This year, for sure!
Last year was a failure,
Summer was a bust,
Fall fell apart.
One last go!
He'll notice me this time or else!
This year, for sure!
Last year I chickened out and wore a suit.
A woman’s tailored suit, borrowed from one of the girls, but a suit none-the-less and naturally he didn’t notice in the slightest despite the light makeup I even let them put on me as well.
Tom, my relationship with Tom is... complicated?...
On one hand he’s my best friend.
We’ve known each other for years, both playing on the same team back in high school and then both getting into the same university on separate scholarships, him through sports while I had to fall back on my Drama and overall grades for kind of obvious reasons in the end.
By our final year in high school I was honestly in no position to be competing with other guys in full contact games anymore, hormones can kind of ruin that option unsurprisingly.
On the other, much more frustrating hand, Tom is... I love Tom...
Practically since the day we met really, I’ve loved him in secret.
He’s nice, a real down-home farm boy at heart and a complete sweetheart to match.
His looks and naturally evocative muscles help obviously but pretty much from the first time he smiled at me to this very moment now, looks stopped coming into things because he... he’s Tom?...
We know each other better than we know ourselves.
With just a glance we can have whole conversations and it’s just normal to us these days.
He’s everything I could ever want in a guy, much better then I honestly think I deserve sometimes.
Gender isn’t even an issue here.
While I’ve not exactly come out and told him that I’m... well, that I’m transgendered.
That I’m transitioning ‘under the radar’, as much as possible, and have been for a pretty long time now.
Tom’s had boyfriends, girlfriends and even one girl a few years ago I particularly disliked for obvious reasons who was somewhere ‘in-between’ despite how much better looking than me she was at the time!
I’ve tried dropping hints, I’ve tried dressing about as androgynously as I can bring myself to do where people can see me at the moment, I’ve even tried flirting with him as well.
Any normal guy would have hopefully gotten the hint when his roommate sits down with him to watch a movie wearing one of his far-too-big football shirts as a nightdress over a pair of shorts that are only just shy of being called rather scandalous panties, by the fact that they were made of slightly thicker than usual black cotton, and cuddles up to him while we watch scary movies on TV.
He’s just a bit oblivious really... sweet and almost innocent despite his many conquests over the years to an aggravating degree while apparently so stuck on the idea of me being his best friend that he can’t see the huge neon sign for the trees around it!
It’s one of those other things that just make him all the more attractive for me sadly.
No matter how good he is at everything, no matter how kind and gentle he is or well-liked by everyone, he still just acts like that slightly shy farm boy I used to tease every time he missed a long pass because some cheerleader waved at him.
THAT! That’s going to change tonight though!
I’ve got a plan.
I’ve HAD it with waiting, the long game hasn’t worked in all the years I’ve tried it and if I don’t do something soon then someone else will finally snap him up right before my eyes.
Tonight is the ‘Winter fling’.
The last big party of the season before we all go home for the holidays on Saturday, sponsored by the local frats and sororities but open even to us non-indoctrinated plebs all the same.
It’s... I’m terrified honestly, but this is my last chance and I’ve GOT to go all out on it.
If he doesn’t notice me after this then he’s obviously doing it on purpose, not saying anything to spare my feelings, like the kind-hearted idiot he can be sometimes or something equally romantic.
Tonight I’m going to show him the real me at last and see what happens, for good or bad, just to end this horrible torment of not knowing at long last.
Its Five-thirty AM, I barely got any sleep all night but I’m pretty sure fear induced adrenaline will keep me going today if nothing else.
I’ve not got a chance of doing this alone.
I wouldn’t even know where to start... but luckily I have the girls to fall back on, and even more luckily I happen to know that at least four of them are already awake by now because they go for runs before starting their overly complicated prep-work for a ‘normal’ day usually.
My fingers twitched slightly, hovering over the simple but damning message that I typed almost half an hour ago but haven’t been able to send into our group chat yet because of the overwhelming fear of what might happen, what might change, when I do send it.
A final glance down our connected hallway to Tom’s still shut bedroom door helped me settled my nerves somewhat and before I could come back to my senses I hit send then practically threw my phone back onto the table moments later as if burned by its very existence.
'Going to the party tonight, going full girl, need help! SOS!'
“This is going to be so much fun!”
Despite Brit’s rather enthusiastic words all I could offer her was a slightly ill-looking smile in return.
The others weren’t exactly much better, Maggie seems to be building up steam a little now that we’ve stopped for coffee at least but most of the others are all more focused on the plastic mugs filled with the dark elixir of life in their hands at the moment instead.
I can’t really blame them.
It took almost twenty minutes for us all just to reach a point where we were on the same page.
I really doubt all of them being fully awake would have even helped with that one because apparently I wasn’t being as obvious around them as I’d thought and a few of the girls had literally no idea that I was transitioning past ‘We kinda thought you were a bit gay?’ somehow.
As it is there was a minor discussion about my facial structure, I have nice cheekbones apparently, before the back of Steph’s mini-van kind of descended into chaos when Kris jokingly tried to grope me for being ‘just one of the girls’ and actually got a handful of not-exactly-big-but-still-there-and-totally-all-me boob for her trouble!
Things kind of got even worse when, on closer inspection, Kim realised that I actually had a bigger bust then she does which she found both highly unfair and laughably weird given the context as we all kind of descended into a giggly mess of girls out for an early morning shopping trip.
