Trans. Plant. Heart. Chapter 2

"Bambi, why would you say that? You're 'living the dream', so to speak."
She looked up at him with tear-striped cheeks. "I'm living a nightmare!

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Trans. Plant. Heart.
Chapter 2

by **Sigh**
Copyright © 2013 plaintivesigh
All Rights Reserved.

Grant Brisbane opened his eyes to see Bambi Johnson looking at him, at first with worry but then transforming into relief.

“You’re awake! Finally — that was no thirty minutes, buster. You slept for two hours. Are you feeling any better?”

“Much, actually. No longer short of breath. Still very tired though.”

“Boy, did you have me worried. I’ve never been around a dying man before. That is what you said is happening to you, right?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

She continued to stroke his right hand with both her hands. “I know you paid to have me with you all night. But I’m worried about you; you look so weak, still. I feel like I’m cheating you by not doing more, but you don’t look up to it.”

“Remember, I said I wanted no sex.”

“Right. So, then … what specifically do you want me to do for you?”

“Just be with me, and talk to me. And when I get energy to talk, then listen, please.”

“Can do, and will. What do you want me to talk about? And more to the point, are you in any condition to even do that? Would it be better if you got some more sleep?”

“Probably, but … then I’ll miss out completely on what I came for.” He closed his eyes and sighed. “This really stinks to high heaven. Not you, my dear; my condition. Some days and nights I have so much more energy; then occasionally a bad spell comes along where I just feel washed out. Just my continued poor luck to have a bad spell tonight, of all nights.”

“Tell you what, Grant. Technically, I’m supposed to leave at or before 6 AM, unless you pay more. But I’m not due back to formally be available for work tomorrow until 6 pm. Just sleep now, and I’ll catch some Z’s too. When you wake up, I can hang around until check out time; I’ll just phone Fish and tell him that I’m out shopping with some mad money you gave me as a tip. So we can do all this ‘talking and listening’ in the morning if need be. Without you having to pay more. My treat. How does that sound?”

“Madam … I’m nearly speechless. That’s going above and beyond what you’re obligated. I would feel that I’m taking advantage of you.”

Bambi put the back of her hand to her forehead, feigning distress. “Oh dear! Forced to stay in the presidential suite of a five star resort for a few hours more! The horror!” — she then laughed.

“Bambi - who is this ‘Fish’, by the way?”

“Oh. That’s what all of us escorts call Mr. Morgenstern.”

“Why the name ‘Fish’?”

“Trust me. You really, really don’t want to know. It’s twisted and perverted. And hey — you never told me — how did you learn my name was Bambi? Did Fish tell you?”

“I made an assumption, madam, after seeing that,” - Grant pointed towards the high slit in her skirt. Just at the top, on her thigh, a tattoo of Walt Disney’s cartoon Bambi peeked through the gap in the clothing.

“What?! I thought this skirt covered that totally. That was a pretty good guess, smart guy. So — what do you say to my offer?”

“I graciously accept it. I still feel exhausted, and going back to sleep sounds wonderful, if you can meet two conditions.”

“Oh?”

“One: please help me get this suit off. Two: lie beside me, and hold me. Let me feel your body touching mine, your breasts against my back. Can you do that, please?”

“I will if you say you’ll be my Valentine tonight.”

“Of course, you romantic fool.”

“Then your wish is my command … baby,” she whispered close to his face, and then kissed him lightly on the forehead.

~o~O~o~

Bambi and Grant slept on their sides, with her spooning into his back. She wore only her panties — she had remembered his comment about preferring vaginas — and she was pressed up against him. Suddenly, a sound woke her.

It was Grant — moaning. At first she wondered: is he getting sicker? Is he in pain? Then she heard him speak.

“No … no! Please! Just … just leave me be! Let me alone!”

“Are you tired of me being this close?” she said.

He ignored the question. “Stop it! Stop saying that! I am not!”

Oh! He's having a bad dream.

Hugging him closer, she stroked his chest. “I’ve got you, baby. It’s okay,” she said, but it had no effect; he still cried out. I could wake him up, but would he be able to get back to his rest? Yet I can’t leave him like this — emotions affect his heart, he said.

She decided to try something. Projecting her head forward and resting her chin on his shoulder, she firmly said “Leave Grant alone! You have no business being here! Be silent, and go away — now!”

