"I'm telling you, bro . . . it's meant to happen. We both know what he wants. We have the means to provide it. Nobody else is available . . ."
"It will never work! Nobody's going to believe I'm a woman. They sure as hell aren't going to believe me as some kind of fashion model!"
I leaned back in my chair and grinned. "I think I can solve that little problem Josh."
Everybody calls me "PJ". Just what those initials stand for depends on the time of day, and the day of the week. After six PM and on most weekends it stands for "Peter James". But from nine to five on weekdays it stands for "Pamela Jane". This rather odd set of circumstances arose out of a desperation attempt to land a job as a graphic artist with my brother Josh's advertising firm. At that time his firm (Whitman, North and Arjer or "W.N.&A.") was only hiring women. Using a marvelous bit of technology called a "Nu-Gen Transgender Appliance, Model I2000S I was able to fool the powers that be down at "W. N. & A." into believing I was a young, upcoming, female graphic artist and thereby land the job.
To be sure, there were a series of misadventures along the way, but over the past few months I think I've settled into my new professional persona quite well. The job is challenging and very rewarding. And it's a job I truly love. All my life I've wanted to be a professional artist. The sacrifice of masquerading as a woman on a daily basis has not been too much of a price to pay.
Times are good down at W.N.&A. My first work for the firm involved landing a prestigious major client. Close on the heels of that success, W.N.&A. quickly went from a sleepy little ad agency quietly fading into the mists of obscurity to a very sought after company. Offers from other high-class clients started to flow in.
We were on the way up. The sky seemed to be the limit.
Then the eccentric but fabulously successful fashion designer "Giancarlo of Venice" contracted us to promote his new line of lingerie.
And for a period of three weeks it seemed like my whole world had gone nuts.
It began on a hopeful, fairly innocent note.
I was sitting in my studio one Thursday morning lost in artistic reverie, twirling a long tress of my faux golden mane around a shapely, well-manicured finger.
Well, actually . . . I was trying to figure out what kind of a scam I was going to pull today down at the water cooler when the Football Pool gathered to debate this weekend's pro games.
It's like this: W.N.&A. has taken some steps recently to overhaul their horribly outmoded, and very sexist, hiring policies. But there were still quite a few Neanderthal "knuckle draggers" lurking about in dark back offices. A good selection of the most "macho" of these throwbacks congregated at the water cooler ( perhaps "watering hole" would be more apt) every mid-morning to thump their chests and debate the latest athletic exploits of their favorite teams. That a betting pool should form was a foregone conclusion.
I was walking by one morning (en femme of course) just as the debate grew rather heated concerning a certain team's chances against the defending Super Bowl Champions in next Sunday's game. As I passed, I opined casually that I rather liked the challenger's chances.
I'll wager you could have heard the bellows of male indignity for a hundred yards.
What did I . . . a lowly female . . . know about the noble, intricate, masculine undertaking that was professional football? How dare I voice an opinion to these sage experts on this ancient and hallowed diversion?
Now understand; I like pro football. I follow it closely. I could have engaged these jerks on their own terms and held my own. But I guess I was getting tired of the patronization.
Petite Pamela folded her hands behind her tight little butt, gazed through her long lashes at the assembled hairy apes and cooed that any team who's quarterback had as cute a butt as the challenger's was bound to win.
Howls of injured male pride. What a senseless, illogical . . . female opinion! Would I care to loose some money on a bet based on that outrageous claim?
The following Monday, I was $32 ahead and the "War of the Gridiron" was fairly joined.
So, anyway, there I was sitting at my desk, playing with my hair and weighing the odds on this Sunday's Seattle-Denver contest. Denver was a perennial favorite, but I thought Seattle had a really good shot this week, provided they could keep their QB healthy. Maybe I could scam a six-point spread on Seattle by playing distracted and letting word get around that it was "that time of the month" for Pamela.
At that moment, my secretary Carl stuck his head in my door. (Yes, I have a male secretary, the only one in the whole firm. I think it's a little joke by Emma Huddleston, W.N.&A.'s personnel manager and the only other one in the firm besides my brother who's in on Pamela's secret)
"Mr. Arjer wants to see you in his office in ten minutes Ms. Wright."
"Did he say why?"
"No Ma'am. Just to tell you to, and I quote; `Get your little ass up here most pronto.' "
"Okay. Thanks Carl. Oh . . . Carl. Who do you like in the Seattle-Denver game this Sunday?"
"Denver . . . all the way."
" `Cuz Seattle can't stop the run to save their lives. Denver will pick `em apart."
"You're nuts! Look at the Hawk's stats on first down defense against the run! Why, in the last four games they've . . ." But Carl, knowing my penchant for running on about my favorite topic, had wisely remembered some typing and already disappeared back to his desk.
Josh Arjer is my half-brother by my late mother's remarriage. Nobody in the firm knows about our relationship. (Except for Mrs. Huddleston that is.). He'd been made a full partner in the firm based on "his" work in landing that prestigious client I mentioned. Now he had his own suite of offices on one corner of our floor and his own secretarial staff to attend to his every whim. Before the events that I'm about to describe, I'd been a bit jealous and angry with him for his success on the shoulders of my work. That's all changed . . . my jealousy and anger I mean.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
At the appointed hour I arrived in the waiting room of Josh's office. His bubble-headed blonde bimbo of a secretary deigned to notice me and to trouble herself to point to one of the couches against the wall.
"Mr. Arjer has an important phone call. He'll be with you in a minute."
I sat on the couch, primly crossed my legs and wondered what our mother would think about Josh's choice in women if she were alive to see it. At that moment, the outer door opened and Beth DiAngelo, our newest copywriter walked in and was directed to the same couch I currently occupied.
Once more, I felt that little stab of shame that I sometimes felt when Beth was around. When I'd first come to work at W.N.&A., I'd only seen Beth as a scheming little wench who was trying to use sex to get ahead in the company. I've subsequently come to know her a lot better and to appreciate the lengths to which she had been forced in her attempt to get ahead in this still very male-dominated world of business. I'd badly misjudged her, but I'm pleased to say that I've subsequently mended my ways. Beth is now one of my best friends and my only "gal pal" down here at W.N.&A. Yes, I'd come a long way in my open-mindedness . . . Haven't I? I glanced over at the blonde seated at the receptionist's desk. "Bubble-headed blonde bimbo"? I glanced down over the counterfeit breasts pressing against the silk of my blouse to the skirt that lay against my elegant, shapely, sexy . . . utterly contrived legs.
"Judge not, lest ye be judged." Good words to remember.
Beth glanced at the door to Josh's office, then sighed and looked around for something to occupy herself while we waited to be allowed into "The Presence".
"So, Pam . . . who do you like in this Sunday's games?"
Ah! That's right! Beth likes football too. Good! Something interesting to waste a few minutes.
"I'm taking Chicago, Miami, Washington, Oakland, Carolina and Seattle."
"Seattle?! You're crazy girlfriend! Denver will push them all over the field!"
I sputtered "What do you mean? They've got a good chance!"
"Oh girl . . . I've had three dollar pantyhose that was better at stopping runs!"
The door to Josh's office opening and his imperious "Get in here, both of you" saved me.
Josh was pacing back and forth in front of his massive desk when Beth and I entered. "Sit down you two. I just got off the phone with new accounts and we've been handed what I'm given to understand is a golden opportunity. Have either of you ever heard of some fashion designer named Gian . . . Gian . . ." (He stopped pacing and glanced down at his notepad.) " . . . Giancarlo . . . `of Venice' no less?"
A little squeak of surprise confirmed that Beth certainly had. I glanced over at her and saw her eyes had gotten as big as dinner plates. "You mean . . . the Giancarlo? Giancarlo himself ?!" Josh raised an eyebrow. "Yes `the Giancarlo himself' I don't imagine there's more than one fashion fairy with a name like that."
Beth's hands had flown to her mouth. "Are you saying . . . Mr. Arjer . . . do you mean . . . you want us . . . you want me . . . to work on an account for Giancarlo of Venice?!" Josh's eyebrows had just about crawled off the top of his head. "Well Beth, it's either you or we take Silverman off the tire ad account. Somehow I think you're a bit more familiar with what we're going to be advertising than Silverman. At least I certainly hope you are."
Beth had dissolved into soft, panicky "ohmigod, ohmigod"'s I'd heard of Giancarlo. (You couldn't read a woman's magazine these days and not hear of Giancarlo. And I read a lot of woman's magazines. Call it `professional development'.) So we had a shot at an account for a big name fashion designer? Certainly that was exciting news. But like Josh, I was a bit put off by Beth's near hysteria. To divert my brother's increasingly obvious ire I asked, "Just what are we going to be advertising Mr. Arjer? What product line? Evening wear? Sports clothes?"
