I was extra careful and managed to get through the process without any nicks. I didn't want to make it any harder for Sarah to teach me makeup than it already was.

I was humming softly as I dressed. The blue bra set or the pink one? The blue - it would go with the sandals. No one but Dawn would ever see it, but somehow it mattered to me. Crazy. I sat down on the bed and had my pantyhose halfway up my leg when I felt the back of my bra snap.

"Good morning, sleepyhead."

"You're dressing already?"

"You have other ideas? I can take it off."

"Nice try, buster. Contain yourself for a couple of days, will you?"

"That's why I'm getting dressed. Laying next to you was too much of a strain." I finished putting the pantyhose on my legs and stood up, pulling them up and settling them around my waist.

"I can see just what's being strained, too. You're going to have to switch to control tops."

"I am perfectly in control. A momentary aberration caused by your blinding beauty. Don't forget to take your first pill this morning.

"Sex, sex, sex - is that all you think about?"

"Well, sometimes I think about women."

I stepped into my skirt, a blue gauzy thing that ended just below my knees.

"How can a man wearing a bra be so sexist? You've made me start wearing skirts just so you don't show me up!"

"I prefer to think of it as helping you to realize the full potential of your splendor. Anyone with legs like yours should be showing them off. It's your duty to a beauty starved public."

I finished buttoning my blouse.

"Do they sell padded hips the same place where you bought my boobs? Maybe a corset to give me a waist?"

"You are out of your ever loving mind! I wore a girdle once and I won't have one in my house. What you see is what you get, I'll be damned if I'm gonna squeeze myself like a can of sardines to make some man want to fuck me."

"My, we're testy this morning. I would be perfectly happy to fuck you but you turned me down. We'll put that on the to-do list for next week."

"If you behave. Since you seem to be into clothing of mass constriction, would your 1950s attitude extend to the housewife making breakfast for her mate while she showers?

"Just call me June."

---

By the time the breakfast dishes were done I was getting antsy waiting for Sarah to ring the doorbell. Then I was worried. What was that feisty little old lady going to say when she saw me this way?

"Get that, will you Gus?" her voice floated out from the bedroom.

"Like this?"

"It's Sarah, she's going to see you anyway, silly."

I peered through the fisheye on the door before I opened it. It was Sarah so I opened the door.

"Come in, Sarah." I managed.

She entered and then gave me an inspection that would have done credit to a wolf on the prowl. One hand on her hip, all almost five feet of her at attention as she scanned me in.

"You got possibilities, kid."

"I do?"

"You ain't gonna be no sex kitten, but we might be able to let you go out in public. If I can do something with your hair, that is. Where's Dawn?"

"Right here, mother. You sure you can't make him a sex kitten, I always wanted one."

"So did my idiot son. A lot of good it did him - he had you and couldn't appreciate it. I'd keep this one, he's not all hung up on this macho thing."

"Hey, I think I have very macho boobs." I replied.

Sarah gave them a poke. "Look here, sonny. I'm the one who's old enough to get away with lines like that. Cut me a break, OK?"

"Yes, mother."

"Good. Sit down and let me run my fingers through your hair. I haven't been able to get my hands on a man since Harold died."

I settled into a kitchen chair and she examined my scalp.

"I gather from the holes in your head you aren't too worried about people thinking you're less than 100% male. You ever had a perm?"

"Uh… no."

"If we did you with tight curls you could walk on either side of the line pretty easily. Lots of people have tight curls these days, you'd look like a cherub. What do you think, Dawn?"

"It might work. Does he get a little bow and arrow and a diaper so he can play cupid?"

"I'll thank you to leave me out of your bedroom games, girl."

"Mother!"

"That's two for the morning, daughter. You keeping count, Gus?"

"You have four to go."

"You remembered!"

"You aren't someone who can be forgotten easily."