With that, her bed partner quieted. His tensed muscles relaxed, and his breathing became even and unstrained, as he remained asleep. Bambi noted that his body seemed much cooler than other men she’d been with. Must be the heart failure, she thought.

Usually when the “John” is asleep, it’s time for an escort to take a break from the false intimacy. Yet Bambi found herself snuggling closer to - and kissing the neck of - this poor, needy, rich man.

~o~O~o~

Bambi woke up very gradually; her eyes were still closed as she realized she was awakening.

Wow, this is nice. My bed feels great. Did I get a new mattress?

Then her eyes opened.

Suddenly she remembered where she was. She’d just slept in the prettiest, classiest place she had ever been in. With a rich, older, sickly man lying right in front —

No. He wasn’t there. He was … gone. The oxygen tank was turned off — there was no air hissing sound — and the tubing lay on his pillow. He was too weak to get himself out of bed; so where is he? Oh, my God — did he crawl off into the bathroom to die? Did Curly-head come pick him up and take him away, and I slept through it?

“Grant? Mr. Brisbane?” She warily called his name out as she ran to the master bath, her heart in her throat. He wasn’t there. She scurried over to the closet — not there — then out of the bedroom …

“Ah, you’re awake at last. Good morning, Bambi.” He had on pajamas now, with a brown masculine silk robe, and men’s lounging slippers adorning his feet. He looked like he was feeling better — a lot better. At the small dining table where he was seated, there were cereals, plates of eggs and bacon, breads and butter, along with milk, coffee, and orange juice.

“I took the liberty of ordering us some room service for breakfast. They just delivered it. It will be just us two; I had Jace’s delivered to his bedroom. Join me, won’t you? After you put something on to warm yourself up, that is,” he said with a broad smile.

Bambi was suddenly aware of her mostly naked state, wearing nothing but the panties from last night. And her nipples were indeed broadcasting that they were slightly chilled from being so exposed.

As she turned back towards the bedroom, she heard him call “There is a white terry cloth robe hanging in the bathroom, if that will do for you.”

She walked back in to the dining area, wrapped in the large hotel robe with a large golden embroidered “V” on the pocket. “Wow, you look like a new man this morning, Mr. B.” she said.

“Call me Grant, madam. Yes. I told you, I have good times and bad times. And especially in the last year, the bad times are getting more severe when they do happen; I just seem to lose all energy. And then, I get better eventually. The good times do seem to be coming less often, and are less ‘good’ when they do come. Would you like some jelly on your toast?”

“Why yes, thank you. Strawberry jam, if you have it, please. Such a gentleman!”

“You deserve it, my goddess.”

Bambi raised an eyebrow. “Goddess? Laying it on a little thick there, aren’t we? I mean with the compliments, not the jam.” What’s his angle? There’s a catch here, somewhere. We both know I’m not pretty, much less a ‘goddess’.

Grant responded, looking at the toast he was spreading strawberries on. “Oh, I beg to differ. You see, I had a most dreadful vision early this morning. My adversaries from all of my lifetime surrounded me — bullies from junior high, preening athletes from high school, the stuck-up cliques from college, and my hateful in-laws. Forgive me — ex in-laws, now. Anyway, they were hurling all of their horrible epithets at me. I told them to stop, but of course they wouldn’t. Suddenly a voice — authoritative, yet soft and feminine — rebuked them to silence. It came from an invisible presence just behind my left shoulder.”

He smiled at Bambi, passing her the jammed toast. “I recognized it instantly. It was your voice, my dear. You were watching over me like a guardian angel, a protective goddess. And when I awoke this morn and glanced back to my left, there was your face. It felt so nice to be held in your embrace, to feel you pressed into my back. I lay there and cherished the moment for a good thirty minutes before arising.”

Bambi could feel her face flushing. No one had ever used the word “cherish” when describing how he or she felt about her. She didn’t feel she had done anything that special; she’d just tried to take care of someone in trouble. “So; you really needed me, huh?”

Grant smiled and nodded.

She sensed a slight tightness forming in the back of her throat. “Thanks. It’s nice to be needed — for something besides sex. Nice to be appreciated for it, too.” Water began welling up in her eyelids. Then without warning, she began to sob, shaking, her hands still grasping her toast and coffee.

Grant stood slowly and walked to her side, putting an arm around her shoulder. “My dear, what’s wrong?”

