Virtually Feminine - Part 5 - Passing time

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Chapter 5 - Passing time

I'm not quite sure how best to continue telling this story. There were so many parallel streams of my life set in motion after my birthday, each of them so separate from each other that they almost felt like they were happening to different people at the same time like some weird version of synchronicity.

I found myself going from a humdrum, if busy, existence, to a busy whirl where I started to lose track of things unless I wrote them down.

I got myself my first smart phone with a keyboard, at about this time, and I kept notes and a calendar on the phone to help me keep track of my life. The smartphone also allowed me to talk to Fee while I was at work. I found a Second Life client app that would run on the phone. I couldn’t see the graphics, like I would on a PC, but I could send instant messages.

My life split into 4 paths with two protagonists, according to the notes on my phone.
From 8:30am to 8:30pm every weekday I worked or travelled for work.
Every weekend from Friday night until Monday morning I had my kids, Kevin and Rachael - they were the thing I worked for, my reason to keep breathing, my life. I would tell you all about them but… you probably aren’t interested in them, if you are reading this story. Also, I’m not very comfortable sharing personal information about my kids with (let’s be honest) complete strangers on the Internet. So, if it ever seems like I’m glossing over aspects of my relationship with my kids, like they aren’t important to me, then it’s because I’m deliberately leaving them out of my recollection.

But, I will admit, the rare times at the weekend, when I didn’t have the kids, or work, to worry about… in those time Jez began to blossom and have fun. In RL I scarcely remembered ‘fun’.

Every 4th Saturday and for 2 hours each other Saturday, while my ex’s parents had “grandparent time” with my kids, I spent time in Second Life with Fee at our home or role-playing in one of the many scenarios that Fee found around SL. He would tell me to take a little money from him and get the best medieval outfit I could, then he would take me to a castle ball set in medieval England, or some American’s fantasy of knightly courtship. Or he would take me on balloon rides over the African plains, watching elephants and giraffes. Or riding in Nemo’s Nautilus or any one of dozens of fantastic fantasies.

But the most surprising and fulfilling fantasy of all was when we just stayed home…
I would dress for him, and tease him and he would respond in the most delightfully ardent ways.

I can’t help smiling to think of the times we shared, making sweet cyber-love…

In the evenings, after work, Fee wasn’t always around (I wasn’t always around, either, my work regularly ran late, after 10pm). We didn’t stress about it, like some other couples on SL, we knew that, although we hadn’t pledged exclusivity, neither of us wanted to spoil what we had.

Fee normally went to sleep at 11pm, as he had to be up early. I found it increasingly hard to sleep at all, I would stay awake until 2am or later, almost as though Jez’s life had become a kind of waking dream for me. That left me with an awful lot of time in SL when Fee wasn’t around, and a girl can only spend so long hunting for bargain virtual shoes.

I would hunt for locations, like the ones Fee had found, I found a fabulous gardens with underwater grottos and ‘adult’ animations. I found venue after venue with every imaginable type of music and dancing.

As I wandered around SL I made friends, almost without thinking about it. Most of the people I spoke to were female, I didn’t need another man in my life as I had Fee. Also, they, like me, were often searching for shoes and romantic venues and the same faces started showing up whenever I was around. I met Saffy Capaldi at Frank’s Jazz club. She was dressed in a couture scrap of fabric that plunged here and there and would not have worked in RL unless it was stapled to her body. She moaned to me that all the men avoided her and I moaned that I had to beat them off with a stick. I always dressed very demurely at Frank’s.

“Maybe the men are intimidated by you?” I suggested to Saffy.

“But, I’m a pussy cat!” she complained.

“A pussy cat dressed like a tiger on the hunt! Have you _seen_ your avatar? Sometimes, with men, less is more!”

“Maybe you’re right… unless it’s boobs, then more is always more!”

I had to concede that point!

In RL Saffy was a 40-something housewife in Wales with Fibromyalgia and ME. Her husband had left her with 3 kids and just gone off and left her. We had a good bitch about ex’s, and we had a certain amount in common. But Saffy grumbled it wasn’t fair that I had a good man in SL and an ex who took care of the kids sometimes in RL.

-o-o-

I met Rifyanka at a BDSM club playing heavy metal and goth music. I was only there because the shop on that sim was selling killer black and red boots at a bargain price. Riffy was like a force of nature, she brought out my wilder side and got me to put together a ‘Neko’ (cat girl) outfit, that Fee enjoyed later, but that’s another story.
She took me to the ‘Hysteria’ sim and we walked through a post-apocalyptic landscape together until we found a playground and we played on the see-saw.