"Flattery will get you everywhere. You game to go for broke? Once you get the perm you have to keep it up or you'll look strange. You going to be able to handle the other guys at the office when you walk in on Monday?"

"I…" What did I want? "I don't know."

"Then take your time and think about it. Just remember that people see what they want to see, not what is on the top of your mind. You have a good face for this, not too masculine, not too feminine. A little padding here and there and once you learn how to handle yourself as a woman people will see you as a woman. Take off the dress and go back to handling yourself as a man then people will take you for a man. Actors do it all the time."

"I'm no actor."

"Then what's with the costume? You weren't wearing it when we met."

"That's different!"

"How? All the world's a stage, as the saying goes. We put on a new role every time we see someone else. You have a little more ambitious part in mind than most, but that's half the fun. Every time I did a man's part on stage I loved every minute of it. Even fooled my aunt and uncle once when I came home in character after doing a play in college. Real avant-garde thing that got the prudes cranking."

"I don't believe it!"

"So, you think I'm lying? If I were six inches taller I might have tried it off stage, but a man my height wouldn't be taken seriously. You can do things on stage to minimize the problem, but that's another story."

"Can your really teach me how to do it?"

"I the Pope a Polak?"

"You're down to two."

"Wait a minute, you lost count. I'm at three."

"And telling me you can teach me how to switch between a man and a woman at will isn't outrageous?"

"Still at three in my book. Have confidence in yourself. If Dawn let you into her bed then you must be pretty special."

"Dawn?" I queried.

"Fishing for compliments? OK, you're special."

"That's not what I meant!"

"I think you can do it, but it's your call, Gus."

"Then I'm in. The hell with what people think, it's time for a change. Can I be a redhead as long as we're going to invent a new me?

"A redhead with blue eyes and your skin tones? Not unless you WANT to make everyone think you're a floozy."

"Oh well. What do I do?"

"The laundry. Dawn and I have to go out and get the perm from the drug store. You have any pipe cleaners, daughter?"

"I haven't had to clean a pipe since my dad quit smoking."

No problem, we can always buy them. Be useful while we're gone, Gus. You might think about making some lunch, once we start the perm the smell won't help your appetite."

"OK."

"Oh, and think of what you want to be called, Gus is going to be obsolete in a few hours."

Damn, this was getting complicated.

---

The first part was fun. I got to help twist four pipe cleaners into a bunch thick cylinders, then they wrapped me in a plastic apron and the two of started combing and sectioning my hair. I had my eyes closed so I couldn't see, but Sarah explained they were wrapping my hair around the pipe cleaners. I felt like they were playing tug-of-war with my head but at last they told me I was done.

I resembled Medusa, my hair, which usually just covered my ears, was now wrapped around innumerable little tubes that stuck out at odd angles.

"You sure this is going to work?"

"Trust me, Gus. You decided on something better than Gus yet?"

"Well, I sure don't want to be a Gussie."

"Not unless you're my age." Cracked Sarah.

"Well my full name is Augustus Constantius Aikers, so I think that Connie will do."

"Augustus Constantius?"

"My dad teaches Latin, at least when there are enough students to form a class. He thinks the world is going to hell because no one studies the classics these days."

"He's right," opined Sarah. "Sounds like someone I'd like to meet."

"Well, I'm going to have to introduce Dawn to my parents pretty soon. You can come along and I'll tell them that you're my hairdresser and matchmaker."

"You're going to have to meet my folks, too. They'll want to meet you when I tell them I'm taking you up on your offer to move in with you."

"You are?"

That last was in duet, Sarah was only a little bit behind me.

"We can't turn this place into a wildlife sanctuary, though. The lease is up next month and I don't think the landlord would approve."

"Did I miss something here?" begged Sarah, looking confused.

"Just a bad joke, mom. Am I still welcome, Connie?"

Ever tried to kiss someone with your hair twisted every which way? Two someones, because I kissed Sarah too.

