Wings, part 61 of 62

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When I’d taken a shower on Friday morning, I found out the hard way that moss is even harder to dry than fur. It took me a long time to blow-dry the moss enough that I could put on my work clothes without getting them damp, and I was nearly late to work.

 



 

Friday morning before work, I got Jill to venn me into a moss-covered dragon-girl. Work was otherwise routine, except that a lot of people asked whether I was okay. Apparently Mr. Buckholtz had told a couple of people who asked that I was staying away longer than expected because of a family crisis, but he didn’t say which family member was sick or whatever. I told Jill, Genevieve and Todd about Dad’s illness, and his decision to finally venn into a healthier body.

I’d sent my cousin Alyssa an email and a Facebook friend request Monday, while I was sitting with Dad and he was asleep. When I checked after work Friday, I saw her reply. She’d heard a little about me from Grandma, and told me more about herself and her research on phytoplankton. She sounded interested in meeting up next time she went to a conference not too far from me. We exchanged several messages over the next few days, and continued following each other on social media after that.

 

* * *

 

When I’d taken a shower on Friday morning, I found out the hard way that moss is even harder to dry than fur. It took me a long time to blow-dry the moss enough that I could put on my work clothes without getting them damp, and I was nearly late to work. So Saturday, New Year’s Eve, I made sure to shower right after breakfast so I’d have plenty of time to blow-dry, even though I wasn’t meeting Jada and Britt until afternoon. I considered asking Meredith or Sophia to go over to the library with me and venn me into something besides the body I’d worn to work for the last two days, but Meredith was getting ready for a date with Hunter and Sophia was getting ready for a party at her friend Julianna’s house, so I didn’t want to bother them. Besides, I’d have a chance to go to a Venn machine with Britt and Jada.

I was ready with plenty of time to spare before Jada and Britt picked me up. We drove to the Italian restaurant near the mall in Catesville, and I told them about hearing back from Alyssa.

“She sounds pretty cool,” Jada said. “The only cousins I’ve ever met are painfully straight.”

“Or maybe pretending like you are?”

“I’m not sure it’s possible to fake that much obsession over boys,” she said. “So! What are we venning into for the party? I’m thinking of trying something new, like being a robot.”

“I’ve only done that once,” I said. “It’s very calming and focused. Easy to get a lot of work done without getting bored, but maybe not great for a party? On the other hand, it might be good for my anxiety in crowds.”

“Y’all need a chaperone if you’re going to try new forms that might have mental effects,” Britt said. “Venn me into something from my history... maybe the little girl with tiger-striped skin from our playground date a while back.”

“You’ll be the cutest little chaperone,” Jada said. “Maybe we should put you in a mad scientist labcoat and goggles. Walk into the party with two big hulking robots more than twice your size on either side of you...”

“Won’t work,” I said regretfully, after relishing the image for a moment. “We have to be small enough to fit in the car, and at least one of us has to fit behind the wheel.”

“Yeah,” Jada said.

“And — I’d like to try being a robot again sometime, but I’m not sure tonight is the time? I’d like to stick with something more cuddly when we’re on a date, or going to a party.”

We talked more about the forms we’d venn into during supper, as well as other things, like the Mustang Britt and her dad had been working on and the shows we’d been watching. After supper, we went over to the mall, which would be closing early on New Year’s Eve, and venned each other.

Britt had decided to go with a variant of her tiger-striped small child body. She looked about ten years old, compared to the five or six she’d been last time, but was more muscular than most girls (or boys) that age, and had three arms rather than her usual four, two regular-sized arms on the right and a bigger one on the left.

Jada and I were matching anthropomorphic bears, perhaps a bit fluffier and definitely more wide awake than a real bear at this time of year. As we got back in Jada’s Dodge Neon, I said: “I wish we had Venn machines big enough for me to venn into a more suitable vehicle for y’all to arrive at the party in.”

“What vehicle?” Britt asked, and “Why?” Jada wondered.

“So you would be a bear in her natural habitat,” I explained. “A Studebaker.”