In RL Riffy was a nurse in the Netherlands. One evening when we were both drinking wine in RL after work while our avatars lounged on beanbags in her SL mansion, she told me she had been attacked by a colleague after work one night. It was the most difficult conversation of my life, for many reasons. I know female acquaintances in RL who have been pressured into sex or sexually abused in some way. But nobody had ever been so open and so graphic and matter of fact about being raped. Riffy explained all about her date rape experience and expected me to understand because we were both women and, in her experience, most of her female friends had been put in the situation where they had a choice to either give in to sex or risk the situation escalating into actual violence instead of some thinly veiled threat.
I have never felt less of a man, because I knew I should have told her I was male in RL before the conversation and I knew I could never let her know I was after the conversation. I'm not going to describe the details of what she told me. I couldn't make up a story horrible enough to compare and I will not ever discuss the details of her real story, even with names changed to protect both innocent and guilty parties.
The only thing I will say is some men are animals who should be locked away. And women, GG or trans, all women eventually grow to understand that some men see us as prey, just because of our gender.
Hmm, that's very telling, eh? That I identify as female now. Sometimes I'm not sure which side of the line I am.

-0-0-

Then there was Ute Beavoir, also known as ‘Beaver Girl’. For some reason she was bizarrely fascinated with beavers and Canada, she sent me an RL photo of herself with a stuffed toy beaver, I have no idea why. She was young, in her early twenties, I think and her life was a mess. She only came online when her real-life boyfriend went drinking without her. After a few weeks of chatting with her she told me she was now at a friend’s house having run away from her boyfriend and the town she grew up in with her parents. Her boyfriend was very possessive, jealous and border-line abusive. She wouldn’t tell her parents where she was because she didn’t want her boyfriend to find her. I felt sorry for the parents of this wild-child so I tried to convince her just to send them a text message to let them know that she was ok, but not to talk to her boyfriend. She vanished from Second Life for a week or two. The next time she came online I had to talk her out of taking pills with alcohol, she was drunk and feeling depressed and felt no one cared if she lived or died. I told her, of course they do… I did, I loved her as a friend and she shouldn’t do anything she would regret in the morning. It was a very intense 40 minutes of conversation carried out in online instant messaging. She would stop answering for minutes at a time. Eventually I talked her down, she agreed to drink some water and go to bed.
I spoke to her a few days later and she was earnestly apologetic. A few more days and she had a job and a new boyfriend and she was back to being her normal ditzy self. I never really understood what was going on, was this some form of self-indulgent drama, a game? Or was she really on the brink of suicide and I talked her round. For a part Turkish German citizen she had extraordinarily good English, especially considering how drunk she seemed to be. You could never be sure in a virtual world who you were talking to in real life. Who was on the other end of the conversation?
But this was a thing in Second Life that I have noticed again and again. People, myself included, are very guarded in the real world. Second Life is a virtual world, you aren’t really there, it’s not real, it’s just a game, and so you can’t be hurt, you can always delete the account and create a new avatar and nothing you said or saw really matters. You are sat safe at home in your own bedroom, so you relax and are more open than you would ever be with anyone in real life.
The only problem is… it is real, they are real people, that you are talking to so openly in your bedroom, and there are more ways to be hurt than physically.

-0-0-

And, every night before I went to sleep, I set my avatar dancing on the stripper pole to earn a few Linden Dollars. Every now and then, when Fee wasn’t around and I needed a little extra to afford an outfit for him I would work at Benny’s Bar, my avatar dancing on stage for tips. I found that private IM messages to punters could get you a massive tip. I say ‘I found’ it was Lovely Angel who taught me. Punters would start the conversation in a private chat window, while their avatar sat in the seats gawping up at the girls on stage. It wasn’t difficult to conceive that the young (and sometimes not so young) men behind the avatars sat at home in a semi-darkened room, typing one-handed as a real-life woman chatted to them, fuelling their fantasies. Even a tip of few hundred Lindens represented pennies in the real world, where sex chat lines would be pounds and could be subject (so I learned) to bizarre rules.
There were no such rules in SL, it was the wild west, and any topic of conversation was fair game.
A typical conversation might start like this:

RandomPunterBoy> Gosh you’re hot

Jez Weatherwax> Thank you <3 - I’m not anywhere as near as pretty as the other girls, but I’m happy to take a compliment, why don’t you sit down here in front of me by my tip jar and tell me more about what you look for in a woman?