Hg … hgg,” she struggled to form words. “It’s … hgg … been so long since I felt like … hgg hgg … I was worth … hgg … anything … anything as a human being,” she blubbered.

“Bambi, why on earth would you say that? Look at you; you have the courage to pursue your goal of transitioning. Many before you have had to resort to the skin trade to get the money to do so. You’re ‘living the dream’, so to speak.”

She looked up at him with tear-striped cheeks. “I’m living a nightmare!” The anguish in her now broke forth like a tidal wave as she bawled, sinking her face into his robe-covered belly.

~o~O~o~

Grant stood still, stroking the back of Bambi’s head as she cried. The pain inside came bubbling out and over her whole being like an overfull pot of oatmeal left on the fire too long. He made no attempt to stop her; just continuing to hold her at the shoulder, silently absorbing her sorrow and tears.

She eventually calmed some, and pulled back. The first thing she saw was his robe drenched with tears and mascara stains.

“OMIGOD!” —she covered her mouth.

“Tut tut, my dear. Think nothing of it. I have a most miraculous dry cleaning service at home.”

“I’m sorry, Grant. For the robe, and especially for breaking down like this. After all, I’m supposed to be here serving you, not the other way around.”

He pulled his chair around and sat down just next to her. “To paraphrase you, milady: It’s nice to be needed — for something besides my money or my lawyering skills. By allowing me to comfort you as one would a friend or a lover, you have given me a rare gift. So, I will accept no apologies for that. And if you want to serve me more, I kindly request that you talk to me about it.”

“About what?”

“About your feelings as a transgendered female. What you had to endure for it. How you decided to transition. And why you consider your current life a nightmare. I need to know. Hearing it from you — it may help me.”

“Boy, diving into the deep end, aren’t we? Find me some tissues, please — unless you want to sacrifice the rest of that silk robe to the Gods of Running Makeup.

~o~O~o~

“Okay,” Bambi began. “I first began to dress up at age nine. My folks had left me with the babysitter, and she put me to bed early at 8 pm, which meant she wanted to spend the rest of the night on the couch with her boyfriend downstairs. All of our bedrooms were upstairs, so I felt pretty safe. I got into Mom’s drawers and began to put stuff on like I had seen her do through the years. I then pranced in front of the mirror and pretended like I was walking down the catwalk on those modeling shows. God, I looked so girly then, before puberty hit. If only …”

“Go on,” Grant encouraged. “If only … what?”

“Mom found out, and confronted me. Stupid me, I didn’t know she’d be able to tell that a boy had put on her clean clothes. Well, I had been searching on the internet to see if anyone else felt the way I did — and discovered the terms transvestite and transsexual. After reading, I realized that I was the latter. I had, from as early as I can recall, wished I had been born a girl. Then I read that I could actually become one! So when Mom talked to me, I told her I was a transsexual, and what I needed to do to become truly female.”

“Oh! So brave. And did she accept this revelation?”

Bambi sighed, and began to tear up. “Unfortunately, no. Absolutely not. She said that I had been warped by the ‘perversion of the modern day’ and that I needed to be turned around. They got me into a counselor who was more a religious scripture-spouter than a true mental therapist. He basically tried to get me to see the error of my ways. Meanwhile, I could see puberty coming like a freight train, threatening to turn me manly and hairy. God, how I pleaded for estrogen — or if nothing else, at least spiro.

“But no one listened. And as I watched in horror, I developed a deeper voice, facial and body hair, big hands, a thick chest and shoulders, and a square jaw. I lost my one chance at ever being beautiful because I was a coward.”

“Dear — you were just a child.”

“A child who should have known better! If I had really been courageous, I would have run away, at least to my Aunt Millie’s; she and Uncle Oliver were more open minded, and I’ll bet they would have taken me in. If only I could go back in time.”

“There are surgeries that can help —”

“Nope. Not really. Number 1, I don’t near have the money to have even one surgery, much less twenty. Number 2, I’ve been to a plastic surgeon. He showed me the best my surgical results could be — and it was pretty depressing.”

“Who sent you to this surgeon?”

“Fish. He paid for it, since I don’t have the funds. The doc’s one who does body work for a lot of our escorts.”