Britt burst out laughing, but Jada didn’t get it, and I had to make her promise to watch The Muppet Movie with me and Britt sometime.

We got to Carmen, Bailey and Serena’s house in Greensboro about half an hour after Carmen had told me the party would start.

“Before we go in,” Jada said to me, taking my paw and squeezing it, “you know it’s okay if you have to leave early, right? It’ll be fine if we want to bail on the party and do something by ourselves instead.”

“That’s right,” Britt said.

“I think I’ll be okay,” I said. “It isn’t like Halloween. I know more of the people here than you do. And Carmen said it’s not gonna be as many people as that, either, and they have a room set aside for people to withdraw and be quiet if they need to. Apparently I’m not the only one with anxiety issues in their friend group.”

There were about eight people present when we arrived, though it seemed like more until I realized that Ty was up to four bodies now. Ty’s bodies ranged from over six feet tall to toddler-size, two male, one female and one intersex; their consciousnesses weren’t split, but they seemed to have a lot more independence than they’d had with three bodies last time I saw them, or than Jada and I did when we’d venned into two bodies and hadn’t split our consciousnesses yet. The female Ty was greeting people at the door and handing out nametags.

One of the first things I did was to find Carmen and introduce Britt to them. Carmen was venned into a relatively minor variation of the body I’d seen them with last, a bit taller and with ace flag colors in their hair, though not in the same arrangement as they were in the flag.

“Hey,” Carmen said. “It’s been way too long. And it’s nice to meet you, Britt. Lauren’s told me about you.” We hadn’t seen each other in person since the summer, although we’d talked on the phone or social media a few times.

“Likewise,” Britt said.

“Serena, Bailey and some other people you know are here somewhere,” Carmen said to me. “I can’t remember exactly who you’ve met, though. You know Adam and Ty, right?”

That was a slightly awkward question. I knew them from the Venn club I’d hung out with back when I was crashing in Carmen’s dorm, but they only knew me in my Kayla identity.

“Yeah, but it’s been a while,” I said. “I saw Ty at the door. Haven’t seen Adam, Bailey or Serena yet.”

Carmen looked around and waved at someone on the other side of the room. “Hey, Serena!”

A blue-haired girl in a pale blue princessy dress with more petticoats than practicality turned toward us, then said something to the people she was talking to and came over. She spotted my nametag right away.

“Lauren! It’s been way too long!”

“Hey, Serena. This is my girlfriend Jada — she was a plushie triceratops when you saw her last — and my other girlfriend Britt.”

“Robbing the cradle, huh?” Serena said with a giggle.

“Yes, I am a whole five days younger than Lauren,” Britt said, deadpan. “Oh, my lost innocence!” She put the back of her hand to her forehead as she said the last bit, and Serena giggled again.

“Anyway,” Carmen said, “we’ll be starting some games in a little bit. Ty’s in charge of the games. If you want to look over the game shelf, it’s over there.”

Two late arrivals to the party were people I knew in another connection: Caleb Ramsey and his housemate Jerry, who were both venned into cyborgs, Caleb with an artificial eye and various tools sticking out of his forearms, and Jerry with six multijointed artificial legs. I didn’t recognize them until they got close enough for me to read their nametags, even though Caleb’s face was mostly the same except for the cyborg eye — Jerry had been a little kid the only time I’d seen him. But a few minutes after they arrived, Ty started introducing me to them, and I said, “Oh, hi, Caleb. I didn’t know you knew Carmen and Serena.”

“Oh, hey, Lauren,” Caleb said, glancing at my nametag. “I didn’t know you knew them either, but I guess Meredith introduced you at some point?”

“Yeah, I was exchanging emails with Carmen even before I came out.”

“Jerry here — he’s one of my housemates, I don’t remember if he was around when you came to visit with Sophia and our parents? — he got me into the Venn club, and that’s how I met Serena and some of the other people here. I’d already met Carmen when Meredith invited them over for dinner at our house a couple of times, but we didn’t get to know each other well until I joined the Venn club.”