RandomPunterBoy> What kind of knickers are you wearing?

Jez Weatherwax> Can’t you tell, you naughty boy, this dress is far too short to hide them :-P

RandomPunterBoy> No, I meant in RL

Jez Weatherwax> Oh, I never wear knickers in RL…

There would be a pause and then RandomPunterBoy would pay a few Lindens and vanish. It would make me smile to think of a pimply faced virgin youth cuming prematurely at the thought of a real woman he would never meet in RL ‘going commando’.

And talking of RL, that brings me back to Kathryn and an entirely more embarrassing relationship.

You may remember, I said I was unsure of her motivation to date me. I found out the week after my birthday. She had heard from Anne that I had tiled my bathroom before Kevin was born and that I still had the tools She had thought that if she went in a date with me, she could convince me to help her with her 'feminine wiles’. Then she spent a little time with me and she realised I was a nice guy who would probably help her out if she just asked nicely, so she did. Once I agreed I got friend-zoned so fast I seriously wondered how I could have ever thought there was anything more between us.

She invited me over to her house for dinner so that I could see what she had in mind. She gave me the address and I used the sat-nav on my phone to find it. It was a few miles away from work in the town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. Malmesbury is weird, part of the center of the town is kept as a kind of museum of British architecture by the local planning department. I found that Kathryn’s house was a ‘listed building’ which meant she had to keep the front of it looking like it did 200 years ago.

So there was no parking, the house had a front door straight out onto the pavement.

I parked about quarter of a mile away and walked back to the house. I knocked on the door (there was no doorbell. It took a while for Kathryn to open it and I was beginning to wonder if I had the wrong place. She let me in wearing shorts and a scruffy T-shirt, her hair was tied back in a rough pony-tail and she looked smudged and bedraggled. As I stepped through the door I could see why, the room beyond the door looked like a building site, with broken stone flags on the floor and furniture stacked in a haphazard fashion to give access to the work going on.
Kathryn gave me the tour, it didn’t take very long. The downstairs consisted of a large room and a small alcove for the old kitchen, a bit like a covered porch to the triangular area at the back of the house that let light in. Normally there would be a back garden, I guess, but the area was a triangle of concrete approximately 10 feet on each side. There was a tiny steep set of stairs against the back wall of the main room with no banister or protection to stop you falling. We went up, with Kathryn leading the way. I knew I was friend-zoned, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the view as I followed her closely up the steep stairs, her pert denim-clad bum scant inches from my nose.
As we got to the top of the stairs I was introduced to Joe, Kathryn’s pug. She explained that he was too frightened to go down the stairs to the living room now since he had had a nasty fall a couple of weeks previously. The dog was clearly a lot smarter than he looked, because the stairs were so narrow and so steep they were little better than a ladder.
The room we came into from the stairs was in chaos.

‘I’m putting a decent kitchen here” Kathryn explained. She pointed out where the work surfaces, sink, oven and hob would go. There was a table and 2 chairs already by the window looking down on the street at the front of the house.
‘So, we won’t be cooking here tonight’ I said with a smile, looking at the space where the kitchen would go.
‘No, we’ll get takeaway, what do you fancy?’
‘Is there a Chinese in town?’
‘Sure, we’ll walk down in a minute’
Kathryn walked over to the stairs up to the next floor and headed up…

The top floor of the house was in stark contrast to the rest of the house. It didn’t look like a building site. The room was dominated by a massive bed with an overstuffed duvet in bedding covered in a delicate floral pattern in blues and pinks. The carpet was oatmeal and fluffy and the room seemed like a very feminine retreat from the rest of the world. The room was clearly right under the roof and the eaves sloped down sharply over the bed. There was an en-suite bathroom in a tiny room off the main room.

The sloping eaves took much of the usable space away from the room. There was a bath in there but it was of a peculiar design. Very short and very deep, almost like a shower tray with delusions of grandeur. The taps were on the end furthest from the outside wall with a shower attachment so that the tallest part of the ceiling was over it. Which was good, because there was no way even Kathryn would have been able to stand at the other end, with how the ceiling sloped.
Kathryn showed me the tiles she had already bought. They wouldn’t have been my choice and I could tell they were going to be a bitch to fit. They were larger than normal and thicker too. I did ask her if she wouldn’t like something smaller, which would make it easier to tile the awkward space, but she was adamant that these tiles would look perfect once they were fitted.