She looked at her rich date. “I know how ugly I am. You’ve been super nice to me since I threatened to walk out — and just you listening to my story helps me feel valued — but I still recall the disappointment in your face when you got your first good look at me. I’m ruined beyond repair. Sometimes it takes all I’ve got to not consider ending it all.”

They sat in silence for a minute, neither knowing exactly what to say after that.

He cleared his throat. “I’m so sorry I acted that way.”

“Don’t apologize for an honest reaction. It’s not like I haven’t seen that look a hundred times before. God, this is so depressing — let’s change the subject. Tell me about yourself, Grant. When did you realize you were different?”

“Oh, my dear. I’ve been ‘different’ since I was born. My parents were well off, and I went only to private schools. I learned the violin rather than electric guitar, and I played lacrosse instead of tackle football. I loved to read, and loved classical music as well as progressive rock - many of those groups, such as Yes and Gentle Giant, had many classical elements. So, even without my gender issues, I would still have been an odd duck. I never really got into heavy metal rock, getting drunk or stoned, or bedding as many girls as I could. And I was smart; valedictorian of the class with a perfect 4.0. My last “B” grade was in Physical Education at age 8; I have loathed dodge-ball ever since.”

“Dodge-ball! Aaack! I HATED dodge-ball,” Bambi laughed.

“Anyway, you can see why I was considered a ‘nerd’. However, my family accepted me — until they found out about my secret urges to cross-dress.”

“Did your mom find you out?”

“Oh, I wish it had been so. No, I had an older sister who had outfits that fit me quite well, and they were of the modern style; I could look like a fashionable teen girl in them, not an adult woman. I was so careful, but one day she caught me. She confronted me with a pair of her panties that had a pubic hair in them — a black one, and she was naturally blonde. It was a horrible outing, done in the living room with my parents and a visitor — the president of the local Junior League — present.”

“Oh no,” gasped Bambi.

“Well, from that point on, I was kept out of the public eye for fear of shaming the family. I too was sent to a psychologist to try to get me to be a ‘normal’ boy. I submerged my desires and studied even harder; graduated from law school Magna Cum Laude; and established my own law firm. I now have grown our family fortune larger than it was when I was a child. I even got married to a beautiful raven-haired trophy wife and had a son. He’s now 18 and a freshman at Yale.”

“Wow. What a charmed life. Yet you sounded so … unfulfilled when we talked last night.”

“Yes. I have battled depression my whole adult life. I’ve never considered suicide seriously enough to attempt it — yet. I finally opened up with my psychiatrist about my gender confusion, and after testing he said he felt I had transgender attributes. As my wife has divorced me a year ago, I knew I had to take the opportunity to talk to someone who had these same issues. I don’t trust chat rooms; I still have a business that would likely collapse if I were found to be in a major scandal. I shudder at the likely headlines: ‘Respected Tax Attorney is a Sexual Pervert.’ So, I came to Vegas, where ‘what happens here, stays here.’ And here you and I are.”

“Did your wife leave you because of the trans issues?”

“No; she didn’t know. She enjoyed my money, but when my heart became damaged, she found she didn’t like being tied down to a near invalid. She cited ‘loss of consortium’ — the fact I could no longer satisfy her sexually — as the main reason for the divorce. And sex was the only thing that she and I seemed to ever connect with; I would never classify her as a great friend or confidante. So the split was for the best, really. Especially since we had a prenuptial agreement that the court honored. One benefit of her leaving — after decades of abstinence, I was able to start dressing in women’s clothing again.”

Sheesh! The poor guy was hitched to a shallow bitch, thought Bambi. She looked at the clock. “Grant, is this conversation giving you what you came for? How am I doing?”

“Just fine, Bambi my dear. I wish we had more time to talk, and to cuddle. I feel such a bond with you; sisterly, and possibly even romantically. I think it’s because you are the first person in my life who hasn’t acted with disgust over what I’ve told you.” He looked at her with true appreciation, and gave her hand a squeeze.

“Well, sir, we have still two hours left. Why don’t you keep on talking to me while I minister to your body as you lie in bed? Not sex; no exertion. Let me show you what I mean.”

~o~O~o~

Grant was lying on the bed in just his boxers, with a blanket covering him. Underneath him was a panel of towels laid out to separate him from the bed sheets. He wondered what Bambi was up to. She had put his oxygen tube back in his nostrils, and he had to admit that he felt better while wearing it, even if he wasn’t currently in a “bad spell”.