Now we’re here my hearts hammering a little despite Steph assuring me that there’s only like, four non-staff cars parked up so far and that our first stop will be to get me kitted out with an outfit which will leave no-one in question about my gender in the slightest.
The big sliding door of the van opened and we all poured out of it in a big tangle of limbs, me mostly being dragged along rather than stepping forward of my own free will.
“My sister’s working today, don’t worry she’s cool, and even better she can hook me up with a family discount rate!”
Everyone shot Brit a slightly worried look.
Mostly because she’s practically bouncing on her toes and they’re all still watching her over the rims of their coffee cups but also just because she’s being her usual perky-self which can get kind of dangerous if we don’t keep an eye on her flailing arms and bombastic energy in general.
“My Mum’s working the counter at Macy’s too, I’m sure we can get some trial makeovers out of her if we ask nicely.”
Maggie’s coffee really has kicked in at last too now.
They’re my friends and I love them, but getting those two on any kind of rush is really a bad idea.
Maybe I should have avoided the whole ‘SOS’ part of my message considering the effect it’s had on them both at this point.
Oh well, too late to put the egg back in the shell now I guess!
“My cousin’s temping at the hairdressers over by the bookstore too an-”
“If that’s a boy, then I’m Dwight D. Eisenhower...”
Everyone cracked up laughing as Brit’s sister, Beth apparently, stared at me intensely with an worryingly critical eye before taking one step closer and reaching out to run her hands down my waist.
My kinda baggy shirt pulled taut, showing off my usually kind of hidden and definitely unsupported curves in all their glory for a brief moment or two.
I could feel my blush ratchet up through the roof as a slight smirk came to her lips before she let go and turned to face the others imperiously.
“This isn’t even going to be a challenge, I have a harder time finding things to fit the bubblehead then I will this one. When you said you were bringing a boy over I thought it would at least be interesting if nothing else!”
Before anyone could react Brit interrupted with a slightly delayed ‘HEY!’ of protest which set us all off giggling again because it just went to show exactly who Beth had meant... as if we really needed to guess, considering the fact that we HAVE met said ‘bubblehead’ before after all and she’s not exactly shy about letting her natural personality shine most of the time.
“So... you’re going shopping for a dress later, so you can go to some big fresher’s party and seduce the man of your dreams, all in one big sappy Christmas miracle style go then?”
Her head tilted slightly and one of her eyes focused on me just enough to hint that it was me she was actually speaking to, not the others.
While some of the girls tried to protest that she made it all sound a lot more silly or weird then it really was, all I could do was let off a tiny little nod and blush under her curious gaze.
She nodded back almost instantly and plastered a big grin on her face a moment or two later as she turned back to face the others properly again.
“I’ll help, but I want in on this, Pictures! I want to see the end product in all her glory, or else...”
She didn’t even need to state the non-existent ‘or else’ scenario in the end.
Although one or two of the girls protested slightly Kim seemed to find her whole attitude amusing and didn’t even hesitate to pull her phone out.
Within seconds there was a tangled stream of notification sounds from all around us as several phones all went off at once, indicating that another person had been added to our long-standing ‘group’ chat for better or worse.
Beth glanced down at her own phone with a smirk before spinning around, grabbing me by my shoulders and practically tossing me into a nearby dressing room with orders to strip as she turned her attention to the rest of the ‘troops’, barking out orders for clothes she wanted on pain of undisclosed consequences if we failed her in the slightest.
Even hidden behind the curtain of the changing room I could practically hear the humor in her voice almost as easily as I could hear Kim’s barely suppressed giggles as Beth told a protesting ‘bubblehead’ to go fetch me a pretty hairband or three because she’d obviously mess up anything more complicated than that.
With a single tense sigh I plopped myself down on the little bench seat of the changing room and started pulling my sneakers off.
This is all getting a bit out of hand but I really need to focus on the end goal here.
Imagine the look on Tom’s face when he sees me waltz in looking like a prom-queen.
Imagine the smile on his face when he realises who I am.
Imagine the mumbled words he lets off before pulling me close and kissing my-
“Enough daydreaming Cinderella, we’ve got work to do!”
“This is so unfair...”
I turned slightly to fix Brit with a teasing smirk, the tiniest of wobbles present but not obvious to anyone aside from me as I tried to relearn my hard-won skills in stilt-like shoe walking on the fly while we move from one store to the next.
“It took me YEARS to learn how to walk in three inch heels! I only gave you those ankle-breaking four inchers as a joke but you’ve taken to them like a... a...”
“...Bubblehead to water?”
She turned her slightly annoyed gaze away from my feet at last to offer Kim a glare of her own which really didn’t seem to help much because Kim’s apparently in one of ‘those’ moods again where she’ll take any chance to tease Brit with joy obviously radiating out of her at every turn.
I did kind of feel sorry for Brit at least.
Kim can be like a dog with a bone when she finds something funny, a real female dog with a bone, if you catch my meaning.
“If it’s any consolation I’ve probably had more practice in heels then you have Brit. My sister used to let me play in hers growing up, I might not have a lot of recent practice but it’s like falling-off-a-bike really, you never forget how once you’ve got it sorted.”
The others giggled around us and even Brit seemed to calm down at my words, much to Kim’s frustration, as we walked on and I kicked one heeled foot out slightly further than usual to send my almost floaty-light ankle length peasant skirt flying forward delightfully.