Josh tore his eyes of the floundering Beth and for a moment I caught that evil little glint that I knew so well. "Lingerie Ms Wright. We're going to be introducing Giancarlo's new line of lingerie to the world. And since you and Ms. DiAngelo are going to be singing it's praises, I've made arrangements for several of the signature items to be delivered to your homes tomorrow. I want you to become `intimately' familiar with them for our first meeting with Giancarlo next Thursday."
Beth was hyperventilating . . . Josh was leering . . . and I was wondering if my karma had finally caught up with me.
(And speaking of karma, the final score was Denver:28, Seattle:3)
The next day (Friday) turned out to be a very . . . bizarre . . . day at W.N.&A. Word had gotten out about Giancarlo's new line of lingerie and all the secretaries seemed to believe that the Second Coming had been announced. There were dozens of little knots of women speaking in whispered tones, comparing notes about their choices for updating their "unmentionable" drawers and accomplishing very little else. It was a relief to leave the office at five.
When I arrived home, all I wanted was to draw a hot bath and slip out of Pamela. I'd tossed my keys and purse on the kitchen counter, had kicked off my heels and was unbuttoning my blouse when the doorbell rang. Muttering curses and re-buttoning my blouse I padded stocking-footed to the door and flung it open.
A team of uniformed, ARMED couriers stood on my doorstep, their leader holding a rather large box.
"Ms. Pamela Wright?"
I swallowed my surprise and nodded. The leader looked me up and down and then asked, "Do you have some identification, ma'am?" Again I could only nod mutely and head to my purse for my Visa credit card. (All Pamela's photo I.D. consisted of credit cards, the kind with your picture and signature on the face. I've got a whole stack of them.) The courier examined the card, then examined me, then nodded to one of his partners who handed me a clipboard. "Sign on line seven please." I complied, the leader handed me the box, tipped his uniform cap and wished me a pleasant evening before the lot of them closed ranks and trooped away.
I stood there in my stocking feet, hefting the box and wondering what national security information I'd just been handed. Then I remembered;
Taking the box into my kitchen and using a pair of scissors to VERY carefully cut the tape holding on the top, I was soon looking into a box containing some of the laciest underwear I've ever seen.
So. This was what all the fuss was about. I lifted out the top item, which proved to be a full-length peignoir and turned it front and back in my hands. It was nice, there was no question of that. Part beautiful rose-colored silk, part sheer bodice and lots of lace, it was very lovely. But it hardly took my breath away. Shrugging, I decided that the best thing was to get this over with and try on the various items. Taking the box I trudged off to my bedroom. I slipped out of my work clothes and underwear and then slid the peignoir over my head letting the spaghetti straps fall naturally over my shoulders. I fluffed out my hair and turned to examine the effect in the full-length mirror I kept in the corner.
I don't think I have the words for what I saw in that mirror.
The hem of the peignoir rode just high enough to reveal a pair of dainty feet. The gown ascended in shimmering rose colored perfection to the gentle swell of her hips then curved back in a graceful arc to accentuate her narrow waist. The silk rose for a few more inches only to melt into gentle swirls and flows of delicate lace . . . inviting the eye higher till finally it was drawn, naturally, to two breasts lovingly caressed within sheer, glimmering fabric, their nipples surrounded by delicate lace roses and vines which themselves trailed perfectly into the two slender straps that rose over her smooth shoulders.
Pamela Jane Wright has always been either a rather "neuter" creature (when I'm not thinking about sexuality) or a rather sleazy "sex kitten" (when I am.)
The woman in the mirror was not wanton . . . and she certainly wasn't neuter. She was the most beautiful, desirable woman I'd ever seen.
I was about to make some kind of comment like "She was a goddess.", or "She was sexy beyond belief." But this woman in the mirror defied such cheap comment. She was elegant, dignified. She was achingly desirable. She was someone to be pursued . . . to be won at any price . . . someone to be enfolded in strong masculine arms and cherished once she'd been won.
I have never felt at once both so masculine and so feminine.
Gazing at that vision in the mirror, I think I began to understand just what the fuss was all about after all. There was no denying it. Giancarlo was a certifiable genius.
I called in to the office the next morning. For the first time I'd slept `en femme' wearing the peignoir and a pair of matching French-cut silk panties. I have no idea what Pamela dreamt that night, but I awoke refreshed with my imagination more fired and insistent then I've ever experienced. I've converted my spare bedroom into a small studio and I told the folks at the office that I'd be working at home today.
A rather worried Josh came on the line and hissed "What are you up to?" I chuckled . . . well . . . giggled actually . . . ( For some reason I'd thought it necessary to change my normal baritone into Pamela's contralto this morning.) . . . and assured Josh that everything was fine. I told him I was "on a roll" and that I'd have some dynamite stuff for him by Thursday. This seemed to reassure him and he told me to stay home as long as I thought necessary.
I fell into one of those "artistic fugues" you hear about. I lost all track of time. I ate when the grumbling in my stomach grew distracting. I slept when I couldn't hold my eyes open any more, and awoke charged with new visions. And through it all, I wore that marvelous, magical lingerie. If my creativity ever flagged, I needed only to look into the mirror (which I'd dragged in from the bedroom) and my paints and pencils seemed to fly of their own volition.
It was late Tuesday evening when I finally set my pencil down, capped my paints and took stock of my work.
I've never done better.
And these were only rough, presentation graphics.
With no small measure of regret, I slipped out of the satin bodysuit I was wearing and went into the bathroom to draw the hot water for my transformation back into Peter. I was exhausted, drained. I needed sleep. I do remember my dreams of that night . . . wild, erotic . . . passionate. Oh, how I envied a woman who could wear one of Giancarlo's magical gowns to her lover's bed! And how I envied the man who could romance such a woman!
I'm often struck by how, in so many cases, the world's greatest geniuses have also been the world's greatest eccentrics. Think about it; Leonardo DiVinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Einstein . . . I'm sure you can add more names to the list.
Be sure to add Giancarlo of Venice.
Thursday rolled around and the whole staff was in early that morning. I guess it could be due, in part, to that fact that we'd never had a real celebrity in the office. And Giancarlo was a celebrity. Even Josh, who's awareness of high fashion extended to the ability to coordinate his ties (. . . usually), was a bit more keyed up than usual. That explained the air of excitement from the males. The females . . . well . . .
Okay . . . Under my conservative business suit I was wearing those same French-cut panties and an absolutely "to die for" silk full slip that had come in the box of Giancarlo's lingerie. If the "magic" could work on me-a male (no matter outward appearance), I think the feeling of giddy anticipation circulating in the secretarial pool was understandable.
Giancarlo's arrival was scheduled for 10 A.M. At 9:30, a stretch limo pulled up at the curb and "The Maestro's" advance team disembarked. We met them in the large conference room. There were six of them, evenly divided into a rather strange mixture of professional business assistants and "camp followers". The former consisted of a middle aged, and very distinguished looking woman named Nina, a late middle aged man named Angelo, and an early 30ish fellow named Anthony. The latter group consisted of Alberto, (Giancarlo's `autobiographer'), Madame Lafarge (a wacko old woman who served, so she claimed, as Giancarlo's spiritual advisor) and Petrov (whose official function I never did figure out, though I suspect body guard was at least part of the job description. He was a huge, mustachioed bravo who just loomed in a corner, scowling at everyone and everything.)
After introductions, Nina managed to foist Alberto and Madame Lafarge off on Angelo on the pretext of touring the rest of the firm's facilities. (Angelo seemed to take it with an admirable resignation. Apparently, care of the "looneys" was his job description.) That left Nina, Anthony, Petrov, Josh, Beth, and me waiting for Giancarlo's imminent arrival.
Very soon I was impressed by Nina and Anthony's cool professionalism. Being a commercial artist myself, I knew only too well that creative genius mattered little without the business sense to market your art. Apparently Giancarlo had learned this lesson too since he employed folks like Nina and Anthony to handle the financial matters. Within ten minutes of meeting and once the pleasantries of introductions and small talk were out of the way, Nina and Josh were fully engaged in business matters. I've always said that Josh was a "natural businessman". In Nina he'd found a perfect foil. It was fun to watch them fence back and forth, all under the cover of pleasant conversation.
As Nina and Josh jousted, I became aware that Anthony had also gone quiet. I glanced over at him just as his eyes wandered in my direction. Our gazes locked for a brief instant. I smiled politely. He smiled politely.