Bambi walked in from the bathroom with a stack of steaming washcloths. “There’s a trick to getting these this hot in the bathroom sink without getting burned. You haven’t showered, so I figured you would like a washing with some warm cotton.”

She uncovered his feet, and began to scrub them gently with a steamy damp cloth. Working in the soles, between the toes. Grant found the sensation wonderful. Then, before the feet could get chilly, she dried them with a towel.
Then she repeated the process working up his legs, using a new fresh hot washcloth for each individual body part she went over.

“While I’m doing this, talk to me. What kind of a lawyer are you?” she queried with a kind smile.

“A very good one. Ohhh … that feels divine.”

“Ha ha ha ha! That was funny. Come on, you know what I mean.”

“I do tax law. Basically, people in deep trouble with the IRS come to me for help.”

“Yeah — you’re like those guys in the TV ads? ‘Don’t fight the IRS on your own.’ That kind?”

“Actually, those lawyers mostly deal with private individuals with less than a million dollars of back taxes or penalties owed. I deal with corporations and individuals who owe multiple millions of dollars.”

“Soooo … you let rich fat cats get out of paying taxes?”

“No. I help rich fat cats keep themselves from going bankrupt over their tax debt. That way they can stay in business to pay more taxes, year after year. They may get off a little easier one time with my help … but they never do again. Uncle Sam has a permanent evil eye on them from that point on.”

“Okay, that sounds better. Hey, may I clean you in your private areas? It’ll feel great. I promise I won’t get ‘freaky’ there, but I’ll only do it with your permission.”

“Ah … all right; if I say stop, please do so.”

She pulled down his boxers and went to work, quickly but gently. She even had him roll to his side as she discreetly cleaned in his butt crease. Then covering him up, she quickly washed her hands in the bathroom sink and came back to finish with the rest of his body.

As she did, Grant explained his health condition. He did not have regular heart disease from artery blockages and high cholesterol; rather, he contracted a virus that settled in his heart muscles, mostly destroying the organ. “Viral myocarditis”, his doctors called it. The only effective cure for him would be a transplant; however, he had so many antibodies in his blood, finding a good match was like finding a needle in a five-story haystack. His body would likely reject a usual heart available for transplant within the first year after he received it. The odds were that he would die long before any appropriate donor match could be found. As Bambi listened, her own heart began to ache for this unfortunate man.

When she finished cleaning the grooves of his ears, her final hot cloth was folded and placed on his forehead. “There you go. I’m not done yet; I’ll be right back.”

She returned with a bottle of hotel lotion — presidential suite quality — that she had left submerged in a sink full of hot water. With the exception of his groin and butt, she lotioned him with the warm cream from toes to neck, rubbing it in with the effect of a massage. Afterwards, she helped him back into the silk robe.

“Wonderful, milady, wondrous. Oh how I needed that, and I didn’t even realize it. What a pleasure that was; about as close to intimacy as I can get these days.”

“We still have 75 minutes left. Why don’t you continue resting before you have to pack up and go? I figure we can talk until the last half hour, then get you dressed and ready to go.”

Mr. Brisbane nodded. “That sounds like a good plan. Why don’t we get back to the nightmare you said you were living? Were you talking about not being as physically feminine as you wanted?”

Bambi sighed. “That’s not the nightmare. It’s the situation I’m living in; I’m trapped into this job, this lifestyle, and I can’t break free. I feel trapped, like I’m suffocating. One of my coworkers says she’s worried I’ll commit suicide … and she may be right.”

“Bambi — have you actually been considering ending your life?”

She looked straight into his eyes with a piercing blue gaze. “Grant. Haven’t you ever considered it?”

“Why, I …” his words stopped in his throat. He considered his thoughts from yesterday afternoon: There’s always booze. Or a bullet.

“Yes,” he whispered. “Yes I have. But I no longer feel that way — not after being able to open up to you.”

She shook her head. “After we leave, I’ll go back to the 400 square foot room I rent from Fish, and do more tricks. And have nothing to show for it. I had been trying to squirrel away some savings under my mattress, but when I checked yesterday, it’s all gone. Everyone there swears they knew nothing of it. Any money I make, Fish skims the rent, my hormone costs, and my share of the food and utilities from it. At least that’s what he says; I’ve never seen a sheet showing how much I made and how much I owe. He’ll hand me a couple of twenties every other week, and claim that’s all I have left after bills.