Beth really came through for me in the end.
While I’ll make no mention of the six other bags worth of clothing she somehow managed to convince us to buy at the same time, only two of which being for me luckily, the loose pleats of this peasant skirt in all its red patterned glory feel so nice and free while also being perfect for a long day of outfit-trying ahead of us all.
The tops just as good too, in my opinion.
I didn’t even know they DID baby-doll tops with built in ‘booster’ bras!
Even from my admittedly awkward viewing angle my little ‘girls’ look AMAZING.
The whole outfit feels so nice, airy and feminine while showing anyone who cares to look that I am indeed of the female persuasion, without being too ‘in your face’ or obviously slutty about it all at the same time.
I’m glad my initial protests were shouted down at this point.
To be fair they all did kinda have a point that, yes it may BE winter right now, but we’re also in a nice heated mall and I can always change into something warmer before we step outside in the slightest considering our plans for the day and all.
“Where to next?”
Macy’s or the salon I hope.
I really don’t like the devious little looks Steph keeps shooting towards the tattoo and piercing parlour upstairs at this point!
“What do you girls think?”
There wasn’t really any need for me to look in the mirror at this point considering the awed and amazed look plastered on everyone’s faces but I did anyway for my own curiosity if nothing else.
The moment my eyes met the mirror-me’s own eyeshadow covered ones I was left frozen in surprise, my mouth drooped open in shock which the mirror-me with her puffy ‘just kiss me’ looking lips managed to make look somehow cute despite how stupid I’m sure it SHOULD have looked in general!
“Who’s next?... Now I have all of your attention, maybe you’ll actually listen as I explain how you can all replicate this again yourselves later on, hmm?”
My eyes couldn’t move fast enough when locking onto Maggie’s Mum which was obviously her intention judging by the wide smile that bloomed on her face as we all moved in to get a better spot for the demonstration to come.
“I’m so glad you’re doing this dear, not just for you, but you came out so well that even Margret is paying attention for once...”
We all giggled along with her smile as expected and Maggie chipped in an offended ‘Mum!’ for the sake of it, probably because she hates her full name, although possibly because she kind of has a point too.
For someone who’s Mum is THIS talented with makeup Maggie is barely passable even by my inexperienced standards most of the time.
There have been days when I’ve been going for more of a ‘boy’ look, to avoid any unwanted attention or trouble, and even I’VE had on more makeup then she does despite literally having the lightest of touches just to stop myself looking pale or too obviously different!
“Now I’ll start with Kristine here, she’s about the same shade of skin-tone and hair color as... what do you call yourself now by the way dear?...”
Everyone seemed to freeze at once and swing their eyes around to me as if only just realising that the topic of my ‘name’ hadn’t really come up at all despite everything we’ve been doing so far.
With a heavy blush on my cheeks I twisted my foot into the floor a little and glanced away from everyone before coughing nervously into my hand and staring hard at a rack of shampoo in the middle distance.
“I... Its, uh, Emma... my name... I mean, my sister kinda... yeah...”
After a rather frightening moment’s pause there was a squeal of joy matched by several more and I found myself being dog-piled into a giant giggly hug which really wasn’t hard for me to join in with properly pretty quickly considering the circumstances.
One more step forward, that wasn’t so difficult after all... I guess?
“Bye Mrs Maggie’s-Mom!”
We all giggled as Brit rather enthusiastically waved back at the older woman who had, possibly unsurprisingly at this point, asked for and gotten an invite to join the ‘group chat’ at some point along our almost hour-long lesson in the fine art of makeup application.
Even Maggie seems really pleased with the results of our hard work now.
Her Mum seemed happy with the extra bag or two of products we bought along the way of course but even more so she seemed really proud that not only the girls had ‘stuck by me’ so much through this big reveal, or that I felt safe enough to ‘come out’ to them all when I needed to, but also that Maggie has finally taken an interest her mother’s borderline obsessive ‘hobby’ turned job.
She even managed to get a promise out of her to seriously consider some more lessons in the future as we went on, a feat that I’m pretty sure only happened because we were all so enthusiastic about the idea that Maggie couldn’t really say no, even if she wanted to.
“Hair next! My cousin’s SO good with hair I promise and they’re always looking for people to try styles on in there at a discount.”
Well, when Kim’s THAT enthusiastic about something it’s kind of hard to argue really?
My hair’s down past my shoulders already and looks about as not-obviously-but-hopefully-still-kinda-obviously ‘girly’ as I could afford to let it be until now so at least they’ll have something to work with if nothing else.
“I’m thinking you’ll look good with an ‘Updo’ Emz.”
I turned my head to smile warmly at Brit as she stared at my forehead thoughtfully.
I can’t even remember who started shortening my already short ‘chosen’ name but... I really like it.
“Don’t forget to add me! The other girls too, we’re rooting for you Emma!”
Everyone was giggling and despite the furious blush on my face leading across my now exposed neck, I was too honestly.
Kim’s cousin, and by extension every woman in the salon when we got there apparently, couldn’t get ENOUGH of me and my ‘story’ after a rather worryingly over-dramatic re-enactment of how much I’ve ‘pined’ after ‘this cute farm-boy best-friend of mine’ for ‘like, forever!’ thanks to Brits rather overpoweringly fast mouth and enthusiastic hand-puppetry.