Eventually we settled down and Sarah started squirting something on my hair. Something foul. Millie, who had been patiently lying on the kitchen floor picked up her nose after a few minutes and stared accusingly at us. The click click of her nails announced her displeasure as she fled the kitchen.

"What the hell is in that stuff?"

"Sugar and spice and everything nice. That and some sulfur and a bunch of chemicals that would make the EPA freak out if they found them in the ground."

"How reassuring. This is really how a woman achieves beauty?"

"You got it buster." Replied Sarah. "Get used to it, you're going to be doing this often enough to keep the style, you know. You're committed."

"Odd you should use that word."

"Yeah, I know all about guys and commitment." That was Dawn.

"Good thing you're turning me into a woman, then. Do you want to get married before you move in, or can it wait until we have time to plan the wedding?"

It got very quiet then. I hadn't really known I was going to do that, but once it was out I knew I didn't regret it. Love at first sight? Never believed in it until today. Maybe that's because I hadn't met Dawn before this."

"Mother, will you be my matron of honor?"

"Of course, child."

"Then the answer is yes, Gus. And yes to Connie too. I love both of you."

Her peck on the cheek wasn't too satisfying, but I was in the middle of getting my hair permed. That put a damper on the romance.

"Children, if I don't finish getting the solution on Connie's head she's going to have to wear a wig at her wedding. First things first."

Who would have thought my debut as a woman would turn out to be the least important thing that happened that day?
---

I rather liked my new look, although it was going to take some getting used to. I have always had very straight hair, hair that hung there and didn't do any curling or waving or anything. Until I started getting into this crossdressing thing it hadn't mattered much to me; I dragged a comb through it in the morning and that was that. When it got into my eyes I saw the barber. Well actually the hair salon, finding an old fashioned barber was something my father did, there aren't any left near my home anymore.

As promised, I now had a head full of cupid-like curls, which left my new earrings plainly visible. Give me a surfboard and I'd fit right in on any California beach. Well, maybe after a few months in the gym to tone up my body, but that wasn't the direction my life was headed in. A hard body was not what I was aiming for."

The women made appropriate noises as they finished the perm. I was presented with a new hairbrush for my new hair, and I immediately realized that I had nowhere to keep it. I guess that's why they make purses, but that wasn't going to be practical on the job. Well, I'd worry about that later.

I'm not going to go into detail about learning makeup; if you like reading these stories you've heard it all already. Other than learning about beard cover it followed the general lines of the things my sisters did. I had three sisters and no brothers, so I had soaked up the vocabulary and techniques of makeup but never actually tried it. I suppose my oldest sister must be teaching her daughter the techniques at this very moment. It seemed strange that I would be learning along with my niece.

My niece. What would she think if she knew? For that matter, what would anyone in my family think? I hadn't really considered that before now. Then it occurred to me that there wasn't any reason to tell them. They were spread out across the country and the closest one was a four hour drive from here. One more thing to worry about later.

At last everything was done and I stood before Dawn's full length mirror. A thirty something woman stared back at me. Not anyone I would have hit on in a bar, but sort of nice looking an a chunky way. Her arm hair was a little heavy and she used too much makeup, but over all she was presentable.

Dawn put her arms around my neck and fastened a pendant that hung between my breasts.

"Was it worth it, Connie?"

"I'm stunned. Thank you both, I can hardly believe it."

"So what are we going to do next?" asked Dawn.

"Well, we need to go shopping for a ring."

"I love a practical woman, Connie."

"Um ladies," interrupted Sarah "Could I point out that while Connie has a good start at this point she still walks and acts like a man. You wouldn't get five steps away from the car before people figured it out. We've gotten the wardrobe and the makeup right, but you need to practice the script a bit before you're ready to go on stage."

"Spoilsport, I want my ring." pouted Dawn.

"Who's into immediate gratification now? We can go tomorrow night after dinner, when I'm looking like my usual self. Even if I was able to be a perfect woman I suppose it would raise eyebrows if we bought an engagement ring together."