“I’d leave, but I don’t have any money to do that. I have no friends, not even with the other escorts; we see each other as competition. Who’s going to take in a poorly passing tranny whore they don’t know? And I wouldn’t be accepted back home, I’m pretty sure. I just can’t see a way out … except maybe the final way.”

“Bambi — how did you come to be in this situation?”

She was crying once more. “Can — can we change the subject please?”

“All right. How about your name: ‘Bambi’. Surely that’s just your working moniker. What is your legal name?”

“My legal name is still David … David Johnson,” she said with a mix of contempt and despair. “My true name was to be Aubrey, but I don’t have the cash to get it changed. And everyone where I work always calls me Bambi. Fish christened me with that. God, how I’ve grown weary of that name. It makes me sound like a bimbo — ‘Bambi the bimbo’. But I live at work, and only interact with others from the agency, so I’m stuck with it for now.

“I’m changing for the worse. Did you know I used to play the viola, and loved classical music, fusion jazz, Shakespeare and musicals? The past two years all I’ve been exposed to is hip-hop and the Kardashians, with liberal doses of Jerry Springer. I used to speak with intelligence and refinement; now I’m deteriorating to ‘Hey, buddy, ya wanna get sucked or pulled, or poke my butt?’ Maybe it would be worth it, if I was any closer to paying for transition, but I’m further away it seems.” She groaned and covered her face with her palms. “I thought you were going to change the subject. Tell me what you want to do. Now that you’re divorced, are you wanting to transition?”

He shook his head. “No. I do have things I like about being male; I just would like to express my female side at times. Even if I felt compelled to transition, there’s no way my heart could even tolerate hormone therapy, much less a major surgery — unless the surgery was to get a heart transplant.”

She dabbed her eyes. “Well, transition is never a piece of cake; in my case, it’s been a piece of moldy bread. I did it because I had to. My mistake was in how I chose to pursue it. Dammit! We’re back to me again. Why do I keep doing that?”

“Because you needed someone away from work to talk to, Aubrey.”

She picked up her head. “Say that again, please?”

“Because you nee —”

“No — the name.”

“Aubrey. Hello, Aubrey. It’s a pleasure to say that name; a beautiful, haunting song by the 70’s group Bread, if I recall.”

“Really?” She began to choke up. “I want to be Aubrey so badly.”

“You have a beautiful name, Aubrey. Almost as beautiful as your soul, and your smile. You’re beautiful, Aubrey — no matter what you think about your looks. My ex-wife is proof that exterior beauty doesn’t necessarily count for anything. I’d take your soul, your smile, your tenderness, and your caring heart — yes, I would take them any day over some gorgeous body. You are wonderful and beautiful, and don’t you ever forget that … Aubrey.”

Aubrey didn’t respond. She was too busy baptizing Grant’s robe with more tears and the last hints of her mascara. They held on to each other as if for dear life.

~o~O~o~

Aubrey sat in the back of Grant’s limousine, with Jace at the wheel, driving. She had changed into a white T-shirt with “I (heart) Vegas” writing, a denim jacket and skirt set with pink highlights, pink tights, and her everyday pink and white tennis shoes.

“You really didn’t have to do this, Grant. I was prepared to have a cab take me back to Fish and Mamie’s place. But it’ll be so cool to be dropped off there by a stretch limo. All the girls will be jealous.”

Grant looked out the window. He responded as if he hadn’t heard her. “Do you really wish you could leave from there?”

“Oh God, yes. But like I said, I have nowh —”

“How desperate is your desire to leave? Enough to work harder than you have ever worked before? Enough to give up prostitution and porn?”

“Yes … what are you talking about?”

“If you want, I can give you a fresh start. I can get you out of there.”

“Grant … are you asking me to … move in with you??” Aubrey was numb.

“No, Aubrey. Not that. You’d be living alone; but with a new start. Just a start; you’d have to take control of your life and make it work after the first three months. But I need to know, do you really want it? I will not throw money at you for you to waste it. Do not misunderstand me: I meant everything I said about your soul and inner beauty. But to make this work for you, it will take more than beauty. You will need courage, persistence, blood, sweat, and tears. If I make this investment in you, will you be willing to do that?”