It feels really weird to not have any hair on my neck now.
It’s pretty much all still there, I don’t have split ends at all somehow which seemed to frustrate a few of the girls who get them semi-regularly, it’s just all tucked up on top of my head in what I’d normally consider a really fancy ‘bun’ but is actually a ‘Hepburn inspired Updo’, or so I’ve been semi-reliably informed between people complimenting the look in general.
As we moved away from the salon I couldn’t resist reaching down into my newly acquired purse to pull out my poor old phone who’s been demoted to not only ‘silent mode’ but also lost a quarter of its battery life due to near constant messages coming in from our ‘group chat’ as several different interested parties who have recently joined it have begun to connect over their shared interests.
That shared interest initially being mostly centered around ‘me’ at first of course, until they really started talking, at which point our usually kinda busy but still slightly organised group chat devolved into a chaotic mix of at least six distinct conversations all going on at once with people jumping between them somehow so much that it honestly makes my head hurt a little.
About the time when Brit’s sister Beth offered to help some of the older women at the salon and Maggie’s Mum pick out some really nice outfits fit for a ‘refined woman’ to survive these ‘bitter winter days’, I really did stop trying to keep up with things.
Especially because that was when my own group of actual friends decided that I wasn’t paying them enough attention and practically stole my phone from me, only giving it back under threat of horrible ‘ugly bridesmaids’ dress torture to come if I didn’t keep it tucked away for now, despite the fact that some of them still had their phones out semi-regularly to laugh over the weirdness that our chat group has descended into.
“Do you think her tits are big enough to wear something off-the-shoulder?”
My head snapped up to glare at Kris and she offered me a smirk in response before eyeing my phone again in obvious disapproval which I accepted grumpily, sliding it back into my bag moments later in favor of distracting everyone away from the now voiced question of my bust-size!
“Well... what do you think?”
My eyes should have scanned in the mirror, jumping from one face to another in hope of seeing their honest opinions of the dress as a whole, but I really couldn’t bring myself to look away from it sadly.
Kris was kind of insistent about the whole ‘off-the-shoulder’ thing at first, but even she can’t deny that I look GOOD in this dress instead.
Not too fancy, nothing floor-length or too ‘stuck up’ looking, but a nice flowing burgundy tea-length dress accented with a full set of white leather accessories from my slim new belt, three-inch heels and handy little clutch purse on a golden chain.
When I first started putting this outfit together a few minutes ago I’d honestly worried it would be too ‘Christmas-y’ and even got myself ready to laugh the idea off if it received a bad reaction from the others but a simple glance in the changing rooms floor-length mirror was enough for me to know that this would be the ‘one’.
If I could have a ‘dream dress’ for the dance then this one would be it
The skirt ending just below my knees, billowing out prettily around me with only the slightest of rustles when I turn too quickly in it feels divine.
Looking at myself in the mirror, makeup, updo and all, I honestly feel far more ‘girl’ then I ever have before in my life... far more ‘me’ as well come to that...
“Tom’s going to die when he sees you...”
The moment of silence broke and we all started laughing which was kind of a relief for me because I don’t think I could have taken staring at myself much longer otherwise at this point.
“The dance is in less than an hour, we’ve all got our stuff back in the van, you pay for this Emz and we’ll show you how the pros do this whole ‘getting ready’ thing on fast-forward, huh?”
Another smile bloomed on my face and I nodded to Steph happily before picking up the hem of my skirts slightly so I could offer her a rather silly looking ‘curtsy’ which I only had the barest idea of how to do in the first place, although that didn’t really matter in the end when the results were the same and we all ended up laughing yet again as the girls broke away to go get their stuff leaving me and Brit behind in their wake.
The store owner was a little mystified by me paying for the dress while still wearing it but his clerk and her friends, the newest additions to our group chat, reassured him that they’d explain later with more than a few giggles and knowing looks among them.
With nothing else to do until the others turn up again and me stuck in a rather eye-catching dress at that, Brit led me off to a little-used bench in a nearby corridor between two stores so we could sit down and avoid the still surprisingly light crowd of shoppers nearby in the process.
We sat in companionable silence for almost a full minute.
Brit fiddling nervously with her fingers and me kicking my legs a little, just to enjoy the gentle ‘swish’ it elicited in response from my new dress.
Suddenly without any sort of warning Brit practically shot to her feet and turned, grasping my chin in a surprisingly soft grip before planting her lips to mine in a kiss that made my eyes widen in shock for the few short seconds that it lasted.
She practically shot away from me the moment we broke contact looking both scared, frustrated and also kind of upset at the same time which she managed to clear from her face for the most part with a bit of effort leaving us to stare at each other in surprised, awkward, silence as she tried to gather herself back together again afterwards.
“...Really nothing, huh?... Sorry, I just had to know and you’re so... just...”
She trailed off and her fingers unconsciously tangled themselves together again as her head shot both ways down the hallway we were sitting in nervously to make sure the coast was still clear or something.
“Just don’t tell the others, Emz... please?”
My mind was kind of stalled trying to process that she had, in fact, just kissed me.
“I’m really sorry, I know I shouldn’t have done that but it was hard enough avoiding it when you were a boy and now you’re so... so...”
Her hands came up to her face quickly as if to hide behind them and my brain finally kicked back into gear, protective instincts kicking in almost instantly at the sight of my friend in such obvious fear and pain.