He was a handsome fellow. He was of obvious northern Italian stock with ice blue eyes and well trimmed white-blonde hair. A high clear brow rose above well-defined aristocratic roman features. He was just under six feet, well proportioned, and athlete trim. For the briefest moment, I had memories of a very bad experience I'd had with another handsome businessman, but the thought vanished almost before it formed. Anthony was no Kevin Sprague. You could tell in just a moment; this was a true gentleman. His smile was easy, open and genuinely friendly. I found that mine was too. Again I thought it a shame that under this lovely woman disguise lurked Peter Wright. It seemed a waste somehow. I'd wager that if Pamela was the "genuine article" she and Anthony could generate a few sparks . . . and have a lot of fun in the doing.
Little did I know.
My reverie was shattered when the conference room door flew open and in strode "il Maestro" himself. The one . . . the only . . . Giancarlo of Milan.
You could tell it was him as easily as if he'd been wearing a sign around his neck reading; "Fashion Genius" He was wearing a silk suit, silk cravat and had a camel hair coat thrown over his shoulders. Dark aviator glasses shielded his eyes from the flash of the paparazzi's cameras. (A pity there weren't any paparrazi around at the moment. It rather ruined the effect.) That Giancarlo himself was a rather rotund, late middle aged, dark-visaged little gnome didn't help the overall effect either.
He stopped in the door effectively blocking the entrance of the dozen or so "groupies" that followed in his wake and swept the room with a disdainful gaze.
"Where is-a she? Where is-a `il artista' ?"
Josh rose to his feet. "Signore Giancarlo, on behalf of the firm of Whitman, North and . . ."
Giancarlo waved him to silence with a preemptory flick of his hand. "Si', si' . . . you are hon-nor-ed. Everyone is. Now, where is-a she?"
Josh spluttered to a halt then shifted gears. " `She', signore? Which `she'?"
But Giancarlo had stopped paying attention to Josh and was sweeping majestically in my direction, arms flung wide. "Ah! This is-a she! Here is `il Artista'!" Before I could get my feet beneath me and stand, Giancarlo had my right hand in his and was raising it to his lips! It was all I could do to keep from snatching it back in my surprise. I managed to stammer "It's a great honor to meet you Signore Giancarlo." He continued to fondle my hand and cooed "Ah! Bella . . . bellissima!" Without taking his eyes off me (I could see them glimmering behind the dark glasses) he spoke to Nina and Anthony. "Do you see? In her eyes . . . `il fuoco' . . . `il passione' . . .this is the one! This is `il Artista'! Giancarlo knew it the moment he first-a see this angel's work!"
Well . . . he was a definite "flake". But he apparently knew artistic talent when he saw it.
Aw . . . what the heck . . . why not play along.?
I let my hand relax a bit, raised my chin an inch and gave him that well rehearsed smile I'd once used on Josh. (So long ago now it seemed, on a sidewalk during the first day of another life.) "Oh, Maestro . . . gracci."
He finally surrendered my hand and then lowered himself into one of the chairs. "So . . . belladonna . . . you have-a something to show Giancarlo, si'?"
That one brought me up short till I realized he was asking to see my proposed artwork. "Ah, yes signore." I rose and (with a little added sway to my hips . . . I couldn't help it.) walked over to the covered easel that held my sketches.
For the next twenty minutes I displayed my concept, described the effect I was aiming for, talked about form and color . . . and generally did my graphic artist song and dance. It was several minutes into the presentation before I realized that Giancarlo had gone completely silent. Rattled, I kept plugging away, doggedly staring at the sketches. If I'd bombed out . . . if I'd blown this . . . Josh would skin me and hang Pamela's `hide' from the flagpole atop our building.
I finally reached the final panel then stuttered to a halt.
Then Giancarlo was on his feet applauding wildly. "Brava! Si'! Si'! This is-a what Giancarlo wanted! This-a is-a perfeccione! Giancarlo himself could-a no have-a done better!"
Whew . . . thank God once again to the folks at Nu-Gen. I must have been sweating like a horse at this point, but Pamela maintained the vision of `il Artista' and inclined her angel's face in acknowledgment of "il Maestro"'s praise. "Gracci, signore . . . multo gracci" (And thank you Beth DiAngelo for your "Fawning in Italian" quickie-course)
Giancarlo was rubbing his hands with glee. "Bono. Now-a then. You have-a make arrangements for-a the models, si'? Show them-a to me."
Josh's smile of victory froze in place. "Models, Maestro? Umm . . . It was my impression that this was to be an "artwork" rather than a photographic ad campaign."
Slowly Giancarlo turned to face Josh and with one finger pulled the dark glasses down onto the bridge of his nose so he could peer over them. " `Your impression'? And since-a when did-a you impression matter, eh?" Before Josh could answer THAT one, Giancarlo was back to me. "No, no . . . ask-a `il Artista'. She will tell-a you. We must-a have the realata' of-a woman for-a to create the fantasia, si'?"
And you know what? He was dead right. It hadn't even occurred to me till he said it, but my sketches were the blueprints upon which to base a photo shoot of live models. Drawings wouldn't work. By God . . . flake Giancarlo might be . . . but artistic genius he certainly was!
I gave Josh a superior, smug little smile and simply nodded.
The look I got in return probably would have melted case-hardened steel. "Ah. Well . . . forgive me Maestro. I've obviously misunderstood. Of course, we can obtain the services of any modeling agency you'd care to specify."
Giancarlo sank back into his chair and shook his head in sadness. "No . . . no. Professional models? No. I have-a models and models. Belladonna, surely you know that a professional model won't-a work. Why have-a you no tell this . . . " A vague wave in Josh's direction. " . . . this . . . persona that-a you require a new face, a new woman for this new fantasia?"
Right again. It was so obvious once Giancarlo said it; the concept that ran through all my art was the `discovery' . . . the `exploration' . . . of femininity. A professional model wouldn't work. A professional model had already discovered all there was to discover about her femininity. It was her stock and trade. If we used such a model in our ads she'd look sleek and glossy and perfect. And she'd be all wrong . . . all wrong.
I must have been speaking out loud. Giancarlo's fist slammed down on the table and he smiled hugely. "Exaccto!"
I glanced over at Josh and the predatory grin on his face would have frozen that melted case-hardened steel in the blink of an eye. "Well. The solution seems to be obvious. If a professional model won't work, we'll simply get a novice. And since Ms Wright is intimately familiar with the concept, it seems only natural that SHE should be that model."
I was about to shriek a denial but Giancarlo beat me to it. (Thank God!) "No, no . . .oh no. You understand-a nothing . . . nothing! have-a you no art in you at all?" He made a gallant little gesture toward me. "The artist can no be-a the art too!" A rather vaguely rude gesture toward Josh. " What-a were-a you think, eh? You . . . you . . . book-keeper!"
Josh was framing an answer, but apparently the audience was over. While Josh stammered, Giancarlo rose from his chair, swept over to me standing beside the easel, again kissed my hand, then turned and strode for the door. His entourage scrambled to follow. At the door, Giancarlo paused, turned back on Josh and in a voice that would have made any roman emperor proud commanded, "You will have-a the model ready for-a my approval within-a two week."
And he was gone.
I wasn't being difficult. I swear to God I wasn't.
For the next week the entire art staff poured over model's photos, contacted talent agencies, drafted ads for newspapers . . . hell . . . we even got some college yearbooks from nearby colleges. Nothing was right.
I nixed every candidate. It got to the point where some of the staff wouldn't speak to me.
I'd become infected with Giancarlo's vision. I knew what was required: a beautiful woman who didn't know she was beautiful . . . an adult female for whom femininity was a new discovery. Of course, it took me three days to realize that the answer was, literally, right under my nose.
Well, . . . covering it, actually. And covering my face . . . and my shoulders . . . and my legs . . .
All we needed to get what I instinctively knew would be the perfect model was to place an order with the geniuses at Nu-Gen for a new I-2000S built to my specifications.
And then find the right man to stick inside the suit.
I literally ran down the hall to Josh's suite, and barged right by his blonde bimb . . . er . . . receptionist who managed an outraged "Hey, you can't just . . . " and then I was through the door which I slammed behind myself.
Josh was on the phone but one look at my face and he mumbled "I'll call you back, something's come up." He hung up, then raised an eyebrow at me.
I panted "I've got it! I've figured it out!"
"Where we get the model for Giancarlo. It's so obvious!"
Josh perked up. "Yeah? Who? Which girl did you decide on?"
I made sure the door was shut then in a lowered voice, "Not a girl at all. We let technology solve the problem." I think I arched my delicate eyebrows enough to get the point across.
Josh leaned back and considered what I was proposing. "Ooh PJ . . . I don't know. That is risky. Do you really think this is the `girl' you want?"
I nodded. "Damn straight. It'll be absolutely perfect. It's just the effect I'm shooting for. Swear to God, bro. I'm right! I know I am!"