"Two rings. Connie's an engaged woman and she needs a ring too."

"Do you intend to ask my father for my hand, too?"

"Do you intend to tell him about Connie?"

"Tell Dad!? Well, the last time I saw him he had a pair of little blue stones adorning his ears, Mom says that he has joked about getting his ears pierced for years, but when I did it he finally did it, too. You don't suppose the likes dresses?

"Let's not get carried away."

"It seems I'm marrying a wise woman. Sarah, will you be my drama coach and teach me how to walk and talk so I can be convincing?

"I never could resist a challenge! First you have to..."

The rest of the afternoon was a trial. How can things change so fast? I was high as a kite when I saw the complete Connie for the first time, but learning how to be Connie was WORK! I could see why Sarah was so well thought of in her profession, she had a no nonsense attitude and was a stern task master. Attention to detail, and boy were there a lot of details. I was very relieved when she ended our session.

Poor Millie, every time I approached the front door during my walking lessons she thought we were going out. Those big, brown eyes bored into me with her disappointment as I walked away from the door. I was going to have to make it up to her sometime.

It was Sarah who came up with the answer."

"Connie, while I wouldn't normally advise a woman to walk in the park after dark, I doubt that a woman with a Pitt Bull will be bothered. You could get the walking practice you need without worrying how many people were watching."

"Two women in the park, mother. I think that's a great idea."

Millie, who could hear the word 'walk' even if it was spoken on the moon, was there in seconds and doing her usual dance.

"Well, it would be more interesting than cruising your hallway. I guess if Connie was born today she needs to leave the womb. It's getting close to supper time, ladies. If you give me time to assume my secret identity as Gus I would be pleased to take you both to dinner."

"Just as long as Connie and Dawn accept an invitation to dinner at my place in a couple of weeks so I can pay you back" replied Sarah. I think you'll be ready for a dress rehearsal by then. Just remember, you're close enough to my place to walk over."

"Just as long as I'm wearing the dress it's fine with me."

"That joke's older than I am."

"Sorry, I won't try to ad lib until I'm comfortable with the script. Pardon me, I need to shower before we leave."

"Take your time, lover." Dawn spoke. "I need to empty out a few drawers so I can take them with me. Good thing my nice, strong, Manly Gus will be with us to carry the suitcases. Mom, will you help me figure out what I need to last the week?"

I pondered those words as I showered, clad only in a shower cap to keep my newly permed hair dry. The changes in my life since that innocent visit to a yard sale were astounding, yet the changes in the last couple of hours overwhelmed them. I started the day as a bachelor with a steady girlfriend (even if that terminology seemed quaint this long after high school) who liked to wear dresses and lived by himself. Now I had a fiancée, a permanent bed partner, and a new name for the woman that was emerging from this chaos.

Life was good. If I could keep up with it!

---

So we started a new life and everybody lived happily ever after.

Yeah, right!

We had been dancing around the subject of living together for a couple of months and, while the decision was sudden, we thought we were ready for it. Why else would we do it? It was the ever-loving details that got us. When we spent the weekend together we got up when we pleased, weekdays I had to be into the office at 7:30, she at 9:00. does she get up early with me and kill time? Do I tiptoe around and try to get dressed so she can get a little more sleep? Multiply by all the daily rituals a single person keeps and you get an idea of the strain of meshing two disparate lives.

As far as dressing up and taking Millie for evening walks, forget it! My bras sat in their dresser drawer untouched while we carted and sorted and stored. Trying to fit Dawn and Connie and Gus into the same bedroom was a challenge. Moving the off season clothes into the spare room helped, but Connie and Dawn really liked pretty clothes, there were a lot of them. The garage filled up with unneeded furniture, the attic filled up with god knows what and we collapsed into bed each night barely able to smooch before falling asleep.