In seconds I had her in a tight, reassuring hug and she rested her chin on my rather well-displayed chest as the tears slid down her cheeks a moment later.
I just held her for a while and rocked us slightly as she tried to get herself back together again.
I’m not sure how long the cuddle lasted but it was hopefully long enough judging by the way Brit slowly brought her head up again to offer me a watery but thankful smile eventually.
“I’m really sorry Emz. You’ve confused the hell out of me for a long time now, being a boy but one that I actually fancied, it wasn’t until today that I realised why... still friends?”
The fear of rejection and obvious hope in her voice was almost heart-breaking for the few seconds she let it show before hiding it away again behind a slightly tainted version of her usual bubbly smile.
“You’re a... a lesbian then?”
She gasped and threw a finger up to my lips making ‘Shhhh!’ noises while glaring around us once more but it was pretty hard to avoid the still frightened shudder that I could feel in her hands as she did it all.
My brain finally worked through everything that had just happened properly at last and I reached out to give her one more reassuring squeeze which seemed to help more than anything I could have done at that moment otherwise honestly.
“Apology accepted Brit; your secret’s safe with me I promise...”
I could practically see the effect my words had on her as she slumped visibly against me in relief.
Slowly I managed to maneuver her back over to the bench and we both landed back on it in a rustle of skirts in my case and a little ‘thump’ in hers.
An awkward silence stretched out between us for a few more seconds but I couldn’t just leave it like that and in the end I spewed out the first words that came to mind.
“I always thought you and Kim had some ‘thing’ going on, she either fancies you or she’s got some serious issues when it comes to ‘bubbleheads’ apparently...”
It started as a snort of laughter but it couldn’t stay at just that and pretty quickly be both broke down into relieved laughter, leaning into each other as we let the tension leave us entirely.
“Oh God, I needed that!”
We shared a smile and Brit leaned over to give me another one-armed hug that was purely on a friend... possibly closer to a ‘sisterly’ level at this point?... which was more than enough for me to relax just that little bit more.
Don’t get me wrong Brit’s a pretty girl, if you’re into that sort of thing... I’m just kinda... not?
“After all this effort, Tom better realise what a good thing he’s got going with you or so help me I’ll-”
I never got to find out what she’d do because the others chose that moment to noisily make their appearance at the end of the hallway in a rustling mass of heavy looking dresses and accompanying bags.
Brit self-consciously pulled herself away from me and wiped her eyes a little as if it would help fix her makeup somehow but I’m pretty sure the others weren’t fooled in the slightest.
Ironically Kim was the only one to shoot me a suspicious look over it all, the others just shrugging it all off as Brit-being-Brit... she kind of has a reputation for going a bit far with pretty much every emotion she displays, not just enthusiasm despite that normally being her ‘default’ one in general.
“This way, girls, I know a short-cut to one of the employee changing rooms and no-one is likely to notice us using it at this time of day.”
We collectively nodded acceptance at that, the others falling into step behind Steph as usual while me and Brit got up to follow them, moving as fast as we could to catch up.
It wasn’t until we were pretty close that I noticed what seemed so off with them all a moment ago.
“Is it snowing outside?”
A few half-hearted grunts of frustration and an eye-roll from Steph was the only answer I got due to them all struggling to carry all their collective outfit bags behind our fearless leaders rather punishing pace but it was enough to answer my question at least.
An early snow, just in time for the Winter fling, as if things couldn’t get any more idyllic.
I got lost slightly in my now revised fantasies of kissing a certain someone under the mistletoe, now with snow falling around us like some big movie set-piece before he reached down to my waist an-
“Keep up Emz!”
GAH! Every time I get to the good bit!
“Pass those bobby pins over Emz.”
I barely had to look as I grabbed the little tin up, this being the fourth time I’ve had someone ask for them as the girls all reached pretty much the same stages in their own preparations at nearly the same time.
I’d almost put up a bit of a fight when Steph steered us towards the ‘Ladies’ dressing room at first.
It was only when Kris, oh so subtly, tapped out a drum beat on my partly exposed and boosted breasts like a pair of bongo’s while stating that ‘We’re more likely to have people question why someone brought their little brother along considering Kim is with us’ that I finally gave in, much to said small-chested-but-still-vicious-at-times Kim’s annoyance, naturally.
“We all almost ready?”
A general ascent seemed to please Steph who glanced down at the delicate little watch on her wrist with a relieved sigh.
“If we hurry we should JUST make it, only ten minutes fashionably late.”
That one got a round of giggles from us all as I hopped off the sink-space I’d taken up to keep out of the way as the others changed and we all lined up for inspection.
The inspection barely lasted a few seconds before devolving into a kind of manic ‘selfie’ session that included more than a few group photos and even more of them that got shared in our chat group, much to the pleasure of our baying audience of unseen watchers from around the mall in general.
“Come on then, we’ve got a party to conquer while Emz goes fishing for wild Tom-boys!”
Almost the second the words left her lips Brit blushed brightly and put her hand to her mouth in surprise as she realised what that could have sounded like otherwise.
I seemed to be the only one who noticed the movement luckily and she relaxed a few seconds later with a slightly forced giggle while everyone else brushed it away in amusement as just more of ‘Brit-being-Brit’, although I think I heard a slight grumble from Kim that sounded suspiciously like ‘Bubbleheads’ as we got ready to move out at last if nothing else.