Aubrey remained stunned. But she knew opportunity — and maybe her salvation — was presenting itself, and unless she acted, it would be gone.

“Yes, Grant. Please give me a new start. I will succeed with it, or die trying.”

The lawyer looked up at his driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror. “Jace?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Brisbane. I heard. We’ll do as we planned.”

The limo stopped at the two-story building in a run-down part of town.

“This is the place?” Jace yelled.

“Yes. Wh — what do I need to do?” stammered Aubrey.

Grant spoke with hushed speed. “Go inside to your room, and take this box and these trash bags with you. Put all of your essentials and regular clothes in them, and come back out to the limousine. Just do that, and we will be on our way.”

“Fish won’t allow me to leave with anything. I know him.”

“Jace will take care of Mr. Morgenstern. You just be fast about getting packed and back here. Go quickly, or the element of surprise will be lost.”

Aubrey ran in to whoops of approval by two escorts sitting downstairs. She waved to them but kept moving, up the stairs past the phone bank where Fish sat. He looked up and yelled after her.

“Hey, Bambs! Get your fuckin’ ass back down here! I need your tip money to pay for all the food you eat here, Miss Piggy!”

He heard the sound of drawers opening and closing, and hangars being taken out of a closet. “Ah, sounds like our ugly duckling is tryin’ to run.” He glanced out and noticed the limo was still parked outside. “Don’t tell me that whale fell for her! What, is the world going psycho? Well, I think she — or sugar daddy — owes me some ‘severance pay’.” He opened the drawer where he kept his pistol.

“I’ll bet there’s a gun in that drawer,” said a growling voice. “Mine’s bigger.” Jace stood at Fish’s desk, pulling back his coat lapel to display his Magnum hand cannon.

Fish swallowed hard, and bristled at the same time. “She owes me money!”

“I doubt it.”

“You know, fucker, if you shoot me in my place with that, you’re going to jail.”

“Correction. If I shoot you in your place with this, you’re going to die.”

“I’ve already got my hand on my piece. I bet I could plug you before you get yours out of the shoulder holster, you fuckin’ fucker.”

“You need to expand your vocabulary, pea-brain. And as for who will win a quick draw? Who knows? You might. I might. But seeing as this is a .44 Magnum — one of the most powerful handguns ever made, and could blow your head clean off — you’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? Well? Do you, punk?”

Fish looked at Jace as if he’d gone completely loony. But he let go of his pistol and closed the drawer up.

Aubrey came back down the stairs holding on to a box and two large trash bags. “Got what I needed, Jace. I’m ready to go.” She ran out the door to the limo.

“The fuckin’ … bitch … owes … me … money!” Fish howled in protest.

Jace reached in his pocket and threw four $100 dollar bills at Fish. “Will that cover it?”

Fish sniffed. “Naw. Double it.”

Suddenly he was nose to nose with the barrel of Jace’s Magnum. “I can add .44 if you want.”

“This’ll do fine,” said Fish in a quivery, meek voice.

Jace hopped in the limo just as Aubrey finished shoving her moped in the back. The black stretch car briskly took off and headed out of town.

Aubrey was shaking and leaking a few tears, but smiling. “Thank you, Grant, thank you. Thank you so much.” Then yelling to the driver, “Thank you, Jace.”

“WOOOO!” Jace screamed, causing his female passenger to jump. “The Dirty Harry speech! I’ve always wanted to use that!”

~o~O~o~

The limo raced down highway 93, passing signs indicating a tourist/historical site ahead.

Aubrey sat up. “Hey! We’ll be passing beside that?”

“Yes. We’re going to my estate in Flagstaff, and this way takes us by Hoover Dam,” said Grant.

“I’ve never seen it, and I’ve lived in Vegas for two years! Can we stop there and look around just for a second, please?”

“Jace …”

“We’ll take the exit, sir,” grumbled the chauffeur. “We shouldn’t dawdle there too long, Boss.”

When they parked, Aubrey jumped out of the limousine and ran to the lookout areas. She liked the massive Lake Mead, but she really fawned over the grandeur of the views over the Black Canyon. As she drank in the beauty, she felt as she might as well be drinking soul ambrosia. These beautiful vistas — I can’t remember ever being this exhilarated. Even today’s wispy vapors in the stratosphere beam with a majesty I’ve rarely beheld.