I endured the jibes about my hair at work, it was a two day wonder and then nobody noticed or cared; pretty much the same as happened with the earrings. The weekend came, but we were traveling to visit family. When we confessed our engagement there was the obligatory introduction visit. We did hers the first weekend, then mine the next. I liked her folks and mine fell in love with her, so the weekend flew by with the pleasure of family, but Connie necessarily stayed home for those weekends and I was going into withdrawal.

It was particularly frustrating because just as soon as my feminine side acquired a name we stuffed her into the closet after only a few minutes in existence. Sure I got to wear my nightgown to bed when we were at home but when I wasn't quite what I had anticipated. I even had to quickly buy a pair of men's pajamas for the family visits, something I hadn't considered before ditching my old ones.

It's also plain I didn't know what I was getting into. It's not too much of a stretch to consider cohabiting as creating a new self. After years of never having to consider the needs of anyone but Millie, suddenly I had to change my ways to accommodate Dawn. Not that I'm complaining. From a purely utilitarian view the benefits clearly exceed the costs, and from an emotional view life was very much richer and more fulfilling, but change is never simple.

Still, I had to change my ways. Remember to call if I was late, do the laundry regularly, especially as it accumulated geometrically faster with three wardrobes to be cleaned, and polish my shining amour so I could play knight to my princess. All changes I gladly embraced, but changes nonetheless.

On top of this I was learning to be Connie. Finally, after two weeks of madness Connie got her chance to come out. I found that, at least for me, leaving the house as Connie meant I had to become a whole person named Connie. It was one thing to hang around the house or a motel room wearing a dress, no one saw me. No need to interact unless it pleased me to do so and I didn't have to worry about the rest of the world.

All that had changed by leaving my snug little nest. As I tried to create a another new self, this one feminine (I hoped!), Dawn was unbelievably supportive. She was always there with me and Millie, telling me how well I was doing as Connie. There were some nights, after a long day at work, that it seemed an inordinate effort to put on makeup and get dressed to take Millie for a walk in the twilight. Dawn was full of encouragement and understanding gently sustaining my resolve to do this right. Once we were strolling in the park the thrill of being Connie took over and life was good.

Much of this was just trying to let my body move more loosely and fluidly. Remembering Sarah's advice I concentrated on holding my hands higher up and farther from my body as if I had larger hips. I tried to let my head move and bob slightly, place my feet one before another to accentuate the swing of my hips and not lean my body forward as much. This is trickier than it sounds, too much and you are a caricature of a woman and it is very obvious.

Results came slowly, but they came. We missed a few nights as the fall rains took over, but the weather that year was remarkably fine. After a couple of weeks, Connie was a comfortable part of me. Having let the boss know ai wanted to stay in town for a few weeks if possible, most days I would arrive home from work in the late afternoon and happily change from Gus into Connie. Dawn says I passed through the too-much-makeup-teenage-stage pretty quickly and accepted a zen-like mantra of 'less is more'.

For our evening constitutional it simply wasn't necessary to try to achieve the standards of beauty needed for a night on the town. After a few weeks I gave up blatant eye makeup, which Dawn assured me I had mastered. Not long after that I stopped painting my nails every night and removing the polish before bed. Working in the kitchen, it soon became apparent that being dressed to the nines was a drawback, my wardrobe began to tilt toward something more practical. Not that I gave up skirts, why bother to be a crossdresser and wear pants? Makes no sense to me, but I did begin to wear simpler clothes with less lace and froth.

I had gotten pretty confident in my ability to move more like a woman would when the inevitable happened. As the season advanced and the sun set earlier our nightly walks began to creep closer and closer to the dinner hour. I no longer feared the half a block to the park under streetlamps would reveal me to the world as a crossdresser, in fact we had met only three people in that vulnerable stretch, none of them neighbors. We had just started down the park path and Millie was doing her usual close examination of a handy tree when she suddenly bolted. I had been daydreaming as she sniffed and she easily pulled the leash from my relaxed grip. Millie was off after a streak of silvery gray, and I recognized her 'boyfriend' Sacha.