We climbed back down the stairs and went to get the takeaway. I felt very over-dressed in my work suit when we were queuing in the take-away. Our conversation was a bit subdued until we got back to Kathryn’s house but it livened up once we sat down to eat. Kathryn insisted on trying some of my duck and I had some of her beef. I took off my tie before we went to get the food and I took off my jacket before we ate. Kathryn told me about her family in New York. I told her a little about my family and how I didn’t get on with my Dad.

-0-0-

The next day Kathryn was busy in the evening so after work I went to get a few bits I thought we’d need.
I gathered together my tools and some clothes ready for working the next night.

-0-0-

My mind wasn’t really on work the next day I was more interested in the tiling. I knew Kathryn didn’t really have any romantic feelings for me, she had managed to make that perfectly clear on the preceding Tuesday, without being obnoxious about it. But there was a kind of chemistry or connection between us, I just couldn’t figure out what it was and it was distracting me. Maybe it was just that I hadn’t been very social for several years, since my ex-wife walked out (walked out isn’t quite right, she conned me into hiring a van and helping her move all her stuff to a rented house. I was a sucker whenever the kids were involved).
It was really hot that day, I remember, and I was very glad of the air conditioning at work.
I met up with Kathryn at lunch time and we agreed to meet at her house. I had to park in roughly the same place as before and I knew it would take two trips to get all the items from the car to the house. I had several large heavy duty carrier bags to carry things like the tile cutter and spacers in. I managed to carry my folding work table as well and my working clothes. I had to put the table and some bags down when I got to the house in order to knock. It took a long time for Kathryn to open the door, but given the layout of her house I guess she had to come down two flights of stairs. We didn’t waste much time on pleasantries and I did another round trip to my car to get my toolbox and some other bits.

When I got back to the house I asked Kathryn where I could change into my working clothes and she said I could change in her living room as she took a bag up to the bathroom. I quickly stripped down to my underpants after she went up the stairs. It felt odd, being almost naked in a woman’s house after so many years being married and then being alone. I quickly pulled my shorts and t-shirt on. I also put my sandals on. I guess I took my cues from how Kathryn had been dressed on Tuesday.

She called out ‘Are you decent?’ as she came down the stairs.

We went upstairs and started work on the bathroom. There's nothing quite as tedious and fiddly as tiling. Tiling round the taps in particular took a ridiculous amount of time. I'm sure your eyes are glazing over as you wonder why I bothered to record this, but I'm getting to the point honestly. While I was working and chatting with Kathryn about nothing in particular I began to realise I wasn't chatting as Andy, I was chatting as Jez. Just two girls working together. How was that any different to chatting as Andy? Well, it's kind of hard to explain. I wasn't putting on a high pitched voice or discussing makeup (don't be ridiculous). But, whenever I've hung out with a woman before, there has been this tension. Are you going to make a move? What does she think of you? What are you doing to impress her?