“Neat! Have you met my girlfriends, Jada and Britt...?”

A little later, Ty started gathering people for a game of Apples to Apples, and Jada asked me if I wanted to play. I thought about it for a moment and said, “Actually, I’d probably better take a quiet break.”

“Do you want us to come sit with you?” Britt asked.

“You don’t have to. I’m doing this proactively, I think I’ll be fine.”

“We’ll check on you if you’re gone a long time,” Jada promised. We kissed and I went over to find Serena.

“Hey,” I said. “Carmen said you had a place for people to slip off to and recover from the noise for a few minutes.”

“Yeah, the meditation room. I’ll show you.”

The meditation room was a small room, probably intended for a laundry room but with no big appliances taking up space in it. It had soundproofing pads on the walls, an easy chair with a green plaid throw over it, a gym mat, a small table with a lamp and some candles, and a small bookshelf with a dozen or so books on it and more candles. “It’ll be quiet in here when the door’s closed,” Serena promised, going over and turning on the lamp. The noise from the conversation and music in the main rooms was already a lot quieter. “If someone else comes in, just be together, okay? Maybe nod, but don’t say hi or anything.”

“Sure. This is the best party feature since socializing was invented.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, and left the room. As promised, the noise vanished when she closed the door behind her. I settled down in the easy chair and closed my eyes.

As usual when I was alone and not distracted in the last few days, I found my thoughts drifting to Dad, and our relationship, and then to Mom. I thought about texting them a happy new year, but taking out my phone seemed out of place in the meditation room, and texting them just after midnight seemed more appropriate, anyway. I prayed for them for a while, and then for Nathan and various other relatives and friends, asking God to give us all a good new year and the sense to do the right thing. When I felt more calm and collected, I went back to the living room.

The game of Apples to Apples was nearly over, and when it ended, someone proposed a game of Werewolf. I’d heard of it but never played, and when someone explained the rules, it sounded kind of fun, so I joined in. About halfway through the game, a couple of people who’d been eliminated early, who I’d been introduced to but had already forgotten the names of, left to get more snacks and drinks. One of them came back half an hour later with a couple of sacks of groceries and a different body.

“Hey, guys,” she said, “there’s a new Venn machine at the Food Lion shopping center.”

That was good news for Carmen, Bailey, and Serena, since they wouldn’t have to drive across town to the mall or out into the suburbs to venn.

“Great,” Serena said. “Where’s Drew?”

“In here.” The girl tapped her shirt pocket gently and a tiny mouse-person poked his head out.

“Hi,” he squeaked. Several people went “awwww,” possibly including me.

The girl set the bags of groceries down on the snack table. We helped ourselves to the new snacks, and the girl served a plate of peanuts and cheese for Drew and set him down on it. It was adorable to see him nibbling his way through the cheese, or stuffing big cubes of it into his mouth. And that got several people talking about going to the Venn machinen, now that there was one so close to the house, and changing into different forms for the latter half of the party.

Some people proposed another game, but it seemed like most people wanted a break from gaming, and nearly half the party had decided to go to the Venn machine anyway, including Jada. I sat on a sofa with Bailey, who I hadn’t had much chance to talk with yet, and we talked about what had been going on in our lives. Britt, who’d gone to the restroom after the game ended, came back and crawled into my lap.

“You’ve got a cute girlfriend,” Bailey teased.

“She’s got several,” Britt agreed, and yawned. “I’ve only met her third girlfriend once, but she’s really sweet.”

“Britt!” I exclaimed. “Steph isn’t actually my girlfriend, and I’m not sure she’s even poly! I just like to... uh...” I tried for a moment to rephrase what I was about to say, and gave up. “...snuggle in her lap when she’s feeling stressed. As a plushie!” I added hastily.

“So? I’m still your girlfriend even though all we do is hold hands and snuggle.”

“Yeah, but we actually talked about being girlfriends.” I was glad I was in a furry form that wouldn’t show blushes, but Bailey could tell how flustered I was anyway, and they laughed.