Josh held up a hand to still further protest. After a lifetime together we knew each other's strengths and weakness. When it came to business matters, I trusted Josh implicitly. And he knew that when it came to things artistic my hunches usually proved correct.
"Okay . . . okay. This is gonna be awfully tricky though. We gotta get just the right person for this. And I don't mean in terms of looks. Have you stopped and thought what a hold the person we'd get would have over us?"
I came up short. "What do you mean; `hold'?"
I got the disgusted `you naïve artist' stare that Josh reserved for when I was being particularly dense. "PJ, think about it . . . we get some guy to pose as Giancarlo's dream model . . . for some reason our fake female later gets pissed off at us and takes the story to the press. Can you imagine the headlines? It'd be the end of us as a firm. Who'd ever hire an agency that pulled something like that on a client?"
Oh. No. I hadn't thought of that. Ouch. Well, maybe we could just explain it to Giancarlo before hand.
Yeah . . . right.
Damn! This was the answer. Deep in my gut, I was absolutely, positively convinced of it. This would be the ideal `girl' for the ads. "Okay. We just have to be careful about the person we get, that's all."
Josh shook his head, leaned back and folded his hands behind his neck. "It's got to be somebody we can absolutely trust. I mean absolutely and forever. I can't think of anybody like that. Can you?"
I looked at Josh sitting there.
Yes. Yes I could think of somebody.
We must have gone around and around in Josh's office for the better part of two hours. He was adamant about it. He wouldn't do it. No way. No how. It wouldn't work. Nobody would believe it. I was crazy. I was just trying to get even for the whole Pamela deal. On and on.I let him vent. I was right. I knew it. Josh would just have to see it my way.
After two hours, Josh had run out of arguments. He'd run out of counter proposals. He was forced to acknowledge that this was the only way out for us.
Glaring, he called Accounting and got me a purchase order made out to Nu-Gen, Inc.
We charged it against "Supplies".
The idea had occurred to me on the Friday morning of the week before the deadline. By mid-morning Josh had finally surrendered to the inevitable. I spent what was left of the morning and all of the afternoon closeted in my studio working through sketches of what I thought the ideal physical appearance for our "girl" would be. I then used my desktop computer to contact Nu-Gen's web site. I submitted my `specs' and requested two-day air delivery.
Josh phoned me from his home right on schedule the Monday before our Thursday deadline.
"It's here. You better come over."
"On my way."
I don't think I've ever seen Josh as edgy as when I arrived at his place.
He was holding a beer when he met me at his door. I'd be willing to bet he'd already polished off another between when he got home and now. Just to be sociable, I rummaged in his fridge for a cold one of my own, then clapped my hands together and rubbed them in anticipation.
Josh just about jumped out of his skin at the sudden noise. He was nervous as a cat.
"Come on Josh. It doesn't hurt. Well . . . not much." (Oh, it was going to be hard over the next few hours not to remember all the childhood injuries and abuse I'd taken from him.) He just looked at me, stricken, and I relented. "Really Josh. It's not bad. Hell, I do it every morning."
"But you're used to it.. It doesn't seem to bother you to pretend you're . . . Hell, sometimes I think enjoy doing it."
There was a long moment's silence.
"Just what's that supposed to mean, brother mine?"
Josh waved a hand in quick dismissal. "Oh, hey. Not that I think you're queer or anything. You know I know you're not. It's just that I think sometimes you get into the role a little too much, you know?"
I set my beer down. When I spoke, even I was surprised by the quiet intensity of my words. "You think I'm a cross-dresser. You think there's something `wrong' with me." Josh started to splutter a denial but I cut him off. "And what if I am? Hmm? Does that mean it's time we started considering counseling? That we better start looking for a cure?"
Josh's eyes were getting big and he was waving his hands in front of himself trying to ward off my words. "Hey, PJ . . . come on . . . I . . . "
I cut him off again. "Well sport. I got a flash for you. Pamela was a desperate measure for a desperate situation. But over time . . . you're right . . . I have begun to enjoy it."
Josh's eyes were a big as saucers.
"But not for a sexual thrill. Well, not only for that. I enjoy it because of all the new experiences it's opened for me. Does my getting a thrill out of exploring my femininity make me a transvestite . . . a `queer'? Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. And you know what Josh? I don't think I care one way or the other! Does that rock your comfortable little boat?"
Josh just stared at me slack-jawed. I plowed ahead.
"What is it about cross-dressing that is so God-awful terrible, huh? The tone in your voice just a moment ago . . . Why do `normal' people get so bent out of shape by it? Who does it hurt? If I don't set out to really hurt somebody by the deception, and you know I never have, where's the harm?" I spotted the box from Nu-Gen and waved it at Josh. "You know what dear brother? This little invention has opened my eyes. With it, I've found out a lot about myself . . . myself as a person, not just a gender." It threw the box at him and he caught it. "I think, if you're lucky, you might just learn a little something about yourself. I think maybe you need to." I turned on my heel and stalked off and, to his credit, Josh silently followed. We trudged up the stairs toward the bathroom where Pamela had first "appeared". I was seething and Josh looked like he was being led off to the gallows.
We weren't getting off to the best of starts.
I managed to calm down a little as we were filling the but. Josh just shifted from one foot to the other looking miserable. I finally sent him back downstairs for the meat thermometer. I was a t the point where I could pretty well judge whether the water was the correct temperature to activate the suit just by sticking my wrist into the tub. But Josh's anxiety was getting on my nerves and I wanted to give him something to do.
After he'd left, I opened the box, took a quick look at the manual to ensure that there weren't any new features of instructions that I needed to be aware of, (there weren't), and finally pulled out "The Suit".
Like Pamela, the "new girl", (we'd have to come up with a name for her), was sealed in a clear plastic envelope. Holding it, I had a pleasantly nostalgic memory of my first impression of Pamela. The suit was just a flesh colored slab, its only features being a bunch of nondescript folds and a thatch of fur at one end. This time, there was a difference in the fur. Per my specification, "the new girl" would be a dark red-head with long curly tresses. Looking at the rust colored patch of fuzz, I was again struck by just how marvelous was the technology I was holding in my hand. The last of my anger evaporated. This was going to be an exciting new chapter in the exploration I'd mentioned. And this time I got to be a spectator rather than the daring explorer.
I was worrying the plastic envelope with my teeth when Josh returned with the thermometer.
"Is that it? Is that what it's supposed to look like?"
I managed to tear one of the corners off the packaging and nodded. "Um hmm. Not too impressive yet, but just wait!" I pulled the suit out and tossed it gently into the now half full tub. Josh watched it sink and I couldn't help but snicker at his raised-eyebrow look of disapproval. "You sure it's supposed to do that?" Again I nodded. "Trust me, man. Everything's okay."
"Hummph . . . okay . . . now what?"
I thought about that for a second. "Well, it's supposed to soak for a few minutes. In the mean time, we can skip ahead a few steps and take care of your voice."
Josh tensed up. Here it was; the first concrete step in his "transformation". "Umm . . . okay . . . What do I have to do?" I'd already spotted the Styrofoam packing for the bottle of chemical spray that tightened the user's vocal cords. I pulled it out and spotted the `boutique-style box' underneath. I wondered just what kind of outfit this suit came with. Well, one thing at a time. I took the `convenient spray bottle' out of the packing. "All you have to do is trust me bro." Now both eyebrows shot up on Josh's forehead. "Open wide." He did though you'd think I was holding a dental drill rather than a spray bottle. "Now, when I say, take a deep breath in through your mouth. Ready?" He nodded, mouth hanging wide. "Okay . . . Now!" And I gave him a healthy spritz.
He spluttered and gagged for a second then looked at me accusingly. "You could have warned me before you did that. And you could have said it tasted like shi . . . Hey! My voice hasn't changed!" I grinned. "It takes a few minutes to `kick in'. And . . . uhh . . . you're right. I really should warn you about some of the stuff that goes on. I promise; I'll be good from now on. And to that end; I told you this doesn't hurt `much'. Uh, this is one of the parts that does hurt just a . . ."
The sudden furrow on Josh's brow and the fact that both his hands were now wrapped around his throat indicated that the formula was indeed `kicking in'. "Swallow a few times Josh. It'll stop in just a second. I promise." He glared at me and I saw his adam's apple bob several times. I waited a moment. "Better?" He finally nodded, glaring at me. "Yeah, but listen you son-of-a . . ."
Oh my. What a delightfully musical soprano! Hell. As Pamela, I just might have to be a little jealous!
Josh's mouth snapped shut and both his hands slapped together over his lips. I grinned. "Kind of surprising, isn't it?" He just nodded, his eyes large and round. He moved his hands away, still ready to grab what ever it was he thought was lurking in his throat. "This goes . . . wow . . . this goes away after a while, right?"