This evening it was different. Kathryn had already friend-zoned me hard. Plus, I wasn't sure about my own sexuality or gender now, what with Jez and my boyfriend (Jez’s boyfriend?) We just kind of settled into this steady rhythm of chatting and working cooperatively together. I was better at the cutting and placing but Kathryn was better at spreading the grout. It was very hot and sweaty and there was very little room in the tiny bathroom so it got bizarrely intimate, very quickly. But that didn't stop us working. We took a break for dinner after an hour. We had take-away fish and chips and got back to work as quickly as possible. I don't know how we got onto the subject but Kathryn started telling me how one of her managers got sexually inappropriate with her. Coming so soon after my conversation with Riffy, I knew what she was talking about. But it was like Kathryn didn't want to admit to herself that he had done anything wrong and she had been the victim. She kept making excuses for him, saying she must have been sending mixed messages and she still liked him.
I wanted to hug her and let her know that she wasn’t alone, but I felt ashamed of my gender, that had treated her so shabbily.
So we sat there in awkward silence for a moment…
‘Fancy a cup of tea?’ I asked with a wry grin. I knew Kathryn despised tea and would only drink coffee.
‘We should have some beer’ Kathryn said firmly.
‘I have to drive home tonight’
‘That’s ridiculous, stay up here tonight, there’s no way it makes sense to drive a hundred miles home and then drive back…’
‘75’
‘What?’
‘It’s 75 miles, or 80, maybe…’
‘Whatever, drink the damn beer’
‘Ok?’
She got two bottles of Budweiser and we sipped from the bottle as we continued working.
‘Thanks’ she said.
‘For what?’
‘Not making a big thing out of it’
‘You won’t tell me exactly what ‘it’ is, although I can put two and two together, if you want to forget about it, that’s your choice. I won’t take that from you.’
‘Are you gay?’
‘What!? Where on earth did that come from?’
‘I don’t know. You’re not setting off my “gaydar”, I’m from New York, so I know gay when I see it. But you’re not… don’t take this as an insult, you’re not putting the same pressure on me as a guy would normally.’
‘Well, you made it very clear that you aren’t interested in me that way.’
‘That wouldn’t stop most guys…’
‘Jeez, full of yourself, much?’
‘I did say I was from New York. But seriously, you fancy me but you’re not staring at my tits.’
‘I wouldn’t be that obvious about it.’
‘You don’t have a girlfriend’
‘Is that a question or a statement? Have you been stalking me?’
‘Dammit, be serious for a minute. I like you, I do, but not like that… and I don’t understand it. You’re not gay…’
‘Er…’
‘You are gay?’
‘It’s… complicated’
‘You have a boyfriend?’
‘Not in real life.’
‘Well, that’s an unexpected answer...If not in real life, then where? Enquiring minds want to know’
I squirmed.
‘Second Life.’
‘The video game?’ Kathryn stopped to think for a moment ‘So, you have a gay boyfriend in Second Life?’
‘Ha! Fee is absolutely hetero.’
‘But...you’re a guy, he’s a guy...oooohhh! He doesn’t know you’re a guy?’
In a small voice I answered ‘No.’
‘You play a female in the game?’
‘I have a female avatar, yes. It’s quite common, I saw figures showing that 15% of female avatars have male users and 5% of male avatars have female users.’
‘But most of the time other users spot the GIRLs straight off?’
‘Girls?’
‘Guys In Real Life, a lot of games have them.’
‘Ha, most guys don’t give a shit, they just want a body to lie there and take it…’
‘A lot like real life, then?’
‘I’m so sorry, Kathryn, I didn’t mean to imply that I had any insight into what you suffered…’
‘Hmm, I think you have more insight than I knew into what it means to be female. It would explain a lot.’
‘What do you mean?’
Kathryn checked off points on her fingers ‘I like you, I really do, but I don’t want to have sex with you, I’m very comfortable talking to you about things that I wouldn’t normally discuss with a man, we work well together - you don’t do that guy thing and take over..’
‘Hey, it’s your house, your choice, I’m just here to help.’
‘Exactly, most guys I know would take over from the little woman and tell her what she actually wanted all along but didn’t know it. And then expect sex as a thank you.’
‘Well, if you’re offering…’ I said with a smirk.
‘Ah, so you’re Bi?’
‘Honestly, I don’t know what I am. I’d just like a hug in real life’ I said ‘I’m pathetic.’
‘Ah, Fee doesn’t know you’re a guy, so you can’t turn up in real life for a weekend of fun and frolics?’
‘Oh good god No!’ I said with feeling ‘If he didn’t kill me on the spot he’d…Well, I don’t honestly know what he’d do.’
‘Has he offered to come and see you? In real life?’
‘Er, yes.’
‘So it’s real love?’
‘Pfft, with a pixel doll and a fucked up guy.’ I said bitterly.
‘But, you love him?’
I didn’t say anything, I didn’t move.
‘You do, don’t you?’ She persisted.
‘I…If….If I were a real woman in real life then regardless of how either of us look we would get together.’

Out of nowhere it suddenly hit me, how miserable and pathetic my silly fantasy made me and the tears started flowing.
‘Oh, I’m going to need more beer for this…’ said Kathryn and she headed for the fridge.

——-

That night we got very drunk and Kathryn quizzed me about every detail of my second life. We got out her laptop and I showed her Jez, she saw me say goodnight to Fee as she looked over my shoulder and I showed off some of my shoe collection.
‘There’s more to being a woman than having an extensive shoe collection’ she said primly ‘But those black and red boots are gorgeous’.

I slept on the sofa in the living room and Kathryn slept at the top of the house. We couldn’t use the shower, as the grout wasn’t dry, but neither of us was too smelly and I borrowed some of Kathryn’s deodorant as I had forgotten mine. It was a spray one, Impulse, but not too floral - citrusy.

When she came down finally for us to go to work I looked her in the eye and asked her calmly ( beseeched? Begged? I'm not sure what the right word was) to keep Jez between the two of us.
'Of course! Don't be silly. Who would I tell and who would believe me?’
'Who would care, you mean?’
'You have such a downer on yourself, Andy. I kinda hope hope to spend more time with Jez. Don't take this the wrong way, but she's way more fun to drink with!’
Kathryn flashed a cheeky grin and we headed into work...



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