“When I met her,” Britt said, “I got the feeling she’s closer to you than to Jada, definitely more than to her boyfriend or anybody else she’s met since she went off to college.”

“Steph is Jada’s roommate at college,” I explained, and told Bailey how Jada and I had been splitting ourselves in two and staying with each other in plushie form when we were separated for weeks at a time.

“Awwww! That’s so romantic. I bet your plushie forms are really snuggly.”

“Yeah,” Britt said, “they really are cuddle-monsters. Nothing will satiate their desire for snuggles and pats.”

“Hi, Pot, nice to meet you. I’m Kettle,” I joked, giving Britt a headpat, and Bailey laughed. Britt seemed to be too sleepy to get it right away, but then she started giggling too.

Bailey and I continued talking for a while, and they told me how they’d started dating Serena a few months earlier (I’d already heard about it from Serena’s point of view), and I told them how I’d met Jada and Britt and started dating them less than a week later. Britt, after making a couple of contributions early on, was yawning more and more and not saying anything. When Jada (still a bear-girl, but now a panda, and utterly adorable) plopped down on my other side, Britt silently lay down across our laps and curled up. Jada stroked her hair.

“Sleepy girl, we’ve kept you up past your bedtime,” she soothed. “Do you want a bedtime story?”

“Lauren n’ Bailey told me stories,” Britt muttered sleepily.

“I’ll tell you another one,” she said, and started making up a wonderfully bizarre sapphic version of Beauty and the Beast until someone turned on the TV showing the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square about fifteen minutes before midnight. We got a little distracted then by the TV and the conversations in the rest of the room, although we kept snuggling on the sofa because Britt was sound asleep in our laps by then. She slept through the countdown and the ball dropping.

When the countdown hit zero, as everyone else was yelling “Happy New Year!”, Jada and I were too busy kissing to say anything just yet. “I love you,” I murmured happily as our lips unlocked a while later. “I want to spend a happy new year with you and Britt, and another one after that, and later on, I was thinking of spending the next one with you too, and then...”

“I love you too. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Happy New Year, sweetie.”

Britt finally woke up about then, but she was still really sleepy and fell asleep again after hugging us and wishing us a happy new year.

“As much fun as this has been,” I said, “I need to either go home now, or spend a while in the meditation room to unwind.”

“Yeah, we should probably take this sleepyhead home too. You want to take a few minutes to say goodbye to everybody?”

“Definitely.”

We carefully lifted Britt off our laps and stood up, with Britt lying across Jada’s shoulder, and made our way around the room saying goodbye. Carmen pressed us to borrow a couple of blankets (“We’ve got plenty”) to keep Britt warm in the backseat on the way home, and we arranged that I’d give them to Caleb to take back next time he came to visit his family. Soon we had Britt ensconced in a blanket burrito in the back seat, and were on the way home, with me driving this time.

Jada selected a soft instrumental mix from her phone and played it at low volume. I drove carefully, being cautious about potential drunk drivers, and parked in the Ramseys’ driveway forty-five minutes later.

“Good night,” I said, and we kissed. “I think this has been my favorite New Year’s Eve ever.”

“I can’t remember any better ones,” Jada agreed.

I glanced at Britt, still sound asleep in the back seat. “Give her a goodnight hug for me, okay?”

“Sure. I already texted her parents to let them know when we’d be there. Good night, sweetie.”

We kissed again and I went into the house.

 



 

Almost done! Just one more chapter next week.

If you're in a hurry to read the last chapter, you can find a free a collection I made of all four of my Trust Machines stories on DeviantArt:

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My new short fiction collection, Gender Panic and Other Stories, contains 253,948 words of transgender fiction: seven short stories, seven novelettes, one novella, and two short novels. Six of the stories (including both novels), 163,318 words, have never appeared online before. It can be found at:

You can find my other ebook novels and short fiction collections here:

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Comments

So,

They'd be a bear and a bear in a rainbow-colored Studebaker? Wonder what Doc Hopper would turn into?

Thank you for the chapter.