"Yep. Eight hours from now, I'll be back to hearing that annoying nasal bray you call a voice."
"PJ! This isn't funny!"
"You wanna bet?" Chuckling, I glanced at my wrist watch, then into the bathtub. Ah! Now the fun really started. Josh joined me looking into the tub. "Shit! Where'd she . . . Hey! . . . That's not . . That doesn't look anything like a real . . ."
"Patience, alright? Would you have believed that you could get that dynamite voice out of a bottle? Have a little faith in the technology."
I suppose I could understand Josh's confusion. The various plastics that compose an I-2000S are temperature/moisture activated. They go through three `phases' depending on the suit's temperature. When dry and/or at temperatures below 80 degrees, the suit enters what Nu-Gen calls its `dormant' state; that nondescript slab of flesh colored plastic. Saturate the suit and raise it's temperature to 110 plus degrees and it enters its `neutral' or `donning' state; this rather disappointing facsimile of a woman currently floating face down in the tub. It is between the temperatures of 90 to 104 degrees that the memory plastic of the suit activates and magic happens.
I motioned to Josh. "Help me get `her' out of the tub." Josh reached out, his fingers touched the `flesh' of `her' shoulder, and he recoiled. "Come on Josh. It's only plastic, no matter what it feels like."
"I'm not scared . . . it's just that . . . it's . . . it's hot! Yeah, hot!"
"Whatever . . . just give me a hand." He pitched in with a will just to prove that his initial contact with his new alter ego hadn't rattled him.
I've never had too much trouble handling `Pamela', but the `new girl' was a bit awkward, mostly due to the long wet mop of chestnut hair. Gee, that hair was beautiful, even soaking wet. I couldn't wait to see `her' when we finally got josh decked out. I could already tell, perhaps from my experience with Pamela that `she' had a lot of potential.
Apparently Josh didn't share my optimism. He muttered (in that gorgeous voice), "It's gotta be broken. This doesn't look anywhere near as good as you do when you're Pamela."
"Will you have a little faith please?"
"Alright . . .alright . . . now what?"
I couldn't help it . . . I giggled. "Show time, bro. Strip!"
"Oh man . . . do I have to?"
I just held the suit up by its shoulders and grinned.
"Oh man . . ."
Reluctantly, Josh pulled off his shirt and tie, kicked off his shoes, (He really must be rattled. My anal-retentive brother didn't even untie them first!), unbuckled his belt and slid off his slacks. Then he looked at me expectantly.
"Skivvies too Josh."
"Oh man . . ."
Finally my dear brother stood there, blushing furiously and trying not to look too embarrassed.
"Okay." I handed him the suit, which he looked at dubiously. "Just like a pair of coveralls . . . make sure you get your toes into the right toes on the suit and . . ."
"I can figure it out, thank you. Would you mind turning your back please?"
"Oooh . . . excuse me! What am I thinking of? Standing here gawking at a woman getting dressed."
"Screw you, all right?"
Laughing, I turned my back. I heard Josh struggling quietly for a moment.
"Hey PJ, what's this . . . pocket thing . . . for?"
"Just what you think it's for, bro."
"Oh maaaaan . . . "
After a brief pause, there was the sound of more struggling. Finally, "What do I do with the head?"
"Just pull it over your own like a hood. Don't worry, it'll stretch."
Then I realized; I'd forgotten to warn Josh about . . .
"Hey, relax man . . . stop flailing . . . don't hit . . . ouch! . . . Will you quit?! The mouth and eyes are supposed to be closed! Just give it a second!"
Josh finally calmed down enough for me to get a look at him. He looked like . . . he looked . . .
He looked like a man wearing a plastic suit that was failing completely to disguise him as a woman.
He looked positively horrendous.
Just as when I'd first seen Pamela, the individual parts far exceeded the whole. The hair still looked nice, a pair of perky little breasts bobbed about on this apparition's chest . . . skin had a lovely "peaches and cream" complexion . . . but everything was out of both proportion and position. Worse, it was all attached to a very masculine form. No matter how good the parts, the whole was horribly, embarrassingly artificial.
Lord! Was this what Pamela looked like when I first put her on every work day? Remind me never to "dress" in front of anyone!
Josh stood there, forlorn. He mumbled something that I had to make him repeat twice before I finally got it; "Now what?"
"Ah! Okay. Now I gotta warn you; as soon as the suit cools down to body temperature, the memory threads are gonna activate."
"The threads are gonna activate and you're gonna feel a little . . ."
" . . . a little squeeze."
"It's not bad . . . it's just a little . . . uh oh . . ."
What happened next was positively astonishing. It was like watching one of those science fiction movies where one thing "morphs" into another. Except, this was happening in the real world! Before my eyes Josh . . . changed . . . Things . . . shifted. His waist suddenly contracted as his hips swelled. His square shoulders rounded out. Those silly looking breasts shifted into a much more natural position and suddenly didn't look silly at all! And down at Josh's groin . . .
My suspicion about `her' potential had been correct. Josh was gone. I stood there, slack jawed staring at the woman of my most private fantasies.
Where Pamela has full pouting breasts, this woman's were a bit smaller and upturned in the most delightful fashion. Her long hair, though still wet, was already beginning to show curl and body and a deep lustrous mahogany sheen. Her figure was trim, almost lean . . . but deeply, arousingly feminine. I felt a stir of embarrassment when my eyes passed quickly over her womanhood. (Hey! This is Josh . . . remember?) Her face was narrow and aristocratic . . . and would have been rather cold but for a bewitchingly child-like spatter of freckles across the bridge of her nose, perfectly matching a second band of spots above her gorgeous bosom.
With a distinct popping sound her eyes and mouth opened.
This . . . fantasy come true glared at me in stern disapproval. "Well shithead . . .any other surprises for me?"
I could only stare, wide-eyed and dry-mouthed.
"What? What are you gawking at? Oh hell . . . did something go wrong?"
I dumbly shook my head.
"Then what?" Josh started to turn to the mirror over the sink behind him but I grabbed his wrist. (God! Is this what Pamela's skin feels like? This satiny smoothness?) "Wait. Have you thought about what you want to call yourself? A girl's name, I mean."
Delicate eyebrows rose above deep hazel pools. Josh was trying to decide if I'd gone completely off the deep end. "Yeah. I thought we'd . . . God, this voice! . . . I thought we'd go the same route as we did with you and try for a name close to mine. Something I'd respond to naturally."
"What did you pick?"
"I thought . . . this is so embarrassing! . . . I thought I'd go with Jessica and shorten it to Jess . . . close to Josh, see?"
I nodded, released "Jessica's" wrist and motioned to the mirror. "Well . . . all I've got to say is; Heeeeer's Jessie!"
I'll never forget the look on "her" face when she first saw "herself" in the mirror. Or how, even though the outward appearance was so undeniably a stunningly beautiful woman, my brother Josh proved beyond doubt that it was still him behind that beguiling disguise.
Her jaw dropped almost to her chest and in an awed, little girl whisper "Jessica" gasped;
Josh simply wouldn't get into his new role.
"Look. It works, okay? Now can I take this thing off?"
We were sitting in my old bedroom that Josh had converted into a home office. He was perched nervously on a stool, his beautiful new body making it almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything else for more than a few seconds.
"Josh . . . Jess . . .what the hell is wrong with you? Don't be in such a rush! You need to get much more used to it if this scheme is going to work."
"Please don't call me Jess."
"Damn it! I'm going to call you Jess till you answer to it without thinking. Will you stop being such an ass and try to get into this?"
"I don't WANT to get into it. Can't you comprehend that? I'm going along with this out of necessity. That doesn't mean I have to enjoy it or do it any longer than I absolutely have to. Understand?"
"No. I don't. What's the problem with you?"
"I feel like a god-damn idiot sitting here! That's what's wrong!"
"Josh . . . Jess. You don't need to feel like an idiot You sure as hell don't look like one! You've seen yourself. You know how good you look."
"That's the point! It's wrong! I'm a guy! You shouldn't be sitting there looking at me the way you are. Bad enough that anybody look at me that way. But my own brother?!"
I forced myself to look away. "And that's why I want you to put on some clothes."
There was a long pregnant pause.
Then, in a soft, pleading voice . . . a voice that made the man in me want to gather Jess into my strong arms and protect her . . . a voice that I struggled to remember still belonged to my conniving brother!; "Please PJ . . . please don't make me. I . . . I can't."
She looked down at the slender hands folded in her lap, her long tresses hiding her face. (Oh Jeeze! If she started to cry, I'd be in big trouble!) "Because if I put on woman's clothing . . .