“Is your van supposed to make this much noise, Steph?”
Steph didn’t even glance away from the partly snow-covered windshield in front of her as we slowly drove on, the van shaking and juddering a fair few times in the tense silence that followed.
“It’s just cold Kris that’s all... sorry, there’s ice on the road along with the snow and I’m kind of struggling here...”
We all nodded in understanding while trying to think of ways to help our poor driver for the night in her quest to not get us all killed due to the worryingly heavy snow-storm outside that seems to be getting worse by the minute.
“...we’re almost there, I can’t promise this bucket of bolts is getting us home tonight but it will get us to the dance at least and that’s the important part!”
THAT comment got a cheer out of us all in response which I think was its intended purpose judging by the slight smile on Steph’s otherwise tense lips as she adjusted her hands on the wheel and shifted forward a little in her seat.
Slowly we practically rolled our way into the car park outside the community hall that the frat’s hired to host the Winter fling this year and it was pretty obvious to all of us that something had gone horribly wrong, mostly because the car park was deserted and there were no lights on in the community hall at all either!
Steph kept us rolling and swore to herself slightly as everyone else dived into their bags for their phones practically as one unit.
Even I joined in, finding a pretty horrifying number of missed messages from the group chat along with one other one that made my cheeks flare in embarrassment almost automatically just on general principle.
With a twitch and flick of my thumb the message opened up and I felt my happy little bubble from possibly the most fun day I’ve ever had in my life ‘pop’ rather anti-climactically.
'Where are you? Not seen you all day and the snows getting bad, Greg just called, they’re cancelling the fling and rescheduling it for when we all get back after New Year. Call me. Tom'
“Well... Bee-Gee H. Criminy!”
While I’m pretty sure I would have picked much worse words then that rather stupid sounding mix of weird ‘swear-replacements’ from Maggie, that still sums up the situation rather well at this point honestly.
I took in a breath to calm myself down but it was useless and before I even knew what was happening the tears were falling.
The moment the first almost silent ‘sob’ left my lips, as my now utterly ruined ‘perfect’ last chance at finally showing myself off to the world and Tom as a whole’ fell down around my ears, I found myself being surrounded by the others who all seemed to almost automatically know what was wrong despite my having not said a word in the slightest.
It’s stupid but... but I’d set tonight up so HIGH in my mind to be perfect as today went on?
With every step we made, the clothes, the makeup, the hair, the dress... every step made it all feel so much more REAL at last!
Without even realising it, I’d put my heart into tonight working and in hindsight I’m really not sure what I would have even done if I’d walked into that hall to find that Tom had ignored me again?
It just didn’t seem like a possibility at the time.
He’d see me, he’d SEE me, and then we’d have our happy ever after, and jus... just...
“It’s okay Em-honey, let it out, we’re here with you.”
The almost whispered words from Brit at my side made me cry all the more for some reason.
As if to punctuate just how bad everything really has fallen to pieces at this point, Steph’s mini-van chose that exact moment to give up the ghost with a loud wheezing ‘Cur-thunk!’ that made even me jump in surprise.
In front of us Steph sunk her head down on the steering wheel and let off a little scream of frustration before snapping herself back upright to a glare out at the still-falling snow in front of us instead.
The real rage she had hidden behind those seemingly childish words said it all as well really.
Despite everything, despite just how badly everything we’d planned and worked so hard for all being wasted thanks to the weather of all things, we couldn’t help but laugh a little at Steph’s improvised replacement for the word she really wanted to say, probably for Maggie’s sake more than anything else.
The laughter didn’t last long but it was enough to pull us all out of our funk slightly at least.
While I didn’t want to do much more then stay in my nice new cuddle-puddle of warmth feeling sorry for myself, Steph snagged her phone up and dialled someone while one of the girls near the back shuffled around until they found some blankets Steph always keeps for emergencies, that we could all bundle up in now that the heating’s died along with the rest of the van.
“Hi... yeah, I know it’s snowing?... no, we’re not blocking traffic?... what do you mean you-”
Steph suddenly jerked her head back and stared at her phone in shocked amazement.
“He hung up on me?”
The now unofficially ‘official’ joke of the hour helped once more as Kris chipped in her attempt at making a nonsense swear-replacement of her own, letting us hold back the growing urge to panic or at least start yelling in frustration at how unfair this all is if nothing else.
“I’ll send a message to the group chat, see if they know anyone else who can help.”
“I’ll call my brother, he’s always near a computer so he can search for a nearby recovery place.”
“I’ll... I’ll call my folks to make sure there’s not someone in the hall waiting for people who actually make it or something stupid like that?”
No-one asked what I would be doing but it didn’t matter anyway, apparently I’m not moving judging by the knowing look Kim and Brit just shared before shifting a little and wedging themselves either side of me to better pull me into a joint cuddle on either side.
“...I should really call Tom...”
A few heads perked up a little from their little blanket bundles around me but no-one outright told me not to so at least I've got that going for me.
With a little bit of shifting around, having to slide over slightly to get my arms free from the surprisingly tight grip Kim and Brit now have on each other’s hands to sandwich me between them, I finally got my phone up and stared at its dark screen for a second or two in awe before letting it drop uselessly back into my bag with a grunt.
“Don’t suppose anyone has Tom’s number, do they?”