When our nightly walks were earlier in the evening we often met Steve and Sacha. If the park wasn't too crowded we flagrantly broke the law and let the two of them run together. It had been some time since we had seen each other.

"Hi Millie, old girl! Howdy Dawn, who's your friend?" he cried us as he came up.

It was then that I realized I needed work on my voice. I was caught cold, positive ID courtesy of my dog.

"Who else, Steve?" I replied, rather weakly."

""Ho.. ly.. crap!" Gus?"

"Uh, at the moment Connie is more appropriate."

"Connie is a bit of a shock to people who only know Gus, isn't she?" Dawn offered. With an innate grace she embraced my confused neighbor. "Perhaps we should sit on the bench while the dogs work off their energy."

I didn't know about Steve, but I sure needed to sit down! There is a vast difference in knowing that if you are going to play with gender roles in public you will eventually meet someone who knows your original self and actually doing it. The strangers we had met on our walks had always passed by with anything from indifference to a jaunty salute, and this casual acceptance had built up my confidence in my feminine self. After my moment of panic that confidence flowed back and

Not that it did much good.

"What the fuck is going on? Are you out of your mind?"

"Probably, but so far the guys with those funny white jackets haven't shown up."

"Christ, Gus, you look like a fucking girl."

"Well, that's the whole idea, Steve. I guess it worked."

"That's sick."

Just then Sacha came over and started licking my hand.

"Well, at least Sacha knows that friendship is more important than clothes. I'm sorry if you're offended, Steve, I didn't intend to cause any trouble. We've been walking Millie after dark while I work on walking like a woman. I didn't expect to meet anyone I knew."

"You've been _trying_ to walk like a woman? Gus, you're a man! Men don't try to be women!"

"Life is a little more complicated than that, Steve. I get a kick out of playing the role, but I still like being a man, too. I don't see why we have to be one or the other."

"You're sick! Sacha, get away from him!"

Sacha had decided to stick her nose up my skirt. Now there's something I hadn't considered as a hazard when I went for a walk.

"It isn't catching, Steve. Sacha won't want to wear doggy dresses if she hangs out with me. This is a strictly human thing."

"Hi honey. Hi Gus, you look cute like that." The voice of Steve's wife, Cindy, caught me off guard. I hadn't even seen her approach. "C'mere Millie. Cookie!"

Steve started to sputter, and it was my turn to have my jaw drop. Dawn's eyes just kept switching from face to face as she tried to sort it out.

"Isn't anyone going to offer me a seat or do I have to curl up with the dogs?" Cindy broke the silence.

Dawn slid over closer to Steve and offered Cindy a place between us, introducing herself as she did. That sent Steve into a fresh fit of sputtering, but eventually the cast of characters was sorted out..

"Oh for cryin' out loud, Steve. If you opened you eyes once in a while you would have seen Millie walking with a strange lady for the past few weeks. Every time they pass Sacha starts yapping out the window and I look. I was curious but it wasn't until I talked to Stephanie that I figured it out."

"Oh great!" I replied "Does the entire neighborhood know?"

"Well, you should learn to pull the shades on your bedroom window when you play dress-up if you want to keep things a secret. You're only about six feet from Steph's place, you know."

"I'm going to board the damn thing up when I get home!"

"Spoilsport! Steph thinks your bras look better than hers. Is she right, Dawn?"

"Well, he buys me matching bras and I like what he gives me."

Before I could answer Steve made a comment I won't repeat here and left.

I'm sorry, Cindy. I didn't mean to get Steve upset. I didn't mean to get anyone upset, I thought it was late enough and dark enough that no one would notice."

"Gu- Connie, honey" she stumbled a bit with the new name. "If you're going to dress like a woman you better start thinking like a woman. Women don't go strolling in the park after dark, you stand right out to anyone passing by, especially with a big Pit Bull trotting beside you."