"What? You afraid you might like it?"
Jess (Josh!) looked into my eyes and I melted. "PJ . . . please. I'm sorry about earlier. I really am. I didn't mean anything by it. You're right. There are lots of things I should be more sensitive about. I know I can be a real schmuck. I don't mean to be. Sometimes, it's just the way I am."
I summoned the last of my will power. "The only way you're going to learn to be more sensitive is to see how other folks live. Seems to me that this is a golden opportunity."
With a small nod and a ragged sigh that made me feel like ten kinds of monster. (It's Josh you moron! He's pulling another scam!) Jessica finally agreed. "Okay. What do I do?"
I tossed her (him!) the boutique box. "It's not rocket science. I'm sure you can figure it out."
She (he!) fielded the box and nodded in resignation.
I looked over her shoulder as she opened it and was a bit disappointed to see a familiar dark blue floral print. Apparently all the suits came with the same `outfit'. I made a mental note to remember that dress and to be very cautious about `hitting on' any `woman' I might encounter wearing it in the future.
Jess pulled out the dress, set it aside and then bit her lower lip looking at the antique white lingerie. I pointed. "Start with the panties please." She pulled them out, held them at arm's length in front of her delicious breasts and looked at them for a moment. "Which is the front and which is the back?"I sighed in exasperation. "Lace on the front, tag in the back. Jeeze, Jess! It's not that hard!"
She nodded, her hair again concealing her face. In a small voice; "I'm sorry PJ . . .please don't be angry. I'm doing my best." She stepped into the briefs and slid them up her shapely legs then over the curve of her hips. (Thank goodness! One less distraction to deal with.) "Bra next, please." Jess started to slip the straps over her shoulders. I thought I be a nice guy and spare her all the trouble of my first encounter with that devious device. "Jess, wait. Don't put your arms through yet. Spin it around so you can see the fasteners, clip them together, spin it back around, then put your arms through the straps."
I had to swallow before I could speak. "Dress next. Just pull it over your head like a sweater and let the skirt fall naturally."
The dress slithered over Jessica's slender form and swirled around her knees for a moment. Wow! How could strippers have gotten it so backwards?
Jess fumbled for a moment trying to reach the zipper while holding her long chestnut hair out of the way. "PJ . . . I can't reach . . . help me."
"Wait." I stood up and she turned her back to me, hair still held over her shoulder, neck bowed in submission. Were my fingers actually trembling a little as I zipped her up? Gawd, she was so beautiful!
We both sad back down, she again perched on the stool, legs demurely pressed together, hands folded delicately in her lap, hair cascading down over her shoulders and falling like a wave over the beguiling freckles above the deep cleft of her bosom.
Again, there was a hitch in my voice. "Um . . . let's forget about the stockings for now. Plenty of time for you to practice that on your own later. Just . . . uh . . . just put the sandals on."
She nodded, retrieved the sandals and slid one on each foot, using her free hand to hold back the fall of her hair so she could see what she was doing. Then she returned to the same position, perched on the stool . . . meek, demure, submissive . . . "Anything else PJ?"
"Um. No. I think that's enough for now. See? That's not so bad, is it?"
Still staring at her folded hands she gave me another of those ragged sighs and a small nod.
"Aw Jess. Please. Don't be this way. What's wrong? I do this every workday!"
She looked up, meeting my eyes through her long lashes, the anguish on her face making me want to find a hole to crawl into. "It's okay PJ. It's just that wearing this dress, I'm remembering your first day as Pamela."
"What? What do you mean?"
"You know . . . out on the sidewalk."
Then he couldn't hold that fake submissive expression anymore and the corners of his lips curled into that wicked, scheming grin I knew so well.
"So, what do you say PJ? Turn about's fair play. Wanna go down the hall and fuck?"
Josh and I called in Tuesday morning and warned the office that neither of us would be in for the next two days. We gave as our excuse that Josh and Pamela had found the model and we needed the two days to prep her. Actually, this wasn't a lie. With Pamela's help Josh had the "look", now he needed everything else that went into being a woman.
Two days to make a woman. Do other people face situations as outrageous as this?
By mid-Tuesday morning, the distraction of working with lovely Jessica had proven more than I could stand. We tried not changing Josh's voice to see that would help me concentrate on the task at hand. It didn't. The first time Josh's nasal voice came out of Jessica's lovely semi-naked form, it just about blew my mind. We finally settled on something that made giving demonstrations easier and, oddly, reduced my own distraction.
Man. I wish either Josh or I owned a video camera. Two full days of Pamela and Jessica . . . practicing feminine gesture and mannerism . . . walking . . . sitting . . . dressing . . . undressing. I'd keep one copy of the tape for myself (and never need another 'girly' magazine) and sell the other to some porno channel for a million bucks.
Josh never did 'get into it', but he is a quick study and by late Wednesday night, I though he had enough of the fundamentals to 'pass'. Besides, she was so drop-dead gorgeous that folks might think Jessica a bit 'tom-boyish', but you'd have to be a mind reader to suspect the real situation.
Josh had called in "sick" and informed everyone at work that I (Pamela) would take care of the meet with Giancarlo.
It was a bit of an anti-climax.
The entourage swirled into the office at just a bit after 11:00, Giancarlo at the center of his courtiers, his right hand giving what I call the "il Duce Wave" . . . fingers together, back of the hand to the 'adoring throngs' moving slightly. If he wasn't such a genius, he'd be laughable.
We met in the conference room. Giancarlo swept in, nodded to me, took one look at Jessica . . .
. . . and stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw hanging open.
There was a moment's pregnant silence. Poor Josh, he didn't get it. Too new to the role I guess. But I'd been around long enough as Pamela to know that look on a man's face.
Dear God . . . 'lust at first sight'.
Finally Giancarlo managed to tear his eyes off the object of his desire. "Bellissima Artista . . . you have find . . . find . . . " A dreamy little sigh. "Botichelli had-a his-a Venus . . . DiVinnci had-a Mona Lisa . . . and I, Giancarlo have-a . . . a . . . " He snapped his fingers after a moment and looked expectantly at Jessica.
The penny finally dropped and Josh, in the best "shy virgin" manner that I could teach him lowered his eyes and cooed " I'm Jessica, maestro . . . I don't know how to tell you how happy I am that you think I'm right for your ads."
Yikes. What a come-on, albeit unintentional. And it was working. Giancarlo was beginning to perspire. How was I supposed to know that he and I shared a common erotic fantasy woman?
There was another long moment's silence, then Giancarlo turned to Anthony (that good-looking assistant from last time) and commanded, "Have-a the jet ready. We leave tonight; Pamela and . . . bella . . . bella Jessica shall wake tomorrow on-a my island!"
Then he was gone and the court followers were scrambling to follow. All that is except for Anthony. He just stood aside and watched with a slightly bemused expression as the tide of humanity receded toward the bank of elevators.
I finally managed to catch his eye. "Island?"
He turned those amazing ice-blue eyes on me and smiled. "Indeed. Il Maestro owns a small island. He likes to do his 'creating' there."
"Oh. How interesting." Trapped alone on an island with Giancarlo while he was 'creating'? This could be very interesting! "I guess I should take Jessica home and start packing."
Anthony waved a hand in dismissal. "No need. There is a rule. On il Maestro's island, women wear Giancarlo's clothing . . . or they wear nothing at all." He gave me a harmless little leer, which coming from him robbed that statement of most of it's threat . . . still . . .
"I see. So . . . where is this island? East Coast or West Coast?"
Anthony's lips curled into a charmingly boyish grin. "Mediterranean Coast, actually."
We flew out just as the sun was setting. "The jet" turned out to be a Grumman 'Gulfstream II' . . one of those largish multi-engine business jets that show the world you're so big that you had to trade in the Learjet for more space.
The passenger cabin was an exercise in; "I'm filthy rich and I can flaunt it". If it wasn't Corinthian leather, it was genuine teak . . . or ivory . . . or velvet . . . or what ever was needlessly expensive. I claimed a leather 'captain's chair' over one wing, Anthony grabbed the other and poor Jessica wound up in a huge crescent shaped sofa set against the back bulkhead with Giancarlo sprawled right beside her.
He petted, he praised, he cooed . . . and then, a little over an hour into the flight, he mercifully fell asleep and spent the rest of the trip snoring while Jessica sat and looked perplexed and I just bit my lip to keep from laughing.
The jet began it's descent to "Isle Giancarlo" just as the sun was rising out of the cerulean waters of the Aegean.