These days I barely even remember my own number let alone someone else’s.
The only reason I even know MY number is that people ask for it so regularly.
“I think I’ve got him on my messenger app, don’t worry Emz, I’ll tell him your alive but cold... really cold...”
Big fancy dresses are NOT made with warmth in mind apparently.
We’re all kind of suffering at the moment even with the blankets and sharing body-heat at the same time.
If it didn’t involve getting even more naked before solving anything I’d almost be tempted to climb into the back seats and change into one of the outfits I bought earlier instead.
Even if I could face leaving my nice warm bundle at this point though, it would probably be useless anyway considering the back seat is currently occupied by an apparently sleeping Kris and Maggie pile instead...
“Wake up, the tow truck is here.”
I don’t really remember when I fell asleep but luckily Steph never did apparently judging by the fact that she’s the only one not currently stretching or yawning.
Her phone rang as I was staring at her sleepily and she answered it before cutting her eyes over to the rear lights ahead of us as a conversation started up with someone that I’d assume to be the tow truck driver.
After a minute or so of talking that I couldn’t really catch most of but involved her giving him a list of addresses at some point she hung up and stared out the window as a large shape moved from the front of the truck, coming around to briefly block out the tail-lights ahead of us as they reached down to hook us up.
Within a few minutes we were more awake and watching on as the mini-van tilted up slightly at the front before locking in place as the driver started moving at long last.
A little cheer of relief rose up from us all but it was half-hearted at best honestly.
“He’s going to drop you all off as best he can on the way then sort me out... sorry about tonight girls...”
This time it was my turn to do the whole ‘automatic cuddle’ thing as we all surged forward to reach awkwardly across the front seats to hug Steph and assure her it wasn’t her fault at all.
A few grumbles about ‘evil weather’ and one rather unnecessary but emphatically spoken ‘Jim-fudge-inary right!’ from Brit finally got a weak smile out of her obviously tired face and we all broke into giggles at our own stupidity feeling a lot better now that we are actually moving.
Our numbers dwindled, Maggie’s house being closest, followed by Kim and Brit who apparently live near each other.
It may have just been my imagination but I’m pretty sure that as they disappeared into the worryingly thick snow outside they were holding hands for some reason which made some sappy-romantic part of me feel warm and happy even if it was all in my head at the end of the day.
Finally it was my turn, my and Tom’s place being on the opposite side of campus to the others in general.
I got a hug from Kris and an awkward squeeze from Steph around her chair before scooping up my worryingly large collection of bags and staggering out of the mini-van into a full blown snowstorm.
My skirts went flying and I barely managed a step before quickly staggering back into the van long enough to swap out my heels for my once abandoned but luckily not lost sneakers instead, for a second attempt.
With one more round of hugs I took a deep breath and made a break for it, shooting out of the van doors like a cork from a bottle and moving as best I could across the grass next to the now frozen path leading to our building until I reached the first set of doors and thankfully managed to shut them tight behind me.
The moment I was safely into the warm I pulled my phone out and plugged it into the charger someone left in the wall socket near the front door years ago.
It’s useful so we’ve never bothered to remove it.
The minute my phone powered back on it went crazy with message notifications and I just about managed to send a simple ‘I made it home’ message on the group chat, just like the others did when they got in, before putting my phone down for a second to get myself straightened out a bit better.
It’s really weird to have so many people involve in our once private little conversations now but kind of reassuring too.
I’m pretty sure the tow truck guy we found was given to us from someone in the chat as well so it’s literally life-saving at this point in my opinion, I can’t really begrudge them all for joining in the first place with that in mind.
My ‘call home’ message sent and my dress now kind of a ‘more tidy’ mess, not to mention cold from the snow that hit it so suddenly, I took a few steps down the hallway towards our apartment before freezing in place as I realised what was about to happen.
After almost thirty seconds of indecision I turned around and plonked myself down, skirts and all, onto the entranceway bench to consider my options as a whole.
Today was amazing, the girls were amazing and everything was just so... perfect.
Tonight has been a nightmare but it’s still not over yet.
What if I go up there, walk in and Tom takes one look at me before kicking me out on my ass in the cold?
What if I go up and he thinks I’m ugly?
What if I go up there and he... he...
This needs more thought before I do anything.
I’m... I’m honestly pretty scared now that it’s finally ‘crunch time’ and all...
I only realised what time it was when, with a jolt, I noticed that my phone had finally stopped vibrating despite the near constant stream of messages it’s been getting as far as I can remember since I plugged it back in.
I lifted my chin off my hands and then my elbows off my skirt-covered knees so I could reach out and snag it up again.
While the multitude of messages from the ‘group’ were expected at this point, the progressively more worried ones from Tom made my stomach roll guiltily.
Slowly I typed out a message to him before heaving one deep breath and quickly hitting send before I could lose my nerve again.
'I’m downstairs, coming up now, sorry I’m late.'
The message sent I stood up with renewed purpose.
No point hiding from this anymore, I’ve pulled the trigger now and all that’s left to do is see if the bullets going to hit me or not I guess.
That bravado lasted long enough for me to grab my bags and phone while covering the first flight of stairs up to our apartment but not much further beyond that sadly.
It was a slightly shivering, wide-eyed and fearful version of me in a rather pretty dress sporting a slightly sleep-ruined hairstyle and equally ruined makeup that greeted Tom when he made his way downstairs to meet me.