"Well, when you put it like that…" Well, it did make sense.

"Tell you what," she continued. "You two come over for dinner Thursday and we three girls can take the dogs for a walk. We can scare the hell out of the civilians with our vicious dogs while we gossip."

"What about Steve? I don't think he quite approves of me."

"He'll come around. I'll just stuff his face with a big steak while we dine on ladylike salads and he'll get over his grump. You should have heard him when Lilly and Eva moved in last summer. Once he figured out they were a couple he had a fit about the neighborhood going to hell with 'those people' moving in."

"I just kind of reminded him of what the neighbors said when we were the first black family on the block and he shut up. He didn't like it much, but he shut. These days he takes Sacha over to play with their kid while they talk on the porch. He'll get over it, or he won't be getting any until he does."

"Cover your ears, Dawn. I don't want you getting any ideas. Let's not be too drastic, Cindy."

"Men! You can dress 'em up but they just don't change. He's all yours, Dawn."

"I wasn't intending to give her up, Cindy, but thanks anyway." Her attention was diverted by a cold nose. "OK, Millie, we'll stop talking and start walking. Want to come along, Cindy?"

"Not tonight, but come over Thursday for dinner. That will give Steve time to screw his head back on straight. Poor man just can't handle change too well, but I love him anyway."

---

That week was pretty much the high point for Connie. With the secret out I decided that there was no point in hiding Connie from my neighbors. Sure it caused a stir with some, but old Mrs. Olson, who spent every waking hour peering out her front window keeping an eye on the neighborhood, was relieved to know the strange woman hanging around my place wasn't a lover I snuck in while Dawn was gone and Steph has been very nice, at least when she got done laughing. We even planted some fall bulbs together so our yards would coordinate come spring.

The days wore on, fall fell and the nights grew colder. Taking the time to do my makeup in order to leave the house grew to be more of a chore than a pleasure. I was even jealous of Dawn who could just go out the door without any preparation at all. Fall turned to winter and there were lovely evenings cuddled up with Dawn in front of the fireplace in a warm sweater and long skirt, Millie at our feet. Come December when the snow hit I found it a bit too much to go walking over the snow drifts with Mille in my skirt, so sometimes it was days between dressing up. We took a January skiing vacation but Connie didn't come along, why bother to put on a bra and hide it under a ski outfit? It just didn't seem worth it.

Dawn and I got married February. I know, a dumb time to get married with all the snow and ice, but we just decided it was time to stop putting it off. Since I had never gotten around to telling either set of parents about Connie, I quickly discarded the idea of a two bride wedding. Nice idea, but not nice enough to have to spend the entire reception explaining who I was to friends and family. We did have matching lingerie and garters, because who would notice a bra under all the layers of a tux? We honeymooned in Bermuda, but other than the nightgown Dawn bought for me to wear on our honeymoon, Connie stayed home. How was she going to cope with a bathing suit and days languishing on the beach?

In fact, Connie just sort of petered out, much to my surprise. After the intensity of learning how to be Connie, the addictive quality of the experience, I had thought I would be hooked for life. Maybe it's because she came along at just the right time to fill some need I didn't know about but no longer had. Maybe it's because once I had mastered the role I moved on to some other script in my life. Who knows? Connie still makes the occasional appearance, but it's more a guest shot than a starring role these days.

The engineering types can tell you about the bell curve. It's something found everywhere in nature. You start at low on the chart, slowly increasing. The rate of increase gets faster and faster until you suddenly hit the top of the chart, then everything reverses and you end up back at the bottom again. The curve it traces looks just like a bell. Connie's bell curve may be a little lopsided, the right side of the chart falls m uch faster than the left, but who cares. Dawn and I are happy and that's what counts.

In any case, I still wear nylon or silk women's underwear, just in case Connie decides to come visit.



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