By mid-morning of our first day we'd pretty well settled in. Giancarlo had disappeared to arrange for delivery of the lingerie we would be using in the photo shoots and to get a photographer that he knew of. I got a room on the west wing of the second floor of the Byzantine castle that someone had built here a few odd hundred years ago. As good as his word, the closet was filled with clothing, everything from sundresses to evening gowns. And all in Pamela's size. I wonder how they'd figured that out. Somebody was very efficient. I took my 'toilet case' containing my one vital personal item; Nu-Gen's voice spray, gave myself a good spritz and then put it away in a drawer in the bathroom. Then I slipped out of my business suit (which I'd been wearing since yesterday morning) and selected a mid-calf length white cotton sun dress and sandals which I felt went very well with my new 'Grecian' surroundings.
I spent several hours getting the 'grand tour' from Anthony. "Isle Giancarlo" was one of the Cyclades Islands off the southeast coast of Greece. Technically a part of that country, the Greek authorities pretty much left Giancarlo alone so long as he didn't do anything too outrageous. This explained how we'd managed to avoid the (in Jessica's and my cases) embarrassing details of obtaining passports.
The Mansion had belonged to some Austro-Hungarian monarch at the turn of the last century. As Anthony told it; the potentate had a nubile young daughter who had a bit of trouble . . . umm . . . "keeping her knees together" . . . when handsome young gentlemen were around. I guess in those days princesses could be ugly as mud fences and still attract boys. By all reports, the princess was as lovely as she was horny. Daddy solved the problem by building her this guilded cage till he could arrange a suitable marriage to some prince at which point it would all become someone else's problem. The villa was an imposing heap in classic Byzantine style, three stories tall, and right out of the "Arabian Nights". It also overlooked one of the most beautiful white sand beaches I've ever seen.
The shoot was scheduled to begin the next morning so I had the rest of the day to myself to explore. I wandered the halls of Giancarlo's villa for the better part of the morning, but by 11:00 A.M. the warm temptation of the beach became too much to bear. Of course, who ever was in charge of my wardrobe had foreseen the inevitable attraction. In the bottom drawer of my dresser was an elegantly simple white maillot swim suit that fit me like a glove. There was also a terry cloth beach robe and a large, floppy straw hat. I donned them all, paused to wink at the sizzling little beach bunny who smiled back saucily from my full length mirror and headed off for a well earned afternoon of lounging on the crystalline sand.
It was heaven. I lay in the sun, listening to the gentle susurration of waves caressing the shore and the distant cry of the gulls. All my cares drifted away. I was dozing off when I felt a shadow fall across me.
Dressed in trunks and a terry cloth robe of his own, Anthony was smiling down at me.
"Anthony, what a pleasant surprise! What are you doing here?"
He raised a finger to his lips and grinned. "Shh! I'm am playing truant. What is the American word?"
I giggled. "Hookey. It's called playing hookey."
A delightfully bemused expression crossed his face. "Hookey? This means . . .?"
I shrugged and leaned back on my elbows. "Darned if I know. It's just a word."
He matched my smile. "Hookey then. Il Maestro has been called to Rome on some matter concerning the new spring line. He will be back tomorrow evening. In his absence I've been left with instructions to see that you and Signorina Jessica are well cared for. The signorina has retired to her room for an afternoon nap. That leaves me with no concerns but you."
It's hard not to play the part my disguise allows me.
I laid the fingertips of my left hand over my well-displayed cleavage and assayed a `southern belle' drawl. "Why goodness Signore. Such a handsome gentleman . . . and all to myself!"
He laughed, enjoying the by-play and suddenly his mild Italian accent grew much broader. "Ah. Handsome?" An elegantly Romanesque shrug. "I do not-a know about that. But a lucky fellow surely . . . to find a nymph of-a the sea washed up on his humble beach!"
That afternoon I spent with Anthony was delightful.
He was charming. A good conversationalist. He had lots of stories about growing up in Genoa. Like many Italians he came from a large, extended family. And like many Italians, he loved to talk about them. I laughed till my sides ached over tales of mad uncle Guiseppe and his never-ending schemes to import olive oil to Germany while avoiding the import duties. Of his brother Marco's adventures at University that seemed to encompass everything but learning . . . at least learning anything that could be taught in a classroom. And of cousin Sophia and the thousand and one suitors.
Before we knew it, the sun was sinking in fire and the high mare's tail clouds were guilded in rose and peach.
"Ah Signorina Pamela. We must go in. Dinner will be ready soon and Chef will have our hides if we delay service of the first course."
We parted on the second floor to dress for dinner. I quickly showered, fortified my voice with another shot of spray . . . just in case . . . then found an exquisite off the shoulder cream-colored gown (with Giancarlo's label, of course) and a simple linen tie for my hair laid out on my bed.
The formal dining room, big enough to seat an infantry platoon, was set for three. It turned out that we'd be dining intimately tonight; just Anthony, `Jessica' and myself. I felt a positively girlish thrill when Anthony held my chair, inclining his head in a formal bow. It's nice to be pampered.
Josh of course quickly jerked out his own chair and seated himself before Anthony could attend him. Josh still refused to play along with the charade, and it was truly a pity. He was wearing a low cut, black velvet gown and a string of pearls that perfectly accented his complexion (and his faux freckles). His luxurious cinnamon mane tumbled in casual abandon over his bare shoulders looking wild and sensual. I wondered how he'd managed to achieve that carelessly elegant effect, then realized he probably had achieved it by shaking his head when he came out of the shower and then ignoring it completely.
The dinner was superb. Lamb and a wild rice dish. I wouldn't care to guess what a dinner of this quality, in such surroundings would cost. I knew it was probably still beyond my recently elevated bank account.
Anthony was the perfect host. If anything he was even more charming than he'd been on the beach. He chatted brightly and intelligently on almost any subject that came up. He even managed to draw Josh out for a few minutes with a discussion of the Italian stock market. Suddenly Josh realized how free he was being (and in fairness, how out of character) and he quickly clamed back up. Anthony seemed a bit nonplused, but I managed to distract him with a request for more stories of his family.
Josh excused himself and retreated to the safety of his room as soon after dessert as was polite leaving Anthony and me giggling and chatting over brandy.
Sometime around midnight Anthony announced that since we were working tomorrow, it was probably time to retire. I agreed, (reluctantly . . . I can't remember when I've had such a good time at dinner) and we headed upstairs. Anthony paused with me outside my door, and we fell silent for a moment before saying goodnight.
I don't know why what happened next happened. Maybe I'd had too much wine with dinner, or maybe I shouldn't have mixed the wine and the brandy.
Maybe that's just a rationalization.
Suddenly, Anthony's lips were pressed against mine.
I remember that little sermon to Josh about my uncertainty concerning my sexual orientation. But, in truth, I'm quite secure in my heterosexuality. I'm simply not sexually attracted to men.
The urgency of Anthony's passion passed like electricity through me and I discovered; there's a difference between sexuality and romance.
My arms, almost of their own volition, wrapped around Anthony's neck, drawing him close. In a moment, we were in my room. In another moment, we were tight in each other's arms upon the huge four poster bed.
The morning dawned cool and bright with a soft breeze that smelled of sand and salt and Asia across the bay.
Pamela stands on the balcony of her room letting the breeze caress her flowing blonde hair and mold the silk of her peignoir against her warm woman's body.
I had but one regret and it had nothing to do with the night that had gone before. Anthony and I had shared something magical and beautiful. It was nothing of a lie, or a deception, for I had truly given myself to him, as he had given himself to me. The need to be needed, to be cherished . . . that's not a thing of gender . . . it is a thing of spirit . . . basic to humanity. Last night Anthony and I had surrendered to that need with the understanding that it was both the first and the last time for us together.
I make no apology for it . . . I feel no shame.
No. Standing here, the gentle breeze pressing against me, my only regret is that I can't feel it's warmth against my own skin.
The jet arrived at about 9:30. Giancarlo was still in Rome. He'd be back this evening. Aboard the jet was Giancarlo's chosen photographer; a fellow by the name of Billy Cotterwood from London. I knew of his work, and agreed with Giancarlo's choice. Anthony introduced me to Billy and we spent an hour or so in my room going over my presentation graphics. Billy was very attentive and asked some excellent questions about lighting and posing. He did have one annoying habit; he constantly chewed on a toothpick that he occasionally used as a pointer. But he was more than professional enough that I allowed him that one eccentricity.
We trooped around the villa and the surrounding grounds looking for locations and by noon, we were ready to begin.
Billy had set up in a ground floor salon for the first of the shoots. The furnishings were elegantly rococo and 'fantastic' . . . just the mood I was looking for. The centerpiece of the room was a huge guilded mirror. I had a little plan that I thought would aid in the first few shots. I'd made sure that Jessica didn't have access to a mirror while she was dressing in the first item she was going to model; her copy of that peignoir that had first inflamed my own imagination. Billy set up his cameras and light reflectors and indicated he was ready. I went and fetched Jessica . . .