I apparently took too long gathering myself back together again and he decided to come down to find me instead.
My breath froze in my lungs as he looked me over with an obviously relieved smile on his face that didn’t falter in the slightest as he took all of... me... in for the first time, in all my spoilt glory.
He took the last few steps down to my level calmly and bent down to pick up my bags for me before turning slightly and nodding his head upstairs without another word.
Feeling like a naughty child caught in the act I followed behind him meekly, my thumb running up and down the edge of my phone nervously as the steps went by without another word from him despite the way I’m dressed.
Why’s he not shouting?
Why’s he not asking questions?
Why’s he... why is he so calm?!
We got through our main door and Tom moved over to drop off my new bags in my room, ducking out a moment or so later to offer me a warm smile that both helped calm me down and made me extremely nervous at the same time.
“I’m glad your home, I was going to come get you but Kim said you had a tow truck coming and told me to put something warm on for you instead.”
His piece said, message delivered and understood, he pushed himself off the wall a little as if he was just going to walk away to go get some food or something from the kitchen.
The moment the words left my lips I regretted them and my hand came up to delicately cup over my mouth as if I could somehow pull them back in if I held on long enough.
He turned back around slightly and offered me a bemused look before smiling warmly again.
As he turned to keep going back towards the kitchen he finally spoke up once more, much to my initial frustration.
“I’ve got dinner in the oven for you... you look very pretty by the way, the look suits you...”
This time he really did keep going until he disappeared out of sight again.
Slowly a flustered, angry blush crept up my cheeks but it was quickly beaten out by a much more powerful blush of embarrassment instead as his words finally sunk in.
In a flurry of skirts I practically flew into my room, slamming the door shut behind me before leaning against it with a hopefully silent little scream of joy as I danced on the spot at him finally having noticed me.
My hands shook a little as I snagged up my phone in a two-handed grip and typed out my last message of the night before I go have a shower to warm up, probably changing into one of my new outfits afterwards to see what kind of reaction THAT gets too.
'He called me Pretty!'
Maybe tonight wasn’t such a disaster after all?
To the sound of my phone going suddenly crazy along with a near constant ‘ding’ sound outside that I think might actually be coming from Tom’s phone for some reason I let myself dance one more step or two before spinning around to face the mirror on my wall with a happy grin.
I look like a mess, I look like a complete and utter mess... but a girly mess?... a ‘pretty’ mess if Tom’s to be believed.
He called me pretty!
“Just you wait Tom! I’m going home Saturday and enlisting my sister to help me over the holidays, by the time we all get back from New Year I’ll be so good looking you’ll have to call me ‘Beautiful’... or ‘my girlfriend’ for short I suppose...”
A wry little smirk crossed my lips as my determination from this morning came back in full force at long last.
It wasn’t perfect.
It wasn’t an unending cry of his love for me.
It wasn’t even something as simple as a kiss... but I got Tom to notice me!
He. Noticed. Me!
It’s only a first step, but it’s a hell of a lot further progress then I’ve managed to make in the last five years otherwise so being myself at long last is obviously the key here!
“Emma, you want me to serve your dinner up now or are you having a shower first?”
He called my name!
“I’ll have a shower first, thanks Tom, give me twenty minutes or so.”
You can join me in the shower if you want and we can- NO! Too fast, baby steps!
This is the best Christmas ever!
He noticed me!
He called me by my name!
He cooked me dinner!
Well, that bits actually pretty normal for us, but he did it and he noticed me so it counts!
“I wonder what he’ll think if I come out wearing that new nighty Kim made me get?”
Only one way to find out!
The End - Sort of...
...The next morning...
“-then we settled on the sofa and cuddled until... wait a minute, how the hell did he know to call me Emma?”
While all the girls looked suddenly guilty and were suspiciously not drinking their coffees despite only a few minutes ago saying that they needed them for survival purposes thanks to Steph calling us together like this on a snow day of all things, Kim looked the most guilty.
She also looked the most amused and proud of herself at the same time somehow.
“Oh... you didn’t...”
My hands flew into action and in seconds I had our group chat up, my finger scrolling through the worryingly large list of people who are now part of it all until they stopped on one name, seemingly added in the mess of people who joined during our salon visit yesterday.
A single tap later and it filtered down to just messages from that one embarrassingly recognisable name.
'She looks so cute like that.'
'As if she’d seriously settle for a guy like me? I’d sooner expect an announcement of undying love from Kim of all people then her!'
'Oh please, as if I’m the only one who thinks she looks amazing in that ‘just rolled out of bed’ way most mornings.'
'Of course I will, how can I not?'
All that and more, all from Tom.
All from yesterday.
All spaced out, mixed in with everyone else’s mass of unreadable messages.
He knew all along.
He knew what I was trying to do, but he still pretended to only JUST about notice me after all the effort and mess I had to overcome to get through to him at last, an... and...
“I’m gonna kill him... slowly...”
“Now Emz, calm down, we figured if he’d already seen you then it would take some of the tension out of things for you an-”
“We? We who? This is all on you Kimmie-bear!”
“What?! It was your idea an- ah, fudge-nuggets...”
“Run Kim, run!”
...The end - For reals this time, promise!
Happy Christ-Hanukkah-Solstice-Yule-Kwanza-mas everybody!!
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