She stopped with amazement at her thoughts. My - my sophisticated, poetic voice! Lord, it’s been so long since I’ve thought that way — it’s like I’m finding my true self again!

It’s all due to my liberation — my rescue from the hell I fell into back in Vegas. Lord in heaven, I feel so vibrant — so vitally alive!

She felt a tap on her shoulder, and turned around to see a fidgety Jace.

“Sorry, Miss Aubrey, but we really need toOOOULPH,” he heaved as she jumped into his chest and hugged him tight. She kissed him on the cheek and ran back to hop into the limo.

“When the hell did she decide that I was huggable instead of intimidating? I must be losing my touch, dammit,” Jace grumbled and scratched his curly head as he loped back to the vehicle.

When the giddy young trans-girl climbed in the door of the elongated Lincoln, she fully intended to give Grant an equally vigorous squeeze, hug and kiss. But her mood sobered instantly when she saw him lying down on the seat, wearing his oxygen tube attached to another tank; she heard a faint hiss, and knew it was turned on. He was talking on his cell phone.

“Yes, Carlotta. I realize I’ve given you special projects before. I think this one will put even your considerable skills to the test. But it’s quite important to me. So, are you available and willing?”

Aubrey sat on the floor in front of Grant’s seat and stroked his arm. He turned his eyes her direction and gave her a wink as he continued his conversation.

“Yes, dear. I know you’re not exactly Henry Higgins, but she’s not Eliza Doolittle either. She likes Shakespeare, and plays the viola. She just made a bad choice two years ago, and needs a little help. Well, yes, maybe more than a little.”

A psychic lightning bolt hit Aubrey’s chest as she realized that she was the “special project” Grant was giving to this Carlotta person.

“Wonderful, darling. Get to work, and Jace will call you with the flight arrival time.” He hung up the phone and turned his eyes to his young charge. If he was expecting gratitude, he was sorely mistaken.

The blonde girl’s eyes were wide with shock and fear. “What the hell is this?” she whispered in new desperation while edging away from the reclining man. Her query was clarified in a near-scream. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO TO ME?”

She grabbed for the rear door handle of the limo only to have it open just as her fingers swiped for it. A hulking presence filled the doorway, and a mustachioed face framed by curly ringlets poked in. “Boss? Aubrey? What’s the yelling —”

Jace gave an almost inaudible grunt as a pink sole struck his groin. Aubrey tried to use full advantage of her surprise kick by squeezing by him in an attempt to escape, but the bodyguard’s mass still blocked her way. She landed a punch into the big man’s jaw and threw her shoulders and head into his chest. For all of her moxie, she might as well have tried to push through a cinderblock wall.

Big paws grabbed her shoulders and shoved her back into the rear limo seat. “You hit like a girl,” Jace grumbled. “Nice nut shot, though. Someone wanna tell me what the crap is going on?”

Both men looked at Aubrey. She was trembling as she shrunk back from them, her hands pressed together covering her nose and mouth. Her tear-laden eyes darted to and fro, as if looking for better shelter than under her knitted brow.

“Oh, my goodness — I’m afraid this is my fault. Aubrey, dear, please don’t be afraid. Everything you just heard is something I was hoping to set up to help you, not ‘planning to do’ to you. And you will not be forced to do any of it — you may opt in or out freely. Please allow me to explain.”

Grant continued to lie on the side bench, but had a look of genuine concern and regret to accompany his soothing voice. Jace, hunching in the doorway, looked befuddled still. Aubrey took deep breaths, gradually realizing that she may have misinterpreted her benefactor’s intentions.

“Okay … I’ll listen. But first: Grant … are you all right, or are you starting to have another ‘bad spell’ with your heart?”

“I’m just fine, madam. The oxygen and reclining are more to help prevent a potential spell than in reaction to one. I do this when I’m still, such as riding in the car or listening to Beethoven at home.” The tired gentleman’s face twinkled with a fresh smile. “See, Jace? Even when scared to death, one of her first concerns is another’s welfare. I knew she would prove well worth the effort.”

“The effort to do what?” said the young woman dabbing her eyes with a tissue. Her emotions were awhirl, and alarm bells were ringing in her head. She felt on one hand that she could trust these men; on the other hand, she remembered feeling the same about Fish when she first met him two years prior.

*To be continued tomorrow*

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any situation or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Thanks to Cassie Nicol for a first read!

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