. . . I can't begin to describe how she looked in that peignoir . . .
. . . and brought her into the room. I made sure that she didn't see the mirror, but was standing with her back to it. The toothpick fell out of Billy's mouth and he whispered "Blimey!" I motioned to him, he raised the camera, Jessica looked from the lens to me. I nodded my encouragement and smiled.
"Turn around, hun."
Jessica did. She saw herself in the mirror.
I confess; part of my motivation in making Josh agree to the deception was my desire to get a little pay-back . . . to make him feel a bit of what it was to pretend to be something he wasn't. Hell, to be able, for the rest of our lives to say; "Hey, remember Jessica and the lingerie?"
I just stood, hands at my sides, and watched Jessica discover the miracle of femininity as Billy's camera clicked. All thoughts of pay-back and gloating evaporated. The simple dignity of what was happening before my eyes made any of that kind of thought impossible.
The actual shoot took six hours. It was perfect. My vision was more than vindicated. We finished just as the sun was setting. Billy dashed off to the fully stocked developing room and Jessica and I headed upstairs to relax for an hour or two before dinner.
We were sitting in Jessica's room when the climax of this morality play occurred.
Once again, Jess was wearing that peignoir. We'd come full circle through Giancarlo's new catalogue. We'd ended where we'd begun; with the peignoir because we wanted to get the effect of the setting sun against that shimmering rose silk.
I'll always remember that last picture; Jessica, standing on a small bluff above the shimmering Aegean, arms angled behind her, head tilted back, letting the gentle breeze caress her sorrel locks as she gazed out over the water waiting for her lover's return from the sea.
Damn . . . I'm good!
'Jess' was sprawled in an overstuffed chair, legs spread wide, wine glass in hand. "Thank God that's over."
I took a sip of my own wine. "Come on Josh. I saw you looking in the mirror. You can't deny you felt a little of the magic."
He gave me a sexy leer with Jessica's face that managed to raise my blood pressure a few notches. "Oh hey. I'm not dead yet. I gotta admit, I've had a woody all day that Paul Bunyan would have trouble felling."
I favored him with a knowing grin. "You know that's not what I mean."
There was a long silence as Jess stared into the depths of her wine glass. "PJ . . . I . . . I've been thinking about what you said to me . . . when we were in the kitchen that night that I first put on this . . . " A little gesture to the body that reclined encased in the luscious silk. "I just want to say . . . I may have been . . . "
I didn't find out just what he may have been because at that moment, the door to the room flew open and in raced Giancarlo. Jess had just enough time to draw herself up in the chair and regain her modesty by closing her legs before Giancarlo was on his knees in adoration before her.
"Ah . . . carrissima . . . the pictures! I have seen them!" He grabbed a hand and began showering it with kisses. "You are . . .(kiss) . . . you make . . .(kiss) " He was beginning to work his way up her arm. "Never in my life . . . such beauty (kiss) . . . such passion (kiss, on her upper arm by now) . . . Oh . . . (kiss on the shoulder)"
The expression of alarm on Jess's face was priceless. Where was Billy and his camera when you need him? "Uh . . .uh . . . Signore Giancarlo . . . uh . . . thank you . . . I . . . " A look of pleading in my direction.
By now Giancarlo's hands were on Jess's waist and his expression was one of absolute religious transport. "You make-a the fire in me burn bright. You make-a the man in me roar with desire."
This was getting serious, but it was also too comical for words. When Kevin Sprague had violated me, it had been a viscous, animal attack. But this little gnome slobbering over Jessica . . . This was comic opera, not crime drama. I started to giggle. I couldn't help it. Jess's look of pleading turned to one of incipient anger . . . which quickly vanished as she felt the material of her skirt start to slide up her legs.
"Whoa! Now wait just a second! If you think . . . " There was a little squeak of panic as she felt Giancarlo's tongue on her knee . . . her thigh . . .
"Oh . . I must-a have you. I must-a . . . oooooh"
Giancarlo's head was between Jessica's thighs. Jessica had both hands up beside her head, waving them in mortal dread at what was about to occur. I was gagging on suppressed laughter, biting my lower lip for all I was worth.
And then it happened.
To the Wonderful Folks at Nu-Gen,
Your magical suits are everything you've ever claimed. The illusion of femininity that they create are "art" in the truest sense of the word; their lovely curves . . . their soft silky skin and satiny hair . . . the honey music of their voices. Truly, you work a miracle every time you create one of these sorceresses.
But gentlemen . . . there are five senses, not three. You have artfully catered to sight, touch and hearing.
What of smell? What of taste?
Suddenly, Giancarlo reared back from Jessica's 'secret garden' . . . licked his lips . . .
. . . and in the broadest ' Joi-sey' accent I've ever heard exclaimed, "What da foick?!"
You could have cut the sudden stillness with a knife. Jessica was the first to shatter the tableaux.
She pointed an accusing finger at Giancarlo and shrieked, "You're not Italian!"
Giancarlo leveled his own finger at Jessica's crotch and shouted "And you ain't . . . you ain't . . . I don't know what you ain't!"
The true story finally emerged over the next few minutes, but not without a lot of shouting, shrieking (from both genders) and recriminations and accusations.
Giancarlo was in fact one Joey Carletti, native son of that most exotic of cities; Hoboken, New Jersey and until twenty eight years ago, apprentice clothing buyer for his father's small time men's store. It was at that time that Joey had finally done something about his belief that he had a talent for designing clothes. His submission to a cut rate men's clothing maker had vindicated his belief, and the die was cast for his eventual meteoric rise to fame, and his eventual adoption of a more . . . 'suitable' nom-de-guerre.
Jessica . . . well . . . it was impossible to continue the charade. The fatal flaw of the I2000S had reared its ugly head . . . so to speak . . . and though Josh made a valiant attempt to regroup and continue the deception . . . it was eventually for naught. He was too rattled.
Besides . . . it wasn't necessary.
I let them both flail for a moment then I spilled the beans and told the whole truth. Josh uttered a shriek of dismay, but I stilled him with an upraised hand. I calmly pointed out that each of us was guarding a hidden truth and it was in all of our best interests to keep each other's secrets. After all . . . if word got out that W,N&A had pulled this stunt, it would be our ruin . . . and if word got out that the deception had worked on Giancarlo . . . nee Joey Carletti (!) . . . who would be served?
It took a while, but finally Giancarlo saw the wisdom of my suggestion. He pledged secrecy in exchange for Josh's mutual promise and a significant decrease in our fees. Josh gave the latter willingly. From the first, it had been more about prestige than about profit (Profit that would eventually follow the prestige anyway.) And Giancarlo had to admit, even with the deception, the photos were exactly what was needed for the ad campaign. We parted on this uneasy truce.
My last sight of the great Giancarlo of Venice was his suspicious, uncertain frown as he stalked out of Jessica's bedroom.
It was several weeks later when I was sitting in my studio reading one of my woman's magazines that the door opened and Josh quietly entered.
We'd long since consigned Jessica to a dark corner of Josh's closet. I had a slightly melancholy idea that I'd never see that lovely woman "in the flesh" again. Life can be very cruel sometimes.
Josh closed the door behind himself and perched on the corner of my desk. He sat there for a moment, head down on his chest, lost in his thoughts. I just looked at him. I've catalogued his faults elsewhere and I see no need to repeat them here. He's a good man for all of them. He's my brother and I love him. In his own way, I think he loves me too.
"PJ . . . I've been thinking."
"About what Josh?"
"About that conversation we had that night when I first . . . you know . . . when you told me about your . . . feelings . . . about . . . "
"Josh. I didn't mean everything I said. I was just . . . "
He held up a hand, but still wouldn't look in my eyes. "Look. This isn't easy for me, okay? I just wanted to tell you; When I was Jessica . . . that day we took the pictures. I guess . . . " Finally he met my eyes. "I don't pretend to understand it all PJ. But you were right about something at least."
"And that is . . . ?"
"That you can always learn something new about yourself . . . if you're willing to try." Then he grinned and shook his fist at me. "And if you ever tell anyone about any of this . . . even this conversation . . . I'll beat the crap out of you! And you know I can!"
We shared a smile, and then he was gone.
I sighed happily and went back to my magazine. Josh had nothing to worry about. I'd never breathe a word to anyone.
I didn't need to.
There on page 36 of one of the largest woman's journals, Jessica stood on a small bluff overlooking the Aegean, quietly longing for her lover's embrace as the warm sea breeze fanned her passion and the caption extolled the virtue of Giancarlo of Venice and his glorious lingerie.
As they say; "A picture is worth a thousand words."